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Title: A Mock Idyl
Author: Ross, P. T.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Mock Idyl" ***

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



the Digital Library of the Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu)



Note: This story was originally serialized in two parts in _Longman's
      Magazine_ in 1886; it was later reprinted as filler material in
      the _Favorite Library_ edition of _Little Golden's Daughter_ by
      Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller. This text is derived from the later
      reprint, beginning on page 141 of that volume. Images of the
      Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova University. See
      http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:322376


Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).



A MOCK IDYL.

by

PERCY ROSS.



CONTENTS


  I. THE PRAISE OF FRIENDSHIP.
  II. ARLETTA OF FALAISE.
  III. THE GODDESS.
  IV. THE WAY TO TAKE A PARTY.
  V. THE GODDESS IS HUMAN.
  VI. THE ADMIRAL IS SQUARED.
  VII. ROSCORIA'S BETROTHED.
  VIII. THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME.
  IX. THE WAY WE BEHAVE WHEN WE ARE YOUNG.



I.

THE PRAISE OF FRIENDSHIP.


Tregurtha and Roscoria are friends. Tregurtha is, as his name
sufficiently indicates, a Cornishman. He was also a sharp lad,
and, before his term of residence at his first dame's school was
fairly run out, he cut his cables and escaped to sea. To this act
of insubordination he had been instigated mainly by Louis Roscoria,
a small schoolfellow, his junior by several years, and his stanch
adherent. The two had shared a room, done each other's lessons, worn
each other's hats, taken each other's floggings; and, in short, the
devil himself had never come between them. But they parted pretty
soon, for, encouraged by his young friend's energetic support, Dick
Tregurtha made haste to follow his destiny and infuriate his parent by
running away to sea. Small Roscoria, who was the good boy of the school
and always got the prize for conduct, saw his friend well on his way,
wished him God-speed, exchanged pocket-knives with him, and then lay on
the grass kicking his heels, and howled in his grief until he got caned
for refusing to tell what had become of Tregurtha. The friendship thus
grounded on mutual services has never been broken.

Dick once wrote from foreign parts an elaborate apology. He said he
was sorry, but the sea was his god, and he hoped his father would
overlook it. He added that, whether on sea or land, he trusted to be no
discredit to the name Tregurtha, and ended by very properly observing,
as boys do, that, since he had carved out his own line of action, he
should feel his honor engaged to make it a successful one.

Tregurtha's rather crusty parent did not overlook it. On receipt of
this letter he presently called the rest of the family together and
thanked God that he was rid of a knave.

Meantime, Roscoria went to Eton, thence to Cambridge. He behaved after
the manner of most brilliant men: showed a reluctance to give his mind
to what was definitely expected of him, and scored heavily in exams,
by some thoughtful rendering of a knotty point in Plato, or by striking
ideas based on private reading of the German metaphysicians. He was far
from being idle, but he took too æsthetic a pleasure in his work, and
vexed the souls of middle-aged dons.

Subsequently Roscoria (who of course left Cambridge without an idea as
to his future) went abroad to tutor the sons of an Englishman in Rome.
He remained there a year, after which time his father died, and left
Louis Roscoria, sole descendant of an old family, owner of a meager
estate in Devonshire, and possessor of means perhaps in proportion to
his merit, but nothing over.

Even scapegrace Tregurtha was better off, for his bodily wants were
provided for on board a ship; and though promotion loomed very vaguely
in the distance, yet his immediate salt pork and future were assured.

Suddenly a brilliant and Utopian notion occurred to Louis the
Philosopher. He was a bit of a philanthropist, and hopelessly romantic,
and had been pained by public-school immorality. He was also an
unpractical man by nature. So he resorted to his present employer, Mr.
Rodda, also a Devonshire man, and said, "What if I set up a school?"

"On your own account, man? Why, you would be ruined!" cried old Rodda,
over his port.

"I doubt it, sir," responded Roscoria, gayly. "You forget that moldy
old house of mine. I shall never be able to let it, unless to an
incurable lunatic, and it is too large for any decent bachelor to
live alone in. Good! I fill it with a set of boys. I teach them on an
entirely new and original system--_and_ make a little money, which I
need not tell you, sir, is wanted in this quarter."

"I would lay you any money, if you had it, young man, that you fail,"
said Mr. Rodda, comfortably (he was a little "cheered" by this time;)
"but if you are bent on the experiment, and as I have a high opinion
of your principles, though none of your judgment, there is my youngest
son, Tom; we can make nothing of him at home, and I don't believe he
will ever be any good, so you may just take him as a beginning."

"No, really, sir? You are too good," said Roscoria, flushing grandly
with the inflatus of ambition. "I believe much can be done with boys by
taking them young, and if I succeed with dear Tom--nothing ought ever
to baffle me again."

Roscoria settled down in his ancestral home at the head of a collection
of such boys as a private tutor will generally get--awkward boys in
temper, vicious boys, hopelessly dense boys, backward boys, idle,
wool-gathering, foolish, blockish boys. Two lads had been expelled from
Eton, but Roscoria thought himself a born reformer. A third youth had
been recently superannuated: he was for ballast, Louis said. At first
the young schoolmaster governed the wild set gently, having great faith
in boyhood. Afterward he fell one afternoon upon a passage in Plato:
"If he is willingly persuaded, well; but if not, like a bent and
twisted tree, they make him straight by threats and blows."

Blows! Happy thought! "The influence of my mind and character on theirs
has failed," Roscoria thought. "Go to, now; let us see whether there
be not some animal magnetism by which a lad may be drawn toward the
good." And Roscoria felt up and down his strong young arm, and knew a
complacent sense of muscle.

At this time Roscoria met again, and liked as well as ever, Dick
Tregurtha.

Tregurtha had grown sun-browned, tall, and broad. Tregurtha had merry
blue eyes and a winsome grin. One was happy to shake hands with a man
who was obviously on such good terms with his own heart and conscience.

"You helped me to run away from school, you know," he said, holding out
his hand to Roscoria when they first met again.

"Yes; did I serve you well by that?" asked Roscoria, who had grown into
what our ancestors called "a pretty fellow," with features as correct
as his own morality, and a pair of dreamy black eyes.

"You did; I've not forgotten it. Here is your knife in token."

"And here is yours. Come and dine with me."

And the two young men got into a corner and foregathered together, and
the friendship renewed by romance was riveted firm by reason.

This is the one important feature in these two young men, and the one
point that distinguishes them from others. Now passionate natures know
no "friends," nor commonplace ones either. A friend is only granted to
philosophers.

When a sociable hunting-man asked the other day, "How do you make a
friend? I never had one; I never wanted one," at least he knew what he
was talking about. And indeed, few people want a friend, and there are
many other sentiments to satisfy the unworthy. Is not love perennial, a
thing as common as June roses? Acquaintanceship is necessary; affection
is a partially inevitable state. But friendship ever was, as it is
now, the rarest gift beneath the sun. Ask any one, all the same, who
has ever known an assured friend, whether he would give him up for any
pleasure or profit.

Why, see how the theme of Friendship makes even Montaigne serious and
eloquent. Observe how it has attracted great minds of all descriptions.
If Byron could be brought to affirm that "Friendship is love without
his wings"--well, there _must_ be something in it.

Friendship is for two of the same sex, during the difficult period
of middle life. Of course the friendship should have been formed
during youth, but then it will have been kept in abeyance, as it were,
gradually forming into a solid rock to rest upon after the quicksands
of love have been settled somehow. Then will it be found:

    "A living joy that shall its spirits keep
     When every beauty fades, and all the passions sleep."

No wonder it is rare, for if such a glowing glory of content were often
known among us, this world would grow too orderly, and men would all be
angels for the sake of Friendship!



II.

ARLETTA OF FALAISE.


"Tregurtha," said his friend one summer evening, "to-morrow is a
holiday. The boys are all off on various expeditions, assisted by
boats, donkeys, butterfly nets, or tins with worms. Even that little
plague Tom Rodda is going, under the charge of a trusty sailor, for a
day's shrimping. Now, in the midst of this general mouse-play, what
is to become of the cat--meaning me? The pedagogue ought to go off on
the spree like every one else. I am sure he is the hardest worked. You
are with me; let us somehow celebrate your arrival ashore. We must go
somewhere not haunted by the boys. Boys are my aversion, as you know;
besides, if one meets them abroad they are in mischief. One has to cut
up rough, and the result is that greatest of earth's failures, a spoilt
holiday. What say you, O comrade, to a day's fishing in the Lyn?"

"I don't say much," replied Tregurtha; "but if you will excuse me, I
shall go and look up my flies."

"6.30 A. M. Don't oversleep yourself," said Roscoria, chuckling
youthfully, as he shook Tregurtha by the hand.

Hard as disciplinarian Roscoria ever found it to arise on work-a-days,
when getting out of bed meant reading prayers in a stentorian hoarse
voice, and then administering an hour's Greek before breakfast, no such
difficulty attended his leap from the arms of Morpheus when he heard
Tregurtha's thundering knock on this most halcyon Saturday.

"Propitious heavens, keep but this face all day!" was Louis' greeting
to as fair an angler's sky as ever ushered in a holiday. Off clattered
the companions in a hired and rakish-looking vehicle; Tregurtha in
the front seat chaffing the driver, and Roscoria on an insecure perch
behind, swinging his legs, beaming on his fly-book, and altogether
presenting an aspect of radiant boyishness wholly incompatible with
his grave scholastic calling. Up and down they went, walking up the
hills to spare the worthy horse, dashing down them in true Devonshire
fashion; past woods and down to the sea at Lynmouth, there to alight,
drink cider, and buy fishing tickets. Then on again, rolling along the
beautiful road to Watersmeet, where the trees were all in brightest
foliage and the wildest flowers thick amidst the grass. The morning sun
was sucking up the rain of last night from the glittering leaves, and a
pensive breeze hovered in the air, causing the birds to sing.

"Hey, Roscoria! but I hope it's not too bright!" was the remark the
glory of the day evoked from his companion.

"Tregurtha, do not tempt the gods; the day is heavenly, and if we do
not dine on trout to-night----" The remainder of Roscoria's song
of praise was abruptly cut short, for in assuming too negligent an
attitude for greater convenience of harangue he had overbalanced
himself, and now lay prone on the road some twenty yards behind.
Having picked himself up and dusted his hat, Roscoria reascended in
more cautious vein, whilst the driver cheered on his horse, reflecting
on the probable results of matutinal cider on a youth whose ordinary
"habit" was the Pierian spring.

After what seemed to these artists of the greenheart-wand an
unconscionably long, though lovely drive, the lowest point was reached
where it is of any use to rig up a rod--namely, that nice little field
through which the river runs so sweetly, just before you come to
Brendon. Here our two holiday-makers descended, with many a parting
gibe at their good-natured jehu. Then down they sat in the moist grass,
after the manner of men under thirty, and out each drew a bulging
pocket-book. Thereafter, silence, save for such murmurs as: "Hallo, I
don't believe this reel runs smoothly!" "Where _is_ that penknife?"
"Tregurtha, lend us a blue upright if you value my happiness!" and so
on in that delightful, half-excited talk that precedes trial of one's
luck.

Noon approached; the two young men were fishing steadily, separated
by several pools; now and then they passed each other with a cheery
jest or an absent-minded greeting, according as they happened to be
engrossed in their sport, or only idly lashing at the water. Now
Tregurtha was on in front, in a fragrant meadow, with some interested
lambs for his spectators. He was musing sleepily as he cast his line,
for fish in the Lyn do not run very large, and Tregurtha's sport,
though he had a dozen nice trout in his basket, was not of a nature to
claim the highest powers of his intellect. An unexpected rousing came
to him, however. A large and goodly fish rolled over suddenly and took
the fly well in his mouth, then plunged for the lower depths and lay
there sulking. Tregurtha was at once all promptitude and energy. He
threw a stone to move the wary trout; he left it alone; he gave it a
tentative jerk; he tried every means to persuade or frighten his victim
into stirring, but it all seemed useless, the fish was obstinate.
Tregurtha was just beginning to wonder whether he should have to walk
in and _fetch_ his trout, or whether he would take a seat and wait its
pleasure, when the matter came to a crisis. One of the inquisitive
young lambs, which was very tame, and thought Tregurtha was the
farmer's lad, dashed suddenly in between his legs with a bound, after
the sportive manner of its race.

Tregurtha stumbled, let the point of his rod down for an instant,
recovered his footing, and hastily rectified his position. Alas! is
it necessary to state that the line flew up flippantly into the empty
air, and the fly settled on the top bough of an alder hanging over the
opposite bank. The fish--well fishes, unlike human beings, know how to
use an opportunity; this trout was off to the dentist to cure him of a
toothache. Tregurtha was not an irritable man; he did not swear; he did
not stamp; he turned to the mischief-working lamb and said: "Is this
your vaunted innocence, you horrid little meddling beast?" and then he
whistled softly to himself, rubbed up his rough hair all on end, and
stood still, looking rueful.

"Oh, tell me how to woo thee, love!" sang suddenly a sweet voice round
the bend of the stream, and then a break occurred in the song, and the
singer petulantly exclaimed, "Oh, bothered be these stones forever;
they are so slippery!"

Tregurtha's rod fell from his paralyzed hand as round the corner came,
wading through the shallow part of the running stream close to the head
of the very pool he was fishing, a maiden! Yes, and a lady too, though
her gown was caught up and thrown over one arm, displaying as its
substitute a short striped skirt of brilliant coloring, and her lovely
feet shone white through the sunlit waters as unconsciously she stepped
along.

"Heaven have mercy on me!" Tregurtha thought wildly, as he stood rooted
to the spot, marveling meanwhile why he did not cast himself into the
deep pool before him. The inevitable moment came; the damsel lifted her
large dark eyes and saw him.

"Oh, I beg--I beg--I _beg_ your pardon!" almost roared Tregurtha in the
excess of his manly bashfulness.

What did the maid? Blushed crimson first, and stared at the intruder
with a speechless horror, letting drop, by instinct, her pretty
overskirt. Then she turned quickly, seized the branch of a large
oak-tree and tried to raise herself by it to the opposite bank, where,
once arrived, she could have vanished in a second through the wood.
Alas! as she clung to the bough, the traitor broke, and down went the
maiden, with a shivering cry, under the surface of the water. Well,
at any rate, here was an occasion where a man need not feel an idiot,
nor like Actæon before the wrath of Artemis. Tregurtha felt a sense of
positive relief as he plunged in after the lady, and dragged her out
and on to her much-desired bank, all breathless, faint, and frightened.

"I wonder now what on earth you would like me to do for you?" Tregurtha
asked, depositing his burden respectfully upon a mossy seat.

"Oh--ah!--thank you. I think you had better perhaps go," the maiden
answered, panting still for breath, and shaking her dripping hair.

"You are faint. You would like--at least, no, not some water--you have
had enough, and I--I dare not offer you some whisky. There's your poor
hat still in the water. Oh, gracious! to think of my spoiling all your
pleasure in this way."

Tregurtha seized upon the hat, squeezing the water out of it (much to
the detriment of its shape) as if it were the juice from an orange.
Reduced to a pulp of straw and muslin, he brought it to its mistress,
who, smiling, said, "This hat has seen many a wild frolic, but I sadly
fear this most embarrassing, though amusing, incident has finished my
companion, and it will cover my foolish head no more. I must go home,
or I shall catch a cold."

"But pray accept my apologies--my most sincere and humblest apologies,"
began Tregurtha.

"I beg you will not mention---- Oh dear, dear!" The damsel burst
suddenly into uncontrollable, resistless laughter. "Please _could_ you
keep away, right round the corner, until I fetch my boots? I am so
sorry to have interrupted you in your, no doubt, successful fishing."
Here she glanced inquiringly at the line caught and mazily entangled in
the alder bush. "Good-morning, sir."

Tregurtha blushed deeply, bowed and strode away as though avenging
Fate were at his heels--away over the meadow, through its little gate,
along the road, down to the river again, where Roscoria stood coolly,
immersed in hopes of monster trout.

"Well, old fellow; why, you've been wading! Fish gone?" asked Louis.

"Fish be ---- I've had such an experience, Roscoria. I have seen a
lady!"

"Mercy on us, Tregurtha! is that so unusual? Why, man, you are almost
pale! Tell us your wonderful story."

Tregurtha did so, "with stammering lips and insufficient sound," whilst
Roscoria opened his basket and took therefrom an ample lunch, besides
displaying the trout he had caught. "They are not large," he said,
surveying the fish affectionately, "but they are very beautiful. And
now, friend, are you too much overcome for mutton sandwiches, or will
you try a limb of that blessed duck that old Rodda sent down?"

"But, Roscoria," murmured Tregurtha, as he ate, "I am afraid you don't
quite enter into the extreme indelicacy of the situation!"

"Far be it from me," retorted Louis--"cake, Tregurtha?"

"Not with duckling, thank you. The lady--her feet--I should say her
boots----"

"Were off, I understand," quoth Louis, dryly. "Hallo! is this the lady?"

He alluded to the appearance of a very small girl, bare-foot, grave,
and chubby, who wandered into the meadow from an adjacent farmyard, and
stood as near as she dared go to the sportsmen, gazing with friendly,
covetous eyes on their outspread repast.

"Child," said Roscoria at last, "do you like cake?"

The infant nodded her head solemnly, her big eyes brightening the while.

"Then take hold of this and be merry," replied the pedagogue, extending
an ambrosial slice. The small child hesitated after the manner of her
sex and age, hung her head, bit her tiny fingers, and finally advanced
and received the donation. She did not seem at all inclined to go, but
stood solemnly munching by Roscoria's side as he reclined on the grass,
and she did not prevent the crumbs from falling down his neck, which
was not pleasant.

"Child," said Roscoria again, "you may sit down." Down sat the wee
lass comfortably enough, and gazed into Roscoria's fine black eyes as
if she had not often seen so goodly a gentleman. Roscoria endeavored
hard to meet her stare, and for five minutes or so he succeeded; but
those two serious blue eyes embarrassed him at length, and, turning to
Tregurtha, with a somewhat nervous laugh, he observed, in Greek, that
the infant was alarming to him, and that he should be compelled to hide
his eyes within his robe. "Who gave you--I mean, what is your name?"
Tregurtha asked the baby. True to her training, the child arose, shook
out her frock, and made a courtesy, whilst she answered, with effort to
remember:

"Hanner Marier."

"Then Hannah--or Anna--Maria, would your mother give us each a glass of
cider, think you?"

"Should _you_ like some?" inquired A. M., as she sought Roscoria's face
again.

"Dearly, my lass."

Anna Maria showed she could move; she positively darted home, to return
much slower, and with a portentous gravity of demeanor, bearing in
tremulous hands one glass of cider held very tight. But to whom to give
it? There lies a sad struggle for her between duty and inclination.
She glanced yearningly at Roscoria's dark head, propped up expectantly
on elbow, then she measured Tregurtha's noble length stretched out
beside his friend. Slowly, reluctantly, but overpoweringly came the
truth upon her youthful mind: Tregurtha was the taller, _ergo_, in her
infant logic, he--the elder--must the first be served. Without waiting
an instant, wee Hebe gave the Cornishman his due, and fled away again.
Once more she came, more careful even than before; and, with a nascent
spark of coquetry in those rustic eyes, she smiled and said: "And this,
sir, is for _you_!"

"Here's your health, my bonny lass!" cried Louis, raising the glass
to his lips. "Long may those cheeks of yours retain their roses, and
may you ever be as able to look a decent man in the face!" Anna Maria,
not quite comprehending this ovation, turned so earnestly serious, and
so riveted her intent gaze on the handsome countenance of Louis, that
the unfortunate young man could stand fire no longer, and ended his
refreshing drink by the most ignominious fit of choking.

"You had better go, my dear," interposed Tregurtha hastily, slipping a
shilling into the child's hand; "he isn't used to so much admiration."

Anna Maria reluctantly departed, with many a backward glance at Louis,
who, when the firm young feet had borne his small admirer solidly away,
threw out his arms with a groan of intense relief and said:

"By Heaven, Tregurtha, there is great power in the human eye! I feel
completely mesmerized."

"What a thing it is to be good-looking!" observed Tregurtha, lighting a
cigar. "Now, I wonder how stands the heart of this young Adonis? Has he
yet learnt that the proper study of mankind is woman?"

Roscoria laughed, tumbled down into the soft grass again, and
meditatively responded:

"I shall end like Shelley by finding all modern love unsatisfactory,
because of an ideal attachment to Antigone. The lady of this century
talks too loud; she cannot laugh either. She is matter-of-fact; she has
an eye to the main chance."

"You are fastidious, my boy. Case of Narcissus over again, I imagine."

"Don't you be an old fool, Tregurtha," said Louis, more pleased than
he liked to show by the implied compliment. He rolled lazily to the
verge of the river, and was just about to examine his own visage, when
he suddenly caught his friend's eye of malicious criticism, and, after
affecting to have seen a trout in the water, jumped up and said "Come
along!"

"Hallo! my rod. I forgot. It is still adhering to an alder."

"Fetch it, then."

"I daren't."

"Still fearing the silver-footed Thetis? Why, man, she will be far
enough by this time! But if that is the case, matters are easily
settled; I'll go."

Roscoria went off accordingly, wondering what on earth he would _not_
do for Tregurtha, and, when he had waded the stream, climbed the tree,
disentangled the line, and substituted other flies for those which had
been jerked off, the two anglers started at a brisk walk to go further
up the river.

It is a pleasant country this, in which to spend a summer day. The
trees are very magnificent and full of foliage; the glens are bold and
varied; and the river-courses glittering through many a winsome spot.
With good sport, light hearts, intense capacities for enjoyment, the
two young men spent a rare afternoon, to be long remembered in their
winter evenings as one of the brightest of their holidays. They were
approaching toward six o'clock the boundary of the famed Doone Valley,
where they owned the fair spell of the enchanter Blackmore, who, with
his poetic wand, has conjured up the past for us, and haled dead men
out of their coffins to live again and be famous beyond the wildest
hopes of their lifetime.

Then, whilst musing by himself, Roscoria chanced to notice a churlish
coolness in the air, a depth of shadow from the neighboring oak, a
meaning hush and quiet stealing all about; and all he said to the
deepening beauty of the summer eve was this:

"Hang it all, I must put up my rod!" Sitting with his back turned to
the river that he might not be tempted, Roscoria did so slowly, to
give Tregurtha as many extra seconds as possible. He then went to
fetch his unwilling companion, who had to be hauled from the bank by
the coat-collar; then off and away to the place appointed for Jehu
to meet them, and home in contented silence to the Young Gentlemen's
Academy. The supper consumed within the halls of Torres that night was
truly Homeric. Witness the behavior of the cook. She was an energetic
woman; but she sank down at last upon the nearest chair, and, wringing
stalwart arms in desperation, cried, "May the Lord stay their stomachs,
for I cannot!"



III.

THE GODDESS.


One sultry afternoon Roscoria--the vices of boyhood vexing overmuch his
burdened heart--betook himself to green meadows with a volume of Plato.
He had announced his intention of reading in the same until he had
cooled down, a process which usually took him precisely three hours.
Long before he was expected, however, he was heard by Tregurtha coming
along the bridge over the moat toward his front window, and presently
he sprung in by the same, with an excited look in his eyes and the
manner of a man who has a fact to tell.

"Save you, Tregurtha! I am hit hard," was his greeting.

"I beg your pardon," said Tregurtha, politely, looking up from a piece
of carpentering.

"Did you ever hear, Dick, of love at first sight?"

"Yes; and a very shady proceeding it always seemed to me, if, indeed,
it be not a chimera. But, Roscoria, you are not feeling anything in
your head, are you? Giddiness, perhaps? A feeling as if you had lost
your memory? I hope it's nothing serious; but, my dear fellow, the sun
was rather hot when you started."

"You great ass! I tell you it is not the head that is affected; it's
the _heart_."

"Same thing, dear boy."

"I have seen, Tregurtha--I have seen an Olympian goddess treading the
grass of a nineteenth-century field!"

"You've seen a milkmaid!"

"Richard, if I thought I could annihilate you, I would try. She was
majestic, pensive, golden-haired, distracting; a daughter of the gods,
I swear."

"My dear sir, I think you had better take it easy," interposed
Tregurtha anxiously. "Take the armchair near the window, and open your
grief. There really is no hurry."

Roscoria was at last induced to sit down, Tregurtha standing by him,
with bent brows of perplexity, in his shirt-sleeves, with his hammer
still in his hand. Louis began his recital by a torrent of Greek,
comparing his mysterious goddess to almost every heroine of antiquity,
and using so great a multitude of compound adjectives and fantastic
turns of speech that his hearer faintly seized a newspaper and fanned
himself therewith.

"As it is some time since I was at school, Roscoria," interpolated his
friend on the first opportunity, "you will excuse me if I do not quite
follow you. If you could speak English mainly, I would pardon the use
of a few Grecisms."

"I am sorry," said Roscoria, "and, by Jupiter, will try to speak of her
in English. Listen. I was taking my solitary ramble through a field
skirting a beautiful little wood of Sir John Villiers', filled with
wild hyacinths. I had my eyes fixed on my book for a long while, but
when I lifted them, what think you, friend, they saw?"

"From the way in which you have carried on, I should imagine a woman."

Roscoria looked up in admiration at his friend's sagacity.

"She came straight by me, walking softly and dreamily, looking aside at
the blue hyacinths, and her hat was held in her hand, so that the sun
shone on her wonderful hair till it scintillated like a shower of gold.
She was tall, yes; but she had an air so ethereal, and in her white
dress she showed so like a cloud, that I held my breath lest she should
vanish. I thought, indeed, she was some mystic vision I had conjured up
from Plato's pages--the Absolute Good she might have been--she was so
fair, so spiritual, and the air was so still around us; and there were
we alone in the summer silence."

"Did she speak?" inquired Tregurtha (for he was a sailor, and his
friend's manner was impressive).

"When she saw me standing still before her she dropped her eyes and
made for a gate leading into the wood. The fastening was troublesome,
so I went and opened it for her. She turned as she passed through, and
bent her head--with a queenliness, heavens!--and smiled and whispered a
word of thanks. I saw her eyes then for an instant; they--but I ought
not to speak of them, and, after all, I don't know what color they
were. She walked a short distance whilst I was shutting the gate again,
and I was not the man to spoil her solitude, so I went off very fast;
but looking back just once--only once, Tregurtha--I saw her standing
amongst those blue-bells, gathering them, whilst the sunbeams slanted
through the pale green larch boughs on to that glinting, golden head.
After all, what immense possibilities this world contains! I believe
this--this vision to have been the daughter of a mortal man who was
once a _boy_, probably also a schoolboy! But then there was a woman in
the case."

"Thank you, old fellow," said Richard, consulting his watch: "this
has been very instructive; just as good as 'Half-hours with the best
Poets;' but I suppose we must all descend to commonplace. You must tone
yourself down and come to supper."

"Supper!" gasped Roscoria, blankly.

"Supper," retorted Tregurtha, firmly. "You shall note that not all
your boys are overcome by an _affaire de coeur_, and that if you keep
them waiting much longer there will be a bread riot. Here is comfort
for you. The Tremenheeres give a tennis party; hie you to it, and if
this Oread of yours be mortal, she will surely there be found. It is a
good way to distinguish women from angels: the former, if young, can
scarcely resist a party."



IV.

THE WAY TO TAKE A PARTY.


In the interval between the evening mentioned and the day of the
tennis-party, Roscoria was out early and late, whenever his calling
permitted, roaming restlessly in the woods, haunting the sunny fields
like a dark shadow, seeking for his goddess in the spot where he had
seen her, and in every other romantic and flowery nook that he thought
likely. Of course he never saw her. If he had been his own cook, the
venerable Mrs. Tartlett, if he had been his youngest pupil, small Tom
Rodda; if he had been the parish blacksmith, or cowboy, or even the
parson--a _paterfamilias_--he would assuredly have seen her. But as he
was her lover, and was searching for her high and low, he never caught
so much as the glimmer of her fair white robe dim in the distance.

Consequently, Roscoria grew irritable, knowing the pangs of baffled
will, but he did not lose his hope. He could have sworn that he should
meet her again. So on the important day he got himself up in white
flannels and pre-Raphaelite red cap, caught up his racket, and ran off.
Half-way toward his destination he wisely slackened his pace, lest,
meeting his charmer, he might be too much out of breath to speak to
her. As he crossed a field not far from the hallowed locality where
he had lost his heart, he stopped short and passed his hand across
his eyes. Yes; surely she was no other! A tall form, walking in that
dreamy, quiet, contented way that he had noticed before; in a white
dress--_the_ white dress--and there came the sunlight down on her
golden hair as she passed from under the shade of that oak. She held as
a screen a large horse-chestnut leaf, and she stooped often to gather
or to scrutinize some wild flower. It was the same lady, and the charm
was the same. Roscoria began by an impulsive start after her, then
he stopped again, for what could he possibly say? He could not rush
forward and exclaim, "Lady, you are the most adorable creature beneath
the sun--what is your name?" for that would sound _bizarre_, not to say
impertinent. As he was thus musing, however, a chance occurred in his
favor; drawing out her kerchief the unconscious maiden let an envelope
slip from out her pocket and fall noiselessly in the grass. She walked
on unwitting, but Roscoria saw his opportunity, ran up and seized the
letter. It was addressed to "Miss Lyndis Villiers."

In the first fervor of his satisfaction Roscoria imprinted a chaste
salute upon the letters of her name; then, looking again at the
handwriting, he observed, with a sharp revulsion of feeling, that
it was rather manly in character. Perhaps he had kissed his rival's
ink! With a shiver Roscoria proceeded to make the most of his time.
He walked up after the lady, doffed his small cap, and said, "Excuse
me--this is your letter, I think?" The lady gave a slight start, and
received her property with a gratitude much tempered by the haughty
surprise of the Englishwoman when addressed by a stranger. Then she
blushed, for she recognized the handsome stranger. And then there
seemed nothing more to be done, and Roscoria's wits were hampered by
his admiration of her, so she bowed and went her way. This was well;
but her way happened also to be Roscoria's, and he walked faster than
she did; moreover, there was before them a stile, and beyond that
stile the only lane, a narrow one, toward the Tremenheeres. He walked
behind, like a footman, until the delay at the said stile obliged him
to come up with the lady. Then, as he clomb the barrier and noted the
narrowness of the lane below, a sense of the comic struck him hard, and
he burst into a cheery, irrepressible laugh. Much pained he was with
his own irreverence when he had done so, but Miss Villiers turned at
the sound, and smilingly accosted him as she stood in the lane, looking
upward:

"I fear I detain you; go on, you walk more quickly than I."

So brilliant an idea now flashed into Roscoria's brain that he saw blue
sparks before his eyes for several minutes afterward.

"You have a racket to carry; as we are bound in the same direction,
apparently, may I----?" Her lips parted for thanks, so Roscoria was
over the stile with the dexterity of an acrobat, and next moment was
walking by his goddess' side, her rackets in his hand, in the most
blissful tremor.

"I ought to tell you my name to show you that I am respectable," he
began. "I am Louis Roscoria, an instructor of youth, and owner of that
curious, moldy building, Torres Hall."

"That beautiful, ivy-grown, moated mansion, with willows growing all
round?"

"The same, if you call it beautiful."

"I have sketched it several times from a distance already"
(beatification of Roscoria!), "although I have only recently come to
live here. Of course I know your name. Have you not a great friend, a
Mr. Tregurtha?"

"Rather!" cried Louis, "and I am glad that people connect the fact with
my name."

"Why, of course," said Lyndis, looking up with kind eyes; "you two are
called 'Damon and Pythias.'"

"I dare say. I am awfully proud of Dick (that's Tregurtha, Miss
Villiers); he is a fine fellow, and he manages me completely. Whatever
he suggests seems to be better, somehow, than what I can think of
myself. It's his _nature_, you know; there's no system about it
whatever: that's just where it lies. He has a way with him; I have no
way with me; and all the Philosophy in the world won't give me one.
Only, I hold that he makes one radical mistake in judging of my system
of education: he won't let me thrash my own boys when he can help it,
which I think is rather hard on any preceptor."

"Oh, it is!" said Lyndis, sympathetically; "but I dare say you are too
fond of correction, or whence this dudgeon at being debarred from it?"

"Well---- But if there is such an anomaly as '_righteous_ indignation,'
what a fervor of godliness must the sight of the average boy excite in
the breast of the right-minded schoolmaster! And can indignation find a
better vent than blows? Why, even the long-suffering Moses had to break
something when he found his Hebrews dancing round a calf!"

"I would not adopt a profession which develops the indignation to
so great an extent," said Lyndis, rather amused by her companion's
impetuosity.

"Do not say that, Miss Villiers; whatever we have most at heart will
disgust us sometimes. We have our ideal (or we ought to have), and the
reality is coarse, indeed, in comparison, but it is better than nothing
at all; and is it not in itself an ennobling thing to be constantly
engaged in a tremendous struggle, whether the vantage be to you or no?"

Roscoria looked at Lyndis with a far-away intensity and a sad
determination of expression, which made her think she had never seen so
enthusiastic a young man.

"It is a glorious vocation, teaching," said Lyndis, gently.

"It seems so when you praise it."

Lyndis here grew a little absent-minded. She could follow him when he
talked of his boys, but when he began on this new vein of sentiment she
knew she must begin to dictate to him what he should say next. So she
observed that the weather was fine, a fact that Roscoria had noticed
before.

"It is the finest day I ever saw in my life, as well as the happiest,"
he replied loudly, and with fervor.

Beautiful Lyndis! she looked up with those starry eyes of hers
and--begged his pardon! So the poor young man was obliged to pretend
he had said something else. And there they were at the Tremenheeres'
gate already, and Lyndis, with a somewhat more distant smile, took her
racket, passed through the tiresome gate, and was lost amongst the
laurels, whilst Roscoria hesitated. He did not attempt to follow her,
but, after speaking a few words to his host and hostess, went in search
of Tregurtha.

Now Tregurtha, though he had started a quarter of an hour after his
friend, and taken the longer route by the circumambient road, instead
of going across country, had--for some reason inexplicable except to
very young people--arrived long before Roscoria, and was disposed to be
foolishly jocose upon the subject. Louis checked this tendency in his
friend, though with some difficulty; and Tregurtha grew somber as he
recounted the boredom of his experiences over a set of tennis, wherein
his antagonists had dawdled about without any manner of spirit, whilst,
as he himself was the best player on the ground, his partner naturally
was the worst. Observing that Roscoria grew lax in his attention to
these plaints, Tregurtha went and hovered aimlessly around a tea-table.
He was speedily dislodged from this refuge by the hostess herself, who
stormed up to him with a rustle of silk akin in sound to the spray of a
mighty cataract, and an all-conquering inflation of demeanor peculiar
to the grandees of Devonshire and Cornwall, and, seizing him by the
arm, bore down upon the other end of the long _salon_ with him in tow.

Tregurtha was a Cornishman himself, so he was equal to the
occasion--drew up his height and adopted an attitude of breezy and
elegant ease as he listened to Mrs. Tremenheere lisping something
about a "Miss ----" (he could not catch the name), "introduce--very
clever--not my style--pretty though----" etc., until she stormed off
again, leaving Tregurtha anchored opposite a small but rather stately
foreign-looking damsel, of pleasing exterior, with a pair of great soft
blue-black eyes, which were gazing up at him with an expression of
absolute fright. The occasion did not seem to warrant this nervousness,
and Tregurtha was just thinking to himself, "What a shame to bring
her out just yet! she looks so young and shy," when the maiden before
him turned hastily round and slipped out by the French window on to
the lawn, laughing consumedly. That laugh! he knew it. Dick pursued
in hot curiosity and identified her. This was she--the heroine of the
stockingless episode--this was Thetis--this was Arletta of Falaise.

"I think we have met before," quoth he, not without relish of the joke.
But the lady of the hyacinthine eyes was too deeply conscious of that
fact to enunciate a syllable. So there they two stood together on that
almost deserted lawn (let us not be compelled to explain that every one
else was drinking claret-cup!), under the heat of that summer sun, for
several silent moments; and the man was losing his heart.

There was magic in the air that afternoon, for out came Roscoria
presently (looking very much _en l'air_), and with him a tall,
fair-haired woman, who only wanted wings. Tregurtha forgot himself in
an instant, and, laying his hand on Louis' shoulder, led him up to
Thetis, impressively and proudly observing:

"Miss ----, allow me to introduce my friend" (with emphasis) "Louis
Roscoria!"

"Keeper of the Wild Beasts' Asylum, Torres Hall," murmured the said
Roscoria, irreverently. "I have been deputed to arrange another set;
shall we four play?"

Tregurtha gave vent to a muffled cheer, and the quartet marched (with
some unseemly haste, lest other men should take their bishoprics) to
the best ground, and there began. Tregurtha and Roscoria were noted
players; together they were, in Devonshire at least, invincible. In a
single, Tregurtha had the best of it.

The set was exciting. At first the two sides won game for game. Lyndis,
as a tennis-player, was grace personified. She looked so lovely and
moved so lightly that it seemed a marvel why hers was not always the
winning side. Roscoria, too, exerted every muscle, and writhing about
with the cleverness of a lively cobra, ought to have done wonders, but
he tried too hard, and lost. Tregurtha, with less grace, had a longer
reach and a greater power of hard hitting, so he turned to his partner
about the fourth game, saying, "We will win this set, I think," and
proceeded to do so. His partner was a capital player, shirked no balls,
and had a prompt little way with a back-hander, which looked spirited
and was useful. It was she who won the set (said Tregurtha), for it
was she who returned Roscoria's last serve, with the twist on, by a
malicious little slant just over the net, where the ball fell almost a
yard before the feet of the goddess Lyndis, who beamed with gracious
impotence upon it.

The baffled pair, Roscoria and Miss Villiers, strolled to an arbor,
and there sat talking. It might have been ten minutes that they sat
there--as Roscoria thought it was--or it might have been an hour
and ten minutes to boot. Anyhow, it was heaven. There sat Lyndis
Villiers in a low wicker chair, all embowered in fragrant honeysuckle,
and looking herself like pink eglantine with her gold hair and soft
rose cheeks. The admiring sunlight played on her dress, all snowy
white, save where a pretty caprice had moved her to place a bunch of
glittering buttercups. There she rested, one hand round a branch of
honeysuckle, her eyes still, kind, and peaceful; her voice sweet and
calm, speaking her very thoughts, and those such wise and pure ones!
There was Lyndis, the Ideal realized, and there opposite sat Roscoria,
clasping his knee in his hands in deep preoccupation, not himself
at all, nor conscious of himself, but "a self aloof, that gazed and
listened like a soul in dreams, weaving the wondrous tale it marvels
at." He only knew from time to time, as her voice ceased, or her head
was turned away for a moment, that he had come under one of those
divine madnesses which the gods send upon men; that life grew more
wonderful every moment, and that ever after he should be able to say--I
have once been happy.

Meanwhile Tregurtha and his partner of the white face and dark eyes
were eating strawberries in an adjacent hayfield. It was pleasant
there also, and the damsel, for all her grave looks, was playful, and
conversation was uninterrupted. "Tell me a sea story," she asked, after
a little desultory persiflage had been exchanged; and Tregurtha settled
himself on a large haycock and began to recount his own adventures in
various storms and casualties on the ocean, just as he told them to
Roscoria's boys at night. And as he did so, his blue eyes kindling, and
his hands closing and unclosing with the excitement of memory and the
thought of the wild sea wind, he caught full sight of the blue-black
eyes of his hearer, who had come nearer and was watching and listening
to him with parted lips. She reminded him of a woman he had known
years ago in Spain, who died; and those eyes struck a sharp pain to
his heart, so that he finished his story with his hand over his brow
to keep them from him. So, as he did not look again at her, Rosetta
quietly finished all the strawberries, for she was, as yet, very young.

A loud, impatient halloo aroused them both, as a stout, warlike,
flurried, elderly gentleman came puffing indignantly through the
tumbled hay (most like a threshing machine), much encumbered by a large
feminine shawl, which he carried on his arm, and shouting to Rosetta:

"Why, why, dash it, my love, I call this insubordination, you know.
Didn't I tell you an hour you should have and no more? And how long
do you suppose you've kept the horses waiting? I can tell you, madam,
you're the only human being who dare keep Admiral Sir John Villiers'
carriage and himself waiting in this way. How d'ye do, sir? I'm glad to
make your acquaintance. Sailor, I see. Of course! didn't I know what
the tattooing on your wrist meant? Got an anchor on mine, sir. Confound
your impudence, miss, what are you laughing at? Oh! the shawl--stuck
to my coat-button, has it? Well, and if it has; have you no reverence,
you saucy minx? Put it round your neck, treasure. I hate a woman who
catches cold!"

Thus was Rosetta swept off from the glances of her first admirer by
Admiral Sir John Villiers, the owner of Braceton Park, renowned as the
most awkward customer in Devonshire.



V.

THE GODDESS IS HUMAN.


The friends found their way home together in the cool of the evening;
both very quiet, but Roscoria evidently meditating some deep design.
At night, growing confidential as they patrolled the garden, smoking,
Louis proceeded to rave of his goddess "for an hour by his dial."
Tregurtha heard and nodded in silence. He was a more reserved man than
his friend, so he did not even mention the maid who ate his share
of the strawberries. Indeed, he forgot her whilst listening to the
outpourings of his ingenuous comrade.

"I shall never be any good at my work, I'm afraid," complained
Roscoria; "that beautiful face is the only thing my mind will
comprehend."

"Well, if I were you, as you seem so far gone, I should take some
steps," advised Dick. "I'm no friend of shilly-shallying. If you love
the girl, go and tell her so, I advise."

"I wish I'd more money," sighed the schoolmaster.

"Many a good _paterfamilias_ has wished that before you, my lad,"
observed Tregurtha, with a laugh. "How does the country curate get on
with his six children, do you suppose?"

"Eh, I don't know. O Lord! I hope I never shall be the father of a
_boy_!" exclaimed the pedagogue, with a sudden agitated glance up at
the bedroom windows, as the dread crossed his mind that he might have
been overheard all this while.

However, all objection melted before the warmth of Roscoria's
attachment, and one night he gave up his keys and authority to
Tregurtha, bade him bolt the shutters and troll out prayers to the
household in his jovial bass, for Louis Roscoria was going to a ball to
"declare himself."

He had found out all about Lyndis (or thought he had). She was the
niece of Admiral Sir John Villiers; her father dead; her mother married
again to a hunting, racing type of man who wanted no stepdaughter
about. So fair Lyndis was staying with her uncle for the time, looking
after the housekeeping in return for his kind protection. But Roscoria
gathered much hope that his suit might possibly be the means of
relieving her from any unsettled feeling that she might have about
her future. And thus it came to pass that at the termination of their
fifth dance together they were sitting in a ferny grotto--the goddess
was all robed in blue this time, as if she had brought down a piece of
summer sky trailing after her--and Louis began all at once to show the
tenderness he felt.

There was a little of the usual fencing with the subject, and then
Roscoria came out with a few leading questions. He had heard
rumors--very disquieting rumors--in short, would she set his mind at
rest?

Lyndis bent the glory of her mystic eyes upon him for an instant,
whilst she said:

"I was going to be married, but we were obliged to put it off. Where
are you going, Mr. Roscoria?"

"I don't know," said Louis miserably. He had risen and taken a few
steps away, but he came back again and leant against the wall by her
side, breathing quick and brokenly.

"What is the matter?"

"Oh!" groaned Roscoria, "I wanted you."

He heard no answer, so he straightened up and took her kind hand and
said, "Never mind; I was a fool not to be silent; but--but--if you had
known your own charm, would you have made me so unhappy?"

Then there seemed a light in her eyes which was not there before, and a
whisper was borne to him low and far away as if it were the echo of the
voice of Fate thousands of years ago:

"By the favor of Heaven I am free!"

Shortly afterward Louis believed he heard himself saying, "Why did you
forsake him, for _he_ never did it?"

"The admiral forced the match upon me--he is so arbitrary! I consented
in a cowardly moment; but that was before I had seen you. The gentleman
I was betrothed to saw I was not contented before even I knew it
myself; he himself volunteered to release me. Of all the unselfish men
I know, Mr. Rodda is----"

("The deuce he is!") thought Roscoria to himself. "_Not_ Eric Rodda,
Miss Villiers--the young fellow I tutored at Rome! Brother of Tom? Poor
fellow! I feel like a brute, somehow."

"No use to feel so, Louis; it was all over before ever I saw you."

"'Louis'--you darling! Could you put up with a very modest style of
existence--at Torres? You said you admired the situation."

"Oh! are you poor?"

"The proverbial church-mouse is a Rothschild to me."

"What a cruel thing that is!" sighed Lyndis; "when the admiral, my
mother, my stepfather, all insist on my marrying a rich man."

"Then, my dear lady, go and do it in Heaven's name!" cried Roscoria,
and at sight of her surprised face he said, repentantly, "I beg your
pardon--Lyndis--darling."

"Which do you put first?" asked Lyndis, smiling sweetly, "Obedience or
Love?"

"Love," emphatically responded Louis.

"Oh, Mr. Roscoria, and you a schoolmaster!"

"And you, Miss Villiers, tell me, do you prefer the main chance, or me?"

"Alas! I am no lover of abstractions."

She came a little toward him as she said it, and he had her hand again.

"This dear hand--shall it be mine?"

No answer, save that propitious starlight in her eyes.

"Lyndis, one kiss, that I may know you are mortal."

"I daren't," she said, and gave him one. "If the admiral _were_ to come
round the corner---- I say no more."

She gave him a stephanotis from her hair to keep as her favor, and then
whispered apprehensively:

"You have no idea what a naval officer can be when he takes to
match-making. I shall have to fight this out some day with him."

"No; allow me," said Roscoria.

"If you dare; but--_this_ is after supper."

("Oh, how _can_ you?") expostulated the lover.

Then, being a serious maiden, who knew what she was doing, Lyndis
pressed his hand and quietly, but finally, spoke:

"Mr. Roscoria, go home and think it over."

She had stepped into the brilliant light of the ballroom, and vanished
from his sight. Roscoria went home as in a dream. A shifting picture
was before him--in front, smiling scenes of bliss and love; in the
background, Nemesis, in the garb of a naval officer.



VI.

THE ADMIRAL IS SQUARED.


Admiral Sir John Villiers was of all landowners the most peppery.
He could not keep on terms with the farmers, his tenants; he never
attempted to be on terms with his relations, and his warlike attitude
toward the owner of the adjacent property of Torres was notorious.
A man so revelling in storms as the admiral must needs have _some_
quarrel with his next-door neighbor, and the subject-matter is easily
found. A bit of land contested, a dubiousness of fence, and behold Sir
John Villiers rampant. The makings of a despot had the admiral; he was
kindness itself (in his imperious way) so long as he was not crossed;
but oppose the most reasonable of wills to his and England itself, let
alone Devonshire, was not large enough to contain him.

Unfortunately, it was Roscoria who happened to be the next-door
neighbor, and very warm the admiral made the neighborhood.

Roscoria loved every inch of Torres, and held his own with an iron
grip. The admiral took it into his head that a corner on the boundary
of the two properties belonged to himself, and he set himself to wrest
it from Roscoria. A little representation and cajolery he tried first,
then threats, for he did not mean to be ousted by an impudent young
puppy like Louis Roscoria. But the owner of Torres stood firm.

The relations were thus a little strained, when a glorious piece of
strategy occurred to Louis the lover. He had just declared himself to
Lyndis, and had received her assurance that she loved him in return,
and would marry him gladly could the admiral be squared.

So Roscoria arranged a dinner at Torres Hall, Tregurtha and two or
three others to be present, and then went over himself to invite the
admiral. Sir John Villiers hemmed and ha'd, and would have curtly
declined to enter the young man's house, but, scenting the battle afar
off, and hoping for a good rousing tussle, he consented, grimly.

Some fine old port came up from the cellar of Torres, and a very jolly
party Roscoria and Tregurtha managed to make of it. The admiral, who
came in at first snuffing haughtily and twirling his eyeglass with the
most warlike aspect imaginable, was soothed and smoothed as the wine
went round, and at last began to tell stories.

Propitious circumstance! Need we say how the young men roared with
laughter at indifferent naval anecdotes, and greeted one effort at an
august pun with clamorous applause? Tregurtha burst forth at last,
followed by the others, into the _Lobgesang_, "For he's a jolly
good fellow!" and this was the signal for Roscoria to edge himself
confidentially close to the admiral and insinuate:

"Indeed, sir, we are all convinced of this, and it makes me
all the more regretful that there should be any--any small
mis--mis--understanding." (Roscoria here grew very nervous, and
stammered a good deal.) "Fact is, Sir John, we all think here that
things could be most comfortably settled if--if you could be content to
make one small sacrifice. You have a niece----"

"The sacrifice, sir, if any is made, must be on _your_ side," quoth the
admiral, kindling; "though I don't deny that if you were to marry my
niece it might thus be made to my full and complete satisfaction."

"Precisely, Sir John; and in that case, without further difficulty, I
give up to you the 'boundary-plot,' which, I am afraid, you have long
wished to possess."

"Wished, sir--_wished_? It is mine!" The admiral smote the table with
his fist; the glasses jingled; he remembered the port, and, drinking
some, was cheered.

"Yours, Sir John--yours from this moment if you consent to lay Miss
Villiers' hand in mine," Roscoria spoke with ardor; the other men
gathered round with interest, and the admiral saw he was expected to
say the handsome thing. He rebelled at first.

"Young man," he said, "your hospitality is of a somewhat treacherous
character."

"Pardon me, Sir John," retorted Roscoria. "I believe I have made you an
honorable proposal. If it takes place whilst you are drinking my wine,
well, sir, all that I can say is--I trust you find the port is good."

"Excellent--excellent. I have no fault to find with the wine. The wine,
sir, is unexceptionable. I wish only I found your offer the same."

"Come now, admiral," interposed Tregurtha, good-humoredly, "what's a
niece? You are rid of a tiresome responsibility, and the lady gets an
honest husband."

"H'm! honesty is his _forte_, is it? Shouldn't have thought it,"
muttered the admiral; but he was giving in.

"There is one objection," he said, moving uneasily. "Miss Villiers
is under age; but then girls are headstrong nowadays. What if she
declines?"

"Ah! she'll not decline," said Roscoria, with a joyous ring in his
voice.

"Indeed, sir! Then there has been a little clandestine love-affair
between you already, has there? The hussy!"

"_Well_, admiral, we don't generally make our first tentative advances
in the presence of the guardians--now do we?" put in the ready
Tregurtha.

"I suppose not, you rascal; I suppose not," said the admiral, and pen
and paper were laid before him.

"Now mind, Sir John," Roscoria warned him jocularly, "this transaction
may not be strictly legal; but there is such a thing as the Court of
Honor. I am sure of my own intentions, I can guess at the lady's, and
this writing is to hold you to yours."

The admiral only nodded impatiently, and wrote down in good set terms
an agreement to give his niece in marriage to Louis Roscoria on
condition of that landowner and his heirs forever resigning all claim
of ownership to the boundary-plot of Braceton Park. He threw the paper
across to the young men to sign as witnesses, and then returned to his
glass and his yarn. The old fellow's somewhat shaken good-humor was
quickly restored. He was finally put into his greatcoat and sent home
in his brougham, feeling vaguely uncomfortable, but softly singing a
nautical ditty.

Roscoria knew no discomfort nor repentance, but danced the hornpipe
with Tregurtha.



VII.

ROSCORIA'S BETROTHED.


Rosetta Villiers was looking very uncomfortable. She had taken a seat
opposite to her uncle, the admiral, and was cross-questioning him
with a certain sternness, before which the old sinner was quailing
considerably.

"Mr. Roscoria made you this offer, you say? It is most extraordinary: I
scarcely have seen him."

"Why, Rosetta, he gave me to understand--at least, he hinted at
something like an _affaire de coeur_ between you."

"Affaire de fiddlestick!" cried Miss Villiers, rising in real
indignation; "the man _must_ have been exceeding! Why, upon my word,
the conceit of these young men! I suppose, passing me in the lanes once
or twice, he was slightly taken with my looks, and supposes me to have
been equally entranced by his. I should really like to see him, uncle,
to give him a piece of my mind."

"Well, that is the most sensible thing you have said, Rosetta," agreed
the admiral, "for you must anyway see this fellow, and make it up with
him somehow, to save my credit as a man of my word. I admit it's a
deuced awkward business, but since I consented to it--in cold blood
mind, Rosetta, I repeat that I had _not_ had too much--I am bound to
stick by the contract, and I suppose you, being included in it, are at
least called upon to bear me out."'

"I never knew such a fearful scrape!" cried Rosetta, with a rush of
despairing tears to her eyes. And then, being very brave of nature, she
shook herself together and pondered. She was a real child still, only
sixteen, and had never been much in the company of older ladies. She
was, therefore, quite unprepared to enter upon any matrimonial plans
of her own, and--clever as she was--dwelt in surprising ignorance of
the world. No course then could her inexperience suggest, except that
of saving her uncle's reputation by adhering to the contract. And as
she thought and accustomed herself to the strange idea, her young face
lighted up with humorous smiles, and she threw up her head with a
delightful sense of enterprise.

"Sir," she began, turning solemnly upon the shamefaced admiral, "I feel
that you have treated me with scant consideration, and plunged me early
into the difficulties of a matronly career. Nevertheless, such is my
care for the family reputation that--I'll marry Louis Roscoria!" she
concluded, with a sudden gust of laughter.

"Yes; he is learned, is he not? And I remember him as very
good-looking," she added, with a blush; "large, soft eyes, if I am not
mistaken. I _suppose_ one can fall in love, given a man so handsome.
_Allons--essayons!_ But if I don't give it him for this abominable
deception, then I don't feel the blood of my Spanish ancestors on the
mother's side coursing vigorously through my veins! Sir, I consent."

The admiral (who was honestly afraid of his spoilt niece) confounded
himself in thanks and praise, and privately thanked also his stars that
his ward had grown up so unsophisticated. With that tricksy Spanish
spirit of hers, had she taken this affair in a different light she
might have got me into fearful trouble, he thought, softly whistling
directly the descendant of the hidalgos had turned the corner.

Next day was fixed for Roscoria's introduction. On hearing the complete
success of his stratagem, Louis arrayed himself regardless of expense
and hastened to Braceton Park. He gave Tregurtha leave to follow him in
an hour--"to be introduced to the lady, who, I suppose, will then be my
betrothed," he said.

Admitted into the drawing-room, Roscoria was left alone for what seemed
to him an awful while. He grew nervous, and fluttered at every sound
in the room. The clock annoyed him inexpressibly, and he started every
time he faced a mirror. At last, in despair, he clutched his hat and
stick, and sat down in orderly stiffness with his back to the door, and
tried to abstract his thoughts. But they would dwell on his Lyndis, and
it was no use to try and "sit like his grandsire carved in alabaster."

Suddenly there was a light sound of approach, and a tremulous, sweet
voice close to his ear said simply:

"Good-afternoon, Mr. Roscoria."

Louis bounded on his chair as by galvanism, dropped his incumbrances,
and spread forth a pair of eager arms, into which Rosetta, thinking
this was all in the day's work, was actually preparing submissively to
walk, when he saw that something was wrong.

"Ten _thousand_ pardons!" he cried.

"Not at all," said Rosetta, smiling. "It is quite natural that you
should feel deeply upon an occasion like this." And then she rubbed her
small hands together bashfully, and waited with a beating heart for the
beginning of his courtship.

"But I hope you see my mistake," urged Louis, still in smiling
embarrassment. "I took you, in fact, for another lady."

"But; I _am_ the other lady," said Rosetta.

"Ah!--Miss Villiers I was expecting."

"Precisely, I am Miss Villiers," said Rosetta, with firmness.

Roscoria looked the lady in the face. She was a very young looking
creature, small, but rather strongly made, with a striking white face
and great blue-black eye with a latent, passionate fire in the very
depths of them. She had a resolute small chin and a decided mouth.
Louis thought her, spite of her prettiness, the most tremendous
interlocutor he had ever met. He turned absolutely faint with sudden
horror, and grasped a chair, saying feebly:

"But Miss Villiers was tall and fair."

"Oh, my cousin do you mean? Yes; she will be in directly.
But--but"--(Rosetta's face grew whiter and her eyes larger with the
shock of discovery)--"you did not mean _her_, surely?"

"Excuse me--I did--and do."

"Then allow me to assure you, Mr. Roscoria, that the admiral did _not_.
My cousin, Lyndis Villiers, is his niece and guest merely; it is I who
am his ward since my father died in a naval engagement. He has made a
very natural mistake. Lyndis is supposed to be out of the question,
being engaged to marry a former pupil of yours--Mr. Eric Rodda.
The admiral of course assumed that you meant me when you made your
extraordinary request. I may mention that I thought it odd at the time."

"Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! I am punished this time!" groaned Roscoria, and,
without even keeping up a pretense of ceremony, he sank on the table
and sat there, rocking himself backward and forward. Rosetta laughed
as one who had lost a load of care. She was now free to rejoice at
the misfortunes of another, and for the first moment could not resist
doing so. She stood opposite Roscoria and laughed at him and his
discomfiture, like the child she really was.

"Not that I mean the least disrespect to you, my dear Miss _Villiers_,"
apologized Roscoria, out of the depths of his lamentations; "if only,
like my predecessor Jacob when in a similar predicament, I could take
_both_, how glad, how thankful I should be! But as it is, dear Miss
Villiers, your cousin is so much to me--and--I thought I had got
her!--in short, I know you will excuse me."

"Excuse you? Why, I am so thankful myself!" breathed out Rosetta.

"Thanks: it is very kind of you to say so. It makes it much easier for
me," sighed Roscoria, gratefully.

At that moment enter the admiral, walking sideways and fumbling with
the door-handle as one who fears to interrupt a _tete-a-tete_.

Roscoria came forward in penitent guise, and began to explain the
unlucky mistake that had arisen, and how it was Miss _Lyndis_ Villiers
toward whom his heart had yearned.

The admiral snorted. His temper arose. Both the young people knew
they were in for it. Sir John Villiers withered them both with his
sea-faring eye.

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Roscoria, also a little irritably. "If
I tear up that paper, and leave you in possession of that bit of land,
and say no more of my marriage in connection with it, but try to gain
Miss _Lyndis_ Villiers as a separate undertaking, I suppose it will be
all right?"

"Rosetta Villiers is an heiress, so if she pleases to throw herself
away on a poor school master--he's no worse than the good-for-nothing
military men who generally get the heiress--but Lyndis Villiers has not
a penny, and I owe it to my second brother's memory to see that his
orphaned child does not marry any impecunious young gentleman. Besides,
she is suitably affianced to Mr. Rodda's eldest son. She is, therefore,
out of the question."

"For the moment let us assume it," said Roscoria (who, we remember, was
better informed); "but in that case, naturally, Miss Rosetta Villiers
is free."

A very gentlemanly young man! thought Rosetta approvingly.

"I do not see it, sir," said the admiral, unfurling a handkerchief like
a challenge flag. "I will neither give up the field nor permit you to
go without your share in the bargain."

"Then give me a trifling consideration in money," suggested
Roscoria--"if Miss Villiers will kindly pardon my entering upon such
matters in her presence."

"That piece of land and my niece are, in my estimation, priceless.
Only the one, sir, is a sufficient substitute for the other. Besides,
I decline to have any shilly-shallying in this affair. It will be all
over the place to-morrow that Rosetta accepted you and you threw her
over."

"Let it be; I accepted the position," said Rosetta.

"I will _not_ let it be," stormed the admiral. "If a young man thinks
he can play fast and loose with a niece of mine, let him try--let him
try!"

Here Rosetta, growing really frightened, hastily went out and returned
with sherry and biscuits, which she pressed upon Roscoria's acceptance
in the midst of his indignant rejoinder to her uncle. Mechanically the
young man received the refreshments, and, holding his glass in one hand
and taking a fierce bite of his biscuit, he said loudly, and turning
toward the lady, "I protest again, Sir John Villiers, that I have not
the slightest intention of playing fast and loose with Miss Rosetta,
and she knows it as well as I do----"

And the door opened, and Lyndis Villiers was in the midst of them.

Now this time, of course, Roscoria was unnerved, and did nothing but
turn very white and set down his glass and look away. Therefore Lyndis,
hearing his last speech, seeing him in excited converse with her uncle
and her pretty cousin, and eating and drinking as if he were there for
the day, harbored a deep suspicion of her lover. There was a painful
silence.

Then the admiral began again:

"Lyndis, come here! Do you know Mr. Roscoria?" and Lyndis lifted her
clear gray eyes upon Louis and said, "Yes, certainly."

Then Roscoria recovered himself and shook his beloved by the hand, and
murmured, "Good-morning, dearest; I am in an awful scrape."

And Rosetta confided to Lyndis that the admiral was past human
guidance, and it was to be hoped that Providence would interfere.
Of course Lyndis knew nothing of what was toward, and a laborious
explanation had to take place, at the end of which the tall, fair
Englishwoman looked rather shocked, and murmured something about
"unjustifiable liberty," which was directed at Roscoria. He took up the
attack by a counter-charge:

"Is it true that you, as the admiral says, are still engaged to Eric
Rodda?"

Lyndis raised her eyes again to Roscoria's, this time with a furtive
memory of love-making in them, and responded decidedly, "No, it is not."

"Sir," she continued, turning to the admiral, "Mr. Rodda is coming this
afternoon to break this to you."

"Break it to me!" irascibly exclaimed the admiral. "How many more
things am I to have broken to me this day? I should like to break a
thick stick to these fellows! Why can't they stick to their engagements
as I do? Precious attractive they seem to find you two young women.
I wonder you are not ashamed, Lyndis, to come and tell me that your
fellow has given you the slip too."

"Oh, I say!" expostulated Roscoria, and he dared--before the
admiral--to put his arm round Lyndis' waist.

"Look at them, sir!" said Rosetta, in a motherly aside. "I'd go to the
rack with Spanish fortitude before I would cross young love."

"Lieutenant Tregurtha!" announced the footman, and in came Dick with an
air of "Bless you, my children!" about him. He was stopped on the very
threshold, though, by recognizing in Miss Rosetta Villiers a dear, if
new, attraction.

"Hallo!" he exclaimed. "Why, this _is_ delightful, you know!" and shook
her warmly and long by the hand.

Rosetta ordered a fresh glass for the sherry, and Lyndis inhaled the
odor of the hyacinths in the flower-stand, whilst Roscoria bent over
her, earnestly engaged in making his peace. The admiral, who had been
quelled for the moment, burst out afresh. In trembling accents he
said, waving his hand:

"Ladies, leave us, if you please!" and Lyndis and Rosetta, knowing
what impended, hastily made for the door, Roscoria finding time to bow
out his adored just before Sir John broke into a torrent, a storm,
hurricane, gust, squall, half-gale, great-guns-blowing (or any other
nautical simile) of language.

The young men listened with respectful disapprobation (for to
attempt to stem the course of the admiral's diction was at all times
dangerous). When the sea-faring gentleman's invention was somewhat
ebbing, Tregurtha was in an undertone acquainted with its source. The
moment when it seemed of any use, Roscoria began again on his suit. He
pleaded, urged, lost his temper, found it again, represented, reasoned,
chaffed the admiral, appealed to his friend--and all in vain. Lyndis
was steadily denied to him.

"And Miss Rosetta?" asked the lieutenant; but this question, which to
him was most important, got lost, as totally irrelevant to the matter
in hand. In despair the tired and heated Roscoria was gently led away
by his friend, and the moment they appeared out of doors they were
cheered by the sight of the ladies, who were waiting in the garden.

"It has not gone well with you, has it, Louis?" asked Lyndis anxiously.

"Gone well! It has gone vilely, Lyndis. Why do you encourage such a
curmudgeon of a peppery old Cambyses as an uncle?"

"_My_ relative, if you please, sir," said the loyal Lyndis. "Why do you
get us all into such scrapes, you inconsiderate, duped Hotspur?"

"Because I am in love, most beautiful; they say it affects the
intellect. So tell me what we are to do now."

"Well--would you like to give me up?"

"Don't," prayed the lover, with an imploring gaze at his goddess. "Say
something cheering, for--eh! it _was_ warm in there."

Lyndis nodded her beautiful head sagaciously, passed her hand over
Roscoria's forehead, smoothing it, and smiled to herself to see how his
countenance cleared under the comfort.

"Dear one, to me you are an Immortal," he said, reflectively; "but--if
you _have_ an age, what might it be?"

"That will not do," said Lyndis; "a minor I am, and a minor I fear I
shall remain for a year or two more. But if you will wait----"

Louis threw out his arms with a gesture of impatience. "I had rather
run away with you at once," he said. "Let us elope."

"Mr. Roscoria, what a very rash idea!"

"Should you refuse, if I asked you?"

"I hope so," said Lyndis, thereby giving her lover much hope. "And now,
as I am really angry with you, you may go."

"Yes, goddess; but I will hear thee again on this matter. May I----"

Lyndis did not expressly say he might not, so he did--that is to say,
he kissed the golden head that was resting on his rough coat, from
whence it was raised with tumbled bright hair spread abroad like the
rays of the sun.

Tregurtha and Rosetta meantime had been looking over a hedge,
commenting on scenery, the weather, and the crops. Rosetta was a born
farmer. The sailor asked her tentatively:

"Did you agree to this plan of marrying my friend Roscoria?"

"I did," said the maiden, brightly.

"But surely you scarcely knew him well enough to love him? There must
have been a strong elective affinity--or, bless me! I can't account for
it."

"Love him! I never had spoken to him," laughed Rosetta.

"You would not have given him your hand without your heart?" persisted
Tregurtha, with a strange, pained look, which, alas! she did not
understand.

"Why, yes. If I had added my heart, think how great the sacrifice would
have been. As it was, it was _very_ amusing." Rosetta laughed again, at
Roscoria this time, who came up to apologize for the awkward position
in which he had stupidly placed her.

"Never mind, Mr. Roscoria," answered she. "I love adventures, and I owe
this one to you. Only next time you ask for Miss _Lyndis_ Villiers, let
me advise you--'_see that you get her_.'"



VIII.

THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME.


For a fortnight after this failed attempt Roscoria beat his brains
in vain to hit on a method of squaring the admiral. He was debarred
from any sight of Lyndis herself, for Sir John, cleverly enough, had
spirited the goddess off to her mother in London, so that her lover
might chafe in the chains of his exacting profession until perhaps,
being unable to follow, he might cease to love her.

Having executed this little piece of justice on his sworn foe Roscoria,
the admiral turned mighty good-humored, and found that he lacked a
companion over pipe and bowl. As he had quarreled for life with almost
all the residents in Devonshire, it was natural that the choleric but
cheery old fellow should turn his eye on Dick Tregurtha--a stranger,
a sailor, a pleasant companion, and a man who could oppose a front of
imperturbable and respectful good-humor to any high-handed impertinence
which the admiral's temper might offer him.

This distinction suited Tregurtha uncommonly well. He liked the
admiral, and he liked the admiral's niece. He did not see much of Miss
Rosetta Villiers, for that damsel was always either attending to the
farm or preparing for an examination. But she occasionally looked in
upon the men, and had bright smiles for Richard, and a plate of fruit
sometimes. She teased the admiral (who was completely under her rule).
Sir John evidently liked and understood Rosetta. Lyndis was a complete
puzzle to him. He could appreciate a fine woman; but Lyndis was more;
she was a fine lady, and far too calm-spirited for the admiral's taste.
She was afraid of him and his imperious way, and he knew it, and took a
malicious pleasure in avenging himself on her indifference by startling
projects of matrimony for her, accompanied by violent reprimands, which
Lyndis took with a calm disdain coupled with fear.

Now, when he presumed to scold Rosetta, she first would melt into
a regular child's fit of tears (which used to cause the admiral to
clear his throat and blink his eyes, and retract certain over-fierce
expressions); then she would flash into a little Spanish passion, pay
the admiral back in some of his own coin, with the genuine stamp upon
it, and quickly send him to the right-about. And this the admiral
understood too, for he was a man who knocked under with a good grace
when fairly worsted. Tregurtha was never weary of hearing the two
joke together, and noting occasionally how, when the admiral wickedly
strove to turn the joke against Rosetta herself or her sex, the young
lady would throw her uncle a glance of her black eyes that shone with
such masterful warning that the old commander would cough and change
the subject, whilst Rosetta broke into a young, irrepressible laugh of
victory.

Tregurtha commended himself to the lady by offering his help in the
mathematics she required for her examinations. The logic which she also
studied was at first beyond his ken, but he got over that difficulty by
causing Roscoria to give him a fearful jorum of Jevons every evening,
which he then passed on to the pretty student. Rosetta was much
impressed; she marveled at the wide and varied talents of a mind that
had remembered all the details of logic during a rough seafaring life
like Tregurtha's. But if she admired his qualities, how was he affected
by hers? Ah! that's the worst of it, always.

For, said Dick to Roscoria one afternoon, as that distinguished
preceptor was on the point of joining his adoring disciples:

"Wish me good luck, old comrade: I am off on a forlorn hope."

"That child?" cried Roscoria, dropping an armful of the Clarendon Press
series with resounding bang upon the floor.

"That child!" intoned Tregurtha, mechanically, with the voice of a
captive spirit from a tomb. "I feel it is utterly hopeless madness; but
I shan't be ashore much longer, and I must go to sea with a certainty
behind me. I was never a man to go doubting when knowledge could be
had for the asking. So I'll go and have my mind set at rest. I shall
be satisfied this evening, I trust, and then I'll come back to you,
Roscoria."

"Yes, you are sure of me, at any rate. I'm afraid you are making a
mistake, old fellow; but I dare say you can't help it."

Pythias whistled sympathetically as Damon went out by the window with
his hat over his brows and his teeth set.

Rosetta Villiers was playing about in the admiral's garden. At least,
she thought she was working, but the sun was hot and there was a
pleasant shade under that chestnut-tree. So she left off weeding and
tying up roses, and sat dreamily down on a wooden seat to divide her
attention between a book and a flitting dragon-fly. Tregurtha came
walking informally through the garden, for was he not hand-in-glove
with the admiral? Rosetta looked up brightly, extended her hand to
Jevons in smiling appeal, and pointed to the other end of her rustic
sofa.

"I'm not up to logic to-day, dear Miss Villiers," said Tregurtha, with
quiet despondency; "I have brought you a problem harder to solve than
any in that class-book of yours. Do throw it over the hedge for half an
hour, for indeed it is not opportune!"

Rosetta's astonishment was instructive to see. She clasped the book
tighter and said, breathlessly: "You are strange, Mr. Tregurtha. Sit
down here, and please don't look at me like the reproachful manes of my
grandfather! There, at any rate, it is only a despairing profile that I
see--the full face was unendurable."

"Just allow me," said Tregurtha, and he put Stanley Jevons into his
pocket. "There! now I have no rival save the landscape. I say, listen,
Miss Villiers. I--oh! but you will never understand--you will not
understand!"

"I will do my best," said Rosetta, with a childish touch of pride. "Am
I so stupid?"

"My little Rosetta, no!" cried Tregurtha, with an excess of tenderness
which overwhelmed him; "but this is something which mere cleverness
will never teach you, and which I cannot explain to you. Roscoria could
have done it," he sighed, "but I am an inferior creature; besides, I
shall only be speaking out my own disappointment. Well, best have it
over; after all it won't take long. Rosetta, how do you think of me?"

"As my friend," answered Rosetta, promptly.

"Ah! and all the time I am only your lover!"

"My lover!"

"Say what you like now, I am ready," groaned Tregurtha, with hopeless
resolution.

There was a long, dreary pause. Rosetta sat still, gazing away over
the sunny lawn, and Tregurtha cared not even to see her answer in her
face--he knew it; he looked before him also, and listlessly their
thoughts dwelt on the daisies, the butterflies playing above them, the
shifts of light and shadow, and the birds' half dreamlike song.

"Oh, this is dreadful!" Rosetta at last broke out. Richard drew her
nearer, and kept his arm round her, saying quietly:

"I am sorry I distress you."

"Oh, I wish I could suffer anything! I wish anything evil could have
happened to me, if only I might not have hurt you so! I did not know
it, Richard, I did not know it!"

"No, of course I saw that. You are no flirt, sweetheart, or you would
never have been troubled with me. Oh, well, it is over now--the worst
part at least--and you must not be too soft-hearted, darling; you will
have to break some hearts soon, so steel your own!"

Rosetta gave a long, long sigh, like a child roused from deepest
sleep. All this was so new to her, such a revelation of pathos, and
herself so helplessly ignorant and unprepared, that she had never a
word to say, and all her sixteen bright years of life seemed unreality
before this woeful fact--her lover. Involuntarily she laid her head
upon Tregurtha's shoulder as if he could help her; then, with a start,
as she felt the tremor that went through him at her touch, she raised
it up, and bent her startled eyes upon him while she said, so low, with
such an effort:

"I ought to try and tell you why I cannot--marry you. But what am I
to say? I can find nothing reasonable. You would in your turn fail to
understand the fancies of a child like me."

"I should like to hear," said Tregurtha. "Talk to me as long as you
will; say what you please to me; I should like to take back some little
knowledge of you, instead of the shadowy hope which has now gone to
range itself with the endless mass which space is not great enough to
hold--men's illusions."

His bitterness seemed to make his distress so real for Rosetta that she
gave a deprecating cry and struggled with herself for several moments
before she found the heart to continue speaking. Then tremulously she
asked:

"Should you care to marry me before I could love you?"

"I don't know," said Tregurtha. "Now I am bewildered by my own love for
you."

"Listen, Mr. Tregurtha. I am only sixteen, as you know, and childish
for that age. I have lived so much alone and so wrapped up in my
examinations and out-of-door pursuits that I simply have never yet
had occasion to think of marriage. You see, I have no lady relatives,
except Lyndis--and she is so serious! I imagined love would find its
own way to me, without my playing with it beforehand. _Now_ I see it
needs practice."

"Did the admiral never warn you of your future lovers?" here put in
Tregurtha, with some incredulity.

"Oh, the admiral! Who cares what the admiral says? He's an old sailor,
what can you expect? They think of nothing else in connection with us
women."

Tregurtha gave vent to a dismal chuckle at Rosetta's not altogether
far-fetched aphorism on the navy. He was scarcely in a position to
controvert it.

"And so you paid no attention?"

"Not much," said Rosetta, blushing. "At least I never dreamt that
a man would love me yet, and that I should not be able to return
his sentiment. I relied for the contrary on my southern nature, and
troubled my head no more about it. Indeed, I used to think that I
should like to have a lover, and now--now he is come!" And Rosetta
covered her face and broke into low, sad sobbing.

"Oh, you poor little child! And I have done you harm, blundering into
your charmed circle of heart-freedom! What a shame it is!"

Tregurtha rose up from his seat, and stood stretching his arms out with
a laugh of self-directed irony; before this good and innocent girl,
with all her sorrow for him, he felt utterly baffled, hopeless, and
cast back.

"Let me try to explain myself further," pleaded Rosetta, with as much
eagerness as if it were her fault that she could not love Tregurtha.

"See, I am happy here. To some people it is not given to know when they
are happy, but I do know. I rejoice in my existence. I want nothing
save that love which is beautiful in poetry and tragical in life. Here
I am useful; you know the admiral--his dear, quarrelsome ways--who can
keep him in order except me? Why, if I did not act as his interpreter
there would never be a farm laborer on the place: every plowboy and
cowman on it would give the admiral notice to-morrow--if I did! Here
is my home, too; I love it. I love every corner of this old-fashioned
garden--the corner where the winter violets grow, the nooks to find
snowdrops in, and the borders with the scented pinks and heart's-ease
in irregular places. I look for each flower as it comes out, and I
scarcely care to stray outside our sweetbrier hedge."

"Well, dear child, all I can possibly say is, that it all sounds very
pretty. If I were not your lover, I should exclaim, 'How simple are
her tastes! what innocence and what content!' I should look on, were
another in my place, and say complacently, 'Here is at last a woman
who does not court men's admiration. Here is a fair maid who prefers
Jevons' "Elements of Logic" to Debrett's "Peerage," and a bunch of
mignonette to a tiara of diamonds.' How new, how picturesque, and how
refreshing!"

Rosetta gazed in blank wonderment at the imbittered Richard, who, with
arms folded and a caustic frown, was haranguing away as if to conjure
from him a whole army of demons.

She was not of a mold to stand by and see another really suffer.

"I will do something for you, Richard!" she cried at length. "My lover
shall not think me hard. I will go with you, Richard, and let the
admiral and the cowman console each other. Between you and your friend
it seems as if I were never to be left alone. Well, I am ready; I have
plenty of spirit, and I say I will learn the meaning of this love which
has made a hypochondriac of my sailor friend. I will be your wife and
try to make the best of it--if it will make Richard himself again."

She stopped, excited but steadfast. Tregurtha, with a last laugh of
amused wretchedness, said:

"Senorita! no one could deny that you are brave and ready; but beware
of your adventurous spirit. You are forgetting what kind of a man it is
to whose rescue you would hasten. Why, I would sooner a shark should
devour me on my next voyage than that I should have to think of you as
a patient martyr--you, my--my---- Oh, good gracious, what a fool I am!
My dear Rosetta, go back to your happiness. When the Fates mean you to
love, you will--and then--I envy the man! But till then, recollect that
there is nothing so hopeless as mistaken heroism. Shun it, pretty one,
as you would all evil; for it is a peculiar danger to you women. My
darling, shall we shake hands? for I am going."

"And you will not come again? I shall miss you so!"

"I'll write and let you know about that," said Tregurtha.

She stood opposite him, murmuring pathetic words in Spanish. Then she
caught her breath, and was silent. A man who knew her less would have
thought she really loved him.

"Richard, you should have waited, I believe!" she exclaimed, as by
sudden inspiration.

"What do you say?"

"While there is life there is hope; but in sailors, they tell me, there
is not always constancy," meditated Rosetta, aloud.

"Not always, dear; only sometimes. Once would be enough for us. But do
you know where you are leading me? For Heaven's sake, Rosetta, don't
say anything you do not mean!"

"I take back my words, Richard. Perhaps I lost my way in this darkness.
I am not well informed in these matters."

"No, dear, so I see," answered Tregurtha, gently, as the high hope of
an instant died in his breast forgotten.

"And you have my 'Logic' still in your pocket," suggested Rosetta,
melting again into tears.

"So I have! There--don't cry any more to-day. To-morrow I give you
leave to cry, because you will then have forgotten all about it. Shall
I tell you, senorita, who should have been your lover instead of me?"

"Please," whispered Rosetta, ashamed but curious.

"Job," said Tregurtha solemnly; and, the sailor nature being too strong
for him, he kissed her lips, then left her under her chestnut-tree and
went away, nor ever looked behind him.



IX.

THE WAY WE BEHAVE WHEN WE ARE YOUNG.


It was past midnight, and the summer moonlight sparkled on the waves
as a little boat, with its sail puffed out by a brisk breeze, came
gliding, conspirator-like, toward that part of the Braceton domain that
runs along by the sea.

It was the night after Roscoria's school broke up, and the first use
the master made of his holiday was this--to arrange to run off with
Miss Lyndis. There seemed nothing else to be done; the admiral would
not yield, the lady would not change her mind, and the lover would not
be content to wait. So the young people exchanged letters, and the
result was this boat. Tregurtha was in the affair as well, though he
strongly disapproved of it. His love of adventure had conquered his
conscience; and he was, besides, confident that Roscoria would end all
by a blunder if not backed by a cool-headed friend.

So here was Tregurtha, steering the boat into a certain safe and sandy
cove well in the shadow, where he knew that the eye even of an admiral
could not penetrate, whilst Roscoria fetched his lady. Roscoria's heart
was on land before his legs, and again and again had he mounted in
spirit up that steep pathway, up the cliffs from the beach to the side
of the house, where there would be one light in a window, one wakeful
inmate to steal out to him through the unbolted shutters and the gate
she would have left ajar.

"Are we late?" he asked his friend.

"No, early," said Tregurtha.

"Will she be ready?"

"I have no means of knowing, my dear fellow."

"What are we to do if she is not?"

"Wait."

The boat ground on the pebbly beach, and Dick admonished the lover
_sotto voce_----

"Don't--now _don't_ sentimentalize on the way; every minute is
valuable; the admiral is not deaf, and the lady's box is sure to be
heavy."

Roscoria was off like a chamois-hunter. Tregurtha sat on the beach and
smoked a pipe, stretching his legs in great tranquillity. Not that he
was ignorant that Rosetta's window also had a light in it, but he knew
it did not shine for him, and, considering all things, he thought it
wiser to look in the opposite direction.

It was soon, in reality, that two figures began to descend the
cliff-path. Roscoria first, bearing a modest trunk on his shoulder, and
looking back each moment to see if Lyndis knew her way in the moonlight.

Lyndis herself was muffled up in a large cloak. She did not seem at
all nervous. All that Tregurtha noticed, as she stepped into the boat
and bade him "good-evening" with a sort of pathetic courtesy, was that
her figure stood straight and firm, and that she trod the rocks in the
uncertain light with Devonshire decision.

The lieutenant was secretly a trifle shocked by the coolness of
the young couple. Feeling himself the incarnation of duplicity and
insubordination, he would have liked a more remorseful attitude in the
fugitives themselves.

"How do you do, Miss Villiers?" said Tregurtha, doffing his sou'-wester
politely, and at that moment he chanced to look up at the house and saw
the little solitary light go out.

Rosetta also had found a fearful joy in the adventure. She would dearly
have liked the moon-lit row for herself, or, failing that, would fain
have waved her hand to Richard--but here conscience stepped in. She
therefore watched the party from behind her curtain until she saw them
safely into the boat, and took a last critical glance at her own lover,
preferred him to Roscoria, blew out the light, and--probably went to
sleep; for indeed she had quite cheered up, and Dick had been right
in saying that she would only weep one day for his sorrow. Tregurtha
smiled mournfully to himself as he reflected that the fiery southern
natures may excel us in warmth of feeling, but we of the colder north
can beat them in constancy.

They pulled off from shore, after a few instants of great anxiety,
because of the pebbles' traitorous noise; and then they made an
energetic start. The thoughts of the trio were concentrated on putting
distance between themselves and the possibility of pursuit. Lyndis
steered until the men lost their first vigor, when she took the place
of one of them and rowed with the enterprise of an ancient Phoenician.
At first she felt a delicacy taking thus active a part in the escape,
but this finally vanished when she looked at Roscoria spreading out his
cramped fists in smiling relief whenever she stood up to take his oar.

They had passed the sharp cliff "Gallantry Bower," and began to feel
the creeping shiver that heralds the dawn. By the mixed and twinkling
light from the fading moon and the glimmering east they were thinking
they could discern a suspicion of white houses in the bay for which
they were making, when Roscoria, who happened just then to be resting
with his hands on the rudder-lines, exclaimed:

"By Heaven, I see a boat!"

"No supernatural phenomenon upon the sea," said Richard, looking out,
however, with some uneasiness. Lyndis heaved a deep sigh, and failed
for the first time to draw her oar through the water.

"Well, we have the start, if it should be the admiral. It is a case of
speed, and the devil take the hindmost. Oh, good gracious, Lyndis! I
forgot he was your relation! Change places with me again, and guide us
well in the small bay there. Pull for our happiness, Tregurtha!"

On land! The three voyagers broke into varying expressions of relief.

"By Jove, I feel as if I had been reading the 'Agamemnon!'" cried
Roscoria, stretching out his arms, exhausted.

"Thank Heaven!" said Lyndis.

"Good," said Dick.

The cold morning light was growing brighter and more encouraging as,
after drawing the boat high on to the shingle, the trio proceeded
quickly toward a certain white and towered edifice. As might be
expected, this was their goal--a church. Lyndis looked rather blankly
as they approached this termination, and lagged behind with Roscoria.

"Would you two mind walking in front?" sang out Tregurtha without
looking round, but with a sternness caused by his sense of complicity.
They did so, and the wedding procession moved on much quicker.

At the church gate they were greeted by Eric Rodda, the curate here. He
was so ingeniously unselfish (_i.e._ self-tormenting) a man that he had
insisted on being the one to give his loved Lyndis to the man she loved.

"Well, every man has his particular fancy; but it puts _me_ in a
precious unpopular position," Roscoria had thought, whilst accepting
the magnanimity.

"All right?" asked Rodda then of his patients, victims, clients, or
whatever those wights are called on whom the parson pronounces the
matrimonial benediction.

"For the present," replied Roscoria.

"Then come along," said Eric, and he led the way into the little
rustic church. It was a picturesque old-fashioned place, evidently the
resort of the ritualistic, for there were lighted candles on the altar
and great bunches of scented flowers. The flowers lent a charm to the
church and gave a memory of the fresh outer air, from which one is apt
to feel so desolately shut out when encased within consecrated walls.
The candles, also, were much needed, for the windows were stained
in such deep red and purple tints that an early morning sun could
hardly pierce the painting. The people present at this unconventional
wedding were, besides the chief couple and their "best man," Tregurtha,
Eric, the parson, who now surged gorgeously in from the vestry with
flowing gown and ponderous prayer-book; the elderly and orthodox
clerk or verger, who followed with a mien of severe desire to see a
tiresome ceremony properly performed; then, lastly, an aged crone, of
the sweeping and dusting persuasion, on whose neck Lyndis would fain
have wept, in default of another woman. But our brides shed no tears
nowadays. The times are undemonstrative, and thus the drooping veil,
whose original use was to conceal unbecoming traces of tears, now only
serves to soften the marble rigidity of resignation. Who that has
once seen it can ever forget the Iphigenia-like air of beauty at the
hymeneal! And then the wretched bridegroom! Whether he stands trembling
before the statuesque bride, or kneeling, with the shiny soles of his
patent-leather boots in view, what an advertisement to his bachelor
friends against matrimony!

The present wedding was more cheery than most, however. Roscoria was
fairly cool, but that was partly because he had not been able to afford
a new coat for the auspicious occasion. Lyndis, to be sure, thought she
was marrying (unlike the generality of brides) a man she loved, and
this, moreover, in defiance of her guardian's wishes--a circumstance
which must have lent an additional charm to the deed--Lyndis stood
looking white, white and terrified; all her own rashness and the
inevitable uncertainty of her future filling her thoughts. Her head
was bent and her fingers clasped, and nervously bent back; she was
retaining every atom of her self-control, but saying what she had to
say mechanically, with a low voice, like the echo of her own sighing
through cloister aisles.

"Cheer up, my darling!" said Louis in an audible whisper, just as the
clergyman opened his mouth.

"Dearly beloved--_hush!_" began Eric Rodda; and even Lyndis, with all
her chastened "amazement," could not resist a smile.

Tregurtha had given the bride away; Roscoria had at last found the
ring, wrapped carefully up in his fly-book; names had been duly signed
with atrocious pens in the vestry; and the bridegroom saluted the
bride. But to do this last it was not essential to call in the verger
as a witness, so the young people left Tregurtha and Rodda behind and
took a merry run in the sunshine, down-hill toward the village. And as
they danced along on the dewy grass, with their arms interlaced and
their laughing improvident young faces upturned one to the other, they
turned a sharp corner and Lyndis gave a little scream of horror, for
she had nearly fallen into the arms of the admiral!

As long as he lives Roscoria swears, he shall never forget how he was
feeling whilst Lyndis shrank back with outstretched averting hands,
exclaiming tremulously:

"My dearest uncle! this--this is an unexpected pleasure!"

"Lyndis Villiers--you wretched woman."

"You are twenty minutes behind the times, Sir John," interrupted
Roscoria, stepping in front of the lady. "Lyndis is Mrs. Roscoria."

"Have you married her?" gasped the admiral, still too much done for
even to swear.

"I--I--did--I have. Oh, Rodda!" appealed the bridegroom, as the curate
came up with Tregurtha, "fetch the admiral the certificate, and beg him
to be calm for the sake of Lyndis!"

It was evident that the admiral was in great perplexity. He saw he was
too late.

"And _you_ permitted this, you scoundrel!" he roared, turning upon
Tregurtha with fury. Richard flushed up; he had been afraid of this. He
simply saluted and said, humbly:

"I can only ask your pardon, sir; we have all behaved very badly."

"Ha! yes, my niece Rosetta knows a scamp when she sees one. Confound
you, sir!" and the admiral turned his back upon his shamefaced
subordinate. He confronted Roscoria, and this time with a peculiar
expression of malicious gratification under his rage. After all, when
your next-door neighbor has run away with your niece, there is a unique
joy in the thought of how he shall reap the whirlwind. Sir John put up
his eye-glass and surveyed the husband of his niece from head to foot
with a smile.

"Well," said Roscoria, with an air of buoyant courtesy, which passed
but poorly with his stammering, "I'm awfully sorry we have brought you
so far after us--but--since you are here--would you?--may we request
the honor?--we have ordered breakfast at the Red Lion."

That was going too far. The admiral gave one of his snorts, grasped his
cane, and absolutely shook it in the face of the speaker. In another
instant there would have been a row royal, and the preliminary electric
thrill went through the whole party. Lyndis stepped in. She softly
removed Roscoria's protective hand from off her shoulder, and said with
decision:

"Let me speak to him, Louis."

The men withdrew a little as she went across to the infuriated admiral,
and said to him:

"Sir John, dear, we do not want to defy you, and we never did. But
indeed there was nothing to be said against the owner of Torres,
except that he was poor. Was I also poor? Well, then, I was accustomed
to a simple mode of life, and, bless my soul! that is all I have
to fear; there is no starvation in the case. Perhaps I should have
behaved differently; but, dear Sir John, am I not young? I loved him.
And in any case, here I am, Roscoria's wife. My marriage cannot be
overlooked; would it be seemly? Why not go home without any scandal,
and be thankful that you are rid of a charge that I fear has been
very troublesome to you. And you will go to the Red Lion first, will
you not? and have some breakfast apart from us. Dear sir, think of
Rosetta's feelings--and of my inextinguishable remorse--if you were to
take a chill! Come, let me walk a piece of the way with you; the men
will follow. That you should have come out on this rough sea so early
in the morning! That is the only thing which shadows my happiness. I do
not ask your forgiveness, but I _should_ like your portrait--the one in
uniform, of course--you will send it me, will you not? Yes?"

Lyndis bent her ruffled golden head and looked into his face with her
sweet starry eyes. Now, the admiral had never been inaccessible to the
wiles of lovely woman, and Lyndis had never before cared or dared to
coax him. He began for the first time to see that there was something
else in the girl beyond a fine figure. And thus it came that he put his
hand furtively into his pocket and said, grumbling and awesome, but
relenting:

"You're my own brother's child, unluckily, so here's ten pounds for
your honeymoon. You will remember that I have made an effort--and a
very considerable one it was, too, for an old gentleman of sixty--to
bring you back to your duty; if I am too late, you may blame your own
cunning for that, when in future days you may wish this morning's work
undone. Begad, I will make it warm for your husband! He wasn't set down
on the next estate to mine for nothing. There--there--a pleasant trip
to you, girl; I cannot congratulate you on your choice, but we must
hope for the best; good-morning!"

Then Tregurtha discovered that there was only just time for the newly
wedded to breakfast at the inn before the coach should be arriving
which was to convey them to Barnstaple, where they were to take the
train for Penzance. So up the main street of Clovelly went the wedding
party.

The informal little wedding breakfast had a far cheerier air than the
funereal orthodox one. Instead of being presided over by awful footmen
and hired waiters, the quartet was served by one sympathetic maid, who
brought them an honest rustic repast of eggs and bacon, buttered cakes,
and Devonshire cream, tea, and cider. It was all wonderfully Arcadian,
and the little room was very pretty, with its walls covered with old
china, and the creepers forcing their way in through the open window.
Lyndis shone on the occasion.

Nor was there any time for sentiment, nor any ghastly speeches.
Tregurtha did indeed raise his teacup, with a bow to Lyndis and a wink
to Roscoria, and endeavor to drink its contents off at a draught, but,
burning his mouth, he was forced to desist.

Then Roscoria was bound to pour out a glass of cider, and say:

"My dear fellows, I am heartily obliged to you, and now let me propose
_my_ toast. (By the way, Tregurtha, have you considered the pungency
of the fact that the Greeks use the same word 'trouble' and 'wife's
relations?') Where was I? Oh, yes; allow me to propose the health
and good-humor and indemnity from chill, of my revered and feared
uncle-in-law. Admiral Sir John Villiers, K. C. B."

"Poor old fellow," said Tregurtha, reflectively; "I hear him stamping
about overhead. I hope he has got all he wants; I shall go and take him
a stiff glass of grog."

He did so, and returned with a smiling but battered expression.

"Is he any cooler?" anxiously inquired the bridegroom.

"Cooler? Molten lead--the torrid zone--a powder-magazine in full
explosion--the furnaces of Nebuchadnezzar--are about as cool as is the
admiral at this moment. I should like to see you two clear out of this,
lest he change his mind, and bring the whole population of Clovelly
down upon you."

Lyndis paled visibly and rose.

"How ever did he know we were off?" she asked.

"Yes, how indeed?" demanded Tregurtha of his friend. Roscoria looked up
and Roscoria looked down, and Roscoria finally admitted in a whispered
aside:

"Lyndis was rather fluttered, Dick, and so I kissed her--by
mistake--just under the admiral's window."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Good luck to you and your ship, captain!" said Roscoria, with that air
of ill-sustained buoyancy which we all adopt during the _mauvais quart
d'heure_ of parting.

"Good-bye, Corydon," said Dick, and wrung his friend's hand. "Be off,
or you'll miss the coach."

Lyndis and Roscoria walked away together up the steep path to the high
road; Rodda had made himself scarce, and Tregurtha stood alone.

There is an advantage here and there, when your friend marries and you
don't. He keeps a more luxurious table as a rule, and you are sure of
a match-box and hot-water in your bedroom when you visit him. On the
other hand, there is something eternally gone; the old frank confidence
_a deux_ grows yearly more difficult, and, you can never more be "boys
together."

On that day a week later Captain Tregurtha was off again to sea, in
command, in a measure through the admiral's interest, of a fine ship,
the Damietta.

Rosetta, who did not see the captain again before he went, has taken
first-class honors in the Junior Cambridge Exam. of the year (logic
being specially commended), and she has now entered upon an engrossing
project in conjunction with the admiral for the importation of some
"Hereford" white-face cattle on to the Braceton farm.

Admiral Sir John Villiers bides his time. When Roscoria comes home to
cane his boys he will live to find a rod in pickle for himself. But
little recks the lover of the future thunders, for he is living under a
cloudless sky. Unlike most folk of the present day, Lyndis and Roscoria
have rushed headlong into matrimony; and if consequences _will_ fall
heavy--why, let them! they say, as they blissfully, economically, and
appropriately roam amongst the myrtles in the Scilly Isles.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

A table of contents has been added.

Some inconsistent punctuation was retained (e.g. eyeglass vs.
eye-glass).

Changed oe-ligatures were changed to "oe."

Page 145, changed ? to . after "opposite bank."

Page 166, restored several missing commas to "a torrent, a storm,
hurricane, gust, squall, half-gale." These were present in the original
but lost in the reprint.

Page 173, changed "into the boot" to "into the boat."





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