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Title: Cecil Castlemaine's Gage, Lady Marabout's Troubles, and Other Stories
Author: Ouida, 1839-1908
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE,

    LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES,

    AND

    OTHER STORIES.

    BY "OUIDA,"

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


    PHILADELPHIA:
    J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
    1900.



    CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE,

    AND OTHER STORIES.



ADVERTISEMENT.


The Publishers have the pleasure of offering to the many admirers of the
writings of "Ouida," the present volume of Contributions, which have
appeared from time to time in the leading Journals of Europe, and which
have recently been collected and revised by the author, for publication
in book-form.

They have also in press, to be speedily published, another similar
volume of tales, from the same pen, together with an unpublished romance
entitled "UNDER TWO FLAGS."

Our editions of Ouida's Works are published by express arrangement with
the author; and any other editions that may appear in the American
market will be issued in violation of the courtesies usually extended
both to authors and publishers.

PHILADELPHIA, MAY, 1867.



CONTENTS


                                                                  PAGE

  CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE; OR, THE STORY OF A BROIDERED SHIELD     11

  LITTLE GRAND AND THE MARCHIONESS; OR, OUR MALTESE PEERAGE         37

  LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES; OR, THE WORRIES OF A CHAPERONE.--
  _In Three Seasons_:--
    Season the First.--The Eligible                                 84
    Season the Second.--The Ogre                                   121
    Season the Third.--The Climax                                  164

  A STUDY À LA LOUIS QUINZE; OR, PENDANT TO A PASTEL BY LA TOUR    211
    I. The First Morning                                           212
    II. The Second Morning                                         218
    III. Midnight                                                  227

  "DEADLY DASH." A STORY TOLD ON THE OFF DAY.                      235

  THE GENERAL'S MATCH-MAKING; OR, COACHES AND COUSINSHIP           265

  THE STORY OF A CRAYON-HEAD; OR, A DOUBLED-DOWN LEAF IN A MAN'S
  LIFE                                                             306

  THE BEAUTY OF VICQ D'AZYR; OR, NOT AT ALL A PROPER PERSON        339

  A STUDY À LA LOUIS QUATORZE: PENDANT TO A PORTRAIT BY MIGNARD    368



CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE;

OR,

THE STORY OF A BROIDERED SHIELD.


Cecil Castlemaine was the beauty of her county and her line, the
handsomest of all the handsome women that had graced her race, when she
moved, a century and a half ago, down the stately staircase, and through
the gilded and tapestried halls of Lilliesford. The Town had run mad
after her, and her face levelled politics, and was cited as admiringly
by the Whigs at St. James's as by the Tories at the Cocoa-tree, by the
beaux and Mohocks at Garraway's as by the alumni at the Grecian, by the
wits at Will's as by the fops at Ozinda's.

Wherever she went, whether to the Haymarket or the Opera, to the 'Change
for a fan or the palace for a state ball, to Drury Lane to see Pastoral
Philips's dreary dilution of Racine, or to some fair chief of her
faction for basset and ombre, she was surrounded by the best men of her
time, and hated by Whig beauties with virulent wrath, for she was a Tory
to the backbone, indeed a Jacobite at heart; worshipped Bolingbroke,
detested Marlborough and Eugene, believed in all the horrors of the
programme said to have been plotted by the Whigs for the anniversary
show of 1711, and was thought to have prompted the satire on those fair
politicians who are disguised as _Rosalinda_ and _Nigranilla_ in the
81st paper of the _Spectator_.

Cecil Castlemaine was the greatest beauty of her day, lovelier still at
four-and-twenty than she had been at seventeen, unwedded, though the
highest coronets in the land had been offered to her; far above the
coquetteries and minauderies of her friends, far above imitation of the
affectations of "Lady Betty Modley's skuttle," or need of practising the
Fan exercise; haughty, peerless, radiant, unwon--nay, more--untouched;
for the finest gentleman on the town could not flatter himself that he
had ever stirred the slightest trace of interest in her, nor boast, as
he stood in the inner circle at the Chocolate-house (unless, indeed, he
lied more impudently than Tom Wharton himself), that he had ever been
honored by a glance of encouragement from the Earl's daughter. She was
too proud to cheapen herself with coquetry, too fastidious to care for
her conquests over those who whispered to her through Nicolini's song,
vied to have the privilege of carrying her fan, drove past her windows
in Soho Square, crowded about her in St. James's Park, paid court even
to her little spaniel Indamara, and, to catch but a glimpse of her
brocaded train as it swept a ball-room floor, would leave even their
play at the Groom Porter's, Mrs. Oldfield in the green-room, a night
hunt with Mohun and their brother Mohocks, a circle of wits gathered
"within the steam of the coffeepot" at Will's, a dinner at Halifax's, a
supper at Bolingbroke's,--whatever, according to their several tastes,
made their best entertainment and was hardest to quit.

The highest suitors of the day sought her smile and sued for her hand;
men left the Court and the Mall to join the Flanders army before the
lines at Bouchain less for loyal love of England than hopeless love of
Cecil Castlemaine. Her father vainly urged her not to fling away offers
that all the women at St. James's envied her. She was untouched and
unwon, and when her friends, the court beauties, the fine ladies, the
coquettes of quality, rallied her on her coldness (envying her her
conquests), she would smile her slight proud smile and bow her stately
head. "Perhaps she was cold; she might be; they were personnable men? Oh
yes! she had nothing to say against them. His Grace of Belamour?--A
pretty wit, without doubt. Lord Millamont?--Diverting, but a coxcomb. He
had beautiful hands; it was a pity he was always thinking of them! Sir
Gage Rivers?--As obsequious a lover as the man in the 'Way of the
World,' but she had heard he was very boastful and facetious at women
over his chocolate at Ozinda's. The Earl of Argent?--A gallant soldier,
surely, but whatever he might protest, no mistress would ever rival with
him the dice at the Groom Porter's. Lord Philip Bellairs?--A proper
gentleman; no fault in him; a bel esprit and an elegant courtier;
pleased many, no doubt, but he did not please her overmuch. Perhaps her
taste was too finical, or her character too cold, as they said. She
preferred it should be so. When you were content it were folly to seek a
change. For her part, she failed to comprehend how women could stoop to
flutter their fans and choose their ribbons, and rack their tirewomen's
brains for new pulvillios, and lappets, and devices, and practise their
curtsy and recovery before their pier-glass, for no better aim or stake
than to draw the glance and win the praise of men for whom they cared
nothing. A woman who had the eloquence of beauty and a true pride should
be above heed for such affectations, pleasure in such applause!"

So she would put them all aside and turn the tables on her friends, and
go on her own way, proud, peerless, Cecil Castlemaine, conquering and
unconquered; and Steele must have had her name in his thoughts, and
honored it heartily and sincerely, when he wrote one Tuesday, on the
21st of October, under the domino of his Church Coquette, "I say I do
honor to those who _can be coquettes and are not such_, but I despise
all who would be so, and, in despair of arriving at it themselves, hate
and vilify all those who can." A definition justly drawn by his keen,
quick graver, though doubtless it only excited the ire of, and was
entirely lost upon, those who read the paper over their dish of bohea,
or over their toilette, while they shifted a patch for an hour before
they could determine it, or regretted the loss of ten guineas at crimp.

Cecil Castlemaine was the beauty of the Town: when she sat at Drury Lane
on the Tory side of the house, the devoutest admirer of Oldfield or Mrs.
Porter scarcely heard a word of the _Heroic Daughter_, or the _Amorous
Widow_, and the "beau fullest of his own dear self" forgot his
silver-fringed gloves, his medallion snuff-box, his knotted cravat, his
clouded cane, the slaughter that he planned to do, from gazing at her
where she sat as though she were reigning sovereign at St. James's, the
Castlemaine diamond's flashing crescent-like above her brow. At church
and court, at park and assembly, there were none who could eclipse that
haughty gentlewoman; therefore her fond women friends who had caressed
her so warmly and so gracefully, and pulled her to pieces behind her
back, if they could, so eagerly over their dainty cups of tea in an
afternoon visit, were glad, one and all, when on "Barnabybright,"
Anglicè, the 22d (then the 11th) of June, the great Castlemaine chariot,
with its three herons blazoned on its coroneted panels, its laced
liveries and gilded harness, rolled over the heavy, ill-made roads down
into the country in almost princely pomp, the peasants pouring out from
the wayside cottages to stare at my lord's coach.

It was said in the town that a portly divine, who wore his scarf as one
of the chaplains to the Earl of Castlemaine, had prattled somewhat
indiscreetly at Child's of his patron's politics; that certain cipher
letters had passed the Channel enclosed in chocolate-cakes as soon as
French goods were again imported after the peace of Utrecht; that
gentlemen in high places were strongly suspected of mischievous designs
against the tranquillity of the country and government; that the Earl
had, among others, received a friendly hint from a relative in power to
absent himself for a while from the court where he was not best trusted,
and the town where an incautious word might be picked up and lead to
Tower Hill, and amuse himself at his goodly castle of Lilliesford, where
the red deer would not spy upon him, and the dark beech-woods would tell
no tales. And the ladies of quality, her dear friends and sisters, were
glad when they heard it as they punted at basset and fluttered their
fans complacently. They would have the field for themselves, for a
season, while Cecil Castlemaine was immured in her manor of Lilliesford;
would be free of her beauty to eclipse them at the next birthday, be
quit of their most dreaded rival, their most omnipotent leader of
fashion; and they rejoiced at the whisper of the cipher letter, the
damaging gossipry of the Whig coffee-houses, the bad repute into which
my Lord Earl had grown at St. James's, at the misfortune of their
friend, in a word, as human nature, masculine or feminine, will ever
do--to its shame be it spoken--unless the _fomes peccati_ be more
completely wrung out of it than it ever has been since the angel Gabriel
performed that work of purification on the infant Mahomet.

It was the June of the year '15, and the coming disaffection was
seething and boiling secretly among the Tories; the impeachment of
Ormond and Bolingbroke had strengthened the distaste to the new-come
Hanoverian pack, their attainder had been the blast of air needed to
excite the smouldering wood to flame, the gentlemen of that party in the
South began to grow impatient of the intrusion of the distant German
branch, to think lovingly of the old legitimate line, and to feel
something of the chafing irritation of the gentlemen of the North, who
were fretting like stag-hounds held in leash.

Envoys passed to and fro between St. Germain, and Jacobite nobles,
priests of the church that had fallen out of favor and was typified as
the Scarlet Woman by a rival who, though successful, was still bitter,
plotted with ecclesiastical relish in the task; letters were conveyed in
rolls of innocent lace, plans were forwarded in frosted confections,
messages were passed in invisible cipher that defied investigation. The
times were dangerous; full of plot and counterplot, of risk and danger,
of fomenting projects and hidden disaffection--times in which men,
living habitually over mines, learned to like the uncertainty, and to
think life flavorless without the chance of losing it any hour; and
things being in this state, the Earl of Castlemaine deemed it prudent to
take the counsel of his friend in power, and retire from London for a
while, perhaps for the safety of his own person, perhaps for the
advancement of his cause, either of which were easier insured at his
seat in the western counties than amidst the Whigs of the capital.

The castle of Lilliesford was bowered in the thick woods of the western
counties, a giant pile built by Norman masons. Troops of deer herded
under the gold-green beechen boughs, the sunlight glistened through the
aisles of the trees, and quivered down on to the thick moss, and ferns,
and tangled grass that grew under the park woodlands; the water-lilies
clustered on the river, and the swans "floated double, swan and shadow,"
under the leaves that swept into the water; then, when Cecil Castlemaine
came down to share her father's retirement, as now, when her name and
titles on the gold plate of a coffin that lies with others of her race
in the mausoleum across the park, where winter snows and sumer sun-rays
are alike to those who sleep within, is all that tells at Lilliesford
of the loveliest woman of her time who once reigned there as mistress.

The country was in its glad green midsummer beauty, and the
musk-rosebuds bloomed in profuse luxuriance over the chill marble of the
terraces, and scattered their delicate odorous petals in fragrant
showers on the sward of the lawns, when Cecil Castlemaine came down to
what she termed her exile. The morning was fair and cloudless, its
sunbeams piercing through the darkest glades in the woodlands, the
thickest shroud of the ivy, the deepest-hued pane of the mullioned
windows, as she passed down the great staircase where lords and
gentlewomen of her race gazed on her from the canvas of Lely and
Jamesone, Bourdain and Vandyke, crossed the hall with her dainty step,
so stately yet so light, and standing by the window of her own
bower-room, was lured out on to the terrace overlooking the west side of
the park.

She made such a picture as Vandyke would have liked to paint, with her
golden glow upon her, and the musk-roses clustering about her round the
pilasters of marble--the white chill marble to which Belamour and many
other of her lovers of the court and town had often likened her. Vandyke
would have lingered lovingly on the hand that rested on her stag-hound's
head, would have caught her air of court-like grace and dignity, would
have painted with delighted fidelity her deep azure eyes, her proud
brow, her delicate lips arched haughtily like a cupid's bow, would have
picked out every fold of her sweeping train, every play of light on her
silken skirts, every dainty tracery of her point-lace. Yet even painted
by Sir Anthony, that perfect master of art and of elegance, though more
finished it could have hardly been more faithful, more instinct with
grace, and life, and dignity, than a sketch drawn of her shortly after
that time by one who loved her well, which is still hanging in the
gallery at Lilliesford, lighted up by the afternoon sun when it streams
in through the western windows.

Cecil Castlemaine stood on the terrace looking over the lawns and
gardens through the opening vistas of meeting boughs and interlaced
leaves to the woods and hills beyond, fused in a soft mist of green and
purple, with her hand lying carelessly on her hound's broad head. She
was a zealous Tory, a skilled politician, and her thoughts were busy
with the hopes and fears, the chances for and against, of a cause that
lay near her heart, but whose plans were yet immature, whose first blow
was yet unstruck, and whose well-wishers were sanguine of a success they
had not yet hazarded, though they hardly ventured to whisper to each
other their previous designs and desires. Her thoughts were far away,
and she hardly heeded the beauty round her, musing on schemes and
projects dear to her party, that would imperil the Castlemaine coronet
but would serve the only royal house the Castlemaine line had ever in
their hearts acknowledged.

She had regretted leaving the Town, moreover; a leader of the mode, a
wit, a woman of the world, she missed her accustomed sphere; she was no
pastoral Phyllis, no country-born Mistress Fiddy, to pass her time in
provincial pleasures, in making cordial waters, in tending her
beau-pots, in preserving her fallen rose-leaves, in inspecting the
confections in the still-room; as little was she able, like many fine
ladies when in similar exile, to while it away by scolding her
tirewomen, and sorting a suit of ribbons, in ordering a set of gilded
leather hangings from Chelsea for the state chambers, and yawning over
chocolate in her bed till mid-day. She regretted leaving the Town, not
for Belamour, nor Argent, nor any, of those who vainly hoped, as they
glanced at the little mirror in the lids of their snuff-boxes, that they
might have graven themselves, were it ever so faintly, in her thoughts;
but for the wits, the pleasures, the choice clique, the accustomed
circle to which she was so used, the courtly, brilliant town-life where
she was wont to reign.

So she stood on the terrace the first morning of her exile, her thoughts
far away, with the loyal gentlemen of the North, and the banished court
at St. Germain, the lids drooping proudly over her haughty eyes, and her
lips half parted with a faint smile of triumph in the visions limned by
ambition and imagination, while the wind softly stirred the rich lace of
her bodice, and her fingers lay lightly, yet firmly, on the head of her
stag-hound. She looked up at last as she heard the ring of a horse's
hoofs, and saw a sorrel, covered with dust and foam, spurred up the
avenue, which, rounding past the terrace, swept on to the front
entrance; the sorrel looked wellnigh spent, and his rider somewhat worn
and languid, as a man might do with justice who had been in boot and
saddle twenty-four hours at the stretch, scarce stopping for a stoup of
wine; but he lifted his hat, and bowed down to his saddle-bow as he
passed her.

"Was it the long-looked-for messenger with definite news from St.
Germain?" wondered Lady Cecil, as her hound gave out a deep-tongued bay
of anger at the stranger. She went back into her bower-room, and toyed
absently with her flowered handkerchief, broidering a stalk to a
violet-leaf, and wondering what additional hope the horseman might have
brought to strengthen the good Cause, till her servants brought word
that his Lordship prayed the pleasure of her presence in the
octagon-room. Whereat she rose, and swept through the long corridors,
entered the octagon-room, the sunbeams gathering about her rich dress as
they passed through the stained-glass oriels, and saluted the new-comer,
when her father presented him to her as their trusty and welcome friend
and envoy, Sir Fulke Ravensworth, with her careless dignity and queenly
grace, that nameless air which was too highly bred to be condescension,
but markedly and proudly repelled familiarity, and signed a pale of
distance beyond which none must intrude.

The new-comer was a tall and handsome man, of noble presence, bronzed by
foreign suns, pale and jaded just now with hard riding, while his dark
silver-laced suit was splashed and covered with dust; but as he bowed
low to her, critical Cecil Castlemaine saw that not Belamour himself
could have better grace, not my Lord Millamont courtlier mien nor whiter
hands, and listened with gracious air to what her father unfolded to her
of his mission from St. Germain, whither he had come, at great personal
risk, in many disguises, and at breathless speed, to place in their
hands a precious letter in cipher from James Stuart to his well-beloved
and loyal subject Herbert George, Earl of Castlemaine. A letter spoken
of with closed doors and in low whispers, loyal as was the household,
supreme as the Earl ruled over his domains of Lilliesford, for these
were times when men mistrusted those of their own blood, and when the
very figure on the tapestry seemed instinct with life to spy and
betray--when they almost feared the silk that tied a missive should
babble of its contents, and the hound that slept beside them should read
and tell their thoughts.

To leave Lilliesford would be danger to the Envoy and danger to the
Cause; to stay as guest was to disarm suspicion. The messenger who had
brought such priceless news must rest within the shelter of his roof;
too much were risked by returning to the French coast yet awhile, or
even by joining Mar or Derwentwater, so the Earl enforced his will upon
the Envoy, and the Envoy thanked him and accepted.

Perchance the beauty, whose eyes he had seen lighten and proud brow
flush as she read the royal greeting and injunction, made a sojourn near
her presence not distasteful; perchance he cared little where he stayed
till the dawning time of action and of rising should arrive, when he
should take the field and fight till life or death for the "White Rose
and the long heads of hair." He was a soldier of fortune, a poor
gentleman with no patrimony but his name, no chance of distinction save
by his sword; sworn to a cause whose star was set forever; for many
years his life had been of changing adventure and shifting chances, now
fighting with Berwick at Almanza, now risking his life in some delicate
and dangerous errand for James Stuart that could not have been trusted
so well to any other officer about St. Germain; gallant to rashness, yet
with much of the acumen of the diplomatist, he was invaluable to his
Court and Cause, but, Stuart-like, men-like, they hastened to employ,
but ever forgot to reward!

Lady Cecil missed her town-life, and did not over-favor her exile in the
western counties. To note down on her Mather's tablets the drowsy
homilies droned out by the chaplain on a Sabbath noon, to play at
crambo, to talk with her tirewomen of new washes for the skin, to pass
her hours away in knotting?--she, whom Steele might have writ of when he
drew his character of _Eudoxia_, could wile her exile with none of these
inanities; neither could she consort with gentry who seemed to her
little better than the boors of a country wake, who had never heard of
Mr. Spectator and knew nothing of Mr. Cowley, countrywomen whose
ambition was in their cowslip wines, fox-hunters more ignorant and
uncouth than the dumb brutes they followed.

Who was there for miles around with whom she could stoop to associate,
with whom she cared to exchange a word? Madam from the vicarage, in her
grogram, learned in syrups, salves, and possets? Country Lady
Bountifuls, with gossip of the village and the poultry-yard? Provincial
Peeresses, who had never been to London since Queen Anne's coronation? A
squirearchy, who knew of no music save the concert of their stop-hounds,
no court save the court of the county assize, no literature unless by
miracle 't were Tarleton's Jests? None such as these could cross the
inlaid oak parquet of Lilliesford, and be ushered into the presence of
Cecil Castlemaine.

So the presence of the Chevalier's messenger was not altogether
unwelcome and distasteful to her. She saw him but little, merely
conversing at table with him with that distant and dignified courtesy
which marked her out from the light, free, inconsequent manners in vogue
with other women of quality of her time; the air which had chilled half
the softest things even on Belamour's lips, and kept the vainest coxcomb
hesitating and abashed.

But by degrees she observed that the Envoy was a man who had lived in
many countries and in many courts, was well versed in the tongues of
France and Italy and Spain--in their belles-lettres too, moreover--and
had served his apprenticeship to good company in the salons of
Versailles, in the audience-room of the Vatican, at the receptions of
the Duchess du Maine, and with the banished family at St. Germain. He
spoke with a high and sanguine spirit of the troublous times approaching
and the beloved Cause whose crisis was at hand, which chimed in with her
humor better than the flippancies of Belamour, the airy nothings of
Millamont. He was but a soldier of fortune, a poor gentleman who, named
to her in the town, would have had never a word, and would have been
unnoted amidst the crowding beaux who clustered round to hold her fan
and hear how she had been pleasured with the drolleries of _Grief à la
Mode_. But down in the western counties she deigned to listen to the
Prince's officer, to smile--a smile beautiful when it came on her proud
lips, as the play of light on the opals of her jewelled stomacher--nay,
even to be amused when he spoke of the women of foreign courts, to be
interested when he told, which was but reluctantly, of his own perils,
escapes, and adventures, to discourse with him, riding home under the
beech avenues from hawking, or standing on the western terrace at curfew
to watch the sunset, of many things on which the nobles of the Mall and
the gentlemen about St. James's had never been allowed to share her
opinions. For Lady Cecil was deeply read (unusually deeply for her day,
since fine ladies of her rank and fashion mostly contented themselves
with skimming a romance of Scuderi's, or an act of _Aurungzebe_); but
she rarely spoke of those things, save perchance now and then to Mr.
Addison.

Fulke Ravensworth never flattered her, moreover, and flattery was a
honeyed confection of which she had long been cloyed; he even praised
boldly before her other women of beauty and grace whom he had seen at
Versailles, at Sceaux, and at St. Germain; neither did he defer to her
perpetually, but where he differed would combat her sentiments
courteously but firmly. Though a soldier and a man of action, he had an
admirable skill at the limner's art; could read to her the Divina
Commedia, or the comedies of Lope da' Vega, and transfer crabbed Latin
and abstruse Greek into elegant English for her pleasures and though a
beggared gentleman of most precarious fortunes, he would speak of life
and its chances, of the Cause and its perils, with a daring which she
found preferable to the lisped languor of the men of the town, who had
no better campaigns than laying siege to a prude, cared for no other
weapons than their toilettes and snuff-boxes, and sought no other
excitement than a _coup d'éclat_ with the lion-tumblers.

On the whole, through these long midsummer days, Lady Cecil found the
Envoy from St. Germain a companion that did not suit her ill, sought
less the solitude of her bower-room, and listened graciously to him in
the long twilight hours, while the evening dews gathered in the cups of
the musk-roses, and the star-rays began to quiver on the water-lilies
floating on the river below, that murmured along, with endless song,
under the beechen-boughs. A certain softness stole over her, relaxing
the cold hauteur of which Belamour had so often complained, giving a
nameless charm, supplying a nameless something, lacking before, in the
beauty of The Castlemaine.

She would stroke, half sadly, the smooth feathers of her tartaret falcon
Gabrielle when Fulke Ravensworth brought her the bird from the
ostreger's wrist, with its azure velvet hood, and silver bells and
jesses. She would wonder, as she glanced through Corneille or Congreve,
Philips or Petrarca, what it was, this passion of love, of which they
all treated, on which they all turned, no matter how different their
strain. And now and then would come over her cheek and brow a faint
fitful wavering flush, delicate and changing as the flush from the
rose-hued reflexions of western clouds on a statue of Pharos marble, and
then she would start and rouse herself, and wonder what she ailed, and
grow once more haughty, calm, stately, dazzling, but chill as the
Castlemaine diamonds that she wore.

So the summer-time passed, and the autumn came, the corn-lands brown
with harvest, the hazel-copses strewn with fallen nuts, the beech-leaves
turning into reddened gold. As the wheat ripened but to meet the sickle,
as the nuts grew but to fall, as the leaves turned to gold but to
wither, so the sanguine hopes, the fond ambitions of men, strengthened
and matured only to fade into disappointment and destruction! Four
months had sped by since the Prince's messenger had come to
Lilliesford--months that had gone swiftly with him as some sweet
delicious dream; and the time had come when he had orders to ride north,
secretly and swiftly, speak with Mr. Forster and other gentlemen
concerned in the meditated rising, and convey despatches and
instructions to the Earl of Mar; for Prince James was projecting soon to
join his loyal adherents in Scotland, and the critical moment was close
at hand, the moment when, to Fulke Ravensworth's high and sanguine
courage, victory seemed certain; failure, if no treachery marred, no
dissension weakened, impossible; the moment to which he looked for
honor, success, distinction, that should give him claim and title to
aspire--_where_? Strong man, cool soldier though he was, he shrank from
drawing his fancied future out from the golden haze of immature hope,
lest he should see it wither upon closer sight. He was but a landless
adventurer, with nothing but his sword and his honor, and kings he knew
were slow to pay back benefits, or recollect the hands that hewed them
free passage to their thrones.

Cecil Castlemaine stood within the window of her bower-room, the red
light of the October sun glittering on her gold-broidered skirt and her
corsage sewn with opals and emeralds; her hand was pressed lightly on
her bosom, as though some pain were throbbing there; it was new this
unrest, this weariness, this vague weight that hung upon her; it was the
perils of their Cause, she told herself; the risks her father ran: it
was weak, childish, unworthy a Castlemaine! Still the pain throbbed
there.

Her hound, asleep beside her, raised his head with a low growl as a step
intruded on the sanctity of the bower-room, then composed himself again
to slumber, satisfied it was no foe. His mistress turned slowly; she
knew the horses waited; she had shunned this ceremony of farewell, and
never thought any would be bold enough to venture here without
permission sought and gained.

"Lady Cecil, I could not go upon my way without one word of parting.
Pardon me if I have been too rash to seek it here."

Why was it that his brief frank words ever pleased her better than
Belamour's most honeyed phrases, Millamont's suavest periods? She
scarcely could have told, save that there were in them an earnestness
and truth new and rare to her ear and to her heart.

She pressed her hand closer on the opals--the jewels of calamity--and
smiled:

"Assuredly I wish you God speed, Sir Fulke, and safe issue from all
perils."

He bowed low; then raised himself to his fullest height, and stood
beside her, watching the light play upon the opals:

"That is all you vouchsafe me?"

"_All?_ It is as much as you would claim, sir, is it not? It is more
than I would say to many."

"Your pardon--it _is_ more than I should claim if prudence were ever by,
if reason always ruled! I have no right to ask for, seek for, even wish
for, more; such petitions may only be addressed by men of wealth and of
high title; a landless soldier should have no pride to sting, no heart
to wound; they are the prerogative of a happier fortune."

Her lips turned white, but she answered haughtily; the crimson light
flashing in her jewels, heirlooms priceless and hereditary, like her
beauty and her pride:

"This is strange language, sir! I fail to apprehend you."

"You have never thought that I ran a danger deadlier than that which I
have ever risked on any field? You have never guessed that I have had
the madness, the presumption, the crime--it may be in your eyes--to love
you."

The color flushed to her face, crimsoning even her brow, and then fled
back. Her first instinct was insulted pride--a beggared gentleman, a
landless soldier, spoke to her of love!--of love!--which Belamour had
barely had courage to whisper of; which none had dared to sue of her in
return. He had ventured to feel this for her! he had ventured to speak
of this to her!

The Envoy saw the rising resentment, the pride spoken in every line of
her delicate face, and stopped her as she would have spoken.

"Wait! I know all you would reply. You think it infinite daring,
presumption that merits highest reproof----"

"Since you divined so justly, it were pity you subjected yourself and me
to this most useless, most unexpected interview. Why----"

"_Why?_ Because, perchance, in this life you will see my face no more,
and you will think gently, mercifully of my offence (if offence it be to
love you more than life, and only less than honor), when you know that I
have fallen for the Cause, with your name in my heart, held only the
dearer because never on my lips! Sincere love can be no insult to
whomsoever proffered; Elizabeth Stuart saw no shame to her in the
devotion of William Craven!"

Cecil Castlemaine stood in the crimson glory of the autumn sunset, her
head erect, her pride unshaken, but her heart stirred strangely and
unwontedly. It smote the one with bitter pain, to think a penniless
exile should thus dare to speak of what princes and dukes had almost
feared to whisper; what had she done--what had she said, to give him
license for such liberty? It stirred the other with a tremulous warmth,
a vague, sweet pleasure, that were never visitants there before; but
that she scouted instantly as weakness, folly, debasement, in the Last
of the Castlemaines.

He saw well enough what passed within her, what made her eyes so
troubled, yet her brow and lips so proudly set, and he bent nearer
towards her, the great love that was in him trembling in his voice:

"Lady Cecil, hear me! If in the coming struggle I win distinction,
honor, rank--if victory come to us, and the King we serve remember me in
his prosperity as he does now in his adversity--if I can meet you
hereafter with tidings of triumph and success, my name made one which
England breathes with praise and pride, honors gained such as even you
will deem worthy of your line--then--then--will you let me speak of
what you refuse to hearken to now--then may I come to you, and seek a
gentler answer?"

She looked for a moment upon his face, as it bent towards her in the
radiance of the sunset light, the hope that hopes all things glistening
in his eyes, the high-souled daring of a gallant and sanguine spirit
flushing his forehead, the loud throbs of his heart audible in the
stillness around; and her proud eyes grew softer, her lips quivered for
an instant.

Then she turned towards him with queenly grace:

"_Yes!_"

It was spoken with stately dignity, though scarce above her breath; but
the hue that wavered in her cheek was but the lovelier, for the pride
that would not let her eyes droop nor her tears rise, would not let her
utter one softer word. That one word cost her much. That single
utterance was much from Cecil Castlemaine.

Her handkerchief lay at her feet, a delicate, costly toy of lace,
embroidered with her shield and chiffre; he stooped and raised it, and
thrust it in his breast to treasure it there.

"If I fail, I send this back in token that I renounce all hope; if I can
come to you with honor and with fame, this shall be my gage that I may
speak, that you will listen?"

She bowed her noble head, ever held haughtily, as though every crown of
Europe had a right to circle it; his hot lips lingered for a moment on
her hand; then Cecil Castlemaine stood alone in the window of her
bower-room, her hand pressed again upon the opals under which her heart
was beating with a dull, weary pain, looking out over the landscape,
where the golden leaves were falling fast, and the river, tossing sadly
dead branches on its waves, was bemoaning in plaintive language the
summer days gone by.

Two months came and went, the beech-boughs, black and sear, creaked in
the bleak December winds that sighed through frozen ferns and over the
couches of shivering deer, the snow drifted up on the marble terrace,
and icedrops clung where the warm rosy petals of the musk-rosebuds had
nestled. Across the country came terrible whispers that struck the
hearts of men of loyal faith to the White Rose with a bolt of ice-cold
terror and despair. Messengers riding in hot haste, open-mouthed
peasants gossiping by the village forge, horsemen who tarried for a
breathless rest at alehouse-doors, Whig divines who returned thanks for
God's most gracious mercy in vouchsafing victory to the strong, all told
the tale, all spread the news of the drawn battle of Sheriff-Muir, of
the surrender under Preston walls, of the flight of Prince James. The
tidings came one by one to Lilliesford, where my Lord Earl was holding
himself in readiness to co-operate with the gentlemen of the North to
set up the royal standard, broidered by his daughter's hands, in the
western counties, and proclaim James III. "sovereign lord and king of
the realms of Great Britain and Ireland." The tidings came to
Lilliesford, and Cecil Castlemaine clenched her white jewelled hands in
passionate anguish that a Stuart should have fled before the traitor of
Argyll, instead of dying with his face towards the rebel crew; that men
had lived who could choose surrender instead of heroic death; that _she_
had not been there, at Preston, to shame them with a woman's reading of
courage and of loyalty, and show them how to fall with a doomed city
rather than yield captive to a foe!

Perhaps amidst her grief for her Prince and for his Cause mingled--as
the deadliest thought of all--a memory of a bright proud face, that had
bent towards her with tender love and touching grace a month before, and
that might now be lying pale and cold, turned upwards to the winter
stars, on the field of Sheriff-Muir.

A year rolled by. Twelve months had fled since the gilded carriage of
the Castlemaines, with the lordly blazonment upon its panels, its
princely retinue and stately pomp, had come down into the western
counties. The bones were crumbling white in the coffins in the Tower,
and the skulls over Temple-bar had bleached white in winter snows and
spring-tide suns; Kenmuir had gone to a sleep that knew no wakening, and
Derwentwater had laid his fair young head down for a thankless cause;
the heather bloomed over the mounds of dead on the plains of
Sheriff-Muir, and the yellow gorse blossomed under the city walls of
Preston.

Another summer had dawned, bright and laughing, over England; none the
less fair for human lives laid down, for human hopes crushed out;
daisies powdering the turf sodden with human blood, birds carolling
their song over graves of heaped-up dead. The musk-roses tossed their
delicate heads again amidst the marble pilasters, and the
hawthorn-boughs shook their fragrant buds into the river at Lilliesford,
the purple hills lay wrapped in sunny mist, and hyacinth-bells mingled
with the tangled grass and fern under the woodland shades, where the red
deer nestled happily. Herons plumed their silvery wings down by the
water-side, swallows circled in sultry air above the great bell-tower,
and wood-pigeons cooed with soft love-notes among the leafy branches.
Yet the Countess of Castlemaine, last of her race, sole owner of the
lands that spread around her, stood on the rose-terrace, finding no joy
in the sunlight about her, no melody in the song of the birds.

She was the last of her name; her father, broken-hearted at the news
from Dumblain and Preston, had died the very day after his lodgment in
the Tower. There was no heir male of his line, and the title had passed
to his daughter; there had been thoughts of confiscation and attainder,
but others, unknown to her, solicited what she scorned to ask for
herself, and the greed of the hungry "Hanoverian pack" spared the lands
and the revenues of Lilliesford. In haughty pride, in lonely mourning,
the fairest beauty of the Court and Town withdrew again to the solitude
of her western counties, and tarried there, dwelling amidst her women
and her almost regal household, in the sacred solitude of grief, wherein
none might intrude. Proud Cecil Castlemaine was yet prouder than of
yore; alone, sorrowing for her ruined Cause and exiled King, she would
hold converse with none of those who had had a hand in drawing down the
disastrous fate she mourned, and only her staghound could have seen the
weariness upon her face when she bent down to him, or Gabrielle the
falcon felt her hand tremble when it stroked her folded wings. She stood
on the terrace, looking over her spreading lands, not the water-lilies
on the river below whiter than her lips, pressed painfully together.
Perhaps she repented of certain words, spoken to one whom now she would
never again behold--perhaps she thought of that delicate toy that was to
have been brought back in victory and hope, that now might lie stained
and stiffened with blood next a lifeless heart, for never a word in the
twelve months gone by had there come to Lilliesford as tidings of Fulke
Ravensworth.

Her pride was dear to her, dearer than aught else; she had spoken as was
her right to speak, she had done what became a Castlemaine; it would
have been weakness to have acted otherwise; what was he--a landless
soldier--that he should have dared as he had dared? Yet the sables she
wore were not solely for the dead Earl, not solely for the lost Stuarts
the hot mist that would blind the eyes of Cecil Castlemaine, as hours
swelled to days, and days to months, and she--the flattered beauty of
the Court and Town--stayed in self-chosen solitude in her halls of
Lilliesford, still unwedded and unwon.

The noon-hours chimed from the bell-tower, and the sunny beauty of the
morning but weighed with heavier sadness on her heart; the song of the
birds, the busy hum of the gnats, the joyous ring of the silver bell
round her pet fawn's neck, as it darted from her side under the drooping
boughs--none touched an answering chord of gladness in her. She stood
looking over her stretching woodlands in deep thought, so deep that she
heard no step over the lawn beneath, nor saw the frightened rush of the
deer, as a boy, crouching among the tangled ferns, sprang up from his
hiding-place under the beechen branches, and stood on the terrace before
her, craving her pardon in childish, yet fearless tones. She turned,
bending on him that glance which had made the over-bold glance of
princes fall abashed. The boy was but a little tatterdemalion to have
ventured thus abruptly into the presence of the Countess of Castlemaine;
still it was with some touch of a page's grace that he bowed before her.

"Lady, I crave your pardon, but my master bade me watch for you, though
I watched till midnight."

"Your master?"

A flush, warm as that on the leaves of the musk-roses, rose to her face
for an instant, then faded as suddenly. The boy did not notice her
words, but went on in an eager whisper, glancing anxiously round, as a
hare would glance fearing the hunters.

"And told me when I saw you not to speak his name, but only to give you
this as his gage, that though all else is lost he has not forgot _his_
honor nor _your_ will."

Cecil Castlemaine spoke no word, but she stretched out her hand and took
it--her own costly toy of cambric and lace, with her broidered shield
and coronet.

"Your master! Then--he lives?"

"Lady, he bade me say no more. You have his message; I must tell no
further."

She laid her hand upon his shoulder, a light, snow-white hand, yet one
that held him now in a clasp of steel.

"Child! answer me at your peril! Tell me of him whom you call your
master. Tell me all--quick--quick!"

"You are his friend?"

"His friend? My Heaven! Speak on!"

"He bade me tell no more on peril of his heaviest anger; but if you
_are_ his friend, I sure may speak what you should know without me. It
is a poor friend, lady, who has need to ask whether another be dead or
living!"

The scarlet blood flamed in the Countess's blanched face, she signed him
on with impetuous command; she was unused to disobedience, and the
child's words cut her to the quick.

"Sir Fulke sails for the French coast to-morrow night," the boy went on,
in tremulous haste. "He was left for dead--our men ran one way, and
Argyll's men the other--on the field of Sheriff-Muir; and sure if he had
not been strong indeed, he would have died that awful night, untended,
on the bleak moor, with the winds roaring round him, and his life ebbing
away. He was not one of those who _fled_; you know that of him if you
know aught. We got him away before dawn, Donald and I, and hid him in a
shieling; he was in the fever then, and knew nothing that was done to
him, only he kept that bit of lace in his hand for weeks and weeks, and
would not let us stir it from his grasp. What magic there was in it we
wondered often, but 'twas a magic, mayhap, that got him well at last; it
was an even chance but that he'd died, God bless him! though we did what
best we could. We've been wandering in the Highlands all the year,
hiding here and tarrying there. Sir Fulke sets no count upon his life.
Sure I think he thanks us little for getting him through the fever of
the wounds, but he could not have borne to be pinioned, you know, lady,
like a thief, and hung up by the brutes of Whigs, as a butcher hangs
sheep in the shambles! The worst of the danger's over--they've had
their fill of the slaughter; but we sail to-morrow night for the French
coast--England's no place for my master."

Cecil Castlemaine let go her hold upon the boy, and her hand closed
convulsively upon the dainty handkerchief--her gage sent so faithfully
back to her!

The child looked upon her face; perchance, in his master's delirium, he
had caught some knowledge of the story that hung to that broidered toy.

"If you _are_ his friend, madame, doubtless you have some last word to
send him?"

Cecil Castlemaine, whom nothing moved, whom nothing softened, bowed her
head at the simple question, her heart wrestling sorely, her lips set
together in unswerving pride, a mist before her haughty eyes, the
broidered shield upon her handkerchief--the shield of her stately and
unyielding race--pressed close against her breast.

"You have no word for him, lady?"

Her lips parted; she signed him away. Was this child to see her yielding
to such weakness? Had she, Countess of Castlemaine, no better pride, no
better strength, no better power of resolve, than this?

The boy lingered.

"I will tell Sir Fulke then, lady, that the ruined have no friends?"

Whiter and prouder still grew the delicate beauty of her face; she
raised her stately head, haughtily as she had used to glance over a
glittering Court, where each voice murmured praise of her loveliness and
reproach of her coldness; and placed the fragile toy of lace back in the
boy's hands.

"Go, seek your master, and give him this in gage that their calamity
makes friends more dear to us than their success. Go, he will know its
meaning!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In place of the noon chimes the curfew was ringing from the bell-tower,
the swallows were gone to roost amidst the ivy, and the herons slept
with their heads under their silvery wings among the rushes by the
riverside, the ferns and wild hyacinths were damp with evening dew, and
the summer starlight glistened amidst the quivering woodland leaves.
There was the silence of coming night over the vast forest glades, and
no sound broke the stillness, save the song of the grasshopper stirring
the tangled grasses, or the sweet low sigh of the west wind fanning the
bells of the flowers. Cecil Castlemaine stood once more on the
rose-terrace, shrouded in the dense twilight shade flung from above by
the beech-boughs, waiting, listening, catching every rustle of the
leaves, every tremor of the heads of the roses, yet hearing nothing in
the stillness around but the quick, uncertain throbs of her heart
beating like the wing of a caged bird under its costly lace. Pride was
forgotten at length, and she only remembered--fear and love.

In the silence and the solitude came a step that she knew, came a
presence that she felt. She bowed her head upon her hands; it was new to
her this weakness, this terror, this anguish of joy; she sought to calm
herself, to steel herself, to summon back her pride, her strength; she
scorned herself for it all!

His hand touched her, his voice fell on her ear once more, eager,
breathless, broken.

"Cecil! Cecil! is this true? Is my ruin thrice blessed, or am I mad, and
dream of heaven?"

She lifted her head and looked at him with her old proud glance, her
lips trembling with words that all her pride could not summon into
speech; then her eyes filled with warm, blinding tears, and softened to
new beauty;--scarce louder than the sigh of the wind among the
flower-bells came her words to Fulke Ravensworth's ear, as her royal
head bowed on his breast.

"Stay, stay! Or, if you fly, your exile shall be my exile, your danger
my danger!"

The kerchief is a treasured heirloom to her descendants now, and fair
women of her race, who inherit from her her azure eyes and her queenly
grace, will recall how the proudest Countess of their Line loved a
ruined gentleman so well that she was wedded to him at even, in her
private chapel, at the hour of his greatest peril, his lowest fortune,
and went with him across the seas till friendly intercession in high
places gained them royal permission to dwell again at Lilliesford
unmolested. And how it was ever noticeable to those who murmured at her
coldness and her pride, that Cecil Castlemaine, cold and negligent as of
yore to all the world beside, would seek her husband's smile, and love
to meet his eyes, and cherish her beauty for his sake, and be restless
in his absence, even for the short span of a day, with a softer and more
clinging tenderness than was found in many weaker, many humbler women.

They are gone now the men and women of that generation, and their voices
come only to us through the faint echo of their written words. In summer
nights the old beech-trees toss their leaves in the silvery light of the
stars, and the river flows on unchanged, with the ceaseless, mournful
burden of its mystic song, the same now as in the midsummer of a century
and a half ago. The cobweb handkerchief lies before me with its
broidered shield; the same now as long years since, when it was
treasured close in a soldier's breast, and held by him dearer than all
save his honor and his word. So, things pulseless and passionless
endure, and human life passes away as swiftly as a song dies off from
the air--as quickly succeeded, and as quickly forgot! Ronsard's refrain
is the refrain of our lives:

    Le temps s'en va, le temps s'en va, ma dame!
    Las! le temps, non; mais _nous_ nous, en allons!



LITTLE GRAND AND THE MARCHIONESS;

OR,

OUR MALTESE PEERAGE.


All first things are voted the best: first kisses, first _toga virilis_,
first hair of the first whisker; first speeches are often so superior
that members subside after making them, fearful of eclipsing themselves;
first money won at play must always be best, as always the dearest
bought; and first wives are always so super-excellent, that, if a man
lose one, he is generally as fearful of hazarding a second as a trout of
biting twice.

But of all first things commend me to one's first uniform. No matter
that we get sick of harness, and get into mufti as soon as we can now;
there is no more exquisite pleasure than the first sight of one's self
in shako and sabretasche. How we survey ourselves in the glass, and ring
for hot water, that the handsome housemaid may see us in all our glory,
and lounge accidentally into our sisters' schoolroom, that the
governess, who is nice looking and rather flirty, may go down on the
spot before us and our scarlet and gold, chains and buttons! One's first
uniform! Oh! the exquisite sensation locked up for us in that first box
from Sagnarelli, or Bond Street!

I remember _my_ first uniform. I was eighteen--as raw a young cub as you
could want to see. I had not been licked into shape by a public school,
whose tongue may be rough, but cleans off grievances and nonsense better
than anything else. I had been in that hotbed of effeminacy, Church
principles and weak tea, a Private Tutor's, where mamma's darlings are
wrapped up, and stuffed with a little Terence and Horace to show grand
at home; and upon my life I do believe my sister Julia, aged thirteen,
was more wide awake and up to life than I was, when the governor, an old
rector, who always put me in mind of the Vicar of Wakefield, got me
gazetted to as crack a corps as any in the Line.

The ----th (familiarly known in the Service as the "Dare Devils," from
old Peninsular deeds) were just then at Malta, and with, among other
trifles, a chest protector from my father, and a recipe for
milk-arrowroot from my Aunt Matilda who lived in a constant state of
catarrh and of cure for the same, tumbled across the Bay of Biscay, and
found myself in Byron's confounded "little military hot-house," where
most military men, some time or other, have roasted themselves to death,
climbing its hilly streets, flirting with its Valetta belles, drinking
Bass in its hot verandas, yawning with ennui in its palace, cursing its
sirocco, and being done by its Jew sharpers.

From a private tutor's to a crack mess at Malta!--from a convent to a
casino could hardly be a greater change. Just at first I was as much
astray as a young pup taken into a stubble-field, and wondering what the
deuce he is to do there; but as it is a pup's nature to sniff at birds
and start them, so is it a boy's nature to snatch at the champagne of
life as soon as he catches sight of it, though you may have brought him
up on water from his cradle. I took to it, at least, like a retriever to
water-ducks, though I was green enough to be a first-rate butt for many
a day, and the practical jokes I had passed on me would have furnished
the _Times_ with food for crushers on "The Shocking State of the Army"
for a twelvemonth. My chief friend and ally, tormentor and initiator,
was a little fellow, Cosmo Grandison; in Ours he was "Little Grand" to
everybody, from the Colonel to the baggage-women. He was seventeen, and
had joined about a year. What a pretty boy he was, too! All the fair
ones in Valetta, from his Excellency's wife to our washerwomen, admired
that boy, and spoilt him and petted him, and I do not believe there was
a man of Ours who would have had heart to sit in court-martial on Little
Grand if he had broken every one of the Queen's regulations, and set
every General Order at defiance. I think I see him now--he was new to
Malta as I, having just landed with the Dare Devils, _en route_ from
India to Portsmouth--as he sat one day on the table in the mess-room as
cool as a cucumber, in spite of the broiling sun, smoking, and swinging
his legs, and settling his forage-cap on one side of his head, as
pretty-looking, plucky, impudent a young monkey as ever piqued himself
on being an old hand, and a knowing bird not to be caught by any chaff
however ingeniously prepared.

"Simon," began Little Grand (my "St. John," first barbarized by Mr. Pope
for the convenience of his dactyles and hexameters into Sinjin, being
further barbarized by this little imp into Simon)--"Simon, do you want
to see the finest woman in this confounded little pepper-box? You're no
judge of a woman, though, you muff--taste been warped, perhaps, by
constant contemplation of that virgin Aunt Minerva--Matilda, is it? all
the same."

"Hang your chaff," said I; "you'd make one out a fool."

"Precisely, my dear Simon; just what you are!" responded Little Grand,
pleasantly, "Bless your heart, I've been engaged to half a dozen women
since I joined. A man can hardly help it, you see; they've such a way of
drawing you on, you don't like to disappoint them, poor little dears,
and so you compromise yourself out of sheer benevolence. There's such a
run on a handsome man--it's a great bore. Sometimes I think I shall
shave my head, or do something to disfigure myself, as Spurina did. Poor
fellow, I feel for him! Well, Simon, you don't seem curious to know who
my beauty is?"

"One of those Mitchell girls of the Twenty-first? You waltzed with 'em
all night; but they're too tall for you, Grand."

"The Mitchell girls!" ejaculated he, with supreme scorn. "Great
maypoles! they go about with the Fusiliers like a pair of colors. On
every ball-room battlefield one's safe to see _them_ flaunting away, and
as everybody has a shot at 'em, their hearts must be pretty well riddled
into holes by this time. No, mine's rather higher game than that. My
mother's brother-in-law's aunt's sister's cousin's cousin once removed
was Viscount Twaddle, and I don't go anything lower than the Peerage."

"What, is it somebody you've met at his Excellency's?"

"Wrong again, beloved Simon. It's nobody I've met at old Stars and
Garters', though his lady-wife could no more do without me than without
her sal volatile and flirtations. No, _she_ don't go there; she's too
high for that sort of thing--sick of it. After all the European Courts,
Malta must be rather small and slow. I was introduced to her yesterday,
and," continued Little Grand, more solemnly than was his wont, "I do
assure you she's superb, divine; and I'm not very easy to please."

"What's her name?" I asked, rather impressed with this view of a lady
too high for old Stars and Garters, as we irreverently termed her
Majesty's representative in her island of Malta.

Little Grand took his pipe out of his lips to correct me with more
dignity.

"Her _title_, my dear Simon, is the Marchioness St. Julian."

"Is that an English peerage, Grand?"

"Hum! What! Oh yes, of course! What else should it be, you owl!"

Not being in a condition to decide this point, I was silent, and he went
on, growing more impressive at each phrase:

"She is splendid, really! And I'm a very _difficile_ fellow, you know;
but such hair, such eyes, one doesn't see every day in those sun-dried
Mitchells or those little pink Bovilliers. Well, yesterday, after that
confounded luncheon (how I hate all those complimentary affairs!--one
can't enjoy the truffles for talking to the ladies, nor enjoy the ladies
for discussing the truffles), I went for a ride with Conran out to Villa
Neponte. I left him there, and went down to see the overland steamers
come in. While I was waiting, I got into talk, somehow or other, with a
very agreeable, gentleman-like fellow, who asked me if I'd only just
come to Malta, and all that sort of thing--you know the introductory
style of action--till we got quite good friends, and he told me he was
living outside this wretched little hole at the Casa di Fiori, and
said--wasn't it civil of him?--said he should be very happy to see me if
I'd call any time. He gave me his card--Lord Adolphus Fitzhervey--and a
man with him called him 'Dolph.' As good luck had it, my weed went out
just while we were talking, and Fitzhervey was monstrously pleasant,
searched all over him for a fusee, couldn't find one, and asked me to go
up with him to the Casa di Fiori and get a light. Of course I did, and
he and I and Guatamara had some sherbet and a smoke together, and then
he introduced me to the Marchioness St. Julian, his sister--by Jove!
such a magnificent woman, Simon, _you_ never saw one like her, I'll
wager. She was uncommonly agreeable, too, and _such_ a smile, my boy!
She seemed to like me wonderfully--not rare that, though, you'll
say--and asked me to go and take coffee there to-night after mess, and
bring one of my chums with me; and as I like to show you life, young
one, and your taste wants improving after Aunt Minerva, you may come, if
you like. Hallo! there's Conran. I say, don't tell _him_. I don't want
any poaching on my manor."

Conran came in at that minute; he was then a Brevet-Major and Captain in
Ours, and one of the older men who spoilt Little Grand in one way, as
much as the women did in another. He was a fine, powerful fellow, with
eyes like an eagle's, and pluck like a lion's; he had a grave look, and
had been of late more silent and self-reticent than the other
roistering, débonnair, light-hearted "Dare Devils;" but though, perhaps,
tired of the wild escapades which reputation had once attributed to him,
was always the most lenient to the boy's monkey tricks, and always the
one to whom he went if his larks had cost him too dear, or if he was in
a scrape from which he saw no exit. Conran had recently come in for a
good deal of money, and there were few bright eyes in Malta that would
not have smiled kindly on him; but he did not care much for any of them.
There was some talk of a love-affair before he went to India, that was
the cause of his hard-heartedness, though I must say he did not look
much like a victim to the _grande passion_, in my ideas, which were
drawn from valentines and odes in the "Woman, thou fond and fair
deceiver" style; in love that turned its collars down and let its hair
go uncut and refused to eat, and recovered with a rapidity proportionate
to its ostentation; and I did not know that, if a man has lost his
treasure, he _may_ mourn it so deeply that he may refuse to run about
like Harpagon, crying for his _cassette_ to an audience that only laughs
at his miseries.

"Well, young ones," said Conran, as he came in and threw down his cap
and whip, "here you are, spending your hours in pipes and bad wine. What
a blessing it is to have a palate that isn't blasé, and that will
swallow all wine just because it _is_ wine! That South African goes
down with better relish, Little Grand, than you'll find in Château
Margaux ten years hence. As soon as one begins to want touching up with
olives, one's real gusto is gone."

"Hang olives, sir! they're beastly," said Little Grand; "and I don't
care who pretends they're not. Olives are like sermons and wives,
everybody makes a wry face, and would rather be excused 'em, Major; but
it's the custom to call 'em good things, and so men bolt 'em in
complaisance, and while they hate the salt-water flavor, descant on the
delicious rose taste!"

"Quite true, Little Grand! but one takes olives to enhance the wine; and
so, perhaps, other men's sermons make one enjoy one's racier novel, and
other men's wives make one appreciate one's liberty still better. Don't
abuse olives; you'll want them figuratively and literally before you've
done either drinking or living!"

"Oh! confound it, Major," cried Little Grand, "I do hope and trust a
spent ball may have the kindness to double me up and finish me off
before then."

"You're not philosophic, my boy."

"Thank Heaven, no!" ejaculated Little Grand, piously. "I've an uncle, a
very great philosopher, beats all the sages hollow, from Bion to Buckle,
and writes in the Metaphysical Quarterly, but I'll be shot if he don't
spend so much time in trying to puzzle out what life is, that all his
has slipped away without his having _lived_ one bit. When I was staying
with him one Christmas, he began boring me with a frightful theory on
the non-existence of matter. I couldn't stand that, so I cut him short,
and set him down to the luncheon-table; and while he was full swing with
a Strasbourg pâté and Comet hock, I stopped him and asked him if, with
them in his mouth, he believed in matter or not? He was shut up, of
course; bless your soul, those theorists always are, if you're down upon
'em with a little fact!"

"Such as a Strasbourg pâté?--that _is_ an unanswerable argument with
most men, I believe," said Conran, who liked to hear the boy chatter.
"What are you going to do with yourself to-night, Grand?"

"I am going to--ar--hum--to a friend of mine," said Little Grand, less
glibly than usual.

"Very well; I only asked, because I would have taken you to Mrs.
Fortescue's with me; they're having some acting proverbs (horrible
exertion in this oven of a place, with the thermometer at a hundred and
twenty degrees); but if you've better sport it's no matter. Take care
what friends you make, though, Grand; you'll find some Maltese
acquaintances very costly."

"Thank you. I should say I can take care of myself," replied Little
Grand, with immeasurable scorn and dignity.

Conran laughed, struck him across the shoulders with his whip, stroked
his own moustaches, and went out again, whistling one of Verdi's airs.

"I don't want him bothering, you know," explained Little Grand; "she's
such a deuced magnificent woman!"

She was a magnificent woman, this Eudoxia Adelaida, Marchioness St.
Julian; and proud enough Little Grand and I felt when we had that soft,
jewelled hand held out to us, and that bewitching smile beamed upon us,
and that joyous presence dazzling in our eyes, as we sat in the
drawing-room of that Casa di Fiori. She was about thirty-five, I should
say (boys always worship those who might have been schoolfellows of
their mothers), tall and stately, and imposing, with the most beautiful
pink and white skin, with a fine set of teeth, raven hair, and eyes
tinted most exquisitely. Oh! she was magnificent, our Marchioness St.
Julian! Into what unutterable insignificance, what miserable, washed-out
shadows sank Stars and Garters' lady, and the Mitchell girls, and all
the belles of La Valetta, whom we hadn't thought so very bad-looking
before.

There was a young creature sitting a little out of the radiance of
light, reading; but we had no eyes for anybody except the Marchioness
St. Julian. We were in such high society, too; there was her brother,
Lord Adolphus, and his bosom Pylades, the Baron Guatamara; and there was
a big fellow, with hooked nose and very curly hair, who was introduced
to us as the Prince of Orangia Magnolia; and a little wiry fellow, with
bits of red and blue ribbon, and a star or two in his button-hole, who
was M. le Due de Saint-Jeu. We were quite dazzled with the coruscations
of so much aristocracy, especially when they talked across to each
other--so familiarly, too--of Johnnie (that we Lord Russell), and Pam,
and "old Buck" (my godfather Buckingham, Lord Adolphus explained to us),
and Montpensier and old Joinville; and chatted of when they dined at the
Tuileries, and stayed at Compiègne, and hunted at Belvoir, and spent
Christmas at Holcombe or Longleat. We were in such high society! How
contemptible appeared Mrs. Maberly's and the Fortescue soirées; how
infinitesimally small grew Charlie Ruthven, and Harry Villiers, and Grey
and Albany, and all the other young fellows who thought it such great
guns to be _au mieux_ with little Graziella, or invited to Sir George
Dashaway's. _We_ were a cut above those things now--rather!

That splendid Marchioness! There was a head for a coronet, if you like!
And how benign she was! Grand sat on the couch beside her, and I on an
ottoman on her left, and she leaned back in her magnificent toilette,
flirting her fan like a Castilian, and flashing upon us her superb eyes
from behind it; not speaking very much, but showing her white teeth in
scores of heavenly smiles, till Little Grand, the _blasé_ man of
seventeen, and I the raw Moses of private tutelage, both felt that we
had never come across anything like this; never, in fact, seen a woman
worth a glance before.

She listened to us--or rather to him; I was too awestruck to advance
much beyond monosyllables--and laughed at him, and smiled encouragingly
on my _gaucherie_ (and when a boy is _gauche_, how ready he is to
worship such a helping hand!), and beamed upon us both with an
effulgence compared with which the radiance of Helen, Galatea, Oenone,
Messalina, Laïs, and all the legendary beauties one reads about, must
have been what the railway night-lamps that _never_ burn are to the
prismatic luminaries of Cremorne. They were all uncommonly pleasant, all
except the girl who was reading, whom they introduced as the Signorina
da' Guari, a Tuscan, and daughter to Orangia Magnolia, with one of those
marvellously beautiful faces that one sees in the most splendid
painters' models of the Campagna, who never lifted her head scarcely,
though Guatamara and Saint-Jeu did their best to make her. But all the
others were wonderfully agreeable, and quite _fête'd_ Little Grand and
me, at which, they, being more than double our age, and seemingly at
home alike with Belgravia and Newmarket, the Faubourg and the Pytchley,
we felt to grow at least a foot each in the aroma of this Casa di Fiori.

"This is rather stupid, Doxie," began Lord Adolphus, addressing his
sister; "not much entertainment for our guests. What do you say to a
game of vingt-et-un, eh, Mr. Grandison?"

Little Grand fixed his blue eyes on the Marchioness, and said he should
be very happy, but, as for entertainment--_he_ wanted no other.

"No compliments, _petit ami_," laughed the Marchioness, with a dainty
blow of her fan. "Yes, Dolph, have vingt-et-un, or music, or anything
you like. Sing us something, Lucrezia."

The Italian girl thus addressed looked up with a passionate, haughty
flush, and answered, with wonderfully little courtesy I considered, "I
shall not sing to-night."

"Are you unwell, fairest friend?" asked the Duc de Saint-Jeu, bending
his little wiry figure over her.

She shrank away from him, and drew back, a hot color in her cheeks.

"Signore, I did not address _you_."

The Marchioness looked angry, if those divine eyes could look anything
so mortal. However, she shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, my dear Lucrezia, we can't make you sing, of course, if you
won't. I, for my part, always do any little thing I can to amuse
anybody; if I fail, I fail; I have done my best, and my friends will
appreciate the effort, if not the result. No, my dear Prince, do not
tease her," said the Marchioness to Orangia Magnolia, who was arguing, I
thought, somewhat imperatively for such a well-bred and courtly man,
with Lucrezia; "we will have vingt-et-un, and Lucrezia will give us the
delight of her voice some other evening, I dare say."

We had vingt-et-un; the Marchioness would not play, but she sat in her
rose velvet arm-chair, just behind Little Grand, putting in pretty
little speeches, and questions, and bagatelles, and calling attention to
the gambols of her darling greyhound Cupidon, and tapping Little Grand
with her fan, till, I believe, he neither knew how the game went, nor
what money he lost; and I, gazing at her, and cursing him for his facile
tongue, never noticed my naturels, couldn't have said what the maximum
was if you had paid me for it, and might, for anything I knew to the
contrary, have been seeing my life slip away with each card as Balzac's
hero with the Peau de Chagrin. Then we had sherbet, and wine, and cognac
for those who preferred it; and the Marchioness gave us permission to
smoke, and took a dainty hookah with an amber mouthpiece for her own use
(divine she did look, too, with that hookah between her ruby lips!); and
the smoke, and the cognac, and the smiles, unloosed our tongues, and we
spake like very great donkeys, I dare say, but I'm sure with not a tenth
part the wisdom that Balaam's ass developed in his brief and pithy
conversation.

However great the bosh we talked, though, we found very lenient
auditors. Fitzhervey and Guatamara laughed at all our witticisms; the
Prince of Orangia Magnolia joined in with a "Per Baccho!" and a "Bravo!"
and little Saint-Jeu wheezed, and gave a faint echo of "Mon Dieu!" and
"Très bien, très bien, vraiment!" and the Marchioness St. Julian laughed
too, and joined in our nonsense, and, what was much more, bent a willing
ear to our compliments, no matter how florid; and Saint-Jeu told us a
story or two, more amusing than _comme il faut_, at which the
Marchioness tried to look grave, and _did_ look shocked, but laughed for
all that behind her fan; and Lucrezia da' Guari sat in shadow, as still
and as silent as the Parian Euphrosyne on the console, though her
passionate eyes and expressive face looked the very antipodes of silence
and statuetteism, as she flashed half-shy, half-scornful, looks upon us.

If the first part of the evening had been delightful, this was something
like Paradise! It was such high society! and with just dash enough of
Mabille and coulisses laisseraller to give it piquancy. How different
was the pleasantry and freedom of these _real_ aristos, after the
humdrum dinners and horrid bores of dances that those snobs of Maberlys,
and Fortescues, and Mitchells, made believe to call Society!

What with the wine, and the smoke, and the smiles, I wasn't quite clear
as to whether I saw twenty horses' heads or one when I was fairly into
saddle, and riding back to the town, just as the first dawn was rising,
Aphrodite-like, from the far blue waves of the Mediterranean. Little
Grand was better seasoned, but even he was dizzy with the parting words
of the Marchioness, which had softly breathed the delicious passport,
"Come to-morrow."

"By Jupiter!" swore Little Grand, obliged to give relief to his
feelings--"by Jupiter, Simon! did you ever see such a glorious,
enchanting, divine, delicious, adorable creature? Faugh! who could look
at those Mitchell girls after her? Such eyes! such a smile! such a
figure! Talk of a coronet! no imperial crown would be half good enough
for her! And how pleasant those fellows are! I like that little chaffy
chap, the Duke; what a slap-up story that was about the bal de l'Opéra.
And Fitzhervey, too; there's something uncommonly thorough-bred about
him, ain't there? And Guatamara's an immensely jolly fellow. Ah, myboy!
that's something like society; all the ease and freedom of real rank; no
nonsense about them, as there is about snobs. I say, what wouldn't the
other fellows give to be in our luck? I think even Conran would warm up
about her. But, Simon, she's deucedly taken with me--she is, upon my
word; and she knows how to show it you, too! By George! one could die
for a woman like that--eh?"

"Die!" I echoed, while my horse stumbled along up the hilly road, and I
swayed forward, pretty nearly over his head, while poetry rushed to my
lips, and electric sparks danced before my eyes:

    "To die for those we love! oh, there is power
    In the true heart, and pride, and joy, for this
    It is to live without the vanished light
    That strength is needed!"

"But I'll be shot if it shall be vanished light," returned Little Grand;
"it don't look much like it yet. The light's only just lit, 'tisn't
likely it's going out again directly; but she is a stunner! and----"

"A stunner!" I shouted; "she's much more than that--she's an angel, and
I'll be much obliged to you to call her by her right name, sir. She's a
beautiful, noble, loving woman; the most perfect of all Nature's
masterworks. She is divine, sir, and you and I are not worthy merely to
kiss the hem of her garment."

"Ain't we, though? I don't care much about kissing her dress; it's silk,
and I don't know that I should derive much pleasure from pressing my
lips on its texture; but her cheek----"

    "Her cheek is like the Catherine pear,
    The side that's next the sun!"

I shouted, as my horse went down in a rut. "She's like Venus rising from
the sea-shell; she's like Aurora, when she came down on the first ray of
the dawn to Tithonus; she's like Briseis----"

"Bother classics! she's like herself, and beats 'em all hollow. She's
the finest creature ever seen on earth, and I should like to see the man
who'd dare to say she wasn't. And--I say, Simon--_how much did you lose
to-night_?"

From sublimest heights I tumbled straight to bathos. The cold water of
Grand's query quenched my poetry, extinguished my electric lights, and
sobered me like a douche bath.

"I don't know," I answered, with a sense of awe and horror stealing over
me; "but I had a pony in my waistcoat-pocket that the governor had just
sent me; Guatamara changed it for me, and--_I've only sixpence left_!"

"Old boy," said Little Grand to me, the next morning, after early
parade, "come in my room, and let's make up some despatches to the
governors. You see," he continued, five minutes after,--"you see, we're
both of us pretty well cleared out; I've only got half a pony, and you
haven't a couple of fivers left. Now you know they evidently play rather
high at the Casa di Fiori; do everything _en prince_, like nobs who've
Barclays at their back; and one mustn't hang fire; horrid shabby that
would look. Besides, fancy seeming mean before _her_! So I've been
thinking that, though governors are a screwy lot generally, if we put it
to 'em clearly the sort of set we've got into, and show 'em that we
can't help, now that we are at Rome, doing as the Romans do, I should
say they could hardly help bleeding a little--eh? Now, listen how I've
put it. My old boy has a weakness for titles; he married my mother on
the relationship to Viscount Twaddles (who doesn't know of her
existence; but who does to talk about as 'our cousin'), and he'd eat up
miles of dirt for a chance of coming to a strawberry-leaf; so I think
this will touch him up beautifully. Listen! ain't I sublimely
respectful? 'I'm sure, my dear father, you wilt be delighted to learn,
that by wonderful luck, or rather I ought to say Providence, I have
fallen on my feet in Malta, and got introduced to the very highest'
(wait! let me stick a dash under very)--'the _very_ highest society
here. They are quite tip-top. To show you what style, I need only
mention Lord A. Fitzhervey, the Baron Guatamara, and the Marchioness St.
Julian, as among my kindest friends. They have been yachting in the
Levant, and are now staying in Malta: they are all most kind to me; and
I know you will appreciate the intellectual advantages that such contact
must afford me; at the same time you will understand that I can hardly
enter such circles as a snob, and you will wish your son to comport
himself as a gentleman; but gentlemanizing comes uncommon dear, I can
tell you, with all the care in the world: and if you _could_ let me have
another couple of hundred, I should vote you'--a what, Simon?--'an
out-and-out brick' is the sensible style, but I suppose 'the best and
kindest of parents' is the filial dodge, eh? There! 'With fond love to
mamma and Florie, ever your affectionate son, COSMO GRANDISON.' Bravo!
that's prime; that'll bring the yellows down, I take it. Here, old
fellow, copy it to your governor; you couldn't have a more stunning
effusion--short, and to the purpose, as cabinet councils ought to be,
and ain't. Fire away, my juvenile."

I did fire away; only I, of a more impressionable and poetic nature than
Little Grand, gave a certain vent to my feelings in expatiating on the
beauty, grace, condescension, &c., &c., of the Marchioness to my mother;
I did _not_ mention the grivois stories, the brandy, and the hookah: I
was quite sure they were the sign of that delirious ease and disregard
of snobbish etiquette and convenances peculiar to the "Upper Ten," but I
thought the poor people at home, in vicarage seclusion, would be too out
of the world to fully appreciate such revelations of our _crême de la
crême_; besides, my governor had James's own detestation of the divine
weed, and considered that men who "made chimneys of their mouths" might
just as well have the mark of the Beast at once.

Little Grand and I were hard-up for cash, and _en attendant_ the
governors' replies and remittances, we had recourse to the tender
mercies and leather bags of napoleons, ducats, florins, and doubloons of
a certain Spanish Jew, one Balthazar Miraflores, a shrivelled-skinned,
weezing old cove, who was "most happy to lent anytink to his tear young
shentlesmen, but, by Got! he was as poor as Job, he was indeed!" Whether
Job ever lent money out on interest or not, I can't say; perhaps he did,
as in the finish he ended with having quadrupled his cattle and lands,
and all his goods--a knack usurers preserve in full force to this day;
but all I can say is, that if he was not poorer than Mr. Miraflores, he
was not much to be pitied, for he, miserly old shark, lived in his dark,
dirty hole, like a crocodile embedded in Nile mud, and crushed the bones
of all unwary adventurers who came within range of his great bristling
jaws.

Money, however, Little Grand and I got out of him in plenty, only for a
little bit of paper in exchange; and at that time we didn't know that
though the paper tax would be repealed at last, there would remain, as
long as youths are green and old birds cunning, a heavy and a bitter tax
on certain bits of paper to which one's hand is put, which Mr.
Gladstone, though he achieve the herculean task of making draymen take
kindly to vin ordinaire, and the popping of champagne corks a familiar
sound by cottage-hearths, will never be able to include in his budgets,
to come among the Taxes that are Repealed!

Well, we had our money from old Balthazar that morning, and we played
with it again that night up at the Casa di Fiori. Loo this time, by way
of change. Saint-Jeu said he always thought it well to change your game
as you change your loves: constancy, whether to cards or women, was most
fatiguing. We liked Saint-Jeu very much, we thought him such a funny
fellow. They said they did not care to play much--of course they didn't,
when Guatamara had had écarté with the Grand-Duke of Chaffsandlarkstein
at half a million a side, and Lord Dolph had broken the bank at Homburg
"just for fun--no fun to old Blanc, who farms it, though, you know." But
the Marchioness, who was doubly gracious that night, told them they must
play, because it amused her _chers petits amis_. Besides, she said, in
her pretty, imperious way, she liked to see it--it amused her. After
that, of course, there was no more hesitation; down we sat, and young
Heavystone with us.

The evening before we had happened to mention him, said he was a fellow
of no end of tin, though as stupid an owl as ever spelt his own name
wrong when he passed a military examination, and the Marchioness,
recalling the name, said she remembered his father, and asked us to
bring him to see her; which we did, fearing no rival in "old Heavy."

So down we three sat, and had the evening before over again, with the
cards, and the smiles, and wiles of our divinity, and Saint-Jeu's
stories and Fitzhervey's cognac and cigars; with this difference, that
we found loo more exciting than vingt-et-un. They played it so fast,
too, it was like a breathless heat for the Goodwood Cup, and the
Marchioness watched it, leaning alternately over Grand's, and Heavy's,
and my chair, and saying, with such naïve delight, "Oh, do take miss,
Cosmo; I would risk it if I were you, Mr. Heavystone; _pray_ don't let
my naughty brother win everything," that I'd have defied the stiffest of
the Stagyrites or the chilliest of Calvinists to have kept their head
cool with that syren voice in their ear.

And La Lucrezia sat, as she had sat the night before, by the open
window, still and silent, the Cape jasmines and Southern creepers
framing her in a soft moonlight picture, contrast enough to the
brilliantly lighted room, echoing with laughter at Saint-Jeu's stories,
perfumed with Cubas and narghilés, and shrining the magnificent,
full-blown, jewelled beauty of our Marchioness St. Julian, with which we
were as rapidly, as madly, as unreasoningly, and as sentimentally in
love as any boys of seventeen or eighteen ever could be. What greater
latitude, you will exclaim, recalling certain buried-away episodes of
_your_ hobbedehoyism, when you addressed Latin distichs to that
hazel-eyed Hebe who presided over oyster patties and water ices at the
pastrycook's in Eton; or ruined your governor's young plantations
cutting the name of Adeliza Mary, your cousin, at this day a portly
person in velvet and point, whom you can now call, with a thanksgiving
in the stead of the olden tremor, Mrs. Hector M'Cutchin? Yes, we were in
love in a couple of evenings, Little Grand vehemently and unpoetically,
I shyly and sentimentally, according to our temperament, and as the fair
Emily stirred feud between the two Noble Kinsmen, so the Marchioness St.
Julian began to sow seeds of jealousy and detestation between us, sworn
allies as we were. But "_le véritable amant ne connaît point_
_d'amis_," and as soon as we began to grow jealous of each other, Little
Grand could have kicked me to the devil, and I could have kicked _him_
with the greatest pleasure in life.

But I was shy, Little Grand was blessed with all the audacity
imaginable; the consequence was, that when our horses came round, and
the Maltese who acted as cherub was going to close the gates of Paradise
upon us, he managed to slip into the Marchioness's boudoir to get a
tête-à-tête farewell, while I strode up and down the veranda, not
heeding Saint-Jeu, who was telling me a tale, to which, in any other
saner moments, I should have listened greedily, but longing to execute
on Little Grand some fierce and terrible vengeance, to which the
vendetta should be baby's play. Saint-Jeu left me to put his arm over
Heavy's shoulder, and tell him if ever he came to Paris he should be
transported to receive him at the Hôtel de Millefleurs, and present him
at the Tuileries; and I stood swearing to myself, and breaking off
sprays of the veranda creepers, when I heard somebody say, very softly
and low,--

"Signore, come here a moment."

It was that sweetly pretty mute whom we had barely noticed, absorbed as
we were in the worship of our maturer idol, leaning out of the window,
her cheeks flushed, her lips parted, her eyes sad and anxious. Of course
I went to her, surprised at her waking up so suddenly to any interest in
me. She put her hand on my coat-sleeve, and drew me down towards her.

"Listen to me a moment. I hardly know how to warn you, and yet I must. I
cannot sit quietly by and see you and your young friends being deceived
as so many have been before you. Do not come here again---do not----"

"Figlia mia! are you not afraid of the night-air?" said the Prince of
Orangia Magnolia, just behind us.

His words were kind, but there was a nasty glitter in his eyes.
Lucrezia answered him in passionate Italian--of which I had no
knowledge--with such fire in her eyes, such haughty gesticulation, and
such a torrent of words, that I really began to think, pretty soft
little dear as she looked, that she must positively be a trifle out of
her mind, her silence before, and her queer speech to me, seemed such
odd behavior for a young lady in such high society. She was turning to
me again when Little Grand came out into the veranda, looking flushed,
proud, and self-complaisant, as such a winner and slayer of women would
do. My hand clenched on the jasmine, I thirsted to spring on him as he
stood there with his provoking, self-contented smile, and his confounded
coxcombical air, and his cursed fair curls--_my_ hair was dust-colored
and as rebellious as porcupine-quills--and wash out in his blood or
mine----A touch of a soft hand thrilled through my every nerve and
fibre: the Marchioness was there, and signed me to her. Lucrezia, Little
Grand, and all the rest of the universe vanished from my mind at the
lightning of that angel smile and the rustle of that moire-antique
dress. She beckoned me to her into the empty drawing-room.

"Augustus" (I never thought my name could sound so sweet before), "tell
me, what was my niece Lucrezia saying to you just now?"

Now I had a sad habit of telling the truth; it was an out-of-the-world
custom taught me, among other old-fashioned things, at home, though I
soon found how inconvenient a _bêtise_ modern society considers it; and
I blurted the truth out here, not distinctly or gracefully, though, as
Little Grand would have done, for I was in that state of exaltation
ordinarily expressed as not knowing whether one is standing in one's
Wellingtons or not.

The Marchioness sighed.

"Ah, did she say that? Poor dear girl! She dislikes me so much, it is
quite an hallucination, and yet, O Augustus, I have been to her like an
elder sister, like a mother. Imagine how it grieves me," and the
Marchioness shed some tears--pearls of price, thought I, worthy to drop
from angel eyes--"it is a bitter sorrow to me, but, poor darling! she is
not responsible."

She touched her veiny temple significantly as she spoke, and I
understood, and felt tremendously shocked at it, that the young, fair
Italian girl was a fierce and cruel maniac, who had the heart (oh! most
extraordinary madness did it seem to me; if _I_ had lost my senses I
could never have harmed _her_!) to hate, absolutely hate, the noblest,
tenderest, most beautiful of women!

"I never alluded to it to any one," continued the Marchioness.
"Guatamara and Saint-Jeu, though such intimate friends, are ignorant of
it. I would rather have any one think ever so badly of me, than reveal
to them the cruel misfortune of my sweet Lucrezia----"

How noble she looked as she spoke!

"But you, Augustus, you," and she smiled upon me till I grew as dizzy as
after my first taste of milk-punch, "I have not the courage to let _you_
go off with any bad impression of me. I have known you a very little
while, it is true--but a few hours, indeed--yet there are affinities of
heart and soul which overstep the bounds of time, and, laughing at the
chill ties of ordinary custom, make strangers dearer than old
friends----"

The room revolved round me, the lights danced up and down, my heart beat
like Thor's hammer, and my pulse went as fast as a favorite saving the
distance. _She_ speaking so to me! My senses whirled round and round
like fifty thousand witches on a Walpurgis Night, and down I went on my
knees before my magnificent idol, raving away I couldn't tell you what
now--the essence of everything I'd ever read, from Ovid to Alexander
Smith. It must have been something frightful to hear, though Heaven
knows I meant it earnestly enough. Suddenly I was pulled up with a
jerk, as one throws an unbroken colt back on his haunches in the middle
of his first start. _I thought I heard a laugh._

She started up too. "Hush! another time! We may be overheard." And
drawing her dress from my hands, which grasped it as agonisingly as a
cockney grasps his saddle-bow, holding on for dear life over the Burton
or Tedworth country, she stooped kindly over me, and floated away before
_I_ was recovered from the exquisite delirium of my ecstatic trance.

She loved me! This superb creature loved me! There was not a doubt of
it; and how I got back to the barracks that night in my heavenly state
of mind I could never have told. All I know is, that Grand and I never
spoke a word, by tacit consent, all the way back; that I felt a fiendish
delight when I saw his proud triumphant air, and thought how little he
guessed, poor fellow!----And that Dream of One Fair Woman was as
superior in rapture to the "Dream of Fair Women" as Tokay to the "Fine
Fruity Port" that results from damsons and a decoction of sloes!

The next day there was a grand affair in Malta to receive some foreign
Prince, whose name I do not remember now, who called on us _en route_ to
England. Of course all the troops turned out, and there was an
inspection of us, and a grand luncheon and dinner, and ball, and all
that sort of thing, which a month before I should have considered prime
fun, but which now, as it kept me out of my paradise, I thought the most
miserable bore that could possibly have chanced.

"I say," said Heavy to me as I was getting into harness--"I say, don't
you wonder Fitzhervey and the Marchioness ain't coming to the palace
to-day? One would have thought Old Stars and Garters would have been
sure to ask them."

"Ask them? I should say so," I returned, with immeasurable disdain. "Of
course he asked them; but she told me she shouldn't come, last night.
She is so tired of such things. She came yachting with Fitzhervey solely
to try and have a little quiet. She says people never give her a
moment's rest when she is in Paris or London. She was sorry to
disappoint Stars and Garters, but I don't think she likes his wife much:
she don't consider her good ton."

On which information Heavy lapsed into a state of profoundest awe and
wonderment, it having been one of his articles of faith, for the month
that we had been in Malta, that the palace people were exalted demigods,
whom it was only permissible to worship from a distance, and a very
respectful distance too. Heavy had lost some twenty odd pounds the night
before--of course we lost, young hands as we were, unaccustomed to the
society of that entertaining gentleman, Pam--and had grumbled not a
little at the loss of his gold bobs. But now I could see that such a
contemptibly pecuniary matter was clean gone from his memory, and that
he would have thought the world well lost for the honor of playing cards
with people who could afford to disappoint Old Stars and Garters.

The inspection was over at last; and if any other than Conran had been
my senior officer, I should have come off badly, in all probability, for
the abominable manner in which I went through my evolutions. The day
came to an end somehow or other, though I began to think it never would,
the luncheon was ended, the bigwigs were taking their sieste, or
otherwise occupied, and I, trusting to my absence not being noticed,
tore off as hard as man can who has Cupid for his Pegasus. With a
bouquet as large as a drum-head, clasped round with a bracelet, about
which I had many doubts as to the propriety of offering to the possessor
of such jewelry as the Marchioness must have, yet on which I thought I
might venture after the scene of last night, I was soon on the veranda
of the Casa di Fiori, and my natural shyness being stimulated into a
distant resemblance of Little Grand's enviable brass, seeing the windows
of the drawing-room open, I pushed aside the green venetians and entered
noiselessly. The room did not look a quarter so inviting as the night
before, though it was left in precisely a similar state. I do not know
how it was, but those cards lying about on the floor, those sconces with
the wax run down and dripping over them, those emptied caraffes that had
diffused an odor not yet dissipated, those tables and velvet couches all
_à tort et à travers_, did not look so very inviting after all, and even
to my unsophisticated senses, scarcely seemed fit for a Peeress.

There was nobody in the room, and I walked through it towards the
boudoir; from the open door I saw Fitzhervey, Guatamara, and my
Marchioness--but oh! what horror unutterable! doing--_que pensez-vous?_
Drinking bottled porter!--and drinking bottled porter in a _peignoir_
not of the cleanliest, and with raven tresses not of the neatest!

Only fancy! she, that divine, _spirituelle_ creature, who had talked but
a few hours before of the affinity of souls, to have come down, like any
ordinary woman, to Guinness's stout, and a checked dressing-gown and
unbrushed locks! To find your prophet without his silver veil, or your
Leila dead drowned in a sack, or your Guinevere flown over with Sir
Lancelot to Boulogne, or your long-esteemed Griselda gone off with your
cockaded Jeames, is nothing to the torture, the unutterable anguish, of
seeing your angel, your divinity, your bright particular star, your
hallowed Arabian rose, come down to--Bottled Porter! Do not talk to me
of Doré, sir, or Mr. Martin's pictures; their horrors dwindle into
insignificance compared with the horror of finding an intimate liaison
between one's first love and Bottled Porter!

In my first dim, unutterable anguish, I should have turned and fled; but
my syren's voice had not lost all its power, despite the stout and dirty
dressing-gown, for she was a very handsome woman, and could stand such
things as well as anybody. She came towards me, with her softest smile,
glancing at the bracelet on the bouquet, apologizing slightly for her
négligé:--"I am so indolent. I only dress for those I care to
please--and I never hoped to see _you_ to-day." In short, magnetizing me
over again, and smoothing down my outraged sensibilities, till I ended
by becoming almost blind (_quite_ I could not manage) to the checked
_robe de chambre_ and the unbrushed bandeaux, by offering her my
braceleted bouquet, which was very graciously accepted, and even by
sharing the atrocious London porter, "that horrid stuff," she called it,
"how I hate it! but it is the only thing Sir Benjamin Brodie allows me,
I am so very delicate, you know, my sensibilities so frightfully acute!"

I had not twenty minutes to stay, having to be back at the barracks, or
risk a reprimand, which, happily, the checked _peignoir_ had cooled me
sufficiently to enable me to recollect. So I took my farewell--one not
unlike Medora's and Conrad's, Fitzhervey and Guatamara having kindly
withdrawn as soon as the bottled porter was finished--and I went out of
the house in a very blissful state, despite Guinness and the unwelcome
demi-toilette, which did not accord with Eugène Sue's and the Parlor
Library's description of the general getting-up and stunning appearance
of heroines and peeresses, "reclining, in robes of cloud-like tissue and
folds of the richest lace, on a cabriole couch of amber velvet, while
the air was filled with the voluptuous perfume of the flower-children of
the South, and music from unseen choristers lulled the senses with its
divinest harmony," &c., &c., &c.

Bottled porter and a checked dressing-gown! Say what you like, sirs, it
takes a very strong passion to overcome _those_. I have heard men
ascribe the waning of their affections after the honeymoon to the
constant sight of their wives--whom before they had only seen making
papa's coffee with an angelic air and a toilette _tirée à quatre
épingles_--everlastingly coming down too late for breakfast in a
dressing-gown; and, upon my soul, if ever I marry, which Heaven in
pitiful mercy forfend! and my wife make her appearance in one of those
confounded _peignoirs_, I will give that much-run-after and
deeply-to-be-pitied public character, the Divorce Judge, some more work
to do--I will, upon my honor.

However, the _peignoir_ had not iced me enough that time to prevent my
tumbling out of the house in as delicious an ecstasy as if I had been
eating some of Monte Cristo's "hatchis." As I went out, not looking
before me, I came bang against the chest of somebody else, who, not
admiring the rencontre, hit my cap over my eyes, and exclaimed, in not
the most courtly manner you will acknowledge, "You cursed owl, take
that, then! What are you doing here, I should like to know?"

"Confound your impudence!" I retorted, as soon as my ocular powers were
restored, and I saw the blue eyes, fair curls, and smart figure of my
ancient Iolaüs, now my bitterest foe--"confound your impertinence! what
are _you_ doing here? you mean."

"Take care, and don't ask questions about what doesn't concern you,"
returned Little Grand, with a laugh--a most irritating laugh. There are
times when such cachinnations sting one's ears more than a volley of
oaths. "Go home and mind your own business, my chicken. You are a green
bird, and nobody minds you, but still you'll find it as well not to come
poaching on other men's manors."

"Other men's manors! Mine, if you please," I shouted, so mad with him I
could have floored him where he stood.

"Phew!" laughed Little Grand, screwing up his lips into a contemptuous
whistle, "you've been drinking too much Bass, my daisy; 'tis n't good
for young heads--can't stand it. Go home, innocent."

The insult, the disdainful tone, froze my blood. My heart swelled with a
sense of outraged dignity and injured manhood. With a conviction of my
immeasurable superiority of position, as the beloved of that divine
creature, I emancipated myself from the certain sort of slavery I was
generally in to Little Grand, and spoke as I conceived it to be the
habit of gentlemen whose honor had been wounded to speak.

"Mr. Grandison, you will pay for this insult. I shall expect
satisfaction."

Little Grand laughed again--absolutely grinned, the audacious young
imp--and he twelve months younger than I, too!

"Certainly, sir. If you wish to be made a target of, I shall be
delighted to oblige you. I can't keep ladies waiting. It is always Place
aux dames! with me; so, for the present, good morning!"

And off went the young coxcomb into the Casa di Fiori, and I, only
consoled by the reflection of the different reception he would receive
to what mine had been (_he_ had a braceleted bouquet, too, the young
pretentious puppy!), started off again, assuaging my lacerated feelings
with the delicious word of Satisfaction. I felt myself immeasurably
raised above the heads of every other man in Malta--a perfect hero of
romance; in fact, fit to figure in my beloved Alexandre's most
highly-wrought yellow-papered _roman_, with a duel on my hands, and the
love of a magnificent creature like my Eudoxia Adelaida. She had become
Eudoxia Adelaida to me now, and I had forgiven, if not forgotten, the
dirty dressing-gown: the bottled porter lay, of course, at Brodie's
door. If he would condemn spiritual forms of life and light to the
common realistic aliments of horrible barmaids and draymen, she could
not help it, nor I either. If angels come down to earth, and are
separated from their natural nourishment of manna and nectar, they must
take what they can get, even though it be so coarse and sublunary a
thing as Guinness's XXX, must they not, sir? Yes, I felt very _exalté_
with my affair of honor and my affair of the heart, Little Grand for my
foe, and my Marchioness, for a love. I never stopped to remember that I
might be smashing with frightful recklessness the Sixth and the Seventh
Commandments. If Little Grand got shot, he must thank himself; he should
not have insulted me; and if there was a Marquis St. Julian, why--I
pitied him, poor fellow! that was all.

Full of these sublime sensations--grown at least three feet in my
varnished boots--I lounged into the ball-room, feeling supreme pity for
ensigns who were chattering round the door, admiring those poor, pale
garrison girls. _They_ had not a duel and a Marchioness; _they_ did not
know what beauty meant--what life was!

I did not dance--I was above that sort of thing now--there was not a
woman worth the trouble in the room; and about the second waltz I saw my
would-be rival talking to Ruthven, a fellow in Ours. Little Grand did
not look glum or dispirited, as he ought to have done after the
interview he must have had; but probably that was the boy's brass. He
would never look beaten if you had hit him till he was black and blue.
Presently Ruthven came up to me. He was not over-used to his business,
for he began the opening chapter in rather school-boy fashion.

"Hallo, Gus! so you and Little Grand have been falling out. Why don't
you settle it with a little mill? A vast deal better than pistols. Duels
always seem to me no fun. Two men stand up like fools, and----"

"Mr. Ruthven," said I, very haughtily, "if your principal desires to
apologize----"

"Apologize! Bless your soul, no! But----"

"Then," said I, cutting him uncommonly short indeed, "you can have no
necessity to address yourself to me, and I beg to refer you to my friend
and second, Mr. Heavystone."

Wherewith I bowed, turned on my heel, and left him.

I did not sleep that night, though I tried hard, because I thought it
the correct thing for heroes to sleep sweetly till the clock strikes the
hour of their duel, execution, &c., or whatever it may hap. Egmont
slept, Argyle slept, Philippe Egalité, scores of them, but I could not.
Not that I funked it, thank Heaven--I never had a touch of that--but
because I was in such a delicious state of excitement, self-admiration,
and heroism, which had not cooled when I found myself walking down to
the appointed place by the beach with poor old Heavy, who was intensely
impressed by being charged with about five quires of the best
cream-laid, to be given to the Marchioness in case I fell. Little Grand
and Ruthven came on the ground at almost the same moment, Little Grand
eminently jaunty and most _confoundedly_ handsome. We took off our caps
with distant ceremony; the Castilian hidalgos were never more stately;
but, then, what Knights of the Round Table ever splintered spears for
such a woman?

The paces were measured, the pistols taken out of their case. We were
just placed, and Ruthven, with a handkerchief in his hand, had just
enumerated, in awful accents, "One! two!"--the "three!" yet hovered on
his lips, when we heard a laugh--the third laugh that had chilled my
blood in twenty-four hours. Somebody's hand was laid on Little Grand's
shoulder, and Conran's voice interrupted the whole thing.

"Hallo, young ones! what farce is this?"

"Farce, sir!" retorted Little Grand, hotly--"farce! It is no farce. It
is an affair of honor, and----"

"Don't make me laugh, my dear boy," smiled Conran; "it is so much too
warm for such an exertion. Pray, why are you and your once sworn friend
making popinjays of each other?"

"Mr. Grandison has grossly insulted me," I began, "and I demand
satisfaction. I will not stir from the ground without it, and----"

"You _sha'n't_," shouted Little Grand. "Do you dare to pretend I want to
funk, you little contemptible----"

Though it was too warm, Conran went off into a fit of laughter.

I dare say our sublimity had a comic touch in it of which we never
dreamt. "My dear boys, pray don't, it is too fatiguing. Come, Grand,
what is it all about?"

"I deny your right to question me, Major," retorted Little Grand, in a
fury. "What have you to do with it? I mean to punish that young owl
yonder--who didn't know how to drink anything but milk-and-water, didn't
know how to say bo! to a goose, till I taught him--for very abominable
impertinence, and I'll----"

"My impertinence! I like that!" I shouted. "It is your unwarrantable,
overbearing self-conceit, that makes you the laughing-stock of all the
mess, which----"

"Silence!" said Conran's still stern voice, which subdued us into
involuntary respect. "No more of this nonsense! Put up those pistols,
Ruthven. You are two hot-headed, silly boys, who don't know for what you
are quarrelling. Live a few years longer, and you won't be so eager to
get into hot water, and put cartridges into your best friends. No, I
shall not hear any more about it. If you do not instantly give me your
words of honor not to attempt to repeat this folly, as your senior
officer I shall put you under arrest for six weeks."

O Alexandra Dumas!--O Monte Cristo!--O heroes of yellow paper and pluck
invincible! I ask pardon of your shades; I must record the fact,
lowering and melancholy as it is, that before our senior officer our
heroism melted like Vanille ice in the sun, our glories tumbled to the
ground like twelfth-cake ornaments under children's fingers, and before
the threat of arrest the lions lay down like lambs.

Conran sent us back, humbled, sulky, and crestfallen, and resumed his
solitary patrol upon the beach, where, before the sun was fairly up, he
was having a shot at curlews. But if he was a little stern, he was no
less kind-hearted; and in the afternoon of that day, while he lay, after
his siesta, smoking on his little bed, I unburdened myself to him. He
did not laugh at me, though I saw a quizzical smile under his black
moustaches.

"What is your divinity's name?" he asked, when I had finished.

"Eudoxia Adelaida, Marchioness St. Julian."

"The Marchioness St. Julian! Oh!"

"Do you know her?" I inquired, somewhat perplexed by his tone.

He smiled straight out this time.

"I don't know _her_, but there are a good many Peeresses in Malta and
Gibraltar, and along the line of the Pacific, as my brother Ned, in the
_Belisarius_, will tell you. I could count two score such of my
acquaintance off at this minute."

I wondered what he meant. I dare say he knew all the Peerage; but that
had nothing to do with me, and I thought it strange that all the
Duchesses, and Countesses, and Baronesses should quit their
country-seats and town-houses to locate themselves along the line of the
Pacific.

"She's a fine woman, St. John?" he went on.

"Fine!" I reiterated, bursting into a panegyric, with which I won't bore
you as I bored him.

"Well, you're going there to-night, you say; take me with you, and we'll
see what I think of your Marchioness."

I looked at his fine figure and features, recalled certain tales of his
conquests, remembered that he knew French, Italian, German, and Spanish,
but, not being very able to refuse, acquiesced with a reluctance I could
not entirely conceal. Conran, however, did not perceive it, and after
mess took his cap, and went with me to the Casa di Fiori.

The rooms were all right again, my Marchioness was _en grande tenue_,
amber silk, black lace, diamonds, and all that sort of style. Fitzhervey
and the other men were in evening dress, drinking coffee; there was not
a trace of bottled porter anywhere, and it was all very brilliant and
presentable. The Marchioness St. Julian rose with the warmest effusion,
her dazzling white teeth showing in the sunniest of smiles, and both
hands outstretched.

"Augustus, _bien aimé_, you are rather----"

"Late," I suppose she was going to say, but she stopped dead short, her
teeth remained parted in a stereotyped smile, a blankness of dismay came
over her luminous eyes. She caught sight of Conran, and I imagined I
heard a very low-breathed "Curse the fellow!" from courteous Lord Dolph.
Conran came forward, however, as if he did not notice it; there was only
that queer smile lurking under his moustaches. I introduced him to them,
and the Marchioness smiled again, and Fitzhervey almost resumed his
wonted extreme urbanity. But they were somehow or other wonderfully ill
at ease--wonderfully, for people in such high society; and I was ill at
ease too, from being only able to attribute Eudoxia Adelaida's evident
consternation at the sight of Conran to his having been some time or
other an old love of hers. "Ah!" thought I, grinding my teeth, "that
comes of loving a woman older than one's self."

The Major, however, seemed the only one who enjoyed himself. The
Marchioness was beaming on him graciously, though her ruffled feathers
were not quite smoothed down, and he was sitting by her with an intense
amusement in his eyes, alternately talking to her about Stars and
Garters, whom, by her answers, she did not seem to know so very
intimately after all, and chatting with Fitzhervey about hunting, who,
for a man that had hunted over every country, according to his own
account, seemed to confuse Tom Edge with Tom Smith, the Burton with the
Tedworth, a bullfinch with an ox-rail, in queer style, under Conran's
cross-questioning. We had been in the room about ten minutes, when a
voice, rich, low, sweet, rang out from some inner room, singing the
glorious "Inflammatus." How strange it sounded in the Casa di Fiori!

Conran started, the dark blood rose over the clear bronze of his cheek.
He turned sharply on to the Marchioness. "Good Heaven! whose voice is
that?"

"My niece's," she answered, staring at him, and touching a hand-bell. "I
will ask her to come and sing to us nearer. She has really a lovely
voice."

Conran grew pale again, and sat watching the door with the most
extraordinary anxiety. Some minutes went by; then Lucrezia entered, with
the same haughty reserve which her soft young face always wore when with
her aunt. It changed, though, when her glance fell on Conran, into the
wildest rapture I ever saw on any countenance. He fixed his eyes on her
with the look Little Grand says he's seen him wear in battle--a
contemptuous smile quivering on his face.

"Sing us something, Lucrezia dear," began the Marchioness. "You
shouldn't be like the nightingales, and give your music only to night
and solitude."

Lucrezia seemed not to hear her. She had never taken her eyes off
Conran, and she went, as dreamily as that dear little _Amina_ in the
"Sonnambula," to her seat under the jasmines in the window. For a few
minutes Conran, who didn't seem to care two straws what the society in
general thought of him, took his leave, to the relief, apparently, of
Fitzhervey and Guatamara.

As he went across the veranda--that memorable veranda!--I sitting in
dudgeon near the other window, while Fitzhervey was proposing écarté to
Heavy, whom we had found there on our entrance, and the Marchioness had
vanished into her boudoir for a moment, I saw the Roman girl spring out
after him, and catch hold of his arm:

"Victor! Victor! for pity's sake!--I never thought we should meet like
this!"

"Nor did I."

"Hush! hush! you will kill me. In mercy, say some kinder words!"

"I can say nothing that it would be courteous to you to say."

I couldn't have been as inflexible, whatever her sins might have been,
with her hands clasped on me, and her face raised so close to mine.
Lucrezia's voice changed to a piteous wail:

"You love me no longer, then?"

"Love!" said Conran, fiercely--"love! How dare you speak to me of love?
I held you to be fond, innocent, true as Heaven; as such, you were
dearer to me than life--as dear as honor. I loved you with as deep a
passion as ever a man knew--Heaven help me! I love you now! How am I
rewarded? By finding you the companion of blackguards, the associate of
swindlers, one of the arch-intrigantes who lead on youths to ruin with
base smiles and devilish arts. Then you dare talk to me of love!"

With those passionate words he threw her off him. She fell at his feet
with a low moan. He either did not hear, or did not heed it; and I,
bewildered by what I heard, mechanically went and lifted her from the
ground. Lucrezia had not fainted, but she looked so wild, that I
believed the Marchioness, and set her down as mad; but then Conran must
be mad as well, which seemed too incredible a thing for me to
swallow--our cool Major mad!

"Where does he live?" asked Lucrezia of me, in a breathless whisper.

"He? Who?"

"Victor--your officer--Signor Conran."

"Why, he lives in Valetta, of course."

"Can I find him there?"

"I dare say, if you want him."

"Want him! Oh, Santa Maria! is not his absence death? Can I find him?"

"Oh, yes, I dare say. Anybody will show you Conran's rooms."

"Thank you."

With that, this mysterious young lady left me, and I turned in through
the window again. Heavy and the men were playing at lansquenet, that
most perilous, rapid, and bewitching of all the resistless Card Circes.
There was no Marchioness, and having done it once with impunity, I
thought I might do it again, and lifted the amber curtain that divided
the boudoir from the drawing-room. What did I behold? Oh! torture
unexampled! Oh! fiendish agony! There was Little Grand--self-conceited,
insulting, impertinent, abominable, unendurable Little Grand--on the
amber satin couch, with the Marchioness leaning her head on his
shoulder, and looking up in his thrice-confounded face with her most
adorable smile, _my_ smile, that had beamed, and, as I thought, beamed
only upon me!

If Mephistopheles had been by to tempt me, I would have sold my soul to
have wreaked vengeance on them both. Neither saw me, thank Heaven! and I
had self-possession enough not to give them the cruel triumph of
witnessing my anguish. I withdrew in silence, dropped the curtain, and
rushed to bury my wrongs and sorrows in the friendly bosom of the gentle
night. It was my first love, and I had made a fool of myself. The two
are synonymous.

How I reached the barracks I never knew. All the night long I sat
watching the stars out, raving to them of Eudoxia Adelaida, and cursing
in plentiful anathemas my late Orestes. How should I bear his impudent
grin every mortal night of my life across the mess-table? I tore up into
shreds about a ream of paper, inscribed with tender sonnets to my
faithless idol. I trampled into fifty thousand shreds a rosette off her
dress, for which, fool-like, I had begged the day before. I smashed the
looking-glass, which could only show me the image of a pitiful donkey. I
called on Heaven to redress my wrongs. Oh! curse it! never was a fellow
at once so utterly done for and so utterly done brown!

And in the vicarage, as I learnt afterwards, when my letter was received
at home, there was great glorification and pleasure. My mother and the
girls were enraptured at the high society darling Gussy was moving in;
"but then, you know, mamma, dear Gussy's manners are so gentle, so
gentleman-like, they are sure to please wherever he goes!" Wherewith my
mother cried, and dried her eyes, and cried again, over that abominable
letter copied from Little Grand's, and smelling of vilest tobacco.

Then entered a rectoress of a neighboring parish, to whom my mother and
the girls related with innocent exultation of my grand friends at Malta;
how Lord A. Fitzhervey was my sworn ally, and the Marchioness St. Julian
had quite taken me under her wing. And the rectoress, having a son of
her own, who was not doing anything so grand at Cambridge, but
principally sotting beer at a Cherryhinton public, smiled and was
wrathful, and said to her lord at dinner:

"My dear, did you ever hear of a Marchioness St. Julian?"

"No, my love, I believe not--never."

"Is there one in the peerage?"

"Can't say, my dear. Look in Burke."

So the rectoress got Burke and closed it, after deliberate inspection,
with malignant satisfaction.

"I thought not. How ridiculous those St. Johns are about that ugly boy
Augustus. As if Tom were not worth a hundred of him!"

I was too occupied with my own miseries then to think about Conran and
Lucrezia, though some time after I heard all about it. It seems, that, a
year before, Conran was on leave in Rome, and at Rome, loitering about
the Campagna one day, he made a chance acquaintance with an Italian
girl, by getting some flowers for her she had tried to reach and could
not. She was young, enthusiastic, intensely interesting, and had only an
old Roman nurse, deaf as a post and purblind, with her. The girl was
Lucrezia da Guari, and Lucrezia was lovely as one of her own myrtle or
orange flowers. Somehow or other Conran went there the next day, and the
next, and the next, and so on for a good many days, and always found
Lucrezia. Now, Conran had at bottom a touch of unstirred romance, and,
moreover, his own idea of what sort of woman he could love. Something in
this untrained yet winning Campagna flower answered to both. He was old
to trust his own discernment, and, after a month or two's walks and
talks, Conran, one of the proudest men going, offered himself and his
name to a Roman girl of whom he knew nothing, except that she seemed to
care for him as he had had a fancy to be cared for all his life. It was
a deucedly romantic thing--however, he did it! Lucrezia had told him her
father was a military officer, but somehow or other this father never
came to light, and when he called at their house--or rather
rooms--Conran always found him out, which he thought queer, but, on the
whole, rather providential, and he set the accident down to a
foreigner's roaming habits.

The day Conran had really gone the length of offering to make an unknown
Italian his wife, he went, for the first time in the evening, to Da
Guari's house. The servant showed him in unannounced to a
brightly-lighted chamber, reeking with wine and smoke, where a dozen men
were playing trente et quarante at an amateur bank, and two or three
others were gathered round what he had believed his own fair and pure
Campagna flower. He understood it all; he turned away with a curse upon
him. He wanted love and innocence; adventuresses he could have by the
score, and he was sick to death of them. From that hour he never saw her
again till he met her at the Casa di Fiori.

The next day I went to Conran while he was breakfasting, and unburdened
my mind to him. He looked ill and haggard, but he listened to me very
kindly, though he spoke of the people at the Casa di Fiori in a hard,
brief, curious manner.

"Plenty have been taken in like you, Gus," he said "I was, years ago, in
my youth, when I joined the Army. There are scores of such women, as I
told you, down the line of the Pacific, and about here; anywhere, in
fact, where the army and navy give them fresh pigeons to be gulled. They
take titles that sound grand in boys' ears, and fascinate them till
they've won all their money, and then--send them to the dogs. Your
Marchioness St. Julian's real name is Sarah Briggs."

I gave an involuntary shriek. Sarah Briggs finished me. It was the
death-stroke, that could never be got over.

"She was a ballet-girl in London," continued Conran; "then, when she was
sixteen, married that Fitzhervey, _alias_ Briggs, _alias_ Smith, _alias_
what you please, and set up in her present more lucrative employment
with her three or four confederates. Saint-Jeu was expelled from Paris
for keeping a hell in the Chaussée d'Antin, Fitzhervey was a leg at
Newmarket, Orangia Magnolia a lawyer's clerk, who was had up for
forgery, Guatamara is--by another name--a scoundrel of Rome. There is
the history of your Maltese Peerage, Gussy. Well, you'll be wider awake
next time. Wait, there is somebody at my door. Stay here a moment, I'll
come back to you."

Accordingly, I stayed in his bedroom, where I had found him writing, and
he went into his sitting-room, of which, from the diminutiveness of his
domicile, I commanded a full view, sit where I would. What was my
astonishment to see Lucrezia! I went to his bedroom door; it was locked
from the outside, so I perforce remained where I was, to, _nolens
volens_, witness the finish of last night's interview.

Stern to the last extent and deadly pale, Conran stood, too surprised to
speak, and most probably at a loss for words.

Lucrezia came up to him nevertheless with the abandonment of youth and
southern blood.

"Victor! Victor! let me speak to you. You shall listen; you shall not
judge me unheard."

"Signorina, I have judged you by only too ample evidence."

He had recovered himself now, and was as cool as needs be.

"I deny it. But you love me still?"

"Love you? More shame on me! A laugh, a compliment, a caress, a
cashmere, is as much as such women as you are worth. Love becomes
ridiculous named in the same breath with you."

She caught hold of his hand and crushed it in both her own.

"Kill me you will. Death would have no sting from your hand, but never
speak such words to _me_."

His voice trembled.

"How can I choose but speak them? You know that I believed you in Italy,
and how on that belief I offered you my name--a name never yet stained,
never yet held unworthy. I lost you, to find you in society which
stamped you for ever. A lovely fiend, holding raw boys enchained, that
your associates might rifle their purses with marked cards and cogged
dice. I hoped to have found a diamond, without spot or flaw. I
discovered my error too late; it was only glass, which all men were free
to pick up and trample on at their pleasure."

He tried to wrench his hand away, but she would not let it go.

"Hush! hush! listen to me first. If you once thought me worthy of your
love, you may, surely, now accord me pity. I shall not trouble you long.
After this, you need see me no more. I am going back to my old convent.
You and the world will soon forget me, but I shall remember you, and
pray for you, as dearer than my own soul."

Conran's head was bent down now, and his voice was thick, as he answered
briefly,

"Go on."

This scene half consoled me for Eudoxia Adelaida--(I mean, O Heavens,
Sarah Briggs!)--it was so exquisitely romantic, and Conran and Lucrezia
wouldn't have done at all badly for Monte Cristo and that dear little
Haidee. I was fearfully poetic in those days.

"When I met you in Rome," Lucrezia went on, in obedience to his
injunction, "two years ago, you remember I had only left my convent and
lived with my father but a month or two. I told you he was an officer. I
only said what I had been told, and I knew no more than you that he was
the keeper of a gambling house."

She shuddered as she paused, and leaned her forehead on Conran's hand.
He did not repulse her, and she continued, in her broken, simple
English:

"The evening you promised me what I should have needed to have been an
angel to be worthy of--your love and your name--that very evening, when
I reached home, my father bade me dress for a soirée he was going to
give. I obeyed him, of course. I knew nothing but what he told me, and I
went down, to find a dozen young nobles and a few Englishmen drinking
and playing on a table covered with green cloth. Some few of them came
up to me, but I felt frightened; their looks, their tones, their florid
compliments, were so different to yours. But my father kept his eye on
me, and would not let me leave. While they were leaning over my chair,
and whispering in my ear, _you_ came to the door of the salon, and I
went towards you, and you looked cold, and harsh, as I had never seen
you before, and put me aside, and turned away without a word. Oh,
Victor! why did you not kill me then? Death would have been kindness.
Your Othello was kinder to Desdemona; he slew her--he did not _leave_
her. From that hour I never saw you, and from that hour my father
persecuted me because I would never join in his schemes, nor enter his
vile gaming-rooms. Yet I have lived with him, because I could not get
away. I have been too carefully watched. We Italians are not free, like
your happy English girls. A few weeks ago we were compelled to leave
Rome, the young Contino di Firenze had been stilettoed leaving my
father's rooms, and he could stay in Italy no longer. We came here, and
joined that hateful woman, who calls herself Marchioness St. Julian;
and, because she could not bend me to her will, gives out that I am her
niece, and mad! I wonder I am _not_ mad, Victor. I wish hearts would
break, as the romancers make them; but how long one suffers and lives
on! Oh, my love, my soul, my life, only say that you believe me, and
look kindly at me once again, then I will never trouble you again, I
will only pray for you. But believe me, Victor. The Mother Superior of
my convent will tell you it is the truth that I speak. Oh, for the love
of Heaven, believe me! Believe me or I shall die!"

It was not in the nature of man to resist her; there was truth in the
girl's voice and face, if ever truth walked abroad on earth. And Conran
did believe her, and told her so in a few unconnected words, lifting her
up in his arms, and vowing, with most unrighteous oaths, that her father
should never have power to persecute her again as long as he himself
lived to shelter and take care of her.

I was so interested in my Monte Cristo and Haidee (it was so like a
chapter out of a book), that I entirely forgot my durance vile, and my
novel and excessively disgraceful, though enforced, occupation of spy;
and there I stayed, alternating between my interest in them and my
agonies at the revelations concerning my Eudoxia Adelaida--oh, hang it!
I mean Sarah Briggs--till, after a most confounded long time, Conran saw
fit to take Lucrezia off, to get asylum for her with the Colonel's wife
for a day or two, that "those fools might not misconstrue her." By which
comprehensive epithet he, I suppose, politely designated "Ours."

Then I went my ways to my own room, and there I found a scented,
mauve-hued, creamy billet-doux, in uncommon bad handwriting, though,
from my miserable Eudoxia Adelaida to the "friend and lover of her
soul." Confound the woman!--how I swore at that daintily-perfumed and
most vilely-scrawled letter. To think that where that beautiful
signature stretched from one side to the other--"Eudoxia Adelaida St.
Julian"--there _ought_ to have been that short, vile, low-bred, hideous,
Billingsgate cognomen of "Sarah Briggs!"

In the note she reproached me--the wretched hypocrite!--for my departure
the previous night, "without one farewell to your Eudoxia, O cruel
Augustus!" and asked me to give her a rendezvous at some vineyards lying
a little way off the Casa di Fiori, on the road to Melita. Now, being a
foolish boy, and regarding myself as having been loved and wronged,
whereas I had only been playing the very common _rôle_ of pigeon, I
could not resist the temptation of going, just to take one last look of
that fair, cruel face, and upbraid her with being the first to sow the
fatal seeds of lifelong mistrust and misery in my only too fond and
faithful, &c. &c. &c.

So, at the appointed hour, just when the sun was setting over the
far-away Spanish shore, and the hush of night was sinking over the
little, rocky, peppery, military-thick, Mediterranean isle, I found
myself _en route_ to the vineyards; which, till I came to Malta, had
been one of my delusions, Idea picturing them in wreaths and avenues,
Reality proving them hop-sticks and parched earth. I drew near; it was
quite dark now, the sun had gone to sleep under the blue waves, and the
moon was not yet up. Though I knew she was Sarah Briggs, and an
adventuress who had made game of me, two facts that one would fancy
might chill the passion out of anybody, so mad was I about that woman,
that, if I had met her then and there, I should have let her wheedle me
over, and gone back to the Casa di Fiori with her and been fleeced
again: I am sure I should, sir, and so would you, if, at eighteen, new
to life, you had fallen in with Eudox----pshaw!--with Sarah Briggs, my
Marchioness St Julian.

I drew near the vineyards: my heart beat thick, I could not see, but I
was certain I heard the rustle of her dress, caught the perfume of her
hair. All her sins vanished: how could I upbraid her, though she were
three times over Sarah Briggs? Yes, she was coming; I _felt_ her near;
an electric thrill rushed through me as soul met soul. I heard a
murmured "Dearest, sweetest!" I felt the warm clasp of two arms, but--a
cold row of undress waistcoat-buttons came against my face, and a voice
I knew too well cried out, as I rebounded from him, impelled thereto by
a not gentle kick,--

"The devil! get out! Who the deuce are you?"

We both stopped for breath. At that minute up rose the silver moon, and
in its tell-tale rays we glared on one another, I and Little Grand.

That silence was sublime: the pause between Beethoven's andante
allegro--the second before the Spanish bull rushes upon the torreador.

"You little miserable wretch!" burst out Grand, slowly and terribly;
"you little, mean, sneaking, spying, contemptible milksop! I should like
to know what you mean by bringing out your ugly phiz at this hour, when
you used to be afraid of stirring out for fear of nurse's bogies? And to
dare to come lurking after me!"

"After you, Mr. Grandison!" I repeated, with grandiloquence. "Really you
put too much importance on your own movements. I came by appointment to
meet the Marchioness St. Julian, whom, I presume, as you are well
acquainted with her, you know in her real name of Sarah Briggs, and
to----"

"Sarah Briggs!--_you_ come by appointment?" stammered Little Grand.

"Yes, sir; if you disbelieve my word of honor, I will condescend to show
you my invitation."

"You little ape!" swore Grand, coming back to his previous wrath; "it is
a lie, a most abominable, unwarrantable lie! _I_ came by appointment,
sir; you did no such thing. Look there!"

And he flaunted before my eyes in the moonlight the fac-simile of my
letter, verbatim copy, save that in his Cosmo was put in the stead of
Augustus.

"Look there!" said I, giving him mine.

Little Grand snatched it, read it over once, twice, thrice, then drooped
his head, with a burning color in his face, and was silent.

The "knowing hand" was done!

We were both of us uncommonly quiet for ten minutes, neither of us liked
to be the first to give in.

At last Little Grand looked up and held out his hand, no more nonsense
about him now.

"Simon, you and I have been two great fools; we can't chaff one another.
She's a cursed actress, and--let's make it up, old boy."

We made it up accordingly--when Little Grand was not conceited he was a
very jolly fellow--and then I gave him my whole key to the mysteries,
intricacies, and charms of our Casa di Fiori. We could not chaff one
another, but poor Little Grand was pitiably sore then, and for long
afterwards. He, the "old bird," the cool hand, the sharp one of Ours, to
have been done brown, to be the joke of the mess, the laugh of all the
men, down to the weest drummer-boy! Poor Little Grand! He was too done
up to swagger, too thoroughly angry with himself to swear at anybody
else. He only whispered to me, "Why the dickens could she want you and
me to meet our selves?"

"To give us a finishing hoax, I suppose," I suggested.

Little Grand drew his cap over his eyes, and hung his head down in
abject humiliation.

"I suppose so. What fools we have been, Simon! And, I say, I've borrowed
three hundred of old Miraflores, and it's all gone up at that devilish
Casa; and how I shall get it from the governor, Heaven knows, for _I_
don't."

"I'm in the same pickle, Grand," I groaned. "I've given that old rascal
notes of hand for two hundred pounds, and, if it don't drop from the
clouds, I shall never pay it. Oh, I say, Grand, love comes deucedly
expensive."

"Ah!" said he, with a sympathetic shiver, "think what a pair of hunters
we might have had for the money!" With which dismal and remorseful
remembrance the old bird, who had been trapped like a young pigeon,
swore mightily, and withdrew into humbled and disgusted silence.

Next morning we heard, to our comfort--what lots of people there always
are to tell us how to lock our stable-door when our solitary mare has
been stolen--that, with a gentle hint from the police, the Marchioness
St. Julian, with her _confrères_, had taken wing to the Ionian Isles,
where, at Corfu or Cephalonia, they will re-erect the Casa di Fiori, and
glide gently on again from vingt-et-un to loo, and from loo to
lansquenet, under eyes as young and blinded as our own. They went
without Lucrezia. Conran took her into his own hands. Any other man in
the regiment would have been pretty well ridiculed at taking a bride out
of the Casa di Fiori; but the statements made by the high-born Abbess of
her Roman convert were so clear, and so to the girl's honor, and he had
such a way of holding his own, of keeping off liberties from himself and
anything belonging to him, and was, moreover, known to be of such
fastidious honor, that his young wife was received as if she had been a
Princess in her own right. With her respected parent Conran had a brief
interview previous to his flight from Malta, in which, with a few gentle
hints, he showed that worthy it would be wiser to leave his daughter
unmolested for the future, and I doubt if Mr. Orangia Magnolia, _alias_
Pepe Guari, would know his own child in the joyous, graceful,
daintily-dressed mistress of Conran's handsome Parisian establishment.

Little Grand and I suffered cruelly. We were the butts of the mess for
many a long month afterwards, when every idiot's tongue asked us on
every side after the health of the Marchioness St. Julian? when we were
going to teach them lansquenet? how often we heard from the aristocratic
members of the Maltese Peerage? with like delightful pleasantries, which
the questioners deemed high wit. We paid for it, too, to that arch old
screw Balthazar; but I doubt very much if the money were not well lost,
and the experience well gained. It cured me of my rawness and Little
Grand of his self-conceit, the only thing that had before spoilt that
good-hearted, quick-tempered, and clever-brained little fellow. Oh,
Pater and Materfamilias, disturb not yourselves so unnecessarily about
the crop of wild oats which your young ones are sowing broadcast. Those
wild oats often spring from a good field of high spirit, hot courage,
and thoughtless generosity, that are the sign and basis of nobler
virtues to come, and from them very often rise two goodly
plants--Experience and Discernment.



LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES:

OR,

THE WORRIES OF A CHAPERONE.

IN THREE SEASONS.


SEASON THE FIRST.--THE ELIGIBLE.

One of the kindest-natured persons that I ever knew on this earth, where
kind people are as rare as black eagles or red deer, is Helena, Countess
of Marabout, _née_ De Boncoeur. She has foibles, she has weaknesses--who
amongst us has not?--she will wear her dresses _décolletées_, though
she's sixty, if Burke tells us truth; she will rouge and practise a
thousand other little toilette tricks, but they are surely innocent,
since they deceive nobody; and if you wait for a woman who is no
artifices, I am afraid you shall have to forswear the sex _in toto_, my
friends, and come growling back to your Diogenes' tub in the Albany,
with your lantern still lit every day of your lives.

Lady Marabout is a very charming person. As for her weaknesses, she is
all the nicer for them, to my taste. I like people with weaknesses
myself; those without them do look so dreadfully scornfully and
unsympathizingly upon one from the altitude of their superiority, _de
toute la hauteur de sa bêtise_, as a witty Frenchman says. Humanity was
born with weaknesses. If I were a beggar, I might hope for a coin from
a man with some; a man without any, I know, would shut up his
porte-monnaie, with an intensified click, to make me feel trebly
envious, and consign me to D 15 and his truncheon, on the score of
vagrancy.

Lady Marabout is a very charming person, despite her little foibles, and
she gives very pleasant little dinners, both at her house in Lowndes
Square and in her jointure villa at Twickenham, where the bad odors of
Thames are drowned in the fragrance of the geraniums, piled in great
heaps of red, white, and variegated blossom in the flowerbeds on the
lawn. She has been married twice, but has only one son, by her first
union--Carruthers, of the Guards--a very good fellow, whom his mother
thinks perfection, though if she _did_ know certain scenes in her adored
Philip's life, the good lady might hesitate before she endowed her son
with all the cardinal virtues as she does at the present moment. She has
no daughters, therefore you will wonder to hear that the prime misery,
burden, discomfort, and worry of her life is chaperonage. But so it is.

Lady Marabout is the essence of good nature; she can't say No: that
unpleasant negative monosyllable was never heard to issue from her full,
smiling, kind-looking lips: she is in a high position, she has an
extensive circle, thanks to her own family and those of the baronet and
peer she successively espoused; and some sister, or cousin, or friend,
is incessantly hunting her up to bring out their girls, and sell them
well off out of hand; young ladies being goods extremely likely to hang
_on_ hand nowadays.

"Of all troubles, the troubles of a chaperone are the greatest," said
Lady Marabout to me at the wedding déjeûner of one of her protegées. "In
the first place, one looks on at others' campaigns instead of conducting
them one's self; secondly, it brings back one's own bright days to see
the young things' smiles and blushes, like that girl's just now (I do
hope she'll be happy!); and thirdly, one has all the responsibility, and
gets all the blame if anything goes wrong. I'll never chaperone anybody
again now I have got rid of Leila."

So does Lady Marabout say twenty times; yet has she invariably some
young lady under her wing, whose relatives are defunct, or invalided, or
in India, or out of society somehow; and we all of us call her house The
Yard, and her (among ourselves) not Lady Marabout but Lady Tattersall.
The worries she has in her chaperone's office would fill a folio,
specially as her heart inclines to the encouragement of romance, but her
reason to the banishment thereof; and while her tenderness suffers if
she thwarts her protégées' leanings, her conscience gives her neuralgic
twinges if she abets them to unwise matches while under her dragonnage.

"What's the matter, mother?" asked Carruthers, one morning. He's very
fond of his mother, and will never let any one laugh at her in his
hearing.

"Matter? Everything!" replied Lady Marabout, concisely and
comprehensively, as she sat on the sofa in her boudoir, with her white
ringed hands and her _bien conservé_ look, and her kindly pleasant eyes
and her rich dress; one could see what a pretty woman she has been, and
that Carruthers may thank her for his good looks. "To begin with,
Félicie has been so stupid as to marry; married the greengrocer (whom
she will ruin in a week!), and has left me to the mercies of a stupid
woman who puts pink with cerise, mauve with magenta, and sky-blue with
azureline, and has no recommendation except that she is as ugly as the
Medusa, and so will not tempt you to----"

"Make love to her, as I did to Marie," laughed Carruthers. "Marie was a
pretty little dear; it was very severe in you to send her away."

Lady Marabout tried hard to look severe and condemnatory, but failed
signally, nature had formed the smooth brow and the kindly eyes in far
too soft a mould.

"Don't jest about it, Philip; you know it was a great pain, annoyance,
and scandal to me. Well! Félicie is gone, and Oakes was seen pawning
some of my Mechlin the other day, so I have been obliged to discharge
_her_; and they both of them suited me so well! Then Bijou is ill, poor
little pet----"

"With repletion of chicken panada?"

"No; Bijou isn't such a gourmet. You judge him by yourself, I suppose;
men always do! Then Lady Hautton told me last night that you were the
wildest man on town, and at forty----"

"You think I ought to _ranger_? So I will, my dear mother, some day; but
at present I am--so very comfortable; it would be a pity to alter! What
pains one's friends are always at to tell unpalatable things; if they
would but be only half so eager to tell us the pleasant ones! I shall
expect you to cut Lady Hautton if she speak badly of me, I can't afford
to lose your worship, mother!"

"My worship? How conceited you are, Philip! As for Lady Hautton, I
believe she does dislike you, because you did not engage yourself to
Adelina, and were selected aide-de-camp to her Majesty, instead of
Hautton; still, I am afraid she spoke too nearly the truth."

"Perhaps Marie has entered her service and told tales."

But Lady Marabout wouldn't laugh, she always looks very grave about
Marie.

"My worst trouble," she began hastily, "is that your aunt Honiton is too
ill to come to town; no chance of her being well enough to come at all
this season; and of course the charge of Valencia has devolved on me.
You know how I hate chaperoning, and I did _so_ hope I should be free
this year; besides, Valencia is a great responsibility, very great; a
girl of so much beauty always is; there will be sure to be so many men
about her at once, and your aunt will expect me to marry her so very
well. It is excessively annoying."

"My poor dear mother!" cried Carruthers. "I grant you _are_ an object of
pity. You are everlastingly having young fillies sent you to break in,
and they want such a tight hand on the ribbons."

"And a tight hand, as you call it, I never had, and never shall have,"
sighed Lady Marabout. "Valencia will be no trouble to me on that score,
however; she has been admirably educated, knows all that is due to her
position, and will never give me a moment's anxiety by any imprudence or
inadvertence. But she is excessively handsome, and a beauty is a great
responsibility when she first comes out."

"Val was always a handsome child, if I remember. I dare say she is a
beauty now. When is she coming up? because I'll tell the men to mark the
house and keep clear of it," laughed Carruthers. "You're a dreadfully
dangerous person, mother; you have always the best-looking girl in town
with you. Fulke Nugent says if he should ever want such a thing as a
wife when he comes into the title, he shall take a look at the Marabout
Yearlings Sale."

"Abominably rude of you and your friends to talk me over in your turf
slang! I wish _you_ would come and bid at the sale, Philip; I should
like to see you married--well married, of course."

"My beloved mother!" cried Carruthers. "Leave me in peace, if you
please, and catch the others if you can. There's Goodey, now; every
chaperone and débutante in London has set traps for him for the last I
don't know how many years; wouldn't he do for Valencia?"

"Goodwood? Of course he would; he would do for any one; the Dukedom's
the oldest in the peerage. Goodwood is highly eligible. Thank you for
reminding me, Philip. Since Valencia is coming, I must do my best for
her." Which phrase meant with Lady Marabout that she must be very
lynx-eyed as to settlements, and a perfect dragon to all detrimental
connections, must frown with Medusa severity on all horrors of younger
sons, and advocate with all the weight of personal experience the
advantage and agrémens of a good position, in all of which
practicalities she generally broke down, with humiliation unspeakable,
immediately her heart was enlisted and her sympathies appealed to on the
enemy's side. She sighed, played with her bracelets thoughtfully, and
then, heroically resigning herself to her impending fate, brightened up
a little, and asked her son to go and choose a new pair of
carriage-horses for her.

To look at Lady Marabout as she sat in her amber satin couch that
morning, pleasant, smiling, well-dressed, well-looking, with the grace
of good birth and the sunniness of good nature plainly written on her
smooth brow and her kindly eyes, and wealth--delicious little
god!--stamping itself all about her, from the diamond rings on her soft
white fingers to the broidered shoe on the feet, of whose smallness she
was still proud, one might have ignorantly imagined her to be the most
happy, enviable, well-conditioned, easy-going dowager in the United
Kingdom. But appearances are deceptive, and if we believe what she
constantly asserted, Lady Marabout was very nearly worn into her grave
by a thousand troubles; her almshouses, whose roofs would eternally blow
off with each high wind; her dogs, whom she would overfeed; her ladies'
maids, who were only hired to steal, tease, or scandalize her; the
begging letter-writers, who distilled tears from her eyes and sovereigns
from her purse, let Carruthers disclose their hypocrisies as he might;
the bolder begging-letters, written by hon. secs., and headed by names
with long handles, belonging to Pillars of the State and Lights of the
Church, which compelled her to make a miserable choice between a
straitened income or a remorseful conscience--tormented, in fine, with
worries small and large, from her ferns, on which she spent a large
fortune, and who drooped maliciously in their glass cases, with an
ill-natured obstinacy characteristic of desperately-courted individuals,
whether of the floral or the human world, to those marriageable young
ladies whom she took under her wing to usher into the great world, and
who were certain to run counter to her wishes and overthrow her plans,
to marry ill, or not marry at all, or do something or other to throw
discredit on her chaperoning abilities. She was, she assured us,
_pétrie_ with worries, small and large, specially as she was so
eminently sunny, affable, and radiant a looking person, that all the
world took their troubles to her, selected her as their confidante, and
made her the repository of their annoyances; but her climax of misery
was to be compelled to chaperone, and as a petition for some débutante
to be intrusted to her care was invariably made each season, and "No"
was a monosyllable into which her lips utterly refused to form
themselves, each season did her life become a burden to her. There was
never any rest for the soul of Helena, Countess of Marabout, till her
house in Lowndes Square was shut up, and her charges off her hand, and
she could return in peace to her jointure-villa at Twickenham, or to
Carruthers' old Hall of Deepdene, and among her flowers, her birds, and
her hobbies, throw off for a while the weary burden of her worries as a
chaperone.

"Valencia will give me little trouble, I hope. So admirably brought-up a
girl, and so handsome as she is, will be sure to marry soon, and marry
well," thought Lady Marabout, self-congratulatorily, as she dressed for
dinner the day of her niece's arrival in town, running over mentally the
qualifications and attractions of Valencia Valletort, while Félicie's
successor, Mademoiselle Despréaux, whose crime was then to put pink
with cerise, mauve with magenta, and sky-blue with azureline, gave the
finishing touches to her toilette--"Valencia will give me no trouble;
she has all the De Boncoeur beauty, with the Valletort dignity. Who
would do for her? Let me see; eligible men are not abundant, and those
that are eligible are shy of being marked as Philip would say--perhaps
from being hunted so much, poor things! There is Fulke Nugent, heir to a
barony, and his father is ninety--very rich, too--he would do; and
Philip's friend, Caradoc, poor, I know, but their Earldom's the oldest
peerage patent. There is Eyre Lee, too; I don't much like the man,
supercilious and empty-headed; still he's an unobjectionable alliance.
And there is Goodwood. Every one has tried for Goodwood, and failed. I
should like Valencia to win him; he is decidedly the most eligible man
in town. I will invite him to dinner. If he is not attracted by
Valencia's beauty, nothing can attract him----_Despréaux! comme vous
êtes bête! Otez ces panaches, de grace!_"

"Valencia will give me no trouble; she will marry at once," thought Lady
Marabout again, looking across the dinner-table at her niece.

If any young patrician might be likely to marry at once, it was the Hon.
Valencia Valletort; she was, to the most critical, a beauty: her figure
was perfect, her features were perfect, and if you complained that her
large glorious eyes were a trifle too changeless in expression, that her
cheek, exquisitely independent of Maréchale powder, Blanc de Perle, and
liquid rouge, though it was, rarely varied with her thoughts and
feelings, why, you were very exacting, my good fellow, and should
remember that nothing is quite perfect on the face of the earth--not
even a racer or a woman--and that whether you bid at the Marabout
yearling sales or the Rawcliffe, if you wish to be pleased you'd better
leave a hypercritical spirit behind you, and not expect to get _all_
points to your liking. The best filly will have something faulty in
temper or breeding, symmetry or pace, for your friend Jack Martingale to
have the fun of pointing out to you when your money is paid and the
filly in your stall; and your wife will have the same, only Martingale
will point _her_ flaws out behind your back, and only hint them to you
with an all-expressive "Not allowed to smoke in the dining-room _now_!"
"A little bit of a flirt, madame--n'est-ce pas, Charlie?" "Reins kept
rather tight, eh, old fellow?" or something equally ambiguous,
significant, and unpleasant.

"I must consider, Philip, I have brought out the beauty of the season,"
said Lady Marabout to Carruthers, eying her niece as she danced at her
first ball at the Dowager-Duchess of Amandine's, and beginning to
brighten up a little under the weight of her responsibilities.

"I think you have, mother. Val's indisputably handsome. You must tell
her to make play with Goodwood or Nugent."

Lady Marabout unfurled her fan, and indignantly interrupted him:

"My dear Philip! do you suppose I would teach Valencia, or any girl
under my charge, to lay herself out for any man, whoever or whatever it
might be? I trust your cousin would not stoop to use such manoeuvres,
did I even stoop to counsel them. Depend upon it, Philip, it is
precisely those women who try to 'make play,' as you call it, with your
sex that fail most to charm them. It is abominable the way in which you
men talk, as if we all hunted you down, and would drive you to St.
George's _nolens volens_!"

"So you would, mother," laughed Carruthers. "We 'eligible men' have a
harder life of it than rabbits in a warren, with a dozen beagles after
them. From the minute we're of age we're beset with traps for the
unwary, and the spring-guns are so dexterously covered, with an
inviting, innocent-looking turf of courtesies and hospitalities that
it's next to a mural impossibility to escape them, let one retire into
one's self, keep to monosyllables through all the courses of all the
dinners and all the turns of all the valses, and avoid everything
'compromising,' as one may. I've suffered, and can tell you. I suffer
still, though I believe and hope they are beginning to look on me as an
incurable, given over to the clubs, the coulisses, and the cover-side.
There's a fellow that's known still more of the _peines fortes et dures_
than I. Goodwood's coming to ask for an introduction to Val, I would
bet."

He was coming for that purpose, and, though Lady Marabout had so
scornfully and sincerely repudiated her son's counsel relative to making
play with Goodwood, blandly ignorant of her own weaknesses like a good
many other people, Lady Marabout was not above a glow of chaperone
gratification when she saw the glance of admiration which the Pet
Eligible of the season bestowed on Valencia Valletort. Goodwood was a
good-looking fellow--a clever fellow--though possibly he shone best
alone at a mess luncheon, in a chat driving to Hornsey Wood, round the
fire in a smoking-room, on a yacht deck, or anywhere where ladies of the
titled world were not encountered, he having become afraid of them by
dint of much persecution, as any October partridge of a setter's nose.
He was passably good-looking, ordinarily clever, a very good fellow as I
say, and--he was elder son of his Grace of Doncaster, which fact would
have made him the desired of every unit of the _beau sexe_, had he been
hideous as the Veiled Prophet or Brutal Gilles de Rayes. The Beauty
often loves the Beast in our day, as in the days of fairy lore. We see
that beloved story of our petticoat days not seldom acted out, and when
there is no possibility of personal transmogrification and amelioration
for the Beast moreover; only--the Beauty has always had whispered in
her little ear the title she will win, and the revenues she will gain,
and the cloth of gold she will wear, if she caresses Bruin the
enamoured, swears his ugly head is god-like, and vows fidelity
unswerving!

Goodwood was no uncouth Bruin, and he had strawberry-leaves in his gift;
none of your lacquered, or ormolu, or silver-gilt coronets, such as are
cast about nowadays with a liberality that reminds one of flinging a
handful of halfpence from a balcony, where the nimblest beggar is first
to get the prize; but of the purest and best gold; and Goodwood had been
tried for accordingly by every woman he came across for the last dozen
years. Women of every style and every order had primed all their rifles,
and had their shot at him, and done their best to make a centre and
score themselves as winner: belles and bas bleus, bewitching widows and
budding débutantes, fast young ladies who tried to capture him in the
hunting-field by clearing a bullfinch; saintly young ladies, who
illuminated missals, and hinted they would like to take his conversion
in hand; brilliant women, who talked at him all through a long rainy
day, when Perthshire was flooded, and the black-fowl unattainable; showy
women, who _posê'd_ for him whole evenings in their opera-boxes, whole
mornings in their boudoir--all styles and orders had set at him, till he
had sometimes sworn in his haste that all women were man-traps, and that
he wished to Heaven he were a younger son in the Foreign Office, or a
poor devil in the Line, or anything, rather than what he was; the Pet
Eligible of his day.

"Goodwood is certainly struck with her," thought Lady Marabout, as
Despréaux disrobed her that night, running over with a retrogressive
glance Valencia Valletort's successes at her first ball. "Very much
struck, indeed, I should say. I will issue cards for another 'At Home.'
As for 'making play' with him, as Philip terms it, of course that is
only a man's nonsense. Valencia will need none of those trickeries, I
trust; still, it is any one's duty to make the best alliance possible
for such a girl, and--dear Adeliza would be very pleased."

With which amiable remembrance of her sister (whom, conceiving it her
duty to love, Lady Marabout persuaded herself that she _did_ love, from
a common feminine opticism that there's an eleventh commandment which
makes it compulsory to be attached to relatives _n'importe_ of whatever
degree of disagreeability, though Lady Honiton was about the most odious
hypochondriac going, in a perpetual state of unremitting battle with the
whole outer world in general, and allopathists, homoeopathists, and
hydropathists in especial), the most amiable lady in all Christendom
bade Despréaux bring up her cup of coffee an hour earlier in the
morning, she had so much to do! asked if Bijou had had some panada set
down by his basket in case he wanted something to take in the night;
wished her maid good night, and laid her head on her pillow as the dawn
streamed through the shutters, already settling what bridal presents she
should give her niece Valencia, when she became present Marchioness of
Goodwood and prospective Duchess of Doncaster before the altar rails of
St. George's.

"That's a decidedly handsome girl, that cousin of yours, Phil," said
Goodwood, on the pavement before her Grace of Amandine's, in Grosvenor
Place, at the same hour that night.

"I think she _is_ counted like me!" said Carruthers. "Of course she's
handsome; hasn't she De Boncoeur blood in her, my good fellow? We're all
of us good-looking, always have been, thank God! If you're inclined to
sacrifice, Goodwood, now's your time, and my mother'll be delighted.
She's brought out about half a million of débutantes, I should say, in
her time, and all of 'em have gone wrong, somehow; wouldn't go off at
all, like damp gunpowder, or would go off too quick in the wrong
direction, like a volunteer's rifle charge; married ignominiously, or
married obstinately, or never excited pity in the breast of any man, but
had to retire to single-blessedness in the country, console themselves
with piety and an harmonium, and spread nets for young clerical victims.
Give her a triumph at last, and let her have glory for once, as a
chaperone, in catching _you_!"

Goodwood gave a little shiver, and tried to light a Manilla, which
utterly refused to take light, for the twelfth time in half a minute.

"Hold your tongue! If the Templars' Order were extant, wouldn't I take
the vows and bless them! What an unspeakable comfort and protection that
white cross would be to us, Phil, if we could stick it on our coats, and
know it would say to every woman that looked at us, 'No go, my pretty
little dears--not to be caught!' Marriage! I can't remember any time
that that word wasn't my bugbear. When I was but a little chicken, some
four years old, I distinctly remember, when I was playing with little
Ida Keane on the terrace, hearing her mother simper to mine, 'Perhaps
darling Goodwood may marry my little Ida some day, who knows?' I never
would play with Ida afterwards; instinct preserved me; she's six or
seven-and thirty now, and weighs ten stone, I'm positive. Why _won't_
they let us alone? The way journalists and dowagers, the fellows who
want to write a taking article, and the women who want to get rid of a
taking daughter, all badger us, in public and private, about marriage
just now, is abominable, on my life; the affair's _ours_, I should say,
not theirs, and to marry isn't the ultimatum of a man's existence, nor
anything like it."

"I hope not! It's more like the extinguisher. Good night, old fellow."
And Carruthers drove away in his hansom, while Goodwood got into his
night-brougham, thinking that for the sake of the title, the evil
(nuptial) day _must_ come, sooner or later, but dashed off to forget
the disagreeable obligation over the supper-table of the most sparkling
empress of the demi-monde.

Lady Marabout had her wish; she brought out the belle of the season, and
when a little time had slipped by, when the Hon. Val had been presented
at the first Drawing-room, and shone there despite the worry, muddle,
and squeeze incidental to that royal and fashionable ceremony, and she
had gathered second-hand from her son what was said in the clubs
relative to this new specimen of the Valletort beauty, she began to be
happier under her duties than she had ever been before, and wrote
letters to "dearest Adeliza," brimful of superlative adjectives and
genuine warmth.

"Valencia will do me credit: I shall see her engaged before the end of
June; she will have only to choose," Lady Marabout would say to herself
some twenty times in the pauses of the morning concerts, the morning
parties, the bazaar committees, the toilette consultations, the
audiences to religious beggars, whose name was Legion and rapacity
unmeasured, the mass of unanswered correspondence whose debt lay as
heavily on Lady Marabout as his chains on a convict, and were about as
little likely to be knocked off, and all the other things innumerable
that made her life in the season one teetotum whirl of small worries and
sunshiny cares, from the moment she began her day, with her earliest cup
of Mocha softened with cream from that pet dairy of hers at Fernditton,
where, according to Lady Marabout, the cows were constantly _in articulo
mortis_, but the milk invariably richer than anywhere else, an
agricultural anomaly which presented no difficulties to _her_ reason.
Like all women, she loved paradoxes, defied logic recklessly, and would
clear at a bound a chasm of solecisms that would have kept Plato in
difficulties about crossing it, and in doubt about the strength of his
jumping-pole, all his life long.

"She will do me great credit," the semi-consoled chaperone would say to
herself with self-congratulatory relief; and if Lady Marabout thought
now and then, "I wish she were a trifle--a trifle more--demonstrative,"
she instantly checked such an ungrateful and hypercritical wish, and
remembered that a heart is a highly treacherous and unadvisable
possession for any young lady, and a most happy omission in her anatomy,
though Lady Marabout had, she would confess to herself on occasions with
great self-reproach, an unworthy and lingering weakness for that
contraband article, for which she scorned and scolded herself with the
very worst success.

Lady Marabout _had_ a heart herself; to it she had had to date the
greatest worries, troubles, imprudences, and vexations of her life; she
had had to thank it for nothing, and to dislike it for much; it had made
her grieve most absurdly for other people's griefs; it had given her a
hundred unphilosophical pangs at philosophic ingratitude from people who
wanted her no longer; it had teased, worried, and plagued her all her
life long, had often interfered in the most meddling and inconvenient
manner between her and her reason, her comfort and her prudence; and yet
she had a weakness for the same detrimental organ in other people--a
weakness of which she could no more have cured herself than of her
belief in the detection-defying powers of liquid rouge, the potentiality
of a Liliputian night-bolt against an army of burglars, the miraculous
properties of sal volatile, the efficacy of sermons, and such-like
articles of faith common to feminine orthodoxy. A weakness of which she
never felt more ignominiously convicted and more secretly ashamed than
in the presence of Miss Valletort, that young lady having a lofty and
magnificent disdain for all such follies, quite unattainable to ordinary
mortals, which oppressed Lady Marabout with a humiliating sense of
inferiority to her niece of eighteen summers. "So admirably educated! so
admirably brought up!" she would say to herself over and over again,
and if heretic suggestions that the stiffest trained flowers are not
always the best, that the upright and spotless arum-lily isn't so
fragrant as the careless, brilliant, tangled clematis; that rose-boughs,
tossing free in sunshine and liberty, beat hollow the most
carefully-pruned standard that ever won a medal at Regent's Park, with
such-like allegories, arising from contemplation of her conservatory or
her balcony flowers, _would_ present themselves, Lady Marabout repressed
them dutifully, and gratefully thought how many pounds' weight lighter
became the weary burden of a chaperone's responsibilities when the
onerous charge had been educated "on the best system."

"Goodwood's attentions _are_ serious, Philip, say what you like," said
the Countess to her son, as determinedly as a theologian states his pet
points with wool in his ears, that he may not hear any Satan-inspired,
rational, and mathematical disproval of them, with which you may rashly
seek to soil his tympana and smash his arguments--"Goodwood's attentions
_are_ serious, Philip, say what you like," said her ladyship, at a
morning party at Kew, eating her Neapolitan ice, complacently glancing
at the "most eligible alliance of the season," who was throwing the
balls at lawn-billiards, and talking between whiles to the Hon. Val with
praiseworthy and promising animation.

"Serious indeed, mother, if they tend matrimony-wards!" smiled
Carruthers. "It's a very serious time indeed for unwary sparrows when
they lend an ear to the call-bird, and think about hopping on to the
lime-twigs. I should think it's from a sense of compunction for the net
you've led us into, that you all particularize our attentions, whenever
they point near St. George's, by that very suggestive little adjective
'serious!' Yes, I am half afraid poor Goodey is a little touched. He
threw over our Derby sweepstakes up at Hornsey Wood yesterday to go and
stifle himself in Willis's rooms at your bazaar, and buy a guinea cup
of Souchong from Valencia; and, considering he's one of the best shots
in England, I don't think you could have a more conclusive, if you could
have a more poetic, proof of devoted renunciation. _I_'d fifty times
rather get a spear in my side, à la Ivanhoe, for a woman than give up a
Pigeon-match, a Cup-day, or a Field-night!"

"You'll never do either!" laughed Lady Marabout, who made it one of her
chief troubles that her son would not marry, chiefly, probably, because
if he _had_ married she would have been miserable, and thought no woman
good enough for him, would have been jealous of his wife's share of his
heart, and supremely wretched, I have no doubt, at his throwing himself
away, as she would have thought it, had his handkerchief lighted on a
Princess born, lovely as Galatea, and blessed with Venus's cestus.

"Never, _plaise à Dieu_!" responded her son, piously over his ice; "but
if Goodwood's serious, what's Cardonnel? _He_'s lost his head, if you
like, after the Valletort beauty."

"Major Cardonnel!" said Lady Marabout, hastily. "Oh no, I don't think
so. I hope not--I trust not."

"Why so? He's one of the finest fellows in the Service."

"I dare say; but you see, my dear Philip, he's not--not--desirable."

Carruthers stroked his moustaches and laughed:

"Fie, fie, mother! if all other Belgraviennes are Mammon-worshippers, I
thought you kept clear of the paganism. I thought your freedom from it
was the only touch by which you weren't 'purely feminine,' as the lady
novelists say of their pet bits of chill propriety."

"Worship Mammon! Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Lady Marabout. "But there
are duties, you see, my dear; your friend is a very delightful man, to
be sure; I like him excessively, and if Valencia felt any _great_
preference for him----"

"You'd feel it _your_ duty to counsel her to throw him over for
Goodwood."

"I never said so, Philip," interrupted Lady Marabout, with as near an
approach to asperity as she could achieve, which approach was less like
vinegar than most people's best honey.

"But you implied it. What are 'duties' else, and why is poor Cardonnel
'not desirable'?"

Lady Marabout played a little tattoo with her spoon in perplexity.

"My dear Philip, you know as well as I do what I mean. One might think
you were a boy of twenty to hear you!"

"My dear mother, like all disputants, when beaten in argument and driven
into a corner, you resort to vituperation of your opponent!" laughed
Carruthers, as he left her and lounged away to pick up the stick with
which pretty Flora Elmers had just knocked the pipe out of Aunt Sally's
head on to the velvet lawn of Lady George Frangipane's dower-house,
leaving his mother by no means tranquillized by his suggestions.

"Dear me!" thought Lady Marabout, uneasily, as she conversed with the
Dowager-Countess of Patchouli on the respective beauties of two new
pelargonium seedlings, the Leucadia and the Beatrice, for which her
gardener had won prizes the day before at the Regent's Park Show--"dear
me! why is there invariably this sort of cross-purposes in everything?
It will be so grievous to lose Goodwood (and he _is_ decidedly struck
with her; when he bought that rosebud yesterday of her at the bazaar,
and put it in the breast of his waistcoat, I heard what he said, and it
was no nonsense, no mere flirting complaisance either)--it would be so
grievous to lose him; and yet if Valencia really care for Cardonnel--and
sometimes I almost fancy she does--I shouldn't know which way to advise.
I thought it would be odd if a season could pass quietly without my
having some worry of this sort! With fifty men always about Valencia, as
they are, how _can_ I be responsible for any mischief that may happen,
though, to hear Philip talk, one would really imagine it was _my_ fault
that they lost their heads, as he calls it! As if a forty-horse
steam-power could stop a man when he's once off down the incline into
love! The more you try to pull him back the more impetus you give him to
go headlong down. I wish Goodwood would propose, and we could settle the
affair definitively. It is singular, but she has had no offers hardly
with all her beauty. It is very singular, in _my_ first season I had
almost as many as I had names on my tablets at Almack's. But men don't
marry now, they say. Perhaps 'tisn't to be wondered at, though I
wouldn't allow it to Philip. Poor things! they lose a very great many
pleasant things by it, and get nothing, I'm sure, nine times out of ten,
except increased expenses and unwelcome worries. I don't think I would
have married if I'd been a man, though I'd never admit it, of course, to
one of them. There are plenty of women who know too much of their own
sex ever to wonder that a man doesn't marry, though of course we don't
say so; 'twouldn't be to our interest. Sculptors might as well preach
iconoclasm, or wine-merchants tee-totalism, as women misoganism, however
little in our hearts we may marvel at it. Oh, my dear Lady Patchouli!
you praise the Leucadia too kindly--you do indeed--but if you really
think so much of it, let me send you some slips. I shall be most happy,
and Fenton will be only too proud; it is his favorite seedling."

Carruthers was quite right. One fellow at least had lost his head after
the beauty of the season, and he was Cardonnel, of the--Lancers, as fine
a fellow, as Philip said, as any in the Queen's, but a dreadful
detrimental in the eyes of all chaperones, because he was but the fourth
son of one of the poorest peers in the United Kingdom, a fact which
gave him an ægis from all assaults matrimonial, and a freedom from all
smiles and wiles, traps and gins, which Goodwood was accustomed to tell
him he bitterly envied him, and on which Cardonnel had fervently
congratulated himself, till he came under the fire of the Hon. Val's
large luminous eyes one night, when he was levelling his glass from his
stall at Lady Marabout's box, to take a look at the new belle, as
advised to do by that most fastidious female critic, Vane Steinberg.
Valencia Valletort's luminous eyes had gleamed that night under their
lashes, and pierced through the lenses of his lorgnon. He saw her, and
saw nothing but her afterwards, as men looking on the sun keep it on
their retina to the damage and exclusion of all other objects.

Physical beauty, even when it is a little bit soulless, is an admirable
weapon for instantaneous slaughter, and the trained and pruned standard
roses show a very effective mass of bloom; though, as Lady Marabout's
floral tastes and experiences told her, they don't give one the lasting
pleasure that a careless bough of wild rose will do, with its untutored
grace and its natural fragrance. With the standard you see we keep in
the artificial air of the horticultural tent, and are never touched out
of it for a second; its perfume seems akin to a bouquet, and its destiny
is, we are sure, to a parterre. The wild-rose fragrance breathes of the
hill-side and the woodlands, and brings back to us soft touches of
memory, of youth, of a fairer life and a purer air than that in which we
are living now.

The Hon. Val did _not_ have as many offers as her aunt and chaperone had
on the first flush of her pride in her anticipated. Young ladies,
educated on the "best systems," are apt to be a trifle wearisome, and
_don't_, somehow or other, take so well as the sedulous efforts of their
pruners and trainers--the rarefied moral atmosphere of the
conservatories, in which they are carefully screened from ordinary air,
and the anxiety evinced lest the flower should ever forget itself, and
sway naturally in the wind--deserve. But Cardonnel had gone mad after
her, that perfect face of hers had done for him; and whatever Goodwood
might be, _he_ was serious--he positively haunted the young beauty like
her own shadow--he was leaning on the rails every morning of his life
that she took her early ride--he sent her bouquets as lavishly as if
he'd been a nursery gardener. By some species of private surveillance,
or lover's clairvoyance, he knew beforehand where she would go, and was
at the concert, fête, morning party, bazaar, or whatever it happened to
be, as surely as was Lady Marabout herself. Poor Cardonnel was serious,
and fiercely fearful of his all-powerful and entirely eligible rival;
though greater friends than he and Goodwood had been, before this girl's
face appeared on the world of Belgravia, never lounged arm-in-arm into
Pratt's, or strolled down the "sweet shady side of Pall-Mall."

Goodwood's attentions were very marked, too, even to eyes less willing
to construe them so than Lady Marabout's. Goodwood himself, if chaffed
on the subject, vouchsafed nothing; laughed, stroked his moustaches, or
puffed his cigar, if he happened to have that blessed resource in all
difficulties, and comforter under all embarrassments, between his lips
at the moment; but decidedly he sought Valencia Valletort more, or, to
speak more correctly, he shunned her less than he'd ever done any other
young lady, and one or two Sunday mornings--_mirabile dictu!_--he was
positively seen at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, in the seat behind Lady
Marabout's sittings. A fact which, combining as it did a brace of
miracles at once, of early rising and unusual piety, set every
Belgravienne in that fashionable sanctuary watching over the top of her
illuminated prayer-book, to the utter destruction of her hopes and
interruption of her orisons.

Dowagers began to tremble behind their fans, young ladies to quake over
their bouquets; the topic was eagerly discussed by every woman from
Clarges Street to Lowndes Square; their Graces of Doncaster smiled well
pleased on Valencia--she was unquestionable blood, and they so wished
dear Goodwood to settle! There was whispered an awful whisper to the
whole female world; whispered over matutinal chocolate, and luncheon
Strasbourg pâtés, ball-supper Moëts', and demi-monde-supper Silleri,
over Vane Steinberg's cigar and Eulalie Rosière's cigarette, over the
_Morning Post_ in the clubs, and _Le Follet_ in the boudoir, that--the
Pet Eligible would--marry! That the Pet Prophecy of universal smash was
going to be fulfilled could hardly have occasioned greater
consternation.

The soul of Lady Marabout had been disquieted ever since her son's
suggestions at Lady George Frangipane's morning party, and she began to
worry: for herself, for Valencia, for Goodwood, for Cardonnel, for her
responsibilities in general, and for her "dearest Adeliza's" alternate
opinions of her duenna qualifications in particular. Lady Marabout had
an intense wish, an innocent wish enough, as innocent and very similar
in its way to that of an Eton boy to make a centre at a rifle-contest,
viz., to win the Marquis of Goodwood; innocent, surely, for though
neither the rifle prize nor the Pet Eligible could be won without
mortification unspeakable to a host of unsuccessful aspirants, if we
decree that sort of thing sinful and selfish, as everything natural
seems to me to get decreed nowadays, we may as well shut up at once; if
we may not try for the top of the pole, why erect poles at all,
monsieur? If we must not do our best to pass our friend and brother, we
must give up climbing forever, and go on all fours placably with Don and
Pontos.

Everybody has his ambition: one sighs for the Woolsack, another for the
Hunt Cup; somebody longs to be First Minister, somebody else pines to be
first dancer; one man plumes himself on a new fish-sauce, another on a
fresh reform bill; A. thirsts to get a single brief, B. for the time
when he shall be worried with no briefs at all; C. sets his hopes on
being the acrobat at Cremorne, D. on being the acrobat of the Tuileries;
fat bacon is Hodge the hedger's _summum bonum_, and Johannisberg _pur_
is mine; Empedocles thinks notoriety everything, and Diogenes thinks
quiet everything--each has his own reading of ambition, and Lady
Marabout had hers; the Duchess of Doncaster thirsted for the Garter for
her husband, Lady Elmers's pride was to possess the smallest terrier
that ever took daisy tea and was carried in a monkey-muff, her Grace of
Amandine slaved night and day to bring her party in and throw the
ministry out. Lady Marabout sighed but for one thing--to win the Pet
Eligible of the season, and give éclat for once to one phase of her
chaperone's existence.

Things were nicely in train. Goodwood was beginning to bite at that very
handsome fly the Hon. Val, and promised to be hooked and landed without
much difficulty before long, and placed, hopelessly for him,
triumphantly for her, in the lime-basket of matrimony. Things were
beautifully in train, and Lady Marabout was for once flattering herself
she should float pleasantly through an unruffled and successful season,
when Carruthers poured the one drop of _amari aliquid_ into her
champagne-cup by his suggestion of Cardonnel's doom. And then Lady
Marabout begun to worry.

She who could not endure to see a fly hurt or a flower pulled
needlessly, had nothing for it but to worry for Cardonnel's destiny, and
puzzle over the divided duties which Carruthers had hinted to her. To
reject the one man because he was not well off did seem to her
conscience, uncomfortably awakened by Phil's innuendoes, something more
mercenary than she quite liked to look at; yet to throw over the other,
future Duke of Doncaster, the eligible, the darling, the yearned-for of
all May Fair and Belgravia, seemed nothing short of madness to inculcate
to Valencia; a positive treason to that poor absent, trusting, "dearest
Adeliza," who, after the visions epistolarily spread out before her,
would utterly refuse to be comforted if Goodwood any way failed to
become her son-in-law, and, moreover, the heaviest blow to Lady Marabout
herself that the merciless axe of that brutal headsman Contretemps could
deal her.

"I do not know really what to do or what to advise," would Lady Marabout
say to herself over and over again (so disturbed by her onerous burden
of responsibilities that she would let Despréaux arrange the most
outrageous coiffures, and, never noticing them, go out to dinner with
emeralds on blue velvet, or something as shocking to feminine nerves in
her temporary aberration), forgetting one very great point, which,
remembered, would have saved her all trouble, that nobody asked her to
do anything, and not a soul requested her advice. "But Goodwood is
decidedly won, and Goodwood must not be lost; in our position we owe
something to society," she would invariably conclude these mental
debates; which last phase, being of a vagueness and obscure application
that might have matched it with any Queen's speech or electional address
upon record, was a mysterious balm to Lady Marabout's soul, and spoke
volumes to _her_, if a trifle hazy to you and to me.

But Lady Marabout, if she was a little bit of a sophist, had not worn
her eye-glass all these years without being keen-sighted on some
subjects, and, though perfectly satisfied with her niece's conduct with
Goodwood, saw certain symptoms which made her tremble lest the
detrimental Lancer should have won greater odds than the eligible
Marquis.

"Arthur Cardonnel is excessively handsome! Such very good style!
Isn't it a pity they're all so poor! His father played away
everything--literally everything. The sons have no more to marry upon,
any one of them, than if they were three crossing-sweepers," said her
ladyship, carelessly, driving home from St. Paul's one Sunday morning.

And, watching the effect of her stray arrow, she had beheld an actual
flush on the beauty's fair, impassive cheek, and had positively heard a
smothered sigh from an admirably brought-up heart, no more given
ordinarily to such weaknesses than the diamond-studded heart pendent
from her bracelet, the belle's heart and the bracelet's heart being both
formed alike, to fetch their price, and bid to do no more:--power of
volition would have been as inconvenient in, and interfered as greatly
with, the sale of one as of the other.

"She does like him!" sighed Lady Marabout over that Sabbath's luncheon
wines. "It's always my fate--always; and Goodwood, never won before,
will be thrown--actually thrown--away, as if he were the younger son of
a Nobody!" which horrible waste was so terrible to her imagination that
Lady Marabout could positively have shed tears at the bare prospect, and
might have shed them, too, if the Hon. Val, the butler, two footmen, and
a page had not inconveniently happened to be in the room at the time, so
that she was driven to restrain her feelings and drink some Amontillado
instead. Lady Marabout is not the first person by a good many who has
had to smile over sherry with a breaking heart. Ah! lips have quivered
as they laughed over Chambertin, and trembled as they touched the bowl
of a champagne-glass. Wine has assisted at many a joyous festa enough,
but some that has been drunk in gayety has caught gleams, in the eyes of
the drinkers, of salt water brighter than its brightest sparkles: water
that no other eyes can see. Because we may drink Badminton laughingly
when the gaze of Society the Non-Sympathetic is on us, do you think we
must never have tasted any more bitter dregs? _Va-t'en, bécasse!_ where
have you lived! Nero does not always fiddle while Rome is burning from
utter heartlessness, believe me, but rather--sometimes,
perhaps--because his heart is aching!

"Goodwood will propose to-night, I fancy, he is so very attentive,"
thought Lady Marabout, sitting with her sister chaperones on the cosy
causeuses of a mansion in Carlton Terrace, at one of the last balls of
the departing season. "I never saw dear Valencia look better, and
certainly her waltzing is----Ah! good evening, Major Cardonnel! Very
warm to-night, is it not? I shall be so glad when I am down again at
Fernditton. Town, in the first week of July, is really not habitable."

And she furled her fan, and smiled on him with her pleasant eyes, and
couldn't help wishing he hadn't been on the Marchioness Rondeletia's
visiting list, he _was_ such a detrimental, and he was ten times
handsomer than Goodwood!

"Will Miss Valletort leave you soon?" asked Cardonnel, sitting down by
her.

"_Ah! monsieur, vous êtes là!_" thought Lady Marabout, as she answered,
like a guarded diplomatist as she was, that it was not all settled at
present what her niece's post-season destiny would be, whether Devon or
Fernditton, or the Spas, with her mother, Lady Honiton; and then
unfurled her fan again, and chatted about Baden and her own indecision
as to whether she should go there this September.

"May I ask you a question, and will you pardon me for its plainness?"
asked Cardonnel, when she'd exhausted Baden's desirable and
non-desirable points.

Lady Marabout shuddered as she bent her head, and thought, "The creature
is never going to confide in me! He will win me over if he do, he looks
so like his mother! And what shall I say to Adeliza!"

"Is your niece engaged to Goodwood or not?"

If ever a little fib was tempting to any lady, from Eve downward, it was
tempting to Lady Marabout now! A falsehood would settle everything,
send Cardonnel off the field, and clear all possibility of losing the
"best match of the season." Besides, if not engaged to Goodwood actually
to-night, Val would be, if she liked, to-morrow, or the next day, or
before the week was over at the furthest--would it be such a falsehood
after all? She colored, she fidgeted her fan, she longed for the little
fib!--how terribly tempting it looked! But Lady Marabout is a bad hand
at prevarication, and she hates a lie, and she answered bravely, with a
regretful twinge, "Engaged? No; not----"

"Not yet! Thank God!"

Lady Marabout stared at him and at the words muttered under his
moustaches:

"Really, Major Cardonnel, I do not see why you----"

"Should thank Heaven for it? Yet I do--it is a reprieve. Lady Marabout,
you and my mother were close friends; will you listen to me for a
second, while we are not overheard? That I have loved your niece--had
the madness to love her, if you will--you cannot but have seen; that she
has given me some reasonable encouragement it is no coxcombry to say,
though I have known from the first what a powerful rival I had against
me; but that Valencia loves me and does not love him, I believe--nay, I
_know_. I have said nothing decided to her; when all hangs on a single
die we shrink from hazarding the throw. But I must know my fate
to-night. If she come to you--as girls will, I believe, sometimes--for
countenance and counsel, will you stand my friend?--will you, for the
sake of my friendship with your son, your friendship with my mother,
support my cause, and uphold what I believe Valencia's heart will say in
my favor?"

Lady Marabout was silent: no Andalusian ever worried her fan more
ceaselessly in coquetry than she did in perplexity. Her heart was
appealed to, and when that was enlisted, Lady Marabout was lost!

"But--but--my dear Major Cardonnel, you are aware----" she began, and
stopped. I should suppose it may be a little awkward to tell a man to
his face he is "not desirable!"

"I am aware that I cannot match with Goodwood? I am; but I know, also,
that Goodwood's love cannot match with mine, and that your niece's
affection is not his. That he may win her I know women too well not to
fear, therefore I ask _you_ to be my friend. If she refuse me, will you
plead for me?--if she ask for counsel, will you give such as your own
heart dictates (I ask no other)--and, will you remember that on
Valencia's answer will rest the fate of a man's lifetime?"

He rose and left her, but the sound of his voice rang in Lady Marabout's
ears, and the tears welled into her eyes: "Dear, dear! how like he
looked to his poor dear mother! But what a position to place me in! Am I
_never_ to have any peace?"

Not at this ball, at any rate. Of all the worried chaperones and
distracted duennas who hid their anxieties under pleasant smiles or
affable lethargy, none were a quarter so miserable as Helena, Lady
Marabout. Her heart and her head were enlisted on opposite sides; her
wishes pulled one way, her sympathies another; her sense of justice to
Cardonnel urged her to one side, her sense of duty to "dearest Adeliza"
urged her to the other; her pride longed for one alliance, her heart
yearned for the other. Cardonnel had confided in her and appealed to
her; _sequitur_, Lady Marabout's honor would not allow her to go against
him: yet, it was nothing short of grossest treachery to poor Adeliza,
down there in Devon, expecting every day to congratulate her daughter on
a prospective duchy won, to counsel Valencia to take one of these
beggared Cardonnels, and, besides--to lose all her own laurels, to lose
the capture of Goodwood!

No Guelphs and Ghibelins, no Royalists and Imperialists, ever fought so
hard as Lady Marabout's divided duties.

"Valencia, Major Cardonnel spoke to me to-night," began that
best-hearted and most badgered of ladies, as she sat before her
dressing-room fire that night, alone with her niece.

Valencia smiled slightly, and a faint idea crossed Lady Marabout's mind
that Valencia's smile was hardly a pleasant one, a trifle too much like
the play of moonbeams on ice.

"He spoke to me about you."

"Indeed!"

"Perhaps you can guess, my dear, what he said?"

"I am no clairvoyante, aunt;" and Miss Val yawned a little, and held out
one of her long slender feet to admire it.

"Every woman, my love, becomes half a clairvoyante when she is in love,"
said Lady Marabout, a little bit impatiently; she hadn't been brought up
on the best systems herself, and though she admired the refrigeration
(on principle), it irritated her just a little now and then. "Did
he--did he say anything to _you_ to-night?"

"Oh yes!"

"And what did you answer him, my love?"

"What would you advise me?"

Lady Marabout sighed, coughed, played nervously with the tassels of her
peignoir, crumpled Bijou's ears with a reckless disregard to that
priceless pet's feelings, and wished herself at the bottom of the
Serpentine. Cardonnel had trusted her, she couldn't desert _him_; poor
dear Adeliza had trusted her, she couldn't betray _her_; what was right
to one would be wrong to the other, and to reconcile her divided duties
was a Danaid's labor. For months she had worried her life out lest her
advice should be asked, and now the climax was come, and asked it was.

"What a horrible position!" thought Lady Marabout.

She waited and hesitated till the pendule had ticked off sixty seconds,
then she summoned her courage and spoke:

"My dear, advice in such matters is often very harmful, and always very
useless; plenty of people have asked my counsel, but I never knew any of
them take it unless it chanced to chime in with their fancy. A woman's
best adviser is her own heart, specially on such a subject as this. But
before I give my opinion, may I ask if you have accepted him?"

Lady Marabout's heart throbbed quick and fast as she put the momentous
question, with an agitation for which she would have blushed before her
admirably nonchalante niece; but the tug of war was coming, and if
Goodwood should be lost!

"You have accepted him?" she asked again.

"No! I--refused him."

The delicate rose went out of the Hon. Val's cheeks for once, and she
breathed quickly and shortly.

Goodwood was _not_ lost then!

Was she sorry--was she glad? Lady Marabout hardly knew; like Wellington,
she felt the next saddest thing after a defeat is a victory.

"But you love him, Valencia?" she asked, half ashamed of suggesting such
weakness, to this glorious beauty.

The Hon. Val unclasped her necklet as if it were a chain, choking her,
and her face grew white and set: the coldest will feel on occasion, and
all have _some_ tender place that can wince at the touch.

"Perhaps; but such folly is best put aside at once. Certainly I prefer
him to others, but to accept him would have been madness, absurdity. I
told him so!"

"You told him so! If you had the heart to do so, Valencia, he has not
lost much in losing you!" burst in Lady Marabout, her indignation
getting the better of her judgment, and her heart, as usual, giving the
coup de grace to her reason. "I am shocked at you! Every tender-hearted
woman feels regret for affection she is obliged to repulse, even when
she does not return it; and you, who love this man----"

"Would you have had me accept him, aunt?"

"Yes," cried Lady Marabout, firmly, forgetting every vestige of "duty,"
and every possibility of dear Adeliza's vengeance, "if you love him, I
would, decidedly. When I married my dear Philip's father, he was what
Cardonnel is, a cavalry man, as far off his family title then as
Cardonnel is off his now."

"The more reason I should not imitate your imprudence, my dear aunt;
death might not carry off the intermediate heirs quite so courteously in
this case! No, I refused Major Cardonnel, and I did rightly; I should
have repented it by now had I accepted him. There is nothing more silly
than to be led away by romance. You De Boncoeurs _are_ romantic, you
know; we Valletorts are happily free from the weakness. I am very tired,
aunt, so good night."

The Hon. Val went, the waxlight she carried shedding a paler shade on
her handsome face, whiter and more set than usual, but held more
proudly, as if it already wore the Doncaster coronet; and Lady Marabout
sighed as she rang for her maid.

"Of course she acted wisely, and I ought to be very pleased; but that
poor dear fellow!--his eyes _are_ so like his mother's!"

"I congratulate you, mother, on a clear field. You've sent poor Arthur
off very nicely," said Carruthers, the next morning, paying his general
visit in her boudoir before the day began, which is much the same time
in Town as in Greenland, and commences, whatever almanacs may say,
about two or half-past P.M. "Cardonnel left this morning for Heaven
knows where, and is going to exchange, Shelleto tells me, into the
----th, which is ordered to Bengal, so _he_ won't trouble you much more.
When shall I be allowed to congratulate my cousin as the future Duchess
of Doncaster?"

"Pray, don't tease me, Philip. I've been vexed enough about your friend.
When he came to me this morning, and asked me if there was no hope, and
I was obliged to tell him there was none, I felt wretched," said Lady
Marabout, as nearly pettishly as she ever said anything; "but I am
really not responsible, not in the least. Besides, even you must admit
that Goodwood is a much more desirable alliance, and if Valencia had
accepted Cardonnel, pray what would all Belgravia have said? Why, that,
disappointed of Goodwood, she took the other out of pure pique! We owe
something to society, Philip, and something to ourselves."

Carruthers laughed:

"Ah, my dear mother, you women will never be worth all you ought to be
till you leave off kowtow-ing to 'what will be said,' and learn to defy
that terrible oligarchy of the Qu'en dira-t-on?"

"When will Goodwood propose?" wondered Lady Marabout, fifty times a day,
and Valencia Valletort wondered too. Whitebait was being eaten, and
yachts being fitted, manned, and victualled, outstanding Ascot debts
were being settled, and outstanding bills were being passed hurriedly
through St. Stephen's; all the clockwork of the season was being wound
up for the last time previous to a long standstill, and going at a deuce
of a pace, as if longing to run down, and give its million wheels and
levers peace; while everybody who'd anything to settle, whether monetary
or matrimonial, personal or political, was making up his mind about it
and getting it off his hands, and some men were being pulled up by
wide-awake Jews to see what they were "made of," while others were
pulled up by adroit dowagers to know what they had "meant" before the
accounts of the season were scored out and settled. "Had Goodwood
proposed?" asked all Belgravia. "Why hadn't Goodwood proposed?" asked
Lady Marabout and Valencia. Twenty most favorable opportunities for the
performance of that ceremony had Lady Marabout made for him
"accidentally on purpose" the last fortnight; each of those times she
had fancied the precious fish hooked and landed, and each time she had
seen him, free from the hook, floating on the surface of society.

"He _must_ speak definitely to-morrow," thought Lady Marabout. But the
larvæ of to-morrow burst into the butterfly of to-day, and to-day passed
into the chrysalis of yesterday, and Goodwood was always very nearly
caught, and never _quite_!

"Come up-stairs, Philip; I want to show you a little Paul Potter I
bought the other day," said Lady Marabout one morning, returning from a
shopping expedition to Regent Street, meeting her son at her own door
just descending from his tilbury. "Lord Goodwood calling, did you say,
Soames? Oh, very well."

And Lady Marabout floated up the staircase, but signed to her footman to
open the door, not of the drawing-room, but of her own boudoir.

"The Potter is in my own room, Philip; you must come in here if you wish
to see it," said that adroit lady, for the benefit of Soames. But when
the door was shut, Lady Marabout lowered her voice confidentially: "The
Potter isn't here, dear; I had it hung in the little cabinet through the
drawing-rooms, but I don't wish to go up there for a few moments--you
understand."

Carruthers threw himself in a chair, and laughed till the dogs Bijou,
Bonbon, and Pandore all barked in a furious concert.

"I understand! So Goody's positively coming to the point up there, is
he?"

"No doubt he is," said Lady Marabout, reprovingly. "Why else should he
come in when I was not at home? There is nothing extraordinary in it.
The only thing I have wondered at is his having delayed so long."

"If a man had to hang himself, would you wonder he put off pulling the
bolt?"

"I don't see any point in your jests at all!" returned Lady Marabout.
"There is nothing ridiculous in winning such a girl as Valencia."

"No; but the question here is not of winning her, but of buying her. The
price is a little high--a ducal coronet and splendid settlements, a
wedding-ring and bondage for life; but he will buy her, nevertheless.
Cardonnel couldn't pay the first half of the price, and so he was swept
out of the auction-room. You are shocked, mother! Ah, truth _is_
shocking sometimes, and always _maladroit_; one oughtn't to bring it
into ladies' boudoirs."

"Hold your tongue, Philip! I will not have you so satirical. Where do
you take it from? Not from me, I am sure! Hark! there is Goodwood going!
That is his step on the stairs, I think! Dear me, Philip, I wish you
sympathized with me a little more, for I _do_ feel happy, and I can't
help it; dear Adeliza will be so gratified."

"My dear mother, I'll do my best to be sympathetic, I'll go and
congratulate Goodwood as he gets in his cab, if you fancy I ought; but,
you see, if I were in Dahomey beholding the head of my best friend
coming off, I couldn't quite get up the amount of sympathy in their
pleasure at the refreshing sight the Dahomites might expect from me, and
so----"

But Lady Marabout missed the comparison of herself to a Dahomite, for
she had opened the door and was crossing to the drawing-rooms, her eyes
bright, her step elastic, her heart exultant at the triumph of her
manoeuvres. The Hon. Val was playing with some ferns in an étagère at
the bottom of the farthest room, and responded to the kiss her aunt
bestowed on her about as much as if she had been one of the statuettes
on the consoles.

"Well, love, _what did he say_?" asked Lady Marabout, breathlessly, with
eager delight and confident anticipation.

Like drops of ice on warm rose-leaves fell each word of the intensely
chill and slightly sulky response on Lady Marabout's heart.

"He said that he goes to Cowes to-morrow for the Royal Yacht Squadron
dinner, and then on in the _Anadyomene_ to the Spitzbergen coast for
walruses. He left a P. P. C. card for you."

"_Walruses!_" shrieked Lady Marabout.

"Walruses," responded the Hon. Val.

"And said no more than that?"

"No more than that!"

The Pet Eligible had flown off uncaught after all! Lady Marabout needed
no further explanation--_tout fut dit_. They were both silent and
paralyzed. Do you suppose Pompey and Cornelia had much need of words
when they met at Lesbos after the horrible déroute of Pharsalia?

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'm in your mother's blackest books for ever, Phil," said Goodwood to
Carruthers in the express to Southampton for the R.Y.C. Squadron Regatta
of that year, "but I can't help it. It's no good to badger us into
marriage; it only makes us double, and run to earth. I _was_ near
compromising myself with your cousin, I grant, but the thing that
chilled me was, she's too _studied_. It's all got up beforehand, and
goes upon clockwork, and it don't interest one accordingly; the
mechanism's perfect, but we know when it will raise its hand, and move
its eyes, and bow its head, and when we've looked at its beauty once we
get tired of it. That's the fault in Valencia, and in scores of them,
and as long as they _won't_ be natural, why, they can't have much chance
with us!"

Which piece of advice Carruthers, when he next saw his mother, repeated
to her, for the edification of all future débutantes, adding a small
sermon of his own:

"My dear mother, I ask you, is it to be expected that we can marry just
to oblige women and please the newspapers? Would you have me marched off
to Hanover Square because it would be a kindness to take one of Lady
Elmers' marriageable daughters, or because a leading journal fills up an
empty column with farcical lamentation on our dislike to the bondage? Of
course you wouldn't; yet, for no better reasons, you'd have chained poor
Goodwood, if you could have caught him. Whether a man likes to marry or
not is certainly his own private business, though just now it's made a
popular public discussion. Do you wonder that we shirk the institution?
If we have not fortune, marriage cramps our energies, our resources, our
ambitions, loads us with petty cares, and trebles our anxieties. To one
who rises with such a burden on his shoulders, how many sink down in
obscurity, who, but for the leaden weight of pecuniary difficulties with
which marriage has laden their feet, might have climbed the highest
round in the social ladder? On the other side, if we have fortune, if we
have the unhappy happiness to be eligible, is it wonderful that we are
not flattered by the worship of young ladies who love us for what we
shall give them, that we don't feel exactly honored by being courted for
what we are worth, and that we're not over-willing to give up our
liberty to oblige those who look on us only as good speculations? What
think you, eh?"

Lady Marabout looked up and shook her head mournfully:

"My dear Philip, you are right. I see it--I don't dispute it; but when a
thing becomes personal, you know philosophy becomes difficult. I have
such letters from poor dear Adeliza--such letters! Of course she thinks
it is all my fault, and I believe she will break entirely with me. It is
so very shocking. You see all Belgravia coupled their names, and the
very day that he went off to Cowes in that heartless, abominable manner,
if an announcement of the alliance as arranged did not positively appear
in the _Court Circular_! It did indeed! I am sure Anne Hautton was at
the bottom of it; it would be just like her. Perhaps poor Valencia
cannot be pitied after her treatment of Cardonnel, but it is very hard
on _me_."

Lady Marabout is right: when a thing becomes personal, philosophy
becomes difficult. When your gun misses fire, and a fine cock bird
whirrs up from the covert and takes wing unharmed, never to swell the
number of your triumphs and the size of your game-bag, could you by any
chance find it in your soul to sympathize with the bird's gratification
at your mortification and its own good luck? I fancy not.



LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES;

OR

THE WORRIES OF A CHAPERONE.

IN THREE SEASONS.


SEASON THE SECOND--THE OGRE.

"If there be one class I dislike more than another, it is that class;
and if there be one person in town I utterly detest, it is that man!"
said our friend Lady Marabout, with much unction, one morning, to an
audience consisting of Bijou, Bonbon, and Pandore, a cockatoo, an Angora
cat, and a young lady sitting in a rocking-chair, reading the magazines
of the month. The dogs barked, the cockatoo screamed, the cat purred a
vehement affirmative, the human auditor looked up, and laughed:

"What is the class, Lady Marabout, may I ask?"

"Those clever, detestable, idle, good-for-nothing, fashionable,
worthless men about town, who have not a penny to their fortune, and
spend a thousand a year on gloves and scented tobacco--who are seen at
everybody's house, and never at their own--who drive horses fit for a
Duke's stud, and haven't money enough to keep a donkey on thistles--who
have handsome faces and brazen consciences--who are positively leaders
of ton, and yet are glad to write feuilletons before the world is up to
pay their stall at the Opera--who give a guinea for a bouquet, and
can't pay a shilling of their just debts,--I detest the class, my dear!"

"So it seems, Lady Marabout. I never heard you so vehement. And who is
the particular scapegoat of this type of sinners?"

"Chandos Cheveley."

"Chandos Cheveley? Isn't he that magnificent man Sir Philip introduced
to me at the Amandines' breakfast yesterday? Why, Lady Marabout, his
figure alone might outbalance a multitude of sins!"

"He is handsome enough. _Did_ Philip introduce him to you, my dear? I
wonder! It was very careless of him. But men _are_ so thoughtless; they
will know anybody themselves, and they think we may do the same. The men
called here while we were driving this morning. I am glad we were out:
he very seldom comes to _my_ house."

"But why is he so dreadful? The Amandines are tremendously exclusive, I
thought."

"Oh, he goes everywhere! No party is complete without Chandos Cheveley,
and I have heard that at September or Christmas he has more invitations
than he could possibly accept; but he is a most objectionable man, all
the same--a man every one dreads to see come near her daughters. He has
extreme fascination of manner, but he has not a farthing! How he lives,
dresses, drives the horses he does, is one of those miracles of London
men's lives which _we_ can never hope to puzzle out. Philip says he
likes him, but Philip never speaks ill of anybody, except a woman now
and then, who teases him; but the man is my detestation--has been for
years. I was annoyed to see his card: it is the first time he has called
this season. He knows I can't endure his class or him."

With which Lady Marabout wound up a very unusually lengthy and
uncharitable disquisition, length and uncharitableness being both out of
her line; and Lady Cecil Ormsby rolled her handkerchief into a ball,
threw it across the room for Bonbon, the spaniel puppy, and laughed till
the cockatoo screamed with delight:

"Dear Lady Marabout, do forgive me, but it is such fun to hear you
positively, for once, malicious! Who is your Horror, genealogically
speaking? this terrible--what's his name?--Chandos Cheveley?"

"The younger son of a younger son of one of the Marquises of Danvers, I
believe, my dear; an idle man about town, you know, with not a sou to be
idle upon, who sets the fashion, but never pays his tailor. I am never
malicious, I hope, but I do consider men of that stamp very
objectionable."

"But what is Sir Philip but a man about town?"

"My son! Of course he is a man about town. My dear, what else should he
be? But if Philip likes to lounge all his days away in a club-window, he
has a perfect right; he has fortune. Chandos Cheveley is not worth a
farthing, and yet yawns away his day in White's as if he were a
millionnaire; the one can support his _far niente_, the other cannot.
There are gradations in everything, my love, but in nothing more than
among the men, of the same set and the same style, whom one sees in
Pall-Mall."

"There are chestnut horses and horse-chestnuts, chevaliers and
chevaliers d'industrie, rois and rois d'Yvetot, Carrutherses and Chandos
Cheveleys!" laughed Lady Cecil. "I understand, Lady Marabout. Il y a
femmes et femmes--men about town and men about town, I shall learn all
the classes and distinctions soon. But how is one to know the sheep that
may be let into the fold from the wolves in sheep's clothing, that must
be kept out of it? Your Ogre is really very distinguished-looking."

"Distinguished? Oh yes, my love; but the most distinguished men are the
most objectionable sometimes. I assure you, my dear Cecil, I have seen
an elder son whom sometimes I could hardly have told from his own valet,
and a younger of the same family with the style of a D'Orsay. Why, did I
not this very winter, when I went to stay at Rochdale, take Fitzbreguet
himself, whom I had not chanced to see since he was a child, for one of
the men out of livery, and bid him bring Bijou's basket out of the
carriage. I did indeed--_I_ who hate such mistakes more than any one!
And Lionel, his second brother, has the beauty of an Apollo and the _air
noble_ to perfection. One often sees it; it's through the doctrine of
compensation, I suppose, but it's very perplexing, and causes endless
_embrouillements_."

"When the mammas fall in love with Lord Fitz's coronet, and the
daughters with Lord Lionel's face, I suppose?" interpolated Lady Cecil.

"Exactly so, dear. As for knowing the sheep from the wolves, as you call
them," went on Lady Marabout, sorting her embroidery silks, "you may
very soon know more of Chandos Cheveley's class--(this Magenta braid is
good for nothing; it's a beautiful color, but it fades immediately)--you
meet them in the country at all fast houses, as they call them nowadays,
like the Amandines'; they are constantly invited, because they are so
amusing, or so dead a shot, or so good a whip, and live on their
invitations, because they have no _locale_ of their own. You see, all
the women worth nothing admire, and all the women worth anything shun,
them. They have a dozen accomplishments, and not a single reliable
quality; a hundred houses open to them, and not a shooting-box of their
own property or rental. You will meet this Chandos Cheveley everywhere,
for instance, as though he were somebody desirable. You will see him in
his club-window, as though he were born only to read the papers; in the
Ride, mounted on a much better animal than Fitzbreguet, though the one
pays treble the price he ought, and the other, I dare say, no price at
all; at Ascot, on Amandine's or Goodwood's drag, made as much of among
them all as if he were an heir-apparent to the throne; and yet, my love,
that man hasn't a penny, lives Heaven knows where, and how he gets money
to keep his cab and buy his gloves is, as I say, one of those mysteries
of settling days, whist-tables, periodical writing, Baden _coups de
bonheur_, and such-like fountains of such men's fortunes which we can
never hope to penetrate--and very little we should benefit if we could!
My dearest Cecil! if it is not ten minutes to five! We must go and drive
at once."

Lady Ormsby was a great pet of Lady Marabout's; she had been so from a
child; so much so, that when, the year after Valencia Valletort's
discomfiture (a discomfiture so heavy and so public, that that young
beauty was seized with a fit of filial devotion, attended her mamma to
Nice, and figured not in Belgravia the ensuing season, and even Lady
Marabout's temper had been slightly soured by it, as you perceive),
another terrible charge was shifted on her shoulders by an appeal from
the guardians of the late Earl of Rosediamond's daughter for her to be
brought out under the Marabout wing, she had consented, and surrendered
herself to be again a martyr to responsibility for the sake of Cecil and
Cecil's lost mother. The young lady was a beauty; she was worse, she was
an heiress; she was worse still, she was saucy, wayward, and notable for
a strong will of her own--a more dangerous young thorough-bred was never
brought to a gentler Rarey; and yet she was the first charge of this
nature that Lady Marabout had ever accepted in the whole course of her
life with no misgivings and with absolute pleasure. First, she was very
fond of Cecil Ormsby; secondly, she longed to efface her miserable
failure with Valencia by a brilliant success, which should light up all
the gloom of her past of chaperonage; thirdly, she had a sweet and
long-cherished diplomacy nestling in her heart to throw her son and Lord
Rosediamond's daughter together, for the eventual ensnaring and
fettering of Carruthers, which policy nothing could favor so well as
having the weapon for that deadly purpose in her own house through
April, May, and June.

Cecil Ormsby was a beauty and an heiress--spirited, sarcastic,
brilliant, wilful, very proud; altogether, a more spirited young filly
never needed a tight hand on the ribbons, a light but a firm seat, and a
temperate though judicious use of the curb to make her endure being
ridden at all, even over the most level grass countries of life. And
yet, for the reasons just mentioned, Lady Marabout, who never had a
tight hand upon anything, who is to be thrown in a moment by any wilful
kick or determined plunge, who is utterly at the mercy of any filly that
chooses to take the bit between her own teeth and bolt off, and is
entirely incapable of using the curb, even to the most ill-natured and
ill-trained Shetland that ever deserved to have its mouth sawed,--Lady
Marabout undertook the jockeyship without fear.

"I dare say you wonder, after my grief with Valencia, that I have
consented to bring another girl out, but when I heard it was poor
Rosediamond's wish--his dying wish, one may almost say--that Cecil
should make her début with me, what _was_ I to do, my dear?" she
explained, half apologetically, to Carruthers, when the question was
first agitated. Perhaps, too, Lady Marabout had in her heart been
slightly sickened of perfectly trained young ladies brought up on the
best systems, and admitted to herself that the pets of the foreign
houses may _not_ be the most attractive flowers after all.

So Lady Cecil Ormsby was installed in Lowndes Square, and though she was
the inheritor of her mother's wealth, which was considerable, and
possessor of her own wit and beauty, which were not inconsiderable
either, and therefore a prize to fortune-hunters and a lure to
misogamists, as Lady Marabout knew very well how to keep the first off,
and had her pet project of numbering her refractory son among the
converted second, she rather congratulated herself than otherwise in
having the pleasure and éclat of introducing her; and men voted the
Marabout Yearlings Sale of that season, since it comprised Rosediamond's
handsome daughter, as dangerous as a horse-dealer's auction to a young
greenhorn, or a draper's "sale, without reserve, at enormous sacrifice,"
to a lady with a soul on bargains bent.

"How very odd! Just as we have been talking of him, there is that man
again! I must bow to him, I suppose; though if there _be_ a person I
dislike----" said Lady Marabout, giving a frigid little bend of her head
as her barouche, with its dashing roans, rolled from her door, and a
tilbury passed them, driving slowly through the square.

Cecil Ormsby bowed to its occupant with less severity, and laughed under
the sheltering shadow of her white parasol-fringe.

"The Ogre has a very pretty trap, though, Lady Marabout, and the most
delicious gray horse in it! Such good action!"

"If its action is good, my love, I dare say it is more than could be
said of its master's actions. He is going to call on that Mrs.
Maréchale, very probably; he was always there last season."

And Lady Marabout shook her head and looked grave, which, combined with
the ever-damnatory demonstrative conjunction, blackened Mrs. Maréchale's
moral character as much as Lady Marabout could blacken any one's, she
loving as little to soil her own fingers and her neighbors' reputations
with the indelible Italian chalk of scandal as any lady I know; being
given, on the contrary, when compelled to draw any little social croquis
of a back-biting nature, to sketch them in as lightly as she could, take
out as many lights as possible, and rub in the shadows with a very
chary and pitying hand, except, indeed, when she took the portrait of
such an Ogre as Chandos Cheveley, when I can't say she was quite so
merciful, specially when policy and prejudice combined to suggest that
it would be best (and not unjust) to use the blackest Conté crayons
obtainable.

The subject of it would not have denied the correctness of the
silhouette Lady Marabout had snipped out for the edification of Lady
Cecil, had he caught a glimpse of it: he had no habitation, nor was ever
likely to have any, save a bachelor's suite in a back street; he had
been an idle man for the last twenty years, with not a sou to be idle
upon; the springs of his very precarious fortunes, his pursuits, habits,
reputation, ways and means, were all much what she had described them;
yet he set the fashion much oftener than Goodwood, and dukes and
millionnaires would follow the style of his tie, or the shape of his
hat; he moved in the most brilliant circles as Court Circulars have it,
and all the best houses were open to him. At his Grace of Amandine's,
staying there for the shooting, he would alter the stud, find fault with
the claret, arrange a Drive for deer in the forest, and flirt with her
Grace herself, as though, as Lady Marabout averred, he had been
Heir-apparent or Prince Regent, who honored the Castle by his mere
presence, Amandine all the while swearing by every word he spoke,
thinking nothing well done without Cheveley, and submitting to be set
aside in his own Castle, with the greatest gratification at the
extinction.

But that Chandos Cheveley was not worth a farthing, that he was but a
Bohemian on a brilliant scale, that any day he might disappear from that
society where he now glittered, never to reappear, everybody knew; how
he floated there as he did, kept his cab and his man, paid for his stall
at the Opera, his club fees, and all the other trifles that won't wait,
was an eternal puzzle to every one ignorant of how expensively one may
live upon nothing if one just gets the knack, and of how far a
fashionable reputation, like a cake of chocolate, will go to support
life when nothing more substantial is obtainable. Lady Marabout had
sketched him correctly enough, allowing for a little politic bitterness
thrown in to counteract Carruthers's thoughtlessness in having
introduced him to Rosediamond's daughter (that priceless treasure for
whom Lady Marabout would fain have had a guard of Janissaries, if they
would not have been likely to look singular and come expensive); and
ladies of the Marabout class did look upon him as an Ogre, guarded their
daughters from his approach at a ball as carefully, if not as
demonstratively, as any duck its ducklings from the approach of a
water-rat, did not ask him to their dinners, and bowed to him chillily
in the Ring. Others regarded him as harmless, from his perfect
pennilessness; what danger was there in the fascinations of a man whom
all Belgravia knew hadn't money enough to buy dog-skin gloves, though he
always wore the best Paris lavender kid? While others, the pretty
married women chiefly, from her Grace of Amandine downwards to Mrs.
Maréchale, of Lowndes Square, flirted with him, fearfully, and
considered Chandos Cheveley what nobody ever succeeded in disproving
him, the most agreeable man on town, with the finest figure, the best
style, and the most perfect bow, to be seen in the Park any day between
March and July. But then, as Lady Marabout remarked on a subsequent
occasion, a figure, a style, and a bow are admirable and enviable
things, but they're not among the cardinal virtues, and don't do to live
upon; and though they're very good buoys to float one on the smooth
sparkling sea of society, if there come a storm, one may go down,
despite them, and become helpless prey to the sharks waiting below.

"Philip certainly admires her very much; he said the other day there
was something in her, and that means a great deal from him," thought
Lady Marabout, complacently, as she and Cecil Ormsby were wending their
way through some crowded rooms. "Of course I shall not influence Cecil
towards him; it would not be honorable to do so, since she might look
for a higher title than my son's; still, if it should so fall out,
nothing would give me greater pleasure, and really nothing would seem
more natural with a little judicious manage----"

"May I have the honor of this valse with you?" was spoken in, though not
to, Lady Marabout's ear. It was a soft, a rich, a melodious voice
enough, and yet Lady Marabout would rather have heard the hiss of a
Cobra Capella, for the footmen _might_ have caught the serpent and
carried it off from Cecil Ormsby's vicinity, and she couldn't very well
tell them to rid the reception-chambers of Chandos Cheveley.

Lady Marabout vainly tried to catch Cecil's eye, and warn her of the
propriety of an utter and entire repudiation of the valse in question,
if there were no "engaged" producible to softly chill the hopes and
repulse the advances of the aspirant; but Lady Cecil's soul was
obstinately bent saltatory-wards; her chaperone's ocular telegram was
lost upon her, and only caught by the last person who should have seen
it, who read the message off the wires to his own amusement, but
naturally was not magnanimous enough to pass it on.

"I ought to have warned her never to dance with that detestable man. If
I could but have caught her eye even now!" thought Lady Marabout,
restlessly. The capella _would_ have been much the more endurable of the
two; the serpent couldn't have passed its arm round Rosediamond's
priceless daughter and whirled her down the ball-room to the music of
Coote and Timney's band, as Chandos Cheveley was now doing.

"Why did _you_ not ask her for that waltz, Philip?" cried the good lady,
almost petulantly.

Carruthers opened his eyes wide.

"My dear mother, you know I never dance! I come to balls to oblige my
hostesses and look at the women, but not to carry a seven-stone weight
of tulle illusion and white satin, going at express pace, with the
thermometer at 80 deg., and a dense crowd jostling one at every turn in
the circle. _Bien obligé!_ that's not my idea of pleasure; if it were
the Pyrrhic dance, now, or the Tarantella, or the Bolero, under a
Castilian chestnut-tree----"

"Hold your tongue! You might have danced for once, just to have kept her
from Chandos Cheveley."

"From the best waltzer in London? Not so selfish. Ask Amandine's wife if
women don't like to dance with that fellow!"

"I should be very sorry to mention his name to her, or any of her set,"
responded Lady Marabout, getting upon certain virtuous stilts of her
own, which she was given to mount on rare occasion and at distant
intervals, always finding them very uncomfortable and unsuitable
elevations, and being as glad to cast them off as a traveller to kick
off the _échasses_ he has had to strap on over the sandy plains of the
Landes.

"What could possess you to introduce him to Cecil, Philip? It was
careless, silly, unlike you; you know how I dislike men of
his--his--objectionable stamp," sighed Lady Marabout, the white and gold
namesakes in her coiffure softly trembling a gentle sigh in the perfumy
zephyr raised by the rotatory whirl of the waltzers, among whom she
watched with a horrible fascination, as one watches a tiger being pugged
out of its lair, or a deserter being led out to be shot, Chandos
Cheveley, waltzing Rosediamond's priceless daughter down the ball-room.

"He is so dreadfully handsome! I wonder why it is that men and women,
who have no fortune but their faces, will be so dangerously, so
obstinately, so provokingly attractive as one sees them so often!"
thought Lady Marabout, determining to beat an immediate retreat from the
present salons, since they were infested by the presence of her Ogre, to
Lady Hautton's house in Wilton Crescent.

Lady Hautton headed charitable bazaars, belonged to the Cummingite
nebulæ, visited Homes and Hospitals (floating to the bedside of luckless
feminine patients to read out divers edifying passages, whose effect
must have been somewhat neutralized to the hearers, one would imagine,
by the envy-inspiring rustle of her silks, the flash of her rings, and
the chimes of her bracelets, chains, and châtelaine), looked on the
"Amandine set" as lost souls, and hence "did not know" Chandos
Cheveley--a fact which, though the Marabout and Hautton antagonism was
patent to all Belgravia, served to endear her all at once to her foe;
Lady Marabout, like a good many other people, being content to sink
personal resentment, and make a truce with the infidels for the sake of
enjoying a mutual antipathy--that closest of all links of union!

Lady Marabout and Lady Hautton were foes, but they were dear Helena and
dear Anne, all the same; dined at each other's tables, and smiled in
each other's faces. They might be private foes, but they were public
friends; and Lady Marabout beat a discreet retreat to the Hautton's
salons--"so many engagements" is so useful a plea!--and from the Hautton
she passed on to a ball at the Duke of Doncaster's; and, as at both, if
Lady Cecil Ormsby did not move "a goddess from above," she moved a
brilliant, sparkling, nonchalante, dangerous beauty, with some of her
sex's faults, all her sex's witcheries, and more than her sex's
mischief, holding her own royally, saucily, and proudly, and Chandos
Cheveley was encountered no more, but happily detained at petit souper
in a certain Section of the French Embassy, Lady Marabout drove
homewards, in the gray of the morning, relieved, complacent, and
gratified, dozing deliciously, till she was woke up with a start.

"Lady Marabout, what a splendid waltzer your Ogre, Chandos Cheveley,
is!"

Lady Marabout opened her eyes with a jerk that set her feathers
trembling, her diamonds scintillating, and her bracelets ringing an
astonished little carillon.

"My love, how you frightened me!"

Cecil Ormsby laughed--a gay, joyous laugh, innocent of having disturbed
a doze, a lapse into human weakness of which her chaperone never
permitted herself to plead guilty.

"Frightened you, did I? Why, your _bête noire_ is as terrible to you as
Coeur de Lion to the Saracen children, or Black Douglas to the Lowland!
And, really, I can't see anything terrible in him; he is excessively
brilliant and agreeable, has something worth hearing to say to you,
and his waltzing is----!"

Lady Cecil Ormsby had not a word in her repertory--though it
was an enthusiastic and comprehensive one, and embraced five
languages--sufficiently commendatory to finish her sentence.

"I dare say, dear! I never denied, or heard denied, his having every
accomplishment under the sun. The only pity is, he has nothing more
substantial!" returned Lady Marabout, a little bit tartly for _her_
lips, only used to the softest (and most genuine) milk of roses.

Lord Rosediamond's daughter laughed a little mournfully, and played with
her fan.

"Poor man! Brilliant and beggared, fashionable and friendless, courted
and cashiered--a sad destiny! Do you know, Lady Marabout, I have half a
mind to champion your Ogre!"

"My love, don't talk nonsense!" said Lady Marabout, hastily, at which
Lady Cecil only laughed still more softly and gayly again, and sprung
down as the carriage stopped in Lowndes Square.

"Rosediamond's daughter's deucedly handsome, eh, Cheveley? I saw you
waltzing with her last night," said Goodwood at Lord's the next morning,
watching a match between the Household Cavalry and the Zingari Eleven.

"Yes, she is the best thing we have seen for some time," said Cheveley,
glancing round to see if the Marabout liveries were on the ground.

"Don't let the Amandine or little Maréchale hear you say so, or you'll
have a deuce of a row," laughed Goodwood. "She's worth a good deal, too;
she's all her mother's property, and that's something, I know. The
deaths in her family have kept her back two years or more, but now she
_is_ out, I dare say Lady Tattersall will put her up high in the
market."

"No doubt. Why don't _you_ make the investment--she's much more
attractive than that Valletort ice statue who hooked you so nearly last
year? Fortescue's out! Well done, little Jimmy! Ah! there's the Marabout
carriage. I am as unwelcome to that good lady, I know, as if I were
Quasimodo or Quilp, and as much to be shunned, in her estimation, as
Vidocq, armed to the teeth; nevertheless, I shall go and talk to them,
if only in revenge for the telegraphic warning of 'dangerous' she shot
at Lady Cecil last night when I asked her to waltz. Goodwood, don't you
envy me my happy immunity from traps matrimonial?"

"There is that man again--how provoking! I wish we had not come to see
Philip's return match. He is positively coming up to talk to us,"
thought Lady Marabout, restlessly, as her Ogre lifted his hat to her. In
vain did she do her best to look severe, to look frigid, to chill him
with a withering "good morning," (a little word, capable, if you notice,
of expressing every gradation in feeling, from the nadir of delighted
intimacy to the zero of rebuking frigidity;) her coldest ice was as warm
as a pine-apple ice that has been melting all day under a refreshment
tent at a horticultural fête? Her _rôle_ was _not_ chilliness, and never
could be; she would have beamed benign on a headsman who had led her out
to instant decapitation, and been no more able to help it than a peach
to help its bloom or a claret its bouquet. She did her utmost to freeze
Chandos Cheveley, but either she failed signally, or he, being blessed
with the brazen conscience she had attributed to him, was steeled to all
the tacit repulses of her looks, for he leant against the barouche-door,
let her freeze him away as she might, and chatted to Cecil Ormsby,
"positively," Lady Marabout remarked to that safest confidante, herself,
"positively as if the man had been welcome at my house for the last ten
years! If Cecil _would_ but second me, he couldn't do it; but she _will_
smile and talk with him just as though he were Goodwood or Fitzbreguet!
It is very disagreeable to be forced against one's will like this into
countenancing such a very objectionable person; and yet what _can_ one
do?"

Which query she could by no means satisfactorily answer herself, being a
regular female Nerva for clemency, utterly incapable of the severity
with which that stern Catiline, Lady Hautton, would have signed the
unwelcome intruder out of the way in a brace of seconds. And under
Nerva's gentle rule, though Nerva was longing with all her heart to have
the courage to call the lictors and say, "Away with him!" Cheveley leant
against the door of the carriage unmolested, though decidedly undesired
by one of its occupants, talked to by Lady Cecil, possibly because she
found him as agreeable as her Grace of Amandine and Lillia Maréchale had
done before her, possibly only from that rule of contrariety which is
such a pet motor-power with her sex; and Lady Marabout reclined among
her cushions, tucked up in her tiger-skin in precisely that state of
mind in which Fuseli said to his wife, "Swear, my dear, you don't know
how much good it will do you," dreading in herself the possible advent
of the Hautton carriage, for that ancient enemy and rigid pietist, of
whose keen tongue and eminent virtue she always stood secretly in awe,
to see this worthless and utterly objectionable member of that fast,
graceless, and "very incorrect" Amandine set, absolutely _en sentinelle_
at the door of her barouche!

Does your best friend _ever_ come when you want him most? Doesn't your
worst foe _always_ come when you want him least? Of course, at that
juncture, the Hautton carriage came on the ground (Hautton was one of
the Zingari Club, and maternal interest brought her foe to Lord's as it
had brought herself), and the Hautton eye-glass, significantly and
surprisedly raised, said as distinctly to Lady Marabout, as though
elfishly endowed with vocal powers, "You allow _that_ man acquaintance
with Rosediamond's daughter!" Lady Marabout was stung to the soul by the
deserved rebuke, but she didn't know how on earth to get rid of the
sinner! There he leaned, calmly, nonchalantly, determinedly, as if he
were absolutely welcome; and Lady Cecil talked on to him as if he were
absolutely welcome too.

Lady Marabout felt branded in the eyes of all Belgravia to have Chandos
Cheveley at her carriage-door, the most objectionable man of all his
most objectionable class.

"It is very strange!" she thought. "I have seen that man about town the
last five-and-twenty years--ever since he was a mere boy, taken up and
petted by Adeline Patchouli for some piece of witty Brummelian impudence
he said to her on his first introduction--and he has never sought my
acquaintance before, but always seemed to be quite aware of my dislike
to him and all his set. It is very grievous he should have chosen the
very season I have poor dear Rosediamond's daughter with me; but it is
always my fate--if a thing can happen to annoy me it always will!"

With which Lady Marabout, getting fairly distracted under the iron hand
of adverse fate, and the ruthless surveillance of the Hautton glass,
invented an impromptu necessity for immediate shopping at Lewis and
Allonby's, and drove off the ground at the sole moment of interest the
match possessed for her--viz., when Carruthers was rattling down
Hautton's stumps, and getting innings innumerable for the Household.

"Mais ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte;" the old proverb's so true
we wear it threadbare with repeating it! Lady Marabout might as well
have stayed on Lord's ground, and not lacerated her feelings by leaving
at the very hour of the Household Cavalry's triumphs, for any good that
she did thereby. The Hautton eye-glass had lighted on Chandos Cheveley,
and Chandos Cheveley's eye-glass on Rosediamond's daughter;--and Cecil
Ormsby arched her eyebrows, and gave her parasol a little impatient
shake as they quitted Lord's.

"Lady Marabout, I never could have believed you ill-natured; you
interrupted my ball last night, and my conversation this morning! I
shall scold you if you ever do so again. And now tell me (as curiosity
is a weakness incidental to all women, no woman ought to refuse to
relieve it in another) why _are_ you so prejudiced against that very
handsome, and very amusing person?"

"Prejudiced, my dear child! I am not in the least prejudiced," returned
Lady Marabout. (Nobody ever admitted to a prejudice that _I_ ever heard.
It's a plant that grows in all gardens, and is sedulously matted up,
watered, and strengthened; but invariably disavowed by its sturdiest
cultivators.) "As for Chandos Cheveley, I merely mentioned to you what
all town knows about him; and the dislike I have to his class is one of
principle, not of prejudice."

Lady Cecil made a _moue mutine_:

"Oh, Lady Marabout! if you go to 'principle,' _tout est perdu!_
'Principle' has been made to bear the onus of every private pique since
the world began, and has had to answer for more cruelties and injustice
than any word in the language. The Romans flung the Christians to the
lions 'on principle,' and the Europeans slew the Mahomedans 'on
principle,' and 'principle' lighted the autos-da-fé, and signed to the
tormentor to give a turn more to the rack! Please don't appeal to
anything so severe and hypocritical. Come, what are the Ogre's sins?"

Lady Marabout laughed, despite the subject.

"Do you think I am a compiler of such catalogues, my love? Pray do not
let us talk any more about Chandos Cheveley, he is very little worth it;
all I say to you is, be as cool to him as you can, without rudeness, of
course. I am never at home when he calls, and were I you, I would be
always engaged when he asks you to waltz; his acquaintance can in no way
benefit you."

Lady Cecil gave a little haughty toss of her head, and lay back in the
barouche.

"_I_ will judge of that! I am not made for fetters of any kind, you
know, and I like to choose my own acquaintance as well as to choose my
own dresses. I cannot obey you either this evening, for he asked me to
put him on my tablets for the first waltz at Lord Anisette's ball, and I
consented. I had no 'engaged' ready, unless I had had a falsehood ready
too, and _you_ wouldn't counsel that, Lady Marabout, I am very sure?"

With which straightforward and perplexing question Cecil Ormsby
successfully silenced her chaperone, by planting her in that
disagreeable position known as between the horns of a dilemma; and Lady
Marabout, shrinking alike from the responsibility of counselling a
"necessary equivocation," as society politely terms its indispensable
lies, and the responsibility of allowing Cecil acquaintance with the
"very worst" of the Amandine set, sighed, wondered envyingly how Anne
Hautton would act in her place, and almost began to wish somebody else
had had the onerous stewardship of that brilliant and priceless jewel,
Rosediamond's daughter, now that the jewel threatened to be possessed
with a will of its own:--the greatest possible flaw in a gem of pure
water, which they only want to scintillate brilliantly among the
bijouterie of society, and let itself be placed passively in the setting
most suitable for it, that can be conceived in the eyes of lady
lapidaries intrusted with its sale.

"It is very odd," thought Lady Marabout; "she seems to have taken a much
greater fancy to that odious man than to Philip, or Goodwood, or Fitz,
or any one of the men who admire her so much. I suppose I always _am_ to
be worried in this sort of way! However, there can be no real danger;
Chandos Cheveley is the merest butterfly flirt, and with all his faults
none ever accused him of fortune-hunting. Still, they say he is
wonderfully fascinating, and certainly he has the most beautiful voice I
ever heard; and if Cecil should ever like him at all, I could never
forgive myself, and what _should_ I say to General Ormsby?"

The General, Cecil's uncle and guardian, is one of the best-humored,
best-tempered, and most _laissez-faire_ men in the Service, but was, for
all that, a perpetual dead weight on Lady Marabout's mind just then, for
was not he the person to whom, at the end of the season, she would have
to render up account of the successes and the shortcomings of her
chaperone's career?

"Do you think of proposing Chandos Cheveley as a suitable alliance for
Cecil Ormsby, my dear Helena?" asked Lady Hautton, with that smile which
was felt to be considerably worse than strychnine by her foes and
victims, at a house in Grosvenor Place, that night.

"God forbid!" prayed Lady Marabout, mentally, as she joined in the
Hautton laugh, and shivered under the stab of the Hautton sneer, which
was an excessively sharp one. Lady Hautton being one of a rather
numerous class of eminent Christians, so panoplied in the armor of
righteousness that they can tread, without feeling it, on the tender
feet of others.

The evening was spoiled to Lady Marabout; she felt morally and guiltily
responsible for an unpardonable indiscretion:--with that man waltzing
with Cecil Ormsby, her "graceful, graceless, gracious Grace" of Amandine
visibly irritated with jealousy at the sight, and Anne Hautton
whispering behind her fan with acidulated significance. Lady Marabout
had never been more miserable in her life! She heard on all sides
admiration of Rosediamond's daughter; she was gratified by seeing
Goodwood, Fitzbreguet, Fulke Nugent, every eligible man in the room,
suing for a place on her tablets; she had the delight of beholding
Carruthers positively join the negligent beauty's train; and yet the
night was a night of purgatory to Lady Marabout, for Chandos Cheveley
had his first waltz, and several after it, and the Amandine set were
there to gossip, and the Hautton clique to be shocked, at it.

"Soames, tell Mason, when Mr. Chandos Cheveley calls, I am not at home,"
said Lady Marabout at breakfast.

"Yes, my lady," said Soames, who treasured up the order, and told it to
Mr. Chandos Cheveley's man at the first opportunity, though, greatly to
his honor, we must admit, he did _not_ imitate the mild formula of fib,
and tell his mistress her claret was not corked when it was so
incontestably.

Cecil Ormsby lifted her head and looked across the table at her hostess,
and the steady gaze of those violet eyes, which were Rosediamond's
daughter's best weapons of war, so discomposed Lady Marabout, that she
forgot herself sufficiently to proffer Bijou a piece of bread, an
unparalleled insult, which that canine Sybarite did not forget all day
long.

"Not at home, sir," said Mason, as duly directed, when Cheveley's cab
pulled up, a week or two after the general order, at the door.

Cheveley smiled to himself as his gray had her head turned, and the
wheel grated off the trottoir, while he lifted his hat to Cecil Ormsby,
just visible between the amber curtains and above the balcony flowers of
one of the windows of the drawing-room--quite visible enough for her
return smile and bow to be seen in the street by Cheveley, in the room
by Lady Marabout.

"Some of Lady Tattersall's generalship!" he thought, as the gray trotted
out of the square. "Well! I have no business there. Cecil Ormsby is not
her Grace of Amandine, nor little Maréchale, and the good lady is quite
right to brand me 'dangerous' to her charge, and pronounce me
'inadmissible' to her footman. I've very little title to resent her
verdict."

"My dearest Cecil, whatever possessed you to bow to that man!" cried
Lady Marabout, in direst distress.

"Is it not customary to bow to one's acquaintances--I thought it was?"
asked Lady Cecil, with demure mischief.

"But, my dear, from a window!--and when Mason is saying we are not at
home!"

"That isn't _Mason's_ fib, or _Mason's_ fault, Lady Marabout!" suggested
Cecil, with wicked emphasis.

"There is no falsehood or fault at all anywhere--everybody knows well
enough what 'not at home' means," returned Lady Marabout, almost
pettishly.

"Oh yes," laughed the young lady, saucily. "It means 'I am at home and
sitting in my drawing room, but I shall not rise to receive you, because
you are not worth the trouble.' It's a polite cut direct, and a honeyed
rudeness--a bitter almond wrapped up in a sugar dragée, like a good many
other bonbons handed about in society."

"My dear Cecil, you have some very strange ideas; you will get called
satirical if you don't take care," said Lady Marabout, nervously.

Cecil Ormsby's tone worried her, and made her feel something as she felt
when she had a restive, half-broken pair of horses in her carriage, for
the direction of whose next plunge or next kick nobody could answer.

"And if I be--what then?"

"My dear child, you could not anyhow get a more disadvantageous
reputation! It may amuse gentlemen though it frightens half _them_; but
it offends all women irremediably. You see, there are so few whom it
doesn't hit somewhere," returned Lady Marabout, quite innocent of the
neat satire of her own last sentence.

Cecil Ormsby laughed, and threw herself down by her chaperone's side:

"Never mind: I can bear their enmity; it is a greater compliment than
their liking. The women whom women love are always quiet, colorless,
inoffensive--foils. Lady Marabout, tell me, why did you give that
general order to Mason?"

"I have told you before, my dear. Because I have no wish to know Mr.
Chandos Cheveley," returned Lady Marabout, as stiffly as she could say
anything. "It is, as I said, not from prejudice, but from prin----"

"Lady Marabout, if you use that word again, I will drive to uncle
Ormsby's rooms in the Albany and stay with him for the season; I will,
positively! I am sure all the gentlemen there will be delighted to have
my society! Pray, what _are_ your Ogre's crimes? Did you ever hear
anything dishonorable, mean, ungenerous, attributed to him? Did you ever
hear he broke his word, or failed to act like a gentleman, or was a
defaulter at any settling day?"

Lady Marabout required some explanation of what a defaulter at a
settling day might be, and, on receiving it, was compelled to confess
that she never _had_ heard anything of that kind imputed to Chandos
Cheveley.

"Of course I have not, my dear. The man is a gentleman, everybody knows,
however idle and improvident a one. If he could be accused of anything
of that kind, he would not belong to such clubs, and associate with such
men as he does. Besides, Philip would not know him; certainly would not
think well of him, which I confess he does. But that is not at all the
question."

"_Ne vous en déplaise_, I think it very much and very entirely the
question," returned Lady Cecil, with a toss of her haughty little head.
"If you can bring nothing in evidence against a man, it is not right to
send him to the galleys and mark him 'Forçat.'"

"My dear Cecil, there is plenty in evidence against him," said Lady
Marabout, with a mental back glance to certain stories told of the
"Amandine set," "though not of that kind. A man may be perfectly
unexceptionable in his conduct with his men friends, but very
objectionable acquaintance for us to seek, all the same."

"Ah, I see! Lord Goodwood may bet, and flirt, and lounge his days away,
and be as fast a man as he likes, and it is all right; but if Mr.
Cheveley does the same, it is all wrong, because he is not worth
forgiving."

"Naturally it is," returned Lady Marabout, seriously and naïvely. "But
how very oddly you put things, my love; and why you should interest
yourself in this man, when everything I tell you is to his disadvantage,
I cannot imagine."

A remark that showed Lady Marabout a skilful tactician, insomuch as it
silenced Cecil--a performance rather difficult of accomplishment.

"I am very glad I gave the order to Mason," thought that good lady. "I
only wish we did not meet the man in society; but it is impossible to
help that. We are all cards of one pack, and get shuffled together,
whether we like it or not. I wish Philip would pay her more attention;
he admires her, I can see, and he can make any woman like him in ten
days when he takes the trouble; but he is so tiresome! She would be
exactly suited to him; she has all he would exact--beauty, talent, good
blood, and even fortune, though that he would not need. The alliance
would be a great happiness to me. Well, he dines here to-night, and he
gives that concert at his barracks to-morrow morning, purely to please
Cecil, I am sure. I think it may be brought about with careful
management."

With which pleasant reflection she went to drive in the Ring, thinking
that her maternal and duenna duties would be alike well fulfilled, and
her chaperone's career well finished, if by any amount of tact,
intrigue, finesses, and diplomacy she could live to see Cecil Ormsby
sign herself Cecil Carruthers.

"If that man were only out of town!" she thought, as Cheveley passed
them in Amandine's mail-phaeton at the turn.

Lady Marabout might wish Cheveley were out of town--and wish it devoutly
she did--but she wasn't very likely to have her desire gratified till
the general migration should carry him off in its tide to the deck of a
yacht, a lodge in the Highlands, a German Kursaal, or any one of those
myriad "good houses" where nobody was so welcome as he, the best shot,
the best seat, the best wit, the best billiard-player, the best
whist-player, and the best authority on all fashionable topics, of any
man in England. Cheveley used to aver that he liked Lady Marabout,
though she detested him; nay, that he liked her _for_ her detestation;
he said it was cordial, sincere, and refreshing, therefore a treat in
the world of Belgravia; still, he didn't like her so well as to leave
Town in the middle of May to oblige her; and though he took her hint as
it was meant, and pulled up his hansom no more at her door, he met her
and Rosediamond's daughter at dinners, balls, concerts, morning-parties
innumerable. He saw them in the Ring; he was seen by them at the Opera;
he came across them constantly in the gyration of London life. Night
after night Lady Cecil persisted in writing his name in her tablets;
evening after evening a bizarre fate worried Lady Marabout, by putting
him on the left hand of her priceless charge at a dinner-party. Day
after day all the harmony of a concert was marred to her ear by seeing
her Ogre talking of Beethoven and Mozart, chamber music and bravura
music in Cecil's: morning after morning gall was poured into her
luncheon sherry, and wormwood mingled in her vol-au-vent, by being told,
with frank mischief, by her desired daughter-in-law, that she "had seen
Mr. Cheveley leaning on the rails, smoking," when she had taken her
after-breakfast canter.

"Chandos Cheveley getting up before noon! He _must_ mean something
unusual!" thought her chaperone.

"Helena has set her heart on securing Cecil Ormsby for Carruthers. I
hope she may succeed better than she did with poor Goodwood last
season," laughed Lady Hautton, with her inimitable sneer, glancing at
the young lady in question at a bazaar in Willis's Rooms, selling
rosebuds for anything she liked to ask for them, and cigars tied up with
blue ribbon a guinea the half-dozen, at the Marabout stall. Lady Hautton
had just been paying a charitable visit to St. Cecilia's Refuge, of
which she was head patroness, where, having floated in with much
benignity, been worshipped by a select little toady troop, administered
spiritual consolation with admirable condescension, and distributed
illuminated texts for the adornment of the walls and refreshment of the
souls, she was naturally in a Christian frame of mind towards her
neighbors. Lady Marabout caught the remark--as she was intended to
do--and thought it not quite a pleasant one; but, my good sir, did you
ever know those estimable people, who spend all their time fitting
themselves for another world, ever take the trouble to make themselves
decently agreeable in the present one? The little pleasant courtesies,
affabilities, generosities, and kindnesses, that rub the edge off the
flint-stones of the Via Dolorosa, are quite beneath the attention of
Mary the Saint, and only get attended to by Martha the Worldly, poor
butterfly thing! who is fit for nothing more serviceable and profitable!

Lady Marabout _had_ set her heart on Cecil Ormsby's filling that post of
honor--of which no living woman was deserving in her opinion--that of
"Philip's wife;" an individual who had been, for so many years, a fond
ideal, a haunting anxiety, and a dreaded rival, en même temps, to her
imagination. She _was_ a little bit of a match-maker: she had, over and
over again, arranged the most admirable and suitable alliances;
alliances that would have shamed the scepticism of the world in general,
as to the desirability of the holy bonds, and brought every refractory
man to the steps of St. George's; alliances, that would have come off
with the greatest éclat, but for one trifling hindrance and
difficulty--namely, the people most necessary to the arrangements could
never by any chance be brought to view them in the same light, and were
certain to give her diplomacy the _croc-en-jambe_ at the very moment of
its culminating glory and finishing finesses. She was a little bit of a
match-maker--most kind-hearted women are; the tinder they play with is
much better left alone, but _they_ don't remember that! Like children in
a forest, they think they'll light a pretty bright fire, just for fun,
and never remember what a seared, dreary waste that fire may make, or
what a prairie conflagration it may stretch into before it's stopped.

"Cecil Ormsby is a terrible flirt," said Lady Hautton, to another lady,
glancing at the rapid sale of the rosebuds and cigars, the bunches of
violets and the sprays of lilies of the valley, in which that brilliant
beauty was doing such thriving business at such extravagant profits,
while the five Ladies Hautton presided solemnly over articles of
gorgeous splendor, which threatened to be left on hand, and go in a
tombola, as ignominiously as a beauty after half a dozen seasons, left
unwooed and unwon, goes to the pêle-mêle raffle of German Bad society,
and is sold off at the finish to an unknown of the Line, or a Civil
Service fellow, with five hundred a year.

"Was Cecil a flirt?" wondered Lady Marabout. Lady Marabout was fain to
confess to herself that she thought she was--nay, that she hoped she
was. If it wasn't flirting, that way in which she smiled on Chandos
Cheveley, sold him cigarettes, laughed with him over the ices and
nectarines he fetched her, and positively invested him with the cordon
d'honneur of a little bouquet of Fairy roses, for which twenty men sued,
and he (give Satan his due) did not even ask--if it wasn't flirting,
_what was it_? Lady Marabout shivered at the suggestion; and though she
was, on principle, excessively severe on flirting, she could be very
glad of what she didn't approve, when it aided her, on occasion--like
most other people--and would so far have agreed with Talleyrand, as to
welcome the worst crime (of coquetry) as far less a sin than the
unpardonable blunder of encouraging an Ogre!

"I can't send Cecil away from the stall, as if she were a naughty child,
and I can't order the man out of Willis's Rooms," thought that unhappy
and fatally-worried lady, as she presided behind her stall, an emphatic
witness of the truth of the poeticism that "grief smiles and gives no
sign," insomuch as she looked the fairest, sunniest, best-looking, and
best-tempered Dowager that ever shrouded herself in Chantilly lace.

"I do think those ineligible, detrimental, objectionable persons ought
not to be let loose on society as they are," she pondered; "let them
have their clubs and their mess breakfasts, their Ascot and their
Newmarket, their lansquenet parties and their handicap pigeon matches,
if they like; but to have them come amongst _us_ as they do, asked
everywhere if they happen to have good blood and good style, free to
waltz and flirt and sing, and show all sorts of attention to
marriageable girls, while all the while they are no more available for
anything serious than if they were club stewards or cabmen--creatures
that live on their fashionable aroma, and can't afford to buy the very
bottles of bouquets on their toilette-tables--fast men, too, who,
knowing they can never marry themselves, make a practice of turning
marriage into ridicule, and help to set all the rich men more dead
against it than they are,--to have them come promiscuously among the
very best people, with nothing to distinguish them as dangerous, or
label them as 'ought to be avoided,'--it's dreadful! it's a social evil!
it _ought_ to be remedied! They muzzle dogs in June, why can't they
label Ogres in the season? I mustn't send poor little Bijou out for a
walk in Kensington Gardens without a string, these men ought not to go
about in society without restriction: a snap of Bijou's doesn't do half
such mischief as a smile of theirs!"

And Lady Marabout chatted across the stall to his Grace of Doncaster,
and entrapped him into purchases of fitting ducal prodigality, and
smiled on scores of people she didn't know, in pleasant _pro tempore_
expediency that had, like most expediency in our day, its ultimate goal
in their purses and pockets, and longed for some select gendarmerie to
clear Willis's Rooms of her Cobra Capella, and kept an eye all the while
on Cecil Ormsby--Cecil, selling off everything on the stall by sheer
force of her bright violet eyes, receiving ten-pound notes for guinea
trifles, making her Bourse rise as high as she liked, courted for a
spray of mignonette as entreatingly as ever Law was courted in the Rue
Quincampoix for Mississippi scrip, served by a Corps d'Elite, in whom
she had actually enlisted Carruthers, Goodwood, Fulke Nugent,
Fitzbreguet, and plenty of the most desirable and most desired men in
town, yet of which--oh the obstinacy of women! she had actually made
Chandos Cheveley, with those wicked little Fairy roses in his coat,
positively the captain and the chief!

"It is enough to break one's heart!" thought Lady Marabout, wincing
under the Hautton glance, which she saw only the plainer because she
_wouldn't_ see it at all, and which said with horrible distinctness,
"There is that man, who can hardly keep his own cab, who floats on
society like a pleasure-boat, without rudder, ballast, or anchors, of
whom I have told you, in virtuous indignation and Christian charity,
fifty thousand naughty stories, who visits that wicked, notorious little
Maréchale, who belongs to the Amandine set, who is everything that he
ought not and nothing that he ought to be, who hasn't a penny he doesn't
make by a well-made betting-book or a dashed-off magazine
article,--there he is flirting all day at your own stall with
Rosediamond's daughter, and you haven't the _savoir faire_, the strength
of will, the tact, the proper feeling, to stop it!"

To all of which charges Lady Marabout humbly bent her head,
metaphorically speaking, and writhed, in secret, under the glance of her
ancient enemy, while she talked and laughed with the Duke of Doncaster.
C. Petronius, talking epicureanisms and witicisms, while the life-blood
was ebbing away at every breath, was nothing to the suffering and the
fortitude of Helena, Lady Marabout, turning a smiling, sunny, tranquil
countenance to the world in front of her stall, while that world could
see Chandos Cheveley admitted behind it!

"I must do something to stop this!" thought Lady Marabout, with the
desperation of a Charlotte Corday.

"Is Cheveley going in for the Ormsby tin?" said Amandine to Eyre Lee.
"Best thing he could do, eh? But Lady Tattersall and the trustees would
cut rough, I am afraid."

"What does Chandos mean with that daughter of Rosediamond's?" wondered
her Grace, annoyedly. She had had him some time in her own rose chains,
and when ladies have driven a lover long in that sort of harness, they
could double-thong him with all the might of their little hands, if they
fancy he is trying to break away.

"Is Chandos Cheveley turning fortune-hunter? I suppose he would like
Lady Cecil's money to pay off his Ascot losses," said Mrs. Maréchale,
with a malicious laugh. At Ascot, the day before, he had not gone near
her carriage; the year before he had driven her down in her
mail-phaeton: what would there be too black to say of him _now_?

"I must do something to stop this!" determined Lady Marabout, driving
homewards, and glancing at Cecil Ormsby, as that young lady lay back in
the carriage, a little grave and dreamy after her day's campaign--signs
of the times terrifically ominous to her chaperone, skilled in reading
such meteorological omens. But how was the drag to be put on the wheel?
That momentous question absorbed Lady Marabout through her toilette that
evening, pursued her to dinner, haunted her through two soirées, kept
her wide awake all night, woke up with her to her early coffee, and
flavored the potted tongue and the volaille à la Richelieu she took for
her breakfast. "I can't turn the man out of town, and I can't tell
people to strike him off their visiting-lists, and I can't shut Cecil
and myself up in this house as if it were a convent, and, as to speaking
to her, it is not the slightest use. She has such a way of putting
things that one can never deny their truth, or reason them away, as one
can with other girls. Fond as I am of her, she's fearfully difficult to
manage. Still I owe it as a sacred duty to poor Rosediamond and the
General, who says he places such implicit confidence in me, to
interfere. It is my duty; it can't be helped. I must speak to Chandos
Cheveley himself. I have no right to consult my own scruples when so
much is at stake," valorously determined Lady Marabout, resolved to
follow stern moral rules, and, when right was right, to let "le diable
prendre le fruit."

To be a perfect woman of the world, I take it, ladies must weed out
early in life all such little contemptible weaknesses as a dislike to
wounding other people; and a perfect woman of the world, therefore, Lady
Marabout was not, and never would be. Nohow could she acquire Anne
Hautton's invaluable sneer--nohow could she imitate that estimable
pietist's delightful way of dropping little icy-barbed sentences, under
which I have known the bravest to shrink, frozen, out of her path. Lady
Marabout was grieved if she broke the head off a flower needlessly, and
she could not cure herself of the same lingering folly in disliking to
say a thing that pained anybody; it is incidental to the De Boncoeur
blood--Carruthers inherits it--and I have seen fellows spared through
it, whom he could else have withered into the depths of their boots by
one of his satirical mots. So she did not go to her task of speaking to
Chandos Cheveley, armed at all points for the encounter, and taking
pleasure in feeling the edge of her rapier, as Lady Hautton would have
done. The Cobra was dangerous, and must be crushed, but Lady Marabout
did not very much relish setting her heel on it; it was a glittering,
terrible, much-to-be-feared, and much-to-be-abused serpent,--but it
might _feel_ all the same, you see.

"I dislike the man on principle, but I don't want to pain him," she
thought, sighing for the Hautton stern _savoir faire_ and Achilles
impenetrability, and goading herself on with the remembrance of duty and
General Ormsby, when the opportunity she had resolved to seek presented
itself accidentally at a breakfast at Lady George Frangipane's toy
villa at Fulham, and she found herself comparatively alone in the
rose-garden with Cheveley, for once without Cecil's terrible violet eyes
upon her.

"Will you allow me a few words with you, Mr. Cheveley?" she asked, in
her blandest manner--the kindly hypocrite!

The blow must be dealt, but it might as well be softened with a few
chloroform fumes, and not struck savagely with an iron-spiked mace.

Cheveley raised his eyes.

"With me? With the greatest pleasure!"

"He is a mere fortune-hunter. I will _not_ spare him, I am resolved,"
determined Lady Marabout, as she toyed with her parasol-handle, remarked
incidentally how unequalled Lady George was in roses, especially in the
tea-rose, and dealt blow No. 1. "Mr. Cheveley, I am going to speak to
you very frankly. I consider frankness in all things best, myself----"

Cheveley bowed, and smiled slightly.

"I wish he would answer, it would make it so much easier; he will only
look at one with those eyes of his, and certainly they _are_ splendid!"
thought Lady Marabout, as she went on quickly, on the same principle as
the Chasseurs Indiens approach an abattis at double-quick. "When Lord
Rosediamond died last year he left, as probably you are aware, his
daughter in my sole care; it was a great responsibility--very great--and
I feel, of course, that I shall have to answer to him for my discharge
of it."

Lady Marabout didn't say whether Rosediamond was accustomed to visit her
per medium, and hear her account of her stewardship nightly through a
table-claw; but we must suppose that he was. Cheveley bowed again, and
didn't inquire, not being spiritually interested.

"Why _won't_ he answer?" thought Lady Marabout. "That I have not been
blind to your very marked attention to my dear Cecil, I think you must
be aware, Mr. Cheveley, and it is on that subject, indeed, that I----"

"Wished to speak to me? I understand!" said Cheveley as she paused, with
that faint smile, half sad, half proud, that perplexed Lady Marabout.
"You are about to insinuate to me gently that those attentions have been
exceedingly distasteful to you, exceedingly unacceptable in me; you
would remind me that Lady Cecil Ormsby is a beauty and an heiress, and
that I am a fortune-hunter, whose designs are seen through and motives
found out; you would hint to me that our intercourse must cease: is it
not so?"

Lady Marabout, cursed with that obstinate, ill-bred, unextinguishable
weakness for truth incidental and ever fatal to the De Boncoeurs,
couldn't say that it was _not_ what she was going to observe to him, but
it was exceedingly unpleasant, now it was put in such plain,
uncomplimentary terms, to admit to the man's face that she was about to
tell him he was a mercenary schemer, whose attentions only sprang from a
lawless passion for the _beaux yeux_ of Cecil's _cassette_.

She would have told him all that, and much more, with greatest dignity
and effect, if he hadn't anticipated her; but to have her weapon parried
before it was fairly out of its sheath unnerved her arm at the outset.

"What _would_ Anne Hautton do? Dear me! there never was anybody
perpetually placed in such wretched positions as I am!" thought Lady
Marabout, as she played with her parasol, and murmured something not
very clear relative to "responsibility" and "not desirable," two words
as infallibly a part of Lady Marabout's stock in trade as a sneer at the
"swells" is of _Punch's_. How she sighed for some cold, nonchalant,
bitter sentence, such as the Hautton répertoire could have supplied! how
she scorned herself for her own weakness and lack of severity! But she
would not have relished hurting a burglar's feelings, though she had
seen him in the very act of stealing her jewel-boxes, by taxing him with
the theft; and though the Ogre _must_ be crushed, the crushing began to
give Lady Marabout neuralgic twinges. She was no more able to say the
stern things she had rehearsed and resolved upon, than she was able to
stab him with her parasol, or strangle him with her handkerchief.

"I guessed rightly what you were about to say to me?" said Cheveley, who
seemed somehow or other to have taken all the talk into his own hands,
and to have become the master of the position. "I thought so. I do not
wonder at your construction; I cannot blame you for your resolution.
Lady Cecil has some considerable fortune, they say; it is very natural
that you should have imagined a man like myself, with no wealth save a
good name, which only serves to make lack of wealth more conspicuous,
incapable of seeking her society for any better, higher, more
disinterested motive than that of her money; it was not charitable,
perhaps, to decide unhesitatingly that it was impossible I could be
drawn to her by any other attraction, that it was imperative I must be
dead to everything in her that gives her a nobler and a higher charm;
but it was very natural, and one learns never to hope for the miracle of
a charitable judgment, _even_ from Lady Marabout!"

"My dear Mr. Cheveley, indeed you mistake!" began Lady Marabout,
restlessly. That was a little bit of a story, he didn't mistake at all;
but Lady Marabout, collapsing like an india-rubber ball under the prick
of a sarcasm, shivered all over at his words, his voice, his slight sad
smile. "The man is as dreadful as Cecil," she thought; "he puts things
so horribly clearly!"

"Mistake? I do not think I do. You have thought all this, and very
naturally; but now hear me for a moment. I have sought Lady Cecil's
society, that is perfectly true; we have been thrown together in
society, very often accidentally; sometimes, I admit, through my own
seeking. Few men could be with her and be steeled against her. I have
been with her too much; but I sought her at first carelessly, then
irresistibly and unconsciously, never with the motive you attribute to
me. I am not as utterly beggared as you deem me, but neither am I
entirely barren of honor. Believe me, Lady Marabout, my pride alone
would be amply sufficient to raise a barrier between me and Cecil
stronger than any that could be opposed to me by others. Yesterday I
casually overheard words from Amandine which showed me that society,
like you, has put but one construction on the attention I have paid
her--a construction I might have foreseen had I not been unconsciously
fascinated, and forgetful, for the time, of the infallible whispers of
my kind friends. Her fortune, I know, was never numbered among her
attractions for me; so little, that now that Amandine's careless words
have reminded me of the verdict of society, I shall neither seek her nor
see her again. Scores of men marry women for their money, and their
money alone, but I am not one of them; with my own precarious fortunes,
only escaping ruin because I am not rich enough to tempt ruin. I would
never take advantage of any interest I may have excited in her, to speak
to her of a passion that the world would tell her was only another name
for avarice and selfishness. I dare not trust myself with her longer,
perhaps. I am no god to answer for my self-control; but you need not
fear; I will never seek her love--never even tell her of mine. I shall
leave town to-morrow; what _I_ may suffer matters not. Lady Cecil is
safe from me! Whatever you may have heard of my faults, follies, or
vices, none ever told you, I think, that I broke my word?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"And when the man said that, my dear Philip, I assure you I felt as
guilty as if I had done him some horrible wrong; he stood there with his
head up, looking at me with his sad proud eyes--and they are
beautiful!--till, positively, I could almost have cried--I could,
indeed, for though I don't like him on principle, I couldn't help
pitying him," said Lady Marabout, in a subsequent relation of the scene
to her son. "Wasn't it a terrible position? I was as near as possible
forgetting everything due to poor Rosediamond, and saying to him that I
believed Cecil liked him and would never like anybody else, but, thank
Heaven! I remembered myself, and checked myself in time. If it had been
anybody but Chandos Cheveley, I should really have admired him, he spoke
so nobly! When he lifted his hat and left me, though I _ought_ to have
been glad (and I _was_ glad, of course) that Cecil would be free from
the society of anybody so objectionable and so dangerous, I felt
wretched for him--I did indeed. It _is_ so hard always to be placed in
such miserable positions!"

By which you will perceive that the triumphant crushing of Lady
Marabout's Cobra didn't afford her the unmixed gratification she had
anticipated.

"I have done what was my duty to poor Rosediamond, and what General
Ormsby's confidence merited," she solaced herself that day, feeling
uncomfortably and causelessly guilty, she hardly knew why, when she saw
Chandos Cheveley keeping sedulously with the "Amandine set," and read in
Cecil's tell-tale face wonder, perplexity, and regret thereat, till the
Frangipane fête came to an end. She had appeased the manes of the late
Rosediamond, who, to her imagination, always appeared sitting up aloft
keeping watch over the discharge of her chaperone's duties, but she had
a secret and horrible dread that she had excited the wrath of
Rosediamond's daughter. She had driven her Ogre off the scene, it is
true, but she could not feel that she had altogether come off the best
in the contest. Anne Hautton had congratulated her, indeed, on having
"acted with decision _at last_," but then she had marred it all by
asking if Carruthers was likely to be engaged to Cecil? And Lady
Marabout had been forced to confess he was not; Philip, when pressed by
her that very morning to be a little attentive to Cecil, having shaken
his head and laughed:

"She's a bewitching creature, mother, but she don't bewitch _me_! You
know what Shakspeare says of wooing, wedding, and repentance. I've no
fancy for the inseparable trio!"

Altogether, Lady Marabout was far from peace and tranquillity, though
the Cobra _was_ crushed, as she drove away from the Frangipane
breakfast, and she was little nearer them when Cecil turned her eyes
upon her with a question worse to Lady Marabout's ear than the roar of a
Lancaster battery.

"What have you said to him?"

"My dear Cecil! What have I said to whom?" returned Lady Marabout, with
Machiavellian surprise.

"You know well enough, Lady Marabout! What have you said to him--to Mr.
Cheveley?"

Cecil's impetuosity invariably knocked Lady Marabout down at one blow,
as a ball knocks down the pegs at lawn billiards. She rallied after the
shock, but not successfully, and tried at coldness and decision, as
recommended by Hautton prescriptions.

"My dear Cecil, I have said to him what I think it my duty to say to
him. Responsible as I am for you----"

"Responsible for me, Lady Marabout? Indeed you are not. I am responsible
for myself!" interrupted Lady Cecil, with that haughty arch of her
eyebrows and that flush on her face before which Lady Marabout was
powerless. "What have you said to him? I _will_ know!"

"I said very little to him, indeed, my dear; he said it all himself."

"What did he say himself?"

"I _must_ tell her--she is so dreadfully persistent," thought the
unhappy and badgered Peeress; and tell her she did, being a means of
lessening the young lady's interest in the subject of discussion as
little judicious as she could well have hit upon.

Lady Cecil listened, silent for once, shading her face with her parasol,
shading the tears that gathered on her lashes and rolled down her
delicate flushed cheeks, at the recital of Chandos Cheveley's words,
from her chaperone's sight.

Lady Marabout gathered courage from the tranquillity with which her
recital was heard.

"You see, my love, Chandos Cheveley's own honor points in the same
direction with my judgment," she wound up, in conclusion. "He has acted
rightly at last, I allow, and if you--if you have for the moment felt a
tinge of warmer interest in him--if you have been taken by the
fascination of his manner, and invested him with a young girl's romance,
you will soon see with us how infinitely better it is that you should
part, and how impossible it is that----"

Lady Cecil's eyes flashed such fire through their tears, that Lady
Marabout stopped, collapsed and paralyzed.

"It is by such advice as that you repay his nobility, his generosity,
his honor!--it is by such words as those you reward him for acting as
not one man in a hundred would have acted! Hush, hush, Lady Marabout, I
thought better of you!"

"Good Heavens! _where will it end?_" thought Lady Marabout,
distractedly, as Rosediamond's wayward daughter sprang down at the door
with a flush in her face, and a contemptuous anger in her eyes, that
made Bijou, jumping on her, stop, stare, and whine in canine dismay.

"And I fancied she was listening passively!" thought Lady Marabout.

"Well! the man is gone to-day, that is one comfort. I am very thankful I
acted as I did," reasoned that ever-worried lady in her boudoir the next
morning. "I am afraid Cecil is really very fond of him, there were such
black shadows under her eyes at breakfast, poor child! But it is much
better as it is--much better. I should never have held up my head again
if I had allowed her to make such a disadvantageous alliance. I can
hardly bear to think of what would have been said, even now the danger
is over!"

While Lady Marabout was thus comforting herself over her embroidery
silks, Cecil Ormsby was pacing into the Park, with old Twitters the
groom ten yards behind her, taking her early ride before the world was
up--it was only eleven o'clock; Cecil had been used to early rising, and
would never leave it off, having discovered some recipe that made her
independent of ordinary mortals' quantum of sleep.

"Surely he will be here this morning to see me for the last time,"
thought that young lady, as she paced up the New Ride under the
Kensington Gardens trees, with her heart beating quickly under the gold
aiglettes of her riding-jacket.

"I must see her once more, and then----" thought Chandos Cheveley, as he
leaned against the rails, smoking, as he had done scores of mornings
before. His man had packed his things; his hansom was waiting at the
gates to take him to the station, and his portmanteau was lettered
"Ischl." He had only come to take one last look of the face that haunted
him as no other had ever succeeded in doing. The ring of a horse's hoof
fell on his ear. There she came, on her roan hack, with the sun glancing
off her chestnut hair. He looked up to bow to her as she passed on, for
the Ride had never been a rendezvous for more than a bow (Cecil's
insurrectionary tactics had always been carried on before Lady
Marabout's face), but the roan was pulled up by him that morning for
the very first time, and Cecil's eyes fell on him through their lashes.

"Mr. Cheveley--is it true you are going out of town?"

"Quite true."

If her voice quivered as she asked the question, he barely kept his own
from doing the same as he answered it.

"Will you be gone long?"

"Till next season, at earliest."

His promise to Lady Marabout was hard to keep! He would not have trusted
his strength if he had known she would have done more than canter on
with her usual bow and smile.

Cecil was silent. The groom waited like a statue his ten yards behind
them. She played with her reins nervously, the color coming and going
painfully in her face.

"Lady Marabout told me of--of some conversation you had with her
yesterday?"

Low as the words were, Cheveley heard them, and his hand, as it lay on
the rails, shook like a girl's.

Cecil was silent again; she looked at him, her eyes full of unshed
tears, as the color burned in her face, and she drooped her head almost
to a level with her hands as they played with the reins.

"She told me--you----"

She stopped again. Cecil was new to making proposals, though not to
rejecting them. Cheveley set his teeth to keep in the words that rushed
to his lips, and Cecil saw the struggle as she bent her head lower and
lower to the saddle, and twisted the reins into a Gordian knot.

"Do you--must we--why should----"

Fragmentary monosyllables enough, but sufficient to fell his strength.

"For God's sake do not tempt me!" he muttered. "You little know----"

"I know all!" she whispered softly.

"You cannot! My worthless life!--my honor! I could not take such a
sacrifice, I would not!----"

"But--if my peace----"

She could not end her phrase, yet it said enough;--his hand closed on
hers.

"Your peace! Good God! in _my_ hands! I stay; then--let the world say
what it likes!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Drive back; I have changed my mind about going abroad to-day," said
Cheveley, as he got into his hansom at Albert Gate.

"How soon she has got over it! Girls do," thought Lady Marabout, as
Cecil Ormsby came in from her ride with the brightest bloom on her
cheeks a June breeze ever fanned there. She laid her hat on the table,
flung her gauntlets at Bijou, and threw herself on her knees by Lady
Marabout, a saucy smile on her face, though her lashes were wet.

"Dear Lady Marabout, I can forgive you now, but you will never forgive
me!"

Lady Marabout turned white as her point-lace cap, gave a little gasp of
paralyzed terror, and pushed back her chair as though a shell had
exploded on the hearth-rug.

"Cecil! Good Heaven!--you don't mean----"

"Yes I do," said Cecil, with a fresh access of color, and a low, soft
laugh.

Lady Marabout gasped again for breath:

"General Ormsby!" was all she could ejaculate.

"General Ormsby? What of him? Did you ever know uncle Johnnie refuse to
please _me_? And if my money be to interfere with my happiness, and not
promote it, as I conceive it its duty and purpose to do, why, I am of
age in July, you know, and I shall make a deed of gift of it all to the
Soldiers' Home or the Wellington College, and there is only one person
who will care for me _then_."

Lady Cecil was quite capable of carrying her threat into execution, and
Lady Cecil had her own way accordingly, as she had had it from her
babyhood.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I shall never hold up my head again! And what a horrible triumph for
Anne Hautton! I am always the victim--always!" said Lady Marabout, that
day two months, when the last guest at Cecil Ormsby's wedding déjeûner
had rolled away from the house. "A girl who might have married anybody,
Philip; she refused twenty offers this season--she did, indeed! It is
heart-breaking, say what you like; you needn't laugh, it _is_. Why did I
offer them Fernditton for this month, you say, if I didn't countenance
the alliance? Nonsense! that is nothing to the purpose. Of course, I
seemed to countenance it to a degree, for Cecil's sake, and I admire
Chandos Cheveley, I confess (at least I should do, if I didn't dislike
his class on principle); but, say what you like, Philip, it is the most
terrible thing that could have happened for _me_. Those men _ought_ to
be labelled, or muzzled, or done something with, and not be let loose on
society as they are. He has a noble nature, you say. I don't say
anything against his nature! She worships him? Well, I know she does.
What is that to the point? He will make her happy? I am sure he will. He
has the gentlest way with her possible. But how does that console _me_?
Think what _you_ feel when an outsider, as you call it, beats all the
favorites, upsets all your betting-books, and carries off the Doncaster
Cup, and then realize, if you've any humanity in you, what _we_ feel
under such a trial as this is to me! Only to think what Anne Hautton
will always say!"

Lady Marabout is not the only person to whom the first thought, the most
dreaded ghost, the ghastliest skeleton, the direst aggravation, the
sharpest dagger-thrust, under all troubles, is the remembrance of that
one omnipotent Ogre--"QU'EN DIRA-T-ON?"

"Laugh at her, mother," counselled Carruthers; and, _amis lecteurs_, I
pass on his advice to you as the best and sole bowstring for strangling
the ogre in question, which is the grimmest we have in all Bogeydom.



LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES;

OR,

THE WORRIES OF A CHAPERONE.

IN THREE SEASONS.


SEASON THE THIRD.--THE CLIMAX.

"My dear Philip, the most unfortunate thing has happened," said Lady
Marabout, one morning; "really the greatest contretemps that could have
occurred. I suppose I never _am_ to be quiet!"

"What's the row _now_, madre carissima?" asked her son.

"It is no row, but it is an annoyance. You have heard me speak of my
poor dear friend Mrs. Montolieu; you know she married unhappily, poor
thing, to a dreadful creature, something in a West India
regiment--nobody at all. It is very odd, and it is very wrong, and there
must be a great mistake somewhere, but certainly most marriages _are_
unhappy."

"And yet you are always recommending the institution! What an
extraordinary obstinacy and opticism, my dear mother! I suppose you do
it on the same principle as nurses recommend children nasty medicines,
or as old Levett used to tender me dry biscuit _sans confiture_:
''Tisn't so nice as marmalade, I know, Master Philip, but then, dear,
it's _so_ wholesome!'"

"Hold your tongue, Philip," cried Lady Marabout; "I don't mean it in
that sense at all, and you know I don't. If poor Lilla Montolieu is
unhappy, I am sure it is all her abominable odious husband's fault; she
is the sweetest creature possible. But she has a daughter, and
concerning that daughter she wrote to me about a month ago, and--I never
was more vexed in my life--she wants me to bring her out this season."

"A victim again! My poor dear mother, you certainly deserve a Belgravian
testimonial; you shall have a statue set up in Lowndes Square
commemorative of the heroic endurance of a chaperone's existence,
subscribed for gratefully by the girls you married well, and
penitentially by the girls you couldn't marry at all."

Lady Marabout laughed a little, but sighed again:

"'It is fun to you, but it is death to me'----"

"As the women say when we flirt with them," interpolated Carruthers.

"You see, poor dear Lilla didn't know what to do. There she is, in that
miserable island with the unpronounceable name that the man is governor
of; shut out of all society, with nobody to marry this girl to if she
had her there, except their secretary, or a West Indian planter. Of
course, no mother would ruin her daughter's prospects, and take her into
such an out-of-the-world corner. She knew no one so well as myself, and
so to me she applied. She is the sweetest creature! I would do anything
to oblige or please her, but I can't help being very sorry she has
pounced upon me. And I don't the least know what this girl is like, not
even whether she is presentable. I dare say she was petted and spoiled
in that lazy, luxurious, tropical life when she was little, and she has
been brought up the last few years in a convent in France, the very last
education _I_ should choose for a girl. Fancy, if I should find her an
ignorant, unformed hoyden, or a lethargic, overgrown child, or an
artificial French girl, who goes to confession every day, and carries
on twenty undiscoverable love affairs--fancy, if she should be ugly, or
awkward, or brusque, or gauche, as ten to one she will be--fancy, if I
find her utterly unpresentable!--what in the world shall I do?"

"Decline her," suggested Carruthers. "I wouldn't have a horse put in my
tilbury that I'd never seen, and risk driving a spavined, wall-eyed,
underbred brute through the Park; and I suppose the ignominy of the
début would be to you much what the ignominy of such a turn-out would be
to me."

"Decline her? I can't, my dear Philip! I agreed to have her a month ago.
I have never seen you to tell you till now, you know; you've been so
sworn to Newmarket all through the Spring Meetings. Decline her? she
comes to-night!"

"Comes to-night?" laughed Carruthers. "All is lost, then. We shall see
the Countess of Marabout moving through London society with a West
Indian, who has a skin like Othello; has as much idea of manners as a
housemaid that suddenly turns out an heiress, and is invited by people
to whom she yesterday carried up their hot water; reflects indelible
disgrace on her chaperone by gaucheries unparalleled; throws glass or
silver missiles at Soames's head when he doesn't wait upon her at
luncheon to her liking, as she has been accustomed to do at the
negroes----"

"Philip, pray don't!" cried Lady Marabout, piteously.

"Or, we shall welcome under the Marabout wing a young lady fresh from
convent walls and pensionnaire flirtations, who astonishes a
dinner-party by only taking the first course, on the score of jours
maigres and conscientious scruples; who is visited by révérends pères
from Farm Street, and fills your drawing-room with High Church curates,
whom she tries to draw over from their 'mother's' to their 'sister's'
open arms; who goes every day to early morning mass instead of taking
an early morning canter, and who, when invited to sing at a soirée
musicale, begins 'Sancta Maria adorata!'"

"Philip, _don't_!" cried Lady Marabout. "Bark at him, Bijou, the
heartless man! It is as likely as not little Montolieu may realize one
of your horrible sketches. Ah, Philip, you don't know what the worries
of a chaperone are!"

"Thank Heaven, no!" laughed Carruthers.

"It is easy to make a joke of it, and very tempting, I dare say--one's
woes always _are_ amusing to other people, they don't feel the smart
themselves, and only laugh at the grimace it forces from one--but I can
tell you, Philip, it is anything but a pleasant prospect to have to go
about in society with a girl one may be ashamed of!--I don't know
anything more trying; I would as soon wear paste diamonds as introduce a
girl that is not perfectly good style."

"But why not have thought of all this in time?"

Lady Marabout sank back in her chair, and curled Bijou's ears, with a
sigh.

"My dear Philip, if everybody always thought of things in time, would
there be any follies committed at all? It's precisely because repentance
comes too late, that repentance is such a horrible wasp, with such a
merciless sting. Besides, _could_ I refuse poor Lilla Montolieu, unhappy
as she is with that bear of a man?"

"I never felt more anxious in my life," thought Lady Marabout, as she
sat before the fire in her drawing-room--it was a chilly April
day--stirring the cream into her pre-prandial cup of tea, resting one of
her small satin-slippered feet on Bijou's back, while the firelight
sparkled on the Dresden figures, the statuettes, the fifty thousand
costly trifles, in which the Marabout rooms equalled any in Belgravia.
"I never felt more anxious--not on any of Philip's dreadful yachting
expeditions, nor even when he went on that perilous exploring tour into
Arabia Deserta, I do think. If she _should_ be unpresentable--and then
poor dear Lilla's was not much of a match, and the girl will not have a
sou, she tells me frankly; I can hardly hope to do anything for her.
There is one thing, she will not be a responsibility like Valencia or
Cecil, and what would have been a bad match for _them_ will be a good
one for her. She must accept the first offer made her, if she have any
at all, which will be very doubtful; few Benedicts bow to Beatrices
nowadays, unless Beatrice is a good 'investment,' as they call it. She
will soon be here. That is the carriage now stopped, I do think. How
anxious I feel! Really it can't be worse for a Turkish bridegroom never
to see his wife's face till after the ceremony than it is for one not to
have seen a girl till one has to introduce her. If she shouldn't be good
style!"

And Lady Marabout's heart palpitated, possibly prophetically, as she set
down her little Sèvres cup and rose out of her arm-chair, with Bijou
shaking his silver collar and bells, to welcome the new inmate of
Lowndes Square, with her sunny smile and her kindly voice, and her soft
beaming eyes, which, as I have often stated, would have made Lady
Marabout look amiable at an Abruzzi bandit who had demanded her purse,
or an executioner who had led her out to capital punishment, and now
made her radiate, warm and bright, on a guest whose advent she dreaded.
Hypocrisy, you say. Not a bit of it! Hypocrisy may be eminently
courteous, but take my word for it, it's never _cordial_! There are
natures who throw such golden rays around them naturally, as there are
others who think brusquerie and acidity cardinal virtues, and deal them
out as points of conscience; are there not sunbeams that shine kindly
alike on fragrant violet tufts and barren brambles, velvet lawns and
muddy trottoirs? are there not hail-clouds that send jagged points of
ice on all the world pêle-mêle, as mercilessly on the broken rose as on
the granite boulder?

"She _is_ good style, thank Heaven!" thought Lady Marabout, as she went
forward, with her white soft hands, their jewels flashing in the light,
outstretched in welcome. "My dear child, how much you are like your
mother! You must let me be fond of you for her sake, first, and
then--for your own!"

The conventional thought did not make the cordial utterance insincere.
The two ran in couples--we often drive such pairs, every one of us--and
if they entail insincerity, _Veritas, vale!_

"Madre mia, I called to inquire if you have survived the anxiety of last
night, and to know what _jeune sauvage_ or feir _religieuse_ you may
have had sent you for the galvanizing of Belgravia?" said Carruthers,
paying his accustomed visit in his mother's boudoir, and throwing
macaroons at Bijou's nose.

"My dear Philip, I hardly know; she puzzles me. She's what, if she were
a man, I should classify as a detrimental."

"Is she awkward?"

"Not in the least. Perfect manners, wherever she learned them."

"Brusque?"

"Soft as a gazelle. Very like her mother."

"Brown?"

"Fair as that statuette, with a beautiful bloom; lovely gold hair, too,
and hazel eyes."

"What are the shortcomings, then?"

"There are none; and it's that that puzzles me. She's been six years in
that convent, and yet, I do assure you, her style is perfect. She's
hardly eighteen, but she's the air of the best society. She is--a--well,
_almost_ nobody, as people rank now, you know, for poor dear Lilla's
marriage was not what she should have made, but the girl might be a
royal duke's daughter for manner."

"A premature artificial _femme du monde_? Bah! nothing more odious,"
said Carruthers, poising a macaroon on Pandore's nose. "Make
ready!--present!--fire! There's a good dog!"

"No, nothing of that sort: very natural, frank, vivacious. Nothing
artificial about her; very charming indeed! But she might be a young
Countess, the queen of a _monde_ rather than a young girl just out of a
French convent; and, you know, my dear Philip, that sort of wit and
nonchalance may be admirable for Cecil Cheveley, assured of her
position, but they're dangerous to a girl like this Flora Montolieu:
they will make people remark her and ask who she is, and try to pull her
to pieces, if they don't find her somebody they _dare_ not hit. I would
much rather she were of the general pattern, pleasing, but nothing
remarkable, well-bred, but nothing to envy, thoroughly educated, but
monosyllabic in society; such a girl as that passes among all the rest,
suits mediocre men (and the majority of men _are_ mediocre, you know, my
dear Philip), and pleases women because she is a nice girl, and no
rival; but this little Montolieu----"

And Lady Marabout sighed with a prescience of coming troubles, while
Carruthers laughed and rose.

"Will worry your life out! I must go, for I have to sit in court-martial
at two (for a mere trifle, a deuced bore to us, but _le service
oblige_!), so I shall escape introduction to your little Montolieu
to-day. Why _will_ you fill your house with girls, my dear mother?--it
is fifty times more agreeable when you are reigning alone. Henceforth, I
can't come in to lunch with you without going through the formula of a
mild flirtation--women think you so ill-natured if you don't flirt a
little with them, that amiable men like myself haven't strength of mind
to refuse. You should keep _your_ house an open sanctuary for me, when
you know I've no other in London except when I retreat into White's and
the U. S.!"

"She puzzles me!" pondered Lady Marabout, as Despréaux disrobed her that
night. "I always _am_ to be puzzled, I think! I never _can_ have one of
those quiet, mediocre, well-mannered, remarkable-for-nothing girls, who
have no idiosyncrasies and give nobody any trouble; one marries them
safely to some second-rate man; nobody admires them, and nobody dislikes
them; they're to society what neutral tint is among body-colors, or
rather what grays are among dresses, inoffensive, unimpeachable, always
look ladylike, but never look brilliant; colorless dresses are very
useful, and so are characterless girls; and I dare say the draper would
tell us the grays in the long run are the easiest to sell, as the girls
are to marry; they please the commonplace taste of the generality, and
do for every-day wear! Flora Montolieu puzzles me; she is very charming,
very striking, very lovable, but she puzzles me! I have a presentiment
that that child will give me a world of anxiety, an infinitude of
trouble!"

And Lady Marabout laid her head on her pillow, not the happier that
Flora Montolieu was lying asleep in the room next her, dreaming of the
wild-vine shadows and the night-blooming flowers of her native tropics,
under the rose-curtains of her new home in Lowndes Square, already a
burden on the soul and a responsibility on the mind of that home's most
genial and generous mistress.

"If she were a man, I should certainly call her a detrimental," said
Lady Marabout, after a more deliberate study of her charge. "You know,
my dear Philip, the sort of man one call detrimental; attractive enough
to do a great deal of damage, and ineligible enough to make the damage
very unacceptable: handsome and winning, but a younger son, or a
something nobody wants; a delightful flirtation, but a terrible
alliance; you know what I mean! Well, that is just what this little
Montolieu is in our sex; I am quite sure it is what she will be
considered; and if it be bad for a man, it is very much worse for a
woman! Everybody will admire her, and nobody will marry her; I have a
presentiment of it!"

With which prophetical mélange of the glorious and the inglorious for
her charge's coming career, Lady Marabout sighed, and gave a little
shiver, such as

    Sous des maux ignorés nous fait gémir d'avance,

as Delphine Gay well phrased it. And she floated out of her boudoir to
the dining-room for luncheon, at which unformal and pleasant meal
Carruthers chanced to stay, criticise a new dry sherry, and take a look
at this unsalable young filly of the Marabout Yearling Sales.

"I don't know about her being detrimental, mother, nor about her being
little; she in more than middle height," laughed he; "but I vow she is
the prettiest thing you've had in your list for some time. You've had
much greater beauties, you say? Well, perhaps so; but I bet you any
money she will make a sensation."

"I'm sure she will," reiterated Lady Marabout, despairingly. "I have no
doubt she will have a brilliant season; there is something very
piquante, taking, and uncommon about her; but who will marry her at the
end of it?"

Carruthers shouted with laughter.

"Heaven forbid that I should attempt to prophesy! I would undertake as
readily to say who'll be the owner of the winner of the Oaks ten years
hence! I can tell you who _won't_----"

"Yourself; because you'll never marry anybody at all," cried Lady
Marabout. "Well! I must say I should not wish you to renounce your
misogamistic notions here. The Montolieus are not at all what _you_
should look for; and a child like Flora would be excessively ill suited
to you. If I could see you married, as I should desire, to some woman of
weight and dignity, five or six-and-twenty, fit for you in every
way----"

"_De grace, de grace!_ My dear mother, the mere sketch will kill me, if
you insist on finishing it! Be reasonable! Can anything be more
comfortable, more tranquil, than I am now? I swing through life in a
rocking-chair; if I'm a trifle bored now and then, it's my heaviest
trial. I float as pleasantly on the waves of London life, in my way, as
the lotus-eaters of poetry on the Ganges in theirs; and _you'd_ have the
barbarity to introduce into my complacent existence the sting of
matrimony, the phosphorus of Hymen's torch, the symbolical serpent of a
wedding-ring?--for shame!"

Lady Marabout laughed despite herself, and the solemnity, in _her_ eyes,
of the subject.

"I _should_ like to see you happily married, for all that, though I
quite despair of it now; but perhaps you are right."

"Of course I am right! Adam was tranquil and unworried till fate sent
him a wife, and he was typical of the destinies of his descendants.
Those who are wise, take warning; those who are not, neglect it and
repent. Lady Hautton et C^{ie} are very fond of twisting scriptural
obscurities into 'types.' _There's_ a type plain as day, and salutary to
mankind, if detrimental to women!"

"Philip, you are abominable! don't be so wicked!" cried Lady Marabout,
enjoying it all the more because she was a little shocked at it, as your
best women will on occasion; human nature is human nature everywhere,
and the female heart gives pleasurable little pulses at the sight of
forbidden fruits now, as in the days of Eve.

"Who's that Miss Montolieu with your mother this year, Phil?" dozens of
men asked Carruthers, that season, across the mess-table, in the
smoking-room of the Guards, in the Ride or the Ring, in the doorways of
ball-rooms, or anywhere where such-like questions are asked and new
pretty women discussed.

"What is it in her that takes so astonishingly?" wondered Lady Marabout,
who is, like most women, orthodox on all points, loving things by rule,
worrying if they go out of the customary routine, and was, therefore,
quite incapable of reconciling herself to so revolutionary a fact as a
young lady being admired who was not a beauty, and sought while she was
detrimental in every way. It was "out of the general rule," and your
orthodox people hate anything "out of the general run," as they hate
their prosperous friends: the force of hatred can no further go! Flora
Montolieu's crime in Belgravia was much akin to the Bonapartes' crimes
to the Bourbons. Thrones must be filled legitimately, if not worthily,
in the eyes of the orthodox people, and this Petit Caporal of Lady
Marabout's had no business to reign where the Hereditary Princesses and
all the other noble lines failed to sway the sceptre. Lady Marabout,
belonging to the noble lines herself, agreed in her heart with them, and
felt a little bit guilty to have introduced this democratic and
unwelcome element in society.

Flora Montolieu "took," as people say of bubble companies, meaning that
they will pleasantly ruin a million or two: or of new fashions, meaning
that they will become general with the many and, _sequitur_, unwearable
with the few. She had the brilliance and grace of one of her own
tropical flowers, with something piquante and attractive about her that
one had to leave nameless, but that was all the more charming for that
very fact perhaps; full of life and animation, but soft as a gazelle, as
her chaperone averred; not characterless, as Lady Marabout fondly
desired (on the same principle, I suppose, as a timid whip likes a horse
as spiritless as a riding-school hack), but gifted with plenty of very
marked character, so much, indeed, that it rather puzzled her
_camériste_.

"Girls shouldn't have marked character; they should be clay that one can
mould, not a self-chiselled statuette, that will only go into its own
niche, and won't go into any other. This little Montolieu would make
just such a woman as Vittoria Colonna or Madame de Sablé, but one
doesn't want _those_ qualities in a girl, who is but a single little ear
in the wheat-sheaf of society, and whom one wants to marry off, but
can't expect to marry well. Her poor mother, of course, will look to me
to do something advantageous for her, and I verily believe she is that
sort of girl that will let me do nothing," thought Lady Marabout,
already beginning to worry, as she talked to Lady George Frangipane at a
breakfast in Palace Gardens, and watched Flora Montolieu, with
Carruthers on her left and Goodwood on her right, amusing them both, to
all semblance, and holding her own to the Lady Hautton's despite, who
held _their_ own so excessively chillily and loftily that no ordinary
mortals cared to approach them, but, beholding them, thought
involuntarily of the stately icebergs off the Spitzbergen coast, only
that the icebergs _could_ melt or explode when their time came, and the
time was never known when the Hautton surface could be moved to anger or
melt to any sunshine whatever. At least, whether their maids or their
mother ever beheld the first of the phenomena, far be it from me to say,
but the world never saw either.

"Well, Miss Montolieu, how do you like our life here?" Carruthers was
asking. "Which is preferable--Belgravia or St. Denis?"

"Oh, Belgravia, decidedly," laughed Lady Marabout's charge. "I think
your life charming. All change, excitement, gayety, who would not like
it?"

"Nobody--that is not fresh to it?"

"Fresh to it? Ah! are you one of the class who find no beauty in
anything unless it is new? If so, do not charge the blame on to the
thing, as your tone implies; take it rather to yourself and your own
fickleness."

"Perhaps I do," smiled Carruthers. "But whether one's self or 'the
thing' is to blame, the result's much the same--satiety! Wait till you
have had two or three seasons, and then tell me if you find this
mill-wheel routine, these circus gyrations, so delightful! We are the
performing stud, who go round and round in the hippodrome, day after day
for show, till we are sick of the whole programme, knowing our white
stars are but a daub of paint, and our gay spangles only tinfoil. You
are a little pony just joined to the troupe, and just pleased with the
glitter of the arena. Wait till you've had a few years of it before you
say whether going through the same hoops and passing over the same
sawdust is so very amusing."

"If I do not, I shall desert the troupe, and form a circus of my own
less mechanical and more enjoyable."

"_Il faut souffrir pour être belle, il faut souffrir encore plus pour
être à la mode!_" said Goodwood, on her right, while Lady Egidia Hautton
thought, "How bold that little Montolieu is!" and her sister, Lady
Feodorowna, wondered what her cousin Goodwood _could_ see there.

"I do not see the necessity," interrupted Flora, "and I certainly would
never bow to the 'il faut.' I would make fashion follow me; I would not
follow fashion." ("That child talks as though she were the Duchess of
Amandine;" thought Lady Marabout, catching fragmentary portions across
the table, the Marabout oral and oracular organs being always
conveniently multiplied when she was armed cap à pie as a chaperone.)
"Sir Philip, you talk as if you belonged to the 'nothing-is-new, and
nothing-is-true, and it-don't-signify' class. I should have thought you
were above the nil admirari affectation."

"He admires, as we all do, when we find something that compels our
homage," said Goodwood, with an emphasis that would have made the hearts
of any of the Hereditary Princesses palpitate with gratification, but at
which the ungrateful Petit Caporal only glanced at him a little
surprisedly with her large hazel eyes, as though she by no means saw the
point of the speech.

Carruthers laughed:

"Nil admirari? Oh no. I enjoy life, but then it is thanks to the clubs,
my yacht, my cigar-case, my stud, a thousand things,--not thanks at all
to Belgravia."

"Complimentary to the Belgraviennes!" cried Flora, with a shrug of her
shoulders. "They have not known how to amuse you, then?"

"Ladies never _do_ amuse us!" sighed Carruthers. "_Tant pis pour nous!_"

"Are you going to Lady Patchouli's this evening?" asked Goodwood.

"I believe we are. I think Lady Marabout said so."

"Then I shall exert myself, and go too. It will be a terrible
bore--balls always are. But to waltz with _you_ I will try to encounter
it!"

Flora Montolieu arched her eyebrows, and gave him a little disdainful
glance.

"Lord Goodwood, do not be so sure that I shall waltz at all with you. If
_you_ take vanity for wit, _I_ cannot accept discourtesy as compliment!"

"Well hit, little lady!" thought Carruthers, with a mental bravissima.

"What a speech!" thought Lady Marabout, across the table, as shocked as
though a footman had dropped a cascade of iced hock over her.

"You got it for once, Goodwood," laughed Carruthers, as they drove away
in his tilbury. "You never had such a sharp brush as that."

"By Jove, no! Positively it was quite a new sensation--refreshing,
indeed! One grows so tired of the women who agree with one eternally.
She's charming, on my word. Who _is_ she, Phil? In an heraldic sense, I
mean."

"My dear child, what could possess you to answer Lord Goodwood like
that?" cried Lady Marabout, as her barouche rolled down Palace Gardens.

"Possess me? The Demon of Mischief, I suppose."

"But, my love, it was a wonderful compliment from him!"

"Was it? I do not see any compliment in those vain, impertinent,
Brummelian amour-propreisms. I must coin the word, there is no good one
to express it."

"But, my dear Flora, you know he is the Marquis of Goodwood, the Duke of
Doncaster's son! It is not as if he were a boy in the Lancers, or an
unfledged _petit maître_ from the Foreign Office----"

"Were he her Majesty's son, he should not gratify his vanity at my
expense! If he expected me to be flattered by his condescension, he
mistook me very much. He has been allowed to adopt that tone, I suppose;
but from a man to a woman a chivalrous courtesy is due, though the man
be an emperor."

"Perhaps so--of course; but that _is_ their tone nowadays, my love, and
you cannot alter it. I always say the Regency-men inaugurated it, and
their sons and grandsons out-Herod Herod. But to turn a tide, or be a
wit with impunity, a woman wants to occupy a prominent and unassailable
position. Were you the Duchess of Amandine, you might say that sort of
thing, but a young girl just out _must not_--indeed she must not! The
Hauttons heard you, and the Hauttons are very merciless people;
perfectly bred themselves, and pitiless on the least infringement of the
convenances. Besides, ten to one you may have gained Goodwood's
ill-will; and he is a man whose word has immense weight, I assure you."

"I do not see anything remarkable in him to give him weight," said the
literal and unimpressible little Montolieu. "He is a commonplace person
to my taste, neither so brilliant nor so handsome by a great deal as
many gentlemen I see--as Sir Philip, for instance, Lady Marabout?"

"An my son? No, my love, he is not; very few men have Philip's talents
and person," said Lady Marabout, consciously mollified and propitiated,
but going on, nevertheless, with a Spartan impartiality highly laudable
"Goodwood's rank, however, is much higher than Philip's (at least it
stands so, though really the Carruthers are by far the older, dating as
far back as Ethelbert II., while the Doncaster family are literally
unknown till the fourteenth century, when Gervaise d'Ascotte received
the acolade before Ascalon from Godfrey de Bouillon); Goodwood _has_
great weight, my dear, in the best circles. A compliment from him is a
great compliment to any woman, and the sort of answer you gave him----"

"Must have been a great treat to him, dear Lady Marabout, if every one
is in the habit of kow-towing before him. Princes, you know, are never
so happy as when they can have a little bit of nature; and my speech
must have been as refreshing to Lord Goodwood as the breath of his
Bearnese breezes and the freedom of his Pyrenean forests were to Henri
Quatre after the court etiquette and the formal ceremonial of Paris."

"I don't know about its being a treat to him, my dear; it was more
likely to be a shower-bath. And your illustration isn't to the point.
The Bearnese breezes were Henri Quatre's native air, and might be
pleasant to him; but the figurative ones are not Goodwood's, and I am
sure cannot please him."

"But, Lady Marabout, I do not want to please him!" persisted the young
lady, perversely. "I don't care in the least what he thinks, or what he
says of me!"

"Dear me, how oddly things go!" thought Lady Marabout. "There was
Valencia, one of the proudest girls in England, his equal in every way,
an acknowledged beauty, who would have said the dust on the trottoir was
diamonds, and worn turquoises on azureline, or emeralds on rose, I
verily believe, if such opticisms and gaucheries had been Goodwood's
taste; and here is this child--for whom the utmost one can do will be to
secure a younger son out of the Civil Service, or a country
member--cannot be made to see that he is of an atom more importance
than Soames or Mason, and treats him with downright nonchalant
indifference. What odd anomalies one sees in everything!"

"Who _is_ that young lady with you this season?" Lady Hautton asked,
smiling that acidulated smile with which that amiable saint always puts
long questions to you of which she knows the answer would be _peine
forte et dure_. "Not the daughter of that horrid John Montolieu, who did
all sorts of dreadful things, and was put into a West India regiment?
Indeed! that man? Dear me! Married the sister of your incumbent at
Fernditton? Ah, really!--very singular! But how do you come to have
brought out the daughter?"

At all of which remarks Lady Marabout winced, and felt painfully guilty
of a gross democratic dereliction from legitimate and beaten paths,
conscious of having sinned heavily in the eyes of the world and Lady
Hautton, by bringing within the sacred precincts of Belgravia the
daughter of a _mauvais sujet_ in a West India corps and a sister of a
perpetual curate. The world was a terrible dragon to Lady Marabout; to
her imagination it always appeared an incarnated and omniscient bugbear,
Argus-eyed, and with all its hundred eyes relentlessly fixed on her,
spying out each item of her shortcomings, every little flaw in the
Marabout diamonds, any spur-made tear in her Honiton flounces, any
crease in her train at a Drawing-room, any lèse-majesté against the
royal rule of conventionalities, any glissade on the polished oak floor
of society, though like a good many other people she often worried
herself needlessly; the flaws, tears, creases, high treasons, and false
glissades being fifty to one too infinitesimal or too unimportant to
society for one of the hundred eyes (vigilant and unwinking though I
grant they are) to take note of them. The world was a terrible bugbear
to Lady Marabout, and its special impersonation was Anne Hautton. She
disliked Anne Hautton; she didn't esteem her; she knew her to be a
narrow, censorious, prejudiced, and strongly malicious lady; but she was
the personification of the World to Lady Marabout, and had weight and
terror in consequence. Lady Marabout is not the first person who has
burnt incense and bowed in fear before a little miserable clay image she
cordially despised, for no better reason--for the self-same reason,
indeed.

"She evidently thinks I ought not to have brought Flora out; and perhaps
I shouldn't; though, poor little thing, it seems very hard she may not
enjoy society--fitted for society, too, as she is--just because her
father is in a West India regiment, and poor Lilla was only a
clergyman's daughter. Goodwood really seems to admire her. I can never
forgive him for his heartless flirtation with Valencia; but if he _were_
to be won by a Montolieu, what would the Hauttons say?"

And sitting against the wall, with others of her sisterhood, at a ball,
a glorious and golden vision rose up before Lady Marabout's eyes.

If the unknown, unwelcome, revolutionary little Montolieu should go in
and win where the Lady Hauttons had tried and failed through five
seasons--if this little tropical flower should be promoted to the
Doncaster conservatory, where all the stately stephanotises of the
peerage had vainly aspired to bloom--if this Petit Caporal should be
crowned with the Doncaster diadem, that all the legitimate rulers had
uselessly schemed to place on their brows! The soul of Lady Marabout
rose elastic at the bare prospect--it would be a great triumph for a
chaperone as for a general to conquer a valuable position with a handful
of boy recruits.

If it _should_ be! Anne Hautton would have nothing to say after _that_!

And Lady Marabout, though she was the most amiable lady in Christendom,
was not exempt from a feeling of longing for a stone to roll to the
door of her enemy's stronghold, or a flourish of trumpets to silence the
boastful and triumphant _fanfare_ that was perpetually sounding at sight
of her defeats from her opponent's ramparts.

Wild, visionary, guiltily scheming, sinfully revolutionary seemed such a
project in her eyes. Still, how tempting! It would be a terrible blow to
Valencia, who'd tried for Goodwood fruitlessly, to be eclipsed by this
unknown Flora; it would be a terrible blow to their Graces of Doncaster,
who held nobody good enough, heraldically speaking, for their
heir-apparent, to see him give the best coronet in England to a
bewitching little interloper, sans money, birth, or rank. "They wouldn't
like it, of course; I shouldn't like it for Philip, for instance, though
she's a very sweet little thing; all the Ascottes would be very vexed,
and all the Valletorts would never forgive it; but it would be _such_ a
triumph over Anne Hautton!" pondered Lady Marabout, and the last clause
carried the day. Did you ever know private pique fail to carry the day
over public charity?

And Lady Marabout glanced with a glow of prospective triumph, which,
though erring to her Order, was delicious to her individuality, at
Goodwood waltzing with the little Montolieu a suspicious number of
times, while Lady Egidia Hautton was condemned to his young brother,
Seton Ascotte, and Lady Feodorowna danced positively with nobody better
than their own county member, originally a scion of Goodwood's bankers!
Could the force of humiliation further go? Lady Hautton sat smiling and
chatting, but the tiara on her temples was a figurative thorn crown, and
Othello's occupation was gone. When a lady's daughters are dancing with
an unavailable _cadet_ of twenty, and a parvenu, only acceptable in the
last extremities of despair, what good is it for her to watch the smiles
and construe the attentions?

"We shall see who triumphs now," thought Lady Marabout, with a glow of
pleasure, for which her heart reproached her a moment afterwards. "It is
very wrong," she thought; "if those poor girls don't marry, one ought to
pity them; and as for her--going through five seasons, with a fresh
burden of responsibility leaving the schoolroom, and added on your hands
each year, _must_ sour the sweetest temper; it would do mine, I am sure.
I dare say, if I had had daughters, I should have been ten times more
worried even than I am."

Which she would have been, undoubtedly, and the eligibles on her
visiting-list ten times more too! Men wouldn't have voted the Marabout
dinners and soirées so pleasant as they did, under the sway of that
sunshiny hostess, if there had been Lady Maudes and Lady Marys to exact
attention, and lay mines under the Auxerre carpets, and man-traps among
the épergne flowers of Lowndes Square. Nor would Lady Marabout have been
the same; the sunshine couldn't have shone so brightly, nor the milk of
roses flowed so mildly under the weight and wear of marriageable but
unmarried daughters; the sunshine would have been fitful, the milk of
roses curdled at best. And no wonder! Those poor women! they have so
much to go through in the world, and play but such a monotonous rôle,
taken at its most brilliant and best, from first to last, from cradle to
grave, from the berceaunettes in which they commence their existence to
the mausoleum in which they finish it. If they _do_ get a little bit
soured when they have finished their own game, and have to sit at the
card-tables, wide awake however weary, vigilant however drowsy, alert
however bored to death, superintending the hands of the fresh players,
surreptitiously suggesting means for securing the tricks, keeping a
dragon's eye out for revokes, and bearing all the brunt of the blame if
the rubber be lost--if they do get a little bit soured, who can, after
all, greatly wonder?

"That's a very brilliant little thing, that girl Montolieu," said
Goodwood, driving over to Hornsey Wood, the morning after, with
Carruthers and some other men, in his drag.

"A deuced pretty waltzer!" said St. Lys, of the Bays; "turn her round in
a square foot."

"And looks very well in the saddle; sits her horse better than any woman
in the Ride, except Rosalie Rosière, and as she came from the Cirque
Olympique originally, one don't count _her_," said Fulke Nugent. "I _do_
like a woman to ride well, I must say. I promised your mother to take a
look at the Marabout Yearling Sale, Phil, if ever I wanted the
never-desirable and ever-burdensome article she has to offer, and if
anything could tempt me to pay the price she asks, I think it would be
that charming Montolieu."

"She's the best thing Lady Tattersall ever had on hand," said Goodwood,
drawing his whip over his off-wheeler's back. "You know, Phil--gently,
gently, Coronet!--what spoilt your handsome cousin was, as I said, that
it was all mechanism; perfect mechanism, I admit, but all artificial,
prearranged, put together, wound up to smile in this place, bow in that,
and frown in the other; clockwork every inch of it! Now--so-ho, Zouave!
confound you, _won't_ you be quiet?--little Montolieu hasn't a bit of
artifice about her; 'tisn't only that you don't know what she's going to
say, but that _she_ doesn't either; and whether it's a smile or a frown,
a jest or a reproof, it's what the moment brings out, not what's planned
beforehand."

"The hard hit you had the other day seems to have piqued your interest,"
said Carruthers, smoothing a loose leaf of his Manilla.

"Naturally. The girl didn't care a button about my compliment (I only
said it to try her), and the plucky answer she gave me amused me
immensely. Anything unartificial and frank is as refreshing as
hock-and-seltzer after a field-day--one likes it, don't you know?"

"Wonderfully eloquent you are, Goody. If you come out like that in St.
Stephen's, we sha'n't know you, and the ministerialists will look down
in the mouth with a vengeance!"

"Don't be satirical, Phil! If I admire Mademoiselle Flora, what is it to
you, pray?"

"Nothing at all," said Carruthers, with unnecessary rapidity of
enunciation.

"My love, what are you going to wear to-night? The Bishop of Bonviveur
is coming. He was a college friend of your poor uncle's; knew your dear
mother before she married. I want you to look your very best and charm
him, as you certainly do most people," said Lady Marabout. Adroit
intriguer! The bishop was going, sans doute; the bishop loved good wine,
good dinners, and good society, and found all three in Lowndes Square,
but the bishop was entirely unavailable for purposes matrimonial, having
had three wives, and being held tight in hand by a fourth; however, a
bishop is a convenient piece to cover your king, in chess, and the
bishop served admirably just then in Lady Marabout's moves as a _locum
tenens_ for Goodwood. Flora Montolieu, in her innocence, made herself
look her prettiest for her mother's old friend, and Flora Montolieu was
conveniently ready, looking her prettiest, for her chaperone's
pet-eligible, when Goodwood--who hated to dine anywhere in London except
at the clubs, the Castle, or the Guards' mess, and was as difficult to
get for your dinners as birds'-nests soup or Tokay pur--entered the
Marabout drawing-rooms.

"Anne Hautton will see he dined here to-night, in the _Morning Post_
to-morrow morning, and she will know Flora must attract him very
unusually. What _will_ she, and Egidia, and Feodorowna say?" thought
Lady Marabout, with a glow of pleasure, which she was conscious was
uncharitable and sinful, and yet couldn't repress, let her try how she
might.

In scheming for the future Duke of Doncaster for John Montolieu's
daughter, she felt much as democratically and treasonably guilty to her
order as a prince of the blood might feel heading a Chartist émeute; but
then, suppose the Chartist row was that Prince's sole chance of crushing
an odious foe, as it was the only chance for her to humiliate the
Hautton, don't you think it might look tempting? Judge nobody, my good
sir, till you've been in similar circumstances yourself--a golden rule,
which might with advantage employ those illuminating colors with which
ladies employ so much of their time just now. Remembering it, they might
hold their white hands from flinging those sharp flinty stones, that
surely suit them so ill, and that soil their fingers in one way quite as
much as they soil the victim's bowed head in another? Illuminate the
motto, mesdames and demoiselles! Perhaps you _will_ do that--on a smalt
ground, with a gold Persian arabesque round, and impossible flowers
twined in and out of the letters; but, _remember_ it!--pardon! It were
asking too much.

"My dear Philip, did you notice how very marked Goodwood's attentions
were to Flora last night?" asked Lady Marabout, the morning after, in
one of her most sunshiny and radiant moods, as Carruthers paid her his
general matutinal call in her boudoir.

"Marked?"

"Yes, marked! Why do you repeat it in that tone? If they _were_ marked,
there is nothing to be ridiculed that I see. They were very marked,
indeed, especially for him; he's such an unimpressible,
never-show-anything man. I wonder you did not notice it!"

"My dear mother!" said Carruthers, a little impatiently, brushing up the
Angora cat's ruff the wrong way with his cane, "do you suppose I pass my
evenings noticing the attentions other men may see fit to pay to young
ladies?"

"Well--don't be impatient. You never used to be," said Lady Marabout.
"If you were in my place just for a night or two, or any other
chaperone's, you'd be more full of pity. But people never _will_
sympathize with anything that doesn't touch themselves. The only chords
that strike the key-note in anybody is the chord that sounds 'self;' and
that is the reason why the world is as full of crash and tumult as
Beethoven's 'Storm.'"

"Quite right, my dear mother!"

"Of course it's quite right. I always think you have a great deal of
sympathy for a man, Philip, even for people you don't harmonize
with--(you could sympathize with that child Flora, yesterday, in her
rapturous delight at seeing that Coccoloba Uvifera in the Patchouli
conservatory, because it reminded her of her West Indian home, and you
care nothing whatever about flowers, nor yet about the West Indies, I
should suppose)--but you never will sympathize with me. You know how
many disappointments and grievances and vexations of every kind I have
had the last ten, twenty, ay, thirty, forty seasons--ever since I had to
chaperone your aunt Eleanore, almost as soon as I was married, and was
worried, more than anybody ever _was_ worried, by her coquetteries and
her inconsistencies and her vacillations--so badly as she married, too,
at the last! Those flirting beauties so often do; they throw away a
hundred admirable chances and put up with a wretched _dernier
resort_;--let a thousand salmon break away from the line out of their
carelessness, and end by being glad to land a little minnow. I don't
know when I _haven't_ been worried by chaperoning. Flora Montolieu is a
great anxiety, a great difficulty, little detrimental that she is!"

"Detrimental! What an odd word you choose for her."

"I don't choose it for her; she _is_ it," returned Lady Marabout,
decidedly.

"How so?"

"How so! Why, my dear Philip, I told you the very first day she came.
How so! when she is John Montolieu's daughter, when she has no birth to
speak of, and not a farthing to her fortune."

"If she were Jack Ketch's daughter, you could not speak much worse. Her
high-breeding might do credit to a Palace; I only wish one found it in
all Palaces! and I never knew you before measure people by their money."

"My dear Philip, no more I do. I can't bear you when you speak in that
tone; it's so hard and sarcastic, and unlike you. _I_ don't know what
you mean either. I should have thought a man of the world like yourself
knew well enough what I intend when I say Flora is a detrimental. She
has a sweet temper, very clever, very lively, very charming, as any one
knows by the number of men that crowd about her, but a detrimental she
is----"

"Poor little heart!" muttered Carruthers in his beard, too low for his
mother to hear.

"--And yet I am quite positive that if she herself act judiciously, and
it is well managed for her, Goodwood may be won before the season is
over," concluded Lady Marabout.

Carruthers, not feeling much interest, it is presumed, in the
exclusively feminine pursuit of match-making, returned no answer, but
played with Bijou's silver bells, and twisted his own tawny moustaches.

"I am quite positive it _may be_, if properly managed," reiterated Lady
Marabout. "You might second me a little, Philip."

"_I?_ Good Heavens! my dear mother, what are you thinking of? I would
sooner turn torreador, and throw lassos over bulls at Madrid, than help
you to fling nuptial cables over poor devils in Belgravia. Twenty to
one? I'm going to the Yard to look at a bay filly of Cope Fielden's,
and then on to a mess-luncheon of the Bays."

"Must you go?" said his mother, looking lovingly on him. "You look
tired, Philip. Don't you feel well?"

"Perfectly; but Cambridge had us out over those confounded Wormwood
Scrubs this morning, and three hours in this June sun, in our harness,
makes one swear. If it were a sharp brush, it would put life into one;
as it is, it only inspires one with an intense suffering from boredom,
and an intense desire for hock and seltzer."

"I am very glad you haven't a sharp brush, as you call it, for all
that," said Lady Marabout. "It might be very pleasant to you, Philip,
but it wouldn't be quite so much so to me. I wish you would stay to
luncheon."

"Not to-day, thanks; I have so many engagements."

"You have been very good in coming to see me this season--even better
than usual. It _is_ very good of you, with all your amusements and
distractions. You have given me a great many days this month," said Lady
Marabout, gratefully. "Anne Hautton sees nothing of Hautton, she says,
except at a distance in Pall-Mall or the Park, all the season through.
Fancy if I saw no more of you! Do you know, Philip, I am almost
reconciled to your never marrying. I have never seen anybody I should
like at all for you, unless you had chosen Cecil Ormsby--Cecil Cheveley
I mean; and I am sure I should be very jealous of your wife if you had
one. I couldn't help it!"

"Rest tranquil, my dear mother; you will never be put to the test!" said
Carruthers, with a laugh, as he bid her good morning.

"Perhaps it _is_ best he shouldn't marry: I begin to think so," mused
Lady Marabout, as the door closed on him. "I used to wish it very much
for some things. He is the last of his name, and it seems a pity; there
ought to be an heir for Deepdene; but still marriage _is_ such a
lottery (he is right enough there, though I don't admit it to him: it's
a tombola where there is one prize to a million of blanks; one can't
help seeing that, though, on principle, I never allow it to him or any
of his men), and if Philip had any woman who didn't appreciate him, or
didn't understand him, or didn't make him happy, how wretched _I_ should
be! I have often pictured Philip's wife to myself, I have often
idealized the sort of woman I should like to see him marry, but it's
very improbable I shall ever meet my ideal realized; one never does!
And, after all, whenever I have fancied, years ago, he _might_ be
falling in love, I have always felt a horrible dread lest she shouldn't
be worthy of him--a jealous fear of her that I could not conquer. It's
much better as it is; there is no woman good enough for him."

With which compliment to Carruthers at her sex's expense Lady Marabout
returned to weaving her pet projected toils for the ensnaring of
Goodwood, for whom also, if asked, I dare say the Duchess of Doncaster
would have averred on _her_ part, looking through _her_ maternal Claude
glasses, no woman was good enough either. When ladies have daughters to
marry, men always present to their imaginations a battalion of
worthless, decalogue-smashing, utterly unreliable individuals, amongst
whom there is not one fit to be trusted or fit to be chosen; but when
their sons are the candidates for the holy bond, they view all women
through the same foggy and non-embellishing medium, which, if it does
not speak very much for their unprejudiced discernment, at least speaks
to the oft-disputed fact of the equality of merit in the sexes, and
would make it appear that, in vulgar parlance, there must be six of the
one and half a dozen of the other.

"Flora, soft and careless, and rebellious as she looks, _is_ ambitious,
and has set her heart on winning Goodwood, I do believe, as much as ever
poor Valencia did. True, she takes a different plan of action, as Philip
would call it, and treats him with gay nonchalante indifference, which
certainly seems to pique him more than ever my poor niece's beauty and
quiet deference to his opinions did; but that is because she reads him
better, and knows more cleverly how to rouse him. She has set her heart
on winning Goodwood, I am certain, ambitious as it seems. How eagerly
she looked out for the Blues yesterday at that Hyde Park
inspection--though I am sure Goodwood does not look half so handsome as
Philip does in harness, as they call it; Philip is so much the finer
man! I will just sound her to-day--or to-night as we come back from the
opera," thought Lady Marabout, one morning.

Things were moving to the very best of her expectations. Learning
experience from manifold failures, Lady Marabout had laid her plans this
time with a dexterity that defied discomfiture: seconded by both the
parties primarily necessary to the accomplishment of her manoeuvres,
with only a little outer-world opposition to give it piquancy and
excitement, she felt that she might defy the fates to checkmate her
here. This should be her Marathon and Lemnos, which, simply reverted to,
should be sufficient to secure her immunity from the attacks of any
feminine Xantippus who should try to rake up her failures and tarnish
her glory. To win Goodwood with a nobody's daughter would be a feat as
wonderful in its way as for Miltiades to have passed "in a single day
and with a north wind," as Oracle exacted, to the conquest of the
Pelasgian Isles; and Lady Marabout longed to do it, as you, my good sir,
may have longed in your day to take a king in check with your only
available pawn, or win one of the ribands of the turf with a little
filly that seemed to general judges scarcely calculated to be in the
first flight at the Chester Consolation Scramble.

Things were beautifully in train; it even began to dawn on the
perceptions of the Hauttons, usually very slow to open to anything
revolutionary and unwelcome. Her Grace of Doncaster, a large,
lethargic, somnolent dowager, rarely awake to anything but the interests
and restoration of the old ultra-Tory party in a Utopia always dreamed
of and never realized, like many other Utopias political and poetical,
public and personal, had turned her eyes on Flora Montolieu, and asked
her son the question inevitable, "_Who_ is she?" to which Goodwood had
replied with a devil-may-care recklessness and a headlong indefiniteness
which grated on her Grace's ears, and imparted her no information
whatever: "One of Lady Tattersall's yearlings, and the most charming
creature _I_ ever met. You know that? Why did you ask me, then? You know
all I do, and all I care to do!"--a remark that made the Duchess wish
her very dear and personal friend, Lady Marabout, were comfortably and
snugly interred in the mausoleum of Fern Ditton, rather than alive in
the flesh in Belgravia, chaperoning young ladies whom nobody knew, and
who were not to be found in any of Sir E. Burke's triad of volumes.

Belgravia, and her sister Mayfair, wondered at it, and talked over it,
raked up the parental Montolieu lineage mercilessly, and found out, from
the Bishop of Bonviveur and Sauceblanche, that the uncle on the distaff
side had been only a Tug at Eton, and had lived and died at Fern Ditton
a perpetual curate and nothing else--not even a dean, not even a rector!
Goodwood _couldn't_ be serious, settled the coteries. But the more
hints, innuendoes, questions, and adroitly concealed but simply
suggested animadversion Lady Marabout received, the greater was her
glory, the warmer her complacency, when she saw her Little Montolieu,
who was not little at all, leading, as she undoubtedly did lead, the
most desired eligible of the day captive in her chains, sent bouquets by
him, begged for waltzes by him, followed by him at the Ride, riveting
his lorgnon at the Opera, monopolizing his attention--though, clever
little intriguer, she knew too well how to pique him ever to let him
monopolize hers.

"She certainly makes play, as Philip would call it, admirably with
Goodwood," said Lady Marabout, admiringly, at a morning party, stirring
a cup of Orange Pekoe, yet with a certain irrepressible feeling that she
should almost prefer so very young a girl not to be quite so adroit a
schemer at seventeen. "That indifference and nonchalance is the very
thing to pique and retain such a courted fastidious creature as
Goodwood; and she knows it, too. Now a clumsy casual observer might even
fancy that she liked some others--even you, Philip, for instance--much
better; she talks to you much more, appeals to you twice as often,
positively teases you to stop and lunch or come to dinner here, and
really told you the other night at the Opera she missed you when you
didn't come in the morning; but to anybody who knows anything of the
world, it is easy enough to see which way her inclinations (yes, I _do_
hope it is inclination as well as ambition--I am not one of those who
advocate pure _mariages de convenance_; I don't think them right,
indeed, though they are undoubtedly very expedient sometimes) turn. I do
not think _anybody_ ever could prove me to have erred in my
quick-sightedness in those affairs. I may have been occasionally
mistaken in other things, or been the victim of adverse and unforeseen
circumstances which were beyond my control, and betrayed me; but I know
no one can read a girl's heart more quickly and surely than I, or a
man's either, for that matter."

"Oh, we all know you are a clairvoyante in heart episodes, my dear
mother; they are the one business of your life!" smiled Carruthers,
setting down his ice, and lounging across the lawn to a group of cedars,
where Flora Montolieu stood playing at croquet, and who, like a scheming
adventuress, as she was, immediately verified Lady Marabout's words, and
piqued Goodwood à outrance by avowing herself tired of the game, and
entering with animated verve into the prophecies for Ascot with
Carruthers, whose bay filly Sunbeam, sister to Wild-Falcon, was entered
to run for the Queen's Cup.

"What an odd smile that was of Philip's," thought Lady Marabout, left to
herself and her Orange Pekoe. "He has been very intimate with Goodwood
ever since they joined the Blues, cornets together, three-and-twenty
years ago; surely he can't have heard him drop anything that would make
him fancy he was _not serious_?"

An idle fear, which Lady Marabout dismissed contemptuously from her mind
when she saw how entirely Goodwood--in defiance of the Hauttons' sneer,
the drowsy Duchess's unconcealed frown, all the comments sure to be
excited in feminine minds, and all the chaff likely to be elicited from
masculine lips at the mess-table, and in the U. S., and in the Guards'
box before the curtain went up for the ballet--vowed himself to the
service of the little detrimental throughout that morning party, and
spoke a temporary adieu, whose tenderness, if she did not exactly catch,
Lady Marabout could at least construe, as he pulled up the tiger-skin
over Flora's dainty dress, before the Marabout carriage rolled down the
Fulham Road to town. At which tenderness of farewell Carruthers--steeled
to all such weaknesses himself--gave a disdainful glance and a
contemptuous twist of his moustaches, as he stood by the door talking to
his mother.

"You too, Phil?" said Goodwood, with a laugh, as the carriage rolled
away.

Carruthers stared at him haughtily, as he will stare at his best friends
if they touch his private concerns more nearly than he likes; a stare
which said disdainfully, "I don't understand you," and thereby told the
only lie to which Carruthers ever stooped in the whole course of his
existence.

Goodwood laughed again.

"If you poach on my manor _here_, I shall kill you Phil; so _gare à
vous_!"

"You are in an enigmatical mood to-day! I can't say I see much wit in
your riddles," said Carruthers, with his grandest and most contemptuous
air, as he lit his Havana.

"Confound that fellow! I'd rather have had any other man in London for a
rival! Twenty and more years ago how he cut me out with that handsome
Virginie Peauderose, that we were both such mad boys after in Paris.
However, it will be odd if _I_ can't win the day here. A Goodwood
rejected--pooh! There isn't a woman in England that would do it!"
thought Goodwood, as he drove down the Fulham Road.

"'_His_ manor!' Who's told him it's his? And if it be, what is that to
me?" thought Carruthers, as he got into his tilbury. "Philip, _you_'re
not a fool, like the rest of them, I hope? You've not forsworn yourself
surely? Pshaw!--nonsense!--impossible!"

"Certainly she _has_ something very charming about her. If I were a man
I don't think I could resist her," thought Lady Marabout, as she sat in
her box in the grand tier, tenth from the Queen's, moving her fan
slowly, lifting her lorgnon now and then, listening vaguely to the music
of the second act of the "Barbiere," for probably about the two
hundredth time in her life, and looking at Flora Moutolieu, sitting
opposite to her.

"The women are eternally asking me who she is, I don't care a hang
_who_, but she's the prettiest thing in London," said Fulke Nugent,
which was the warmest praise that any living man about town remembered
to have heard fall from his lips, which limited themselves religiously
to one legitimate laudation, which is a superlative nowadays, though Mr.
Lindley Murray, if alive, wouldn't, perhaps, receive or recognize it as
such: "Not bad-looking."

"It isn't _who_ a woman is, it's _what_ she is, that's the question, I
take it," said Goodwood, as he left the Guards' box to visit the
Marabout.

"By George!" laughed Nugent to Carruthers, "Goodey must be serious, eh,
Phil? He don't care a button for little Bibi; he don't care even for
Zerlina. When the ballet begins, I verily believe he's thinking less of
the women before him than of the woman who has left the house; and if a
fellow can give more ominous signs of being 'serious,' as the women
phrase it, I don't know 'em, do you?"

"I don't know much about that sort of thing at all!" muttered
Carruthers, as he went out to follow Goodwood to the Marabout box.

That is an old, old story, that of the fair Emily stirring feud between
Palamon and Arcite. It has been acted out many a time since Beaumont and
Fletcher lived and wrote their twin-thoughts and won their twin laurels;
but the bars that shut the kinsmen in their prison-walls, the ivy-leaves
that filled in the rents of their prison-stones, were not more entirely
and blissfully innocent of the feud going on within, and the battle
foaming near them, than the calm, complacent soul of Lady Marabout was
of the rivalry going on close beside her for the sake of little
Montolieu.

She certainly thought Philip made himself specially brilliant and
agreeable that night; but then that was nothing new, he was famous for
talking well, and liked his mother enough not seldom to shower out for
her some of his very best things; certainly she thought Goodwood did not
shine by the contrast, and looked, to use an undignified word, rather
cross than otherwise; but then nobody _did_ shine beside Philip, and she
knew a reason that made Goodwood pardonably cross at the undesired
presence of his oldest and dearest chum. Even _she_ almost wished Philip
away. If the presence of her idolized son could have been unwelcome to
her at any time, it was so that night.

"It isn't like Philip to monopolize her so, he who has so much tact
usually, and cares nothing for girls himself," thought Lady Marabout;
"he must do it for mischief, and yet _that_ isn't like him at all; it's
very tiresome, at any rate."

And with that skilful diplomacy in such matters, on which, if it was
sometimes overthrown, Lady Marabout not unjustly plumed herself, she
dexterously entangled Carruthers in conversation, and during the crash
of one of the choruses whispered, as he bent forward to pick up her fan,
which she had let drop,

"Leave Flora a little to Goodwood; he has a right--he spoke decisively
to her to-day."

Carruthers bowed his head, and stooped lower for the fan.

He left her accordingly to Goodwood till the curtain fell after the last
act of the "Barbiere;" and Lady Marabout congratulated herself on her
own adroitness. "There is nothing like a little tact," she thought;
"what would society be without the guiding genius of tact, I wonder? One
dreadful Donnybrook Fair!"

But, someway or other, despite all her tact, or because her son
inherited that valuable quality in a triple measure to herself, someway,
it was Goodwood who led her to her carriage, and Carruthers who led the
little Montolieu.

"Terribly _bête_ of Philip; how very unlike him!" mused Lady Marabout,
as she gathered her burnous round her.

Carruthers talked and laughed as he led Flora Montolieu through the
passages, more gayly, perhaps, than usual.

"My mother has told me some news to-night, Miss Montolieu," he said,
carelessly. "Am I premature in proffering you my congratulations? But
even if I be so, you will not refuse the privilege to an old friend--to
a very sincere friend--and will allow me to be the first to wish you
happiness?"

Lady Marabout's carriage stopped the way. Flora Montolieu colored,
looked full at him, and went to it, without having time to answer his
congratulations, in which the keenest-sighted hearer would have failed
to detect anything beyond every-day friendship and genuine indifference.
The most truthful men will make the most consummate actors when spurred
up to it.

"My dear child, you look ill to-night; I am glad you have no
engagements," said Lady Marabout, as she sat down before the
dressing-room fire, toasting her little satin-shod foot--she has a
weakness for fire even in the hottest weather--while Flora Montolieu lay
back in a low chair, crushing the roses mercilessly. "You _do_ feel
well? I should not have thought so, your face looks so flushed, and your
eyes so preternaturally dark. Perhaps it is the late hours; you were not
used to them in France, of course, and it must be such a change to this
life from your unvarying conventual routine at St. Denis. My love, what
was it Lord Goodwood said to you to-day?"

"Do not speak to me of him, Lady Marabout, I hate his name!"

Lady Marabout started with an astonishment that nearly upset the cup of
coffee she was sipping.

"Hate his name? My dearest Flora, why, in Heaven's name?"

Flora did not answer; she pulled the roses off her hair as though they
had been infected with Brinvilliers' poison.

"What has he done?"

"_He_ has done nothing!"

"Who has done anything, then?"

"Oh, no one--no one has done anything, but--I am sick of Lord Goodwood's
name--tired of it!"

Lady Marabout sat almost speechless with surprise.

"Tired of it, my dear Flora?"

Little Montolieu laughed:

"Well, tired of it, perhaps from hearing him praised so often, as the
Athenian trader grew sick of Aristides, and the Jacobin of Washington's
name. Is it unpardonably heterodox to say so?"

Lady Marabout stirred her coffee in perplexity:

"My dear child, pray don't speak in that way; that's like Philip's tone
when he is enigmatical and sarcastic, and worries me. I really cannot in
the least understand you about Lord Goodwood, it is quite
incomprehensible to me. I thought I overheard him to-day at Lady
George's concert speak very definitely to you indeed, and when he was
interrupted by the Duchess before you could give him his reply, I
thought I heard him say he should call to-morrow morning to know your
ultimate decision. Was I right?"

"Quite right."

"He really proposed marriage to you to-day?"

"Yes."

"And yet you say you are sick of his name?"

"Does it follow, imperatively, Lady Marabout, that because the Sultan
throws his handkerchief, it must be picked up with humility and
thanksgiving?" asked Flora Montolieu, furling and unfurling her fan with
an impatient rapidity that threatened entire destruction of its ivory
and feathers, with their Watteau-like group elaborately painted on
them--as pretty a toy of the kind as could be got for money, which had
been given her by Carruthers one day in payment of some little bagatelle
of a bet.

"Sultan!--Humility!" repeated Lady Marabout, scarcely crediting her
senses. "My dear Flora, do you know what you are saying? You must be
jesting! There is not a woman in England who would be insensible to the
honor of Goodwood's proposals. You are jesting, Flora!"

"I am not, indeed!"

"You mean to say, you could positively think of _rejecting_ him!" cried
Lady Marabout, rising from her chair in the intensity of her amazement,
convinced that she was the victim of some horrible hallucination.

"Why should it surprise you if I did?"

"_Why?_" repeated Lady Marabout, indignantly. "Do you ask me _why_? You
must be a child, indeed, or a consummate actress, to put such a
question; excuse me, my dear, if I speak a little strongly: you
perfectly bewilder me, and I confess I cannot see your motives or your
meaning in the least. You have made a conquest such as the proudest
women in the peerage have vainly tried to make; you have one of the
highest titles in the country offered to you; you have won a man whom
everybody declared would never be won; you have done this, pardon me,
without either birth or fortune on your own side, and then you speak of
rejecting Goodwood--Goodwood, of all the men in England! You cannot be
serious, Flora, or, if you are, you must be mad!"

Lady Marabout spoke more hotly than Lady Marabout had ever spoken in all
her life. Goodwood absolutely won--Goodwood absolutely "come to the
point"--the crowning humiliation of the Hauttons positively within her
grasp--her Marathon and Lemnos actually gained! and all to be lost and
flung away by the unaccountable caprice of a wayward child! It was
sufficient to exasperate a saint, and a saint Lady Marabout never
pretended to be.

Flora Montolieu toyed recklessly with her fan.

"You told Sir Philip this evening, I think, of----"

"I hinted it to him, my dear--yes. Philip has known all along how much I
desired it, and as Goodwood is one of his oldest and most favorite
friends, I knew it would give him sincere pleasure both for my sake and
Goodwood's, and yours too, for I think Philip likes you as much as he
ever does any young girl--better, indeed; and I could not imagine--I
could not dream for an instant--that there was any doubt of your
acceptation, as, indeed, there _cannot_ be. You have been jesting to
worry me, Flora!"

Little Montolieu rose, threw her fan aside, as if its ivory stems had
been hot iron, and leaned against the mantelpiece.

"You advise me to accept Lord Goodwood, then, Lady Marabout?"

"My love, if you need my advice, certainly!--such an alliance will never
be proffered to you again; the brilliant position it will place you in I
surely have no need to point out!" returned Lady Marabout. "The little
hypocrite!" she mused, angrily, "as if her own mind were not fully made
up--as if any girl in Europe would hesitate over accepting the Doncaster
coronet--as if a nameless Montolieu could doubt for a moment her own
delight at being created Marchioness of Goodwood! Such a triumph as
_that_--why I wouldn't credit _any_ woman who pretended she wasn't
dazzled by it!"

"I thought you did not approve of marriages of convenience?"

Lady Marabout played a tattoo--slightly perplexed tattoo--with her spoon
in her Sèvres saucer.

"No more I do, my dear--that is, under some circumstances; it is
impossible to lay down a fixed rule for everything! Marriages of
convenience--well, perhaps not; but as _I_ understand these words, they
mean a mere business affair, arranged as they are in France, without the
slightest regard to the inclinations of either; merely regarding whether
the incidents of fortune, birth, and station are equal and suitable.
Marriages _de convenance_ are when a parvenu barters his gold for good
blood, or where an _ancienne princesse_ mends her fortune with a
_nouveau riche_, profound indifference, meanwhile, on each side. I do
not call this so; decidedly not! Goodwood must be very deeply attached
to you to have forgotten his detestation of marriage, and laid such a
title as his at your feet. Have you any idea of the weight of the Dukes
of Doncaster in the country? Have you any notion of what their
rent-roll is? Have you any conception of their enormous influence, their
very high place, the magnificence of their seats? Helmsley almost equals
Windsor! All these are yours if you will; and you affect to
hesitate----"

"To let Lord Goodwood buy me!"

"Buy you? Your phraseology is as strange as my son's!"

"To accept him only for the coronet and the rent-roll, his position and
his Helmsley, seems not a very grateful and flattering return for his
preference?"

"I do not see that at all," said Lady Marabout, irritably. Is there
anything more annoying than to have unwelcome truths thrust in our
teeth? "It is not as though he were odious to you--a hideous man, a
coarse man, a cruel man, whose very presence repelled you. Goodwood is a
man quite attractive enough to merit some regard, independent of his
position; you have an affectionate nature, you would soon grow attached
to him----"

Flora Montolieu shook her head.

"And, in fact," she went on, warming with her subject, and speaking all
the more determinedly because she was speaking a little against her
conscience, and wholly for her inclinations, "my dear Flora, if you need
persuasion--which you must pardon me if I doubt your doing in your
heart, for I cannot credit any woman as being insensible to the suit of
a future Duke of Doncaster, or invulnerable to the honor it does her--if
you need persuasion, I should think I need only refer to the happiness
it will afford your poor dear mother, amidst her many trials, to hear of
so brilliant a triumph for you. You are proud--Goodwood will place you
in a position where pride may be indulged with impunity, nay, with
advantage. You are ambitious--what can flatter your ambition more than
such an offer. You are clever--as Goodwood's wife you may lead society
like Madame de Rambouillet or immerse yourself in political intrigue
like the Duchess of Devonshire. It is an offer which places within your
reach everything most dazzling and attractive, and it is one, my dear
Flora, which you must forgive me if I say a young girl of obscure rank,
as rank goes, and no fortune whatever, should pause before she lightly
rejects. You cannot afford to be fastidious as if you were an heiress or
a lady-in-your-own-right."

That was as ill-natured a thing as the best-natured lady in Christendom
ever said on the spur of self-interest, and it stung Flora Montolieu
more than her hostess dreamed.

The color flushed into her face and her eyes flashed.

"You have said sufficient, Lady Marabout, I accept the Marquis
to-morrow!"

And taking up her fan and her opera-cloak, leaving the discarded roses
unheeded on the floor, she bade her chaperone good-night, and floated
out of the dressing-room, while Lady Marabout sat stirring the cream in
a second cup of coffee, a good deal puzzled, a little awed by the odd
turn affairs had taken, with a slight feeling of guilt for her own share
in the transaction, an uncomfortable dread lest the day should ever come
when Flora should reproach her for having persuaded her into the
marriage, a comfortable conviction that nothing but good _could_ come of
such a brilliant and enviable alliance, and, above all other conflicting
feelings, one delicious, dominant, glorified security of triumph over
the Hauttons, _mère et filles_.

But when morning dawned, Lady Marabout's horizon seemed cleared of all
clouds, and only radiant with unshadowed sunshine. Goodwood was coming,
and coming to be accepted.

She seemed already to read the newspaper paragraphs announcing his
capture and Flora's conquest, already to hear the Hauttons' enforced
congratulations, already to see the nuptial party gathered round the
altar rail of St. George's. Lady Marabout had never felt in a sunnier,
more light-hearted mood, never more completely at peace with herself and
all the world as she sat in her boudoir at her writing-table, penning a
letter which began:

     "MY DEAREST LILLA,--What happiness it gives me to congratulate
     you on the brilliant future opening to your sweet Flora----"

And which would have continued, no doubt, with similar eloquence if it
had not been interrupted by Soames opening the door and announcing "Sir
Philip Carruthers," who walked in, touched his mother's brow with his
moustaches, and went to stand on the hearth with his arm on the
mantelpiece.

"My dear Philip, you never congratulated me last night; pray do so now!"
cried Lady Marabout, delightedly, wiping her pen on the pennon, which a
small ormolu knight obligingly carried for that useful purpose. Ladies
always wipe their pens as religiously as they bolt their bedroom doors,
believe in cosmetics, and go to church on a Sunday.

"Was your news of last night true, then?" asked Carruthers, bending
forwards to roll Bijou on its back with his foot.

"That Goodwood had spoken definitively to her? Perfectly. He proposed to
her yesterday at the Frangipane concert--not _at_ the concert, of
course, but afterwards, when they were alone for a moment in the
conservatories. The Duchess interrupted them--did it on purpose--and he
had only time to whisper hurriedly he should come this morning to hear
his fate. I dare say he felt tolerably secure of it. Last night I
naturally spoke to Flora about it. Oddly enough, she seemed positively
to think at first of rejecting him--_rejecting_ him!--only fancy the
madness! Between ourselves, I don't think she cares anything about him,
but with such an alliance as that, of course I felt it my bounden duty
to counsel her as strongly as I could to accept the unequalled position
it proffered her. Indeed, it could have been only a girl's waywardness,
a child's caprice to pretend to hesitate, for she _is_ very ambitious
and very clever, and I would never believe that any woman--and she less
than any--would be proof against such dazzling prospects. It would be
absurd, you know, Philip. Whether it was hypocrisy or a real reluctance,
because she doesn't feel for him the idealic love she dreams of, I don't
know, but I put it before her in a way that plainly showed her all the
brilliance of the proffered position, and before she bade me good night,
I had vanquished all her scruples, if she had any, and I am able to
say----"

"Good God, what have you done?"

"Done?" re-echoed Lady Marabout, vaguely terrified. "Certainly I
persuaded her to accept him. She _has_ accepted him probably; he is here
now! I should have been a strange person indeed to let any young girl in
my charge rashly refuse such an offer."

"You induced her to accept him! God forgive you!"

Lady Marabout turned pale as death, and gazed at him with undefinable
terror.

"Philip! You do not mean----"

"Great Heavens! have you never seen, mother----?"

He leaned his arms on the marble, with his forehead bowed upon them, and
Lady Marabout gazed at him still, as a bird at a basilisk.

"Philip, Philip! what have I done? How could I tell?" she murmured,
distractedly, tears welling into her eyes. "If I had only known! But how
could I dream that child had any fascination for you? How could I
fancy----"

"Hush! No, you are in no way to blame. You could not know it. _I_ barely
knew it till last night," he answered, gently.

"Philip loves her, and _I_ have made her marry Goodwood!" thought Lady
Marabout, agonized, remorseful, conscience-struck, heart-broken in a
thousand ways at once. The climax of her woes was reached, life had no
greater bitterness for her left; her son loved, and loved the last woman
in England she would have had him love; that woman was given to another,
and _she_ had been the instrument of wrecking the life to save or serve
which she would have laid down her own in glad and instant sacrifice!
Lady Marabout bowed her head under a grief, before which the worries so
great before, the schemes but so lately so precious, the small triumphs
just now so all-absorbing, shrank away into their due insignificance.
Philip suffering, and suffering through her! Self glided far away from
Lady Marabout's memory then, and she hated herself, more fiercely than
the gentle-hearted soul had ever hated any foe, for her own criminal
share in bringing down this unforeseen terrific blow on her beloved
one's head.

"Philip, my dearest, what _can_ I do?" she cried, distractedly; "if I
had thought--if I had guessed----"

"Do nothing. A woman who could give herself to a man whom she did not
love should be no wife of mine, let me suffer what I might."

"But _I_ persuaded her, Philip! Mine is the blame!"

His lips quivered painfully:

"Had she cared for me as--I may have fancied, she had not been so easy
to persuade! She has much force of character, where she wills. He is
here now, you say; I cannot risk meeting him just yet. Leave me for a
little while; leave me--I am best alone."

Gentle though he always was to her, his mother knew him too well ever to
dispute his will, and the most bitter tears Lady Marabout had ever
known, ready as she was to weep for other people's woes, and rarely as
she had to weep for any of her own, choked her utterance and blinded
her eyes as she obeyed and closed the door on his solitude. Philip--her
idolized Philip--that ever her house should have sheltered this creature
to bring a curse upon him! that ever she should have brought this
tropical flower to poison the air for the only one dear to her!

"I am justly punished," thought Lady Marabout, humbly and
penitentially--"justly. I thought wickedly of Anne Hautton. I did not do
as I would be done by. I longed to enjoy their mortification. I advised
Flora against my own conscience and against hers. I am justly chastised!
But that _he_ should suffer through me, that my fault has fallen on his
head, that my Philip, my noble Philip, should love and not be loved, and
that _I_ have brought it on him----Good Heaven! what is that?"

"That" was a man whom her eyes, being misty with tears, Lady Marabout
had brushed against, as she ascended the staircase, ere she perceived
him, and who, passing on with a muttered apology, was down in the hall
and out of the door Mason held open before she had recovered the shock
of the rencontre, much before she had a possibility of recognizing him
through the mist aforesaid.

A fear, a hope, a joy, a dread, one so woven with another there was no
disentangling them, sprang up like a ray of light in Lady Marabout's
heart--a possibility dawned in her: to be rejected as an impossibility?
Lady Marabout crossed the ante-room, her heart throbbing tumultuously,
spurred on to noble atonement and reckless self-sacrifice, if fate
allowed them.

She opened the drawing-room door; Flora Montolieu was alone.

"Flora, you have seen Goodwood?"

She turned, her own face as pale and her own eyes as dim as Lady
Marabout's.

"Yes."

"You have refused him?"

Flora Montolieu misconstrued her chaperone's eagerness, and answered
haughtily enough:

"I have told him that indifference would be too poor a return for his
affections to insult him with it, and that I would not do him the injury
of repaying his trust by falsehood and deception. I meant what I said to
you last night; I said it on the spur of pain, indignation, no matter
what; but I could not keep my word when the trial came."

Lady Marabout bent down and kissed her, with a fervent gratitude that
not a little bewildered the recipient.

"My dear child! thank God! little as I thought to say so. Flora, tell
me, you love some one else?"

"Lady Marabout, you have no right----"

"Yea, I have a right--the strongest right! Is not that other my son?"

Flora Montolieu looked up, then dropped her head and burst into
tears--tears that Lady Marabout soothed then, tears that Carruthers
soothed, yet more effectually still, five minutes afterwards.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That _I_ should have sued that little Montolieu, and sued to her for
Philip!" mused Lady Marabout. "It is very odd. Perhaps I get used to
being crossed and disappointed and trampled on in every way and by
everybody; but certainly, though it is most contrary to my wishes,
though a child like that is the last person I should ever have chosen or
dreamt of as Philip's wife, though it is a great pain to me, and Anne
Hautton of course will be delighted to rake up everything she can about
the Montolieus, and it _is_ heart-breaking when one thinks how a
Carruthers _might_ marry, how the Carruthers always _have_ married,
rarely any but ladies in their own right for countless generations,
still it _is_ very odd, but I certainly feel happier than ever I did in
my life, annoyed as I am and grieved as I am. It _is_ heart-breaking
(that horrid John Montolieu! I wonder what relation one stands in
legally to the father of one's son's wife; I will ask Sir Fitzroy
Kelley; not that the Montolieus are likely to come to England)--it is
very sad when one thinks whom Philip might have married; and yet she
certainly is infinitely charming, and she really appreciates and
understands him. If it were not for what Anne Hautton will always say, I
could really be pleased! To think what an anxious hope, what a dreaded
ideal, Philip's wife has always been to me; and now, just as I had got
reconciled to his determined bachelor preferences, and had grown to
argue with him that it was best he shouldn't marry, he goes and falls in
love with this child! Everything is at cross-purposes in life, I think!
There is only one thing I am resolved upon--I will NEVER chaperone
anybody again."

And she kept her vow. None can christen her Lady Tattersall any longer
with point, for there are no yearling sales in that house in Lowndes
Square, whatever there be in the other domiciles of that fashionable
quarter. Lady Marabout has shaken that burden off her shoulders, and
moves in blissful solitude and tripled serenity through Belgravia,
relieved of responsibility, and wearing her years as lightly, losing the
odd trick at her whist as sunnily, and beaming on the world in general
as radiantly as any dowager in the English Peerage.

That she was fully reconciled to Carruthers's change of resolve was
shown in the fact that when Anne Hautton turned to her, on the evening
of his marriage-day, after the dinner to which Lady Marabout had bidden
all her friends, and a good many of her foes, with an amiable murmur:

"I am _so_ grieved for you, dearest Helena--I know what your
disappointment must be!--what should _I_ feel if Hautton----Your
_belle-fille_ is charming, certainly, very lovely; but then--such a
connection! You have my deepest sympathies! I always told you how wrong
you were when you fancied Goodwood admired little Montolieu--I beg her
pardon, I mean Lady Carruthers--but you _will_ give your imagination
such reins!"

Lady Marabout smiled, calmly and amusedly, felt no pang, and--thought of
Philip.

I take it things must be very rose-colored with us when we can smile
sincerely on our enemies, and defeat their stings simply because we feel
them not.



A STUDY A LA LOUIS QUINZE;

OR,

PENDANT TO A PASTEL BY LA TOUR.


I have, among others hanging on my wall, a pastel of La Tour's; of the
artist-lover of Julie Fel, of the monarch of pastellistes, the touch of
whose crayons was a "brevet of wit and of beauty," and on whose easel
bloomed afresh the laughing eyes, the brilliant tints, the rose-hued
lips of all the loveliest women of the "Règne Galant," from the
princesses of the Blood of the House of Bourbon to the princesses of the
green-room of the Comédie-Française. Painted in the days of Louis
Quinze, the light of more than a century having fallen on its soft
colors to fade and blot them with the icy brush of time, my pastel is
still fresh, still eloquent. The genius that created it is gone--gone
the beauty that inspired it--but the picture is deathless! It shows me
the face of a woman, of a beautiful woman, else, be sure she would not
have been honored by the crayons of La Tour; her full Southern lips are
parted with a smile of triumph; a chef-d'oeuvre of coquetry, a
head-dress of lace and pearls and little bouquets of roses is on her
unpowdered hair, which is arranged much like Julie Fel's herself in the
portrait that hangs, if I remember right, at the Musée de Saint Quentin;
and her large eyes are glancing at you with languor, malice, victory,
all commingled. At the back of the picture is written "Mlle. Thargélie
Dumarsais;" the letters are faded and yellow, but the pastel is living
and laughing yet, through the divine touch of the genius of La Tour.
With its perfume of dead glories, with its odor of the Beau Siècle, the
pastel hangs on my wall, living relic of a buried age, and sometimes in
my mournful moments the full laughing lips of my pastel will part, and
breathe, and speak to me of the distant past, when Thargélie Dumarsais
saw all Paris at her feet, and was not humbled then as now by being only
valued and remembered for the sake of the talent of La Tour. My
beautiful pastel gives me many confidences. I will betray one to you--a
single leaf from a life of the eighteenth century.


I.

THE FIRST MORNING.

In the heart of Lorraine, nestled down among its woods, stood an old
château that might have been the château of the Sleeping Beauty of fairy
fame, so sequestered it stood amidst its trees chained together by
fragrant fetters of honeysuckle and wild vine, so undisturbed slept the
morning shadows on the wild thyme that covered the turf, so unbroken was
the silence in which the leaves barely stirred, and the birds folded
their wings and hushed their song till the heat of the noonday should be
passed. Beyond the purple hills stretching up in the soft haze of
distance in the same province of laughing, luxurious, sunlit Lorraine,
was Lunéville, the Lunéville of Stanislaus, Montesquieu, of Voltaire, of
Hénault, of Boufflers, a Versailles in miniature, even possessing a
perfect replica of Pompadour in its own pretty pagan of a Marquise.
Within a few leagues was Lunéville, but the echo of its mots and
madrigals did not reach over the hills, did not profane the sunny air,
did not mingle with the vintage-song of the vine-dressers, the silver
babble of the woodland brook, the hushed chant of the Ave Maria, the
vesper bells chimed from the churches and monasteries, which made the
sole music known or heard in this little valley of Lorraine.

The château of Grande Charmille stood nestled in its woods, gray,
lonely, still, silent as death, yet not gloomy, for white pigeons
circled above its pointed towers, brilliant dragon-flies fluttered above
the broken basin of the fountain that sang as gayly as it rippled among
the thyme as though it fell into a marble cup, and bees hummed their
busy happy buzz among the jessamine that clung to its ivy-covered
walls--walls built long before Lorraine had ceased to be a kingdom and a
power, long before a craven and effeminated Valois had dared to kick the
dead body of a slaughtered Guise. Not gloomy with the golden light of a
summer noon playing amidst the tangled boughs and on the silvered
lichens; not gloomy, for under the elm-boughs on the broken stone steps
that led to the fountain, her feet half buried in violet-roots and wild
thyme, leaning her head on her hand, as she looked into the water, where
the birds flew down to drink, and fluttered their wings fearless of her
presence, was a young girl of sixteen--and if women sometimes darken
lives, it must be allowed that they always illumine landscapes!

Aline, when Boufflers saw her in the spring morning, in all the grace of
youth and beauty, unconscious of themselves, made not a prettier picture
than this young dreamer under the elm-boughs of the Lorraine woods, as
she bent over the water, watching it bubble and splash from the
fountain-spout, and hide itself with a rippling murmur under the broad
green reeds and the leaves of the water-lily. She was a charming
picture: a brunette with long ebon tresses, with her lashes drooping
over her black, languid, almond-shaped eyes, a smile on her half-pouted
lips, and all the innocence and dawning beauty of her sixteen years
about her, while she sat on the broken steps, now brushing the
water-drops off the violets, now weaving the reeds into a pretty,
useless toy, now beckoning the birds that came to peck on the
rose-sprays beside her.

"Favette! where are your dreams?"

Favette, the young naïad of the Lorraine elm-woods, looked up, the plait
of rushes dropping from her hands, and a warm sudden blush tinging her
cheeks and brow with a tint like that on the damask rose-leaves that had
fallen into the water, and floated there like delicate shells.

"Mon Dieu, Monsieur Léon! how you frightened me!"

And like a startled fawn, or a young bird glancing round at a rustle
amidst the leaves, Favette sprang up, half shy, half smiling, all her
treasures gathered from the woods--of flowers, of mosses, of berries, of
feathery grasses, of long ivy-sprays--falling from her lap on to the
turf in unheeded disorder.

"_I_ frightened you, Favette? Surely not. Are you sorry to see me,
then?"

"Sorry? Oh no, Monsieur Léon!" and Favette glanced through her thick
curled lashes, slyly yet archly, and began to braid again her plait of
rushes.

"Come, tell me, then, what and whom were you dreaming of, ma mie, as you
looked down into the water? Tell me, Favette. You have no secrets from
your playmate, your friend, your brother?"

Favette shook her head, smiling, and plaited her rushes all wrong, the
blush on her cheeks as bright as that on the cups of the rose-leaves
that the wind shook down in a fresh shower into the brook.

"Come, tell me, mignonne. Was it--of me?"

"Of you? Well, perhaps--yes!"

It was first love that whispered in Favette's pretty voice those three
little words; it was first love that answered in his, as he threw
himself down on the violet-tufted turf at her feet, as Boufflers at
Aline's.

"Ah, Favette, so should it be! for every hope, every dream, every
thought of _mine_, is centred in and colored by you."

"Yet you can leave me to-day," pouted Favette, with a sigh and a _moue
mutine_, and gathering tears in her large gazelle eyes.

"Leave you? Would to Heaven I were not forced! But against a king's will
what power has a subject? None are too great, none are too lowly, to be
touched by that iron hand if they provoke its grasp. Vincennes yawns for
those who dare to think, For-l'Evêque for those who dare to jest.
Monsieur de Voltaire was sent to the Bastille for merely defending a
truth and his own honor against De Rohan-Chabot. Who am I, that I should
look for better grace?"

Favette struck him, with her plaited rushes, a reproachful little blow.

"Monsieur Vincennes--Monsieur Voltaire--who are they? I know nothing of
those stupid people!"

He smiled, and fondly stroked her hair:

"Little darling! The one is a prison that manacles the deadly crimes of
Free Speech and Free Thought; the other, a man who has suffered for
both, but loves both still, and will, sooner or later, help to give both
to the world----"

"Ah, you think of your studies, of your ambitions, of your great heroes!
You think nothing of me, save to call me a little darling. You are
cruel, Monsieur Léon!"

And Favette twisted her hand from his grasp with petulant sorrow, and
dashed away her tears--the tears of sixteen--as bright and free from
bitterness as the water-drops on the violet-bells.

"_I_ cruel--and to you! My heart must indeed be badly echoed by my lips,
if you have cause to fancy so a single moment. Cruel to you? Favette,
Favette! is a man ever cruel to the dearest thing in his life, the
dearest name in his thoughts? If I smiled I meant no sneer; I love you
as you are, mignonne; the picture is so fair, one touch added, or one
touch effaced, would mar the whole in _my_ eyes. I love you as you are!
with no knowledge but what the good sisters teach you in their convent
solitude, and what the songs of the birds, the voices of the flowers,
whisper to you of their woodland lore. I love you as you are! Every
morning when I am far away from you, and from Lorraine, I shall think of
you gathering the summer roses, calling the birds about you, bending
over the fountain to see it mirror your own beauty; every evening I
shall think of you leaning from the window, chanting softly to yourself
the Ora pro nobis, while the shadows deepen, and the stars we have so
often watched together come out above the pine-hills. Favette, Favette!
exile will have the bitterness of death to me; to give me strength to
bear it, tell me that you love me more dearly than as the brother you
have always called me; that you will so love me when I shall be no
longer here beside you, but shall have to trust to memory and fidelity
to guard for me in absence the priceless treasure of your heart?"

Favette's head drooped, and her hands played nervously with the now torn
and twisted braid of rushes: he saw her heart beat under its muslin
corsage, like a bee caught and caged in the white leaves of a lily; and
she glanced at him under her lashes with a touch of naïve coquetry.

"If I tell you so, what gage have I, Monsieur Léon, that, a few months
gone by, you will even remember it? In those magnificent cities you will
soon forget Lorraine; with the _grandes dames_ of the courts you will
soon cease to care for Favette?"

"Look in my eyes, Favette, they alone can answer you as I would answer!
Till we meet again none shall supplant you for an hour, none rob you of
one thought; you have my first love, you will have my last. Favette, you
believe me?"

"Yes--I believe!" murmured Favette, resting her large eyes fondly on
him. "We will meet as we part, though you are the swallow, free to take
flight over the seas to foreign lands, and I am the violet, that must
stay where it is rooted in the Lorraine woods!"

"Accept the augury," he whispered, resting his lips upon her low smooth
brow. "Does not the swallow ever return to the violet, holding it fairer
than all the gaudy tropical flowers that may have tempted him to rest on
the wing and delay his homeward flight? Does not the violet ever welcome
him the same, in its timid winning spring-tide loveliness, when he
returns to, as when he quitted, the only home he loves? Believe the
augury, Favette; we shall meet as we part!"

And they believed the augury, as they believed in life, in love, in
faith; they who were beginning all, and had proved none of the
treacherous triad!

What had he dreamed of in his solitary ancestral woods fairer than this
Lorraine violet, that had grown up with him, side by side, since he, a
boy of twelve, gathered heaths from the clefts of the rocks that the
little child of six years old cried for and could not reach? What had
she seen that she loved half so well as M. le Chevalier from the Castle,
whom her uncle, the Curé, held as his dearest and most brilliant pupil,
whose eyes always looked so lovingly into hers, and whose voice was
always lavishing fond names on his petite Favette?

They believed the augury, and were happy even in the sweet sorrow of
parting--sorrow that they had never known before--as they sat together
in the morning sunlight, while the water bubbled among the violet tufts,
among the grasses and wild thyme, and the dragon-flies fluttered their
green and gold and purple wings amidst the tendrils of the vines, and
the rose-leaves, drifted gently by the wind, floated down the brook,
till they were lost in deepening shadow under the drooping boughs.


II.

THE SECOND MORNING.

"Savez-vous que Favart va écrire une nouvelle comédie--La Chercheuse
d'Esprit?"

"Vraiment? Il doit bien écrire cela, car il s'occupe toujours à le
_chercher_, et n'arrive jamais à le trouver!"

The mot had true feminine malice, but the lips that spoke it were so
handsome, that had even poor Favart himself, the poet-pastrycook who
composed operas and comedies while he made méringues and fanfreluches,
and dreamed of libretti while he whisked the cream for a supper, been
within hearing, they would have taken the smart from the sting; and, as
it was, the hit only caused echoes of softly-tuned laughter, for the
slightest word of those lips it was the fashion through Paris just then
to bow to, applaud, and re-echo.

Before her Psyche, shrouded in cobweb lace, powdered by Martini,
gleaming with pearls and emeralds, scented with most delicate amber,
making her morning toilette, and receiving her morning levee according
to the fashion of the day, sat the brilliant satirist of poor Favart.
The _ruelle_ was crowded; three marshals, De Richelieu, Lowendal, and
Maurice de Saxe; a prince, De Soubise; a poet, Claude Dorat; an abbé,
Voisenon; a centenarian, Saint-Aulaire; peers uncounted, De Bièvre, De
Caylus, De Villars, D'Etissac, Duras, D'Argenson--a crowd of
others--surrounded and superintended her toilette, in a glittering troop
of courtiers and gentlemen. Dames d'atours (for she had her maids of
honor as well as Marie Leczinska) handed her her flacons of perfume, or
her numberless notes, on gold salvers, chased by Réveil; the ermine
beneath her feet, humbly sent by the Russian ambassador--far superior to
what the Czarina sent to Madame de Mailly--had cost two thousand louis;
her bedroom outshone in luxury any at Versailles, Choisy, or La Muette,
with its Venetian glass, its medallions of Fragonard, its plaques of
Sèvres, its landscapes of Watteau, framed in the carved and gilded
wainscoting, its Chinese lamps, swinging by garlands of roses, its
laughing Cupids, buried under flowers, painted in fresco above the
alcove, its hangings of velvet, of silk, of lace; and its cabinets, its
screens, its bonbonnières, its jewel-boxes, were costly as those of the
Marquises de Pompadour or De Prie.

Who was she?--a Princess of the Blood, a Duchess of France, a mistress
of the King?

Lords of the chamber obeyed her wishes, ministers signed lettres de
cachet at her instance; "_ces messieurs_," la Queue de la Régence, had
their rendezvous at her suppers; she had a country villa that eclipsed
Trianon; she had fêtes that outshone the fêtes at Versailles; she had a
"_droit de chasse_" in one of the royal districts; she had the first
place on the easels of Coypel, Lancret, Pater, Vanloo, La Tour; the
first place in the butterfly odes of Crébillon le Gai, Claude Dorat;
Voisenon.

Who was she?--the Queen of France? No; much more--the Queen of Paris!

She was Thargélie Dumarsais; matchless as Claire Clairon, beautiful as
Madeleine Gaussin, resistless as Sophie Arnould, great as Adrienne
Lecouvreur. She was a Power in France--for was she not the Empress of
the Comédie? If Madame Lenormand d'Etioles ruled the government at
Versailles, Mademoiselle Thargélie Dumarsais ruled the world at Paris;
and if the King's favorite could sign her enemies, by a smile, to the
Bastille, the Court's favorite could sign hers, by a frown, to
For-l'Evêque.

The foyer was nightly filled while she played in _Zaïre_, or
_Polyeucte_, or _Les Folies Amoureuses_, with a court of princes and
poets, marshals and marquises, beaux esprits and abbés galants; and
mighty nobles strewed with bouquets the path from her carriage to the
coulisses; bouquets she trod on with nonchalant dignity, as though
flowers only bloomed to have the honor of dying under her foot. Louis
Quinze smilingly humored her caprices, content to wait until it was her
pleasure to play at his private theatre; dukes, marquises, viscounts,
chevaliers, vied who should ruin himself most magnificently and most
utterly for her; and lovers the most brilliant and the most flattering,
from Richelieu, Roi de Ruelles, to Dorat, poet of boudoir-graces and
court-Sapphos, left the titled beauties of Versailles for the
self-crowned Empress of the Français. She had all Paris for her
chentela, from Versailles to the Caveau; for even the women she deposed,
the actors she braved, the journalists she consigned to For-l'Evêque,
dared not raise their voice against the idol of the hour. A Queen of
France? Bah! Pray what could Marie Leczinska, the pale, dull pietist,
singing canticles in her private chapel, compare for power, for sway,
for courtiers, for brilliant sovereignty, for unrivalled triumph, with
Thargélie Dumarsais, the Queen of the Theatre?

Ravishingly beautiful looked the matchless actress as she sat before her
Psyche, flashing _oeillades_ on the brilliant group who made every added
aigrette, every additional bouquet of the coiffure, every little
_mouche_, every touch to the already perfect toilette, occasion for
flattering simile and soft-breathed compliment; ravishingly beautiful,
as she laughed at Maurice de Saxe, or made a disdainful _moue_ at an
impromptu couplet of Dorat's, or gave a blow of her fan to Richelieu, or
asked Saint-Aulaire what he thought of Vanloo's portrait of her as
_Rodugune_; ravishingly beautiful, with her charms that disdained alike
rouge and maréchale powder, and were matchless by force of their own
coloring, form, and voluptuous languor, when, her toilette finished,
followed by her glittering crowd, she let Richelieu lead her to his
carriage.

There was a review of Guards on the plain at Sablons that morning, a
fête afterwards, at which she would be surrounded by the most brilliant
staff of an army of Noblesse, and Richelieu was at that moment the most
favored of her troop of lovers. M. le Duc, as every one knows, never
sued at court or coulisse in vain, and the love of Thargélie Dumarsais,
though perhaps with a stronger touch of romance in it than was often
found in the atmosphere of the foyer, was, like the love of her time and
her class, as inconstant and vivacious, now settling here, now lighting
there, as any butterfly that fluttered among the limes at Trianon. Did
not the jest-loving _parterre_ ever salute with gay laughter two lines
in a bagatelle-comedy of the hour--

    Oui l'Amour papillonne, sans entraves, à son gré;
    Chargé longtemps de fers, de soie même, il mourrait!--

when spoken by Thargélie Dumarsais--laughter that hailed her as
head-priestess of her pleasant creed, in a city and a century where the
creed was universal?

"Ah, bonjour! You have not seen her before, have you, semi-Englishman?
You have found nothing like her in the foggy isles, I wager you fifty
louis!" cried one of Thargélie Dumarsais's court, the Marquis de la
Thorillière, meeting a friend of his who had arrived in Paris only the
day before, M. le Chevalier de Tallemont des Réaux, as Richelieu's
cortége rolled away, and the Marquis crossed to his own carriage.

"Her? Whom? I have not been in Paris for six years, you know. What can I
tell of its idols, as I remember of old that they change every hour?"

"True! but, bon Dieu! not to know la Dumarsais! What it must be to have
been buried in those benighted Britannic Isles! Did you not see her in
Richelieu's carriage?"

"No. I saw a carriage driving off with such an escort and such fracas,
that I thought it could belong to nobody less than to Madame Lenormand
d'Etioles; but I did not observe it any further. Who is this beauty I
ought to have seen?"

"Thargélie Dumarsais, for whom we are all ruining ourselves with the
prettiest grace in the world, and for whom you will do the same when you
have been once to the Français; that is, if you have the good fortune to
attract her eyes and please her fancy, which you may do, for the fogs
have agreed with you, Léon!--I should not wonder if you become the
fashion, and set the women raving of you as 'leur zer zevalier!'"

"Thanks for the prophecy, but I shall not stay long enough to fulfil it,
and steal your myrtle crowns. I leave again to-morrow."

"_Leave?_ Sapristi! See what it is to have become half English, and
imbibed a taste for spleen and solitude! Have you written another
satire, or have you learned such barbarism as to dislike Paris?"

"Neither; but I leave for Lorraine to-morrow. It is five years since I
saw my old pine-woods."

"Dame! it is ten years since _I_ saw the wilds of Bretagne, and I will
take good care it shall be a hundred before I see them again. _Hors de
Paris, c'est hors du monde._ Come with me to La Dumarsais's _petit
souper_ to-night, and you will soon change your mind."

"My good Armand, you have not been an exile, as I have; you little know
how I long for the very scent of the leaves, the very smell of the earth
at Grande Charmille! But bah! I talk in Hebrew to you. You have been
lounging away your days in titled beauties, _petits salons_, making
butterfly verses, learning their broidery, their lisp, and their
perfumes, talking to their parrots, and using their cosmétiques, till
you care for no air but what is musk-scented! But what of this
Dumarsais of yours--does she equal Lecouvreur?"

"Eclipses her!--with Paris as with Maurice de Saxe. Thargélie Dumarsais
is superb, mon cher--unequalled, unrivalled! We have had nothing like
her for beauty, for grace, for talent, nor, pardieu! for extravagance!
She ruined _me_ last year in a couple of months. Richelieu is in favor
just now--with what woman is he not? Thargélie is very fond of the
Marshals of France! Saxe is fettered to her hand and foot, and the
Duchesse de Bouillon hates her as rancorously as she does Adrienne. Come
and see her play _Phèdre_ to-night, and you will renounce Lorraine. I
will take you to supper with her afterwards; she will permit any friend
of mine entry, and then, generous man that I am, I shall have put you
_en chemin_ to sun yourself in her smiles and ingratiate yourself in her
favor. Don't give me too much credit for the virtue though, for I
confess I should like to see Richelieu supplanted."

"Does his reign threaten to last long, then?"

The Marquis shrugged his shoulders, and gave his badine an expressive
whisk.

"Dieu sait! we are not prophets in Paris. It would be as easy to say
where that weathercock may have veered to-morrow, as to predict where la
Dumarsais's love may have lighted ere a month! Where are you going, may
I ask?"

"To see Lucille de Verdreuil. I knew her at Lunéville; she and Madame de
Boufflers were warm friends till Stanislaus, I believe, found Lucille's
eyes lovelier than Madame la Marquise deemed fit, and then they
quarrelled, as women ever do, with virulence in exact proportion to the
ardor of their friendship."

"As the women quarrel at Choisy for _notre maître_! They will be friends
again when both have lost the game, like Louise de Mailly and the
Duchesse de Châteauroux. The poor Duchess! Fitz-James and Maurepas,
Châtillon and Bouillon, Rochefoucauld and le Père Pérussot, all
together, were too strong for her. All the gossip of that Metz affair
reached you across the water, I suppose? Those pests of Jesuits! if they
want him to be their Very Christian King, and to cure him of his worship
of Cupidon, they will have to pull down all the stones of La Muette and
the Parc aux Cerfs! What good is it to kill _one_ poor woman when women
are as plentiful as roses at Versailles? And now let me drive you to
Madame de Vaudreuil; if _she_ do not convert you from your fancy for
Lorraine this morning, Thargélie Dumarsais will to-night."

"_Mon zer zevalier, Paris at ado'able! Vous n'êtes pas sé'ieux en
voulant le quitter, z'en suis sûre!_" cried the Comtesse de Vaudreuil,
in the pretty lisp of the day, a charming little blonde, patched and
powdered, nestled in a chair before a fire of perfumed wood, teasing her
monkey Zulmé with a fan of Pater's, and giving a pretty little sign of
contempt and disbelief with some sprays of jessamine employed in the
chastisement of offenders more responsible and quite as audacious as
Zulmé.

Her companion, her "zer zevalier," was a young man of seven-and-twenty,
with a countenance frank, engaging, nobly cast, far more serious, far
more thoughtful in its expression, than was often seen in that laughing
and mocking age. Exiled when a mere boy for a satirical pamphlet which
had provoked the wrath of the Censeur Royal, and might have cost him the
Bastille but for intercession from Lunéville, he had passed his youth
less in pleasure than in those philosophical and political problems then
beginning to agitate a few minds; which were developed later on in the
"Encyclopédie," later still in the Assemblée Nationale. Voltaire and
Helvétius had spoken well of him at Madame de Geoffrin's; Claudine de
Tencin had introduced him the night before in her brilliant salons; the
veteran Fontenelle had said to him, "_Monsieur, comme censeur royal je
refusai mon approbation à votre brochure; comme homme libre je vous en
félicite_"--all that circle was prepared to receive him well, the young
Chevalier de Tallemont might make a felicitous season in Paris if he
chose, with the romance of his exile about him, and Madame de Vaudreuil
smiling kindly on him.

"The country!" she cried; "the country is all very charming in eclogues
and pastorals, but out of them it is a desert of ennui! What _can_ you
mean, Léon, by leaving Paris to-morrow? Ah, méchant, there must be
something we do not see, some love besides that of the Lorraine woods!"

"Madame, is there not my father?"

"_Bien zoli!_ But at your age men are not so filial. There is some other
reason--but what? Any love you had there five years ago has hardly any
attractions now. Five years! Ma foi, five months is an eternity that
kills the warmest passion!"

"May there not be some love, madame, that time only strengthens?"

"I never heard of it if there be. It would be a very dreary affair, I
should fancy, smouldering, smouldering on and on like an ill-lit fire.
Nobody would thank you for it, mon cher, _here_! Come, what is your
secret? Tell it me."

Léon de Tallemont smiled; the smile of a man who has happy thoughts, and
is indifferent to ridicule.

"Madame, one can refuse you nothing! My secret? It is a very simple one.
The greatest pang of my enforced exile was the parting from one I loved;
the greatest joy of my return is that I return to her."

"_Bon Dieu! comme c'est drôle!_ Here is a man talking to me of love, and
of a love not felt for _me_!" thought Madame la Comtesse, giving him a
soft glance of her beautiful blue eyes. "You are a very strange man.
You have lived out of France till you have grown wretchedly serious and
eccentric. Loved this woman for five years? Léon! Léon! you are telling
me a fairy tale. Who is she, this enchantress? She must have some
mysterious magic. Tell me--quick!"

"She is no enchantress, madame, and she has no magic save the simple one
of having ever been very dear to me. We grew up together at Grande
Charmille; she was the orphan niece of the Priest, a fond, innocent,
laughing child, fresh and fair, and as untouched by a breath of impure
air as any of the violets in the valley. She was scarcely out of the
years of childhood when I left her, with beauty whose sweetest grace of
all was its own unconsciousness. Through my five long years of exile I
have remembered Favette as I saw her last under the elm-boughs in the
summer light, her eyes dim with the tears of our parting, her young
heart heaving with its first grief. I have loved her too well for others
to have power to efface or to supplant her; of her only have I thought,
of her only have I dreamed, holding her but the dearer as the years grew
further from the hour of our separation, nearer to the hour of our
reunion. I have heard no word of her since we parted; but of what value
is love without trust and fidelity in trial? The beauty of her childhood
may have merged into the beauty of womanhood, but I fear no other change
in Favette. As we parted so we vowed to meet, and I believe in her love
as in my own. I know that I shall find my Lorraine violet without stain
or soil. Madame, Favette is still dearer to me now, Heaven help me, than
five years ago. Five years--five years--true! it _is_ an eternity! Yet
the bitterness of the past has faded for ever from me _now_, and I only
see--the future!"

Madame de Vaudreuil listened in silence; his words stirred in her chords
long untouched, never heard amidst the mots, the madrigals, the
laughter of her world of Paris, Versailles, and Choisy. She struck him a
little blow with her jessamine-sprays, with a mist gathering over her
lovely blue eyes.

"Hush, hush, Léon! you speak in a tongue unknown here. A word
of the heart amongst us sounds a word of a _Gaulois_ out of
fashion--forbidden!"


III.

MIDNIGHT.

The Français was crowded. Thargélie Dumarsais, great in _Electre_,
_Chimène_, _Inès_, as in "_Ninette à la Cour_," "_Les Moissonneurs_," or
"_Annette et Lubin_," was playing in "_Phèdre_." Louis Quinze was
present, with all the powdered marquises, the titled wits, the
glittering gentlemen of the Court of Versailles; but no presence stayed
the shout of adoration with which the parterre welcomed the idol of the
hour, and Louis le Bien-aimé (des femmes!) himself added his royal quota
to the ovation, and threw at her feet a diamond, superb as any in his
regalia. It was whispered that the Most Christian King was growing
envious of his favorite's favor with la Dumarsais, and would, ere long,
supersede him.

The foyer was filled with princes of the blood, marshals of France,
dukes, marquises, the élite of her troop of lovers; lords and gentlemen
crowded the passages, flinging their bouquets for her carpet as she
passed; and poor scholars, young poets, youths without a sou--amongst
them Diderot, Gilbert, Jean-Jacques Rousseau--pressed forward to catch a
glimpse, by the light of the links, of this beauty, on which only the
eyes of grands seigneurs who could dress Cupidon in a court habit
_parfilé d'or_ were allowed to gaze closely, as she left the Français,
after her unmatched and uninterrupted triumphs, and went to her
carriage with Richelieu. The suppers of Thargélie Dumarsais were
renowned through Paris; they equalled in magnificence the suppers of the
Regency, rivalled them for license, and surpassed them for wit. All the
world might flock to her fêtes where she undisguisedly sought to surpass
the lavishness of Versailles, even by having showers of silver flung
from her windows to the people in the streets below; but to her _soupers
à huis clos_ only a chosen few were admitted, and men would speak of
having supped with la Dumarsais as boastfully as women of having supped
with the King at Choisy.

"What you have lost in not seeing her play _Phèdre_! Helvétius would
have excused you; all the talk of his salons is not worth one glance at
la Dumarsais. Mon ami! you will be converted to Paris when once you have
seen her," said the Marquis de la Thorillière, as his carriage stopped
in the Chaussée d'Antin.

Léon de Tallemont laughed, and thought of the eyes that would brighten
at his glance, and the heart that would beat against his once more under
the vine shadows of Lorraine. No new magic, however seductive, should
have strength to shake his allegiance to that Memory, and, true to his
violet in Lorraine, he defied the Queen of the Foyer.

"We are late, but that is always a more pardonable fault than to be too
early," said the Marquis, as they were ushered across the vestibule,
through several salons, into the supper-room, hung with rich tapestries
of "Les Nymphes au Bain," "Diane Chasseresse," and "Apollon et Daphné;"
with gilded consoles, and rosewood buffets, enamelled with medallion
groups, and crowded with Sèvres and porcelaine de Saxe, while Venetian
mirrors at each end of the salle reflected the table, with its wines,
and fruits, and flowers, its gold dishes and Bohemian glass. The air was
heavily perfumed, and vibrating with laughter. The guests were
Richelieu, Bièvre, Saxe, D'Etissac, Montcrif, and lovely Marie Camargo,
the queen of the coulisses who introduced the "short skirts" of the
ballet, and upheld her innovation so stanchly amidst the outcries of
scandalized Jansenists and journalists. But even Marie Camargo herself
paled--and would have paled even had she been, what she was not, in the
first flush of her youth--before the superb beauty, the languid
voluptuousness, the sensuous grace, the southern eyes, the full lips,
like the open leaves of a damask rose, melting yet mocking, of the most
beautiful and most notorious woman of a day in which beauty and
notoriety were rife, the woman with the diamond of Louis Quinze
sparkling in the light upon her bosom, whom Versailles and Paris hailed
as Thargélie Dumarsais.

The air, scented with amber, rang with the gay echoes of a stanza of
Dorat's, chanted by Marie Camargo; the "Cupids and Bacchantes," painted
in the panels of Sèvres, seemed to laugh in sympathy with the revel over
which they presided; the light flashed on the King's diamond, to which
Richelieu pointed, with a wicked whisper; for the Marshal was getting
tired of his own reign, and his master might pay his court when he
would. Thargélie Dumarsais, more beautiful still at her _petit souper_
than at her _petit lever_, with her hair crowned with roses, true
flowers of Venus that might have crowned Aspasia, looked up laughingly
as her lacqueys ushered in le Marquis de la Thorillière and le Chevalier
de Tallemont.

"M. le Marquis," cried the actress, "you are late! It is an impertinence
forbidden at my court. I shall sup in future with barred doors, like M.
d'Orléans; then all you late-comers----"

Through the scented air, through the echoing laughter, stopping her own
words, broke a startled bitter cry:

"_Mon Dieu, c'est Favette!_"

Thargélie Dumarsais shrank back in her rose velvet fauteuil as though
the blow of a dagger had struck her; the color fled from her lips, and
underneath the delicate rouge on her cheeks; her hand trembled as it
grasped the King's aigrette.

"Favette--Favette! Who calls me that?"

It was a forgotten name, the name of a bygone life that fell on her ear
with a strange familiar chime, breaking in on the wit, the license, the
laughter of her midnight supper, as the subdued and mournful sound of
vesper bells might fall upon the wild refrains and noisy drinking-songs
of bacchanalian melody.

A surprised silence fell upon the group, the laughter hushed, the voices
stopped; it was a strange interruption for a midnight supper. Thargélie
Dumarsais involuntarily rose, her lips white, her eyes fixed, her hand
clasped convulsively on the King's diamond. A vague, speechless terror
held mastery over her, an awe she could not shake off had fastened upon
her, as though the dead had risen from their graves, and come thither to
rebuke her for the past forgotten, the innocence lost. The roses in her
hair, the flowers of revel, touched a cheek blanched as though she
beheld some unearthly thing, and the hand that lay on the royal jewel
shook and trembled.

"Favette? Favette?" she echoed again. "It is so many years since I heard
that name!"

Her guests sat silent still, comprehending nothing of this single name
which had such power to move and startle her. Richelieu alone, leaning
back in his chair, leisurely picked out one of his brandy-cherries, and
waited as a man waits for the next scene at a theatre:

"Is it an unexpected tragedy, or an arranged comedy, ma chère? Ought one
to cry or to laugh? Give me the _mot d'ordre_!"

His words broke the spell, and called Thargélie Dumarsais back to the
world about her. Actress by profession and by nature, she rallied with a
laugh, putting out her jewelled hand with a languid glance from her long
almond-shaped eyes.

"A friend of early years, my dear Duc, that is all. Ah, Monsieur de
Tallemont what a strange rencontre! When did you come to Paris? I
scarcely knew you at the first moment; you have so long been an exile,
one may pardonably be startled by your apparition, and take you for a
ghost! I suppose you never dreamed of meeting Favette Fontanie under my
_nom de théâtre_? Ah! how we change, do we not, Léon? Time is so short,
we have no time to stand still! Marie, ma chère, give Monsieur le
Chevalier a seat beside you--he cannot be happier placed!"

Léon de Tallemont heard not a word that she spoke; he stood like a man
stunned and paralyzed by a sudden and violent blow, his head bowed, a
mortal pallor changing his face to the hues of death, the features that
were a moment before bright, laughing, and careless, now set in mute and
rigid anguish.

"Favette! Favette!" he murmured, hoarsely, in the vague dreamy agony
with which a man calls wildly and futilely on the beloved dead to come
back to him from the silence and horror of the grave.

"Peste!" laughed Richelieu. "This cast-off lover seems a strange fellow!
Does he not know that absent people have never the presumption to dream
of keeping their places, but learn to give them graciously up!--shall I
teach him the lesson? If he have his sixteen quarterings, a prick of my
sword will soon punish his impudence!"

The jeer fell unheeded on Léon de Tallemont's ear; had he heard it, the
flippant sneer would have had no power to sting him then. Regardless of
the men around the supper-table, he grasped Thargélie Dumarsais's hands
in his:

"This is how we meet!"

She shrank away from his glance, terrified, she scarce knew why, at the
mute anguish upon his face.

Perhaps for a moment she realized how utterly she had abused the love
and wrecked the life of this man; perhaps with his voice came back to
her thronging thoughts of guileless days, memories ringing through the
haze of years, as distant chimes ring over the water from lands we have
quitted, reaching us when we have floated far away out to sea--memories
of an innocent and untroubled life, when she had watched the woodland
flowers open to the morning sun, and listened to the song of the brooks
murmuring over the violet roots, and heard the sweet evening song of the
birds rise to heaven under the deep vine shadows of Lorraine.

One moment she was silent, her eyes falling, troubled and guilty,
beneath his gaze; then she looked up, laughing gayly, and flashing on
him her languid lustrous glance.

"You look like a somnambulist, _mon ami_! Did nobody ever tell you,
then, how Mme. de la Vrillière carried me off from Lorraine, and brought
me in her train to Paris, till, when Favette Fontanie was tired of being
petted like the spaniel, the monkey, and the parrot, she broke away from
Madame la Marquise, and made, after a little probation at the Foire St.
Laurent, her appearance at the Français as Thargélie Dumarsais? _Allons
donc!_ have I lost my beauty, that you look at me thus? You should be
reminding me of the proverb, '_On revient toujours à ses premiers
amours!_' Surely, Thargélie Dumarsais will be as attractive to teach
such a lesson as that little peasant girl, Favette, used to be? Bah,
Léon! Can I not love you as well again in Paris as I once loved you at
Grande Charmille? And--who knows?--perhaps I will!"

She leaned towards him; her breath fanning his cheek, her scented hair
brushing his lips, her lustrous eyes meeting his with eloquent meaning,
her lips parted with the resistless witchery of that melting and
seductive _sourire d'amour_ to which they were so admirably trained. He
gazed down on her, breathless, silence-stricken--gazed down on the
sorceress beauty to which the innocent loveliness of his Lorraine flower
had changed. Was this woman, with the rouge upon her cheeks, the crimson
roses in her hair, the mocking light in her eyes, the wicked laugh on
her lips, the diamond glittering like a serpent's eye in her bosom--was
she the guileless child he had left weeping, on the broken steps of the
fountain, tears as pure as the dew in the violet-bells, with the summer
sunlight streaming round her, and no shade on her young brow darker than
the fleeting shadow flung from above by the vine-leaves? A cry broke
once more from his lips:

"Would to God I had died before to-night!"

Then he lifted his head, with a smile upon his face--a smile that
touched and vaguely terrified all those who saw it--the smile of a
breaking heart.

"I thank you for your proffered embraces, but _I_ am faithful. I love
but one, and I have lost her; Favette is dead! I know nothing of
Thargélie Dumarsais, the Courtesan."

He bowed low to her and left her--never to see her face again.

A silence fell on those he had quitted, even upon Richelieu; perhaps
even he realized that all beauty, faith, and joy were stricken from this
man's life; and--reality of feeling was an exile so universally banished
from the gay salons of the Dix-huitième Siècle, that its intrusion awed
them as by the unwonted presence of some ghostly visitant.

Thargélie Dumarsais sat silent--her thoughts had flown away once more
from her brilliant supper-chamber to the fountain at Grande Charmille:
she was seeing the dragon-flies flutter among the elm-boughs, and the
water ripple over the wild thyme; she was feeling the old priest's
good-night kiss upon her brow, and her own hymn rise and mingle with the
chant of the vesper choir; she was hearing the song of the forest-birds
echo in the Lorraine woods, and a fond voice whisper to her, "Fear not,
Favette!--we shall meet as we part!"

Richelieu took up his Dresden saucer of cherries once more with a burst
of laughter.

"_Voilà un drôle!_--this fellow takes things seriously. What fools there
are in this world! It will be a charming little story for Versailles.
Dieu! how Louis will laugh when I tell it him! I fear though, ma chérie,
that the 'friend of your childhood' will make you lose your reputation
by his impolite epithets!"

"When one has nothing, one can lose nothing--eh, ma chère?" laughed
Marie Camargo. "Monsieur le Duc, she does not hear us----"

"No, _l'infidèle_!" cried Richelieu. "Mademoiselle! I see plainly you
love this rude lover of bygone days better than you do us!--is it not
the truth?"

"Chut! nobody asks for truths in a polite age!" laughed Thargélie
Dumarsais, shaking off unwelcome memories once for all, and looking down
at the King's diamond gleaming in the light--the diamond that prophesied
to her the triumph of the King's love.

"Naturally," added La Camargo. "My friend, I shall die with envy of your
glorious jewel. _Dieu! comme il brille!_"



"DEADLY DASH."

A STORY TOLD ON THE OFF DAY.


On the off-day after the Derby everybody, except the great winners, is,
it will be generally admitted, the resigned prey to a certain gentle
sadness, not to say melancholy, that will only dissipate itself under a
prolonged regimen of S. and B., seidlitz well dashed with Amontillado,
or certain heavenly West Indian decoctions;--this indisposition, I would
suggest, we should call, delicately and dubiously, Epsomitis. It will
serve to describe innumerable forms and degrees of the reactionary
malady.

There is the severest shape of all, "dead money," that covers four
figures, dropped irretrievably, and lost to the "milkers;" lost always
_you_ say because of a cough, or because of a close finish, or because
of something dark, or because of a strain in the practising gallops, or
because of a couple of brutes that cannoned just at the start; and
never, of course, because the horse you had fancied was sheerly and
simply only fit for a plater. There is the second severe form, when you
awake with a cheerful expectation of a summons for driving "at twelve
miles an hour" (as if that wasn't moderate and discreet!), and for
thereby smashing a greengrocer's cart into the middle of next week, and
running a waggonette into an omnibus, as you came back from the Downs,
of which you have no more remembrance than that there was a crash, and
a smash, and a woman's screams, and a man's "d--n the swells!" and a
_tintamarre_ of roaring conductor and bellowing greengrocer, and
infuriated females, through which you dashed somehow with a cheer--more
shame for you--and a most inappropriate _l'Africaine_ chorus from the
men on your drag. There is the milder form, which is only the rueful
recollection of seeing, in a wild ecstasy, the chestnut with the white
blaze sweep with his superb stride to the front, and of having, in your
moment of rapturous gratitude to the red and blue, rushed,
unintentionally, during the discussion of Fortnum and Mason's hamper,
into a promise to take Euphrosyne Brown to Baden in August, where you
know very well she will cost you more than all your sums netted through
Gladiateur. There are the slenderer touches of the malady, which give
you, over your breakfast coffee, a certain dolorous meditation as to how
you could have been such a fool as to have placed all your trust in
Danebury, or to have put in a hole through Spring Cottage just what your
yacht costs for three months; which makes you wonder why on earth you
took that lot of actresses on to the hill, and threw money enough away
on them in those wages of idiotcy (or wages of sin, as your uncle the
dean would translate it), of cashmeres, eau de Cologne, gloves, and
bracelets, to have purchased those two weight-carriers offered you at
£600 the pair, and dirt-cheap at that; or which makes you only dully and
headachily conscious that you drank champagne up on the box-seat as if
you were a young fellow from Eton, and now pay for the juvenile folly,
as you know you deserve to do, when that beautiful white Burgundy at
your club, or your own cool perfect claret at home, seems to stare you
in the face and ask, "Why did you crack all those bottles of Dry on the
Downs?"

There are symptoms and varieties innumerable of the malady that I
propose shall be known henceforward as Epsomitis; therefore, the off-day
finds everybody more or less slightly done-up and mournful. Twenty-four
hours and the Oaks, if properly prepared for by a strictly medicinal
course of _brûles-gueules_, as the Chasseurs say, smoked perseveringly,
will bring all patients round on the Friday; but during the twenty-four
hours a sense that all on and off the course is vanity and vexation of
spirit will generally and somnolently predominate in the universal and
fashionable disease of Epsomitis.

One off-day, after the magnificent victory of Monarque's unrivalled son,
an acquaintance of mine, suffering considerably from these symptoms,
sought my philosophy and my prescriptions. A very sharp irritant for
Epsomitis may be administered in the form of "I told you so? It's all
your own fault!" But this species of blister and douche bath combined is
rarely given unless the patient be mad enough to let his wife, if he
unluckily have one, learn what ails him. As far as I was concerned, I
was much too sympathetic with the sufferer to be down upon him with the
triumphant reminder that I had cautioned him all along not to place his
trust in Russley. I, instead, prescribed him cool wines, and led him on
to talk of other people's misfortunes, the very best way to get
reconciled with your own. We talked of old times, of old memories, of
old acquaintance, in the twilight, between Derby and Oaks. We got a
little melancholy; too much champagne is always productive on the morrow
of a gently sentimental tinge, and a man is always inclined to look on
the world as a desert when he has the conviction that he himself has
been made a fool in it. Among other names, that of Deadly Dash came up
between us. What had become of him? I did not know; he did. He told me;
and I will tell it here, for the story is of the past now.

"Deadly Dash! What a shot he was! Never missed," said my friend, whose
own gun is known well enough at Hornsey-wood House; therewith falling
into a reverie, tinged with the Jacques-like gloom of Epsomitis in its
severest form, from which he awoke to tell me slowly, between long
draughts of iced drinks, what I write now. I alter his tale in nothing,
save in filling in with words the gaps and blanks that he made,
all-eloquent in his halting oratory, by meditative, plaintive,
moralizing puffs from his tonic, the _brûle gueule_, and an occasional
appeal to my imagination in the customary formula of "Oh, bother!--_you_
understand--all the rest of it you know," which, though it tells
everything over claret, is not so clear a mode of relation in type. For
all else here the story is as he gave it to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Deadly Dash!" It was a fatal sounding sobriquet, and had a fatal
fascination for many, for me as well as the rest, when I was in my salad
days and joined the old ----th, amongst whose Light Dragoons, it was so
signally and ominously famous. The nickname had a wide significance;
"_he always kills_," was said with twofold truth, in twofold meaning of
Dash; in a _barrière_ duel he would wheel lightly, aim carelessly, and
send the ball straight as any arrow through heart or lung, just as he
fancied, in the neatest style anybody could dream of; and in an intrigue
he took just the same measures, and hit as invariably with the self-same
skill and the self-same indifference. "He always kills" applied equally
to either kind of affair, and got him his sobriquet, which he received
with as laughing an equanimity as a riding man gets the Gilt Vase, or a
"lover of the leash" the Ravensworth Stakes, or the Puppy Cup and
Goblet. He was proud of it, and had only one regret, that he lived in
the dead days of the duel, and could only go out when he was on French
soil. In dare-devilry of every sort he out-Heroded Herod, and distanced
any who were mad enough to try the pace with him in that steeple-chase
commonly called "going to the bad." It was a miracle how often he used
to reach the stage of "_complete_ ruin" that the Prince de Soubise once
sighed for as an unattainable paradise; and picked himself up again,
without a hair turned, as one may say, and started off with as fresh a
pace as though nothing had knocked him over. Other men got his speed
sometimes; but nobody could ever equal his stay. For an "out and out
goer" there was nobody like Deadly Dash; and though only a Captain of
Horse, with few "expectations," he did what Dukes daren't have done, and
lived at a faster rate than all the elder sons in the kingdom put
together. Dash had the best bow and the brightest wits, the lightest
morals and the heaviest debts of any _sabreur_ in the Service; very
unscrupulous fellows were staggered at _his_ devil-me-care vices; and as
for reputation,--"a deuced pleasant fellow, Dash," they used to say at
the Curragh, in the Guards' Club, at Thatched House anniversary dinners,
in North Indian cantonments, in Brighton barrack-rooms, or in any of the
many places where Deadly Dash was a household word; "a very pleasant
fellow; no end 'fit' always, best fun in life over the olives when you
get him in humor; shoot you dead though next morning, if he want, and
you be handy for him in a neat snug little Bad; make some devil of a
_mot_ on you too afterwards, just as pleasantly as if he were offering
you a Lopez to smoke!"

Now, that was just the sort of celebrity that made me mad to see the
owner of it; there wasn't a living being, except that year's favorite
out of the Whitewall establishment, that I was half so eager to look at,
or so reverent when I thought of, as "the Killer." I was very young
then. I had gone through a classic course of yellow covers from Jeffs'
and Rolandi's, and I had a vague impression that a man who had had a
dozen _barrière_ affairs abroad, and been "_enfant_" to every lovely
_lionne_ of his day, must of necessity be like the heroes of Delphine
Demireps' novels, who had each of them always a "je ne sais quoi de
farouche et de fier dans ses grands yeux noirs, et toute la révélation
d'une ame usée, mais dominée par des passions encore inépuisables,
écrite sur son sombre et pale visage," &c, &c, in the Demireps' most
telling style.

I don't know quite what I expected to see in the Killer, but I think it
was a sort of compound of Monte Christo, Mephistopheles, and Murat mixed
in one; what I did see was a slight delicate man with a face as fair and
soft as a girl's, the gentlest possible manners, and a laugh like music.
Deadly Dash had led a life as bad as he could lead, had lit his cigar
without a tremor in the wrist, on many gray mornings, while his
adversary lay dying hard among the red rank grasses, had gamed so deep
twenty-four hours at a stretch that the most reckless _galérie_ in
Europe held their breath to watch his play; had had a tongue of silver
for his intrigues and a nerve of steel for his _vendetta_; had lived in
reckless rioting and drunk deep; but the Demirep would not have had him
at any price in her romance; he looked so simply and quietly
thorough-bred, he was so utterly guiltless of all her orthodox traits.
The gentlest of mortals was Deadly Dash; when you first heard his sweet
silvery voice, and his laughter as light and airy as a woman's, you
would never believe how often abroad there a dead man had been left to
get stiff and cold among the clotted herbage, while the Killer went out
of the town by the early express, smoking and reading the "Charivari,"
and sipping some cold Curaçoa punch out of his flask.

"Of course!" growled a man to me once in the Guards' smoking-room, an
order of the Scots Fusilleers to Montreal having turned him misanthrope.
"Did Mephistopheles ever come out in full harness, with horns and tail
complete, eh? Not such a fool. He looked like a gentleman, and talked
like a wit. Would the most dunder-headed Cain in Christendom, I should
be glad to know, be such an ass as to go about town with the brand on
his forehead, when he could turn down Bond Street any day and get a
dash of the ladies' pearl powder? Who ever _shows_ anything now, my good
fellow? Not that Dash 'paints,' to give the deuce his due--except
himself a little blacker even than he is; he don't cant; he couldn't
cant; not to save his life, I believe. But as to his bewitching you,
almost as bad as he does the women, I know all about that. I used to
swear by him till----"

"Till what?"

"Till he cut a brother of mine out with Rachel, and shot him in the
woods of Chantilly for flaring-up rough at the rivalry. Charlie was
rather a good fellow, and Dash and I didn't speak after that, you see.
Great bore; bosh too, perhaps. Dash brews the best Curaçoa punch in
Europe, and if he name you the winning mount for the Granby, you may let
the talent damn you as they like. Still you know as he killed
Charlie,--" and the Guardsman stuck a great cheroot in his mouth, in
doubt as to whether, after all, it wasn't humbug, and an uncalled-for
sacrifice, rather scenic and sentimental, to drop an expert at Curaçoa
brew, and a sure prophet for Croxton Park, just because in a legitimate
fashion he had potted your brother and relieved your entail;--on the
whole, a friendly act rather than otherwise? "Keep clear of the Killer,
though, young one," he added, as he sauntered out. "He's like that
cheetah cub of Berkeley's; soft as silk, you know, _patte de velours_,
and what d'ye call 'em, and all the rest of it, but deucedly deadly to
deal with."

I did know: it was the eternal refrain that was heard on all sides; from
the wily Jews through whose meshes he slipped; the unhappy duns who were
done by him; the beauties who were bewitched by him; the hosts and
husbands who, having him down for the pheasants, found him poach other
preserves than those of the cover-sides; the women who had their
characters shattered by a silvery sneer from a voice that was as soft,
in its murderous slander, as in its equally murderous wooing; and all
the rest, who, in some shape or another, owed ruin to that Apollo
Apollyon--Deadly Dash. Ruin which at last became so wide and so deep,
that even vice began to look virtuous when his name was mentioned (vice
always does when she thinks you are really cleared out), and men of his
own corps and his own club began to get shy of having the Killer's arm
linked in theirs too often down Pall Mall, for its wrist was terribly
steady in either Hazard, whether of the yard of green table or the
twenty yards of green turf.

At last the crisis came: the Killer killed one too many; a Russian
Prince in the Bois de Vincennes, in a quarrel about a pretty wretched
little chorus-singer of the Café Alcazar, who took their fancies both at
once. The _mondes_ thought it terribly wicked, not the deed you know,
but the audacity of a cavalry man's having potted a Very Serene High
Mightiness. In a Duke, all these crimes and crimcons, though as scarlet,
would have been held but the crimson gold-dotted fruit adorning the
strawberry-leaves; Deadly Dash, a Light Dragoon whose name was signed to
plenty of "floating little bills," could not bid high enough to purchase
his pardon from society, which says to its sinners with austere front of
virtue, "Oblivion cannot be hired,--unless," adds Society, dropping to
mellowest murmur her whisper, "unless you can give us a premium!" So
Dash, with a certain irresistible though private pressure upon him from
the Horse Guards--sent in his papers to sell. What had been done so
often could not now be done again; the first steeple-chaser in the
Service could not at last even save his stake, but was finally,
irretrievably, struck out.

Certainly the fellow was a bad fellow, and deserved his crash so far; he
had no scruples, and no conscience; he spared neither woman nor man; of
remorse he had never felt a twinge, and if you were in his path he would
pick you off some way or other as indifferently as if you were one of
the pigeons at Hornsey. And yet, he had been kind to me, though I was a
young one; with his own variable Free Lance sort of liberality, the man
would give his last sou to get you out of any difficulty, and would
carry off your mistress, or beggar you at chicken-hazard, with the
self-same pleasant air the next day: and I could not help being sorry
that things had come to this pass with him. He shot so superbly! Put him
where you would, in a warm corner while the bouquets of pheasants were
told off; in a punt, while a square half-mile of wild-ducks whirred up
from the marshes; in a dark forest alley in Transylvania, while the
great boar rushed down through the twilight, foaming blood and roaring
fury; in a still Indian night with the only target here and there a
dusky head diving amidst the jhow jungle three hundred yards away: put
him where you would, he was such a magnificent shot! The sins of a
Frankenstein should not have lost such a marksman as Deadly Dash to the
Service.

But the authorities thought otherwise; they were not open to the fact,
that the man who had been out in more _barrière_ affairs, and had won
more Grand Military stakes than any other, should, by all laws of
war-policy, have had his blackest transgressions forgiven him, till he
could have been turned to account against Ghoorkas, Maories, or Caffres.
The authorities instead, made him send in his papers, not knowing the
grand knack of turning a scamp into a hero--a process that requires some
genius and some clairvoyance in the manipulator,--and Deadly Dash, with
his lightest and airiest laugh, steamed down channel one late autumn
night, marked, disgraced, and outlawed, for creditors by the score were
after him, knowing very well that he and his old gay lawless life, and
his own wild pleasant world, and his old lands yonder in the green heart
of the grass countries that had gone rood by rood to the Hebrews, were
all divorced for ever with a great gulf between them that could never
close.

So he dropped out of the Service, out of the country, out of
remembrance, out of regret; nobody said a De Profundis over him, and
some men breathed the freer. We can rarely be sure of any who will be
sorry to miss us; but we can always be certain of some to be glad we are
gone. And in the Killer's case these last were legion. Here and there
were one or two who owed him a wayward, inconstant bizarre fit of
generosity; but there were on the other hand hundreds who owed him
nothing less than entire ruin.

So Deadly Dash went with nobody to regret him and nobody to think of him
for a second, after the nine hours' wonder in the clubs and the
mess-rooms that his levanting "under a cloud" occasioned; and so the old
sobriquet, that had used to have so signal a notoriety, dropped out of
men's mouths and was forgotten. Where he was gone no one knew; and to be
sure no one asked. Metaphorically, he was gone to the devil; and when a
man takes that little tour, if he furnish talk for a day he has had very
distinguished and lengthened obsequies as friendship goes in this world.
Now and then in the course of half-a-dozen years I remembered him, when
I looked up at the head of a Royal over my mantelpiece, with thirteen
points, that he had stalked once in Ayrshire and given to me; but nobody
else gave a thought to the Killer. Time passed, and whether he had been
killed fighting in Chili or Bolivia, shot himself at Homburg, become
Mussulman and entered the Sultan's army, gone to fight with the Kabyles
and Bedouins, turned brigand for the Neapolitan Bourbons, or sunk
downward by the old well-worn stage, so sadly and so often travelled,
into an adventurer living by the skill of his écarté and the dread
surety of his shot, we did not know; we did not care. When society has
given a man the sack, it matters uncommonly little whether he has given
himself a shroud.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seven or eight years after the name of Deadly Dash had ceased to be
heard among cavalry men, and quoted on all things "horsey," whether of
the flat or of the ridge and furrow, I was in the Confederate States, on
leave for a six months' tour there. It was after Lee's raid across the
border and the days of Gettysburgh. I had run the blockade in a
fast-built clipper, and pushed on at once into the heart of Virginia, to
be in the full heat of whatever should come on the cards; cutting the
cities rather, and keeping as much as I could to the camps and the
woods, for I wanted to see the real thing in the rough. In my relish for
adventure, however, I was a trifle, as it proved, too foolhardy.

Starting alone one day to cross the thirty miles or so that parted me
from the encampment of some Virginian Horse, with no other companions
than a very weedy-looking steel gray, and a brace of revolvers, I fairly
"lost tracks," and had not a notion of my way out of a wilderness of
morass and forest, all glowing with the scarlet and the green of the
Indian summer. Here and there were beautiful wild pools and lakes shut
in by dense vegetation, so dense, that at noon it was dark as twilight,
and great tablelands of rock jutted out black and rugged in places; but
chiefly as far as was to be seen stretched the deep entangled woodland,
with nothing else to break it, brooding quietly over square leagues of
swamp. The orioles were singing their sweetest, wildest music overhead;
sign of war there was none, save to be sure, now and then when I came on
a black, arid circle, where a few charred timbers showed where a hut had
been burnt down and deserted, or my horse shied and snorted uneasily,
and half stumbled over some shapeless log on the ground--a log that when
you looked closer was the swollen shattered body of a man who had died
hard, with the grasses wrenched up in his fingers that the ants had
eaten bare, and the hollows of his eyes staring open where the carrion
birds had plucked the eyeballs out. And near him there were sure to be,
half sunk in swamp, or cleaned to skeletons by the eagles and hawks,
five, or ten, or twenty more, lying nameless and unburied there, where
they had fallen in some scuffle with pickets, or some stray cavalry
skirmish, to be told off as "missing," and to be thought of no more.
These groups I came upon more than once rotting among the rich Virginian
soil, while the scarlet and purple weight of blossoming boughs swayed
above, and the bright insect life fluttered humming around them; they
were the only highway marks through the wooded wilderness.

So lonely was it mile after mile, and so little notion had I of either
the way in or the way out, that the _hallali!_ of a boar-hunt, or the
sweet mellow tongues of the hounds when they have found in the coverts
at home, were never brighter music to me than the sharp crack of rifles
and the long sullen roll of musketry as they suddenly broke the silence,
while I rode along, firing from the west that lay on my left. The gray,
used to powder, pointed his ears and quickened his pace. Though a weedy,
fiddle-headed beast, his speed was not bad, and I rattled him over the
ground, crashing through undergrowth and wading through pools, with all
my blood up at the tune of those ringing cheery shots; the roar growing
louder and louder with every moment, and the sulphur scent of the smoke
borne stronger and stronger down on the wind, till the horse broke
_pêle-mêle_ through a network of parasites; dashed downward along a
slope of dank herbage, slipping at every step, and with his hind legs
tucked under him; and shot, like a run-in for a race, on to a green
plateau, where the skirmish was going on in hot earnest.

A glance told me how the land lay. A handful of Southern troopers held
their own with tremendous difficulty against three divisions of Federal
infantry, whom they had unexpectedly encountered, as the latter were
marching across the plateau with some batteries of foot artillery,--the
odds were probably scarcely less than five to one. The Southerners were
fighting magnificently, as firm in their close square of four hundred as
the Consular Guard at Marengo, but so surrounded by the Northern host,
that they looked like a little island circled round by raging breakers.
Glancing down on the plain as my horse scoured and slid along the
incline, the nucleus of Southerners looked hopelessly lost amidst the
belching fire and pressing columns of the enemy. The whole was
surrounded and hidden by the whirling clouds of dust and smoke that
swirled above in a white heavy mist; but through this the sabres
flashed, the horses' heads reared, maddened and foam-covered, like so
many bas-reliefs of Bucephalus, the lean rifle-barrels glittered, and
for a moment I saw the Southern leader, steady as a rock in the centre,
hewing like a trooper right and left, and with a gray heron's feather
floating from his sombrero, a signal that seemed as well known and as
closely followed as the snowy plume of Murat.

To have looked on at this and not have taken a share in it, one would
have been a stone, not a man, and much less a cavalry-man; I need not
tell you that I smashed the gray across the plateau, hurled him into the
thick of the mêlée, dashed _somehow_ through the Federal ranks, and was
near the gray plume and fighting for the Old Dominion before you could
have shouted a stave of "Dixie." I was a "non-combatant," I was a
"neutral"--delicate Anglo-euphemism for coward, friend to neither and
traitor to both!--I was on a tour of observation, and had no business to
fire a shot for one or the other perhaps, but I forgot all that, and
with the bridle in my teeth and a pistol in each hand, I rode down to
give one blow the more for the weak side.

How superbly that Gray Feather fought!--keeping his men well up round
him, though saddle after saddle was emptied, and horse after horse tore
riderless out of the ranks, or reeled over on their heads, spurting
blood, he sat like a statue, he fought like a Titan, his sabre seemed
flashing unceasingly in the air, so often was it raised to come down
again like lightning through a sword-arm, or lay open a skull to the
brains; the shots ploughed up the earth round him, and rattled like hail
through the air, a score of balls were aimed at him alone, a score of
sabres crossed his own; but he was cool as St. Lawrence ice, and laid
the men dead in struggling heaps under his charger's hoofs; only to
fight near the man was a glorious intoxication; you seemed to "breathe
blood" till you got drunk with it.

The four hundred had been mowed down to two; I did as good work as I
could, having wrenched a sword out of some dead trooper's hand; but I
was only one, and the Northerners counted by thousands. Come out of it
alive I never expected to do; but I vow it was the happiest day of my
life--the pace was so splendidly fast! The Gray Feather at last glanced
anxiously around; his men stuck like death to him, ready to be hewed
down one by one, and die game; his teeth were set tight, and his eyes
had a flash in them like steel. "Charge! and cut through!" he shouted,
his voice rolling out like a clarion, giving an order that it seemed
could be followed by nothing short of supernatural aid. The Southrons
thought otherwise; they only heard to obey; they closed up as steadily
as though they were a squadron on parade, despite the great gaps between
them of dying chargers, and of heaped-up killed and wounded, that broke
their ranks like so much piled stones and timber; they halted a moment,
the murderous fire raking them right and left, front and rear; then,
with that dense mass of troops round them, they charged; shivered the
first line that wedged them in; pierced by sheer force of impetus the
columns that opened fire in their path; wrenched themselves through as
through the steel jaws of a trap, and swept out on to the green level of
the open plateau, with a wild rallying Virginian shout that rings in my
ears now!

I have been in a good many hot things in my time; but I never knew
anything that for pace and long odds could be anything near to that.

I had kept with them through the charge with no other scratch than a
shoulder cut; and I had been close to their chief through it all. When
we were clean out on the plains beyond pursuit--for the Union-men had
not a squadron of cavalry, though their guns at long range belched a
storm in our wake--he turned in his saddle without checking his mare's
thundering gallop, and levelled his rifle that was slung at his aide.
"I'll have the General, anyhow," he said, quietly taking aim--still
without checking his speed--at the knot of staff-officers that now were
scarce more than specks in a blurred mass of mist. He fired; and the
centre figure in that indistinct and fast-vanishing group fell from the
saddle, while the yell of fury that the wind faintly floated nearer told
us that the shot had been deadly. The Gray Feather laughed, a careless
airy laugh of triumph, while he swept on at topmost pace; a little more,
and we should dive down into the dark aisles of grand forest-trees and
cavernous ravines of timber roads, safe from all pursuit; a second, and
we should reach the green core of the safe and silent woods, the cool
shelter of mountain-backed lakes, the sure refuge of tangled coverts. It
was a guinea to a shilling that we gained it; it was all but won; a
moment's straight run-in, and we should have it! But that moment was not
to be ours.

Out of the narrow cleft of a valley on the left, all screened with
hanging tumbled foliage, and dark as death, there poured suddenly across
our front a dense body of Federal troopers and Horse Artillery, two
thousand strong at the least, full gallop, to join the main army. We
were surrounded in a second, in a second overpowered by sheer strength
of numbers; only two hundred of us, many sorely wounded, and on mounts
that were jaded and ridden out of all pace, let us fight as we would,
what could we do against fresh and picked soldiers, swarming down on us
like a swarm of hornets, while in our rear was the main body through
which we had just cut our way? That the little desperate band "died
hard," I need not say; but the vast weight of the fresh squadrons
pressed our little knot in as if between the jaws of a trap, crushing it
like grain between two iron weights. The Gray Feather fought like all
the Knights of the Round Table merged in one, till he streamed with
blood from head to foot, and his sabre was hacked and bent like an
ash-stick, as did a man near him, a tall superb Virginian, handsome as
any Vandyke or Velasquez picture. At last both the Gray Feather and he
went down, not by death--it would not come to them--but literally hurled
out of their stirrup-leathers by crowding scores who poured on them,
hamstrung or shot their horses, and made them themselves prisoners--not,
however, till the assailants lay heaped ten deep about their slaughtered
chargers. For myself, a blow from a sabre, a second afterwards, felled
me like so much wood. I saw a whirling blaze of sun, a confused circling
eddy of dizzy color, forked flames, and flashes of light, and I knew no
more, till I opened my eyes in a dark, square, unhealthy wooden chamber,
with a dreamy but settled conviction that I was dead, and in the family
vault, far away under the green old elms of Warwickshire, with the rooks
cawing above my head.

As the delusion dissipated and the mists cleared, I saw through the
uncertain light a face that was strangely but vaguely familiar to me,
connected somehow with incoherent memories of life at home, and yet
unknown to me. It was bronzed deeply, bearded, with flakes of gray among
the fairness of the hair, much aged, much worn, scarred and stained just
now with the blood of undressed wounds and the dust of the combat, for
there was no one merciful enough there to bring a stoup of water; it was
rougher, darker, sterner, and yet, with it all, nobler, too, than the
face that I had known. I lay and stared blankly at it: it was the face
of the Southern Leader of the morning, who sat now, on a pile of straw,
looking wearily out to the dying sun, one amongst a group of twenty,
prisoners all, like myself. I moved, and he turned his eyes on me; they
had laid me down there as a "gone 'coon," and were amazed to see me come
to life again. As our eyes met I knew him--he was Deadly Dash.

The old name left my lips with a shout as strong as a half-killed man
can give. It seemed so strange to meet him there, captives together in
the Unionists' hands! It struck him with a sharp shock. England and he
had been divorced so long. I saw the blood leap to his forehead, and the
light into his glance; then, with a single stride, he reached the straw
I lay on, holding my hands in his, looking on me with the kindly eyes
that had used to make me like the Killer, and greeting me with a warmth
that was only damped and darkened by regret that my battle done for fair
Virginia had laid me low, a prisoner with himself, and that we should
meet thus, in so sharp an hour of adversity, with nothing before us but
the Capitol, the Carroll prison, or worse. Yet thus we did meet once
more and I knew at last what had been the fate of Deadly Dash, whom
England had outlawed as a scoundrel, and the New World had found a hero.

Though suffering almost equally himself, he tended me with the
kindliest sympathy; he came out of his own care to ponder how possible
it might be to get me eventual freedom as a tourist and a mere
accidental sharer in the fray; he was interested to hear all that I
would tell him of my own affairs and of his old friends in England, but
of himself he would not speak; he simply said he had been fighting for
the Confederacy ever since the war had begun; and I saw that he strove
in vain to shake off a deep heart-broken gloom that seemed to have
settled on him, doubtless, as I thought, from the cruel defeat of the
noon, and the hopeless captivity into which he, the most restless and
the most daring soldier that oversaw service, was now flung.

I noticed, too, that every now and then while he sat beside me, talking
low--for there were sentinels both in and out the rude outhouse of the
farm that had been turned into our temporary prison--his eyes wandered
to the gallant Virginian who had been felled down with himself, and who,
covered like himself with blood and dust, and with his broken left arm
hanging shattered, lay on the bare earth in a far-off corner motionless
and silent, with his lips pressed tight under their long black
moustaches, and such a mute unutterable agony in his eyes as I never saw
in any human face, though I have seen deaths enough in the field and the
sick-ward. The rest of the Confederate captives were more ordinary men
(although from none was a single word of lament ever wrenched); but this
superb Virginian excited my interest, and I asked his name, in that sort
of languid curiosity at passing things which comes with weakness, of the
Killer, whose glance so incessantly wandered towards him.

"Stuart Lane," he answered, curtly, and added no more; but if I ever saw
in this world hatred, passionate, ungovernable, and intense, I saw it in
the Killer's look as his glance flashed once more on to the motionless
form of the handsomest, bravest, and most dauntless officer of his
gallant regiment that he had seen cut to pieces there on that accursed
plateau.

"A major of yours?" I asked him. "Ah, I thought so; he fought
magnificently. How wretched he looks, though he is too proud to show
it!"

"He is thinking of--of his bride. He married three weeks ago."

The words were simple enough, and spoken very quietly; but there was an
unsteadiness, as of great effort, over them; and the heel of his heavy
spurred jack-boot crashed into the dry mud with a grinding crush, as
though it trod terrible memories down. Was it a woman who was between
these two comrades in arms and companions in adversity? I wondered if it
were so, even in that moment of keen and heavy anxiety for us all, as I
looked at the face that bent very kindly over the straw to which a shot
in the knee and a deep though not dangerous shoulder-wound bound me. It
was very different to the face of eight or nine years before--browner,
harder, graver far; and yet there was a look as if "sorrow had passed by
there," and swept the old heartlessness and gay callousness away,
burning them out in its fires.

Silence fell over us in that wretched outshed where we were huddled
together. I was hot with incipient fever, and growing light-headed
enough, though I knew what passed before me, to speak to Dash once or
twice in a dreamy idea that we were in the Shires watching the run-in
for the "Soldiers' Blue Riband." The minutes dragged very drearily as
the day wore itself away. There were the sullen monotonous tramp of the
sentinels to and fro, and, from without, the neighing of horses, the
bugle calls, the roll of the drums, the challenge of outposts--all the
varied, endless sounds of a camp; for the farmhouse in whose shed we
were thrown was the head-quarters _pro tem_. of the Federal General who
commanded the Divisions that had cost the Killer's handful of Horse so
fearfully dear. We were prisoners, and escape was impossible. All arms
of course had been removed from us; most, like myself, were too disabled
by wounds to have been able to avail ourselves of escape had it been
possible; and the guard was doubled both in and out the shed; there was
nothing before any of us but the certainty of imprisonment in all its
horrors in some far-off fortress or obscure jail. There was the possible
chance that, since certain officers on whom the Northerners set great
store had lately fallen into Southern hands, an exchange might be
effected; yet, on the other side, graver apprehensions still existed,
since we knew that the General into whose camp we had been brought had
proclaimed his deliberate purpose of shooting the three next
Secessionist officers who fell into his power, in requital for three of
his own officers who had been shot, or were said to have been shot, by a
Southern raider. We knew very well that, the threat made, it would be
executed; and each of us, as the sun sank gradually down through the hot
skies that were purple and stormy after the burning day, knew, too, that
it might never rise again to greet our sight. None of us would have
heeded whether a ball would hit or miss us in the open, in a fair fight,
in a man-to-man struggle; but the boldest and most careless amidst us
felt it very bitter to die like dogs, to die as prisoners.

Even Deadly Dash, coolest, most hardened, most devil-may-care of
soldiers and of sinners, sat with his gaze fastened on the slowly
sinking light in the west with the shadow of a great pain upon his face,
while every now and then his glance wandered to Stuart Lane, and a
quick, irrepressible shudder shook him whenever it did so. The Virginian
never moved; no sign of any sort escaped him; but the passionate misery
that looked out of his eyes I never saw equalled, except, perhaps, in
the eyes of a stag that I once shot in Wallachia, and that looked up
with just such a look before it died. He was thinking, no doubt, of the
woman he loved--wooed amidst danger, won amidst calamity, scarcely
possessed ere lost for ever;--thinking of her proud beauty, of her
bridal caress, that would never again touch his lips, of her fair life
that would perish with the destruction of his.

Exhaustion from the loss of blood made everything pass dreamily, and yet
with extraordinary clearness, before me, I felt in a wakening dream, and
had no sense whatever of actual existence, and yet the whole scene was
so intensely vital and vivid to me, that it seemed burned into my very
brain itself. It was like the phantasmagoria of delirium, utterly
impalpable, but yet intensely real. I had no power to act or resist, but
I seemed to have ten times redoubled power to see and hear and feel; I
was aware of all that passed, with a hundredfold more susceptibility to
it than I ever felt in health. I remember a total impossibility that
came on me to decide whether I was dreaming or was actually awake.
Twilight fell, night came; there was a change of sentries, and a light,
set up in a bottle, shed a flickering, feeble, yellow gleam over the
interior of the shed, on the dark Rembrandt faces of the Southerners and
on the steel of the guards' bayonets. And I recollect that the Killer,
who sat by the tossed straw on which they had flung me, laughed the old,
low, sweet, half-insolent laugh that I had known so well in early days.
"_Il faut souffrir pour être beau!_ We are picturesque, at any rate,
quite Salvatoresque! Little Dickey would make a good thing of us if he
could paint us now. He is alive, I suppose?"

I answered him I believe in the affirmative; but the name of that little
Bohemian of the Brush, who had used to be our butt and _protégé_ in
England, added a haze the more to my senses. By this time I had
difficulty to hold together the thread of how, and when, and why I had
thus met again the face that looked out on me so strangely familiarly in
the dull, sickly trembling of the feeble light of this black, noisome
shed in the heart of Federal Divisions.

Through that haze I heard the challenge of the sentries; I saw a soldier
prod with his bayonet a young lad who had fainted from hæmorrhage, and
whom he swore at for shamming. I was conscious of the entrance of a
group of officers, whom I knew afterwards to be the Northern General and
his staff, who came to look at their captives. I knew, but only dreamily
still, that these men were the holders of our fate, and would decide on
it then and there. I felt a listless indifference, utter and opium-like,
as to what became of me, and I remember that Stuart Lane, and Dash
himself, rose together, and stood looking with a serene and haughty
disdain down on the conquerors who held their lives in the
balance--without a trace of pain upon their faces now. I remember how
like they looked to stags that turn at bay; like the stags, outnumbered,
hunted down, with the blood of open wounds and the dust of the long
chase on them; but, like the deer, too, uncowed, and game to the finish.

Very soon their doom was given. Seven were to be sent back with a flag
of truce to be exchanged for the seven Federal officers they wanted out
of the Southerners' hands, ten were to be transmitted to the prisons of
the North,--three were to be shot at day-dawn in the reprisal before
named. The chances of life and of death were to be drawn for by lottery,
and at once.

Not a sound escaped the Virginians, and not a muscle of their English
Leader's face moved: the prisoners, to a man, heard impassively, with a
grave and silent dignity, that they were to throw the die in hazard,
with death for the croupier and life for the stake.

The General and his staff waited to amuse themselves with personally
watching the turns of this new _Rouge et Noir_; gambling in lives was a
little refreshing change that sultry, dreary, dun-colored night, camped
amongst burnt-out farms and wasted corn-lands.

Slips of paper, with "exchange," "death," and "imprisonment" written on
them in the numbers needed, were made ready, rolled up, and tossed into
an empty canteen; each man was required to come forward and draw, I
alone excepted because I was an officer of the British Army. I remember
passionately arguing that they had no right to exempt me, since I had
been in the fray, and had killed three men on my own hook, and would
have killed thirty more had I had the chance; but I was perhaps
incoherent in the fever that was fast seizing all my limbs from the rack
of undressed wounds; at any rate, the Northerners took no heed, save to
force me into silence, and the drawing began. As long as I live I shall
see that night in remembrance with hideous distinctness: the low
blackened shed with its foetid odors from the cattle lately foddered
there; the yellow light flaring dully here and there; the glisten of the
cruel rifles; the heaps of straw and hay soaked with clotted blood; the
group of Union Officers standing near the doorway; and the war-worn
indomitable faces of the Southerners, with the fairer head and slighter
form of their English chief standing out slightly in front of all.

The Conscription of Death commenced; a Federal private took the paper
from each man as he drew it, and read the word of destiny aloud. Not one
amongst them faltered or paused one moment; each went,--even those most
exhausted, most in agony,--with a calm and steady step, as they would
have marched up to take the Flag of the Stars and Bars from Lee or
Longstreet. Not one waited a second's breath before he plunged his hand
into the fatal lottery.

Deadly Dash was the first called: there was not one shadow of anxiety
upon his face; it was calm without effort, careless without bravado,
simply, entirely indifferent. They took his paper and read the words of
safety and of life--"Exchange." Then, for one instant, a glory of hope
flashed like the sun into his eyes--to die the next; die utterly.

Three followed him, and they all drew the fiat for detention; the fifth
called was Stuart Lane.

Let him have suffered as he would, he gave no sign of it now; he
approached with his firm, bold cavalry step, and his head haughtily
lifted; the proud, fiery, dauntless Cavalier of ideal and of romance.
Without a tremor in his wrist he drew his paper out and gave it.

One word alone fell distinct on the silence like the hiss of a shot
through the night--"_Death!_"

He bowed his head slightly as if in assent, and stepped backward--still
without a sign.

His English chief gave him one look,--it was that of merciless
exultation, of brutal joy, of dark, Cain-like, murderous hate; but it
passed, passed quickly: Dash's head sank on his chest, and on his face
there was the shadow, I think, of a terrible struggle--the shadow, I
know, of a great remorse. He strove with his longing greed for this
man's destruction; he knew that he thirsted _to see him die_.

The Virginian stood erect and silent: a single night and the strong and
gallant life, the ardent passions, the chivalrous courage to do and
dare, and the love that was in its first fond hours would all be
quenched in him as though they had never been; but he was a soldier, and
he gave no sign that his death-warrant was not as dear to him as his
bridal-night had been. Even his conquerors cast one glance of admiration
on him; it was only his leader who felt for him no pang of reverence and
pity.

The lottery continued; the hazard was played out; life and death were
scattered at reckless chance amidst the twenty who were the playthings
of that awful gaming; all had been done in perfect silence on the part
of the condemned; not one seemed to think or to feel for himself, and
in those who were sent out to their grave not a grudge lingered against
their comrades of happier fortune. Deadly Dash, whose fate was release,
alone stood with his head sunk, thoughtful and weary.

The three condemned to execution were remanded to separate and solitary
confinement, treated already as felons for that one short night which
alone remained to them. As his guards removed him, Stuart Lane paused
slightly, and signed to his chief to approach him; he held out his hand
to Dash, and his voice was very low, though it came to my ear where they
stood beside me: "We were rivals once, but we may be friends _now_. As
you have loved her, be pitiful to her when you tell her of my
death,--God knows it may be hers! As you have loved her, feel what it is
to die without one last look on her face!"

Then, and then only, his bronze cheek grew white as a woman's, and his
whole frame shook with one great silent sob; his guard forced him on,
and his listener had made him no promise, no farewell; neither had he
taken his hand. He had heard in silence, with a dark and evil gloom
alone upon him.

The Federal General sharply summoned him from his musing, as the chief
of those to be exchanged on the morrow under a white flag of parley;
there were matters to be stated to and to be arranged with him.

"I will only see you alone, General," he answered curtly.

The Northerner stared startled, and casting a glance over the
redoubtable leader of horse, whose gray feather had become known and
dreaded, thought of possible assassination. Deadly Dash laughed his old
light, ironic, contemptuous laugh.

"A wounded unarmed man can scarcely kill you! Have as many of your
staff about you as you please, but let none of my Virginians be present
at our interview."

The Northerners thought he intended to desert to them, or betray some
movement of importance, and assented; and he went out with them from the
cattle-shed into the hot, stormy night, and the Southerners who were
condemned to death and detention looked after him with a long, wistful,
dog-like look. They had been with him in so many spirit-stirring days
and nights of peril, and they knew that never would they meet again. He
had not given one of them a word of adieu; he had killed too many to be
touched by his soldiers' loss. Who could expect pity from Deadly Dash?

An hour passed; I was removed under a guard to a somewhat better lodging
in the granary, where a surgeon hastily dressed my wounds, and left me
on a rough pallet with a jug of water at my side, and the sentinel for
my only watcher, bidding me "sleep." Sleep! I could not have slept for
my ransom. Though life had hardened me, and made me sometimes, as I
fear, callous enough, I could not forget those who were to die when the
sun rose; specially, I could not forget that gallant Virginian to whom
life was so precious, yet who gave himself with so calm a fortitude to
his fate. The rivalry, I thought, must be deep and cruel, to make the
man from whom he had won what they both loved turn from him in hatred,
even in such extremity as his. On the brink of a comrade's grave, feud
might surely have been forgotten?

All that had just passed was reeling deliriously through my brain, and I
was panting in the sheer irritation and exhaustion of gunshot wounds,
when through the gloom Dash entered the granary, closely guarded, but
allowed to be with me on account of our common country. Never was I more
thankful to see a familiar face from home than to see his through the
long watches of that burning, heavy, interminable night. He refused to
rest; he sat by me, tending me as gently as a woman, though he was
suffering acutely himself from the injuries received in the course of
the day; he watched me unweariedly, though often and often his gaze and
his thoughts wandered far from me, as he looked out through the open
granary door, past the form of the sentinel, out to the starry solemn
skies, the deep woods, and the dark silent land over which the stars
were brooding, large and clear.

Was he thinking of the Virginian whose life would die out for ever, with
the fading of those stars, or of the woman whom he had lost, whose love
was the doomed soldier's, and would never be his own, though the grave
closed over his rival with the morrow's sun? Dreamily, half
unconsciously, in the excitement of fever, I asked him of her of whom I
knew nothing:

"Did you love that woman so well?"

His eyes were still fixed on the distant darkening skies, and he
answered quietly, as though rather to his own thoughts than my
words,--"Yes: I love her--as I never loved in that old life in England;
as we never love but once, I think."

"And she?"

"And she--has but one thought in the world--_him_."

His voice, as he answered, now grated with dull, dragging misery over
the words.

"Had she so much beauty that she touched you like this?"

He smiled slightly, a faint, mournful smile, unutterably sad.

"Yes; she is very lovely, but her beauty is the least rare charm. She is
a woman for whom a man would live his greatest, and if he cannot live
for her--may--die."

The utterance was very slow, and seemed to lie on me like a hand on my
lips compelling me to silence; he had forgotten all, except his memory
of her, and where he sat with his eyes fixed outward on the drifting
clouds that floated across the stars, I saw his lips quiver once, and I
heard him murmur half aloud: "My darling! My darling! You will know how
I loved you _then_----"

And the silence was never broken between us, but he sat motionless thus
all the hours through, looking out at the deep still woods, and the
serene and lustrous skies, till the first beams of the sun shone over
the hills in the east, and I shuddered, where I lay, at its light;--for
I knew it was the signal of death.

Then he arose, and bent towards me, and the kindly eyes of old looked
down on mine.

"Dear old fellow, the General expects me at dawn. I must leave you just
now; say good-bye."

His hand closed on mine, he looked on me one moment longer, a little
lingeringly, a little wistfully, then he turned and went out with his
guard; went out into the young day that was just breaking on the world.

I watched his shadow as it faded, and I saw that the sun had risen
wholly; and I thought of those who were to die with the morning light.

All was very calm for a while; then the beat of a drum rolled through
the quiet of the dawn, and the measured tramp of armed men sounded
audibly; my heart stood still, my lips felt parched,--I knew the errand
of that column marching so slowly across the parched turf. A little
while longer yet, and I heard the sharp ring of the ramrods being
withdrawn, and the dull echo of the charge being rammed down: with a
single leap, as though the bullets were through me, I sprang, weak as I
was, from my wretched pallet, and staggered to the open doorway, leaning
there against the entrance powerless and spell-bound. I saw the file of
soldiers loading; I saw the empty coffin-shells; I saw three men
standing bound, their forms distinct against the clear, bright haze of
morning, and the fresh foliage of the woods. Two of them were
Virginians, but the third was not Stuart Lane With a great cry I sprang
forward, but the guards seized my arms and held me, helpless as a woman,
in their gripe. He whom we had called Deadly Dash heard, and looked up
and smiled. His face was tranquil and full of light, as though the pure
peace of the day shone there.

The gripe of the sentinels held me as if in fetters of iron; the world
seemed to rock and reel under me, a sea of blood seemed eddying before
my eyes; the young day was dawning, and murder was done in its early
hours, and I was held there to look on,--its witness, yet powerless to
arrest it! I heard the formula--so hideous then!--"Make
ready!"--"Present!"--"Fire!" I saw the long line of steel tubes belch
out their smoke and flame. I heard the sullen echo of the report roll
down from the mountains above. When the mist cleared away, the three
figures stood no longer clear against the sunlight; they had fallen.

With the mad violence of desperation I wrenched myself from my guards,
and staggered to him where he lay; he was not quite dead yet; the balls
had passed through his lungs, but he breathed still; his eyes were
unclosed, and the gleam of a last farewell came in them. He smiled
slightly, faintly once more.

"She will know how I loved her now. Tell her I died for her," he said
softly, while his gaze looked upwards to the golden sun-rays rising in
the east.

And with these words life passed away, the smile still lingering gently
on his lips;--and I knew no more, for I fell like a man stunned down by
him where he was stretched beside the grave that they had hewn for him
ere he was yet dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

I knew when I saw him there, as well as I knew by detail long after,
that he had offered his life for Stuart Lane's, and that it had been
accepted; the Virginian, ignorant of the sacrifice made for him, had
been sent to the Southern lines during the night, told by the
Northerners that he was pardoned on his parole to return in his stead a
distinguished Federal officer lately captured by him. He knew nothing,
dreamt nothing, of the exchange by which his life was given back to the
woman who loved him, when his English Leader died in his place as the
sun rose over the fresh summer world, never again to rise for those
whose death-shot rang sullen and shrill through its silence.

So Deadly Dash died, and his grave is nameless and unknown there under
the shadow of the great Virginian forests. He was outlawed, condemned,
exiled, and the world would see no good in him; sins were on him
heavily, and vices lay darkly at his door; but when I think of that
grave in the South where the grass grows so rankly now, and only the
wild deer pauses, I doubt if there was not that in him which may well
shame the best amongst us. We never knew him justly till he perished
there.

       *       *       *       *       *

And my friend who told me this said no more, but took up his
_brûle-gueule_ regretfully. The story is given as he gave it, and the
States could whisper from the depths of their silent woods many tales of
sacrifice as generous, of fortitude as great. That when he had related
it he was something ashamed of having felt it so much, is true; and you
must refer the unusual weakness, as he did, to the fact that he told it
on the off-day of the Derby, after having put a cracker on Wild Charley.
A sufficient apology for any number of frailties!



THE GENERAL'S MATCH-MAKING·

OR,

COACHES AND COUSINSHIP.


Where the devil shall I go this Long? Paris is too hot; the inside of my
adorable Château des Fleurs would give one a lively idea of the feelings
of eels in a frying-pan. Rome's only fit to melt down puffy cardinals,
as jocks set themselves before the kitchen fire preparatory to the
Spring Meetings. In Switzerland there's nothing fit to eat. Spain might
be the ticket--the Andalusians are a good-looking lot, but they haven't
a notion of beer. Scotland I daren't enter, because I know I should get
married under their rascally laws. I'd go to the Bads, but the V. P.'s
fillies say they mean to do 'em this summer, and I won't risk meeting
them if I know it; the baits they set to catch the unsuspecting are
quite frightful. Where the devil _shall_ I go?

So spoke Sydenham Morton, whilom Captain of Eton, now, in due course,
having passed up to Kings, discussing ham-pie and audit, devils and
coffee, while the June sun streamed through the large oriel windows.

"_To_ the devil, I fear, if you only find your proper fraternity," said
a man, coming in. Oak was never sported by Sydie, except when he was
rattling certain little squares of ivory in boxes lined with green felt.

"Ah, Mr. Keane, is that you? Come in."

The permission was needless, insomuch as Keane was already in and down
on a rocking-chair.

"One o'clock, and only just begun your breakfast! I have finished more
than half my day's work."

"I dare say," answered Sydie; "but one shining light like you,
monseigneur, is enough for a college. Why should I exert myself? I swore
I hadn't four marks a year, and I've my fellowship for telling the
furbelow. We all go in for the dolce here except you, and you're such a
patent machine for turning out Q. E. D.s by the dozen, that you can no
more help working than the bed-maker can help taking my tea and saying
the cat did it, and 'May she never be forgiven if she ever so much as
looked at that there blessed lock.' I say, find a Q. E. D. for me, to
the most vexatious problem, where I'm to go this Long?"

"Go a quiet reading tour; mark out a regular plan, and travel somewhere
rugged and lonely, with not a crinoline, or a trout-stream, or a pack of
hounds within a hundred miles; the middle of Stonehenge, for example, or
with the lighthouse men out at the Smalls or Eddystone. You'd do wonders
when you came back, Sydie."

Sydie shook his head and puffed gravely at his pipe.

"Thank you, sir. Cramming's not my line. As for history, I don't see
anything particularly interesting in the blackguardisms of men all dust
and ashes and gelatine now; if I were the Prince of Wales, I might think
it my duty to inquire into the characters of my grandfathers; but not
being that individual, I find the Derby list much more suited to my
genius. As for the classics, they won't help me to ask for my dinner at
Tortoni's, nor to ingratiate myself with the women at the Maison Dorée;
and I prefer following Ovid's counsels, and enjoying the Falernian of
life represented in these days by milk-punch, to plodding through the De
Officiis. As for mathematics, it _may_ be something very grand to draw
triangles and circles till A meets B because C is as long as D; but I
know, when I did the same operation in chalk when I was a small actor
on the nursery floor, my nurse (who might have gone along with the
barbarian who stuck Archimedes) called me an idle brat. Well, I say,
about the Long? Where are _you_ going, most grave and reverent
seignior?"

"Where there are no impertinent boys, if there be such a paradise on
earth," rejoined Keane, lighting his pipe. "I go to my moor, of course,
for the 12th, but until then I haven't made up my mind. I think I shall
scamper over South America; I want freshening up, and I've a great fancy
to see those buried cities, not to mention a chance of buffalo hunting."

"Travelling's such a bore," interrupted Sydie, stretching himself out
like an india-rubber tube. "Talk of the cherub that's always sitting up
aloft to watch over poor Jack, there are always ten thousand demons
watching over the life of any luckless Æothen; there are the
custom-house men, whose natural prey he becomes, and the hotel-keepers,
who fasten on him to suck his life-blood, and there are the mosquitoes,
and other things less minute but not less agonizing; and there are
guides and muleteers, and waiters and ciceroni--oh, hang it!
travelling's a dreadful bore, if it were only for the inevitable widow
with four daughters whom you've danced with once at a charity ball, who
rushes up to you on the Boulevards or a Rhine steamer, and tacks herself
on to you, and whom it's well for you if you can shake off when you
scatter the dust of the city from the sole of your foot."

"You can't chatter, can you?"

"Yes; my frænum was happily cut when I was a baby. Fancy what a loss the
world would have endured if it hadn't been!" said Sydie, lazily shutting
his half-closed blue eyes. "I say, the governor has been bothering my
life out to go down to St. Crucis; he's an old brick, you know, and has
the primest dry in the kingdom. I wish you'd come, will you? There's
capital fishing and cricketing, and you'd keep me company. Do. You shall
have the best mount in the kingdom, and the General will do you no end
of good on Hippocrate's rule--contrarieties cure contrarieties."

"I'll think about it; but you know I prefer solitude generally;
misanthropical, I admit, but decidedly lucky for me, as my companions
through life will always be my ink-stand, my terrier, and my papers. I
have never wished for any other yet, and I hope I never shall. Are you
going to smoke and drink audit on that sofa all day?"

"No," answered Sydie, "I'm going to take a turn at beer and Brown's for
a change. Well, I shall take you down with me on Tuesday, sir, so that's
settled."

Keane laughed, and after some few words on the business that had brought
him thither, went across the quad to his own rooms to plunge into the
intricacies of Fourrier and Laplace, or give the vigor of his brain to
stuffing some young goose's empty head, or cramming some idle young dog
with ballast enough to carry him through the shoals and quicksands of
his Greats.

Gerald Keane was a mathematical Coach, and had taken high honors--a rare
thing for a Kingsman to do, for are they not, by their own confession,
the laziest disciples of the dolce in the whole of Granta, invariably
bumped and caught out, and from sheer idleness letting other men beat
Lord's and shame the Oxford Eleven, and graduate with Double Firsts,
while they lie perdus in the shades of Holy Henry? Keane, however, was
the one exception to the rule. He was dreadfully wild, as ladies say,
for his first term or two, though equally eloquent at the Union; then
his family exulting in the accuracies of their prophecies regarding his
worthlessness, and somebody else daring him to go in for honors, his
pluck was put up, and he set himself to work to show them all what he
could do if he chose. Once roused to put out his powers, he liked using
them; the bother of the training over, it is no trouble to keep place as
stroke-oar; and now men pointed him out in the Senate House, and at the
Senior Fellows' table, and he bid fair to rank with the writer on Jasher
and the author of the Inductive Sciences.

People called him very cold. It was popularly averred that he had no
more feeling than Roubilliac's or Thorwaldsen's statues; but as he was a
great favorite with the under-grads, and always good-natured to them,
there were a few men who doubted the theory, though _he_ never tried to
refute or dispute it.

Of all the young fellows, the one Keane liked the best, and to whom he
was kindest, was Sydenham Morton--Sydie to everybody in Granta, from the
little fleuriste opposite in King's Parade, to the V. P.'s wife, who
petted him because his uncle was a millionnaire--the dearest fellow in
the world, according to all the Cambridge young ladies--the darling of
all the milliner and confectioner girls in Trumpington Street and Petty
Cury--the best chap going among the kindred spirits, who got gated, and
lectured, and rusticated for skying over to Newmarket, or pommelling
bargees, or taking a lark over at Cherryhinton--the best-dressed,
fastest, and most charming of Cantabs, as he himself would gravely
assure you.

They were totally dissimilar, and far asunder in position; but an affair
on the slope of the Matterhorn, when the boy had saved the elder man's
life, had riveted attachment between them, and bridged over the
difference of their academical rank.

The Commencement came and went, with its speeches, and its H.R.H.
Chancellor, and its pretty women gliding among the elms of Neville's
Court (poor Leslie Ellis's daily haunt), filling the grim benches of the
Senate House, and flitting past the carved benches of King's Chapel.
Granta was henceforth a desert to all Cambridge belles; they could walk
down Trumpington Street without meeting a score of little straw hats,
and Trumpington Street became as odious as Sahara; the "darling Backs"
were free to them, and, of course, they who, by all relations, from
those of Genesis to those of Vanity Fair, have never cared, save for
_fruit défendu_, saw nothing to admire in the trees, and grass, and
river, minus outriggers and collegians. There was a general exodus:
Masters' red hoods, Fellows Commoners' gold-lace, Fellows' gown and
mortar boards, morning chapel surplices, and under-grads' straw-hats and
cutaway coats, all vanished from court and library, street and cloister.
Cambridge was empty; the married Dons and their families went off to
country-houses or Rhine steamers; Fellows went touring with views to
mediæval architecture, Roman remains, Greek inscriptions, Paris laisser
aller, or Norwegian fishing, according to their tastes and habits;
under-grads scattered themselves over the face of the globe, and were to
be found in knots of two or three calling for stout in Véfour's, kicking
up a row with Austrian gendarmerie, chalking up effigies of Bomba on
Italian walls, striding up every mountain from Skiddaw to the Pic du
Midi, burrowing like rabbits in a warren for reading purposes on
Dartmoor, kissing sunny-haired Gretchens in German hostelries, swinging
through the Vaterland with knapsacks and sticks, doing a walking
tour--in fact, swarming everywhere with their impossible French and
hearty voices, and lithe English muscle, Granta marked on them as
distinctly as an M.B. waistcoat marks an Anglican, or utter ignorance of
modern politics a "great classic."

Cambridge had emptied itself of the scores of naughty boys that lie in
the arms of Mater, and on Tuesday Keane and Sydie were shaking and
rattling over those dreadful nervous Eastern Counties tenders, through
that picturesque and beautiful country that does permutations with such
laudable perseverance on pollards, fens, and flats--flats, fens, and
pollards--at the snail's pace that, according to the E.G.R., we must
believe to be "express."

"I wrote and told the governor you were coming down with me, sir," said
Sydie, hanging up his hat. "I didn't tell him what a trouble I had to
make you throw over South America for a fortnight, and come and taste
his curry at the Beeches. You'll like the old boy; he's as hot and
choleric, and as genial and good-hearted, as any old brick that ever
walked. He was born as sweet-tempered and soft-mouthed as mamma when an
eldest son waltzes twice with Adeliza, and the pepper's been put into
him by the curry-powder, the gentlemanlike transportation, and the
unlimited command over black devils, enjoyed by gentlemen of the
H.E.I.C.S."

"A nabob uncle," thought Keane. "Oh, I see, yellow, dyspeptic, always
boring one with 'How to govern India,' and recollections of 'When I
served with Napier.' What a fool I was to let Sydie persuade me to go. A
month in Lima and the Pampas would be much pleasanter."

"He came over last year," continued Sydie, in blissful ignorance, "and
bought the Beeches, a very jolly place, only he's crammed it with
everything anybody suggested, and tried anything that any farmer
recommended, so that the house and the estate present a peculiar
compendium of all theories of architecture, and a general exhibition of
all sorts of tastes. He's his hobbies; pouncing on and apprehending
small boys is one of 'em, for which practice he is endeared to the youth
of St. Crucis as the 'old cove,' the 'Injian devil,' and like
affectionate cognomens. But the General's weak point is me--me and
little Fay."

"His mare, I suppose?"

"His mare!--bless my heart, no!--his mare!" And Sydie lay back, and
laughed silently. "His mare! By George! what would she say? She's a good
deal too lively a young lady to run in harness for anybody, though
she's soft-mouthed enough when she's led. Mare! No, Fay's his niece--my
cousin. Her father and my father went to glory when we were both smalls,
and left us in legacy to the General, and a pretty pot of money the
legacy has cost him."

"Your cousin, indeed! The name's more like a mare's than a girl's,"
answered Keane, thinking to himself. "A cousin! I just wish I'd known
that. One of those Indian girls, I bet, tanned brown as a berry, flirts
à outrance, has run the gauntlet of all the Calcutta balls, been engaged
to men in all the Arms, talks horridly broad Anglo-Indian-English. I
know the style."

The engine screamed, and pulled up at the St. Crucis station, some
seventy miles farther on, lying in the midst of Creswickian landscapes,
with woodlands, and cottages, and sweet fresh stretches of meadow-land,
such as do one's heart good after hard days and late nights in dust and
gaslight.

"Deuced fine points," said Sydie, taking the ribbons of a high-stepping
bay that had brought one of the neatest possible traps to take him and
Keane to the Beeches, and springing, in all his glory, to the box, than
which no imperial throne could have offered to him one-half so
delightful a seat. "Governor never keeps screws. What a crying shame
we're not allowed to keep the sorriest hack at King's. That comes of
gentlemen slipping into shoes that were meant for beggars. Hallo, there
are the old beech-trees; I vow I can almost taste the curry and dry from
looking at them."

In dashed the bay through the park-gates, sending the shingle flying up
in small simoons, and the rooks cawing in supreme surprise from their
nests in the branches of the beech-trees.

"Hallo, my ancient, how are you?" began Sydie to the butler, while that
stately person expanded into a smile of welcome. "Down, dog, down! 'Pon
my life, the old place looks very jolly. What have you hung all that
armor up for;--to make believe our ancestors dwelt in these marble
halls? How devilish dusty I am. Where's the General? Didn't know we were
coming till next train. Fay! Fay! where are you? Ashton, where's Miss
Morton?"

"Here, Sydie dear," cried the young lady in question, rushing across the
hall with the most ecstatic delight, and throwing herself into the
Cantab's arms, who received her with no less cordiality, and kissed her
straightway, regardless of the presence of Keane, the butler, and
Harris.

"Oh, Sydie," began the young lady, breathlessly, "I'm so delighted
you're come. There's the archery fête, and a picnic at Shallowton, and
an election ball over at Coverdale, and I want you to dance with me, and
to try the new billiard-table, and to come and see my aviary, and to
teach me pistol-shooting (because Julia Dupuis can shoot splendidly, and
talks of joining the Rifles), and to show me how to do Euclid, and to
amuse me, and to play with me, and to tell me which is the prettiest of
Snowdrop's pups to be saved, and to----" She stopped suddenly, and
dropped from enthusiastic tirade to subdued surprise, as she caught
sight of Keane for the first time. "Oh, Sydie, why did you not introduce
me to your friend? How rude I have been!"

"Mr. Keane, my cousin, the torment of my existence, Miss Morton in
public, Little Fay in private life. There, you know one another now. I
can't say any more. Do tell me where the governor is."

"Mr. Keane, what can you think of me?" cried Fay. "Any friend of
Sydenham's is most welcome to the Beeches, and my uncle will scold me
frightfully for giving you such a reception. Please do forgive me, I was
so delighted to see my cousin."

"Which I can fully enter into, having a weakness for Sydie myself,"
smiled Keane. "I am sure he is very fortunate in being the cause of such
an excuse."

Keane said it _par complaisance_, but rather carelessly; young ladies,
as a class, being one of his aversions. He looked at Fay Morton,
however, and saw she was not an Indianized girl after all. She was not
yellow, but, au contraire, had waving fair hair, long dark eyes, and a
mischievous, sunny face--

    A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
    And sweet as English air could make her.

"Where's the governor, Fay?" reiterated Sydie.

"Here, my dear boy. Thought of your old uncle the first thing, Sydie?
God bless my soul, how well you look! Confound you, why didn't you tell
me what train you were coming by? Devil take you, Ashton, why's there no
fire in the hall? Thought it was warm, did you? Hum! more fool you
then."

"Uncle dear," said Miss Fay, "here is Sydie's friend, Mr. Keane; you are
being as rude as I have been."

The General, at this conjuration, swung sharp round, a stout, hale,
handsome old fellow, with gray moustaches and a high color, holding a
spade in his hand and clad in a linen coat.

"Bless my soul, sir," cried the General, shaking Keane's hand with the
greatest possible energy, "charmed to see you--delighted, 'pon my honor;
only hope you're come to stay till Christmas; there are plenty of
bachelors' dens. Devil take me! of what was I thinking? I was pleased
to see that boy, I suppose. More fool I, you'll say, a lazy,
good-for-nothing young dog like him. Don't let me keep you standing in
the hall. Cursed cold, isn't it? and there's Little Fay in muslin!
Ashton, send some hot water into the west room for Mr.--Mr.----Confound
you, Sydie, why didn't you tell--I mean introduce me?--Mr. Keane.
Luncheon will be on the table in ten minutes. Like curry, Mr. Keane?
There, get along, Sydie, you foolish boy; you can talk to Fay after
luncheon."

"Sydie," whispered Fay, an hour before dinner, when she had teased the
Cantab's life out of him till he had consented to pronounce judgment on
the puppies, "what a splendid head that man has you brought with you;
he'd do for Plato, with that grand calm brow and lofty unapproachable
look. Who is he?"

"The greatest philosopher of modern times," responded her cousin,
solemnly. "A condensation of Solon, Thales, Plutarch, Seneca, Cicero,
Lucullus, Bion, Theophrastes, and Co.; such a giant of mathematical
knowledge, and all other knowledge, too, that every day, when he passes
under Bacon's Gate, we are afraid the old legend will come to pass, and
it will tumble down as flat as a pancake; a homage to him, but a loss to
Cambridge."

"Nonsense," said Miss Fay, impatiently. "(I like that sweet little thing
with the black nose best, dear.) _Who_ is he? What is he? How old is he?
What's his name? Where does he live?"

"Gently, young woman," cried Sydie. "He is Tutor and Fellow of King's,
and a great gun besides; he's some twenty-five years older than you. His
name on the rolls is Gerald, I believe, and he dwells in the shadow of
Mater, beyond the reach of my cornet; for which fact, not being
musically inclined, he is barbarian enough to return thanks daily in
chapel."

"I am sorry he is come. It was stupid of you to bring him."

"Wherefore, _ma cousine_? Are you afraid of him? You needn't be. Young
ladies are too insignificant atoms of creation for him to criticise.
He'll no more expect sense from you than from Snowdrop and her pups."

"Afraid!" repeated Fay, with extreme indignation. "I should like to see
any man of whom I should feel afraid! If he doesn't like fun and
nonsense, I pity him; but if he despise me ever so much for it, I shall
enjoy myself before him, and in spite of him. I was sorry you brought
him, because he will take you away when I want you all to myself; and he
looks so haughty, that----"

"You _are_ afraid of him, Fay, and won't own it."

"I am _not_," reiterated Fay, impetuously; "and I will smoke a cigar
with him after dinner, to show you I am not one bit."

"I bet you six pair of gloves you do no such thing, young lady."

"Done. Do keep the one with a black nose, Sydie; and yet that little
liver-colored darling is too pretty to be killed. Suppose we save them
all? Snowdrop will be so pleased."

Whereon Fay kissed all the little snub noses with the deepest affection,
and was caught in the act by Keane and the General.

"There's that child with her arms full of dogs," said the General,
beaming with satisfaction at sight of his niece. "She's a little,
spoilt, wilful thing. She's an old bachelor's pet, and you must make
allowances. I call her the fairy of the Beeches, God bless her! She
nursed me last winter, when I was at death's door from these cursed cold
winds, sir, better than Miss Nightingale could have done. What a
devilish climate it _is_; never two days alike. I don't wonder
Englishwomen are such icicles, poor things; they're frostbitten from
their cradle upwards."

"India warms them up, General, doesn't it?"

The General shook with laughter.

"To be sure, to be sure; if prudery's the fashion, they'll wear it, sir,
as they would patches or hair-powder; but they're always uncommonly glad
to leave it off and lock it out of sight when they can. What do you
think of the kennels? I say, Sydie, confound you, why did you bring down
any traps with you? Haven't room for 'em, not for one. Couldn't cram a
tilbury into the coach-house."

"A trap, governor?" said Sydie, straightening his back after examination
of the pups; "can't keep even a wall-eyed cab-horse; wish I could."

"Where's your drag, then?" demanded the General.

"My drag? Don't I just wish I had one, to offer my bosom friend the
V. P. a seat on the box. Calvert, of Trinity, tooled us over in his to
the Spring Meetings, and his grays are the sweetest pair of goers--the
leaders especially--that ever you saw in harness. We came back 'cross
country, to get in time for hall, and a pretty mess we made of it, for
we broke the axle, and lamed the off-wheeler, and----"

"But, God bless my soul," stormed the General, excited beyond measure,
"you wrote me word you were going to bring a drag down with you, and of
course I supposed you meant what you said, and I had Harris in about it,
and he swore the coach-house was as full of traps as ever it could hold,
so I had my tax-cart and Fay's phaeton turned into one of the stalls,
and then, after all, it comes out you've never brought it! Devil take
you, Sydie, why can't you be more thoughtful----"

"But, my dear governor----"

"Nonsense; don't talk to me!" cried the General, trying to work himself
into a passion, and diving into the recesses of six separate pockets one
after another. "Look here, sir, I suppose you'll believe your own words?
Here it is in black and white.--'P. S. I shall bring _my Coach_ down
with me.' There, what do you say now? Confound you, what are you
laughing at? _I_ don't see anything to laugh at. In my day, young
fellows didn't make fools of old men in this way. Bless my soul, why
the devil don't you leave off laughing, and talk a little common sense?
The thing's plain enough.--'P.S. _I shall bring my Coach down with
me_.'"

"So I have," said Sydie, screaming with laughter. "Look at him--he's a
first-rate Coach, too! Wheels always oiled, and ready for any road;
always going up hill, and never caught coming down; started at a devil
of a pace, and now keeps ahead of all other vehicles on all highways. A
first-class Coach, that will tool me through the tortuous lanes and
treacherous pitfalls of the Greats with flying colors. My Coach! Bravo,
General! that's the best bit of fun I've had since I dressed up like
Sophonisba Briggs, and led the V. P. a dance all round the quad, every
hair on his head standing erect in his virtuous indignation at the awful
morals of his college."

"Eh, what?" grunted the General, light beginning to dawn upon him. "Do
you mean Mr. Keane? Hum! how's one to be up to all your confounded
slang? How could I know? Devil take you, Sydie, why can't you write
common English? You young fellows talk as bad jargon as Sepoys. You're
sure I'm delighted to see you, Mr. Keane, though I did make the
mistake."

"Thank you, General," said Keane; "but it's rather cool of you, Master
Sydie, to have forced me on to your uncle's hands without his wish or
his leave."

"Not at all, not at all," swore the General, with vehement cordiality.
"I gave him carte blanche to ask whom he would, and unexpected guests
are always most welcome; _not_ that you were unexpected though, for I'd
told that boy to be sure and bring somebody down here----"

"And have had the tax-cart and my phaeton turned out to make comfortable
quarters for him," said Miss Fay, with a glance at The Coach to see how
he took chaff, "and I only hope Mr. Keane may like his accommodation."

"Perhaps, Miss Morton," said Keane, smiling, "I shall like it so well
that you will have to say to me as poor Voltaire to his troublesome
abbé, 'Don Quichotte prenait les auberges pour les châteaux, mais vous
avez pris les châteaux pour les auberges.'"

"Tiresome man," thought Fay. "I wish Sydie hadn't brought him here; but
I shall do as I always do, however grand and supercilious he may look.
He has lived among all those men and books till he has grown as cold as
granite. What a pity it is people don't enjoy existence as I do!"

"You are thinking, Miss Morton," said Keane, as he walked on beside her,
with an amused glance at her face, which was expressive enough of her
thoughts, "that if your uncle is glad to see me, you are not, and that
Sydie was very stupid not to bring down one of his kindred spirits
instead of----Don't disclaim it now; you should veil your face if you
wish your thoughts not to be read."

"I was not going to disclaim it," said Fay, quickly looking up at him
with a rapid glance, half penitence, half irritation. "I always tell the
truth; but I was _not_ thinking exactly that; I don't want any of
Sydie's friends--I detest boys--but I certainly _was_ thinking that as
you look down on everything that we all delight in, I fancied you and
the Beeches will hardly agree. If I am rude, you must not be angry; you
wanted me to tell you the truth."

Keane smiled again.

"Do I look down on the things you delight in? I hardly know enough of
you, as we have only addressed about six syllables to each other, to be
able to judge what you like and what you don't like; but certainly I
must admit, that caressing the little round heads of those puppies
yonder, which seemed to afford you such extreme rapture, would not be
any source of remarkable gratification to me."

Fay looked up at him and laughed.

"Well, I am fond of animals as you are fond of books. Is it not an open
question whether the live dog or sheepskin is not as good as the dead
Morocco or Russian leather?"

"Is it an open question, whether Macaulay's or Arago's brain weighs no
more than a cat's or a puppy's?"

"Brain!" said impudent little Fay; "are your great men always as honest
and as faithful as my poor little Snowdrop? I have an idea that
Sheridan's brains were often obscured by brandy; that Richelieu had the
weakness to be prouder of his bad poems than his magnificent policies;
and that Pope and Byron had the folly to be more tenacious of a glance
at their physical defect than an onslaught on their noblest works. I
could mention a good many other instances where brain was not always a
voucher for corresponding strength of character."

Keane was surprised to hear a sensible speech from this volatile little
puss, and honored her by answering her seriously.

"Say, rather, Miss Morton, that those to whom many temptations fall
should have many excuses made. Where the brain preponderates, excelling
in creative faculty and rapid thought, there will the sensibilities be
proportionately acute. The vivacity and vigorous life which produced the
rapid flow of Sheridan's eloquence led him into the dissipation which
made him end his days in a spunging-house. Men of cooler minds and
natures must not presume to judge him. They had not his temptation; they
cannot judge of his fault. Richelieu, in all probability, amused himself
with his verses as he amused himself with his white kitten and its cork,
as a _délassement_; had he piqued himself upon his poetry, as they say,
he would have turned poetaster instead of politician. As for the other
two, you must remember that Pope's deformity made him a subject of
ridicule to the woman he was fool enough to worship, and Byron, poor
fellow, was over-susceptible on all points, or he would scarcely have
allowed the venomed arrows from the Scotch Reviewers to wound him, nor
would he have cared for the desertion of a wife who was to him like ice
to fire. When you are older, you will learn that it is very dangerous
and unjust to say this thing is right, that wrong, that feeling wise, or
this foolish; for all temperaments are different, and the same
circumstances may produce very different effects. Your puppies will grow
up with dissimilar characters; how much more so, then, must men?"

Miss Fay was quiet for a minute, then she flashed her mischievous eyes
on him.

"Certainly; but then, by your own admission, you have no right to decide
that your love for mathematics is wise, and my love for Snowdrop
foolish; it may be quite _au contraire_. Perhaps, after all, I may have
'chosen the better part.'"

"Fay, go in and dress for dinner," interrupted the General, trotting up;
"your tongue would run on forever if nobody stopped it; you're no
exception to your sex on that point. Is she?"

Keane laughed.

"Perhaps Miss Morton's frænum, like Sydie's, was cut too far in her
infancy, and therefore she has been 'unbridled' ever since."

"In all things!" cried little Fay. "Nobody has put the curb on me yet,
and nobody ever shall."

"Don't be too sure, Fay," cried Sydie. "Rarey does wonders with the
wildest fillies. Somebody may bring you down on your knees yet."

"You'll have to see to that, Sydie," laughed the General. "Come, get
along, child, to your toilette. I never have my soup cold and my curry
overdone. To wait for his dinner is a stretch of good nature, and
patience that ought not to be expected of any man."

The soup was not cold nor the curry overdone, and the dinner was
pleasant enough, in the long dining-room, with the June sun streaming in
through its bay-windows from out the brilliant-colored garden, and the
walls echoing with the laughter of Sydie and his cousin, the young lady
keeping true to her avowal of "not caring for Plato's presence."
"Plato," however, listened quietly, peeling his peaches with tranquil
amusement; for if the girl talked nonsense, it was clever nonsense, as
rare, by the way, and quite as refreshing as true wit.

"My gloves are safe; you're too afraid of him, Fay," whispered Sydie,
bending forwards to give her some hautboys.

"Am I?" cried Miss Fay, with a _moue_ of supreme contempt. Neither the
whisper nor the _moue_ escaped Keane, as he talked with the governor on
model drainage.

"Where's my hookah, Fay?" asked the General, after dessert. "Get it,
will you, my pet?"

"Voilà!" cried Miss Fay, lifting the narghilé from the sideboard. Then
taking some cigars off the mantelpiece, she put one in her own mouth,
struck a fusee, and, handing the case to Keane, said, with a saucy smile
in her soft bright eyes, though, to tell the truth, she was a little bit
afraid of taking liberties with him:

"If you are not above such a sublunary indulgence, will you have a cigar
with me?"

"With the greatest pleasure," said Keane, with a grave bow; "and if you
would like to further rival George Sand, I shall be very happy to give
you the address of my tailor."

"Thank you exceedingly; but as long as crinoline is the type of the sex
that are a little lower than the angels, and ribbon-ties the seal of
those but a trifle better than Mephistopheles, I don't think I will
change it," responded Little Fay, contemptuously, as she threw herself
down on a couch with an indignant defiant glance, and puffed at her
Manilla.

"I _hate_ him, Sydie," said the little lady, vehemently, that night.

"Do you, dear?" answered the Cantab; "you see, you've never had anybody
to be afraid of, or had any man neglect you before."

"He may neglect me if he please, I am sure I do not care," rejoined Fay,
disdainfully; "only I do wish, Sydie, that you had never brought him
here to make us all uncomfortable."

"He don't make me uncomfortable, quite otherwise; nor yet the governor;
you're the only victim, Fay."

Fay saw little enough of Keane for the next week or two. He was out all
day with Sydie trout-fishing, or walking over his farms with the
General, or sitting in the study reading, and writing his articles for
the _Cambridge Journal_, _Leonville's Mathematical Journal_, or the
_Westminster Review_. But when she was with him, there was no mischief
within her reach that Miss Fay did not perpetrate. Keane, to tease her,
would condemn--so seriously that she believed him--all that she loved
the best; he would tell her that he admired quiet, domestic women; that
he thought girls should be very subdued and retiring; that they should
work well, and not care much for society; at all of which, being her
extreme antipodes, Little Fay would be vehemently wrathful. She would
get on her pony without any saddle in her evening dress, and ride him at
the five-bar gate in the stable-yard; she would put on Sydie's
smoking-cap, and look very pretty in it, and take a Queen's on the divan
of the smoking-room, reading _Bell's Life_, and asking Keane how much he
would bet on the October; she would spend all the morning making wreaths
of roses, dressing herself and the puppies up in them, inquiring if it
was not a laudable and industrious occupation. There was no nonsense or
mischief Fay would not imagine and forthwith commit, and anything they
wanted her not to do she would do straightway, even to the imperilling
of her own life and limb. She tried hard to irritate or rouse "Plato,"
as she called him, but Plato was not to be moved, and treated her as a
spoilt child, whom he alone had sense enough to resist.

"It will be great folly for you to attempt it, Miss Morton. Those horses
are not fit to be driven by any one, much less by a woman," said Keane,
quietly, one morning.

They were in the stable-yard, and chanced to be alone when a new
purchase of the governor's--two scarcely broken-in thorough-bred
colts--were brought with a new mail-phaeton into the yard, and Miss Fay
forthwith announced her resolution of driving them round the avenue. The
groom that came with them told her they were almost more than he could
manage, their own coachman begged and implored, Keane reasoned quietly,
all to no purpose. The rosebud had put out its little wilful thorns;
Keane's words added fuel to the fire. Up she sprang, looking the
daintiest morsel imaginable perched up on that very exalted box-seat,
told the horrified groom to mount behind, and started them off, lifting
her hat with a graceful bow to "Plato," who stood watching the phaeton
with his arms folded and his cigar in his mouth.

Soon after, he started in the contrary direction, for the avenue circled
the Beeches in an oval of four miles, and he knew he should meet her
coming back. He strolled along under the pleasant shadow of the great
trees, enjoying the sunset and the fresh air, and capable of enjoying
them still more but for an inward misgiving. His presentiment was not
without its grounds. He had walked about a mile and a half round the
avenue, when a cloud of dust told him what was up, and in the distance
came the thorough-breds, broken away as he had prophesied, tearing along
with the bits between their teeth, Little Fay keeping gallantly hold of
the ribbons, but as powerless over the colts now they had got their
heads as the groom leaning from the back seat.

On came the phaeton, bumping, rattling, oscillating, threatening every
second to be turned over. Keane caught one glance of Fay's face,
resolute and pale, and of her little hands grasping the ribbons, till
they were cut and bleeding with the strain. There was nothing for it but
to stand straight in the animals' path, catch their heads, and throw
them back on their haunches. Luckily, his muscles were like
iron--luckily, too, the colts had come a long way, and were not fresh.
He stood like a rock, and checked them; running a very close risk of
dislocating his arms with the shock, but saving little Fay from
destruction. The colts stood trembling, the groom jumped out and caught
the reins, Keane amused himself silently with the mingled penitence,
vexation, shame, and rebellion visible in the little lady's face.

"Well," said he, quietly, "as you were so desirous of breaking your
neck, will you ever forgive me for defeating your purpose?"

"Pray don't!" cried Fay, passionately. "I do thank you so much for
saving my life; I think it so generous and brave of you to have rescued
me at such risk to yourself. I feel that I can never be grateful enough
to you, but don't talk in that way. I know it was silly and self-willed
of me."

"It was; that fact is obvious."

"Then I shall make it more so," cried Miss Fay, with her old wilfulness.
"I do feel very grateful, and I would tell you so, if you would let me;
but if you think it has made me afraid, you are quite wrong, and so you
shall see."

And before he could interfere, or do more than mechanically spring up
after her, she had caught the reins from the groom, and started the
trembling colts off again. But Keane put his hand on the ribbons.

"Foolish child; are you mad?" he said, so gravely yet so gently that Fay
let them go, and let him drive her back to the stable-yard, where she
sprang out, and rushed away to her own room, terrified the governor with
a few vehement sentences, which gave him a vague idea that Keane was
murdered and both Fay's legs broken, and then had a private cry all to
herself, with her arms round Snowdrop's neck, curled up in one of the
drawing-room windows, where she had not been long when the General and
Keane passed through, not noticing her, hidden as she was, in curtains,
cushions, and flowers.

"She's a little wilful thing, Keane," the General was saying, "but you
mustn't think the worse of her for that."

"I don't. I am sick of those conventional young ladies who agree with
everything one says to them--who keep all the frowns for mothers and
servants, and are as serene as a cloudless sky abroad, smile blandly on
all alike, and haven't an opinion of their own."

"Fay's plenty of opinions of her own," chuckled the General; "and she
tells 'em pretty freely, too. Bless the child, she's not ashamed of any
of her thoughts and never will be."

"I hope not. Your little niece can do things that no other young lady
could and they are so pretty in her that it would be a thousand pities
for her to grow one atom less natural and wilful. Grapes growing wild
are charming--grapes trained to a stake are ruined. I assure you, if I
were you, I would not scold her for driving those colts to-day. High
spirits and love of fun led her on, and the courage and presence of mind
she displayed are too rare among her sex for us to do right in checking
them."

"To be sure, to be sure," assented the governor, gleefully. "God bless
the child, she's one among a thousand, sir. Cognac, not milk and water.
There's the dinner-bell; confound it."

Whereat the General made his exit, and Keane also; and Fay kissed the
spaniel with even more passionate attachment than ordinary.

"Ah, Snowdrop, I don't hate him any more; he is a darling!"

One glowing August morning Keane was in the study pondering whether he
would go to his moor or not. The General had besought him to stay. His
gamekeeper wrote him that it was a horribly bad rainy season in
Invernessshire; the trout and the rabbits were very good sport in a mild
way here. Altogether, Keane felt half disposed to keep where he was,
when a shadow fell across his paper; and, as he looked up, he saw in the
open window the English rosebud.

"Is it not one of the open questions, Mr. Keane," asked Fay, "whether it
is very wise to spend all this glorious morning shut out of the sight of
the sun-rays and the scent of the flowers?"

"How have _you_ been spending it, then?"

"Putting bouquets in all the rooms, cleaning my aviary, talking to the
puppies, and reading Jocelyn under the limes in the shrubberies--all
very puerile, but all very pleasant. Perhaps if you descended to a lazy
day like that now and then, you might be none the worse!"

"Is that a challenge? Will you take me under the limes?"

"No, indeed! I do not admit men who despise them to my gardens of
Armida, any more than you would admit me into your Schools. I have as
great a scorn for a skeptic as you have for a tyro."

"Pardon me. I have no scorn for a tyro. But you would not come to the
Accademe; you dislike 'Plato' too much."

Fay looked up at him half shyly, half mischievously.

"Yes, I do dislike you, when you look down on me as Richelieu might have
looked down on his kitten."

"Liking to see its play?" said Keane, half sadly. "Contrasting its gay
insouciance with his own toil and turmoil, regretting, perhaps, the time
when trifles made his joy as they did his kitten's? If I were to look on
you so, there would not be much to offend you."

"You do not think so of me, or you would speak to me as if I were an
intelligent being, not a silly little thing."

"How do you know I think you silly?"

"Because you think all women so."

"Perhaps; but then you should rather try to redeem me from my error in
doctrine. Come, let us sign a treaty of peace. Take me under the limes.
I want some fresh air after writing all day; and in payment I will teach
you Euclid, as you vainly beseeched your cousin to do yesterday."

"Will you?" cried Fay, eagerly. Then she threw back her head. "I never
am won by bribes."

"Nor yet by threats? What a difficult young lady you are. Come, show me
your shrubbery sanctum now you have invaded mine."

The English rosebud laid aside its wilful thorns, and Fay, a little less
afraid of her Plato, and therefore a little less defiant to him, led him
over the grounds, filled his hands with flowers, showed him her aviary,
read some of Jocelyn to him, to show him, she said, that Lamartine was
better than the Oedipus in Coloneus, and thought, as she dressed for
dinner, "I wonder if he does despise me--he has such a beautiful face,
if he were not so haughty and cold!"

The next day Keane gave her an hour of Euclid in the study. Certainly
The Coach had never had such a pretty pupil; and he wished every dull
head he had to cram was as intelligent as this fair-haired one. Fay was
quick and clever; she was stimulated, moreover, by his decree concerning
the stupidity of all women; she really worked as hard as any young man
studying for degrees when they supposed her fast asleep in bed, and she
got over the Pons Asinorum in a style that fairly astonished her tutor.

The Coach did not dislike his occupation either; it did him good, after
his life of solitude and study, something as the kitten and cork did
Richelieu good after his cabinets and councils; and Little Fay, with her
flowers and fun, mischief and impudence, and that winning wilfulness
which it amused him gradually to tame down, unbent the chillness which
had grown upon him. He was the better for it, as a man after hard study
or practice is the better for some fresh sea-breezes, and some days of
careless dolce.

"Well, Fay, have you had another poor devil flinging himself at your
feet by means of a postage-stamp?" said Sydie one morning at breakfast.
"You can't disguise anything from me, your most interested, anxious, and
near and dear relative. Whenever the governor looks particularly stormy
I see the signs of the times, that if I do not forthwith remove your
dangerously attractive person, all the bricks, spooneys, swells, and
do-nothings in the county will speedily fill the Hanwell wards to
overflowing."

"Don't talk such nonsense, Sydie," said Fay, impatiently, with a glance
at Keane, as she handed him his chocolate.

"Ah! deuce take the fellows," chuckled the General. "Love, devotion,
admiration! What a lot of stuff they do write. I wonder if Fay were a
little beggar, how much of it all would stand the test? But we know a
trick worth two of that. Try those sardines, Keane. House is let,
Fay--eh? House is let; nobody need apply. Ha, ha!"

And the General took some more curry, laughing till he was purple, while
Fay blushed scarlet, a trick of which she was rarely guilty; Sydie
smiled, and Keane picked out his sardines with calm deliberation.

"Hallo! God bless my soul!" burst forth the General again. "Devil take
me! I'll be hanged if I stand it! Confound 'em all! I do call it hard
for a man not to be able to sit at his breakfast in peace. Good Heavens!
what will come to the country, if all those little devils grow up to be
food for Calcraft? He's actually pulling the bark off the trees, as I
live! Excuse me, I _can't_ sit still and see it."

Wherewith the General bolted from his chair, darted through the window,
upsetting three dogs, two kittens, and a stand of flowers in his exit,
and bolted breathlessly across the park with the poker in his hand.

"Bless his old heart! Ain't he a brick?" shouted Sydie. "Do excuse me,
Fay, I must go and hear him blow up that boy sky-high, and give him a
shilling for tuck afterwards; it will be so rich."

The Cantab made his exit, and Fay busied herself calming the kittens'
minds, and restoring the dethroned geraniums. Keane read his _Times_ for
ten minutes, then looked up.

"Miss Morton, where is your tongue? I have not heard it for a quarter of
an hour, a miracle that has never happened in the two months I have been
at the Beeches."

"You do not want to hear it."

"What! am I in _mauvais odeur_ again?" smiled Keane. "I thought we were
good friends. Have you found the Q. E. D. to the problem I gave you?"

"To be sure!" cried Fay, exultantly. And kneeling down by him, she went
through the whole thing in exceeding triumph.

"You are a good child," said her tutor, smiling, in himself amazed at
this volatile little thing's capacity for mathematics. "I think you will
be able to take your degree, if you like. Come, do you hate me now,
Fay?"

"No," said Fay, a little shyly. "I never hated you, I always admired
you; but I was afraid of you, though I would never confess it to Sydie."

"Never be afraid of me," said Keane, putting his hand on hers as it lay
on the arm of his chair. "You have no cause. You can do things few girls
can; but they are pretty in you, where they might be--not so pretty in
others. _I_ like them at the least. You are very fond of your cousin,
are you not?"

"Of Sydie? Oh, I love him dearly!"

Keane took his hand away, and rose, as the General trotted in:

"God bless my soul, Keane, how warm it is! Confoundedly hot without
one's hat, I can tell you. Had my walk all for nothing, too. That cursed
little idiot wasn't trespassing after all. Stephen had set him to spud
out the daisies, and I'd thrashed the boy before I'd listen to him.
Devil take him!"

August went out and September came in, and Keane stayed on at the
Beeches. They were pleasant days to them all, knocking over the
partridges right and left, enjoying a cold luncheon under the luxuriant
hedges, and going home for a dinner, full of laughter, and talk, and
good cookery; and Fay's songs afterwards, as wild and sweet in their way
as a goldfinch's on a hawthorn spray.

"You like Little Fay, don't you, Keane?" said the General, as they went
home one evening.

Keane looked startled for a second.

"Of course," he said, rather haughtily. "That Miss Morton is very
charming every one must admit."

"Bless her little heart! She's a wild little filly, Keane, but she'll go
better and truer than your quiet broken-in ones, who wear the harness so
respectably, and are so wicked and vicious in their own minds. And what
do you think of my boy?" asked the General, pointing to Sydie, who was
in front. "How does he stand at Cambridge?"

"Sydie? Oh, he's a nice young fellow. He is a great favorite there, and
he is--the best things he can be--generous, sweet-tempered, and
honorable----"

"To be sure," echoed the General, rubbing his hands. "He's a dear boy--a
very dear boy. They're both exactly all I wished them to be, dear
children; and I must say I am delighted to see 'em carrying out the plan
I had always made for 'em from their childhood."

"Being what, General, may I ask?"

"Why, any one can see, as plain as a pikestaff, that they're in love
with each other," said the General, glowing with satisfaction; "and I
mean them to be married and happy. They dote on each other, Keane, and I
sha'n't put any obstacles in their way. Youth's short enough, Heaven
knows; let 'em enjoy it, say I, it don't come back again. Don't say
anything to him about it; I want to have some fun with him. They've
settled it all, of course, long ago; but he hasn't confided in me, the
sly dog. Trust an old campaigner, though, for twigging an _affaire de
coeur_. Bless them both, they make me feel a boy again. We'll have a gay
wedding, Keane; mind you come down for it. I dare say it'll be at
Christmas."

Keane walked along, drawing his cap over his eyes. The sun was setting
full in his face.

"Well, what sport?" cried Fay, running up to them.

"Pretty fair," said Keane, coldly, as he passed her.

It was an hour before the dinner-bell rang. Then he came down cold and
calm, particularly brilliant in conversation, more courteous, perhaps,
to her than ever, but the frost had gathered round him that the sunny
atmosphere of the Beeches had melted; and Fay, though she tried to
tease, and to coax, and to win him, could not dissipate it. She felt him
an immeasurable distance from her again. He was a learned, haughty,
grave philosopher, and she a little naughty child.

As Keane went up-stairs that night, he heard Sydie talking in the hall.

"Yes, my worshipped Fay, I shall be intensely and utterly miserable away
from the light of your eyes; but, nevertheless, I must go and see
Kingslake from John's next Tuesday, because I've promised; and let one
idolize your divine self ever so much, one can't give up one's larks,
you know."

Keane ground his teeth with a bitter sigh and a fierce oath.

"Little Fay, I would have loved you more tenderly than that!"

He went in and threw himself on his bed, not to sleep. For the first
time for many years he could not summon sleep at his will. He had gone
on petting her and amusing himself, thinking of her only as a winning,
wayward child. Now he woke with a shock to discover, too late, that she
had stolen from him unawares the heart he had so long refused to any
woman. With his high intellect and calm philosophy, after his years
spent in severe science and cold solitude, the hot well-springs of
passion had broken loose again. He longed to take her bright life into
his own grave and cheerless one; he longed to feel her warm young heart
beat with his own, icebound for so many years; but Little Fay was never
to be his.

In the bedroom next to him the General sat, with his feet in his
slippers and his dressing-gown round him, smoking his last cheroot
before a roaring fire, chuckling complacently over his own thoughts.

"To be sure, we'll have a very gay wedding, such as the county hasn't
seen in all its blessed days," he muttered, with supreme satisfaction.
"Sydie shall have this place. What do I want with a great town of a
house like this, big enough for a barrack? I'll take that shooting-box
that's to let four miles off; that'll be plenty large enough for me and
my old chums to smoke in and chat over bygone times, and it will do our
hearts good--freshen us up a bit to see those young things enjoying
themselves. My Little Fay will be the prettiest bride that ever was
seen. Silly young things to suppose I don't see through them. Trust an
old soldier! However, love is blind, they say. How could they have
helped falling in love with one another? and who'd have the heart to
part 'em, I should like to know!"

Keane stayed that day; the next, receiving a letter which afforded a
true though a slight excuse to return to Cambridge, he went, the
General, Fay, and Sydie believing him gone only for a few days, he
knowing that he would never set foot in the Beeches again. He went back
to his rooms, whose dark monastic gloom in the dull October day seemed
to close round him like an iron shroud. Here, with his books, his
papers, his treasures of intellect, science and art, his "mind a
kingdom" to him, he had spent many a happy day, with his brain growing
only clearer and clearer as he followed out a close reasoning or
clenched a subtle analysis. Now, for the sake of a mischievous child but
half his age, he shuddered as he entered.

"Well, my dear boy," began the General one day after dinner, "I've seen
your game, though you thought I didn't. How do you know, you young dog,
that I shall give my consent?"

"Oh, bother, governor, I know you will," cried Sydie, aghast; "because,
you see, if you let me have a few cool hundreds I can give the men such
slap-up wines--and it's my last year, General."

"You sly dog!" chuckled the governor, "I'm not talking of your
wine-merchant, and you know I'm not, Master Sydie. It's no good playing
hide-and-seek with me; I can always see through a milestone when Cupid
is behind it; and there's no need to beat round the bush with me, my
boy. I never gave my assent to anything with greater delight in my life;
I've always meant you to marry Fay, and----"

"Marry Fay!" shouted Sydie. "Good Heavens! governor, what next?" And the
Cantab threw himself back and laughed till he cried, and Snowdrop and
her pups barked furiously in a concert of excited sympathy.

"Why, sir, why?--why, because--devil take you, Sydie--I don't know what
you are laughing at, do you?" cried the General, starting out of his
chair.

"Yes, I do, governor; you're laboring under a most delicious delusion."

"Delusion!--eh?--what? Why, bless my soul, I don't think you know what
you are saying, Sydie," stormed the General.

"Yes I do; you've an idea--how you got it into your head Heaven knows,
but there it is--you've an idea that Fay and I are in love with one
another; and I assure you you were never more mistaken in your life."

Seeing the General standing bolt upright staring at him, and looking
decidedly apocleptic, Sydie made the matter a little clearer.

"Fay and I would do a good deal to oblige you, my beloved governor, if
we could get up the steam a little, but I'm afraid we really _cannot_.
Love ain't in one's own hands, you see, but a skittish mare, that gets
her head, and takes the bit between her teeth, and bolts off with you
wherever she likes. Is it possible that two people who broke each
other's toys, and teased each other's lives out, and caught the measles
of each other, from their cradle upwards, should fall in love with each
other when they grow up? Besides, I don't intend to marry for the next
twenty years, if I can help it. I couldn't afford a milliner's bill to
my tailor's, and I should be ruined for life if I merged my bright
particular star of a self into a respectable, lark-shunning,
bill-paying, shabby-hatted, family man. Good Heavens, what a train of
horrors comes with the bare idea!"

"Do you mean to say, sir, you won't marry your cousin?" shouted the
General.

"Bless your dear old heart, _no_, governor--ten times over, _no_! I
wouldn't marry anybody, not for half the universe."

"Then I've done with you, sir--I wash my hands of you!" shouted the
General, tearing up and down the room in a quick march, more beneficial
to his feelings than his carpet. "You are an ungrateful, unprincipled,
shameless young man, and are no more worthy of the affection and the
interest I've been fool enough to waste on you than a tom-cat. You're an
abominably selfish, ungrateful, unnatural boy; and though you _are_ poor
Phil's son, I will tell you my mind, sir; and I must say I think your
conduct with your cousin, making love to her--desperate love to
her--winning her affections, poor unhappy child, and then making a jest
of her and treating it with a laugh, is disgraceful, sir--_disgraceful_,
do you hear?"

"Yes, I hear, General," cried Sydie, convulsed with laughter; "but Fay
cares no more for me than for those geraniums. We are fond of one
another, in a cool, cousinly sort of way, but----"

"Hold your tongue!" stormed the General. "Don't dare to say another word
to me about it. You know well enough that it has been the one delight of
my life, and if you'd had any respect or right feeling in you, you'd
marry her to-morrow."

"She wouldn't be a party to that. Few women _are_ blind to my manifold
attractions; but Fay's one of 'em. Look here, governor," said Sydie,
laying his hand affectionately on the General's shoulder, "did it never
occur to you that though the pretty castle's knocked down, there may be
much nicer bricks left to build a new one? Can't you see that Fay
doesn't care two buttons about me, but cares a good many diamond studs
about somebody else?"

"Nothing has occurred to me but that you and she are two heartless,
selfish, ungrateful chits. Hold your tongue, sir!"

"But, General----"

"Hold your tongue, sir; don't talk to me, I tell you. In love with
somebody else? I should like to see him show his face here. Somebody
she's talked to for five minutes at a race-ball, and proposed to her in
a corner, thinking to get some of my money. Some swindler, or Italian
refugee, or blackleg, I'll be bound--taken her in, made her think him an
angel, and will persuade her to run away with him. I'll set the police
round the house--I'll send her to school in Paris. What fools men are to
have anything to do with women at all! You seem in their confidence;
who's the fellow?"

"A man very like a swindler or a blackleg--Keane!"

"Keane!" shouted the General, pausing in the middle of his frantic
march.

"Keane," responded Sydie.

"Keane!" shouted the General again. "God bless my soul, she might as
well have fallen in love with the man in the moon. Why couldn't she like
the person I'd chosen for her?"

"If one can't guide the mare one's self, 'tisn't likely the governors
can for one," muttered Sydie.

"Poor dear child! fallen in love with a man who don't care a button for
her, eh? Humph!--that's always the way with women--lose the good
chances, and fling themselves at a man's feet who cares no more for
their tom-foolery of worship than he cares for the blacking on his
boots. Devil take young people, what a torment they are! The ungrateful
little jade, how dare she go and smash all my plans like that? and if I
ever set my heart on anything, I set it on that match. Keane! he'll no
more love anybody than the stone cherubs on the terrace. He's a splendid
head, but his heart's every atom as cold as granite. Love her? Not a bit
of it. When I told him you were going to marry her (I thought you would,
and so you will, too, if you've the slightest particle of gratitude or
common sense in either of you), he listened as quietly and as calmly as
if he had been one of the men in armor in the hall. Love, indeed! To the
devil with love, say I! It's the head and root of everything that's
mischievous and bad."

"Wait a bit, uncle," cried Sydie; "you told him all about your previous
match-making, eh? And didn't he go off like a shot two days after, when
we meant him to stay on a month longer? Can't you put two and two
together, my once wide-awake governor? 'Tisn't such a difficult
operation."

"No, I can't," shouted the General: "I don't know anything, I don't see
anything, I don't believe in anything, I hate everybody and everything,
I tell you; and I'm a great fool for having ever set my heart on any
plan that wanted a woman's concurrence--

    For if she will she will, you may depend on't,
    And if she won't she won't, and there's an end on't."

Wherewith the General stuck his wide-awake on fiercely, and darted out
of the bay-window to cool himself. Half way across the lawn, he turned
sharp round, and came back again.

"Sydie, do you fancy Keane cares a straw for that child?"

"I can't say. It's possible."

"Humph! Well, can't you go and see? That's come of those mathematical
lessons. What a fool I was to allow her to be so much with him!" growled
the General, with many grunts and half-audible oaths, swinging round
again, and trotting through the window as hot and peppery as his own
idolized curry.

Keane was sitting writing in his rooms at King's some few days after.
The backs looked dismal with their leafless, sepia-colored trees; the
streets were full of sloppy mud and dripping under-grads' umbrellas; his
own room looked sombre and dark, without any sunshine on its heavy oak
bookcases, and massive library-table, and dark bronzes. His pen moved
quickly, his head was bent over the paper, his mouth sternly set, and
his forehead paler and more severe than ever. The gloom in his chambers
had gathered round him himself, when his door was burst open, and Sydie
dashed in and threw himself down in a green leather arm-chair.

"Well, sir, here am I back again. Just met the V. P. in the quad, and he
was so enchanted at seeing me, that he kissed me on both cheeks, flung
off his gown, tossed up his cap, and performed a _pas d'extase_ on the
spot. Isn't it delightful to be so beloved? Granta looks very delicious
to-day, I must say--about as refreshing and lively as an acidulated
spinster going district-visiting in a snow-storm. And how are you, most
noble lord?"

"Pretty well."

"Only that? Thought you were all muscle and iron. I say. What _do_ you
think the governor has been saying to me?"

"How can I tell?"

"Tell! No, I should not have guessed it if I'd tried for a hundred
years! By George! nothing less than that I should marry Fay. What do you
think of that, sir?"

Keane traced Greek unconsciously on the margin of his _Times_. For the
life of him, with all his self-command, he could not have answered.

"Marry Fay! _I!_" shouted Sydie. "Ye gods, what an idea! I never was so
astonished in all my days. Marry Little Fay!--the governor must be mad,
you know."

"You will not marry your cousin?" asked Keane, tranquilly, though the
rapid glance and involuntary start did not escape Sydie's quick eyes.

"Marry! I! By George, no! She wouldn't have me, and I'm sure I wouldn't
have her. She is a dear little monkey, and I'm very fond of her, but I
wouldn't put the halter round my neck for any woman going. I don't like
vexing the General, but it would be really too great a sacrifice merely
to oblige him."

"She cares nothing for you, then?"

"Nothing? Well, I don't know. Yes, in a measure, she does. If I should
be taken home on a hurdle one fine morning, she'd shed some cousinly
tears over my inanimate body; but as for _the other thing_, not one bit
of it. 'Tisn't likely. We're a great deal too like one another, too full
of devilry and carelessness, to assimilate. Isn't it the delicious
contrast and fiz of the sparkling acid of divine lemons with the
contrariety of the fiery spirit of beloved rum that makes the delectable
union known and worshipped in our symposia under the blissful name of
PUNCH? Marry Little Fay! By Jove, if all the governor's match-making was
founded on no better reasons for success, it is a small marvel that he's
a bachelor now! By George, it's time for hall!"

And the Cantab took himself off, congratulating himself on the adroit
manner in which he had cut the Gordian knot that the General had muddled
up so inexplicably in his unpropitious match-making.

Keane lay back in his chair some minutes, very still; then he rose to
dine in hall, pushing away his books and papers, as if throwing aside
with them a dull and heavy weight. The robins sang in the leafless
backs, the sun shone out on the sloppy streets; the youth he thought
gone for ever was come back to him. Oh, strange stale story of Hercules
and Omphale, old as the hills, and as eternal! Hercules goes on in his
strength slaying his hydra and his Laomedon for many years, but he
comes at last, whether he like it or not, to his Omphale, at whose feet
he is content to sit and spin long golden threads of pleasure and of
passion, while his lion's skin is motheaten and his club rots away.

Little Fay sat curled up on the study hearth-rug, reading a book her
late guest had left behind him--a very light and entertaining volume,
being Delolme "On the Constitution," but which she preferred, I suppose,
to "What Will He Do With It?" or the "Feuilles d'Automne," for the sake
of that clear autograph, "Gerald Keane, King's Coll.," on its fly-leaf.
A pretty picture she made, with her handsome spaniels; and she was so
intent on what she was reading--the fly-leaf, by the way--that she never
heard the opening of the door, till a hand drew away her book. Then Fay
started up, oversetting the puppies one over another, radiant and
breathless.

Keane took her hands and drew her near him.

"You do not hate me now, then?"

Fay put her head on one side with her old wilfulness.

"Yes, I do--when you go away without any notice, and hardly bid me
good-bye. You would not have left one of your men pupils so
unceremoniously."

Keane smiled involuntarily, and drew her closer.

"If you do not hate me, will you go a step farther--and love me? Little
Fay, my own darling, will you come and brighten my life? It has been a
saddened and a stern one, but it shall never throw a shade on yours."

The wild little filly was conquered--at last, she came to hand docile
and subdued, and acknowledged her master. She loved him, and told him so
with that frankness and fondness which would have covered faults far
more glaring and weighty than Little Fay's.

"But you must never be afraid of me," whispered Keane, some time after.

"Oh, no!"

"And you do not wish Sydie had never brought me here to make you all
uncomfortable?"

"Oh, please don't!" cried Fay, plaintively. "I was a child then, and I
did not know what I said."

"'Then,' being three months ago, may I ask what you are now?"

"A child still in knowledge, but _your_ child," whispered Fay, lifting
her face to his, "to be petted and spoiled, and never found fault with,
remember!"

"My little darling, who would have the heart to find fault with you,
whatever your sins?"

"God bless my soul, what's this?" cried a voice in the doorway.

There stood the General in wide-awake and shooting-coat, with a spade in
one hand and a watering-pot in the other, too astonished to keep his
amazement to himself. Fay would fain have turned and fled, but Keane
smiled, kept one arm round her, and stretched out his hand to the
governor.

"General, I came once uninvited, and I am come again. Will you forgive
me? I have a great deal to say to you, but I must ask you one question
first of all. Will you give me your treasure?"

"Eh! humph! What? Well--I suppose--yes," ejaculated the General,
breathless from the combined effects of amazement and excessive and
vehement gardening. "But, bless my soul, Keane, I should as soon have
thought of one of the stone cherubs, or that bronze Milton. Never mind,
one lives and learns. Mind? Devil take me, what am I talking about? I
don't mind at all; I'm very happy, only I'd set my heart on--you know
what. More fool I. Fay, you little imp, come here. Are you fairly broken
in by Keane, then?"

"Yes," said Miss Fay, with her old mischief, but a new blush, "as he has
promised never to use the curb."

"God bless you, then, my little pet," cried the General, kissing her
some fifty times. Then he laughed till he cried, and dried his eyes and
laughed again, and grunted, and growled, and shook both Keane's hands
vehemently. "I was a great fool, sir, and I dare say you've managed much
better. I _did_ set my heart on the boy, you know, but it can't be
helped now, and I don't wish it should. Be kind to her, that's all; for
though she mayn't bear the curb, the whip from anybody she cares about
would break her heart. She's a dear child, Keane--a very dear child. Be
kind to her, that's all."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the evening of January 13th, beginning the Lent Term, Mr. Sydenham
Morton sat in his own rooms with half a dozen spirits like himself, a
delicious aroma surrounding them of Maryland and rum-punch, and a rapid
flow of talk making its way through the dense atmosphere.

"To think of Granite Keane being caught!" shouted one young fellow. "I
should as soon have thought of the Pyramids walking over to the Sphinx,
and marrying her."

"Poor devil! I pity him," sneered Henley of Trinity, aged nineteen.

"He don't require much pity, my dear fellow; I think he's pretty
comfortable," rejoined Sydie. "He did, to be sure, when he was trying to
beat sense into your brain-box, but that's over for the present."

"Come, tell us about the wedding," said Somerset of King's. "I was sorry
I couldn't go down."

"Well," began Sydie, stretching his legs and putting down his pipe,
"she--_the_ she was dressed in white tulle and----"

"Bother the dress. Go ahead!"

"The dress was no bother, it was the one subject in life to the women.
You must listen to the dress, because I asked the prettiest girl there
for the description of it to enlighten your minds, and it was harder to
learn than six books of Horace. The bridesmaids wore tarlatane à la
Princesse Stéphanie, trois jupes bouillonnées, jupe desous de soie
glacée, guirlandes couleur dea yeux impériaux d'Eugénie, corsets
décolletés garnis de ruches de ruban du----"

"For Heaven's sake, hold your tongue!" cried Somerset. "That jargon's
worse than the Yahoos'. The dead languages are bad enough to learn, but
women's living language of fashion is ten hundred times worse. The
twelve girls were dressed in blue and white, and thought themselves
angels--we understand. Cut along."

"Gunter was prime," continued Sydie, "and the governor was prime,
too--splendid old buck; only when he gave her away he was very near
saying, 'Devil take it!' which might have had a novel, but hardly a
solemn, effect. Little Fay was delightful--for all the world like a bit
of incarnated sunshine. Keane was granite all over, except his eyes, and
they were lava; if we hadn't, for our own preservation, let him put her
in a carriage and started 'em off, he might have become dangerous, after
the manner of Etna, ice outside and red-hot coals within. The
bridesmaids tears must have washed the church for a week, and made it
rather a damp affair. One would scarcely think women were so anxious to
marry, to judge from the amount of grief they get up at a friend's
sacrifice. It looks uncommonly like envy; but it _isn't_, we're sure!
The ball was like most other balls: alternate waltzing and flirtation, a
vast lot of nonsense talked, and a vast lot of champagne drunk--Cupid
running about in every direction, and a tremendous run on all the
amatory poets--Browning and Tennyson being worked as hard as cab-horses,
and used up pretty much as those quadrupeds--dandies suffering
self-inflicted torture from tight boots, and saying, like Cranmer, when
he held his hand in the fire, that it was rather agreeable than
otherwise, considering it drew admiration--spurs getting entangled in
ladies' dresses, and ladies making use thereof for a display of
amiability, which the dragoons are very much mistaken if they fancied
continued into private life--girls believing all the pretty things said
to them--men going home and laughing at them all--wallflowers very
black, women engaged ten deep very sunshiny--the governor very glorious,
and my noble self very fascinating. And now," said Sydie, taking up his
pipe, "pass the punch, old boy, and never say I can't talk!"



THE STORY OF A CRAYON-HEAD;

OR,

A DOUBLED-DOWN LEAF IN A MAN'S LIFE.


I was dining with a friend, in his house on the Lung' Arno (he fills,
never mind what, post in the British Legation), where I was passing an
autumn month. The night was oppressively hot; a still, sultry sky
brooded over the city, and the stars shining out from a purple mist on
to the Campanile near, and the slopes of Bellosguardo in the distance.
It was intensely hot; not all the iced wines on his table could remove
the oppressive warmth of the evening air, which made both him and me
think of evenings we had spent together in the voluptuous lassitude of
the East, in days gone by, when we had travelled there, fresh to life,
to new impressions, to all that gives "greenness to the grass, and glory
to the flower."

The Arno ran on under its bridge, and we leaned out of the balcony where
we were sitting and smoking, while I tossed over, without thinking much
of what I was doing, a portfolio of his sketches. Position has lost for
art many good artists since Sir George Beaumont: my friend is one of
them; his sketches are masterly; and had he been a vagrant Bohemian
instead of an English peer, there might have been pictures on the walls
of the R. A. to console one for the meretricious daubs and pet
vulgarities of nursery episodes, hideous babies, and third-class
carriage interiors, which make one's accustomed annual visit to the
rooms that once saw the beauties of Reynolds, and Wilson, and Lawrence,
a positive martyrdom to anybody of decent refinement and educated taste.
The portfolio stood near me, and I took out a sketch or two now and then
between the pauses of our conversation, looking lazily up the river,
while the moonlight shone on Dante's city, that so long forgot, and has,
so late, remembered him.

"Ah! what a pretty face this is! Who's the original?" I asked him,
drawing out a female head, done with great finish in pastel, under which
was written, in his own hand, "Florelle." It was a face of great beauty,
with a low Greek brow and bronze-dark hair, and those large, soft,
liquid eyes that you only see in a Southern, and that looked at you from
the sketch with an earnest, wistful regard, half childlike, half
impassioned. He looked up, glanced at the sketch, and stretched out his
hand hastily, but I held it away from him. "I want to look at it; it is
a beautiful head; I wish we had the original here now. Who is she?"

As I spoke--holding the sketch up where the light from the room within
fell on what I had no doubt was a likeness of some fair face that had
beguiled his time in days gone by, a souvenir of one of his loves more
lasting than souvenirs of such episodes in one's life often are, if
merely trusted to that inconstant capricieuse, Memory,--I might have hit
him with a bullet rather than asked him about a mere etude à deux
crayons, for he shuddered, and drank off some white Hermitage quickly.

"I had forgotten that was in the portfolio," he said, hurriedly, as he
took it from me and put it behind him, with its face against the wall,
as though it had been the sketch of a Medusa.

"What do you take it away for? I had not half done looking at it. Who is
the original?"

"One I don't care to mention."

"Because?"

"Because the sight of that picture gives me a twinge of what I ought to
be hardened against--regret."

"Regret! Is any woman worth that?"

"She was."

"I don't believe it; and I fancied you and I thought alike on such
points. Of all the women for whom we feel twinges of conscience or
self-reproach in melancholy moments, how many _loved us_? Moralists and
poets sentimentalize over it, and make it a stalking-horse whereby to
magnify our sins and consign us more utterly to perdition, while they do
for themselves a little bit of poetic morality cheaply; but in reality
there are uncommonly few women who can love, to begin with, and in the
second, vanity, avarice, jealousy, desires for pretty toilettes, one or
other, or all combined, have quite as much to do with their 'sacrifice'
for us as anything."

"Quite true; but--there are women and women, perhaps, and it was not of
that sort of regret that I spoke."

"Of what sort, then?"

He made me no reply: he broke the ash off his Manilla, and smoked
silently some moments, leaning over the balcony and watching the
monotonous flow of the Arno, with deeper gloom on his face than I
remembered to have seen there any time before. I was sorry I had chanced
to light upon a sketch that had brought him back such painful
recollections of whatever kind they might be, and I smoked too, sending
the perfumed tobacco out into the still sultry night that was brooding
over Florence.

"Of what sort?" said he, abruptly, after some minutes' pause. "Shall I
tell you? Then you can tell _me_ whether I was a fool who made one grand
mistake, or a sensible man of the world who kept himself from a grand
folly. I have been often in doubt myself."

He leaned back, his face in shadow, so that I could not see it, while
the Arno's ebb and flow was making mournful river-music under our
windows,--while the purple glories of the summer night deepened round
Giotto's Tower, where, in centuries past, the Immortal of Florence had
sat dreaming of the Paradiso, the mortals passing by whispering him as
"the man who had seen hell," and the light within the room shone on the
olives and grapes, the cut-glass and silver claret-jugs, the crimson
Montepulciano and the white Hermitage, on the table, as he told me the
story of the head in crayons.

"Two years ago I went into the south of France. I was chargé d'Affaires
at ---- then, you remember, and the climate had told upon me. I was not
over-well, and somebody recommended me the waters of Eaux Bonnes. The
waters I put little faith in, but in the air of the Pyrenees, in the
change from diplomacy to a life _en rase campagne_, I put much, and I
went to Eaux Bonnes accordingly, for July and August, with a vow to
forswear any society I might find at the baths--I had had only too much
of society as it was--and to spend my days in the mountains with my
sketching-block and my gun. But I did not like Eaux Bonnes; it was
intensely warm. There were several people who knew me really; no end of
others who got hold of my name, and wanted me to join their
riding-parties, and balls, and picnics. That was not what I wanted, so I
left the place and went on to Luz, hoping to find solitude there. That
valley of Luz--you know it?--is it not as lovely as any artist's dream
of Arcadia, in the evening, when the sunset light has passed off the
meadows and corn-lands of the lower valley, and just lingers golden and
rosy on the crests of the mountains, while the glow-worms are coming out
among the grasses, and the lights are being lit in the little homesteads
nestling among their orchards one above another on the hill-sides, and
its hundred streams are rushing down the mountains and under the trees,
foaming, and tumbling, and rejoicing on their way! When I have had my
fill of ambition and of pleasure, I shall go and live at Luz, I think.

"_When!_ Well! you are quite right to repeat it ironically; that time
will never come, I dare say, and why should it? I am not the stuff to
cogitate away my years in country solitudes. If prizes are worth
winning, they are worth working for till one's death; a man should never
give up the field while he has life left in him. Well! I went to Luz,
and spent a pleasant week or so there, knocking over a few chamois or
izards, or sketching on the sides of the Pic du Midi, or Tourmalet, but
chiefly lying about under the great beech-trees in the shade, listening
to the tinkle of the sheep-bells, like an idle fellow, as I meant to be
for the time I had allotted myself. One day----"

He stopped and blew some whiffs from his Manilla into the air. He seemed
to linger over the prelude to his story, and shrink from going on with
the story itself, I thought; and he smothered a sigh as he raised
himself.

"How warm the night is; we shall have a tempest. Reach me that wine,
there's a good fellow. No, not the Amontillado, the Château Margaux,
please; one can't drink hot dry wines such a night as this. But to
satisfy your curiosity about this crayon study.--One day I thought I
would go to Gavarnie. I had heard a good deal, of course, about the
great marble wall, and the mighty waterfalls, the rocks of Marboré, and
the Brêche de Roland, but, as it chanced, I had never been up to the
Cercle, nor, indeed, in that part of the Midi at all, so I went. The
gods favored me, I remember; there were no mists, the sun was brilliant,
and the great amphitheatre was for once unobscured; the white marble
flashing brown and purple, rose and golden, in the light; the cascades
tumbling and leaping down into the gigantic basin; the vast plains of
snow glittering in the sunshine; the twin rocks standing in the clear
air, straight and fluted as any two Corinthian columns hewn and
chiselled by man. Good Heaven! before a scene like Gavarnie, what true
artist must not fling away his colors and his brushes in despair and
disgust with his own puerility and impotence? What can be transferred to
canvas of such a scene as that? What does the best beauty of Claude, the
grandest sublimity of Salvator, the greatest power of Poussin, look
beside Nature when she reigns as she reigns at Gavarnie? I am an art
worshipper, as you know: but there are times in my life, places on
earth, that make me ready to renounce art for ever!

"The day was beautiful, and thinking I knew the country pretty well, I
took no guides. I hate them when I can possibly dispense with them. But
the mist soon swooped down over the Cercle, and I began to wish I had
had one when I turned my horse's head back again. You know the route, of
course? Through the Chaos--Heaven knows it is deserving of its
name;--down the break-neck little bridle-path, along the Gave, and over
the Scia bridge to St. Sauveur. You know it? Then you know that it is
much easier to break your neck down it than to find your way by it,
though by some hazard I did not break my neck, nor the animal's knees
either, but managed to get over the bridge without falling into the
torrent, and to pick my way safely down into more level ground; once
there, I thought I should easily enough find my way to St. Sauveur, but
I was mistaken: the mists had spread over the valley, a heavy storm had
come up, and, somehow or other, I lost the way, and could not tell where
I was, whether St. Sauveur was to the left or the right, behind me or in
front of me. The horse, a miserable little Pyrenean beast, was too
frightened by the lightning to take the matter into his hands as he had
done on the road through the Chaos, and I saw nothing for it but to
surrender and come to grief in any way the elements best pleased;
swearing at myself for not having stayed at the inn at Gavarnie or
Gedre; wishing myself at the vilest mountain auberge that ever sheltered
men and mules pêle-mêle; and calling myself hard names for not having
listened to my landlady's dissuasions of that morning as I left her
door, from my project of going to Gavarnie without a guide, which seemed
to her the acme of all she had ever known or heard of English strangers'
fooleries. The storm only increased, the great black rocks echoing the
roll of the thunder, and the Gave lashing itself into fury in its narrow
bed; happily I was on decently level ground, and the horse being, I
suppose, tolerably used to storms like it, I pushed him on at last, by
dint of blows and conjurations combined, to where, in the flashes of the
lightning, I saw what looked to me like the outline of a homestead: it
stood in a cleft between two shelving sides of rock, and a narrow
bridle-path led up to it, through high yews and a tangled wilderness of
rhododendrons, boxwood, and birch--one of those green slopes so common
in the Pyrenees, that look in full sunlight doubly bright and
Arcadian-like, from the contrast of the dark, bare, perpendicular rocks
that shut them in. I could see but little of its beauty then in the fog
that shrouded both it and me, but I saw the shape and semblance of a
house, and urging the horse up the ascent, thundered on its gate-panels
with my whip-handle till the rocks round echoed.

"There was no answer, and I knocked a little louder, if possible, than
before. I was wet to the skin with that wretched storm, and swore not
mildly at the inhospitable roof that would not admit me under it. I
knocked again, inclined to pick up a piece of granite and beat the panel
in; and at last a face--an old woman's weather-beaten face, but with
black southern eyes that had lost little of their fire with age--looked
through a grating at me and asked me what I wanted.

"'I want shelter if you can give it me,' I answered her. 'I have lost
my way coming from Gavarnie, and am drenched through. I will pay you
liberally if you will give me an asylum till the weather clears.'

"Her eyes blazed like coals through the little grille.

"'M'sieu, we take no money here--have you mistaken it for an inn? Come
in if you want shelter, in Heaven's name! The Holy Virgin forbid we
should refuse refuge to any!'

"And she crossed herself and uttered some conjurations to Mary to
protect them from all wolves in sheep's clothing, and guard their
dwelling from all harm, by which I suppose she thought I spoke fairly
and looked harmless, but might possibly be a thief or an assassin, or
both in one. She unlocked the gate, and calling to a boy to take my
horse into a shed, admitted me under a covered passageway into the
house, which looked like part, and a very ruined part, too, of what had
probably been, in the times of Henri-Quatre and his grandfather, a
feudal chateâu fenced in by natural ramparts from the rocks that
surrounded it, shutting in the green slope on which it stood, with only
one egress, the path through which I had ascended, into the level plain
below. She marshalled me through this covered way into an interior
passage, dark and vaulted, cheerless enough, and opened a low oak door,
ushering me into a chamber, bare, gloomy, yet with something of lost
grandeur and past state lingering about its great hearth, its massive
walls, its stained windows, and its ragged tapestry hangings. The woman
went up to one of the windows and spoke with a gentleness to which I
should have never thought her voice could have been attuned with its
harsh patois.

"'Mon enfant, v'là un m'sieu étranger qui vient chercher un abri pour un
petit peu. Veux-tu lui parler?'

"The young girl she spoke to turned, rose, and, coming forward, bade me
welcome with the grace, simplicity, and the naïve freedom from
embarrassment of a child, looking up in my face with her soft clear
eyes. She was like----No matter! you have seen that crayon-head, it is
but a portrayal of a face whose expression Raphael and Sassoferrato
themselves would have failed to render in its earnest, innocent,
elevated regard. She was very young--

    Standing with reluctant feet
    Where the brook and river meet--
    Womanhood and childhood fleet.

Good Heavens, I am quoting poetry! what will you think of me, to have
gone back to the Wertherian and Tennysonian days so far as to repeat a
triplet of Longfellow's? No man quotes _those_ poets after his salad
days, except in a moment of weakness. Caramba! why _has_ one any
weaknesses at all? we ought not to have any; we live in an atmosphere
that would kill them all if they were not as obstinate and
indestructible as all other weeds whose seeds will linger and peer up
and spoil the ground, let one root them out ever so! I owed you an
apology for that lapse into Longfellow, and I have made it. Am I to go
on with this story?"

He laughed as he spoke, and his laugh was by no means heartfelt. I told
him to go on, and he lighted another Manilla and obeyed me, while the
Arno murmured on its way, and the dusky, sultry clouds brooded nearer
the earth, and the lights were lit in the distant windows of the palace
of the Marchese Acqua d'Oro, that fairest of Florentines, who rouges so
indiscriminately and flirts her fan so inimitably, to one of whose balls
we were going that night.

He settled himself back in his chair, with his face darkened again by
the shadow cast on it from the pillar of the balcony; and took his cigar
out of his mouth.

"She looked incongruous in that bare and gloomy room, out of place with
it, and out of keeping with the old woman--a French peasant-woman,
weather-beaten and bronzed, such as you see any day by the score riding
to market or sitting knitting at their cottage-doors. It was impossible
that the girl could be either daughter or grand-daughter, or any
relation at all to her. In that room she looked more as one of these
myrtles might do, set down in the stifling gloomy horrors of a London
street than anything else, save that in certain traces about the
chamber, as I told you, there were relics of a faded grandeur which
harmonized better with her. I can see her now, as she stood there with a
strange foreign grace, an indescribable patrician delicacy mingled with
extreme youthfulness and naïveté, like an old picture in costume, like
one of Raphael's child-angels in face--poor little Florelle!

"'You would stay till the storm is over, monsieur? you are welcome to
shelter if you will,' she said, coming forward to me timidly yet
frankly. 'Cazot tells me you are a stranger, and our mountain storms are
dangerous if you have no guide.'

"I did not know who Cazot was, but I presumed her to be the old woman,
who seemed to be portress, mistress, domestic, cameriste, and all else
in her single person, but I thanked her for her permitted shelter, and
accepted her invitation to remain till the weather had cleared, as you
can imagine. When you have lost your way, any asylum is grateful,
however desolate and tumble-down. They made me welcome, she and the old
peasant-woman, with that simple, unstrained, and unostentatious
hospitality which is, after all, the true essence of good breeding, and
of which your parvenu knows nothing, when he keeps you waiting, and
shows you that you are come at an inapropos moment, in his fussy fear
lest everything should not be _comme il faut_ to do due credit to _him_.
Old Cazot set before me some simple refreshment, a _grillade de
châtaignes_, some maize and milk, and a dish of trout just caught in the
Gave below, while I looked at my châtelaine, marvelling how that young
and delicate creature could come to be shut up with an old peasant on a
remote hill-side. I did my best to draw her out and learn her history;
she was shy at first of a complete stranger, as was but natural, but I
spoke of Garvarnie, of the beauty of the Pyrenees, or Tourmalet, and the
Lac Bleu, and, warming with enthusiasm for her birthplace, the girl
forgot that I was a foreign tourist, unknown to her, and indebted to her
for an hour's shelter, and before my impromptu supper was over I had
drawn from her, by a few questions which she was too much of a child and
had too little to conceal not to answer with a child's ingenuousness,
the whole of her short history, and the explanation of her anomalous
position. Her name was Florelle de l'Heris, a name once powerful enough
among the nobles of the Midi, and the old woman, Madame Cazot, was her
father's foster-sister. Of her family, beggared in common with the best
aristocracy of France, none were now left; they had dwindled and fallen
away, till of the once great house of L'Heris this child remained alone
its representative: her mother had died in her infancy, and her father,
either too idle or too broken-hearted to care to retrieve his fortunes,
lived the life of a hermit among these ruins where I now found his
daughter, educating her himself till his death, which occurred when she
was only twelve years old, leaving her to poverty and obscurity, and
such protection and companionship as her old nurse Cazot could afford
her. Such was the story Florelle de l'Heris told me as I sat there that
evening waiting till the clouds should clear and the mists roll off
enough to let me go to St. Sauveur--a story told simply and
pathetically, and which Cazot, sitting knitting in a corner, added to by
a hundred gesticulations, expletives, appeals to the Virgin, and prolix
addenda, glad, I dare say, of any new confident, and disposed to regard
me with gratitude for my sincere praises of her fried trout. It was a
story which seemed to me to suit the delicate beauty of the flower I
had found in the wilderness, and read more like a chapter of some
versified novelette, like 'Lucille,' than a _bonâ fide_ page out of the
book of one's actual life, especially in a life like mine, of
essentially material pleasures and emphatically substantial and palpable
ambitions. But there _are_ odd stories in real life!--strange pathetic
ones, too--stranger, often, than those that found the plot and underplot
of a novel or the basis of a poem; but when such men as I come across
them they startle us, they look bizarre and unlike all the other leaves
of the book that glitter with worldly aphorisms, philosophical maxims,
and pungent egotisms, and we would fain cut them out; they have the ring
of that Arcadia whose golden gates shut on us when we outgrew boyhood,
and in which, _en revanche_, we have sworn ever since to
disbelieve--keeping our word sometimes, perhaps to our own
hindrance--Heaven knows!

"I stayed as long as I could that evening, till the weather had cleared
up so long, and the sun was shining again so indisputably, that I had no
longer any excuse to linger in the dark-tapestried room, with the
chestnuts sputtering among the wood-ashes, and Madame Cazot's needles
clicking one continual refrain, and the soft gazelle eyes of my young
châtelaine glancing from my sketches to me with that mixture of shyness
and fearlessness, innocence and candor, which gave so great a charm to
her manner. She was a new study to me, both for my palette and my
mind--a pretty fresh toy to amuse me while I should stay in the Midi. I
was not going to leave without making sure of a permission to return. I
wanted to have that face among my pastels, and when I had thanked her
for her shelter and her welcome, I told her my name, and asked her leave
to come again where I had been so kindly received.

"'Come again, monsieur? Certainly, if you care to come. But you will
find it a long way from Luz, I fear,' she said, naïvely, looking up at
me with her large clear fawn-like eyes--eyes so cloudless and untroubled
_then_--as she let me take her hand, and bade me adieu et bonsoir.

"I reassured her on that score, you can fancy, and left her standing in
the deep-embrasured window, a great stag-hound at her feet, and the
setting sun, all the brighter for its past eclipse, bathing her in
light. I can always see her in memory as I saw her then, poor
child!----Faugh! How hot the night is! Can't we get more air anyhow?

"'If you come again up here, m'sieu, you will be the first visitor the
Nid de l'Aigle has seen for four years,' said old Cazot, as she showed
me out through the dusky-vaulted passage. She was a cheerful, garrulous
old woman, strong in her devotion to the De l'Heris of the bygone past;
stronger even yet in her love for their single orphan representative of
the beggared present. 'Visitors! Is it likely we should have any,
m'sieu? Those that would suit me would be bad company for Ma'amselle
Florelle, and those that should seek her never do. I recollect the time,
m'sieu, when the highest in all the departments were glad to come to the
bidding of a De l'Heris; but generations have gone since then, and lands
and gold gone too, and, if you cannot feast them, what care people for
you? That is true in the Pyrenees, m'sieu, as well as in the rest of the
world. I have not lived eighty years without finding out that. If my
child yonder were the heiress of the De l'Heris, there would be plenty
to court and seek her; but she lives in these poor broken-down ruins
with me, an old peasant woman, to care for her as best I can, and not a
soul takes heed of her save the holy women at the convent, where, maybe,
she will seek refuge at last!'

"She let me out at the gate where I had thundered for admittance two
hours before, and, giving her my thanks for her hospitality--money she
would not take--I wished her good day, and rode down the bridle-path to
St. Sauveur, and onwards to Luz, thinking at intervals of that fair
young life that had just sprung up, and was already destined to wither
away its bloom in a convent. Any destiny would be better to proffer to
her than that. She interested me already by her childlike loveliness and
her strange solitude of position, and I thought she would while away
some of the long summer hours during my stay in the Midi when I was
tired of chamois and palette, and my lazy dolce under the beech-wood
shades. At any rate, she was newer and more charming than the belles of
Eaux Bonnes.

"The next morning I remembered her permission and my promise, and I rode
out through the town again, up the mountain-road, to the Nid de l'Aigle;
glad of anything that gave me an amusement and a pursuit. I never wholly
appreciate the far niente, I think; perhaps I have lived too entirely in
the world--and a world ultra-cold and courtly, too--to retain much
patience for the meditative life, the life of trees and woods, sermons
in stones, and monologues in mountains. I am a restless, ambitious man;
I must have a _pursuit_, be it of a great aim or a small, or I grow
weary, and my time hangs heavily on hand. Already having found Florelle
de l'Heris among these hills reconciled me more to my _pro tempo_
banishment from society, excitement, and pleasure, and I thanked my good
fortune for having lighted upon her. She was very lovely, and I always
care more for the physical than the intellectual charms of any woman. I
do not share some men's visionary requirements on their mental score; I
ask but material beauty, and am content with it.

"I rode up to the Nid de l'Aigle: by a clearer light it stood on a spot
of great picturesqueness, and before the fury of the revolutionary
peasantry had destroyed what was the then habitable and stately château,
must have been a place of considerable extent and beauty, and in the
feudal times, fenced in by the natural ramparts of its shelving rocks,
no doubt all but impregnable. There were but a few ruins now that held
together and had a roof over them--the part where Madame Cazot and the
last of the De l'Heris lived; it was perfectly solitary; there was
nothing to be heard round it but the foaming of the river, the music of
the sheep-bells from the flocks that fed in the clefts and on the slopes
of grass-land, and the shout of some shepherd-boy from the path below;
but it was as beautiful a spot as any in the Pyrenees, with its
overhanging beech-woods, its wilderness of wild-flowers, its rocks
covered with that soft gray moss whose tint defies one to repeat it in
oil or water colors, and its larches and beeches drooping over into the
waters of the Gave. In such a home, with no companions save her father,
old Cazot, and her great stag-hound, and, occasionally, the quiet
recluses of St. Marie Purificatrice, with everything to feed her native
poetry and susceptibility, and nothing to teach her anything of the
actual and ordinary world, it were inevitable that the character of
Florelle should take its coloring from the scenes around her, and that
she should grow up singularly childlike, imaginative, and innocent of
all that in any other life she would unavoidably have known. Well
educated she was, through her father and the nuns, but it was a
semi-religious and peculiar education, of which the chief literature had
been the legendary and sacred poetry of France and Spain, the chief
amusement copying the illuminated missals lent her by the nuns, or
joining in the choral services of the convent; an education that taught
her nothing of the world from which she was shut out, and encouraged all
that was self-devoted, visionary, and fervid in her nature, leaving her
at seventeen as unconscious of evil as the youngest child. I despair of
making you imagine what Florelle then was. Had I never met her, I should
have believed in her as little as yourself, and would have discredited
the existence of so poetic a creation out of the world of fiction; her
ethereal delicacy, her sunny gayety when anything amused her, her
intense sensitiveness, pained in a moment by a harsh word, pleased as
soon by a kind one, her innocence of all the blots and cruelties,
artifices and evils, of that world beyond her Nid de l'Aigle, made a
character strangely new to me, and strangely winning, but which to you I
despair of portraying: I could not have _imagined_ it. Had I never seen
her, and had I met with it in the pages of a novel, I should have put it
aside as a graceful but impossible conception of romance.

"I went up that day to the Nid de l'Aigle, and Florelle received me with
pleasure; perhaps Madame Cazot had instilled into her some scepticism
that 'a grand seigneur,' as the woman was pleased to term me, would
trouble himself to ride up the mountains from Luz merely to repeat his
thanks for an hour's shelter and a supper of roasted chestnuts. She was
a simple-minded, good-hearted old woman, who had lived all her life
among the rocks and rivers of the Hautes-Pyrenées, her longest excursion
a market-day to Luz or Bagnères. She looked on her young mistress and
charge as a child--in truth, Florelle was but little more--and thought
my visit paid simply from gratitude and courtesy, never dreaming of
attributing it to 'cette beauté héréditaire des L'Heris,' which she was
proud of boasting was an inalienable heirloom to the family.

"I often repeated my visits; so often, that in a week or so the old
ruined château grew a natural resort in the long summer days, and
Florelle watched for my coming from the deep-arched window where I had
seen her first, or from under the boughs of the great copper beech that
grew before the gate, and looked for me as regularly as though I were to
spend my lifetime in the valley of Luz. Poor child! I never told her my
title, but I taught her to call me by my christian name. It used to
sound very pretty when she said it, with her long Southern
pronunciation--prettier than it ever sounds now from the lips of
Beatrice Acqua d'Oro yonder, in her softest moments, when she plays at
sentiment. She had great natural talent for art, hitherto uncultivated,
of course, save by such instructions as one of the women at the convent,
skilful at illuminating, had occasionally given her. I amused myself
with teaching her to transfer to paper and canvas the scenery she loved
so passionately. I spent many hours training this talent of hers that
was of very unusual calibre, and, with due culture, might have ranked
her with Elisabetta Sirani or Rosa Bonheur. Sitting with her in the old
room, or under the beech-trees, or by the side of the torrents that tore
down the rocks into the Gave, it pleased me to draw out her unsullied
thoughts, to spread her mind out before me like a book--a pure book
enough, God knows, with not even a stain of the world upon it--to make
her eyes glisten and glow and dilate, to fill them with tears or
laughter at my will, to wake up her young life from its unconscious,
untroubled, childish repose to a new happiness, a new pain, which she
felt but could not translate, which dawned in her face for me, but never
spoke in its true language to her, ignorant then of its very name--it
amused me. Bah! our amusements are cruel sometimes, and costly too!

"It was at that time I took the head in pastels which you have seen, and
she asked me, in innocent admiration of its loveliness, if she was
_indeed_ like that?--This night is awfully oppressive. Is there water in
that carafe? Is it iced? Push it to me. Thank you.

"I was always welcome at the Nid de l'Aigle. Old Cazot, with the
instinct of servants who have lived with people of birth till they are
as proud of their master's heraldry as though it were their own,
discerned that I was of the same rank as her adored House of De
l'Heris--if indeed she admitted any equal to them--and with all the
cheery familiarity of a Frenchwoman treated me with punctilious
deference, being as thoroughly imbued with respect and adoration for the
aristocracy as any of those who died for the white lilies in the Place
de la Révolution. And Florelle--Florelle watched for me, and counted her
hours by those I spent with her. You are sure I had not read and played
with women's hearts so long--women, too, with a thousand veils and
evasions and artifices, of which she was in pure ignorance even of the
existence--without having this heart, young, unworn, and unoccupied,
under my power at once, plastic to mould as wax, ready to receive any
impressions at my hands, and moulded easily to my will. Florelle had
read no love stories to help her to translate this new life to which I
awoke her, or to put her on her guard against it. I went there often,
every day at last, teaching my pupil the art which she was only too glad
and too eager to learn, stirring her vivid imagination with descriptions
of that brilliant outside world, of whose pleasures, gayeties and
pursuits she was as ignorant as any little gentian flower on the rocks;
keeping her spell-bound with glimpses of its life, which looked to her
like fairyland, bizarre bal masqué though it be to us; and pleasing
myself with awakening new thoughts, new impressions, new emotions, which
swept over her tell-tale face like the lights and shades over
meadow-land as the sun fades on and off it. She was a new study, a new
amusement to me, after the women of our world, and I beguiled my time
with her, not thoughtlessly, as I might have done, not too hastily, as I
_should_ have done ten years before, but pleased with my new amusement,
and more charmed with Florelle than I at first knew, though I confess I
soon wished to make her love me, and soon tried my best to make her do
so--an easy task when one has had some practice in the rose-hued
atmosphere of the boudoir, among the most difficile and the most
brilliant coquettes of Europe! Florelle, with a nature singularly
loving, and a mind singularly imaginative, with no rival for me even in
her fancy, soon lavished on me all the love of which her impassioned and
poetic character was capable. She did not know it, but I did. She loved
me, poor child!--love more pure, unselfish, and fond than I ever won
before, than I shall ever win again.

"Basta! why need you have lighted on that crayon-head, and make me rake
up this story? I loathe looking at the past. What good ever comes of it?
A wise man lives only in his present. 'La vita è appunto una memoria,
una speranza, un punto,' writes the fool of a poet, as though the bygone
memories and the unrealized hopes were worth a straw! It is that very
present 'instant' that he despises which is available, and in which,
when we are in our senses, we absorb ourselves, knowing that that alone
will yield a fruit worth having. What are the fruits of the others? only
Dead Sea apples that crumble into ash.

"I knew that Florelle loved me; that I, and I alone, filled both her
imagination and her heart. I would not precipitately startle her into
any avowal of it. I liked to see it dawn in her face and gleam in her
eyes, guilelessly and unconsciously. It was a new pleasure to me, a new
charm in that book of Woman of which I had thought I knew every phase,
and had exhausted every reading. I taught Florelle to love me, but I
would not give her a name to my teaching till she found it herself. I
returned it? O yes, I loved her, selfishly, as most people, men or
women, do love, let them say what they will; _very_ selfishly,
perhaps--a love that was beneath her--a love for which, had she seen
into my heart, she might have disdained and hated me, if her soft nature
could have been moved to so fierce a thing as hate--a love that sought
its own gratification, and thought nothing of her welfare--a love _not_
worthy of her, as I sometimes felt then, as I believe now.

"I had been about six weeks in the Pyrenees since the day I lost myself
en route from Gavarnie; most of the days I had spent three or four
hours, often more, at the Nid de l'Aigle, giving my painting lessons to
Florelle, or being guided by her among the beech-wooded and mountain
passes near her home. The dreariest fens and flats might have gathered
interest from such a guide, and the glorious beauties of the Midi, well
suited to her, gained additional poetry from her impassioned love for
them, and her fond knowledge of all their legends, superstitions,
histories, and associated memories, gathered from the oral lore of the
peasantry, the cradle songs of Madame Cazot, and the stories of the old
chronicles of the South. Heavens! what a wealth of imagination, talent,
genius, lay in her if _I_ had not destroyed it!

"At length the time drew near when my so-called sojourn at the Baths
must end. One day Florelle and I were out sketching, as usual; she sat
under one of the great beeches, within a few feet of one of the cascades
that fell into the Gave du Pau, and I lay on the grass by her, looking
into those clear gazelle eyes that met mine so brightly and trustfully,
watching the progress of her brush, and throwing twigs and stones into
the spray of the torrent. I can remember the place as though it were
yesterday, the splash of the foam over the rocks, the tinkle of the
sheep-bells from the hills, the scent of the wild flowers growing round,
the glowing golden light that spread over the woodlands, touching even
the distant crest of Mount Aigu and the Pic du Midi. Strange how some
scenes will stamp themselves on the camera of the brain never to be
effaced, let one try all that one may.

"There, that morning, I, for the first time since we had met, spoke of
leaving Luz, and of going back to that life which I had so often amused
her by describing. Happy in her present, ignorant of how soon the scenes
so familiar and dear to her would tire and pall on me, and infinitely
too much of a child to have looked beyond, or speculated upon anything
which I had not spoken of to her, it had not presented itself to her
that this sort of life could not go on for ever; that even she would not
reconcile me long to the banishment from my own world, and that in the
nature of things we must either become more to each other than we were
now, or part as strangers, whom chance had thrown together for a little
time. She loved me, but, as I say, so innocently and uncalculatingly,
that she never knew it till I spoke of leaving her; then she grew very
pale, her eyes filled with tears, and shunned mine for the first time,
and, as an anatomist watches the quiver of pain in his victim, so I
watched the suffering of mine. It was her first taste of the bitterness
of life, and while I inflicted the pain I smiled at it, pleased in my
egotism to see the power I had over her. It was cruel, I grant it, but
in confessing it I only confess to what nine out of ten men have felt,
though they may conceal or deny it.

"'You will miss me, Florelle?' I asked her. She looked at me
reproachfully, wistfully, piteously, the sort of look I have seen in the
eyes of a dying deer; too bewildered by this sudden mention of my
departure to answer in words. No answer was needed with eyes so eloquent
as hers, but I repeated it again. I knew I gave pain, but I knew, too, I
should soon console her. Her lips quivered, and the tears gathered in
her eyes; she had not known enough of sorrow to have learnt to dissemble
it. I asked her if she loved me so much that she was unwilling to bid me
farewell. For the first time her eyes sank beneath mine, and a hot
painful color flushed over her face. Poor child! if ever I have been
loved by any woman, I was loved by her. Then I woke her heart from its
innocent peaceful rest, with words that spoke a language utterly new to
her. I sketched to her a life with me that made her cheeks glow, and her
lips quiver, and her eyes grow dark. She was lovelier in those moments
than any art could ever attempt to picture! She loved me, and I made
her tell me so over and over again. She put her fate unhesitatingly into
my hands, and rejoiced in the passion I vowed her, little understanding
how selfishly I sought her, little thinking, in her ignorance of the
evil of the world, that while she rejoiced in the fondness I lavished on
her, and worshipped me as though I were some superior unerring godlike
being, she was to me only a new toy, only a pursuit of the hour, a
plaything, too, of which I foresaw I should tire! Isn't it Benjamin
Constant who says,'Malheureux l'homme qui, dans le commencement d'un
amour, prévoit avec une précision cruelle l'heure où il en sera lassé'?

"As it happened, I had made that morning an appointment in Luz with some
men I knew, who happened to be passing through it, and had stopped there
that day to go up the Pic du Midi the next, so that I could spend only
an hour or two with Florelle. I took her to her home, parted with her
for a few hours, and went down the path. I remember how she stood
looking after me under the heavy gray stone-work of the gateway, the
tendrils of the ivy hanging down and touching her hair that glistened in
the sunshine as she smiled me her adieux. My words had translated, for
the first time, all the newly-dawned emotions that had lately stirred in
her heart, while she knew not their name.

"I soon lost sight of her through a sharp turn of the bridle-path round
the rocks, and went on my way thinking of my new love, of how completely
I held the threads of her fate in my hands, and how entirely it lay in
my power to touch the chords of her young heart into acute pain or into
as acute pleasure with one word of mine--of how utterly I could mould
her character, her life, her fate, whether for happiness or misery, at
my will. I loved her well enough, if only for her unusual beauty, to
feel triumph at my entire power, and to feel a tinge of her own poetry
and tenderness of feeling stirring in me as I went on under the green,
drooping, fanlike boughs of the pines, thinking of Florelle de l'Heris.

"'M'sieu! permettez-moi vous parle un p'tit mot?'

"Madame Cazot's patois made me look up, almost startled for the moment,
though there was nothing astonishing in her appearance there, in her
accustomed spot under the shade of a mountain-ash and a great boulder of
rock, occupied at her usual task, washing linen in the Gave, as it
foamed and rushed over its stones. She raised herself from her work and
looked up at me, shading her eyes from the light--a sunburnt, wrinkled,
hardy old woman, with her scarlet capulet, her blue cloth jacket, and
her brown woollen petticoat, so strange a contrast to the figure I had
lately left under the gateway of the Nid de l'Aigle, that it was
difficult to believe them even of the same sex or country.

"She spoke with extreme deference, as she always did, but so earnestly,
that I looked at her in surprise, and stopped to hear what it might be
she had to say. She was but a peasant woman, but she had a certain
dignity of manner for all that, caught, no doubt, from her long service
with, and her pride in, the De l'Heris.

"'M'sieu, I have no right, perhaps, to address you; you are a grand
seigneur, and I but a poor peasant woman. Nevertheless, I must speak. I
have a charge to which I shall have to answer in the other world to God
and to my master. M'sieu, pardon me what I say, but you love Ma'amselle
Florelle?'

"I stared at the woman, astonished at her interference and annoyed at
her presumption, and motioned her aside with my stick. But she placed
herself in the path--a narrow path--on which two people could not have
stood without one or other going into the Gave, and stopped me
resolutely and respectfully, shading her eyes from the sun, and looking
steadily at my face.

"'M'sieu, a little while ago, in the gateway yonder, when you parted
with Ma'amselle Florelle, I was coming out behind you to bring my linen
to the river, and I saw you take her in your arms and kiss her many
times, and whisper to her that you would come again "ce soir!" Then,
m'sieu, I knew that you must love my little lady, or, at least, must
have made her love you. I have thought her--living always with her--but
a beautiful child still; but you have found her a beautiful woman, and
loved her, or taught her love, m'sieu. Pardon me if I wrong your honor,
but my master left her in my charge, and I am an ignorant old peasant,
ill fitted for such a trust; but is this love of yours such as the Sieur
de l'Heris, were he now on earth, would put his hand in your own and
thank you for, or is it such that he would wash out its insult in your
blood or his?'

"Her words amazed me for a moment, first at the presumption of an
interference of which I had never dreamt, next at the iron firmness with
which this old woman, nothing daunted, spoke as though the blood of a
race of kings ran in her veins. I laughed a little at the absurdity of
this cross-questioning from her to me, and not choosing to bandy words
with her, bade her move aside; but her eyes blazed like fire; she stood
firm as the earth itself.

"'M'sieu, answer me! You love Ma'amselle Florelle--you have asked her in
marriage?'

"I smiled involuntarily:

"'My good woman, men of my class don't marry every pretty face they
meet; we are not so fond of the institution. You mean well, I know; at
the same time, you are deucedly impertinent, and I am not accustomed to
interference. Have the goodness to let me pass, if you please.'

"But she would not move. She folded her arms across her chest, quivering
from head to foot with passion, her deep-set eyes flashing like coals
under her bushy eyebrows.

"'M'sieu, I understand you well enough. The house of the L'Heris is
fallen, ruined, and beggared, and you deem dishonor may approach it
unrebuked and unrevenged. Listen to me, m'sieu; I am but a woman, it is
true, and old, but I swore by Heaven and Our Lady to the Sieur de
l'Heris, when he lay dying yonder, years ago, that I would serve the
child he left, as my forefathers had served his in peace and war for
centuries, and keep and guard her as best I might dearer than my own
heart's blood. Listen to me. Before this love of yours shall breathe
another word into her ear to scorch and sully it; before your lips shall
ever meet hers again; before you say again to a De l'Heris poor and
powerless, what you would never have dared to say to a De l'Heris rich
and powerful, I will defend her as the eagles by the Nid de l'Aigle
defend their young. You shall only reach her across my dead body!'

"She spoke with the vehemence and passionate gesticulation of a
Southern; in her patois, it is true, and with rude eloquence, but there
was an odd _timbre_ of pathos in her voice, harsh though it was, and a
certain wild dignity about her through the very earnestness and passion
that inspired her. I told her she was mad, and would have put her out of
my path, but, planting herself before me, she laid hold of my arm so
firmly that I could not have pushed forwards without violence, which I
would not have used to a woman, and a woman, moreover, as old as she
was.

"'Listen to one word more, m'sieu. I know not what title you may bear in
your own country, but I saw a coronet upon your handkerchief the other
day, and I can tell you are a grand seigneur--you have the air of it,
the manner. M'sieu, you can have many women to love you; cannot you
spare this one? you must have many pleasures, pursuits, enjoyments in
your world, can you not leave me this single treasure? Think, m'sieu! If
Ma'amselle Florelle loves you now, she will love you only the dearer as
years go on; and _you_, you will tire of her, weary of her, want change,
fresh beauty, new excitement--you must know that you will, or why should
you shrink from the bondage of marriage?--you will weary of her; you
will neglect her first and desert her afterwards; what will be the
child's life _then_? Think! You have done her cruel harm enough now with
your wooing words, why will you do her more? What is your love beside
hers? If you have heart or conscience, you cannot dare to contrast them
together; _she_ would give up everything for you, and _you_ would give
up nothing! M'sieu, Florelle is not like the women of your world; she is
innocent of evil as the holy saints; those who meet her should guard her
from the knowledge, and not lead her to it. Were the Sieur De l'Heris
living now, were her House powerful as I have known them, would you have
dared or dreamt of seeking her as you do now? M'sieu, he who wrongs
trust, betrays hospitality, and takes advantage of that very purity,
guilelessness, and want of due protection which should be the best and
strongest appeal to every man of chivalry and honor--he, whoever he be,
the De l'Heris would have held, as what he is, a coward! Will you not
now have pity upon the child, and let her go?'

"I have seldom been moved in, never been swayed from, any pursuit or any
purpose, whether of love, or pleasure, or ambition; but something in old
Cazot's words stirred me strangely, more strangely still from the daring
and singularity of the speaker. Her intense love for her young charge
gave her pathos, eloquence, and even a certain rude majesty, as she
spoke; her bronzed wrinkled features worked with emotions she could not
repress, and hot tears fell over her hard cheeks. I felt that what she
said was true; that as surely as the night follows the day would
weariness of it succeed to my love for Florelle, that to the hospitality
I had so readily received I had, in truth, given but an ill return, and
that I had deliberately taken advantage of the very ignorance of the
world and faith in me which should have most appealed to my honor. I
knew that what she said was true, and this epithet of 'coward' hit me
harder from the lips of a woman, on whom her sex would not let me avenge
it, with whom my conscience would not let me dispute it, than it would
have done from any man. _I_ called a coward by an old peasant woman!
absurd idea enough, wasn't it? It is a more absurd one still that I
could not listen to her unmoved, that her words touched me--how or why I
could not have told--stirred up in me something of weakness,
unselfishness, or chivalrousness--I know not what exactly--that prompted
me for once to give up my own egotistical evanescent passions and act to
Florelle as though all the males of her house were on earth to make me
render account of my acts. At old Cazot's words I shrank for once from
my own motives and my own desires, shrank from classing Florelle with
the _cocottes_ of my world, from bringing her down to their level and
their life.

"'You will have pity on her, m'sieu, and go?' asked old Cazot, more
softly, as she looked in my face.

"I did not answer her, but put her aside out of my way, went down the
mountain-path to where my horse was left cropping the grass on the level
ground beneath a plane-tree, and rode at a gallop into Luz without
looking back at the gray-turreted ruins of the Nid de l'Aigle.

"And I left Luz that night without seeing Florelle de l'Heris again--a
tardy kindness--one, perhaps, as cruel as the cruelty from which old
Cazot had protected her. Don't you think I was a fool, indeed, for once
in my life, to listen to an old woman's prating? Call me so if you like,
I shall not dispute it; we hardly know when we are fools, and when wise
men! Well! I have not been much given to such weaknesses.

"I left Luz, sending a letter to Florelle, in which I bade her farewell,
and entreated her to forget me--an entreaty which, while I made it, I
felt would not be obeyed--one which, in the selfishness of my heart, I
dare say, I hoped might not be. I went back to my old diplomatic and
social life, to my customary pursuits, amusements, and ambitions,
turning over the leaf of my life that contained my sojourn in the
Pyrenees, as you turn over the page of a romance to which you will never
recur. I led the same life, occupied myself with my old ambitions, and
enjoyed my old pleasures; but I could not forget Florelle as wholly as I
wished and tried to do. I had not usually been troubled with such
memories; if unwelcome, I could generally thrust them aside; but
Florelle I did not forget; the more I saw of other women the sweeter and
brighter seemed by contrast her sensitive, delicate nature, unsullied by
the world, and unstained by artifice and falsehood. The longer time went
on, the more I regretted having given her up--perhaps on no better
principle than that on which a child cares most for the toy he cannot
have; perhaps because, away from her, I realized I had lost the purest
and the strongest love I had ever won. In the whirl of my customary life
I sometimes wondered how she had received my letter, and how far the
iron had burnt into her young heart--wondered if she had joined the
Sisters of Sainte Marie Purificatrice, or still led her solitary life
among the rocks and beech-woods of Nid de l'Aigle. I often thought of
her, little as the life I led was conducive to regretful or romantic
thoughts. At length my desire to see her again grew ungovernable. I had
never been in the habit of refusing myself what I wished; a man is a
fool who does, if his wishes are in any degree attainable. And at the
end of the season I went over to Paris, and down again once more into
the Midi. I reached Luz, lying in the warm golden Pyrenean light as I
had left it, and took once more the old familiar road up the hills to
the Nid de l'Aigle. There had been no outward change from the year that
had flown by; there drooped the fan-like branches of the pines; there
rushed the Gave over its rocky bed; there came the silvery sheep-bell
chimes down the mountain-sides; there, over hill and wood, streamed the
mellow glories of the Southern sunlight. There is something unutterably
painful in the sight of any place after one's lengthened absence,
wearing the same smile, lying in the same sunlight. I rode on, picturing
the flush of gladness that would dawn in Florelle's face at the sight of
me, thinking that Mme. Cazot should not part me from her again, even, I
thought, as I saw the old gray turrets above the beech-woods, if I paid
old Cazot's exacted penalty of marriage! I loved Florelle more deeply
than I had done twelve months before. 'L'absence allument les grandes
passions et éteignent les petites,' they say. It had been the reverse
with me.

"I rode up the bridle-path and passed through the old gateway. There was
an unusual stillness about the place; nothing but the roar of the
torrent near, and the songs of the birds in the branches speaking in the
summer air. My impatience to see Florelle, or to hear her, grew
ungovernable. The door stood open. I groped my way through the passage
and pushed open the door of the old room. Under the oriel window, where
I had seen her first, she lay on a little couch. I saw her again--but
_how_! My God! to the day of my death I shall never forget her face as I
saw it then; it was turned from me, and her hair streamed over her
pillows, but as the sunlight fell upon it, I knew well enough what was
written there. Old Cazot, sitting by the bed with her head on her arms,
looked up, and came towards me, forcing me back.

"'You are come at last, to see her die. Look on your work--look well at
it--and then go; with my curse upon you!'

"I shook off her grasp, and forcing my way towards the window, threw
myself down by Florelle's bed; till then I never knew how well I loved
her. My voice awoke her from her sleep, and, with a wild cry of joy, she
started up, weak as she was, and threw her arms round my neck, clinging
to me with her little hands, and crying to me deliriously not to leave
her while she lived--to stay with her till death should take her; where
had I been so long? why had I come so late? _So late!_--those piteous
words! As I held her in my arms, unconscious from the shock, and saw the
pitiless marks that disease, the most hopeless and the most cruel, had
made on the face that I had left fair, bright, and full of life as any
child's, I felt the full bitterness of that piteous reproach, 'Why had I
come so late?'

"What need to tell you more. Florelle de l'Heris was dying, and I had
killed her. The child that I had loved so selfishly had loved me with
all the concentrated tenderness of her isolated and impassioned nature;
the letter I wrote bidding her farewell had given her her death-blow.
They told me that from the day she received that letter everything lost
its interest for her. She would sit for hours looking down the road to
Luz, as though watching wearily for one who never came, or kneeling
before the pictures I had left as before some altar, praying to Heaven
to take care of me, and bless me, and let her see me once again before
she died. Consumption had killed her mother in her youth; during the
chill winter at the Nid de l'Aigle the hereditary disease settled upon
her. When I found her she was dying fast. All the medical aid, all the
alleviations, luxuries, resources, that money could procure, to ward off
the death I would have given twenty years of my life to avert, I
lavished on her, but they were useless; for my consolation they told me
that, used a few months earlier, they would have saved her! She lingered
three weeks, fading away like a flower gathered before its fullest
bloom. Each day was torture to me. I knew enough of the disease to know
from the first there was no hope for her or me. Those long terrible
night-hours, when she lay with her head upon my shoulder, and her little
hot thin hands in mine, while I listened, uncertain whether every breath
was not the last, or whether life was not already fled! By God! I cannot
think of them!

One of those long summer nights Florelle died; happy with me, loving and
forgiving me to the last; speaking to the last of that reunion in which
_she_, in her innocent faith, believed and hoped, according to the
promise of her creed!--died with her hands clasped round my neck, and
her eyes looking up to mine, till the last ray of light was quenched in
them--died while the morning dawn rose in the east and cast a golden
radiance on her face, the herald of a day to which she never awoke!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a dead silence between us; the Arno splashed against the wall
below, murmuring its eternal song beneath its bridge, while the dark
heavy clouds drifted over the sky with a sullen roll of thunder. He lay
back in his chair, the deep shadow of the balcony pillar hiding his face
from me, and his voice quivered painfully as he spoke the last words of
his story. He was silent for many minutes, and so was I, regretting that
my careless question had unfolded a page out of his life's history
written in characters so painful to him. Such skeletons dwell in the
hearts of most; hands need be tender that disentomb them and drag out to
daylight ashes so mournful and so grievous, guarded so tenaciously,
hidden so jealously. Each of us is tender over his own, but who does not
think his brother's fit subject for jest, for gibe, for mocking dance
of death?

He raised himself with a laugh, but his lips looked white as death as he
drank down a draught of the Hermitage.

"Well! what say you: is the maxim right, _y-a-t-il femmes et femmes_?
Caramba! why need you have pitched upon that portfolio?--There are the
lights in the Acqua d'Oro's palace; we must go, or we shall get into
disgrace."

We went, and Beatrice Acqua d'Oro talked very ardent Italian to him, and
the Comtesse Bois de Sandal remarked to me what a brilliant and
successful man Lord ---- was, but how unimpressionable!--as cold and as
glittering as ice. Nothing had ever made him _feel_, she was quite
certain, pretty complimentary nonsense though he often talked. What
would the Marchesa and the Comtesse have said, I wonder, had I told them
of that little grave under the Pyrenean beech-woods? So much does the
world know of any of us! In the lives of all men are doubled-down pages
written on in secret, folded out of sight, forgotten as they make other
entries in the diary, and never read by their fellows, only glanced at
by themselves in some midnight hour of solitude.

Basta! they are painful reading, my friends. Don't you find them so? Let
us leave the skeletons in the closet, the pictures in the portfolio, the
doubled-down pages in the locked diary, and go to Beatrice Acqua
d'Oro's, where the lights are burning gayly. What is Madame Bois de
Sandal, _née_ Dashwood, singing in the music room?

    The tender grace of a day that is dead
    Will never come back to me!

That is the burden of many songs sung in this world, for some dead
flowers strew most paths, and grass grows over myriad graves, and many
leaves are folded down in many lives, I fear. And--retrospection is very
idle, my good fellow, and regret is as bad as the tic, and flirting is
deucedly pleasant; the white Hermitage we drank to-night is gone, we
know, but are there no other bottles left of wine every whit as good?
Shall we waste our time sighing after spilt lees? Surely not. And
yet--ah me!--the dead fragrance of those vines that yielded us the
golden nectar of our youth!



THE BEAUTY OF VICQ D'AZYR;

OR,

"NOT AT ALL A PROPER PERSON."


Bon ami, do you consider the possession of sisters an agreeable addition
to anybody's existence? _I_ hold it very intensely the reverse. Who pats
a man down so spitefully as his sisters? Who refuses so obstinately to
see any good in the Nazarene they have known from their nurseries? Who
snubs him so contumaciously, when he's a little chap in jackets and they
young ladies already out? Who worries him so pertinaciously to marry
their pet friend, "who has ten thousand a year, dear! Red hair? I'm sure
she has not! It's the most lovely auburn! But you never see any beauty
in _refined_ women!" Who, if you incline towards a pretty little
ineligible, rakes up so laboriously every scrap of gossip detrimental to
her, and pours into your ear the delightful intelligence that she has
been engaged to Powell of the Grays, is a shocking flirt, wears false
teeth, is full five years older than she says she is, and has most
objectionable connections? Who, I should like to know, does any and all
of these things, my good fellow, so amiably and unremittingly as your
sisters? till--some day of grace, perhaps--you make a telling speech at
St. Stephen's, and fling a second-hand aroma of distinction upon them;
or marry a co-heiress and lady-in-her-own-right, and they _raffolent_ of
that charming creature, speculating on the desirability of being
invited to your house when the men are down for September. Then, what a
dear fellow you become! they always _were_ so fond of you! a little
wild! oh, yes! but they are _so_ glad you are changed, and think more
seriously now! it was only from a _real_ interest in your welfare that
they used to grieve, &c., &c.

My sisters were my natural enemies, I remember, when I was in the daisy
age and exposed to their thraldom; they were so blandly superior, so
ineffably condescending, and wielded, with such smiling dexterity, that
feminine power of torture known familiarly as "nagging!" Now, of course,
they leave me in peace; but from my earliest to my emancipated years
they were my natural enemies. I might occasionally excite the enmity, it
is possible. I remember, when I was aged eight, covering Constance, a
stately brunette, with a mortifying amount of confusion, by asking her,
as she welcomed a visitor with effusion, why she said she was delighted
to see her when she had cried "There's that odious woman again!" as we
saw the carriage drive up. I have a criminal recollection of taking
Gwendolina's fan, fresh from Howell and James's, and stripping it of its
gold-powdered down before her face ere she could rush to its rescue, as
an invaluable medium in the manufacture of mayflies. I also have a dim
and guilty recollection of saying to the Hon. George Cursitt, standing
then in the interesting position of my prospective brother-in-law, "Mr.
Cursitt, Agneta doesn't care one straw for you. I heard her saying so
last night to Con; and that if you weren't so near the title, she would
never have accepted you;" which revelation inopportunely brought that
desirable alliance to an end, and Olympian thunders on my culprit's
head.

I had my sins, doubtless, but they were more than avenged on me; my
sisters were my natural enemies, and I never knew of any man's who
weren't so, more or less. Ah! my good sirs, those domesticities are all
of them horrid bores, and how any man, happily and thrice blessedly
free from them, can take the very worst of them voluntarily on his head
by the Gate of Marriage (which differs thus remarkably from a certain
Gate at Jerusalem, that at the one the camels kneel down to be lightened
of all _their_ burdens ere they can pass through it; at the other, the
poor human animal kneels down to be loaded with all _his_ ere he is
permitted to enter), does pass my comprehension, I confess. I might
amply avenge the injuries of my boyhood received from _mesdemoiselles
mes soeurs_. Could I not tell Gwendolina of the pot of money dropped by
her caro sposo over the Cesarewitch Stakes? Could I not intimate to
Agneta where her Right Honorable lord and master spent the small hours
last night, when popularly supposed to be nodding on the Treasury
benches in the service of the state? Could I not rend the pride of
Constance, by casually asking monsieur her husband, as I sip her coffee
in her drawing-room this evening, who was that very pretty blonde with
him at the Crystal Palace yesterday? the blonde being as well known
about town as any other star of the demi-monde. Of course I could: but I
am magnanimous; I can too thoroughly sympathize with those poor fellows.
My vengeance would recoil on innocent heads, so I am magnanimous and
silent.

My sisters have long ceased to be mesdemoiselles, they have become
mesdames, in that transforming crucible of marriage in which, assuredly,
all that glitters is not gold, but in which much is swamped, and
crushed, and fused with uncongenial metal, and from which the elixir of
happiness but rarely exhales, whatever feminine alchemists, who
patronize the hymeneal furnace, may choose to assure us to the contrary.
My sisters are indisputably very fine women, and develop in full bloom
all those essential qualities which their moral and mental trainers
sedulously instilled into them when they were limited to the
school-room and thorough-bass, Garcia and an "expurgated" Shakespeare,
the society of Mademoiselle Colletmonté and Fräulein von Engel, and the
occasional refection of a mild, religious, respectably-twaddling fiction
of the milk-and-water, pious-tendency, nursery-chronicling, and
grammar-disregarding class, nowadays indited for the mental improvement
of a commonplace generation in general, and growing young ladies in
particular. My sisters are women of the world to perfection; indeed, for
talent in refrigerating with a glance; in expressing disdain of a
toilette or a ton by an upraised eyebrow; in assuming a various
impenetrable plaît-il? expression at a moment's notice; in sweeping past
intimate friends with a charming unconsciousness of their existence,
when such unconsciousness is expedient or desirable; in reducing an
unwished-for intruder into an instantaneous and agonizing sense of his
own de trop-ism and insignificance--in all such accomplishments and
acquirements necessary to existence in all proper worlds, I think they
may be matched with the best-bred lady to be found any day, from April
to August, between Berkeley Square and Wilton Crescent. Constance, now
Lady Maréchale, is of a saintly turn, and touched with fashionable
fanaticism, pets evangelical bishops and ragged school-boys, drives to
special services, and is called our noble and Christian patroness by
physicians and hon. secs., holds doctrinal points and strong tracts,
mixed together in equal proportion, an infallible chloride of lime for
the disinfectance of our polluted globe, and appears to receive
celestial telegrams of indisputable veracity and charming acrimony
concerning the destiny of the vengeful contents of the Seven Vials.
Agneta, now Mrs. Albany Protocol, is a Cabinet Ministress, and a second
Duchesse de Longueville (in her own estimation at the least); is
"strengthening her party" when she issues her dinner invitations,
whispers awfully of a "crisis" when even penny-paper leaders can't get
up a breeze, and spends her existence in "pushing" poor Protocol, who,
thorough Englishman that he is, considers it a point of honor to stand
still in all paths with praiseworthy Britannic obstinacy and opticism.
Gwendolina, now Lady Frederic Farniente, is a butterfly of fashion, has
delicate health, affects dilettanteism, is interested by nothing, has
many other charming minauderies, and lives in an exclusive circle--so
tremendously exclusive, indeed, that it is possible she may at last draw
the _cordon sanitaire_ so _very_ tight, that she will be left alone with
the pretty woman her mirrors reflect.

They have each of them attained to what the world calls a "good
position"--an eminence the world dearly reveres; if you can climb to it,
_do_; never mind what dirt may cling to your feet, or what you may
chance to pull down in your ascent, so questions will be asked you at
the top, when you wave your flag victoriously from a plateau at a good
elevation. They haven't all their ambitions--who has? If a fresh
Alexander conquered the world he would fret out his life for a
standing-place to be able to try Archimedes' little experiment on his
newly-won globe. Lady Maréchale dies for entrance to certain salons
which are closed to her; she is but a Baronet's wife, and, though so
heavenly-minded, has _some_ weaknesses of earth. Mrs. Protocol grieves
because she thinks a grateful country ought to wreathe her lord's brow
with laurels--_Anglicè_, strawberry-leaves--and the country remains
ungrateful, and the brows bare. Lady Frederic frets because her foe and
rival, Lady Maria Fitz-Sachet, has footmen an inch taller than her own.
They haven't all their ambitions satisfied. We are too occupied with
kicking our dear friends and neighbors down off the rounds of the social
ladder to advance ourselves always perhaps as entirely as we otherwise
might do. But still they occupy "unexceptionable positions," and from
those fortified and impregnable citadels are very severe upon those who
are not, and very jealous of those who are, similarly favored by
fortune. When St. Peter lets ladies through the celestial portals, he'll
never please them unless he locks out all their acquaintance, and
indulges them with a gratifying peep at the rejected candidates.

The triad regard each other after the manner of ladies; that is to say,
Lady Maréchale holds Mrs. Protocol and Lady Frederic "frivolous and
worldly;" Lady Frederic gives them both one little supercilious
expressive epithet, "_précieuses_;" Mrs. Protocol considers Lady
Maréchale a "pharisee," and Lady Frederic a "butterfly;"--in a word,
there is that charming family love to one another which ladies so
delight to evince, that I suppose we must excuse them for it on the plea
that

    'Tis their nature to!

which Dr. Watts puts forward so amiably and grammatically in excuse for
the bellicose propensities of the canine race, but which is never
remembered by priest or layman in extenuation of the human.

They dislike one another--relatives always do--still, the three Arms
will combine their Horse, Line, and Field Batteries in a common cause
and against a common enemy; the Saint, the Politician, and the Butterfly
have several rallying-points in common, and when it comes to the
question of extinguishing an ineligible, of combining a sneer with a
smile, of blending the unexceptionably-courteous with the
indescribably-contemptuous, of calmly shutting their doors to those who
won't aggrandize them, and blandly throwing them open to those who will,
it would be an invidious task to give the golden apple, and decide which
of the three ladies most distinguishes herself in such social prowess.

Need I say that I _don't_ see very much of them?--severe strictures on
society in general, with moral platitudes, over the luncheon wines at
Lady Maréchale's; discourse redolent of blue-books, with vindictive
hits at Protocol and myself for our disinclination to accept a
"mission," and our levity of life and opinions at "a period so full of
social revolutions and wide-spread agitation as the present," through
the soup and fish at Agneta's; softly hissed acerbities and languidly
yawned satires on the prettiest women of my acquaintance, over the
coffee at Lady Frederic's; are none of them particularly inviting or
alluring. And as they or similar conversational confections are
invariably included in each of the three ladies' entertainments _en
petit comité_, it isn't wonderful if I forswear their drawing-rooms.
Chères dames, you complain, and your chosen defenders for you, that men
don't affect your society nowadays save and except when making love to
you. It isn't _our_ fault, indeed: you bore us, and--what can we do?--we
shrink as naturally and pardonably from voluntary boredom as from any
other voluntary suffering, and shirk an air redolent of ennui from the
same principle as we do an air redolent of diphtheria. Self-preservation
is a law of nature, and female society consists too exclusively of
milk-and-water, dashed here and there with citric acid of malice, to be
either a recherché or refreshing beverage to palates that have tasted
warmer spices or more wholesome tonics.

So I don't see much of my triad of sisters unless accidentally, but last
August I encountered them by chance at Vicq d'Azyr. Do you know Vicq
d'Azyr? No? All right? when it is known universally it will be spoilt;
it will soon be fashionable, dyspeptic, artificial, like the crowds that
will flock to it; its warm, bubbling springs will be gathered into long
upright glasses, and quaffed by yellow-visaged groups; brass bands will
bray where now the thrushes, orioles, and nightingales have the
woodlands to themselves; cavalcades of hired hacks will cut up its
thyme-covered turf, and young ladies will sketch in tortured outline and
miserable washes the glorious sweep of its mountains, the crimson tints
of its forests, the rush of its tumbling torrents, the golden gleam of
its southern sun. Vicq d'Azyr will be a Spa, and will be spoilt;
dyspepsia and bronchia, vanities and flirtations, cares and conquests,
physicians and intrigantes, real marchionesses puffing under asthma,
fictitious marquises strewing chaff for pigeons, monde and demi-monde,
grandes dames and dames d'industrie will float into it, a mighty army of
butterflies with a locust power of destruction: Vicq d'Azyr will be no
more, and in its stead we shall have--a Fashionable Bath. Vicq d'Azyr,
however, is free _yet_ from the hand of the spoiler, and is
charming--its vine-clad hills stretching up in sunny slopes; its little
homesteads nestling on the mountains' sides among the pines that load
the air with their rich heavy perfume; its torrents foaming down the
ravines, flinging their snowy spray far over the bows of arbutus and
mountain-ash that bend across the brinks of their rushing courses; its
dark-eyed peasant girls that dance at sunset under the linden-trees like
living incarnations of Florian's pastorals; its sultry brilliant summer
nights, when all is still, when the birds are sleeping among the
ilex-leaves, and the wind barely stirs the tangled boughs of the
woodland; when night is down on the mountains, wrapping hill and valley,
crag and forest in one soft purple mist, and the silence around is only
broken by the mystic music of the rushing waters, the soft whirr of the
night-birds' wings, or the distant chime of a village clock faintly
tolling through the air:----Caramba, messieurs! I beg your pardon! I
don't know why I poetize on Vicq d'Azyr. _I_ went there to slay, not to
sketch, with a rifle, not with a stylus, to kill izzards and chamois,
not to indite a poem à la mode, with double-barrelled adjectives, no
metre, and a "purpose;" nor to add my quota to the luckless loaded walls
of the Academy by a pre-Raphaelite landscape of arsenical green, with
the effete trammels of perspective gallantry disregarded, and trees
like Dr. Syntax's wife, "roundabout and rather squat," with just
two-dozen-and-seven leaves apiece for liberal allowance. I went to Vicq
d'Azyr, amongst other places, last August, for chamois-hunting with
Dunbar, of the Queen's Bays, taking up our abode at the Toison d'Or,
whither all artists, tourists, men who come for the sport, women who
come for its scenery, or invalids who come for its waters (whose
properties, _miserabile dictu!_ are just being discovered as a panacea
for every human ill--from a migraine to an "incurable pulmonary
affliction"), seek accommodation if they can have it, since it is the
only hotel in the place, though a very good one; is adorned with a
balcony running round the house, twined and buried in honeysuckle and
wild clematis, which enchants young ladies into instant promotion of it
into their sketch-books; and gives you, what is of rather more
importance, and what makes you ready to admire the clematis when, under
gastronomic exasperation, you might swear at it as a harbor for
tarantule--an omelette, I assure you, wellnigh as well cooked as you
have it at Mivart's or Meurice's.

At the Toison d'Or we took up our abode, and at the Toison d'Or we
encountered my two elder sisters, Constance and Agneta, travelling for
once on the same road, as they had left Paris together, and were
together going on to the fashionable capital of a fashionable little toy
duchy on the other side of the Rhine, when they should have finished
with the wilder beauties and more unknown charms of Vicq d'Azyr and its
environs. Each lady had her little train of husband, courier, valet,
lady's-maid, small dog, and giant jewel-box. I have put the list in the
inverse ratio of their importance, I believe. Your husband _versus_ your
jewel-box? Of course, my dear madam; absurd! What's the value of a
little simple gold ring against a dozen glittering circlets of diamonds,
emeralds, rubies, and garnets?

Each lady was bent on recruiting herself at Vicq d'Azyr after the toils
of the season, and of shining _après_ with all the brilliance that a
fair share of beauty, good positions, and money, fairly entitled
them to expect, at the little Court of--we will call it
Lemongenseidlitz--denominated by its charming Duchess, Princess Hélène
of Lemongenseidlitz-Phizzstrelitz, the loveliest and most volage of all
minor royalties. Each lady was strongly opposed to whatever the other
wished; each thought the weather "sultry" when the other thought it
"chilly," and _vice versâ_. Each considered her own ailments "unheard-of
suffering, dear!--I could never make any one feel!" &c. &c.--and assured
you, with mild disdain, that the other's malady was "purely nervous,
entirely exaggerated, but she _will_ dwell on it so much, poor darling!"
Each related to you how admirably they would have travelled if _her_
counsel had been followed, and described how the other _would_ take the
direction of everything, _would_ confuse poor Chanderlos, the courier,
till he hardly knew where he was, and _would_ take the night express out
of pure unkindness, just because she knew how ill it always made her
(the speaker) feel to be torn across any country the whole night at that
dreadful pace; each was dissatisfied with everything, pleased with
nothing, and bored, as became ladies of good degree; each found the sun
too hot or the wind too cold, the mists too damp or the air too dry, and
both combined their forces to worry their ladies'-maids, find fault with
the viands, drive their lords to the registering of an oath never to
travel with women again, welcome us benignly, since they thought we
might amuse them, and smile their sunniest on Dunbar--he's
heir-prospective to the Gwynne Marquisate, and Lady Marqueterie, the
Saint, is not above keeping one eye open for worldly distinctions, while
Mrs. Albany Protocol, though a Radical, is, like certain others of the
ultra-Liberal party, not above a personal kow-towing before those
"ridiculous and ought-to-be exploded conservative institutions"--Rank
and Title.

At the Toison d'Or, I say, when, after knocking over izzards _ad
libitum_ in another part of the district, we descended one evening into
the valley where Vicq d'Azyr lies nestled in the sunset light, with the
pretty vendangeuses trooping down from the sloping vineyards, and the
cattle winding homewards down the hill-side paths, and the vesper-bells
softly chiming from the convent-tower rising yonder above its woods of
linden and acacia--at the Toison d'Or, just alighting with the
respective suites aforesaid, and all those portable embarrassments of
books, tiger-skin rugs, flacons of bouquet, travelling-bags warranted to
carry any and everything that the most fastidious can require en route
from Piccadilly to Peru, with which ladies do love to encumber and
embitter their own persons and their companions' lives, we met, as I
have told you, mesdames mes soeurs.

"What! Dear me, how very singular! Never should have dreamt of meeting
_you_; so much too quiet a place, I should have thought. No Kursaal
_here_? Come for sport--oh! Take Spes, will you! Poor little dear, he's
been barking the whole way because he couldn't see out of the window.
Ah, Major Dunbar, charmed to see you! What an amusing rencontre, is it
not?" And Lady Maréchale, slightly out of temper for so eminent a
Christian at the commencement of her greeting, smoothed down her ruffled
feathers and turned smilingly on Dunbar. I have said he will be one day
Marquis of Gwynne.

"By George, old fellow! _you_ in this out-of-the-way place! That's all
right. Sport good, here? Glad to hear it. The deuce take me, if ever I
am lured into travelling in a _partie carrée_ again."

And Maréchale raised his eyebrows, and whispered confidentially to me
stronger language than I may commit to print, though, considering his
provocation, it was surely as pardonable as Uncle Toby's.

"The thing I dislike in this sort of hotels and places is the admixture
of people with whom one is obliged to come in contact," said Constance,
putting up her glass as she entered the long low room where the humble
table d'hôte of the Toison d'Or was spread. Lady Maréchale talks sweetly
of the equality of persons in the sight of Heaven, but I never heard her
recognize the same upon the soil of earth.

"Exactly! One may encounter such very objectionable characters! _I_
wished to dine in our own apartments, but Albany said no; and he is so
positive, you know! This place seems miserably primitive," responded
Agneta. Mrs. Protocol pets Rouges and Republicans of every country,
talks liberalism like a feminine Sièyes or John Bright, projects a
Reform Bill that shall bear the strongest possible family resemblance to
the Décrets du 4 Août, and considers "social distinctions _odious_
between man and man;" but her practice is scarcely consistent with her
theory, seeing that she is about as tenacious and resentful of
objectionable contact as a sea-anemone.

"Who is that, I wonder?" whispered Lady Maréchale, acidulating herself
in readiness, after the custom of English ladies when catching sight of
a stranger whom they "don't know."

"I wonder! All alone--how very queer!" echoed Mrs. Protocol, drawing her
black lace shawl around her, with that peculiar movement which announces
a woman's prescience of something antagonistic to her, that is to be
repelled _d'avance_, as surely as a hedgehog's transfer of itself into a
prickly ball denotes a sense of a coming enemy, and a need of caution
and self-protection.

"Who is that deucedly handsome woman?" whispered Maréchale to me.

"What a charming creature!" echoed Dunbar.

The person referred to was the only woman at the table d'hôte besides my
sisters--a sister-tourist, probably; a handsome--nay more, a beautiful
woman, about eight-and-twenty, distinguished-looking, brilliant, with a
figure voluptuously perfect as was ever the Princess Borghese's. To say
a woman looks a lady, means nothing in our day. "That young lady will
wait on you, sir," says the shopman, referring to the shopwoman who will
show you your gloves. "Hand the 'errings to that lady, Joe," you hear a
fishmonger cry, as you pass his shop-door, referring by his epithet to
some Mrs. Gamp or Betsy Priggs in search of that piscatory cheer at his
stall. Heaven forbid we should give the abused and degenerate title to
any woman deserving of the name! Generalize a thing, and it is vulgar.
"A gentleman of my acquaintance," says Spriggs, an auctioneer and
house-agent, to Smith, a collector of the water-rate. "A man I know,"
says Pursang, one of the Cabinet, to Greville Tempest, who is heir to a
Dukedom, and has intermarried with a royal house. The reason is plain
enough. Spriggs thinks it necessary to inform Smith, who otherwise might
remain ignorant of so signal a fact, that he actually does know a
gentleman, or rather what he terms such. Pursang knows that Tempest
would never suspect him of being _lié_ with men who were anything else;
the one is proud of the fine English, the other is content with the
simple phrase! Heaven forbid, I say, we should, nowadays, call any woman
a lady who is veritably such; let us fall back on the dignified,
definitive, courtly last-century-name of gentlewoman. I should be glad
to see that name revived; it draws a line that snobbissimi cannot pass,
and has a grand simplicity about it that will not attract Spriggs,
Smith, and Spark, and Mesdames S., leurs femmes!

Our sister-tourist, then, at the Toison d'Or, looked, to my eyes at the
least, much more than a "lady," she looked an _aristocrate jusqu'au bout
des ongles_, a beautiful, brilliant, dazzling brunette, with lovely
hazel eyes, flashing like a tartaret falcon's under their arched
pencilled eyebrows, quite an unhoped godsend in Vicq d'Azyr, where only
stragglers resort as yet, though--alas for my Arcadia--my sister's pet
physician, who sent them thither, is about, I believe, to publish a
work, entitled "The Water-Spring in the Wilderness; or, A Scamper
through Spots Unknown," which will do a little advertising of himself
opportunely, and send hundreds next season to invade the wild woodlands
and sunny valleys he inhumanly drags forth into the gas-glare of the
world.

The brilliant hazel eyes were opposite to me at dinner, and were, I
confess, more attractive to me than the stewed pigeons, the crisp
frog-legs, and the other viands prepared by the (considering we were in
the heart of one of the most remote provinces) really not bad cook of
the Toison d'Or. Lady Maréchale and Mrs. Protocol honored her with that
stare by which one woman knows so well how to destroy the reputation of
another without speech; they had taken her measurement by some method of
feminine geometry unknown to us, and the result was apparently not
favorable to her, for over the countenances of the two ladies gathered
that expression of stiff dignity and virtuous disdain, in the assuming
of which, as I have observed before, they are inimitable proficients.
"Evidently not a proper person!" was written on every one of their
lineaments. Constance and Agneta had made up their minds with celerity
and decision as to her social status, with, it is to be presumed, that
unerring instinct which leads their sex to a conclusion so
instantaneously, that, according to a philosopher, a woman will be at
the top of the staircase of Reasoning by a single spring, while a man is
toiling slowly up the first few steps.

"You are intending to remain here some days, madame?" asked the fair
stranger, with a charming smile, of Lady Maréchale--a pleasant little
overture to chance ephemeral acquaintance, such as a table d'hôte
surely well warrants.

But the pleasant little overture was one to which Lady Maréchale was far
too English to respond. With that inimitable breeding for which our
countrymen and women are continentally renowned, she bent her head with
stately stiffness, indulged herself with a haughty stare at the
offender, and turned to Agneta, to murmur in English her disgust with
the _cuisine_ of the really unoffending Toison d'Or.

"Poor Spes would eat nothing. Fenton must make him some panada. But
perhaps there was nothing better than goat's milk in the house! What
could Dr. Berkeley be thinking of? He described the place quite as
though it were a second Meurice's or Badischer Hof!"

A look of amusement glanced into the sparkling, yet languid eyes of my
opposite neighbor.

"English!" she murmured to herself, with an almost imperceptible but
sufficiently scornful elevation of her arched eyebrows, and a slight
smile, just showing her white teeth, as I addressed her in French; and
she answered me with the ease, the aplomb, the ever suave courtesy of a
woman of the world, with that polish which gives the most common
subjects a brilliance never their own, and that vivacity which confers
on the merest trifles a spell to amuse and to charm. She was certainly a
very lovely creature, and a very charming one, too; frank, animated,
witty, with the tone of a woman who has seen the world and knows it.
Dunbar adored her, at first sight; he is an inflammable fellow, and has
been ignited a thousand times at far less provocation. Maréchale
prepared for himself fifty conjugal orations by the recklessness with
which, under the very eyes of madame, he devoted himself to another
woman. Even Albany Protocol, dull, somnolent, and superior to such
weaknesses, as becomes a president of many boards and a chairman of
many committees, opened his eyes and glanced at her; and some young
Cantabs and artists at the other end of the table stopped their own
conversation, envying Dunbar and myself, I believe, for our
juxtaposition with the _belle inconnue_; while my sisters sat trifling
with the wing of a pigeon, in voluntary starvation (they would have had
nothing to complain of, you see, if they had suffered themselves to dine
well!), with strong disapprobation marked upon their lineaments, of this
lovely vivacious unknown, whoever she might be, talking exclusively to
each other, with a certain expression of sarcastic disdain and offended
virtue, hinting far more forcibly than words that they thought already
the "very worst" of her.

So severe, indeed, did they look, that Dunbar, who is a good-natured
fellow, and thinks--and thinks justly--that Constance and Agneta are
very fine women, left me to discuss, Hoffmann, Heine, and the rest of
Germany's satirical poets, with my opposite neighbor, and endeavored to
thaw my sisters; a very difficult matter when once those ladies are
iced. He tried Paris, but only elicited a monosyllabic remark concerning
its weather; he tried Vicq d'Azyr, and was rewarded for his trouble by a
withering sarcasm on the unlucky Toison d'Or; he tried chit-chat on
mutual acquaintances, and the unhappy people he chanced to name were
severally dismissed with a cutting satire appended to each. Lady
Maréchale and Mrs. Protocol were in one of those freezing and
unassailable moods in which they sealed a truce with one another, and,
combining their forces against a common foe, dealt out sharp, spherical,
hard-hitting little bullets of speech from behind the abatis in which
they intrenched themselves.

At last he, in despair, tried Lemongenseidlitz, and the ladies thawed
slightly--their anticipations from that fashionable little quarter were
couleur de rose. They would meet their people of the best _monde_, all
their dearest--that is of course their most fashionable--friends; the
dear Duchess of Frangipane, the Millamonts those charming people,
M. le Marquis de Croix-et-Cordon, Sir Henry Pullinger, Mrs.
Merivale-Delafield, were all there; that delightful person, too, the
Graf von Rosenläu, who amused them so much at Baden last year, was, as
of course Dunbar knew, Master of the Horse to the Prince of
Lemongenseidlitz-Phizzstrelitz; they would be well received at the
Court. Which last thing, however, they did not _say_, though they might
imply, and assuredly fully thought it; since Lady Maréchale already
pictured herself gently awakening his Serene Highness to the spiritual
darkness of his soul in legitimatizing gaming-tables in his duchy, and
Mrs. Protocol already beheld herself closeted with his First Minister,
giving that venerable Metternich lessons in political economy, and
developing to him a system for filling his beggared treasury to
overflowing, without taxing the people a kreutzer--a problem which,
though it might have perplexed Kaunitz, Colbert, Pitt, Malesherbes,
Talleyrand, and Palmerston put together, offered not the slightest
difficulty to _her_ enterprising intellect. Have I not said that
Sherlock states women are at the top of the staircase while we are
toiling up the first few steps?

"The Duchess--Princess Hélène is a lovely woman, I think. Winton saw her
at the Tuileries last winter, and raved about her beauty," said Dunbar,
finding he had hit at last on an acceptable subject, and pursuing it
with more zeal than discretion; for if there be one thing, I take it,
more indiscreet than another, it is to praise woman to woman.

Constance coughed and Agneta smiled, and both assented. "Oh yes--very
lovely, they believed!"

"And very lively--up to everything, I think I have heard," went on
Dunbar, blandly, unconscious of the meaning of cough, smile, and
assent.

"Very lively!" sighed the Saint.

"_Very_ lively!" smiled the Politician.

"As gay a woman as Marie Antoinette," continued Dunbar, too intent on
the truffles to pay en même temps much heed to the subject he was
discussing. "She's copied the Trianon, hasn't she?--has fêtes and
pastorals there, acts in comedies herself, shakes off etiquette and
ceremonial as much as she can, and all that sort of thing, I believe?"

Lady Maréchale leaned back in her chair, the severe virtue and dignified
censure of a British matron and a modern Lucretia expressed in both
attitude and countenance.

"A second Marie Antoinette?--too truly and unfortunately so, I have
heard! Levity in _any_ station sufficiently reprehensible, but when
exhibited in the persons of those whom a higher power has placed in
exalted positions, it is most deeply to be deplored. The evil and
contagion of its example become incalculable; and even when, which I
believe her excusers are wont to assert of Princess Hélène, it is merely
traceable to an over-gayety of spirit and an over-carelessness of
comment and censure, it should be remembered that we are enjoined to
abstain from every _appearance_ of evil!"

With which Constance shook out her phylacteries, represented by the
thirty-guinea bracade-silk folds of her skirt (a dress I heard her
describe as "very plain!--serviceable for travelling"), and glanced at
my opposite neighbor with a look which said, "You are evidently not a
proper person, but you hear for once what a proper person thinks!"

Our charming companion did hear it, for she apparently understood
English very well. She laughed a little--a sweet, low, ringing laugh--(I
was rather in love with her, I must say--I am still)--and spoke with a
slight pretty accent.

"True, madame! but ah! what a pity your St. Paul did not advise, too,
that people should not go by appearances, and think evil where evil is
not!"

Lady Maréchale gave stare number two with a curl of her lip, and bent
her head stiffly.

"What a very strange person!" she observed to Agneta, in a murmur,
meant, like a stage aside, to be duly heard and appreciated by the
audience. And yet my sisters are thought very admirably bred women, too!
But then, a woman alone--a foreigner, a stranger--surely no one would
exact courtesy to such, from "ladies of position?"

"Have you ever seen Princess Hélène, the Duchess of Lemongenseidlitz,
may I ask?" Maréchale inquired, hastily, to cover his wife's sneer. He's
a very good fellow, and finds the constant and inevitable society of a
saint slightly trying, and a very heavy chastisement for a few words
sillily said one morning in St. George's.

"I have seen her, monsieur--yes!"

"And is she a second Marie Antoinette?"

She laughed gayly, showing her beautiful white teeth.

"Ah, bah, monsieur! many would say that is a great deal too good a
comparison for her! A second Louise de Savoie--a second Duchesse de
Chevreuse--nay, a second Lucrezia Borgia, some would tell you. She likes
pleasure--who does not, though, except those with whom 'les raisins sont
trop verts et bons pour des goujats?'"

"What an insufferably bold person!" murmured Constance.

"Very disagreeable to meet this style of people!" returned Agneta.

And both stiffened themselves with a little more starch; and we know
that British wheats produce the stiffest starch in the world!

"Who, indeed!" cried Maréchale, regardless of madame's frown. "You know
this for truth, then, of Princess Hélène?"

"Ah, bah, monsieur! who knows anything for truth?" laughed the lovely
brunette. "The world dislikes truth so much, it is obliged to hide
itself in out-of-the-way corners, and very rarely comes to light. Nobody
knows the truth about her. Some think her, as you say, a second Marie
Antoinette, who is surrendered to dissipation and levity, cares for
nothing, and would dance and laugh over the dead bodies of the people.
Others judge her as others judged Marie Antoinette; discredit the
gossip, and think she is but a lively woman, who laughs at forms, likes
to amuse herself, and does not see why a court should be a prison! The
world likes the darker picture best; let it have it! I do not suppose it
will break her heart!"

And the fair stranger laughed so sweetly, that every man at the
dinner-table fell in love with her on the spot; and Lady Maréchale and
Mrs. Protocol sat throughout the remainder of the meal in frozen dignity
and unbreakable silence, while the lovely brunette talked with and
smiled on us all with enchanting gayety, wit, and abandon, chatting on
all sorts of topics of the day.

Dinner over, she was the first to rise from the table, and bowed to us
with exquisite grace and that charming smile of hers, of which the
sweetest rays fell upon _me_, I swear, whether you consider the oath an
emanation of personal vanity or not, my good sir. My sisters returned
her bow and her good evening to them with that pointed stare which says
so plainly, "You are not my equal, how dare you insult me by a
courtesy?"

And scarcely had we begun to sip our coffee up-stairs in the apartments
Chanderlos had secured for the miladies Anglaises, than the duo upon her
began as the two ladies sat with Spes between them on a sofa beside one
of the windows opening on the balcony that ran round the house. A chance
inadvertent assent of Dunbar's, à propos of--oh, sin unpardonable!--the
beauty of the incognita's eyes, touched the valve and unloosened the
hot springs that were seething below in silence. "A handsome woman!--oh
yes, a gentleman's beauty, I dare say!--but a very odd person!"
commenced Mrs. Protocol. "A very strange person!" assented Mrs.
Maréchale. "Very free manners!" added Agneta. "Quite French!" chorused
Constance. "She has diamond rings--paste, no doubt!" said the
Politician. "And rouges--the color's much too lovely to be natural!"
sneered the Saint. "Paints her eyebrows, too!" "Not a doubt--and tints
her lashes!" "An adventuress, I should say!" "Or worse!" "Evidently not
a proper person!" "Certainly not!"

Through the soft mellow air, hushed into evening silence, the words
reached me, as I walked through the window on to the balcony, and stood
sipping my coffee and looking lazily over the landscape wrapped in
sunset haze, over the valley where the twilight shadows were deepening,
and the mountains that were steeped yet in a rose-hued golden radiance
from the rays that had sunk behind them.

"My dear ladies," I cried, involuntarily, "can't you find anything a
little more kindly to say of a stranger who has never done you any harm,
and who, fifty to one, will never cross your path again?"

"Bravo!" echoed Maréchale, who has never gone as quietly in the
matrimonial break as Protocol, and indeed will never be thoroughly
broken in--"bravo! women are always studying to make themselves
attractive; it's a pity they don't put down among the items a trifle of
generosity and charity, it would embellish them wonderfully."

Lady Maréchale beat an injured tattoo with the spoon on her saucer, and
leaned back with the air of a martyr, and drawing in her lips with a
smile, whose inimitable sneer any lady might have envied--it was quite
priceless!

"It is the first time, Sir George, I should presume, that a husband and
a brother were ever heard to unite in upbraiding a wife and a sister
with her disinclination to associate with, or her averseness to
countenance, an improper person!"

"An improper person!" I cried. "But, my dear Constance, who ever told
you that this lady you are so desperately bitter upon has any fault at
all, save the worst fault in her own sex's eyes--that of beauty? I see
nothing in her; her manners are perfect; her tone----"

"You must pardon me if I decline taking your verdict on so delicate a
question," interrupted Lady Maréchale, with withering satire. "Very
possibly you see nothing objectionable in her--nothing, at least, that
_you_ would call so! Your views and mine are sufficiently different on
every subject, and the women with whom I believe you have chiefly
associated are not those who are calculated to give you very much
appreciation for the more refined classes of our sex! Very possibly the
person in question is what _you_, and Sir George too, perhaps, find
charming; but you must excuse me if I really cannot, to oblige you,
stoop to countenance any one whom my intuition and my knowledge of the
world both declare so very evidently what she should not be. She will
endeavor, most probably, if she remain here, to push herself into our
acquaintance, but if you and my husband should choose to insult us by
favoring her efforts, Agneta and I, happily, can guard ourselves from
the objectionable companionship into which those who _should_ be our
protectors would wish to force us!"

With which Lady Maréchale, with a little more martyrdom and an air of
extreme dignity, had recourse to her _flacon_ of Viola Montana, and sank
among the sofa cushions, a model of outraged and Spartan virtue. I set
down my coffee-cup, and lounged out again to the peace of the balcony;
Maréchale shrugged his shoulders, rose, and followed me. Lo! on the
part of the balcony that ran under _her_ windows, leaning on its
balustrade, her white hand, white as the flowers, playing with the
clematis tendrils, the "paste" diamond flashing in the last rays of the
setting sun, stood our "dame d'industrie--or worse!" She was but a few
feet farther on; she must have heard Lady Maréchale's and Mrs.
Protocol's duo on her demerits; she _had_ heard it, without doubt, for
she was laughing gayly and joyously, laughter that sparkled all over her
_riante_ face and flashed in her bright falcon eyes. Laughing still, she
signed me to her. I need not say that the sign was obeyed.

"Chivalrous knight, I thank you! You are a Bayard of chivalry; you
defend the absent! What a miracle, mon Dieu! Tell your friends from me
not to speak so loudly when their windows are open; and, for yourself,
rest assured your words of this evening will not be forgotten."

"I am happy, indeed, if I have been fortunate enough to obtain a chance
remembrance, but do not give me too much praise for so simple a service;
the clumsiest Cimon would be stirred into chivalry under such
inspiration as I had----"

The beautiful hazel eyes flashed smilingly on me under their lashes.
(_Those_ lashes tinted! Heaven forgive the malice of women!) She broke
off a sprig of the clematis, with its long slender leaves and fragrant
starry flowers, and gave it to me.

"_Tenez, mon ami_, if ever you see me again, show me that faded flower,
and I shall remember this evening at Vicq d'Azyr. Nay, do not flatter
yourself--do not thrust it in your breast; it is no gage d'amour! it is
only a reward for loyal service, and a souvenir to refresh my own
memory, which is treacherous sometimes, though not in gratitude to those
who serve me. Adieu, mon Bayard--et bonsoir!"

But I retained the hand that had given me my clematis-spray.

"Meet you again! But will not that be to-morrow? If I am not to see you,
as your words threaten, till the clematis be faded and myself forgotten,
let me at least, I beseech you, know where, who, by what name----"

She drew her hand away with something of a proud, surprised gesture;
then she laughed again that sweet, ringing, mocking laugh:

"No, no, Bayard, it is too much to ask! Leave the future to hazard; it
is always the best philosophy. Au revoir! Adieu--perhaps for a day,
perhaps for a century!"

And the bewitching mystery floated away from me and through the open
window of her room. You will imagine that my "intuition" did not lead me
to the conclusion to which Lady Maréchale's led her, or assuredly should
I have followed the donor of the clematis, despite her prohibition. Even
with my "intuition" pointing where it did, I am not sure what I might
have done if, in her salon, I had not caught sight of a valet and a
lady's maid in waiting with her coffee, and they are not such spectators
as one generally selects.

The servants closed her windows and drew down their Venetian blinds, and
I returned to my coffee. Whether the two ladies within had overheard her
conversation as she had heard theirs, I cannot say, but they looked
trebly refrigerated, had congealed themselves into the chilliest human
ice that is imaginable, and comported themselves towards me fully as
distantly as though I had brought a dozen ballet-girls in to dinner with
them, or introduced them to my choicest acquaintance from the Château
des Fleurs.

"A man's taste is so pitiably low!" remarked Lady Maréchale, in her
favorite stage aside to Mrs. Protocol; to which that other lady
responded, "Disgracefully so!"

Who _was_ my lovely unknown with the bright falcon eyes and the charming
laugh, with her strange freedom that yet was _not_, somehow, free, and
her strange fascination? I bade my man ask Chanderlos her
name--couriers know everything generally--but neither Mills nor
Chanderlos gave me any information. The people of the house did not
know, or said they did not; they only knew she had servants in
attendance who came with her, who revealed nothing, and paid any price
for the best of everything. Are impertinent questions ever asked where
money is plentiful?

I was dressing the next morning something later than usual, when I heard
the roll of a carriage in the courtyard below. I looked through the
half-open persiennes with a semi-presentiment that it was my sweet
foreigner who was leaving ere I could presume on my clematis or improve
our acquaintance. True enough, she it was, leaving Vicq d'Azyr in a
travelling-carriage, with handsome roans and servants in imperial-blue
liveries. Who the deuce could she be?

"Well, Constance," said I, as I bade Lady Maréchale good morning, "your
_bête noire_ won't 'press herself into your acquaintance,' as you were
dreading last night, and won't excite Maréchale and me to any more high
treason. Won't you chant a Te Deum? She left this morning."

"So I perceived," answered Lady Maréchale, frigidly; by which I suppose
_she_ had not been above the weakness of looking through _her_
persiennes.

"What a pity you and Agneta agitated yourselves with such unnecessary
alarm! It must have cost you a great deal of eau-de-Cologne and
sal-volatile, I am afraid, last night. Do you think she contaminated the
air of the salle-à-manger, because I will order Mills to throw some
disinfectant about before you go down?"

"I have no inclination to jest upon a person of that stamp," rejoined
Lady Maréchale, with immense dignity, settling her turquoise
wristband-studs.

"'That stamp of persons!' What! Do you think she is an adventuress, an
intrigante, 'or worse' still, then? I hoped her dashing equipage might
have done something towards cleansing her character. Wealth _is_ a
universal purifier generally."

"Flippant impertinence!" murmured Lady Maréchale, disgustedly, to Mrs.
Protocol, as she swept onwards down the staircase, not deigning me a
glance, much less a response, stiffening herself with a little extra
starch of Lucretian virtue and British-matronly dignity, which did not
grow limp again throughout breakfast, while she found fault with the
chocolate, considered the _petits pains_ execrable, condemned the
sardines as uneatable, petted Spes, kept Maréchale and me at Coventry,
and sighed over their enforced incarceration, by Dr. Berkeley's orders,
in Vicq d'Azyr, that kept them in this stupid place away from
Lemongenseidlitz.

Their anticipations from Lemongenseidlitz were charmingly golden and
rose-tinted. They looked forward to consolidating their friendship with
the dear Duchess in its balmy air, to improving a passing acquaintance
into an intimate one with that charming person the Baroness
Liebenfrauenmilch, Mistress of the Robes to Princess Hélène, and to
being very intimate at the Court, while the Pullingers (their
bosom-friends and very dear rivals) would be simply presented, and
remain in chagrin, uninvited to the state balls and palace festivities.
And what more delightful than that last clause? for what sauce invented,
from Carême to Soyer, flavors our own _plats_ so deliciously, I should
like to know, as thinking that our beloved next-door neighbor is doomed
to a very dry cutlet?

As Pérette, in a humbler fashion, built visions from the pot of milk, so
mesdames mes soeurs, from the glittering court and capital of
Lemongenseidlitz, erected brilliant châteaux en Espagne of all their
sayings and doings in that fashionable little city whither they were
bound, and into which they had so many invaluable passports. They were
impatient to be journeying from our humble, solitary valley, and after
a month of Vicq d'Azyr, they departed for their golden land, and I went
with them, as I had slain izzards almost _ad nauseam_, and Dunbar's
expiration of leave had taken him back to Dublin.

It was five o'clock when we reached its Reidenscher Hof, nine when we
had finished dinner. It was stupid work yawning over coffee and
_Galignani_. What was to be done? Maréchale proposed the Opera, and for
the first time in his life was unopposed by his wife. Constance was in a
suave, benignant mood; she was thinking of her Graf von Rosenläu, of the
Pullingers, and of the sweet, adroit manner in which she would--when she
had captivated him and could proffer such hints--awaken his Serene
Highness to a sense of his moral guilt in not bringing to instant
capital punishment every agent in those Satanus-farmed banks that throve
throughout his duchy. Lady Maréchale and Mrs. Protocol assented, and to
the little miniature gayly-decorated Opera House we drove. They were in
the middle of the second act of "Ernani." "Ernani" was stale to us all,
and we naturally lorgné'd the boxes in lieu of the stage. I had turned
my glass on the left-hand stage-box, and was going steadily round, when
a faint cry of dismay, alarm, amazement, horror, broke, muffled and low,
from mesdames mes soeurs. Their lorgnons were riveted on one spot; their
cheeks were blanched; their hands were tremulous; if they had beheld a
spiritual visitant, no consternation more profound, more intense, could
have seized both with its iron hand. _My_ sisters too! the chilliest,
the calmest, the most impenetrable, the most unassailable of mortals!

"And we called her, in her hearing, not a proper person?" gasped Lady
Maréchale.

"We thought her a lorette! an intrigante! a dame d'industrie!" echoed
Mrs. Protocol.

"Who wore paste jewels!"

"Who came from the Rue Bréda!"

"Who wanted to know us!"

"Whom we wouldn't know!"

I turned my Voightlander where their Voightlanders turned; there, in the
royal box, leaning back in the fauteuil that marked her rank, there,
with her lovely hazel eyes, her witching smile, her radiant beauty,
matchless as the pearls gleaming above her brow, there sat the
"adventuress--or worse!" of Vicq d'Azyr; the "evidently a not proper
person" of my discerning sisters--H.S.H. Princess Hélène, Grand-Duchess
of Lemongenseidlitz-Phizzstrelitz! Great Heavens! how had we never
guessed her before? How had we never divined her identity? How had we
never remembered all we had heard of her love of laisser-aller, her
taste for adventure, her delight in travelling, when she could,
unattended and incognita? How had we never put this and that together,
and penetrated the metamorphosis?

"_And I called her not a proper person!_" gasped Lady Maréchale, again
shrinking back behind the azure curtains; the projectiles she had shot
with such vindictive severity, such delighted acrimony, from the
murderous mortar of malice, recoiling back upon her head for once, and
crushing her to powder. What reception would they have _now_ at the
Court? Von Rosenläu would be powerless; the Pullingers themselves would
be better off! Pérette's pot of milk was smashed and spilt! "Adieu,
veau, vache, cochon, couvée!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When the pitcher lies shivered into fragments, and the milk is spilt,
you know, poor Pérette's dreams are shivered and spilt with them. "I
have not seen you at the palace yet?" asked her Grace of Frangipane. "We
do not see you at the Court, mesdames?" asked M. de la Croix-et-Cordons.
"How did it happen you were not at the Duchess's ball last night?" asked
"those odious Pullingers." And what had my sister to say in reply? My
clematis secured _me_ a charming reception--how charming I don't feel
called upon to reveal--but Princess Hélène, with that calm dignity which
easily replaced, when she chose, her witching _abandon_, turned the
tables upon her detractors, and taught them how dangerous it may be to
speak ill--of the wrong people.



A STUDY À LA LOUIS QUATORZE:

PENDANT TO A PORTRAIT BY MIGNARD.


She was surpassingly fair, Madame la Marquise. Mignard's portraits of
her may fully rival his far-famed Portrait aux Amours. One of them has
her painted as Venus Victrix, in the fashion of the day; one of them, as
herself, as Léontine Opportune de Vivonne de Rennecourt, Marquise de la
Rivière, with her crève-coeurs, and her diamonds, and her gay smile,
showing her teeth, white and gleaming as the pearls mingled with her
curls à la mode Montespan. Not Louise de la Beaume-le-Blanc, when the
elm-boughs of St. Germain first flung their shadow on her golden head,
before it bent for the Carmelite veil before the altar in the Rue St.
Jacques; not Henriette d'Angleterre, when she listened to the trouvères'
romances sung under her balcony at St. Cloud, before her young life was
quenched by the hand of Morel and the order of Monsieur; not Athénaïs de
Mortemart, when the liveries of lapis lazuli blue dashed through the
streets of Paris, and the outriders cleared her path with their whips,
before the game was lost, and the iron spikes were fastened inside the
Montespan bracelets;--none of them, her contemporaries and
acquaintances, eclipsed in loveliness Madame la Marquise. Had she but
been fair instead of dark, the brown Bourbon eyes would have fallen on
her of a surety; she would have outshone the lapis lazuli liveries with
a royal guard of scarlet and gold, and her friend Athénaïs would have
hated her as that fair lady hated "la sotte Fontanges" and "Saint
Maintenon;" for their sex, in all ages, have remembered the sage's
precept, "Love as though you will one day hate," and invariably carry
about with them, ready for need, a little essence of the acid of Malice,
to sour in an instant the sugared cream of their loves and their
friendships if occasion rise up and the storm-cloud of rivalry loom in
the horizon.

She was a beauty, Madame la Marquise, and she knew it, as she leaned out
over the balcony of her château of Petite Forêt, that lay close to
Clagny, under the shadow of the wood of Ville d'Avrée, outside the gates
of Versailles, looking down on her bosquets, gardens, and terraces
designed by Le Nôtre; for though she was alone, and there was nothing
but her little dog Osmin to admire her white skin, and her dark eyes,
and her beautiful hands and arms, and her diamond pendants that
glittered in the moonlight, she smiled, her flashing triumphant smile,
as she whispered to herself, "He is mine--mine! Bah! how can he help
himself?" and pressed the ruby agraffe on her bosom with the look of a
woman who knew no resistance, and brooked no reluctance to worship at
her shrine.

Nothing ever opposed Madame la Marquise, and life went smoothly on with
her. If Bossuet ever reproved her, it was in those _anathèmes cachés
sous des fleurs d'oranger_ in which that politic priest knew how to deal
when expedient, however haughty and relentless to the world in general.
M. le Marquis was not a savage eccentricity like M. de Pardaillon de
Gondran, would never have dreamt of imitating the eccentricity of going
into mourning, but if the Bourbon eye _had_ fallen on his wife, would
have said, like a loyal peer of France, that all his household treasures
were the King's. Disagreeables fled before the scintillations of her
smiles, as the crowd fled before her gilded carriage and her Flanders
horses; and if ever a little fit of piety once in a while came over her,
and Conscience whispered a mal à propos word in her delicate ear, she
would give an enamelled lamp to Sainte Marie Réparatrice, by the advice
of the Comtesse de Soubise and the Princesse de Monaco (who did such
expiatory things themselves, and knew the comfort they afforded), and
emerge from her repentance one of the most radiant of all the brilliant
butterflies that fluttered their gorgeous wings in the Jardin de Flore
under the sunny skies of Versailles.

The moonlight glittered on the fountains, falling with measured splash
into their marble basins; the lime-leaves, faintly stirred by the sultry
breezes, perfumed the night with their voluptuous fragrance, and the
roses, twining round the carved and gilded balustrade, shook off their
bowed head drops of dew, that gleamed brightly as the diamonds among the
curls of the woman who leaned above, resting her delicate rouged cheek
on her jewelled hand, alone--a very rare circumstance with the Marquise
de la Rivière. Osmin did not admire the rare solitude, for he rattled
his silver bells and barked--an Italian greyhound's shrill, fretful
bark--as his quick ears caught the distant sound of steps coming swiftly
over the turf below, and his mistress smiled as she patted his head:

"Ah, Osmin!--here he is?"

A man came out from under the heavy shadow of lime sand chestnuts, whose
darkness the moon's rays had no power to pierce, crossed the lawn just
under the balcony, and, coming up the terrace-steps, stood near her--a
man, young, fair, handsome, whose age and form the uniform of a Captain
of the Guards would have suited far better than the dark robes of a
priest, which he wore; his lips were pressed closely together, and his
face was pale with a pallor that consorted painfully with the warm
passionate gleam of his eyes.

"So! You are late in obeying my commands, monsieur!"

Surely no other man in France would have stood silent beside her, under
the spell of her dazzling glances, with such a picture before him as
Madame la Marquise, in her azure silk and her point d'Angleterre, with
her diamond pendants shaking among her hair, and her arched eyebrows
lifted imperiously! But he did; his lips pressed closer, his eyes
gleaming brighter. She changed her tone; it was soft, seductive,
reproachful, and the smile on her lips was tender--as tender as it ever
could be with the mockery that always lay under it; and it broke at last
the spell that bound him, as she whispered, "Ah! Gaston, you love me no
longer!"

"Not love you? O God!"

They were but five words, but they told Madame la Marquise of a passion
such as she had never roused, despite all her fascinations and
intrigues, in the lovers that crowded round her in the salons within, or
at Versailles, over the trees yonder, where love was gallantry, and all
was light comedy, with nothing so foolish as tragedy known.

He clasped her hands so closely that the sharp points of the diamond
rings cut his own, though he felt them not.

"Not love you? Great Heaven! Not love you? Near you, I forget my oath,
my vows, my God!--I forget all, save you, whom I adore, as, till I met
you, I adored my Church. Torture endured with you were dearer than
Paradise won alone! Once with you, I have no strength, you bow me to
your will as the wind bows the lime-leaf. Oh! woman, woman! could you
have no mercy, that with crowds round you daily worshipping your
slightest smile, you must needs bow _me_ down before your glance, as you
bow those who have no oaths to bind them, no need to scourge themselves
in midnight solitude for the mere crime of Thought? Had you no mercy,
that with all hearts yours, you must have mine to sear it and destroy
it? Have you not lives enough vowed to you, that you seek to blast mine
for ever? I was content, untroubled, till I met you; no woman's glance
stirred my heart, no woman's eyes haunted my vigils, no woman's voice
came in memory between my soul and prayer! What devil tempted you to
throw your spells over me--could you not leave _one_ man in peace?"

"Ah bah! the tempted love the game of temptation generally full as well
as the tempters!" thought Madame la Marquise, with an inward laugh.

Why did she allow such language to go unrebuked? Why did she, to whom
none dared to breathe any but words the most polished, and love vows the
most honeyed, permit herself to be addressed in such a strain? Possibly
it was very new to her, such energy as this, and such an outbreak of
passion amused her. At any rate she only drew her hands away, and her
brilliant brown eyes filled with tears;--tears _were_ to be had at
Versailles when needed, even her friend Montespan knew how to use them
as the worst weapons against the artillery of the Evêque de Comdom--and
her heart heaved under the filmy lace.

"Ah, Gaston! what words! 'What devil tempted me?' I know scarcely
whether love be angel or devil; he seems either or both! But you love me
little, unless in that name you recognize a plea for every madness and
every thought!"

The scarlet blood flushed over his face, and his eyes shone and gleamed
like fire, while he clenched his hands in a mortal anguish.

"Angel or devil? Ay! which, indeed! The one when it comes to us, the
other when it leaves us! You have roused love in me I shall bear to my
grave; but what gage have I that you give it me back? How do I know but
that even now you are trifling with me, mocking at me, smiling at the
beardless priest who is unlearned in all the gay gallantries of
libertine churchmen and soldierly courtiers? My Heaven! how know, as I
stand beside you, whether you pity or disdain me, love or scorn me?"

The passionate words broke in a torrent from his lips, stirred the
stillness of the summer eve with a fiery anguish little akin to it.

"Do I not love you?"

Her answer was simple; but as Léontine de Rennecourt spoke it, leaning
her cheek against his breast, with her eyes dazzling as the diamonds in
her hair, looking up into his by the light of the stars, they had an
eloquence far more dangerous than speech, and delirious to the senses as
magician's perfumes. His lips lingered on hers, and felt the loud fast
throbs of the heart she had won as he bent over her, pressing her closer
and closer to him--vanquished and conquered, as men in all ages and of
all creeds have been vanquished and conquered by women, all other
thoughts fleeing away into oblivion, all fears dying out, all vows
forgotten in the warm, living life of passion and of joy, that, for the
first time in a brief life, flooded his heart with its golden voluptuous
light.

"You love me? So be it," he murmured; "but beware what you do, my life
lies in your hands, and you must be mine till death part us!"

"Till my fancy change rather!" thought Madame la Marquise, as she put
her jewelled hand on his lips, her hair softly brushing his cheek, with
a touch as soft, and an odor as sweet, as the leaves of one of the roses
twining below.

Two men strolling below under the limes of Petite Forêt--discussing the
last scandals of Versailles, talking of the ascendency of La Fontanges,
of the Spanish dress his Majesty had reassumed to please her, of the
Brinvilliers' Poudre de Succession, of the new château given to Père de
la Chaise, of D'Aubigny's last extravagance and Lauzun's last mot, and
the last gossip about Bossuet and Mademoiselle de Mauléon, and all the
chit-chat of that varied day, glittering with wit and prolific of
poison--glanced up to the balcony by the light of the stars.

"That cursed priest!" muttered the younger, le Vicomte de Saint-Elix, as
he struck the head off a lily with his delicate cane.

"In a fool's paradise! Ah-ha! Madame la Marquise!" laughed the
other--the old Duc de Clos-Vougeot--taking a chocolate sweetmeat out of
his emerald-studded bonbonnière as they walked on, while the
lime-blossoms shook off in the summer night wind and dropped dead on the
grass beneath, laughing at the story of the box D'Artagnan had found in
Lauzun's rooms when he seized his papers, containing the portraits of
sixty women of high degree who had worshipped the resistless Captain of
the Guard, with critical and historical notices penned under each;
notices D'Artagnan and his aide could not help indiscreetly retailing,
in despite of the Bourbon command of secrecy--secrecy so necessary where
sixty beauties and saints were involved!

"A fool's paradise!" said the Duc de Clos-Vougeot, tapping his
bonbonnière, enamelled by Petitot: the Duc was old, and knew women well,
and knew the value and length of a paradise dependent on that most
fickle of butterflies--female fidelity; he had heard Ninon de Lenclos
try to persuade Scarron's wife to become a coquette, and Scarron's wife
in turn beseech Ninon to discontinue her coquetteries; had seen that,
however different their theories and practice, the result was the same;
and already guessed right, that if Paris had been universally won by the
one, its monarch would eventually be won by the other.

"A fool's paradise!"

The courtier was right, but the priest, had he heard him, would never
have believed; _his_ heaven shone in those dazzling eyes: till the eyes
closed in death, his heaven was safe! He had never loved, he had seen
nothing of women; he had come straight from the monastic gloom of a
Dominican abbey, in the very heart of the South, down in Languedoc,
where costly missals were his only idol, and rigid pietists, profoundly
ignorant of the ways and thoughts of their brethren of Paris, had reared
him up in anchorite rigidity, and scourged his mind with iron
philosophies and stoic-like doctrines of self-mortification that would
have repudiated the sophistries and ingenuities of Sanchez, Escobar, and
Mascarenhas, as suggestions of the very Master of Evil himself. From the
ascetic gloom of that Languedoc convent he had been brought straight, by
superior will, into the glare of the life at Versailles, that brilliant,
gorgeous, sparkling, bizarre life, scintillating with wit, brimful of
intrigue, crowded with the men and women who formed the Court of that
age and the History of the next; where he found every churchman an _abbé
galant_, and heard those who performed the mass jest at it with those
who attended it; where he found no lines marked of right and wrong, but
saw them all fused in a gay, tangled web of two court colors--Expediency
and Pleasure. A life that dazzled and tired his eyes, as the glitter of
lights in a room dazzles and tires the eyes of a man who comes suddenly
in from the dark night air, till he grew giddy and sick, and in the
midst of the gilded salons, or soft confessions of titled sinners, would
ask himself if indeed he could be the same man who had sat calm and
grave with the mellow sun streaming in on his missal-page in the
monastic gloom of the Languedoc abbey but so few brief months before,
when all this world of Versailles was unknown? The same man? Truly
not--never again the same, since Madame la Marquise had bent her brown
eyes upon him, been amused with his singular difference from all those
around her, had loved him as women loved at Versailles, and bowed him
down to her feet, before he guessed the name of the forbidden language
that stirred in his heart and rushed to his lips, untaught and unbidden.

"A fool's paradise!" said the Duc, sagaciously tapping his gold
bonbonnière. But many a paradise like it has dawned and faded, before
and since the Versailles of Louis Quatorze.

He loved, and Madame la Marquise loved him. Through one brief tumult of
struggle he passed: struggle between the creed of the Dominican abbey,
where no sin would have been held so thrice accursed, so unpardonable,
so deserving of the scourge and the stake as this--and the creed of the
Bourbon Court, where churchmen's gallantries were every-day gossip;
where the Abbé de Rancé, ere he founded the saintly gloom of La Trappe,
scandalized town and court as much as Lauzun; where the Père de la
Chaise smiled complacently on La Fontanges' ascendancy; where three
nobles rushed to pick up the handkerchief of that royal confessor, who
washed out with holy water the royal indiscretions, as you wash off
grains of dust with perfumed water; where the great and saintly Bishop
of Condom could be checked in a rebuking harangue, and have the tables
turned on him by a mischievous reference to Mademoiselle de Mauléon;
where life was intrigue for churchmen and laymen alike, and where the
abbé's rochet and the cardinal's scarlet covered the same vices as were
openly blazoned on the gold aiglettes of the Garde du Corps and the
costly lace of the Chambellan du Roi. A storm, brief and violent as the
summer storms that raged over Versailles, was roused between the
conflicting thoughts at war within him, between the principles deeply
rooted from long habit and stern belief, and the passions sprung up
unbidden with the sudden growth and gorgeous glow of a tropical
flower--a storm, brief and violent, a struggle, ended that night, when
he stood on the balcony with the woman he loved, felt her lips upon
his, and bowed down to her feet delirious and strengthless.

"I have won my wager with Adeline; I have vanquished _mon beau_ De
Launay," thought Madame la Marquise, smiling, two days after, as she
sat, en negligé, in her broidered chair, pulling Osmin's ears, and
stirring the frothy chocolate handed to her by her negro, Azor, brought
over in the suite of the African embassy from Ardra, full of monkeyish
espièglerie, and covered with gems--a priceless dwarf, black as ink, and
but two feet high, who could match any day with the Queen's little Moor.
"He amuses me with his vows of eternal love. Eternal love?--how _de
trop_ we should find it, here in Versailles! But it is amusing enough to
play at for a season. No, that is not half enough--he adores! This poor
Gaston!"

So in the salons of Versailles, and in the world, where Ninon reigned,
by the Court ladies, while they loitered in the new-made gardens of
Marly, among other similar things jested of was this new amour of Madame
de la Rivière for the young Père de Launay. "She was always eccentric,
and he _was_ very handsome, and would have charming manners if he were
not so grave and so silent," the women averred; while the young nobles
swore that these meddling churchmen had always the best luck, whether in
amatory conquest, or on fat lands and rich revenues. What the Priest of
Languedoc thought a love that would outlast life, and repay him for
peace of conscience and heaven both lost, was only one of the passing
bubbles of gossip and scandal floating for an hour, amidst myriads like
it, on the glittering, fast-rushing, diamond-bright waters of life at
Versailles!

A new existence had dawned for him; far away in the dim dusky vista of
forgotten things, though in reality barely distant a few short months,
lay the old life in Languedoc, vague and unremembered as a passed
dream; with its calm routine, its monastic silence, its unvarying
alternations of study and prayer, its iron-bound thoughts, its rigid
creed. It had sunk away as the peaceful gray twilight of a summer's
night sinks away before the fiery burst of an artificial illumination,
and a new life had dawned for him, radiant, tumultuous, conflicting,
delicious--that dazzled his eyes with the magnificence of boundless
riches and unrestricted extravagance; that charmed his intellect with
the witty coruscations, the polished esprit, of an age unsurpassed for
genius, grace, and wit; and that swayed alike his heart, his
imagination, and his passions with the subtle intoxication of this syren
of Love, whose forbidden song had never before, in faintest echo, fallen
on his ear.

Far away in the dim, lifeless, pulseless past, sank the memory of the
old Dominican abbey, of all it had taught him, of all it had exacted, in
its iron, stoical, merciless creed. A new life had arisen for him, and
Gaston de Launay, waking from the semi-slumber of the living death he
had endured in Languedoc, and liked because he knew no other, was
happy--happy as a prisoner is in the wild delight with which he welcomes
the sunlight after lengthened imprisonment, happy as an opium-eater is
in the delicious delirium that succeeds the lulling softness of the
opiate.

"He loves me, poor Gaston! Bah! But how strangely he talks! If love were
this fiery, changeless, earnest thing with us that it is with him, what
in the world should we do with it? We should have to get a lettre de
cachet for it, and forbid it the Court; send it in exile to Pignerol, as
they have just done Lauzun. Love in earnest? We should lose the best
spice for our wine, the best toy for our games, and, mon Dieu! what
embroilments there would be! Love in earnest? Bagatell! Louise de la
Vallière shows us the folly of that; but for its Quixotisms she would
now be at Vaujours, instead of buried alive in that Rue St. Jacques,
with nothing to do but to weep for 'Louison,' count her beads, and
listen to M. de Condom's merciless eloquence! Like the king,

    J'aime qu'on m'aime, mais avec de l'esprit.

People have no right to reproach each other with inconstancy; one's
caprices are not in one's own keeping; and one can no more help where
one's fancy blows, than that lime-leaf can help where the breeze chooses
to waft it. But poor Gaston! how make _him_ comprehend that?" thought
Madame la Marquise, as she turned, and smiled, and held out her warm,
jewelled hands, and listened once again to the words of the man who was
in her power as utterly as the bird in the power of the snake when it
has once looked up into the fatal eyes that lure it on to its doom.

"You will love me ever?" he would ask, resting his lips on her white low
brow.

"Ever!" would softly answer Madame la Marquise.

And her lover believed her: should his deity lie? He believed her! What
did he, fresh from the solitude of his monastery, gloomy and severe as
that of the Trappist abbey, with its perpetual silence, its lowered
glances, its shrouded faces, its ever-present "memento mori," know of
women's faith, of women's love, of the sense in which _they_ meant that
vow "for ever"? He believed her, and never asked what would be at the
end of a path strewn with such odorous flowers. Alone, it is true, in
moments when he paused to think, he stood aghast at the abyss into which
he had fallen, at the sin into which, a few months before, haughty and
stern in virtue against the temptation that had never entered his path,
he would have defied devils in legion to have lured him, yet into which
he had now plunged at the mere smile of a woman! Out of her presence,
out of her spells, standing by himself under the same skies that had
blooded over his days of peace in Languedoc, back on his heart, with a
sickening anguish, would come the weight of his sin; the burden of his
broken oaths, the scorch of that curse eternal which, by his creed, he
held drawn down on him here and hereafter; and Gaston de Launay would
struggle again against this idolatrous passion, which had come with its
fell delusion betwixt him and his God; struggle--vainly, idly--struggle,
only to hug closer the sin he loved while he loathed; only to drink
deeper of the draught whose voluptuous perfume was poison; only to
forget all, forsake all, dare all, at one whisper of her voice, one
glance of her eyes, one touch of the lips whose caress he held would be
bought by a curse through eternity.

Few women love aught "for ever," save, perchance, diamonds, lace, and
their own beauty, and Madame la Marquise was not one of those few;
certainly not--she had no desire to make herself singular in her
generation, and could set fashions much more likely to find disciples,
without reverting to anything so eccentric, plebeian, and out of date.
Love _one_ for ever! She would have thought it as terrible waste of her
fascinations, as for a jewel to shine in the solitude of its case,
looked on by only one pair of eyes, or for a priceless enamel, by
Petitot, to be only worn next the heart, shrouded away from the light of
day, hidden under the folds of linen and lace.

"Love one for ever?"--Madame la Marquise laughed at the thought, as she
stood dressed for a ball, after assisting at the representation of a
certain tragedy, called "Bérénice" (in which Mesdames Deshoulières and
De Sévigné, despite their esprit, alone of all Paris and the Court could
see no beauty), and glanced in the mirror at her radiant face, her
delicate skin, her raven curls, with their pendants shaking, her
snow-white arms, and her costly dress of the newest mode, its stomacher
gleaming one mass of gems. "Love one for ever? The droll idea! Is it
not enough that I have loved him once?"

It was more than enough for his rivals, who bitterly envied him; courtly
abbés, with polished smiles, and young chanoines, with scented curls and
velvet toques, courtiers, who piqued themselves on reputations only
second to Lauzun's, and men of the world, who laughed at this new
caprice of Madame la Marquise, alike bore no good will to this Languedoc
priest, and gave him a significant sneer, or a compliment that roused
his blood to fire, and stung him far worse than more open insult, when
they met in the salons, or crossed in the corridors, at Versailles or
Petite Forêt.

"Those men! those men! Should he ever lose her to any one of them?" he
would think over and over again, clenching his hand, in impotent agony
of passion that he had not the sword and the license of a soldier to
strike them on the lips with his glove for the smile with which they
dared to speak her name; to make them wash out in blood under the trees,
before the sun was up, the laugh, the mot, the delicate satire, which
were worse to bear than a blow to the man who could not avenge them.

"Pardieu! Madame must be very unusually faithful to her handsome Priest;
she has smiled on no other for two months! What unparalleled fidelity!"
said the Vicomte de Saint-Elix, with petulant irritation.

"Jealous, Léonce?" laughed the old Duc, whom he spoke to, tapping the
medallion portrait on his bonbonnière. "Take comfort: when the weather
has been so long fixed, it is always near a change. Ah! M. de Launay
overhears! He looks as if he would slay us. Very unchristian in a
priest!"

Gaston de Launay overheard, as he stood by a _croisée_ at Petite Forêt,
playing with Osmin--he liked even the dog, since the hand he loved so
often lay on its slender neck, and toyed with its silver chain. And,
sworn as he was to the service of his Church, sole mistress as his
Church had been, till Léontine de Rennecourt's eyes had lured him to his
desertion of her, apostate in his own eyes as such a thought confessed
him to have grown, he now loathed the garb of a priest, that bound his
hands from vengeance, and made him powerless before insult as a woman.
Fierce, ruthless longing for revenge upon these men seized on him;
devilish desires, the germ of which till that hour he never dreamt
slumbered within him, woke up into dangerous, vigorous life. Had he
lived in the world, its politic reserve, its courtly sneer, its light
gallantries, that passed the time and flattered amour-propre, its
dissimulated hate that smiled while plotting, and killed with poisoned
bonbons, would never have been learnt by him; and having long lived out
of it, having been suddenly plunged into its whirl, not guessing its
springs, ignorant of its diplomacies, its suave lies, termed good
breeding, its légères philosophies, he knew nothing of the wisdom with
which its wise men forsook their loves and concealed their hatreds. Both
passions now sprung up in him at one birth, both the stronger for the
long years in which a chill, artificial, but unbroken calm, had chained
his very nature down, and fettered into an iron monotony, an unnatural
and colorless tranquillity, a character originally impetuous and vivid,
as the frosts of a winter chill into one cold, even, glassy surface, the
rapids of a tumultuous river. With the same force and strength with
which, in the old days in Languedoc, he had idolized and served his
Church, sparing himself no mortification, believing every iota of her
creed, carrying out her slightest rule with merciless self-examination,
so--the tide once turned the other way--so the priest now loved, so he
now hated.

"He is growing exigeant, jealous, presuming; he amuses me no longer--he
wearies. I must give him his congé," thought Madame la Marquise. "This
play at eternal passion is very amusing for a while, but, like all
things, gets tiresome when it has lasted some time. What does not? Poor
Gaston, it is his provincial ideas, but he will soon rub such off, and
find, like us all, that sincerity is troublesome, ever de trop, and
never profitable. He loves me--but bah! so does Saint-Elix, so do they
all, and a jealous husband like M. de Nesmond, _le drôle!_ could
scarcely be worse than my young De Launay is growing!"

And Madame la Marquise glanced at her face in the mirror, and wished she
knew Madame de Maintenon's secret for the Breuvage Indien; wished she
had one of the _clefs de faveur_ to admit her to the Grande Salle du
Parlement; wished she had the _couronne d'Agrippine_ her friend Athénaïs
had just shown her; wished Le Brun were not now occupied on the ceiling
of the King's Grande Galerie, and were free to paint the frescoes of her
own new-built chapel; wished a thousand unattainable things, as spoilt
children of fortune will do, and swept down her château staircase a
little out of temper--she could not have told why--to receive her guests
at a fête given in honor of the marriage of Mademoiselle de Blois and
the Prince de Conti.

There was the young Comte de Vermandois, who would recognize in the
Dauphin no superiority save that of his "_frère aine_;" there was "_le
petit bossu_," Prince Eugene, then soliciting the rochet of a Bishop,
and equally ridiculed when he sought a post in the army; there was M. de
Louvois, who had just signed the order for the Dragonades; there was the
Palatine de Bavière, with her German brusquerie, who had just clumsily
tried to insult Madame de Montespan by coming into the salon with a
great turnspit, led by a similar ribbon and called by the same name, in
ridicule of the pet Montespan poodle; there was La Montespan herself,
with her lovely gold hair, her dove's eyes, and her serpent's tongue;
there was Madame de Sévigné and Madame de Grignan the Duchesse de
Richelieu and the Duchesse de Lesdiguières; there was Bussy Rabutin and
Hamilton. Who was there not that was brilliant, that was distinguished,
that was high in rank and famed in wit at the fête of Madame la
Marquise?--Madame la Marquise, who floated through the crowd that
glittered in her salon and gardens, who laughed and smiled, showing her
dazzling white teeth, who had a little Cupid gleaming with jewels
(emblematic enough of Cupid as he was known at Versailles) to present
the Princesse de Conti with a bridal bouquet whose flowers were of
pearls and whose leaves were of emeralds; who piqued herself that the
magnificence of her fête was scarcely eclipsed by His Majesty himself;
who yielded the palm neither to La Vallière's lovely daughter, nor to
her friend Athénaïs, nor to any one of the beauties who shone with them,
and whose likeness by Mignard laughed down from the wall where it hung,
matchless double of her own matchless self.

The Priest of Languedoc watched her, the relentless fangs of passion
gnawing his heart, as the wolf the Spartan. For the first time he was
forgotten! His idol passed him carelessly, gave him no glance, no smile,
but lavished a thousand coquetries on Saint-Elix, on De Rohan-Soubise,
on the boy Vermandois,--on any who sought them. Once he addressed her.
Madame la Marquise shrugged her snow-white shoulders, and arched her
eyebrows with petulant irritation, and turned to laugh gayly at
Saint-Elix, who was amusing her, and La Montespan, and Madame de
Thianges, with some gay mischievous scandal concerning Madame de
Lesdiguières and the Archbishop of Paris; for scandals, if not wholly
new are ever diverting when concerning an enemy, especially when dressed
and served up with the piquant sauce of wit.

"I no longer then, madame, lead a dog's life in jealousy of this
priest?" whispered Saint-Elix, after other whispers, in the ear of
Madame la Marquise. The Vicomte adored her, not truly in Languedoc
fashion, but very warmly--à la mode de Versailles.

The Marquise laughed.

"Perhaps not! You know I bet Mme. de Montevreau that I would conquer
him. I have won now. Hush! He is close. There will be a tragedy, _mon
ami_!"

"M. le Vicomte, if you have the honor of a noble, the heart of a man,
you fight me to-night. I seek no shelter under my cloth!"

Saint-Elix turned as he heard the words, laughed scornfully, and signed
the speaker away with an insolent sneer:

"Bah! _Révérend Père!_ we do not fight with women and churchmen!"

The fête was ended at last, the lights that had gleamed among the limes
and chestnuts had died out, the gardens and salons were emptied and
silent, the little Cupid had laid aside his weighty jewelled wings, the
carriages with their gorgeous liveries, their outriders, and their
guards of honor, had rolled from the gates of Petite Forêt to the Palace
of Versailles. Madame la Marquise stood alone once more in the balcony
of her salons, leaning her white arms on its gilded balustrade, looking
down on to the gardens beneath, silvered with the breaking light of the
dawn, smiling, her white teeth gleaming between her parted rose-hued
lips, and thinking--of what? Who shall say?

Still, still as death lay the gardens below, that an hour ago had been
peopled with a glittering crowd, re-echoing with music, laughter, witty
response, words of intrigue. Where the lights had shone on diamonds and
pearl-broidered trains, on softly rouged cheeks, and gold-laced coats,
on jewelled swords and broideries of gold, the gray hue of the breaking
day now only fell on the silvered leaves of the limes, the turf wet
with dew, he drooped heads of the Provence roses; and Madame la
Marquise, standing alone, started as a step through the salon within
broke the silence.

"Madame, will you permit me a word _now_?"

Gaston de Launay took her hands off the balustrade, and held them tight
in his, while his voice sounded, even in his own ears, strangely calm,
yet strangely harsh:

"Madame, you love me no longer?"

"Monsieur, I do not answer questions put to me in such a manner."

She would have drawn her hands away, but he held them in a fierce grasp
till her rings cut his skin, as they had done once before.

"No trifling! Answer--yes or no!"

"Well! 'no,' then, monsieur. Since you _will_ have the truth, do not
blame me if you find it uncomplimentary and unacceptable."

He let go her hands and reeled back, staggered, as if struck by a shot.

"Mon Dieu! it is true--you love me no longer! And you tell it me
_thus_!"

Madame la Marquise, for an instant, was silenced and touched; for the
words were uttered with the faint cry of a man in agony, and she saw,
even by the dim twilight of dawn, how livid his lips turned, how ashy
gray grew the hue of his face. But she smiled, playing with Osmin's new
collar of pearls and coral.

"Tell it you 'thus'? I would not have told it you 'thus,' monsieur, if
you had been content with a hint, and had not evinced so strong a desire
for candor undisguised; but if people will not comprehend a delicate
suggestion, they must be wounded by plainer truths--it is their own
fault. Did you think I was like a little shepherdess in a pastoral, to
play the childish game of constancy without variations? Had you
presumption enough to fancy you could amuse me for ever----"

He stopped her, his voice broken and hoarse, as he gasped for breath.

"Silence! Woman, have you no mercy? For you--for such as you--I have
flung away heaven, steeped myself in sin, lost my church, my peace, my
all--forfeited all right to the reverence of my fellows, all hope for
the smile of my God! For you--for such as you--I have become a traitor,
a hypocrite, an apostate, whose prayers are insults, whose professions
are lies, whose oaths are perjury! At your smile, I have flung away
eternity; for your kiss, I have risked my life here, my life hereafter;
for your love, I held no price too vast to pay; weighed with it, honor,
faith, heaven, all seemed valueless--all were forgotten! You lured me
from tranquil calm, you broke in on the days of peace which but for you
were unbroken still, you haunted my prayers, you placed yourself between
Heaven and me, you planned to conquer my anchorite's pride, you wagered
you would lure me from my priestly vows, and yet you have so little
mercy, that when your bet is won, when your amusement grows stale, when
the victory grows valueless, you can turn on me with words like these
without one self-reproach?"

"Ma foi, monsieur! it is you who may reproach yourself, not I," cried
his hearer, insolently. "Are you so very provincial still, that you are
ignorant that when a lover has ceased to please he has to blame his own
lack of power to retain any love he may have won, and is far too
well-bred to utter a complaint? Your language is very new to me. Most
men, monsieur, would be grateful for my slightest preference; I permit
none to rebuke me for either giving or withdrawing it."

The eyes of Madame la Marquise sparkled angrily, and the smile on her
lips was a deadly one, full of irony, full of malice. As he beheld it,
the scales fell at last from the eyes of Gaston de Launay, and he saw
what this woman was whom he had worshipped with such mad, blind,
idolatrous passion.

He bowed his head with a low, broken moan, as a man stunned by a mortal
blow; while Madame la Marquise stood playing with the pearl-and-coral
chain, and smiling the malicious and mischievous smile that showed her
white teeth, as they are shown in the portrait by Mignard.

"_Comme les hommes sont fous!_" laughed Madame la Marquise.

He lifted his eyes, and looked at her as she stood in the faint light of
the dawn, with her rich dress, her gleaming diamonds, her wicked smile,
her matchless beauty; and the passion in him broke out in a bitter cry:

"God help me! My sin has brought home its curse!"

He bent over her, his burning lips scorching her own like fire, holding
her in one last embrace, that clasped her in a vice of iron she had no
power to break.

"Angel! devil! temptress! _This_ for what I have deemed thee--_that_ for
what thou art!"

He flung her from him with unconscious violence, and left her--lying
where she fell.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gray silvery dawn rose, and broke into the warmth and sunlight of a
summer day; the deer nestled in their couches under the chequered
shadows of the woodlands round, and the morning chimes were rung in
musical carillons from the campanile of the château; the Provence roses
tossed their delicate heads, joyously shaking the dew off their scented
petals; the blossoms of the limes fell in a fragrant shower on the turf
below, and the boughs, swayed softly by the wind, brushed their leaves
against the sparkling waters of the fountains; the woods and gardens of
Petite Forêt lay, bright and laughing, in the mellow sunlight of the
new day to which the world was waking. And with his face turned up to
the sky, clasped in his hand a medallion enamel on which was painted the
head of a woman, the grass and ferns where he had fallen stained crimson
with his life-blood, lay a dead man, while in his bosom nestled a little
dog, moaning piteous, plaintive cries, and vainly seeking its best to
wake him to the day that for him would never dawn.

When her household, trembling, spread the news that the dead priest had
been found lying under the limes, slain by his own hand, and it reached
Madame la Marquise in her private chambers, she was startled, shocked,
wept, hiding her radiant eyes in her broidered handkerchief, and called
Azor, and bade him bring her her flask of scented waters, and bathed her
eyes, and turned them dazzling bright on Saint-Elix, and stirred her
chocolate and asked the news. "_On peut être êmue aux larmes et
aimer le chocolat_," thought Madame la Marquise, with her friend
Montespan;--while, without, under the waving shadow of the
linden-boughs, with the sunlight streaming round him, the little dog
nestling in his breast, refusing to be comforted, lay the man whom she
had murdered.

The portrait of Mignard still hangs on the walls of the château, and in
its radiant colors Madame la Marquise still lives, fair type of her age,
smiling her victorious smile, with the diamonds shining among her hair,
and her brilliant eyes flashing defiance, irony, and coquetry as of
yore, when she reigned amidst the beauties of Versailles;--and in the
gardens beyond in the summer nights, the lime-boughs softly shake their
fragrant flowers on the turf, and the moonlight falls in hushed and
mournful calm, streaming through the network of the boughs on to the
tangled mass of violets and ferns that has grown up in rank luxuriance
over the spot where Gaston de Launay died.


       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


Obvious punctuation errors have been repaired.

A few obvious errors in original printing have also been repaired:

  Page 82, first paragraph: "out of the Cara di Fiori" corrected to
                            "out of the Casa di Fiori".

  Page 145, last paragraph: "Lady Hautton has just" corrected to
                            "Lady Hautton had just".

  Page 167,  4th paragraph: "anything put a pleasant" corrected to
                            "anything but a pleasant".

  Page 167, last paragraph: "nor even when he went that" corrected to
                            "nor even when he went on that".

  Page 173,  4th paragraph: et C^{ie} is an abbreviation for the
                            French word "compagnie".

  Page 224, last paragraph: "Helvetius" corrected to "Helvétius".

Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in
spelling, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been retained.





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