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Title: Satanella - A Story of Punchestown
Author: Kemp-Welch, Lucy, Whyte-Melville, G. J. (George John)
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 "Satanella - A Story of Punchestown" ***

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Satanella

[Illustration: "His next stride brought him on his head." (Page 133.)

 _Satanella._    _Frontispiece_]



 Satanella

 A Story of Punchestown

 By
 G.J. Whyte-Melville

 Author of "Holmby House," "The Gladiators,"
 "Kate Coventry," &c., &c.

 Illustrated by Lucy E. Kemp-Welch

 London
 Ward, Lock & Co., Limited
 New York and Melbourne



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                      PAGE

        I. The Black Mare                      7

       II. Miss Douglas                       14

      III. Daisy                              23

       IV. Mrs. Lushington                    30

        V. Through the Mill                   37

       VI. Cutting for Partners               45

      VII. Getting On                         56

     VIII. Insatiable                         64

       IX. Off and On                         71

        X. At Sea                             80

       XI. Cormac's-Town                      91

      XII. One too Many                      102

     XIII. Punchestown                       116

      XIV. "A Good Thing"                    136

       XV. Winners and Losers                146

      XVI. A Garden of Eden                  158

     XVII. "Soldier Bill"                    169

    XVIII. Delilah                           180

      XIX. "The River's Brim"                190

       XX. Taking the Collar                 204

      XXI. A Snake in the Grass              212

     XXII. An Expert                         221

    XXIII. The Debt of Honour                232

     XXIV. A Pertinent Question              241

      XXV. A Satisfactory Answer             252

     XXVI. Afternoon Tea                     260

    XXVII. A Hard Morsel                     271

   XXVIII. "Seeking Rest and Finding None"   280

     XXIX. Undivided                         289

      XXX. The Bitter End                    304



SATANELLA



CHAPTER I

THE BLACK MARE


"She'll make a chaser annyhow!"

The speaker was a rough-looking man in a frieze coat, with wide mouth,
short nose, and grey, honest Irish eyes, that twinkled with humour on
occasion, though clouded for the present by disappointment, not to say
disgust, and with some reason. In his hand he held a broken strap, with
broad and dingy buckle; at his feet, detached from shafts and wheels,
lay the body of an ungainly vehicle, neither gig, dog-cart, nor outside
car, but something of each, battered and splintered in a dozen places:
while "foreaninst" him, as he called it, winced and fretted a young
black mare, snorting, trembling, fractious, and terrified, with ears
laid back, tail tucked down to her strong cowering quarters, and an
obvious determination on the slightest alarm to kick herself clear of
everything once more.

At her head stood a ragged urchin of fourteen; although her eyes showed
wild and red above the shabby blinkers, she rubbed her nose against the
lad's waistcoat, and seemed to consider him the only friend she had
left in the world.

"Get on her back, Patsy," said the man. "Faix, she's a well-lepped
wan, an' we'll take a hate out of her at Punchestown, with the
blessin'!--Augh! See now, here's the young Captain! Ye're welcome,
Captain! It's meself was proud when I see how ye cleaned them out last
week on 'Garryowen.' Ye'll come in, and welcome, Captain. Go on in
front now, and I'll show you the way!"

So, while a slim, blue-eyed, young gentleman, with curled moustache,
accompanied his entertainer into the house, Patsy took the mare to
the stable, where he accoutred her in an ancient saddle, pulpy,
weather-stained, with stirrups of most unequal length; proceeding
thereafter to force a rusty snaffle into her mouth, with the
tightest possible nose-band and a faded green and white front.
These arrangements completed, he surveyed the whole, grinning and
well-pleased.

That the newcomer could only be a subaltern of Light Dragoons, was
obvious from his trim equestrian appearance, his sleek, well-cropped
head, the easy sit of his garments, also, perhaps, from an air of
imperturbable good-humour and self-confidence, equal to any occasion
that might present itself, social, moral, or physical.

[Illustration: "These arrangements completed, he surveyed the whole,
grinning, and well pleased."

 _Satanella._      _Page 8_]

Proof against "dandies of punch" and such hospitable provocatives, he
soon deserted the parlour for the stable.

"And how is the mare coming on?" said he standing in the doorway of
that animal's dwelling, which she shared with a little cropped jackass,
a Kerry cow, and a litter of pigs. "I always said she could gallop a
bit, and they're the right sort to stay. But can she jump?"

"The beautifullest ever ye see!" replied her enthusiastic owner.
"She'll go whereiver a cat would follow a rat. If there's a harse in
Connemara that 'ud charge on the sharp edge of a razor, there's the
wan that can do't! Kick--stick _and_ plasther! it's in their breed;
and like th'ould mare before her, so long as you'd hould her, it's my
belief she'd stay in the air!"

The object of these praises had now emerged from her stall, and a very
likely animal she looked; poor and angular indeed, with a loose neck
and somewhat long ears, but in her lengthy frame, and large clean
limbs, affording promise for the future of great beauty, no less than
extraordinary power and speed. Her head was exceedingly characteristic,
lean and taper, showing every vein and articulation beneath the glossy
skin, with a wide scarlet nostril and flashing eye, suggestive of
courage and resolution, not without a considerable leavening of temper.
There are horses, and women too, that stick at nothing. To a bold
rider, the former are invaluable, because with these it is possible to
keep their mettle under control.

"Hurry now, Patsy!" said the owner, as that little personage, diving
for the stirrup, which he missed, looked imploringly to his full-grown
companions for a "leg up."

But it was not in the nature of our young officer, by name John
Walters, known in his regiment as "Daisy," to behold an empty saddle
at any time without longing to fill it. He had altered the stirrups,
cocked up his left leg for a lift, and lit fairly in his seat, before
the astonished filly could make any more vigorous protest than a lurch
of her great strong back and whisk of her long tail.

"Begorra! ye'll get it now!" said her owner, half to himself, half to
the Kerry cow, on which discreet animal he thought it prudent to rivet
his attention, distrusting alike the docility of his own filly, and the
English man's equestrian skill.

Over the rough paved yard, through the stone gap by the peat-stack, not
the little cropped jackass himself could have behaved more soberly. But
where the spring flowers were peeping in the turf enclosure beyond, and
the upright bank blazed in its golden glory of gorse-bloom, the devilry
of many ancestors seemed to pass with the keen mountain-air into the
filly's mettle. Her first plunge of hilarity and insubordination would
have unseated half the rough-riders that ever mishandled a charger in
the school.

Once--twice, she reached forward, with long, powerful plunges, shaking
her ears, and dashing wildly at her bridle, till she got rein enough
to stick her nose in the air, and break away at speed.

A snaffle, with or without a nose-band, is scarcely the instrument by
which a violent animal can be brought on its haunches at short notice;
but Daisy was a consummate horseman, firm of seat and cool of temper,
with a head that never failed him, even when debarred from the proper
use of his hands.

He could guide the mare, though incapable of controlling her. So he
sent her at the highest place in the fence before him, and, fast as she
was going, the active filly changed her stride on the bank with the
accuracy of a goat, landing lightly beyond, to scour away once more
like a frightened deer.

"You _can_ jump!" said he, as she threw up the head that had been in
its right place hardly an instant, while she steadied herself for the
leap; "and I believe you're a flyer. But, by Jove! you're a rum one to
steer!"

She was quite out of his hand again, and laid herself down to her work
with the vigour of a steam-engine. The daisy-sprinkled turf fleeted
like falling water beneath those long, smooth, sweeping strides.

They were careering over an open upland country, always slightly on
the rise, till it grew to a bleak brown mountain far away under the
western sky. The enclosures were small; but notwithstanding the many
formidable banks and ditches with which it was intersected, the whole
landscape wore that appearance of space and freedom so peculiar to
Irish scenery, so pleasing to the sportsman's eye. "It looked like
galloping," as they say, though no horse, without great jumping powers,
could have gone two fields.

It took a long Irish mile, at racing pace, to bring the mare to her
bridle, and nothing but her unusual activity saved the rider from
half-a-dozen rattling falls during his perilous experiment. She bent
her neck at last, and gave to her bit in a potato-ground; nor, if he
had resolved to buy her for the sake of her speed and stamina while
she was running away with him, did he like her less, we may be sure,
when they arrived at that mutual understanding, which links together so
mysteriously the intelligences of the horse and its rider.

Turning homewards, the pair seemed equally pleased with each other. She
played gaily with the snaffle now, answering hand and heel cheerfully,
desirous only of being ridden at the largest fences, a fancy in which
he indulged her, nothing loth. Trotting up to four feet and a half of
stone wall, round her own stable-yard, she slipped over it without an
effort, and her owner, a discerning person enough, added fifty to her
price on the spot.

"She's a good sort," said the soldier, patting her reeking neck, as he
slid to the ground; "but she's uncommon bad to steer when her monkey's
up! Sound, you say, and rising four year old? I wonder how she's bred?"

Such a question could not but entail a voluminous reply. Never, it
appeared, in one strain, had been united the qualities of so many
illustrious ancestors. Her pedigree seemed enriched with "all the blood
of all the Howards," and her great-great-great-grandam was "Camilla by
Trentham, out of Phantom, sister to Magistrate!"

"An' now ye've bought her, Captain," said our friend in frieze, "ye've
taken the best iver I bred, an' the best iver I seen. Av' I'd let her
out o'my sight wanst at Ballinasloe, the Lord-Liftinint 'ud have been
acrass her back, while I'm tellin' ye, an' him leadin' the hunt, up in
Meath, or about the Fairy House and Kilrue. The spade wasn't soldered
yet that would dig a ditch to hould her; and when them sort's tired,
Captain, begorra! the very breeches 'ud be wore to rags betwixt your
knees! You trust _her_, and you trust _me_! Wait till I tell ye now.
There's only wan thing on this mortial earth she won't do for ye!"

"And what's that?" asked the other, well pleased.

"She'll not back a bill!" was the answer; "but if iver she schames with
ye, renaging[1] or such like, by this book, I'll be ashamed to look a
harse, or so much as a jackass in the face again!"

So the mare was sent for; and Patsy, with a stud reduced to the donkey
and the Kerry cow, shed bitter tears when she went away.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Refusing.]



CHAPTER II

MISS DOUGLAS


It is time to explain how the young black mare became linked with the
fate of certain persons, whose fortunes and doings, good or bad, are
related in this story.

To that end the scene must be shifted, and laid in London--London,
on a mild February morning, when even South Audley Street and its
tributaries seemed to exhale a balmy fragrance from the breath of
spring.

In one of these, a window stood open on the drawing-room floor--so wide
open that the baker, resting his burden on the area railings below,
sniffed the perfume of hyacinths bursting their bulbs, and beat time
with floury shoes to the notes of a wild and plaintive melody, wailing
from the pianoforte within.

Though a delicate little breakfast-service had not yet been removed
from its spider-legged table, the performer at the instrument was
already hatted and habited for a ride. Her whole heart, nevertheless,
seemed to be in the tips of her fingers while she played, drawing from
the keys such sighs of piteous plaint, such sobs of sweet seductive
sorrow, as ravished the soul of the baker below, creating a strong
desire to scale the window-sill, and peep into the room. Could he have
executed such a feat, this is what he would have seen.

A woman of twenty-five, tall, slim-waisted, with a wealth of blue-black
hair, all made fast and coiled away beneath her riding-hat in shining
folds, massive as a three-inch cable. A woman of graceful gestures,
undulating like the serpent; of a shapely figure, denoting rather the
graces of action, than the beauty of repose; lithe, self-reliant, full
of latent energy, betraying in every movement an inborn pride, tameless
though kept down, and incurable as Lucifer's before his fall.

The white hands moving so deftly over the keys were strong and nervous,
with large blue veins and taper fingers; such hands as denote a
vigorous nature and a resolute will--such hands as strike without pity,
and hold with tenacious grasp--such hands as many a lofty head has
bowed its pride to kiss, and thought no shame.

Lower and lower, she bent over them while she played--softer and softer
sank and swelled, and died away, the sad suggestive notes, bursting at
last into a peal and crash of harmony, through which there came a short
quick gasp for breath like a sob. Then she shut the pianoforte with a
bang, and walked to the glass over the fire-place.

It reflected a strangely-fascinating face, so irregular of features
that women sometimes called it "positively plain;" but on which the
other sex felt neither better nor wiser men when they looked. The
cheek-bones, chin, and jaws were prominent; the eyebrows, though
arched, too thick; and for feminine beauty, the mouth too firm, in
spite of its broad white teeth, and dark shade pencilled on the upper
lip, in spite even of its saucy curl and bright bewildering smile.

But when she lifted her flashing eyes fringed in their long black
lashes, there was no more to be said. They seemed to blaze and soften,
shine and swim, all in one glance that went straight to a man's heart
and made him wince with a thrill akin to pain.

Pale women protested she had too much colour, and vowed she painted:
but no cosmetics ever yet concocted could have imitated her deep rich
tints, glowing like those of the black-browed beauties one sees in
Southern Europe, as if the blood ran crimson beneath her skin--as if
she, too, had caught warmth and vitality from their generous climate
and their sunny, smiling skies. When she blushed, it was like the glory
of noonday; and she blushed now, while there came a trampling of hoofs
in the street, a ring at the door-bell.

The colour faded from her brow, nevertheless, before a man's step dwelt
heavily on the staircase, and her visitor was ushered into the room as
"General St. Josephs."

"You are early, General," said she, giving him her hand with royal
condescension; "early, but welcome, and--and--The horses will be round
in five minutes--Have you had any breakfast? I am afraid my coffee is
quite cold."

General St. Josephs knew what it was to starve in the Crimea and broil
in the Mutiny; had been shot at very often by guns of various calibres;
had brought into discipline one of the worst-drilled regiments in the
service, and was a distinguished officer, past forty years of age. What
made his heart beat, and his hands turn cold? Why did the blood rush to
his temples, while she gave him greeting?

"Don't hurry, pray!" said he; "I can wait as long as you like. I'd wait
the whole day for you, if that was all!"

He spoke in a husky voice, as if his lips were dry. Perhaps that was
the reason she seemed not to hear.

Throwing the window wide open, she looked down the street. Taking more
of that thoroughfare than was convenient by advancing lengthways, with
many plunges and lashings out, and whiskings of her long square tail, a
black mare with a side-saddle was gradually approaching the door. The
groom who led her seemed not a little relieved when he got her to stand
by the kerb-stone, patting her nose and whispering many expletives
suggestive of composure and docility.

This attendant, though gloved, booted, and belted for a ride, felt
obviously that one such charge as he had taken in hand was enough. He
meant to fetch his own horse from the stable as soon as his mistress
was in the saddle.

A staid person, out of livery, came to the door, looking up and down
the street with the weary air of a man who resides chiefly in his
pantry. He condescended to remark, however, that "Miss Douglas was
a-comin' down, and the mare's coat had a polish on her same as if she'd
been varnished."

While the groom winked in reply, Miss Douglas appeared on the pavement;
and the baker, delivering loaves three doors off, turned round to
wonder and approve.

"May I put you up?" said the General meekly, almost timidly.

How different the tone, and yet it was the same voice that had
heretofore rung out so firm and clear in stress of mortal danger, with
its stirring order--

"The Light Brigade will advance!"

"No, thank you," said Miss Douglas coldly; "Tiger Tim does the heavy
business. Now, Tim--one--two--three!"

"Three" landed her lightly in the saddle, and the black mare stood like
a sheep. One turn of her foot, one kick of her habit--Miss Douglas was
established where she looked her best, felt her best, and liked best to
be in the world.

So she patted the black mare's neck, a caress her favourite
acknowledged with such a bound as might have unseated Bellerophon; and
followed by Tim, on a good-looking chestnut, rode off with her admiring
General to the Park.

Who _is_ Miss Douglas? This was the question everybody asked, and
answered too, for that matter, but not satisfactorily. Blanche
Douglas--such was the misnomer of this black-browed lady--had been in
London for two years, yet given no account of her antecedents, shown
no vouchers for her identity. To cross-question her was not a pleasant
undertaking, as certain venturous ladies found to their cost. They
called her "The Black Douglas," indeed, out of spite, till a feminine
wit and genius gave her the nickname of "Satanella;" and as Satanella
she was henceforth known in all societies.

After that people seemed more reassured, and discovered, or possibly
invented for her, such histories as they considered satisfactory to
themselves. She was the orphan, some said, of a speculative naval
officer, who had married the cousin of a peer. Her father was drowned
off Teneriffe; her mother died of a broken heart. The girl was brought
up in a west-country school till she came of age; she had a thousand
a year, and lived near South Audley Street with her aunt, a person
of weak intellect, like many old women of both sexes. She was oddish
herself, and rather bad style; but there was no harm in her!

This was the good-natured version. The ill-natured one was the above
travestied. The father had cut his throat; the mother ran away from
him, and went mad; and the west-country school was a French convent.
The aunt and the thousand a year were equally fabulous. She was loud,
bold, horsy, more than queer, and where the money came from that kept
the little house near South Audley Street and enabled her to carry on,
goodness only knew!

Still she held her own, and the old men fell in love with her. "My
admirers," she told Mrs. Cullender, who told _me_, "are romantic--very,
and rheumatic also, _à faire pleurer_. The combination, my dear, is
touching, but exceedingly inconvenient."

Mrs. Cullender further affirms that old Buxton would have married and
made her a peeress, had she but held up her finger; and declares she
saw Counsellor Cramp go down on his knees to her, falling forward on
his hands, however, before he could get up again, and thus finishing
his declaration, as it were, on all-fours!

But she would have none of these, inclining rather to men of firmer
mould, and captivating especially the gallant defenders of their
country by sea and land. Admirals are all susceptible more or less, and
fickle as the winds they record in their log-books. So she scarcely
allowed them to count in her score; but at one time she had seven
general-officers on the list, with colonels and majors in proportion.

Her last conquest was St. Josephs--a handsome man, and a proud, cold,
reserved, deep-hearted, veiling under an icy demeanour a temper
sensitive as a girl's. How many women would have delighted to lead
such a captive up and down the Ride, and show him off as the keeper
shows off his bear in its chain! How many would have paraded their
sovereignty over this stern and quiet veteran, till their own hearts
were gone, and they longed to change places with their victim, to serve
where they had thought only to command!

In February London begins to awake out of its winter sleep. Some
of the great houses have already got their blinds up, and their
doorsteps cleaned. Well-known faces are hurrying about the streets,
and a few equestrians spot the Ride, like early flies crawling over a
window-pane. The black mare lashed out at one of these with a violence
that brought his heart into the soldier's mouth, executing thereafter
some half-dozen long and dangerous plunges. Miss Douglas sat perfectly
still, giving the animal plenty of rein; then administered one severe
cut with a stiff riding-whip, that left its mark on the smooth shining
skin; and, having thus asserted herself, made much of her favourite, as
if she loved it all the better for its wilfulness.

"I wish you wouldn't ride that brute!" said the General tenderly.
"She'll get out of your hand some of these days, and then there'll be a
smash!"

"Not ride her!" answered Miss Douglas, opening her black eyes wide.
"Not ride my own beautiful pet! General, I should deserve never to get
into a side-saddle again!"

"For the sake of your friends," urged the other, drawing very close
with a pressure of the leg to his own horse's side; "for the sake of
those who care for you; for--for--_my_ sake--Miss Douglas!"

His hand was almost on the mare's neck, his head bent towards its
rider. If a man of his age can look "spoony," the General was at that
moment a fit subject for ridicule to every Cornet in the Service.

Laughing rather scornfully, with a turn of her wrist she put a couple
of yards between them.

"Not even for _your_ sake, General, will I give up my darling. Do you
think I have no heart?"

His brow clouded. He looked very stern and sad, but gulped down
whatever he was going to say, and asked instead, "Why are you so fond
of that mare? She's handsome enough, no doubt, and she can go fast; but
still, she is not the least what I call a lady's horse."

"That's my secret," answered Miss Douglas playfully; "wouldn't you give
the world to know?"

She had a very winning way, when she chose, all the more taking from
its contrast to her ordinary manner. He felt its influence now.

"I believe I would give _you_ the world if I had it, and not even ask
for your secret in exchange," was his reply. "One more turn, Miss
Douglas, I entreat you!" (for she was edging away as if for home.) "It
is not near luncheon-time, and I was going to say--Miss Douglas--I was
going to say--"

"Don't say it now!" she exclaimed, with a shake of her bridle that
brought the mare in two bounds close to the footway. "I _must_ go and
speak to him! I declare she knows him again. He's got a new umbrella.
There he is!"

"Who?"

"Why! Daisy!"

"D--n Daisy!" said the General, and rode moodily out of the Park.



CHAPTER III

DAISY


Mr. Walters piqued himself on his _sang-froid_. If the _fractus orbis_
had gone, as he would have expressed it, "to blue smash," "_impavidum
ferient ruinæ_," he would have contemplated the predicament from a
ludicrous rather than a perplexing point of view. Nevertheless, his eye
grew brighter, and the colour deepened on his cheek, when Miss Douglas
halted to lean over the rails and shake hands with him.

He was very fond of the black mare, you see, and believed firmly in her
superiority to her kind.

"Oh! Daisy! I'm so glad to see you!" said Miss Douglas. "I never
thought you'd be in London this open weather. I'm so much obliged to
you, and you're the kindest person in the world; and--and--isn't she
looking well?"

"You're _both_ looking well," answered Daisy gallantly; "I thought I
couldn't miss you if I walked up this side of the Row and down the
other."

"Oh! Daisy! You didn't come on purpose!" exclaimed the lady, with
rather a forced laugh, and symptoms of a blush.

For answer, I am sorry to say, this young gentleman executed a
solemn wink. The age of chivalry may or may not be on the wane, but
woman-worshippers of to-day adopt a free-and-easy manner in expressing
their adoration, little flattering to the shrines at which they bow.

"Did you really want to see me?" continued Miss Douglas; "and why
couldn't you call? I'd have ridden with you this morning if I'd known
you were in town."

"Got no quad.," answered the laconic Daisy.

"And yet you lent me your mare!" said she. "Indeed, I can't think of
keeping her; I'll return her at once. Oh! Daisy! you unselfish--"

"Unselfish what?"

"Goose!" replied the lady. "Now, when will you have her back? She's
as quiet again as she used to be, and I do believe there isn't such
another beauty in the world."

"That's why I gave her to _you_," answered Daisy. "It's no question of
lending; she's yours, just as much as this umbrella's mine. Beauty!
I should think she _was_ a beauty. I don't pay compliments, or I'd
say--there's a pair of you! Now, look here, Miss Douglas, I might ask
you to lend her to me for a month, perhaps, if I saw my way into a real
good thing. I don't think I ever told you how I came to buy that mare,
or what a clipper she is!"

"Tell me _now_!" said Miss Douglas eagerly. "Let's move on; people
stare so if one stops. You can speak the truth walking, I suppose, as
well as standing still!"

"It's truth I'm telling ye!" he answered, with a laugh. "I heard of
that mare up in Roscommon when she was two years old. I was a year
and a half trying to buy her; but I got her at last, for I'm not an
impatient fellow, you know, and I never lose sight of a thing I fancy I
should like."

"Watch and wait!" said the lady.

"Yes, I watched and I waited," he continued, "till at last they gave me
a ride. She'd had a good deal of fun with a sort of go-cart they tried
to put her in; and when I saw her I think her owner was a little out of
conceit with his venture. She was very poor and starved-looking,--not
half the mare she is now; but she ran away with me for nearly two
miles, and I found she _could_--_just_! So I bargained, and jawed, and
bothered, though I gave a hatful of money for her all the same. When I
got her home to barracks, I had her regularly broke and bitted; but she
never was easy to ride, and she never will be!"

For all comment, Miss Douglas drew the curb-rein through her fingers,
while the mare bent willingly and gently to her hand.

"Oh! I know they all go pleasant with _you_!" said Daisy. "Men and
horses, you've the knack of bringing them to their bridles in a day!
Well, I hunted her that season in Meath and Kildare; but somehow we
never dropped into a run. At last one morning, late in the Spring,
we turned out a deer in the Dublin country, and took him in exactly
twenty-seven minutes. _Then_ this child knew what its plaything was
made of. Didn't I, old girl?"

He patted the mare's neck, and her rider, whose eyes brightened
with interest, laid hers on exactly the same spot when his hand was
withdrawn.

"You found her as good as she looks," said Miss Douglas. "Oh! Daisy! in
that grass country it must have felt like being in heaven!"

"I don't know about that," said the light dragoon; "but we were not
very far off, sometimes, on the tops of those banks. However, I found
nothing could touch her in jumping, or come near her for pace. Not
a horse was within a mile of us for the last ten minutes; so I took
her down to the Curragh--and--Miss Douglas, can you--_can_ you keep a
secret?"

"Of course, I can," replied the lady. "What a question, Daisy, as if I
wasn't much more like a man than a woman!"

His face assumed an expression of solemnity befitting the communication
he had to impart. His voice sank to a whisper, and he looked stealthily
around, as if fearful of being overheard.

"We tried her at seven pound against Robber-Chief, four Irish miles
over a steeple-chase course. She gave the Chief seven pound, her year,
and a beating. Why, it makes her as good as the Lamb!"

Notwithstanding the gravity of such a topic, Miss Douglas laughed
outright.

"How _like_ you, Daisy, to run away with an idea. It does _not_ make
her as good as The Lamb, because you once told me yourself that
Robber-Chief never runs kindly in a trial. You see I don't forget
things. But all the same, I daresay she's as good again, the darling,
and I'm sure she's twice as good-looking!"

"Now, don't you see, Miss Douglas?" proceeded Daisy, "I've been
thinking you and I might do a good stroke of business if we stood in
together. My idea is this. I enter her at Punchestown for the Great
United Service Handicap. I send her down to be trained on the quiet at
a place I know of, not fifteen miles from where we're standing now.
Nobody can guess how she's bred, nor what she is. They mean to put
crushing weights on all the public runners. She'll be very well in, I
should say, at about eleven stone ten. I'll ride her myself, for I know
the course, and I'm used to that country. If we win, you must have half
the stakes, and you can back her, besides, for as much as you please.
What do you say to it?"

"I like the idea _immensely_!" answered Miss Douglas. "Only I don't
quite understand about the weights and that-- But, Daisy, are you
_sure_ it isn't dangerous? I mean for _you_. I've heard of such
horrible accidents at those Irish steeple-chases."

"I tell you she _can't_ fall," answered this sanguine young sportsman;
"and I hope I'm not likely to tumble off _her_!"

Miss Douglas hesitated. "Couldn't I--" she said shyly; "couldn't I ride
her in her gallops myself?"

He laughed; but his face clouded over the next moment.

"I ought not to have asked you," said he; "it seems so selfish to take
away your favourite; but the truth is, Miss Douglas, I'm so awfully
hard up that, unless I can land a good stake, it's all U--P with me!"

"Why didn't you tell me?" exclaimed Miss Douglas; "Why didn't you--"
Here she checked herself, and continued in rather a hard voice, "Of
course, if you're in a fix, it must be got out of, with as little delay
as possible. So take the mare, by all means; and another time, Daisy--
Well, another time don't be so shy of asking your friend's advice. If
I'd been your brother-officer, for instance, should I have seemed such
a bad person to consult?"

"By Jove, you're a trump!" he exclaimed impulsively, adding, in
qualification of this outspoken sentiment, "I mean, you've so good a
heart, you ought to have been a man!"

She coloured with pleasure; but her face turned very grave and sad,
while she replied, "I wish I had been! Don't you know what Tennyson
says? Never mind, you don't read Tennyson very often, I dare say!"

"I can't make out what fellows _mean_ in poetry," answered Daisy. "But
I like a good song if it's in English; and I like best of all to hear
_you_ play!"

"Now, what on earth has that to do with it?" she asked impatiently. "We
are talking about the mare. Send round for her to-morrow morning, and
you can enter her at once. Has she got a name?"

"It used to be The Dark Ladye," he answered, smiling rather
mischievously, "out of compliment to _you_. But I've changed it now."

"I ought to be very much flattered. And to what?"

"To Satanella."

She bit her lip, and tried to look vexed; but she couldn't be angry
with Daisy, so laughed heartily as she waved him a good-bye, and
cantered home.



CHAPTER IV

MRS. LUSHINGTON


With all her independence of spirit, it cannot be supposed that Miss
Douglas went to and fro in the world of London without a chaperon. On
women, an immunity from supervision, and what we may call the freedom
of the city, is conferred by matrimony alone. This franchise seems
irrespective of age. A virgin of fifty gathers confidence under the
wing of a bride nineteen years old, shooting her arrows with the more
precision that she feels so safe behind the shield of that tender,
inexperienced matron. Why are these things so? Why do we dine at
nightfall, go to bed at sunrise, and get up at noon? Why do we herd
together in narrow staircases and inconvenient rooms at the hottest
season of the year? If people bore us, why do we ask them to dinner?
and suffer fools gladly, without ourselves being wise? I wonder if we
shall ever know.

Blanche Douglas accordingly, with more courage, resolution, and _savoir
faire_, than nine _men_ out of every ten, had placed herself under the
tutelage of Mrs. Francis Lushington, a lady with a convenient husband,
who, like the celebrated courtier, was never _in_ the way nor _out
of_ the way. She talked about "Frank," as she called him, every ten
minutes; but somehow they were seldom seen together, except once a week
at afternoon church.

That gentleman himself must either have been the steadiest of mortals,
or the most cunning; his wife inclined to think him the latter.

Mrs. Lushington knew everybody, and went everywhere. There was no
particular reason why she should have attained popularity; but society
had taken her up, and seemed in no hurry to set her down again.

She was a little fair person, with pretty features and a soft pleading
voice, very much dressed, very much painted; as good a foil as could be
imagined to such a woman as Blanche Douglas.

They were sitting together in the dining-room of the latter about half
past two P.M. There never was such a lady for going out to luncheon
as Mrs. Lushington. If you were asked to that pleasant meal at any
house within a mile of Hyde Park Corner, it would have been a bad bet
to take five to one about not meeting her. She was like a nice little
luncheon herself. Not much of her; but what there was light, delicate,
palatable, with a good deal of garnish.

"And which is it to be, dear?" asked this lady of her hostess,
finishing a glass of sherry with considerable enjoyment. "I know
I shall have to congratulate one of them soon, and to send you a
wedding-present; but it's no use talking about it, till I know
which----"

"Do you think it a wise thing to marry, Clara?" said the other in
reply, fixing her black eyes solemnly on her friend's face.

Mrs. Lushington pondered. "There's a good deal to be said on both
sides," she answered; "and I haven't quite made up my mind what I
should do if I were you. With me, you know, it was different. If I
hadn't made a convenience of Frank, I should have been nursing my
dreadful old aunt still. You are very independent as you are, and do no
end of mischief. But, my dear, you won't last for ever. That's where we
fair women have the pull. And then you've so many to choose from. Yes;
I think if I were _you_, I _would_!"

"And--You'll laugh at me, Clara, I feel," said Miss Douglas. "Do you
think it's a good plan to marry a man one don't care for; I mean, who
rather bores one than otherwise?"

"I did, dear," was the reply; "but I don't know that I've found it
answer."

"It must be dreadful to see him all day long, and have to study his
fancies. Breakfast with him, perhaps, every morning at nine o'clock."

"Frank would go without breakfast often enough, if he couldn't make
his own tea, and insisted on such early hours. No, dear, there are
worse things than that. We have to be in the country when they want
to shoot, and in the spring too sometimes, if they're fond of hunting.
But, on the other hand, we married women have certain advantages. We
can keep more flirtations going at once than you. Though, to be sure,
I don't fancy the General would stand much of _that_! If ever I saw a
white Othello, it's St. Josephs."

"St. Josephs! Do you think I want to marry St. Josephs?"

Could the General have overheard the tone in which his name was spoken,
surely his honest heart would have felt very sore and sad.

"Well, he wants to marry _you_!" was the reply; "and, upon my word,
dear, the more I think of it, the more I am convinced you couldn't do
better. He is rich enough, rather good-looking, and seems to know his
own mind. What would you have?"

"My dear, I _couldn't_!"

"State your objections."

"Well, in the first place, he's _very_ fond of me."

"That shows good taste; but it needn't stand in the way, for you may be
sure it won't last."

"But it _will_ last, Clara, because I cannot care for _him_ in return.
My dear, if you knew what a brute I feel sometimes, when he goes away,
looking so proud and unhappy, without ever saying an impatient word.
Then I'm sorry for him, I own; but it's no use, and I only wish he
would take up with somebody else. Don't you think you could help me?
Clara, _would_ you mind? It's uphill work, I know; but you've plenty of
others, and it wouldn't tire you, as it does _me_!"

Miss Douglas looked so pitiful, and so much in earnest, that her friend
laughed outright.

"I think I should like it very much," replied the latter, "though I've
hardly room for another on the list. But if it's not to be the General,
Blanche, we return to the previous question. Who is it?"

"I don't think I shall ever marry at all," answered the younger lady,
with a smothered sigh. "If I were a man, I certainly wouldn't; and why
wasn't I a man? Why can't we be independent? go where we like, do what
we like, and for that matter, choose the people we like?"

"Then you _would_ choose somebody?"

"I didn't say so. No, Clara; the sort of person I should fancy would be
sure never to care for me. His character must be so entirely different
from mine, and though they say, contrasts generally agree, black and
white, after all, only make a feeble kind of grey."

"Whatever you do, dear," expostulated Mrs. Lushington, "don't go and
fall in love with a boy! Of all follies on earth, that pays the worst.
They are never the same two days together, and not one of them but
thinks more of the horse he bought last Monday at Tattersalls, than the
woman he 'spooned,' as they call it, last Saturday night at the Opera."

Miss Douglas winced.

"I cannot agree with you," said she, stooping to pick up her
handkerchief; "I think men grow worse rather than better, the more
they live in the world. I like people to be fresh, and earnest, and
hopeful. Perhaps it is because I am none of these myself, that I rather
appreciate boys."

Mrs. Lushington clapped her hands. "The very thing!" she exclaimed.
"He's made on purpose for you. You ought to know Daisy!"

Miss Douglas drew herself up. "I _do_ know Mr. Walters," she answered
coldly; "if you mean _him_. I believe he is called Daisy in his
regiment and by his very particular friends."

"You know him! and you didn't tell _me_!" replied the other gaily.
"Never mind. Then, of course you're devoted to him. I am; we all are.
He's so cheery, so imperturbable, and what I like him best for, is,
that he has no more heart than--than--well, than I have myself. There!"

Miss Douglas was on her guard now. The appropriative faculty, strong in
feminine nature as the maternal instinct, and somewhat akin to it, was
fully aroused. Only in London, no doubt, would it have been possible
for two such intimates to be ignorant of each other's predilections;
but even here it struck Blanche there was something suspicious in her
friend's astonishment, something not quite sincere in her enthusiasm
and her praise.

So she became exceedingly polite and affectionate, as a fencer goes
through a series of courteous salutes, while proposing to himself the
honour of running his adversary through the brisket.

"You make yourself out worse than you are, Clara," said she; "it's
lucky I know you so well. Indeed, you mustn't go yet. You always run
away before I've said half my say. You'll be sure to come again very
soon though. Promise, dear. What a love of a carriage!"

It was, indeed, a very pretty Victoria that stopped at the
door--fragile, costly, delicate, like a piece of porcelain on
wheels--and very pretty Mrs. Lushington looked therein, as she drove
away.

She had turned the corner of the street some minutes before Miss
Douglas left the window. Passing a mirror, that lady caught the
reflection of her own face, and stopped, smiling, but not in mirth.

"They may well call you Satanella," she said; "and yet I could have
been so good--so good!"



CHAPTER V

THROUGH THE MILL


 "She was iron-sinewed and satin-skinned,
   Ribbed like a drum, and limbed like a deer,
 Fierce as the fire, and fleet as the wind,
   There was nothing she couldn't climb or clear;
 Rich lords had vexed me in vain to part,
   For their gold and silver, with Britomart."[2]

"It describes your mare exactly, and how the gifted, ill-fated author
would have liked a ride on such a flyer as Satanella."

The speaker's voice shook, and the cigar quivered between his lips
while they pronounced that ill-omened name.

"She's better than common, General," was the reply. "Just look at _her
crest_. They're the right sort, when they train on like that!"

General St. Josephs and Daisy Walters were standing on a breezy upland
common, commanding one of the fairest landscapes in England, backed by
a curtain of dusky smoke from the great metropolis, skirting two-thirds
of the horizon. There was heather at their feet; and a sportsman
set down in that spot from the skies might have expected to flush a
black-cock rather than to hail a Hansom cab at only two hours' distance
from its regular stand in Pall Mall.

The black mare, stripped for a gallop, stood ten yards off in the glow
of a morning sun. That Daisy meant to give her "a spin," was obvious
from the texture of his nether garments, and the stiff silver-mounted
whip in his hand.

He had met St. Josephs the night before in the smoking-room of a
military club, and, entertaining a profound respect for that veteran,
had taken him into his counsels concerning the preparations and
performances of the black mare. Daisy was prudent, but not cunning. The
elder man's experience, he considered, might be useful, and so asked
frankly for his advice.

The General cared as little for steeple-chasing as for marbles or
prisoners'-base, but in the present instance felt a morbid attraction
towards the young officer and his venture, because he associated the
black mare with certain rides, that dwelt strangely on his memory, and
of which he treasured every incident with painful accuracy, sometimes
almost wishing they had never been.

There is a disease, from which, like small-pox, immunity can only be
purchased by taking it as often as possible in its mildest form. To
contract it sooner or later, seems the lot of humanity, and St. Josephs
had been no exception to the general rule that ordains men and women
shall inflict on each other certain injuries and annoyances, none the
less vexatious because flagrantly imaginary and unreal.

The General had loved in his youth, more than once it may be, with the
ardour and tenacity of his character; but these follies were now things
of the past. In some out-of-the-way corner, perhaps, he preserved a
knot of ribbon, a scrap of writing, or a photograph with its hair
dressed as before the flood. He could lay his hand on such memorials,
no doubt; but he never looked at them now, just as he ignored certain
sights and sounds, voices, tones, perfumes, that made him wince like
a finger on a raw wound. To save his life, he would not have admitted
that the breath of a fresh spring morning depressed his spirits more
than a sirocco, that he would rather listen to the pipes of a Highland
regiment in a mess-room than to a certain strain of Donizetti, the
softest, the saddest, the sweetest of that gifted composer--softer,
sweeter, sadder to him, that it was an echo from the past.

Among the advantages of growing old, of which there are more than
people usually imagine, none is greater than the repose of mind
which comes with advancing years--from fatigue, indeed, rather than
satisfaction, but still repose.

It is not for the young to bask in the sun, to sit over the fire, to
look forward to dinner as the pleasantest part of the day. These must
be always in action, even in their dreams; but at and after middle age
comes the pleasure of the ruminating animals, the quiet comfort of
content. An elderly gentleman, whose liver has outlasted his heart, is
not so much to be pitied after all.

Yet must he take exceeding care not to leave go of the rock he clings
to, like an oyster, that he may drift back into the fatal flood of
sentiment he ought to have baffled, once for all. If he does, assuredly
his last state will be worse than his first. Very sweet will be the
taste of the well-remembered dram, not so intoxicating as of yore to
the seasoned brain; but none the less a stimulant of the senses, a
restorative for the frame. Clutching the cup to drain perennial youth,
he will empty it to the dregs, till the old sot reels, and the grey
hairs fall dishonoured in the dust.

If follies perpetrated for women could be counted like runs in a
cricket match, I do believe the men above forty would get the score.

"Let me see her gallop," said the General, with a wistful look at the
mare, "and I will tell you what I think."

He too was a fine horseman; but he sighed to reflect he could no longer
vault on horseback like Daisy, nor embody himself at once with the
animal he bestrode, as did that young and supple light dragoon.

"I never saw a better," said the old officer to himself, as the young
one, sitting close into his saddle, set the mare going at three-quarter
speed. "And if she's only half as good as her rider, the Irishmen will
have a job to keep the stakes on their side of the Channel this time!
Ah, well. It's no use, we can't hold our own with the young ones, and I
suppose we ought not to wish we could!"

The General fell into a very common mistake. We are apt to think women
set a high price on the qualities we value in each other, forgetting
that as their opinions are chiefly reflected from our own, it is to
be talked about, no matter why, that constitutes merit in their eyes.
What do they care for a light hand, a firm seat, a vigorous frame, or
a keen intellect except in so far as these confer notoriety on their
possessor? To be celebrated is enough. If for his virtues, well. If for
his vices, better. Even the meekest of them have a strong notion of
improving a sinner, and incline to the black sheep rather than all the
white innocents of the fold.

In the meantime, Daisy felt thoroughly in his element, enjoying it as
a duck enjoys immersion in the gutter. Free goer as she was, the mare
possessed also an elasticity rare even amongst animals of the highest
class; but which, when he has once felt it, no horseman can mistrust
or mistake. As Daisy tightened his hold on her head, and increased her
speed, he experienced in all its force that exquisite sense of motion
which, I imagine, is the peculiar pleasure enjoyed by the birds of the
air.

Round the common they came, and past the General once more, diverging
from their previous direction so as to bring into the track such a
fence as they would have to encounter in their Irish contest. It was
a high and perpendicular bank, narrow at the top, with a grip on the
taking off, and a wide ditch on the landing side. Anything but a
tempting obstacle to face at great speed. Though she had gone three
miles very fast, the mare seemed fresh and full of vigour, pulling,
indeed, so hard that Daisy needed all his skill to control and keep her
in his hand. Approaching the leap, he urged her with voice and limbs.
They came at it, racing pace.

"Oh, you tailor!" muttered the General, holding his breath, in fear of
a hideous fall. "I'm wrong!" he added, the next moment. "Beautifully
done, and beautifully ridden!"

Even at her utmost speed, the mare sprang upright into the air, like
a deer, kicked the farther face of the bank with such lightning
quickness that the stroke was almost imperceptible; and, flying far
beyond the ditch, seemed rather to have gained than lost ground in this
interruption to her stride.

Away she went again! Over two more fences, done at the same head-long
pace, round the corner of a high black hedge, down into the hollow, up
the opposite rise, and so back into the straight, where Daisy, smiling
pleasantly, and much heightened in colour, executed an imaginary
finish, with his hands down.

"I've not seen such a goer for years," observed the General, as her
jockey dismounted, and two stable lads scraped a little lather from
the mare. "But she seems to take a deal of riding: and I think she is
almost _too_ free at her fences, even for a steeple-chaser."

"I'm delighted to hear you say so," was the answer. "_That's_ where we
shall win. When I had her first she was rather cautious; but I hurried
and bustled her till I got her temper up, and she puts on the steam
now as if she was going to jump into next week. I believe she'd do the
great double at Punchestown in her stride!"

The older man shook his head. "She has capital forelegs," said he;
"but I saw just such another break its neck last year at Lincoln. When
they're so free you must catch hold like grim death; for, by Jove, if
they overjump themselves at that pace, they're not much use when they
get up again!"

"That _would_ be hard lines," said Daisy, lighting a cigar. "It's the
only good thing I ever had in my life, and it must _not_ boil over.
If you come to _that_, I'd rather she broke _my_ neck than hers. If
anything went wrong with Satanella I could never face Blanche Douglas
again!"

"Blanche Douglas!" The General winced. It was not his habit to call
young ladies by their Christian names; and to talk familiarly of this
one seemed a desecration indeed.

"I should hope Miss Douglas will never ride that animal now," said
he, looking very stiff and haughty--"throaty," Daisy called it, in
describing the scene afterwards.

"Not ride her?" replied the young gentleman. "You can't know much of
Satanella, General, if you suppose she wouldn't ride anything--ah,
or do anything, if you only told her _not_! She's a trump of a girl,
I admit; but, my eyes, she's a rum one! Why, if there wasn't a law
or something against it, I'm blessed if I don't think she'd ride at
Punchestown herself--boots and breeches--silk jacket--make all the
running, and win as she liked! That's her form, General, you may take
my word for it!"

St. Josephs positively stood aghast. Could he believe his ears? Silk
jacket! Boots and breeches! And this was the woman he delighted to
honour. To have annihilated his flippant young acquaintance on the
spot would have given him intense satisfaction, but he was obliged to
content himself with contemptuous silence and sundry glances of scorn.
His displeasure, however, seemed quite lost on Daisy, who conversed
freely all the way back to town, and took leave of his indignant senior
with unimpaired affability when they arrived.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: From "The Romance of Britomart," not the least stirring
of those spirited verses called "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes,"
composed by the late A. Lindsey Gordon, and published at Melbourne,
Australia, 1870.]



CHAPTER VI

CUTTING FOR PARTNERS


"Then you'll--ask a man?"

"I'll ask a man."

The first speaker was Miss Douglas, the second Mrs. Lushington. These
ladies, having agreed to go to the play together, the former at once
secured adjoining stalls, for herself, her admirer, her friend, and her
friend's admirer. Only in such little parties of four can the modern
drama be appreciated or enjoyed.

Miss Douglas had long promised General St. Josephs that she would
accompany him to the performance of a popular farce called _Uncle
Jack_, whereof the humour consisted in an abstraction by "Boots" of a
certain traveller's garments at his hotel, and consequent engagement
of this denuded wayfarer to the lady of his affections. The General
would have walked barefoot to Canterbury for the delight of taking Miss
Douglas to the play; and, after many misfires, a night was at length
fixed for that treat, of course under the supervision of a chaperon.

Like others who follow "will-o'-the-wisps," St. Josephs was getting
deeper into the mire at every step. Day by day this dark bewitching
woman occupied more of his thoughts, wound herself tighter round his
weary heart. Now for the first time since she died he could bear to
recall the memory of the blue-eyed girl he was to have married long
ago. Now he felt truly thankful to have baffled the widow at Simla, and
behaved like "a monster," as she said, to the foreign countess who used
to ride with him in the Park.

Hitherto he was persuaded his best affections had been thrown away,
all the nobility of his character wasted and misunderstood. At last he
had found the four-leaved shamrock. He cared not how low he stooped to
pluck it, so he might wear it in his breast.

For one of his age and standing, such an attachment has its ridiculous
as well as its pitiful side. He laughed grimly in his grizzled
moustache to find how particular he was growing about the freshness
of his gloves and the fit of his coat. When he rode he lengthened his
stirrups, and brought his horse more on its haunches. He even adopted
the indispensable flower in his button-hole; but could never keep it
there, because of his large circle of child-friends, to whom he denied
nothing, and who regularly despoiled him of any possession that took
their fancy. There was one little gipsy, a flirt, three years of age,
who could and would, have coaxed him out of a keepsake even from Miss
Douglas herself.

Nobody, I suppose, is insane enough to imagine a man feels happier for
being in love. There were moments when St. Josephs positively hated
himself, and everybody else. Moments of vexation, longing, and a bitter
sense of ill-usage, akin to rage, but for the leavening of sadness,
that toned it down to grief. He knew from theory and practice how to
manage a woman, just as he knew how to bridle and ride a horse. Alas!
that each bends only to the careless ease of conscious mastery. He
could have controlled the Satanella on four legs almost as well as
reckless Daisy. He had no influence whatever over her namesake on two.

Most of us possess the faculty of looking on those affairs in which we
are deeply interested, from the outside, as it were, and with the eyes
of an unbiassed spectator. Such impartial perception, however, while
it increases our self-reproach, seems in no way to affect our conduct.
General St. Josephs cursed himself for an old fool twenty times a day,
but none the more for that did he strive or wish to put from him the
folly he deplored.

It was provoking, degrading, to know that, in presence of Miss Douglas
he appeared at his very worst; that when he rode out with her, he
was either idiotically simple, or morosely preoccupied; that when he
called at her house, he could neither find topics for conversation,
nor excuses to go away; that in every society, others, whom he rated
as his inferiors, must have seemed infinitely pleasanter, wiser,
better informed, and more agreeable: and that he, professedly a man
of experience, and a man of the world, lost his head, like a raw boy,
at the first word she addressed him, without succeeding in convincing
her that he had lost his heart. Then he vowed to rebel--to wean himself
by degrees--to break the whole thing off at once--to go out of town,
leaving no address--to assert his independence, show he could live
without her, and never see her again! But when she asked him to take
her to the play, he said he should be delighted, and _was_!

Among the many strange functions of society, few seem more
unaccountable than its tendency to select a theatre as the _rendezvous_
of sincere affection. Of all places, there is none, I should imagine,
where people are more _en evidence_--particularly in the stalls, a
part of the house specially affected, it would seem, as affording no
protection to front or rear. Every gesture is marked, every whisper
overheard, and even if you might speak aloud, which you mustn't, during
the performances, you could hardly impart to a lady tender truths or
falsehoods, as the case may be, while surrounded by a mob of people who
have paid money with the view of keeping eyes and ears wide open till
they obtain its worth.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these drawbacks to confidential
communication, no sooner does a fair angler of the present day feel
that, in fisherman's language, she "has got a bite," than straightway
she carries her prey off to a minor theatre, where by some inexplicable
method of her own, she proceeds to secure the gudgeon on its hook.

St. Josephs got himself up with extreme care on the evening in
question. He was no faded _petit maître_, no wrinkled dandy, curled,
padded, girthed, and tottering in polished boots towards his grave. On
the contrary, he had the wisdom to grow old gracefully, as far as dress
and deportment were concerned, rather advancing than putting back the
hand of time. Yet to-night he _did_ regret the lines on his worn face,
the bald place at the crown of his head. Ten years, he thought, rather
bitterly, only give him back ten years, and he could have held his own
with the best of them! She might have cared for him ten years ago.
Could she care for him now? Yes, surely she must, he loved her so!

"Your brougham is at the door, sir," said his servant, once a soldier,
like himself, a person of calm temperament and a certain grim humour,
whose private opinion it was that his master had of late been
conducting himself like an old fool.

The General got into his carriage with an abstracted air, and was
driven off to dine nervously and without appetite at the Senior United.

How flabby seemed the fish, how tasteless the cutlets, how insufferably
prosy the conversation of an old comrade at the next table--a jovial
veteran, who loved highly-seasoned stories, and could still drink the
_quantum_ he was pleased to call his "whack of Port." Never before had
this worthy's discourse seemed so idiotic, his stomach so obtrusive,
his chuckles so fatuous and inane. What did he mean by talking about
"fellows of _our_ age" to St. Josephs, who was seven years his junior
in the Army List, and five in his baptismal register? Why couldn't he
eat without wheezing, laugh without coughing; and why, oh! why could
he not give a comrade greeting, without slapping him on the back? St.
Josephs, drinking scalding coffee before the other arrived at cheese,
felt his sense of approaching relief damped by remorse for the reserve
and coldness with which he treated his old, tried friend. Something
whispered to him, even then, how the jolly gormandising red face would
turn to him, true and hearty, when all the love of all the women in
London had faded and grown cold.

Nevertheless, at the doors of the theatre his pulses leapt with
delight. So well timed was his arrival, that Mrs. Lushington and Miss
Douglas were getting out of their carriage when his own stopped.
Pleased, eager as a boy, he entered the house with Satanella on his
arm, placing himself between that Lady and her friend, while he
arranged shawls, foot-stools, scent-bottles, and procured for them
programmes of the entertainment; chary, indeed, of information, but
smelling strong of musk.

Need I say that he addressed himself at first to Mrs. Lushington? or
that, perceiving a vacant stall on the other side of Miss Douglas,
his spirit sank within him while he wondered when and how it would be
filled?

Satanella seemed tired and abstracted. "Uncle Jack's" jokes fell
pointless on her ear. When St. Josephs could at last think of
something to say, she bent her head kindly enough, but persistently
refused to accept or understand his tender allusions, interesting
herself, then, and then only, in the business of the stage. In sheer
self-defence, the General felt obliged to do the same.

The house roared with laughter. A celebrated low comedian was running
up and down before the foot-lights in shirt and drawers. The scene
represented a bedroom at an inn. The actor rang his bell, tripped over
his coal-scuttle, finally upset his water-jug. Everybody went into
convulsions, and St. Josephs found himself thinking of the immortal
Pickwick, who "envied the facility with which the friends of Mr. Peter
Magnus were amused." Turning to his tormentor, he observed the place by
her side no longer vacant, and its occupant was--Daisy!

Mischievous Mrs. Lushington had "asked a man," you see, and this was
the man she asked.

Captious, jealous, sensitive, because he really cared for her, St.
Josephs' vexation seemed out of all proportion to its cause. He felt
it would have relieved him intensely to "have it out" with Miss
Douglas--to scold her, take her to task, reproach her roundly--and
for what? _She_ had never asked Daisy to come; _she_ had not kept a
seat for him at her elbow. From her flushed cheek, her bright smile,
it could not but be inferred that this was an unexpected meeting--a
delightful surprise.

Calm and imperturbable, Daisy settled himself as if he were sitting
by his grandmother. Not till he had smoothed his moustache, buttoned
his gloves, and adjusted his glasses, did he find time to inform Miss
Douglas "that he knew she would be here, but did not think she could
have got away from dinner so soon; that the house was hot, the stalls
were uncomfortable, and this thing was not half bad fun if you'd never
seen it before." The General, cursing him for "a cub," wondered she
could find anything in such conversation to provoke a smile on that
proud beautiful face.

What was it she whispered behind her fan?--the fan he loved to hold
because of the fragrance it seemed to breathe from _her_. He scarcely
knew whether to be relieved or irritated when he overheard certain
questions as to the progress of the black mare. It vexed him to think
these two should have a common interest, should find it so engrossing,
should talk about it so low. Why couldn't they attend to the farce they
had come on purpose to see?

Mrs. Lushington, although she must have been surfeited with that
unmeaning and rather tiresome admiration which such ladies find
floating in abundance on the surface of London society, was yet ready
at all times to accept fresh homage, add another captive to the net she
dragged so diligently through smooth and troubled waters alike. Till
the suggestion came from her friend, it had never occurred to her that
the General was worth capturing. She began now in the usual way.

"What a number of pretty women!" she whispered, "Don't you think
so, General? I haven't seen as much beauty under one roof since Lady
Scavenger's ball."

Abstracted though he was, her companion had those habits of society
which of all others seem to be second nature, so he answered:--

"There are only _two_ pretty women in the house as far as I can see;
and they asked me to come to the play with them to-night."

She had a fascinating way of looking down and up again, very quick,
with a glance, half shy, half funny, but altogether deadly. Even her
preoccupied neighbour felt its influence, while she replied:--

"You say so because you think all women are vain, and like to be
flattered, and have no heart. It only shows how little you know us. Do
you mean to tell me," she added, in a lighter tone, "_that's_ not a
pretty girl, in the second row there, with a _mauve_ ribbon through her
hair?"

She _was_ pretty, and he thought so; but St. Josephs, being an old
soldier in more senses than one, observed sententiously:--

"Wants colouring--too pale--too sandy, and I should say freckled by
daylight."

"We all know you admire dark beauties," retorted the lady, "or you
wouldn't be here now."

"_You're_ not a dark beauty," returned the ready General; "and I knew
you were coming too."

"That '_too_' spoils it all," said she, with another of her killing
glances. "Hush! you needn't say any more. If you won't talk to _her_,
at least attend to the stage."

Satanella meanwhile was perusing Daisy's profile as he sat beside
her, and wondering whether anybody was ever half so good-looking
and so unconscious of his personal advantages. Not in the slightest
degree embarrassed by this examination, Mr. Walters expressed his
entire approval of the farce as it proceeded, laughing heartily at its
"situations" and even nudging Miss Douglas with his elbow, that she
might not miss the broadest of the fun. Was there another man in the
house who could have accepted so calmly such an enviable situation?
and did she like him more or less for this strange insensibility to
her charms? The question must be answered by ladies who are weary of
slaughter, and satiated with victory.

"Will she win, Daisy?" hazarded Miss Douglas at last, in a low whisper,
such as would have vibrated through the General's whole frame, but only
caused Daisy to request she would "speak up." Repeating her question,
she added a tender hope that "it was all right, and that her darling
(meaning the black mare) would pull him through."

"If she don't," replied Daisy, "there's no more to be said. I must
leave the regiment. 'Soldier Bill' gets the troop; and I am simply
chawed up."

"Oh, Daisy," she exclaimed earnestly, "how much would it take to set
you straight?"

Mr. Walters worked an imaginary sum on the gloved fingers of his right
hand, carried over a balance of liabilities to his left, looked as
grave as he could and replied, briefly, "Two thou--would tide me over.
It would take _three_ to pull me through."

Her face fell, and the rich colour faded in her cheek. He did not
notice her vexation; for the crisis of the farce had now arrived,
and the stage was crowded with all its _dramatis personæ_, tumbling
each other about in the intensely humorous dilemma of a hunt for the
traveller's clothes; but he _did_ remark how grave and sorrowful was
her "good-night," while she took the General's proffered arm with an
alacrity extremely gratifying to that love-stricken veteran. She had
never before seemed so womanly, so tender, so confiding. St. Josephs,
pressing her elbow very cautiously against his beating heart, almost
fancied the pressure returned. He was sure her hand clung longer than
usual in his clasp when the time came to say "Good-bye."

In spite of a headache and certain angry twinges of rheumatism, this
gallant officer had never felt so happy in his life.



CHAPTER VII

GETTING ON


Outside the theatre the pavement was dry, the air seemed frosty, and
the moon shone bright and cold. With head down, hands in pockets,
and a large cigar in his mouth, Daisy meditated gravely enough on
the untoward changes a lowered temperature might produce in his own
fortunes. Hard ground would put a stop to Satanella's gallops, and
the horses trained in Ireland--where it seldom freezes--would have an
unspeakable advantage. Thinking of the black mare somehow reminded him
of Miss Douglas, and pacing thoughtfully along Pall Mall, he recalled
their first meeting, tracing through many an hour of sunshine and
lamplight the links that had riveted their intimacy and made them fast
friends.

It was almost two years ago--though it seemed like yesterday--that,
driving the regimental coach to Ascot, he had stopped his team with
considerable risk at an awkward turn on the Heath, to make room for
her pony-carriage; a courtesy soon followed by an introduction in
the enclosure, not without many thanks and acknowledgments from the
fair charioteer and her companion. He could remember how she kept him
talking till it was too late to back Judæus for the Cup, and recalled
his own vexation when that gallant animal galloped freely in, to the
delight of the chosen people.

He had not forgotten how she asked him to call on her in London, nor
how he went riding with her in the morning, meeting her at balls and
parties by night, inaugurating a pic-nic at Hampton Court for her
especial benefit, while always esteeming her the nicest girl out,
and the best horse-woman in the world. He would have liked her to be
his sister, or his sister-in-law; but of marrying her himself, the
idea never entered Daisy's head. Thinking of her now, with her rich
beauty, and her bright black hair, he neither sighed nor smiled. He was
calculating how he could "put her on" for a good stake, and send her
back their mutual favourite none the worse in limbs or temper for the
great race he hoped to win!

All Light Dragoons are not equally susceptible, and Mr. Walters was
a difficult subject, partly from his active habits of mind and body,
partly from the energy with which he threw himself into the business of
the moment whatever it might be.

Satanella's work, her shoeing, her food, her water, were such
engrossing topics now, that, but for her connection with the mare, the
lady from whom that animal took its name would have had no chance of
occupying a place in his thoughts. He had got back to the probability
of frost, and the possibility of making a tan-gallop, when he turned
out of St. James's Street into one of those pleasant haunts where men
congregate after nightfall to smoke and talk, accosting each other with
the easy good-fellowship that springs from community of tastes, and
generous dinners washed down with rosy wine.

Notwithstanding the time of year, a member in his shirt-sleeves was
sprawling over the billiard-table; a dozen more were sprinkled about
the room. Acclamations, less loud than earnest, greeted Daisy's
entrance, and tumblers of cunning drinks were raised to bearded lips,
in mute but hearty welcome.

"You young beggar, you've made me miss my stroke!" exclaimed the
billiard-player, failing egregiously to score an obvious and easy
hazard. "Daisy, you're always in the way, and you're always welcome.
But what are you doing out of the Shires in such weather as this?"

"Daisy never cared a hang for _hunting_," said a tall, stout man
on the sofa. "He's only one of your galloping Brummagem sportsmen,
always amongst the hounds. How many couples have you scored now, this
season--tell the truth, my boy--off your own bat?"

"More than _you_ have of foxes, counting those that were fairly
killed," answered Daisy calmly. "And that is not saying much.
Seriously, Jack, something must be done about those hounds of yours.
I'm told they've got so slow you have to meet at half-past ten, and
never get home till after dark. I suppose if once you began to draft
there would be nothing left in the kennel but the terrier!"

"You be hanged!" answered the big man, laughing. "You conceited young
devil, you think you're entitled to give an opinion because you're not
afraid to ride. And, after all, you can't half do that, unless the
places are flagged out for you in the fences! If you cared two straws
about the _real_ sport, you wouldn't be in London now."

"How can I hunt without horses?" replied Daisy, burying his fair young
face in an enormous beaker. "_All_ hounds are not like yours, you know.
Thick shoes and gaiters make a capital mount in some countries; but if
I _am_ to put on boots and breeches I want to go faster than a Paddy
driving a pig. That's why I've never been to pay _you_ a visit."

"D--n your impudence!" was all the other could find breath to retort,
adding, after a pause of admiration, "What a beggar it is to chaff!
But I won't let you off all the same. Come to me directly after
Northampton. It's right in your way home."

"Nothing I should like better," answered Daisy. "But it can't be done.
I'm due at Punchestown on the seventeenth, and I ought to be in Ireland
at least a fortnight before the races."

"At Punchestown!" exclaimed half-a-dozen voices. "There's something
up! You've got a good thing, cut and dried. It's no use, Daisy! Tell us
all about it!"

Walters turned from one to another with an expression of innocent
surprise. He looked as if he had never heard of a steeple-chase in his
life.

"I don't know what you fellows call 'a good thing,'" said he. "When I
drop into one I'll put you all on, you may be sure. No. I must be at
Punchestown simply because I've got to ride there."

"I'm sorry for the nag," observed the billiard-player, who had finished
(and lost) his game. "What is it?"

"She's a mare none of you ever heard of," answered Daisy. "They call
her Satanella. She can gallop a little, I think."

"Is she going for this new handicap?" asked a shrill voice out of a
cloud of tobacco smoke in the corner.

"It's her best chance, if she ever comes to the post," replied Daisy.
"They're crushing weights, though, and the course is over four miles."

"Back her, me boy! And I'll stand in with ye!" exclaimed an Irish peer,
handsome in spite of years, jovial in spite of gout, good-hearted in
spite of fashion, and good-humoured in spite of everything. "Is she an
Irish-bred one? Roscommon did ye say? Ah, now, back for a monkey, and
I'll go ye halves! We'll let them see how we do't in Kildare!"

Daisy would have liked nothing better; but people do not lay "monkeys"
on steeple-chases at one o'clock in the morning. Nevertheless curiosity
had been excited about Satanella, and his cross-examination continued.

"Is she thorough-bred?" asked a cornet of the household cavalry, whose
simple creed for man and beast, or rather horse and woman, was summed
up in these two articles--blood and good looks.

"Thoroughbred?" repeated Daisy thoughtfully. "Her sire is I'm sure, and
she's out of a 'Connemara mare,' as they say in Ireland, whatever that
may be."

"_I know_," observed the peer, with a wink. "Ah, ye divil, ye've got
your lesson perfect annyhow."

"Do you want to back her?" asked a tall, thin man, who had hitherto
kept silence, drawing at the same time a very business-like
betting-book from his breast-pocket.

"You ought to lay long odds," answered Daisy. "The race will fill well.
There are sure to be a lot of starters, and no end of falls. Hang it! I
suppose I am bound to have something on. I'll tell you what. I'll take
twelve to one in hundreds--there!"

"I'll lay you ten," said the other.

"Done!" replied Daisy. "A thousand to a hundred." And he entered it
methodically in his book, looking round, pencil in mouth, to know "if
anybody would do it again?"

"I'll lay you eight to one in ponies." Daisy nodded, and put down
the name of the billiard-player. "And I in tens!" exclaimed another.
"And I don't mind laying you seven!" screamed a shrill voice from the
corner, "if you'll have it in fifties." Whereat Daisy shook his head,
but accepted the offer nevertheless ere he shut up his book, observing
calmly that "he was full now, and must have something more to drink."

"And who does this mare belong to?" asked a man who had just come in.
"It's a queer game, steeple-chasing, even with gentlemen up. I like
to know something about owners before I back my little fancy, for or
against."

"Well, she's more mine than anybody else's," answered Daisy, buttoning
his overcoat to depart. "There's only one thing certain about her, and
that is--she'll start if she's alive, and she'll win if she _can_!"

With these words he disappeared through the swing-doors into the empty
street, walking leisurely homeward, with the contented step of one who
has done a good day's work, and earned his repose.

In Piccadilly he met a drunken woman; in Curzon Street, a single
policeman; by Audley Square a libertine cat darted swiftly and
noiselessly across his path. Working steadily northward, he perceived
another passenger on the opposite side of the way. Passing under a
lamp, this figure, in spite of hat pushed down and collar pulled up,
proved to be none other than St. Josephs, wrapped in a brown study, and
proceeding as slowly as if it was the hottest night in June.

"Now what can _he_ be up to?" thought Daisy, deeming it unnecessary to
cross over at so late an hour for polite salutation. "Ought to have
had his nose under the blankets long ago. It must be something _very_
good to take an old duffer like that out in an east wind at two in the
morning. Might have sown his wild oats by this time, one would think!
Well, it's no business of mine, only I hope he wears flannel next his
skin, and won't catch cold. It would almost serve him right, too, if he
did!"

Sticking his hands in his pockets, Daisy shook his head in virtuous
disapproval of his senior, never dreaming that a man of the General's
age could be fool enough to pace a wind-swept street under a lady's
window for an hour after she had retired to bed.



CHAPTER VIII

INSATIABLE


"My Dear General,

"As I know it is impossible to catch you for luncheon, come and see me
at three, before I go out.

 "Yours most sincerely,

 "Clara Lushington."

No date, of course. The General, nevertheless, ordered his hack at
half-past two, in confident expectation of finding his correspondent at
home.

He was ushered into, perhaps, the prettiest _boudoir_ in London--a
nest of muslin, fillagree, porcelain, and exotics, with a miniature
aviary in one window, a miniature aquarium in the other, a curtain
over the door, and a fountain opposite the fire-place. Here he
had an opportunity of admiring her taste before the fair owner
appeared, examining in turn all the ornaments on her chimney-piece
and writing-table, amongst which, with pardonable ostentation, a
beautifully-mounted photograph of her husband was put in the most
conspicuous place.

He was considering what on earth could have induced her to marry its
original, when the door opened for the lady in person, who appeared,
fresh, smiling, and exceedingly well-dressed. Though she had kept
her visitor waiting, he could not grudge the time thus spent when he
observed how successfully it had been turned to account.

"You got my note," said she, pulling a low chair for him close to the
sofa on which she seated herself. "I wonder, if _you_ wondered why I
wanted to see you!"

The experience of St. Josephs had taught him it is well to let these
lively fish run out plenty of line before they are checked, so he
bowed, and said, "He hoped she had found something in which he could be
of use."

"Use!" repeated the lady. "Then you want me to think you consider
yourself more useful than ornamental. General, I should like to know if
you are the least bit vain?"

"A little, perhaps, of your taking me up," he replied, laughing; "of
nothing else, I think, in the world."

She stole a glance at him from under her eyelashes, none the less
effective that these had been darkened before she came down. "And yet,
I am sure, you might be," she said softly, with something of a sigh.

The process, he thought, was by no means unpleasant; a man could
undergo it a long time without being tired.

"Do you know I'm interested about you?" she continued, looking frankly
in his face. "For your own sake--a little; for somebody else's--a great
deal. Have you never heard of flowers that waste their 'sweetness on
the desert air?'"

"And blush unseen?" he replied. "I'm blushing now. Don't you think it's
becoming?"

"Do be serious!" she interposed, laying a slim white hand on his
sleeve. "I tell you I have your welfare at heart. That's the reason
you are here now. If I cannot be happy myself, at least I like to help
others. Everybody ought to marry the right person. Don't you think so?
You've got a right person. Why don't you marry her?"

Watching him narrowly, she perceived, by the catch of his breath, the
quiver of his eyelid, that for all his self-command her thrust had gone
straight home.

His was too manly a nature to deny its allegiance.

"Do you think she would have me," said he simply and frankly, "if I was
to ask her?"

Mrs. Lushington never liked him better than now. To this worldly,
weary, manoeuvring woman, there was something inexpressibly refreshing
in his unaffected self-depreciation. "What a fool the girl is!"
she thought; "why, she ought to _jump_ at him!" But what she said,
was--"_Qui cherche trouve._ If you don't put the question, how can you
expect to have an answer? Are you so spoilt, my dear General, that you
expect women to drop into your mouth like over-ripe fruit? What we
enjoy is, to be worried and teased over and over again, till at last we
are bored into saying "Yes" in sheer weariness, and to get rid of the
subject. How can you be _refused_, much more _accepted_, if you won't
even make an offer?"

"Do you know what it is to care for somebody very much?" said he,
smoothing his hat with his elbow, as a village-maiden on the stage
plaits the hem of her apron. "What you suggest, seems the boldest game,
no doubt; but it is like putting all one's fortune on a single throw.
Suppose the dice come up against me--can you wonder I am a little
afraid to lift the box?"

"I cannot fancy _you_ afraid of anything," she answered with an
admiring glance; "not even of failure, though it would probably be a
new sensation. You know what Mr. Walters says--(he winced, and she saw
it)--'When you go to a fighting-house, you should take a fighting man.'
So I say, 'When you are in a tangle about women, ask a woman to get you
out of it.' Put yourself in my hands, and when you dress for dinner,
you shall be a proud and a happy General!"

His face brightened. "I _should_ be very happy," said he, "I honestly
confess, if Miss Douglas would consent to be my wife. Do you advise me
to ask her at once?"

"This very day, without losing a minute!" was the answer. "Let me have
to congratulate her, when I call to drive her out at half-past five."

The General looked at the clock, smoothing his hat more vigorously
than ever. "It's nearly four now," said he, in a faltering voice.
"Mrs. Lushington, I am really most grateful. It's too kind of you to
take such an interest in my affairs. Would you mind telling me? Women
understand these things much better than men. If you were in my place,
do you think I ought? I mean what is the best plan? In short, would you
advise me to call, and ask her point-blank, or to--write a line, you
know--very explicit and respectful, of course, and tell the servant to
wait for an answer?"

She was very near laughing in his face, but mastered her gravity, after
a moment's reflection, and observed sententiously--

"Perhaps in your case a few lines would be best. You can write them
here if you like, or at your club. The shorter the better. And," she
added, shaking hands with him very kindly, while he rose to take leave,
"whichever way it goes, you will let me know the result."

As the street-door closed, she opened her blotting-book, and scribbled
off the following dispatch--

"Dearest Blanche,

"Alarms! A skirmish! I write to put you on your guard. The General,
_your_ General, has been here for an hour. He seems to have made up his
mind, so prepare yourself for it at any moment. I think you _ought_
to accept him. He would relapse into a quiet, kind, and respectable
husband. Your own position, too, would be improved and what I call
established. Don't be obstinate, there's a dear. In haste. Ever your
own loving

 "Clara L----.

"You mustn't forget you dine here. Nobody but ourselves, Uncle John,
the two Gordon girls (Bessie has grown so pretty), and Daisy Walters,
who starts for Ireland to-morrow. As soon after eight as you can."

       *       *       *       *       *

Then she rang the bell, and sent off her note with directions for its
immediate transmission. Henry must take it at once. If Miss Douglas
was not at home, let him find out where she had gone, and follow her.
There was no answer. Only he must be quite sure she got it;--and pretty
Mrs. Lushington sank back on her sofa, with the pleasing reflection
that she had done what she called "a neat stroke of business, vigorous,
conclusive, and compromising nobody if it was ever found out!"

She saw her way now clearly enough. On Satanella's refusal of her
veteran admirer, she calculated as surely as on her acceptance of an
invitation to meet Daisy at dinner, particularly with so dangerous
a competitor as Bessie Gordon in the field. That last touch she
considered worthy of her diplomacy. But, judging by herself, she was of
opinion that Miss Douglas would so modify her negative as to retain the
General in the vicinity of her charms, contemplating from day to day
the fair prospect that was never to be his own. In such an ignominious
state men are to be caught on the rebound, and he must ere long prove
an easy victim to her kinder fascinations, take his place, submissively
enough, with the other captives in the train of his conqueror. It would
be very nice, she thought, to secure him, and after that she could
turn her attention to Daisy, for Mrs. Lushington was never so happy as
when she had succeeded in detaching a gentleman from the lady of his
affections, if, in so doing, she inflicted on the latter the sorrow of
a wounded spirit and the pain of a vexed heart.

Therefore had she many enemies of her own sex, ever on the watch to
catch her tripping, and once down must have expected no quarter from
these gentle combatants.

A generous, masculine-minded woman, who is above these pretty vanities
and rivalries, enjoys considerable immunity in that society, of which
the laws are made by her sisters-in-arms, but they will _not_ forgive
the greedy, unreasonable spoiler, who eyes, covets, and abstracts the
property of others--who, to use their own expressive words, "takes
their men from them, while all the time she has got enough and to spare
of her own!"



CHAPTER IX

OFF AND ON


But even a woman cannot calculate with certainty on what another woman
will or will not do under given circumstances. The greatest generals
have been defeated by unforeseen obstacles. A night's rain or a sandy
road may foil the wisest strategy, destroy the nicest combinations.

Miss Douglas never came to dinner after all, and Daisy, too, was
absent. Mrs. Lushington, outwardly deploring the want of a "young
man" for the "Gordon girls," inwardly puzzled her brains to account
for the joint desertion of her principal performers, a frightful
suspicion crossing her mind that she might have been too vigorous in
her measures, and so frightened Satanella into carrying Daisy off with
her, _nolens volens_, once for all. She had short notes of excuse,
indeed, from both; but with these she was by no means satisfied: the
lady pleading headache, the gentleman a pre-engagement, since called to
mind--this might mean anything. But if they _had_ gone away together,
she thought, never would she meddle in such matters again!

Not till dinner was over, and Bessie Gordon had sat down to sing
plaintive ballads in the drawing-room, did she feel reassured; but the
last post brought a few lines from the General in fulfilment of his
pledge to let her know how his wooing had sped.

"Congratulate me," he wrote, "my dear Mrs. Lushington, on having
taken your advice. You were right about procrastination" (the General
loved a long word, and was indeed somewhat pompous when he put pen to
paper). "I am convinced that but for your kind counsels I should hardly
have done justice to myself or the lady for whom I entertain so deep
and lasting a regard. I feel I may now venture to hope time will do
much--constant devotion more. At some future period, not far distant,
it may be my pride to present to you your beautiful young charge in a
new character, as the wife of your obliged and sincere friend--V. St.
Josephs."

"V. St. Josephs?" repeated Mrs. Lushington. "I wonder what V. stands
for. Valentine, if I remember right. And I wonder what on earth he
means _me_ to gather from his letter! I cannot make head or tail of it.
If she has accepted him, what makes him talk about time and devotion?
If she has refused him, surely he never can intend to persevere!
Blanche, Blanche! if you're playing a double game, it will be the worse
for you, and I'll never trust a woman with dark eyes again!"

The Gordon girls, going home in their hired brougham, voted that "dear
Mrs. Lushington had one of her headaches; that Mr. L. was delightful;
that after all, it seemed very selfish of Clara not to have secured
them a couple of men; finally, that they had spent a stupid evening,
and would be too glad to go to bed!"

All details of love-making are probably much alike, nor is there great
room for variety in the putting of that direct question, to which the
path of courtship necessarily conducts its dupe. General St. Josephs
kept no copy of the letter in which he solicited Miss Douglas to
become his wife. That lady tore it immediately into shreds, that went
fluttering up the chimney. Doubtless it was sincere and dignified, even
if diffuse; worthy, too, of a more elaborate answer than the single
line she scribbled in reply:--

"Come and talk it over. I am at home till seven."

His courage rose, however, now he had got fairly into action, and never
had he felt less nervous while dismounting at the well-known door,
than on this supreme occasion, when he was to learn his fate, as he
believed, once for all, from the lips of the woman he loved.

Like most men trained in the school of danger, strong excitement strung
his nerves and cleared his vision, he no longer averted his eyes from
the face that heretofore so dazzled them; on the contrary, entering the
presence of Miss Douglas, he took in her form and features at a glance,
as a man scans the figure of an adversary, while he prepares for attack.

It did not escape him that she looked flurried and depressed, that her
hand trembled, and her colour went and came. Arguing favourably from
these symptoms, he was somewhat disappointed with the first sentence
she addressed to him.

"You wrote me a letter, General," said she, forcing a nervous little
laugh. "Such a funny letter! I didn't quite know what to make of it!"

A funny letter! And his heart had beat, his eyes had filled, his
highest, noblest feelings had been stirred with every line!

He was conscious that his bow seemed stern, even pompous, while he
answered with exceeding gravity--

"Surely I made my meaning clear enough. Surely, Miss Douglas--Blanche;
may I not call you _Blanche_?"

"Yes; if you like," said she impatiently. "It's a hateful name, I
think. That's not my fault. Well, General, what were you going to say?"

He looked and indeed felt perplexed. "I was going to observe," said
he, "that as my question was very straightforward, and very much in
earnest, so all my future happiness depends on your reply."

"I wonder what there is you can see in me to like!" she retorted, with
an impatient movement of her whole body, as if she was in fetters,
and felt the restraint. "I'm not good enough for anybody to care for,
that's the truth, General. There's hardly a girl in London who wouldn't
suit you better than me."

He was looking in her face with sincere admiration.

"That is not the question," he replied. "Surely I am old enough to know
my own mind. Besides, you do not seem conscious of your power. You
could make a bishop fall in love with you in ten minutes, if you chose!"

There came a depth of tenderness in her eyes, a smile, half sad, half
sweet, about her lips, which he interpreted in his own way.

"Do you think so?" said she. "I wish I could believe you. I've not had
a happy youth, and I've not been brought up in a very good school. I
often tell myself I could, and ought to have been better, but somehow
one's whole life seems to be a mistake!"

"A mistake I could rectify, if you would give me the right," answered
St. Josephs, disheartened, but not despairing. "I only ask you to judge
me fairly, to trust me honestly, and to love me some day, if you _can_!"

She gave him her hand. He drew her towards him, and pressed his lips
to her cold, smooth brow. No more, and yet he fancied she was his own
at last. Already half pledged, already half an affianced wife. She
released herself quickly, and sat down on the farther side of her
work-table.

"You are very generous," she said, "and very good. I still maintain you
deserve somebody far superior to me. How odd these sort of things are,
and why do they never turn out as one--expects?"

She was going to say "wishes," but stopped herself in time.

He would _not_ understand.

"Life is made up of hopes and disappointments," he observed. "You do
not seem to hope much, Blanche. I trust, therefore, you will have
less cause for disappointment. I will do all in _my_ power. And now,
dearest, do not call me impatient, fidgetty; but, when do you think
I may look forward to--to making arrangements in which we are to be
equally interested?"

"Oh! I don't know!" she exclaimed, with considerable emphasis. "Not
yet, of course: there's plenty of time. And I'm so hurried and worried,
I can hardly speak! Besides, it's very late. I promised to dine with
Mrs. Lushington, and it's nearly eight o'clock now."

Even from a future help-meet, so broad a hint could not be disregarded.
The General was forced to put on his gloves and prepare for departure.

"But I shall see you again soon," he pleaded. "Shall you be at the
opera--at Mrs. Cramwell's--at Belgrave House?"

"Certainly not at Belgrave House!" she answered impatiently. "I hate a
crush; and that woman asks all the casuals in London. It's a regular
refuge for the destitute. I'm not going there _yet_. I may, perhaps,
when I'm destitute!"

There was a hard ring in her voice that distressed him, and she
perceived it.

"Don't look so wretched," she added kindly. "There are places in the
world besides Belgrave Square and Covent Garden. What do you say to
Punchestown? It's next week, and I'm sure to be _there_!"

He turned pale, seeming no whit reassured. "Punchestown," he repeated.
"What on earth takes you to Punchestown?"

"Don't you know I've got a horse to run?" she said lightly. "I should
like to see it win, and I do _not_ believe they have anything in
Ireland half as good as my beautiful Satanella!"

"Is that all?" he asked in a disturbed voice. "It seems such an odd
reason for a lady; and it's a long journey, you know, with a horrible
crossing at this time of year! Blanche, Miss Douglas, can you not stay
away, as--as a favour to _me_?"

There was an angry flush on her cheek, an angry glitter in her eyes,
but she kept her temper bravely, and only said in mocking accents--

"Already, General! No; if you mean to be a tyrant you must wait till
you come to the throne. I intend to show at Punchestown the first day
of the races. I have made an assignation with _you_. If you like to
keep it, well and good; if you like to let it alone, do! I shall not
break my heart!"

He felt at a disadvantage. She seemed so cool, so unimpressionable,
so devoid of the sentiment and sensibility he longed to kindle in her
nature. For a moment, he could almost have wished to draw back, to
resume his freedom, while there was yet time; but no, she looked so
handsome, so queenly--he had rather be wretched with _her_ than happy
with any other woman in the world!

"Of course, I will not fail," he answered. "I would go a deal further
than Punchestown, only to be within hearing of your voice. When do you
start? If Mrs. Lushington, or anybody you knew well, would accompany
you, why should we not cross over together?"

"Now, you're too exacting," she replied. "Haven't I told you we
shall meet on the course, when the saddling-bell rings for the first
race. Not a moment sooner, and my wish is the law of the Medes and
Persians--as yet!"

The two last words carried a powerful charm. Had he been mature in
wisdom as in years, he ought never to have thought of marrying a woman
who could influence him so easily.

"I shall count the days till then," he replied gallantly. "They will
pass very slowly, but, as the turnspit says in the Spanish proverb,
'the largest leg of mutton must get done in time!' Good-bye, Miss
Douglas. Good luck to you; and I hope Satanella will win!"

He bowed over the hand she gave him, but did not attempt to kiss it,
taking his leave with a mingled deference and interest she could not
but appreciate and admire.

"_Why_ can't I care for him?" she murmured passionately, as the
street-door closed with a bang. "He's good, he's generous, he's a
_gentleman_! Poor fellow, he loves me devotedly; he's by no means ugly,
and he's not so _very_ old! Yet I can't, I can't! And I've promised
him, _almost_ promised him! Well, come what may, I've got a clear week
of freedom still. But what a fool I've been, and oh! what a fool I
_am_!"

Then she sent her excuse to Mrs. Lushington, declined dinner at home,
ordered tea, didn't drink any, and so crept sorrowful and supperless to
bed.



CHAPTER X

AT SEA


In the British army, notwithstanding the phases and vicissitudes
to which it is subjected, discipline still remains a paramount
consideration--the keystone of its whole fabric. Come what may,
the duty must be done. This is the great principle of action; and,
in obedience to its law, young officers, who combine pleasure
with military avocations, are continually on the move to and from
head-quarters, by road, railway, or steam-boat--here to-day, gone
to-morrow; proposing for themselves, indeed, many schemes of sport and
pastime, but disposed of, morally and physically, by the regimental
orders and the colonel's will.

Daisy, buried in Kildare, rising at day-break, going to bed at nine,
looking sharply after the preparation of Satanella, could not avoid
crossing the Channel for "muster," to re-cross it within twenty-four
hours, that he might take part in the great race on which his fortunes
now depended--to use his own expression, which was to "make him a man
or a mouse."

Thus it fell out that he found himself embarking at Holyhead amongst
a stream of passengers in the mid-day boat for Dublin, having caught
the mail-train at Chester by a series of intricate combinations, and
an implicit reliance on the veracity of Bradshaw. It rained a little,
of course--it always does rain at Holyhead--and was blowing fresh from
the south-west. The sea "danced," as the French say; ladies expressed
a fear "it would be very rough;" their maids prepared for the worst;
and a nautical-looking personage in a pea-coat with anchor buttons,
who disappeared at once, to be seen no more till he landed, pale and
dishevelled, in Kingstown harbour, opined first that "there was a
capful of wind," secondly, that "it was a ten-knot breeze, and would
hold till they made the land."

With loud throbs and pantings of her mighty heart, with a plunge,
a hiss, a shower of heavy spray-drops, the magnificent steamer got
under way, lurching and rolling but little, considering the weather,
yet enough to render landsmen somewhat unsteady on their legs, and to
exhibit the skill with which a curly-haired steward balanced himself,
basin in hand, on his errands of benevolence and consolation.

Two ladies, who had travelled together in a through carriage from
Euston Square, might have been seen to part company the moment they
set foot on board. One of these established herself on deck, with
a multiplicity of cushions, cloaks, and wrappings, to the manifest
admiration of a raw youth in drab trowsers and highlows, smoking
a damp cigar against the wind; while the other vanished into the
ladies'-cabin, there to lay her head on a horse-hair pillow, to sigh,
and moan, and shut her eyes, and long for land, perhaps to gulp, with
watering mouth, short sips of brandy and water, perhaps to find the
hateful mixture only made her worse.

What a situation for Blanche Douglas! How she loathed and despised the
lassitude she could not fight against, the sufferings she could not
keep down! How she envied Mrs. Lushington the open air, the sea-breeze,
the leaping, following waves, her brightened eyes, her freshened
cheeks, her keen enjoyment of a trip that according to different
organisations, seems either a purgatory or a paradise! Could she have
known how her livelier friend was engaged, she would have envied her
even more.

That lady, like many other delicate, fragile women of fair complexion,
was unassailable by sea-sickness, and never looked nor felt so well as
when on board ship in a stiff breeze.

Thoroughly mistress of the position, she yet thought it worth while,
as she was the only other passenger on deck, to favour the raw youth
before-mentioned with an occasional beam from her charms, and accorded
him a very gracious bow in acknowledgment of the awkwardness with
which he re-arranged a cushion that slid to leeward from under her
feet. She was even disappointed when the roll of a cross-sea, combined
with the effect of bad tobacco, necessitated his withdrawal from her
presence, to return no more, and was beginning to wonder if the captain
would never descend from his bridge between the paddle-boxes, when a
fresh, smiling face peeped up from the cabin-door, and Daisy, as little
affected by sea-sickness as herself, looking the picture of health and
spirits, staggered across the deck to take his place by her side.

"_You_ here, Mr. Walters!" said she. "Well, this is a surprise! Where
have you been? where are you going? and how did you get on board
without our seeing you?"

"I've been back for 'muster,'" answered Daisy; "I'm going to
Punchestown; and I didn't know you were here, because I stayed below to
have some luncheon in the cabin. How's Lushington? Have you brought him
with you, or are you quite alone, on your own hook?"

"What a question!" she laughed. "I suppose you think I'm old enough and
ugly enough to take care of myself! No, I'm _not_ absolutely 'on my own
hook,' as you call it. I've given Frank a holiday--goodness knows what
mischief he won't get into!--but I've got a companion, and a very nice
one, though perhaps not quite so nice as usual just at this moment."

"Then it's a lady," said Daisy, apparently but little interested in the
intelligence.

"A lady," she repeated, with a searching look in his face; "and a very
charming lady, too, though a bad sailor. Do you mean to say you can't
guess who it is?"

"Miss Douglas, for a pony!" was his answer; and the loud, frank
tones, the joyous smile, the utter absence of self-consciousness or
after-thought, seemed to afford Mrs. Lushington no slight gratification.

"You would win your pony," she replied gently. "Yes, Blanche and I are
going over to Ireland, partly to stay with some very pleasant people
near Dublin, partly--now, I don't want to make you conceited--partly
because she has set her heart on seeing you ride; and so have I."

Practice, no doubt, makes perfect. With this flattering acknowledgment,
she put just the right amount of interest into her glance, let it dwell
on him the right time, and averted it at the right moment.

"She's a deuced pretty woman!" thought Daisy. "How well she looks with
her hair blown all about her face, and her cloak gathered up under
her dear little chin!" He felt quite sorry that the Wicklow range was
already looming through its rain-charged atmosphere as they neared the
Irish coast.

"I should like to win," said he, after a pause, "particularly if
_you're_ looking on!"

"Don't say _me_," she murmured, adding in a louder and merrier voice,
"You cannot deny you're devoted to Blanche, and I dare say, if the
truth were known, she has made you a jacket and cap of her own colours,
worked with her own hands."

"I like her very much," he answered frankly. "It's partly on her
account I want to land this race. She's so fond of the mare, you know.
Not but what I've gone a cracker on it myself; and if it don't come
off, there'll be a general break-up! But I beg your pardon, I don't see
why that should interest _you_."

"_Don't_ you?" said she earnestly. "Then you're as blind as a bat.
Everything interests me that concerns people I like."

"Does that mean you like _me_?" asked Daisy with a saucy smile,
enhanced by a prolonged lurch of the steamer, and the blow of a wave on
her quarter, that drenched them both in a shower of spray.

She was silent while he wrung the wet from her cloak and hood, but
when he had wrapped her up once more, and readjusted her cushions, she
looked gravely in his face.

"It's an odd question, Mr. Walters," said she, "but I'm not afraid
to answer it, and I always speak the truth. Yes, I _do_ like you--on
Blanche's account. I think you've a pretty good head, and a very good
heart, with many other qualities I admire, all of which seem rather
thrown away."

Daisy was the least conceited of men, but who could resist such subtle
flattery as this? For a moment he wished the Emerald Isle sunk in
the sea, and no nearer termination to their voyage than the coast of
Anticosti, or Newfoundland. Alas! the Hill of Howth stood high on the
starboard quarter, the Wicklow mountains had risen in all their beauty
of colour and majesty of outline, grand, soft, seductive, robed in
russet and purple, here veiled in mist, there golden in sunshine, and
streaked at intervals with faint white lines of smoke.

"I'm glad you like me," said he simply. "But how do you mean you think
I'm thrown away?"

"By your leave!" growled a hoarse voice at his elbow, for at this
interesting juncture the conversation was interrupted by three or four
able seamen coiling a gigantic cable about the lady's feet. She was
forced to abandon her position, and leave to her companion's fancy the
nature of her reply. No doubt it would have been guarded, appropriate,
and to the point. Daisy had nothing for it, however, but to collect her
different effects, and strap them together in proper order for landing,
before he ran down to fetch certain articles of his own personal
property out of the cabin.

They were in smooth water now. Pale faces appeared from the different
recesses opening on the saloon. People who had been sick tried to look
as if they had been sleeping and the sleepers as if they had been
wide-awake all the way from Holyhead. A child who cried incessantly
during the passage, now ran laughing in and out of the steward's
pantry; and two sporting gentlemen from the West--one with a bright
blue coat, the other with a bright red face--finished their punch at a
gulp, without concluding a deal that had lasted through six tumblers,
for a certain "bay brown harse by Elvas--an illigant lepped wan," to
use the red-faced gentleman's own words, "an' the bouldest ever ye
see. Wait till I tell ye now. He's fit to carry the Lord-Liftinint
himself. Show him his fence, and howld him if ye can!" As the possible
purchaser for whom blue-coat acted, was a timid rider hunting in a
blind country, it seemed doubtful whether so resolute an animal was
likely to convey him as temperately as he might wish.

"Ah! it's the Captain," exclaimed both these sitters in a breath, as
Daisy slid behind them in search of his dressing-case and his tall hat.
"See now, Captain, will the mare win? Faith, she's clean-bred, I know
well, for I trained her dam meself, whan she cleaned out the whole
south of Ireland at Limerick for the Ladies' Plate!" exclaimed one.

"_You_ ride her, Captain," added the other. "It's herself that can
do't! They've a taste of temper, have all that breed; but you sit
still, an' ride aisy, Captain. Keep her back till they come to race and
loose her off then like shot from a gun. Whew! She'll come out in wan
blaze, and lave thim all behind, as I'd lave that tumbler there, more
by token it's been empty this ten minutes. Ye'll take a taste of punch
now, Captain, for good luck, and to drink to the black mare's chance?"

But Daisy excused himself, shaking hands repeatedly with his cordial
well-wishers ere he hurried on deck to disembark.

Moving listlessly and languidly into upper air, the figure of a lady
preceded him by a few steps. All he saw was the corner of a shawl, the
skirt of a dress, and a foot and ankle; but that foot and ankle could
only belong to Blanche Douglas, and in three bounds he was at her
side. A moment before, she had been pale, languid, dejected. Now, she
brightened up into all the flush and brilliancy of her usual beauty,
like a fair landscape when the sun shines out from behind a cloud. Mrs.
Lushington, standing opposite the companion-way, noted the change.
Daisy, in happy ignorance, expressed the pleasure, which no doubt he
felt, at a meeting with his handsome friend on the Irish shore.

No woman, probably, likes anything she _does_ like one whit the worse
because deprived of it by force of circumstances. The fox in the
fable that protested the grapes were sour, depend upon it, was not
a vixen. Satanella thoroughly appreciated her friend's kindness and
consideration, when Mrs. Lushington condoled with her on her past
sufferings, and rejoiced in her recovery, informing her at the same
time that Daisy was a capital travelling companion.

"He takes such care of one, my dear." (She spoke in a very audible
_aside_.) "So gentle and thoughtful; it's like having one's own maid. I
enjoyed the crossing thoroughly. Poor dear! I wish you could have been
on deck to enjoy it too!"

Done into plain English, the above really meant--"I have been having
great fun flirting with your admirer. He's very nice, and perhaps I
shall take him away from you some day when I have a chance."

By certain twinges that shot through every nerve and fibre, Blanche
Douglas knew she had let her foolish heart go out of her own keeping.
If she doubted previously whether or not she had fallen in love with
Daisy, she was sure of it now, while wrung by these pangs of an
unreasoning jealousy, that grudged his society for an hour, even to her
dearest friend.

There was but little time, however, for indulgence of the emotions.
Mrs. Lushington's footman, imposing, broad-breasted, and buttoned
to the chin, touched his hat as a signal that he had all _his_
paraphernalia ready for departure. Two ladies'-maids, limp and
draggled, trotted helplessly in his footsteps. The steward, who knew
everybody, had taken a respectful farewell of his most distinguished
passengers, the captain had done shouting from his perch behind the
funnel, and the raw youth in highlows, casting one despairing look at
Mrs. Lushington, had disappeared in the embrace of a voluminous matron
the moment he set foot on shore. There was nothing left but to say
good-bye.

Satanella's voice faltered, and her hand shook. How she had wasted the
preceding three hours that she might have spent on deck with Daisy! and
how _mean_ of Clara to take advantage of her friend's indisposition by
making up to him, as she did to every man she came near!

"I hadn't an idea you were going to cross with us," said she, in
mournful accents, while he took his leave. "Why didn't you tell me? And
when shall I see you again?"

"At Punchestown," replied Daisy cheerfully. "Wish me good luck!"

"Not till _then_!" said Miss Douglas. And having so said in Mrs.
Lushington's hearing, wished she had held her tongue.



CHAPTER XI

CORMAC'S-TOWN


If a _man_ has reason to feel aggrieved with the conduct of his dearest
friend, he avoids him persistently and sulks by himself. Should
circumstances compel the unwilling pair to be together, they smoke and
sulk in company. At all events, each lets the other see pretty plainly
that he is disgusted and bored. Women are not so sincere. To use a
naval metaphor, they hoist friendly colours when they run their guns
out for action, and are never so dangerous or so determined, as while
manoeuvring under a flag of truce.

Mrs. Lushington and Miss Douglas could no more part company than they
could smoke. Till they should arrive at their joint destination,
they must be inseparable as the Siamese twins, or the double-headed
Nightingale. Therefore were they more than usually endearing and
affectionate, therefore the carman who drove them through Dublin, from
station to station, approved heartily of their "nateral affection," as
he called it, wishing, to use his own words, that he was "brother to
either of them, or husband to both!"

If they sparred at all, it was with the gloves--light hitting, and
only to measure each other's reach. Some day,--the same idea occurred
to them at the same moment,--they meant to "have it out" in earnest,
and it should be no child's play then. Meantime they proceeded to
take their places in a fast train which seemed to have no particular
hour of departure, so long was it drawn up beside the platform after
the passengers had seated themselves and the doors were locked. Miss
Douglas possessed good nerves, no doubt, yet were they somewhat shaken
by a dialogue she overheard between guard and station-master, carried
on through many shrieks and puffings of the engine at the first halt
they made, a few miles down the line.

"Is the express due, Denis?"

"She is."

"Is the mail gone by?"

"She would be, but she's broke intirely."

"Is the line clear?"

"It is _not_."

"Go on, boys, an' trust in God!"

Nevertheless, in accordance with an adage which must be of Irish
extraction, "Where there is no fear there is no danger," our two
ladies, their two maids, and Mrs. Lushington's footman, were all
deposited safely at a wayside station in the dark; the last named
functionary, a regular London servant, who had never before been ten
miles from the Standard, Cornhill, arriving in the last stage of
astonishment and disgust. He cheered up, however, to find a man, in a
livery something like his own, waiting on the platform, with welcome
news of a carriage for the ladies, a car for the luggage, and a castle
not more than three miles off!

"You _must_ be tired, dear," said Mrs. Lushington, sinking back among
the cushions of an easy London-built brougham. "But, thank goodness,
here we are at last. Three miles will soon be over on so good a road as
this."

But three Irish miles, after a long journey, are not so quickly
accomplished on a dark night in a carriage with one of its lamps gone
out. It seemed to the ladies they had been driven at least six, when
they arrived at a park wall, some ten feet high, which they skirted for
a considerable distance ere they entered the demesne through a stately
gateway, flanked by imposing castellated lodges on either side.

Here a pair of white breeches, and the indistinct figure of a horseman,
passed the carriage-window, flitting noiselessly over the mossy sward.

"Did you see it, Blanche?" asked Mrs. Lushington, who had been in
Ireland before. "It's a banshee!"

"Or a Whiteboy!" said Miss Douglas laughing. "Only I didn't know they
wore even BOOTS, to say nothing of the other things!"

But the London footman, balancing himself with difficulty amongst his
luggage on the outside car, was more curious, or less courageous.

"What's _that_?" he exclaimed, in the disturbed accents of one who
fears a ghost only less than a highwayman.

"Which?" said the driver, tugging and flogging with all his might to
raise a gallop for the avenue.

"That--that objeck!" answered the other.

"Ah! that's the masther. More power to him!" replied the carman. "It's
foxin' he'll have been likely, on the mountain, an' him nivir off the
point o' the hunt. Divil thank him with the cattle he rides! Begorra!
ye nivir see the masther, but you see a great baste!"

All this was Greek to his listener, whose mind, however, became easier,
with the crunching of gravel under their wheels, and the looming of a
large, irregular mass of building, about which lights were flashing in
all directions, showing not only that they had arrived, but that they
were expected and welcome.

As Blanche Douglas stepped out of the brougham, she found her hand
resting in that of the supposed banshee, who had dismounted not a
minute before to receive his guests. He was a tall, handsome old
gentleman, fresh-coloured and grey-haired, with that happy mixture of
cordiality and good-breeding in his manner, to be found in the Emerald
Isle alone; yet was there but the slightest touch of brogue on the deep
mellow accents that proffered their hospitable greeting.

"You've had a long journey, Miss Douglas, and a dark drive, but glad I
am to see you, and welcome you are to the castle at Cormac's-town."

Then he conducted the ladies across a fine old hall, furnished with
antlers, skins, ancient weapons, and strange implements of chase,
through a spacious library and drawing-room, to a snug little chamber,
where a wood-fire blazed, not without smoke, and a tea-table was drawn
to the hearth. Here, excusing himself on the score of dirty boots and
disordered apparel, he left the new arrivals to the care of his wife.

Lady Mary Macormac had once been as fresh and hearty an Irish lass as
ever rode a four-foot wall, or danced her partners down in interminable
jigs that lasted till daylight. An earl's daughter, she could bud
roses, set fruit trees, milk a cow, or throw a salmon-fly with any
peasant, man or woman, on her father's estate. She slept sound, woke
early, took entire charge of the household, the children, the garden,
the farm, everything but the stables, was as healthy as a ploughman
and as brisk as a milkmaid. Now, with grown-up daughters, and sons
of all ages, down to a mischievous urchin home from school, her eyes
were blue, her cheeks rosy as at nineteen. Only her hair had turned
perfectly white, a distinction of which she seemed rather proud,
curling and crimping it with some ostentation and no little skill
over her calm unwrinkled brow. To Blanche Douglas this lady took a
fancy, at first sight, reserving her opinion of Mrs. Lushington for
future consideration, but feeling her impulsive Irish heart warm to
Satanella's rich low voice, and the saddened smile that came so rarely,
but possessed so strange a charm.

"Mrs. Lushington, Miss Douglas, me daughters."

The introduction was soon over, the tea poured out, and some half-dozen
ladies established round the fire to engage in that small talk which
never seems to fail them, and for which the duller sex find smoking so
poor a substitute.

It appeared there was a large party staying at the castle. Not that the
house was full, nor indeed could it be, since only one-half had been
furnished: but there were country neighbours, who came long distances;
soldiers, both horse and foot; a "Jackeen"[3] or two, sporting friends
of Mr. Macormac; a judicial dignitary, a Roman Catholic bishop, and a
cluster of London dandies.

Mrs. Lushington's eyes sparkled, like those of a sportsman who proceeds
to beat a turnip field into which the adjoining stubbles have been
emptied of their coveys.

"How gay you are, Lady Mary," said she, "on this side of the Channel! I
am sure you have much more fun in Ireland than we have in London!"

"I think we have," answered her ladyship. "Though my experience of
London was only six weeks in me father's time. I liked Paris better,
when Macormac took me there, before Louisa was born. But Punchestown
week, Mrs. Lushington, ye'll find Dublin as good as both."

"Sure! I'd like to go to Paris next winter, mamma," exclaimed the
second girl, with a smile that lit up eyes and face into sparkling
beauty. "Just you and me and Papa, and let the family stay here in the
castle, to keep it warm."

"And leave your hunting, Norah!" replied her mother. "Indeed, then, I
wonder to hear you!"

"Are you fond of hunting?" asked Miss Douglas, edging her chair nearer
this kindred spirit.

"It's the only thing worth living for," answered Miss Norah decidedly.
"Dancing's not bad, with a real good partner, if he'll hold you up
without swinging you at the turns; but, see now, when you're riding
your own favourite horse, and him leading the hunt, that's what I call
the greatest happiness on earth!"

Mrs. Lushington stared.

"Ye're a wild girl, Norah!" said Lady Mary, shaking her handsome head.
"But, indeed, it's mostly papa's fault. We've something of the savage
left in us still, Miss Douglas, and even these children of mine here
can't do without their hunt."

"I can feel for them!" answered Satanella earnestly. "It's the one
thing I care for myself. The one thing," she added rather bitterly,
"that doesn't disappoint you and make you hate everything else when
it's over!"

"You're too young to speak like that," replied the elder lady kindly.
"Too young, and too nice-looking, if you'll excuse me for saying it."

"I don't _feel_ young," replied Miss Douglas simply, "but I am glad you
think me nice."

If Lady Mary liked her guest before, she could have hugged her now.

"Ye're very pretty, my dear," she whispered, "and I make no doubt
ye're as good as ye're good-looking. But that's no reason why ye would
live upon air. The gentlemen are still in the dining-room. It's seldom
they come out of that before eleven o'clock; but I've ordered some
dinner for ye in the library, and it will be laid by the time ye get
your bonnets off. Sure it's good of ye both to come so far, and I'm
glad to see ye, that's the truth!"

The visitors, however, persistently declined dinner at half-past ten,
P.M., petitioning earnestly that they might be allowed to go to bed, a
request in which they were perfectly sincere; for Blanche Douglas was
really tired, while Mrs. Lushington had no idea of appearing before the
claret-drinkers at a disadvantage.

To-morrow she would come down to breakfast rested, fresh, radiant,
armed at all points, and confident of victory.

Lady Mary herself conducted them to their chambers, peeping into the
dining-room on her way back, to hear about the good run that had kept
her husband out so late, and to see that he had what he liked for
dinner at a side-table. Her appearance brought all the gentlemen to
their feet with a shout of welcome. Her departure filled (and emptied)
every glass to her health.

"Not another drop after Lady Mary," was the universal acclamation,
when Macormac proposed a fresh magnum; and although he suggested
drinking the same toast again, a general move was at once made to the
music-room, where most of the ladies had congregated with tact and
kindness, that their presence might not add to the discomfort of
the strangers, arriving late for dinner to join a large party at a
country-house.

With Satanella's dreams we have nothing to do. Proserpine seldom
affords us the vision we most desire during the hours of sleep. Think
of your sweetheart, and as likely as not you will dream of your doctor.
Miss Norah helped her new friend to undress, and kissed while she bade
her good-night; but with morning came her own maid, looking very cross
(the servants' accommodation at Cormac's-town was hardly on a par with
the magnificence of the mansion), complaining first of tooth-ache from
sleeping in a draught; and, secondly, with a certain tone of triumph,
that the closet was damp where she had hung her lady's dresses in a
row like Bluebeard's wives. The morning looked dull, rain beat against
the windows, the clouds were spongy and charged with wet. It was not
enlivening to have one's hair brushed by an attendant vexed with a
swelled face, that constantly attracted her own attention in her lady's
looking-glass.

Miss Douglas, I fear, had no more toleration than other mistresses for
short-comings in an inferior. If she passed these over it was less from
the forbearance of good-humour than contempt. The toilette progressed
slowly, but was completed at last, and even the maid pronounced it
very good. Masses of black hair coiled in thick, shining plaits, plain
gold earrings, a broad velvet band tight round the neck, supporting
the locket like a warming-pan, a cream-coloured dress, trimmed with
black braid, pulled in here, puffed out there, and looped up over a
stuff petticoat of neutral tint, the whole fabric supported on such a
pair of Balmoral boots as Cinderella must have worn when she went out
walking, formed a sufficiently fascinating picture. Catching sight of
her own handsome figure in a full-length glass, her spirits rose, and
Miss Douglas began to think better of her Irish expedition, persuading
herself that she had crossed the Channel only to accompany her friend,
and not because Daisy was going to ride at Punchestown.

She would have liked him to see her, nevertheless, she thought, now in
her best looks, before she went down to breakfast, and was actually
standing, lost in thought, with her hand on the door, when it was
opened from without, and Mrs. Lushington entered, likewise in gorgeous
apparel, fresh, smiling, beautiful in the gifts of nature as from
the resources of art; to use the words of a "jackeen" who described
her later in the day, "glittering in paint and varnish, like a new
four-in-hand coach!"

"Who do you think is here, dear," was her morning salutation, "of all
people in the world, under this very roof? Now guess!"

"Prester John? The Archbishop of Canterbury? The great Panjandrum? How
should _I_ know?"

"I don't believe you _do_ know. And I don't believe _he_ knows. It will
be rather good fun to see you meet."

"Who is it, dear?" (Impatiently.)

"Why, St. Josephs. He came yesterday morning."

Blanche's face fell.

"How _very_ provoking!" she muttered; adding, in a louder voice, and
with rather a forced laugh, "That man seems to be my fate! Let's go
down to breakfast, dear, and get it over!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 3: Jackeen--a small squire of great pretensions.]



CHAPTER XII

ONE TOO MANY


At breakfast, for an old soldier, the General showed considerable want
of military skill. Miss Douglas, indeed, assumed an admirable position
of defence, flanked by Norah Macormac on one side, and the corner
of the table on the other; but her admirer, posting himself exactly
opposite, never took his eyes off her face, handed her everything he
could reach, and made himself foolishly conspicuous in paying her those
attentions to which ladies do not object so much as they profess. Like
many other players, he lost his head when risking a large stake.

Had he cared less, he would have remembered that wisest of all maxims
in dealing with others--"_Il faut se faire valoir_," and she might
have appreciated his good qualities all the more, to mark the esteem
in which he was held by her own sex. The General could fix a woman's
attention, could even excite her interest, when he chose; and many
of these laughing dames would have asked no better cavalier for the
approaching races than this handsome, war-worn veteran, who "made such
a fool of himself about that tall girl with black hair!"

Breakfast in a country house is usually a protracted and elastic meal.
The "jackeens," whose habits were tolerably active, came down in
good time, but the London young gentlemen dropped in, one later than
another, gorgeously apparelled, cool, composed, hungry, obviously proud
of being up and dressed at eleven o'clock, A.M.

Miss Norah whispered to Satanella that "she didn't like dandies, and
dandies didn't like _her_!"

Looking in the girl's bright, handsome face, the latter proposition
seemed to Miss Douglas wholly untenable.

"What sort of people _do_ you like, dear?" said she, in answer to the
former.

"The army," replied Miss Norah, with great animation. "And the cavalry,
ye know--they're beautiful; but a man must have something besides a
fine uniform to please _me_."

"What more _can_ you want?" asked Blanche, with a smile.

"Well, a good seat on his horse, now," laughed the other, "that's
the first thing, surely, and a good temper, and a good nerve, and a
pleasant smile in his face, when everything goes wrong."

"You're thinking of somebody in particular," said Blanche.

"I am," answered Miss Norah boldly, though with a rising blush. "I'm
thinking of somebody I should wish my brothers to be like--that I
should wish to be like myself. He's never puzzled; he's never put out.
Let the worst happen that will, he knows what to do, and how to do
it--a fair face, a brave spirit, and a kind heart!"

She raised her voice, for the subject seemed to interest her deeply.
Some of the guests looked up from their breakfasts, and the General
listened with a smile.

"It sounds charming," remarked Miss Douglas. "A hero--a paladin, and a
very nice person into the bargain. I should like immensely to see him."

"Would ye now?" said the Irish girl. "And so ye shall, dear. He'll be
at the races to-morrow. Ye'll see him ride. I'll engage he'll come to
the Ladies' Stand. Say the word, and I'll introduce him to ye myself."

"Is he an Irishman?" asked Miss Douglas, amused with her animated
manner and perfect good faith.

"An Irishman!" exclaimed Norah. "Did ever ye hear of Walters for an
Irishman's name? They call him Daisy that know him best, though mamma
says I am never to mention him, only as Captain Walters."

The shot was quite unexpected, but Blanche knew the General's eye was
on her, and she neither started nor winced. Scarcely even changed
countenance, except that she turned a shade paler, and looked sternly
in her admirer's face while he carried on the conversation.

"Not Captain Walters _yet_, Miss Macormac," said the old soldier
stiffly. "First for a troop though, and one going immediately. I know
him very well, but never heard so flattering an account of him before.
What a thing it is to have a charming young lady for a partisan! _We_
think him a good-humoured rattle enough, and he can ride, to do him
justice, but surely--eh?--there's not much _in_ him. Miss Douglas here
sees him oftener than I do, what does _she_ say?"

"A pleasant companion, quite as clever as other people, and a right
good fellow!" burst out Blanche, her dark eyes flashing defiance.
"That's what _she_ says, General! And what's more, she always stands up
for her friends, and _hates_ people who abuse them!"

The General, though he opened his mouth, was stricken dumb. Norah
Macormac clapped her hands, and Mrs. Lushington, looking calmly down
the table, afforded the discomfited soldier a sweet and reassuring
smile.

Lady Mary, reviewing her guests from behind an enormous tea-urn, judged
the moment had arrived for a general move, and rose accordingly. As,
late in the autumn, coveys get up all over the ground when you flush a
single bird, so the whole party followed her example, and made for the
door, which was opened by St. Josephs, who sought in vain a responsive
glance from Miss Douglas while she passed out, with her head up, and, a
sure sign she was offended, more swing than usual in the skirts of her
dress. He consoled himself by resolving that, if the weather cleared,
he would ask her to take a walk, and so make friends before luncheon.

Gleams of sunshine sucking up a mist that hung about the hills above
the park, disclosing like islands on a lake, clumps of trees, and
patches of verdure, in the valley below, glittering on the surface of a
wide and shallow river that circled and broke, over its rocky bed, in
ripples of molten gold, would have seemed favourable to his project,
but that the fine weather which might enable him to walk abroad with
his ladye-love, was welcomed by his host for the promotion of a hundred
schemes of amusement to while away a non-hunting day after the shooting
season had closed.

"It's fairing fast enough," exclaimed the cheerful old man. "We call
that a bright sky in Ireland, and why not? Annyhow it's a great light
to shoot a match at the pigeons; and if ye'd like to wet a line in the
Dabble there, I'll engage ye'll raise a ten-pound fish before ye'd say
'Paddy Snap.'"

"I'll go bail ye will!" assented a Mr. Murphy, called by his familiars,
"Mick," who made a point of agreeing with his host. "I seen them rising
yesterday afternoon as thick as payse, an' me riding by without so much
as a lash-whip in me hand."

Two of the party, confirmed anglers, proposed to start forthwith.

"There's a colt by Lord George I'd like ye to look at, General,"
continued Macormac, who would have each amuse himself in his own way.
"We're training him for the hunt next season, and a finer leaper wasn't
bred in Kildare. D'ye see that sunk fence now parting the flower
garden from the demesne? It's not two years old he was when he broke
loose from the paddock, and dashed out over it like a wild deer.
There's five-and-twenty feet, bank and ditch, ye can measure it for
yourself!"

"Thirty! if there's wan!" assented Mr. Murphy. "An' him flyin' over it
in his stride, an' niver laid an iron to the sod!"

The General, however, declined an inspection of this promising animal,
on the plea that he was not much of a walker, and had letters to write.

"The post's gone out this hour and more," said his host. "But ye'd like
to ride now. Of course ye would! See, Mick! Sullivan's harriers will be
at the kennel as usual. Wait till I tell ye. Why, wouldn't the boys get
a fallow deer off the old park, and we'll raise a hunt for ye in less
than an hour?"

"I'll engage they can be laid on in twenty minutes from this time,"
declared Mick. "Say the word, an' I'll run round to the stable, and bid
Larry saddle up every beast that can stand."

"The General might ride Whiteboy," said his host, pondering, "and
Norah's got her own horse, and I'll try young Orville, and ye shall
take the colt yerself, Mick. We'll get a hunt, annyways!"

Mr. Murphy looked as if he would have preferred an older, or as he
termed it, "a more accomplished hunter;" but he never dreamed of
disputing the master's word, and was leaving the room in haste to
further all necessary arrangements, when St. Josephs stopped him on
the threshold.

"You'll think me very slow," said he graciously. "But the truth is, I'm
getting old and rheumatic, and altogether I feel hardly fit for the
saddle to-day. Don't let me interfere with anybody's arrangements. I'll
write my letters in the library, and then, perhaps, take a turn in the
garden with the ladies."

Mick screwed up his droll Irish mouth into a meaning but inaudible
whistle. Satisfied by the courtesy of his manner that the General was
what he called "a real gentleman," it seemed impossible such a man
could resist the temptations of a pigeon match, a salmon river, above
all, an impromptu hunt, unless he had nobler game in view. Till the old
soldier talked of "a turn in the garden with the ladies," Mr. Murphy
told himself he was "bothered entirely," but now, failing any signs
of disapproval on the master's face, felt he could agree, as was his
custom, with the last speaker.

"Why wouldn't ye?" said he encouragingly. "An' finer pleasure gardens
ye'll not see in Ireland than Macormac's. That's for cucumbers, anyhow!
An' the ladies will be proud to take a turn with ye, one and all. Divil
thank them, then, when they get a convoy to their likin'!"

So the General was allowed to follow his own devices, while his host
arranged divers amusements for the other guests according to programme,
with the exception of the deer hunt. By the time a fallow buck was
secured the hounds had been fed, and, under any circumstances, Larry,
the groom, reported so many lame horses in the stable, it would have
been impossible to mount one-half of the party in a style befitting the
occasion.

St. Josephs walked exultingly into the drawing-room, where he
discovered Lady Mary alone, stitching a flannel petticoat for an old
woman at the lodge. She thought he wanted the _Times_ newspaper, and
pointed to it on a writing-table.

"Deserted, Lady Mary?" said this crafty hunter of dames, "even by
your nearest and dearest. Left, like a good fairy, doing a work of
benevolence in solitude."

"It is the--the skirt you mean?" replied her ladyship, holding up the
garment in question without the slightest diffidence. "Sure, then, I'll
get it hemmed and done with this afternoon. I'd have asked Norah to
help me,--the child was always quick at her needle,--but she's off to
show Miss Douglas the waterfall: those two by themselves. It's as much
as they'll do to be back by luncheon; though my girl's a jewel of a
walker, and the other's as straight as an arrow, and as graceful as a
deer."

The General's letters became all at once of vital importance. Excusing
himself with extreme politeness to Lady Mary, who kept working on at
the petticoat, he hastened to the library, where he did not stay two
minutes, but, gliding by a side door into the hall, got his hat, and
emerged on the park, with a vague hope of finding some one who would
direct him to the waterfall.

The two young ladies, meanwhile, were a good Irish mile from the
castle, in an opposite direction. Norah, of course, knew a short cut
through the woods, that added about a third to the distance. They
walked a good pace, and exhilarated by the air, the scenery, and the
sound of their own fresh young voices, skipped along the path, talking,
laughing, even jeering each other, as though they had been friends from
childhood.

Their conversation, as was natural, turned on the approaching races.
To Norah Macormac, Punchestown constituted, perhaps, the chief gala of
the year. For those two days, alas! so often rainy, she reserved her
freshest gloves, her newest bonnet, her brightest glances and smiles.
To the pleasure everybody experiences in witnessing the performances
of a good horse, she added the feminine enjoyment of showing her own
pretty self in all her native attractions, set off by dress. It was no
wonder she should impart to her companion that she wouldn't give up the
races even for a trip to Paris. She calculated their delights as equal
to a whole month's hunting, and at least twenty balls.

Miss Douglas, too, anticipated no little excitement from the same
source. Her trip across the Channel, with its concomitant discipline,
a new country, wild scenery, the good humour and cordiality that
surrounded her, above all, the prospect of seeing Daisy again, had
raised her spirits far above their usual pitch. Her cheek glowed, her
eye sparkled, her tongue ran on. She could hardly believe herself the
same reserved and haughty dame who was wont to ride from Prince's Gate
to Hyde Park Corner, and find nothing worthy to cost her a sigh or win
from her a smile.

"Everybody in Ireland goes there, absentees and all," said laughing
Norah. "It's such fun, you can't think, with the different turn-outs,
from the Lord Lieutenant's half-dozen carriages-and-four to Mr.
Murphy's outside car, with Mrs. Murphy and nine children packed all
over it. She never goes anywhere else with him; but you shall see her
to-morrow in all her glory. We like to be on the course early, it's
so amusing to watch the arrivals, and then we get good places on the
Stand."

"Can you see well from the Ladies' Stand?" asked Blanche eagerly. "I'm
rather interested in one of the races. You'll think me very sporting.
I've not exactly got a horse to run, but there's a mare called
Satanella going to start, and I confess I want to see her win."

Norah bounded like a young roe. "Satanella!" she repeated. "Why, that's
Daisy's mount! It is to win, dear? Oh! then, if she doesn't win, or
come very near it, I'll be fit to cry my eyes out, and never ask to go
to a race again."

Her colour rose, her voice deepened, both gait and accent denoted the
sincerity of her good wishes; and Miss Douglas, without quite admitting
she had just cause for offence, felt as a dog feels when another dog is
sniffing round his dinner.

"I've no doubt the mare will have justice done to her," she said
severely. "He's a beautiful rider."

"A beautiful rider, and a beautiful mare entirely!" exclaimed her
impulsive companion. "Now to think he should be such a friend of yours,
and me never to know it! I can't always make him out," added Miss Norah
pondering. "Sometimes he'll speak up, and sometimes he'll keep things
back. You'll wonder to hear me when I tell you I haven't so much as
seen this mare they make such a talk about!"

"I have ridden her repeatedly," observed Miss Douglas, with a
considerable accession of dignity. "In fact, she is more mine than his,
and I had to give him leave before he ever sent her to be trained."

"Did ye, now?" replied the other, looking somewhat disconcerted. "And
does he ride often with you in London--up and down the Park, as they
call it? How I'd long for a gallop in a place like that, where they
never go out of a walk!"

Blanche was obliged to admit that such rides, though proposed
very frequently, came off but rarely, and Norah seemed in no way
dissatisfied with this confession.

"When he's here, now," she said, "if there isn't a hunt to be got up,
we gallop all over the country-side, him and me, the same as if we'd a
fox and a pack of hounds before us. It's him that taught me the real
right way to hold the bridle, and I never could manage papa's Orville
horse till he showed me how. It's not likely I'd forget anything Daisy
told me! Here we are at the waterfall. Come off the rock now, or ye'll
not have a dry thread on ye in five minutes!"

Miss Douglas, keeping back a good deal of vexation, had the good sense
to follow her guide's advice, and leaped lightly down amongst the
shingle from the broad flat rock to which she had sprung, as affording
a view of the cascade.

It was a fine sight, no doubt. Swelled by the spring rains, and
increased by many little tributaries from the neighbouring hills, a
considerable volume of water came tumbling over a ledge of bold bare
rock, to roar and brawl and circle round a basin fifty feet below, not
less than ten feet deep, from which it escaped in sheets of foam over
certain shallows, till it was lost in a black narrow gorge, crowned by
copses already budding and blooming with the first smiles of spring.

"We're mighty proud of the Dabble in these parts," observed Norah
Macormac, when she had withdrawn her friend from the showers of spray
that quivered in faint and changing rainbows under the sunshine.
"There's not such a river for fish anywhere this side the Shannon. And
where there's fish there's mostly fishers. See, now; Captain Walters
killed one of nine pounds and a half in the bend by the dead stump
there. He'd have lost him only for little Thady Brallaghan and me
hurrying to fetch the gaff, and I held it while we landed the beast on
the gravel below the rocks."

It was getting unbearable! Blanche had started in such good spirits,
full of life and hope, enjoying the air, the scenery, the exercise;
but with every word that fell from her companion's lips the landscape
faded, the skies turned grey, the very turf beneath her feet seemed
to have lost its elasticity. Norah Macormac could not but perceive
the change; attributing it, however, to fatigue, and blaming herself
severely for thus tempting a helpless London girl into an expedition
beyond her strength,--anticipating, at the same time, her mother's
displeasure for that which good Lady Mary would consider a breach of
the laws of hospitality,--"Sure ye're tired," said she, offering to
carry the other's parasol, which might have weighed a pound. "It's
myself I blame, to have brought you such a walk as this, and you not
used to it, may be, like us that live up here amongst the hills."

But Blanche clung to her parasol, and repudiated the notion of fatigue.
"She had never enjoyed a walk so much. It was lovely scenery, and a
magnificent waterfall. She had no idea there was anything so fine in
Ireland. She would have gone twice the distance to see it. Tired! She
wasn't a bit tired, and believed she might be quite as good a walker as
Miss Macormac."

There were times when Miss Douglas felt her nickname not altogether
undeserved. She became Satanella now to the core.

Luncheon was on the table when the young ladies got back to the castle,
and although several of the guests had absented themselves, the General
took his place with those who remained. St. Josephs was not in the
best of humours, for a solitary walk in a strange district which had
failed in its object. He sat, as it would seem, purposely a long way
from Miss Douglas, and the servants were already clearing away before
he tried to catch her eye. What he saw, or how he gathered from an
instantaneous glance that his company was more welcome now than it had
been at breakfast, is one of those mysteries on which it seems useless
to speculate; but he never left her side again during the afternoon.

The General was true to his colours, and seldom ventured on the
slightest act of disloyalty. When he returned, as in the present
instance, to his allegiance, he always found himself under more
authority than ever for his weak attempt at insubordination.



CHAPTER XIII

PUNCHESTOWN


"I tell ye, I bred her myself, and it's every hair in her skin I know,
when I kept her on the farm till she was better than three year old.
Will ye not step in here, and take a dandy o' punch, Mr. Sullivan?"

The invitation was promptly accepted, and its originator, none other
than the breeder of Satanella, dressed in his best clothes, with an
alarming waistcoat, and an exceedingly tall hat, conducted his friend
into a crowded canvas booth, on the outside of which heavy rain was
beating, while its interior steamed with wet garments and hot whisky
punch.

Mr. Sullivan was one of those gentlemen who are never met with but in
places where there is money to be made, by the laying against, backing,
buying, or selling of horses. From his exterior the uninitiated might
have supposed him a land-steward, a watch-maker, or a schoolmaster in
reduced circumstances; but to those versed in such matters there was
something indisputably _horsey_ about the tie of his neck-cloth, the
sit of his well-brushed hat, and the shape of his clean, weather-beaten
hands. He looked like a man who could give you full particulars of
the noble animal, tell you its price, its pedigree, its defects, its
performances, and buy it for you on commission cheaper than you could
yourself. While his friend drank in gulps that denoted considerable
enjoyment, Mr. Sullivan seemed to absorb his punch insensibly and as a
matter of course.

"There's been good beasts bred in Roscommon beside your black mare,
Denis," observed this worthy; "and it's the pick of the world for
harses comes into Kildare this day. Whisper now. Old Sir Giles offered
four hundred pounds, ready money, for Shaneen in Dublin last night. I
seen him meself!"

"Is it Shaneen?" returned Denis, with another pull at the punch.
"I'll not deny he's a nate little harse, and an illegant lepper, but
he wouldn't be in such a race as this. He'll niver see it wan, Mr.
Sullivan, no more nor a Quaker'll never see glory! Mat should have
taken the four hundred!"

"Mat knows what he's doing," said Mr. Sullivan; "the boy's been forty
years and more running harses at the Curragh. May be they're keeping
Shaneen to lead the Englishman over his leps; and why wouldn't he take
the second money, or run for a place annyways?"

"An' where would the black mare be?" demanded her former owner. "Is it
the likes of her ye'd see coming in at the tail of the hunt, and the
Captain ridin' and all! I wonder to hear you then, Mr. Sullivan."

"In my opinion the race lies betwixt three," replied the great
authority, looking wise and dropping his voice. "There's your own mare,
Denis, that you sold the Captain; there's Leprauchan, the big chestnut
they brought up here from Limerick; there's the English horse,--St.
George they call him--that's been training all the time in Kilkenny.
Wait till I tell ye. If he gets first over the big double, he'll take
as much catching as a flea in an ould blanket; and when thim's all
racing home together, why wouldn't little Shaneen come in and win on
the post?"

Denis looked disconcerted, and finished his punch at a gulp. He had
not before taken so comprehensive a view of the general contest as
affecting the chance of his favourite. Pushing back the tall hat he
scratched his head and pondered. "I'd be thinkin' better of it, av' the
Captain wouldn't have changed the mare's name," said he. "What ailed
him at 'Molly Bawn' that he'd go an' call the likes of such a baste as
that Satanella? Hurry now, Mr. Sullivan, take another taste of punch,
and come out of this. You and me'll go and see them saddle, annyways!"

Leaving the booth, therefore, with many "God save ye's" and greetings
from acquaintances crowding in, they emerged on the course close to the
Grand Stand, at a spot that commanded an excellent view of the finish,
and afforded a panorama of such scenery as, in the sportsman's eye, is
unequalled by any part of the world.

The rain had cleared off. White fleecy clouds, drifting across the
sky before a soft west wind, threw alternate lights and shadows over
a wild expanse of country that stretched to the horizon, in range on
range of undulating pastures, broken only by scattered copses, square
patches of gorse, and an occasional gully, marking the course of some
shallow stream from the distant uplands, coyly unveiling, as the mist
that rested on their brows rolled heavily away. Far as sight could
reach, the landscape was intersected by thick irregular lines, denoting
those formidable fences, of which the nature was to be ascertained
by inspecting the leaps that crossed the steeple-chase-course. These
were of a size to require great power and courage in the competing
animals, while the width of the ditches from which the banks were
thrown up necessitated that repetition of his effort, by which the
Irish hunter gets safely over these difficulties much as a retriever
jumps a gate. A very gallant horse might indeed fly the first two or
three such obstacles in his stride, but the tax on his muscles would be
too exhaustive for continuance, and not to "change," as it is called,
on the top of the bank, when there is a ditch on each side, would be a
certain downfall. With thirty such leaps and more, with a sufficient
brook and a high stone wall, with four Irish miles of galloping before
the judge's stand can be passed, with the running forced from end to
end by some thorough-bred flyer not intended to _win_, and with the
best steeple-chase horses in Great Britain to encounter, a conqueror
at Punchestown may be said to win his laurels nobly--laurels in which,
as in the wreath of many a two-legged hero, the shamrock is profusely
intertwined.

"The boys has got about the big double as thick as payse," observed
Mr. Sullivan, shading his eyes under his hat-brim while he scanned
the course. "It's there the Englishman will _renage_ likely, an' if
there's wan drops in there'll be forty of them tumblin' one above the
other, like Brian O'Rafferty's pigs. Will the Captain keep steady now,
and niver loose her off till she marks with her eye the very sod she's
after kickin' with her fut?"

"I'll go bail he will!" answered Denis. "The Captain he'll draw her
back smooth an' easy on the snaffle, and when onc'st he lets her
drive--Whooroo! Begorra! it's not the police barracks nor yet the
County Gaol would hould her, av' she gets a fair offer! I tell ye that
black mare,--Whisht--will ye now? Here's the quality comin' into the
stand. There's clane-bred ones, Mr. Sullivan, shape an' action, an' the
ould blood at the back of it all."

An Irishman is no bad judge of good looks in man or beast. While the
Roscommon farmer made this observation, Miss Douglas was leaving Lady
Mary Macormac's carriage for the stand. Her peculiar style of beauty,
her perfect self-possession, the mingled grace and pride of her
bearing, were appreciated and admired by the bystanders as, with all
her triumphs, they had never been on her own side of the Channel.

The crowd were already somewhat hoarse with shouting. Their Lord
Lieutenant, with the princely politeness of punctuality, had arrived
half an hour ago. Being a hard-working Viceroy, whose relaxation
chiefly consisted in riding perfectly straight over his adopted
country, he was already at the back of the course disporting himself
amongst the fences to his own great content, and the unbounded
gratification of "The Boys." Leaping a five-foot wall, over which his
aide-de-camp fell neck and crop, they set up a shout that could be
heard at Naas. The Irish jump to conclusions, like women, and are as
often right. That a statesman should be wise and good because he is a
bold rider, seems a position hardly to be reasoned out; yet these wild
untutored spirits acknowledged instinctively that qualities by which
men govern well are kept the fresher and stronger for a kindly heart to
sympathize with sport as with sorrow, for a manly courage that, in work
or play, trouble or danger, loves always to be in front.

So the "more powers" to his Excellency were not only loud but hearty,
while for _her_ Excellency, it need hardly be said of these impulsive,
chivalrous and susceptible natures, they simply went out of their
senses, and yelled in a frenzy of admiration and delight.

Nevertheless the applause was by no means exhausted, and Miss Douglas
taking her place in the ladies' stand, could not repress a thrill of
triumph at the remark of a strapping Tipperary boy in the crowd, made
quite loud enough to be overheard.

"See, now, Larry, av' ye was goin' coortin', wouldn't ye fling down
your caubeen, and hid her step on to't? I'll engage there's flowers
growin' wherever she lays her fut."

To which Larry replied, with a wink, "Divil a ha'porth I'd go on for
the coortin'--but just stay where I am!"

Our party from Cormac's Town formed no unimportant addition to the
company that thronged the stand. Amongst these neither Norah Macormac
nor Mrs. Lushington could complain they had less than their share
of admiration, while St. Josephs observed, with mingled sentiments
of triumph and apprehension, that a hundred male eyes were bent on
Satanella, and as many female voices whispered, "But who is that tall
girl with black hair?--so handsome, and in such a peculiar style!"

A proud man, though, doubtless, was the General, walking after his
young lady with her shawls, her glasses, her parasol. Choosing for her
an advantageous position to view the races, obtaining for her a card
of the running horses, and trying to look as if he studied it with the
vaguest notion of what was likely to win.

A match had just come off between Mr. McDermott's "Comether" and
Captain Conolly's "Molly Maguire," of little interest to the general
public, but creating no small excitement amongst friends and partisans
of the respective owners. "Molly Maguire" had been bred at Naas--within
a stone's-throw as it were. "Comether" was the pride of that well-known
western hunt, once so celebrated as "The Blazers." Each animal was
ridden by a good sportsman and popular representative of its particular
district. The little Galway horse made all the running, took his leaps
like a deer, finished like a game-cock, but was beaten by the mare's
superior stride in the last struggle home, through a storm of voices,
by a length.

The crowd were in ecstasies. The gentlefolks applauded with far more
enthusiasm than is customary at Bedford or Lincoln. A lovely Galway
girl, with eyes of that wondrous blue only to be caught from the
reflection of the Atlantic, expressed an inclination to kiss the plucky
little animal that had lost, and blushed like a rose when a gallant
cornet entreated he might be the bearer of that reward to the horse
in its stable. The clouds had cleared off, the sun shone out. The
booths emptied themselves into the course. A hungry roar went up from
the betting-ring, and everybody prepared for the great race of the
day--"The United Service handicap, for horses of all ages, _bonâ-fide_
the property of officers who have held Her Majesty's commission within
the last ten years. Gentlemen riders, Kildare Hunt Course and rules."

Betting, alas! flourishes at every meeting, and even Punchestown is
not exempt from the visits of a fraternity who support racing, it may
be, after a fashion, but whose room many an Irish gentleman, no doubt,
considers preferable to their company. On the present occasion they
made perhaps more noise than they did business; but amongst real lovers
of the sport, from the high-bred beautifully-dressed ladies in the
stand, down to lads taking charge of farmers' horses, and "raising a
lep off them" behind the booths, speculation was rife, in French gloves
and Irish poplins, as in sixpenny pieces and "dandies" of punch. Man
and woman, each had a special fancy, shouted for it, believed in it,
backed it through thick and thin.

The race had created a good deal of attention from the time it was
first organized. It showed a heavy entry, the terms were fair, a large
sum of money was added, public runners were heavily weighted, the
nominations included many horses that had never been out before. In one
way and another the United Service Handicap had grown into the great
event of the meeting.

The best of friends must part. Denis could not resist the big
double, taking up a position whence he might hurl himself at it, in
imagination, with every horse that rose. Mr. Sullivan, more practical,
occupied a familiar spot that commanded a view of the finish, and
enabled him to test the merits of winner or loser by the stoutness with
which each struggled home.

Neither had such good places as Miss Douglas and Miss Macormac. Norah
knew the exact angle from which everything could best be seen. There,
like an open-hearted girl, she insisted on Blanche taking her seat,
and planting herself close by. The General leaned over them, and Mrs.
Lushington stood on a pile of cushions behind. She had very pretty
feet, and it was a pity they should be hid beneath her petticoats.

A bell rang, the course was cleared (in a very modified sense of the
term), a stable-boy on an animal sheeted to its hocks and hooded to its
muzzle (erroneously supposed to be the favourite), kicked his way along
with considerable assurance, a friendless dog was hooted, a fat old
woman jeered, and the numbers went up.

"One, two, five, seven, eight, nine, eleven, fifteen, and not another
blank till you come to twenty-two. Bless me, what a field of horses!"
exclaimed the General, adding, with a gallant smile, "The odd or the
even numbers, ladies? Which will you have? In gloves, bonnets, or
anything you please."

The girls looked at each other. "I want to back Satanella," was on the
lips of both, but something checked them, and neither spoke.

Macormac, full of smiles and good humour, in boots and breeches, out of
breath, and splashed to his waist, hurried up the steps.

"See now, Norah," said he. "I've just left Sir Giles. He's fitting the
snaffle himself in Leprauchan's mouth this minute, and an awkward job
he makes of it, by rason of gout in the fingers. Put your money on the
chestnut, Miss Douglas," he continued. "Here he comes. Look at the
stride of him. He's the boy that can do't!"

While he spoke, Leprauchan, a great raking chestnut, with three white
legs, came down the course like a steam-engine. No martingale that ever
was buckled, even in the practised hands now steering him, could bring
his head to a proper angle, but though he went star-gazing along, he
never made a mistake, possessed a marvellous stride, especially in deep
ground, and, to use a familiar phrase, could "stay for a week." "Hie!
hie!" shouted his jockey, standing well up in his stirrups to steer
him for a preliminary canter through the crowd. "Hie! hie!" repeated
a dozen varying tones behind him, as flyer after flyer went shooting
by--now this way, now that--carrying all the colours of the rainbow,
and each looking like a winner, till succeeded by the next.

For a few minutes St. Josephs had been in earnest conversation with one
of the "jackeens," who earlier in the day, might have been seen taking
counsel of Mr. Sullivan.

"I've marked your card for you, Miss Douglas," said the General. "I've
the best information from my friend here, and the winner ought to be
one of these four--Leprauchan, Shaneen, St. George, or Satanella. The
English horse for choice if he can keep on his legs."

"I _must_ have a bet on Satanella," exclaimed Miss Douglas
irrepressibly, whereat the General looked grave, and Norah gave her an
approving pat on the hand. "Send somebody into the ring, General, to
find out her price, and back her for ten pounds at evens, if they can't
do better, on my behalf."

"I'd like to share your wager," said Norah kindling.

"And so you shall, dear," replied Miss Douglas. "You and I, at any
rate, want him to win, poor fellow; and good wishes will do him no
harm."

"Here he comes!" replied Norah; and while she spoke, Satanella was seen
trotting leisurely down the course, snorting, playing with her bit, and
bending to acknowledge the caresses Daisy lavished on her beautiful
neck with no sparing hand.

The mare looked as fine as a star. Trained to perfection, her skin
shining like satin, her muscles salient, her ribs just visible, her
action, though she trotted with rather a straight knee, stealthy,
cat-like, and as if she went upon wires.

It is the first quality of a rider to adapt himself easily to
every movement of the animal he bestrides, but this excellence of
horsemanship is much enhanced when the pair have completed their
preparation together, and the man has acquired his condition, morning
after morning, in training walks and gallops on the beast. This was
Daisy's case. Satanella, to a sensitive mouth, added a peculiar and
irritable temper. Another hand on her rein for an hour would undo
the work of days. Nobody had therefore ridden her for weeks but
himself, and when the two went down the course at Punchestown together,
they seemed like some skilful piece of mechanism, through which one
master-spring set all parts in motion at once.

"He's an illigant rider," groaned Mr. Sullivan, who stood to win on
Leprauchan. "An' 'a give-and-take horseman's' the pick of the world
when there's leps. But it's not likely now they'd all stand up in such
a 'rookawn,'"[4] he added, "an' why wouldn't the Captain get throw'd
down with the rest?"

Such admiration was excited by the black mare's appearance,
particularly when she broke into a gallop, and Daisy with pardonable
coxcombry, turned in his saddle to salute the ladies smiling on him
from the Stand, that few but those immediately interested noticed
a little shabby, wiry-looking horse come stealing behind the crack
with that smooth, easy swing which racing men, though they know it so
thoroughly, will sometimes neglect to their cost.

This unassuming little animal carried a plain snaffle in its mouth,
without even a restraining nose-band. It seemed quiet as a sheep, and
docile as a dog. There was nothing remarkable about it to those who
cannot take a horse in at a glance, but one of the Household left his
Excellency's Stand and descended into the Ring with a smile on his
handsome, quiet face. When he returned the smile was still there, and
he observed he had "backed Shaneen for a pony, and had got four to one."

Mr. Sullivan, too, as he marked the little animal increase its stride,
while its quick, vibrating ears caught the footfall of a horse
galloping behind it, drew his mouth into many queer shapes suggestive
of discomfiture, imparting to himself in a whisper, "that if he rightly
knawed it, maybe Sir Giles wasn't too free with his offer at all, for
such a shabby little garron as that!"

So the cracks came sweeping by in quick succession, St. George,
perhaps, attracting most attention from the Stand. A magnificent
bay horse of extraordinary beauty, he possessed the rich colour
and commanding size of the "King Tom" blood, set off by a star of
white in his forehead, and a white forefoot. No sooner did he appear
with his scarlet-clad jockey, than the ladies, to use Macormac's
expression, were "in his favour to a man!" The property of a popular
English nobleman, a pillar of support to all field-sports, ridden by
a gentleman jockey, capable, over that course, of giving weight to
most professionals, in the prime of blood, power, and condition, he
was justly a favourite with the public as with the Ring. In the whole
of that multitude, there were probably but two individuals who wished
he might break his neck at the first fence, and these two sat in the
Ladies' Stand.

"They're all weighed and mounted now but one," observed the General,
studying his card. "What is it? Fandango? Yes, Fandango; and here he
comes. What a hideous drab jacket! But I say, I'll trouble you for a
goer! Why this is Derby form all over!"

"He's a good mile horse anywhere," said the quiet man, who had backed
Shaneen; "but he's not meant to win here, and couldn't if he tried.
They've started him to make running for St. George."

"What a pretty sight!" exclaimed the ladies, as something like a score
of horses, ridden by the finest horsemen in the world, stood marshalled
before the Stand. Though the majority were more sedate in their
demeanour than might have been expected, three or four showed a good
deal of temper and anxiety to get _somewhere_. Amongst these Satanella
made herself extremely conspicuous for insubordination, contrasting
strikingly with little Shaneen, who stood stock-still, playing with his
bit, through two false starts, till the flag was fairly down, when he
darted away like a rabbit, without pulling an ounce. Win or lose, his
jockey was sure of a pleasant ride on Shaneen.

"They're really off!" said the General getting his glasses out, as a
young officer, extricating himself from the betting ring, announced,
breathlessly--

"They've made the mare first favourite, and are laying three to two!"

"What's that in front?" said everybody. "Fandango! Well, they _are_
going a cracker. Fancy jumping at such a pace as that!"

Yet not a mistake was made at the first fence. To lookers-on from the
Stand, all the horses seemed to charge it abreast, as their tails
went up simultaneously, while they kicked the bank like lightning,
and darted off again faster than before, but turning a little to the
right, though the ground sloped in their favour, half-a-dozen were seen
lengthening out in front of the rest, and it seemed as if the pace was
already beginning to tell.

"Fandango still leading," said the General, scanning the race through
his glasses, and thinking aloud as people always do on such occasions.
"St. George and Satanella close behind, and--yes--by Jove it is! the
little mud-coloured horse, Shaneen, lying fourth. Over you go! Ah, one
down--two--another! I fear that poor fellow's hurt! Look at the loose
horse galloping on with them! Well done! They're _all_ over the brook!
St. George second! What a fine goer he is! And now they're coming to
the Big Double!"

But the Big Double is so far from the Stand that we will place
ourselves by the Roscommon farmer on a knoll that commands it, and
watch with him the gallant sight offered by such a field of horses
charging a fence like the side of a house at racing pace.

"Augh, Captain! keep steady now, for the love of the Virgin!" roared
Denis, as if Daisy, a quarter of a mile off, and going like the wind,
could possibly hear him. "More power to the little harse! He's leading
them yet! Nivir say it! the Englishman has the fut of him! Ah, catch
hoult of his head, ye omadawn![5] He'll never see to change av' you're
loosin' him off that way! Now, let the mare at it, Captain! She's doin'
beautiful! An' little Shaneen on her quarters! It's keepin' time,
he is, like a fiddler! Ah, be aisy, you in scarlet! By the mortial,
there's a lep for ye! Whooroo!!! Did ever man see the like of that?"

It was indeed a heavy and hideous fall. St. George--whose education in
the country of his adoption had been systematically carried out--could
change his footing with perfect security on the narrowest bank that was
ever thrown up with a spade. To the astonishment of his own and every
other jockey in the race, his "on and off" at all the preceding fences
had been quick and well-timed as that of Shaneen himself; but his blood
got up when he had taken the brook in his stride. He could pull hard
on occasion. Ten lengths from the Big Double he was out of his rider's
hand, and going as fast as he could drive. Therefore Denis desired
that gentleman to "catch hoult;" but with all his skill--for never was
man less "an omadawn" in the saddle--his horse had broke away, and was
doing with him what it liked.

Seeing the enormous size of the obstacle before him, St. George put
on a yet more infuriated rush, and with a marvellous spring, that is
talked of to this day, cleared the whole thing--broad-topped bank,
double ditches, and all--in his stride, covering nearly eleven yards,
by an effort that carried him fairly over from field to field: nothing
but consummate horsemanship in his jockey--a tact that detects the
exact moment when it is destruction to interfere--enabled the animal to
perform so extraordinary a feat. But, alas! where he landed the surface
was poached and trodden. His next stride brought him on his head; the
succeeding one rolled him over with a broken thigh, and the gallant,
generous, high-couraged St. George never rose again!

The appearance of the race was now considerably altered. Fandango
dropped into the rear at once--there was nothing more for him to do in
the absence of his stable-companion, and indeed he had shot his bolt
ere half the distance was accomplished. The pace decreased slightly
after the accident to St. George, and as they bounded over the wall,
nearly together, not a man on the course doubted but that the contest
lay between the first three--Satanella, Leprauchan, and Shaneen. Of
these, the mare so far as could be judged by spectators in the stand,
seemed freshest and fullest of running. Already they were laying a
trifle of odds on her in the Ring.

Now Daisy had planned the whole thing out in his own mind, and hitherto
all had gone exactly as he wished. In Satanella's staying powers he
had implicit confidence, and he intended, from the first, that if he
could have the race run to suit him, he would win it about a mile from
home. After crossing the wall, therefore, he came away faster than
ever, the leaps were easy, the ground inclined in his favour, and he
rattled along at a pace that was telling visibly on Leprauchan, who
nevertheless kept abreast of him, while little Shaneen, lying four
lengths behind, neither lessened nor increased his distance from the
leaders, but galloped doggedly on, in exactly the same form as when he
started.

"Never saw a steeple-chase run so fast!" said everybody in the stand.
"Why, the time will be as good as the Liverpool."

"It _can't_ go on!" thought Leprauchan's jockey, feeling the chestnut
beginning to roll, while pulling more than ever. "If I can but keep
alongside, she _must_ run herself out, and there's nothing else left in
the race."

But his whip was up when they made their turn for a run in, and he
landed over his last fence with a scramble that lost him at least a
length.

"Leprauchan's beat!" shouted the crowd. "Satanella wins! It's all
over--it's a moral. The mare for a million! The mare! The mare!!"

Blanche Douglas turned pale as death, and Norah Macormac began to cry.

Satanella was approaching the distance with Leprauchan beat off, and
Shaneen a length behind.

Here occurred one of those casualties which no amount of care avails to
prevent, nor of caution to foresee.

The crowd in their eagerness had swayed in on the course. A woman
carrying a child lost her footing, and fell helpless, directly in front
of the black mare.

Daisy managed to avoid them, with a wrench at the bridle that saved
their lives, and lost him some twenty feet of ground. In the next three
strides, Shaneen's brown muzzle was at his quarters--at his knee--at
his breast-plate.

Never before had Satanella felt whip or spur. These were applied to
some purpose, and gamely she answered the call; nevertheless, that
shabby little horse drew on her, inch by inch.

They were neck and neck now, Shaneen's jockey sitting in the middle of
his saddle, perfectly still.

"It's a race!" shouted the lookers-on. "The little 'un's coming up!
He's gaining on her. Not a bit of it! The mare has him safe. Keep at
her, Daisy! Now, Satanella! Now, Shaneen! Did ever ye see such a fight?
Neck and neck--head and head. By the powers, it's a dead heat!"

But the judge gave it to Shaneen by a neck, and when the numbers went
up, though not till then, Daisy and Daisy's backers knew that Satanella
had only taken the second place.

Leprauchan and the rest came lobbing in by twos and threes. Nobody
cared for them. Nobody had attention to spare for anything but the
shabby little brown horse that had beaten the favourite.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 4: "Rookawn," a general scrimmage.]

[Footnote 5: "You fool!"]



CHAPTER XIV

"A GOOD THING"


Poor Daisy! Everybody was sorry for him, everybody except the owner and
a few friends who won largely on Shaneen, regretted his disappointment,
and shrugged their shoulders at the heavy losses it was known to have
entailed. His brother-officers looked grave, but bestirred themselves,
nevertheless, for the next race. His trainer shook his head, glancing
wistfully at the spur marks on the mare's reeking sides. The very crowd
condoled with him, for he had ridden to admiration, and the accident
that discomfited him was patent to all. Even Mr. Sullivan, whose own
hopes had been blighted by the defeat of the chestnut, expressed an
opinion that "Av' it could be run again, though there wasn't a pound
between them, it was his belief the mare would win!"

Mr. Walters, however, true to his nature, kept a bold face over a
troubled heart, yet had a difficult task to control his feelings, when
he emerged from the enclosure after weighing, and found his hand seized
by the Roscommon farmer in a grip that inflicted no slight physical
pain.

"Ah! now, Captain," exclaimed Denis, who had flung himself on a horse,
and galloped back from the Big Double, just too late to witness the
finish. "Sure ye rode it beautiful! An' the mare, I seen her myself,
come out from them all in wan blaze, like a sky-rocket! Bate, says
they, by a neck? I'll niver believe it! Annyways, ye'll need to pay
the wagers. See, now, Captain, I parted a score o' heifers, only last
Friday was it, by good luck, and I've got the money here--rale Dublin
notes--inside my coat-tail pocket. Take as much as ye'd be likely to
want, Captain. What's a trifle like that betwixt you an' me? Oh! the
mare would have wan, safe enough, av' she had fair play. See to her
now, she's got her wind back. Begorra! She's ready to go again!"

Daisy was no creature of impulse,--the last man in the world to be
fooled by any sentiment of the moment,--yet tears filled his eyes,
and he could scarce find a voice to thank his humble friend, while
he declined an offer that came straight from the farmer's warm and
generous heart.

Denis looked disappointed, wrung "the Captain's" hand hard, and
vanished in a convenient booth to console himself with another "dandy"
of punch.

Patting the mare fondly, and even laying his cheek against her warm,
wet neck, the losing jockey retired to change silk and doeskin for his
usual dress, in which, with his usual easy manner, he swaggered up to
the stand. Here, as has been said, his defeat excited considerable
sympathy, and, indeed, in one quarter, positive consternation. Two
young ladies had accompanied him through the race, with their hearts
as with their eyes. When his efforts ended in defeat, both were deeply
affected, though in different ways. Norah Macormac could not refrain
from tears, but conscious that mamma was on the watch, hid her face in
a ridiculously small pocket-handkerchief, pretending to sneeze and blow
her nose, as if she had caught cold. Blanche Douglas, on the contrary,
looked round fierce, wistful, and defiant, like a wild creature at bay.
Even Daisy, approaching jauntily to receive his friends' condolences
could not but observe how pale she was, yet how collected and composed.

"I've not punished her much," said he, addressing himself, in the first
instance, to the real owner of the vanquished mare. "She's as good as
I told you, Miss Douglas. It was no fault of hers. If I hadn't been a
muff I'd have killed the old woman, and won in a canter! Never mind;
your favourite, at least, has not disgraced her name, and I'm very glad
I called her Satanella."

She laid her hand softly on his arm, and looked straight into his eyes.
"Did you stand it all?" said she. "Is it as bad as you said? Tell me!
Quick! I cannot bear suspense."

"Never laid off a shilling," he answered lightly. "Never even backed
her for a place. I swore I'd be a man or a mouse, as you know, and it's
come up--mouse!"

"In two words, Mr. Walters, you're ruined!" She spoke almost angrily in
her effort at self-control.

"That's the way to say it!" was his careless reply. "General break
up--horse, foot, and dragoons. No reason, though, you should call me
_Mr. Walters_."

"Well, _Daisy_, then," she murmured, with a loving, lingering
tenderness on those syllables she was resolved never to utter above her
breath again. "You know how I hoped you'd win. You know how vexed I am.
You know--or rather you don't, and never _shall_ know--that it's worse
for _me_ than for _you_!"

The last sentence she spoke so low he did not catch its purport, but
thinking she regretted the loss of her own wagers, he began to express
sorrow for having advised her so badly.

She stopped him angrily. "I would have backed her for thousands," she
exclaimed. "I would have laid my life on her. I believe I _have_!"

"Then you don't owe the mare a grudge!" he answered cheerily. "I
thought you wouldn't. She's not a pin the worse for training. You'll
take her back, won't you?--and--and--you'll be kind to her for her own
sake?"

She seemed to waver a moment, as if she weighed some doubtful matter
in her mind. Presently with cleared brow, and frank, open looks, she
caught his hand.

"And for _yours_!" said she. "I'll never part with her. So long
as we three are above ground, Satanella--my namesake--will be
a--a--remembrance between you and me!"

Then she beckoned the General, who was talking to some ladies behind
her, and asked for information about the next race, with a kindness of
tone and manner that elevated the old soldier to the seventh heaven.

Meanwhile, Miss Macormac had found time to recover her composure.
Turning to Mr. Walters she showed him a bright and pretty face, with
just such traces of the vexation that had clouded it as are left by
passing showers on an April sky. Her eyes looked deeper and darker
for their late moisture, her little nose all the daintier that its
transparent nostrils were tinged with pink.

She gave him her hand frankly, as though to express silent sympathy
and friendship. Sinking into a seat by her side, Daisy embarked on a
long and detailed account of the race, the way he had ridden it, the
performances of St. George, Leprauchan, Shaneen, and his own black mare.

Though he seldom got excited, he could not but break into a glowing
description, as he warmed with his narrative. "When I came to the
wall," he declared, "I was as sure of winning as I am of sitting by
you now. St. George had been disposed of, and he was the only horse
in the race whose form I did not know to a pound. Leprauchan, I felt
satisfied, could never live the pace, if I made it hot enough. And as
for little Shaneen, the mare's stride would be safe to beat _him_,
if we finished with a set-to, in the run-in. Everything had come off
exactly to suit me, and when we rounded the last turn but one I caught
hold of Satanella, and set her going down the hill like an express
train!"

"Did ye now?" she murmured, her deep grey eyes looking earnestly into
his, her sweet lips parted as though with a breathless interest that
drank in every syllable he spoke.

"_Did ye now?_" Only three words, yet carrying with them a charm
to convince the most practical of men that the days of spells and
witchcraft are not yet gone by. An Englishwoman would have observed,
"Really!" "Oh, indeed!" "You don't say so!" or made use of some
such cold conventional expression to denote languid attention, not
thoroughly aroused; but the Irish girl's "_did ye now?_" identified
her at once with her companion and his doings, started them both
incontinently on that path of congenial partnership, which is so
seductive to the traveller, smooth, pleasant all down hill, and
leading--who knows where?

Perhaps neither deep liquid eyes, nor dark lashes, nor arched brows,
nor even smiles and blushes, and shapely graceful forms, would arm
these Irish ladies with such unequalled and irresistible powers, were
it not for their kindly womanly nature that adapts itself so graciously
to those with whom it comes in contact--their encouraging "Did ye now?"
that despises no trifle, is wearied with no details, and asks only for
his confidence whom they honour with their regard. Perhaps, also, it is
this faculty of sympathy and assimilation, predominant in both sexes,
that makes Irish society the pleasantest in the world.

Thus encouraged, Daisy went off again at score, described each fence
to his eager listener, dwelt on every stride, and explained the
catastrophe of the woman and child, observing, in conclusion, with a
philosophy all his own, that it was "hard lines to be done just at the
finish, and lose a hat-full of money, by three-quarters of a yard!"

She looked up anxiously. "Did ye make such heavy bets now?" she said in
a tone of tender reproach. "Ah! Captain Walters, ye told me ye never
meant to run these risks again!"

"It was for the last time," he answered rather mournfully. "If the old
woman had been at home and in bed, I should have been my own master at
this moment, and then--never mind what _then_! It's no use bothering
about that now!"

She blushed to the very roots of her hair--why she would have been at
a loss to explain,--crumpled her race-card into a hundred creases, and
observed innocently--

"Why should it make any difference now? Do ye think we'd like you
better for being a hundred times a winner? I wouldn't then, for one!"

He was sitting very close, and nobody but herself heard the whisper, in
which he asked--

"Then you don't despise a fellow for losing, Miss Macormac, do you?"

"Despise him?" she answered with flashing eyes. "Never say the word!
If I liked him before, d'ye think I wouldn't like him ten times better
after he'd been vexed by such a disappointment as that! Ye're not
understanding what I mean, and maybe I'm not putting it into right
words, but it seems to me----Yes, dear mamma, I'm minding what you say!
Sure enough, it is raining in here fit to drown a fish! I'm obliged to
ye, Captain. Will ye kindly shift the cloak and cushions to that dry
place yonder by Lady Mary. How wet the poor riders will be in their
silk jackets! I'm pleased and thankful now--indeed I am--that ye're
sheltered safe and dry in the stand."

The last remark in a whisper, because of Lady Mary's supervision, who
thinking the _tête-à-tête_ between Daisy and her daughter had lasted
long enough, took advantage of a driving shower and the state of the
roof to call pretty Miss Norah into a part of the stand which she
considered in every respect more secure.

The sky had again darkened, the afternoon promised to be wet.
Punchestown weather is not proverbial for sunshine, and Mrs.
Lushington, who had done less execution than she considered rightly
due to a new toilette of violet and swansdown, voted the whole thing a
failure and a bore. The last race was run off in a pelting shower, the
Lord Lieutenant's carriages and escort had departed, people gathered
up their shawls and wrappings with little interest in anything but
the preservation of dry skins. Ladies yawned and began to look tired,
gentlemen picked their way through the course ankle-deep in mud, to
order up their several vehicles, horse and foot scattered themselves
over the country in every direction from a common centre, the canvas
booths flapped, wind blew, the rain fell, the great day's racing was
over, and it was time to go home.

Norah Macormac's ears were very sharp, but they listened in vain for
the expected invitation from Lady Mary, asking Daisy to spend a few
days with them at the castle. Papa, whose hospitality was unbounded and
uncontrollable, would have taken no denial, under any circumstances;
but papa was engaged with the race committee, and intended, moreover,
to gallop home across country by himself. There seemed nothing for it
but to put as much cordiality into her farewell as was compatible with
the presence of bystanders and the usages of society.

Miss Norah no doubt acquitted herself to Daisy's satisfaction--and her
own.

Mr. Sullivan, whose experience enabled him to recover his losses on the
great handicap by a judicious selection of winners in two succeeding
races, did not, therefore, depart without a final glass of comfort,
which he swallowed in company with the Roscommon farmer. To him he
expounded his views on steeple-chasing, and horses in general, at far
greater length than in the forenoon. It is a matter of regret that,
owing to excitement, vexation, and very strong punch, Denis should
have been much too drunk to understand a word he said. The only idea
this worthy seemed clearly to take in, he repeated over and over again
in varying tones of grief and astonishment, but always in the same
terms:--

"The mare can do it, I tell ye! an' the Captain rode her beau-tiful!
Isn't it strange, now, to see little Shaneen comin' in like that at the
finish, an' givin' her a batin' by a neck!"



CHAPTER XV

WINNERS AND LOSERS


Dinner that day at the castle seemed less lively than usual. Macormac,
indeed, whose joviality was invincible, ate, drank, laughed, and talked
for a dozen; but Lady Mary's spirits were obviously depressed; and the
guests, perhaps not without private vexation of their own, took their
cue rather from hostess than host. An unaccountable sense of gloom and
disappointment pervaded the whole party. The General having come down
early, in hopes of a few minutes with Miss Douglas in the drawing-room
before the others were dressed, had been disappointed by the protracted
toilette and tardy appearance of that provoking young lady, with whom
he parted an hour before on terms of mutual sympathy and tenderness,
but who now sat pale and silent, while the thunder clouds he knew and
dreaded gathered ominously on her brow. His preoccupation necessarily
affected his neighbour--a budding beauty fresh from the school-room,
full of fun and good humour, that her sense of propriety kept down,
unless judiciously encouraged and drawn out. Most of the gentlemen
had been wet to the skin, many had lost money, all were tired, and
Norah Macormac's eyes filled every now and then with tears. These
discoveries Mrs. Lushington imparted in a whisper to Lord St. Abbs as
he sat between herself and her hostess, whom he had taken in to dinner,
pausing thereafter to mark the effect of her condescension on this
raw youth, lately launched into the great world. The young nobleman,
however, betrayed no symptoms of emotion beyond screwing his eye-glass
tighter in its place, and turning round to look straight in her face,
while it dropped out with a jump. Even Mrs. Lushington felt at a
disadvantage, and took counsel with her own heart whether she should
accost him again.

Why Lord St. Abbs went about at all, or what pleasure he derived
from the society of his fellow-creatures, was a puzzle nobody had
yet been able to find out. Pale, thin, and puny in person, freckled,
sandy-haired, bearing all outward characteristics of Scottish
extraction, except the Caledonian's gaunt and stalwart frame, he
neither rowed, shot, fished, sang, made jokes, nor played whist. He
drank very little, conversed not at all, and was voted by nearly all
who had the advantage of his acquaintance "the dullest young man out!"

Yet was he to be seen everywhere, from Buckingham Palace or Holland
House to Hampton races and the fire-works at Cremorne; always alone,
always silent, with his glass in his eye, observant, imperturbable, and
thinking, no doubt, a great deal.

It was rumoured, indeed, that on one memorable occasion he got drunk
at Cambridge, and kept a supper-party in roars of laughter till four,
A.M. If so, he must have fired all his jokes off at once, so to speak,
and blown the magazine up afterwards; for he never blazed forth in such
lustre again. He came out a Wrangler of his year, notwithstanding,
and the best modern linguist, as well as classical scholar, in the
university. Though the world of ball-goers and diners-out ignores such
distinctions, a strong political party, hungering for office, had its
eye on him already. As his father voted for Government in the Upper
House, a provident director of the Opposition lost no time in sounding
him on his views, should he become a member of the Lower. How little,
to use his own words, the _whip_ "took by his motion" may be gathered
from the opinion he expressed in confidence to his chief, that "St.
Abbs was either as close as wax or the biggest fool (and it's saying a
great deal) who ever came out of Cambridge with a degree!"

Gloomy as a dinner-party may appear at first, if the champagne
circulates freely, people begin to talk long before the repast is half
over. What must children think of their seniors when the dining-room
door opens for an instant, and trailing upstairs unwillingly to bed,
they linger to catch that discordant unintelligible gabble going on
within? During a lull Mrs. Lushington made one more effort to arouse
the attention of Lord St. Abbs.

"We're all getting better by degrees," said she, with a comic little
sigh. "But it has been a disastrous day, and I believe everybody feels
just as I do myself."

"How?" demanded his lordship, while the eye-glass bounced into his
plate.

"Like the man who won a shilling and lost eighteen-pence," she
answered, laughing.

"Why?" he asked, yet more austerely, screwing the instrument into
position the while with a defiant scowl.

She was out of patience--no wonder.

"Good gracious, Lord St. Abbs!" said she. "Haven't we all been on the
wrong horse? Haven't we all been backing Daisy?"

She spoke rather loud, and was amused to observe the effect of her
observation. It was like dropping a squib in a boy's school during
lessons. Everybody must needs join in the excitement.

"A bad job indeed!" said one.

"A great race entirely!" added another. "Run fairly out from end to
end, and only a neck between first and second at the finish!"

"I wish I'd taken old Sullivan's advice," moaned a third; "or backed
the mare for a place, annyhow."

"Ye might have been wrong even then, me boy," interrupted a jolly,
red-faced gentleman, "unless ye squared the ould woman! I wonder would
she take three half-crowns a day to come with me twice a year to the
Curragh?"

"I knew of the mare's trial," drawled one of the London dandies, "and
backed her to win me a monkey. Daisy put me on at once, like a trump.
It was a real good thing and it has boiled over. (Champagne, please.)
Such is life, Miss Douglas. We have no hope of getting home now till
Epsom Spring."

Miss Douglas, not the least to his discomfiture, stared him scornfully
in the face without reply.

"I'm afraid it's a severe blow to young Walters," observed the General.
"They tell me he has lost a good deal more than he can afford."

"Got it, I fancy, very hot!" said the dandy. "Gad, he rode as if he'd
backed his mount. I thought his finish one of the best I ever saw."

Norah Macormac threw him the sweetest of glances, and wondered why she
had considered him so very uninteresting till now.

"They say he hasn't a shilling left," continued the General, but
stopped short when he caught the flash of Satanella's eye, under its
dark, frowning brow.

"I dare say he'll pull through," said she bitterly, "and disappoint his
dearest friends, after all."

"I'll engage he will, Miss Douglas!" exclaimed Macormac's hearty voice
from the end of the table. "It's yourself wouldn't turn your back on a
friend, lose or win. Take a glass of that claret, now. It'll not hurt
ye. Here's the boy's health, and good luck to him! A pleasanter fellow,
to my mind, never emptied a bottle, and a better rider never sat in a
saddle, than he's proved himself this day!"

Norah would have liked to jump up and hug papa's handsome white head
in her embrace on the spot, but Lady Mary had been watching the girl
to-night with a mother's anxiety, and fearful lest her daughter should
betray herself if subjected to further trial, gave the signal rather
prematurely for the ladies to withdraw.

While they trooped gracefully out, the gentlemen were still discussing
Daisy's defeat, and the catastrophe of the Great United Service
Handicap.

Everybody knows what men talk about when left alone after dinner; but
none, at least of the rougher sex, can venture to guess the topics with
which ladies beguile their seclusion in the drawing-room. Whatever
these might be, it seems they had little interest for Mrs. Lushington,
whose habit it was to retire for ten minutes or so to her own chamber,
there, perhaps, to revise and refresh her charms ere she descended once
more upon a world of victims.

Her bedroom was gorgeously furnished, supplied with all the luxuries
to which she was accustomed; but the windows did not shut close, and
a draught beneath the door lifted the hearth-rug at her fire-place;
therefore she made but a short stay in her apartment, stealing softly
down-stairs again, so as to be well settled in the drawing-room before
the gentlemen came in.

Traversing the library, she heard Lady Mary's voice carrying on, as
it seemed, a subdued, yet sustained conversation, in a little recess
adjoining, which could hardly be called a boudoir, but was so far
habitable, that in it there usually stood a lamp, a chess-board and
a card-table. Mrs. Lushington would not have _listened_, be sure, to
save her life, but the _Dublin Evening Mail_ lay close at hand on a
writing-table. She became suddenly interested in a Tipperary election,
and the price of pigs at Belfast.

Lady Mary's accents were low, grave, even sorrowful. It was difficult
to catch more than a sentence here and there; but, judging by the
short, quick sobs that replied to these, they seemed to produce no
slight effect on the other party to the conversation.

Mrs. Lushington smiled behind her paper. What she heard only confirmed
what she suspected. Her eyes shone, her brow cleared. She felt like a
child that has put its puzzle together at last.

Lady Mary warmed with her subject; presently she declared, distinctly
enough, that something was "not like _you_, my dear. In any other girl
I'd have called it bold, forward, unwomanly!"

"Oh, mamma! mamma! don't say that!" pleaded a voice that could only
belong to poor Norah. "If _you_ think so, what must _he_ have thought?
Oh dear! oh dear! what shall I do? What shall I do?"

"It's never too late to remember your duty, my child," answered Lady
Mary, "and I'm sure your father thinks as I do;" but though the words
sounded brave enough, there was a tremble in the mother's voice that
vibrated from the mother's heart.

"And I'll never see him again now, I _know_!" murmured Norah so
piteously that Lady Mary could hardly keep back her tears.

"Well, it's not come to that yet," said she kindly. "Annyways, it's
wise to make ready for the worst. Kiss me, dear, and mind what I've
been telling ye. See now, stay here a bit, till you're more composed.
I'll send in little Ella to keep ye company. The child won't take
notice, and ye can both come back together into the drawing-room, and
no more said."

But long ere Lady Mary could finish her caresses, and get her motherly
person under weigh, Mrs. Lushington had slipped into the billiard-room,
where she was found by the gentlemen practising winning hazards in
solitude, and where, challenging Lord St. Abbs to a game, she was left
discomfited by his very uncivil rejoinder--

"I don't play billiards," said his lordship, and turned on his heels
without further comment or excuse.

It was a new sensation for Mrs. Lushington to find herself thus thrown
on general society, without at least one particular admirer on whose
devotion she could rely. She didn't like it. She longed to have a
finger in that mischief which is proverbially ready for "idle hands to
do." On three people she now resolved to keep close and vigilant watch.
These were Norah, St. Josephs, and Satanella.

The conduct of this last seemed baffling in the extreme. She had
scarce vouchsafed a word to the General during dinner, had scowled at
him more than once with the blackest of her black looks, and comported
herself altogether like the handsome vixen she could be when she chose.
Now, under pretence of setting down her coffee-cup, she had brought
him to her side, and was whispering confidences in his ear, with a
tenderness of tone and bearing he accepted gratefully, and repaid a
hundredfold.

"How tolerant are these _old_ men!" thought Mrs. Lushington, "and how
kind! What lovers they make, if only one can bring oneself not to mind
wrinkles, and rheumatism and grey hair! How gentle and how chivalrous!
What patience and consideration! They don't expect a woman to be an
angel, because they _do_ know a little about us; and perhaps because it
_is_ only a little, they believe there is more than one degree between
absolute perfection and utter depravity. If jealous, they have the
grace to hide it; if snubbed, they do not sulk; if encouraged, they
do not presume. They know when and where to speak, and to hold their
tongues; to act, and to refrain. Besides, if one wants to make them
unhappy, they are so sensitive, yet so quiet. A word or a look stings
them to the quick, but they take their punishment with dignity; and
though the blow be sharp and unprovoked, they never strike again. Let
me see. I don't think I've had an admirer above forty--not one who
owned to it, at least. It's a new experience. I declare, I'll try! This
romantic old General would suit the place exactly, and I couldn't do
a kinder thing for both, than to detach him from Blanche. The man is
regularly wasted and thrown away. My gracious! isn't it ridiculous? If
he could see us as we really are! If he only knew how much more willing
a woman is to be controlled than a violent horse; how much easier to
capture than a Sepoy column, or a Russian gun. And there he sits, a man
who has ridden fearlessly against both, shrinking, hesitating, before a
girl who might be his daughter--afraid, absolutely afraid, the gallant,
heroic coward, to look her in the face! Is she blind? Is she a fool,
not knowing what she throws away? or is she _really_ over head and ears
in love with somebody else? She can't be breaking her heart for Daisy,
surely, or why has she taken the General up again, and put herself so
much _en evidence_ with him to-night? I'm puzzled, I own, but I'm not
going to be beat. I'll watch her narrowly. I've nothing else to do. And
it's an awful temptation, even when people are great friends. Wouldn't
it be fun to cut her out with both?"

Thus reasoned Mrs. Lushington, according to her lights, scrutinising
the couple she had set herself to study, while languidly listening to
Lady Mary's conversation, which consisted, indeed, of speculations on
the weather in the Channel, mingled with hospitable regrets for the
departure of her guest, and the breaking-up of the party, which was to
take place on the morrow.

"But ye'll come again next year," said this kind and courteous
lady, who, anywhere but in her own house, would have disliked Mrs.
Lushington from her heart. "And ye'll bring Miss Douglas with ye--if
Miss Douglas she continues to be (with a significant glance at the
General, holding, clumsily enough, a skein of much tangled silk). But,
annyhow, I'll be lookin' for ye both Punchestown week, if not before,
to give us a good long visit, and we'll teach ye to like Ireland, that
we will, if kind wishes and a warm welcome can do't."

But even while she spoke, Lady Mary looked anxiously towards the
door. Little Ella, a flaxen-haired romp of eleven, had jumped off
long ago with a message for sister Norah, but neither having yet
returned, the mother's heart ached to think of her handsome darling,
smarting, perhaps, even under the mild reproof she had thought it
wise to administer, perhaps weeping bitterly, to her little sister's
consternation, because of the pain that burns so fiercely in a young
unwearied heart--the longing for a happiness that can never be.

Presently, Lady Mary's brow cleared, and she gave a little sigh of
relief, for Miss Ella's voice was heard, as usual, chattering loudly
in the passage; and that young person, much elated at being still out
of bed, came dancing into the room, followed by Norah, from whose
countenance all traces of recent emotion had disappeared, and who
looked, in her mother's eyes, only the prettier, that she was a shade
paler than usual. While the younger child laughed and romped with the
company, fighting shy of Lord St. Abbs, but hovering with great glee
about papa, and entreating not to be sent upstairs for five more
minutes, her sister stole quietly off to a lonely corner, where she
subsided into an unoccupied sofa, with the air of being thoroughly
fatigued.

Mrs. Lushington, covertly watching Satanella, wondered more and more.

Breaking away from her General, her silks, and her unfinished cup of
tea, Miss Douglas walked across the room like a queen, took Norah's
head in both hands, kissed her exactly between her eyebrows, and sat
down composedly by her side.



CHAPTER XVI

A GARDEN OF EDEN


In a comic opera, once much appreciated by soldiers of the French
nation, there occurs a quaint refrain, to the effect that the gathering
of strawberries in a certain wood at Malieux is a delightful pastime,

 "Quand on est deux,
 Quand on est deux--,"

and the sentiment, thus expressed, seems applicable to all solitudes,
suburban or otherwise, where winding paths and rustic seats admit of
two abreast. But however favoured by nature, the very smoothest of
lawns and leafiest of glades surely lose more than half their beauty,
if we must traverse them unaccompanied by somebody who makes all the
sunshine, and perhaps all the shade, of our daily life.

To wait for such a companion, is nevertheless an irritating ordeal,
even amidst the fairest scenery, trying both to temper and nerves. It
has been said that none realise the pace at which time gallops, till
they have a bill coming due. On the other hand none know how slow he
can crawl, who have not kept an uncertain tryst with over-punctuality
"under the greenwood tree!"

General St. Josephs was not a man to be late for any preconcerted
meeting, either with friend or foe. It is a long way from Mayfair to
Kensington Gardens; it seemed none the shorter for an impatient spirit
and a heart beating with anxiety and hope. Yet the old soldier arrived
at the appointed spot twenty minutes too soon, there to suffer torments
from a truly British malady called "the fidgets," while diligently
consulting his watch and reconnoitering his ground.

How many turns he made, pacing to and fro, between the round pond and
the grove, through which he longed to behold his goddess advancing in a
halo of light and beauty, he would have been ashamed to calculate.

Some women never _can_ be in time for anything, even for a lover; and
after half an hour's waiting, that seemed a week, he drew a little note
from his breast-pocket, kissed it reverently, and read it once more
from end to end.

It said twelve o'clock, no doubt, and certainly was a very short
epistle to be esteemed so sweet. This is what, through many perusals,
he had literally learned by heart--

 "My dear General,

 "I want a long talk. Shall I find you in Kensington Gardens, where you
 say it's so pretty, at twelve o'clock?

 "Ever yours,

 "Blanche."

Now, in the composition, there appeared one or two peculiarities that
especially delighted its recipient.

She had hitherto signed herself B. Douglas, never so much as writing
her Christian name at length; and here she jumped boldly to "Blanche,"
the prettiest word, to his mind, in the English language, when standing
thus, like Falstaff's sack, "simple of itself." Also, he had not
forgotten the practice adopted by ladies in general of crossing a page
on which there is plenty of space, to enhance its value, as you cross
a cheque on your banker, that it may be honoured in the right quarter.
One line had Satanella scrawled transversely over her note to this
effect, "Don't be late; there is nothing I hate so much as waiting."

Altogether the General would not have parted with it for untold gold.

But _why_ didn't she come? Looking round in every direction but the
right, she burst upon him, like a vision, before he was aware. If he
started, and turned a little pale, she marked it, we may be sure, and
not with displeasure.

It was but the middle of May, yet the sky smiled bright and clear,
the grass was growing, butterflies were already on the wing, birds
were singing, and the trees had dressed themselves in their fairest
garments of tender, early green. She too was in some light muslin robe,
appropriate to the weather, with a transparent bonnet on her head, and
a pink-tinted parasol in her hand. He thought, and she _knew_, she had
never looked more beautiful in her life.

She began with a very unnecessary question. "Did you get my note?" said
she. "Of course you did, or you wouldn't be here. I don't suppose you
come into Kensington Gardens so early to meet anybody else!"

"Never did such a thing in my life!" exclaimed the General, quite
frightened at the idea--but added, after a moment's thought--"It was
very good of you to write, and better still to come."

"Now what on earth do you suppose I wanted to speak to you about?" she
continued, in rather a hard voice. "Let us turn down here. I daresay
you'd like all London to see us together; but that wouldn't suit me at
all."

This was both unprovoked and unjust, for a more discreet person in such
matters than the accused never existed. He felt hurt, and answered
gravely, "I don't think I deserve that. You cannot say I have ever
shown myself obtrusive or impatient with regard to _you_."

"Don't look vexed," she replied; "and don't scold me, though I deserve
it. I am in one of my worst tempers this morning; and who can I wreak
it on but _you_?--the kindest, the bravest, the most generous of men!"

His features quivered; the tears were not far from his eyes. A little
boy with a hoop stood still, and stared up in his face, marvelling to
see so tall a gentleman so greatly moved.

He took her hand. "You can always depend on _me_," he said softly; and,
dropping it, walked on by her side in silence.

"I know I can," she answered. "I've known it a long time, though you
don't think so. What a hideous little boy! Now he's gone on with his
hoop, I'll tell you what I mean.--One of the things that first made me
like you, was this--you're a gentleman down to the heels of your boots!"

"There's not much in that," he replied, looking pleased, nevertheless.
"So are most of the men amongst whom you live. A fellow ought to have
something more than a good coat and decent manners, to be worthy of
your regard; and you _do_ like me, Miss Douglas? Tell me so again. It
is almost too much happiness for me to believe."

"That's not the question. If I hated anybody very much, do you think
I would ask him to come and walk with me in Kensington Gardens at an
hour when all respectable people are broiling in the Park?" said she,
with one of her winning laughs. "You're wrong, though, about the people
in good coats. What I call a gentleman is--well--I can't think of
many--King Arthur, for instance, in 'Guinevere.'"

"Not Launcelot?" he asked. "I thought you ladies liked Launcelot best."

"There are plenty of Launcelots," she answered dreamily, "and always
will be. _Not Launcelot, nor another_, except it be _my_ General!"

Could he do less than take her arm and press it fondly to his side?

They had loitered into the seclusion of a forest glade, that might
have been a hundred miles from London. The little boy had vanished
with his hoop, the nursery-maids and their charges were pervading the
broad gravel walks and more frequented lawns of this sylvan paradise;
not a soul was to be seen threading the stems of the tall trees but
themselves, and an enthusiastic thrush straining its throat in their
ears, seemed to ensure them from all observation less tolerant than its
own.

"Now or never!" thought Satanella. "It _must_ be done; and it's no use
thinking about it!"

Turning round on her companion, she crossed her slender hands over his
arm, looked caressingly in his face and murmured--

"General, will you do me a favour?"

Pages could not have conveyed the gratification expressed by his
monosyllable, "Try!"

She looked about, as if searching for some means of escape, then said
hurriedly--

"I am in a difficulty. I want money. Will you help me?"

Watching his face, she saw it turn very grave. The most devoted of
lovers, even while rejoicing because of the confidence reposed in
him, cannot but feel that such a question must be approached with
caution--that to answer it satisfactorily will require prudence,
fore-thought, and self-sacrifice. To do the General justice, which
Satanella at the moment did _not_, his circumspection was far removed
from hesitation; he had no more idea of refusing, than the gallant
horse who shortens his stride, and draws himself together, for a larger
fence than common, that he may collect his energies, and cover it
without a mistake.

For one delightful moment Miss Douglas felt a weight lifted from her
heart, and was already beginning to unsay her words as gracefully as
she might when he stopped her, with a firm, deliberate acquiescence.

"Of course I will! And you ought to know by this time nothing can
make me so happy as to be of use to you in any way. Forgive me, Miss
Douglas--business is business--how much?"

Her face fell; she let go of his arm, and her lips were very dry, while
she whispered, "Three thousand!"

He was staggered, and showed it, though he tried hard not to look
surprised. Few men can lay their hands on three thousand pounds of
hard money, at a moment's notice, without some personal inconvenience.
Now the General was no capitalist, though in easy circumstances,
and drawing the half-pay of his rank; to him such an outlay meant a
decreased income for the rest of his life.

She was quite right about his being a gentleman. In a few seconds he
had recovered his composure; in half a minute he said quietly--

"You shall have it at once. I am only so glad to be able to oblige you,
that I wish it was more difficult. And now, Miss Douglas, you always
say I'm a sad fidget, I'll go about it directly: I'll only ask you to
come with me to the end of the walk."

She was crying beneath her veil; he saw the tears dropping on her
hands, and would have liked to kiss them away on any other occasion but
this.

"To the end of the world!" she answered, with the sobs and smiles of
a child. "There's nobody like you--nobody!--not even King Arthur! Ask
what you will, I'll never refuse you--never--as long as I live!"

But it need hardly be said that the General would rather have cut
off his right hand, than presumed on the position in which her
confidence had placed him. Though she appreciated his consideration,
she hardly understood why his manner became so unusually respectful
and courteous, why his farewell under the supervision of a cabman and
a gate-keeper--should be almost distant; why he lifted his hat to her,
at parting, as he would to the queen--but, while he replaced it on his
bald and grizzled head, Blanche Douglas was nearer being in love than
she suspected with this true, unselfish admirer, who was old enough to
be her father.

In women, far more than in men, there can exist an affection that
springs from the head alone. It is the result of respect, admiration,
and gratitude. It is to be won by devotion, consistency, above all,
self-control; and, like a garden flower, so long as it is tended with
attention, prospers bravely till autumn cools the temperature, and
saddens all the sky. But this is a very different plant from the weed,
wild rose, nightshade--call it what you will--that is sown by the
winds of heaven, to strike root blindly and at haphazard in the heart;
sweeter for being trampled, stronger for being broken, proof against
the suns that scorch, the winds that shatter, the worm that eats away
its core, and, refusing to die, even in the frown of winter, under the
icy breath of scorn and unmerited neglect.

Which of these kindred sentiments the General had succeeded in
awakening, was a problem he shrank from setting himself honestly to
solve. He tried to hope it might be the one; he felt sadly convinced it
was only the other. Traversing the gardens with swift, unequal strides,
so as to leave them at the very farthest point from where his companion
made her exit, for he was always loyal to _les convenances_, he argued
the question with his own heart, till he dared not think about it
any longer, subsiding at last into composure, with the chivalrous
reflection, that, come what might, if he could but minister to the
happiness of Blanche Douglas, he would grudge no sacrifice, even the
loss of his money--shrink from no disappointment, even the destruction
of his hopes.

Satanella meanwhile had selected a Hansom cab, in which to make her
homeward journey, characteristically choosing the best-looking horse
on the stand. To be seen, however, spanking along, at the rate of
twelve miles an hour, in such a vehicle, she reflected, might be
considered _fast_ in a young unmarried lady, and originate, also,
surmises as to the nature of her expedition; for it is quite a mistake
to suppose that people in London are either blind or dumb, because
they have so much on hand of their own, that they cannot devote all
their attention to the business of their neighbours. With commendable
modesty, therefore, she kept her parasol well before her face, so as to
remain unrecognised by her friends, while she scanned everything about
her with the keen, bright glances of a hawk. Bowling past Kingston
House, then, and wondering whether it would not be possible, in time,
to raise a domestic pedestal for General St. Josephs, on which she
might worship him as a hero, if she could not love him as a Cupid, her
Hansom cab passed within six inches of another, moving rapidly in the
opposite direction; and who should be seated therein, smoking a cigar,
with a white hat and light-coloured gloves, but ruined, reckless,
never-to-be-forgotten Daisy!

She turned sick, and white even to the lips. In one glance, as women
will, she had taken in every detail of his face and person, had
marked that the one seemed devoid of care, the other well dressed
as usual. Like a stab came the conviction, that ruin to _him_ meant
only a certain amount of personal inconvenience, irrespective of any
extraneous sorrow or vexation; and in this she misjudged him, not quite
understanding a nature she had unwittingly chosen for the god of her
idolatry.

Though they passed each other so quickly, she stretched her arms out
and spoke his name, but Daisy's whole attention was engrossed by a
pretty horse-breaker in difficulties on his other side. Satanella felt,
as she rolled on, that he had not recognised her, and that if she acted
up to her own standard of right, this miserable glimpse must be their
last meeting, for she ought never to see him again.

"He'll be sure to call, poor fellow!" she murmured, when she reached
her own door. So it is fair to suppose she had been thinking of him for
a mile and a quarter. "I should like to wish him good-bye, _really_ for
the last time. But no, no! Honour, even among thieves. And I'm sure
_he_ deserves it, that kind, noble, generous old man. Oh! I wish I was
dead! I wish I was dead!" Then she paid the cabman (more than his fare)
told her servant, in a strange, hoarse voice, that "she was at home to
nobody this afternoon--nobody, not even Mrs. Lushington!" and so ran
fiercely upstairs, and locked herself into her room.



CHAPTER XVII

"SOLDIER BILL"


Daisy placidly smoking, pursued the even tenor of his way, thinking of
the pretty horse-breaker more than anything else; while disapproving,
in a calm, meditative mood, of her hat, her habit, her bridle, and the
leather tassels that danced at her horse's nose.

The particular business Mr. Walters had at present on hand in London,
or rather Kensington must be explained.

Perhaps it may be remembered how, in a financial statement made by this
young officer during the progress of a farce, he affirmed that, should
he himself "burst up," as he called it, a certain "Soldier Bill" would
become captain of that troop which it was his own ambition to command.
With the view of consulting this rising warrior in his present monetary
crisis, Daisy had travelled, night and day, from Ireland, nor could
he have chosen a better adviser in the whole Army-List, as regarded
kindness of heart, combined with that tenacious courage Englishmen call
"pluck."

"I'm not a clever chap, I know," Bill used to acknowledge, in moments
of expansion after dinner. "But what I say is this: If you've got to do
a thing, catch hold, and do it! Keep square, run straight, and ride the
shortest way! You won't beat _that_, my boy, with all the dodges that
ever put one of your nobblers in the hole!"

It is but justice to admit that, in every relation of life, sport or
earnest, this simple moralist acted strictly in accordance with his
creed. That he was a favourite in his regiment need hardly be said. The
younger son of a great nobleman, he had joined at seventeen, with a
frank childish face and the spirits of a boy fresh from school. Before
he was a week at drill, the very privates swore such a young dare-devil
had never ridden in their ranks since the corps was raised. Utterly
reckless, as it seemed, of life and limb, that fair-haired, half-grown
lad, would tackle the wildest horse, swim the swiftest steam, leap
the largest fence, and fight the strongest man, with such rollicking,
mirthful enjoyment, as could only spring from an excess of youthful
energy and light-heartedness. But, somehow, he was never beat, or
_didn't know_ it when he _was_. Eventually, it always turned out that
the horse was mastered, the stream crossed, the fence cleared, and the
man obliged to give in. His war-like house had borne for centuries on
their shield the well-known motto, "Go on!" To never a scion of the
line could it have been more appropriate than to this light-footed,
light-headed, light-hearted light dragoon!

In his own family, of course, he was the pet and treasure of all. His
mother worshipped him, though he kept her in continual hot water with
his vagaries. His sisters thought (perhaps reasonably enough) that
there was nobody like him in the world. And his stately old father,
while he frowned and shook his head at an endless catalogue of larks,
steeple-chases, broken bones, etc., was more proud of Bill in his heart
than of all his ancestors and all his other sons put together.

They were a distinguished race. Each had made his mark in his own line.
It was "Soldier Bill's" ambition to attain military fame; every step in
the ladder seemed to him, therefore, of priceless value. And promotion
was as the very breath of his nostrils.

But a man that delights in personal risk is rarely of a selfish nature.
In reply to Daisy's statement, made with that terseness of expression,
that total absence of circumlocution, complimentary or otherwise,
which distinguishes the conversation of a mess-table, Bill ordered his
visitor a "brandy-and-soda" on the spot, and thus delivered himself.

"Troop be d----d, Daisy! It's no fun soldiering without your 'pals.'
I'd rather be a 'Serrafile' for the rest of my life, or a 'batman,' or
a trumpeter, by Jove! than command the regiment, only because all the
good fellows in it had come to grief. Sit down. Never mind the bitch,
she's always smelling about a strange pair of legs, but she won't lay
hold, if you keep perfectly still. Have a weed, and let's see what can
be done!"

The room in which their meeting took place was characteristic of its
occupant. Devoid of superfluous furniture, and with an uncarpeted
floor, it boasted many works of art, spirited enough, and even
elaborate, in their own particular line. The series of prints
representing a steeple-chase, in which yellow jacket cut out all
the work, and eventually won by a neck, could not be surpassed for
originality of treatment and fidelity of execution. Statuettes of
celebrated acrobats stood on brackets along the walls, alternating with
cavalry spurs, riding-whips, boxing-gloves, and basket-hilted sticks,
while the place of honour over the chimney-piece was filled by a
portrait of Mendoza in fighting attitude, at that halcyon period of the
prize-ring--

 "When Humphreys stood up to the Israelite's thumps,
 In kerseymere breeches, and 'touch-me-not' pumps."

"It's very pleasant this," observed Daisy, with his legs on a chair,
to avoid the attentions of Venus, an ill-favoured lady of the "bull"
kind, beautiful to connoisseurs as her Olympian namesake, but for
the uninitiated an impersonation of hideous ferocity and anatomical
distortion combined.

"Jolly little crib, isn't it?" replied Bill; "and though I'm not much
in 'fashionable circles,' suits me down to the ground. Wasn't it luck,
though, the small-pox and the regimental steeple-chase putting so many
of our captains on the sick-list, that they detached a subaltern here
to command? We were so short of officers, my boy, I thought the Chief
would have made you 'hark back' from Ireland. Don't you wish he had?
You'd better have been in bed on the 17th; though, by all accounts, you
rode the four miles truly through, and squeezed the old mare as dry as
an orange!"

"Gammon!" retorted Daisy. "She had five pounds in hand, only we got
jostled at the run-in. I'll make a match to-morrow with Shaneen for
any sum they like, same course, same weights, and---- But I'm talking
nonsense! I couldn't pay if I lost. I can't pay up what I owe now.
I'm done, old boy; that's all about it. When a fellow can't swim any
farther, there's nothing for it but to go under!"

His friend pulled a long face, whistled softly, took Venus on his lap,
and pondered with all his might.

"Look here, Daisy," was the result of his cogitations; "when you've got
to fight a cove two stone above your weight, you don't blunder in at
him, hammer-and-tongs, to get your jolly head knocked off in a couple
of rounds. No; if you have the condition (and that's everything), you
keep dodging, and waiting, and out-fighting, till your man's blown.
Then you tackle to, and finish him up before he gets his wind again.
Now this is just your case. Ask for leave; the Chief will stand it well
enough, if he knows you're in a fix. _I'll_ do your duty, and you must
get away somewhere, and keep dark, till we've all had time to turn
ourselves round."

"Where can I go to?" said Daisy. "What a queer smell there is in this
room, Bill. Something between dead rats and a Stilton cheese."

"Smell!" answered his host. "Pooh; nonsense. That's the badger; he
lives in the bottom drawer of my wardrobe. We call him 'Benjamin.'
Don't you _like_ the smell of a badger, Daisy?"

Now "Benjamin" was a special favourite with his owner, in consideration
of the creature's obstinate and tenacious courage. Bill loved it from
his heart, protesting it was the only living thing from which he "took
a licking;" because on one occasion, after a _very_ noisy supper, the
man had tried, and failed, to "draw" the beast from its lair with his
teeth! Therefore, "Benjamin" was now a free brother of the Guild, well
cared for, unmolested, living on terms of armed neutrality with the
redoubtable Venus herself.

Ignoring as deplorable prejudice Daisy's protest that he did _not_ like
the smell of a badger, his friend returned with unabated interest to
the previous question.

"You mustn't stay in London, that's clear; though I've heard there's
no covert like it to hang in for a fellow who's robbed a church! But
it wouldn't suit _you_. You're not bad enough; besides it's too near
Hounslow. The Continent's no use. Travelling costs a hat-full of money,
and it's very slow abroad now the fighting's over. A quiet place, not
too far from home; that's the ticket!"

"There's Jersey," observed Daisy doubtfully. "I don't know where it is,
but I daresay it's quiet enough."

"Jersey be hanged!" exclaimed his energetic friend. "Why not Guernsey,
Alderney, or what do you say to Sark? No, we must hit on a happier
thought than that. You crossed last night, you say. Does any one know
you're in town?"

"Only the waiter at Limmer's. I had breakfast there, and left my
portmanteau, you know."

"Limmer's! I wish you hadn't gone to Limmer's! Never mind; the waiter
is easily squared. Now, look here, Daisy, you're not supposed to be in
London. Is there no retired spot you could dodge back to in Ireland,
where you can get your health, and live cheap? Who's to know you ever
left it?"

His friend Denis occurred to Daisy at once.

"There's a farm up in Roscommon," said he, "where they'd take me in and
welcome. The air's good, and living _must_ be cheap, for you can't get
anything to eat but potatoes! I shouldn't wonder if they hunted all the
year round in those hills, and the farmer is a capital fellow, never
without a two-year-old that can jump!"

"That sounds like it," responded the other, with certain inward
longings of his own for this favoured spot. "Now, Daisy, will you ride
to orders, and promise to be guided entirely by _me_?"

"All right," said Daisy; "fire away."

"Barney!" shouted his friend, in a voice that resounded over the
barracks, startling even the sergeant of the guard. "Barney! look
sharp. Tell them to put a saddle on Catamount, and turn him round ready
to go out; then come here."

In two minutes a shock-headed batman, obviously Irish, entered the
apartment and stood at "attention," motionless, but for the twinkling
of his light blue eyes.

"Go to Limmer's at once," said his master; "pay Mr. Walters's bill.
Breakfast and B. and S., of course? Pack his things, and take them to
Euston Station. Wait there till he comes, and see him off by the Irish
mail. Do you understand?"

"I do, sur," answered Barney, and vanished like a ghost.

"You've great administrative powers, Bill," said his admiring friend.
"Hang it! you're fit to command an army."

"I could manage the Commissariat, I think," answered the other
modestly; "but of course you're only chaffing. I'm not a wise chap, I
know; never learnt anything at school, and had the devil's own job to
pass for my cornetcy. But I'll tell you what I _can_ do. When a course
is marked out, and the stewards have told me which side of the flags
I'm to go, I _do_ know my right hand from my left, and that's more
than every fellow can say who gets up for a flutter in the pig-skin!
And now I'm off to head-quarters to see the Chief, and ask leave for
you till Muster, at any rate."

"You won't find him," observed Daisy. "It must be two o'clock now."

"Not find him!" repeated the other. "Don't you know the Chief better
than that? He gets home-sick if he is a mile from the barrack-yard.
It's my belief he was born in spurs, with the 'state' of the regiment
in his hand! Besides he's ordered a parade for fitting on the new
nose-bags at three. He wouldn't miss it to go to the Derby."

"You _are_ a good chap," said his friend. "It's a long ride, and a
beastly hard road!"

Bill was by this time dressing with inconceivable rapidity, and an
utter disregard of his comrade's presence.

"A long ride," he repeated, in high scorn, while he dashed into a
remarkably well-made coat. "What do you call a long ride with a quad.
like Catamount? Five-and-forty minutes is what he allows me from gate
to gate; and it takes Captain Armstrong all his time, I can tell you,
to keep him back to _that_! The beggar ran away with me one night from
Ashbourne to the Royal barracks in Dublin; and though it was so dark
you couldn't see your hand, he never made a wrong turn, nor let me get
a pull at him, till he laid his nose against his own stable door. Bless
his chestnut heart! he's the worst mouth and the worst temper of any
horse in Europe. Look at him now. There's a pair of iron legs, and a
wicked eye! It's rather good fun to see him kick directly I'm up. But
I've never had such a hack, and I wouldn't part with him to be made
Commander-in-Chief."

Daisy could do no less than accompany his host to the door, and see him
mount this redoubtable animal, the gift of a trainer at the Curragh,
who could do nothing with it, and opined that even Soldier Bill's
extraordinary nerve would be unequal to compete with so restive a
brute. He had miscalculated, however, the influence utter fearlessness
can establish over the beasts of the field.

Catamount's first act of insubordination, indeed, was to run away
with his new master for four miles on end, across the Curragh, but
over excellent turf, smooth as a bowling-green: he discovered, to
his surprise, that Bill wished no better fun. He then repeated the
experiment in a stiffly-fenced part of Kildare; and here found himself
not only indulged, but instigated to continue, when he wanted to leave
off. He tried grinding his rider's leg against the wall: Bill turned a
sharp spur inwards, and made it very uncomfortable. He lay down: Bill
kept him on the ground an hour or two by sitting on his head.

At last he confined himself to kicking unreasonably, at intervals,
galloping sullenly on, nevertheless, in the required direction, and
doing a vast amount of work in an incredibly short space of time. He
was never off his feed, and his legs never filled, so to Bill he was
invaluable, notwithstanding their disputes, and a certain soreness
about a Cup the horse ought to have won, had he not sulked at the
finish: they loved each other dearly, and would have been exceedingly
loth to part.

"My serjeant's wife will get you some dinner," said the rider, between
certain sundry preliminary kicks in getting under way. "She's an
outside cook, and I've told her what you'd like. There's a bottle of
brandy on the chimney-piece, and soda-water in the drawer next the
badger. I'll be back before it's time for you to start. Cut along,
Catamount! Hang it! don't get me off the shop-board, before half the
troop. Forrard! my lad! Forrard! away!" and Bill galloped out of the
barracks at head-long speed, much to the gratification of the sentry
manipulating his carbine at the gate. This true friend proved as good
as his word. In less than three hours, he was back again, Catamount
having hardly turned a hair in their excursion. The colonel had been
kindness itself. The leave was all right. There was nothing more to be
done, but to pack Daisy off in a Hansom, for Euston Square.

"Take a pony, old man," said Bill, urging his friend to share his
purse, while he wished him "good-bye." "If I'd more, you should have
it. Nonsense! I don't want it a bit. Keep your pecker up and fight
high. Write a line if anything turns up. I'll go on working the job
here, never fear. We won't let you out of the regiment. What is life,
after all, to a fellow who isn't a light dragoon?"



CHAPTER XVIII

DELILAH


In consoling his friend, _Xanthias Phoceus_, for the result of a little
flirtation, in which that Roman gentleman seems to have indulged
without regard to station, Horace quotes for us a triad of illustrious
persons whose brazen-plated armour, and bulls-hide targets were of
no avail to fence them from the shaft of love. If neither petulant
Achilles, nor Ajax, son of Telamon, nor the king of men himself,
could escape, it is not to be supposed that a young cavalry officer
in her Majesty's service, however simple in his habits and frank in
his demeanour, should be without some weakness of the same nature,
unacknowledged perhaps, yet none the less a weakness on that account.

"Soldier Bill," notwithstanding his kindly disposition and fresh comely
face, seemed the last man in the world to be susceptible of female
influence, yet "Soldier Bill" felt, to a certain extent, in the same
plight as Agamemnon. Though in dress, manners and appearance, anything
but what is usually termed a "ladies' man;" he was nevertheless a
prime favourite with the sex, on such rare occasions as threw him in
their way. Women in general seem most to appreciate qualities not
possessed by themselves, and while they greatly admire all kinds of
courage, find that which is mingled with good-humoured haphazard
recklessness, perfectly irresistible. They worship their heroes too,
and believe in them, with ludicrous good faith. Observe a woman in a
pleasure boat. If there comes a puff of wind, she never takes her eyes
off the boatman, and trusts him implicitly. The more frightened she
feels, the more confidence she places in her guardian, and so long as
the fancied danger lasts, clings devotedly to the pilot, be he the
roughest, hairiest, tarriest son of Neptune that ever turned a quid.

Now the converse of this relation between the sexes holds equally good.
To live entirely with men and horses; to _rough_ it habitually; from
day to day enduring hardships, voluntary or otherwise, in the pursuit
of field-sports; to share his studies with a dog, and take his pastime
with a prize-fighter, does not necessarily unfit a man for the society
of gentler, softer, sweeter, craftier creatures. On the contrary, in
many natures, and those, perhaps, the strongest, such habits produce
a longing for female society deeper and keener, that it has to be
continually repudiated and repressed.

When he had started Daisy for the station, Bill renewed his toilet
with peculiar care, and in spite of a few scars on his face, some the
effects of falls, others, alas! of fights, a very good-looking young
gentleman he saw reflected in his glass. Smoothing a pair of early
moustaches, and sleeking a close-cropped head, he searched about in
vain for a scent-bottle, and actually drew on a pair of kid gloves.
Obviously, "Soldier Bill" was going to call on a lady. He could not
help laughing, while he thought how the cornets would chaff him, if
they knew. Nevertheless, with a farewell caress to the badger, fresh,
radiant, and undaunted, he sallied forth.

It was quite in accordance with the doctrine of opposites, propounded
above, that Bill should have experienced a sensation of refreshment
and repose, in the society of a charming married woman, very much his
senior, who made light of him no doubt, but amused, indulged, and
instructed him while she laughed. Her boudoir was indeed a pleasant
change from his barrack-room. He could not but admit that in her
society tea seemed a more grateful beverage than brandy and soda; the
tones of a pianoforte sweeter than any stable call; and the perfume
that pervaded every article about her, far more delightful, if less
pungent, than that which hung round his retiring friend "Benjamin," in
the bottom drawer of the wardrobe.

In his wildest moments, however, Bill never dreamed of making love to
her; and it is not difficult to understand, that his goddess, being no
less experienced a person than Mrs. Lushington, was well able to take
care of herself.

"I like the boy," she used to say to any one who would listen, even
to her husband, if nobody else could be found. "He is so fresh and
honest, and he looks so _clean_! It's like having a nice child about
one, and then I can do him so much good. I form his manners, teach him
the ways of society, prevent his being imposed upon, and generally
make him fit for civilised life. If there were no good-natured people
like me, Frank, these poor young things would fall a prey to the
first designing girl who comes across them on the war-path, looking
out to catch a husband _coûte que coûte_. I'm sure his mother ought
to be infinitely obliged to me. She couldn't take more pains with him
herself! When he began coming here, he didn't know how to waltz or
to take off his hat, or to answer a note even; in short, he couldn't
say Boo to a goose! And now I've made him learn all these things, and
he does them well, particularly the last. He's still absurdly shy, I
grant you, but it's wearing off day by day. When I'm grown old, Frank,
and wrinkled (though I'd sooner die first), he'll be grateful, and
understand what care I've taken of him, and what a sad fate might have
befallen him, but for _me_! Isn't there something in Dr. Watts, or
somebody,

 Regardless of their doom,
 The little victims play.

Frank! I don't believe you're listening!"

"Oh yes, I am," answers Frank, whose thoughts have wandered to
Skindle's, Richmond, Newmarket--who knows where? "What you say is very
true, my dear--very true--and nobody understands these things better
than yourself. Good gracious! is that clock right! I had no idea it
was so late! I must be off at once, and--let me see--I'll get back to
dinner if I _can_; but don't wait."

So _exit_ Mr. Lushington on his own devices, and enter a footman with
tea, closely followed by the butler ushering in "Soldier Bill."

"Talk of somebody," says the lady, graciously extending her hand, "and,
we are told, he is sure to appear. How odd, I was abusing you not five
minutes ago to Frank--you must have met him as you came in,--and,
behold, here you are--not having been near me for a month!"

"A week," answered her visitor, who always stuck to facts. "You told me
yourself one ought never to call again at the same house till after a
decent interval. A week is decent surely! It seems a deuced long time,
I know."

"You don't suppose I've missed you?" said she, pouring out the tea.
"It's all for your own good I have you here. You'd get back to savage
life again, if I neglected you for a fortnight; and it _is_ provoking
to see all one's time and trouble thrown away! Now put your hat down,
have some tea, make yourself agreeable, and you may stay here for
exactly three-quarters of an hour!"

To "make himself agreeable" at short notice, and to order, is a
difficult task for any man. For Bill it was simply impossible. He
fidgeted, gulped hot tea, and began to feel shy. She had considerable
tact, however, and no little experience in the ways of young men.
She neither laughed at him nor took notice of the blush he tried to
keep down, but bade him throw the window open, and while he obeyed,
continued carelessly, though kindly--

"In the first place, tell me all about yourself. How's Catamount?"

She knew every one of his horses by name, and even some of the men
in his troop, leading him to talk on such congenial topics with
considerable ingenuity. It was this tact of hers that rendered Mrs.
Lushington such a pleasant member of society, enabling her to keep
her head above water deep enough to have drowned a lady with less
_savoir-faire_, and consequently fewer friends.

His face brightened. "As fresh as paint!" he replied. "I beg your
pardon; I mean as well as can be expected. I rode him two-and-twenty
miles to-day in an hour and a half, and I give you my word, when I got
off him he looked as if he'd never been out of the stable."

"I should pity _you_ more than your horse," she replied, with a
commendable air of interest; "only I know you are never so happy as
when you are trying to break your neck. You've had the grace to dress
since, I see, and not badly, for once, only that handkerchief is too
light a shade of blue. Now, confess! Where does she live? and is she
worth riding eleven miles, there and back, to see?"

"I never know whether you're chaffing or not!" responded Bill. "You
cannot believe I would gallop Catamount twenty-two miles on a hard road
for any lady in the world. I didn't suppose he'd take me if I wanted
to go. _She_, indeed! There's no _she_ in the matter!"

"You might have made _one_ exception in common politeness," said Mrs.
Lushington, laughing. "But I'm not satisfied yet. You and Catamount are
a very flighty pair. I still think there's a lady in the case."

"A lady in boots and spurs, then," he answered; "six foot high, with
grey moustaches and a lame leg from a sabre-cut--a lady who has been
thirty years soldiering, and never gave or questioned an unreasonable
order. Do you know _many_ ladies of that stamp, Mrs. Lushington? I only
know one, and she has made _my_ regiment the smartest in the service."

"I _do_ know your colonel a little," said she. "I met him once at
Aldershot, and though he is anything but an old woman, I consider him
an old _dear_! So I am not very far wrong, after all. Now what did he
want you for? Sent for you, of course, to have--what do you call it?--a
_wigging_. I'm afraid, Master Bill, you're a sad bad boy, and always
getting into scrapes."

"Wigging!" he repeated indignantly. "Not a bit of it; nothing could
have been kinder than the Chief. He's the best old fellow in the world!
I wasn't sent for. I didn't go on my own account; I went down about
Daisy."

Then he stopped short, afraid of having committed himself, and
conscious that at the present crisis of his brother-officer's affairs,
the less said about them the better.

But who, since the days of Samson, was ever able to keep a secret from
a woman resolved to worm it out? As the strong man in Delilah's lap, so
was Bill in the boudoir of Mrs. Lushington.

"Daisy," she repeated; "do you know anything of Daisy? Tell me all
about him. We're so interested, you can't think, and so sorry for his
difficulties. I wish I could help him. Is there nothing to be done?"

Touched by her concern for his friend's welfare, he trusted her at once.

"You won't mention it," said he; "Daisy was with me at Kensington
to-day. He can't show yet, you know; but still we hope to make it all
right in time. He's got a month's leave for the present; and I packed
him off, to start by the Irish mail to-night, just before I came to
see you. He'll keep quiet over there, and people won't know where he
is; so they can't write, and then say he doesn't answer their letters.
Anything to put off the smash as long as possible. One can never tell
what may turn up."

"You're a kind friend," she replied approvingly, "and a good boy.
There! that's a great deal for me to say. Now tell me _where_ the poor
fellow is gone."

"You won't breathe it to a soul," said honest Bill--"not even to Mr.
Lushington?"

"Not even to Mr. Lushington!" she protested, greatly amused.

He gave her the address with profound gravity, and an implicit reliance
on her secrecy.

"A hill-farmer in Roscommon!" she exclaimed. "I know the man. His name
is Denis; I saw him at Punchestown."

"You know everything," he said, in a tone of admiration. "It must be
very jolly to be clever, and that."

"It's much jollier to be 'rich and that,'" was her answer. "Money is
what we all seem to want--especially poor Daisy. Now, how much do you
suppose it would take to set him straight?"

He was not the man to trust any one by halves. "Three thousand," he
declared, frankly: "and where he is to get it beats me altogether. Of
course he can't hide for ever. After a time he must come back to do
duty; then there'll be a show up, and he'll have to leave the regiment."

"And you will get your troop," said Mrs. Lushington. "You see I know
all about that too."

His own promotion, however, as has been said, afforded this
kind-hearted young gentleman no sort of consolation.

"I hope it won't come to that," was his comment on the military
knowledge of his hostess. "I've great faith in luck. When things are at
their worst they mend. Never say die till you're dead, Mrs. Lushington.
Take your 'crowners' good-humouredly. Stick to your horse; and don't
let go of the bridle!"

"You've been here more than your three-quarters of an hour," said
Mrs. Lushington, "and you're beginning to talk slang, so you'd better
depart. But you're improving, I _think_, and you may come again. Let me
see, the day after to-morrow, if the Colonel don't object, and if you
can find another handkerchief with a deeper shade of blue."

So Bill took his leave, and proceeded to "The Rag," where he meant to
dine in company with other choice spirits, wondering whether it would
ever be his lot to marry a woman like Mrs. Lushington--younger, of
course, and perhaps, though he hardly ventured to tell himself so, with
a little less chaff--doubting the while if he could consent so entirely
to change his condition and his daily, or perhaps rather his _nightly_,
habits of life. He need not give up the regiment, he reflected, and
could keep Catamount, though the stud might have to be reduced. But
what would become of Benjamin? Was it possible any lady would permit
the badger to occupy a bottom drawer in her wardrobe? This seemed a
difficult question. Pending its solution, perhaps he had better remain
as he was!



CHAPTER XIX

"THE RIVER'S BRIM"


Daisy was sick of the Channel. He had crossed and recrossed it so often
of late as to loathe its dancing waters, yawning in the face of Welsh
and Wicklow mountains alike, wearied even of the lovely scenery that
adorns the coast on either side.

He voted himself so tired in body and mind that he must stay a day or
two in Dublin to refresh.

A man who balances on the verge of ruin always has plenty of money in
his pocket for immediate necessities. The expiring flame leaps up with
a flash; the end of the bottle bubbles out with a gush; and the ebbing
tide of wealth leaves, here and there, a handful of loose cash on the
deserted shore.

Daisy drove to the most expensive hotel in Dublin, where he ordered
a capital breakfast and a comfortable room. The future seemed very
uncertain. In obedience to an instinct of humanity that bids men pause
and dally with any crisis of their fate, he determined to enjoy
to-day, and let to-morrow take care of itself.

Nobody could be more unlikely to analyse his own sensations. It
was not the practice of the Regiment; but had Daisy been given to
self-examination it would have puzzled him to explain why he felt in
such good humour, and so well satisfied--buoyed up with hope, when he
ought to have been sunk and overwhelmed in despair.

"Waiter," said the fugitive, while he finished his tea and ordered a
glass of curaçao, "has Mr. Sullivan been here this morning?"

"He _did_, sur," answered the waiter, with a pleasant grin. "Sure he
brought a harse for the master to see. Five years old, Captain. A
clane-bred one, like what ye ride yerself. There's not the aqual of
him, they do be braggin', for leppin', in Westmeath an' thim parts
where he was trained."

Now Daisy wanted a horse no more than he wanted an alligator. He could
neither afford to buy nor keep one, and had two or three of his own
that it was indispensable to sell, yet his eye brightened, his spirits
rose, with the bare possibility of a deal. He might see the animal, at
any rate, he thought, perhaps ride it--there would be others probably
to show; he could spend a few pleasant hours in examining their points,
discussing their merits, and interchanging with Mr. Sullivan those
brief and pithy remarks, intelligible only to the initiated, which
he esteemed the essence of pleasant conversation. Like many other
young men, Daisy was bitten with hippomania. He thoroughly enjoyed the
humours of a dealer's yard. The horses interested, the owners amused
him. He liked the selection, the bargaining, the running up and down,
the speculation, and the slang. To use his own words--"He never could
resist the _rattle of a hat_!"

It is no wonder then that "the Captain," as Mr. Sullivan called him,
spent his whole afternoon at a snug little place within an easy drive
of Dublin, where that worthy, though not by way of being in the
profession, inhabited a clean whitewashed house, with a few acres of
marvellously green paddock, and three or four loose boxes, containing
horses of various qualities, good, bad, and indifferent. Here, after
flying for an hour or two over the adjoining fields and fences, Daisy,
with considerable difficulty, resisted the purchase (on credit) of
a worn-out black, a roan with heavy shoulders, and a three-year-old
engaged in the following autumn at the Curragh, but afforded their
owner perfect satisfaction by the encomiums he passed on their merits,
no less than by the masterly manner in which he handled them, at the
formidable fences that bordered Mr. Sullivan's domain.

"An' ye'll take nothing away with ye but a fishing-rod," said the
latter, pressing on his visitor the refreshment of whiskey, with or
without water. "Ye're welcome to't, anny how--more by token that ye'll
bring it back again when ye done with it, Captain, and proud I'll be to
get another visit from ye, when ye're travelling the country, to or
from Dublin, at anny time. May be in the back end of the year I'll have
wan to show ye in thim boxes that ye niver seen the likes of him for
lep-racin'. Whisper now. He's bet the Black Baron in a trial; and for
Shaneen, him that wan the race off _your_ mare at Punchestown,--wait
till I tell ye,--at even weights, he'd go and _lose_ little Shaneen in
two miles!"

Promising to return at a future time for inspection of this paragon,
and disposing the borrowed fishing-rod carefully on an outside car
he had chartered for his expedition, Daisy returned to Dublin, ate a
good dinner, drank a bottle of dry champagne, and went to sleep in the
comfortable bedroom of his comfortable hotel, as if he had not a care
nor a debt in the world.

Towards morning his lighter slumbers may have been visited by dreams,
and if so it is probable that fancy clothed her visions in a similitude
of Norah Macormac. Certainly his first thought on waking was for that
young lady, as his opening eyes rested on the fishing-rod, which he had
borrowed chiefly on her account.

In truth, Daisy felt inclined to put off as long as possible the
exile--for he could think of it in no more favourable light--that he
had brought on himself in the Roscommon mountains.

Mr. Sullivan, when the sport of fly-fishing came in his way, was
no mean disciple of the gentle art. Observing a salmon-rod in that
worthy's sitting-room, of which apartment, indeed, with two foxes'
brushes and a barometer it constituted the principal furniture, Daisy
bethought him that on one of his visits to Cormac's-town its hospitable
owner had given him leave and licence to fish the Dabble whenever
he pleased, whether staying at the Castle or not. The skies were
cloudy--as usual in Ireland, there was no lack of rain--surely this
would be a proper occasion to take advantage of Macormac's kindness,
protract his stay in Dublin, and run down daily by the train to fish,
so long as favourable weather lasted and his own funds held out.

We are mostly self-deceivers though there exists something _within_
each of us that is not to be hoodwinked nor imposed upon by the most
specious of fallacies.

It is probable Daisy never confessed to himself how the fish he
_really_ wanted to angle for was already more than half-hooked: how it
was less the attraction of a salmon than a mermaid that drew him to
the margin of the Dabble; and how he cared very little that the sun
shone bright or the river waned so as he might but hear the light step
of Norah Macormac on the shingle, look in the fair face that turned so
pale and sad when he went away, that would smile and blush its welcome
so kindly when he came again.

He must have loved her without knowing it; and perhaps such insensible
attachments, waxing stronger day by day, strike the deepest root,
and boast the longest existence: hardy plants that live and flourish
through the frowns of many winters, contrasting nobly with more
brilliant and ephemeral posies, forced by circumstances to sudden
maturity and rapid decay--

 "As flowers that first in spring-time burst,
 The earliest wither too."

Nevertheless, for both sexes,

 "'Tis all but a dream at the best:"

and Norah Macormac's vision, scarcely acknowledged while everything
went smoothly, assumed very glowing colours when the impossibility of
its realisation dawned on her; when Lady Mary pointed out the folly
of an attachment to a penniless subaltern unsteady in habits, while
addicted overmuch to sports of the field.

With average experience and plenty of common-sense, the mother had been
sorely puzzled how to act. She was well aware, that advice in such
cases, however judiciously administered, often irritates the wound
it is intended to heal; that "warnings"--to use her own words--"only
put things in people's heads;" and that a fancy, like a heresy,
sometimes dies out unnoticed when it is not to be stifled by argument
nor extirpated with the strong hand. Yet how might she suffer this
pernicious superstition to grow, under her very eyes? Was she not a
woman? and must she not speak her mind? Besides, she blamed her own
blindness, that her daughter's intimacy with the scape-grace had been
unchecked in its commencement, and, smarting with self-reproach, could
not forbear crying aloud, when she had better have held her tongue!

So Miss Norah discovered she was in love, after all. Mamma said so! no
doubt mamma was right. The young lady had herself suspected something
of the kind long ago, but Lady Mary's authority and remonstrances
placed the matter beyond question. She was very fond of her mother,
and, to do her justice, tried hard to follow her ladyship's advice.
So she thought the subject over, day by day, argued it on every side,
in accordance with, in opposition to, and independent of, her own
inclinations, to find as a result, that during waking and sleeping
hours alike, the image of Daisy was never absent from her mind.

Then a new beauty seemed to dawn in the sweet young face. The very
peasants about the place noticed a change; little Ella, playing at
being grown-up, pretended she was "Sister Norah going to be married;"
and papa, when she retired with her candle at night, turning fondly to
his wife, would declare--

"She'll be the pick of the family now, mamma, when all's said and done!
They're a fair-looking lot, even the boys. Divil thank them, then, on
the mother's side! But it's Norah that's likest yourself, my dear,
when we were young, only not quite so stout, maybe, and a thought less
colour in her cheek."

Disturbed at the suggestion, while gratified by the compliment, Lady
Mary, in a fuss of increased anxiety, felt fonder than ever of her
child. In Norah's habits also there came an alteration, as in her
countenance. She sat much in the library, with a book on her knee, of
which she seldom turned a page; played long _solos_ on the pianoforte,
usually while the others were out; went to bed early, but lay awake for
hours; rode very little, and walked a great deal, though the walks were
often solitary, and almost invariably in the direction of a certain
waterfall, to which she had formerly conducted Miss Douglas, while
showing off to her new friend the romantic beauties of the Dabble.

The first day Mr. Walters put his borrowed rod together on the banks of
this pretty stream, it rained persistently in a misty drizzle, borne
on the soft south wind. He killed an eight pound fish, yet returned to
Dublin in an unaccountable state of disappointment, not to say disgust.
He got better after dinner, and, with another bottle of dry champagne,
determined to try again.

The following morning rose in unclouded splendour--clear blue sky,
blazing sun, and not a breath of wind. A more propitious day could
scarcely be imagined for a cricket-match, an archery-meeting, or a
picnic; but in such weather the crafty angler leaves rod and basket
at home. Daisy felt a little ashamed of these _paraphernalia_ in the
train, but proceeded to the waterside, nevertheless, and prepared
deliberately for his task, looking up and down the stream meanwhile
with considerable anxiety.

All at once he felt his heart beating fast, and began to flog the
waters with ludicrous assiduity.

It is difficult to explain the gentleman's perturbation (for why was he
there at all?), though the lady's astonishment can easily be accounted
for, when Norah, thinking of him every moment, and visiting this
particular spot only because it reminded her of his presence, found
herself, at a turn in the river, not ten paces from the man whom, a
moment before, she feared she was never to see again!

Yet did she remain outwardly the more composed of the two, and was
first to speak.

"Daisy!" she exclaimed--"Captain Walters--I never thought you were
still in Ireland. You'll be coming to the Castle to dinner, anyhow."

He blushed, he stammered, he looked like a fool (though Norah didn't
think so), he got out with difficulty certain incoherent sentences
about "fishing," and "flies," and "liberty from your father," and
lastly, recovering a little, "the ten-pounder _I_ rose and _you_
landed, by the black stump there, under the willow."

As he regained his confidence, she lost hers--almost wishing she hadn't
come, or had put her veil down, or, she didn't exactly know what. In
a trembling voice, and twining her fingers nervously together, she
propounded the pertinent question:--

"How--how did you find your brother-officers when you got back to the
regiment?"

Its absurdity struck them both. Simultaneously, they burst out
laughing: their reserve vanished from that moment. He took both her
hands in his, and the rod lay neglected on the shingle, while he
exclaimed--

"I _am_ so pleased to see you again! Miss Macormac--Norah! I fished
here all yesterday, hoping you'd come. I'm glad though you didn't;
you'd have got such a wetting."

"Did you, now?" was her answer, while the beautiful grey eyes deepened,
and the blood mantled in her cheek. "Indeed, then, it's for little I'd
have counted the wetting, if I'd only known. But how _was_ I to know,
Captain Walters--well, Daisy, then--that you'd be shooting up the
river, like a young salmon, only to see _me_? And supposing I _had_
known it, or thought it, or wished it even, I'm afraid I ought never to
have come."

"But now you _are_ here," argued Daisy, with some show of reason,
"you'll speak to me, won't you? and help me to fish, and let me walk
back with you part of the way home?"

It seemed an impotent conclusion, but she was in no mood to be
censorious.

"I'm very pleased to see you, and that's the truth," she answered; "but
as for fishing, I'll engage ye'll never rise a fish in the Dabble with
a sky like that. I'll stay just five minutes, though, while ye wet your
line, anyhow. Oh! Daisy, don't you remember what a trouble we had with
the big fish down yonder, the time I ran to fetch the gaff?"

"Remember!" said Daisy, "I should think I _do_! How quick you were
about it. I didn't think any girl in the world could run so fast. I can
remember everything you've said and done since I've known you. That's
the worst of it, Norah. It's got to be different after to-day."

She had been laughing and blushing at his recollections of her
activity; but she glanced quickly in his face now, while her own turned
very grave and pale.

"Ye're coming to the Castle, of course," said she. "I'll run home this
minute, and tell mamma to order a room, and we'll send the car round to
the station for your things."

She spoke in hurried nervous accents, dreading to hear what was coming,
yet conscious she had never felt so happy in her life.

Formerly she considered Daisy the lightest-hearted of men. Hitherto she
scarcely remembered to have seen a cloud on his face. She liked it none
the worse for its gravity now.

"I've been very unlucky, Norah," said he, holding her hand, and looking
thoughtfully on the river as it flowed by. "Perhaps it's my own fault.
I shall never visit at Cormacs'-town, nor go into any society where
I've a chance of meeting _you_ again. And yet I've done nothing wrong
nor disgraceful as yet."

"I knew it!" she exclaimed; "I'd have sworn it on the Book! I told
mamma so. He's a _gentleman_, I said, and that's enough for _me_!"

"Thank you, dear," answered Daisy, in a failing voice. "I'm glad _you_
didn't turn against me. It's bad enough without that."

"But what _has_ happened," she asked, drawing closer to his side.
"Couldn't any of us help you? Couldn't papa advise you what to do?"

"_This_ has happened, Norah," he answered gravely; "I am completely
ruined. I have got nothing left in the world. Worse still, I am afraid
I can scarce pay up all I've lost."

The spirit of her ancestors came into her eyes and bearing. Ruin to
these, like personal danger, had never seemed a matter of great moment,
so long as, at any sacrifice, honour might be preserved. She raised her
head proudly, and looked straight in his face.

"The last _must_ be done," said she. "_Must_ be done, I'm telling you,
Daisy, and _shall_ be, if we sell the boots, you and me, off our very
feet! How near can you get to what you owe for wages and things? Of
course they'll have to be paid the first."

"If _everything_ goes, I don't see my way to pay up all," he answered.
"However, they _must_ give me a little time. Where I'm to go, though,
or what to do, is more than I can tell. But Norah, dear Norah! what I
mind most is, that I mustn't hope to see _you_ again!"

Her tears were falling fast. Her hands were busy with a locket she
wore round her neck, the only article of value Norah possessed in the
world. But the poor fingers trembled so they failed to undo the strip
of velvet on which it hung. At last she got it loose, and pressed it
into his hand. "Take it, Daisy," said she, smiling with her wet eyes;
"I don't value it a morsel. It was old Aunt Macormac gave it me on my
birth-day. There's diamonds in it--not Irish, dear--and it's worth
something, anyway, though not much. Ah, Daisy! now, if ye won't take
it, I'll think ye never cared for me one bit!"

But Daisy stoutly refused to despoil her of the keepsake, though he
begged hard, of course, for the velvet ribbon to which it was attached;
and those who have ever found themselves in a like situation will
understand that he did not ask in vain.

So Miss Macormac returned to the Castle, and the maternal wing, too
late for luncheon; but thus far engaged to her ruined admirer that,
while he vowed to come back the very moment his prospects brightened,
and the "something" turned up--which we all expect, but so few of us
experience, she promised, on her part, "never to marry (how could you
think it now, Daisy!) nor so much as look at anybody else till she saw
him again, if it wasn't for a hundred years!"

I am concerned to add that Mr. Sullivan's rod remained forgotten on the
shingle, where it was eventually picked up by one of Mr. Macormac's
keepers, but handled by its rightful owner no more. There was nothing
to keep Daisy in Dublin now, and his funds were getting low. In less
than twenty-four hours from his parting with Norah Macormac he found
himself crossing that wild district of Roscommon where he had bought
the famous black mare that had so influenced his fortunes. Toiling on
an outside car, up the long ascent that led to the farmer's house, he
could scarcely believe so short a time had elapsed since he visited
the same place in the flush of youth and hope. He felt quite old
and broken by comparison. Years count for little compared to events;
and age is more a question of experience than of time. He had one
consolation, however, and it lay in the shape of a narrow velvet ribbon
next his heart.

Ere he had clasped the farmer's hand, at his own gate, and heard his
cheery hospitable greeting, he wondered how he could feel so happy.

"I'm proud to see ye, Captain!" said Denis, flourishing his hat round
his head, as if it was a slip of blackthorn. "Proud am I an' pleased
to see ye back again--an' that's the truth! Ye're welcome, I tell
ye! Step in, now, an' take something at wanst. See, Captain, there's
a two-year-old in that stable; the very moral of your black mare.
Ye never seen her likes for leppin'! Ye'll try the baste this very
afternoon, with the blessin'. I've had th' ould saddle mended, an' the
stirrups altered to your length."



CHAPTER XX

TAKING THE COLLAR


The General thought he had never been so happy in his life. His voice,
his bearing, his very dress seemed to partake of the delusion that
gilded existence. Springing down the steps of his club, with more waist
in his coat, more pretension in his hat, more agility in his gait, than
was considered usual, or even decorous, amongst its frequenters, no
wonder they passed their comments freely enough on their old comrade,
ridiculing or deploring his fate, according to the various opinions and
temper of the conclave.

"What's up with St. Josephs now?" asked a white-whiskered veteran of
his neighbour, whose bluff, weather-beaten face proclaimed him an
Admiral of the Red. "He's turned quite flighty and queer of late.
Nothing wrong _here_, is there?" and the speaker pointed a shaking
finger to the apex of his own bald head.

"Not _there_, but _here_," answered the sailor, laying his remaining
arm across his breast. "Going to be spliced, they tell me. Sorry for
it. He's not a bad sort; and a smartish officer, as I've heard, in
_your_ service."

"Pretty well--so, so. Nothing extraordinary for _that_," answered the
first speaker, commonly called by irreverent juniors "Old Straps." "He
hadn't much to do in India, I fancy; but he's been lucky, sir, lucky,
and luck's the thing! Luck against the world, Admiral, by sea or land!"

"Well, his luck's over now, it seems," grunted the Admiral, whose
views on matrimony appeared to differ from those of his profession
in general. "I'm told he's been fairly hooked by that Miss Douglas.
Black-eyed girl, with black hair--black, and all black, d-- me!--and
rides a black mare in the park. Hey! Why she might be his daughter. How
d'ye mean?"

"More fool he," replied Straps, with a leer and a grin that disclosed
his yellow tusks. "A fellow like St. Josephs ought to know better."

"I'm not so sure of that," growled the Admiral. "Gad, sir, if I was
idiot enough to do the same thing, d'ye think I'd take a d--d old
catamaran, that knew every move in the game? No, no, sir; youth and
innocence, hey? A clean bill of health, a fair wind, and a pleasant
voyage, you know!"

"In my opinion, there's devilish little youth left, and no innocence,"
answered "Straps." "If that's the girl, she's been hawked about, to my
certain knowledge, for the last three seasons; and I suppose our friend
is the only chance left--what we used to call a 'forlorn hope' when
I was an ensign. He's got a little money, and they might give him a
command. You never know what this Government will do. It's my belief
they'd give that crossing-sweeper a command if they were only sure he
was quite unfit for it."

"Command be d--d!" swore the Admiral. "He'll have enough to do to
command his young wife. What? She's a lively craft, I'll be bound,
with her black eyes. Carries a weather-helm, and steers as wild as you
please in a sea-way. I'll tell you what it is--Here, waiter! bring me
the _Globe_. Why the --- are the evening papers so late?"

In the rush for those welcome journals, so long expected, so eagerly
seized, all other topics were instantaneously submerged. Long before
he could reach the end of the street, General St. Josephs was utterly
forgotten by his brother officers and friends.

Still he _thought_ he had never been so happy in his life. The
word is used advisedly, for surely experience teaches us that real
happiness consists in tranquillity and repose, in the slumber rather
than the dream, in the lassitude that soothes the patient, not the
fever-fit of which it is the result. Can a man be considered happy
who is not comfortable? and how is comfort compatible with anxiety,
loss of appetite, nervous tremors, giddiness, involuntary blushing,
and the many symptoms of disorder, who could be cured heretofore by
advertisement, and which are the invariable accompaniments of an
epidemic, invincible by pill or potion, and yielding only to the
homoeopathic treatment of marriage.

In this desperate remedy St. Josephs was anxious to experimentalise,
and without delay. Yet his tact was supreme. Since the memorable walk
in Kensington Gardens, when he laid her under such heavy obligations,
his demeanour had been more that of a friend than a lover--more,
perhaps, that of a loyal and devoted subject to his sovereign mistress,
than either. She wondered why he never asked her, what she had done
with all that money? Why, when she alluded to the subject, he winced
and started, as from a touch on a raw wound. Once she very nearly
told him all. They were in a box at the Opera, so far unobserved that
the couple who had accompanied them seemed wholly engrossed with each
other. Satanella longed to make her confession--ease her conscience of
its burden, perhaps, though such a thought was cruel and unjust--shake
the yoke from off his neck. She had even got as far as, "I've never
half thanked you, General--" when there came a tap at the box-door.
Enter an irreproachable dandy, then a confusion of tongues, a laugh, a
solo, injunctions to silence, and the opportunity was gone. Could she
ever find courage to seek for it again?

Nevertheless, day by day she dwelt more on her admirer's forbearance,
his care, his tenderness, his chivalrous devotion. Though he never
pressed the point, it seemed an understood thing that they were
engaged. She had forbidden him to visit her before luncheon, but he
spent his afternoons in her drawing-room; and, on rare occasions, was
admitted in the evening, when an elderly lady, supposed to be Blanche's
cousin, came to act chaperone. The walks in Kensington Gardens had been
discontinued. Her heart could not but smite her sometimes, to think
that she never gave him but one, when she wanted him to do her a favour.

Had he been more exacting, she would have felt less self-reproach, but
his patience and good humour cut her to the quick.

"You brute!" she would say, pushing her hair back, and frowning at her
own handsome face in the glass. "You _worse_ than brute! Unfeeling,
unfeminine, I wish you were dead!--I wish you were dead!"

She had lost her rich colour now, and the hollow eyes were beginning to
look very large and sad, under their black arching brows.

Perhaps it was the General's greatest delight to hear her sing. This
indulgence she accorded him only of an evening, when the cousin
invariably went to sleep, and her admirer sat in an armchair with the
daily paper before his face. She insisted on this screen, and this
attitude, never permitting him to stand by the pianoforte, nor turn
over the leaves, nor undergo any exertion of mind or body that should
break the charm. Who knows what golden visions gladdened the war-worn
soldier's heart while he leaned back and listened, spellbound by the
tones he loved? Dreams of domestic happiness and peaceful joys, and a
calm untroubled future, when doubts and fears should be over, and he
could make this glorious creature wholly and exclusively his own.

[Illustration: "Perhaps it was the General's greatest delight to hear
her sing."

 _Satanella._ _Page 208_]

Did he ever wonder why in certain songs the dear voice thrilled with
a sweetness almost akin to pain ere it was drowned in a loud and
brilliant accompaniment, that foiled the possibility of remonstrance,
while the ditty was thrown aside to be replaced by another, less
fraught, perhaps, with painful memories and associations? If so, he
hazarded no remark nor conjecture, satisfied, as it seemed, to wait
her pleasure, and in all things bow his will to hers, sacrificing his
desires, his pride, his very self-respect to the woman he adored.

For a time nothing occurred to disturb the General's enforced
tranquillity, and he pursued the course he seemed to have marked out
for himself with a calm perseverance that deserved success. In public,
people glanced and whispered when they saw Miss Douglas on his arm;
in private, he called daily at her house, talked much small-talk and
drank a great deal of weak tea; while in solitude he asked himself how
long this probation was to last, resolving nevertheless to curb his
impatience, control his temper, and if the prize was only to be won by
waiting, wait for it to the end!

Leaving his club, then, unconscious of the Admiral's pity and the
sarcasms of "Old Straps," St. Josephs walked jauntily through Mayfair,
till he came to the well-known street, which seemed to him now
even as a glade in Paradise. The crossing-sweeper blessed him with
considerable emphasis, brushing energetically in his path; for when
going the General was invariably good for sixpence, and on propitious
days would add thereto a shilling as he returned.

On the present occasion, though his hand was in his pocket, it remained
there with the coin in its finger and thumb; for the wayfarer stopped
petrified in the middle of the street; the sweeper held his tattered
hat at arm's-length, motionless as a statue; and a bare-headed
butcher's-boy, standing erect in a light cart, pulled his horse on its
haunches, and called out--

"Now then, stoopid! D'ye want all the road to yerself?" grazing the old
officer's coat-tails as he drove by with a brutal laugh.

But neither irreverence nor outrage served to divert the General's
attention from the sight that so disturbed his equanimity.

"There's that d--d black mare again!" he muttered, while he clenched
his teeth, and his cheek turned pale. "I'll put a stop to this one way
or the other. Steady, steady! No; my game is to be won by pluck and
patience. It's very near the end now. Shall I lose it by failing in
both?"

The black mare, looking but little the worse for training, was indeed
in the act of leaving Blanche's door. Miss Douglas had evidently
ridden her that morning in the Park. She might have told the General,
he thought. She might have asked him to accompany her as he used.
She ought to have no secrets from him now; but was he in truth any
nearer her inner life, any more familiar with her dearest thoughts
and wishes than he had been months ago? Surely she was not treating
him well! Surely he deserved more confidence than this. The General
felt very sore and angry; but summoning all his self-command, walked
upstairs,--and for this he deserves no little credit,--with an assured
step, and a calm, unruffled brow.

"Miss Douglas was dressing," the servant said. "Miss Douglas had been
out for a ride. Would the General take a seat, and look at to-day's
paper? Miss Douglas had said '_partic'lar_' she would be at home."

It was irritating to wait, but it was soothing to know she was at home
"_partic'lar_" when _he_ called. The General sat down to peruse the
advertisement sheet of the paper, reading absently a long and laudatory
description of the trousseaux and other articles for family use
supplied by a certain house in the city at less than cost price!



CHAPTER XXI

A SNAKE IN THE GRASS


His studies were soon interrupted by the rustle of a dress on the
staircase. With difficulty he forbore rushing out to meet its wearer,
but managed to preserve the composure of an ordinary morning visitor,
when the door opened, and--enter Mrs. Lushington! She must have
read his disappointment in his face; for she looked half-amused,
half-provoked, and there was no less malice than mirth in her eyes
while she observed--

"Blanche will be down directly, General, and don't be afraid I shall
interrupt your _tête-à-tête_, for I am going away as soon as I've
written a note. You can rehearse all the charming things you have got
to say in the meantime."

He had recovered his _savoir-faire_.

"Rehearse them to _you_?" he asked, laughing. "It would be pretty
practice, no doubt. Shall I begin?"

"Not now," she answered, in the same tone. "There is hardly time;
though Blanche wouldn't be very cross about it, I dare say. She is
liberal enough, and knows she can trust _me_."

"I am sure you are a true friend," he returned gravely. "Miss
Douglas--Blanche--has not too many. I hope you will always remain one
of her staunchest and best."

She smiled sadly.

"Do you _really_ mean it?" said she, taking his hand. "You can't
imagine how happy it makes me to hear you say so. I thought you
considered me a vain, ignorant, frivolous little woman, like the rest."

Perhaps he did, but this was not the moment to confess it.

"What a strange world it would be," he answered, "if we knew the real
opinions of our friends. In this case, Mrs. Lushington, you see how
wrong you were about mine."

"I believe you, General!" she exclaimed. "I feel that you are truth
itself. I am sure you never deceived a woman in your life, and I
_cannot_ understand how any woman could find it in her heart to deceive
_you_. One ought never to forgive such an offence, and I can believe
that _you_ never would."

He thought her earnestness unaccountable, and wholly uncalled for; but
his senses were on the alert to catch the first symptoms of Blanche's
approach, and he answered rather absently--

"Quite right! Of course not. Double-dealing is _the_ thing I hate. You
may cheat me once; that is _your_ fault. It is my own if you ever take
me in again."

"No wonder Blanche values your good opinion," said Mrs. Lushington
meaningly. "She has not spent her life amongst people whose standard
is so high. Hush! here she comes. Ah! General, you won't care about
talking to _me_ now!"

She gave him one reproachful glance in which there was a little
merriment, a little pique, and a great deal of tender interest, ere she
departed to write her note in the back drawing-room.

It was impossible not to contrast her kind and deferential manner with
the cold, collected bearing of Miss Douglas, who entered the room, like
a queen about to hold her court, rather than a loving maiden, hurrying
to meet her lord.

She had always been remarkable for quiet dignity in motion or repose.

It was one of the many charms on which the General lavished his
admiration, but he could have dispensed with this royal composure now.
It seemed a little out of place in their relative positions. Also he
would have liked to see the colour deepen in her proud impassive face,
though his honest heart ached while he reflected how the bright tints
had faded of late, how the glory of her beauty had departed, leaving
her always pale and saddened now.

He would have asked a leading question, hazarded a gentle reproach, or
in some way made allusion to the arrival of his _bête noir_, but her
altered looks disarmed him; and it was Satanella herself who broached
the subject, by quietly informing her visitor she had just returned
from riding the black mare in the Park. "Do you _mind_?" she added,
rising in some confusion to pull a blind down, while she spoke.

Here would have been an opportunity for a confession of jealousy, an
appeal to her feelings, pleadings, promises, protestations,--to use
the General's own metaphor,--"an attack along the whole line;" but
how was he thus to offer decisive battle, with his flank exposed and
threatened, with Mrs. Lushington's ears wide open and attentive, while
her pen went scribble, scribble, almost in the same room?

"I _mind_ everything you do," said he gallantly, "and object to
nothing! If I _did_ want to get up a grievance, I should quarrel with
you for not ordering me to parade in attendance on you in the Park. My
time, as you know, is always yours, and I am never so happy as with
you. Blanche (dropping his voice), I am never _really_ happy when you
are out of my sight."

She glanced towards the writing-table, and though the folding-doors,
half-shut, concealed that lady's person, seemed glad to observe, by
the continual scratching of a pen, that Mrs. Lushington had not yet
finished her note.

"You are always good and kind," said Blanche, forcing a smile. "Far
more than I deserve. Will you ride another day, early? Thanks; I knew
you would. I should have asked you this morning but I had a headache,
and thought I should only be a bore. Besides, I expected you in the
afternoon. Then Clara came to luncheon, and we went upstairs, and now
the carriage will be round in five minutes. That is the way the day
goes by; yet it seems very long too, only not so bad as the night."

Again his face fell. It was uphill work, he thought. Surely women
were not usually so difficult to woo, or his own memory played him
false, and his friends romanced unpardonably in their narratives. But,
nevertheless, in all the prizes of life that which seemed fairest and
best hung highest out of reach, and he would persevere to the end. Aye!
even if he should fail at last!

Miss Douglas seemed to possess some intuitive knowledge of his
intention; and conscious of his determination to overcome them, was
perhaps the more disposed to throw difficulties in his path. He
should have remembered that in love as in war, a rapid flank movement
and complete change of tactics will often prevail, when vigilance,
endurance, and honest courage have been tried in vain.

Satanella could not but appreciate a delicacy that forbade further
inquiry about the black mare. No sooner had she given vent to her
feelings, in the little explosion recorded above, than she bitterly
regretted their expression, comparing her wayward petulant disposition
with the temper and constancy displayed by her admirer. Sorrowful,
softened, filled with self-reproach, she gave him one of her winning
smiles, and bade him forgive her display of ill-humour, or bear with
it, as one of many evil qualities, the result of her morbid temperament
and isolated lot.

"Then I slept badly, and went out tired. The Ride was crowded, the sun
broiling, the mare disagreeable. Altogether, I came back as cross as
two sticks. General, are _you_ never out of humour? And how do you get
rid of your ill-tempers? You certainly don't visit them on _me_!"

"How _could_ I?" he asked in return. "How can I ever be anything but
your servant, your slave? Oh! Blanche, you must believe me _now_. How
much longer is my probation to last? Is the time to be always put off
from day to day, and must I----"

"Clara! Clara!" exclaimed Miss Douglas to her friend in the back
drawing-room, "shall you never have done with those tiresome letters?
Have you any idea what o'clock it is? And the carriage was ordered at
five!"

The General smothered a curse. It was invariably so. No sooner did he
think he had gained a secure footing, wrested a position of advantage,
than she cut the ground from under him, pushed him down the hill, and
his labour was lost, his task all to begin again! It seemed as if she
could not bear to face her real position, glancing off at a tangent,
without the slightest compunction, from the one important topic he was
constantly watching an opportunity to broach.

"Just done! and a good day's work too!" replied Mrs. Lushington's
silver tones from the writing-table, and it must have been a quicker
ear than either Satanella's or the General's to detect in that playful
sentence the spirit of mischievous triumph it conveyed.

Mrs. Lushington was delighted. She felt sure she had fathomed a secret,
discovered the clue to an intrigue, and by such means as seemed
perfectly fair and justifiable to her warped sense of right and wrong.

Finding herself a third person in a small party that should have
been limited to two, she made urgent correspondence her excuse for
withdrawing to such a distance as might admit of overhearing their
conversation, while the lovers, if lovers indeed they were, should
think themselves unobserved.

So she opened Satanella's blotting-book, and spread a sheet of
note-paper on its folds.

Mrs. Lushington had a quick eye, no less than a ready wit. Blanche's
blotting-paper was of the best quality, soft, thin, and absorbent.
Where the writing-book opened, so shrewd an observer did not fail to
detect the words "Roscommon, Ireland," traced clear and distinct as
a lithograph, though reversed. Looking through the page, against the
light, she read Daisy's address in his hiding-place with his humble
friend Denis plainly enough, and the one word "Registered" underlined
at the corner.

"_Enfin je te pince!_" she muttered below her breath. It was evident
Satanella was in Daisy's confidence, that she knew his address,--which
had been extorted indeed with infinite trouble from a lad whom he had
sent to England in charge of the precious mare,--and had written to
him within the last day or two. It was a great discovery! Her hand
shook from sheer excitement, while she considered how best it could
be turned to account, how it might serve to wean the General of his
infatuation, to detach him from her friend, perhaps at last to secure
him for herself. But she must proceed cautiously; make every step good,
as she went on; prove each link of the chain, while she forged it; and
when Blanche was fairly in the toils, show her the usual mercy extended
by one woman to another.

Of course, she wrote her notes on a fresh page of the blotting-book.
Of course, she rose from her employment frank, smiling, unsuspicious.
Of course, she was more than usually affectionate to Blanche, and that
young lady, well-skilled in the wiles of her own sex, wondering what
had happened, watched her friend's conduct with some anxiety and yet
more contempt.

"Good-bye, Blanche."

"Good-bye, Clara."

"Come again soon, dear!"

"You may depend upon me, love!"

And they kissed each other with a warmth of affection in no way damped
or modified because Blanche suspected, and Clara resolved, henceforth
it must be war to the knife!

In taking her leave of the General, however, Mrs. Lushington could not
resist an allusion to their previous conversation, putting into her
manner so much of tender regard and respectful interest as was pleasing
enough to him and inexpressibly galling to her friend.

"Have you said your say?" she asked, looking very pretty and
good-humoured as she gave him both hands. "I'm sure you had lots
of time, and the best of opportunities. Don't you think I'm very
considerate?"

"More--very generous!"

"Come and see me soon. Whenever you like. With or without dear Blanche.
She won't mind; I'm always at home, to either of you--or both."

Then she made a funny little curtsey, gave him one more smile, one
sidelong sorrowful glance, with her hand on the door, and was gone.

Blanche's spirit rose to arms; every instinct of her sex urged her
to resist this unconscionable freebooter, this lawless professor of
piracy and annexation. After all, whether she cared for him or not,
the General was her own property. And what right had this woman to
come between mistress and servant, with her becks and leers, her
smiles and wiles, and meretricious ways? She had never valued her
lover higher than at the moment Mrs. Lushington left the room; but he
destroyed his advantage, kicked down all his good fortune, by looking
in Miss Douglas's face with an expression of slavish devotion, while he
exclaimed--

"How different that woman is from you, Blanche. Surely, my queen, there
is nobody like you in the world!"



CHAPTER XXII

AN EXPERT


Returning from morning stables to his barrack-room, Soldier Bill
found on his table a document that puzzled him exceedingly. He read
it a dozen times, turned it up-side down, smoothed it out with his
riding-whip, all in vain. He could make nothing of it; then he summoned
Barney.

"When did this thing come, and who brought it?"

"Five minutes back," answered the batman. "Left by a young man on
fatigue duty."

So Barney, with military exactitude, described a government official,
in the costume of its telegraphic department.

"Did the man leave no message?" continued Bill.

"Said as there was nothing to pay," answered Barney, standing at
"attention" and obviously considering this part of his communication
satisfactory in the extreme.

"Said there was nothing to pay!" mused his master, "and I would have
given him a guinea to explain any two words of it." Then he took his
coat off, and sat doggedly down to read the mysterious sentences again
and again.

The soldier, as he expressed it, was "up a tree!" That the message
must be of importance, he argued from its mode of transmission. The
sender's name was legible enough, and his own address perfectly
correct. He felt sure Daisy would not have telegraphed from the wilds
of Roscommon but on a matter of urgency; and it did seem provoking
that the only sense to be got out of the whole composition, was in
the sentence with which it concluded--"Do not lose a moment." In his
perplexity, he could think of no one so likely to help him as Mrs.
Lushington.

"She has more 'nous' in that pretty little head of hers," thought Bill,
as he plunged into a suit of plain clothes, "than the Horse Guards and
the War Office put together. _She'll_ knock the marrow out of this, if
anybody can! I've heard her guess riddles right off, the first time she
heard them; and there isn't her equal in London for acting charades
and games of that kind, where you must be down to it, before they can
say 'knife.' By Jove, I shouldn't wonder if this was a double acrostic
after all? Only Daisy wouldn't be such a flat as to telegraph it all
the way from Ireland to _me_. I hope she'll see me. It's awfully early.
I wonder if she'll blow me up for coming so soon."

These reflections, and Catamount's thorough-bred canter, soon brought
him to Mrs. Lushington's door. She was at home, and sufficiently
well prepared for exercises of ingenuity, having been engaged, after
breakfast,--though it is but fair to say, such skirmishes were of
unusual occurrence,--in a passage-of-arms with Frank.

The latter was a good-_natured_ man, with a bad _temper_. His wife's
temper was excellent; but her enemies, and indeed her friends, said she
was ill-_natured_. Though scarcely to be called an attached couple,
these two seldom found it worth while to quarrel, and so long as the
selfishness of each did not clash with the other, they jogged on
quietly enough. It was only when domestic affairs threw them together
more than common, that the contact elicited certain sparks, such
as crackled on occasion into what observers below-stairs called a
"flare-up."

To-day they happened to breakfast together. After a few "backhanders,"
and some rapid exchanges, in which the husband came by the worst, their
conversation turned on money-matters--always a sore subject, as each
considered that the other spent more than a due share of their joint
income. Complaints led to recriminations, until at length, goaded
by the sharpness of his wife's tongue, Mr. Lushington exclaimed:
"Narrow-minded, indeed! Paltry economy! I can tell you, if I didn't
keep a precious tight hand, and deny myself--well--lots of things.
I say if I didn't deny myself _lots_ of things, I should be in the
Bench--that's all."

"Then you are a very bad financier," she retorted, "worse than the
Chancellor of the Exchequer even. But I don't believe it. I believe
you're saving money every day."

He rose from his chair in a transport of irritation, the skirts of his
dressing-gown floating round him, like the rags of a whirling dervish.

"Saving money!" he repeated, in a sort of suppressed scream. "I can
only tell you I had to borrow five hundred last week, and from little
Sharon too. That doesn't mean getting it at three per cent.!"

"Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" said she. "No gentleman
borrows money from Sharon."

"No gentleman!" he vociferated. "Upon my life, Mrs. Lushington, I wish
you would try to be more temperate in your language. No Gentleman,
indeed! I should like to know what you call General St. Josephs? I
fancy he is rather a favourite of yours. All I can tell you is, _he_
borrows money of Sharon. Lumps of money, at exorbitant interest."

"It's very easy to _say_ these things," she replied. "But you can't
prove them!"

"Can't I?" was his rejoinder. "Well, I suppose you won't doubt my
word, when I give you my honour, that he consulted me himself about a
loan from this very man. Three thousand pounds, Mrs. Lushington--three
thousand pounds sterling, and at two days' notice. Didn't care what he
paid for it, and wanted it; well, _I_ didn't ask him why he wanted it;
_I_ don't pry into other people's money-matters. _I_ don't always think
the worst of my neighbours. But you'll allow I'm right, I hope! You'll
admit so much at any rate!"

"That has nothing to do with it," replied his wife; and in this highly
satisfactory manner their matrimonial bicker terminated.

Mrs. Lushington, while remaining, in a modified sense, mistress of the
position--for Frank retired to his own den, when the servants came
to take away breakfast--found her curiosity keenly stimulated by the
little piece of gossip thus let fall under the excitement of a conjugal
wrangle. What on earth could St. Josephs want with three thousand
pounds? She had never heard he was a gambler. On a race-course, she
knew, from personal observation, that beyond a few half-crowns with the
ladies, he would not venture a shilling. He had told her repeatedly how
he abhorred foreign loans, joint-stock companies, lucrative investments
of all sorts, and money speculations of any kind whatever; yet here, if
she believed her husband, was this wise and cautious veteran plunging
overhead in a transaction wholly out of keeping with his character and
habits. "There _must_ be a woman at the bottom of it!" thought Mrs.
Lushington, not unreasonably, resolving at the same time never to rest
till she had sifted the whole mystery from beginning to end.

She felt so keen on her quest, that she could even have found it
in her heart to seek Frank in his own snuggery, and, sinking her
dignity, there endeavoured to worm out of him further particulars,
when Catamount was pulled up with some difficulty at her door, and
his master's card sent in, accompanied by a humble petition that the
early visitor might be admitted. Having darkened her eyelashes just
before breakfast, and being, moreover, dressed in an unusually becoming
morning toilet, she returned a favourable answer, so that Soldier
Bill, glowing from his ride, was ushered into her boudoir without delay.

Her womanly tact observed his fussed and anxious looks. She assumed,
therefore, an air of interest and gravity in her own.

"There's some bother," said she kindly; "I see it in your face. How can
I help you, and what can I do?"

"You're a conjuror, by Jove!" gasped Bill, in a paroxysm of admiration
at her omniscience.

"_You're_ not, at any rate!" she replied, smiling. "But, come, tell me
all about it. You're in a scrape? You've been a naughty boy. What have
you been doing? Out with it!"

"It's nothing of my own; I give you my honour," replied Bill.
"It's Daisy's turn now. Look here, Mrs. Lushington. I'm completely
puzzled--regularly knocked out of time. Read that. I can't make head or
tail of it."

He handed her the telegram, which she perused in silence, then burst
out laughing, and read it again aloud for his edification:--

"_Very strong Honey just arrived--bulls a-light on Bank of
Ireland--Sent by an unknown Fiend--fail immediately--Sell
Chief--consult a Gent, and strip Aaron at once--Do not lose a moment._"

"Mr. Walters must be gone raving mad, or is this a practical joke, and
why do you bring it here?"

"I don't think it's a joke," answered Bill ruefully. "I brought it
because you know everything. If _you_ can't help me, I'm done!"

"Quite right," said she. "Always consult a woman in a tangle. Now this
thing is just like a skein of silk. If we can't unravel it at one end,
we begin at the other. In the first place, who is Aaron? and how would
you proceed to strip him?"

"Aaron," repeated Bill thoughtfully. "Aaron--I never heard of such a
person. There's Sharon, you know; but stripping _him_ would be out of
the question. It's generally the other way!"

"Sharon's a money-lender, isn't he?" she asked. "What business have
_you_ to know anything about him, you wicked young man?"

"Never borrowed a sixpence in my life," protested Bill, which was
perfectly true. "But I've been to him often enough lately about this
business of Daisy's. We've arranged to get fifteen hundred from _him_
alone. Perhaps that is what is meant by stripping him. But it was all
to be in hard money; and though I know Sharon sometimes makes you take
goods, I never heard of his sending a fellow bulls, or strong honey, or
indeed, anything but dry sherry and cigars."

She knit her brows and read the message again. "I think I have it,"
said she. "'_Strip Aaron._' That must mean 'Stop Sharon.' '_Sell
the Chief_',--that's 'Tell the Colonel.' Then '_fail immediately_'
signifies that the writer means to cross by the first boat. Where does
it come from--Dublin or Roscommon?"

"Roscommon," answered Bill. "They're not much in the habit of
telegraphing up there."

"Depend upon it Daisy has dropped into a good thing. Somebody must
have left, or lent, or _given_ him a lot of money. I have it! I have
it! This is how you must read it," she exclaimed, and following the
lines with her taper finger, she put them into sense with no little
exultation, for the benefit of her admiring listener. "'_Very strange!
Money just arrived. Bill at sight, on Bank of Ireland. Sent by an
unknown Friend. Sail immediately. Tell Chief. Consult Agent, and stop
Sharon at once._ Do not lose a moment.' There, sir, should I, or should
I not, make a good expert at the Bank."

"You're a witch--simply a witch," returned the delighted Bill. "It's
regular, downright magic. Of course, that's what he means. Of course,
he's come into a fortune. Hurrah! hurrah! Mrs. Lushington, have you any
objection? I should like to throw my hat in the street, please, and put
my head out of window to shout!"

"I beg you'll put out nothing of the kind!" she answered, laughing. "If
you must be a boy, at least be a good boy, and do what I tell you."

"I should think I _would_ just!" he protested, still in his paroxysm of
admiration. "You know more than the examiners at Sandhurst! You could
give _pounds_ to the senior department! If you weren't so--I mean if
you were old and ugly--I should really believe what I said at first,
that you're a witch!"

She smiled on him in a very bewitching manner; but her brains were
hard at work the while recapitulating all she had learned in the last
twenty-four hours, with a pleasant conviction that she had put her
puzzle together at last. Yes, she saw it clearly now. The registered
envelope of which she found the address, in reverse, on Blanche's
blotting-paper, must have contained those very bills, mentioned in
Daisy's telegram. It had struck her at the time that the handwriting
was stiff and formal, as if disguised; but this served to account for
the mysterious announcement of an "unknown fiend!" She was satisfied
that Miss Douglas had sent anonymously the sum he wanted to the man
she loved. And that sum Bill had already told her was three thousand
pounds--exactly the amount, according to her husband's version, lately
borrowed by the General from a notorious money-lender. Was it possible
Satanella could thus have stripped one admirer to benefit another?
It must be so. Such treachery deserved no mercy, and Mrs. Lushington
determined to show none.

She considered how far her visitor might be trusted with this startling
discovery. It was as well, she thought, that he should be at least
partially enlightened, particularly as the transaction was but little
to the credit of any one concerned, and could not, therefore, be made
public too soon. So she laid her hand on Bill's coat-sleeve, and
observed impressively--

"Never mind about my being old and ugly, but attend to what I say.
Daisy, as you call him, has evidently found a good friend. Now I know
who that friend is. Don't ask me how I found it out. I never speak
without being sure. That money came from Miss Douglas."

Bill opened his eyes and mouth. "Miss Douglas!" he repeated. "Not the
black girl with the black mare?"

"The black girl with the black mare, and no other," she answered. "Miss
Douglas has paid his debts, and saved him from ruin. What return can a
man make for such generosity as that?"

"She's a trump, and he ought to marry her!" exclaimed the young
officer. "No great sacrifice either. Only," he added, on reflection,
"she looks a bit of a Tartar--wants her head let quite alone at her
fences, I should think. She'd be rather a handful; but Daisy wouldn't
mind that. Yes; he's bound to marry her no doubt; and I'll see him
through it."

"I quite agree with you," responded Mrs. Lushington, "but I won't have
you talk about ladies as if they were hunters. It's bad style, young
gentleman, so don't do it again. Now, attend to what I tell you. Jump
on that poor horse of yours; it must be very tired of staring into
my dining-room windows. Go to your agent, and send _him_ to Sharon.
Let your Colonel know at once. When Daisy arrives, impress on him all
that he is bound in honour to do, and you may come and see me again,
whenever you like, to report progress."

So Bill leapt into the saddle in exceedingly good spirits, while Mrs.
Lushington sat down to her writing-table, with the self-satisfied
sensations of one who has performed an action of provident kindness and
good-will.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DEBT OF HONOUR


Daisy's astonishment, on receiving by post those documents that
restored him to the world from his vegetation in Roscommon, was no
less unbounded than his joy. When he opened the registered letter,
and bills for the whole amount of his liabilities fluttered out,
he could scarcely believe his eyes. Then he puzzled himself to no
purpose, in wild speculations as to the friend who had thus dropped
from the skies at his utmost need. He had an uncle prosperous enough
in worldly matters, but this uncle hated parting with his money,
and was, moreover, abroad, whereas the welcome letter bore a London
post-mark. He could think of no other relative nor friend rich enough,
even if willing, to assist him in so serious a difficulty. The more
he considered his good luck, the more inexplicable it appeared; nor,
taking his host into consultation, did that worthy's suggestions tend
to elucidate the mystery.

In the first place, recalling many similar instances under his own
observation, Denis opined that the money must have been hidden up
for his guest, long ago, by his great grandmother, in a stocking,
and forgotten! Next, that the Prussian Government, having heard of
the mare's performances at Punchestown, had bought her for breeding
purposes, at such a sum as they considered her marketable value. And,
lastly (standing the more stoutly by this theory, for the failure of
its predecessors), that the whole amount had been subscribed under
a general vote of the Kildare Street Club, in testimony of their
admiration for Daisy's bold riding and straightforward conduct as a
sportsman!

Leaving him perfectly satisfied with this explanation, Daisy bade
his host an affectionate farewell, and started without delay for
London, previously telegraphing to his comrade at Kensington certain
information and instructions for his guidance. Warped in its
transmission by an imaginative clerk in a hurry, we have seen how this
message confused and distracted the honest perceptions of its recipient.

That young officer was sitting down to breakfast, with Venus under his
chair, while Benjamin, the badger, poked a cautious nose out of his
stronghold in the wardrobe, when the hasty retreat of one animal, and
formidable growlings of the other, announced a strange step on the
stairs. Immediately Daisy rushed into the room, vociferated for Barney
to look after his "traps" and pay the cab, seized a hot plate, wagged
his head at his host, and began breakfast without further ceremony.

"Seem peckish, young man," observed Bill, contemplating his friend
with extreme satisfaction. "Sick as a fool last night, no doubt, and
sharp-set this morning in consequence. Go in for a cutlet, my boy.
Another kidney, then. That's right. Have a suck of the lemon, and at
him again!"

Munching steadily, Daisy repudiated the imputation of sea-sickness,
with the scorn of a practised mariner. "It seems to me that I live
on that Channel," said he, "like a ship's-steward, Bill, or a
horse-marine! Well, I've done with it now, I hope, for some time. How
jolly it is to feel straight again! It's like your horse getting up,
when he's been on his head, without giving the crowner you deserve. It
was touch-and-go this time, old chap. I say, you got my telegram?"

Bill laughed. "I did, indeed!" he answered; "and a nice mull they made.
Read it for yourself."

Thus speaking, he tossed across the breakfast-table that singular
communication which his unassisted ingenuity had so failed to
comprehend.

Daisy perused it with no little astonishment. "The fools!" he
exclaimed. "Why, Bill, you must have thought I'd gone mad."

"We _did_," replied Bill gravely. "Stark staring, my boy. We said we
always _had_ considered you 'a hatter,' but not so bad as this."

"_We!_" repeated his friend. "What d'ye mean by _we_? You didn't go
jawing about it in the regiment, Bill?"

"When I say we," answered the other, with something of a blush, "I mean
me and Mrs. Lushington."

"What had _she_ to do with it?" asked Daisy, pushing his plate away,
and lighting a cigar. "_She_ didn't send the stuff, I'll take my oath!"

"But she knows who did," said Bill, filling a meerschaum pipe of
liberal dimensions, with profound gravity.

Then they smoked in silence for several minutes.

"It's a very rum go," observed Daisy, after a prolonged and thoughtful
puff. "I don't know when I've been so completely at fault. Tell me what
you've heard, Bill, for you _have_ heard something, I'm sure. In the
first place, how came you to take counsel with Mrs. Lushington?"

"Because she is up to every move in the game," was the answer. "Because
she's the cleverest woman in London, and the nicest. Because I was
regularly beat, and could think of nobody else to help me at short
notice. The telegram said, 'Do not lose a moment.'"

"And what did _she_ make of it?" asked Daisy.

"Tumbled to the whole plant in three minutes," answered Bill. "Put the
telegram straight--bulls, honey, and all--as easy as wheeling into
line. I tell you, we know as much as you do now, and _more_. You've got
three 'thou,' Daisy, ready-money down, to do what you like with. Isn't
that right?"

Daisy nodded assent.

"The Chief's delighted, and I've sent the agent to Sharon. Luckily,
the little beggar's not so unreasonable as we thought he'd be. That
reckons up the telegram, doesn't it?"

Again Daisy nodded, smoking serenely.

"Then there's nothing more for you to bother about," continued his
host; "and I'm glad of it. Only, next time, Daisy, you won't pull for
an old woman, I fancy, in a winning race."

"Nor a young one either," said his friend. "But you haven't told me now
who the money came from."

"Can't you guess? Have you no idea?"

"Not the faintest."

"What should you say to Miss Douglas?"

"Miss Douglas!"

By the tone in which Daisy repeated her name, that young lady was
obviously the last person in the world from whom he expected to receive
pecuniary assistance.

Though no longer peaceful, his meditations seemed deeper than ever. At
length he threw away the end of his cigar with a gesture of impatience
and vexation.

"This is a very disagreeable business," said he. "Hang it, Bill, I
almost wish the money had never come. I can't send it back, for a
thousand's gone already to our kind old major, who promised to settle
my book at Tattersall's. I wonder where she got such a sum. By Jove,
it's the handsomest thing I ever heard of! What would you do, Bill, if
you were in my place?"

"Do," repeated his friend; "I've no doubt what I should _do_. I should
order Catamount round at once; then I think I'd have a brandy-and-soda;
in ten minutes I'd be at Miss Douglas's door, and in fifteen I'd
have--what d'ye call it?--proposed to her. Proposed to her, my boy, all
according to regulation. I'm not sure how you set about these things. I
fancy you go down on your knees; I know you ought to put your arm round
their waists; but lots of fellows could coach you for all that part,
and even if you did anything that's not in the book, this is a case of
emergency, and, in my opinion, you might chance it!"

Having thus delivered himself, the speaker assumed a judicial air,
smoking severely.

"In plain English, a woman buys one for three thousand pounds!" said
Daisy, laughing rather bitterly. "_And only three thousand bid for him.
Going! Going!!_"

"_Gone!!!_" added Bill, bringing his fist down on the table with a bang
that startled the badger, and elicited an angry bark from Venus. "A
deuced good price, too; I only hope I shall fetch half as much when I'm
brought to the hammer. Why you ought to be delighted, my good fellow.
She's as handsome as paint, and the best horse-woman that ever wore a
habit!"

"I don't deny her riding, nor her beauty, nor her merit in every way,"
said Daisy, somewhat ruefully. "In fact, she's much too good for a
fellow like me. But do you mean, seriously, Bill, that I must marry her
because she has paid my debts?"

"I do, indeed," answered his friend; "and Mrs. Lushington thinks so
too."

Before Daisy's eyes rose the vision of an Irish river glancing in the
sunshine, with banks of tender green and ripples of molten gold, and
a fishing-rod lying neglected on its margin, while a fair, fond face
looked loving and trustful in his own.

There are certain hopes akin to the child's soap-bubble which we
cherish insensibly, admiring their airy grace and radiant colouring,
almost persuading ourselves of their reality, till we apply to them
some practical test--then behold! at a touch, the bubble bursts,
the dream vanishes, to leave us only a vague sense of injustice, an
uncomfortable consciousness of disappointment and disgust.

"I conclude Mrs. Lushington understands these things, and knows exactly
what a fellow ought to do," said Daisy, after another pause that
denoted he was in no indiscreet hurry to act on that lady's decision.

"Of course she does!" answered Bill. "She's a regular authority, you
know, or I wouldn't have gone to her. You couldn't be in safer hands."

Both young men seemed to look on the whole transaction in the light
of a duel, or some such affair of honour, requiring caution no less
than courage, and in the conduct of which the opinion of a celebrated
practitioner like Mrs. Lushington was invaluable and unimpeachable.

"But if I--if I don't like her well enough," said poor Daisy, looking
very uncomfortable. "Hang it, Bill, when one marries a woman, you
know, one's obliged to be always with her. Early breakfast, home to
luncheon, family dinner, smoke out of doors, and in by ten o'clock. I
shouldn't like it at all; and then perhaps she'd take me to morning
visits and croquet parties. Think of that, Bill! Like poor Martingale,
whose only holiday is when he gets the belt on, and can't stir out of
barracks for four-and-twenty hours. To be sure, Miss Douglas is a good
many cuts above Mrs. Martingale!"

"To be sure she is!" echoed his adviser. "And I dare say, after all,
Daisy, it is not quite so bad as we think. Wet days and that you'd
have to yourself, you know, and she wouldn't want you when she had a
headache. Mrs. Martingale often has headaches, and so should I if I
liquored up as freely!"

"But supposing," argued Daisy, "I say only _supposing_, Bill, one liked
another girl better; oughtn't that to make a difference?"

"I'm afraid _not_," replied Bill, shaking his head. "I didn't think of
putting the case in that way to Mrs. Lushington, but I don't imagine
she'd admit the objection. No, no, my boy, it's no use being shifty
about it. You've got to jump, and the longer you look, the less you'll
like it! If it was a mere matter of business, I wouldn't say a word,
but see how the case stands. There are no receipts, no vouchers; she
has kept everything dark, that you might feel under no obligation. Hang
it, old fellow, it's a regular debt of honour; and there's no way of
paying up, that I can see, but this."

Such an argument was felt to be unanswerable.

"A debt of honour," repeated Daisy. "I suppose it is. Very well; I'll
set about it at once. I can't begin to-day though."

"Why not?" asked his friend.

"No time," answered the other, who in many respects was a true
Englishman. "I've got lots of things to do. In the first place, I must
have my hair cut, of course!"



CHAPTER XXIV

A PERTINENT QUESTION


A letter, without date or signature, written in an upright, clerkly
hand, correctly spelt, sufficiently well-expressed, and stamped at the
General Post Office! St. Josephs had no clue to his correspondent,
and could but read the following production over and over again with
feelings of irritation and annoyance that increased at each perusal:--

"You have been grossly ill-treated and deceived. A sense of justice
compels the writer of these lines to warn you before it is too late.
You are the victim of a conspiracy to plunder and defraud. One cannot
bear to see a man of honour robbed by the grossest foul play. General
St. Josephs is not asked to believe a bare and unsupported statement.
Let him recapitulate certain facts, and judge for himself. He best
knows whether he did not lately borrow a large sum of money. He can
easily discover if that amount corresponds, to a fraction, with the
losses of a young officer celebrated for his horsemanship. Let him
ascertain why that person's debts have stood over till now; also, how
and when they have been settled. Will he have courage to ask himself,
or _somebody_ he trusts as himself, whence came these funds that have
placed his rival in a position to return to England? Will he weigh
the answer in the balance of common-sense; or is he so infatuated by
a certain dark lady that he can be fooled with his eyes open, in full
light of day? There is no time to lose, or this caution would never
have been given. If neglected, the General will regret his incredulity
as long as he lives. Most women would appreciate his admiration; many
would be more than proud of his regard. There is but one, perhaps, in
the world who could thus repay it by injury and deceit. He is entreated
to act at once on this communication, and to believe that of all his
well-wishers it comes from the sincerest and the most reliable."

Everybody affects to despise anonymous letters. No doubt it is a wise
maxim that such communications should be put in the fire at once,
and ignored as if they did not exist. Nevertheless, on the majority
of mankind they inflict unreasonable anxiety and distress. The sting
rankles, though the insect be infinitesimal and contemptible; the blow
falls none the less severely that it has been delivered in the dark.

On a nature like the General's such an epistle as the above was
calculated to produce the utmost amount of impatience and discomfort.
To use a familiar expression, it _worried_ him beyond measure.
Straightforward in all his dealings, he felt utterly at a loss when
he came in contact with mystery or deceit. Nothing could furnish
plainer proof of the General's sincere attachment to Miss Douglas than
the fortitude with which he confronted certain petty vexations and
annoyances inseparable from the love affairs of young and old.

 "Ah me! what perils do environ,
 The man who meddles with cold iron,"

quoth Hudibras, but surely his risk is yet greater, who elects to heat
the metal from hilt to point in the furnace of his own affections, and
burns his fingers every time he draws the sword, even in self-defence.
To St. Josephs who, after a manhood of hardship, excitement, and some
military renown, had arrived at a time of life when comfort and repose
are more appreciated, and more desirable every day, nothing could have
been so distasteful as the character he now chose to enact, but for
_her_ charms, who had cast the part for him, and with whom, by dint of
perseverance and fidelity, he hoped to play out the play.

Though he often sighed to remember how heavily he was weighted with his
extra burden of years, he never dreamed of retiring from the contest,
nor relaxed for one moment in his efforts to attain the goal.

Twenty times was he on the point of destroying a letter that so annoyed
him, and twenty times he checked himself, with the reflection, that
even the treacherous weapon might be wrested from the enemy, and turned
to his own advantage by sincerity and truth. After much cogitation,
he ordered his horse, dressed himself carefully, and rode to Miss
Douglas's door.

That lady was at home. Luncheon, coming out of the dining-room
untouched, met him as he crossed the hall, and the tones of her
pianoforte rang in his ears, while he went upstairs. When the door
opened she rose from the instrument and turned to greet him with a pale
face, showing traces of recent tears.

All his self-command vanished at these tokens of her distress.

"You've been crying, my darling," said he, and taking her hand in both
his own, he pressed it fondly to his lips.

It was not a bad beginning. Hitherto he had always been so formal, so
respectful, so unlike a lover; now, when he saw she was unhappy, the
man's real nature broke out, and she liked him none the worse.

Withdrawing her hand, but looking very kindly, and speaking in a softer
tone than usual, she bade him take no notice of her agitation.

"I'm nervous," said she. "I often am. You men can't understand these
things, but it's better than being cross at any rate."

"Cross!" he repeated. "Be as cross and as nervous as you like, only
make _me_ the prop when you require support, and the scapegoat when you
want to scold."

"You're too good," said she, her dark eyes filling again, whereat he
placed himself very close and took her hand once more. "Far too good
for _me_! I've told you so a hundred times. General, shall I confess
why I was--was making such a fool of myself, and what I was thinking of
when you came in?"

"If it's painful to _you_, I'd rather not hear it," was his answer. "I
want to be associated with the sunshine of your life, Blanche, not its
shade."

She shook her head.

"Whoever takes that part in _my_ life," she replied, "must remain a
good deal in the dark. That's what I was coming to. General, it is
time you and I should understand each other. I feel I could tell _you_
things I would not breathe to any other living being. You're so safe,
so honourable, so punctiliously, so _ridiculously_ honourable, and I
_like_ you for it."

He looked grateful.

"I want you to like me," said he. "Better and better every day. I'll
try to deserve it."

"They say time works wonders," she answered wistfully, "and I feel
I shall. I _know_ I shall. But there are some things I _must_ tell
you now, while I have the courage. Mind, I am prepared to take all
consequences. I have deceived you, General. Deceived you in a way you
could never imagine nor forgive."

"So people seem to think," he observed coolly, producing, at the
same time, the anonymous letter from his pocket. "I should not have
troubled you with such trash, but as you have chosen to make me your
father-confessor, perhaps I ought to say your _grand_-father confessor,
this morning, you may as well look through it, before we put that
precious production in the fire."

He walked to the window, so as not to see her face while she read it,
nor was this little act of delicacy and forbearance lost on such a
woman as Blanche Douglas.

Her temper, nevertheless, became thoroughly roused before she got to
the end of the letter, causing her to place herself once more in the
position of an adversary. Her eyes shone, her brows lowered, and her
words came in the tight concentrated accents of bitter anger while she
bade him turn round, and look her in the face.

"This has only anticipated me," said she, pale and quivering. "I stand
here, arraigned like any prisoner in the dock, but with no excuses to
offer, no defence to make. It is a fine position, truly; but having
been fool enough to accept it, I do not mean to shrink from its
disgrace. Ask me what questions you will, I am not afraid to answer
them."

"Honestly?" said he, "without quibbles or after-thought, and once for
all?"

She looked very stern and haughty.

"I am not in the habit of shuffling," she replied. "I never yet feared
results from word or action of mine. And what I say, you may depend
upon it, I mean."

On the General's face came an expression of confidence and resolution
she had never noticed before. Meeting his regard firmly, it occurred to
her that so he must have looked when he rode through that Sepoy column,
and charged those Russian guns. He was a gallant fellow, no doubt,
bold and kind-hearted too.

If he had only been twenty years younger, or even ten!

He spoke rather lower than usual; but every syllable rang clear and
true, while his eyes looked frankly and fearlessly into her own.

"Then answer my question once for all. Blanche, will you be my wife?
Without farther hesitation or delay?"

"Let me explain first."

"I ask for no explanation, and will listen to none. Suppose me to
repose implicit confidence in the vague accusations of an anonymous
slander. Suppose me to believe you false and fickle, a shameless
coquette, and myself an infatuated old fool. Suppose anything and
everything you please; but first answer the question I ask you from the
bottom of my heart, with this anonymous statement, false or true, I
care not a jot which, in my hand."

He held it as if about to tear it across and fling it in the grate. She
laid a gentle touch on his arm and whispered softly--

"Don't destroy it till I've answered your question. Yes. There is
nobody like you in the world!"

We need not stop to repeat a proverb touching the irreverent
persistency of Folly in travelling hand-in-hand with Age; and of what
extravagances the General might have been guilty, in his exceeding joy,
it is impossible to guess, had she not stopped him at the outset.

"Sit down there," she said, pointing to a corner of the sofa,
while establishing herself in an armchair on the other side of the
fire-place. "Now that you have had your say, perhaps you will let me
have _mine_! Hush! I know what you mean. I take all that for granted.
Stay where you are, hold your tongue, and listen to me."

"The first duty of a soldier is obedience," he answered in great glee.
"I'll be as steady as I can."

"It is my _right_ now to explain," she continued gravely. "Believe
me. I most fully appreciate; I never can forget. Whatever happened
I never _could_ forget the confidence you have shown in me to-day.
Depend upon it, when you trust people so unreservedly, you make it
_impossible_ for them to deceive. I have always honoured and admired
you. During the last hour I have learned to--to--well--to think you
deserve more than honour and esteem. Any woman might be proud and
happy--yes--happy to belong to you. But now, if I am to be your
wife--don't interrupt. Well, _as_ I am to be your wife, you must let me
tell you everything--everything--or I recall my promise."

"Don't do that," he answered playfully. "But mind, I'm quite satisfied
with you as you are, and ask to know _nothing_."

She hesitated, and the colour came to her brow while she completed
her confession. "You--you lent me some money, you know; _gave_ it me,
I ought to say, for I'm quite sure you never expected to see it back
again. It was a good deal. Don't contradict. It _was_ a good deal, and
I wonder how I could have the face to ask for it. But I didn't want it
for myself. It was to save from utter ruin a very old and dear friend."

"I know all about it," said he cheerfully. "At least, I can guess. Very
glad it should be so well employed. But all that was _your_ business,
not mine."

"And you never even asked who got it!" she continued, while again there
gathered a mist to veil her large dark eyes.

"My dear Blanche," he answered, "I was only too happy to be of service
to you. Surely it was your own, to employ as you liked. I don't want to
know any more about it, even now."

"But you _must_ know," she urged. "I've been going to tell you ever so
often, but something always interrupted us; and once, when I had almost
got it out, the words seemed to die away on my lips. Listen. You know
I'm not very young."

He bowed in silence. The reflection naturally presented itself that if
_she_ was not very young, _he_ must be very old.

Miss Douglas proceeded, with her eyes fixed on her listener, as if she
was looking at something a long way off.

"Of course I've seen and known lots of people in my life, and had
some great friends--I mean _real_ friends--that I would have made any
sacrifice to serve. Amongst these was Mr. Walters. I used to call him
Daisy. General, I--I liked him better than all the rest. Better than
anybody in the world--"

"And now?" asked the General anxiously, but carrying a bold front
notwithstanding.

"_Now_, I know I was mistaken," she replied. "Though that's not the
question. Well, after that horrid race--when my beautiful mare ought
to have won, and _didn't_--I knew Daisy--Mr. Walters, I mean--had lost
more than he could afford to pay--in plain English, he was ruined; and
worse, wouldn't be able to show, unless somebody came to the rescue.
I hadn't got the money myself. Not a hundredth part of it! So I asked
_you_, and--and--sent it all to _him_. Now you know the whole business."

"I knew it long ago," said he gently. "At least, I might have known it,
had I ever allowed the subject to enter my head. Does _he_ know it too,
do you think, Blanche?"

"Good heavens! No!" she exclaimed. "That _would_ be a complication.
You don't think there's a chance of it! I took every care--every
precaution. What _should_ I do? General, what would you advise?"

He smiled to mark how she was beginning to depend on him, drawing
a good augury from this alteration in her character, and would no
doubt have replied in exceedingly affectionate terms, but that he was
interrupted by the opening of the drawing-room door, and entrance of
a servant, who, in a matter-of-fact voice, announced a visitor--"Mr.
Walters!"

Blanche turned white to her lips, and muttered rapidly, "Won't you
stay, General? _Do!_"

But the General had already possessed himself of his hat, and, with
an air of good-humoured confidence, that she felt did honour both
to herself and him, took a courteous leave of his hostess, and gave
a hearty greeting to the newcomer as they passed each other on the
threshold.

"I think I've won the battle," muttered the old soldier, mounting his
horse briskly in the street; "though I've left the enemy in possession
of the ground!"



CHAPTER XXV

A SATISFACTORY ANSWER


Daisy, with his hair cut exceedingly short, as denoting that he was
on the eve of some great crisis in life, entered the apartment in the
sheepish manner of a visitor who is not quite sure about his reception.
Though usually of cheerful and confident bearing, denoting no want of
a certain self-assertion, which the present generation call "cheek,"
all his audacity seemed to have deserted him, and he planted himself
in the centre of the carpet, with his hat in his hand like the poor,
spiritless bridegroom at Netherby, who stood "dangling his bonnet and
plume" while his affianced and her bridesmaids were making eyes at
young Lochinvar.

Miss Douglas, too, required a breathing-space to restore her
self-command. When they had shaken hands, it was at least a minute
before either could find anything to say.

The absurdity of the situation struck them both, but the lady was the
first to recover her presence of mind; and, with a laugh not the least
genuine, welcomed him back to England, demanding the latest news from
Paddy-land.

"You've been at Cormac's-town, of course," said she. "You can tell us
all about dear Lady Mary, and your pretty friend Norah. I hope she
asked to be remembered to _me_."

He blushed up to his eyes, turning his hat in his hands, as if he would
fain creep into it bodily and hide himself from notice in the crown.

She saw her advantage, and gained courage every minute, so as to stifle
and keep down the gnawing pain that made her so sick at heart.

"I wonder Norah trusts you in London," she continued, with another of
those forced smiles. "I suppose you're only on short leave, as you call
it, and mean to go back directly. Will you have the black mare to ride
while you are in town? I've taken great care of her, and she's looking
beautiful!"

To her own ear, if not to his, there was a catch in her breath while
she spoke the last words, that warned her she would need all her
self-command before the play was played out.

He thanked her kindly enough, while he declined the offer; but his tone
was so grave, so sorrowful, that she could keep up the affectation of
levity no longer.

"What is it?" she asked, in an altered voice. "Daisy!--Mr. Walters!
What is the matter? Are you offended? I was only joking about Norah."

"Offended!" he repeated. "How could I ever be offended with _you_? But
I didn't come here to talk about Miss Macormac, nor even Satanella,
except in so far as the mare is connected with your generosity and
kindness."

"What do you mean?" she asked, in considerable trepidation. "_You_
were the generous one, for you gave me the best hunter in your stable,
without being asked."

"As if you had not bought her over and over again!" he exclaimed,
finding voice and words and courage now that he was approaching the
important topic. "Miss Douglas, it's no use denying your good deeds,
nor pretending to ignore their magnificence. It was only yesterday I
learned the real name of my _unknown friend_! I tell you that money of
yours saved me from utter ruin--worse than ruin, from such disgrace as
if I had committed a felony, and been sent to prison!"

"I'm sure you look as if you had just come out of one," she interposed,
"with that cropped head. Why do you let them cut your hair so short? It
makes you hideous!"

"Never mind my cropped head," he continued, somewhat baffled by the
interruption. "I hurried here at once, to thank you with all my heart,
as the best friend I ever had in the world."

"Well, you've done it," said she. "That's quite enough. Now let us talk
of something else."

"But I _haven't_ done it," protested Daisy, gathering, from the
obstacles in his way, a certain inclination to his task or at least a
determination to go through with it. "I haven't said half what I've got
to say, nor a quarter of what I feel. You have shown that you consider
me a near and dear friend. You have given me the plainest possible
proof of your confidence and esteem. All this instigates me--or rather
induces me, or, shall I say, encourages me--to hope, or perhaps
persuade myself of some probability. In short, Miss Douglas--can't you
help a fellow out with what he's got to say?"

Floundering about in search of the right expressions, she would have
liked him to go on for an hour. It was delightful to be even on the
brink of that paradise from which she must presently exclude herself
for ever with her own hands, and she forbore to interrupt him till he
came to a dead stop for want of words.

"Nonsense!" she said. "Any friend would have done as much who had the
power. It's nothing to make a fuss about. I'm glad you're out of the
scrape, and there's an end to it."

"You were always generous," he exclaimed. "You ought to have been a
man; I've said so a hundred times--only it's lucky you're _not_, or I
couldn't ask you a question that I don't know how to put in the right
form."

She turned pale as death. It was come, then, at last--that moment
to which she had once looked forward as a glimpse of happiness too
exquisite for mortal senses. Here was the enchanted cup pressed to
her very lip, and she must not taste it--must even withdraw her eyes
from the insidious drink. And yet even now she felt a certain sense
of disappointment in her empty triumph, a vague misgiving that the
proffered draught was flatter than it should be, as if the bottle had
been already opened to slake another's thirst.

"Better not ask," she said, "if the words don't come naturally,--if the
answer is sure to be _no_."

In his intense relief he never marked the piteous tone of her voice,
nor the tremble of agony passing over her face, like the flicker of a
fire on a marble bust, to leave its features more fixed and rigid than
before.

Even in her keen suffering she wished to spare _him_. Already she was
beginning to long for the dull insensibility that must succeed this
hour of mental conflict, as bodily numbness is the merciful result of
pain. She dreaded the possibility that his disappointment should be
anything like her own, and would fain have modified the blow she had no
choice but to inflict.

Daisy, however, with good reason no doubt, was resolved to rush on his
fate the more obstinately, as it seemed, because of the endeavours to
spare both him and herself.

"I am a plain-spoken fellow," said he, "and--and--tolerably
straightforward, as times go. I'm not much used to this kind of
thing--at least, I've never regularly asked such a question before.
You mustn't be offended, Miss Douglas, if I don't go the right way to
work. But--but--it seems so odd that you should have come in and paid
my debts for me! Don't you think I ought--or don't you think _you_
ought--in short, I've come here on purpose to ask you to marry me. I'm
not half good enough, I know, and lots of fellows would make you better
husbands, I'm afraid. But, really now--without joking--won't you try?"

He had got into the spirit of the thing, and went on more swimmingly
than he could have hoped. There was almost a ring of truth in his
appeal, for Daisy's was a temperament that flung itself keenly into
the excitement of the moment, gathering ardour from the very sense of
pursuit. As he said himself, "He never could help riding, if he got a
start."

And Miss Douglas shook in every limb while she listened with a wan,
weary face and white lips, parted in a rigid smile. It was not that
she was unaccustomed to solicitations of a like nature; whatever might
be her previous experience, scarcely an hour had passed since she
sustained a similar attack--and surely to accept an offer of marriage
ought to be more subversive of the nervous system than to refuse; yet
she could hardly have betrayed deeper emotions had she been trembling
in the balance between life and death.

That was a brave heart of hers, or it must have failed to keep its own
rebellion down so firmly, and gather strength to answer in a calm,
collected voice--

"There are some things it is better not to think about, for they can
never be, and this is one of them."

How little she knew what was passing in his mind! How little she
suspected that _her_ sentence was _his_ reprieve! And yet his self-love
was galled. He had made a narrow escape, and was thankful, no doubt,
but felt somewhat disappointed, too, that his danger had not been
greater still.

"Do you mean it?" said he. "Well, you'll forgive my presumption,
and--and--you won't forget I asked you."

"_Forget!_----"

It was all she said; but a man must have been both blind and deaf not
to have marked the tone in which those syllables were uttered, the look
which accompanied them. Daisy brandished his hat, thinking it high time
to go, lest his sentence should be commuted, and his doom revoked.

She put her hand to her throat, as if she must choke; but mastered her
feelings with an effort, forcing herself to speak calmly and distinctly
now, on a subject that must never be approached again.

"Do not think I undervalue your offer," she said, gathering fortitude
with every word; "do not think me hard, or changeable, or unfeeling. If
you must not make me happy, at least you have made me very proud; and
if everything had turned out differently, I do hope I might have proved
worthy to be your wife. You're not angry with me, are you? And you
won't hate me because it's impossible?"

"Not the least!" exclaimed Daisy, eagerly. "Don't think it for a
moment! Please not to make yourself unhappy about _me_."

"I _am_ worthy to be your friend," she continued saddened, and it may
be a little vexed, by this remarkable exhibition of self-denial; "and
_as_ a friend I feel I owe you some explanation, beyond a bare 'No,
I won't.' It ought rather to be 'No, I _can't_;' because--because, to
tell you the honest truth, I have promised somebody else!"

"I wish you joy with all my heart!" he exclaimed, gaily, and not the
least like an unsuccessful suitor. "I hope you'll be as happy as the
day is long! When is it to be? You'll send me an invitation to the
wedding, won't you?"

Her heart was very sore. He did not even ask the name of his fortunate
rival, and he could hardly have looked more pleased, she thought, if he
had been going to marry her himself.

"I don't know about that," she answered, shaking her head sadly. "At
any rate, I shall not see you again for a long time. Good-bye, Daisy,"
and she held out a cold hand that trembled very much.

"Good-bye," said he, pressing it cordially. "I shall never forget your
kindness. Good-bye."

Then the door shut, and he was gone.

Blanche Douglas sank into a sofa, and sat there looking at the opposite
wall, without moving hand or foot, till the long summer's day waned
into darkness and her servant came with lights. She neither wept,
nor moaned, nor muttered broken sentences, but remained perfectly
motionless, like a statue, and in all those hours she asked herself but
one question--"Do I love this man? and, if so, how can I ever bear to
marry the other?"



CHAPTER XXVI

AFTERNOON TEA


"I wish you'd come, Daisy. You've no idea what it is, facing all those
swells by oneself!"

"I have _not_ the cheek," was Daisy's reply. "They would chaff one so
awfully, if they knew. No, Bill, I'll see you through anything but
that."

"Then I must show the best front I can without a support," said the
other ruefully. "Why can't she let me off these tea-fights? They're
cruelly slow. I don't see the good of them."

"_She_ does," replied Daisy. "Not a woman in London knows what she is
about better than Mrs. Lushington."

"How d'ye mean?" asked his less worldly-minded friend.

"Why, you see," explained Daisy, "one great advantage of living in this
wicked town is, that you've no duty towards your neighbour. People
don't care two straws what you do, or how you do it, so long as you
keep your own line, without crossing theirs. They'll give you the best
of everything, and ask for no return, if only you'll pretend to be glad
to see them when you meet, and not forget them when you go away. That's
the secret of morning visits, card-leaving, wedding-presents, and the
whole of the sham. Now Mrs. Lushington goes everywhere, and never has
a ball, nor a drum, nor even a large dinner-party of her own, but she
says to her friends, 'I love you dearly, I can't exist without you.
Come and see me every Wednesday, except the Derby Day, all the London
season through, from five to seven P.M. I'll swear to be at home, and
I'll give you a cup of tea!' So, for nine pen'orth of milk, and some
hot water, she repays the hospitalities of a nation. She's pleased,
the world is gratified, and nobody's bored but _you_. It's all humbug,
that's the truth, and I'm very glad I'm so soon to be out of it!"

"But you won't leave the Regiment?" said his brother officer kindly.

"Not if I know it!" was the hearty response. "Norah likes soldiering,
and old Macormac doesn't care what we do, if we only visit _him_ in the
hunting season. Besides, my uncle put that in the conditions when he
'parted,' which he did freely enough, I am bound to admit, considering
all things."

"You've not been long about it," observed Soldier Bill in a tone of
admiration. "It's little more than a month since you pulled through
after that 'facer' at Punchestown; and now, here you are booked to
one lady, after proposing to another, provided with settlements,
_trousseau_, bridesmaids, and very likely a bishop to marry you. Hang
it, Daisy, I've got an uncle _smothered_ in lawn; I'll give him the
straight tip, and ask him to tie you up fast."

"You'll have to leave the Park at once," was Daisy's reply, "or you'll
be returned absent when the parade is formed. You know, Bill, you
_daren't_ be late, for your life."

The two young men were by this time at Albert Gate, having spent a
pleasant half-hour together on a couple of penny chairs, while the
strange medley passed before them that throngs Hyde Park on every
summer's afternoon. Daisy was far happier than he either hoped or
deserved. After Satanella's refusal, he had felt at liberty to follow
the dictates of his own heart, and lost no time in prosecuting his suit
with Norah Macormac. The objections that might have arisen from want of
means were anticipated by his uncle's unlooked-for liberality, and he
was to be married as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made,
though, in consideration of his late doings, the engagement was at
present to be kept a profound secret.

Notwithstanding some worldly wisdom, Daisy could believe that such
secrets divided amongst half-a-dozen people, would not become the
property of half-a-hundred.

In mood like his, a man requires no companion but his own thoughts.
We will rather accompany Soldier Bill, as he picks his way into
Belgravia, stepping daintily over the muddy crossings, cursing the
water-carts, and trying to preserve the polish of his boots, up to
Mrs. Lushington's door.

Yet into those shining boots his heart seemed almost sinking, when he
marked a long line of carriages in the streets, a crowd of footmen on
the steps and pavement. No man alive had better nerve than Bill, to
ride, or fight, or swim, or face any physical danger; but his hands
turned cold, and his face hot, when about to confront strange ladies,
either singly or in masses; and for him, the rustling of muslin was as
the shaking of a standard to the inexperienced charger, a signal of
unknown danger, a flutter of terror and dismay.

Nevertheless, he mastered his weakness, following his own name
resolutely upstairs, in a white heat, no doubt, yet supported by
the calmness of despair. Fortunately, he found his hostess at her
drawing-room door. The favourable greeting she accorded him would have
reassured the most diffident of men.

"You're a good boy," she whispered, with a squeeze of his hand. "I was
almost afraid you wouldn't come. Stay near the door, while I do the
civil to the arch-duchess. I'll be back directly. I've got something
very particular to ask you."

So, while Mrs. Lushington did homage (in French) to the arch-duchess,
who was old, fat, good-humoured, and very sleepy, Bill took up a
position from which he could pass the inmates of the apartment in
review. Observing his welcome by their hostess, and knowing _who he
was_, two or three magnificent ladies thought it not derogatory
to afford him a gracious bow; and as they forbore to engage him in
discourse, a visitation of which Bill had fearful misgivings, he soon
felt sufficiently at ease to inspect unconcernedly, and in detail, the
several individuals who constituted the crush.

It was a regular London gathering, in the full-tide of the season,
consisting of the best-dressed, best-looking, and idlest people in
town. There seemed an excess of ladies, as usual; but who would
complain of a summer market that it was over stocked with flowers?
While of the uglier sex, the specimens were either very young or
very mature. There was scarcely a man to be seen between thirty and
forty, but a glut of young gentlemen, some too much and some too
little at their ease, with a liberal sprinkling of ancient dandies,
irreproachable in manners, and worthier members of society, we may
be permitted to hope, than society believed. A few notabilities were
thrown in, of course: the arch-duchess aforesaid; a missionary, who had
been tortured by the Chinese, dark, sallow, and of a physiognomy that
went far to extenuate the cruelty of the Celestials; a lady who had
spent two years at Thebes, and, perhaps for that reason, dressed almost
as low as the Egyptian Sphinx; a statesman out of office; a celebrated
preacher at issue with his bishop; a foreign minister; a London banker;
and a man everybody knew, who wrote books nobody read. Besides these,
there was the usual complement of ladies who gave, and ladies who went
to, balls; married women addicted to flirting; single ladies not
averse to it; stout mammas in gorgeous apparel; tall girls with baby
faces promising future beauty; a powdered footman winding, like an eel,
through the throng; Frank Lushington himself, looking at his watch to
see how soon it would be over; and Pretty Bessie Gordon, fresh and
smiling, superintending the tea.

All this Bill took in, wondering. It seemed such a strange way of
spending a bright summer's afternoon, in weather that had come on
purpose for cricket, boating, yachting, all sorts of out-of-door
pursuits. Putting himself beside the question, for he felt as much on
duty as if he had the belt on in a barrack-yard, it puzzled him to
discover the spell that brought all these people together, in a hot
room, at six o'clock in the day. Was it sheer idleness, or the love
of talking, or only the follow-my-leader instinct of pigs and sheep?
Catching sight of General St. Josephs and Miss Douglas conversing apart
in a corner, he determined that it must be a motive stronger than any
of these, and looking down on her broad deep shoulders, marvelled how
such motive might affect his next neighbour, a lady of sixty years,
weighing some sixteen stone.

It is fair to suppose, therefore, that Bill was as yet himself
untouched. His intimacy with Mrs. Lushington, while sharpening his wits
and polishing his manners, served, no doubt, to dispel those illusions
of romance that all young men are prone to cherish, more or less; and
Soldier Bill, with his fresh cheeks and simple heart, believed he was
becoming a thorough philosopher, an experienced man-of-the-world,
rating human weaknesses at their real value, and walking about the
battle of life sheathed in armour-of-proof. Honest Bill! How little he
dreamt that his immunity was only a question of time. The hour had not
yet come--nor the woman.

Far different was St. Josephs. If ever man exulted in bondage and
seemed proud to rattle his chains, that man was the captive General. He
never missed an opportunity of attending his conqueror: riding in the
Park--"walking the Zoo"--waiting about at balls, drums, crush-rooms,
and play-houses,--he never left her side.

Miss Douglas, loathing her own ingratitude, was weary of her life. Even
Bill could not help remarking the pale cheeks, the heavy eyes, the dull
lassitude of gait and bearing, that denoted the feverish unrest of one
who is sick at heart.

He trod on a chaperone's skirt, and omitted to beg pardon; he stumbled
against his uncle, the bishop, and forgot to ask after his aunt.
So taken up was he with the faded looks of Miss Douglas, that he
neither remembered where he was, nor why he came, and only recovered
consciousness with the rustle of Mrs. Lushington's dress and her
pleasant voice in his ear.

"Give me your arm," said she, pushing on through her guests, with many
winning smiles, "and take me into the little room for some tea."

Though a short distance, it was a long passage. She had something
pleasant to say to everybody, as she threaded the crowd; but it could
be no difficult task for so experienced a campaigner, on her own
ground, to take up any position she required. And Bill found himself
established at last by her side, in a corner, where they were neither
overlooked nor overheard.

"Now I want to know if it's true?" said she, dashing into the subject
at once. "_You_ can tell, if anybody can, and I'm sure you have no
secrets from _me_."

"If _what's_ true?" asked Bill, gulping tea that made him hotter than
ever.

"Don't be stupid!" was her reply. "Why, about Daisy of course. Is he
going to marry that Irish girl? I want to find out at once."

"Well, it's no use denying it," stammered Bill, somewhat unwillingly.
"But it's a dead secret, Mrs. Lushington, and of course it goes no
farther."

"Oh, of course!" she repeated. "Don't you know how safe I am? But
you're quite sure of it? You have it from himself?"

"I've got to be his best man," returned Bill, by no means triumphantly.
"You'll coach me up a little, won't you, before the day? I haven't an
idea what to do."

She laughed merrily.

"Make love to the bridesmaids, of course," she answered. "Irish, no
doubt, every one of them. I'm not quite sure I shall give you leave."

"I can't get out of it!" exclaimed Bill. "He's such a 'pal,' you know,
and a brother-officer, and all."

She was amused at his simplicity.

"I don't want you to get out of it," she answered, still laughing. "I
can't tell you what sort of a best man you'll make, but you're not
half a bad boy. You deserve something for coming to-day. Dine with us
to-morrow--nobody but the Gordon girls and a stray man. I must go and
see the great lady off. That's the worst of royalty. Good-bye," and she
sailed away, leaving Bill somewhat disconcerted by misgivings that he
had been guilty of a breach of trust.

The party was thinning visibly upstairs, while people transferred
themselves with one accord to the hall and staircase, many appearing
to consider this the pleasantest part of the entertainment. Mrs.
Lushington had scarcely yet found time to speak three words to Blanche
Douglas, but she caught her dear friend now, on the eve of departure,
and held her fast. The General had gone to look for his lady-love's
carriage. They were alone in Mr. Lushington's snuggery, converted
(though not innocent of tobacco-smoke) into a cloak-room for the
occasion.

"So good of you to come, dear Blanche, and to bring _him_," (with a
meaning smile). "I waited to pounce on you _here_. I've got _such_ a
piece of news for you!"

Miss Douglas looked as if nothing above, upon, or under the earth could
afford her the slightest interest, but she was obliged to profess a
polite curiosity.

"Who _do_ you think is going to be married? Immediately! next week, I
believe. Who but our friend Daisy!"

The shot told. Though Miss Douglas received it with the self-command of
a practised duellist, so keen an observer as her friend did not fail to
mark a quiver of the eye-lids, a tightening of the lips, and a grey hue
creeping gradually over the whole face.

"Our fickle friend Daisy, of all people in the world!" continued
Mrs. Lushington. "It only shows how we poor women can be deceived. I
sometimes fancied he admired _me_, and I never doubted but he cared
for _you_, whereas he has gone and fallen a victim to that wild Irish
girl of Lady Mary Macormac's--the pretty one--that was such a friend of
yours."

"I always thought he admired her," answered Miss Douglas in a very
feeble voice. "I ought to write and wish Norah joy. Are you quite sure
it's true?"

"Quite!" was the reply. "My authority is his own best man."

Fortunately the General appeared at this juncture, with tidings of the
carriage, while through a vista of footmen might be seen at the open
door a brougham-horse on his hind legs, impatient of delay.

"Good-bye, dear Blanche! You look so tired. I hope you haven't done too
much."

"Good-bye, dear Clara! I've had such a pleasant afternoon."

Putting her into the carriage, the General's kind heart melted within
him. She looked so pale and worn. She clung so confidingly, so
dejectedly to his arm. She pressed his hand so affectionately when he
bade her good-bye, and seemed so loth to let it go that, but for the
eyes of all England, which every man believes are fixed on himself
alone, he would have sprung in too, and driven off with her then and
there.

But he consoled himself with the certainty of seeing her next day. That
comfort accompanied him to his bachelor lodgings, where he dressed, and
lasted all through a regimental dinner at the London Tavern.

While a distinguished leader proposed his health, alluding in
flattering terms to the services he had rendered, and the dangers he
had faced, General St. Josephs was thinking far less of his short
soldier-like reply than of the pale face and the dark eyes that would
so surely greet him on the morrow; of the future about to open before
him at last, that should make amends for a life of war and turmoil,
with its gentle solace of love, and confidence, and repose.



CHAPTER XXVII

A HARD MORSEL


Like the feasts of Apicius, that dinner at the London Tavern was
protracted to an unconscionable length. Its dishes were rich, various,
and indigestible, nothing being served _au naturel_ and without
"garnish" but the brave simplicity of the guests.

 "Wines too there were, that would have slain young Ammon,"

and old comrades seldom part under such conditions without the
consumption of much tobacco in the small hours. Nevertheless, St.
Josephs rose next morning fresh and hopeful as a boy. He ordered
his horse for an early canter in the Park, and shared the Row with
divers young ladies of tender years but dauntless courage, who crammed
their ponies along at a pace that caused manes, and tails, and golden
hair to float horizontal on the breeze, defiant even of that mounted
inspector, whose heart though professionally intolerant of "furious
riding," softened to a pigmy with snub nose and rosy cheeks, on a tiny
quadruped as round, as fat, and as saucy-looking as itself.

St. Josephs felt in charity with all mankind, and returned to breakfast
so light of heart that he ought to have known, under the invariable law
of compensation, some great misfortune was in store.

He had little appetite; happiness, like sorrow, when excessive, never
wants to eat; but he dressed himself again with the utmost care, and
after exhausting every expedient to while away the dragging hours,
started at half-past eleven for the abode of his ladye-love.

Do what he would, it was scarcely twelve when he arrived at her door,
where his summons remained so long unanswered, that he had leisure to
speculate on the possibility of Miss Douglas being indisposed and not
yet awake. So he rang next time stealthily, and, as it were, under
protest, but in vain.

The General then applied himself to the area bell. "They'll come
directly, now," he argued; "they'll think it's the beer!" And sure
enough the street-door was quickly unfastened, with more turning of
keys, clanking of chains, and withdrawal of bolts than is usual during
the middle of the season, in the middle of the day.

A very grimy old woman met him on the threshold, and peering
suspiciously out of her keen, deep-set eyes, demanded his business in a
hoarse voice, suggestive of gin.

"Miss Douglas b'aint here," was the startling answer to his inquiries.
"She be gone away for good. Hoff this morning, I shouldn't wonder,
afore you was out of bed."

"Gone!" he gasped. "This morning! Did she leave no message?"

"None that I knows of. The servants didn't say nothink about it;
leastways, not to _me_."

"But she's coming back?"

"Not likely! The maid _did_ suppose as they was a-going for good and
all. It's no business of mine. I'm not Miss Douglas's servant. I'm
a-taking care of the 'ouse for the landlord, I am. It's time I was
a-tidying of it up now."

With this broad hint, she proceeded to shut the door in his face, when
the General, recovering his presence of mind, made use of the only
argument his experience had taught him was universal and conclusive.

Her frown relaxed with the touch of money on her palm. "You're a
gentleman, you are," she observed approvingly. "Won't ye step in, sir?
It's bad talking with the door in your 'and."

He complied, and sat down on one of the bare hall-chairs, feeling as he
had felt once before, when badly hit, in the Punjaub.

She went on with her dusting, talking all the time. "You see they
sent round for me first thing in the morning; and I says to Mrs.
Jones--that's my landlady, sir,"--(dropping a curtsey), "'Mrs. Jones,'
says I, 'whatever can they be up to,' says I, 'making such an early
flitting?' says I--"

"But do you mean they've left no letter?" he interrupted, starting from
his seat; "no directions--no address? Are all the servants gone? Has
Miss Douglas taken much luggage with her? Did she go away in a cab? Oh,
woman! woman! tell me all you know! It's a matter of life and death!"

She looked at him askance, privately opining that, early as it was, the
gentleman had been drinking, and sympathising with him none the less
for that impression.

"They're off," said she stubbornly; "and they've took everythink along
with them--bags and boxes, and what not. There was a man round after
the keys--not half an hour gone. I should say as they wasn't coming
back, none of 'em, no more."

This redundancy of negatives forcibly expressed her hopelessness of
their return, and the General's good sense told him it was time wasted
to cross-question his informant any further. Summoning his energies,
he reflected that the post-office would be the best place whereat to
prosecute inquiries, so he bade the old woman farewell, with all the
fortitude he could muster, leaving her much impressed by his manners,
bearing, and profuse liberality.

At the post-office, however (an Italian warehouse round the corner),
they knew nothing. The General, at his wits' end, bethought him of
those livery-stables where Satanella kept her namesake, the redoubtable
black mare.

Here his plight excited the utmost interest and commiseration.
"Certainly. The General should have all the assistance in their power.
Of course, the lady had forgotten to leave her address, no doubt.
Ladies _was_ careless, sometimes, in such matters. A _beautiful_
'orse-woman," the livery-stable keeper understood, "an' kep' two
remarkably clever ones for her own riding. Had an idea they went away
this very morning. Might be mistaken. John could tell. John was the
head-ostler. It was John's business to know." So a bell rang, and John,
in a long-sleeved waistcoat, sleeking a close-cropped head, appeared
forthwith.

"Black mare and chestnut 'oss," said John decidedly. "Gone this
morning; groom took with him saddles, clothing, and everything. Paid up
to the end of their week. Looked like travelling--had their knee-caps
on. Groom a close chap; wouldn't say where. Wish he (John) could find
out. Left a setting-muzzle behind, and would like to send it after him."

There seemed nothing to be done here, and the General was fain to
retrace his steps, hurt, anxious, angry, and more puzzled when he
reached home than he had ever been in his life.

For an hour or two, the whole thing seemed so impossible, and the
absurdity of the situation struck him as so ridiculous, that he sat
idly in his chair to wait for tidings. In this nineteenth century, he
told himself, people could not disappear from the surface of society,
and leave no sign. Rather, like the sea-bird diving in the waves, if
they go down in one place, they must come up in another. There were
no kidnappings now, no sendings off to the Plantations, no forcible
abductions of ladies young or old. Then his heart turned sick, and his
blood ran cold, while he recalled more than one instance in his own
experience, where individuals had suddenly vanished from their homes
and never been heard of again.

Stung to action by such thoughts, he collected his ideas to organise
a comprehensive system of pursuit, that should embrace enquiries at
all the railway-stations, cab-stands, and turnpikes in and about the
metropolis, with the assistance of Scotland Yard in the background.
Then he remembered how an old brother-officer had told him, only the
other day, of a similar search made by himself, and attended with
success. So he resolved to consult that comrade without delay. It was
now two o'clock. He would find him eating luncheon at his club. In five
minutes, the General was in a hansom cab, and in less than ten, leaped
out on the steps of that military resort.

Had he gone there an hour ago, it would have spared him a good deal of
mental agitation, though perhaps any amount of anxiety would have been
preferable to the dull, sickening resignation which succeeded a blow
that could no longer be modified, parried, nor escaped. In after-times,
the General looked back to those ten minutes in the hansom cab as the
close of an era in his life. Henceforth, every object in nature seemed
to have lost something of its colouring, and the sun never shone so
bright again.

In the hall an obsequious porter handed him a letter. He staggered when
he recognised the familiar handwriting on the envelope, and drew his
breath hard for the effort before he tore it open.

There were several pages, some of them crossed. He retired to the
strangers'-room, and sat down to peruse the death-warrant of his
happiness.

"You will forgive me," it began, "because you are the kindest, the
best, the most generous of men; but I should never forgive myself the
blow I feel I am now inflicting, were it not that I regard your pride,
your character, your high sense of honour, before your happiness.
General, I am unfit to be your wife; not because my antecedents are
somewhat obscure--_you_ know my history, and that I have no reason to
be ashamed of it; not because I undervalue the happiness of so high and
enviable a lot--any woman, as I have told you more than once, would
be proud of your choice; but because you deserve, and could so well
appreciate, the unalloyed affection, the utter devotion, that are not
mine to give. _Your_ wife should have no thought but for you, no hopes
independent of you, no memories in which you do not form a part. She
should be wrapped up in your existence, identified with you, body and
soul. All this I am _not_. I never have been--I never can be now. Had I
entertained a lower opinion of your merits, admired and _cared for_ you
less, I would have kept my promise faithfully, and we might have jogged
on like many another couple, comfortably enough. But _you_ ought to win
more than mere _comfort_ in married life. You merit, and would expect,
_happiness_. How could I bear to see my hero disappointed? For you are
my hero--my _beau-idéal_ of a gentleman--and my standard is a very
high one, or you and I had never been so unhappy as I firmly believe
we both are at this moment. It is in vain to regret, and murmur, and
speculate on what might have been, if everything, including one's own
identity, were different. There is but one line to take now, even at
the eleventh hour. Some day you will acknowledge that I was right. We
must never meet again. I have taken such precautions as can baffle, I
do believe, even your energy and resource. You have often said nobody
was so determined when I had made up my mind. I am resolved that you
shall never find out what has become of me; and I entreat you--I
adjure you--if you love me--nay, as you love me--not to try! So now,
farewell--a long farewell, that it pains me sore to say. I shall never
forget you. In all my conflict of feelings, in all my self-reproach and
bitter sorrow, when I think of your pain, I cannot bring myself to wish
we had never met. I am proud of your notice and your regard--proud to
remain under obligations to you--proud to have loved you so far as my
false, wicked nature had the power. Even now I can say, though you put
me out of your heart, do not let me pass entirely from your memory.
Think sometimes, and not unkindly, of your wilful, wayward--

 "Blanche."

So it was all over.

"It's a good letter," murmured the General; "but I prefer the one Julia
wrote to Juan." Then he read it through again, and found, as is usually
the case, that the second perusal reversed his impression of the first.
Did she _really_ mean he was to abstain from all attempt to follow her?
He examined the envelope; it bore the stamp of the General Post Office;
the contents certainly afforded him no clue, yet, judging by analogy,
he argued that no woman would lay such stress on the precautions
she had taken if she did not wish their efficacy to be proved. When
he found, however, that nothing short of police-detectives and
newspaper advertisements would avail him, he took a juster view of her
intentions, and in the chivalry of his nature resolved that under this
great affliction, as in every other condition of their acquaintance, he
would yield implicitly to her wish.

So he went back into the world, grave, kindly, and courteous as before.
There were a few more grey hairs in his whiskers, and he avoided
ladies' society altogether; otherwise, to the unobservant eye, he
was little altered; but a dear old friend whom he had nursed through
cholera at Varna, and dragged from under a dead horse at Lucknow, took
him into a bay-window of the club-library, and thus addressed him--

"My good fellow, you're looking shamefully seedy. Idleness never suited
you. Nothing like work to keep old horses sound. Why don't you apply
for employment? There's always something to do in the East."



CHAPTER XXVIII

"SEEKING REST AND FINDING NONE"


But great nations do not plunge recklessly into war, nor even do
mountain tribes rise suddenly in rebellion because an elderly gentleman
is suffering like some sentimental school-girl from a disappointment of
the heart. General St. Josephs extorted, indeed, from a great personage
the promise that if anything turned up he would not be forgotten, and
was fain to content himself, for the time, with a pledge in which he
knew he could place implicit trust. So the weary, hot months dragged
on, and he remained in London, solitary, silent, preoccupied, wandering
about the scenes of his former happiness, like a ghost. He went
yachting, indeed, with one friend, and agreed on a pedestrian excursion
through Switzerland with another; but the "sad sea waves" were too
sad for him to endure, and the energy that should have taken him over
a mountain, or up a glacier, seemed to fail with the purchase of a
knapsack and the perusal of a foreign Bradshaw, so the walking tour was
abandoned, and the friend rather congratulated himself on escaping such
a mournful companion.

When autumn came round with its many temptations to Scotland, where the
muir-fowl were crowing about their heathery knolls, and the red-deer
sunning their fat backs on the leeward side of the corrie, he did
indeed avail himself of certain invitations to the hospitable North;
and the General, who could level rifle or fowling-piece, breast a hill,
or plunge through a moss with his juniors by twenty years, strove
hard in fatigue of body to earn repose for the mind. But he did not
stay long; the grand, grave beauty of those silent hills oppressed
and tortured him. He pitied the wild old cock, flapping its life out
on its own purple heather, fifty yards off, mowed down by his deadly
barrel, even as it rose. When he had stalked the "muckle red hart" with
antlered front of royalty, and three inches of fat on those portly
sides, up the burn, and under the waterfall, and through the huge
grey boulders of eternal rock, to sight the noble beast fairly from a
leeward ambush, and bring it down, pierced through the heart with a
long and "kittle" shot, his triumph was all merged in sorrow for the
dead monarch lying so calm and stately in the quiet glen, not perhaps
without a something of envy, for a creature thus insensible, and at
rest for evermore.

The foresters wondered to see him in no way triumphant, and when they
heard next morning he was gone, shook their heads, opining that "It was
a peety! She was a pratty shot, and a fery tight shentlemans on a hill."

It was _work_ the General required, not amusement; so he journeyed
sadly back, to await in London the command he hoped would ere long
recall him to a profession he had always loved, that seemed now to
offer the sympathy and solace of a home.

Sometimes, but this only in moments of which he was ashamed, he would
speculate on the possibility of meeting Miss Douglas by accident in the
great city, and it soothed him to fancy the explanations that would
ensue. He never dreamed of their resuming their old footing; for the
General's forbearance hitherto had sprung from the strength, not the
weakness of his character, and the same stubborn gallantry that held
his position was available to cover his defeat; but it would be a keen
pleasure, he thought, though a sad one, to look in her face just once
more. After that he might turn contentedly Eastward, go back into
harness, and never come to England again.

In the meantime, the days that dragged so wearily with St. Josephs,
danced like waves in the sunshine through many of those other lives
with which he had been associated in his late history. Amongst all
gregarious animals, it is the custom for a sick or wounded beast to
withdraw from the herd, who in no way concern themselves about its
fate, but continue their browsings, baskings, croppings, waterings,
and friskings, with a well-bred resignation to another's plight worthy
of the human race. If the General's friends and acquaintance asked
each other what had become of him, and waited for an answer, they were
satisfied with the conventional surmise--

"Gone to Scotland, I fancy. They tell me it's a wonderful year for
grouse!"

Mrs. Lushington, yachting at Cowes, and remaining a good deal at
anchor, because it was "blowing fresh outside," thought of him perhaps
more than anybody else. Not that she felt the least remorseful for the
break-up she believed to have originated solely in her own manoeuvres.
She was persuaded that her information conveyed through the anonymous
letter had aroused suspicions which, becoming certainties on inquiry,
detached him from Satanella, and, completely mistaking his character,
considered it impossible, but that their dissolution of partnership
originated with the gentleman. How the lady fared interested her but
little, and in conversation with other dearest friends, she usually
summed up the fate of this one by explaining--

"It was _impossible_ to keep poor Blanche straight. Always excitable,
and unlike other people, you know. Latterly, I am afraid, _more_ than
flighty, my dear, and _more_ than odd."

Besides, Mrs. Lushington, as usual, had a great deal of business on
hand. For herself and her set Cowes was nothing in the world but London
gone down to the sea. Shorter petticoats, and hats instead of bonnets,
made the whole difference. There were the same attractions, the same
interests, the same intrigues. Even the same bores went to and fro,
and bored, as they breathed, more freely in the soft, Channel air.
Altogether, it was fresher and quieter, but, if possible, stupider than
Pall Mall.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Lushington, being in her natural element, exercised
her natural functions. She was hard at work, trying to mate Bessie
Gordon, nothing loth, with a crafty widower, who seemed as shy of
the bait as an old gudgeon under Kew Bridge. She had undertaken, in
conspiracy with other frisky matrons, to spoil poor Rosie Barton's game
with young Wideacres, the catch of the season; and they liked each
other so well that this job alone kept her in constant employment. She
had picnics to organise, yachting parties to arrange, and Frank to keep
in good humour; the latter no easy task, for Cowes bored him extremely,
and, to use his own words, "he wished the whole place at the devil!"
She felt also vexed and disappointed that the General had withdrawn
himself so entirely from the sphere of her attractions, reflecting that
she saw a great deal more of him before he was free. Added to her other
troubles was the unpardonable defection of Soldier Bill. That volatile
light dragoon had never been near her since Daisy's marriage--a
ceremony in which he took the most lively interest, comporting himself
as "best man" with an unparalleled audacity, and a joyous flow of
spirits, that possessed, for a gathering composed of Hibernians, the
greatest attractions. People said, indeed, that Bill had shown himself
not entirely unaffected by the charms of a lovely bridesmaid, the
eldest of Lady Mary's daughters; and it was impossible to over-estimate
the danger of his position under such suggestive circumstances as must
arise from a wedding in the house.

Then a grey hair or two had lately shown themselves in her abundant
brown locks; while of the people she chose to flirt with, some
neglected her society for a cruise, others afforded her more of the
excitement produced by rivalry than she relished, none paid her the
devoted attention she had learned to consider her due. Altogether, Mrs.
Lushington began to find life less _couleur de rose_ than she could
wish, and to suspect the career she had adopted was not conducive to
happiness, or even comfort. Many people make the same discovery when it
is too late to abandon the groove in which they have elected to run.

Daisy, in the meantime, true to his expressed intention of turning over
a new leaf, found no reason to be dissatisfied with his lot. You might
search Ireland through, and it is saying a good deal, without finding
a more joyous couple than Captain and Mrs. Walters. The looked-for
promotion arrived at last, and the bridegroom had the satisfaction of
seeing himself gazetted to a troop on the very morning that provided
him with a wife. Old Macormac was pleased, Lady Mary was pleased,
everybody was pleased. The Castle blazed with light and revelry, the
tenants drank, danced, and shouted. The "boys" burnt the mountain with
a score of bonfires, consuming whisky, and breaking each other's heads
to their own unbounded satisfaction. In short, to use the words of
Peter Corrigan, the oldest solvent tenant on the estate, "The masther's
wedding was a fool to't! May I never see glory av' it wasn't betther
divarsion than a wake!"

But Norah's gentle heart, even in her own new-found happiness, had
a thought for the beautiful and stately Englishwoman, whom, if she
somewhat feared her as a rival, she yet loved dearly as a friend.

"What's gone with her, Daisy?" she asked her young husband, before they
had been married a fortnight. "Sure she would never take up with the
nice old gentleman, a general he was, that marked the race-cards for us
at Punchestown. Oh, Daisy! how I cried that night, because you didn't
win!"

They were walking by the river-side, where they landed the big fish at
an early period of their acquaintance, and Norah brought the gaff to
bear in more ways than she suspected; where they parted so hopelessly,
when, because of his very desolation, the true and generous girl had
consented to plight him her troth; and where they had hardly dared to
hope they would meet again in such a glow of happiness as shone round
them to-day. It was bright spring weather when they wished each other
that sorrowful good-bye. Now, the dead leaves were falling thick and
fast in the grey autumn gloom. Nevertheless, this was the real vernal
season of joy and promise for both those loving hearts.

"What a goose you were to back me!" observed Daisy, with a pressure of
the arm that clung so tight round his own. "It served you right, and I
hope cured you of betting once for all!"

"That's no answer to my question," persisted Mrs. Walters. "I'm asking
you to tell me about my beautiful Blanche Douglas, and why wouldn't the
old General marry her if she'd have him."

"That's it, dear!" replied her husband. "She _wouldn't_ have him!
She--she accepted him, I _know_, and then she threw him over."

"What a shame!" exclaimed Norah. "Though, to be sure, he might have
been her father." Then a shadow passed over her fair young brow, and
she added wistfully, "Ah, Daisy! I'm thinking I know who she wanted all
the time."

"Meaning _me_?" said Daisy, with a frank, saucy smile, that brought the
mirth back to her face, and the sunshine to her heart.

"Meaning _you_, sir!" she repeated playfully. "But it's very conceited
of you to think it, and very wrong to let it out. It's not so
wonderful, after all," she added, looking proudly in his handsome young
face. "I suppose I'm not the only girl that's liked you, dear, by a
many. I oughtn't to expect it!"

"The only one that's _landed_ the fish," laughed Daisy, stopping in
the most effectual manner a little sigh with which she was about to
conclude her peroration. "You're mistaken about Miss Douglas, though,"
he added, "I give you my word. She hadn't your good taste, my dear, and
didn't _see_ it! Look, Norah, there's the very place I left Sullivan's
fishing-rod. He'll never get it again, so it's lucky I bought his
little brown horse. I wonder who found it? What a day that was! Norah,
do you remember?"

"_Remember!_"

So the conversation turned on that most interesting of
topics--themselves, and did not revert to Satanella nor her doings. If
Norah was satisfied, Daisy felt no wish to pursue the subject. However
indiscreet concerning his successes, I think when a man has been
refused by another lady, he says nothing about it to his wife.



CHAPTER XXIX

UNDIVIDED


The late autumn was merging into early winter, that pleasantest of
all seasons for those sportsmen who exult in the stride of a good
horse, and the stirring music of the hound. Even in Pall Mall true
lovers of the chase felt stealing over them the annual epidemic,
which winter after winter rages with unabated virulence, incurable
by any known remedy. A sufferer--it would be a misnomer to call him
a _patient_--from this November malady was gaping at a print-shop
window, near the bottom of St. James's Street, wholly engrossed in the
performances of a very bright bay horse, with a high-coloured rider,
flying an impossible fence, surrounded by happy hunting-grounds, where
perspective seemed unknown.

"D'ye think he'll get over, Bill?" said a familiar voice, that could
only belong to Daisy Walters, who had stolen unperceived behind his
friend.

"Not if the fool on his back can pull him into it," answered the other
indignantly. And these comrades, linking arms, turned eastward, in the
direction of their club.

"How's the Missis?" said Bill, whose boast it was that he never forgot
his manners.

"Fit as a fiddle," replied the happy husband. "Had a long letter from
Molly this morning. Sent her best love--no, scratched that out, and
desired to be kindly remembered to _you_."

Molly, called after Lady Mary, was the eldest and, in Bill's opinion,
the handsomest daughter, so he changed the subject with rather a red
face.

"About to-morrow now," said Bill. "I've got Martingale to do my
orderly. Are you game for a day with the stag?"

"Will a duck swim!" was the answer. "Norah is coming too. I shall mount
her on Boneen; he's own brother to the little horse that beat our mare
at Punchestown."

"Couldn't do better in that country," asserted his friend. "He'll
carry her like a bird, if she'll wake him up a bit, and it's simply
_impossible_ to get him down. By Jove, Daisy, there's St. Josephs going
into the Club. How seedy he looks, and how old! Hang me, if I won't
offer him a mount to-morrow. I wonder if he'll come?"

So this kind-hearted young sportsman, in whose opinion a day's hunting
was the panacea for all ills, mental or bodily, followed his senior
into the morning-room, and proffered his best horse, with the winning
frankness of manner that his friends found it impossible to resist.

"He's good enough to carry the Commander-in-Chief," said Bill. "I've
more than I can ride till I get my long leave. I should be _so_ proud
if you'd have a day on him; and if he makes a mistake, I'll give him to
you. There!"

St. Josephs was now on the eve of departure for the employment he had
solicited. While his outfit was preparing, the time hung heavy on his
hands, and he had done so many kindnesses by this young subaltern that
he felt it would be only graceful and friendly to accept a favour in
return, so he assented willingly, and Bill's face glowed with pleasure.

"Don't be late," said he. "Nine o'clock train from Euston. Mind you get
into the drop-carriage, or they'll take you on to the Shires. I'll join
you at Willesden. And if we don't have a real clinker, I'll make a vow
never to go hunting again."

Then he departed on certain errands of his own connected with the
pugilistic art, and the General reflected sadly how it was a quarter of
a century since he used to feel as keen as that reckless light-hearted
boy.

He waited on high authorities at the War-office, dined with the
field-marshal, and, through a restless night, dreamed of Satanella, for
the first time since her disappearance.

A foggy November morning, and a lame horse in the cab that took him
to Euston Station did not serve to raise his spirits. But for Bill's
anticipations of "a clinker," and the disappointment he knew it would
cause that enthusiast, the General might have turned back to spend one
more day in vain brooding and regret. Arrived on the platform, however
he got into a large saloon-carriage, according to directions, and found
himself at once in the midst of so cheerful a party that he felt it
impossible to resist the fun and merriment of the hour.

St. Josephs was too well known in general society not to find
acquaintances even here, though he was hardly prepared to meet
representatives of so many pursuits and professions, booted and spurred
for the chase, and judging by the ceaseless banter they interchanged,

 "All determined to ride, each resolved to be first."

Soldiers, sailors, diplomatists, bankers, lawyers, artists, authors,
men of pleasure, and men of business, holding daily papers they
never looked at, were all talking across each other, and laughing
incessantly, while enthroned at one end of the carriage sat the best
sportsman and most popular member of the assemblage, whose opinions,
like his horses, carried great weight, and were of as unflinching a
nature as his riding, so that he was esteemed a sort of president
in jack-boots. Opposite him was placed pretty Irish Norah, now Mrs.
Walters, intensely excited by her first appearance at what she called
"an English hunt," while she imparted to Daisy, in a mellower brogue
than usual, very original ideas on things in general, and especially
on the country through which they were now flying at the rate of forty
miles an hour.

"It's like a garden where it's in tillage, and a croquet-lawn where
it's in pasture," said Norah, after a gracious recognition of the
General, and cordial greeting to Bill, who was bundled in at Willesden,
panting, with his spurs in his hand. "Ah! now, Daisy, it's little of
the whip poor Boneen will be wanting for easy leaps like them."

"Wait till you get into the vale," said Daisy; "and whatever you do let
his head alone. Follow me close, and if I'm down, ride over me. It's
the custom of the country."

The General smiled.

"I haven't been there for twenty years," said he; "but I can remember
in my time we were not very particular. I shall follow my old friend,"
he added, nodding to the president, whose nether garments were of the
strongest and most workmanlike materials; "when a man has no regular
hunting things, he wants a leader to turn the thorns, and from all I
hear, if I can only stick to mine, I shall be in a very good place."

Everybody agreed to this, scanning the speaker with approving glances,
the while, St. Josephs, though wearing trousers and a common morning
coat, had something in his appearance that denoted the practised
horseman; and when he talked of "twenty years ago," his listeners gave
him credit for those successes which in all times, are attributed to
the men of the past.

"Mrs. Walters must be a little careful at the doubles," hazarded a
quiet good-looking man who had not yet spoken, but whose nature it was
to be exceedingly courteous, where ladies were concerned. "A wise horse
that knows its rider is everything in the vale."

Norah looked into the speaker's dark eyes with a quaint smile.

"Ah, then! if the horse wasn't wiser than the rider," said she,
"it's not many leaps any of us would take without a fall!" and in
the laughter provoked by this incontestable assertion, a slight jerk
announced that their carriage was detached from the train, and they had
arrived.

Though it requires a long time to settle a lady in the saddle for
hunting, even when in the regular swing of twice or thrice a week, and
though Norah was about to enjoy her first gallop of the season in a
new habit, on a new horse, she and Daisy had ample leisure for a sober
ride to the place of meeting, arriving cool and calm, pleased with
the weather, the scenery, the company, and, above all, delighted with
Boneen.

They were accompanied by the General on a first-class hunter belonging
to Bill, and soon overtaken by its owner, who, having lingered behind
to jump a four-year-old over a tempting stile for educational purposes,
had crushed a new hat, besides daubing his coat in the process.

"Down already?" said St. Josephs. "What happened to him? What did he
do?"

"Rapped very hard," answered Bill; "found his friend at home, and went
in without waiting to be announced;" but he patted the young pupil
on its neck, and promised to teach it the trade before Christmas,
nevertheless. Certainly, if practice makes perfect, no man should have
possessed a stud of cleverer fencers than Soldier Bill.

And now, as she reached the summit of a grassy ascent, there broke on
Norah's vision so extensive and beautiful a landscape as elicited an
exclamation of amazement and delight.

Mile after mile, to the dim grey horizon, stretched a sweep of smooth
wide pastures, intersected by massive hedges, not yet bare of their
summer luxuriance, dotted by lofty standard trees, rich in the gaudy
hues of autumn, lit up by flashes of a winding stream that gleamed
here and there under the willows with which its banks were fringed.
Enclosures varying from fifty to a hundred acres, gave promise of as
much galloping as the heart of man, or even woman, could desire. And
scanning those fences the Irish lady admitted to herself, though not
to her companions, that from a distance they looked as formidable
obstacles as any she had confronted in Kildare.

"It's beautiful," said Norah. "It's made on purpose for a hunt. Look,
Daisy, there's the hounds! Oh, the darlings! And little Boneen, he sees
them, too!"

Gathered round their huntsman, a wiry, sporting-looking man on a
thorough-bred bay horse, they were moving into sight from behind a
hay-stack that stood in a corner of the neighbouring field. Rich in
colour, beautiful in shape, and with a family likeness pervading the
lot as if they were all one litter, a fox-hunter would have grudged
them for the game they were about to pursue--a noble red deer, in so
far tame, that he was fed in the paddock, and brought to a condition
that could tax the speed and endurance even of this famous pack. The
animal had already arrived in a large van on wheels, drawn by a pair of
horses, and surrounded by a levee of gaping rustics, whose eagerness
and love for the sport reminded Norah of her countrymen on the other
side of the Channel.

"Will they let him out here, Daisy?" said she, in accents of trembling
excitement. "I wish they'd begin. What are we waiting for?"

"Your patience will not be tried much longer," said the General,
lighting a cigar. "Here comes the master, at a pace as if the mare that
landed him the Thousand Guineas, the Oaks, and the St. Leger, had been
made a cover-hack for the occasion!"

"With the Derby-winner of the same year for second horse!" added her
husband. "If you want a pilot, Norah, you couldn't do better than stick
to _him_, heavy as he is!"

"I mean to follow _you_, sir," was the rejoinder. "If you don't mind,
Daisy, maybe I'll be before ye."

Even while she spoke a stir throughout the whole cavalcade, and a
smothered shout from the foot-people, announced that the deer had been
enlarged.

With a wild leap in the air, as though rejoicing in its recovered
liberty, the animal started off at speed, but in the least favourable
direction it could have taken, heading towards the ascent on the
side of which the horsemen and a few carriages were drawn up. Then
slackened its pace to a jerking, springing trot--paused--changed its
mind--lowered its head--dashed wildly down the hill to disappear
through a high bull-finch, and after a few seconds came again into
view, travelling swift and straight across the vale.

The General smoked quietly, but his eye brightened, and he seemed ten
years younger for the sight.

"It's all right now," said he; "the sooner they lay them on the better."

Soldier Bill, drawing his girths, looked up with a beaming smile.

"They say there's a lady, a mysterious unknown, in a thick veil, who
beats everybody with these hounds," he observed. "I wonder why she's
not out to-day."

"I think she _is_," replied Daisy, shooting a mischievous glance at his
wife. "I fancied I caught the flutter of a habit just now behind the
hay-stack. I suppose she's determined to get a good start and cut Norah
down!"

Ere the latter could reply, the hounds dashed across the line of the
deer. Throwing the tongues in full musical notes, they spread like a
fan, with noses in the air; then, stooping to the scent, converged, in
one melodious crash and chorus, ere they took to running with a grim,
silent determination that denoted the extremity of pace. Every man set
his horse going at speed. Nearly a dozen selected their places in the
first fence--a formidable bull-finch. The rest, turning rather away
from the hounds, thundered wildly down to an open gate.

Amongst those who meant riding straight, it is needless to say, were
Mrs. Walters and her three cavaliers. These landed in the second field
almost together. Daisy, closely pursued by his wife, stealing through a
weak place under a tree, the General sailing fairly over all, and Bill,
unable to resist the temptation of a gap, made up with four strong
rails, getting to the right side with a scramble, that wanted very
little of a nasty fall.

The hounds were already a quarter of a mile ahead with nobody near
them but a lady on a black hunter, who was well alongside, going, to
all appearance, perfectly at her ease; while her groom, on a chestnut
horse, left hopelessly behind, rode in the wake of the General, and
wished he was at home.

Daisy, whose steeple-chasing experience had taught him never to lose
his head, was the only one of our party who did not feel a little
bewildered by the pace. Taking in everything at a glance, he observed
the black hunter in front sail easily over a fence that few horses
would have looked at. There was no mistaking the style and form of
the animal. "Of course it is!" he muttered. "Satanella, by all that's
inexplicable! We shall not catch them at _this_ pace, however!" Then,
pulling his horse to let his wife come up, he shouted in her ear,
"Norah, that's Miss Douglas!"

Whether she heard him or not, the only answer Mrs. Walters vouchsafed
was to lean back in her saddle and give Boneen a refresher with the
whip.

Unlike a fox, whose reasons are logical and well-considered, a deer
will sometimes turn at right angles for no conceivable cause, pursuing
the new line with as much speed and decision as the old.

In the present instance the animal, after leaping a high thorn fence
with two ditches, broke short off in a lateral direction, under the
very shadow of the hedge it had just cleared, and, at the pace they
were going, the hounds, as a natural consequence, over-ran the scent.

Miss Douglas pulled up her horse, and did not interfere. There being,
fortunately, no one to assist them, they flung themselves beautifully,
swinging back to the line and taking it up again with scarcely the
loss of a minute. The President, two fields off, struggling hard to
get nearer, was perhaps the only man out who sufficiently appreciated
their steadiness. Like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, "he blessed them
unawares." Bill, I fear, did the _other_ thing, for the fence was so
high he never saw them turn, and jumped well into their midst, happily
without doing any damage.

This slight delay, however, had the effect of bringing Daisy, his wife,
Soldier Bill, and the General into the same field with Miss Douglas.
She heard the footfall of their horses, looked round, and set the
black mare going faster than before. If, as indeed seemed probable,
she was resolved not to be overtaken, the pack, streaming away at
speed once more, served her purpose admirable. No horse alive could
catch them; and Satanella herself seemed doing her best to keep on
tolerable terms at that terrific pace. The majority of the field had
already been hopelessly distanced. The General found even the superior
animal he rode fail somewhat in the deep-holding meadows. Bill was in
difficulties, although he had religiously adhered to the shortest way.
Even Daisy began to wish for a pull, and only little Boneen, quite
thorough-bred and as good as he was sluggish, seemed to keep galloping
on, strong and full of running as at the start. For more than a mile
our friends proceeded with but a slight alteration in their relative
positions--Satanella, perhaps, gradually leaving her followers, and
the hounds drawing away from all five. In this order two or three
flying fences were negotiated, and a fair brook cleared. Daisy, looking
back in some anxiety, could not but admire the form in which Norah
roused and handled Boneen. That good little horse, bred and trained in
Ireland, seemed to combine the activity of a cat with the sagacious
instincts of a dog. Like all of his blood, he only left off being lazy
when his companions began to feel tired; and Mrs. Walters, coming up
with her husband, as they rose the hill from the waterside, declared,
though he did not hear her, "I could lead the hunt now, Daisy, if you'd
let me. Little Boneen's as pleased as Punch! He'd like to pull hard,
only he's such a good boy he doesn't know how!"

[Illustration: "Taking fast hold of his horse's head, he got over with
a scramble."

 _Satanella._    _Page 301_]

Bill's horse dropped its hind legs in the brook, and fell, but was
soon up again with its rider. The General got over successfully;
nevertheless, his weight was beginning to tell, and the ground being
now on the ascent, he found himself the last of the five people with
the hounds.

At the crest of the hill frowned a black, forbidding-looking
bull-finch: on this side a strong rail; on the other, if a horse ever
got there, _the uncertainty_, which might or might _not_, culminate
in a rattling fall. Daisy glanced anxiously to right and left, on his
wife's behalf, but there was no forgiveness. They must have it, or go
home! Then he watched how the famous black mare would acquit herself a
hundred yards ahead of him, and felt little reassured to detect such a
struggle in the air while she topped the fence, as by no means inferred
a pleasant landing where she disappeared on its far side.

He wavered, he hesitated, and pulled his horse off for a stride; but
Norah's impatient--"Ah, Daisy! go on now!" urged him to the attempt,
and he _chanced_ it, with his heart in his mouth, for her sake, not his
own.

Taking fast hold of his horse's head, he got over with a scramble,
turning afterwards in the saddle to watch how it fared with his wife
and little Boneen. Her subsequent account described the performance
better than could any words of mine.

"When I loosed him off at it," said she, "I just touched him on the
shoulder with the whip, to let him know he wasn't in Kildare. He
understood well enough, the little darling! for he pricked his ears,
and came back to a slow canter; but I'd like ye to have felt the bound
he made when he rose to it! Such a place beyond! 'Twas as thick as a
cabbage-garden--dog-roses, honeysuckles, I'm not sure there wasn't
cauliflowers, and all twisted up together to conceal a deep, wide,
black-looking hole, like a boreen.[6] Well, I just felt him give a sort
of a little kick, while he left the entire perplexity ten feet behind
him, and when he landed, as light as a fairy, Daisy, I'm sure I heard
him laugh!"

Mrs. Walters, like most of her nation, abounded in enthusiasm. She
could not forbear a little cry of delight at the panorama that opened
before her, when she had effected the above-mentioned-feat. To the
very horizon lay stretched a magnificent vale of pasture, brightened
by the slanting rays of a November sun. Far ahead, fleeting across the
level below, sped a dark object, she recognised for the deer; a field
nearer were the hounds, running their hardest, in a string that showed
they too had caught sight of their game. Half-way down the hill she
was herself descending, the other lady was urging the black mare to
head-long speed, very dangerous on such a steep incline. Fifty yards
behind Satanella, came Daisy, and close on his heels, Norah, wild with
delight, feeling a strong inclination to give Boneen his head, and go
by them all. The little horse, however, watched his stable-companion
narrowly, while his rider's eyes were riveted on the hounds. Suddenly
she felt him shorten his stride and stop, with a jerk, that nearly
shot her out of the saddle. Glancing at Daisy, for an explanation, she
screamed aloud, and covered her face with her hands.

When she looked again, she was aware of her husband's horse staring
wildly about with the bridle over its head; of Daisy himself on foot,
and, a few yards off, the good black mare prostrate, motionless, rolled
up in a confused and hideous mass with her hapless rider.

Down hill, at racing pace, Satanella had put her fore-feet through
a covered drain, with the inevitable result--the surface gave way,
letting her in to the shoulders, and a few yards farther on, she lay
across her mistress, with her neck broken, never to stir those strong,
fleet limbs again.

"Oh! Daisy, they're both killed!" whispered Norah, with a drawn, white
face, while her husband, busying himself to undo the girths, and thus
extricate that limp helpless figure from beneath the weight that
crushed it so sorely, shouted for assistance to Soldier Bill and the
General, who at that moment entered the field together.

"I trust in heaven, _not_!" he replied aloud; and, below his breath,
even while his heart smote him for the thought, "It might have been
worse. My darling, it might have been _you_!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: "Boreen," Irish for a deep, stone-paved lane.]



CHAPTER XXX

THE BITTER END


It was indeed a sad sight for those joyous riders, exulting but a
moment before, in all the triumph and excitement of their gallop.
Saddest and most pitiable for the General, thus to find and recognise
the woman he had loved and lost. While they took her gently out from
under the dead mare's carcase, she groaned feebly, and they said,
"Thank God!" for at least there seemed left a faint spark of life.
Assistance, too, was near at hand. As Norah observed, "'Twasn't like
Kildare, where ye wouldn't have seen a shealing or may be so much
as a potato-garden for miles! But every farm here was kept like a
domain, and they'd built a dwelling-house almost in every field!"
Within a short distance stood the comfortable mansion, surrounded by
its well-stocked fold-yards, of a substantial yeoman; and Bill, with
two falls, was there in two minutes! A few of the second flight also,
persevering resolutely on the line the hounds had gone, straggled up
and did good service. What became of the Field, and where the deer was
taken, none of these had opportunity to ascertain. All their energies,
all their sympathies, were engrossed by that helpless, motionless form,
that beautiful rigid face, so wan and white, beneath its folds of
glossy raven hair.

Carrying her softly and carefully on a gate to her place of shelter,
it looked as if they formed a funeral procession, of which the General
seemed chief-mourner.

His bearing was stern and composed, his step never faltered, nor
did his hand shake; but he who wrestled with the angel of old, and
prevailed against him, could scarcely have out-done this loving,
longing heart in earnestness of purpose and passionate pleading of
prayer.

"But once more!" was his petition. "Only that she may know me, and look
on me once more!" and it was granted.

For two days Blanche Douglas never spoke nor stirred. Mrs. Walters
constituted herself head-nurse, and never left her pillow. The General
remained the whole time at the threshold of her chamber.

The surgeon, a country practitioner of high repute, who saw her within
an hour of her accident, committed himself to no opinion by word or
sign, but shook his head despondingly the moment he found himself
alone. The famous London doctor, telegraphed for at once, preserved an
ominous silence. He, too, getting into the fly that took him back to
the station, looked grave and shook his head. The hospitable yeoman,
who placed his house and all he had freely at the sufferer's disposal,
packing off the very children to their aunt's, at the next farm, felt,
as he described it, "Down-hearted--uncommon." His kindly wife went
about softly and in tears. Daisy and Bill hurried to and fro, in every
direction, as required, by night and day; while Norah, watching in the
darkened room, tried to hope against hope, and pray for that which she
dared not even think it possible could be granted.

The General looked the quietest and most composed of all. Calm and
still, he seemed less to watch than to wait. Perhaps some subtler
instinct than theirs taught him the disastrous certainty, revealed to
him the inevitable truth.

Towards evening of the second day Norah came into the passage and
laid her hand on his shoulder, as he sat gazing vacantly from the
window, over the fields and orchards about the farm. They loomed hazy
and indistinct in the early winter twilight, but the scene on which
he looked was clear enough--a bright sunny slope, a golden gleam in
the sky above, and on earth a dark heap, with a trailing habit, and a
slender riding-whip clenched in a small gloved hand.

"She has just asked for you," whispered Norah. "Go to her--quick! God
bless you, General! Try and bear it like a man!"

The room was very dark. He stole softly to her bedside, and felt his
fingers clasped in the familiar clinging touch once more.

"My darling!" he murmured, and the strong man's tears welled up, thick
and hot, like a child's.

Her voice came, very weak and low. "The poor mare!" she said; "is she
much hurt? It was no fault of hers."

He must have answered, and told her the truth without knowing it; for
she proceeded more feebly than before.

"Both of us! Then it's no use. I was going to give her to you, dear,
and ask you to take care of her for my sake. Have you--have you
forgiven?"

"Forgiven!" His failing accents were even less steady than her own.

"I vexed you dreadfully," she continued. "I was not good enough for
you. I see it all; and, if it could come again, I would never leave
you--never! But I did it for the best. I took great pains to hide
myself away down here; but I'm glad. Yes, I'm very glad you found me
out at last. How dark it is! Don't let go my hand. Kiss me, my own! I
know now that I _did_ love you dearly--far better than I thought."

The feeble grasp tightened, stronger, stronger, yet. The shadows fell,
the night came down, and a pale moon threw its ghostly light into the
chamber. But the face he loved was fixed and grey now, the hand he
still clasped was stiff and cold in death.

       *       *       *       *       *

The General carried to India a less sore heart, perhaps, than he had
expected. There was no room left for the gnawing anxiety, the bitter
sense of humiliation, the persistent struggle against self, that
distressed and troubled him in his previous relations with her he had
loved so dearly, and lost so cruelly even in the hour she became his
own. He was grave and silent, no doubt, in feelings and appearance,
many years beyond his real age; but every fresh grey hair, every
additional symptom of decay, seemed only a milestone nearer home.
Without speculating much on its locality, he cherished an ardent hope
that soon he might follow to the place where she had gone before. None
should come between them there, he thought, and they need never part
again.

Soldier Bill and Daisy saw the last of him when he left England; the
former rather envied every one who was bound for a sphere in which
there seemed a possibility of seeing real service, the latter comparing
his senior's lonely life and blighted hopes with his own happy lot,
felt a humbler, a wiser, and a better man for the contrast.

Mrs. Walters, though losing none of her good nature and genial Irish
humour, became more staid in manner, altogether more matronly; and
though she went out hunting on occasion, certainly rode less boldly
than before the catastrophe. Her sister Mary, however, who came over
to stay with her about this time, kept up the family credit for
daring, and would have taken Bill's heart by storm if she had not won
it already with the fearlessness she displayed in following him over
the most formidable obstacles. After a famous day on Boneen, when she
bustled that lazy little gentleman along in a manner that perfectly
electrified him, Bill could hold out no longer, but placed himself,
his fortunes, Catamount, and Benjamin, at her disposal. All these she
was good enough to accept but the badger; and that odorous animal was
compelled to evacuate his quarters in the wardrobe for a more suitable
residence out of barracks, at a livery-stable. So they were married in
London, and inaugurated the first day of their honeymoon by a quick
thing with the Windsor drag-hounds.

Of Mrs. Lushington there is little more to be said. The sad fate of her
former friend she accepted with the resignation usually displayed by
those of her particular set in the face of such afflictions as do not
immediately effect themselves and their pleasures. She vowed it was
very sad, talked of wearing black--but didn't! and went out to dinner
much as usual. Even Bessie Gordon showed more feeling, for she _did_
cry when she heard the news, and appeared that night at a ball with
swollen eyelids and a red place under her nose. Many people asked what
had become of Miss Douglas? The answer was usually something to this
effect--

"Don't you remember? Painful business; shocking accident. Killed out
hunting. Odd story; odd girl. Yes, handsome, but peculiar style!"

They buried the good black mare where she fell. Long before the grass
was green over her grave, rider and horse had been very generally
forgotten. Yet in their own circle both had created no small sensation
in their time. But life is so far like the chase, that it admits of
but little leisure for hesitation; none whatever for regret. How should
we ever get to the finish if we must needs stop to pick up the fallen,
or to mourn for the dead?

In certain kind and faithful hearts, however, it is but justice to say
the memory of that hapless pair remains fresh and vivid as on the day
of their fatal downfall.

There is a stern, grey-headed soldier in the East who sees Blanche
Douglas nightly in his dreams; and Daisy Walters, in his highest state
of exultation, when he has been well-carried, as often happens, through
a run, heaves a sigh, and feels something aching at his heart, that
recalls the black mare and her lovely wayward rider, while it reminds
him in a ghostly whisper that "there never was one yet like Satanella!"


UNWIN BROTHERS, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDON.



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A MONK OF CRUTA.

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A DAUGHTER OF THE MARIONIS.

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 This is a book to read breathlessly from start to finish."--_Pall Mall
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(MRS. H.R. CURLEWIS.)


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THE CAMP AT WANDINONG.

 Illustrated by Frances Ewan and others.

MISS BOBBIE.

 Illustrated by Harold Copping.

THE LITTLE LARRIKIN.

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SEVEN LITTLE AUSTRALIANS.

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THE FAMILY AT MISRULE.

A SEQUEL TO THE ABOVE.

 Illustrated by A.J. Johnson.

       *       *       *       *       *

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THE STORY OF A BABY.

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THE LITTLE DUCHESS, & other Stories.

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Recent 3/6 Novels.

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THE DATCHET DIAMONDS.

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THE CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL.

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A SENSATIONAL CASE.

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THE UNSEEN HAND.

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A SOCIAL HIGHWAYMAN.

 By E.P. Train. Illustrated by F. McKernan.

THE SWORD OF ALLAH.

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OUT FROM THE NIGHT.

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THE DEATH THAT LURKS UNSEEN.

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THE HOUSE OF RIMMON.

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PHILLIPI, THE GUARDSMAN.

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COURTSHIP AND CHEMICALS.

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1 THE CURSE OF CLEMENT WAYNFLETE.

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2 THE CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL.

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3 CAPTAIN SHANNON.

 By Coulson Kernahan. Illustrated by F.S. Wilson.

4 CHRONICLES OF MARTIN HEWITT.

 By Arthur Morrison. Illustrated by D. Murray Smith.

5 THE QUEEN OF NIGHT.

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6 A MAN'S FOES.

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7 A SECRET SERVICE.

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8 A VELDT OFFICIAL.

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9 WOMAN, THE MYSTERY.

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10 MARTIN HEWITT, INVESTIGATOR.

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11 A STOLEN LIFE.

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12 A SOCIAL HIGHWAYMAN.

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13 THE DATCHET DIAMONDS.

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14 AT MIDNIGHT.

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15 LADY TURPIN.

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16 ADVENTURES OF MARTIN HEWITT.

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THE

Nineteenth Century Classics

Edited by Clement K. Shorter.


_CROWN 8vo, ART CANVAS GILT. 2s. 6d._


Throughout the whole history of English literature there is no period
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2 ALARIC AT ROME, and other Poems. By Matthew Arnold. With an
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3 HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP. By Thomas Carlyle. With an Introduction by
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4 PROMETHEUS BOUND, and other Poems. By Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
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5 BELLS AND POMEGRANATES, and other Poems. By Robert Browning. With an
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6 BELLS AND POMEGRANATES (_Second Series_). By Robert Browning.

7 PAST AND PRESENT. By Thomas Carlyle. With an Introduction by Frederic
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8 THE OPIUM EATER. By Thomas de Quincey. With an Introduction by
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9 CRANFORD. By Mrs. Gaskell. With an Introduction by W. Robertson
Nicoll, LL.D.

10 THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE. By Oliver Wendell Holmes. With
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11 SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE. By George Eliot.

With an Introduction and Biography by Clement K. Shorter.



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