A Family Likeness

A Sketch in the Himalayas

Chapter I

To Await An Answer

“Adieu, she cried, and waved her lily hand.”

It was a sultry afternoon towards the middle of August; a glittering blue sea stretched between Dover and the white coast of France. A sea to allure the most invincible landsman, and hundreds of eager tourists were hurrying on board the Calais-Douvres, as she lay alongside the jetty, with her steam up; whilst heavily laden porters staggered across a second gangway, carrying the enormous sacks that contained the Indian mail.

Meanwhile the pleasure-seeking local population lined the upper pier, and critically surveyed the great travelling horde as they embarked for their autumn holiday. Proud and complacent the individual who could recognize and indicate some well-known public character, be it peer, politician, author, or actress, or even the hero or heroine of some recent society scandal. Well-dressed women, soldierly looking men, pretty girls, children and their nurses, and idle sailors, were all more or less resting their elbows on the cold stone parapet, their whole attention concentrated on the stream of people whose departure they were superintending with such flattering interest. There go a young couple, a bride and bridegroom, basely betrayed by their new portmanteau; here comes a burly paterfamilias, followed by his wife and a flock of chattering daughters; parsons abound, singly or in pairs, and strong-minded females in blue spectacles and gauze veils serenely occupy the best places—places which have been the just reward of a timely arrival-whilst poor helpless creatures, with about twenty small parcels, are being mercilessly hustled to and fro in the throng. Numerous Americans, with prodigious Saratoga trunks, and a vast multitude of Cook’s tourists, are all on the wing for the Continent. Two or three days of old-fashioned summer weather have set the world moving, the Calais-Douvres is absolutely crammed, and the crowd of spectators on the upper pier have never enjoyed a more satisfactory inspection.

Some few favoured individuals are down alongside the steamer, taking leave of friends, and obtaining a nearer view of coronetted hand-bags, and Redfern’s latest travelling costumes. A group of four stand close by the gangway, and have attracted more than one glance and smile, and the whispered comment, “Old Indians.” The tall gentleman with aquiline nose, sweeping grey moustache, and a puggaree round his hat, is Colonel Romilly, a retired officer, who, after thirty-eight years’ service, has luckily survived—as so many fail to do—to draw his pension of eleven hundred and twenty-five pounds per annum. Next to him is his wife, a lady with delicate features and frizzy hair, holding a large white-covered umbrella, with a frill like a pillow-case, over a somewhat florid bonnet-a gay, vivacious, fussy little matron, who looks surprisingly juvenile to be the mother of the broad-shouldered young man beside her. Gerald Romilly is six and twenty, an officer in a Ghoorka regiment, and at present enjoying a year’s leave in England. The family have come over from Folkestone to speed a friend, who is on the point of returning to the East—a sharp-faced elderly matron, with keen eyes and a brisk manner, and undoubtedly an experienced traveller. Observe her neat bundle of wraps, her dust-cloak, umbrella, and handbag! She has no encumbrances, and possibly congratulates herself that she is not as others are, overwhelmed with hampers, cages, baskets, and bundles. “This is a frightful time of year for you to be going back, Teresa,” said Mrs. Romilly, with a slight sniff. “I cannot reconcile myself to it. But you will surely come home next May?”

“It will not be my fault if am not home within twelve months,” said Mrs. Manders, emphatically. “Of course I know that I shall be grilled alive in the Red Sea, but it is only for a few days, and Tom’s extravagance is so unbridled when I am away that, if I did not go back for a while, he would have us all in the poor-house; I am certain the servants are making their fortunes—they want me to keep them in check,” and she laughed a little dry, complacent laugh. “And really, with a boy at Eton, and three girls costing five hundred a year, and the rupee little better than a shilling, I have to think of every pice.”

“A hundred and thirty a year for each of the girls is preposterous!” exclaimed Mrs. Romilly, “and I have often said so, Tessy; people always add on for Indian children, and I cannot see why. They don’t eat more, and I can answer for it, judging by Gerald—that they don’t learn more than others. I wonder you don’t ask Mrs. Gace to reduce her terms for three of a family.”

“Perhaps Mrs. Manders is afraid that she might reduce the children to match?” suggested young Romilly, with a twinkle in his grey eyes. “When I was a little chap, and supposed to be receiving every indulgence, and more than a mother’s care, I never had butter on my bread if I had an egg for breakfast; the combination was considered too rich! The same applied to meat and pudding; and in Lent I abstained, sorely against my will, from milk and sugar in my tea-in fact, the only thing that they supplied, without stint, was physic.”

“Yes, very likely; but that was twenty years ago,” answered the lady; “people dare not treat children in that fashion nowadays—my young folk will be well cared for—and, Jerry, I particularly beg that you will not spoil them when they go to your mother for their Christmas holidays-don’t teach Algy to smoke, and don’t put nonsense into Nita’s head, and tell her that she is pretty!”

Is she pretty, Mrs. Manders?” he asked, with an air of ingenuous simplicity.

Mrs. Manders’s only reply was a scornful stare, and, turning abruptly to his mother, she said—

“Now, Susan, let me find you quite settled down by the time I come back. You have been nearly a year at home, and here you are, still haunting the offices of house-agents, and still going from pillar to post, a sort of genteel vagrant.”

“Quite true,” acquiesced her son. The Wandering Jew has a strong rival in my mother.”

“But it is so difficult to make up one’s mind,” pleaded Mrs. Romilly, piteously. “You see, we have all the world to choose from; no ties now. If I had one or two married daughters——”

“Instead of one unmarried and unruly son,” interrupted Mrs. Manders.

“And advertisements are so deceptive. A splendid Elizabethan manor house is generally tumbling to pieces, and about ten miles from the nearest station; a mansion in its own grounds is a wretched villa, close to a high-road. I went to look at a place the other day, and it was within a stone’s throw of a large cemetery, and our nearest neighbours would have been the inmates of a military prison on one hand, and a lunatic asylum on the other. And John here, likes the sea, and I like the country, and Gerald prefers London; it is so hard to please every one. I think I shall wait till you come home, and establish myself near you.”

“At any rate we will stick to Folkestone for the present,” put in Colonel Romilly. “It is a cheery sort of place, and we have a capital house, and can always meet our Indian friends as they go through.”

“Yes, so you can,” assented Mrs. Manders, “and I expect your house is as usual, a sort of family hotel, or glorified Dâk Bungalow. I’m certain you have not shaken off your old habits.”

“If our house is a family hotel, I should be glad to know what yours is at the present moment?” inquired Gerald Romilly. The Kalka races are on now, and if I know anything of my godfather, every room is full, and not merely that, but the compound is white with tents. All he wants is a big sign-board inscribed, ‘The Manders Arms, good entertainment for man and beast,’ the whole surmounted by the family crest, a one-legged stork.”

“A one-legged goose would be far more appropriate, and so I often tell Tom,” said Mrs. Manders, with angry decision. “I dare say he has forty people to dinner and tiffin every day of his life!”

“I expect your Khansamah is making a good thing of it,” continued young Romilly, provokingly. “Think of all the eggs, and butter, and meat, he charges for that he has never purchased; think of the charcoal and Europe stores he is wasting and selling—think——”

“Be quiet, Gerald!” interrupted Mrs. Manders, irritably. “I have no patience to think of the robbery that I know is taking place.”

“How I wish I was going back with you, Tessy!” exclaimed Mrs. Romilly, with a mist in her blue eyes. “I do indeed; I’d gladly go on board this minute, just as I am, I declare I would give ten pounds on the spot for the whiff of a bazaar, or the sniff of a huka!”

Mrs. Manders cast up her eyes and hands (containing bag and umbrella). “For mercy’s sake, Susan, don’t let people hear you saying such awful things; they will think you are crazy. You were always absurdly fond of India.”

“And am still. And why not? My best and happiest years were spent out there. I shall never take root in this country, with its leaden skies and yellow fogs. Fancy Simla now—the rains nearly over! Jakko Hill would be just paradise. I believe I will go back with Gerald. There is a charm about India that, despite all its drawbacks, keeps a hold on one’s heart.”

At this juncture, the group was joined by a smart-looking woman in a neat tailor-made gown. She had a pair of bright brown eyes, a straight nose, and an animated expression, and but for a somewhat heavy jaw, you would have said that she was handsome, and at a little distance you would have said that she was young; but if you looked searchingly into the face behind the spotted veil, you discovered that you were gazing into the countenance of a woman of eight and thirty. She had an admirable figure, and was faultlessly dressed, save for a large pair of solitaire diamond earrings, and an equally dazzling pin.

“My dear Mrs. Romilly,” she gushed, extending both hands, “I am delighted to meet you. I suppose you have come to see off some friends?”

“Yes. We came over from Folkestone to catch the boat train.”

“Ah!”—with a quick critical look at Mrs. Manders—”and we have come down to say good-bye to dear Lady Castle Blarney-Dolly’s cousin, you know; she is going to Carlsbad”-glancing to where a majestic dowager, in a long semi-regal mantle, was leaning over the side, conversing with a handsome middle-aged man, dressed with studied care, in a creaseless summer suit, and listening to whatever the countess was expounding, with his hands behind his back, his head slightly bent forward, his whole manner indicating charmed and respectful attention.

“You will come back with us and have tea, after the boat goes?” said the newcomer persuasively.

“Thank you,” replied Mrs. Romilly, who never had been known to refuse tea; “we shall be very glad——”

“Did you ever behold such a crowd?” continued the other lady vivaciously.

“No, not often,” rejoined Colonel Romilly; “this holiday-making is a new thing since my days, and with most people the great event of the year, and not for one class, but for all. I believe I see our greengrocer on board. I wonder where he is going, and what he is looking forward to most?”

“That question is easily answered, sir,” said his son promptly. “He is going to see Brussels sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes, and looking forward to French beans.”

“Don’t be so silly, Gerald,” said his mother, giving him a playful little push. “You are like a clown in a circus.” Then, addressing her Dover acquaintance, she said

“I hear Mrs. Lightbody is crossing today, after all.”

“Yes, she is on her way to Aix; and what do you think? She has actually left the baby behind!”

“I can’t say I wonder at that,” remarked young Romilly, emphatically.

“No, of course you don’t,” said Mrs. Carwithen, turning to him with a laugh, and now beginning to discuss a recent ball with considerable animation, once more leaving the other ladies to themselves. Meanwhile Mrs. Manders, who had been, so to speak, shouldered out of the conversation, had been making excellent use of her sharp black eyes; presently she fixed her attention on the aristocratic-looking gentleman, with a flower in his button-hole, talking to the old lady with a pug under her arm, and a footman standing behind her.

“Susan,” she said, “just tell me who that man is. I am positive I recognize his face, but I cannot think where I have seen him!”

“Oh, that“-following his glance—“is Mr. Carwithen; but I am sure you have never seen him before, my dear; he is not an old Indian.”

“I never said he was!” retorted the other tartly; “but, all the same, he has been in India.”

“Yes, for a short time—twenty years ago. He hated the country, and we are always quarrelling about it. He says the very name of Lucknow makes him feel queer.”

“Carwithen - Lucknow - twenty years ago,” repeated Mrs. Manders, slowly, with her eyes still fixed on the subject of her inquiry. “Ah, yes! I thought so. So that is the man!”

“Hush-sh-sh, Tessy! That is his wife behind us, talking to Gerald. Then you know him?”

“I know of him”-expressively. “Dear me! he wears well, though getting a little grey, a little stout.”

Mrs. Carwithen had pricked up her ears. The name of Carwithen is long, and not easily slurred over. She had caught it; and more-she had heard Mrs. Manders exclaim

“So that is the man!”

Gerard Romilly had been at a loss to understand why Mrs. Carwithen had flushed up unaccountably—and given him several random answers; he was not aware that she was absorbed in another conversation.

“Do tell me what you know about him, Teresa,” pleaded Mrs. Romilly in a low, eager voice, “It will be quite safe with me.”

“So he is married,” remarked her friend, calmly ignoring the question.

“Yes, yes—years ago. She has a large fortune. We met them at Cannes, and know them pretty well. Now, come, do tell me; I believe you have some joke about him.”

“Joke!” indignantly. “No, indeed.”

“Well, story; really, Tessy, I think you might tell me.”

“No, not just now”-with a shake of her head—“it’s an old tale, twenty years old; you shall hear it when I come back, it will keep very well till then. Here, I see they have all the mails on board; I must be off. Good-bye,” shaking hands with Colonel Romilly, “I’ll not forget your messages to Tom-nor the Nepaul pepper. Good-bye, Susan”-kissing her—”mind you write often, and don’t spoil the children. Goodbye, Gerald.”

“What!” looking contemptuously at her proffered hand, “Mrs. Manders, do you not mean to kiss me too, considering that you used to kiss me when I was——”

“A troublesome urchin in pinafores, as sharp as a knitting-needle.”

“If that was the case, I must have had more than one good point,” he retorted, with a smile.

“Well, well, well, I’ve no time to bandy jokes with you now; you argue every question-you are a loss to the Bar,” impressing a hasty kiss on his bronzed cheek.

“Teresa, Teresa!” cried Mrs. Romilly, clutching her as she spoke; “never mind Gerald-you know him of old; but give me just one word, one little hint.”

But Theresa was already on board; in another moment the gangway was withdrawn, the paddles churned, passengers waved handkerchiefs. Mrs. Manders waved her umbrella as she leant over and screamed—

“When I come back. Good-bye. I’ll write from Port Said.”

“Happy woman!” exclaimed Mrs. Romilly, “with her face set towards Colaba Lighthouse. But really, John, she is as great a tease as when we were schoolfellows. I wonder what she knows about Mr. Carwithen. I declare I’d have gone over to Calais if I had thought she would have told me. I always mistrusted that man-he has such shifty eyes; and in spite of his sleek ways, I am certain his heart is no bigger than a gooseberry.”

“You are the most shamelessly inquisitive woman I know,” said her husband, with a laugh; “and, my dear Susan, surely the size of Carwithen’s heart is of no particular consequence to you!”

Another lady, even Mrs. Carwithen, who had made no remark whatever, and was still conversing in a distrait manner with Gerald Romilly, would gladly have accompanied Mrs. Manders all the way to Bombay, on the chance of sharing her secret, and of gleaning a few particulars concerning the earlier years of her handsome, well-born, inscrutable husband.

Chapter II

Miss Budd Prophesies

“For time will teach thee the truth.”

“If you happen never to have seen one before, there is a real old Qui Hye,” explained young Romilly, as he waved his hat wildly to Mrs. Manders.

“She and my mother are great friends; they were at school together, have lived in the same station for years, and shared houses in the hills. My mother could not get on without her; she was the keeper of her purse and her conscience; she assisted her to make up her mind, and to manage--me! I know that it was Mrs. Manders who put me into the service, and she has kept me down with an iron hand ever since I was the height of the table. Strange to say, I am uncommonly fond of her.”

“Who is Mrs. Manders?” inquired Mrs. Carwithen, abstractedly, for she was still deep in certain curious conjectures.

“She is the wife of the collector of Undermore; I don’t know if that will convey much to you.”

“Oh, a collector’s wife!” scornfully.

“Why do raise your eyebrows, Mrs. Carwithen? A collector’s wife is rather a swell, I can assure you. Old Manders rules a district four times the size of Kent. He is a little king in his own ground. On state occasions he rides on an elephant, and sits in a howdah with looking-glass panels, and Mrs. Manders walks out of a room before most of the ladies in the station.”

“Nonsense! You don’t mean to say so. Then they are quite in society, those sort of people! We met a rather nice couple at Florence last year, and made some excursions together, till the lady informed me that her husband was a collector, and, as I thought he had something to do with tickets or taxes, I just dropped them quietly.”

“Tickets-no! but he has something to say to taxes. It is well for you that Mrs. Manders does not hear you,” said young Romilly, with a laugh, as he followed Mrs. Carwithen and his parents up the pier.

“And this Mrs. Manders, when is she coming home?” continued Mrs. Carwithen.

“Some time next year, I hope.”

“And she corresponds regularly with your mother?”

“Yes, like clockwork-never misses a mail.”

“What marvellous energy! Oh, here is Nancy Budd!” as they were accosted by a somewhat buxom damsel, wearing an elaborate French costume, and a small flower-bed on her head, in the shape of a hat—toilette that was all very well for Trouville sands, but a little startling in Dover. Miss Budd’s dancing black eyes and rather shiny features were brimming over with good humour, as she cordially accepted Mrs. Carwithen’s invitation to come back to tea, and also the escort of Mrs. Carwithen’s companion—the lady having hurried on, and attached herself to Mrs. Romilly with a view of putting some searching questions to that artless and amiable matron.

“So you have just come back from abroad, Miss Budd?” said Mr. Romilly, by way of commencing conversation.

“Yes, from Trouville. We had a ripping time there! At least, I can answer for myself.”

“I am sure you enjoy yourself wherever you go,” he rejoined, with a glance at her commonplace, good-natured face, with its broad cheeks, broad nose, and broad smile.

“And only think! Jessie Collins—my dearest friend, you know-turned up there most unexpectedly, and when we met at the Casino, and rushed into each other’s arms, oh! you should have seen how the people stared—especially the French officers!”

“I’m sure there was not a man among them who did not wish he was between you.”

“Now, really, Mr. Romilly, how can you be so very silly?”

“Alas! I’m afraid I was born so. I don’t mind making a small bet that you had not as great a show of pretty girls over there as we see here.”

“No; only they all look so frightfully dowdy, after Trouville. They have no style, no chic”-she pronounced it cheek—“about them.”

“I can’t say that that is much loss! Pray who is the young lady in the pink frock and sailor hat?”

“You don’t admire her, do you? She is a Miss Bigwither—a nobody. Her face is not bad, but her feet would really frighten you. She is an heiress though. Your mother will be making inquiries about her;” and Miss Budd giggled significantly.

“My mother”—with a laugh—“is as anxious to what she calls ‘get me settled’ as if I was the eldest of a large family of plain daughters. And who is this charming vision with all her hair down?”

“She is Miss Danvers—one of a large family of pretty and penniless daughters. She is not the eldest either; but Miss Violet Angel—to give her her proper name.”

“A most proper name, indeed!” he exclaimed. “I’ve often heard of a Blue Devil, but this is the first time I have seen a Violet Angel.”

“Upon my word, Mr. Romilly, you are too ridiculous,” protested his companion, with another giggle. “How crowded the parade is to-day-almost like the Park in the season! I do love the Park, only I never know who all the smart-looking people are—nor who are in the grand carriages and on the drags. I never happen to be with any one who can point me out the celebrities, and it is so aggravating.”

“I can quite enter into your feelings, Miss Budd. Don’t you think a catalogue would be a capital invention? It would sell like wildfire, or might be leased with the chairs—a nice little book, containing the names of all the what you call celebrities who frequent the Row, each name numbered, and each individual to wear his number, clearly printed, either on his back or round his neck, or on the top of his hat. The carriages I should simply placard—no equipage, or well-known individual, society beauty, actress, preacher, racing man, cabinet minister, and so on, to be allowed to enter Hyde Park without their label, and I should leave the supervision in the hands of the police.”

“Now I know that you are joking, as usual, Mr. Romilly; but, for my part, I think it is a splendid idea, and I should like to see it brought into force.”

“Then you would have no objection to wearing a ticket yourself, and to be ticketed as Miss Nancy Budd from Dover?”

“Not the the smallest,” she answered promptly. “No one would take the trouble to read it, unless-unless I wore something very remarkable.”

Romilly secretly glanced at her fantastic headgear, and wondered what her ideas of a remarkable article could be.

“Here comes Miss Montgomery!” she proceeded in an excited tone. “I wonder if it is true that she is engaged to young Gray, of the Marines. For my part, I don’t believe a word of it.”

“Yes, it is a true bill,” responded her companion.

“How can you possibly know? Why are you so certain?”

“For a very simple reason. Because the man has given it out,” he answered with an air of tranquil conviction.

“Now, really, Mr. Romilly, you are too horribly cynical; it does not suit you at all. It is not considered the man’s place to publish an engagement.”

“No, it is generally given out for him. My engagement has been announced repeatedly.”

“That just shows me what I have always suspected.” And she nodded her head till the roses on her hat became violently agitated.

“Suspected what?”

“That you are a shocking, shocking flirt. Now, don’t attempt to deny it!” And she shook her parasol at him, with what she imagined to be quite a French air. “But, tell me how you like Folkestone. It must be frightfully slow, living with two old people. What do you do with yourself all day?”

“As to old people; if you mean my father and mother, they are in some ways younger than I am. I am never dull. I bathe and boat, and stroll over to Shorncliffe, and of an evening I join the mob upon the Lees, and listen to all varieties of open-air music, and touching songs about ‘love and twilight.’”

“I wonder why love and twilight are always coupled together?” said Miss Budd, with her head on one side, and a would be sentimental expression on her countenance—where it was as much out of place as on the face of an eight-day clock. “Can you tell me, Mr. Romilly?”

“I am sorry to say I am quite the last person to ask. It’s not a riddle, is it?”

“No,”-rather sharply—“I never give riddles.”

“I am afraid I cannot even hazard a conjecture, no more than why eggs and bacon generally appear in company. Can you give me a reason for that?”

“Oh, Mr. Romilly, what a dreadfully prosaic young man you are!” she exclaimed impatiently. “The idea of comparing the two! Eggs and bacon, indeed!” And she tossed her head, and once more set every rose on her hat in motion.

“They are by no means a bad combination. I can vouch for them, but I know nothing of the other.”

“Do you mean to tell me seriously that you have never been in love-not once?” she demanded, with a searching glance from her prominent black eyes. “Come now, think!”

“Yes, I will think. Don’t hurry me. Yes—I remember that I was desperately in love once.”

“Ah! and where is the young lady now?”

“I really do not know; and, only you might be scandalized, I would add-or care.”

“And was she pretty?”

“Yes. She had lovely hair, and beautiful sharp teeth. I recall them particularly, as she bit me severely in the arm during one of our numerous quarrels. We have not met since we were in pinafores.”

“I might have guessed the sort of answer I would get!” cried Miss Budd, indignantly. “You have not one scrap of sentiment in your whole composition!”

“No, thank goodness! no more than a sack of potatoes, or yonder old bathing-machine. However, my father and mother make up for my deficiencies.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, they are fond of places, and associations, and anniversaries, and old letters. They are very susceptible and tender-hearted. A child could impose on either of them. They are quite a fortune to beggars and impecunious acquaintances.”

“Then, if I were you, I would never trust them out alone,” said Miss Budd. “How they must waste money!”

“I don’t know about wasting money; but they don’t get much return, I am ready to admit. Only last month, a stranger in the train burst into tears and told my father some harrowing tale, borrowed ten pounds to tide over a financial crisis, to be refunded in a week, got hastily out at the next station, and, of course, has never been seen since! As to my mother, bath-chair men, crossing-sweepers and organ-grinders, have but to assume an attitude of melancholy dejection, and out comes her purse; and she actually gives cabbies double fare, on the understanding that they will buy a feed for the poor horse.”

“Talking of charity and purses, they are getting up amateur theatricals here next week in aid of—I forget what fund-but you must promise to come over. They are sure to be capital. Tickets only ten shillings.”

Only ten shillings! Miss Budd, you seem to forget that you are talking to a penniless subaltern. I think that ten shillings is a round sum to pay to see the average amateur enjoy the delusion that he or she is acting.”

“Now really, Mr. Romilly, you must not be so dreadfully sarcastic. Mr. Ffolliott is taking a part. I adore him on the stage. Of course, only on the stage,” she repeated, with a giggle. “I am sure ho is quite as good as any professional. Have you ever seen him play?”

“Yes; he is my cousin. I have seen him play the devil and the fool pretty fairly. I suppose we can all do that if we try. I doubt if I should adore him, even on the stage. I have not met him since he was a lad. I believe he belongs to the Bachelor Club, and is considered a smart young man, and never wears less than a two-shilling flower in his button-hole; and I know he has no desire to be introduced to his Indian relations.”

Captain Ffolliott had spoken of his father as old Hindoo colonel, and inquired “what was the difference between a Ghoorka and a gorilla?” These remarks had come to Gerald’s ears-repeated by the usual good-natured friend—and he felt a burning desire to administer a kicking to his talented cousin.

“No desire to be introduced to his Indian relations!” echoed Miss Budd, in a tone of tragic protest.

“Then all I can say, Mr. Romilly, is, that the loss is his.”

“This is extremely kind of you, Miss Budd; but I doubt if he would see it in your light. I know I am a fool to mind what he says or does.”

“I think you are foolish in another fashion, if I may say so.”

“Miss Budd may say anything,” was the gallant response.

“Then permit me to tell you that you are foolish to laugh at love and sentiment.”

“I laugh at love!” in a tone of shocked surprise.

“Well, at any rate, you think you are invulnerable; and, one fine day, Love will pay you out, and you will do something that will astonish yourself and all your friends. Do you believe in prophets?”

“Yes, in small profits and quick returns.”

“There you go as usual, gibing and joking! Well, you will see that, before you are thirty, you will do something desperately romantic. Yes; you have it written in your face; and then you will recall this walk on Dover Esplanade, and Nancy Budd.”

“It will not require the fulfilment of her prophecy to recall Miss Budd to my recollection, and if this desperate romance ends in marriage, I most solemnly promise and vow to send you a large consignment of wedding-cake, carriage paid.”

“Be sure you do! though, somehow, I cannot picture you a married man; your spirits are far too high.”

“Yes, at present; but, no doubt, when the fate you predict has overtaken me, my spirits will be in the other extreme. I am to do something extraordinarily rash and romantic, am I not? Ah! I see Mrs. Carwithen waving her parasol; shall we go in?”

“I wonder why she asked me to tea?” said Miss Budd, speculatively, as they strolled towards their destination.

“That is easily answered; for the pleasure of your company.”

“I doubt it, for it is a well-known fact that she rather snubs girls, and only likes married women, and what are called nice smart people.”

“Surely, Miss Budd, you are both nice and smart!”

“Am I?”—looking at him with a flattered smile. “But not in the sense Mrs. Carwithen means. I have no grand relations. I am not intimate with Lady This or Lord That. I don’t know even one duchess.”

“And I am in the same unhappy position; so are both in the one boat.”

“Oh, but you are very good family,” she rejoined, with blunt candour. “I remember Mrs. Carwithen looking you up in Burke. She said that the Romillys had some splendid connections, and were really gentry, and had blue blood in their veins.”

“I am sure we are immensely obliged to her,” said Romilly, half mockingly.

“Oh, look! She has picked up Major and Mrs. Blundell; he is in a regiment quartered in the shaft, and only lately home from India.”

“Then, in that case, they will suit my people down to the ground,” remarked her companion, as he followed her into one of the best houses on the parade, and upstairs into a cool drawing-room, whose open windows, with gay striped awnings, overlooked the sea-front, and through which floated a soft sea-breeze and the dreamy strains of the last new waltz.

Chapter III

Portrait Of A Lady

“She in there,
Calls back the lovely April of her prime.”

Mrs. Carwithen’s drawing-room was not only cool, it appeared almost dim, after the glare of the parade. The lady of the house disliked a bold searching light, and was partial to veils, shaded lamps, and window-blinds. When the eye had become accustomed to the gloom, it discovered that Mrs. Carwithen was a woman of taste; indeed, she considered the decoration of her house almost as important as the adornment of her person. The curtains and furniture were in old-fashioned brocade. There were valuable inlaid cabinets containing china and Dutch silver; water-colours by well-known artists were displayed on easels; fine Persian rugs lay about the floor, where they were distributed with studied art; and palms, flowers, and photographs were liberally scattered over the apartments. The most remarkable object, one that instantly caught the attention, was not a Louis Quinze cabinet, a Japanese bronze, or even a Watteau screen; it was a large, half-length painting, which was hung in the best light the rooms afforded—the portrait of a beautiful young woman in a picturesque black hat. She had a quantity of reddish-brown hair, a pair of mischievous dark eyes, a delicate tip-tilted nose, and a perfect mouth and chin; the whole pose indicated grace and spirit, with a spice of coquetry. The lady was very slim, and dressed in the fashion of a bygone day; she wore a white gown, with a loosely knotted fichu, one taper hand was bare, and the other, gloved, rested on a silver-topped cane.

It was altogether a striking picture; the vivacity of the attitude, and the brilliant bewitching face captured the admiration of every beholder. Mr. Romilly did not notice the portrait immediately, for he happened to be standing with his back to it, talking to Major Blundell about many mutual friends—for he and his wife had but recently returned from the North-west Provinces, and were already in high favour with Colonel and Mrs. Romilly. Presently a smart man-servant appeared, bearing tea on an antique silver tray; the cups and saucers were old crown Derby; the teapot dated from the reign of good Queen Anne, and everything about the equipage was in perfect keeping—was ancient, elegant, and costly, and spoke of wealthy and refined ancestors. To tell the honest truth—which same truth Mrs. Carwithen would sooner perish than reveal—these family treasures had all been picked up at pawn-offices, curiosity shops, or auctions, by that ambitious lady, who subsequently imposed them on her guests as dear old heirlooms—articles that had been among “Dolly’s people” for generations. Whilst Mrs. Carwithen poured out tea, with fingers that glittered with diamond rings—heirlooms also—Mr. Romilly made himself useful in handing about tea and cake, and it was during an expedition to Miss Budd, cup in hand, that his eyes first fell upon the picture, and he halted suddenly and exclaimed, “Hullo!”

“Well, Mr. Romilly, you seem knocked all of a heap, as they call it,” said Miss Budd, with a titter. “Please bring me my tea, and stare at her afterwards; she is not thirsty.”

“Who is she? Do you know her?” he asked eagerly, feeling strangely attracted, and as if the eyes of the picture held him by a look.

“I believe she is Mr. Carwithen’s ancestress; his great-grandmother, Lady Juliet.”

“His great-grandmother!” echoed the young man, in a tone of profound disgust, his gaze still riveted on the portrait. “I was in hopes she was of the present time; some girl got up in fancy-dress.”

“Oh no,” with a glance of complacency at this dead rival in her companion’s attentions; “you can see that it is an old painting! She was a girl about a hundred and twenty years ago. What do you think of her?”

“I think she has the most beautiful—well, if not exactly beautiful-bewitching, fascinating face, I ever saw”-still looking persistently at the portrait.

“You are not singular in your taste, though women seldom admire her. They say she has a saucy air, and a cocked nose; but men are crazy about her; they all fall in love with Lady Juliet, and, I believe, in old days, she was a tremendous toast, and there were half a dozen duels fought about her.”

“I am not surprised; look at her eyes,” continued young Romilly. “How they seem to speak and laugh, and follow one round the room, almost as if she were alive.”

“It is a good thing for you she is not,” rejoined Miss Budd, emphatically. “I never saw such a desperate case of love at first sight.”

“Mr. Romilly shows his discrimination,” observed Mrs. Carwithen, as she joined them. “I am always so enthusiastic about Lady Juliet myself. You never see that piquant aristocratic type now; it went out with hoops and sedan-chairs. Have you noticed her delicate hands, her exquisite taper fingers?”

“I have, and her whole air, a mixture of dignity and mischief. Mrs. Carwithen, I am her slave. If my mother could only find me a wife like her, I would marry tomorrow.”

“I dare say you would, Mr. Romilly, rejoined Mrs. Carwithen, with a touch of severity in her voice, as she folded her arms and gazed at the picture. “She was a duke’s daughter, and a celebrated beauty. The Carwithens are one of the oldest families in England, and date from the Heptarchy, so that, although she married a Commoner, it was not considered a bad match-quite the contrary. Of course there are Commoners and Commoners.”

“Yes, and I am only a common Commoner. I keenly appreciate the difference,” he replied, with exaggerated humility, which his hostess accepted in entire good faith.

“It is said that my husband resembles her to a remarkable degree,” continued Mrs. Carwithen, with a complacent glance at her lord and master. “I see it myself. Don’t you?”

Gerald Romilly’s glance followed hers. Yes, there was an undoubted resemblance in the set of the eyes, the shape of the forehead, and the well-kept taper hand, with which Adolphus Carwithen was stroking his moustache, as he lay back in his chair, and watched his wife with an air of lazy satisfaction.

He was proud of his family, but she was ten times prouder. She was fond of trotting out his ancestors, and he could see that she was putting Lady Juliet through her paces now. Unlike most well-born men, he talked a great deal, in season and out of season, about his connections, his wealthy, well-born connections—bien entendu, to one who was a chemist and another who was a lunatic he never alluded, and yet they were nearer kin than the Marquis of Castle Blarney, that he constantly referred to as “my cousin.” He was assiduously devoted to relations owning fine country seats, moors, and town houses; he kept up an indefatigable correspondence with them, remembered their children’s birthdays, was liberal with tickets and bouquets to their womenkind when in town, and they, seeing that he was an eminently presentable connection, who had married a rich wife and sown his wild oats, frequently invited the Dolly Carwithens for the fashionable three days’ visit. Mrs. Dolly wore obtrusive diamonds, had enormous ears, and was too effusively “a Carwithen;” but, on the whole, she was a good-natured creature, and quite tolerable. Meanwhile, Mrs. Romilly and Mrs. Blundell were deep in conversation, the former listening with avidity to all the latest news from the North-west—how the Greys had let their house in Mussouri, and gone to Cashmere;; how Miss Lamb had been shamefully jilted by Mr. Wolfe, and how clever Mrs. Fox had married off her two plain daughters.

Now you see what these Anglo-Indians are like, Mrs. Carwithen! When once they get together, no other country has the smallest interest for them, exiles though they were,” remarked Gerald Romilly. “My mother is perfectly happy in hearing about her old friends, and Major Blundell and my father are deep in the entries for the civil service cup.”

“Yes, I can quite understand it,” rejoined the lady, tolerantly, “when people have been many years in India, and have crowds of acquaintances. But there is my husband; he was out there for some time, and he loathes the country and the people, and he made no friends, for he says the society out there is so dreadfully third-rate, he could not be bothered calling on people he did not want to know! But he is so fastidious.”

“My dear Lyddy, what nonsense you talk!” he said, joining the group, teacup in hand. “I made as many friends as most young fellows; but Asia is a vile hole, and what with hot winds, prickly heat, snakes, and cholera-not to speak of early morning parades—I was glad to clear out of it alive.”

“I did not know that you had been in the service,” said Romilly, in some surprise.

“Oh yes,” broke in Mrs. Carwithen, eagerly; “he was in the Iron Grey Hussars—such a crack regiment; but as he went too fast (Now, Dolly,” shaking her finger at him playfully, “you know you did), he exchanged into a regiment of Bengal Cavalry; but he could not stand the climate, and was obliged to come home. His health was completely shattered; he has never been the same since.”

“There, you see, she knows all about me,” said Mr. Carwithen, and he glanced at his wife with a curious smile.

“Yes, dear, of course I do, and how you rode races, and sat up at night playing cards. I know everything about your tour in India.” (This was not the case, as no one knew better than herself that the accounts Dolly had given of his career in the army were by no means as ample or satisfactory as she could have wished.)

“I must confess that I should like to go out there for one cold winter,” she continued. “India is quite the rage. Lady Castle Blarney often talks of spending a winter there, and if we do go out, we shall certainly look you up, Mr. Romilly.”

“Very well,” he rejoined; “we will consider it a bargain.”

“Only that, in the present instance, there are two to the bargain. Dolly won’t agree.”

“Oh yes, of course he will, if you ask him nicely, Mrs. Carwithen. India is a capital place, and you really ought to see it.”

Here, during a pause, his mother was heard saying in tragic accents—

“And she actually gives him twenty-five rupees a month, and a cook under him!” She was talking of her khansamah. “The cold weather is superb,” continued Romilly; “the sights quite out of the common. Travelling is easy in these days. I can promise you plenty of entertainment if you will undertake to come out this autumn. You must see a camp of exercise, Agra, Delhi, the Snows, the Pindari glacier. We can go there together, if you will come and stay with me at Durano.”

“Durano!” echoed Mr. Carwithen, suddenly upsetting his cup of tea.

“What infernal saucers!”-wiping his sleeve as he spoke, and looking much put out.

“No, no, many thanks; but you will never catch me out in that part of the world again; and, I must say, I wonder at your enthusiasm. Why, it was only yesterday your father was describing your experience in the field, and with cholera among the troops; thermometer a hundred and fifteen in an eighty-pound tent, nothing to do all day, potted at all night, and sixteen funerals every evening.”

“Yes, that certainly was a bad time; but it is only once in a way, and Mrs. Carwithen is not likely to go into the field or on service on the frontier; she will have the bright side of things. The Taj at Agra and Futtehpore-Sikri are alone worth a journey.”

“How I long to see them!” said the lady, rapturously, “and-—”

“And vipers, cobras, scorpions. Bah!” interrupted her husband, peevishly; “don’t talk of the beastly country-let us change the subject.”

“It’s his monomania,” explained his wife, with a confidential smile, tenderly wiping his wet cuff with her filmy handkerchief (she was always so affectionate in public). “Still, Dolly dearest, eighteen years make a great difference; and you know if I set my heart on going to India you can’t refuse to take me.”

“Can’t I? Just try me”—with a hoarse, constrained sort of laugh. And then, with an evident desire to change the conversation, he said, “Romilly, have you seen this new photo of Lord Windermere? Rattling good chap; I believe you know him. And here is one of Lady Candypeel-never met her, I suppose?-a connection of mine. A fine-looking woman; eh! splendid figure. And here is the Duchess of Kilwater. She was a cousin of his. You know the story about their marriage? Hullo!” he exclaimed, finding that young Romilly was not particularly interested in his collection of social celebrities, “there is that unfortunate young Wingfield walking with Miss Mawe. I hear he is going to marry her. He is a thundering young ass!”

“And she is a pretty girl,” remarked Gerald, as he approached the open window, and glanced out.

“Pretty girl! Bah! there are thousands ten times better looking. And think, my dear sir, of the Wingfield estates.”

“No doubt she has considered them.”

“My good fellow, this is no joking matter. If that young chap is going to make a disgracefully low match, and marry an hotel-keeper’s daughter, he had much better shoot himself at once. He is bound to do it sooner or later; these infatuations savour of insanity. There ought to be an asylum for imbecile young men, where they could be shut up till they come to their senses.”

Gerald Romilly was silent, for his host spoke with authority; and, indeed, he was accustomed to be listened to with a certain amount of respect whenever he lifted up his voice on the subject of precedence, pedigree, entail, and mésalliances—he was especially great on the latter subject.

“I see that fellow Hobie has come back,” he remarked presently. “There he is, with his four black poodles. Clever chap, but eccentric.”

“They say he has made a bet that he will go over to Calais in his bath!”

“I believe I knew him long ago-it must be the same-quite a genius, but mad as a batter. His name used to be Hobbie. What has he done with the other b?

“I suppose he has it in his bonnet now,” returned the other, with unwinking gravity.

“Ha, ha! not bad, by Jove, not bad. Blundell, did you hear that?”

“For goodness’ sake, don’t serve it up a second time; it won’t stand it,” protested young Romilly. “I see my mother is going, and we have to catch the half-past six train, and have no time to lose.”

Mrs. Romilly was saying, “I am sorry to tear myself away from this delightful budget of Indian news, Mrs. Blundell; pray remember your promise of spending a long day with me next week, and I will read you Amy Fry’s letter. We”-again turning to her hostess—”we have discovered so many mutual friends;” and, brimming over with smiles, the little lady made her adieux, and rustled downstairs, carrying her husband and son in her train.

“Not bad sort of people, Blundell,” said Mr. Carwithen, apologetically; “but they have been too long out of the country. Did you ever see anything like her bonnet-out of a burlesque-or the cut of Romilly’s boots? I believe he buys them second-hand.”

“I did not get beyond his fine old face. He is, or was, a most distinguished soldier. Many a time I heard of old Jack Romilly. He was one of the heroes of the Mutiny. Sword in hand, he held a door against——”

“Yes, yes”—impatiently—“very likely; but that’s all ancient history now. I know some of his folk in Creamshire-really quite nice people.” This was high praise from Mr. Carwithen.

“The son is a smart-looking fellow,” remarked Major Blundell, feeling certain that he and his wife would also be “told off” after their departure.

“Not a bad sort of chap, and always well turned out,” admitted Dolly. “But, by Jove, when I am in town, and I catch sight of the old boy, I always run up a side street. I would not be seen with him in Piccadilly for fifty guineas-ha, ha, ha! Oh, must you go? Just wait a second for me. I’ll walk with you as far as the club.”

Chapter IV

A Young Man’s Fancy

“Why, this is very midsummer madness!”

People do not invariably retire from the Indian army, settle down at home, and live happy ever after, as is their Eastern daydream. At any rate, Colonel Romilly was an exception to the rule. Colonel Romilly, who was accustomed to an active life and congenial employment, found himself a hale vigorous man of fifty-six, shelved for the remainder of his days. Yes, it was a sharp change to sink suddenly from being a person of considerable social importance, with a full life and many friends, into the rôle of an old fogie, with few acquaintances, and nothing to do. It was too late to turn his attention to farming or politics, or any special fad; all his tastes were connected with another hemisphere and another mode of existence. To meet the boat, to read the papers, to go trivial household messages—how his former chuprassis would have stared and sneered—went but a short way towards filling in the great empty hours, until it was time for him to drop in at the club for a rubber of whist. Mrs. Romilly, too, missed her large establishment, her ponies, her garden, and her friends. But since Gerald had been at home, life had been busier, brisker, and better; and Colonel Romilly secretly echoed his wife’s constant wish, that “Gerald would remain in England and settle down.” He was their only child, and a distant relation had recently left him three hundred a year. Why should he go back to India? If they could have accompanied him it would have been a different thing; but, after having taken a solemn farewell of the country, after being entertained and fêted and loaded with parting gifts, after scattering their household gods and ancient retainers to the four winds, how could they return?

As Gerald and his mother strolled up and down the Lees one semi-tropical afternoon, she was urging him with all the eloquence at her command to leave the service, and to make his home with them.

“In another month your leave will be up, and you will be going thousands of miles away, and goodness knows when we shall see you again. We might as well have no son,” she argued.

“But, my dear mother, you surely would not wish me to leave the service at twenty-six, and turn into a loafer at home?”

“You need not loaf!” protested his mother, with asperity.

“Then can you suggest what I am to do? I am fond of my profession and of my regiment, and I am not clever enough to carve out a fresh career.”

“You might marry,” said Mrs. Romilly, briskly.

“So I might; but on what?”

“Why, of course you have something; and she would have something.”

“And supposing that her face was her fortune?”

“I am not going to suppose anything so ridiculous. I know dozens of nice girls——”

“For that matter, so do I. And you, my dear mother, see in every nice girl a possible daughter-in-law.”

“And pray why not?”

“I wonder you are so anxious to get rid of me. You seem to forget that—

“‘My son is my son till he gote him a wife;
My daughter’s my daughter all the days of her life.’”

“Now, Gerald, you are too provoking. I want you to marry some pleasant, ladylike girl, with a little money; I am certain to like her. No one ever said that I was hard to get on with; at Julna I was the only lady who never quarrelled with Mrs. Bickers; I simply would not fight, not even when she managed the mutton club, and gave me only the legs. And if you had a nice country place, where you could shoot and farm, I would come and live near you; it would give me a new interest in life.”

“But if you were to take up some pet charity-or even politics, or the Primrose League-would not that answer just as well?”

“Really, Gerald, I had no idea you were so heartless! Primrose League! as if it would be the same as my only child. Charity! my charity begins at home.”

“Oh! and that old impostor, yesterday, that borrowed two pounds to bury his dead wife, and, in a fit of absence, helped himself to my new umbrella as he went through the hall? However, supposing that I did marry to please you and to give you an interest in life, and that the marriage proved to be a failure?”

“It could not be!”—with much decision.

“No; such things never occur!”

“Not with the sort of girl I have in my mind; and you, my dear boy, have the best heart and sweetest temper in the world. I don’t want to flatter you, but——”

“But you are flattering me absurdly,” he interrupted. “I have by no means a sweet temper. Just ask my bearer!”

“Well, well”-impatiently— “then call it whatever you please. Of one thing I am certain-you would be extremely happy; and she has fifteen hundred a year of her own.”

“Oh! So you have already selected the young lady? And may I ask her name?” he inquired rather dryly.

“Miss Nancy Budd,” rejoined Mrs. Romilly, triumphantly.

“No, mother; not if she had fifteen hundred thousand pounds!!”

“And pray why not? To what do you object?”

“I object to the shape of her hats, the size of her hands, to her slang, and, above all, I object to her saying ‘Really, Mr. Romilly,’ every five minutes.”

“Oh, indeed, I must confess I had no idea that you were so sharp, or so hard to please. Well, there is Miss Skinder, a clever and refined girl, who has inherited two fortunes, and was certainly born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”

“Granted, my dear mother; but you will allow that it must have been a table spoon!”

“Gerald! I am ashamed of you. What do you say to Miss Moss? She is strikingly handsome. What magnificent eyes!”

“Quite true; but have you seen her mother? I was not surprised when she told me that it was not easy to get round her! She must weigh close on twenty stone; and Mrs. Moss assured me that her daughter was the image of what she had been at her age! You should also bear in mind that it is not likely that any of these fair damsels would look at me!”

Would they not? thought Mrs. Romilly, with a quick glance at her son.

He was not much above middle height, and had a slight, well-knit figure; his close-cropped brown hair exhibited a wave inherited from her own fuzzy locks; his face was tanned to mahogany, but to strangers-much less his mother-it was a handsome face, with its clear-cut features and sweeping auburn moustache; and even by men—who are never prone to admire one another-Gerald Romilly was considered a remarkably good-looking fellow.

Yes! Mrs. Romilly had every reason to be proud of her boy; he was a model son. Her deeply interested neighbours noticed how attentive he was to his mother-escorting her to bands, and concerts, and even to tea-parties!-waiting patiently whilst she gloated over shop windows or enjoyed twenty minutes of “last words” when parting with some lady friend.

“Well, Gerald,” she began, after a moment’s silence, “tell me seriously what you think about getting married.”

“Seriously, then, I don’t approve of married officers; they spoil the mess, and throw a lot of duty on the soft-hearted bachelors. If I were at the head of affairs I should issue an order that any man who married before he was five and thirty should receive a compassionate allowance, and be compulsorily retired.”

“You are talking rubbish, as usual, Gerald, and will sing a very different song one of these days,” said his mother. “Now, confess, have you never seen a girl that you wished to marry, supposing you were not in the service?”

A pause, and then, with a smile, he answered “Yes.”

“Who is she?” she asked in a flutter of curiosity. “Tell me all about her.”

“I have seen one girl I could have married, whom I could have adored; but we never, never can be anything to one another; I may not even speak to her!”

“Oh, my dear boy,” in a shocked voice, “what are you going to tell me? She is not a married woman?”

“Well, not exactly.”

“Where does she live? Where have you seen her?”

“I have seen her, and so have you, in Mrs. Carwithen’s drawing-room,” and then in a mysterious whisper he added, “hanging on the wall.”

“Hanging on the wall!” echoed Mrs. Romilly, and her face betrayed sincere perplexity.

“Yes, Lady Juliet, lovely Lady Juliet; the girl in the black hat.”

“Of course you are talking nonsense as usual,” cried Mrs. Romilly, in a tone of intense exasperation. “And I see nothing in the picture; nothing but a woman with a small face, a pair of roguish eyes, and quantities of red hair, a colour I detest.”

“Oh, mother, you have done it now, and wounded me in my most sensitive point. Pray what do you call my moustache? However, I forgive you this time, if you will please bear in mind that I admire red hair, and if in your travels you ever come across a girl with a face like Lady Juliet’s, you are to take her home at once, and wire for me, for you will have found your daughter-in-law at last.”

“Which is as much as saying you will never marry!” cried Mrs. Romilly, impatiently. “I dare say you think I am a horrible, mercenary old match-maker; but you know very well, Jerry, that I would snatch at any straw to keep you with me. However, I have one consolation——” and she drew herself up slightly.

“And what is that? that you are always first with me, and that you that if you really insist on it, I will remain at home, and chuck the service.”

“No, Jerry; after all, I could not be so selfish. I can see your side of the question;” and then she added with a little sigh, “and perhaps one idle man at home is enough. My consolation is, that being so fastidious, and so invulnerable, there is no fear of your entangling yourself with some wretched girl out in India.”

“No fear, indeed,” emphatically. “And here comes Dolly Carwithen, arm-in-arm with Lord Hougham. Yes, happy Dolly; just as he likes to be seen. I wonder what has brought him over to these parts? What do I behold? He is actually leaving the earl, and I believe he is coming to speak to us!”

Gerald did not care for Mr. Carwithen; his keen eyes detected flaws in this brilliant specimen of humanity. He figuratively held this ornament of society between his eye and the light, and found him to be paste. Mr. Carwithen was an ineffable dandy—that was a pardonable weakness; but he was a disgusting toady, and always running after big-wigs, and this was a failing for which this bronze-faced, hawk-eyed young man felt the most measureless contempt.

On his side, Dolly Carwithen did not like young Romilly; he had a sharp tongue and a merry, mocking eye, and not a grain of deference in his manner, for a man who was rich, who was familiarly slapped on the back by at least half a dozen peers, and who gave the best little dinners in Dover.

They avoided one another by mutual consent, and with considerable success, and therefore Gerald Romilly was a good deal surprised to find himself accosted and drawn aside by Mr. Carwithen-it was merely to ask some trivial question about the trains; and this question answered, Dolly still remained in his vicinity, and finally suggested that they should take a little turn together—this with his most warranted bonhomie, an air specially reserved for people of a higher grade than a lieutenant in a Ghoorka regiment. Gerald could not but accede; his mother preferred remaining near the band. She had met some friends, and there was nothing to prevent his accepting Mr. Carwithen’s best cheroot-and his company.

After a few trifling observations, Dolly nodded towards the sea, and said, “I suppose you will soon be crossing, on your way out?”

“Yes; in about three weeks, my time will be up.”

“Ah! and where is your regiment now? You told me, but I forget.”

“At Durano, in the Himalayas; it is our head-quarters.”

“I suppose you know the place pretty well, eh, and the people?”—with a swift glance out of the corner of his eye. As Mr. Carwithen made the inquiry, there was a slight but perceptible change in the expression of his face, a change from languid politeness to keen interest; and in a second it flashed on his companion that he had thus drawn him aside in order to ask him some special question-well aloof from other ears.

“Yes, I know it, I dare say, as well as you know Dover.”

“What sort of a billet is it?” continued Mr. Carwithen, carelessly.

“Oh, a capital station, but not a bit fashionable; there is mahseer fishing, there is chikor and karkar shooting, but not much else, unless you are a first-class athlete, and can climb like a goat.”

“Do you know the neighbourhood?”

“Yes, I know the neighbourhood,” repeated Romilly.

“Not much society, I suppose? Not many spins., eh?”

“No; mostly married people,” indifferently.

“Have you ever come across a couple of the name of-of Noote?” And again there was that furtive glance out of the corner of his eye.

“Noote? No, never,” and he laughed. “I am sure, if I had, I should remember the name.”

“Are you quite certain?” with ill-disguised anxiety.

“Yes; at any rate, they are not in the station; but there are lots of missionaries and planters and retired officers scattered over the hills within a radius of forty miles.”

“Oh, I see; and they never show up?”

“No, very rarely. They live like hermits among their gardens and their flocks and herds.”

“A frightful existence,” said Carwithen, shrugging his shoulders; “it would kill me in a week.”

“I dare say it would; and regarding these Nootes, I can make inquiries about them, if you like. Shall I look them up for you?”

“On no account, no account, my dear fellow,” rejoined the other precipitately. “I merely asked because I came across them once in a small matter of business, and-and that’s all—they don’t interest me in the least. Ah, I see Lord Hougham is looking for me everywhere; he came over with me, you know—is dining with us this evening-such a charming fellow-introduce you to him another time. Ah, good day;” and he hurried off.

*  *  *

The Carwithens were wealthy people, that is to say, he had a few hundreds per annum, and she had many thousands; but, then, he possessed birth and connections, whilst she-well, the truth must be disclosed, Rumour for once was right—she was the daughter of an obscure money-lender; at least his origin was obscure, though his transactions were quite the reverse. Having acquired a large fortune and a most unenviable reputation, he had departed this life, leaving his ill-gotten riches to his only child, Miss Lydia Gammick, a personable spinster of twenty-six, with a good figure, a strong will, and a large fund of social ambition. Miss Gammick resided on the Continent for the first year after her bereavement, and had a considerable number of worshippers, but among them all she kept her head cool. Birth for bullion was her bargain, and she was as fully resolved to have the worth of her money as might be expected from her father’s daughter. She had the peerage at her fingers’ ends, and was prepared to marry any one above the rank of a knight. Nevertheless, in the end, she gave her hand—and an iron one he found it—to good-looking, graceless Dolly Carwithen. True, his family was ancient, his second cousin was a peer, but his enemies and rivals hinted that there was some story about him in India, that he was in debt, and that he had been hard at work heiress-hunting for the last three years. Miss Gammick listened demurely to all these tales, listened and was lost to her herds of adorers; for she married Dolly Carwithen. They had now been husband and wife for fifteen years, and on the whole the alliance bad turned out well for both parties. For a poor man, what can be an easier or more agreeable form of livelihood than a wealthy wife who worships him? And, on the other hand, the low-born Miss Gammick was well satisfied with her matrimonial venture. Her husband’s relatives tolerated her, she moved in good society, her card-plate exhibited the names of great ladies, and she had been presented at court. She was most enthusiastic about Dolly’s ancestors (having none of her own), and discovered many curious facts respecting them, which she brought to light for the first time, to the amazement of the family. A Carwithen had been second cousin once removed to Queen Boadicea, and been a conspicuous figure in the sacking of London; a Carwithen had been one of the seven champions of Christendom; a Carwithen had placed the historical chair for King Canute; and a Carwithen had taken part in every one of the eight crusades—not even excepting the children’s futile expedition.

Mrs. Carwithen had also a wonderful collection of so-called heirlooms, very valuable possessions, having cost a round sum of money. But Lady Juliet was no impostor, she was a bona fide ancestress, and had been fished out of a lumber-room in Dolly’s old home, covered with dust and cobwebs, had been bid up to three and sixpence at the auction of household chattels, and been bought in by Dolly—for her frame—and subsequently become the joy and pride of his wife’s heart. Lady Juliet was real—when cleaned and repaired by expert hands, she proved to be beautiful and distinguished-looking; her aristocratic air threw a halo of dignity over all her descendants. Mrs. Carwithen loved her; she had her portrait photographed, and carried a large copy about with her whenever she went from home, and stuck it conspicuously on the chimney-piece amongst a number of aristocratic companions’ in her private sitting-rooms, at hotels, and constantly drew people’s attention to it by saying—

“Is not this a charming face?—Lady Juliet Carwithen-my husband’s great grandmother.” Mrs. Carwithen was most anxious to turn over the pages of her husband’s life in India; but if she was clever he was cunning, and he kept that book securely closed. She was aware that her curiosity was foolish, that she would probably hear something she would not like, and once a talkative connection (lady) had imparted to her that Dolly had been rather wild, and got into some scrape in India about a race. Poor boy! he had been so simple and so dreadfully victimized-only about a race! it was an immense relief to know that there was not “a lady in the case.” For time Mrs. Carwithen’s curiosity had slumbered, but now a chance sentence had roused it to life, as strong and fierce as ever. She had fully decided to go to India some day, as she was convinced that there was a story out there connected with Dolly, the particulars of which it would be well that she should learn; and the more he reviled India, the more she secretly determined to escort him to that country. Dolly was a little afraid of his rich wife; he was aware that she was a resolute woman, and that once she fixed her mind on an object that object was practically attained. Hers was the stronger character. She held the purse-strings, and she could sulk. There had been unpleasant domestic silences for a week at a time, after certain startling disclosures about money, or respecting attentions to other ladies. But Dolly was older and wiser now; he made his wife handsome presents—which were returned fourfold;-he was always most attentive to her in public, and in private; remembered her special tastes, her favourite flowers, her birthday, and, above all, he allowed her to open his letters! The Carwithens had a flat in London as a pied-à-terre, and roamed about the greater part of the year-to the baths abroad, to Cowes, to Scotland. At present they had rented a furnished house in Dover, where they entertained, and gave first-rate dinners to really important social creditors; far be it from them to open their doors to passing acquaintances—as did the benighted Romillys, indifferent to clothes, to pedigree, to all but the memories of auld lang syne.

Mr. Carwithen, when he examined his mind, frankly confessed that he had done well for himself in marrying Lyddy Gammick; he had led a luxurious and fairly successful existence since he had made her his bride; he enjoyed a fine income, without the exertion of earning it; he had nothing to do but gratify his tastes and likings. He liked his clubs; he liked to be admirably turned out, and to pass for a man of five and thirty; he liked a good dinner; he liked writing letters from grand country places and castles—with the address printed on the note-paper-to less fortunate mortals. On the whole, his likings were gratified; good looking, the husband of a devoted partner, with no bills, no malady, no encumbrance, and no greater anxiety than slight misgivings as to the competence of his cook or his tailor.

And yet he was in a similar position to the princess of whom we have read; there was one little pea beneath the pile of forty down feather-beds, that interfered with all his repose.

Chapter V

Dolly’s Secret

“Pluck the heart out of my mystery.” — Hamlet.

It was quite true that Dolly Carwithen had a secret in his life-a secret connected with India; and, as there is no occasion to conceal it, pending Mrs. Manders’ return, it shall be divulged without delay.

One very wet August afternoon, nineteen years ago, a small procession might have been seen winding its way up the steep bridle-path that leads from the Brewery to Chota Bilat. It was the last and worst burst of the monsoon, and the rain was coming down like a waterspout. The small mountain torrents were brown rushing rivers, boiling over with dirty white foam. The low country was enveloped in a grey mist. It was not a promising day, and nothing but the most urgent private affairs would be likely to summon any sane person from beneath the noisy shelter of their zinc roof. All up and down the usually thronged bridle-road there was not a soul to be seen, save this little party who were making their way in the very teeth of the weather: headed by a handsome young man of four or five and twenty-in fact, Dolly Carwithen—looking hollow-eyed, haggard, and depressed. He seemed to be buried in his reflections, and totally indifferent to the miniature cataract that was streaming off his mackintosh, down the sides of his panting hill pony, and trickling out of the toes of his boots. His Terai hat was reduced to a mere pulp. Truly he resembled the traditional drowned rat, as he and his steed at last turned into the bazaar road. Here was no view awaiting them of a lovely lake, reflecting surrounding hills, as in a mirror-no, nothing but sheets of impenetrable fog and mountains shrouded in sullen-looking clouds. The bazaar empty, save for a few shivering pack ponies, waiting miserably under dripping verandahs, whilst their owners squatted within, drinking smoke from the inevitable huka, and listening to all the local gup.

At the corner of the bridge Mr. Carwithen halted and looked behind him, and the dejected expression of his countenance gave way to one of angry impatience.

“What the mischief is keeping them?” he muttered. “It will be dark before we get there. I’d like to thrash the life out of those devils of coolies!”

Ere he had concluded this benevolent wish, the remainder of the procession turned the corner. First, a stout hill man, with enormous shoulders and brawny limbs, carrying a box upon his back, his person enveloped in a coarse brown blanket, fastened across the chest with rude brass pins. Next came a “dandy,” a sort of chair, borne by four other coolies; in this sat a benumbed ayah, with an umbrella over her head, and a sleeping infant in her lap.

“Chullo! Chullo!” shouted the young man impatiently. “Come, get on ahead of me, you lazy brutes.”

And he proceeded to herd the party up a narrow, slippery path that led to a mall overlooking the lake. After following the mall for some time, under dripping trees, and sponge-like overhanging ferns, they came in sight of a large grey house, with a high zinc roof—a severe-looking residence, and it did not need the gravelled playground or the board outside the gate, on which was painted “Miss Bruce’s Establishment for Young Ladies,” for “School” was written all over it in capital letters.

There was no straggling flower-garden, no waving creepers, weedy walks, or barking dogs—everything was plain and neat and simple, from the bright windows and white painted swing to the stern old bearer who invited the new arrivals into the verandah.

Dolly Carwithen took off his soaking hat and coat; the ayah disentangled herself and Miss Bruce’s new young lady from their wraps; the coolies and pony got under shelter when Miss Bruce herself came on the scene—a short, spare lady of about thirty, neatly dressed in black, with black hair, black eyes, a very long nose, a very long chin, and a tightly closed mouth-by no means a beautiful face, but the face of a clever and determined woman.

“I scarcely expected you this dreadful day,” she said in a cheery voice, as she offered her hand to Dolly, much surprised to find that this good-looking young man was the paterfamilias who had been in correspondence with her. He was of such a widely different type to the parents of her other charges.

Miss Bruce, an accomplished and enterprising English governess, had come out to India a few years previously with the idea that a well-managed exclusive girls’ school, if situated in the hills, would pay.

It would be a new experiment, and she was excessively sanguine of its results. She rented a large house, added a schoolroom, furnished the premises, laid in three second-hand pianos, secured two efficient assistants, and confidently awaited the result. But alas for her hopes, for her friends’ fine promises, and her own circulars, officers and civilians still continued to send their daughters home, just as if “St. Oswald’s” was not in existence, or ready to supply what Miss Bruce declared must be a long-felt want. She was accordingly advised to moderate her expectations, and to what our American cousins call “climb down”—in other words, to open her arms to the children of Eurasians and tradespeople-children whose parents were willing and able to afford a good education in a good climate. The change had answered extremely well. The school numbered fifty boarders-punctually paid for—and who possibly gave less anxiety and trouble than those delicately reared hot-house plants--daughters of colonels and collectors. Yes, the school was in a most flourishing condition, and Miss Dix, the head-governess and lady principal’s right hand, was amazed to hear that they were about to receive an infant aged but two months, and her amazement naturally found speech.

“Why?” echoed Miss Bruce. “I’ll tell you, Agnes. Firstly, because all is fish that comes into my net-even this little minnow. Secondly, because sixty rupees a month, and her ayah paid for, is a consideration. The child won’t cost ten. Thirdly, and lastly, because she is likely to be permanent.”

For all these reasons, and also by means of his handsome face and gallant bearing, Miss Bruce smiled graciously on Dolly Carwithen when she said, “I scarcely expected you to-day.”

“But you got my telegram?” he inquired, as he dried his damp face in his silk handkerchief.

“Oh yes. Won’t you come in? Oh, never mind your boots!” she added recklessly, ushering him into a comfortable carpeted room, with tempting armchairs and a roaring wood fire, and beckoning to the ayah to follow them.

“This is my assistant, Miss Dix,” she continued, as a pale, refined-looking woman, wrapped in a shawl, rose and bowed. “Miss Dix will have a good deal to say to my little charge,” now turning to examine the infant, who suddenly opened a pair of brown eyes, and having stared at the stranger for some seconds, wrinkled up its face, and gave vent to a succession of yells. Miss Bruce could not truthfully say, “What a lovely child! what a little angel!” for at present its nose was a button and its hair of a blazing red, so she merely exclaimed—

“Poor darling! she must be cold and hungry,” and, addressing her ayah in fluent Hindustani, sent her out of the room in company with Miss Dix, who, taking the child in her arms, limped away with her down the corridor. Miss Dix had been lame from her birth.

“You see, I had to come up to-day,” explained the young man, seating himself. “I only got three days’ leave; the child is not a bit the worse.”

“I hope not. You will have some refreshment, won’t you? A cup of hot coffee, or a peg, or anything?”

“Thanks, no; I am going to the hotel. I can’t stop long,” he went on uneasily, with a glance at his wet boots. “And I go down first thing in the morning.”

But, surely this young man, with a pair of somewhat faithless-looking blue eyes, was not going to leave the child and depart in this fashion, without one word on business?

Miss Bruce’s face assumed its gravest professional aspect, and her nose seemed to grow longer as she said—

“I see you are very wet, and it would be cruel to detain you now. But you will call and make all arrangements to-morrow, before leaving the station?”

“Arrangements?” he echoed, with a blank look.

“Yes, of course, about the child,” said the lady, who had a decisive disposition and prompt manner.

“Oh, aw,” pulling his moustache. “Sixty rupees a month, is it not?”

“Yes, paid in advance, and you pay the ayah,” said Miss Bruce, in her most practical tones.

“All right; if you like.”

“Why, you suggested it yourself!” she exclaimed, with a touch of impatience. “Am I to have entire charge of the child, and keep her here for her holidays, and provide her clothes?”

“Yes, rather,” with an emphasis that did not say much for his parental affection, “You see, I shall be with my regiment. I am going to a camp of exercise this autumn; anyway, I can’t be lugging a baby and an ayah about the world.”

“Of course not. The clothes will be extra, and I must keep an additional cow; and there will be wood for baths, and all that,” resolved to drive a good bargain with this somewhat nonchalant young officer. “Oh, I say, I can’t afford more than sixty rupees for everything. You see, she does not eat. She won’t want lessons for ages. Mrs. Warry said sixty was too much,” he added with boyish candour.

Miss Bruce made a mental note of Mrs. Warry’s name, and said with affected resignation—

“Well, it is very little; but I suppose I must try and make it do! A young child is a great responsibility.”

“Yes; but she is as hard as nails. It’s a bore she is so awfully ugly. Only for that, I’d have packed her off home-like a shot.”

“I wonder you did not send her to your own people.”

“I’ll tell you the reason,” he rejoined, with an air of superficial frankness.

“My people don’t know I am married. I may as well tell you, and make a clean breast of it, for someone else is sure to be good enough to do it for me. My wife was not in my own class of life-a barrack sergeant’s daughter-and so, you see, I funked telling the old folks at home.”

“But surely they must know some day.”

“Yes, some day; if the child had been pretty, or like the Carwithens, I might have despatched it. But it’s such a hideous little devil, they would pitch it into the street.”

“I don’t think there would have been any risk of that,” rejoined Miss Bruce. “What is her name?”

“Juliet-an old family one—but you may call her Julia Car-the other is such a mouthful, and Car is good enough for school use.”

“Nevertheless, I think she had better be known by her full name,” said Miss Bruce, stiffly; “otherwise there might be awkward complications.”

“Very well, it’s all one to me. No, by Jove, on second thoughts, it is not. Carwithen is not a common name, people might ask questions; for the present she is to be Car only. She can take the rest of her name within a year or so. See the joke, eh?”

“No; my sense of humour is somewhat deficient,” said Miss Bruce, stiffly.

“Oh come. I suppose I may call my own property what I please?” he exclaimed, rising. “I’ll ride up to-morrow, and bring you the coin; it’s with my baggage. I’m going to leave the child with you for a long time, you know.”

“Yes, I quite understand that, and I will do my very best for her, you may be certain. I’ll make her my special charge.”

“Yes, but you’ll never make her a beauty. Now I must be off.”

Shaking hands with alacrity, and seemingly thankful to have disposed of a troublesome business, he hurried out, pulled on his moist mackintosh, mounted his pony, and galloped away.

“What a harum-scarum creature, and how handsome he is!” mentally exclaimed Miss Bruce. “Fancy his telling me all his family affairs. He has forgotten to pay the coolies. Well, I am not going to do it for him,” and, opening the window, she shrieked out a sentence that sent them all streaming after him. Then she went upstairs, and looked critically at her new boarder. She was sound asleep on the ayah’s lap, and, really, not at all so plain, only for her hair, which was very abundant and very red. She had dark eyelashes and a lovely skin. Poor mite! What would be her fate, in a world where she was evidently not wanted?

Then Miss Bruce proceeded to judiciously cross-examine the ayah. “How long had she been with the mem sahib?”

“One year-very pretty lady-dark eyes—dark hair—and so young when she died. Sahib very sorry for two three days.”

“Sorry for two or three days!” thought Miss Bruce. “What an eloquent sermon on matrimony! After all, I believe a single woman, like myself, has far the best of it. I won’t have the child’s box unpacked until to-morrow, and until I see if that young man means to pay. Supposing he was to go down, and never come near me! It’s rather a shame to doubt him, but these gay and reckless youths are sometimes very careless about money. If he plays me false, I shall just send the child to the Dâk Bungalow. I cannot afford to support strangers’ children.”

During that night, had Miss Bruce but known it, little Juliet’s destination hung by a hair.

Dolly had gone to a popular hotel, and there, warmed, refreshed, and reclothed, had presented himself in the card-room, and been welcomed with acclamation by several acquaintances, who were glad to see any new face that dreary day, and to the query, “Hullo, Doll, what brought you up here?” he simply shrugged his shoulders, laughed, and said, “a bazaar pony.”

He had not intended to play cards—had merely come to look on—for he had barely sufficient cash to pay three months in advance and his return journey. But he was as weak as water where cards were concerned, and where his own pleasure was in question, and he was easily persuaded to cut in. Rubber followed rubber, and, alas! his rupees soon began to melt like snow before the fire; rupee points and a gold mohur on the rub, and bets, soon runs away with a considerable sum, and presently Dolly was cleared out. Luck was dead against him. After dinner, and fortified by a bottle of champagne, he went to the Club Baboo, and borrowed one hundred rupees on his watch and chain, and once more sat down to tempt Fortune, and Fortune figuratively threw herself into his arms.

“Carwithen’s luck” that night was talked of for two seasons! He held extraordinary cards-honours, trumps, aces, kings seemed to tumble out of his hands at his will; he betted audaciously, he backed himself heavily; it was all the same, he could not lose! He played till three o’clock in the morning. Who would believe that this haggard, fierce-eyed young gambler, with wild hair and unsteady hand, could ever develop into staid, self-contained, artificial Adolphus Carwithen. He rose at last, the winner of four thousand rupees, and, with his pockets stuffed with notes, cheques, and I O U’s, he staggered off to bed, literally drunk with success! It was late when he awoke, and as he dressed and ate his breakfast he came to an unusually prudent resolution. He would pay over half his winnings to Miss Bruce there and then, nearly four years in advance, and then he need not bother his head about the child for the whole of that period. She would be provided for, at no cost to him; no—and he chuckled at the thought—the price of her maintenance had all come out of the pockets of Algy White, Skippy Byng, and Bobby Langstaffe. He would keep the rest to pay some of his debts, and to buy a couple of ponies for the Umballa races. Yes, he would make over the coin to Miss Bruce at once; strike whilst the iron was hot, and ere he changed his mind-he so often changed his mind. He sorted out notes and cheques from the I O U’s, and put them in a large envelope, and, after settling his bill, set off on his return journey, laden with his spoils. No; he was not going to stop another night to give his friends their revenge, although they demanded it clamorously; his leave was up, and he was off. He was deaf to all entreaties and blandishments, and his disappointed companions angrily remarked! “that it was the first time they had over known Carwithen so keen about returning to his duty!”

Miss Bruce was delighted to see him, and repented her of her base suspicions; and her surprise was unbounded when Dolly placed a thick packet of notes in her hands, and said, with his most offhand air—

“Here’s two thousand rupees, payment in advance. Please see that it’s all square, for I have not a minute to lose.”

“But, my dear Mr. Carwithen, I don’t want all this,” she protested. “Six months——”

Keep it now you have got it—that is my advice to you,” he interrupted impatiently as he picked up his whip.

“But supposing anything were to happen, and the child were—were to die?”

“No such——” he pulled himself up sharply. “No fear of that. Just see that it’s all right, please, for I must be going.”

Miss Bruce hastily counted it over, and said, “Yes, I believe it’s correct. So I will send you a formal stamped receipt-or can you wait now? Wait five minutes, and see the child, and take a receipt.”

“No, not a second, or I’ll miss my Dâk, I shall have to gallop all the way to catch it, as it is—however, I can always do wonders with my own spurs and another fellow’s nag,” and with a hasty shake of the hand he was gone. Within three weeks, every single rupee of his winnings was also gone—not in paying bills—lost on a race-course, and he said to himself, as he thrust his hands into his now empty pockets, “What a comfort it is that for once in my life I had some sense, and paid up Miss Bruce like a man-ay, like a nobleman! The rest of that coin would have gone the same way, and I am still that to the good.”

Chapter VI

Mr. Carwithen’s Past

“A man of pleasure is a man of pains.” — Young.

With the air of a man who had triumphantly discharged a part, Dolly Carwithen clattered downhill at break-neck pace on too confiding Algy Brigg’s best polo pony, his heart was light within him, he had got rid of the child, perhaps it had been an equally blessed relief to him to get rid of his wife. Who knows? At any rate, he was bearing his loss with creditable fortitude. He had been married a year, his marriage, like many other matters in which Dolly was concerned, had proved a failure. A good-looking, well-born, reckless youth, his parents had placed him in a cavalry regiment, endowed him with a first-rate outfit, guns, saddlery, and a small allowance, and seen him off to India, hoping that their handsome boy, with common prudence, might swim gallantly enough down the current, in spite of various dangerous brass-pots.

But alas! Dolly, instead of being commonly prudent, was uncommonly imprudent, and already a thorough-going young man of the world, determined to make the present life yield what it could of pleasure. He had joined the Iron Grey Hussars at Lucknow, and found soldiering, with interludes of polo-racing, dancing, and shooting, an agreeable form of existence. He was not a bad sort of youth, his seniors declared, but hot-headed, rash, and easily led into all sorts of follies. He was frequently getting into trouble through injudicious treatment of the natives—to put it mildly—having a heavy hand, and a hot temper. He went a “mucker” over the big yearly races, he fell into a serious monetary scrape through which his comrades pulled him gallantly, but he would not suffer any comrade to disentangle him from the meshes of pretty Miss Smithson, the daughter of a retired old barrack sergeant. He had given in, and taken advice (and loans) so often, that he was resolved to be firm for once, and show them all-meaning his brother officers and acquaintances—that he was not a weak-minded idiot, who did not know his own mind, and who was always to be in leading-strings, like a good little boy. No, here he made a stand. (Unfortunately, Dolly was generally firm when he ought to have yielded, and vice versa.) Did he interfere in other fellows’ private affairs? he demanded furiously; then why should other fellows meddle in his concerns? Lottie Smithson was as much a lady as any of the stuck-up old cats who were jealous of her. She was quite in society—that is to say, she went to church, to the band, to the reading-room, to public concerts, and subscription balls. Whatever her manners and breeding might leave to be desired, one thing was undeniable—her beauty. She was small and dark, with a rose-leaf complexion, and delicate features a curious contrast to her burly sire, with his purple face, and coarse but shrewd countenance.

Mr. Smithson said he was a gentleman. by birth, but this statement was generally supposed to be a fiction. Nothing in his manners, appearance, or tastes, displayed even a shred of good breeding. He had “got on,” he declared, had saved money, had made lucky investments in some Indian mills; at any rate, he was now the possessor of a neat little bungalow in Dilkoshá, a pony-cart, and a pretty daughter. Lottie was half-educated, vain, and romantic. She could sing, “Willie, we have missed you,” and “Rosalie, the Prairie Flower,” with an exquisite untrained voice. She danced like a fairy. She could do her hair in various ways, and make herself look charming when he dropped in for tea, and once for an atrocious dinner; but Dolly was in love in those days, and did not know what he was eating. Opposition had fanned a little flame into a blaze. Crafty Papa Smithson’s invitations “to show himself a man,” and not under any one’s thumb. Also—last, not least—the beauty and attractions of the young syren herself had had their due effect. Miss Smithson needed no bidding to fall down and adore this handsome young hussar, and to Dolly, who was accustomed to be somewhat ruthlessly snubbed at mess, this undisguised worship was delicious. He endured with stoicism his brother officers’ chaff and their gratuitous advice; the colonel’s wife had talked to him like a mother, and spoken of his youth, the girl’s undesirable connections, his father’s disappointment; and Dolly had assured her there was nothing in the story, it was only a bit of ill-natured station gossip, and turned the subject into a joke. He had not the moral courage to give Lottie up, or to avow the truth; but when it came to his ears that the colonel had sent in his name for the depôt at home, and that he was to sail in the next trooper, love, stubbornness, old Smithson’s exhortations, and maddening taunts carried the day, and one morning he walked into the cantonment church and married Miss Charlotte Jane Smithson by special licence, and thought he had done an exceedingly fine and independent action, and shown that he was not a man to stand any one’s nonsense, or to be kept under any one’s thumb. But what about his father-in-law’s broad and horny digit?

He was subsequently surprised to find that, in consequence of this dashing exploit, he was compelled to leave the regiment. The colonel did not fancy married subalterns, much less a subaltern who made an indiscreet alliance and the colonel’s wife, who considered “the boys” her special care, could not tolerate young men who told her deliberate lies. She had affected not to see Dolly when he swaggered up to her carriage at the band. His brother officers had declined to call upon his wife. He abused all the world roundly in the bosom of his family, and presently exchanged into a regiment of Bengal Cavalry, in a distant station, and departed to another garrison, and another social sphere. At first all went well. Sodabee was a change for the better. Here he was treated with unusual consideration by his new comrades; his wife was visited, and made much of. They set up a pretty bungalow, and a pony-cart, and, had this pony been the extent of his stable, all would have been well; but he purchased a couple of third-rate racing animals, and they ran away with all his ready money. Old bills poured in; and his pretty little wife proved to be a bad housekeeper. She could sing nigger melodies from shilling books, she could braid her hair, she could do tatting; but she could not make a pudding to save her life, and she could not keep down the bazaar bills, or ever resist buying trash from passing hawkers. Their money became unpleasantly scarce. Her health gave way. Dinners were squalid. Dolly spent most of his time in the mess, or in driving a fascinating lady friend about the station in his dog-cart. There ensued scenes of mutual recrimination. Strong language on one side, tears on the other; and when Mr. Smithson came to pay a voluntary visit, matters were not improved. There was no occasion for him to be on his good behaviour now; he had secured his gentleman son-in-law, and his Lottie was a real lady, and as good as the best! But young Dolly seemed to be going the pace-gambling and racing, and generally playing the deuce. Ho scolded his daughter into hysterics for not managing her husband better. “Any fool could twist him round her little finger!” he said, “and goodness knows you are fool enough! You have a pretty face, but not an ounce of brains!” He proceeded to make himself completely at home in his son-in-law’s establishment: secured the best armchair, with his feet on the second best-the first read of the paper, smoked all Dolly’s prime cheroots, and consumed quantities of whisky and water and the well-known station club Madeira; worst of all, he won Dolly’s money at flukers, gave him unpleasant advice, and finally made such an uproar in the mess that he had to be turned out-although he was young Carwithen’s father-in-law! Dolly was still fond, in a way, of his pretty little helpless wife; but he could not tolerate Mr. Smithson, and told him so, frankly, to his face, and that worthy took his departure, carrying off Dolly’s best portmanteau, railway-rug, and silver cigarette-case, and leaving behind him a weeping daughter, a powerful odour of stale tobacco, and his cur-r-se.

Soon after this the baby was born, and its sex and appearance proved an unqualified disappointment. Mrs. Warry, a friendly old neighbour who lived close by, was truly kind and useful at this juncture. She came in and took command, made jellies and broth, and was a real Samaritan to the poor helpless, thriftless, delicate girl, who clung to her as to a sheet anchor, though she was not a lady, was enormously stout, and undeniably vulgar. And then Mrs. Carwithen, who was never very robust, caught a chill, and died quite suddenly, leaving her untidy bungalow, handsome husband, and unwelcome infant, to do the best they could without her! The ayah had been right; Dolly had been terribly cut-up for the first two days, when he looked at the empty chair, the closed piano, and his wife’s tiny rings lying on the dressing-table. But at the end of forty-eight hours, he had to pull himself together and face facts and duties. What was to be done with the baby? Mrs. Warry—who had undertaken many tasks—who packed away the dead girl’s belongings, and who made out a list for the auction, suggested Miss Bruce’s establishment at Chota Bilat, and her idea was approved of and instantly carried out, as has been seen. In three months’ time, Dolly felt once more like a gay young bachelor. The grave in the cemetery and the child in the hills seemed both unreal.

He could pass his empty bungalow without a pang, and felt as if the period he had spent there, with frousy servants, meagre meals, and a piteous wife, had all been part of a horrible nightmare. He soon returned to his old ways of flirting, racing, gambling, getting into rows, and running into debt; and, in a surprisingly short time, he fell into yet another scrape. He was concerned in the ownership and running of a pony called “Blue Ruin,” which was backed for a large sum of money. The pony was unmistakably pulled; there was a hideous row; the matter was hushed up, for the credit of the regiment, but Dolly had to go. Dolly was known to be a casual sort of chap, but this was quite beyond a joke.

Men will stand a good deal. A man may drink, may use bad words, may even, under strong provocation, use his fists. He may forget his father and mother, his first love, the wife of his bosom, yea, even his card account; but he may not pull a horse. Dolly was desperate when he had done it. “Cleared out,” as he expressed it, and “stone broke;” but, fortunately for him, at this critical juncture he came in for a legacy, a modest income, and a certain sum of ready money; and was thus enabled to pay his most pressing debts, and to take his departure for England. It was a significant fact that not a soul came down to the railway station to see him off, save his bearer, who had made a comfortable income out of him, and old Mrs. Warry, with the bill for his wife’s tombstone and a packet of sandwiches. Three years ago he had arrived in the country a bright-faced boy, with all the world before him, with a good start, good health, good looks, and a good opinion of himself.

Now, he was returning a disgraced man, with debts in all directions and a cloud over his name; without a profession, and without a single friend to give him a parting handshake, and wish him good speed.

But Dolly had still his handsome face, pleasant, easy manners, fine old family name, and sufficient money to pay his club account and tailor. So he made his way into society at home, keeping rather aloof from military men, though he need not have been alarmed. Dolly’s “Blue Ruin” fame had not gone further than Bombay. News travelled slowly. What convulsed Lucknow would fall flat in London and letters were then sixpence each-and he assured all inquirers that he had cut India and the service on account of his health. He had tact, and a certain amount of accomplishments. He could warble a song, lead a cotillion, organize a social festivity, and hold a gun fairly straight. Also he was wise in his generation, and only cultivated people who could be useful, who would mount him with hounds, give him a few days’ shooting; or, at worst, ask him to dinner. He was a great favourite with ladies, married and single; but he never breathed a word to them, or any one, of his little girl at Chota Bilat. Indeed, he rarely remembered her, and actually forgot to mention her existence when he proposed for his second wife-rich Miss Gammick. She differed in almost every respect from the first Mrs. Carwithen. She was wealthy, clever, strong-minded, and, above all, “she managed him.” Yes, if dissipated old Joe Smithson could have looked out of his grave-he had drunk sulphuric acid in mistake for gin-even he would have been bound to admit that she managed him beautifully.

Chapter VII


“A maid whom there were none to praise,
And very few to love.”

Seventeen winters’ snows and seventeen south-west monsoons had drifted or pattered on the high zinc roof of St. Oswald’s, and that roof still sheltered Dolly Carwithen’s daughter. He had never claimed her; he never wrote to her, and latterly transacted business with Miss Bruce in an impersonal manner, and entirely through his Bombay agents. Juliet Carr, as she was called, had been a bright, good-humoured, and (despite her father’s dismal forebodings) pretty baby, the pet of the whole establishment, from Miss Bruce to the dhoby inclusive; and had found a second mother in Agnes Dix, the lame governess, who had taught her to walk, to say her prayers and the alphabet, and imbued her with all the highest instincts of an English gentlewoman. She was different to her schoolfellows—sturdy girls, with large appetites and loud voices; naturally of a finer fibre, dainty, spirited, and sensitive, and chiefly remarkable for a pair of merry eyes and a great cloud of red brown hair; she flitted about among her companions, like a butterfly in a cabbage garden. In winter-time, when school broke up, and the teachers and pupils went away for a three months’ holiday, Miss Dix and Juliet were specially drawn together. They had no home, and they stood side by side watching the vast collection of dandies, and the crowds of chattering coolies, who had come to carry the girls away; and they would remain at their post till the very last happy hand-kissing traveller had been carried round the corner. These two were almost the sole occupants of the great bare building, with its empty dormitories and silent classrooms; and during the cold grey winter days, when snow lay on the surrounding mountains, when all the houses and shops were closed, when starving bears and panthers invaded the deserted malls-the forlorn child and the friendless governess were drawn very closely to one another.

Time went on, and Juliet passed from the sash-and-pinafore stage into a clever hard-working girl in the middle school, with a great talent for music, and a secret but immense curiosity respecting her own future. She was extremely popular in her class, generous and open handed to lavishness, and the very soul of honour, as honour is held at school-she never carried tales, broke her word, or did anything mean. True that she was passionate, and had disdainful little ways, and occasionally was not disinclined to sit in the seat of the scornful; but, then, she had a warm heart to match her temper, and there was a charming mystery about her-she was surely “somebody,” and in this firm belief her schoolfellows gave her the nickname of “Lady Juliet.” It was all very well for old girls to declare that Juliet Carr was somebody-something more tangible was demanded by new-comers, who generally conducted their cross-examination with the unsparing severity natural to their age and sex. The last and most searching of these cross-examinations had been carried out by Marie de Souza, a sallow young person, with a greasy black pigtail and monkey face, who constituted herself spokeswoman for a circle of inquisitive friends on a certain wet holiday.

“Where was her mother?” she demanded of Juliet.

“She was dead,” was the answer in a low voice.

“And her father?

“No; he lived in England.”

“What was he?”

“A gentleman.”

“Oh, really, only a gentleman! Not a prince or a duke! Had she any sisters or brothers?”

“She did not know; she thought not.”

“Thought not! how funny!” screamed Marie. “Did her father ever come to see her?”

“Never,” replied Juliet, and she felt her face beaming hot.

“Why not?” persisted her tormentor.

“She did not know.”

“Had she any relations in India?”


“And why did she stay out here?”

Again the same reply in a tremulous whisper, “She did not know.”

Marie de Souza whisked her pigtail, and folded her arms, and looked round her little clique; and, with an air of malignant inquiry, begged to hear what they thought of such a case, and if they did not admire the cheek of little Carr giving herself airs. She had better be very “choop” in future.

“I don’t give myself airs,” protested Juliet, indignantly.

“Yes, you do! You won’t eat fat, or onions, or peppermint-things good enough for us, your betters. You would not pick up the note one of Grigson’s boys threw you, and you are always showing off grand white pocket-handkerchiefs, and you carry your head miles up in the air! Has any one,” appealing to her companions, “ever heard of a girl who has no relations at all, and no one to see her, and never gets a letter or a cake?” She paused, and her chorus answered as with one voice


“She could not be a real lady,” continued Marie; real ladies, such as they were, always had papas and mammas and people to see them. She had nobody, and therefore was nobody—she was quite different to them, and must learn to keep her place.

Juliet was about to make some passionate reply, when the door opened and admitted Miss Bruce; and, like magic, the sitting dissolved.

*  *  *

Several monotonous years rolled by, and Juliet Carr was past seventeen, the leader alike in school and playground, and the acknowledged beauty of the school. There were no malcontents now; those of former years had fallen under the spell of her fascinations and charm of manner, and were now her most ardent followers. She was not the uncrowned queen of St. Oswald’s because she was the longest inmate, but because she was clever, brilliant, sympathetic, and a born leader-if not of men of girls. In any emergency the others turned to her instinctively, and never turned in vain.

When the lamp had burst on that never-to-be-forgotten night, it was Juliet Carr who alone stood fast, and remained to tear down curtains, to stamp out flames, and to carry away with coolest air the smoking remains of the cause of all the mischief: and her hands and arms had been shockingly scorched. In the tennis match against a rival establishment, it was Juliet Carr who entered the lists and scored the victory. In quarrels she was judge and pacifier, and she was the soul of their dances and humble attempts at theatricals. In dress her taste was unquestioned; she was the universal model; but somehow no one could arrange a gown, a ribbon, or flower quite as Juliet did, or wear it with such grace.

Miss Dix and Miss Bruce recognized the girl’s extraordinary influence with considerable satisfaction, and not a little amusement.

“I went past the summer-house just now,” remarked Miss Bruce to her coadjutor, “and there was Juliet holding a court--that is to say, she was telling some story-and about thirty girls were hanging round her, drinking in every word. They think more of her than of either of us, Agnes, and value her good opinion enormously.”

“Yes; she has what the Irish call, ‘a way with her,’ and can twist most of the school round her little finger. I wonder how she does it?” said Miss Dix, thoughtfully.

“Sheer force of character, a wonderfully sympathetic nature, are factors; also beauty,” returned her friend.

“Do you think that tells among other girls?” said Miss Dix, with a dubious smile.

“I am certain of it. Beauty tells with every one-beauty, wit, energy, and perhaps a little of what we call her grand air. She is a good girl, Agnes, and has to thank you for much. I wonder what her fate will be? I am often very anxious about her?” and Miss Bruce sighed profoundly. “Why?” remarked her companion, laconically.

“Because she is so remarkable-looking, so clever, and so brilliant–so out of the common.”

“If she were stupid and ugly and common, I could understand your feelings. Her face will be her fortune.”

“What is the good of beauty and accomplishments to a girl who has no friends, no home, and who is destined to associate with an uncultivated class—her mother’s people—and ultimately to marry some worthy clerk or sergeant?”

“She will never do that,” protested Miss Dix, indignantly. “She does not belong to her mother’s class; she could no more mix with them than oil with water; she is of a different type in mind and manners, an aristocrat to the tips of her fingers.”

“Yes, and she is the daughter of a mean, selfish hypocrite, who is ashamed of her and her plebeian origin. Little does he know that instead of resembling her lowborn relations, nature, as a sort of mischievous freak, has endowed Juliet with the face and grace of some patrician ancestress. Mr. Carwithen has good blood in his veins.”

“Yes. Much good it has done him. I suppose he is alive?”

“Undoubtedly he is, although I have not heard from him for the last three years. His agents remit the money regularly, and I send them a receipt twice a year. I conclude he is in the land of the living.”

“And all Juliet’s letters have been returned unopened.”

“That is part of his scheme. He wishes to ignore her existence. I heard of him indirectly through Miss Bancroft, the season before last. He is married again, is very well off, and quite one of the lights of London society, and most exclusive.”

“You did not mention Juliet to these friends, I suppose?”

“No, for if I were to do so, she would be removed at once. I wonder what she thinks of it all?”

“When she was younger she was always asking me about her father, and to describe him; now she rarely names him, she is too proud; but I think she secretly worships him all the same, and hopes for the day when he will come and take her away, like some prince in a fairy tale.”

“Poor child! And she has a wonderful stock of patience. I always pity her when the letters are handed round; I have seen her eyes fill with tears. Of course there is never one for her.”

“I pity her most when the holidays come; that happy day is a dreary one for her. But on the whole I am amazed at her spirits. She is too proud to show her feelings to the world. Heredity is wonderful, and asserts itself in strange ways, but in nothing stranger than in this deserted girl, brought up in these hills, a girl who is the granddaughter of an old barrack sergeant, who has never been in what is called society in her life, and yet who has the refined tastes, the air, and the manners of an arch-duchess.”

“Yes,” sighed Miss Bruce. “I have often spoken to her about that trick she has of holding her head, as it were, above every one else; but it is no good. She cannot help herself; like the deformed man, she was born so.”

Miss Bruce’s expression that Juliet Carr was remarkable looking was perfectly just. Quantities of wavy chestnut hair, hazel eyes, pencilled brows, delicate features, and a skin like a rose leaf combined to produce a tout ensemble, that her governess often found herself gazing at in involuntary admiration. Miss Bruce was secretly annoyed to see persistent and admiring glances levelled at her seat in church, and she looked poisoned daggers at the group of young men who lined the steps whilst all her young ladies (and one young lady in particular) passed under their critical inspection. She hated to receive inquiries about “her beauty,” even from ladies, and she relinquished taking Juliet with her to concerts or bazaars; but, to make amends, she gave her the entrée to her own sitting-room-a charming apartment, with comfortable chairs, artistic prints, fragrant flowers, and an abundant supply of Miss Bruce’s sole extravagance, the best magazines, and many new books. Here, in the quiet cool retirement, with the last mails in her lap, Miss Bruce was for the moment a happy woman; but she could scarcely expect the pages of the Spectator and Athenæum to have the same satisfying effect on the sanguine imagination of a young creature of seventeen. Be that as it may, she was as fully resolved as any abbess of the Middle Ages that this rose in her fair garden of girls should blush unseen.

Juliet had occasional fits of depression—hours when she was the prey of terrible revolt and longing, and when she would ask herself if she was never to look forward to anything beyond the yearly concert—the examinations and the breaking up? She had received many warm invitations to accompany her schoolfellows, but “the agents”—that great and mysterious power in her life-put a stern veto on any move beyond the walls of St. Oswald’s. Was she never to escape from the clanging of the inexorable bell? never to have a peep into the world beyond class-rooms? She was alive to the fact that a different world existed even at her gates—a world in which there were young men and maidens, old men and chaperones; also tennis and boating, and picnics and balls.

It was the end of April; the rhododendrons were in full blossom, and made brilliant crimson patches on the wooded hillsides; lovely wild white roses half veiled the great forest trees, and cuckoo echoed cuckoo across the smooth green lake, with long ever-shifting shadows on its surface—a surface animated with numbers of canoes, outriggers, and wherries.

The speckless blue sky overhead formed a refreshing contrast to the heavy pall of clouds which hung above the plains below-clouds for heat, not rain, alas! clouds which were the cause of driving people up to the hills, of opening shops, hotels, houses, of sweeping wintry desolation off the face of the place, and inaugurating the season. As Miss Bruce’s young ladies went for their solemn daily promenade, they encountered not a few smartly dressed ladies in “dandies,” or young men on ponies, bound for various tennis parties and at homes; and as they walked in the seclusion of the upper mall the strains of the band at the assembly rooms, and the clatter of ponies at polo, ascended to keen and envious ears.

Sometimes at night, when the soft Indian dusk had fallen, Juliet would sit at her open window and survey across the lake the winding train of lanterns like fireflies, denoting where stalwart hill-men were carrying fair burthens up to dinner at Government House, or down to balls at the assembly rooms; and who can blame her that, as she sat resting her elbows on the window ledge, and following the procession with fascinated eyes, she breathed more than one sigh of envy and discontent. Occasionally, at long intervals, Juliet’s impatience found speech, and her confidante was invariably Agnes Dix. One day; as they paced the garden together, the governess leaning on her favourite pupil’s arm, the pupil began unexpectedly—

“Dixie, don’t you think it very strange that I am left here year after year, and no one has ever come to see me but Mrs. Warry? No one writes to me, or even asks for me, from Christmas to Christmas.”

“At any rate, you are paid for most punctually,” rejoined Miss Dix, who kept the accounts. “I wish every one was settled for as regularly; and this shows that some one is thinking of you.”

“The agents!” exclaimed the girl, contemptuously. “And what is payment?”

“It is a good deal, my dear,” rejoined the governess, emphatically.

“What reason can my father have for keeping me here?”

“You are no worse off than French girls, who never leave their convents till they are grown up; and I suppose he wishes you to be well educated, and I must say you do us credit, Juliet. I was very proud of your papers at the last exam.”

“What is the good of half the things I know? It is far more important for me to know a little about my people. I wonder if I have any people?” and she halted and transfixed her companion with a pair of searching bright eyes. Do you know——?”

“I know what you know yourself—that you have a father, and a stepmother,” rejoined the other slowly.

“Perhaps my stepmother does not wish to have me. Perhaps my father is poor and waits until I am what is called finished—to send out money to fetch me.”

“Perhaps,” echoed Miss Dix, mendaciously.

“But no matter how poor he may be, he might write—a letter only costs twopence halfpenny.”

Miss Dix bent her head in assent.

“Sometimes I feel so wretched, so hopeless, so alone, that is to say, outside St. Oswald’s, as if I was not wanted in the world, and eighteen years is a long time to be at school. On the other hand, sometimes, indeed most often, I feel quite sanguine-I have my ups and downs—I feel that I am somebody, or going to be somebody, that I have delightful days in store. You may think I am crazy, or it may be the intoxicating hill air, but often I seem to hear a voice saying, Miss Carr, your father is in the drawing-room.”

Agnes Dix looked down and held her peace. In her opinion, that message would never be given to the anxious girl beside her.

Chapter VIII

Mrs. Warry

“A good, familiar creature.” — Othello.

A sketch of Miss Carwithen’s school-days would be incomplete were Mrs. Warry, her only friend, her only visitor from the outer world, omitted. One of the gibes most usually flung at Juliet had been that no one ever came to see her. This stigma was removed once for all by the never-to-be-forgotten descent of Mrs. Warry—the good-natured neighbour who had wound up Dolly Carwithen’s domestic affairs. Ten years after she had been the means of sending Miss Bruce a permanent boarder, she arrived at Chotah Bilat, and established herself in one of the best hotels, where her colloquial Hindustanee and her searching knowledge of Indian servants’ “ways” ensured her the highest attention and respect. She, however, received but a scant supply of either when she came panting up to St. Oswald’s to make inquiries about “the little girl Carwithen had left there.”

“Who,” thought Miss Bruce, “can this fat, common-looking old woman be?” surveying her visitor as she overflowed the sofa, fanning herself with a recent number of the Scientific American. She was preposterously stout, and wore a grass-green silk dress, a maroon plush mantle, a blue bonnet, and a pair of yellow thread gloves inches too long for her short, fat fingers.

“I came to ask about Carwithen’s little girl,” she gasped at last. “She is here still?”

“Oh yes,” replied Miss Bruce. “She has been with us for ten years.”

“He has never given no sign of sending for her, I suppose?”

“No, not up to the present.”

“No, nor won’t, no more nor paying me what he owes me for his wife’s funeral expenses and headstone-yes, dearly beloved and all!-and the servants’ wages; but I could not let the poor creatures be at the loss. Well, I suppose I can see her?”

“Oh yes, certainly.”

“She ought to be a preettie child. Juliet is her name, eh?”

“Yes, we call her Juliet Car; her father thought it best.”

“Oh, deed he? whatt a rascal! First he deserts the child, then he steals half her name; but I’ll look after her. I can put me hand on copies of the registers; so he need not think he will be playing any tricks on Fernanda Warry, for he won’t.”

“Well, for the present, Mrs. Warry, please say nothing to the child; call her Carr, and don’t talk to her about her father more than is quite necessary. Your truest kindness will be not to disturb her mind; she is at present quite happy and contented.”

“I suppose she may come out with me, and spend the day, Miss Bruce? I’m stopping at the new hotel.”

Miss Bruce surveyed Mrs. Warry with doubtful eyes. “Oh, I’m afraid I cannot permit that; I don’t allow my girls to spend days out, unless with people with whom I am personally acquainted, or who are friends of their parents.”

“And what am I?” demanded Mrs. Warry, suddenly raising her voice. “Aren’t you personally acquainted with me? Ain’t I seeting on your sofer this blessed minute? As to friends of parents—I closed her mother’s eyes, and I paid her father’s bills. I don’t know what you call thatt! But maybe I’m not respectable enough for a girl as has been brought up by Miss Bruce! Anyway, I’m as respectable as her mother was—and a deal more respectable than her father, or grandfather! Miss Minx, at Mussouri, never denied her pupils to me; and I know heepes of folks as has their children here—and I’ll take good care to let them know what I thinks of this establishment!”

Miss Minx was Miss Bruce’s dreaded rival, and had already annexed several of her best-paying pupils. This formidable old woman with the loud voice and angry eyes was possibly a power in the land; therefore, with the best grace she could assume, Miss Bruce succumbed to her wishes, and within half an hour Mrs. Warry departed, gingerly leading forth in triumph “the little Carwithen girl” to spend the day. She was delighted with Juliet, with her looks, voice, air, and manners. At first she had insisted on her company more from a spirit of contradiction and opposition than from anything else; but the child’s beauty, naïve remarks, and deep gratitude for small gifts, threw her into a transport of good humour. She beamed with complacency when the simple innocent creature stroked and admired her pretty green dress, and literally swelled with pride when she noticed half the eyes at the table d’hôte fixed on the lovely little girl beside her—a girl with a mane of bronzy hair, and clearly cut, delicate features-not a grandchild, surely?

This day was the beginning of a new era for Juliet. She was taken out by Mrs. Warry each half-holiday, and carried about to every description of entertainment. She was loaded with toys, sweets, and smart new clothes of a brilliant hue. Miss Bruce was amused one day to discover the pair in the principal and most expensive milliner’s at Chotah Bilat. Mrs. Warry, seated in state, was gravely superintending a shop-woman trying costumes on Juliet, over her best Sunday frock. Each proved to be so becoming that Mrs. Warry, failing to make up her mind, gave an imperial order for them all, hearing which, Miss Bruce interfered and remonstrated, saying—

“But, my dear Mrs. Warry, she could not wear them out in the next five years! She is growing too——”

“Oh, whatt matter? She can wear them every day. I’ve no way of spending my money as pleases me so well. I’ve lots of house propertee in the Doon, and no one to come after me, except a nephew in the commissariat as I cannot abide.”

“Well, of course it is very good of you to be so generous to Juliet,” said Miss Bruce; “but I am afraid that you will give her a taste for dress”—pointing to where the child was trying out a large fancy hat—“and make her very vain.”

“There’ll be no making, or giving, much needed in thatt way to her mother’s daughter!” was the sarcastic reply.

“Then I can only hope she won’t take after her mother; and I really beg you will reduce your order here by at least half.”

“Well, maybe you are right, especiallee as I’m going down soon, and couldn’t see the frocks on her; but I’ll lay out the money in another way.”

It would have astonished Mrs. Warry’s connections—who held her in great terror—to have witnessed her complete subjugation to this fair-skinned little girl, to hear her bringing her great mind down from share lists and house agents, and tenants, and “propertee,” generally, and giving her most serious attention to dolls’ names, and illnesses, and ball gowns.

She turned Juliet’s head a good deal, and Miss Bruce was not sorry when she finally took her departure. She did not correspond with Juliet, beyond a Christmas and birthday card, if they can be considered to constitute a correspondence. People declared that Mrs. Warry was unable to write, but this was untrue. She hated writing, that was all. After a year or two the cards ceased to arrive, and Miss Bruce came to the conclusion that Mrs. Warry had either forgotten the child, or departed this life. Neither of which events caused her personally the smallest pang of regret.

Meanwhile Juliet was seventeen-the queen, the beauty, the example of the school; and it was therefore really too annoying that, at the very beginning of what promised to be an unusually gay season, she should have a vulgar, crumpled visiting-card presented to her, on which was inscribed, “Mrs. Warry,”—come back again at the most unpropitious time, to turn the girl’s head with folly and flattery-and to find Mrs. Warry, with bonnet-strings untied, occupying the roomiest armchair in the drawing-room, with the air of a proprietor.

“Well, here I am again, you see,” she remarked, with a fat chuckle. “I thought I’d give Chotah Bilat a turn this year, and look up Juliet. How is she?”

“Very well, thank you.”

“No sign of being sent for, of course?”

Miss Bruce shook her head. “You have not been here for a long time, Mrs. Warry.”

“No; but I’ve been home-I mean England” (Mrs. Warry’s home, the home of her ancestors, was generally supposed to be Calcutta), “and to France too.”

“And how did you like it?”

“Well, not much. The beds are cruelly small in France; and I could not talk the language, and was always catching myself at the Hindustanee. Ay, and it was hot! And I missed the punkah; and there was hardly a bath would fit me.”

“And England?”

“England was better. But there’s no place like India, in my mind. I must say I liked the theatres in London much. I used to laugh and cry, till they nearly put me out. And one night, who do you think I saw at a play? but Dolly Carwithen and his second wife. He was very little changed, considering; and she was just a blaze of gems. They were in a box, and I was in the peet. I like it; there’s no grand manners wanted, and no dressing; and I found myself, by luck, next to Dolly’s footman, and we got talking, and I gave him peppermint sweeties. I believe he took me for a cook-ha, ha! But we got very friendlee; he was a nice young man. He told me about Dolly; he was never married before. Oh, dearie me, no! He is great for society, and so is she. She had a lord in the box with them, and looked as if she could eat him. And she has the upper hand of Dolly. Eh, but he is a fine rascal! And now, Miss Bruce, I hear that Miss Juliet has grown a great, great beautee. She can’t be left at school. Her poor head will burst, with all it’s holding. And I’ve an offer to make you, if the girl is what I thought she’d turn out.”

“An offer, Mrs. Warry?”

“Yes; she has no belongings as want her, and I’ve no belongings as I want; and why shouldn’t I adopt her as my daughter?”

“Your daughter!” gasped Miss Bruce.

“Yes; and a good thing for her, too. She will have plentee of money, plentee of life, and societee. Of course I must have a look at her first; and, supposing you send for her, I’ll take the look now.”

Chapter IX

A Lady with a Good Memory

“A lovely apparition sent
To be a moment’s ornament.” — Wordsworth.

The yearly concert at St. Oswald’s took place at the beginning of the season, and the practising that went forward for weeks and weeks, on pianos of various ages, and by performers to match, was absolutely maddening; but it came to an end at last. The printed programmes were out, the rooms were decorated, and the great first-class was turned into a concert hall, with forms across it. At the upper end were chairs and armchairs for the party from Government House; also a small sofa, entirely reserved (by desire) for the benefit of Mrs. Warry. A sort of stage had been erected and decorated with plants. The walls were embellished with Turkey red and young bamboo; the girls got out their best dresses, and had a pair of new gloves apiece, and all preparations were complete. By five o’clock every seat and form was occupied, and the gravel sweep outside displayed quite a gratifying mob of ponies, dandies, and jampannies.

The first piece, played simultaneously on four pianos by eight little girls, nearly lifted the roof off the room. Then came a duet, rather a feeble performance, for Lottie Smidt was crying from fright. Miss Bruce fidgeted with her new grey gloves, and there was a hot spot on either cheek; another fiasco would be fatal to her concert. But here Marie de Souza appeared upon the stage; a girl who had not the smallest doubt about herself—sallow and thin, in dark red merino, with a large blue ring on her bony yellow finger, and her black hair shining like patent leather. She carried a roll of music in her hand, and surveyed the company with an encouraging smile, that plainly said, “Now you are going to have a treat.” Miss De Souza settled herself leisurely at the instrument, carefully arranged her dress, looked at the pedals, and then suddenly roused up her languid audience with a bang which shook every flowerpot upon the stage!

Marie was the pianist par excellence of St. Oswald’s, and played splendidly in a hard, loud, mechanical style. Her hands flew over the keys, and tore up and down the bass and treble, with a precision, dexterity, and strength, that electrified her listeners. The piece under execution was “Home, Sweet Home,” by Thalberg, and, when it was concluded, Marie received universal applause-applause the result more of astonishment than pleasure. And Marie grinned and bowed, and backed herself off the stage, leaving the piano a wreck.

“Marvellous!” exclaimed a lady in the front row.

“I wonder how she does it? What wrist power!”

“I am glad it was not my piano,” said another.

And now there ensued the usual pause. People talked, and nodded to friends, and fluttered programmes, and said “it was getting uncommonly hot-could one slip away? Would there be tea? Did any one know who the extraordinary old person was, with all the fruit on her head?” (Mrs. Warry was wearing a Parisian bonnet, entirely composed of red-glass currants.)

All at once there was a startling silence; the company ceased to talk and yawn and rattle papers and fans. Who was this divine creature now standing before them dressed in white, with a roll of music in her hand?

She was slight, fair, and young, and held herself with the air of a princess. She was a lady. How in the name of all that was unexpected came this beautiful girl to be at St. Oswald’s, a school ostensibly devoted to the children of the masses? Here was unmistakably a daughter of the classes!

Programmes were eagerly referred to. The next piece on the list was—”Song, ‘Serenade by Schubert,’ Miss Juliet Carr.” In another moment a voice, the proper supplement to such a face, was swelling through the room, charming every heart—a rich, pure mezzo soprano, surprisingly full and sweet, coming from such youthful lips. When the last chords of the accompaniment had gradually died away, there was a moment’s expressive silence, and then a storm of enthusiastic applause broke forth. Such a clapping of hands and hammering of sticks and parasols; in short, such a tumultuous uproar had never been heard under the roof of St. Oswald’s-not even on a wet half-holiday! The singer was encored and re-encored, flowers and bouquets were flung to her, and the previously bored audience would gladly have kept Miss Carr on the stage for the remainder of the afternoon; but this, of course, could not be permitted. Marie de Souza, peeping through a hole in the curtain with a flaming eye, felt her heart grow hot within her. She had not been encored, and she had not been loaded with bouquets; yet she had played her piece without a single fault, and had practised four hours a day for the last three weeks. It was disgusting—this scene of another person’s triumphs.

During the interval Miss Bruce was overwhelmed with compliments, and surrounded by questioners about Miss Carr; but all inquiries were politely and cleverly baffled.

Yes; she was one of the girls. She had been with them for years—that was all.

A stout vulgar woman, on a front sofa, beamed, and nodded insanely, and took such a lion’s share of the congratulations to herself, that she left an impression on most people’s minds that in this gaudily dressed old enthusiast they beheld a near relation to the fair songstress; which complication bewildered and mystified them to the last degree.

When the concert was concluded, and the audience were streaming out, and Miss Bruce, flushed and complacent, was secretly congratulating herself that it was all over, and well over, she was surprised at being accosted by a sharp-looking elderly lady—a Mrs. Manders.

Oh, by-the-by, Miss Bruce,” she said, in an off-hand manner, “I just wanted to ask you a little question about Miss Carr. Is that the whole of her name?”

“What do you mean?” said Miss Bruce, brusquely.

“I simply mean what I say. Is her name Carr, or does it not, as I imagine, lack two syllables?” and she dropped her voice to a mysterious whisper.

“It is the name she has gone by for eighteen years,” said Miss Bruce, stiffly, and looking full into Mrs. Manders’ eyes.

“Very possibly,” was the unabashed rejoinder; “but I can tell you the rest of it. Is she not the daughter of Dolly Carwithen?” still speaking in a cautious undertone.

Miss Bruce was staggered by this blunt question, hesitated, and then articulated a faint, reluctant “ Yes.”

“Ah, I was certain of it! She is so like him. I heard that he had sent the child up here, and it all came back to me when she was singing. I was in Lucknow when there was all that hubbub about his marriage with Lotty Smithson, a pretty, silly little thing. Her daughter is pretty, but I am much mistaken if she is silly.”

“You are quite right. She is a clever girl, with a wonderfully fine character.”

“Then she does not take after her father; he has a very poor one. He seems to have forgotten her, forgotten that people know. Now I understand why he avoids Anglo-Indian acquaintances; and I have not forgotten. If there is one thing upon which I pride myself, it is my good memory—both for facts and faces.”

“I trust you will keep your discovery to yourself, Mrs. Manders,” said Miss Bruce, gravely.

“Yes, if you will tell me why I am to do so.”

“Because Mr. Carwithen does not wish his private affairs talked of, or it to be known that he has a daughter out here. If this came to his ears, he would remove her at once to some out-of-the-way place; and she has many friends among us.”

“And nowhere else, I suppose! I wish I could befriend her. I have taken a great fancy to her face, and I don’t often take fancies. I only came up for ten days, and I go down to-morrow. However, a line to you will always find her. She ought to marry well.”

“Oh, my dear Mrs. Manders, she is only eighteen! You would not put such ideas into her head?” said Miss Bruce in dismay.

“No; I shall leave that to some young man. But a girl like her, with her face and voice, should marry brilliantly. I have quite fallen in love with her myself. Well, good-bye. I have enjoyed your concert most thoroughly;” and Mrs. Manders bustled out to her dandy, was hoisted on their shoulders by four stout jampannies, and presently carried away.

Mrs. Warry remained by special invitation to spend the remainder of the evening at St. Oswald’s. She had fully made up her mind that Juliet was to be her adopted daughter, and her pride and triumph at her recent success could not possibly have been surpassed had she been the girl’s own mother or grandmother.

She had a long talk over the matter with Miss Bruce as she made a toilette in that lady’s chamber.

“I’m ready to do anything to please her,” she remarked. “I can’t take me eyes off her. I declare I never saw such a beauty in my life. I’ll rent a fine house at Simla, and get her into all the first society. I’ll get her dresses from Paris. I’ll get her an English pony, and a Europe maid. She shall go by her own name-Carwithen;—it’s grander than Carr. I procured copies of the registers in case of any questions, and paid five rupees each, and I brought them up”-producing a small paper bundle from her pocket. “I thought you’d like to look at them.”

“There is no harm in having them, any rate,” said Miss Bruce, as she opened the packet, and glanced over the contents.

“No. And now the sooner I can have Juliet the better I’ll be pleased. You write to Carwithen this mail, and tell him as a lady offers to take his daughter off his hands for ever and ever, that I will relieve him of all trouble and expense, and will leave her a fortune of two lacs of rupees; and he need never hear her name again. You will write and tell him all this, won’t you?” said the old woman with tremulous eagerness.

“Yes, I will; and meanwhile you will speak to Juliet yourself,” said Miss Bruce, impressively.

“Oh, I don’t think there will be any trouble with her. She knows me of old. She knows she will have the best of everything; all a young girl wants-clothes and jewels, and amusements and balls; and I know what I want—a daughter as will do me credit. You will write by next mail to Carwithen, and tell him to wire reply; I’ll pay,” continued Mrs. Warry, volubly. “You may give my name. Perhaps it will be best. He will remember as I knew the child an infant, and remember all the money he owes me, and he will see that out of her own family I’ve the best right to the girl.”

“Very well, Mrs. Warry,” acquiesced Miss Bruce; “I will do whatever you wish; and though we shall be very sorry to lose Juliet, I would not for a moment stand in her way when she is offered a good home. This school must be broken up some day, and may possibly be broken up before long, and I should be thankful to know that Juliet was provided for—and well provided for! Come, there is the tea bell; let us go. I am having a little party in my own room: some of the elder girls-Marie and Juliet—and two of the governesses.”

Of this party Mrs. Warry proved the life and soul. She was unusually excited, talked and laughed, and told stories, and was in extraordinary spirits; she even went so far as to tender her milliner’s address, and to offer to sing a song. She stroked and petted Juliet whenever she came near her, and watched her every movement with intense admiration and complacency.

When ten o’clock struck, and, carefully wrapped up, she was packed in her dandy by Miss Bruce and Juliet, her last words were, “Now, Miss Bruce, don’t forget what I told you, and your promise. The mail goes out on Thursday.”

But alas for human projects! On Thursday the big mail bags coming down the post-office hill met the funeral of Mrs. Warry on its way to the cemetery. She had died suddenly of apoplexy the morning after the concert, and Juliet Carwithen had lost one of her few friends.

Chapter X.

“What Is to Become of Me?”

“What shall, alas! become of me?”
J. Lylye.

Juliet felt Mrs. Warry’s death very much, though she was fifty years her senior, and was in the opinion of many merely a fat, vulgar old woman, with an over-bearing manner and a sharp tongue. She had never been sharp or rude to Juliet-never shown her anything but affection and generosity, and Juliet mourned her accordingly. Worldly Miss Bruce had hoped that Mrs. Warry’s generosity would extend to her favourite, even after her death; but, alas! there was no will, and the two lacs of rupees went to gladden the heart of the detested nephew in the commissariat.

The concert had been long a triumph of the past; August was approaching, and it was a matter of common remark among the girls that Miss Bruce’s jampannies were still wearing their shabby last year’s suits, and that she had not got herself a new bonnet since Christmas. It was known that she had refused eleven fresh boarders, had promised her parrot to the parson’s little boy, and found a comfortable situation for the school cat. What did it all mean? What had come over Miss Bruce? There was much speculation on the subject; but one evening all wondering and whispering was finally set at rest. Juliet Carwithen was sent for to Miss Bruce’s private sitting-room. This was no uncommon occurrence, but it was unusual for Juliet to remain away an hour, especially on dancing night, when all her partners were waiting, and still more unusual for her to return looking as white as a sheet, and with traces of recent tears upon her face. Her companions crowded round her with one accord, confident that she was the bearer of some special tidings. She had been Miss Bruce’s mouthpiece more than once.

Juliet waved her hand with a quick imperative gesture to the performer at the piano, and in an instant there was a silence suitable to the proverbial pin. As Juliet stood in the middle of the room, every eye fixed upon her expectantly, there was a suppressed thrill of excitement among the girls who swarmed round her. Judging by her face, Juliet was the bearer of bad news.

“Someone is dead!” shrieked Marie de Souza. “You come to tell us of a death?”

“No,” with a somewhat hysterical laugh, “I come to tell you of a wedding. Miss Bruce is to be married at Christmas.”

Whereupon there ensued another silence of fully ten seconds, during which the ticking of the clock was the only sound.

“This is a joke,” shouted Marie. “She is older than my mother!”

“It is an old affair,” began Juliet.

“So I should think,” sneered Marie.

“Don’t interrupt,” broke in several voices. “Go on, Juliet; tell us everything.”

“Of course you are all surprised; but I am sure you will be glad Miss Bruce is able to give up teaching and settle down into a home of her own in England.”

“In her old age,” added Marie the irrepressible, with spiteful emphasis.

“Then, won’t she be married out here? When is it to be? Who is she going to marry? What is to be done with the school?” were questions volleyed at Juliet all at once, and a perfect Babel ensued.

“The school is sold for an hotel, and breaks up early in November. Miss Bruce will be married at home; Miss Dix is to live with her,” explained Juliet by degrees. “Is there anything else you wish to know?”

“Yes,” answered a girl promptly. “Pray what is to become of you?”

“Oh,-I-I—” and her voice trembled a little—“I leave here next week; the agents have found another home for me. I am going to live near Durano, about forty miles off, with some people of the name of Noote.”

At this information there instantly arose a violent clamour of tongues. A dozen voices at once demanded why she could not come home with them, and stay for months and months, or years? Why should she mind the agents? They would not allow her to go to these strangers, and, above all, she must not think of going anywhere before the school broke up. She must go to Tundla with Marion Preston, to Calcutta with Kitty Collins, to Basaule with Freda Müller, to Benares with Charlotte Vince.

Leaving Juliet the centre of a buzzing swarm of inquisitive, eager, hospitable companions, urging, protesting, bewailing, we go back to her interview with Miss Bruce.

She found her teacher slowly pacing her sanctum, and as she opened the door Miss Bruce halted in the middle of the room, and said

“So you have come at last! and I have been walking up and down trying to make up my mind to tell you something, and searching for words to tell it in. Yes, what I have to say will surprise you very much. Are you prepared, Juliet, to be immensely astonished?”

“Yes, I am, I think; but I scarcely know how it feels to be immensely astonished,” replied the girl, with a sigh.

“I want you to be my mercury to the school, Juliet, and to tell them that I am going to be married. I see you can scarcely credit your ears; and no wonder, child. I seem quite an old woman to you?”

“Oh no, Miss Bruce,” faltered Juliet, whose breath had been momentarily taken away.

“But oh yes, Juliet; and why not? It is an ancient affair. Years and years ago we were engaged; there was the usual barrier, want of money, and it was broken off, and he went one way and I another. Three years ago, when I was at home we met again; finally, six months ago he wrote. He is well off now, and—and——” Miss Bruce found herself blushing and stammering, beneath the girl’s great, innocent, interested eyes. It would be so much more fitting for this beautiful young thing to be confiding a love tale to her, than to be the repository of one—such an old, old one—from a hard-featured elderly woman like herself.

“We are connections,” she went on, “and have known each other all our lives. His name is Radford-Edgar Radford-and he is a good man-too good for me.”

“Oh, Miss Bruce!” expostulated her listener.

“Yes, this battling for my living out here alone has made me hard and calculating and worldly, and oh so different to what I once was. We shall be well off, and Agnes is to live with us. I hope to have a nice little house in the cool, green country at home, and a flower garden, and all the newest books, and I ought to be very happy.”

“And will you be married out here, at Chotah Bilat?”

“Oh dear me! a thousand times no. Fancy the scene—all the girls as spectators! I am giving up the house at the end of the term, and we are to be married in London early in the new year.”

“I hope you will be very happy, Miss Bruce,” said Juliet, timidly. She had never seen any one who was engaged to be married before, and was a little awed. “It was very good of you to tell me first;” and then, suddenly turning pale, as if struck by an afterthought, she added—“What is to become of me?”

“Oh yes, yes,” rather nervously, and now sitting down.

“That is all settled; in fact, everything has been arranged some time ago, but I did not like to upset the girls’ minds in the middle of the term.”

A pause.

“And about me?” repeated her companion, bending towards her, and gazing at her with shining eyes, in which hope deferred burnt as with a steady flame.

“Of course if Mrs. Warry had lived there would have been no difficulty. However, I wrote most fully to your father some months ago, and told him of the step I contemplated, and asked him if he would now receive you and give you a home?”

“And what did he say?” inquired Juliet, turning a face with crimson cheeks and sparkling eyes on her companion, and expecting that the next sentence would convey her release.

“Dearest Juliet,” taking her hand, “I am sorry to tell you that he said no. I can’t bear to hurt you, but you must hear the truth at last. I hate to destroy your innocent illusion-your father is a heartless, unnatural parent.”

“Oh, Miss Bruce, don’t,” snatching both her hands away and holding them up, as if to ward off some blow. “No, no, no!”

“But yes; you must look at facts, my dear; you are eighteen, and can reflect and reason—at any rate, to some extent.”

“I don’t wish to reflect and reason about my father,” said the girl, firing up.

“Nevertheless, I beg you will listen to me, if only for a few moments, my dear. Why has he left you out here for eighteen years—deserted you, in short? Simply because he is ashamed of his first marriage, and afraid to acknowledge you to his new wife.”

Who was my own mother?” inquired the girl, with a white face.

“Her name was Smithson. She was extremely pretty, but not a lady by birth. Her father was a barrack sergeant.”

Juliet became very red, then pale to the lips.

“Your father has thousands a year, Juliet; he allows you fifty pounds. Не takes no interest in you or your affairs.”

“And his messages in your letters?” said Juliet, in a stifled voice.

“They were made up by me-merely wicked fictions of mine. I confess my sin, and beg you will forgive me, dear; but I had not the heart to withstand your pleading eyes, and to tell you when I had a letter that there was no mention of you. I meant well; that is my only excuse. As for your carefully written letters, over which you spent such time and pains, and your yearly present you stitched at for months—see here,” suddenly pulling out a drawer, “they have never left this house.”

“Why?” demanded the girl, sharply.

“Because your father returned several, and said he did not wish to receive them. He was afraid his wife might see them, and ask awkward questions.”

“Miss Bruce,” said Juliet, after moment’s silence, “you may think me a rude, ungrateful girl, but I cannot believe this; no, I cannot. You admit that you have deceived me once.”

“Yes; to spare you pain, my dear child. I would be the last to deceive you or come between you and a loving father and a happy home.”

“Give me some proof. Show me something in his own writing,” said Juliet, in a choked voice.

“I have nothing but his last letter-he has not written to me for several years—and that I cannot show you.’

“You dare not.”

Miss Bruce flushed angrily. “Juliet, have you gone mad? How dare you speak to me in such a manner? It was to spare you; but, if you insist——”

“I do insist,” she answered passionately.

“Very well; I wash my hands of the matter. You shall see the letter, read the letter, and-regret it all your days.”

As Juliet stood waiting for some proof which might change the whole current of her life-stood with a white face and twitching lips-Miss Bruce was searching hastily in her big desk, and presently snatched out a letter, and almost threw it at Juliet. She did not often lose her temper, but her anger was hot within her. It seemed hard that this self-willed, romantic girl should make light of her word-forget all the years she had been under her roof, cherished almost as her own child, and yet pin her entire faith on her wretched, heartless parent.

“That is the letter, read it for yourself; you know the handwriting, and when you have mastered the contents, you may keep it.”

Juliet opened it instantly, it was quite a long epistle, and ran as follows:

“Dear Madam,

“Your news was indeed a most unwelcome surprise, as I had looked to you to give J. a home for years, and I have always found you most trustworthy and discreet. She must now find an asylum elsewhere, but not under my roof. My wife is not aware of her existence, and candidly I feel no more affection for her than for a stranger passing in the street; she is merely the unpleasant reminder of a horrible mistake. You will think I am an unnatural monster; but recollect that I have not seen the girl since she was a hideous infant, and as such I must always recall her; I find it impossible to realize that she is a grown-up young person. Even if I were to bring her home, and spring her upon my family, she would be unhappy and out of place; all her ideas are Indian, her accent ‘chee, chee,’ her manners and customs that of the lower (her mother’s) class. She would be wretched with us, and we should be wretched with her. I can picture her in my mind’s eye sandy and freckled, her hair plastered with cocoa-nut oil, a lumpy figure, bad shoes, bad corsets, playing a little and giggling a good deal. I am convinced she is fond of sweets, cheap scent, and pearl powder. She has no more brains than a rabbit, and is sure to be in love (naturally you know nothing about this item), and doubtless a prey to unrequited affection. She is all I say, I am positive. How can she help herself? I am a firm believer in heredity, and it is in the blood. It is truly good of you to write of her in such glowing terms; but permit me to remind you, my dear madam, that you have not had an opportunity of seeing well-born English girls for the last twenty years-pray excuse my candid speaking—your establishment is patronized by tradespeople. J. is at any rate not dark, and ‘parmi les aveugles’-you know the rest. She is in her proper place—her native country, and there I wish her to remain. I am happy to tell you that my agents have discovered another excellent home for her; a respectable elderly couple are most anxious to receive her, especially as they happen to be connections on her mother’s side. Captain Noote is a retired officer, farming his own land, in a most healthy and delightful part of Kumaon; Mrs. Noote is a cheerful, energetic person, who says she will be a mother to the girl; in short, the arrangement is in every way desirable, and J. is far better off than thousands of other young women who have to go out and earn their own living. I am to pay sixty pounds for her maintenance, and to allow her ten pounds per annum for dress and pocket-money. She will find it amply sufficient; for, as there are not likely to be any balls or dinner-parties in the neighbourhood, she won’t require many evening dresses. Should she marry, as no doubt, with her charms, she is bound to do”-here Mr. Carwithen meant to be sarcastic—“some clerk or worthy young sergeant, I shall endow her with two thousand pounds (not rupees), shall think I have done my duty handsomely, and wash my hands of her for ever. I send you registered a watch, brooch, and pair of earrings for J.—a little showy, perhaps; but young men are so mercenary nowadays that they require more bait than a passable appearance, and in these gauds they will see signs and tokens that her face is not her sole fortune. When I hear that J. is about to follow your example, it will be the best news she cạn possibly impart; needless to assure you that it will not be difficult to obtain my consent, for once she changes her name and state she will have no further claim on, dear madam,

“Yours most faithfully,
“A. Carwithen.”

Chapter XI.

Out of the Frying-Pan

“From good to bad.” — Spenser

Juliet read her father’s letter over rapidly at first, with quick catchings of the breath, and half-subdued sobs; the second perusal of it was more deliberate, as if she were committing it to memory. And when she raised her eyes, and handed it back to Miss Bruce, it seemed to that lady as if something had gone out of the girl’s face. What? The look of gay innocent childhood, the careless shallow glance of the schoolgirl. In that bitter moment all Juliet’s dreams, her fairy palace, her secretly worshipped idol, had been shattered into atoms.

“Here are the things,” said Miss, Bruce, producing several cases, and opening them hastily.

“Don’t-don’t show them to me!” cried her pupil passionately.

“Give them away; throw them into the fire!” and she burst into tears, and covered her face with her slender hands.

“Juliet, my love, if you wish, I will send them back. I am sorry now I showed you that letter. I was a foolish woman to be angry because you did not trust me. I tell you to curb your temper, and I cannot curb my own. You know how brusque I am, and I am afraid I tore away the veil too rudely from your eyes.”

Juliet’s sobs were her only reply.

“He is not worth a tear, my dear. It seems a shocking thing to say to a girl of her own father; but it is true.”

“In future I shall earn my own living,” burst out Juliet, suddenly. “I will owe nothing to him.”

“My dear child, you are talking folly. What could you do?”

“Teach-give music lessons-at first.”

“No, no; I know what a struggle teaching is. You shall never share my experience, nor know what it is, when the pupils do not come. Listen to me, Juliet; I have a plan. Go to these Nootes; be prudent, self-reliant, and patient; conjugate the verb ‘to wait’ for one year. By that time I shall be thoroughly settled. You shall come home to me for a long, long visit, and we will look out something for you—some nice place as companion, or you might turn your voice to account. I am not going to allow your father to carry out his programme, and bury you alive among these hills. You will see that you will have many happy days with me in dear old England.”

Juliet shook her head despondently. “I don’t believe I shall ever have any happy days. I don’t see where they are to come from.”

Never have any happy days! this young creature, with her beautiful face, her exquisite voice, and all her golden youth before her!

“Come, my dear, that is nonsense. You have only one year to wait; and what is one year at your age? Keep up your studies; keep up your singing; and, above all, keep up your heart,” kissing her affectionately as she spoke. “Perhaps you would rather not go back to the schoolroom to-night-defer your news till another time; but I know the girls would rather hear it from you than any one. How they will miss you! How I shall miss you, dear Juliet; you seem almost like my own child-mine and Agnes’s. I had hoped to have kept you with us till the very last; but I had an urgent letter from Mrs. Noote this afternoon which has precipitated everything. She has arranged to receive you this day week. She is actually clamouring to have you. She wishes to take you off my hands to-morrow.”

“I wonder why?” exclaimed Juliet; “she has never seen me.” Miss Bruce had her own opinion, but wisely kept it to herself. “And I am sure I am not the least anxious to go to her.”

“You shall not stay with her longer than I can help, dear,” said her friend as she kissed her again. “We will talk over our little plans to-morrow. You had better go to bed now; never mind telling the girls to-night.”

But Juliet was far too excited to think of bed or sleep, and, as we have seen, went straight to the first-class room and discharged her piece of news at once among her incredulous school-fellows.

*  *  *

It dawned at last, the day of Juliet’s departure from St. Oswald’s. Mrs. Noote had sent her bearer to escort her, and six sturdy paharis, or hill-men, and a somewhat battered dandy, as a means of transport to carry her to her new home, which was, literally, “over the hills and far away.” The bearer—a truly villainous-looking person, with a dyed red beard, after the manner of vain, elderly Mussulmen-placed a letter in Juliet’s hand and salaamed to the earth. The letter was written with a very scratchy steel pen, on thin, cheap paper, and the ink had been watered till it was almost invisible.

“Dear Juliet (it began),

“I am not going to call you Miss, as you are our relation. I send my own dandy for you. The coolies will be one rupee each. We are forty-two miles from you; and you must stop all night at Pouch-kala-dâk bungalow, and start next morning before sunrise. We shall be very pleased to have you. Be sure you bring your bedding, bath, lamp, and your own sheets and towels; and if you have a looking-glass, and a dhurri, so much the better.

“Eliza Noote.”

Juliet read it, and handed it to Miss Bruce, who, glancing over it, exclaimed

“I am surprised she does not ask you to bring a dinner-table and sideboard! If you stop at Pouch-kala bungalow, you must take lots of insect-powder!”

“Her spelling is curious,” remarked the girl.

“I hope she is not curious in other ways. Be on your guard with these strangers, child. I know nothing about them, beyond the fact that Mrs. Noote’s butter has a first-class reputation. Your father’s agents selected this home for you without any reference to me, and I am sorry to say I know no one in Durano. I wish I did, that I could write and ask them to be kind to you. Be discreet, and don’t chatter about your affairs; lock up your money and your letters. I must confess that I don’t like the look of their servant; I trust it’s not ‘like master, like man!’”

“I don’t suppose I shall have many letters to lock up,” she rejoined with rather misty eyes.

“My dearest Juliet, why, almost every girl in the school will send to you reams! And Agnes and I will write to you frequently, and we shall expect volumes from you! Keep a curb on your hot temper, my dear child. Keep your mind well employed, be forbearing and amiable, and you’ll see how quickly the time will pass ere we meet again.”

In half an hour the partings were over. For once, matters had been reversed—instead of Juliet seeing off the whole school, the whole school, with tears, huggings, kisses, and promises, had seen off Juliet! For the first time in her life, she went, and her fellow-pupils remained behind. she had done with school, and caught a final glimpse of the high zinc roof as she was carried down the hill, weeping softly behind her veil, whilst the red-bearded bearer stalked solemnly beside her, stick in hand, and three grumbling coolies brought up the rear, with her bedding, bath, and the original old trunk that had contained her scanty infant outfit eighteen years previously.

Yes; It was a lovely September morning as Juliet was hurried upwards, past many familiar landmarks, then over the sharp brow of the mountain, and, losing sight of the glittering rock-bound tarn, of the very last white house, she was suddenly plunged into a totally new scene. They were winding through a forest covering the hillsides; thick fringes of ferns, as yet untouched by the frost, outlined the branches of magnificent trees of ilex and evergreen oak. Noisy rivulets brawled down from rock to rock till lost in green chasms of ferns and undergrowth. Upon the ground was spread an exquisite flower-carpet of great lilac daisies, delicate purple orchids, and fairy-like white blossoms, whilst here and there a branch, or a flaming creeper, touched by Autumn’s vivid fingers, gave a brilliant finish to the picture. Now the narrow road skirted desperate precipices of blue crumbling shale,-sliding ever, with little trickling slides, into the valley far below. Now Juliet, looking down from dizzy heights, beheld a great sea of waving trees-oak, larch, and young bamboo—with numerous families of great grey monkeys crashing among their branches. Now they passed through miles of gigantic rhododendrons, who interlaced their moss-grown velvet arms across the path, and between whose boughs occasional glimpses of the dim blue plains could be discerned. It was a lovely scene, but intensely lonely. Save for a strolling hill cow, who calmly disputed the road, or a surly monkey, growling and impudently casting pine cones, there was no sign of life. And there was a strange absence of birds, an absence of sound—a vast, melancholy silence-only broken by the whisper of a tiny streamlet, trickling among the underwood, and the tramp of the barefooted jampannies.

Juliet’s bearers conversed incessantly, little guessing that the Miss Sahib understood the Pahari tongue—not that they disclosed any secrets. They discussed her weight; she was agreeably light. They talked of their several Bunnias, or moneylenders, of the last great wrestling match, of the corn and walnut harvest, and of the Sirkar’s odious forest laws.

They also chattered of ghosts, weddings, and wages, and at noonday came to a determined halt on the summit of the Gangu Pass, so much extolled by Bishop Heber when he visited those hills. They halted for two long hours, cooking, eating, and smoking; but who can hurry the Kumaoni coolie? Meanwhile the Miss Sahib sat aloof, gazing dreamily at the exquisite and varied scene, and mournfully reviewing her past life and future prospects. She was in unusually low spirits-certainly this was one of her “down” days.

During the afternoon, as the party advanced into the interior, the prospect changed. As they emerged from the woods, the country became bolder and barer-rich valleys of yellow corn came into view, valleys tilled in terraces, and to the very last inch, and dotted with comfortable flat-roofed stone houses, the homes of the thickset women, with Tartar faces and short coloured jackets, and massive silver necklets, who were constantly encountered herding cattle, or carrying ponderous loads of stone. The sun had set, the jackals were hunting the valleys, and the stars were out ere long-expected Pouch-kala bungalow showed prominently on the spur of a hill. The rarely disturbed Khansamah was aroused; he lit a pair of thin candles, laid a clean sheet and knife and fork on the table, and then withdrew to slay a sleepy rooster.

The tired and hungry guest meanwhile took a chair into the verandah, and there, that cool autumn night, contemplated

“The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.”

She watched the planets come out; then the fires and lights upon opposite heights. These lights, at irregular intervals, represented so many domestic hearths, where the Kumaoni, after his day’s toil—his wife from the reaping, his children from herding—gather round the logs, bake chupatties and roast chestnuts and corn. Poor as they were, they were better off than she was! They had a home; she had none. Presently a great yellow moon slid out from behind the shoulder of a hill, and animated and beautified the land.

As Juliet gazed in rapt admiration, she was brusquely recalled to sublunary matters by the voice of the Khansamah saying—

“Miss Sahib Khana-tyar hi!” and she withdrew from the romantic to the commonplace, from the glories of the snows by moonlight to whitewashed walls and a vile dâk bungalow dinner,

The first glimmer of light found the travellers once more on the road. The dawn of an autumn day among the Kumaon hills, who shall describe it? Even the stolid Paharis will stand to watch the sun slowly creeping up over the low ranges, over the grey haze of the middle distance, and suddenly awakening the cold white peaks, and turning them first to a rosy pink then to a brilliant crimson. The air was sharp and crisp, the dew lay heavy on the grass at the roadside, and long silver cobwebs wove the wayside flowers together; the blue convolvuli, red bush berries, and little mauve orchids, were all united by one fairy chain. As the hours wore on, herds of small cows and great unwieldy buffaloes were driven up the hillsides among bracken and furze by children of tender years, a dâk runner fled by, droves of pack ponies were encountered, and it became evident that they were approaching a station. Soon Durano came into view where it lay along the hillside, crowned by its old bazaar and fort; but Juliet was borne steadily onward, past the cantonment and clock-tower, past temples, past solitary bungalows, past all signs of life, away up into the wilds by winding paths little better than water courses.

Still onward and upward, into the primitive land that stretches to the very foot of the snows. Juliet was beginning to think that Kala Dara was a myth, and that she was being carried off into Thibet, when she suddenly came on a sign-post—a stick, to which was nailed a bit of a wine-case; on this was rudely daubed a sort of deformed hand, with a portentous forefinger, beneath which was scrawled

Butter and Bacon

“There it is! there is Kala Dara,” exclaimed the bearer, indicating a long low cottage surrounded with loose stone walls, and standing against a background of funereal-looking pines. It was indeed quite in the country, and where evening dresses were not likely to be required; in fact, it was totally out of the world. True, that from the valley arose the blue smoke of a village, with its stone roofs, melon gardens, goats and ponies, and no doubt the site commanded a matchless view. Juliet must only hope for the best, and trust that she would find the inmates of the cottage a host in themselves.

After toiling up a rocky path, they reached a rickety gate leading into an untidy garden, overgrown with straggling single dahlias and noisome marigolds. The verandah in front of the house was of stone, its rough-hewn pillars clothed with ragged creepers; in it was seated an old man with a long grey beard, and a fur cap on his head, smoking and reading a newspaper. The moment he was aware of the approach of the party, he took his pipe out of his mouth, arose, and came shuffling forward, shouting, “Eliza!”

Chapter XII.

Into the Fire

“And from bad to worse.” — Spenser.

In answer to his summons, a tall, thin woman, with a sharp, weather-beaten face, and very fair but scanty hair, bustled out of the house, turning down her sleeves as she came. She was neatly dressed-possibly for the occasion—and accosted her visitor with outstretched bands.

“Well, I truly never did! We were not expecting you for another two hours. Welcome! welcome!” kissing Juliet loudly as she spoke. “You must have been awful cramped”-helping her out of the dandy.

“Yes, I am a little stiff,” responded the girl in a faint voice.

“This is my husband, Captain Noote. He is a bit hard of hearing; you have got to shout at him.”

Captain Noote touched his cap, and offered a not very clean hand.

“Glad to see you, miss; glad to see you! Eliza,” turning eagerly to his wife, “what about that whisky, eh? Did Ibrahim order it in Chotah Bilat?”

“Yes, yes,” scornfully; “you and your whisky! Come in, Juliet, and make yourself at home. I dare say we have not got things quite as elegant as you have been used to; but we are plain people, same as your own folk, and don’t go in for show.”

This fact was sufficiently patent, without any explanation, thought Juliet, as her eyes wandered round the sitting-room. Bare, smoke-stained walls, the floor covered with greasy cocoa-nut matting, a few ancient chairs, a still more ancient sofa, positively on its last legs, and propped with bricks. In the middle of the apartment was a square table, on which was spread a coarse cloth, with several obtrusive holes, under which newspaper had been inserted by the artful Khitmadgar, in the vain hope that they might not catch the eye. Some steel knives and forks, with green handles, three tumblers, and a blue glass salt-cellar, comprised the appointments. There was not a flower, an ornament, nor a book to be seen, though, certainly, in one corner, there was a dusty heap of newspapers piled on a straw table.

“This is our sitting-room,” explained Mrs. Noote, rubbing her bony red hands with an air of complacency; “we live a good deal in the verandah. I suppose you didn’t happen to bring a looking-glass?” staring into Juliet’s countenance of blank dismay.

She was not the least sort of girl that she had looked for, but a slim, fine young madam, with a grand air and accent, who wore very neat walking-shoes (she noticed them as she got out of the dandy), and kept her face covered with a white gauze veil. She was likely. enough to make a fuss about Captain Noote’s pipe, and might object to the smell of spirits, and expect late dinner, afternoon tea, and a daily post. Well, blessed are those that don’t expect!

Juliet’s expectations had fallen extremely low; but she was not prepared for her room, the door of which Mrs. Noote flung open with as great a flourish as if she was ushering her into the state apartments of a palace. It was low, with bare rafters, and one window, and contained a charpoy, a chest of drawers with scarcely any handles (the deficiencies supplied as in the tablecloth-stiff rolls of paper were stuffed into the apertures); there was a tiny looking-glass, a tin basin, and a couple of chairs. There had evidently been some feeble attempt to furbish up the place, for the atmosphere reeked of whitewash and damp boards. A curtain had been hung across the window, and gracefully looped back with string, and one gaudy picture was nailed above the chimney-piece.

“There! you see I have done my best to make it pretty snug,” said Mrs. Noote. “You have brought your bedding, bath, and lamp, eh?”


“That’s all right,” she said briskly; “and now, then, if you will give me money, I will go and pay the men—it will be ten rupees—and I’ll let them go. Dinner is always at three o’clock. After dinner you might unpack and rest,” and she hurried out of the room, money in hand, and soon afterwards a shrill altercation testified to the payment of the coolies.

Juliet removed her hat, sat down on the edge of her bed, and gazed about her. It was all so much worse than she had expected—the house, the surroundings, and the people. She was tired, hungry, and miserable, and on the verge of tears; but she must be brave and keep a stout heart, and try and bear in mind that it would not be for long. In spite of her resolution, a few salt drops did trickle down her cheeks, but she quickly dried them, and bathed her face, brushed her hair, and was ready to respond, when a knock at the door, and an overpowering smell of cabbage summoned her to table. Captain Noote dined in his cap, but had invested himself in a clean paper collar in honour of the visitor. He carved, and helped her abundantly to stewed kid and cabbage, pressed on her whisky and water, and pledged her very good health in a potent tumbler full of the same.

The kid was succeeded by an apple-dumpling, the apple-dumpling was removed by a jar of tobacco and a box of matches. Dinner was over, and now Captain Noote prepared to enjoy himself; he lit his pipe and proceeded to ask the new-comer a whole vocabulary of questions, seemingly his only idea of conversation. How long had she been at school? how old was she? had she any brothers or sisters, uncle or aunts? Could she cook, ride, or play cards? How old was Miss Bruce? had she saved much money? What were the crops like as she came along? was there most wheat or murga, which? On which side of the road was there most murga! Had they begun to stack it yet, and were they stacking it in trees or on the ground? Had she noticed any pigs as she came along? Meanwhile Mrs. Noote had produced her knitting, but watched her visitor with small attentive eyes.

She took stock of the cut of the girl’s dress, the shape of her hands, and every turn of her delicate features; and she soon perceived that this maddening catechism and the combined fumes of tobacco and whisky were becoming too much for this fastidious young lady; and cutting her husband very short in his queries, she invited her to accompany her into the garden. This garden was rather a wilderness, but it was not so much the garden that Mrs. Noote wished to display, as the view—and this was magnificent. Kala Dara was less than forty miles from the foot of the snows, which extended right across the horizon. At present the setting sun had touched their peaks, and a misty golden glow blended all lines in a flood of glory; range over range seemed to blaze, whilst the pine-clad valleys were steeped in a mysterious purple gloom. Mrs. Noote indicated the effects, and spoke of the snows precisely as if they were her private property and a mere adjunct of Kala Dara. She pointed out the road to Durano, and a faint winding path along a neighbouring rise that led into Thibet. Then she indicated the direction in which lived their nearest neighbours, the Cassons.

“He was a tea-planter, and she,” said Mrs. Noote, “a nice enough woman, but not the right stuff for a planter’s wife. As for her drawing-room, and fal-lals and dress, and the wages she pays her servants—I truly never did!”

“And is not that another’s house, that little dot on that hill to the left?” inquired Juliet, with a desperate effort to appear interested.

“Yes, it’s a house, sure enough, and a big one, but empty. The Traffords, people that owned and built it, went off years ago, for three or four of the family died there of cholera. They are buried in the garden, and if you’d like to see their graves, it’s a pleasant walk, only a bit over three miles. Are you a good walker?”

“I do not know. We never took very long walks at school; we played tennis a good deal.”

“There’s no tennis in these parts,” said the other grimly. “A fine fool’s game, knocking balls over a net. You will have to take to walking, my young miss.”

“Doos no one live in that house now?” asked Juliet.

“Traffords Rest? No; it used to be let of a hot weather to poor mean folks, who just came up for the sake of the air, and got it cheap, and were no sort of good to me as customers. It’s partly furnished, but it’s in awful repair—the roof leaks, the upper rooms are dangerous, and the owners won’t do a hand’s turn, as the lease is nearly out, and the land goes back to Government. There’s an old chowkidar there in charge, who sells peaches and apples, and keeps good fowl; but folks around won’t go anigh the place. They say it’s haunted; they call it the Devil’s Bungalow.”

“Have you lived here long?” inquired Juliet, after a pause.

“A matter of eleven years and more; ever since Noote retired. We got the place cheap, and he had always a taste for mountains. He’s a North-countryman is Noote, and he loves to farm a bit, and has a real turn for pigs.”

“And does he keep anything else?”

“Yes, sheep and cows; and I have good English fowl, and sell my eggs well. I’ve a lovely incubator; and, beside the fowl, I’ve a fine dairy.”

“Are you never lonely?”

“Not I,” scornfully. “I have never time to think of such nonsense; what with milking, and calves, and chickens. It’s only idle folks is like that, and I never was one for society at any time. I send in a coolie to Durano for papers, and with eggs and butter, and now and then I go in myself. I have friends there.”

“You go on Sundays, I suppose?”

“Bless your dear little heart! No; it’s a matter of seven miles. I’ve rarely been to church for years. Sunday is the day I make out my butter bills. I often think it would be a fine thing if we had one of those prayer-wheels in the village, turned by water-like those over in Thibet—that does the praying for everybody.”

Juliet gazed at Mrs. Noote in the vain endeavour to ascertain whether she was in jest or earnest, and then said—

“Have you ever had a girl to live with you before?”

“No; it’s quite a new idea; a grand idea, I call it. You see, we are quiet retired professional people, and can offer good air, and plenty of fresh milk, fine scenery, and-and-” She paused to see what else there was to offer, and added—“and all that! So when William John heard, through a clerk at Skippers, as they were on the look-out for a very quiet home for a young lady, he mentioned me; and it turned out we were related to your folk, and I could give the best of references. It seemed quite a providential thing for you, and here you are!”

Here she was indeed!

“You see, Captain Noote being a cousin to your grandpapa was a great point in our favour. Old Joey Smithson, he was a caution, his face was a sort of red, and the end of his nose was blue. Ay, how he did drink and carry on, to be sure!” casting up her eyes at the were recollection.

“And did you ever see my mother?” asked her companion, timidly.

“Yes, once or twice. She was a pretty and a rather genteel-looking girl, and as to her singing of ‘Camptown Races,’ and ‘Ka-Foozelum,’ it was a real treat; but I never spoke to her beyond passing the time of day. You see, we was not in the same set,” she concluded, loftily.

“And the Skippers you speak of, and William John. Are they lawyers? I am afraid I am asking a great many questions?”

“As to that, I’m well used to them! Captain Noote never stops only when he is asleep. William John is my son; he will be proud to hear you were asking after him. I was married before, to a Mr. Pogson-I need scarcely tell you, when I was a mere child. William John is as fine a young fellow as ever stepped, nigh on six foot; he has a civil appointment, but he will be coming up to us before long. I can see that you and he will be very thick,” and she smiled with hideous significance.

“I-I did not know that you had a son,” faltered the unhappy girl. The elder pair were bad enough, but this six-foot son, who would “be pleased to hear she had been asking for him,” was absolutely the very last straw.

“I am tired,” she said presently; “and, if you don’t mind, I will go and unpack, and not come out again. If you will kindly send me in a cup of tea, I’ll say good night.”

“Oh, very well,” returned Mrs. Noote shortly, with a toss of her head. “Oh, very well then, good night; but it’s only six o’clock.”

She would have liked to have expatiated still further on William John’s perfections.

“I’ll take you in a cup of tea myself, and I hope you will soon be rested. It’s a pity if you are delicate.”

“Well,” said Captain Noote to his spouse; “so she has gone to bed, has she? She looked very tired, very pale and peaky, but quite the lady.”

“A great deal too much the lady,” rejoined his wife, with a snort. “You should have seen how she wrinkled up her nose when you smoked, and the way she looked round her room; and I can tell by her eye that she means to try and drag me down to church every Sunday. Just let me catch her at it!”

“Anyhow, she has a grand air; something you don’t see every day; maybe it’s her long throat, and the way her head is fixed on. She’s like a young duchess.”

“Duchess! much you know of duchesses,” retorted his wife, scornfully.

“You are thinking of a Dutch-cheese; that’s more in your line. I wonder what William John will say to her?”

“Oh, you need not be anxious about him; he, he, he,” with a wheezy laugh. “William John would think well of any girl who had two thousand pounds pinned to her petticoat!”

Chapter XIII

Mrs. Noote’s Precautions

“What can an old man do, but die?” — Hood.

Prospects that assume a gloomy aspect overnight frequently look bright on a sunny morning, after a good rest. Although, on the other hand, it must be confessed that hopes which present a brilliant appearance, sometimes seem rather tarnished, and just a little of the gilt is off when we inspect them by the practical light of day. As far as Juliet was concerned, her affairs did not seem so dispiriting when she opened her eyes and found the ayah beside her, bearing her chotah hazree—a wrinkled old person, in tight lilac calico trousers and a plaid shawl, with a not unkindly face—a cup of excellent Kousani tea aroused the sleeping girl most effectually; and now, by the light of the sun, the room did not look quite so bad; it was clean, at any rate; with some of her own belongings, she would soon transform it. She glanced at the long narrow window, and could scarcely restrain an exclamation of delight; there, she beheld, as if framed, the vast perspective of endless dazzling white ranges. She sprang out of bed, and threw the lattice wide open, and looked out into the dewy garden, with her elbows on the sill.

What fragrant bushes of heliotrope, and straggling tufts of tube roses! What wild flowers and fantastic grasses! had apparently struggled over every obstacle to join their more civilized relations in Mrs. Noote’s neglected garden. Beyond it lay the yellow valley, the swelling hills, and, rising out of a faint pearly mist, and clearly defined against a turquoise sky, Juliet recognized her old friends, Trisul (the three peaks) and Nanda-devi (the storm god), who reared his noble white head higher than any mountain in British territory. They seemed to have come nearer to her, but, in reality, it was she who had decreased her distance from them by close on thirty miles. The thin, stimulating hill air, the fresh flowers, the songs of the ever busy minars, and the shouts of the reapers in the corn, combined to assure her that it was a sin to be in the house, and, dressing at once, she set forth to explore her surroundings. Her first discovery was her hostess in the dairy yard, shrieking fluent anathemas at her gwala, or milkman, a sturdy Pahari, wearing a battered old forage cap (whose various vicissitudes would possibly fill a volume) and an expression of silent scorn, that would not have been unbefitting on the countenance of a Roman emperor. Doubtless he was saying to himself, “What a devil of devils is this screaming white pig; the curse of my father be upon her!”

Mrs. Noote was attired in a large straw hat, a pair of Captain Noote’s boots, and wore her dress kilted high, as, with her arms akimbo, she superintended the milking of a herd of buffaloes and small hill cows. She was apparently much occupied; but when she descried Juliet, she called out—

“Oh, so you are up! You are an early bird, like me, I see. I’ve just done, and I’ll take you round the place, and show you what is to be seen.”

Evidently Juliet herself was an unaccustomed spectacle in those parts. The milking languished, the two or three tartar-faced women, the imperial-looking gwala—handsome as bronze Apollo—all stopped, and stared, and muttered to one another, “What brought a Miss Sahib to such a place? She was not of the same caste as the Lal mem sahib”—meaning the “red missis, “or Mrs. Noote,” she was as beautiful as Lucksmi herself, and her statue was as elegant as the juniper tree. Why had she left her own people? Who was she?”

Mrs. Noote noted the sensation her guest had created. Even the very cows seemed to be gazing at her in amazement; and bestowing a pithy sentence of abuse on her retainers, hastened to carry off the new-comer.

She exhibited with much pride two half-bred English heifers, and greatly mystified Juliet by informing her that she had “taken them out in butter from a lady customer.” She displayed her poultry-yard of cochin-chinas, turkeys, and guineafowl.

“At Christmas I got eight rupees apiece for my turkeys. Oh, when you are an understanding woman like me, poultry is very paying; but you must have as good as six dozen eyes to be up to these hill-servants; they coax the hens away, and get them to lay in the stable, or their own godowns, tempting them with bits of chupatties. I had a lovely incubator-a real wonder for hatching, but that fool of a bearer meddled with it one evening, and it blew up—went off like a cannon firing hundreds of eggs.”

Juliet was then taken round the orchard, and shown the pigs and vegetable garden, full of cabbages and cucumbers; also the hairy Bhootia pony, the plough-bullocks, and finally the storeroom, full of grains, flour, dried onions, bacon, and such-like uninteresting articles. Beyond it was a sort of lumber-closet, the door of which stood open. Whilst Mrs. Noote carefully weighed out some flour, and counted out potatoes, Juliet continued to explore-that is to say, she stood on the threshold and peeped in.

She saw empty wine-cases, hampers, baskets, old kerosene oil tins, sacking, straw, a broken fishing-rod, a rusty rat-trap, and what was that curious long thing standing up in one corner? Was it a coffin? She looked again. Yes, it was; and she turned a pair of searching eyes on her companion.

“Well, I truly never did!” exclaimed Mrs. Noote, fretfully. “I never meant you to look in there; that’s my Bluebeard’s chamber. Never let on what you saw, for your life. Now, promise me.”

“Yes; I’ll say nothing about it, of course, if you don’t wish it.”

“Wish it! Hark at the girl! I should just think not; and as I expect you are dying to know what I am doing with a coffin stuck up there, I’ll tell you. You see, we are quite in the wilds, seven miles from Durano, and they don’t keep them ready made. This was ordered for a man dying of small-pox; but he recovered, though not expected; so I took it off his hands, and he was uncommon glad to let me have it at less than half price; and it was brought over quietly one night after dark-and here it is till it’s wanted.”

“Wanted for what?” inquired Juliet, transfixing her with her searching dark eyes.

“Bless the girl! I never did. Why, for Captain Noote, to be sure, when his time comes. He is an old man now, past seventy, and I see him failed very much of late”—this in a tone in which complacency was more conspicuous than regret.

“People die and are buried at once up here; and we are miles from clergyman or a doctor, and it’s a great convenience to have it handy, and will be a fine saving of expense and coolie hire. Of course, I don’t let him know, as it might give him a turn. Still, it’s a comfort to me to know that it’s in the house.”

“Of course,” acquiesced Juliet; “but it might be required for you or me, might it not?”

“Rubbish and trash! not likely. Now, come along, breakfast is ready, and I’m as hungry as a kite.”

Juliet followed her reluctantly into the frowsy sitting-room, where the meal was laid-fresh eggs, cream, butter, hill honey, and excellent Kumaon tea awaited them; but there was no bread, only some rather tough chupatties. Captain Noote had a remarkable appetite; he ravened over his food like a starving animal, and permitted no stint at table. There must be plenty to eat and drink always, plenty of tobacco in his jar, and the supply of spirits never suffered to wax low (little, little did he suspect how his deceitful Eliza watered the whisky). In other respects, Mrs. Noote might screw and scrape as she pleased; and, indeed, he often joked with her about her stocking and her savings. Her savings amounted to a sum that would have made him open his little pig’s eyes in amazement. She put by all the fowl money, and the most of what he allowed her for groceries, wages, and clothes, and remitted it to her account in the Bank of Bengal. She worshipped money for its own sake; the accumulating of rupees was her ruling passion. A liberal table she was forced to keep, alas! for Noote would have his own way. He had a good deal in his power, and she was not certain if he had made his will; but when he could not see, or feel, her grip upon money was unrelaxing. She could not endure to part with it, and managed her housekeeping on the exchange and barter system current among her poorer neighbours, where coin was almost unknown. A maund of grain for a young calf, a woollen blanket for a dozen geese; and transacted business for a goat, or half a goat, as she would in England, for a crown, or half the amount. The red-bearded bearer was in her confidence, and could a tale unfold, how his mistress weighed out flour, and salt, and sugar; how she put him on an allowance of three matches a day-one for the fire, one for the lamps, one for contingencies; how it went to her heart to buy a stamp! She had wheedled her husband into allowing her to take a companion, and the sixty pounds a year, all clear profit, was the companion she yearned for, and her own special and much-esteemed perquisite.

Juliet accepted her present lot without any outward signs of discontent, she bided the good days that were coming, and in a short time had made herself tolerably at home. She explored the garden, the village, the surrounding hills; she unpacked her belongings, and arranged her own room with an effect that seemed magical to Mrs. Noote-she scarcely recognized it for the same apartment. There were books, an extemporized writing-table, a quantity of hill grasses in a gigantic jar, dozens of photographs, a pretty little lamp, a gay rug, a folding looking-glass-parting presents to the queen of the school and she lifted up her gaunt red hands and ejaculated—

“Well, I truly never did!” in her shrillest key of amazement. Juliet soon became accustomed to Captain Noote’s marvellous feats with his knife, his strongly coloured whisky and water, his homely language, and his one perpetual topic—“my old regiment.” She learnt as much about military matters in a fortnight as if she had been brought up in a barrack square. Captain Noote she liked, and did tolerate; he taught her to ride the grey Bhootia pony; he gave her a big yellow dog and an alpenstock with which to climb the hills, and keep off inquisitive cattle. On her part, she taught him how to play backgammon, she answered his innumerable questions, and she sang to him his favourite songs; he liked old ballads, such as “Annie Laurie,” and “Take this Cup of Sparkling Wine,” and was not averse to carrying out that injunction in a practical manner. But Juliet found it impossible to extend her liking to Mrs. Noote-the episode of the coffin rankled in her mind and she found her society a vast contrast to that of those cultivated, intellectual ladies, Miss Bruce and Miss Dix. Mrs. Noote could barely write, her spelling was remarkable, and her arithmetic incomprehensible; her habits were not refined, neither was her language. She was a shrewd woman, however, and soon turned her new inmate’s talents to her own benefit, and Juliet, glad of any employment for the seemingly endless hours, made out Mrs. Noote’s butter bills, undertook her correspondence, dunned her customers, and trimmed her bonnets, patched the tablecloths, and worked in the garden; and Mrs. Noote, although, as she said to herself, she couldn’t abear the girl, had fully made up her mind on two points-Juliet Carr was to introduce her to genteel society in Durano, and ultimately to become her daughter-in-law. She was conscious that Juliet had adapted herself wonderfully to their ways; she was clever with both head and hands, quick and obliging, and had a delightfully small appetite; but there was a standoffishness about her new boarder that she never could get over-a polite reserve that held her at arm’s length, and her loud, sharp speeches and occasional explosions never appeared to ruffle the girl’s complete self-possession. She merely gazed in silence, with calm, interrogative eyes. It was true that none of the sharp speeches or outbreaks had been directly levelled at the girl herself; and Mrs. Noote had a suspicion that beneath all that nonchalant demeanour lay a temper that it would not be well to arouse. After tea, Captain Noote and Juliet played backgammon together, whilst Mrs. Noote knitted socks, with feet like bags, and watched the couple keenly with her sly little blue eyes. Even to her they seemed a strongly contrasted pair, as they sat at the corner of the table, intent on their game; the coarse broad hands of the one, the dainty taper fingers of the other, the captain’s common, weather-beaten face and fur cap, and the girl’s fair skin, delicate features, and wealth of bronze-coloured hair. “What would William John say to her?” she wondered as she watched.

The mail went to and from Kala Dara but once a week-every Wednesday a coolie was despatched to the post-office. It was Tuesday evening, and two letters were ready for the morning’s post, one lay in Mrs. Noote’s wool-basket and the other in Juliet’s blotter. What would have been the result, if the two ladies could have exchanged and read them? Mrs. Noote’s effusion was intended for her son, and was laboriously written with blots, erasures, and much startling spelling. It said,

“Dear William John,

“The cousin arrived here more than a month ago. I hurried her up, as I saw no reason why the pay should go to the school, and she’s eighteen, and if her education was not finished, it ought to be. She is quite a beauty-and very much the lady—with small white hands, and a quiet way of speaking, and awfully particular about her dress, and bath water, and the way her linen is made up. She is a great scholar, and writes a lovely hand, and is a help in the house, I will say, and Noote fairly silly over her. I expect they made a lot of her at that school. She writes packs of letters to them. She is one of your stand-off ones, and has a cold manner for a girl; but I’ll soon cure that, and take her down a peg. What is she but old Smithson’s grandchild, after all? She is tall and thin-maybe you would think her scraggy—but she has splendid eyes and hair, and two thousand pounds safe and certain; and is to be had for the asking. You may be sure I shall give my own Billy the first chance. She has never spoken to a young man in her life. Mind you get a month’s leave, and come up as soon as you can. I am paving the way for you beautiful. You will see Noote a good bit failed, but I am well and hearty.

“Your affectionate mother,
“E. Noote.”

The other was to Miss Dix.

“Dearest Miss Dix,

“I wrote to Miss Bruce last week, and it is your turn to-day to be inflicted with a stupid letter, and a good long grumble. I have been here nearly five weeks, and it seems like five years, and yet I am never idle—indeed, to do her justice, Mrs. Noote finds me plenty of occupation. I am learning to milk, to make bread, to saddle a pony, and to garden. We seem to have no neighbours, and one day is exactly the same as the other. The only difference between Sunday and Monday is, that on Sunday we always have a pudding for dinner—a roly-poly—and Captain Noote sleeps in the evening instead of playing backgammon with me, or beggar-my-neighbour, with a pack of greasy coal-black cards. Last Saturday Mrs. Noote announced that she was going down to Durano, and intended to take me. We were to spend the night there, and return after service on Sunday. Needless to tell you, I was delighted to accompany her. We took the big grey pony, and rode it turn about; that is to say, I rode half a mile where the road is fearfully steep, and Mrs. Noote is nervous going downhill, and she rode the rest of the way, her only apology being, ‘That I was young!’ I must confess that I did not mind. It was a lovely walk, and a perfect afternoon, and about four o’clock we found ourselves descending the hills above Durano. It is not a fashionable place like Chotah Bilat, nor nearly as large, and scattered; but people seem to live in it, and make their homes there instead of rushing up for a few months. We passed a good many comfortable bungalows standing in gardens and orchards, and went through a most curious old bazaar, with a long paved street, interrupted by stone steps, which the pony negotiated most skilfully. Meanwhile I helped to keep Mrs. Noote in the saddle. The shop fronts were all made of elaborately carved wood, and the wares displayed were most various—huka heads, crinolinettes, country saddles, and Aspinall’s enamel, all jumbled up together. At last we found ourselves at our destination-a dismal tumbledown little bungalow, the abode of Mrs. Noote’s friends, Mr. Rozario, the apothecary, his wife, and family.

“Mrs. Eulalie Rozario is a very stout, handsome Eurasian, who received us with a child in her arms and two clinging to her dress. Our arrival was unexpected, but she gave us a most hearty welcome. Everything indoors seemed at sixes and sevens, and there were half a dozen children screaming and fighting in the sitting-room; but nothing seemed to ruffle the beautifully even temper of our hostess. She sent out to borrow a loaf and two tea-cups, and prepared for a meal by laying a filthy cloth at one end of the table. The meal consisted of coffee, bread and butter, and hill honey. There were eggs also; but as Mrs. Rozario casually mentioned that she always bought them from the lepers, I did not touch them.

“Mr. Rozario now appeared—a big man with an immense black beard, and round black eyes. He hailed Mrs. Noote with effusion, and seemed extremely surprised to see me. The children collected round me, and glared at me open-mouthed; and, growing bolder, felt my dress, and pinched my arms and face and hair-I suppose see if I was real. Mrs. Noote gossiped volubly with the Rozarios, and I stole away into the garden, the children swarming after me. I opened the gate, and went on the mall; it was overhung with trees, like the lanes you describe in England, with houses peeping through the branches, and banks covered with ferns. A good many broad-shouldered little Ghoorkas went by, and then two ladies walking, then some men riding. It appeared quite gay, after Kala Dara. People stared so hard, and looked back so often, that I thought I must be doing something odd in standing at the gate, so I went indoors and presently to bed, which, I am sorry to say, I shared with no less than three of the children.

“The next morning we all went to church, all but the Rozarios’ baby. It is a dear little church. The service was very well conducted, and the singing and responses seemed to come from the very hearts of this small congregation among these remote hills. I wish I could come every Sunday, but not with the Rozarios. The children fought and cried and scuffled over bread and jam, and wiped their hot, sticky fingers on my dress; and altogether I was in anything but a religious frame of mind; meanwhile Mrs. Rozario sang serenely, and never troubled herself in the least about her progeny.

“After service, people clustered outside the church in groups, and walked home together, the Rozarios’ friends escorted us, and I was presented to them as a young relative who had come to live with Mrs. Noote. They all stared very hard as Mrs. Noote informed them that I had had a tip-top education over at Chotah Bilat, and could speak French and play the piano just like any lady! and when they had got over their first astonishment, two very dusky young women, in black velveteen, trimmed with pea-green braid, embraced me rapturously, took my arms and walked me off, and told me that they adored me; and asked how much I paid for my gloves, and where I got my exquisite hat, and how old I was, and how I really liked the Nootes, and how I did my hair!

“After dinner, Mrs. Noote and I set out on our return journey, and I received a very warm invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Rozario to return and pay them a visit ‘whenever I wanted a little change or gaiety;’ but lonely as Kala Dara is, I prefer it to Durano, and the Rozarios’ hospitality. I am sure they mean kindly, but they were totally unprepared for me, and their astonishment seemed to get on my nerves; whenever I looked up, I found eighteen black eyes fixed upon my face; they called me ‘Miss’ at every second word. Mrs. Rozario tried on my hat, gloves, and veil, the girls in velveteen hugged me and stroked me as if I was a dog or a cat, and told me that I looked just like a lady; and that every one was asking who I was! I felt like a porcupine; but I really did my best to be polite, and to swallow down the compliments, the dinner, and the stuffy atmosphere.

“Oh, how thankful I was to find myself alone on the breezy hillside once more. Mrs. Noote rode home ahead of me, without any offer of the pony, or remark. When we arrived, she discovered that Captain Noote had been celebrating the sabbath in another fashion—to quote her expression, ‘he had got at the whisky!’ The result of this discovery was a most unpleasant scene, during which I escaped into my own room, and locked the door. I heard Mrs. Noote shrieking that ‘it was the last time she would spend Sunday in Durano,’ and I heard it without a pang. In future I shall take my Prayer-book up the hills, and hold service among the mountains, and receive a sermon from the everlasting snows. You will think I am a discontented, detestable wretch, who can do nothing but find faults in her neighbours, and I expect you will write me a fine long lecture. After all, it is my nature to be fastidious, I am afraid, and I cannot help it, no more than I can help what Mrs. Noote calls my red hair.

“I am not such a martyr as I may lead you to imagine. I have some pleasures—my letters, for one. Then, I am great friends with all the villagers, I am actually taking music lessons, and learning to play the sitar, or hill guitar; also I enjoy my daily rambles—the beauty of this part of the world makes up for much. Captain Noote and I get on remarkably well together, but with Mrs. Noote I have nothing in common, not even a taste for backgammon. We are both on our best behaviour so far, but some day or other I prepare you for a grand explosion. Do write me a long long letter soon, dear Dixie, and tell me every scrap of news.

“Yours most affectionately,
“Juliet Carr.

“P.S.-Mrs. Noote has a son she is continually praising; he is coming up here on a visit in the spring.”

Chapter XIV.

Mrs. Noote Surprises Mrs. Casson.

“This is the prettiest low-born lass that ever
Ran on the greensward; nothing that she does or seems
But smacks of something greater than herself,
Too noble for this place.”

Some people declare that in the month of October the Himalayas are to be seen at their best. The snows stand out like huge white waves against a steel blue sky; the air is sharp and crisp; and, although the fringes of ferns have withered away from the branches of the trees, they have merely changed them for a new coat of velvety green moss, whilst their trunks are festooned with graceful Virginia creeper in every shade, from scarlet to pale yellow. The eccentric cherry trees are a blaze of pink blossom, and the ground is carpeted with purple and white orchids and many delicate autumn flowers. By the middle of the month the crops have been gathered, the walnut trees shaken, and coolies and jampannis, employed all the season on the hill stations, now flock with their earnings to their mountain homes.

Most of Mrs. Noote’s customers had departed to the plains, and she had comparative leisure from her labours in the dairy and poultry-yard. One afternoon she appeared in the verandah unexpectedly attired for visiting,—and uncommonly smart she looked! Both bird and beast had been compelled to contribute to her toilette; her fur shoulder cape was made of the skin of wild cats, and a couple of green parrots’ wings were stuck jauntily in her bonnet.

She wore a neat black dress, red silk gloves, and carried a somewhat bloated umbrella.

“Ain’t she a gay old girl! Ain’t she a wonderful woman!” exclaimed Captain Noote, admiringly; “and she will show ’em all how to dress! Where are you bound for, Lizzie? where are you going to now?”

“I’m going over to Casson’s. You look sharp”—to Juliet,—“and get ready. It’s nigh on five miles, but you are a good walker, and we will take the pony and ride in turn. Mind you put on your best hat and gloves, for I want you to look very stylish, and surprise them.”

Juliet needed no second bidding. The prospect of seeing new faces was delightful, and in a short time she came out of her room, equipped according to order.

“You will do finely,” said her hostess. “I must say you are a genteel-looking girl, when all is said and done; if you only had a bit of colour in your face, you would not be bad looking!” and with this encouraging remark they set forth.

It was, indeed, a long distance; the road was steep, the path narrow and stony, in some places strewn with loose boulders. Mrs. Noote talked incessantly the whole way, and rode the most part of it, whilst her lodger climbed beside her like a real young mountaineer, and could breast a hill almost as stoutly as the Greame himself. She was delighted at the prospect of enlarging her borders, and seeing something different from their own valley, every ridge and tree and hut of which she knew by heart. Meanwhile her selfish companion enlarged, with her usual loquacity, on the subject of the lady they were about to visit.

“She is just a bit too fine, in my opinion, for a planter’s wife,” she remarked, as she banged the pony with her umbrella. “She never soils her hands, and she would not stand by and see a pig or a calf killed for all you could offer her. But I’m told she has a heap of money. Her people were greatly against the match, and her coming and burying herself out here; but it’s not much she buries herself!” and Mrs. Noote snorted. “She goes off for weeks and weeks, and spends the winter on the plains. I believe she is mad for balls and dancing. Not like me, that cares no more for such things than a crow does for Sunday.”

“Then I suppose Mrs. Casson is quite young?”

“She would like to make out she is; but she’s nearer my age than yours; and one day I said to her, ‘people of our time of life.’ She was rarely vexed, I could see, and she has never been quite friendly or free with me ever since. But she is not a woman who sees her duty at home, and lays herself out to it like people I could mention;” and Mrs. Noote nodded her head three times with air of heartfelt superiority.

“There’s the house now,” she added, as they reached the brow of a hill, pointing to a bungalow about half a mile below them. “You see, they have a flower garden, and tennis ground, and greenhouse, and all sorts of nonsense. I hope she is in, for I never sent word; but I will say this for her-you never take her aback. She is always dressy and tidy. I mind one time she caught me picking feathers. Here, you get up, and ride now!”

It was scarcely worth while to mount; but Juliet was too polite to say so. The last half-mile was all a descent, and Mrs. Noote was nervous riding downhill; and she wished Mrs. Casson to see her visitor on horseback, and to imagine that she (Mrs. Noote) had made the journey on foot. So her young companion was not permitted to say nay.

Snow View, the name of the Cassons’ estate, was a pretty house, surrounded by tea-gardens, with a long verandah facing west. A smart servant ushered them into the drawing-room, and another led away the pony. Juliet’s eyes roved round the room, eagerly taking in every object. It was not expensively furnished; the curtains were of Madras muslin; the floor was covered with cane-matting and a few khurd rugs; the chairs and sofas were of wicker and bamboo, tastefully upholstered; there was a piano; the walls were hung with water-colours; there were flowers; great grasses from the Terai jungles, in stands; and plenty of books, papers, and magazines.

Juliet had not half feasted her eyes when Mrs. Casson entered—a tall, slight, ladylike looking woman, with pale blue eyes and fluffy fair hair. She welcomed Mrs. Noote civilly, but not effusively, and then turned to her other visitor. Could they really have come together-vulgar, grasping, garrulous Mrs. Noote, and this beautiful, graceful girl?

“Mrs. Casson, this is my niece, Juliet Carr, who is staying with me,” said Mrs. Noote, with transparent pride.

Juliet became scarlet with amazement and indignation.

“Oh, indeed,” said Mrs. Casson, shaking hands, and endeavouring to keep her astonishment out of her countenance. “I had no idea you had a niece; I have not seen you for some months. Have you been long at Kala Dara, Miss Carr?”

“About six weeks.”

“Really! And how do you like this part of the world?”

“Oh,” colouring, as she caught Mrs. Noote’s keen little eyes fastened upon her, “I like it pretty well, thank you.”

“And anyhow it’s a pleasant change from school, where she has spent all her life,” added Mrs. Noote, sharply.

“I suppose so,” rejoined Mrs. Casson, rather doubtfully.

“And how is Captain Noote?” she continued, anxious to change the too personal topic, and still deeply mystified.

“Thanks, just as usual-very busy. And how is your good gentleman?”

“Quite well, thank you; he is out shooting shikar to-day.”

“And it’s well to be him that can afford to amuse himself,” rejoined Mrs. Noote, with a sniff. Mrs. Noote’s manner was a curious mixture of servility and aggressiveness.

Meanwhile Juliet’s eyes wandered from familiar magazines to old china; from old china to pretty photographs; finally, to the open piano, on which stood her own last new song.

Mrs. Casson interpreted her wistful look, and said “I am sure you play or sing, Miss Carr.”

“Yes; I am very fond of music.”

“So am I; but I have so little time for practising. I got some new songs last mail,” rising as she spoke. “Would you care to look over them?”

Juliet also rose with alacrity. It was delightful to talk once more to an educated lady, with conciliating manners, and her fingers were actually quivering to touch the keys of the piano.

“Can you play at sight?” inquired her hostess. “Do you know this one?” placing it before her.

“Oh yes.”

“Then perhaps you would show me how it goes; it is peculiar time. I have never heard it sung; and I cannot quite manage it.”

Juliet hastily removed her gloves, and sat down before the instrument. She required no pressing, and no second bidding. She was not the least shy or nervous. She forgot all about Mrs. Noote (who was leaning her hands on the tip of her umbrella, and looking daggers at her and the attention she was receiving); she thought of nothing but the music before her as she struck a few chords with a practised hand.

“I am certain that you can sing it,” said Mrs. Casson, whose opinion of the young lady was rising every moment.

And Juliet, longing to hear her own voice, admitted that she did sing; she did not even add the usual formula, “a little,” and began “The Sands o’ Dee.”

As her voice rose and swelled through the room, Mrs. Casson held her breath; and even Mrs. Noote ceased to scratch the matting with her umbrella, and felt that she was listening to something out of the common. As the song ended in a sort of sobbing wail, there was a moment’s pause, and she exclaimed—

“Why, Juliet, you have quite a nice voice! Just like your mother. I truly never did!”

Mrs. Casson said nothing, but there were tears in her eyes, and the songstress was amply satisfied. At this juncture tea was brought in—a dainty service, an old silver tea-pot, hot cakes, and actually baker’s bread. As Mrs. Casson presided over the cups and saucers, she and Juliet continued to talk of books and magazine articles, of songs, and their different settings of major and minor keys, and flats and sharps. It was all pure Greek to Mrs. Noote, who was pretending to read the home news, but who was secretly furious that Juliet should absorb so much attention, and that Mrs. Casson should treat the girl as she had never treated her, viz., as her equal.

Mrs. Casson speedily recognized a kindred spirit in Miss Carr; her freshness, vivacity, beauty, and accomplishments fairly took her by storm. Who would expect to find such a rara avis in this part of the world, and least of all in the squalid nest of old Mrs. Noote? As for Juliet, this encounter with this fascinating, cultivated woman, this return to books, to music, to interesting topics after two months of the undiluted society of her hosts, was as water in the desert to a thirsty soul. The dainty tea, the refined surroundings, the low voice of her hostess, were intensely appreciated.

Mrs. Casson noticed the heavy frown on Mrs. Noote’s brow, and hastened to include her in the conversation; but what could Mrs. Noote talk of that was amusing or interesting? The price of butter, the rascality of her cook, the perfidity of her market coolie, and the weight of pigs? She was rather short in her manner, and her voice was unusually rasping, as having devoured a quantity of buttered scones, and drunk three cups of tea, carefully brushed the crumbs off her bonnet-strings, she rose to depart, although pressed to remain, assured that there was a moon, and for the first time in her life she was invited to dinner!

“No, no; I must be going,” she declared. “Noote will be uneasy.”

At this moment Mr. Casson appeared in a shikar kit, gun on shoulder, with a well-filled game bag. He was introduced to Miss Carr, and talked to Mrs. Noote, whilst his wife had a few last words with Juliet, lent her several books, picked her a bunch of chrysanthemums and mignonette, and said—

“I hope you will often come over to see me; and I shall go and pay you a regular formal visit. You may expect me very shortly.”

“Oh, indeed, Mrs. Casson,” broke in Mrs. Noote, who had been listening to this, “it’s uncommon kind of you, I’m sure, but young girls don’t expect to be called on. I never did. As to Juliet coming over here often, I could not allow her to walk so far alone, and I can’t spare a servant!”

“But indeed, Mrs. Noote, I walk nearly as far every day, and quite alone,” protested Juliet, eagerly.

“Only in our own neighbourhood; and that’s another affair. Come, get on the pony; Captain Noote will be sending to search for us.”

“Oh, do you ride, please; I can walk.”

“Not at all,” very sharply, secretly fearing that if she rode Mrs. Casson might accompany her new acquaintance part of the way on foot. She had never bargained for this sudden friendship, or for Mrs. Casson taking a fancy to the girl. She had merely brought her over to show her off, and now most sincerely repented of her vanity. She toiled up the hill in an extremely bad humour.

Juliet, too, was rather ruffled. How dared Mrs. Noote introduce her as her niece? And the storm at which she had hinted in her letter to Miss Dix seemed already on the horizon.

The contrast between Juliet and herself had never struck Mrs. Noote so forcibly as this afternoon. In Mrs. Casson’s drawing-room there was this girl chattering away about books and stuff, and looking quite at home, and Mrs. Casson treating her as if she was some grand visitor, and making much of her, and scarcely speaking to herself. It would not answer for Mrs. Casson to take up Juliet. She might be introducing her all over the country, and to young men; and that would never do. Where would William John be then? The sooner the girl learnt her place the better.

“I must say they turned you out well at that school, Juliet,” she began. “What with your playing and singing, and book talk, and no ‘chee-chee’ accent, no powder on your face, no lovers-eh?”

A haughty stare was her only reply.

“I declare when I see the grand air and walk of you, I can hardly keep from laughing.”

“I cannot help my walk. I had no idea that it was grand or even funny,” said Juliet.

“Grand! I should think so--just as if the whole country belonged to you. And to see you to-day sitting up there, talking to a lady as if you was a lady, and when I thought of your old granny, Peggy Smithson, lawks! I felt as if I should split my sides.”

“Why did you tell Mrs. Casson I was your niece?”

“Because it’s easier to say than Miss Carr, whose grandfather was a relation of Noote’s. ‘Niece’ comes quite pat, and you should be very much flattered at my making you out to be a near relation.”

“I would rather you made me out what I really am, Mrs. Noote; please don’t call me what I am not.”

“Hoity toity! And don’t I call you what you are not every hour of the day? Sure your name is no more Carr than you are my own niece.”

“I have always been called Carr. My father wished it.”

“And now you’ll always be called my niece, because I wish it.”

Juliet walked on in silence; she could not argue with this detestable woman, she was too angry to speak.

“In some ways you are like your mother,” continued Mrs. Noote, “though she was prettier than you. I never knew her; for we were both beauties, and both had our own friends. She was a petted little thing, and fond of playing at being the lady, just like yourself, and mighty proud when young Carwithen married her. Lawks! what a rumpus there was, and what talk! I truly never did hear anything like the things as was said. Well, well, her grand match did her no good; he neglected her shameful; she never had a rupee. It was as well she died, for later on he got into disgrace, and had to fly the country.”

“Disgrace! What disgrace?” asked Juliet, sharply.

“Something over a horse-race. Oh, it’s well known. He has got married at home, and where there’s no stories about him, and left you out here all these years, and much good it’s done you, being a gentleman’s daughter. Your mother married above her station. Don’t you go and make that mistake; it brings trouble anyway. Your father wishes you to marry among your own people.”

“Who are my own people?” inquired her companion, abruptly.

“I cannot rightly say now; they are all dead. Old Smithson used to brag of his family; but that was all my eye. He was a gin-drinking, beer-swilling old rascal; and you see, between him on one side, and your father on the other, you’ve no call to be proud.”

She looked at the girl walking beside her, with her clear-cut features and delicate, half-scornful grace, her slender figure, her swift elastic tread, and secretly wondered how she came to be so different to any one she had ever seen-so different to Lottie Smithson, who could not walk a yard, who was always complaining of heat, or cold, or exertion, and whose tears were ever near her eyes and her feelings on the surface. Juliet Carr was uncommon in every way; she never complained, she never wept, she kept her thoughts to herself-too much to herself and even now, after having been distinctly shown her place in society, and been-Mrs. Noote flattered herself-taken down a peg, she was walking along with her head as high as ever! The only change in her usual appearance was a crimson spot on either cheek. Such an aristocratic-looking niece was a profitable social appendage; people might ask her out now, but not one stop should Juliet stir without her newly elected aunt.

“The idea,” she broke out, “of the Cassons asking you over to spend the day! And without me! as if I was not good enough company. Such impudence! I just said to Mrs. Casson, as I came off now, that you never stirred a yard without me; and as to her coming over to us, as she offered, to have a chat with you, I said we had very little time for visitors. She won’t invite herself over again in a hurry.”

This was Juliet’s last expedition into society for some time.

Winter came. The snow lay two feet on the ground; long rambles were impracticable, and Juliet was, like Mariana in the moated grange, “aweary, aweary,” of hours of enforced idleness, of hours of backgammon in an atmosphere reeking with tobacco, weary of Captain Noote’s questions, and Mrs. Noote’s nagging tongue. She spent most of her pocket-money on books and papers and postage stamps; she wrote long letters to her schoolfellows and Mrs. Radford; but many of the eagerly expected replies Mrs. Noote poked into the middle of the kitchen fire.

It gave her secret thrill of pleasure to see the girl’s face of blank disappointment when she merely handed her two or three papers and a post-card; it was her revenge for some of Juliet’s sharp speeches, and nonchalant disdainful ways.

Mrs. Noote complained to Mrs. Rozario that her niece had a wonderful taste for low company, a statement that the latter absolutely declined to believe.

“She is not that sort,” she protested indignantly.

“Maybe not, but she is always down in the village, poking about among the people there. She gives them quinine, and dresses rag dolls, and makes jackets for the children, and they stuff her with stories about fairies and devils and teach her music. Why, she and Gindia, the gwala’s wife, are as thick as thieves.”

“Teach her music! Oh well, I cannot get over that!” gasped Eulalie, in a tone of horror.

“No. And you should hear her playing on the sitar, and singing hill songs; and when she passes through the village I declare they salaam to her, as if she was a goddess, and never takes no notice what ever of me—no more nor if I was so much dirt.”

Mrs. Noote’s arraignment was partly correct. Juliet spoke the Pahari tongue fluently; she was in a way a hill girl herself, and when she went down to the village, on an errand to the Bunnia’s shop, or on her own account, every one was glad to see her. First of all, she had made friends with the sturdy brown children, and then with their parents—who were children too-most of them high-caste Brahmins, whose simple dignity and single-mindedness and courtesy afforded a strong contrast to the inmates of Kala Dara. They all adored the Miss Sahib, whom they named among themselves “Sunduria,” that is to say, “the beautiful,” and gladly welcomed her under their flat stone roofs, and offered her dahlias and marigolds. She knew their family histories and ancient feuds, and all about their lawsuits, leases of land, and the condition of their cattle and crops. It was true that Gindia taught her how to play the sitar-an instrument made out of a gourd with strings like a guitar-and Gindia’s old grandmother, Neoli, poured into her ears many legends and tragedies, and tales of self-immolation and desperate pilgrimages to almost inaccessible mountain shrines. She gave her a smooth dark green stone, pierced, to wear as an amulet against the evil eye, and cautioned her to beware of the big blind bull who haunted the Taka valley, or of the Dekkanee woman, who cast spells near the old water mill, and above all of the mad fakir.

Juliet, on her side, had many strange things to impart to wondering listeners. She told them that the world was round; she told them of the great countries beyond the Kala Pani-i.e. black water, or sea; she told them about ships and steamers, and many things entirely new to them, for these simple people had not had a college education, like the rising generation in the neighbourhood of Durano. All they knew of the great world was when their brothers, who were jampannis, who had been carrying gay mem sahibs all season, came home in winter, and counted out their piles of rupees in the midst of a transported circle, many of whom never handled a silver coin from one year to another. These adventurous relatives brought in a breezy whiff of outer atmosphere, and related wonderful tales of pony-racing, and boating, and dancing, and relapsed in a few hours, from a smart jampanni in blue-and-white livery, carrying notes or picking up tennis-balls, into a common hill coolie in a dirty skull cap and the universal brown blanket. These hill people were a contented race; their interests were centred in a flock of goats, a good harvest of murga, and a few stony acres. They minded their cattle and their crops; the rest was the will of God.

At last spring came-welcome spring. The pine needles began to carpet the ground, the rhododendrons became masses of crimson, white, and even pink flowers. Shepherds might be met carrying tiny kids and lambs round their neck (after the manner of Scriptural pictures), and Juliet commenced her long rambles once more. She feared no one-nothing, not even the Bhoots, against which she was expressly cautioned, as, armed with a staff, and accompanied by Pouchee, her dog, she explored far beyond their own valley; meeting strings of soft-footed camels, or troops of flat-faced Tartars, coming in from Thibet, and spinning industriously as they walked in the rear of flocks of little long-haired goats, laden with borax and salt. She met droves of Bhoetia ponies, tied head and tail, and many pilgrims bound to the thrice holy shrines of Gangotri and Badrinath; but she never once encountered a European.

Chapter XV

The Mountain Spirit

“When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.”

  • Evangeline, Part I.

Picture a Himalayan village at seven o’clock one bright dewy morning in early autumn, the long crooked street paved with irregular slabs, and bordered with low walls of rude blocks of stone. At either side flat-roofed houses, with elaborately carved wooden fronts, slant away among gardens of pumpkins, pepper, tall sunflowers, and tangles of single dahlias. To the rear are rows of primitive cowsheds. Houses, gardens, and cowsheds are alike half swallowed up and lost to view among the high-standing yellow crops. In narrow doorways old men are sitting drowsily, smoking the ever-soothing hookah, whilst their sons and daughters are out gathering in the harvest; children of tender years are leading whole brigades of sheep and cattle to their daily meagre pasture; and two or three yelping long-legged pariahs appear to be loft in sole charge of the juvenile population-babies, kids, calves, and pony foals.

It is an ordinary Kumaoni hamlet, lying far remote from big towns and cantonments, where the milking, reaping, weaving, and grinding, goes on with unbroken monotony year after year-nay, century after century; where a woman’s brightest dream is to be possessor of the heaviest silver necklet; a man’s ambition is bounded by a pair of plough-bullocks; and the only intelligence that ever penetrates from the outer world is that received from neighbouring villages, where news is shouted from hillside to hillside, and thus flies through the country, literally by word of mouth.

Through such a village Gerald Romilly was walking one early morning, with a gun upon his shoulder and a tune upon his lips. He had left his parents still studying advertisements, and roaming England in search of a home, and had arrived in India a year previously; he had spent the cold weather at a camp of exercise, and subsequently been sent on survey duty to the frontier of Thibet, and had but recently returned to his accustomed haunts and accustomed duties. Now and then he obtained a few days’ leave, and went off into the wilds fishing and shooting far beyond the range of dâk bungalows, merely camping in an eighty pound tent, and subsisting on the spoil of his rod or gun.

What happy hours were those, when he landed a fifty-pound mahseer from its home in a snow-fed river, or brought down a makor after half a day’s hard stalking! He was out on one of these expeditions now, and on his way to a well-known beat, as he tramped through this little hamlet, whistling from pure light-heartedness and the exhilarating effects of this exquisite autumn morning.

In turning a sharp angle he was suddenly aware of a woman’s approach, not a swarthy, flat-faced Kumaoni, with short, blue skirt, tangled hair, and reaping-hook, but–Lady Juliet Carwithen, straight from her frame. He had almost forgotten the picture and his whimsical adoration, and here she came to remind him of her existence. Yes, he instantly recognized the big hat, the white gown, the masses of red-brown hair, and the piquant face.

She carried a stick in her hand, and wore long wrinkled gloves, and the only difference from the painting lay in the fact that the stick was an alpenstock, and that she was accompanied by a large foolish-looking yellow dog.

The apparition met his bold gaze of amazement with a counter glance of haughty displeasure; a slight pink tinge seemed to come into her cheek as she passed by, straight as an arrow, and light as the dew.

This was a strange time and place to see a good old English ghost—a Kumaoni village at seven o’clock in the morning! The appearance seemed to be full of vitality, and walked with a springy, not to say jaunty air, precisely the sort of gait he would have expected in Lady Juliet. He was too much astounded to shout or run after her; he merely leant against the wall bordering the road, gazing and gazing, until the slight figure and broad hat turned round a curve leading through fields of yellow corn—and so vanished. When she had disappeared he roused himself, and, hurrying to the nearest house, asked a sleepy patriarch, smoking in his doorway,

“Who was the Miss Sahib who had passed by?”

The dreamy old person slowly removed his hookah, and shook his shorn head. He had not seen her.

To a child playing a jew’s-harp, to a woman grinding corn, he put the same question, and received the same reply; and, indeed, she had passed so lightly, and drifted away so swiftly, that he could not wonder.

So he had seen a ghost-a young and lovely one, too-one he should like to see again. He did not divulge his adventure to a soul, but he dwelt upon the vision in the watches of the night. His friends remarked that he had not made half as good a bag as usual. Why? Was game scarce? How could he confess that he had not been looking for it, that he had been walking miles over the mountains in quest of another sort of quarry—the ghost of a pretty girl?

Captain Mackintosh, the brother officer who shared Mr. Romilly’s bungalow, was surprised when he asked him, with assumed carelessness, if any English people lived near Kala Mutt.

“None that I ever heard of,” replied his comrade, “except an old retired soldier who sells bacon and butter, and even he is miles from it.”

“Has he any daughters?” inquired the other, carelessly.

“No—but stop, let me see. I think I heard the other day that he had a pretty niece. Why do you ask?”

““Mere idle curiosity,” colouring to a deeper shade of tan.

“And you are off to beat the same neighbourhood on Thursday?” exclaimed Captain Mackintosh, suspiciously.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Although you had such wretched sport last time; and you say that makor and even gurool have left the country?”

“Yes,” he assented doggedly.

“Gerald, come now, own up; you have some other game on?”

“What sort of game?” inquired Romilly, briefly.

“I am aware that you are not a lady’s man; but still, for all I know, you may have met your fate in the shape of some fair mountain spirit.”

“If you think so, I invite you to come out and see the fair mountain spirit. You are not thinking of potheen, are you?”

“No; and you know very well that I loathe Irish whisky.”

“Well, if you like to come this time, and don’t mind roughing it, and engage to walk from twenty miles a day good, I’ll indulge you with a bottle of the best Scotch.”

But this invitation was emphatically declined. Gerald Romilly’s game was possibly a myth, and certainly not worth the candle—the candle being represented by Spartan fare, viz. black bread and spring water, rising before daybreak, and following the steps of an active and intrepid sportsman. Roughing was all very well, but Romilly cheerfully endured downright hardship—there was no fun in that; and Captain Mackintosh suffered him to depart in peace—and alone.

He haunted the neighbourhood of Kala Mutt, he wandered round in a circuit of five miles, and saw nothing save crows, goats, and buffaloes. At last he arrived at the conclusion that it must have been a trick of his imagination. Whatever it was, it was a curious experience, and an experience he was resolved to keep to himself. He had no desire to set the mess-table in a roar at his expense. How they would laugh if he told them that he had met the original of an old portrait, walking down the street of an obscure Kumaoni village!

He still continued to go out shooting in quest of ordinary sport; sometimes in company, but generally alone. One afternoon, after a hard day’s, work, he missed his shikari, lost his way, and found himself close to a large, double-storied bungalow, and in a part of the hills to which he had never yet penetrated. He was in luck, for a terrible storm was brewing, the last word of the monsoon, and immense banks of ink-black clouds were drifting together, whilst sheet lightning flickered round the mountains, and

“The wind, that grand old harper,
Swept his thunder-harp of pines.”

If the worst came to the worst, thought the sportsman, perhaps these people would put him up for the night? for the night? He approached the house by the back way, through wild tea-gardens, choked with white -headed grasses, and discovered tumble-down stables, empty servants’ quarters, and a moss-grown yard-nothing to be seen on all sides but desolation and decay. The doors were closed; so he made his way round to the front entrance. The door stood wide, and opened on a large hall and staircase; but the premises appeared to be tenantless. He sat down upon the steps and lit (man’s comforter) a pipe, and began to speculate as to his whereabouts, and how he was to get home. Presently the rattle of the thunder grew louder and louder, and after a few solitary drops, the rain came roaring down upon the zinc-roofed verandah, as if the flood-gates of heaven had let loose a second deluge. Romilly warmly congratulated himself that he was under shelter, and just in the nick of time, as he listened to the deafening downpour above his head, and the sullen thunder reverberating among the mountains.

But stay! surely there was another sound, caused neither by rain nor electricity-a sound inside the house. It was a woman singing. He jumped to his feet, walked across the hall; seized the handle of a door to the left; it opened into a large, low apartment, furnished as a drawing-room. Some one was sitting at the piano, who turned her head and abruptly ceased her song as he entered—a girl, whose loveliness struck to his heart, who glowed, in the shadow of that dingy old room, like some brilliant flower or gem of colour. He was face to face with Lady Juliet.

Chapter XVI

Face To Face

“It is my lady: oh, it is my love!” — Romeo and Juliet.

“Lady Juliet,” he exclaimed involuntarily, as he advanced into the middle of the room, and took off his cap.

Juliet raised her eyes, and surveyed him as he approached and stood by the grand piano. Yes; here was the same young man, with the bold grey eyes, who had stared at her so strangely when she passed him in Basita village some weeks before. She recognized him as one of a type she had seen at Chotah Bilat, loitering on the church steps, or galloping along the mall. He was an officer, and possibly from Durano.

What had brought him to this part of the world?

“I did not expect to see you here,” was his astounding remark.

“I don’t understand you,” rejoined the young lady, in a clear but freezing tone-a tone that, as he mentally remarked, would have frozen a salamander—a beautiful colour invaded her cheeks, and went and came with every breath, and there was a look of proud inquiry in her eyes. This, then, was no spirit from the other world, but a real live human being, who must be treated accordingly.

“I hope you will excuse my unceremonious entrance,” said the stranger. “I took shelter from the rain, and had no idea the place was occupied. Will you give me house room till the storm is over?”

“It is not my house,” rejoined the lady, closing the piano as she spoke; “you have as much right to be here as I have.”

“Then you do not live here?”

“No; no one lives here, or has lived here for years. I come sometimes to practise on this old piano.”

“I am very sorry I have interrupted you,” he said. “I wish you would go on singing—will you?”

“No, thank you, I had quite finished,” rising and walking away from the instrument, and seating herself in a high-backed chair, looking—had she but known it—more like Lady Juliet than ever.

“I must introduce myself. My name is Romilly.”

Lady Juliet bowed-a north-pole bow.

“I am quartered in Durano. You know Durano, of course?”

“Very slightly.”

Gerald Romilly, for once in his life, was actually shy and embarrassed—his glib tongue faltered—his merry glance was sobered; in the company of this shabbily clad girl, sitting among dingy surroundings, he was less assured of himself, and more abashed, than he had ever been in the presence of royalty.

He ventured to draw up an old armchair at a respectful distance from the round table, seated himself, and, with one swift comprehensive glance, took in the situation. A long, low apartment, with three narrow windows, looking into a deep verandah. It was a damp room-judging by the walls; paper had peeled off in strips, and been nailed up again by a prentice hand; the carpet was ancient and gaudy, the pattern red roses, the size of cabbages, connected by enormous streamers of blue ribbon; the sofas and tables were those of a bygone day, the grand piano seemed to totter on its logs, its keys were yellow with age; a few weather-stained prints hung on the walls, and some stiff wool-work screens and foot-stools testified to the industry of a former generation. Everything was old-fashioned, and out of date, and formed a fitting setting for Lady Juliet, as she sat with her hands folded in her lap, and her gaze intently fixed upon the torrents of rain that were streaming from the roof of the verandah. She was apparently as indifferent to Gerald Romilly’s presence as if he were one of the faded prints upon the wall. Who could she be? he asked himself. How came the living image of an old family portrait to be sitting in this deserted bungalow, among the Kumaon hills? Was she a ghost, after all? She turned her face from its steady contemplation of the weather, their eyes met, and she blushed. He had never heard of a blushing ghost.

“Needless to ask your name,” he remarked with a genial smile; “I know you very well by sight. I have often seen you in Dover.”

“I never was in Dover in my life,” was the somewhat haughty answer.

“No! but surely your name is Carwithen—Juliet Carwithen?”

She made no answer, but looked at him in astonished silence.

“Is it not?” he persisted. She made a faint affirmative movement of her head. “How did you know?” She presently asked in a low voice.

“I will tell you. When I was at home last year on leave, I knew a Mr. and Mrs. Carwithen in Dover, and in their drawing-room hangs a half-length picture of you.”

“Of me? Impossible! I have never even been photographed.”

“At any rate, it is a portrait of Lady Juliet Carwithen, and might have been painted for you. I believe it is more than a hundred years old.”

“And,” struggling to speak gravely, “do you think that I am more than a hundred years old?”

“No; but for the life of me, I can’t understand. You are her image; you might have walked out of the frame. You wear the very same sort of hat and dress.”

“You seem to have taken an interest in the picture.”

“Yes; I used to be fearfully chaffed about it-—” He stopped abruptly.

“Why?” she demanded, transfixing him with a pair of beautiful eyes.

“Oh-well—I–I can’t exactly tell you.” No; it was not possible to confess to this somewhat austere young lady, that it was because his insane admiration of the picture was a jest and a byword, and that actually a photograph of it had been pressed upon him by Mrs. Carwithen as a parting gift.

“Do you take me for a ghost?” continued the living copy of the picture. “Perhaps you don’t know that this is a haunted house, and that no one will stay here after dark but myself.”

Yes; she had the same mischievous look in her eyes as the portrait; and he was drifting into love, faster than ever autumn leaf drifted on a flush October river.

“I must confess that I thought you were a ghost, when I met you in the village some weeks ago. It seemed strange to come across you in these wild regions. You do not live here, you say?” repeating this question for a second time.

“No; this old house has not been inhabited for years; it belonged, or belongs, to a General Trafford, and must have been a delightful spot once. You can see the remains of the orchards and gardens and terraces. There is quite a wilderness of lovely flowers; the roses and heliotrope grown into enormous bushes; and the tuberoses and jonquils are a sight. The old chokidar allows me to pick them, and to ramble about the house, and to play the piano, and to dust this room.”

“Why is it deserted? It is in a grand situation, and I noticed quantities of tea,and a tea-house, and coolie lines, as I came over the hills.”

“There was cholera in the neighbourhood, and three of the Traffords died in one day; they are buried under a deodar in the garden; and then General Trafford shut up the house, and left the place almost as it stood, and has never been near it since. At first, his agents used to let it for the summer; but it is too out of the way, and in too bad repair. The roof is in a dreadful state, and some of the floors upstairs are not safe, and it has a bad name among the natives; they call it the Devil’s Bungalow.’”

“And you come here by yourself?”

“Oh yes; I am not the least superstitious. I come over about three times a week.”

“Do you come from a distance?” he asked craftily.

“About three miles. I live with people of the name of Noote.”

“Noote!” he gave an involuntary start. Yes; he remembered the name, and Mr. Carwithen’s sly inquiries.

“Do you know Mr. Carwithen, who lives in Dover?” be continued.

“No,” dropped from her pretty lips like an icicle.

“Have you never seen him?” he persisted.

“No”-a pause. “When did you see him last?”

“Let me think. I believe he came to see me off when I started for India.”

“Then I conclude that he is a great friend of yours,” and she turned and looked at him keenly.

“Seeing people off is not always a proof of attachment,” he answered with a smile. “As you do not know him, there is no harm in my telling you that there is not much love lost between me and Mr. Carwithen.”

“Why does he not like you?”

“I believe he thinks that I am wanting in proper respect for Adolphus Carwithen, Esquire; and I dislike him because he is such a worldly old sinner, always turning over his bread to see on which side is the butter, and running after big-wigs——”

“Stop, Mr. Romilly!” interrupted the young lady, raising a small, imperious-looking hand. “Before you say anything more, I ought to tell you that Mr. Carwithen is my father.”

“Your father!” stammered Romilly. “I thought he might be some distant connection, or even your guardian; but—your father! Well, what is said is said. After all, Miss Carwithen, you are not in earnest, are you? You told me just now you had never seen him; and the man I know has no family——” He paused, conscious of almost intolerable embarrassment.

“No,” with a rather tremulous smile about her lips. “I suppose he has never mentioned me?”

“Never.” A momentary silence ensued, during which Gerald was endeavouring to collect his scattered wits. Carwithen the father of a grown-up daughter! the father of this beautiful, aristocratic-looking girl!

“I suppose, from what you say, I must resemble some ancestress—my grandmother, or great-grandmother?” presently remarked his companion.

“There is no suppose in the matter-it is a fact.”

“It is strange that you should recognize me from it. And you are the first person who has ever called me by my real name.”

“Why, are you not always called by it?” he asked in surprise.

“I believe my father did not wish it; he thought half was sufficient,” with a little smile; “and I am known out here as Juliet Carr.”

“Your real name is far prettier, and I shall always call you by it.”

Juliet made no direct reply; she was not likely to see this young man again, so what did it matter.

“How dark it is in here from the rain!” she said, rising. “And this room has a damp, mushroomy smell. I think I shall go into the verandah and see if there are any signs of its clearing.

Romilly hastened to follow her, carrying a chair, which he placed well away from the wet, drifting rain.

“What an evening!” she exclaimed, as she looked out on the leaden grey sky, the banks of lowering clouds, the garden a sea, the steps a cascade, and all the battered zinc spouts from the roof discharging torrents of tawny water. “How shall I get home?”

“Oh, I expect it will clear,” he rejoined cheerfully. “It’s much too bad to last; but the worst of the storm has not come yet. See those masses of clouds drifting slowly towards one another; when they meet, there will be a grand crash; and look at the lightning playing round the mountains—are you afraid?”

“No, I am accustomed to it; I have lived in these hills all my life. Will you not get a chair for yourself?”

“Thank you, I would rather stand.”

He was leaning against a pillar, looking down on his new acquaintance, and in the fuller light of the verandah he was realizing how lovely she was. As he gazed, he marvelled at the tenacity of type in some races. Here was Lady Juliet revived in the person of her descendant. Had the original Lady Juliet such a wealth of hair? such gold splashes among the bronze? Had she as clear a complexion, as finely pencilled eyebrows as her great-great-granddaughter? Pooh! not she! She was a fashionable eighteenth-century beauty, made up with white lead and red paint, and probably half her hair was false! thus cruelly wronging his former divinity. There was, at any rate, no deception about her exquisite prototype, who sat gazing dreamily at the rain, wrapt in her own thoughts, and apparently oblivious of his presence. She was about nineteen years of age, and had lived in these hills all her life. How? Why? Where? How came she by her English accent, her manners, her air of calm, unruffled repose? Possibly the latter was inherited from the ancestress who had endowed her with her face and figure.

In spite of Juliet’s appearance of tranquillity, her mind was in an uproar. Here was a man who had recently seen her father, who could tell her much about him and about his mode of life. How was she to question him? He had confessed to their mutual dislike; but this was an unparalleled opportunity. Time was precious; such an occasion was not likely to fall to her lot twice.

Thus it will be seen that each was anxious to cross-examine the other; and the lady, as sometimes is the case, had the first as well as the last word!

“I know you do not like my father,” she began abruptly.

“I would never have told you that, had I known who he was.”

“No, of course not; but I have never seen him, or met any one who knew him, and I should like to hear something about him. How does he look? is he well?”

“He was very fit indeed, and looks surprisingly young to have a grown-up daughter.”

“Yes, I suppose he does. I believe he is a very busy man, is he not?”

“Well, I should not call him busy, though he has always something on hand. He does a little yachting, a little shooting , a good deal of visiting at country houses. He has heaps of friends, of people who like him, so don’t mind what I say; I take queer likes and dislikes.”

“Yes; tell me some more, please.”

“Mr. Carwithen is a wonderful letter-writer, as no doubt you can testify.”

Juliet winced, and her colour deepened perceptibly.

“Hullo!” thought her companion, “of course I’ve said the wrong thing now, and put my foot in it somewhere.”

“I suppose you know Mrs. Carwithen?” she asked with an effort.

“Oh yes, much the best of the two; we get on like a house on fire. She makes her house very pleasant, and is fond of society. She has ripping diamonds, and goes to the court balls. Surely she is not your mother, is she?”

“No; my mother——” and she hesitated. She was about to add, “never had ripping diamonds, or went to court balls. She was a sergeant’s daughter,” but resisted the insane impulse. Why should she open her heart to this gay stranger, with his merry grey eyes? and she merely added, “My mother died when I was two months old.”

“And you have been in the hills ever since?”

“Yes, at school, until last year, and now I live with Captain and Mrs. Noote.”

“What! the butter and bacon people?” with raised eyebrows.

“The butter and bacon people,” she echoed demurely.

“And have you never been down to Durano?”

“Yes, once or twice, to church; I hated it.”

“Hated church, Miss Carwithen? I am astonished at you.”

“No, no; it is a dear little church. I wish I could go every week; but I detested staying at the Rozarios—and sleeping there.”

“Rozarios?” in a puzzled tone. “I don’t seem to know the name; except the apothecary.”

“Yes; we stayed at the apothecary’s.”

“Good Heavens!” surveying her in great astonishment.

“And, to tell the truth, I did not like it.”

“I should rather think not. Do you know no ladies in the neighbourhood?”

“Yes; once we went to see Mrs. Casson. She was charming, and she was extremely kind to me, and asked me to go and spend a long day with her; but Mrs. Noote was quite angry, and would not hear of it.”

“And her reason, if I may presume to inquire?”

“Was because Mrs. Casson did not invite her also.”

“Invite old Mother Noote to spend the day! That would be a treat.”

“It would have been a great treat for me; but Mrs. Noote will not allow me to go anywhere without her.”

“And how came you to be here?” Oh, she knows that I never see a soul in this direction, and she does not mind as long as I never meet any one.”

“And to-day is the exception that proves the rule. I am glad you like Sophy Casson, she is a cousin of mine, a sort of second cousin twice removed; but any relation is near in India. Robbie and I were at school together. He is——”

Whatever he was about to add was cut short in a violent manner, the storm which had been raging and raving round the valley, making it resound as with a crack of musketry, and shaking the walls of the old bungalow at each peal, now culminated in one frightful crash of thunder directly overhead, the house seemed to rock to its foundations. As Juliet started from her seat, there was a quivering blue glare, a blinding light cleft the black heavens in twain, as they discharged a thunderbolt which struck a tree within a few feet of the verandah, and with a loud fizzing noise buried itself in the wet earth. So sudden and so close was the bolt, so blinding the flash, so stifling the sulphur, that Juliet could neither see nor speak; she staggered blindly with her hands extended before her, and found herself received in some one’s arms. Yes; a man, a strange man, was holding her tightly. She felt the rough tweed coat against her cheek. She was conscious of a strong, reassuring grasp about her waist; the impropriety of the proceeding never even dawned upon her mind—for it was entirely filled with the fear of death. In a very short time, half a minute, Juliet had come to her senses, coughed, opened her eyes, and quickly disengaged herself, still trembling violently.

“I thought I was struck blind,” she gasped, half choked with the fumes of sulphur. “What an escape!” and she shuddered.

“Yes, thank God,” said her companion. “It was a near shave,” pointing to the ploughed-up ground and blackened smoking tree. “For once in our lives, we were within a few feet of death; but the worst is over now—the thunderbolts never fall in the same place. I suppose this is the old chowkidar? He seems pretty well frightened out of his wits.”

It was Krookia, the chokidar (or watchman) who lived on the premises, a tall old man in a dirty turban and a pea-green wadded coat, who now tottered into the verandah.

“It was to be looked for,” he shouted. “There is a blight on the bungalow; all the world knows it is the devil’s house. The sahib and the Miss Sahib had better go, ere worse befall.”

“It will clear in ten minutes, and then we will go,” said Gerald. “You can close the house as soon as you like-don’t mind us.”

“Yes; and a poor man that can never go, but must abide with these devils for six rupees a month!” cried Krookia, passionately.

“It sounds a small sum, considering the society, but grain is cheap, and you can live on it comfortably. Why, you get twenty five seers of barley for the rupee. You are as well off as any ghoorka in the lines.”

“The sahib is joking. I can hardly exist. I swear it on the cow’s tail, and this house is so lonely, so far from the bazaar. Does the sahib not want a chuprassi, or a chokidar, that he may lift his slave out of his misery?”

“Why, Krookia, you told me one day that you had large property and lands,” said Juliet.

“Hazoor! I did but jest. I have a share in my ancestral village, which is twenty koss from here; the share is but seven rupees. You ask the people of my pergunnah; my brother is rich, he owns ponies and takes road contracts, but Krookia is a poor, poor man.”

Krookia had recovered his wits, got over his fright, and his two speaking eyes fixed on the sahib, saying, “Bucksheesh, bucksheesh,” and again, “bucksheesh.”

“How come you to be twenty koss from your own village?” inquired inquired Gerald, authoritatively.

“Lord of the world! I was servant here, in the General Sahib’s time. I was khitmaghar, when many sahibs and Miss Sahibs were here.”

“Then you were here when they died?” interrupted Juliet, “those two girls who are buried in the garden.”

“Alas! I was here then. I saw the two sisters carried forth in the same hour; one of them was beautiful, as it might be you, Miss Sahib; and a sahib in a pultoon (regiment), as it might be this sahib, loved her. When I saw you and the sahib in the verandah just now, it brought the old days back.” He blinked on them benignly, and Juliet became scarlet. “But she is dead,” proceeded Krookia; “withered in one day, like a flower, and the sahib got another wife. It is ever thus with young mon: they love, and they forget; except”—suddenly pulling himself up-“this sahib here. It is written on his forehead that he would never forget.”

“I never shall forget such an arrant old humbug,” remarked Gerald; and then catching sight of Juliet’s face of cold displeasure, he hastened to change the subject, and exclaimed—

“You see, I am a true weather-prophet. Look! it is going to clear, after all.”

Chapter XVII

After the Storm

“But to be young was very heaven.”

By six o’clock it was a lovely evening. The downpour had ceased, the storm passed off, and with one of those swift changes common to the Himalayas, the clouds had dispersed, and the snows stood out with that dazzling brilliancy peculiar to breaks in the rains. A few heavy drops falling sullenly from the roof of the verandah, a few little trickling rivulets of tawny water scoring the gravel-drive, a few roses beaten to the earth, and the blackened remains of a white laburnum tree were all that testified to Nature’s recent outbreak. No one would believe, looking across looking across the valley, now so green and brilliant, that it had so lately resembled the mouth of the bottomless pit, and had been filled with clouds and lightning, and, as it were, flames and smoke.

“It is quite fine now,” said Juliet, drawing on her gloves and taking her alpenstock, “and I must go.”

“You will allow me to accompany you home?”

“Oh no. Pray don’t think of it. I am accustomed to roam all over these hills quite alone, and I shall only be taking you out of your road.”

“You cannot do that. I have no road to be taken out of! My offer is not entirely disinterested. I am lost, like one of the babes in the wood. I have not the faintest notion as to where I am. Perhaps, if I go as far as Captain Noote’s, he will give me a guide of some sort?”

“Perhaps so,” she assented rather dubiously; “and I think I must be starting; it gets dark so soon.

The chowkidar tracked them down the terrace and between the wet hedges out into the grass-grown avenue. He had the craving of his kind for bucksheesh, and was prepared to follow the sahib for miles; but the sahib happily divined his intentions, and threw him a couple of rupees, a donation that made his old visage wrinkle with glee.

“Ah,” he muttered, as he saw them pass along among the tea bushes, “I knew that some sahib log would come and find her out, for she has a voice like running water, a face like the young moon. She will go and never return. She will cross the Kala-Pani with him, and poor old Krookia will get no more rupees.”

Meanwhile the young couple descended the hill side by side. The ground was wet, but the grasses, for which the place was famous, lifted their feathery beads as if merely refreshed by the storm, and thousands of others, resembling small snowballs, looked whiter than ever after the recent rain. What had been meek little runnells stealing timidly down the hillsides, were now bold, brawling torrents of dirty water, flecked with solid blocks of creamy foam, raging tumultuously towards the valley.

The avenue soon gave place to the cart track, and the track to a narrow path along the side of a ridge, overhung with straggling brambles. Narrow as it was, Gerald contrived to walk abreast with his companion, whose pretty, slender feet got over the ground with practised ease. The sun was setting gorgeously, as if summoning the world, and saying, “Behold the finest sunset that has ever been!” Here and there he touched a range, and turned it into dazzling gold; and here and there the peaks he had abandoned looked grey and deathlike—like mountain ghosts. On the left hand, a fringe of pines—storm-worn veterans—stood out in sharp black outline against a glowing orange sky. All around was silence-the intense silence of the great lonely hills at nightfall, and there was not a sound to be heard, save the rushing of the streams and the murmur of two young voices.

“So you have been nearly a year in this part of the world, Miss Carwithen,” said her escort. “Don’t you find it desperately slow? You have not even our resources. You do not smoke or shoot!”

“No; but I sew, and I read a good deal, and write letters, and try to keep up my French and German.”

“And when your literary labours are you over, what do do?”

“I go for long walks with my dog.”

“And after your rambles? “

“I go home to tea, as I am doing now, and I read aloud to Captain Noote, and I play backgammon.”

“I suppose he is an old fogey?” he asked suspiciously.

“Oh yes; ‘as old as the hills,’ his wife says. I dare say he is seventy.”

“A gentleman?”

“What do you call a gentleman?” she rejoined, with a smile.

“Let me see,” taking off his cap, and running his fingers through his crisp locks. “Position, breeding, education, and money are supposed to make one; but my idea of a gentleman is a man who respects himself, and makes others do the same.”

“Do you know that your definition would apply to hundreds of people around us?”

“Yes. Quite true. I know many gentlemanly men earning four or five rupees a month. My own bearer has the air and manner of the old régime; and Captain Noote?”

“Has not the air and manner of the old régime, but you will soon see him, and then judge of him for yourself.”

“What a diplomatic reply. Has he no marked peculiarities?”

“He wears a fur cap always. He never ceases asking questions—idle unnecessary questions; and he eats his eggs raw—a horrible spectacle!—and he gobbles over his food.”

“Well, I myself like an egg that has been merely carried through the kitchen, and though I don’t wear a fur cap, I am afraid I am always asking questions too, am I not?”

“You have not asked me about Mrs. Noote,” she answered evasively.

“No; for I believe I have seen her with my own eyes at our sports. ‘We met, ’twas in a crowd,’ and she wore no wreath of roses, but cape of cat-skins, and rode a big grey pony, which she was whacking with her umbrella.”

“Yes, that was Mrs. Noote,” said Juliet, with a smile.

“I am ashamed of being always in the interrogative mood, Miss Carwithen; but you can retaliate, and ask me questions.”

“Yes, thank you. But I really don’t want to know anything about you! Oh, I don’t mean to be so rude. Please forgive me. I did not quite mean that; but I shall never, see you again, after to-day; and-and——”

“Pray don’t be sure of that,” he interrupted. “I fancy you and I will meet often.” It was Kismet. He had discovered Lady Juliet for himself, and was firmly determined not to lose sight of her.

“Mrs. Noote does not care for strangers,” said Juliet, gravely.

“Perhaps she may care for me. I am generally a great favourite with old ladies.”

“But she does not consider herself old. Have you any sisters?” continued the girl, wishing to make up for her late unfortunate remark.

“No, not one; not even a sister-in-law.”

“And are you not sorry?”

“No; I cannot say that I miss them. I generally get on very well with other fellows’ sisters.”

“Do you really?” was her simple exclamation. “And where have you been since you came out from home?”

“First to a camp, and then I went on a survey trip to the frontier; it was rather a long and tough business. The precipices were awful. We could only get forward like natives, in our bare feet, and at the rate of ten miles a day; the route was scarcely practicable.”

“What was the road like? Anything like this-a narrow, slippery path?”

“There was none in many parts; in others, round the face of sheer precipices, there were wooden supports introduced into the rock, and covered with slabs of stone, about two feet wide-a drop of about three thousand feet. You crawled along like a fly on the side of a house. Ah, that was a bad bit, especially where, in some places, the wood had rotted away, and a tree trunk was flung across, and you had to get over on it as best you could, with a ghastly looking drop, and a river roaring for you below!”

“You must have a good head?”

“Yes, luckily for me. I don’t often lose it.”

“But, by Jove, I’ve lost it now,” he added to himself.

“And when you got to the frontier, what did you find?”

“Oh, frontier men in pig-tails and filthy sheep-skin coats and long snow-shoes. They carried spears, and bows and arrows, and slings. They could sling stones for sixty yards. They made some grand shots at me. They were almost savages, and live on the flesh of wild horses.”

“And what did you live on?”

“Very little indeed; dâl and attar, and now and then some yâk beef. We couldn’t manage much baggage, you see.”

“Yes; I am surprised you got back alive. Where did you go to next?”

“To Tamashabad-a gay station on the plains; but it was not particularly gay when I was there. I spent most of my time attending funerals. By the way, talking of gaiety, I suppose you will not always live in these wilds, but soon emerge into what is called ‘the world?’”

“I hope to go to England next year. I have some kind friends there who are going to send for me.”

“But, Mr. Carwithen?-Pardon me, I am incorrigible; you must find me worse than Captain Noote!”

He had an intense desire to find out why this beautiful girl had been consigned to the wilds of Kumaon, and he could not keep his thoughts from finding speech.

“I suppose you rarely meet any one in your rambles?”

“Yes; I know a great number of hill people, especially about our own village. I can speak the dialect, and we are very good friends. I make their children bead-necklaces, and jackets out of scraps of my old dresses; and they tell me stories, and give me presents of berries and mushrooms.”

“Berries and mushrooms! You don’t mean to say you eat them?”

“What! wild strawberries and raspberries? Certainly I do.”

“And live to tell the tale.”

“Yes, and to hear many tales. The lives of the people are just as exciting as elsewhere, though you might not suppose it. They have ambitions, and jealousies, and feuds, and love affairs. Last autumn, too, there was a horrible tragedy.”

“What was it about? But I need not ask. Land or a woman.”

“How could you guess? It was all about a beautiful girl. She cost two men their lives. Purooli lives in the village still; but, handsome as she is, I hate to look at her.”

“Don’t you like looking at handsome people? I do,” he remarked with emphasis.

“No, no. Not when their face has been the cause of several deaths!”

“Ah, she is a sort of Hill Helen—‘many drew swords and fought. Where’er I came, I brought calamity,’ There, you were nearly down!” he exclaimed. “You had better hold on to me.”

“No, thank you,” she replied, with a rather derisive smile; but next moment she was thankful to snatch at an out-stretched grasp.

Sure-footed as she was, she found it difficult to proceed. The track was a mere goat-path at the best of times, and had become positively dangerous from slips in the recent storm.

Gulab Singh, a herdsman in quest of two strayed kids, paused as he encountered the Miss Sahib, and stared hard from beneath his wet, brown blanket as he saw her being helped down the hill by a young and active sahib—a sahib from a Pultoon in Durano, without doubt! He squatted on his heels, and looked after the pair in amazement. He would have been still more surprised if he could have understood what the sahib was saying to himself, as he held the girl’s slim’ fingers within his own.

He was saying—

“If I have any luck, I am now holding the hand of Mrs. Gerald Romilly, my future wife;” and he involuntarily tightened his grasp upon it with that conviction.

It was almost dark; they could no longer distinguish each other’s faces. The sun was gone; the stars were out; “the fire-flies danced in the purple gloom;” it was time that Juliet was at home. Once in the valley, she set off at the top of her speed, for she feared, as well she might, the wrath of Mrs. Noote.

“Where can that girl be?” Mrs. Noote had querulously demanded of her husband. “She went to Traffords Rest four hours ago?”

“Well, she can’t come to much harm there-can she?” said the captain.

“No. I don’t mind her spending her days there! It’s better than racing hot foot to Durano or the Cassons, and meeting young men, and getting her head turned. She’s bad enough the day she gets her English letters!”

“Well, I declare, I think she is wonderfully contented; she never asks for aught, not even to go to church; she has no diversion, no company of any kind, and she is here nigh a year. She’s a good girl.”

“She ain’t much trouble, that I’ll allow; and she is a water-drinker, and has done up my bonnets beautiful, and is a great help with the butter; but I always feel she is brooding over some plan in her head, that she is looking forward to some scheme.”

“No, no, nairy a bit. What scheme could she have? It’s you that has the plan. I wonder how she will take to it?” And he took his pipe off the chimney-piece, and left the room chuckling.

“Seven o’clock-not a sign of that girl!” repeated Mrs. Noote, for the third time. She was getting seriously uneasy regarding the safety of her precious sixty pounds a year. Had the girl fallen down a Khud, or been gored by a buffalo? Ah! there was the click of the gate at last, and the sound of voices. She hurried into the verandah, lamp in hand.

Chapter XVIII.

An Unwelcome Guest

“I leave my character behind me.”
School for Scandal.

“Well, I truly never did!” cried Mrs. Noote, in her sharpest key. “Call this an hour for a respectable girl to be coming home!”

“I could not come any sooner,” rejoined Juliet, boldly advancing into the light; and her hostess was startled to see that she was accompanied by a good-looking young man-evidently an officer and gentleman. This was beyond everything; where had she picked him up?

“Mrs. Noote, this is Mr. Romilly,” said the girl, introducing him as coolly as if she brought home a companion every night of her life.

“I met him at the ‘Rest.’ Perhaps you can spare a coolie to show him the road to Durano; he has lost his way.”

“Oh, of course-of course!” replied Mrs. Noote, only too delighted to be rid of him so quickly; and, raising her voice, she called, “Rutton Singh.”

“What’s up now? What makes Miss Judy so late?” inquired Captain Noote, as he shuffled out, pipe in mouth. “Oh!”—catching sight of the stranger, he snatched away his pipe and touched his cap—“your servant, sir. What can we do for you?”

“I’ve been out shooting, and have missed my way. If you can give me a guide to Durano; I shall be obliged.”

“Surely, sir, surely, it’s seven long miles, but we will manage it; but come in-come in; we are just sitting down to a bite of supper. Cold pig’s cheek and soda cakes, if you’ll condescend to our humble fare.”

Condescend to sit at table with Lady Juliet! Needless to say, he accepted the invitation with effusion.

Mrs. Noote said nothing. She was excessively put out; once Noote came across a gentleman, he was merely an old sergeant saluting and “sir-ing,” and letting himself down. However, she would give it to him to-morrow, encouraging officers about the place, when he knew her plans for William John, and him coming up in three weeks. Just for the present she dissembled her feelings, and went in search of another cup and saucer, and a pair of candles; but she subsequently dispensed hospitality with an unpleasant straight line between her brows, and her lips so tightly closed that they might have boon pasted together.

Meanwhile Juliet, who had retired to change her wet skirts and shoes, now joined the company in a soft white dress, with her hair freshly arranged. She was surprised to find Mr. Romilly (artful wretch) in brisk conversation with his hostess; his cheeriness had proved irresistible; he was young, merry, and handsome; and, after all, Mrs. Noote was a woman—but a shrewd one, too. Not once did she suffer him to make a remark to Juliet, who was looking quite unnecessarily pretty. She herself answered, or forestalled every one of his questions, and poured forth a flow of ceaseless chatter. She might bridle his tongue, and prevent his speaking to Miss Carwithen, but she could not control his eyes; and, whilst Mrs . Noote gabbled away about Durano society, he was stealing many glances at her lodger. Yes; the slender hands, delicate nostrils, fine lines of chin and brow, were all unmistakable signs of race. He was more than ever amazed to see this brilliant creature amid such surroundings; he dawdled purposely, so as to prolong the meal; but at last it was over, and Mrs. Noote, as she left the room , displayed considerable tactical ability by calling to Juliet to follow her. “There was a note for her to write, and she had better leave the gentlemen to have their smoke.”

Captain Noote now hastened to place a square bottle containing whisky on the table; also a goglet of water, two tumblers, and his pipe, and assured his guest that he was not to think of stirring-he must wait for the moon.

Young Romilly was anxiously awaiting the return of Juliet, so he gladly lit a cheroot, poured out some mild whisky and water, and let the old man “bukh,” whilst his glance wandered round the apartment. What a den! What a home for this refined and well-bred girl! What a couple of companions! Ho noted the rickety furniture, the stained walls, and the lack of the ordinary comforts of life. What had Miss Carwithen done to deserve such a retreat? What a contrast to her father’s luxurious home!

The old sergeant at his elbow, with his red shiny face, and coarse, weather-beaten features, was imbibing strong potations, and or becoming each instant more garrulous and more communicative.

“You see, it’s unusual for us to take in boarders,” he explained, apropos of nothing; “but the missus, she said she wanted a companion, and we had a spare room; and sixty pounds a year ain’t no blind nut! She’s no trouble or expense; just takes what’s going, and has no extras luxuries.”

“No; she certainly has not,” acquiesced his listener, emphatically.

“It suits all parties,” continued the old man, on whom the sarcasm was completely lost. “It suits her folks, and it suits us.”

“How did you hear of the young lady? for I don’t suppose she heard of you.”

“There you’ve said it! That’s what she is—a young lady, and not a bit proud, though ’Liza differs. She goes among the Pahari folk, and talks and plays with the children. I’ve seen her herding goats ere now, and picking wood for old women. She makes out all Eliza’s butter-bills beautifully, and goes her messages. She dusts this room, and saddles her own pony. No; she is not proud; but I won’t deny she is a dainty little hussy! When the mountain streams are coming down yellow and muddy, would you believe that she strains every drop of her bath-water herself through a calico bag? She won’t eat coarse bits, or fat, or onions. No; she’d rather have chupatties, and she would not touch whisky to save her life! She’s mortal particular about her handkerchiefs, and her shoes and stockings. Lord! what a foot it is! and what lovely ankles! and——”

“But how did you come across her?” interrupted his listener, impatiently.

“Well, you see, Mr. Carwithen married a sergeant’s daughter.”

“Mr. Carwithen-married-a-sergeant’s daughter,” repeated young Romilly very slowly, as if he could not believe his ears.

“Ay, a mighty pretty girl, but no more use nor a wax doll, nor half us amusing. She died, and left this child a baby, and Carwithen smuggled her off to a boarding-school, and clipped half her name, and went home, and never came back, and won’t take her with him at no price. He is ashamed of her—that’s the size of it; though I’d be proud to have such a daughter.”

“I should rather think you would,” said the young man sarcastically; “but you have not told me how you came across her.”

“Well, my step-son knows a clerk in Skippers, the agents, and he heard as how they were looking for a home for a young woman, very quiet and retired (with a wink), and so he mentioned us, and she came a year ago; and here she is, hard and fast.”

“So it would seem; but I suppose she will leave you some day!”

“May be not. She’ll have two thousand pounds down”-putting his hand to his mouth, and speaking in a hoarse, mysterious whisper—“and Eliza—that’s my wife—thinks as she would be the very ticket for William John!”

The old man had taken too much whisky, or he never would have divulged such a family secret; but with a lingering gleam of caution, he added, “Don’t go to ever let on as I told you! William John is a clerk, a sub-assistant on the E.I.R.—a promising chap, with shoulders like a buffalo, and a hand the size of a ham. Eliza calls Miss Judy her niece; and she will be her daughter-in-law, as sure as you sit there! But mind you never let on.”

“You may make your mind perfectly easy on that score,” said his listener, with prompt sternness. “You must be joking. It is impossible that a young lady——”

He paused. Why argue with this wretched whisky-sodden old creature?

“Impossible that a grand young madam would marry Billy John!” with a maudlin chuckle. “Wait till you see him-a strapping lad, with a moustache, and evening clothes as good as your own, and a hundred and twenty rupees a month. After all, she is only old Smithson’s granddaughter, and her folks main anxious to get rid of her. It would be a good thing to have her married to a respectable man!”

“And is Miss Carwithen really Mrs. Noote’s niece?”

“I’ll explain that,” confidentially, taking an immense gulp of whisky and water. “When we heard as she was connected with old Smithson-we knew him long ago—Eliza sits down and makes a draft of a letter, saying as we were Smithson’s relations too. She was main keen for the money, and she thought this would clinch the business. She made me copy out all she wrote, and we sent it to Skippers, and they just hopped at her offer; d’ye

“Yes,” nodded Gerald, apparently deeply interested, as he leant his head on his hand, and steadily surveyed the old soldier with a pair of handsome dark-grey eyes.

“Of course we are all related in Adam; that’s how Eliza got out of it; but still, I don’t say as she ought to give out as Miss Judy’s her niece, when she is no more her niece than she is yours. And they are not a bit alike; indeed, any one might see as she was a bit above us. So what’s the good of making believe, and telling lies?”

“What, indeed?” repeated bis listener contemptuously.

“Of course it seems mortal queer, a young lady living here in this sort of wilderness, and never a friend to come nigh her, and no belongings whatever. At first I suspected it might be madness, or fits; but there’s no sign of either. I cannot say how she carried on at the school; and she looks just what she is-an innocent child; but looks is deceitful. ‘Still waters run deep,’ and maybe——”

“Stop!” shouted the young man, bringing down his fist on the table, with a bang that made the whisky-bottle stagger. “How dare you speculate in this way about an inoffensive, friendless young lady, you drunken old rascal?”

“Heyday! Well, I truly never did ! What’s all this?” inquired Mrs Noote, in her shrillest key, as she entered. “Pretty doings, calling a man names in his own house.”

“That is true,” admitted Gerald, “and I beg his pardon; he is an old man. I have a hot temper, and forgot myself; but he said something that riled me, and I dropped on him.”

“Ay, and so he has been talking, has he?”-sternly surveying her drowsy husband. “Just like the old Poggle,” and she glanced at the whisky-now at a very low ebb. “He has been making an ass of himself as usual. Noote, go to bed,” she added, raising her voice authoritatively. “Off now, without a word! As for you, sir, to Gerald, “the moon is up, the coolie is waiting to show you your road home, and I hope you may never find your way back to these parts. We want no gentry about the place, calling honest folk names! Don’t let me ever see your face here again.” And with this polite valediction, candle in hand, she waved him out.

Yes, there was his guide, wrapped in a brown blanket, carrying his gun and gamebag. But where was Juliet? It was evident that he had not the smallest chance of bidding her adieu; but he bade Mrs. Noote a fair good night, with exaggerated civility, and took his departure. The extreme politeness of his leave-taking infuriated his hostess ten times more than if he had deliberately insulted her, and she shook her fist furiously after his retreating figure, and muttered a bad word.

As be tramped seven long miles back to his quarters he was never aware of the roughness of the road, the steepness of the hills, much less the distance. He seemed to get over the ground by magic, for his thoughts were full of Juliet Carwithen; he was resolved to emancipate her from the Nootes, root and branch-but how? This was the problem that he was working out in his brain, as he covered the ground with a speed that left the nimble-footed hill-man panting after him in vain.

Old Noote and his confidences and his whisky, shrewd Mrs. Noote, with her fierce eye and shrill tongue, were sufficiently detestable, but the member of the family that he hated most bitterly was William John-the would-be-suitor for this dainty, elegant, refined girl-a ticket-collector on the E.I.R., a monster with a hand like a ham! Juliet was not likely to yield to such a fate without a struggle; at any rate, it was his mission to rescue her-his—and oh, happy thought! oh, second thought-his and Sophy Casson’s. He could not move in the enterprise alone; Sophy would be home in a week’s time, and there was not a day to be lost.

*  *  *

Next morning Mrs. Noote was injured and acrimonious, and Captain Noote was pitiably meek; he was suffering from a bad headache; he had smoked too much the previous evening.

“I must beg, Juliet,” said Mrs. Noote, “that you won’t be bringing any more of these rowdy young men about the place.”

“I did not know that Mr. Romilly was rowdy, and I did not ask him here,” she answered. “At any rate, I am not likely to see him again.”

“I should hope not; he abused my husband most scandalous. Didn’t he, Noote?”

“Eh, that he did,” rejoined the captain—who, by the way, had never been a commissioned officer-and would have sworn to anything his Eliza wished, in his present abject condition.

“And drank a lot o’ whisky.”

“Eh, he did so,” agreed the hoary-headed sinner.

“I wonder he got home alive! Some of those officers are just terrors of wickedness,” continued Mrs. Noote; “and, mind this, I can’t have you going to the ‘Rest’ any more. You will be having a regiment hanging round it now; so mind that. Do you hear?”

“Yes, Mrs. Noote; but I hope you will think twice before cutting off one of my few pleasures—the use of the old piano; and I really don’t think any one could find the place. Mr. Romilly came on it quite by accident.”

“Such accidents may become common. No, no; you stop at home, and maybe, by-and-by, I may find you a suitable and respectable friend to take you there and escort you home.” She was thinking of William John, and of the admirable opportunity this would afford him of paying his addresses.

Chapter XIX

Romilly and Juliet

“A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue of him that makes it.”

Sophy Casson generally spent all the winter in the plains. She had now been from home for eight months, paying a round of visits; she had even been to Australia. Among various new scenes, she had almost completely forgotten Mrs. Noote and Mrs. Noote’s niece. Within thirty-six hours of her return to Snow View, she received a visit from Gerald Romilly. He discovered her standing on a table in the drawing-room, putting up curtains and pictures, “getting the house to rights,” as she

“You see the place is upside down, and you are only in the way, Gerald. I know you are dying to talk to Robbie. You will find him in the tea-house; but be sure you come back to tiffin.”

“My dear Sophy, you don’t know what you are doing, dismissing me in this summary manner! At any rate, I don’t mean to budge; you will find me an invaluable assistant, and I have come here on purpose to have a good square talk with you.”

“With me!” in a tone of delighted surprise. “And about what?”

“Oh, time enough to tell you when we have fixed up this room; duty first, pleasure afterwards,” and, taking off his coat, he set to work on the spot, and hammered in nails, and put up curtain-poles and pictures, as cleverly as if he were an upholsterer’s carpenter.

“You are certainly a young man of most varied accomplishments,” exclaimed his cousin, admiringly. “I had no conception you had so much taste, and were so handy. What a treasure of a husband you will bel All the same, you have hung one of these curtains inside out! of what can you have been thinking? Well, now for it, Gerald,” taking off her apron. “I am going to rest for a bit, my arms ache,” dropping, as she spoke, into an easy-chair, and gazing at him interrogatively.

She was longing to hear what special errand had brought her cousin to Snow View, and she was always pleased to be deferred to and consulted, and if she had one fault to find with her good-looking relative, it was this: that he never deferred to, or consulted her at all.

“Well, to make a long story short,” he began, as he went over and threw himself into a chair and crossed his legs. “I lost my way, out shooting, about ten days ago.”

“There’s nothing new in that, is there?”

“No; but it was a new experience to come upon a large, straggling old house with verandahs and dormer windows, fully furnished, and standing in a great tangle of gardens.”

“And quite empty,” added Mrs. Casson. “I know the place.”

“No, not empty; I found one person there.”

“The chowkidar, of course. The place is called Traffords Rest; it is a great pity it has been allowed to fall into ruin, for it was a most lovely spot. And is this all you have to tell me?”

“I have a great deal to tell you, if you will just give me a chance. The individual I found at Traffords Rest was an extremely pretty girl, playing on the old piano!”

“Good gracious, Gerald! What was she like?” now sitting erect.

“She had dark auburn hair and dark hazel eyes; she is tall.”

“Yes,” interrupted Sophy; “I have it. I can tell you all about her—she is Mrs. Noote’s niece.”

“Mrs. Noote calls her her niece, you mean.”

“She introduced her as her niece, the day she brought her to see me. I must say I was astounded.”

“So I should imagine,” he agreed, sarcastically.

“I took the greatest fancy to her. I was quite fascinated by her beauty, and her air, and her singing, and she is a most delightful girl to talk to, so unobstrusive, and yet so clever and well read.”

“Then I wonder you did not cultivate her?” he asked, rather drily.

“I tried to, I did my best; I asked her to spend the day, and was ferociously refused by Mrs. Noote. Twice I rode over to see her, and she was out, and I had to pay my visit to that old harridan, and then I went away from home, and must candidly confess that I had entirely forgotten her existence. After all, my dear Gerald, she is of low birth; and if I make a friend of her, I must associate with the Nootes, and that would be a fearful price to pay for her society.”

“You are wrong in one particular. She is not of low birth—at least on her father’s side. She is the daughter of Dolly Carwithen; you have heard of him. He married when he was out here ages ago, and keeps his first alliance a dead secret from every one, even from his second wife. He has done his utmost to hide his daughter, and bury her alive.”

“And you have unearthed her, my clever cousin Jerry!” with a mocking laugh. “Pray how did you discover who she was?”

“From a family picture I saw at the Carwithens’, I recognized the young lady on the spot. I asked her if her name was not Juliet Carwithen, and she ‘owned up,’ as the Americans say.”

“She is called Miss Carr—and Mrs. Noote’s niece.”

“Although she happens to be neither one nor the other. Her father is a detestable old hypocrite, always preaching against low marriages; he worships the great, he grovels to a duke, he has heaps of money, and lives in the lap of luxury and the very best society, and he goes and hides away his only child among these hills, shut up in a squalid home with a tipsy old soldier and his termagant of a wife!”

“You are quite eloquent, I declare, Gerald!” exclaimed Sophy, with twinkling eyes. “I have never seen you in this character before the champion of a distressed damsel.”

“I am—and I look to you, if you have a scrap of woman’s heart, or wit, or pluck, to rescue Miss Carwithen, and to be her friend. Goodness knows she wants one! I can’t do anything; I am a man.”

“Yes; you could not dash over to the Nootes’, and carry her off on the crupper of your pony, could you?”

“But you can, Sophy. You might ask her on a visit. For my part, I’ll write to the mater, this very mail, and tell her how I have come across Miss Carwithen. My letter shall not be marked ‘Private and confidential,’ but will act as a first-class torpedo, as far as Dolly is concerned. I’ll shame him into acknowledging his daughter,” and springing to his feet, he began to pace the room.

“No, my dear quixotic Gerald, you will do nothing of the kind,” rejoined Mrs. Casson, with an air of great determination. “Why should you meddle in other people’s family affairs? It will seem most extraordinary if you mix yourself up in Miss Carwithen’s concerns—unless we are to have a new play, called——” And she paused, and looked at him critically, with her head on one side. “Called what?” he demanded, rather sharply.

“Romilly and Juliet.”

“Sophy!” he exclaimed, as he flashed an angry glance at her.

“My dear Jerry, why should I not tease you a little? Turn about is fair play. I promise to do one thing for you. I will beard Mrs. Noote, and carry off her prize on a visit here; though I am sure I shall have a tough fight; however, if the worst comes to the worst, I’ll threaten to remove my custom. It will be Miss Carwithen versus Butter and Bacon! and, remember, if she comes, Gerald, no flirting!”

“Miss Carwithen is not a girl to flirt.”

“Ha! ha! So you have been making experiments already? Oh, my dear cousin, how angry you can look!”

“I look what I am,” snatching up his cap and striding towards the door. “It’s the first and last time——”

“No, no, Jerry,” rushing after him, “it’s not the first and last time. Do not let us part like this. Come, I am going to be thoroughly serious and sensible. You may rely on me to be Juliet’s faithful ally, to rescue her, if I can, from the Nootes, and to be her friend; but I could not help being a good deal tickled at your extraordinary interest in this strange girl. I’ve never known you trouble your head about one of our spins., not once in all these years; what is the reason?”

“The reason is, because I am sorry for Miss Carwithen. She has no home; no friends.”

“And is that all?”

“Perhaps not”-confronting Mrs. Casson’s mocking eyes with a steady gaze; “but it is quite enough for to-day.”

“Well, Gerald, you may rely on me, that this beautiful wild flower shall no longer be left to wither away unseen and unappreciated among the mountains.”

“There is no longer any fear of that,” rejoined Romilly, impressively. “Young Gregg ran across her the other day, and has done nothing but rave about her ever since. He was fishing for mahseer in the Sardar, and she came down the opposite bank, and landed him on the spot! And, talk of the devil, here is Jimmy Gregg,” as a pony and a dandy passed the window. “He has a lady with him, and, by all the contents of the cruet-stand, it is Mrs. Dickson!”

“Oh, what shall I do, Jerry?” cried his cousin, piteously wringing her hands. “I am not fit to be seen; and just look at this room! She’ll come in and kiss me, and flatter me, and go straight home to Durano, and say that my house is like a pig-sty. Run! tell Hassan, Darwaza, Band——”

“You can’t say that, you know very well, Sophy, after people come out some miles to see you. Have her in, and mollify her with tea and cake. Here,” pushing about chairs as he spoke, “sling those draperies into the next room, and do your duty.”

In a few seconds, enter Mrs. Dickson, a prim, old-maidish-looking lady, with a long red face and prominent teeth. She was attired in an immense drab dust-cloak, and enfolded her hostess in it and her embrace as she kissed her effusively on either cheek. Her companion, Mr. Gregg, was a slight, fair-haired young man, with a large nose, and a pair of merry, roving eyes, and was got up in brown riding-boots, cords, and a Jairan coat. “So glad you are back, Mrs. Casson,” he said.

“Missed you awfully, down in Durano. I overtook Mrs. Dickson, coming out here, and that was one of the few things on which we agreed.”

“I wish you did not live so far away, Sophy,” said Mrs. Dickson, divesting herself of her cloak and gloves and veil; “it is quite in the wilds—the very back of the world. You ought to take a little house down in Durano, and you and Robbie come and spend the season there, such as it is. You can move down there quite easily with a couple of dozen of coolies.”

“Yes; but the tea-plantations, how are we to get them down?”

“Ah! true, I forgot. But I consider it the highest test of friendship, coming out all this way to see you. I have always to take on two extra jampannies. As it is, they grumble at the distance.”

“After all, Mrs. Casson does not live so very far away,” protested Mr. Gregg; “nothing to some people, who are seven miles further out-people who have a girl living with them”—here Mrs. Casson and her cousin exchanged swift glances. “I was fishing in the Sardar,” now repeating his adventure for the twentieth time, “about twelve miles from Durano, up in the wilds. I had a fine big mahseer on, who had given me a grand bit of play, and happened at that moment to be sulking under a stone. I chanced to look casually across the stream, and nearly fell bang into the water, when I saw a beautiful English girl standing on the bank. She was all dressed in white, and the bushes of yellow broom behind her set her off just as if she were a picture!”

“Jimmy, you have been reading poetry!” exclaimed Gerald Romilly.

She was a poem, if you like! standing there with her dog, watching the water tumbling over the boulders, and into the clear dark pools; she looked so extraordinary in that lonely place, with the great hills behind her, the water at her feet, and not a living thing in sight but a few cattle and a couple of golden eagles. She did not see me.”

“But I am sure you soon rectified that misfortune.”

“Of course I did—I kicked a big stone into the river accidentally on purpose.”

“And what did she do? What was the result of this delicate manoeuvre?”

“She seemed surprised. To tell the honest truth, she bolted; went straight up the bank, and vanished, and I lost the mahseer after all.”

“What is she like?” inquired Mrs. Dickson, in a judicial tone of voice.

“Like a star, a queen, or a beautiful flower!”

“Poor Jimmy! this is very bad!” exclaimed Romilly, with an air of profound sympathy.

“Oh, you never admire any woman,” retorted the other. “The legs of a pony, or a fine pair of horns, are more in your line. I’d give anything to know her.”

“Perhaps I can tell you a little about her,” observed Mrs. Dickson, complacently. “Of course I am the last person to gossip; but my maid-you know I can’t endure an ayah, Sophy.”

“So you say, dear; but it comes to the same thing. Your maid is as black as my ayah, and looks absurd, I think, in European clothes.”

“At any rate, she is connected with the wife of Rozario, the apothecary. The Rozarios are most respectable people; and once or twice they have been talking of a very genteel-looking young person, who came to their house with their friends, the Nootes. She is a connection of theirs, a niece or cousin, and looks much above her station. I am told she is liberally paid for, and has been well educated, but she cannot expect to get into society; indeed, I believe she knows her place, and is a very modest, retiring young woman.”

“Poor young woman! I see you know all about her, Mrs. Dickson,” sneered Jimmy. “I am sorry to hear she is not likely to get into society, for she is the handsomest girl I have ever seen!”

“Oh, if every one who has a pretty face is to get into society, we should all be in a very disagreeable position,” remarked Mrs. Dickson, with a sniff that displayed her long front teeth.

“On the contrary,” argued Jimmy, “I think it would be a precious good thing. We can spare all the ugly old women who have had their day!”

“You only say this from the pure spirit of contradiction, and because you wish to know this girl.”

“I wish to goodness I could make her acquaintance,” he answered, fervently.

“Nothing easier, no doubt; go up and speak to her.”

“No, thank you,” he retorted, angrily. “Even if she is beyond the pale of your associates, I should not treat her as anything but a lady, and she is a lady.”

Well, well,” soothingly, “what I mean is-make an excuse, offer her an umbrella, run after her with a handkerchief, and pretend you thought it was hers.”

Mrs. Casson and her cousin had listened with intense impatience whilst this battle, so to speak, raged over the body of Miss Carwithen; there was no chance of getting in a word edgeways. At last Romilly broke in, no longer able to restrain himself.

“All this is most instructive! Mrs. Dickson, you are so excellent at suggesting expedients, that you must have been served in this way yourself”-studying her with severe sarcastic eyes.

Mrs. Dickson’s face became a deep beetroot colour as she said, “You are quite the rudest man I ever met! I am glad dear Norris does not hear you.”

“Did you happen to learn the lady’s name through your maid’s cousin’s husband?” he continued, undauntedly.

“Yes; it is Carr,” she snapped.

“Not Carr; but Carwithen,” said Sophy. “She is all Mr. Gregg says—beautiful and tall and graceful. I know her, and I am going to ask her to stay with me.”

“Oh, you dear, dear Mrs. Casson!” cried Jimmy, jumping up; “you always know nice people. Please remember that I am a friend of yours too.”

“James, your modesty has ever been conspicuous!” remarked his comrade, as he rose and handed Mrs. Dickson her tea.

“Oh, you know what I mean, old fellow. I was so pleased, I hardly knew what I was saying. I mean that—that being a friend of Mrs. Casson’s, I may claim an introduction to another friend.”

“On what grounds?”

“Oh, you will know soon enough. Wait till you see her.”

The answer, “I have seen her,” so utterly astounded Mr. Gregg, that for some seconds he sat staring and speechless, and Mrs. Dickson took up the parable.

“Well, really, Sophy, I had no conception that you were acquainted with this young lady. Is she not Mrs. Noote’s niece?”

“No; no relation whatever, I understand.”

“Of course she may be everything that is charming,” with one of her mysterious and disagreeable smiles.

“Yes, she is quite charming.”

“But it seems so strange her living out here. Who is she, dear? who are her people?”

Mrs. Casson affected not to have heard the question, and the entrance of her husband luckily postponed its repetition.

But as Mrs. Dickson was being carried down the mountains by her sturdy jampannies, she exclaimed aloud—

“Tch! tch! tch! How stupid of me! Here I am, coming away, and every one will be wanting to know about this girl, and I cannot tell them a single thing, except that her name is Carwithen, and that she is not Mrs. Noote’s niece.”


To Read French

“Ici on parle Français.”

It is a great advantage to have an ally who is prompt in action, and a woman of her word. The very day after her cousin’s visit saw Mrs. Casson and her bay pony standing at Mrs. Noote’s wicket gate. Juliet was at home on this occasion, and delighted to see the visitor. She threw down an old coat she was mending, and flew to open the gate, helped the rider to dismount, and conducted her indoors. Mrs. Noote accepted the call entirely as a compliment to herself; she talked of the season’s crops, her salt butter, and the prevalence of small-pox among her poultry, scarcely permitting Juliet and Mrs. Casson to exchange a word. At last she rose to get out tea, as she never trusted her keys to any one, and the two ladies were left alone for a short time.

“I have come over specially to see you, Miss Carwithen,” began Mrs. Casson.

“It is very good of you; but how did you know that my name was Carwithen?” inquired Juliet, with rising colour.

“My cousin, Mr. Romilly, told me. It seems that he knows your people at home. Have you seen much of him?”

“I have met him once,” she answered, rather coldly.

“Only once!” Mrs. Casson mentally ejaculated; “I thought Gerald knew her very well.”

“What a dull time you must have had here all this year! I suppose you have never been away?” she said, aloud.

“No; except twice down to Durano for Sundays.”

“And do you know any one there? Do people come up to see you?”

“No; I know no one except Mr. and Mrs. Rozario.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Rozario!” ejaculated the visitor, in a high key of astonishment. “Well, I think it is time you made some other acquaintances, and had a little change. Would you care to come and stay with me?”

“Thank you, I should, very much indeed; but Mrs. Noote won’t——”

“Mrs. Noote will,” interrupted the other. “Just leave her to me. I shall begin by asking her to bring you to spend a day; then I shall borrow you alone; then I shall induce her to spare you to me for a long visit.”

Enter Mrs. Noote with a plate of stale biscuits and a pair of suspicious eyes. What had these two been talking about? What nonsense had Mrs. Casson been pouring into the girl’s ears?—her eyes were dancing in her head! She was extremely relieved and surprised when her visitor said, in her most persuasive manner—

“Mrs. Noote, I want you to come and spend a long day with me this week; and, of course, to bring Miss Carwithen.’

“Carwithen!” echoed Mrs. Noote, rather shrilly.

“Yes; don’t you think her own name is prettier than Carr?”

“Her father does not think so,” rejoined the other, tartly.

“That may be; but every one should be called by their real name, otherwise it leads to misunderstandings. And now about this day, Mrs. Noote. I want you to come down and see my new Hansee cow, and tell me what you think of her; and I will give you a sitting of black Spanish eggs.”

Here was indeed a bribe! Black Spanish eggs were valuable, and it was known that Mrs. Casson was exceedingly chary of hers.

“Well, thank you; I’d like to come. A day’s outing will do me good. I can’t come on Thursday, it’s butter day; but I’ll see about Saturday, if that will suit; and I’m to bring Juliet?”

“Oh yes, please,” with assumed indifference.

“Well, in that case, I must borrow the Bunnia’s pony, and we will be with you about twelve o’clock.” And so the matter was settled.

On Saturday Mrs. Noote was to be seen walking mincingly about Mrs. Casson’s garden, holding a green-silk parasol over her sandy head, and talking in a whispering voice, and firmly persuaded that she was conducting herself in the most ladylike manner, and that Mrs. Casson had suddenly taken a fancy to her, and would be the means of introducing her to the best society in Durano. Already she saw herself lunching at the Parsonage, and patronizing the Rozarios. She would get Juliet to turn her black silk at once, and send to Chotah Bilat for a veil and new gloves. As for Juliet, she seemed absorbed in papers and magazines, and quite neglected, whilst Mrs. Casson made much of her, and escorted her round the cowsheds and poultry-yards. As Mrs. Casson placed thirteen beautiful white eggs in a basket, she said, in a careless way—

“Your young friend must find it a little dull?”

“Oh, lord, no! not half as dull as school,” replied Mrs. Noote, emphatically.

“I suppose she is pretty well educated?”

“Pretty well! Lawks! why, she talks French and German just the same as you and I do English; ay, and reads and writes them, too, and thinks in them.”

“Indeed! How wonderfully clever she must be! Then, Mrs. Noote, I want you to do me me a small favour,” handing her the basket of eggs as she spoke.

“Why, certainly, anything,” rejoined Mrs. Noote, in the fulness of her heart. If she succeeded in raising black Spanish fowl, she would get twenty rupees apiece for them.

“You know I am rather lonely out here,” continued Mrs. Casson.

“Well, I’m sure you’re welcome to come up and see me any day, and I’ll drop in on you whenever I can spare an hour; only say the word,” rejoined Mrs. Noote, with effusion.

“Oh, thanks; but what I mean is, that I have a good deal of idle time I’d like to employ profitably; my French is horribly rusty, and I’d be so much obliged to you if you would allow Miss Carwithen to come over and read and speak it with me, say once a week?”

Mrs. Noote breathed hard, and regarded her hostess with a look of searching interrogation.

Mrs. Casson’s sudden desire for improving herself struck her as extraordinary.

“She teach you!” she grunted, incredulously.

“Yes,” with a simple, unabashed air; “since you yourself tell me that she is such a wonderful proficient.” Alas! there was poor Mrs. Noote entangled and driven into a corner by her own boastful words. “It would be an immense advantage to me,” pleaded this cunning woman; “that is, if you can spare her.”

“Oh,” with an air of lofty condescension, “I dare say I can spare her; but how is she to get here? It’s nigh on five miles!”

“I will send my pony half-way.”

“I see you are bent on it,” said Mrs. Noote, crossly; and there was a sort of gleam in her eye as she said, “Mind you don’t go turning her head; and she’s not to get to know any young men, not at no price.”

After all, this going and coming would cement the intimacy between the houses of Noote and Casson, and Mrs. Noote liked to feel that she was conferring a favour, especially a favour that cost her nothing; not even the loan of her pony. So it was all arranged, much to Juliet’s delight and astonishment; she could scarcely believe her ears when Mrs. Casson took her aside, and whispered confidentially to her that she was to come over and spend a day at Snow View once a week, and that she expected her next Saturday without fail.

The two ponies and their riders had scarcely turned the elbow of the hill, when Gerald Romilly came galloping up from the opposite direction.

“Just in time to be late!” cried his cousin, vivaciously. “Mrs. Noote and Miss Carwithen are scarcely out of sight; they have been spending a long and happy day with me.”

“Nonsense!” jumping off his pony; “and how did they spend it?”

“Mrs. Noote poked about the place, and asked questions, and lectured me on my extravagance, and engrossed me altogether, and dropped her h’s, and washed her face in her finger-glass, and was disgustingly familiar and intimate, and altogether enjoyed herself very much indeed.”

“And Juliet”—he coloured, and added—“oh, I mean Miss Carwithen-did she enjoy herself?”

“Yes, in skimming through the new magazines, and playing the piano. She is quite easily amused; I could not talk to her much, as Mrs. Noote was so monopolizing and suspicious. However, she is coming here by herself frequently.”

“You are not in earnest? I thought Mrs. Noote would not trust her out of her sight. Why is she allowing her to come?”

“She is coming once a week, as a great favour, in order to complete my education, and to teach me French,” rejoined Sophy, demurely.

“Sophy!” cried her cousin, with a shout of laughter, you are the cleverest woman in the world.”

“Still,” with twinkling eyes, “my French and German are very rusty.”

“Did the old woman make any stipulation? was there no bargain?” he asked, as he took a turn up and down the verandah.

“No, not what you’d call a bargain; I gave her a sitting of Spanish eggs and some flower seeds, and I have promised and vowed not to turn the girl’s head; and you, Jerry, must promise me the same.”

“Not to turn Miss Carwithen’s head! She is a good deal more likely to turn mine! What day does she come to you?”

“I shall not tell you; you want to know too much.”

“Then I shall come and spend a week here,” he answered with decision, “and find out!”

“Don’t be silly, Gerald. I have secured Miss Carwithen’s company for myself; and you know very well that you are not a ladies’ man.”

“It’s never too late to mend!”

“Don’t talk nonsense, but go away and get ready for dinner.”

*  *  *

There are a number of tea estates scattered over the Kumaon hills, and among planters Robbie Casson was considered a man of credit and renown; and not merely in his own neighbourhood. Casson’s tea-chests, with their brand (a mountain with three peaks), commanded a fair price in Mincing Lane; for Robbie understood his business, the pruning of gardens and nurseries, the manufacture of green and black tea, and the proper complexion and manipulation of the leaf— although he had started in life with a totally different destination-like not a few other young men. He had failed at Sandhurst, and was subsequently at his wit’s end for a profession, nay, a livelihood; New Zealand, Minnesota, South Africa, were proposed; sheep, corn, gold, and diamonds were discussed in turn, and then Colonel Romilly, an old friend of his father’s, suggested tea—a small estate in a good climate, healthy outdoor employment, absence of undesirable society and a temptation to spend money. This advice was considered sound, and at twenty-two Robbie Casson set out to seek his fortune on the spurs of the Himalayas.

He liked the life, for he was his own master. He worked hard, and at the end of four years took a run home, a bronzed, good-looking, prosperous young fellow (for all his connections drank Casson’s Kumaon tea). When at home, he fell in love with, and married, Sophy Clare, a pretty girl with a respectable fortune, and carried her away to his tea-garden, greatly to the dismay of her relations. “A girl with five hundred a year, who might have made an excellent match, to marry a penniless planter, and throw herself away in the wilds of the North-west!” But the bride elect turned a deaf ear to every remonstrance, and married Robbie, and departed loaded with wedding presents, varying from a photograph-frame to a piano. Thus it came to pass, that Snow View was a somewhat glorified edition of a planter’s bungalow: there was a garden and tennis-court; the mistress of the house had her daily post, her staff of excellent servants, her pony, and her own way. There was no occasion to live in the rough, she said; her ménage was dainty, her dresses simple, but by no means behind the fashion; she went down to Durano frequently, she visited the plains, and now and then took a trip home. She was a person of influence and importance in her own circle, and Juliet Carwithen little guessed what a lucky girl she might consider herself at being “taken up by Mrs. Casson.” Some people thought Mr. Casson a heavy young man, with his big frame, slow speech, and lazy brown eyes. They said “that Mrs. Casson had the brains of the firm;” and certainly Robbie was not an eloquent or fluent talker, his tastes were sporting, not intellectual, and he rarely opened a book. Nevertheless, the Cassons agreed admirably. Mrs. Casson always quoted her husband’s opinions with evident good faith, and he, on his part, believed that Sophy, like the king, “could do no wrong.” She had a good deal of leisure time on her hands, and he was pleased to see that Sophy had recently discovered a charming young companion, a very pretty bright girl, who sang and talked, and walked and read with his wife whilst he was down at the tea-houses, or over the hills shooting birds, and stalking makor. At first she came once a week, now oftener, and he knew that it was the desire of his wife’s heart to secure her for a lengthened visit.

With this end in view, Mrs. Casson boldly rode up to Mrs. Noote’s one afternoon, having previously sent peace-offerings of eggs, chickens, and young cabbage plants, to smooth the way.

After some conversation about the weather, the season, visitors in Durano, and Captain Noote’s lumbago, Mrs. Casson said, quite briskly, “Mrs. Noote, I have come to ask you to allow Juliet to spend a month with me?”

Mrs. Noote drew down her upper lip, and shook her head solemnly.

“Run away, Juliet, my child,” continued her friend, “and put on your hat; you must walk part of the way back with me. Meanwhile, I am going to talk Mrs. Noote over,” and she nodded reassuringly.

“Now, Mrs. Noote,” she began in her pleasantest tone, “you keep the girl too close. She never leaves this place except to spend a dull day with me. She never sees any one of her own age, or mixes with other young people.”

“It’s by her father’s wish she is kept retired, and sees no company,” rejoined Mrs. Noote, severely.

“Have you that down in black and white?”

“No; it’s understood, and I’m responsible.”

“Yes; but surely you won’t object to her coming and paying me a little visit, and I will be responsible.”

“No, no; you’ll be taking her to parties, and maybe having beaux about the house.”

“You mean young men?”

“Yes, such as that chap Romilly. How soon he tracked out a pretty girl! I forbid him this house; but Lal Sing, the syce, says he is often out your way; and last Saturday he walked back with Juliet here—every step of the way!”

“My husband was with him. Did Lal Sing mention that? You don’t mean to say that Juliet is never to speak to a man, or to mix in any society? I think you make a mistake in keeping such a very tight hand over Juliet. She is past nineteen, and her own mistress. She could leave you, if she chose. Of course her allowance would cease; but she has resources in herself, and friends. She has always a firm friend in me.”

“And another in young Romilly,” sneered Mrs. Noote. “However, she is under my thumb till she is one-and-twenty.”

“Ah! that foolish idea comes from living out of the world,” rejoined Mrs. Casson. “She is as free to go as I am!”

“Well, if she quits my house, she loses her allowance,” snapped Mrs. Noote.

“And so do you,” retorted the other, triumphantly.

Mrs. Noote had not looked at the matter in this light till now, and her face fell.

“I really think you had better give Juliet more liberty!” continued Mrs. Casson, with the air of a friendly adviser, “or she will take it. I see she has no piano, no private sitting-room.”

“Piano!” broke in the other. “Private sitting room! Bless us and save us—for sixty pounds a year! Well, I truly never did!”

“But this is a cheap place. Seventy rupees a month goes a long way. And, at any rate, it will cost you nothing to allow her to spend a month with me. I ask no more at present.”

“Well, as you seem so determined, and I will allow she likes you, I suppose she will have to go; but, mind, for not a day longer than the month, for I’ve a particular reason for wanting her at home.”

“Yes, I promise, and I’ll take the greatest care of her; and I will send my dandy for her the day after tomorrow.’

“Very well; but she can’t be going out with you this evening, then. I’ve a heap for her to do (butter accounts). And you will promise me to keep all those rascally young officers at arm’s length?”

Mrs. Casson laughed, and made no reply.

“Well, if you don’t promise”-and Mrs. Noote’s face became crimson, whilst her light eyebrows stood out in startling relief—“not one step shall she go! So take your choice.”

“Very well, then, I promise. I’ll give no parties; but I mean to take her down to Durano for a day or two, just to see the place.”

“Well-well, I suppose you must do that, if you like; but don’t be hawking her about to dances.” With this final clause the treaty was concluded without further hostilities.

Mrs. Casson thought that perhaps it was all for the best that Juliet’s escort had been denied to her; for, within a mile of Kala Dara, she was rather startled to find Gerald Romilly sitting on a boulder, with a brace of chikor beside him, and a gun between his knees.

“What a felicitous coincidence!” he cried, as she came in sight. “Well, what luck?”

“It is all right,” she rejoined; “she is coming for a month.”

French leave-eh?” and he laughed. “What is Miss Juliet going to teach you now?”

“She might teach you to treat me with proper respect, Jerry, only that you will see nothing of her.”

“What do you mean?” he inquired, suddenly becoming serious.

“I have made a solemn row and promise to Mrs. Noote to keep all rascally officers at arm’s length; and are you not a rascally officer?”

“Certainly not. I am your cousin; I am one of the family. And why are soldiers to be tabooed?”

“Mrs. Noote says as it is her father’s wish as Miss Carwithen should live retired,” explained Sophy, mimicking that individual.

“Yes, the old hypocrite! And I wish I had his head here to sit upon-with his clubs, and carriages, and grand friends. Now I understand why he came sneaking up to me one day and asked me if I had ever met any people of the name of Noote!”

“And what did you say? that they were in the butter business?”

“I said I’d never heard of them, but would make inquiries; and then he got into a jolly fright, and begged me not to trouble.”

“What is the old man like?”

“Old man! I wish he heard you! He goes in for being young and fascinating, and has a most seductive manner, chiefly reserved for swells. He clips his words, and talks of ‘amusin’’ and gettin’’ and ‘goin’,’ and puts on a boisterous hearty manner to men of position; but is always in a deuce of a hurry if he meets inferior acquaintances. He never says an unpleasant thing to any one’s face, or gives them a good word behind their back-unless they happen to be in the peerage.”

“He must be delightful!”

“He is great on birth, and death on low marriages.”

“This is better and better! Does he expect to hide his marriage with the sergeant’s daughter always?”

“Not if I can help it,” rejoined Gerald, grimly.

“Yes; but with a due regard for our own Mrs. Grundy—eh, Gerald? What will she say when she hears that Mr. Romilly, who does not affect her society, is much interested in the family affairs of a charming young lady who lives in these wilds?”

“I don’t care—what the old duke called a twopenny damn—what she says of me, as long as she does not say that I am her friend—that I never could get over!”

“Ah, you are brave! But when she comes and talks to me, and advises, and repeats, and suggests, and insinuates, I declare I feel like a defenceless rabbit-my very tongue seems paralyzed!”

Your tongue paralyzed, Sophy! Come! c’est un peu trop fort.”

“How rude! And what a vile French accent!”

“Ah! you see, I’ve not had your advantages. Do you think that Mrs. Noote would allow Miss Carwithen to read French with me?”

“Gerald, you are too preposterous! Look here, I want to ask you a very serious question.”

“Then you must wait till I am in a serious mood. These chikor are for you”—handing them to her syce. “It’s six o’clock; I shall be late for mess! Good-bye.” And in two moments he had passed down a steep pathway, and was out of sight.

“I wonder-very much,” said Mrs. Casson, addressing herself and pony—“If he really cares for Juliet? I wonder if I ought to encourage it? I wonder what his mother would say?”

Chapter XXI

The Intelligent Traveller

“None but himself can be his parallel.”

Miss Carwithen arrived punctually at Snow View, laden with stringent commands and cautions from Mrs. Noote. She looked brilliantly lovely and radiantly happy, as she stepped out of the dandy and received an affectionate welcome from her friend, who immediately conducted her to her room, to prepare for tiffin. What a contrast to her own bower at the Noote’s! A pretty bright apartment (papered with pale green), a brass bed with white draperies, green-and-white chairs, a writing-table, a cheval glass, and quantities of flowers. The air of refinement, the neat servants in snowy clothes, instead of Mrs. Noote’s bearer, drowsy from bhang, the tempting luncheon, presided over by Sophy in a dainty gown, transported Juliet into another world. She had a whole month of Elysium before her, and was resolved to make the most of every moment. She could enjoy the society of her friend now, without the haunting thought that she had to tear herself away at a certain hour, like Cinderella. The first week went all too fast; there were teas on the hillsides, and tennis and rides, and visitors from Durano—one or two ladies; and Mr. Gregg—who came to call, and remained for seven hours!—and returned to his quarters to rave about Miss Carwithen. There had been ladies out to lunch; but, so far, Sophy had kept her promise to the letter, and had not invited any men—if they arrived of their own accord she could not help it. Nor was it she, but Robbie, who had requested Gerald Romilly “to come out and stay a week or so, and help to amuse a young lady!”

“I met Jerry,” he remarked, casually, to his wife. “He said he was coming over to see you some day, so I told him to try and get ten days’ leave, and remain. I’m going fishing next week, along the Sardar, and after this rain we are safe to catch tons of mahseer!”

“You don’t think,” lowering her voice, “that there is any chance of Gerald being caught himself, do you?” inquired Sophy, with a meaning glance.

“What on earth do you mean?” demanded Robbie, with a stare of surprise.

“Just think.”

“Well-oh, I see, you mean Miss Carwithen. Not the smallest. Jerry Romilly will never marry. As for her, she is not the sort of girl to fall in love with a man merely because he is staying in the same house.”

“Supposing, for the sake of argument, that they fell in love with one another, what would you say?”

“That I admired their taste, and accorded my consent.”

“And what about Mrs. Romilly? She expects Gerald to marry an angel-an heiress and a beauty all in one!”

“I don’t know about being an angel, but Miss Carwithen is a beauty. There is not a girl to touch her in the whole of India!”

“Yes; but she has no belongings, no home, no fortune!”

“What does that matter? Now, Sophy, I believe you are trying to make a match! Take my advice, and leave the young people alone. They will never think of one another unless you put it into their heads.”

“If it comes to that, I think Gerald has something in his head already,” rejoined Sophy, with a nod.

“Not he!” retorted her husband, with immense scorn, as he picked up his topee, and went out.

*  *  *

Gerald Romilly had accepted Mr. Casson’s invitation with alacrity, had secured ten days’ leave, and was cantering out to Snow View with a light heart, and a good pony under him, when, at the foot of a steep ascent, he overtook a stout elderly man, leading a hired bazaar tat. As he was about to pass, the stranger who was mopping his face, and seemed both warm and breathless, panted out, “I say, you young chap.”

“Yes,” pulling up. “What do you say?” surveying the speaker’s shining countenance, assertive nose, and dusty, but well-cut tweed suit. He looked like a well-to-do commercial traveller, who had strayed out east by mistake. “I say,” he repeated, “do you know the road to Casson’s, the tea-planter’s?”

“Yes; I am on my way there now.”

“That’s first class. Then we will go together. My name is Hodder-Bernard Hodder—and well respected on the back of a cheque. What’s yours?”

”Romilly,” replied the young man, shortly.

“Oh, I suppose you live hereabouts—tea-planter?”


“Officer, cut of one something?”

“Yes; and you are travelling”—“for tea,” he was about to add, but luckily refrained.

“Yes; I’m glad you did not ask if I was a globe trotter, young sir, for I consider it a most impertinent nickname. I’m an intelligent traveller; a man going about the world with my eyes open, and with plenty of money and leisure. I’ve made my pile! I’ve done Bombay, and Delhi, and Agra, and all those places. I also want to go to Cutchapore. The nawab there took a great fancy to me, and offered me lots of shooting, and horses to ride; he pressed me to go back again, and I will. He has A1 wine and cheroots; quite an enlightened fellow, and we were wonderful pals.” Finding he could not combine walking and talking, Mr. Hodder scrambled into the saddle, and continued, “I came up here to have a good look at the snows. As I was told, they are the thing to see.”

“Well, I think you will be able to manage that,” said his companion, politely. “They are one of the sights of the world.”

“Can’t you make that brute of yours walk slower?” he asked, fretfully, as he jogged painfully alongside.

“Can’t you make that brute of yours walk faster?” retorted Romilly. “May I ask if you know the Cassons?”

“No; my nephew does, and he has given me a letter. Hotels are so deuced expensive, and dâk bungalows are beastly, and of course people in the jungle are only too thankful to see a strange face.”

“Oh, are they? Do you make a long stay?”

“Depends if they do me well,” he answered, loftily.

“I suppose you are expected?”

“No, I did not write; but it will be all right,” was the offhand reply. “Have they any family, these Cassons?”


“So much the better. I loathe children; noisy, greedy little beasts! Any visitors except yourself?”

“Yes; they have a young lady staying with them.”

“Oh, ho!” suddenly bustling his pony alongside, and giving Romilly a violent dig with his cane. “So that accounts for the milk in the cocoa-nut.”

“What do you mean?” inquired the sufferer, surveying Mr. Hodder with a disagreeably steady stare.

“Oh, I only mean,” a little cowed, “that that’s why you are got up so smart! Is she good-looking?”

“You had better make up your mind to ride either before or behind me,” remarked the other, without deigning to notice the question. “I see you are a timid rider; and my mare has an uncertain temper, and might kick you over the khud. We are coming to a place where there is a drop of a thousand feet.”

“A-drop-of a thousand feet!” stammered the stranger. “Oh, then-then-I’ll just slip off.”

Which precaution he proceeded to take at once, bellowing to his syce in English “to come along and lead his tat,” which command had to be translated by his companion. As he stood watching this bold, handsome young man ride jauntily along what seemed to him the brink of destruction—the merest ledge—one leg and stirrup actually dangling over a ghastly precipice of dark-blue shale—he developed a strong dislike to him on the spot. What business had this beggarly officer—for of course he was a beggar-to have such nerve and good looks? to tell him to his face that he was a timid rider, and to snub him about the girl? By Jove, he would cut him out!

It was very hard luck, thought Romilly, that this bumptious vulgarian should descend on Snow View just at the present time! With every yard of the road he exhibited himself as a coarse-minded, purse-proud little cad, who seemed to take it quite as a matter of course that every door in India should fly open to him, for the simple reason that he had condescended to visit the country! He bragged of his wealth, of his importance, and of the “attentions” which he had received, and the “attentions” he anticipated.

Romilly’s share of the conversation was confined to somewhat scornful monosyllables, and ere the two travellers had arrived at the end of their journey, they were already on the footing, not of old friends, but of old enemies.

At length Snow View came into sight, and its inmates, who were sitting in the verandah, crowded hospitably out to meet them.

“Mr. Casson, I presume?” said the stranger, accosting Robbie rather pompously as he walked stiffly up the steps.


“I’ve got a letter here for you, from Bob Flanders, my nephew in Bombay, asking you to put me up for a week or two, as I understand you are under great obligations to him.”

Robbie’s slow blood boiled. It was exactly the other way; but with true Indian hospitality he took the letter and said, “Pray come in and sit down and make yourself at home. Let me introduce you to Mrs. Casson and Miss Carwithen. This,” to his wife, “is Bob Flanders’s uncle, Mr. Hodder.”

The letter said—

“Dear Casson,

“The bearer of this is my maternal uncle, Mr. Hodder, who has taken the travelling mania late in life, and hearing me casually mention a friend in the Himalayas, has insisted on visiting you. I would have spared you if I could, but I have expectations from Uncle H., who appears to think he has a right to the run of every house in India, precisely as if he were a royal personage. I am afraid you will hate me pretty well; but he won’t stay more than a couple of days, if you give him low diet and lots of riding.

“Yours, most abjectly,
“Bob Flanders.”

Mr. Flanders had never reckoned on Miss Carwithen, nor how his uncle would fall instantly under the spell of her beauty. Mr. Hodder at once determined to extend his visit, sublimely indifferent to the fact that his stay was a great inconvenience. Young Romilly had to occupy a tent, and turn out for him; but this only enhanced the comforts of the spare room in Mr. Hodder’s estimation.

When the stranger had been presented to the two amazed ladies, he proceeded to make himself thoroughly at home, seated himself in the roomiest chair, and dusted his boots with his handkerchief.

“It’s thirsty work walking,” he remarked, as he looked significantly at Mrs. Casson. “I walked up most of the way to save the pony.”

“I thought it was to save your neck,” exclaimed his late comrade.

“Well, you see, you thought wrong, young man, as no doubt you often do. So these are the snows,” screwing up his eyes. “Yes, thank you, I’ll take a peg, and a pretty stiff one-Irish whisky. Well, yes, they are fine enough; but I would not say that I don’t prefer Switzerland. Yes; give me the Alps.”

“Really,” said Sophy, to whom such a statement was rank heresy, “the peaks you are looking at are twelve thousand feet higher than Mont Blanc; but perhaps you prefer beauty on a small scale?”

“No, no, I like ’em tall, like Miss Carwithen here,” and he laughed, and evidently expected applause.

Gerald Romilly felt an insane desire to fling the would-be wit out of the verandah, but fortunately controlled his impulse.

“I made up my mind to see these snows,” continued the other, pompously, as much as to say, and the snows are very much honoured! “And once my mind is made up,” fixing his hard little eyes on Gerald, “there’s no turning me; I’m a man of iron!”

“Oh, really! I should have said you were made of another metal altogether.”

“Ah, ha, ha! Yes; not bad. You mean gold, of course. Yes; that’s what they all say at home,” and he beamed on the speaker approvingly.

“No; you have not quite hit it yet!” replied Romilly, carelessly.

“Thanks, Casson, thanks. Yes, I’ll like to go to my room, and have a wash. Don’t make any difference for me, you know. Don’t put yourselves out, now. No champagne, Mrs. Casson—no champagne! I get lots of it at home; don’t let me put you to any expense.” And waving his podgy hand with an air of sublime condescension, he toddled off with quick, short steps in the wake of the master of the house.

Chapter XXII.

Gerald Romilly Suggests Himself

“For every why he had a wherefore.”

Young Flanders’s uncle remained for a week, and made himself thoroughly at home; he laid down the law on politics, religion, cooking, and taste; he discoursed of tea-planting and soldiering as one in authority, and displayed his ignorance and arrogance without stint. He swore at the servants who could not understand him; he secretly kicked the dogs; he bragged openly of his money, and he monopolized Miss Carwithen. His attentions amazed and diverted the young lady as he hung over the piano, beating time with his podgy forefinger, paid her fulsome compliments, and presented her with enormous bouquets (of Mrs. Casson’s choicest flowers), kissed his hand to her, pushed into seats next her, and altogether conducted himself in a manner that made Gerald Romilly feel that the same house was too confined a space for him and Mr. Hodder.

Often he was seized with an overwhelming impulse to maltreat the intelligent traveller, but he was more than twenty years his senior; he was his unhappy friend’s guest and old man of the sea, so he forebore; but he could not always restrain his tongue, or from speaking out of the fulness of his heart to his cousin Sophy.

“What marvellous power you women have!” he exclaimed, impatiently. “There is the intelligent traveller, aged fifty-five, a hardened, narrow-minded, money-grubber, with the skin of a rhinoceros, and a heart of granite, completely bowled over by a girl of nineteen, and she scarcely seems to notice him; as far as one’s masculine amour propre is concerned—an humbling and pitiable spectacle. They say it’s a good thing women and horses don’t know their powers. When will he transfer his inspiriting presence? When is he going?”

“I wish I knew!” rejoined Sophy, with an inhospitable sigh.

“It is not possible that he is going to be a permanent affliction!” cried the young man. “Why don’t you give him bad dinners? Don’t mind us; we are prepared to make any sacrifice.”

“I dare not; you heard his graceful remarks last night?”

“Yes; that the soup was not up to the mark, and the sauce was thin, and that he must send you a cookery-book from Bombay. Poor Sophy, your face was a study! I have never regretted that I could not draw so bitterly as during this last week.”

“Yes; and when he found that it was you who had given us the large silver bowl, he made things pleasant all round, by saying, ‘Oh, so I see you pay your footing, young man; and quite right too. You can’t expect to save your mess bills and to have the run of your teeth for nothing.’ Poor Gerald, your face was a study then!”

“Look here, Sophy,” exclaimed her cousin, jumping to his feet, “if he does not depart soon, I must, for I know that I’ll throttle him. I’ve a beastly temper, and I don’t wish to do him an injury. What is he waiting for, can you tell me?” halting before her.

“Possibly he believes that everything comes to him that waits,” rejoined Sophy, who was in a teasing humour; “and he is waiting for Juliet Carwithen. I heard him telling her that he had a fine house at Clapham, and four acres of grounds, a lot of glass, two gardeners, and a carriage and pair; but that once he was married to a really smart, aristocratic-looking girl, who would stare down all the old frumps in the neighbourhood, he would set up a much grander establishment, and give his wife diamonds, and saddle horses, and a thousand a year for dress. Juliet can have all this if she chooses to hold up one little finger. I suppose he is waiting for that signal.”

“Sophy, for a clever woman, you talk a vast amount of nonsense.

The man is older than Miss Carwithen’s father.”

“Possibly, though, properly speaking, she has no father. I wish some really nice old gentleman would adopt her.”

“Why should not a really nice young gentleman adopt her—as his wife?”

“Who can you suggest?” inquired Mrs. Casson, with raised eyebrows. “She knows no one.”

“No one!” he repeated. “Think again.”

“Of whom are you thinking, Gerald? Who do you suggest?”

“I suggest myself!” was the unexpected reply. “Allow me to present the idea to you.”

The idea, as we are aware, was no stranger to Mrs. Casson, who nevertheless exclaimed, “Oh, Gerald,” in a tone of astonishment, sinking back in her chair as she spoke,”you have completely taken my breath away. I declare I feel quite stunned!”

“I hope you will recover again. Shall I go and get some ice to put on your head?”

“You wretched boy! You would joke if you were going to be hanged!”

“Then you look upon marriage and hanging as synonymous? I shall certainly impart this information to Robbie.”

“No, no,” impatiently. “Have you said anything to her?”

“Certainly not. I have told you, simply because I thought you ought to know what are called my ‘intentions.’”

“And pray how long has this idea been in your mind?”

“Ever since the first day I saw Miss Carwithen.”

“Now, this nonsense I flatly refuse to believe,” exclaimed Mrs. Casson, resolutely. “Fancy Jerry Romilly falling in love at first sight!”

“It is a perfectly true tale,” he rejoined, with a certain humorous air of deprecation. “And I have not the smallest grounds for supposing that Miss Carwithen cares a brass button for me. I flatter myself that she prefers me to Mr. Hodder; but I am not much puffed up by that conviction. What girl could care for such a fellow, with his long-winded stories, without a gleam of wit or point? A man who has no more heart than a mouse, and who spends half his time writing up his diary, looking at his tongue in the glass, and scolding his servants.”

“Gerald,” exclaimed his cousin, with a sudden gesture of dismay, “what will your mother say?”

“My mother will be delighted, when she sees Juliet.”

A la bonne heure, when she sees her.”

“And now, Sophy, what do you say? for you will be held responsible,” and he laughed rather maliciously.

“I say,” rising and giving him her hand, “that I accord my consent. I accept the responsibility; and that, if you win Juliet Carwithen for your wife, I shall be very glad.”

“Thank you, Sophy. You are a trump. Remember that what I have told you has been for your ear alone.”

“Not for Robbie’s ear also?” in a tone of keen disappointment.

“Well, yes; you may tell him, if you like. Robbie is safe; but it is to go no further.”

*  *  *

Sophy felt secretly much elated and full of importance. Here was a real home-grown love affair under her own roof; at least, as far as, Gerald was concerned. Unfortunately it takes two to make a love affair, as well as a bargain; and she was utterly in the dark respecting Juliet’s ideas on the subject.

Juliet was a charming, beautiful, warm-hearted girl, but she had her reserves. For instance, she never spoke of her father, and she never said much on the subject of Gerald Romilly. She referred to him in a playful, jesting style, that told nothing of her real opinion. She could be enthusiastic enough over a flower, a song, a kitten; but her enthusiasm stopped short at mankind.

Sophy felt burning with impatience as she watched Mr. Hodder strolling up and down the garden with Juliet after dinner, talking, talking, talking, all on the one dreary topic—himself, his ailments, and his affairs-halting, gesticulating, boring. How weary the poor girl must be! And there were Robbie and Gerald discussing flies and fishing, making no effort to interfere. Well, if they did not rescue her, she would; and in a few minutes the intrepid lady had carried off her guest, and Gerald had succeeded to his place with amusing promptitude.

“I never saw any one like the intelligent traveller,” he grumbled. “He won’t suffer any one to speak to you. He never gives any of us a chance. He plays tennis with you, or thinks he plays tennis. I never saw such a duffer. He walks next you on the hill-paths, and tries to shoulder me over the khud. He sits beside you at table, in order to pass you the mustard and salt, and hurls compliments at your head that make us all feel excessively de trop. However, I am getting hardened. I don’t often find myself blushing now.”

“No. I should think you would be surprised if you ever found yourself doing that,” retorted Juliet.

“On the contrary, I have more than once done double duty, and have had occasion to blush for you!”

“Oh, Mr. Romilly! What do you mean? What odd things you say!”

“I blushed for you when I heard you guessing Mr. Hodder’s weight to be eleven stone. I blushed when I heard you assuring him that he was improving in his tennis playing and his Hindustanee. Now, all these statements were—ahem!”

“But he asked me. And what could I say? I cannot be rude to a man of his age, and snub him.”

“As you do me. Alas! see what it is to be young!”

“I never snub any one,” said Juliet, emphatically.

“No; not when you told me you did not want to know anything about me?”

“Oh, that was because I did not think I should ever see you again,” she answered, with a bright flush.

“Yes, that’s one way of getting out of it.”

“But, Mr. Romilly, you say very sharp things to Mr. Hodder sometimes,” she said, gazing at him with a serious face.

“Do I?” with an air of demure surprise.

“Yes; and whenever he begins a story, you always take out your watch and look at it in the most open way. I’m sure he notices it.”

“I am delighted you think so. When he begins one of his interminable yarns, I feel inclined to lie down and howl like a dog! I’m afraid I don’t care for the intelligent traveller; my bump of veneration is not properly developed. He is always so intensely condescending to my tender age, and so sorry for my incapacity, ignorance, and poverty. He chokes me with his money, and sometimes, when he is holding forth about I, and I, and swelling himself out with importance, I feel inclined to run over and stuff an antimacassar down his throat.”

“I hope most sincerely that you will restrain your feelings; at any rate, as long as I am in the room,” said Juliet, with a laugh.

*  *  *

In spite of Mr. Hodder’s ponderous attentions to Juliet, she and Gerald Romilly continued to make considerable strides in acquaintanceship, and she began to look at life and herself with new eyes-eyes that Mr. Hodder’s vaunted diamonds had no power to dazzle. There is nothing like a sojourn in the same country house, not to speak of a lonely bungalow in the Himalayas, for promoting friendship-well, call it friendship-between two young people! There was tennis, and picnics, and riding-parties. Mr. Hodder abhorred equestrian exercise, and on a narrow path on a pulling hill-pony, who ambles, by preference, on the extreme edge of a precipice, Mr. Hodder’s heart, instead of being in Juliet’s possession, was invariably in his mouth. However, experience had made him cunning. He used to allow the merry riders to go on ahead, and lag behind until a convenient corner concealed him from sight. He would then cautiously descend, and lead his much-pleased pony, frequently enduring martyrdom for miles, and until he had almost reached the place arranged on for the picnic, when his tardy appearance excited no comment. Mr. Hodder was known to be somewhere in the rear-he was not a bold horseman—these rides were Gerald Romilly’s opportunities.

When Sophy and Robbie good-naturedly led the way, it was his agreeable post to ride at Miss Carwithen’s left hand, across profound and gloomy chasms, through splendid glens, through thickets of wild raspberries, bilberries, and dog-roses, wherein lurked alarmed panthers, black pheasants, and other beasts and birds; or long narrow mountain roads, overhanging deep misty purple valleys, above which, in mid-air, the golden eagles sailed, poised, on wide-spread wing. Yes, both the scenery and the company were much to Romilly’s taste.

Chapter XXIII

Mr. Hodder’s Diary

“And what so tedious as a twice-told tale?”

It was a hopelessly wet day. There is no compromise about rain in the Himalayas; no sun showers, no half-hour interludes of fine weather; a good steady downpour, that veils the valleys in mist, and renders the mountains invisible. Snow View, to all appearance, might have been a bungalow in the plains, for there was no prospect whatever within fifty yards of the garden palings; a cold, searching rain swept hungrily round the verandah, three of Mrs. Casson’s black Spanish fowl were hunched up under a dahlia bush, looking exceedingly sorry for themselves, and their mistress evidently shared their feelings; as she stood gazing out on the dreary weather, the expression on her face was that of extreme discontent.

“Oh, so you have got rid of him at last!” she exclaimed, in answer to a light footfall behind her.

“Yes; he has gone to take his medicine, and to write up his diary,” rejoined Juliet, cheerfully.

“Well, I really could not stand Mr. Hodder any longer,” said Sophy. “Don’t I look cross? We have had his uninterrupted society since half-past eight o’clock this morning, and my energies are palsied. Robbie offered to take him down to the lower tea-house, and show him all his tea secrets; but he would not budge, much less go out with them this afternoon, to look for pheasants.”

“He certainly is very tiresome,” said Juliet. “Are all globe-trotters like him?”

“No, my dear, indeed they are not; he is a lamentable exception! Some are delightful, intellectual people, whom it is a treat to meet or entertain; they bring fresh air, and light, and sometimes sweetness, into one’s house—not like this man, who brings strife, and hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, who sneers at the country, tramples on all our little pet prejudices, and would cross the street to avoid us, and cut us dead, if he met us at home.”

“Well, I don’t think we should mind that very much,” said Juliet, with a smile. “Here they are,” she added, as her sharp young eyes descried two figures emerging from the mist.

“We have brought two brace,” said Robbie, as he stamped his wet boots on the steps. “And have come home in search of dry clothes, tea, and amusement!”

“The tea and dry clothes are easily managed,” rejoined Sophy; “but the amusement you must provide for yourselves.”

“What have you been doing?” inquired Romilly, as he wrung out his damp cap; “you both seem in rather low spirits. Has Hodder not been entertaining you? Has he told you about the rajah that took such an extraordinary fancy to him?-extraordinary indeed!—and the presents he received? and the troops that were out in his honour?”

“He has been maddening!” retorted Sophy; “he has never stopped talking of himself all day.”

“You forget, Sophy, that he offered to give us a humorous recitation, and to read us his diary,” said her friend, demurely.

“Oh, did he, indeed? and from what I know of my cousin Sophy, I am certain that he got no further than the first line of ‘The crew of the Nancy Bell,’ or, ‘January 2nd, landed at Apollo Sound, and lost my new silk umbrella.’”

“You are quite right, Gerald,” responded the lady; “I assured him that it would be a shame to deprive you of the pleasure of hearing his experiences, and the reading has been reserved until after tea.”

“Now, I call that a most mischievous jest! It is not often that you are so unselfish, Sophy,” observed her cousin, impressively, “ and I guarantee that, as far as I am concerned, I shall remember your remarkable good nature. Now, we must go and change, and make ourselves fit for the drawing-room-and the reading.”

In a short time all the inmates of Snow View were assembled round the tea-table, where Sophy was dispensing tea and hot cakes.

“This is Mrs. Noote’s butter,” said Robbie, as he offered it to Juliet. “You recognize it, I dare say?”

“Yes, I should think so! considering how often I have made those prints myself.”

“Do you always live with these common butter people?” inquired Mr. Hodder, with ill-concealed disapproval.

“For the present I do.” And turning to Gerald, she said, “Every few days I receive a note from Mrs. Noote, to remind me that my visit here is passing, and that they are looking forward to my return. I had no idea she was so fond of me!”

“She is not very fond of me,” he rejoined, with a merry laugh. “I’ll not forget how she bundled me out of the house; nor poor old Noote, with his look of miserable deprecation, as much as to say, ‘Don’t tear me to pieces too much,’ and how his wife shouted, ‘Noote, go to bed,’ just as if she were speaking to a dog. If I had been her unhappy husband, I should have taken a stick to her.”

“Ah, you hold very strong ideas on the subject of marital supremacy,” remarked Sophy; “ideas picked up in this country.”

“Talking of ideas picked up in this country reminds me of your suggestion about my diary, Mrs. Casson;” and to their unconcealed dismay, Mr. Hodder suddenly produced a large drab-coloured book, with the word “Diary” printed across the cover in bright green letters.

“I don’t like diaries,” remarked Romilly, with disconcerting candour. “They are a sort of joint-stock affair, of which only one person gets the credit. Mackintosh, who lives with me, keeps one, and occasionally drives me crazy by demanding what he was doing on Thursday fortnight, or what was the date of somebody’s dinner-party?”

“I keep mine most regularly,” protested Mr. Hodder, with dignity; “and have done so since I was a lad. I can tell what the weather has been every day for the last thirty years.”

“Then you can easily tell me what sort of a day it was when I was born?” said Romilly.

“No difficulty about that,” snarled Mr. Hodder; “a bad day, I should think!”

“A nasty one for me,” exclaimed the young man, with a good-humoured laugh, and the other continued—

“But a truce to jokes. This,” sharply tapping the back of the diary, “is for publication; it is intended to be a sort of humorous account of my travels out here, and will interest people at home. I don’t think any one has thought of it before-a description of daily life, written in a pleasant, chatty form. Ahem—” and clearing his throat twice, and before any one could interfere or expostulate, he began

Monday, Sept. 25th.—Arrived at Bombay; heat most oppressive. Went to hotel, nameless, as I do not wish to give any special hotel the benefit of my advertisement. Large table-d’hôte crowded-fairly good dinner, excellent prawn curry; pleased to find all the servants spoke English. Met an intelligent man—with whom I talked for several hours on the verandah; gave him my ideas about the country, and its capabilities. Seemed a good deal struck. Has been in Bombay twenty years. Slept badly.

Tuesday, Sept. 26th.—Heat intense, left off my undervest and cholera-belt-hope I shall not take a chill; breakfast squalid. Spoke to manager, and complained of the eggs. Shopping-prices enormous—a topee, eighteen shillings; white umbrella, fifteen shillings. Bought blue spectacles and veil-went to chemist’s and bank.”

“Hullo!” interrupted Romilly. “Excuse me, Hodder; but there is some one outside the verandah, making signs.”

“Oh, yes,” remarked Sophy. “It’s only one of my lepers.”

“Only lepers!” repeated Mr. Hodder. “Why, you don’t mean to say they actually come out about the place? I thought they were all shut up in asylums. This should be reported.”

“Who is to report them?” inquired Sophy. “Not I, for one. There are a good many sufferers among these hills. I shall be back directly. You must not be at all alarmed—there is no fear of infection; and anyway, these men have only the white leprosy, which is not considered contagious.”

“I don’t like it at all,” grumbled Mr. Hodder, watching Sophy and Gerald—standing under an umbrella-holding a parley with two wretched creatures, outside the palings. They were wrapped in the invariable hill costume, a brown blanket drawn over their heads, and seemed cold and wet and miserable.

“Poor creatures,” said Sophy, as she returned, “they feel the sudden change, and their dreadful disease is most painful in cold weather. There has been a death-a truly happy release—and they wanted a little help.”

“Why don’t they go to the asylum? I’ve no pity for them—and I’m sure they should not be encouraged,” said Mr. Hodder.

“Some go, and some will not, but remain in their homes with their relations, who are wonderfully good to them, in spite of the fact that they believe leprosy to be a visitation from God, in punishment for some sin against a Brahmin or a cow. They feed them, and clothe them, and conceal them, if necessary.”

“On the other hand,” said Romilly, “I have been told of men who actually live with lepers, in order to get the disease, and become eligible for admittance to the asylum-and for the receipt of three or five rupees a month, granted for maintenance.”

“Impossible! Incredible! Monstrous! Monstrous! I don’t believe it!” said Mr. Hodder, stoutly.

“Well, I don’t know—people will do much for idleness and money, and to an absolutely destitute man, the evil of leprosy, and death at a long distance, seems less terrible than an immediate end by starvation. I heard of one pensioner, a leper-voluntarily in an asylum-who saved most of his allowance, being a great miser, and died quite rich, and to a certain extent, happy.”

“You have pensioners of your own, Gerald,” said Sophy. “I know the family——”

“What can we do?” he interrupted. “Nothing beyond bestowing a few rupees. I know a Mahomedan who has given his whole life to them, and lived in the leper asylum, and among the lepers, for forty years. There is a hero, if you like! a hero unknown to fame.”

“This is not a very pleasant topic of conversation,” remonstrated Mr. Hodder, with a disgusted air.

“And now, if there are no more interruptions, I would like to go on with my little reading.”

Sophy and Juliet took up their work reluctantly; whilst the two men exchanged significant glances, and settled themselves into attitudes of ease and resignation.

Five-ten-twenty minutes of inflated rhodomontade, of dull descriptions of meals, mosquitoes, mail-trains, manners and customs, all read in a monotonous, self-appreciative voice, and then Robbie broke in with unusual animation.

“Excuse me, Hodder, it’s not fair to keep you reading to us all the evening, like this; you are getting quite husky—turn about is fair play—and my wife will amuse us for a change. Sophy, you edit that fitful meteor, the Durano Star—an amateur magazine,” he explained; “you have some stuff in hand. Give us that ghost-story you were speaking about; it’s daylight, and we won’t be frightened.”

“Oh, but I shall be terrified,” exclaimed Romilly. “I am a believer in ghosts. If it is a very bad one, Sophy, you must allow me to hold your hand.”

“Ghost-stories—for an amateur magazine!” exclaimed Mr. Hodder. “Well, you must be easily pleased! I assure you I don’t mind going on reading for another hour.”

“We would not think of allowing it,” said Romilly, with eager politeness. “You must not knock yourself up, you know. Sophy, where is your future magazine?”

“Well, at any rate, I’ll just finish up to Lucknow,” said Mr. Hodder, with an imperious gesture of his hand. “The diary is divided into periods, as you may perceive.” In ten minutes he had closed the book, and complacently surveying his audience, blandly inquired if “they had any suggestions to make?”

“I should eliminate the meals, and the prices of the tickets and gharry hire,” said Romilly. “You might as well publish your account-book, while you are about it!”

“And there is rather too much about climate, and mosquitoes and dust, and hotels,” continued Sophy.

Mr. Hodder’s bland smile faded, and his brow grew black.

“All very fine; but if I leave out these topics, what will be left? What seems commonplace to you, will be deeply interesting to readers at home; you don’t appreciate humour and style. None of you are literary people!”

“Except Sophy,” said her husband, tossing a big roll of manuscript into her lap. “Read us something thrilling, Sophia.”

“That is easier said than done,” she replied, opening and turning over the manuscripts, and reading aloud the titles. “Here is a poem, ‘To Lucy’s Eyelashes.’”

“No, no, no,” protested two masculine voices, in one breath.

“‘Relics of Alexander the Great on the Banks of the Indus.’”

“No; that sounds too dry. We are not literary, and it would be wasted on Robbie and me. Get hold of the ghost story,” said Romilly.

“Then here it is; it’s called, ‘The Death Card,’ and is written in a most atrocious hand. Would you like the lamps in?”

“Oh, no,” responded Gerald, “never mind them yet. I dare say if you can read it, we can bear it. Miss Carwithen, may I sit close to you-for I am naturally of a very timid disposition?”

This announcement evoked a dissentient growl from Mr. Hodder, who had settled himself far back into his chair with his precious diary fondly clasped on his breast, and an expression of contemptuous pity on his naturally ill-tempered countenance.

“Now, good people,” said Sophy, briskly, “when you have quite finished talking, and arranging yourselves, I am ready to begin.”

Chapter XXIV

The Death-Card

“A living dead man.”
Comedy of Errors.

There is no name or number on the gate piers, nor is there any gate; merely a broken ladder, and a few thorny bushes thrown across the entrance, in order to embarrass stray cattle and hungry bazaar ponies. A few yards within the compound has been planted a great black notice-board, on which is inscribed in immense letters—


To a stranger it appears a curious announcement, for a structure of imposing proportions is already on the ground; a white two-storied house, standing square to the four winds of heaven, with a flat roof, fine double verandah, and a lofty entrance-porch almost the size of an ordinary abode. It is surrounded by forty acres of scorched brown grass, dotted with a few neglected mango trees, and battered-looking poinsettias; and is approached from north and south by a winding avenue, scored with rain channels and choked with weeds. Probably the mansion was erected in the beginning of the century by some merchant prince, who looked upon it as his permanent abode; and from the high-road it still retains somewhat of the air of its former grandeur; but, on nearer inspection, it is painfully apparent that “Ichabod” is written all over the place in large characters. The beaten-down shrubberies, the dry fish pond, the grass-grown steps, the long green streaks which deface the walls, the Venetian shutters hanging by broken hinges, rattling drearily in every gust of wind—all, all, proclaim that the glory of this house has departed, whilst the sudden banging of a door in the empty interior has a remarkably startling and disagreeable effect!

For many years before it succumbed to its present condition, the bungalow had ceased to be the residence of wealthy married people, but had risen, or fallen, into the hands of bachelors, and, thanks to its central position, and vicinity to the club, Mount Road, and beach, become the most popular “Chummery” in the whole of Madras.

It boasted capital stabling, and some renowned tennis-courts. The stables are now roofless; vagrant syces had stolen the rafters to boil grain; the tennis-courts are entirely obliterated, and yet it is not so very long ago since both were in daily requisition. In India an establishment falls into decay much more speedily that it does in England. Here the elements and insects assist old Father Time with amazing zeal and success. The blasting hot winds, the blistering sun, the torrents of a tropical downpour, with the visitation of an occasional cyclone, and the perpetual residence of legions of white ants, very soon occasion surprising ravages in an uninhabited house.

*  *  *

The last tenants of the Chummery were two young men named Kegan and Bassett, who were popularly known as the Siamese twins, for they appeared to be almost as inseparable. They had been school-fellows, they came from the same neighbourhood at home, had arrived in Madras by the same steamer, were employed in the same great mercantile house, to which the same office-gharry carried them every morning. In appearance they afforded a remarkable contrast. Kegan was short, fair, and fragile-looking. He wore a pince-nez, had a nice little tenor voice, was talkative, an immense dandy, and fond of ladies’ society. He was reported among his intimates to suffer from a dangerous form of heart-disease; at any rate, he never played cricket, danced, or got on a horse’s back, and was notoriously nervous about his health-constitutionally timid, and secretly superstitious. Bassett, on the other hand, had nerves and a constitution of iron. He stood six feet two in his stockings, and was a man of few words; dark and gaunt, with prominent black eyes and enormous bony hands, careless of his appearance—partial to blinding blazers and jairan suits—and totally indifferent to female fascinations. Little Kegan was the leader of the two; he managed the household, and he managed his friend with equal skill, and eventually lured the latter to balls, bands, and garden-parties, and affected a striking change in his style of dress. The dramatic club was a great feature at the time, and he had no difficulty in persuading Bassett that he possessed the undeveloped capacities of a first-rate actor and the physique of an eminent tragedian. Bassett greedily swallowed this luscious morsel of flattery! He joined the club without delay or demur, and embarked on the troubled waters of amateur theatricals, appeared with considerable success upon the local boards, and was speedily engulfed in the same vortex as his friend. The Siamese twins were decidedly popular and in immense request, so much so that the office brougham now required three horses, for it was on the road morning, noon, and night. The young men were no niggards, and gave tennis-parties, breakfasts, and ladies’ dinners, and their rupees began to vanish like snow before the sun. Champagne costs money, so does a Portuguese cook, and many are the pickings in a bachelor ménage.

“This bungalow would accommodate twenty men,” remarked Kegan one day, as the pair sat smoking in long chairs in the upper verandah, discussing financial resources and the alarming deficit in the domestic budget.

“Last chummey here there were eight fellows; and two hundred a month is a devil of a rent! Suppose we take in a couple?”

Bassett grunted assent.

“You see,” continued his companion, volubly, “there are heaps of stables and servants’ quarters, and loads of room below; they won’t interfere with us. Of course they will take their meals with us, and will have to come up to breakfast and dinner. They must keep to their own quarters. I could not stand my books and things being knocked about, or to have some heavy-handed booby thumping on my new piano.”

Bassett nodded his head in sympathetic assent as he lit a fresh cigarette.

“Can you suggest any one?” continued Kegan.

“Yes; there is that chap Collier. I heard him saying he could not put up with his present quarters any longer; the feeding is filthy. He would come like a shot; and that lad Moore, who seems a pal of his, would jump at the chance.”

“He would jump at more than a chance!” rejoined Kegan, pettishly. “We should have him putting up hurdles all over the compound, and schooling over every gate and wall on that old waler of his.”

“Oh, well, he is a good sort of boy, and he is a gentleman! As long as you are not asked to take the hurdles, why should you care? I’ve suggested two; if you can pick a better couple, go ahead.”

Kegan sat smoking for some time in meditative silence, evidently passing all his acquaintances in review order; and then he said in a brisk tone

“All right. I’ll see Collier to-morrow, and I’ll make a point of sounding him.”

In another week the lower rooms were occupied by two new chums; there were extra ponies in the stable, and several sharp fox terriers on guard in the porch. John Collier was accountant in a bank-a cheery young man of eight and twenty, with an uncommonly hard head-fond of his club, a notable whist player, and much sought and esteemed as a fellow who could tell a first-class story, and keep a whole room in roars of laughter without a smile upon his own clean-shaven visage. He did not affect ladies’ society; he never put on his best coat in order to make calls. No; he openly declared that “he had not come out to the country to be bothered with women, but simply to get on in the world.” As to getting married, he would as soon cast himself into the odoriferous Coombe River.

Tommy Moore-whose name was not Tommy-was a boy of twenty, a probationer for the Burmese police, full of life and health and spirit, unaffectedly delighted to find himself his own master, and ten times a day he would exclaim, with twinkling eyes, “Oh, I say, isn’t this a ripping country! never want to go home again! The sport is A1. Every one is so jolly kind; and as to the climate, I call it first-class.” He had never experienced hot weather, poor lad! He spent much of his leisure snipe-shooting out Palaverum way, or taking a prominent part in paper-chases, on a well-bred elderly waler that he had picked up at an auction for a mere song.

The four inmates of the Chummery agreed remarkably well. The tastes of the downstair lodgers did not clash with those of the original occupants, who were left to rehearse their songs and theatricals undisturbed. They breakfasted and occasionally dined in company in a cool room on the second floor, and now and then they had a game of tennis or a rubber of whist; but Kegan and Bassett were in too great demand elsewhere to spend much of their time at home.

“I say, Collier,” began Moore, quite suddenly, as they walked home together from the club one night, “does it strike you that our upper story are not quite as chummy as they used to be?”

“What has put that idea into your empty head?” inquired Collier.

“Oh, lots of things! Kegan is uncommonly snappy sometimes, and I’ve seen Bassett give him some fine scowls. He was talking of Bassett’s acting the other day, and said that a lady of his acquaintance had told him that Bassett’s tragic acting was ten times more comic than any burlesque, and made her cry with laughter!”

“That was a real nasty one; and how did the great Bassett take it?”

“He merely rolled his big black eyes and grunted, and said, ‘Well, any way, I amuse—and that’s something! I don’t excite contempt and derision when I try to take a high note, and my voice goes into an excruciating squeal. Kegan, little man, if you could only see the hideous faces you make, you’d never sing again!’”

“That was a facer for Kegan! I fancy it’s the hot weather coming on, and beginning to affect their livers, or tempers,” remarked Collier, throwing away his cheroot, as he stepped into the porch; “either that, or—” he laughed.

“Or what?”

“Or there is a lady in the case. Cherchez la femme!” and he strolled off to his own quarters, whistling.

*  *  *

I’ve got to the bottom of it!” said Tommy, bursting into his friend’s bedroom, two days later. “A fellow in the club told me the twins are in love with the same girl! Now, what do you say to that? Is it not a splendid joke?”

“Don’t be an ass, Tommy!” protested his friend, sleepily.

“I am not an ass, Jack Collier; and she is a Miss Perry—the jolly girl who acts and dances so scrumptiously in the burlesque; you’ve seen her. She has round blue eyes, and rather a cocked nose; but she is a pretty girl, and a most deadly flirt.”

“Oh, indeed! and as you have settled it all to your complete satisfaction,” said Collier, with a yawn, “perhaps you will get out of my room, and let me go to sleep.”

“I thought it might interest you,” said the boy, apologetically.

“And it does not—no more than last year’s telegrams; so clear.”

“I’d no idea you had gone to bed; good night, old chap,” and Tommy took his departure somewhat dolefully.

Mr. Moore’s intelligence was perfectly correct. Nita Perry was one of the beauties of Madras. She had a saucy smile, a pair of rather wicked blue eyes, and an insatiable taste for flirtation. She acted and sang, and had shocked a few, and delighted many, by her exquisite dancing in a recent burlesque. She had seen a great deal of the Siamese twins—they were now called the rivals, for it was patent that they had both lost their hearts to the same fair damsel; and her intimates declared that it was really too abominable, the way in which she played them off against each other, especially as she had not the remotest intention of marrying either.

She would walk all evening on “Cupid’s bow,” running the gauntlet of every carriage, with Bassett as her companion, leaving Kegan to murderous thoughts, and apparently oblivious of his existence.

The same night, she would sit out three dances, under the stars with Kegan, with the top of their heads barely visible behind her big feather fan, sending him home in boisterous spirits, singing snatchings of love-songs, as he sat beside his glum companion in the joint brougham. Well and long as they knew each other, they never told their love, never breathed the name of Nita Perry; but their former liking was now replaced by a sound, sour hatred, a hatred which, being carefully concealed, smouldered rather dangerously. Their ancient friendship was an irksome chain. Alas! like galley-slaves, they were condemned to the same house, the same office, the same gharry; they had even the same dhoby! Each longed most ardently to be rid of the other—of course, in a quiet, gentlemanly fashion-but how was this to be accomplished without a public scandal? Ah, there was the rub! The season was on the wane. It had come to be the last dance, the last concert, the last reception, and every day heavily laden trains carried off crowds of beauty and fashion, who were escaping to the hills. Neither Kegan nor Bassett obtain leave. This was a source of mutual satisfaction, and the situation had now become so strained that they experienced a certain sense of relief when the fair Nita was seen off by them both from the central station—en route to Ootacamund. Each was satisfied with her farewell, and hugged his favour in his heart, as they drove down to the almost deserted beach in dead silence.

She had kissed her finger tips to Bassett. Yes; but Kegan had been blessed with her parting smile!

*  *  *

Government, followed by society, had gone to the cool blue hills, and the remnant who were left was visited by dust storms, by scorching days and breathless nights, by prickly heat, and, worst of all, by cholera. Life was not pleasant at the Chummery. Bassett and Kegan squabbled and sparred incessantly; each suspected every letter the other received or sent; the strain of the dull, hot weather days, in darkened rooms, wore their scanty supply of mutual forbearance almost threadbare. Innuendoes, sneers, and gibes were the sauces served with meals; and Bassett, who had always a morbid love for the horrible, took an immense delight in topics that made Kegan turn pale, and writhe in his chair; of a brutal murder, a shocking accident, or an execution, not a detail was spared.

It was too hot to go to the club after dinner; their sitting room caught whatever sea-breeze there might be, and every night the four chums played whist; and, in that absorbing occupation, forgot for the time heat, dulness, and even jealousy.

One evening, as they sat in their shirt-sleeves, well advanced in the second rubber, Bassett, who was dealing, turned up the ace of spades.

“Look at that, Kegan!” he exclaimed, slapping it with his palm. “You are a superstitious beggar, I know, and put faith in omens and in fortune-telling; there is the death-card!”

“As if I believed in such old women’s rubbish!” retorted other, irritably. “I wish you would limit your remarks to the game.”

“It might be a warning,” persisted Bassett. “There were deaths in Blacktown, yesterday, and young Roden, of post-office, went out this afternoon.”

“What?” exclaimed Kegan, turning very white, and lay down his cards; “impossible! I was speaking to him last night.”

“Very likely you were; but, all the same, he was carried off in a few hours,” now proceeding to retail the circumstances in a few short and terrible sentences.

“There,” cried Kegan, putting up his hands; “for God’s sake stop! Upon my word, you take a positive delight in the disease. I wonder it does not get hold of you. It would serve you right if it did.”

“Oh, would it? Well, if it comes to that,” now fixing his great tragic eyes on his partner, “I swear I won’t go out of this chummery alone! You are my twin, and are bound to accompany me. I take you two fellows to witness,” appealing to the others, with a hoarse laugh. “I have a particular reason for not wishing to leave Kegan behind me. However, I don’t funk it, and never did, so you need not be frightened; it’s only the nervous ones that take it. I’d sleep in a cholera ward to-morrow, as soon as not. I’m hardened; there’s no fear of me.”

Despite his confidence in his safety from the epidemic, three days later Joe Bassett was dead. His bedroom was exactly opposite the general sitting-room, on the upper floor, and there he lay, covered with a sheet, ready for the grave, to which he was to be borne at sunrise. A small kerosene lamp burned on the table, and a purdah (curtain) across the door alone concealed the body from the three survivors.

When Mr. Kegan had first heard of his friend’s seizure, he had been intensely excited and agitated, and so restless and strange that his mind seemed almost unhinged. To Collier was left all the necessary arrangements, whilst the dead man’s former bosom friend was fortifying himself with champagne over at the club. He returned about eleven o’clock at night, when the doctors and orderlies had departed, and the tramping of strange feet had ceased, and joined Moore and Collier, who were smoking in the general sitting-room. Conversation did not flourish, and after the feverish anxiety and bustle of the last few hours, a great stillness reigned, only broken by the melancholy booming of the surf, and the howls of a pack of jackals, who were scouring the neighbourhood.

Kegan appeared wonderfully composed now, totally different from the distraught, hysterical appearance he had presented a short time previously. He was bearing the loss of his chum with extraordinary fortitude.

“Could it be possible that he was glad to be rid of him?” thought Collier, as he scrutinized the somewhat pinched little face. “Glad that Bassett is out of the way? No! he could hardly be such a brute; and I am a brute to imagine it,” he concluded, with compunction.

“We may as well go to bed,” he remarked, aloud. “Come along, Tom; it’s twelve o’clock, and the funeral leaves at five sharp.”

“Oh, I say, you fellows, you can’t go away!” entreated Kegan. “You could not be so brutal as to leave me.” And seeing Moore had already risen, he pushed him forcibly back into his seat. “Sit up with me. Just for once,” he whimpered. “I know you are both a good sort.

Don’t leave me, for Heaven’s sake, don’t, don’t!“ Was this terrified, unhinged creature, with desperate eyes and white, drawn face, the same self-confident, spruce little Kegan, the darling of society? After this almost frenzied outburst, he continued, “How can I go to bed with that-that-horror next door?” pointing to the opposite room. “And, anyway, it’s too hot to sleep!” he urged, piteously.

Moore and Collier exchanged significant glances, and agreed to remain where they were; and as Moore went to the head of the stairs and shouted down to their respective servants that they might go to bed, an expression of vast relief spread itself over Kegan’s haggard countenance.

The three men settled into comfortable armchairs, smoking furiously, and talking at distant intervals of the dead man’s good qualities, the awful suddenness of his summons, of his relations at home, and finally of his money affairs and his odd ways.

“He was a queer chap always,” explained Kegan; “especially lately, and he was always talking of death, and horrors. You remember what he said to me in this very room, only three nights ago?” and he shivered at the recollection, though the air was that of a furnace. “Of course it was only a joke; but somehow I shall not feel easy until he is out of the house! I remember, when we were boys, he wanted me to agree that whoever died first should come back and visit the other; but I wouldn’t agree—no, I wouldn’t!” he reiterated, almost fiercely. “And—and of course, there is no such thing possible—is there, Collier?”

“No, of course not. I wonder you are so childish, Kegan. One would think you were off your chump!”

“I believe I am not myself to-day; the shock has upset me, and you know my heart is queer, and makes me jumpy; but it’s a horrible feeling, that I cannot get over, that something is going to happen to me.”

“Nonsense, man, it’s this infernal climate, or your liver, or you smoke too much.”

“Look here, Collier!” he exclaimed, irritably; “that boy is falling asleep. Let us start something to keep us all awake. Let us have a game of cards.”

“No, no; not to-night,” objected Collier, with a shake of his head.

“Why not? You are dropping off too. You need have no scruples about old Bassett; he would be the first to get up a rubber, if one of us lay there. If I sit here, I’ll get the blue devils, and so will you, or something worse. Come ;it will pass the time, and keep us from thinking; and there are four mortal hours to kill yet.”

Collier allowed himself to be persuaded; for he assured himself that if Kegan had not some distraction, he looked as if he would “go off his head,” and in a few minutes a rubber was in full swing-a rubber with “dummy,” for the first time. Kegan was seated with his back to the open door, for it was an intensely hot night. Collier faced him; whilst Moore sat to the left. In the absorbing interest of a closely contested game, all surroundings were soon forgotten; the men smoked as they played, merely pausing now and then to knock off a cigar-ash, or wipe away the perspiration which trickled down their faces. The late full moon had risen, and flooded the land with a ghostly light. It was as bright as day, and save for the jackals and the surf, and the creaking of the punkah, pulled from below, as still as death.

All at once Kegan, who was dealing, let fall from his shaking hand the ace of spades. His lips working convulsively, his face was of an ashen colour, as he gazed across at his partner, with a look of horror in his near-sighted pale eyes.

“It’s all right, old man,” returned the other, cheerily. “I never saw anything to dislike in an ace of trumps. You’re a bit off colour, as you say, and I expect your liver is out of order. Moore, it’s your lead.”

In a very short time, clear-headed, acute Jack Collier had to be reminded that it was his lead. Why was he staring in that odd manner right over Kegan’s head into the passage? One would suppose he saw something there! Kegan being near-sighted, did not notice this, nor how distrait his partner had become, until Collier suddenly sprang to his feet, saying, “Excuse me. I’ll be back directly!” went hastily out of the room-not through the door, but by the verandah, and hurried below.

“What on earth is keeping him?” inquired Kegan, peevishly rapping his pince-nez on the table. “He has not been taken ill? There’s nothing the matter, is there?”

“I’ll just go and see,” stammered Moore, who seemed rather flurried, and who precipitately effected an exit by the same verandah, and tore downstairs at such breakneck speed that he nearly fell over his friend, who was coming in the opposite direction.

“Now then, young Moore!” cried Collier, dragging him forward into the moonlight. “What’s up? Have you seen something, too?”

“Rather!” panted the boy, breathlessly.

“I hoped it was an optical delusion, or some humbug of that sort. I’ve slept very little lately, and one’s brain plays queer tricks. I thought I’d run down and have a whisky and soda, and pull myself together. I suppose we saw the same thing. Eh, Tom?”

“I don’t know what you saw,” rejoined Tommy, with a shudder. “I saw the purdah across the door pulled back by a long, bony hand, and Bassett——”

“Yes,” interrupted Collier, releasing his arm; “and it’s a beastly shame for us to funk, whatever it is, and leave that miserable beggar up there alone. Come on.”

“But he had his back to the door, and——”

At this moment there was the sound of a piercing yell, and a heavy fall overhead, and the two men made a simultaneous dash for the stairs. When they reached the upper story they discovered Kegan lying on the floor of the passage— he was locked in the arms of the corpse, and stone dead!

*  *  *

People say that most things, however strange or startling, admit of explanation, and the doctors elucidated this tragedy to their own complete satisfaction.

Bassett had not been defunct, as was supposed; but merely in a state of coma, closely resembling death. Apparently he had rallied a little, had crawled to seek assistance, and suddenly confronted Kegan, who, as every one knew, had heart disease, and Kegan had died of the shock; the whole thing was due to natural causes, and perfectly simple.

But Collier and Moore, bearing in mind Bassett’s fierce, half-playful threat, and Kegan’s abject terror, were not convinced (though they maintained a golden silence). They lost no time in quitting the premises, with their guns and dogs and ponies; and, somehow, since then, the big white house on the Nellore Road has never had another human tenant.

*  *  *

“Well, I, for one, agree with the doctors,” said Juliet. “There was nothing supernatural about it. A case of heart disease and a case of cholera—that was all!”

All, and quite enough!” said Gerald, emphatically.

“Of course it was stuff and nonsense,” said Mr. Hodder. “I wonder people take the trouble to read or write such trash!” Once more producing the dreaded diary—“I see it is not yet seven o’clock, and there will just be nice time to read you a little more of my diary before dinner.”

“Oh, thanks very much, Mr. Hodder,” protested his hostess. “I am expecting the dressing-gong every moment.”

But Mr. Hodder, who, next to writing up his diary, enjoyed reading it aloud, was not thus to be put off and set aside.

“There is fully half an hour,” he persisted; “and I can easily read you the bit about Benares; and I rather want to know how it sounds.”

Alas! there was no alternative for the two defenceless ladies; they were compelled to sit down and listen with what patience they could muster; whilst the men, men-like, effected their escape.

Chapter XXV

A False Alarm

“Stand not upon the order of your going.”

Days seemed to take wings and fly like hours at Snow View, and the precious moments of Gerald Romilly’s leave were ebbing away like sand in an hour-glass. His time belonged to his country; he was not his own master, like his hated, blatant rival. Mr. Hodder more than suspected Romilly’s admiration for Miss Carwithen; but what was he, after all, but a penniless officer in a Ghoorka regiment! He was pleasantly alive to the fact that his leave was about to expire, and was determined to figuratively “sit him out.” Yes, he meant to propose for the girl; indeed, once or twice he had been on the eve of a declaration, and something had always prevented him; was it Juliet Carwithen herself? No; she had a stand-off manner, but she was a sensible young woman, and would never be so insane as to refuse him, knowing that he could take her away from this semi-savage life among the mountains, and give her a grand establishment in London, with horses and servants, and diamonds, and everything she could possibly desire. After all, what did he see in her? he querulously asked himself; what, beyond her pretty face and pretty figure? She was nobody; she had not a rap. She had no friends, except the Cassons, and was a boarder in some low, neighbouring farmhouse. Still, there was an air, a charm, a fascination about her that he could not withstand; in spite of her plain serge or white gowns, she always looked like some great personage. She would make a good appearance in his landau in the park, or at the head of his dinner-table. Yes, he would certainly marry her.

Gerald Romilly was by no means so sanguine of success. Miss Carwithen had talked and laughed with him, played tennis with him, ridden with him, and always been bright, merry, and friendly; but he had a secret conviction that beyond the footing of a pleasant acquaintance he might never be promoted. He had seen occasional glimpses of a Juliet Carwithen, who was as cold and as distant as her beloved mountain peaks, and he had not the smallest reason to suppose that she really cared one jot more for him than for her elderly admirer. Nevertheless, he was not disheartened; he was resolved that he would take a leaf out of Mr. Hodder’s book and wait.

Mrs. Casson’s verandah was a favourite household rendezvous; it was matted from end to end; it contained delightful chairs, adapted to every figure; it opened on the garden, and, best of all, commanded an uninterrupted view of the snows. All the party at Snow View were habitual early risers, save Mr. Hodder—his long walks and climbs, and even his short rides, made him painfully stiff and reluctant to bestir himself. One morning he was late for breakfast, as usual; meanwhile, three of his fellow-inmates awaited him hungrily in the verandah—Mrs. Casson, Gerald Romilly, and Juliet Carwithen, who, shading her eyes with her hand, stood on the steps surveying the snows.

“I never tire of gazing at them,” she remarked to Mr. Romilly, who leant against a pillar looking at herself. “They are always beyond one’s expectations,” she continued. “When I have not seen them for a few days, and the clouds lift, they surpass my recollection of them. I would rather look at the snows than anything in the world; would not you?”

“No,” regarding her steadily; “there are other objects I could as soon look at.”

“What?” colouring under his gaze. “And you almost a hill-man!”

“Here is a real hill-man with the letters—the mail,” cried Sophy, as a chuprassi came panting up the walk with a heavy leather bag slung over his shoulder. “What a quantity!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands as the letters and papers were emptied out on a wicker table. Mine, and mine, and mine!” snatching up three, with a laugh.

“And mine, and mine, and mine!” echoed Gerald, imitating her example.

“Three for Robbie, one for Mr. Hodder, two more for you, Gerald, and heaps of papers for me,” she concluded greedily.

“Nothing for me?” inquired Juliet, wistfully.

“No, my dear. Here is The Queen to look over.”

“How I envy you and Mr. Romilly, each with a budget!”

“You are welcome to any of mine,” said the young man, tendering a handful, like a pack of cards.

“What a rash offer!” cried Sophy. “He knows it is a safe one, Juliet. Gerald, you have no fewer than nine letters!”

“Yes; one would think that I had come in for a fortune.”

“Or were going to be married,” added Sophy.

“Two are from Durano,” he said; “bogus epistles concerning Mrs. Lumley’s theatricals and Mrs. Bax’s concert; one from the mater.”

But Sophy was now deep in her own correspondence, and made no answer; and presently Romilly was immersed in his own.

Juliet sighed enviously as she surreptitiously glanced at her companions from behind her newspaper. Sophy was all smiles. Mr. Romilly was not all smiles; no, he was looking extremely serious, not to say discomposed, as he perused a closely covered letter on foreign paper. She could not help watching him as he read it. She had never seen such a grave expression on his face before, as he turned back a page and went over it carefully a second time.

The letter was from Mrs. Romilly, and began

“My Dear Gerald,

“Since I wrote to you last mail, a great change in circumstances has befallen us; I have so much to tell you I don’t know how or where to begin, and you must excuse a rambling letter, for I hardly know what I am doing, and this must go out this evening. You remember the Egremonts, who are connections of your father’s—people in the west of England. Lord Egremont, an old man, with a fine place, and about eleven thousand a year, is the head of the family, and you, my dear Gerald, are now his direct heir” (“My mother has gone out of her mind,” muttered the young man to himself), “that is to say, after your father. You know these Egremonts never took any notice of us, though we were their cousins; I mean your father was first cousin once removed to the old man-is, I should say, since they are both alive—but we, having been all our lives in India, have been forgotten to a certain extent; and there never was any intimacy, or visiting, or correspondence. Old Lord Egremont is eighty-two, and had a son and grandson, as it might be your father and you; they went on a yachting trip to the West Indies, and both have died there of the yellow fever. Is it not sad! I am sorry for the poor old man, bereaved at the end of his days. He sent for your father, who was greatly surprised to find that he is the heir, and he went off yesterday. There is a daughter-in-law and two daughters, but there are no men relations, and everything goes in the male line. I’m writing fearful nonsense, I know; I hope you can understand. Of course this news makes a great difference in our affairs, and naturally is a grand thing for your father, to have a place to look after, and a place where he must live, without the bother and worry of making up his mind; and I shall be thankful to have a real home of my own, and in the country. The money I don’t think so much of; we have always had enough for our tastes. Nor do I care for the title, which must come to us ere long. The person whom all this affects most is you, Gerald. You must come home to us—at any rate, as soon as you are a captain, and that will be in a few months. Come home, and settle. How thankful I am now that you are not married, and that you would not listen to my wishes. It is a great comfort to me to feel that there is no fear of your losing your heart out in India, and that in your part of the world girls are extremely scarce. You must choose a wife who will carry the family honours well. I am a miserable, insignificant little creature, not fitted to be a woman of rank; the family diamonds would look absurd on me. You must choose a tall, beautiful, aristocratic-looking girl, whose head will become a coronet! We have been overwhelmed with congratulations. Such is the world! actually, people that I scarcely knew have called and invited us to dinner, and asked when you were coming home?” (these had daughters) “to which I answered, ‘Very shortly.’ Among our first visitors was Mr. Carwithen; he has the peerage at his fingers’ ends, and was aware of our rise in life as soon as we were ourselves. I have had no less than three notes from him in two days, offering to put you and your father up for his clubs, offering to find out about your chances of promotion-offering advice.

“And that reminds me to tell you a very strange story about him; it is a secret, so keep it to yourself. Theresa Manders came home for three months, as you know, and she told me that Mr. Carwithen was a widower when he married the second Mrs. Carwithen, and that he has a grown-up daughter out in India. He keeps her existence entirely to himself; but Theresa saw her at a school at Chotah Bilat, and says she is quite the most lovely creature she ever set eyes upon! She would like to have shown her some kindness, but when she made inquiries later, the school was broken up. I wonder what has become of the poor girl? Is not Dolly Carwithen a wretch?”

Gerald glanced involuntarily at “the poor girl.” She was standing up, waving her hand to Robbie as he came in from the tea-estate, and was, as Mrs. Manders had stated, a most lovely creature. Yes; a coronet would look to great advantage on that small, perfectly shaped head.

“Well, Gerald, I hope you have had good news,” said Sophy, gathering up a lapful of letters. “You look as grave as a mustard-pot. All right at home?”

“Yes, thank you; all most flourishing.”

“I’m sorry to say I have bad news this morning,” remarked Robbie, as they seated themselves at the breakfast-table. “I hear there is cholera, a serious outbreak, within twenty miles.”

“The pilgrims, as usual,” muttered Gerald. They bring it up from Hurdwar, and spread it all over the place.”

“It’s among coolies, on Smithwick’s tea-estate.”

Cholera! did you say?” echoed Mr. Hodder, in alarm.

“Yes; there have been a dozen deaths.”

In that case, he would make himself scarce. Pretty girls were plentiful; he would flee to the plains; he would write; he must not remain to dally with beauty. It was but one form of courting death. It was all very well to pooh-pooh cholera in bis comfortable armchair in Clapham, but quite another matter to run the risk of meeting gangs of infected wretches on the chill Himalayan slopes.

An excellent breakfast, and the cheering news that there was “not a case within twenty miles,” somewhat reassured him; his courage revived—perhaps he need not move at present.

“Twenty miles is a safe distance,” he remarked, aloud.

“Yes; cholera generally travels at the rate of one march—ten miles a day—so the natives say,” rejoined Gerald Romilly, who was anxious to speed the parting guest.

“Then, if it comes in-in-this direction,” stammered Mr. Hodder, “it will be here the day after to-morrow!”

“Yes, about then,” was the alarming answer.

The intelligent traveller became a pale, suet colour, and then said, resolutely, “In that case, I am off at daybreak.”

“All right,” said Romilly, promptly; “you can ride back with me. I will put you on your road.”

“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Casson,” said Mr. Hodder, ignoring Gerald and his offer, “to break up this delightful party; but if anything were going, I’d be sure to catch it.”

“Oh, then, of course I will not press you to stay,” said his hostess, with disappointing composure.

Mr. Hodder was disgusted to find that he was not pressed or requested to remain; but he forgot that his present surroundings were not the same as those at home. There portly commercial friends, who knew his monetary value, or warmhearted relations, who expected favours to come, made a clamour if he broached the subject of leave-taking.

Here he had quartered himself on absolute strangers, had made himself completely at home and intensely disagreeable; had bullied, argued, patronized, and contradicted right and left, and thought himself an immense acquisition, whereas it was only Robbie’s strong instinct of hospitality and beautifully placid temper that had saved him on several occasions from being thrust out summarily upon the cold hillside.

“This is our day for the expedition to Kala Durga,” said Sophy; “it is about seven miles away. Robbie is going to shoot the hills, and we will explore the old temples, if we can find them. We are going to start in an hour. I suppose you will come, Mr. Hodder?”

“Oh, yes, I’ll come, of course. I’m going to shoot!” he replied, pompously.

“I hope he won’t shoot me, as he nearly did the other day,” murmured Romilly, as he rose from table.

It proved to be a beautiful morning, and there was excellent sport, though Mr. Hodder contributed nothing to the bag. He sat on a stone and watched the younger men scaling and scrambling, or panted after them, mopping his face. No looker-on would have recognized in this stout, distressed gentleman, who never took his gun from the coolie, the splendid hero of magnificent shooting expeditions, as subsequently described to his friends, from his own hearthrug at home.

It was indeed a sight to see him toiling up hills, or timidly descending slopes, led hand-in-hand by scornful Paharis, supporting him on either side. His companions remarked him to one another with roars of laughter.

“What in the world brings the fellow out?” said Robbie. “I never came across such a specimen of a man!”

“Old woman, you mean!” corrected Gerald Romilly; “and my grandmother would be twice as plucky!”

“Yes; the only animal he ever shot was a tame goat, and that by mistake. He talks of game and deer.”

“Don’t you know the game and the deer?” inquired his companion, looking at him fixedly.

“Yes,” rejoined Robbie, with a loud laugh, kicking a stone down the hill; “as if Miss Carwithen would look at him! By the way, I see her and Sophy over on that hill; they are laying out tiffin. Come along; I am nearly mad with hunger!”

By the time that lunch had been discussed, Mr. Hodder, who lolled on a rug, picking his teeth, was in an unusually bland frame of mind. “That’s not bad claret, Casson,” he condescended to observe. “How much a dozen, eh?”

“I really cannot tell you. I’ll look when I go home.”

“Oh, never mind. I never have cheap claret at my table. Most wine in India is filth-it’s murder to give it to people. No, no,” waving away a cup, “I never touch café noir; it’s just the one thing the French like that I don’t appreciate.”

“No; I suppose you prefer their cafés chantants,” said young Romilly, in his most airy manner.

Mr. Hodder snorted, and there was an angry flash in his little eyes.

“I wonder, now you have seen so much, Mr. Hodder, that you have not thought of going into Thibet?” interposed Sophy, with a praiseworthy desire to turn the conversation.

“Yes,” added Gerald, “and tried their brew of tea. They take it with salt and butter.”

“You are going there, Gerald, are you not? and can give us your experience. I can’t say it has an inviting sound,” continued Sophy.

“I should not think that Romilly is a fellow that drinks much tea,” remarked Mr. Hodder, insolently.

“I don’t know about that,” he answered, mildly. “I always shoot on cold tea; and according to my bearer’s account, I consume three pounds a week.”

“How you bachelors are robbed!” exclaimed Robbie. “In India a wife is a positive economy. And let me assure Mr. Hodder that my friend is a model of steadiness; he is not like a man I know, who came back from a big night at mess, and insisted on reversing the usual order of things by putting his bearer to bed!”

“These big nights at mess are a crying scandal and disgrace,” said Mr. Hodder, “and ought to be put down by law.”

“Were you ever present at one of them?” inquired Romilly; “I mean as a guest?”

“No; I would not go if I were asked. I don’t want to see a lot of tipsy young asses making fools of themselves.”

Romilly was about to make some angry retort, when Sophy the pacific frowned at him, and said, “Are you really going into Thibet, Gerald?”

“Yes; I mean to try my luck by the Auta Dara Pass, which is one hundred and twenty miles from this, and only eight from the Chinese frontier.”

“The Chinese guard will never let you pass,” said Robbie, emphatically.

“Then I shall disguise myself, for I mean to see L’Hassa and the grand lama to boot.”

“Boot, indeed! You will get the order of the boot!” exclaimed his friend. “What is there to see in that bleak, uninteresting land—a land of monks and traders?”

“A mystery hangs over it, and that is sufficient for me. If I come back alive, Sophy, I will bring you and Miss Carwithen each a beautiful gold prayer-wheel, studded with big turquoise.”

“Under those circumstances, I shall certainly not attempt to dissuade you from the expedition,” said Sophy, with a laugh. “I am extremely fond of presents.

“I’ll tell you what,” broke in Mr. Hodder, impatient of a topic in which he took no interest, “ I’ve been thinking about my diary.”

At this dread word his listeners exchanged anxious and alarmed looks. Had he it with him, concealed about his person?

“I think I shall abandon the diary form, and write a really solid work about this country, when I get home, and use the diary merely as a note-book.”

“Shall you put us all in it?” inquired Juliet, turning on him a pair of smiling interrogative eyes. “Do put in Snow View.”

“Oh, it won’t be that sort of book-nor fiction,” he rejoined, in his most pompous manner; “though I shall give the Government a hit about the scandalous state of these hill roads—roads, indeed! Goat-tracks! water-courses! I mean to write a masterpiece, in a popular form, and give the world some new and valuable ideas.”

“Your own, or other people’s?” asked Romilly, with one of his mocking glances.

“My own!” with immense dignity. “Other people’s ideas in this country are, as far as I can judge, not worth much—dressing, and racing, and shooting, and flirting—they haven’t a notion beyond that.”

“Well, at any rate, you will give us a first view of some of your ideas, will you not?” said Sophy, with a bright, persuasive smile.

“Yes; I mean to explode some absurd nonsense. In the first place, the heat out here is all bosh, except for a few weeks. The rains, too, are overrated; and the idea that people who live out in India are an army of martyrs is the greatest humbug of all.”

“Yes; go on,” said Robbie; “we are all ears.”

“Soldiers and civilians are outrageously overpaid; the expenses of the empire should be enormously cut down. Of course present company is always excepted; but the people one meets out here, in what is called society, would be in the servants’ hall at home. Oh, I’ll smash up a good many delusions! Hospitality is a thing of the past—the days when people took in strangers, and fêted them for months and years, are gone—every one wants to know who you are; the men gamble, and drink, and as to the women——”

“Look out!” shouted Romilly, suddenly springing to his feet, and waving his cap frantically. “Hornets! hornets the big black ones. Run-run--for your very lives!”

Like magic, in another second, the party was scattered in all directions. Juliet raced one way, Mrs. Casson another, Mr. Hodder, with a napkin round his neck, exhibited extraordinary fleetness of foot.

Romilly paused, and looked about him for a moment with somewhat suspicious sang froid, and then deliberately gave chase to Miss Carwithen.

Chapter XXVI

A Real Alarm

“Is this the madman?
Ay, my lord, this same!”
Twelfth Night.

Juliet ran for fully a quarter of a mile without stopping; and then she turned, and panted breathlessly—

“Are they after us? They do chase one for hours, people say.”

“No; it’s all right,” rejoined Gerald; “though I expect the future author of a great work on India won’t stop running until about the middle of next week.”

“Was there a large nest?” inquired the girl, fanning herself with her hat.

“I only saw-I tell you this in the strictest confidence—one.”

“One nest! and quite enough. Pray, how many more do you want?” she demanded, indignantly.

“One hornet! And as one swallow does not make a summer, perhaps one hornet does not signify a multitude!”

“Oh, what a shame!” cried Juliet, vehemently. “How dared you play us such a trick?”

“Do not call it by such an ugly name. Merely an artless little stratagem, to rouse the intelligent traveller. If he had sat there much longer, I know I should have choked him with the table-cloth. He won’t catch us up for some time, that’s one comfort.”

“And this is his last evening!” she remarked, demurely.

“Which is another and still greater comfort. I am sorry to say that I take my departure to-morrow also.”

Juliet made no remark, but seated herself on a large flat stone, overlooking a shallow valley, and abandoned herself to the subtle charm of her surroundings. It was a glorious afternoon; the sun shone wide; the air was charged with all the delicate perfumes drawn from wild thyme and pine woods, and musical with the sound of half a dozen little streamlets, trickling through the fresh plantations of young fir, and between great moss-grown boulder stones. Down below them clanged a cattle-bell, on the neck of some ponderous buffalo.

“The scene and the sounds remind me of Switzerland,” said Gerald, as he threw himself down on the short grass and leant back against a rock, with his hands clasped behind his head.

“Switzerland!” echoed Juliet. “How I wish that we—I mean that I-were there!”

“And why should you be so selfish as not to wish me there too?”

“Oh, you must do your own wishing!” she answered, with a laugh.

“What is your programme for the winter?” he inquired, after a tolerably long silence.

“You talk as if I were going to spend a gay season somewhere. As far as I can see, I shall remain snowed up at Kala Dara until spring,” and she heaved an involuntary sigh.

“I thought that Sophy was going to take you down with her to the plains, and show you what we out here call ‘life’?”

“I fancy there will be two opinions about that, if not three.”

“But, good Heavens! you are not going to live with those Nootes always?” he asked, impatiently.

“No; I trust not. I am hoping to go home next spring—I mean to England. Mrs. Radford, my old governess, you know, is going to have me on a long visit, and will, I trust, have found some opening for me to make my own way in the world.”

“One would imagine you were a young man,” he exclaimed, with a short laugh.

“Girls earn their bread nowadays. The good old times, when they stayed at home and made jam and shirts and elderberry wine, are over,” she said, with a nod of her head.

“And may I ask what you are thinking of as a future career?” he inquired, looking at her with amused, critical eyes.

“I think of going on the stage,” she answered, coolly.

“The stage!” he repeated, starting to an erect sitting posture, and surveying her incredulously.

“Why, you look quite shocked!” she exclaimed, with a laugh. “As shocked as the French governess at St. Oswald’s, who always so deeply regretted that I was not a Roman Catholic, and might have a vocation, and take the veil, in order that I might give music-lessons at her pet convent, and be a leader in the choir. When I told her that I would much rather be prima donna in opera, she nearly collapsed; she looked just as you do!”

“Of course it is out of the question?” he exclaimed, impetuously.

“I don’t see it at all. My voice is my one talent. I know it requires training. I would go abroad, to some first-rate conservatoire, and work very hard, and at least I might become a concert singer. Of course I would change my name.”

“You could do that without going on the stage,” he remarked, significantly. The observation apparently fell on deaf ears.

He looked at the girl as she sat on the rock, her eyes fixed, in an abstracted, castle-building gaze, upon the distant snows. Her hat was pushed back, and the light winds played daintily with the soft rings of hair about her temples; her hands were clasped round her knees, and one slender, neatly shod foot was crossed over the other. She was in one of her day dreams, and did not seem to have heard his question; and, what was worse still, to have forgotten his existence.

“To go out and seek her fortune!” She should never have a chance of doing so, as long as he could prevent it. Should he speak now? No; it was an unpropitious moment. Should he tell her about his mother’s letter and his change of prospects? No; it would not weigh a straw with her; and if he won her at all, he would rather win her as what she believed him to be—a subaltern in a Ghoorka regiment, with a modest income besides his pay. She never opened her lips to him about her family affairs since the day they had first met. Indeed, on that subject, she was quite unapproachable; and why should he thrust his concerns upon her?

“Well, Miss Carwithen,” he exclaimed, after a long, reflective silence, “a penny for your thoughts.”

“I was thinking,” she said, rousing herself, “of many delightful things—of my favourite songs, of applause, and bouquets, and great audiences wild with enthusiasm, and of having the power to make people laugh or weep.”

“I dare say you could manage both, without becoming a gazing-stock for thousands; in a domestic character, much can be done in either way.”

“Mr. Romilly, it amuses me to hear you. Pray, why should you object to my plan? Once I am twenty-one-and that will be in eighteen months—no one can object; I shall be my own mistress.”

“Perhaps, by that time, you will have found a master.”

“Yes,” with a merry, girlish laugh; “a singing-master. And my old music-teacher at St. Oswald’s, Herr Heinrich, used to rave about the musical profession; he said it was the most engrossing, the most delightful, the best rewarded of all careers, especially for a young woman.”

“He must have been in his dotage!” muttered Gerald, under his breath.

“What did you say?” she asked, politely.

“I say,” in a louder key, “that he was endeavouring to impose on what he had the audacity to presume was your ignorance! Here comes Sophy; and she is going to give it to us; I can see it in her eye.”

“A nice way you treated me-running off like that!” she called out, as she approached. “I have been hunting for you everywhere, and so has Mr. Hodder.”

“I hope you are not hunting in couples!” cried Gerald, in assumed alarm.

“No, no; I’ve sent him off to call Robbie, and to tell the servants to bring the tea over here. Pray! what have you two been doing?”

“Squabbling, I think,” replied Juliet, with a complacent smile.

“Ah!” said Sophy, to herself; “lovers’ quarrels. We all know what they mean!” Aloud she exclaimed, “ Come! who is going to gather sticks and fir-cones? We shall want a fire to boil the kettle; and we must all go in different directions, for fuel seems rather scarce. No sticks, no tea.”

Juliet rose obediently, and set off alone along a narrow path that led over the brow of a neighbouring hill, the far side of which was covered with a strip of forest, a tangle of pine trees, shagina, wild indigo, and ringal jungle. She picked up a good many bits of broken branches, and had collected quite a respectable bundle, when she found herself in the far edge of the wood, and her attention was arrested by a curious old grey temple in a hollow at some distance, with a red flag floating aloft at the end of a long bamboo. It was a considerable way off, but she was determined to explore it, for temples were rare in the direction of Kala Dara. This one, as she approached it, proved to be on a much larger scale than she imagined. It was surrounded by a high wall, which, in one place, a gigantic peepul tree bad penetrated and rent in twain. Through this gap Juliet entered, by climbing over enormous roots and blocks of broken masonry, and found herself in a large, neglected courtyard, scattered over with a number of small shrines. In the centre stood a quaint, deserted Jain temple. Its high façade, entirely covered with a profusion of chiselled sculptured ornaments, was in a wonderful state of preservation. There were elaborate representations of gods and goddesses, elephants, horses, monkeys, and peacocks; and conspicuous above all was an enormous figure of Siva the Destroyer, with his five faces, mounted on a bull, and wearing serpents hanging from his ears. The outlay of patience, art, and time expended on this abandoned place of worship was marvellous. What years and years it must have taken to complete each detail of the delicate tracery, cut so deeply into the finely grained rock quartz! Juliet seated herself on an immense block in the centre of the enclosure and gazed at her leisure. Her roving eyes took in the gloomy ancient entrance gate, the deep square tanks, whose well-worn steps led down to thick green ooze, covering dark, semi-putrid water. The flags of the courtyard were grass-grown, and prodigious bunches of nettles and brambles choked up every corner. Yet, once upon a time, the place was doubtless a most holy resort, and crowded with priests and pious worshippers. How ancient it must be! judging from the intrusion of the venerable peepul tree, perhaps as old as Badrinath itself; and it bore, unnoticed and neglected, the summer’s suns and winter’s snows century after century. Yet, once upon a time, it had doubtless been an edifice of sanctity and importance, judging by the number of priests’ and pilgrims’ houses. Now it was deserted for ever, rearing its old grey head in melancholy silence among the hills. No bell to summon worshippers, no loud swelling conch would ever again awaken their sensitive echoes. She felt half sorry for this solitary and forgotten shrine. Why had it been abandoned? But was it abandoned? She recalled the red flag. And what was that lying over there in the grass? Was it not the head of a kid, but recently decapitated?

She stooped to pick up her sticks with an involuntary shudder. It was a weird and dreadfully lonely spot-funereal, secret, ghostly. Its dark frowning walls, its solemn stillness, seemed to weigh upon her senses; she would tarry no longer. As she raised her eyes, her heart seemed about to jump from her breast. Silently as a shadow, a man had come out of the interior of the temple—a tall, emaciated, loathsome fakir. His hair, plastered with dirt, stood stiffly erect, like horns; his face and chest were daubed with wood ashes and of a bluish-white colour; from his unearthly white face gleamed a pair of devilish eyes that glowed like carbuncles. He was partly clothed in a panther’s skin. In one hand he held the dripping carcass of a headless kid, and in the other the enormous sacrificial knife, common to the Nepaulese and hill tribes; not a mere ghoorka—“cookery,” but a wide, sharp blade, nearly two feet long, with a cruel curve at the end, where it fits the neck of the bullock about to be slain. With one of these awful weapons, a dexterous arm can sweep off the animal’s head at a single stroke; and failure to do this, at the yearly Dussera, entails on the executioner disgrace and derision.

This was undoubtedly the mad fakir! He looked insane. In a second the terrible stories she had heard about him rushed through Juliet’s mind. Tales of how he haunted far-away desolate shrines, and there, to make atonement, offered up human sacrifices. True that these ghastly crimes had never been brought home to him. He was far too cunning, too speedy, and too secret.

Nevertheless, people whispered that these tales were true! Where, they asked, were Juma’s two boys? When last seen, they had been herding goats near an abandoned temple and the fakir was in the neighbourhood. Where was Gitan’s feeble old grandfather? Where were Butchu and Mohunia, the daughters of Gulab Singh? No one could tell! Their bones had never been discovered; but searchers had seen fresh blood on the sacrificial altar of more than one lone hill temple. When children were reluctant to come home at sundown, it needed but three words to cause them to run screaming village-wards; and those three words, “the mad fakir!” At first sight of the stranger, he burst into a low peal of demoniacal laughter.

“Behold,” he yelled, as he dropped the kid, “the spirits on Kylas have heard me! and sent you, a white woman, to the forgotten altar of Jula Devi!”

Juliet sprang to her feet. She had actually been sitting on the sacrificial stone! She stood erect, and confronted him trembling.

With the howl of a hungry wolf and a madman combined, the fanatic suddenly bounded towards her, sword in hand, and, with a piercing shriek, in a frenzy of fear, the wretched girl dashed behind a neighbouring shrine, and in and out, through various buildings, along the edge of deep, slimy water-tanks, finally into the temple itself, round among its pillars—a very game of hide-and-seek with death. Fortunately for her, the fakir was lame; but he would overtake her ere long. She knew it. She felt it, as she heard him panting after her.

Her knees were failing. Her heart was choking her. It would soon be all over! She had lost her hat. Her hair had come down; and once, when she slipped upon some blood, the madman had snatched at her, and almost caught her! With a final effort she sprang into the courtyard, and made for the entrance, and nearly fell into the arms of Gerald Romilly. He had nothing to defend her with save a stick, and with this he parried the blow the fakir dealt at his head. The stick flew into pieces, as a candle sliced with a knife; but the fakir was breathless and exhausted. Before he could repeat his stroke, the new-comer had closed with him, wrenched the sword from his hand, and thrown him to the ground. There the maniac lay gasping and glaring. His weapon was gone, and he was powerless, and could only gnash his teeth in defiant ferocity.

It was a good thing for Gerald Romilly that he was an accomplished athlete, and could hold his own with some of the best native wrestlers of Oudh. Hard and long training, stern self-denial, and an admirable physique, made him a formidable antagonist. He was learned in every trick, and hold, and fall; and knew one or two falls that kill; he could throw a man and break his neck; but he had not broken the fakir’s neck. No; the lunatic scrambled to a sitting posture, and foamed at the mouth as he shrieked, “Son of a devil! she was sent to me by Siva himself. You have robbed the gods! May your tongue be black, and your feet blue! May your children be accursed, and die the death of dogs!”

“Are you hurt?” inquired the young man, turning anxiously to Juliet, who leant against a wall hard by, her face like death, and all her glorious hair covering her like a mantle.

“No,” she answered, with a convulsive gasp; “but only for you, he would have killed me. You have saved my life.” She closed her eyes, and made a strong effort to maintain her self-control.

Meanwhile, the fakir ground his teeth, and moaned, and gibbered; the fire had now died out of his veins and the vigour from his limbs; he seemed to have suddenly dwindled into a decrepit dotard, as he whined and put his hands up appealingly, and made piteous signs for the restoration of his sword.

“No, I think not,” said Romilly, sternly; “we must have you looked after, my dangerous lunatic;” and to himself he added, “ I must see the commissioner immediately; it won’t do to have this fellow loose about the hills, offering human sacrifices.”

“Clear out, chullo-chullo,” he said, in Hindustanee. “Be gone quickly, or it will be worse for you.”

For answer, the lunatic merely whined and grinded and writhed. At length he picked up the headless kid, and presently crawled rather than walked away.

“The sooner you are out of this hole the better, Miss Carwithen. Here is your hat,” handing it to her. “Come along, there’s no fear now; take my arm,” he urged; but this she refused with a shake of her head.

Once on the open hillside, Juliet stopped and began to twist up her hair; her hands trembled so much she could scarcely hold it. What a plucky girl she was, Romilly thought, admiringly; another would have fainted, or at least made some desperate scene. Up to the present, she had scarcely spoken, the fountain of her speech seemed paralyzed; but at last she said, with a violent shudder

“Was it an awful nightmare? or was it real?”

“Don’t talk of it just now,” he protested.

“But I must”-halting as she spoke. “Let me stand and think, and look at the hills, and thank God that I am alive. Yes; and I thank you too, Mr. Romilly. You can’t imagine what I felt when the fakir came out of the temple and chased me; it seemed for days. Oh, if you had not come!”

If he had not come!

“I was behind you the whole way, and so was Sophy; but I happened to be at the edge of the wood, wondering what had become of you. Fortunately I heard you scream, when I saw that brute.” He stopped. He could not trust his voice further.

“Perhaps we had better not say anything to Sophy,” suggested Juliet; “she is so nervous; she will never go out alone again, after she hears of my experience.”

“But she must be told, for I intend to report the matter officially to the Deputy Commissioner; and besides, how am I to account for this knife, and your white face?”

In five minutes the solitary grey temple was out of sight; they had passed through the wood over the brow of the hill, and came in sight of the curling smoke and a cheerful tea-party.

“What has kept you? Where are your sticks? Why did you leave me in the wood, Gerald?” were the questions asked by Sophy, almost in a breath.

“We have had an adventure,” rejoined Romilly, making signs at her. “Give Miss Carwithen some tea, or, better still, some wine, and then you shall hear all about it.”

“Hullo! what have you got there?” cried Robbie, pointing to the weapon in his friend’s hand.

“Miss Carwithen, your hair is all over the place,” supplemented Mr. Hodder; “you’d be a grand advertisement in a hair-dresser’s window.”

In a moment a curt sentence from Romilly to Robbie made both men start, Robbie to a sitting position, and Mr. Hodder to his feet!

Meanwhile, Juliet had recovered somewhat; these everyday faces, and cordial, merry voices, had made that other dread scene appear impossible—a sort of hideous hallucination. Surely she had never recently stood alone within a grim, dark courtyard! Such an experience was incompatible with these wide, breezy hillsides, these tinkling cattle-bells, and brilliant afternoon sky.

In a very short time Mr. Hodder, the Cassons, and all their retainers, were in possession of the whole story; the very coolies and syces crowded round and whispered, with bated breath, “The Poggel-fakir!”

After the details had been thoroughly discussed, after Sophy had almost swooned at the bare recital, the party started off homewards. Juliet herself did not look half as white as Mr. Hodder, who rode every inch of the way well in the middle of the cortège, apparently expecting to see a mad fakir spring from behind every bush.

There is no fear of the fakir now, he is in the Jail Khana, near Durano, and harmless. He makes little altars of mud and dust, such as children build, and offers upon them live flies, beetles, worms, and butterflies. This is better for the community than when he haunted the hills armed with homicidal instincts and the sacrificial sword—which sword now hangs, innocently enough, among Gerald Romilly’s polo-sticks and fishing rods.

Chapter XXVII

“Ask Her to Sing”

“She will enchant thine ear.”

Durano, so repeatedly referred to, was a favourite, but not a fashionable, hill station; it was too remote for the annual incursion of refugees from the plains, yet its healthy climate, sunny aspect, and (fictitious) reputation for economy made it a popular haven for retired officers and civilians who had no desire to revisit their native land, and wished to end their days in India. Besides a score of these gentleman and their families, living simple Arcadian lives within a few miles of church and post-office, there was a considerable garrison, and a few steady yearly visitors, who preferred a peaceful, semi-rural holiday among perfect scenery and clear mountain air, well aloof from the social treadmill to which other people were condemned in livelier hot-weather resorts.

Chiefest of all the ladies in Durano, by reason of length of residence, length of purse, and length of years, was Mrs. Barbara Bax, relict of a judge, who had erected a house on a beautiful site, about a mile from the cantonment, surrounded it with gardens and orchards, and also caused to be built a nice double vault, and handsome monument, to receive, in good time, the mortal remains of himself and his spouse—this tomb actually kept him a prisoner at Durano for the space of thirty years! He dared not absent himself, lest he should die, and be buried elsewhere, and his costly catafalque would go for nothing. In due time, at the age of eighty-five, and retaining all his faculties to the last, Ambrose Bax expired, and was buried, and Barbara, his wife, reigned in his stead.

The word “reign” is used advisedly, for Mrs. Bax was a power in the land. Besides her pension, and her husband’s substantial savings, she had, as every one knew, nine hundred a year of her own (not rupees, but pounds sterling), and is not money power? She was open-handed, hospitable, and charitable, and did not lay by a farthing of her income. “Why should I save?” she would inform an interested audience. “There is no one to come after me but strangers. My grand-nephews and nieces, whom I have never seen, they write enticing letters, and beg and implore me to go home and live among them; but I know what that means! They are uneasy about my money. I am far better here; this is my home; here I shall stay until I die, and am laid beside Ambrose.” Meanwhile, she enjoyed existence in her own fashion: headed subscriptions, assisted friends in any financial crisis, entertained missionaries, maintained the local clothing-club, and of pensioners a great host. In appearance Mrs. Bax was a pretty old woman of seventy, with snow-white hair, pale-blue eyes, and a somewhat dumpy figure; her dress was always rich and becoming; out-of-doors she wore a long, fur-lined cloak, and carried a black, silver-mounted walking-stick. She was wonderfully active, especially with tongue and pen; gave excellent, if dull dinners, was generous with apples, walnuts, money, and advice. Every one said that “Mrs. Bax was such a sweet old lady.” It was a stereotyped local phrase, and all the world helped to swell the local fiction-none had the courage to say otherwise, whatever they thought. To tell the truth, the benevolent widow had become rather spoilt by years of uncontradicted rule, and was now completely swathed in complacent egoism. She was so accustomed to be consulted on matters of religion, matters of the heart, the pocket, and the household, that she now identified every one’s affairs with her own, and was perpetually engaged in laying the moral groundwork of society. Many people in Durano were devoted to Mrs. Bax-her pensioners and servants adored her; but there were a stiff-necked few who murmured among themselves that she was a meddling, interfering old woman, especially so the last two seasons since she had fallen under the influence of Mrs. Dickson.

No one could deny that Mrs. Bax had a soft, caressing voice, soothing, purring manners, and an endearing way of holding and stroking your hand, whilst engaged in conversation; but the discontents declared that she plastered rather with mustard than with healing balms the smarts of her friends; that she had a pleasant way of saying most unpleasant things, and gave herself leave to utter speeches to her acquaintances, her hand pressing theirs, her eyes smiling up into their eyes, that made many a bold spirit quail.

She had certainly been more actively and mischievously meddlesome since she had made the acquaintance of Mrs. Dickson, a lady who had come up from the plains the previous season, with a letter of introduction to the chaplain, and who, it was rumoured, had been at school with Sophy Casson. A tall, big-boned, gushing person, with a reddish skin, and very prominent teeth, Mrs. Dickson was not young, fascinating, rich, or even good-natured. She had met little Captain Dickson at a country house, where they were snowed up together for weeks, and, much to the amazement of the friends of both parties, he had proposed for her, married her, and carried her off to India. The bride was so intensely and beamingly triumphant, so proud of her new name and wedding-ring, that one would almost imagine that she was the only woman among her circle who had ever been invited to enter the holy state of matrimony.

She made no secret of her reason for taking a cottage in Durano. She told it to every one when she paid her round of calls. “Darling Norris” (her husband) could only get two months’ leave, and he would not dream of allowing her to go to a gay hill station by herself. He knew what such stations were! and no matter how prudent she might be, she would probably get “talked” about. Young married women were fair game and targets for notice and attention.

The listeners could hardly command their countenances as they gazed at this plain, middle-aged lady, with her reticule, her dowdy bonnet and gown, her prim, old-maidish ways, and contrasted her with the pretty, smartly dressed belles of various other stations. Mrs. Browne’s pure Saxon type of beauty, Mrs. Jones with a perfect figure and French dressmaker, Mrs. Robinson with her piquant face, a matchless horsewoman, and graceful Mrs. Smith, the best dancer in the province.

Really, the vanity of this hard-featured, unattractive matron was quite too preposterous and ridiculous! Mrs. Dickson had come to Durano, the first season, to live a retired life, like a violet in the shade; she came to Durano, the second season, to be near her own darling Mrs. Bax, and had that excellent woman’s nephews and nieces witnessed her attachment to this insidious stranger, they would have had natural grounds for serious uneasiness respecting their grand-aunt’s will. Her new friend walked out to Sunnyside most afternoons, taking in her reticule her daily letter from “darling Norris,” in order to read extracts from it to her more than mother. Together they sat indoors, or paced the garden arm-in-arm, discussing their neighbours’ affairs and social politics, whilst “Lovey,” a fat spaniel, waddled in their wake. In Mrs. Bax’s opinion, Jane Dickson was a beautiful character, a true, laborious, Christian woman, ever working for other people and their good. It never dawned on her somewhat narrow mind, that other people would be deeply grateful if her dear friend would leave them and their good to their fate; but no! Ever important, busy, and gushing, she made up for the lack of balls and dinner-parties by interesting herself heart and soul in trivial social matters—indeed, they often proved far more exciting than mere commonplace parties. She flattered herself that, thanks to her influence with dearest Mrs. Bax, she pulled many strings, and made her puppets dance rarely. She had heard both sides of the question in the great quarrel between Mrs. Kemp and Mrs. Monk, two other visitors. It was about a child’s perambulator, and she had read all the correspondence that had passed with extreme enjoyment. She had been entirely in Mrs. King’s confidence when the match between Miss King and young Lloyd was broken off; had seen his letters, and advised against him, and dictated replies. It was true that Mrs. King was sorry now that she had been rather hasty, and that Miss King always cut her dead; but they were a pair of silly, ungrateful women. In her own remote country village, for years she had been the curate’s right hand, and people said that he could have had hers for the asking. Here, in Durano, she enjoyed another style of tract distributing, and house to house visiting, among a higher and far more entertaining class. She rarely came to Sunnyside in her dandy, save on some special and urgent errand; and when, one afternoon, Mrs. Bax descried the blue caps of Mrs. Dickson’s jampannies, and heard her dandy put down with a hasty dump, she was certain that she was about to receive some important intelligence. Yes, Mrs. Dickson was evidently primed with a great piece of news; as she hurried in, her face spoke volumes; she kissed her friend warmly on both cheeks, put down her little bag, containing letters and keys, and, removing her boa, said—

“You are surprised to see me so early, dear. I’ve come on purpose to have you all to myself, and enjoy a good talk, and a long afternoon; there is something in which your interference is most urgently needed. Oh, I have such things to tell you!” she concluded unctiously.

“You have? Not about Mrs. Lumley’s nurse?”

“No; something quite different. Yesterday you know I went up to see Sophy Casson, for although she is so odd and altered to what she used to be, I am one that never changes. Once my friend, always my friend. I have told you that I often wondered why I always saw young Romilly on the Snow View road. I have discovered the reason—” and she paused dramatically—“the Cassons have a girl staying with them!”

“And what is there in that?” inquired the old lady, blandly.

“You dearest, unsuspicious, sweet thing! Did you not tell me that old Mrs. Romilly entreated you to look after her boy?”

“She asked me to be kind to him. Gerald is no boy, and very well able to look after himself. You know you persuaded me that he went out shooting on Sundays, and I wrote him a nice faithful little letter-indeed, you saw it yourself. Well, master Jerry has never been near me since!”

“Rude, ungrateful young man; just like him! but you have done your duty, dear. However, to go on with my little adventures.”

“Yes, yes; how I hate a story told in bits,” said Mrs. Bax, peevishly.

“Very well, then, darling, I shall start afresh. I got up to Snow View about four, and when I was shown in, I was quite taken aback, that little room looked crammed. Mr. MacGregor, the chaplain, was there, and of course the two Cassons and Gerald Romilly, also an elderly, vulgar-looking man, a Mr. Hodder, and a young lady, who was introduced to me as Miss Carwithen—I had heard of her before, you know, but I never saw her until yesterday. She is tall and slight, and some might think her pretty; but I cannot say that I ever admire red hair and a pasty complexion; however, she looked like a gentlewoman. It appeared that she was on a visit at Snow View, and seemed quite at home, helped to make tea, and the Cassons call her by her Christian name, and they all seem most intimate, and Sophy appears very fond of her.”

“I suppose she is one of Sophy’s friends from Ceylon?”

“Ceylon! No. And you will never guess where she comes from. She lives with those dreadful Nootes, the butter people—has been with them for ages—some say she is a relation of theirs!”

“What! a relation to that horrible virago who sold me the dying cow? Then she cannot possibly be a lady,” said Mrs. Bax, emphatically.

“She looks like a lady, I must admit.”

“Then why does she live with such common, vulgar people?”

“My dear one, that is just what we all want to know,” rejoined Mrs. Dickson, with a smile that displayed all her teeth. “I threw out some feelers to Sophy, but she became perfectly frozen in her manner, and said that Miss Carwithen was her friend, and evidently expected that this information would close my mouth; but I had taken a fancy to the girl, and you know how I like to investigate, and thrash out every subject that interests me. The young lady herself artlessly disclosed that she lived near Snow View, and soon the whole cat was out of the bag.”

“And after that, what happened? What was the cat like?”

“Oh, we had some singing, and I was perfectly electrified when Miss Carwithen sat down to the piano. She sang ‘Beauty’s Eyes,’ and has a most lovely voice, so rich and satisfying, so different to poor Sophy’s little squeak! I was obliged to keep silent; but I made good use of my eyes, and I can positively assure you that Gerald Romilly is madly in love with this mysterious young woman!”

“In love with his grandmother!” exclaimed Mrs. Bax, contemptuously. “What nonsense! You don’t know master Jerry!”

“But I know men, dearest,” expostulated her visitor. “I know what they look like, when they are absolutely infatuated; my own recent experience,” with a smirk, “is a guide, you see. No! he never took his eyes off her face, when she sang; and the rich, elderly, city man from town, is another victim; he was sprawling over the piano, looking too absurd. Of course Sophy sees it all—it is great amusement for her. No wonder she so rarely comes down to Durano!”

“No wonder!” exclaimed Mrs. Bax.

“There was a moon, and they all insisted on keeping me for dinner, and Gerald Romilly escorted me down!”

“Oh, fie, fie!” shaking a playful finger. “What will dear Norris say?”

“This is really a serious matter about young Romilly,” continued Mrs. Dickson, in her most solemn manner, and entirely ignoring her friends’ frivolous question. “Hitherto he has always been so pleasant when we met, though you know he has never called on me—which, I must say, I think most strange, considering that he and I have mutual friends in the Cassons. Indeed, hardly one of the young men have been to see me. I suppose it is because they know Norris won’t allow me to ask men to dinner, and——”

“Yes, yes,” interrupted Mrs. Bax, irritably; she was tired of this old grievance, and anxious for some fresh news. “But, my dear, you are wandering from your point; you were telling me about——”

“Of course, about Gerald Romilly escorting me home. He walked beside my dandy at first, and was unusually silent and preoccupied; twice he called me Mrs. Carwithen! Pray what do you think of that? After awhile, I led the conversation very delicately round to the young lady-you know my way! When I said she was a nice-looking girl, and sang beautifully, he was ready enough to go into raptures; but the moment I wanted to know who she was, and where she really came from, he shied off, so to speak, at once, and became quite haughty; actually said, ‘Mrs. Dickson, why are you always so full of ardour for the details of other people’s lives?’ Most impertinent, was it not? He is the rudest man I ever met! You know the sneering way he has; and then he made some lame excuse and mounted his pony, and lagged behind purposely, I am certain, till I came to my own gate.”

“But if the girl is a gentlewoman, nice-looking and accomplished, why should you be in such a pother?” inquired Mrs. Bax. “Why should not Gerald marry her, if she will have him? A pretty wedding will shake us all up, and give us something to talk about.”

“To talk about, indeed,” repeated her friend, in a tragic tone. “Such a marriage would be out of the question, and the certain ruin of poor young Romilly. Although her friends were so very reserved, I discovered something from the young lady herself.”

“Oh, did you?” exclaimed Mrs. Bax, now sitting more upright, and regarding her companion with still deeper interest. “ Yes; she took me into her own room—to remove my hat and things, and lent me brushes and a white fichu, and arranged my hair, and I must say was most good-natured. She is a simple creature, and answered my questions frankly. She has never been home, has no relations in this country; but her father is alive, and lives in England. She believes he is rich, he allows the Nootes sixty pounds a year for her board and lodging. When I gently asked her why she did not live at home, she became very confused, and red right up to her forehead. She made no answer-only stood and looked at me. Now,” pursued Mrs. Dickson, raising an uplifted finger, speaking more emphatically, and leaning forward till her nose nearly touched that of her listener’s, “of course there is some screw loose; why is she kept out of society? why abandoned and pensioned by her own people? If you ask me for my opinion, I should say there is something very wrong somewhere. As an old friend of Mrs. Romilly’s, it is your manifest duty to interfere.”

“But Gerald is a young man that won’t stand interference,” objected the other, in an irritable voice. “Ever since he was a boy, he has had a fine robust will of his own. I am fond of Jerry; he used often to walk out and see me, and was always so bright and cheery. He sent me quantities of game and fish, too; but, somehow, this season he never comes near me. Of course I should be terribly grieved if he were to marry a girl who was queer in any way-unpresentable, or out of her mind. It would be the death of Susan Romilly, who is wrapped up in her boy.”

“And you are a dear friend of hers, and, as you say, fond of him. You must stretch out your kind hand, and save him from destruction. Yes, my dearest, you know what your influence is, and how much every one here looks up to you, and relies on your good opinion and your great experience. This influence is a wonderful gift, and here is a case in which you must put it forth, and rescue your old friend’s son.”

These words were passing sweet in the ears of Mrs. Bax. She loved importance. She believed herself to be a sort of benevolent sovereign, holding the whole of Durano in the hollow of her fat hand, and Mrs. Dickson carefully fed and fostered this delusion, and turned her friend’s weakness to her own account with admirable dexterity.

“What do you suggest that I should do?” inquired the old lady, after a long silence.

“I think the first thing you should do is to see the girl.”

“Bless the woman! And how?”

“Ask her to sing at your concert on the twentieth. I am sure she would draw a great house, and we might ask three rupees a ticket, if she were down for a couple of songs—not counting the encores.”

Mrs Bax slowly removed her spectacles, leant back in her armchair, with folded hands, and pondered.

She was getting up a concert for a local charity, and in her secret heart greatly desired to eclipse Mrs. Lumley, another leading spirit in Durano, who was undertaking a theatrical performance for the same object. Undoubtedly theatricals were more popular; but a woman in her position could not lend herself to such frivolity, save as a spectator. If she could but produce some counter-attraction that would draw! She had actually lain awake at night revolving this puzzle in her mind. Excellent, charitable Mrs. Bax; it would make her surprisingly happy if she could but eclipse Mrs. Lumley with a larger audience and a heavier cash balance. Every one had heard the local musicians repeatedly, and gratis; and there was no enthusiasm with respect to the concert, though she happened to know for a fact that almost every seat for the theatricals was already sold. Now, if she produced this star that Jane Dickson had discovered, this strange girl with a lovely voice and mysterious history, there would be a rush for places at once!

Should she ask the girl to sing? It was for the cause of charity, and charity does not too closely scrutinize its helpers.

“I really do not know what to say,” she observed, after a long and reflective silence. “What is your opinion, Jane?”

“Do not make up your mind until you see her. I know she is coming in for the theatricals. Sophy is bringing her.”

“Very well; that will be best.”

“Meanwhile, without committing you, I will just sound her about the concert; but I am certain she will be only too grateful for your notice.”

“Yes; but I should like to have a little talk with Sophy first, and find out something more about the girl.”

“I don’t think you will discover much,” rejoined Mrs. Dickson. “Sophy can be very close, and I believe it is her habit to take up all kinds of people.”

“Yes, indeed; and she is often most misguided and headstrong. One year she set up a school for the children of the tea-coolies; last season she was immensely interested in a leper family.”

Humph,” exclaimed Mrs. Dickson, fixing her eyes steadily on her hostess. “And for all we know, this girl may be a leper of another kind.”

“Oh, my dear, sweet Jane! that is a very uncharitable thought and speech, and very, very unlike you.”

“So it is, you kind, unsuspicious darling,” rising and kissing her; “and I revoke it on the spot, and make you another in its stead. I can assure you that, whatever Miss Carwithen may be, she sings like an angel, and looks like a saint; and now shall I call for tea?”

Chapter XXVIII

“Love at Last Sight”

Mr. Hodder and Gerald Romilly departed, as they had arrived, in company; and after a week had elapsed, Sophy wrung permission from Mrs. Noote to take Juliet down to Durano for a few days, so that she might see the station, and complete her present visit in a fitting manner. She refused all invitations to stay with friends, both for herself and guest. She preferred to send down her own servants to the dâk bungalow, and to be quite independent. There had been rumours in Durano respecting Mrs. Casson’s beautiful visitor, and every one was longing to see with their own eyes if she were all that several enthusiastic tongues had painted. Was she really a lady? Was she Mrs. Noote’s niece? Was it true that Gerald Romilly admired her, and that she had reduced Jimmy Gregg to idiocy? People would soon know; she was on her way down, riding Robbie’s dun pony, as full of expectation and anticipation as the most curious of the community. Halfway to Durano, the ladies found Mr. Romilly waiting for them under a tree on his well-bred chestnut Australian. How smart he looked! thought Sophy, in a creaseless coat, and with a dear little sapphire pin in his white silk necktie; he was always well got up and neat, but surely he had surpassed himself to-day.

“I came to show you the way,” he began, with a laugh; “and I tell you, Sophy, that Durano is furious with you. You will want an escort-public protection!”


“Because you are going to the dâk bungalow. I think myself it’s beastly bad form; the Lumleys and Standens and Halpins are wild. I’ve been down, however, to the bungalow with Mrs. Lumley, and seen that there are some armchairs and lamps, and all those sort of things. Of course you are dining out every night?”

“Are we? You seem to know all about us!”

“Why are you not showing off the place to Miss Carwithen? Look how we command a view into two valleys.”

“Yes,” said Sophy, reining up; “this is one of my favourite bits. Valleys flowing with milk and honey, and abounding with flocks and herds and corn. One may stand here and gaze on hills and plains and people, and see nothing to dispel the idea that the last two thousand years of civilization have not been a myth.”

“That is true,” agreed Juliet, who had a keen eye for scenery of all kinds. “Look at this yoke of oxen and creaking waggon, with round blocks of wood for wheels. I dare say it was its facsimile that Joseph sent to carry his father into Egypt; and look at this herd of sheep and goats; that ragged boy, with elf locks, might be the prodigal son. Here is a gleaner with sheaves on her head.”

“Yes, so there is; and she is not like Ruth,” broke in the young man. “Ruth was tall and well favoured, and this squat, dark Kumaoni has worked hard all her days, whilst the Moabitish damsel only gathered one harvest; possibly she gleaned for a week!”

“I am glad to see you are quite an authority on Scripture history, Jerry,” said his cousin. “I suppose you saw Mr. Hodder safely off these hills?”

“Yes; has he not written what my mother profanely calls his board-and-lodging letter yet?”

He had written, but not quite the class of effusion Gerald described. He had despatched a registered letter to Juliet, containing an offer for her hand, and setting forth his wishes in short, pompous paragraphs, and adding a kind of invoice of his numerous attractions and possessions. This letter had received a polite reply, and his offer a polite refusal.

“Oh, yes, he has written,” replied Mrs. Casson, with a conscious laugh.

Gerald glanced sharply at Miss Carwithen’s expression of ill-assumed indifference. She had caught the glow of the sunset on her face as she lagged conspicuously in the rear.

“He got down all right,” continued Sophy; “baggage, diary, and all.”

“I am surprised to hear it. I shall never forget the abject spectacle he presented when I started him from the fifth milestone, on a pulling pony; but he believed himself to be between the devil and the deep sea, and he preferred a broken neck to cholera. I’m sure you will be surprised to hear that he took quite a fancy to me when we parted. Love at last sight. He has asked me to go and see him if I am ever in London.”

“Of course he knew it was a perfectly safe invitation,” responded Sophy, with a smile. “Safe to be declined.”

“I’m not so sure of that; he held out some very special inducements, and told me” (now mimicking Mr. Hodder’s pompous voice, and sticking his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat) “that I should get a first-class dinner for once in my life; no watery soup and sour claret. I think that was a hit at you, Sophy!”

“Take care! your pony will be over the khud,” she cried. “You make me so nervous.”

“Oh, the pony is no fool,” said the young man, hastily resuming the reins; “he has been down a khud once.”

“By the way, what about our tickets for the theatricals?” inquired Mrs. Casson.

“I shall go in search of them at cock-crow. I thought Robbie had taken them a week ago.”

“Robbie forgot all about it, as usual; his mind was in the tea-market. I am dying to see the piece, and we shall look exceedingly small if, after coming expressly down all the way from Snow View, we are unable to get in at the doors.”

“I will do all in my power short of assassinating one of the present ticket-holders.”

“Do whatever you please, my dear cousin. Here we are at the bungalow, and we have not much time to dress. We are dining out, so I must send you away; and remember that if we are not among the audience to-morrow, we shall never speak to you again!”

“In the face of such a cruel threat, I am afraid that I shall pass a very restless night. Well, I hope you will enjoy your evening; good-bye.”

When Sophy and her young friend walked into the Standens’ drawing-room, three-quarters of an hour later, they found Mr. Romilly among the assembled guests, looking very sedate in his evening dress clothes, and flower in his button-hole.

“Why, Jerry, who would have expected to see you here?” whispered Mrs. Casson, as she passed him.

You did not, at any rate! I hope it is not a disagreeable surprise; but, you see, I am socially indispensable.”

It was certainly not a disagreeable surprise to Juliet Carwithen, who looked radiant in a soft white silk, with a little necklace of tiny pearls clasped round her long white throat. Mr. Romilly sat on her left at dinner, and made her feel that she was not among strangers; he was subsequently her partner at cards, and on the whole his wish was fulfilled. Juliet spent an extremely pleasant evening.

Chapter XXIX

Miss Carwithen

From some mysterious source, particulars of which he declined to divulge, Romilly procured tickets for the theatricals. Mrs. Casson and Juliet were somewhat late in arriving on the scene of action; they had been making up large bouquets to throw to the performers on the stage. They found the pretty little station club brilliantly illuminated, and the entrance encompassed by a multitude of rickshaws, dandies, ponies, and their attendants. The room was full as they arrived. Just inside the door, in the cheap eight anna seats, was a row of Rozarios and their cousins, the girls in black velveteen-open at the neck for evening wear. How they stared at Juliet with their very fine dark eyes! Juliet, on her part, smiled and nodded pleasantly. She had eaten of their salt, and, though she did not wish to partake of it again, she was not going to ignore her first acquaintances in delightful Durano. As Mrs. Casson passed up the room, piloted by Mr. Gregg and Gerald Romilly, there was a general stare of surprise, and every gaze was fastened on the tall, elegant-looking girl who followed her.

Yes, she was a beauty; rumour for once was right. What a pretty head! what a graceful throat! what an air of distinction! Related to the Nootes? impossible. There was blue blood and breeding in every feature, in every gesture. Mrs. Bax at once put up her glasses, when her dear friend buried s sharp elbow in her plump side and whispered, “Miss Carwithen.”

She watched the Snow View party into their seats at the end of the row in front of her, and did not fail to note how Gerald Romilly, after a whispered altercation with a programme-seller, manœuvred himself into a chair next to the younger lady. The theatre was prettily decorated with flags and bamboos, and densely crowded; even the orchestra was filled, and the excellent band of the garrison played outside under cold stars, which twinkled in the steel-coloured sky.

Captain Mackintosh was one of Gerald’s brother-officers who bad relinquished his place to Gerald’s friends; in fact, Miss Carwithen was actually occupying his chair, whilst he roamed about, sat in window-seats and stood in doorways, surveying her from every point of view; now he preferred her profile, and again her full face. She must be somebody by the set of her head and the delicate outline of her features. Yes, her short upper lip, her small, well-set ears, all bore the stamp of race. Who was she? Mrs. Bax, reviewing the crowded theatre with envious eyes, could have told him. She, too, had fastened her attention on the girl in front of her, who, whatever Jane Dickson might think, was a very lovely young creature; and her hair was not red, but an abundant and beautiful dark auburn. Yes, in her secret heart, she now depended on this charming stranger to fill this self-same room for her on the twentieth, to the very footlights and window-sills as at present. Miss Carwithen looked well-born, wherever she might live, and she and Gerald would make a handsome couple. Yes, Master Jerry was paying her most marked attention; he scarcely spoke to Mrs. Casson, but she had an acquaintance on her left hand to whom she addressed herself. He put away the girl’s cloak, and held her fan and coffee-cup, and between the acts never once went out for a smoke, but conversed with her incessantly. Jane was right, he was certainly serious.

“She is a remarkably pretty girl, is she not?” observed an old gentleman, who had been watching the direction of Mrs. Bax’s glasses, and who, it being an interval between the acts, now dropped into a vacant seat beside her.

“Yes, she is.”

“And Jerry Romilly seems to think so; I never saw him so devoted. We shall have to put a sentry over him!”

“Do you know who she is?” inquired the crafty old lady.

“Yes; she is a friend of Mrs. Casson’s, and comes from Ceylon. I hear she has five thousand a year of her own, and is an orphan,” was the glib reply.

I don’t believe in these travelling heiresses!” sniffed Mrs. Dickson.

“Do you think Mr. Romilly really admires her?”

“Why, every one does that, I imagine; as for Romilly, he is evidently paying her those small, quiet attentions which Sterne has recommended to persons of sensibility.”

“Sterne?” echoed Mrs. Bax; “what Sterne? You don’t mean the chemist in Lucknow? What can he know about it?”

What indeed!” repeated the old gentleman, with a delighted laugh, as he rose to return his chair to its rightful owner.

Meanwhile, Juliet, the cynosure of so many eyes, was enjoying herself immensely. The scene, not less than the entertainment, was delightful—from the stars, the scent of the flowers, the soft strains of the band (all perceptible through the open windows), to the interior of the place with these numbers of interesting strangers, and Gerald Romilly on her left hand ready to tell her who they were. It was all very well for Mr. Romilly to indicate the local celebrities to his pretty neighbour, but the audience, to a man and woman, were filled with a sound, legitimate curiosity respecting herself. Between two acts her companion said to her—

“After such an enforced silence, Miss Carwithen, I am sure you are ready for vigorous conversation; you may talk as much as you like now. What do you think of Durano society? You see it here en masse.”

“If society is as nice as it looks, I like it extremely.”

“It is as nice as it looks, I can assure you,” glancing round. “You may think this a partial statement, and because I belong to it myself, but half the men in the room are my personal friends; many of them have done me a good turn; and the ladies match the men.”

“Gerald! I had no idea you had such a liberal mind and such a large heart. I could name one or two ladies that you do not like,” said Mrs. Casson, expressively.

“Of course we must have a serpent in our Eden-one exception to prove the rule,” he rejoined; “but even a hostile critic from the heights, like yourself, must acknowledge that Durano possesses a specially talented and distinguished community.”

“Hear, hear!-of which Gerald Romilly is one of the brightest ornaments.”

“Sophy, you are not a sympathetic listener to-night-is she, Miss Carwithen? She is the spirit of contradiction, and nothing else. You should see her wrathful indignation when scribblers in the English press pour scorn on Anglo-Indian society, and hold up the men as empty-headed fainéants; and the women-but I spare your feelings.”

“Yes, the poor women get the worst of it, of course,” broke in Sophy, with animation. “An Indian lady must be fast; that is supposed to be her métier. Domestic life is a reproach and a bye-word. Every station is periodically convulsed by some horrible scandal. Of course, out here we live under a sort of microscope; people have leisure to watch their neighbours. Every room has at least ten doors, every wall has a native ear glued to it. Take any watering-place at home, remove, so to speak, the roof and walls, I guarantee you will find more to denounce, more to take exception to, than in any average Indian station. I admit that we have our black sheep, but we are not all black.”

“There, you see,” said Gerald, in a triumphant aside, “she is off now!”

“You know you agree with every word I say, Jerry; and I really think you are extremely rude. I wish there was some one to keep you in order.”

“I see Mrs. Dickson in the row behind us,” said Juliet. “And who is the handsome old lady with her? whenever I turn I seem to catch her eye.”

“Oh,” said Romilly, glancing round, “that is Mrs. Bax! She lives at that pretty white house about a mile from the clock-tower. She and I used to be great friends. She really is a very kind, generous, liberal old dame. She and my mother are acquainted.”

“And pray why are you not friends now? What has happened?”

“Since she has become the bosom friend of Mrs. Dickson, unfortunately, there is not room for us both in her affections. I am sorry to say that Mrs. Dickson does not approve of me.”

“Why? What have you done?”

“It is what I have left undone, I imagine; I have never called.”

“But that omission is easily rectified.”

“No; I should be sorry to deprive her of a highly treasured grievance; moreover, the dislike happens to be mutual. Mrs. Dickson is the sort of person who would be the scourge of a little village at home. She is a narrow-minded, prying, envious woman; her name should be spelt with a V!”


“Yes; you should hear her talking of her social triumphs; see her watching a dance, with an air of saintly self-denial; listen to her asking questions and criticizing her friends. Oh, I cannot stand her; she always makes me curl up.”

Little did his listener guess that these remarks were edged by the recollection of the string of malicious inquiries Mrs. Dickson had put to him respecting herself.

“I must say that I liked what I saw of her, although I only met her once,” said Juliet.

“I wish I had been so lucky as only to have met her once.”

“Hus-s-h!” was hissed by the lady in question, for the curtain was now rising slowly on the last act.

When the piece was over, and the performers had made their final exit, loaded with bouquets and applause, the audience began to move and to crowd into the verandah, where the mess had provided refreshments, including hot soup and ices. There was quite a small mob round Mrs. Casson and her companion, but Gerald contrived to keep his place, and Juliet was secretly pleased to notice how popular he seemed; almost every man and woman who passed had a word or a smile or a slap on the back for him. Mrs. Dickson now came hurrying up, her long red face encased in a white hood, and greeted Sophy with effusion; then turning to Juliet, she said, “My dearest girl, I am so pleased to see you here at last. How did you like the piece?”

“I think it was perfect; I wish it were all going to begin over again.”

“Ah, you sweet enthusiastic child! Now you are in Durano you must not run away. We are having a little concert on the twentieth; I hope you will stop for it. In for a penny, in for a pound.”

“I’m afraid we must go back the day after to-morrow.”

“Juliet,” interrupted Mrs. Casson, “Mrs. Lumley wishes to know you. Miss Carwithen-Mrs. Lumley.”

The latter, a pretty little woman wrapped in a splendid opera mantle, and flushed with her recent exertions and successes, was the central figure of an animated circle of congratulating friends.

“I’m having a small garden-party to-morrow,” she said, “and I shall be so very glad if you will come with Mrs. Casson.”

“Thank you, I shall be delighted,” returned the pretty stranger.

“There will be tennis and Badminton, and perhaps we can manage a little music afterwards. I have heard of your singing, so please bring some songs.”

“I have no music with me, but I can manage without it if you wish.”

“Wish! I should think I did wish,” with a smile. “I wish I had your voice. Is this your first visit to Durano?”

“No, not quite; I have been once or twice to church.”

“Well, I hope we shall often see you, now you have found your way down here. We are not going to allow Mrs. Casson to horde you up in Snow View,” continued Mrs. Lumley, who had fallen in love with this beautiful girl with eyes like stars.

“Have you had any soup or jelly? Who is looking after you?”

“Yes, thank you; Captain Romilly.”

“And looking after you in more ways than one, if all tales be true,” was Mrs. Lumley’s mental remark, as she turned to receive the somewhat formal congratulations of Mrs. Dickson and Mrs. Bax.

A crowd of people separated Juliet from Mrs. Casson, and she found herself standing against the wall near an open doorway, and entirely surrounded by strangers. Close to her she heard a voice saying—

“All very well, but young Romilly’s people will never forgive him if he entangles himself with a girl of low birth.”

Juliet turned her head quickly, and saw a pretty faded woman talking impressively to a bald-headed old gentleman, a woman whose eyes met hers with a glance of cold impertinent scrutiny. What did it mean? she felt hot and uncomfortable. Why had they ceased speaking in such an abrupt and conscious manner? Could it be possible that they were alluding to her? Oh, no.

“Here is your ice at last,” said a pleasant familiar voice. “What is the matter? you are looking quite scared. Do you feel lost in the crowd? I suppose this is your first crowd?”

“Almost,” she answered, with re-assumed composure. “Can you tell me who that lady is there, in the yellow dress, with diamonds in her hair?”

“She is a stranger in the land, like yourself—a Mrs. De Lacy, from Simla. Once upon a time she was a celebrated beauty. I’m not acquainted with her, but I know who she is. You see, after one has been a good while in India one gets to know every one—at any rate, in the same Presidency—either by name or otherwise, and people get to know you, and who you are, and all about you.’

“Me! Oh, no, that could not possibly apply to me,” protested the girl.

“I was speaking in general terms. Why do you ask about Mrs. De Lacy? The good old days when every one remarked her are long a thing of the past.”

“I asked her name because I overheard her saying something about you.”

“Something complimentary of course?” said the young man, coolly.

“Whatever it was, complimentary or otherwise, I mean to keep it to myself.”

“Well, thank goodness, my curiosity is almost nil; and whether the speech was spiteful, laudatory, or amusing, I don’t mind betting that Sophy hears it before she sleeps to-night, and that ere a week is over, you will have insisted on confiding it to me. A woman dislikes keeping things to herself.”

“You will find that I am an exception, Mr. Romilly. What I have just overheard, I shall never repeat.”

“You are making me feel positively inquisitive. Never is a long day. Look at Sophy signalling; she thinks we are never going to make a start.”

Chapter XXX

Talking about Snakes

“Lovers’ hours are long, though seeming short.”

A great round-faced harvest moon had arisen, and tempted most of the ladies to abandon their dandies, ruin their neatest shoes, and walk home. Captain Mackintosh accompanied Mrs. Casson, and Juliet and Mr. Romilly naturally brought up the rear.

The dâk bungalow was fully half a mile from the club, just a pleasant stroll this lovely Eastern night. As they descended the gravelled mall—resembling an English lane—with overhanging trees and high banks clothed in ferns, Mr. Romilly said—

“A pretty bit of road, is it not? and thank goodness, where one can walk without fear of snakes.”

“I never think of them,” returned the girl. “I have rarely ever seen one, and then only harmless ones, asleep on a stone. I suppose you have come across a good many?”

“A good deal too many. Once I nearly stood on a cobra we met; ’twas in a doorway-that was a near shave. And I can tell you of another. We were all out in camp some years ago near Alighur, and some of us wanted to play a trick on a young fellow just arrived from home; so we got a coil of rope, and were about to arrange it neatly in his bed. Strange to say, I was the ringleader, and turned back the clothes to deposit the mock reptile, and there I discovered, comfortably curled up under the pillow, a real karite, already in possession. Our little joke saved the fellow’s life.”

“It did, indeed. And have you known any one who was killed by a snake bite?”

“Several, I am sorry to say. The last was Mackintosh’s bearer,” nodding towards his comrade.

“Mac and I were sharing a bungalow in Huldwani, and one night he was aroused by this man, his hair streaming, his face convulsed with excitement, dancing round him, with a lighted candle in one hand and a carving-knife in the other; he said a snake in the verandah had just bitten him in the arm, and wanted Mackintosh to cut it off instantly. Mac is a nervous chap, and could not bring himself to do it; but he got out his tum-tum and drove the man to the hospital at a gallop; but then it was too late—the man died in an hour.”

“And you! Why did you not perform the operation?”

“I was at a ball, and did not come home till it was all over. I’d have done it like a shot, since it was the fellow’s only chance of his life; though it would have been rather awkward, as Mac pointed out, if it had proved to have been the bite of a harmless snake, after I had amputated the fellow’s arm.”

“That would have been very unlikely. Why do you and Captain Mackintosh always live together?”

“Well, to tell the truth, because he won’t live with any one else! He has tried half a dozen, and found them all wanting. One swore at his servants, another played the flute, a third was too effeminate, a fourth was too polite.”

“And you are neither effeminate nor polite?”

“At any rate, I am the only one that suits him; and if ever I marry, I expect he will give me a good chit—a first-rate domestic character.”

“Why do you suit him, I wonder?”

“Because extremes meet.”

“I always thought it was the other way, like to like. What does he like and dislike?”

“He likes books—loves them, I should say; he likes dead languages and scientific works; he likes photography. He dislikes dangerous amusements and bodily exertion of all kinds; he never takes a gun in his hand, and rarely gets on the back of a horse. He is the missus in the establishment, and blows up the servants, looks after the garden, and gives tea-parties.

“And pray what is your rôle?”

“Nothing useful or ornamental, I am afraid. I smoke all over the place, and upset the neat arrangements of antimacassars in the drawing-room, and bring in dogs, and leave cigar ashes and newspapers littered about. I sometimes think I shall get notice to quit! Mac is so neat and methodical, his books must be placed at a certain angle, and the chairs so many paces apart.”

“I always thought you were very neat too.”

“Mackintosh does not think so. I have been away a good deal of late, and my better half does not like it, for this is a great big rambling house, and we have a ghost of our own.”

“Nonsense! You are joking.”

“I am not. There is something that does sentry-go in the verandah all night.”

“A loose donkey?” she suggested.

“No; it has two legs. Once Mac got up and chivied it, and it varied the programme by stumping round my bed. I was alone and in the dark, and I did not like it.”

“What did you do-scream?”

“No, I merely hurled boots at it.”

“It was a dog, very likely.”

“You can call it what you please; but people say that it is the uneasy spirit of a man who hanged himself in the house years ago. I wish he had done it somewhere else.”

“And you have never seen him?”

“No, Miss Carwithen, not even after a big guest night.”

“What do you do at these big nights? By the way, our conversation sounds rather like ‘Magnall’s Questions,’ or Child’s ‘Guide to Knowledge;’ but you set the example, remember.”

“Yes, and no one need be ashamed of a healthy thirst for information. As to guest nights, we are not always engaged, as Mr. Hodder supposes, in breaking up the furniture and tearing table-cloths. We play cards and billiards, and sing.”

“Do you sing?”

“Certainly I do. As you are never likely to hear me, I may tell you that I have a wonderful voice, and am always encored.”

“What is your style? You see how you have infected me with a craze for asking questions.”

“Not the sentimental, you may be sure, though nothing else appeals to Tommy Atkins. They like a dirge, a long drawn-out drone of twenty or thirty verses, such as ‘Lay a flower upon my grave,’ ‘The moon behind the hill,’ ‘Let me kiss him for his mother.’”

“Does Captain Mackintosh sing?”

“No, thank goodness. He once attempted it, but the effect was so painful, and he made such awful faces, we shut him up in double quick time.”

“I am to sing at Mrs. Lumley’s to-morrow. I wonder if any one will wish to shut me up in double quick time?”

“Miss Carwithen, have you ever heard of Schopenhauer?”

“No; who is he?”

“A cross-grained old German philosopher who was rabid against women, but who wrote some excellent things. For instance, he said, with people of moderate ability modesty is mere honesty, with those who possess great talent it is mere hypocrisy. Now, your singing is a great talent.”

“And I am a hypocrite,” she added, with a laugh. “What else did this disagreeable old woman-hater say?”

“He was a pessimist; he looked upon the world as a penal settlement, and thought the sooner one was out of it the better. He more than winked at suicide!”

“What an abominable old wretch!”

“He had the worst opinion of your sex.”

“No doubt he had been crossed in love. As to the world being a penal settlement, I think it is a very good place; don’t you?”

“Well, I do-to-night.”

Juliet caught the force and significance of the glance that accompanied his remark, coloured, and looked away.

“It is just what we make it for ourselves, is it not?” she said, rather gravely.

“I suppose so. But how can you judge, when you have seen nothing of it as yet?”

“I have my own little world.”

“The Nootes! Well, Miss Carwithen, I really cannot admire your taste.”

“I don’t mean Captain and Mrs. Noote, I mean my books and thoughts and wishes; and remember that I did not select my associates. Now, you chose Captain Mackintosh, and I think you are a most curiously assorted couple.”

“But I have already explained that we suit each other because we are so utterly different in our tastes; we cannot clash. The same holds good in marriage. Don’t you know that people generally like their opposites?”

“Do they?”—very doubtfully.

“Why, of course they do! A very big man invariably marries a little bit of a woman, a great talker selects a silent partner, a lazy fellow takes an energetic wife, dark people choose fair. Now, for instance, I, being only five feet nine, should marry a tall girl with dark eyes, since mine are light. She ought to be a little visionary and dreamy, as I am extremely practical; reserved, as I am outspoken to rashness; with gracious, stately manners, to modify my high spirits; not particularly strong-willed, seeing that I have enough will to supply several people. Two things are absolutely indispensable. She must have pretty hands and dark chestnut-coloured hair. Do you happen to know of any one at all resembling her? because, if you do, you might be kind enough to put in a good word for me.”

It appeared to Juliet that his hastily sketched portrait bore a certain resemblance to herself, and she was casting about in her own mind for some evasive answer, when she was suddenly confronted with her chaperon and Captain Mackintosh.

“What snails you are!” cried Sophy. “We have actually come back to look for you. A mile an hour is your pace.”

Mrs. Casson and her companion had duly reached the bungalow, and waited for a few moments. There was no sign of the others, and, as they gazed significantly into each other’s faces, Captain Mackintosh had said—

“I wonder if Romilly and the young lady have lost their way? Shall we go and see?”

Just at the gate they had encountered them, and it struck Sophy that her pretty protégée was looking somewhat conscious and embarrassed.

After hasty mutual good-nights, the party separated, the men to go up the hill, and the two ladies returned to the dâk bungalow. They sat for a few minutes in the centre room at the bare table, illuminated by a kerosene lamp, and as Sophy unfastened and threw back her mantle, she glanced keenly at her friend, who was picking a flower to pieces, and—yes, was actually smiling to herself. She must share this smile.

“Juliet,” she asked, abruptly, “has Gerald Romilly said anything to you?”

“Said anything!” instantly arousing herself from some pleasant reflections. “What do you mean? He has said quantities of things.”

“Dear girl! how dense you are! or do you do it on purpose?” protested Sophy, impatiently. “What were you talking about to-night?”

“To-night!” looking dreamily at the lamp. “Let me see—about ghosts. Oh, yes; chiefly about snakes.”

“Talking about snakes!” and Sophy the match-maker had been almost certain that Gerald had proposed for her young friend.

She felt highly and justly incensed against her cousin. She had crawled home purposely, thinking that surely he would embrace his opportunity this glorious moonlight night; instead of which, he had been calmly discussing natural history! Well, later on, he need not come to her for assistance, much less sympathy!

Meanwhile, the two men were briskly walking homewards—at first in dead silence. At last Captain Mackintosh remarked, “So that’s it! Jerry, you ruffian!”

“What do you mean?” inquired his comrade, lazily. “I have noticed that the moon does affect you!”

“Now I know the game you were after; not makor, a gurool, or serow; quite another sort of dear!”

“Mac!” exclaimed his friend, coming to a halt, and confronting him, “if you attempt another such joke, I shall be obliged to fling you over the khud.”

“And now I understand many things,” continued the other, reflectively.

“I am not surprised to hear that, Mac, for you were always exceptionally intelligent.”

“Yes; it requires no great skill to elucidate a certain problem. I understand why the grey pony’s knees were broken, why you never have a word to throw to a dog, and why you went to Snow View. ’Pon my word, Jerry, I think you might have told an old friend like me,” and it was now his turn to halt in the path, and survey his companion with an injured expression.

“What is there to tell?” inquired the other, flicking the ash off his cigar, and putting his hands in his pockets.

“I should say, who runs may read.”

“Then, by all means, run and read; though it is quite possible that you may read nonsense.”

“Very well then, Romilly,” in a huffy voice, now walking on; “I am not going to force myself into your confidence; but whenever you require the whole house, just give me a week’s notice, that’s all.”

“My dear old Mac,” said Gerald, tossing away his cigar, and seizing him by the arm, “what stuff have you got into your head now?”

“I have got it into my head that you are in love with Miss Carwithen. Am I right or wrong?”

“Well, Mac, there are some things I cannot talk about,” speaking in a totally changed voice. “I am not like the fellow who used to read his love-letters aloud in the mess, and ask for suggestions; but, to an old comrade like you, I may say a word—you are right.”

“Of course I am!” rejoined Captain Mackintosh, now entirely appeased. “I must say I am uncommonly sorry for myself. I shall never get another chum like you, Jerry; you suit me to a hair. I can’t stand the others, and you know my little ways, and we have always got on so well. I confess this change in your affairs is a decided blow. However, I must also acknowledge that I admire your taste; I have seen plenty of spins. in hills and plains, and I should say that Miss Carwithen was quite the prettiest girl in the north of India. You never introduced me, so I can only speak of her appearance; but I congratulate you most heartily.”

“Thank you, Mac; but your congratulations are decidedly premature. I have no grounds for supposing that Miss Carwithen cares a button for me.”


“Yes; and I have gone in head foremost; but a man cannot help himself. The good old expression, ‘he falls in love,’ is touchingly appropriate.”

“And do you mean to tell me she has never given you any encouragement?”

“No; I cannot honestly say that she has. She does not dislike me, or snub me; and I have one advantage: I am almost the only man she knows.”

“Well, she might know a worse specimen, I dare say! I expect it will be all right,” said Captain Mackintosh, cheerfully, as he surveyed Romilly’s handsome, clear-cut profile, looking specially handsome in the brilliant moonlight.

With the sharp eye of an outsider, he had noticed Miss Carwithen’s expression when she came up to the gate; an expression half pleased and half shy. This was not the appearance that girls presented when indifferent to a lover, especially such a lover as Gerald Romilly.

“Tell me, Mac, you long-headed Scotchman, can a man marry on three hundred a year and his pay, and prospects?”

“Yes, a general can,” was the prompt answer.

“Bosh, you imbecile; you know what I mean.”

“You mean yourself. A good deal depends upon the lady; and whether her ideas are on a large or small scale. Now, Miss Carwithen looks as if she had been accustomed to a carriage and four, with outriders, and, by the way, Jerry, who is she?”

They had arrived outside their own bungalow. As Captain Mackintosh put this question, he came to a dead halt.

“She is Miss Carwithen, now; and almost alone in the world. Some day, if I have any luck, I hope she will be Mrs. Romilly, with numbers of friends, including yourself, Mac,” and with a smile into his companion’s puzzled face, he nodded good night, and left him alone in the moonlit garden.

Chapter XXXI

A Cocked-Hat Note

“And that letter bath she delivered, and there an end.”
Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The next afternoon, the sun staring through curtainless windows, beheld Juliet Carwithen examining her appearance in a four-inch looking-glass; her choice of toilettes was limited, though her ten pounds per annum was handsomely supplemented by consignments from Mrs. Radford, who, on second thoughts, had turned the discarded jewellery into money, and despatched to her young friend a box containing many coveted articles: gloves, a winter wrap, some serviceable gowns, a white evening dress, hats, stationery, handkerchiefs, and such things as were not likely to be found in the small Parsee shop at Durano; veils, and dainty shoes and stockings all the way from Bond Street. Juliet wore a soft, cream-coloured dress, her best hat, a few roses pinned in to her bodice, and carried in her hand a smart lace parasol (Sophy’s property). All the same, she cast a final and very discontented look in the glass as she left the room; but, in truth, if she had had the resources of Worth at her disposal, she could not have looked better. She made an excellent impression at Mrs. Lumley’s garden-party, where she was presented to many new acquaintances. This could not be the girl whom people called Mrs. Noote’s niece! and had been remarked, as presenting a startling and conspicuous contrast to her associates in the Rozarios’ pew!

This young lady looked so modest and yet so dignified, so graceful yet so simple. Yes, she had not had generations of well-born cultured people for ancestors, without possessing some distinction. She was frankly accepted for what she seemed to be; an extremely pretty, lady-like girl, a friend of Sophy Casson’s; and there were no harassing questions or arrière pensées respecting her, like those set about by Mrs. Dickson. Mrs. Dickson, who had taken an early opportunity of seizing upon the stranger, and walking her off, in spite of all the young men who were so determined to be introduced to the new-comer. She presented Miss Carwithen, with an air of almost reverential respect, to Mrs. Bax, who was impressionable, and took a fancy to her lovely face on the spot. This did not please her dearest Jane. The old lady was addicted to strange and unexpected fancies. She herself had been one of them! Supposing she were to become interested in this Miss Carwithen?

Oh, that would never do! she would take care of that. She was surprised to see the immense attention the girl excited. Just because she was a novelty, she added bitterly. There was Colonel Lumley, who rarely spoke to a lady! Mr. Gregg, Captain Mackintosh, General Macgregor, and Gerald Romilly, all hovering round her. To be sure, she was no novelty to Gerald! And what were these rumours that were whispered about his father coming into a fortune and a title? Mrs. Bax had heard them, and she had mentioned them to Sophy Casson, who said she would wait to believe them till she heard them from Gerald himself.— Well, Mrs. Bax had the news, as a secret, from Gerald’s mother!

“If there was anything in that,” looking with an air of serious investigation at Mr. Romilly and Miss Carwithen, who were talking eagerly to each other, “it must be nipped in the bud at once.”

When Juliet was hurried away to join a game of Badminton, Mrs. Dickson seated herself among a group of matrons, who were discussing her late companion. Their comments were highly favourable.

She was so pretty, so elegant-looking; she walked so well, and had such wonderfully sweet manners.

This was the chorus to which Mrs. Dickson was compelled to listen.

“She is perfectly self-possessed, I admit,” she remarked, when she could get a hearing; “but, to me, there is something almost impertinent in the cool way she takes everything. Of course she does not mean it, poor child! it’s ignorance!”

“She means nothing but courtesy to every one,” rejoined a warm champion. “She has the stately manners of what are called the old school, and yet she can be girlish and lively enough. Look at her over there in the thick of that rally.”

“Yes; she has never mixed in decent society before, I imagine, and no wonder she enjoys it. I am very sorry for her; it is such a pity that no one knows anything about her beyond the fact that she is cast off by her own people.”

Mrs. Dickson watched the effect of this social bombshell with a toothy smile, and having launched her missile, put her finger to her lips, for she saw Sophy Casson approaching. She had, however, raised people’s curiosity, and given Mrs. Grundy something to reflect upon.

*  *  *

As dusk fell, there was a move made indoors. The lamps had been lit in the drawing-room, and the piano opened, and people assembled to hear well-known songs and singers for the hundredth time; but suddenly there was a hush, many eyes were fixed on Mrs. Lumley and Miss Carwithen, for the former lady was nodding her head and moving to the piano with an open song in her hand, and her guest was following her lead.

Miss Carwithen sang. Her voice, her mode of singing, her beauty took the audience by storm; the furniture shook from the repeated clapping and applause. After this song, she was beset, and persuaded to play on a sitar borrowed from a native on the spot, and accompany herself to an old hill air. This was the climax to every one’s enthusiasm. The girl’s appearance, attitude, exquisite voice, and the novelty of the performance, made an impression that was not forgotten in Durano for years; the bravos and encores ensuing were heard at the very mess—a surprising testimony of extravagant delight.

“It was the last day of her visit,” said Juliet to herself, as she opened her eyes on the pine ceiling and white walls of the dâk bungalow, and she was resolved to make the most of every hour, and carry back a horde of happy recollections to brighten her dreary life at Kala Dara. The morning flew only too rapidly; the afternoon was to be spent at a great football-match, and the evening, alas! devoted to packing and preparing for a start at daybreak. Just as they were about to set out for the football, a note was handed to Sophy.

“It is for you, Juliet, and from Mrs. Dickson. I wonder what she wants. She has not been so very sweet to you without some motive!”

“She wants me to sing at a concert on the twentieth,” replied Juliet, looking up and handing the note to her friend. It said—

“My Dear Miss Carwithen.

“Every one is in raptures with your singing last evening, and longing to hear you again. Mrs. Bax is getting up a concert on the 20th, and desires me to say that she hopes you will assist her. May we put you down in the programme for three songs? Could you come and stay with me in my little cot from the 20th to the 21st. Now, do not refuse, my sweet girl.

“Yours ever,
“Jane Dickson.”

“What am I to say?”’ inquired Juliet, as her friend contemptuously flicked the note across the table.

“Say no, my sweet girl,” she rejoined, with a laugh. “Your leave is up to-morrow, and I really dare not face Mrs. Noote, alone and unprotected. If we are very good and punctual this time, she will lend you to me for months and months later on. This is merely the thin end of the wedge, eh, Juliet? I have great plans for the winter. As for Mrs. Dickson and Mrs. Bax, they only want to make use of you.”

“Do you think so?” said Juliet, doubtfully; “but Mrs. Dickson has been very kind to me.”

“Yes, to your face. Oh, my dear child, you don’t know her. We were at the same dancing-class, years ago. I was a mite and she grown up. She was very gushing, even then; but she always devoured my lunch. Do you know what she reminds me of, with her long nose, and red skin, and two prominent teeth? Of—I know you’ll scream, when I tell you—a roast hare!”

“Oh, Sophy! you are worse than Mr. Romilly, and he is bad enough. Do you always dislike the same people?”

“Not always,” with twinkling eyes; “and sometimes we like the same people. Isn’t it strange?”

Juliet felt her face becoming hot, as she turned to hunt up paper and pens, and sat down and softened her refusal in what she thought was a nice little note. They were obliged to leave early the next morning, and she was sorry she would not be able to return to Durano again for some time. There were no envelopes to be found, so she twisted the missive into a cocked hat, and despatched it by Mrs. Dickson’s messenger.

The football-match in the parade ground was the rendezvous of all Durano, and proved to be most exciting. It was between the visitors and the Ghoorkas. These broad-shouldered, athletic little hill-men, with their tartar faces beaming above their green-and-black jerseys, played splendidly. There were many exciting tussles, and more than one desperately contested goal. Meanwhile, the spectators sat under a marquee, and sipped tea and ate ices, whilst the band discoursed the latest waltzes, and they discussed the latest news, until the match was over, and Gerald Romilly, captain of the Ghoorka team (the winners), his broad chest, and muscular arms, well displayed in the green-and-black jersey, came into the tent, with quickened breath and heightened colour, and received the congratulations of every one, including Miss Carwithen.

“Juliet, my dear,” said Sophy, coming up behind her chair, “I am very sorry, but we must go now. You know we want books, and I will leave you at the library to choose some whilst I run down to see Mrs. Beaumont, who is laid up with fever. I won’t be more than ten minutes or a quarter of an hour.”

The library formed a portion of the station club, and when Juliet had been shown its whereabouts, she carefully selected a number of volumes. This took some time; she carried the books outside, and gave them to her jampannies, and looked in vain for Sophy. She did not know her friend’s idea of “ten minutes.” The reading-room was full, for the English mail was just in; the centre table was surrounded. No; despite her composed manners, she was much too shy to brave such a formidable assembly, and, picking up a magazine, she went outside, sauntered down the slope, and seated herself on a bench overlooking the tennis-courts. She did not pay much attention to the publication in her hand; her own thoughts were far more delightful than any reading. What was it in the place that made her feel so happy, so exalted out of her everyday self? Was it the air? How lovely the view was! What a kind welcome she had received from the Durano people. Mrs. Lumley had invited her to stay with her for a week, and for the annual club ball; a girl she had only seen three times was going to lend her a new pattern of a jacket; Mrs. Dickson had loaded her with affectionate attention. Yes; Durano was altogether delightful—a sort of earthly paradise. How could people ask if “life were worth living?” How could Solomon say that “all was vanity?” She did not for a moment realize the reason of her exaltation of spirits, nor that it is very good to be nineteen, to be extremely pretty, and to have a lover.

As she sat humming an air half under her breath, dreamily enjoying the prospect and her reflections, a jampanni suddenly stood before her, offering her a chit. It was her own note to Mrs. Dickson. What could it mean? “For me?” she inquired, in amazement.

“Yes,” he grunted.

“And who sent it?”

“Dickson-mem sahib,” he rejoined, and fearing an extended journey, hastily decamped.

Could Mrs. Dickson be so angry with her that she had returned her note, thought Juliet, with rising colour. She held it in her hand for some time. Could she have written anything to have given offence? She slowly opened the cocked hat, and glanced over it. No; the tone was most conciliating; but stay, what was that scrawled in pencil on the opposite page?

“Did you ever know anything like this, dear? It serves us right, for stooping to ask the little adventuress to help us. She ought to have been deeply grateful, instead of sending that calm refusal. However, on the whole, it is far more prudent not to be associated with a mysterious nobody; and we will in future leave her undisturbed in the wilds. The bandmaster has promised two solos on the cornet. I send you a line, in case you are not coming in.

“Your ever fond “Jane Dickson.”

With shaking fingers and a feeling of intense indignation, Juliet turned over the missive, and saw scribbled in pencil on the reverse, “Mrs. Bax.” Mrs. Dickson’s lazy messenger had given the note to the first person he saw and escaped, in order to save himself a journey out to Sunnyside. Juliet had not grasped the fact that the postscript was not meant for her eyes until her eyes had devoured it. And here she sat, seeing herself as others saw her, and feeling absolutely sick and cold with anger and disgust. What was she to do? Here came an immediate reply in the shape of Mrs. Bax walking briskly up the path, with the help of her stout stick.

She rose on the impulse of the moment, and hurried to meet the old lady, and holding out the note said, “Mrs. Bax, I am most fortunate to meet you; this note is intended for you, and I am very sorry to say I have read it unintentionally.”

Mrs. Bax halted, produced and deliberately assumed her glasses, and then said, “No, my love, it is for Mrs. Dickson.”

“Yes, on one side; but turn it over, and you will see your own name; I wrote it to Mrs. Dickson. She has sent it to you, and her messenger gave it to me by mistake.”

“Tut, tut, tut,” now perusing it very slowly. “And so you won’t sing! Tut, tut! Ay, and I see, Jane has written something. Dear me! this is very unpleasant. And so you have read it?” gazing hard at Juliet over her glasses.

“Yes, I am sorry to say I have.”

“Well, my love, perhaps it is for your good; perhaps you will be more obliging another time, and take what she says to heart.”

“I have taken it greatly to heart, Mrs. Bax. I thought Mrs. Dickson was friendly to me; she seemed half an hour ago, long after she wrote that. Now I know her for what she is, a slanderous, double-faced woman.”

“Oh, fie, fie! What words to come out of a young girl’s mouth. I must say you might have sung for us, my dear; you have been gifted with a beautiful voice, and surely you ought to use it in the cause of charity. Charity is a sweet virtue. You really go to-morrow?”


“Well, this meeting, in that case, is quite providential. I want to have a few words with you, my dear,” now taking and stroking Juliet’s reluctant hand. “A little bird has been whispering something to me.” Now, if there was one animal that Juliet hated, it was this talkative, meddling bird; she had known it at school. “Something about you and Gerald Romilly. Indeed, I saw for myself that he paid you most marked attention.” Here Juliet endeavoured to withdraw her fingers, but it was of no use. “No, no, my child, you must listen to me patiently. I wish to speak to you kindly and faithfully. I love young people; indeed, I love every one. But it will never, never do for Gerald Romilly to love you!”

Juliet now wrenched her hand rudely away, and was about to speak, but the old lady silenced her by an imperious gesture.

“It is highly unbecoming for a young person of your age to attempt to interrupt an old woman like me, especially when I am only speaking for your good. Just turn and walk with me as far as the gates of the cemetery. I will take your arm,” suiting the action to the word.

Juliet turned and obeyed mechanically. She seemed to be walking in a dream—to be under some terrible spell.

“I know Mrs. Romilly intimately,” proceeded Mrs. Bax, in her monotonous voice. “She and I are old friends. She is wrapped up in Gerald, her only son, her only child. His choice will be of vital importance to her. Her daughter-in-law must be her daughter indeed; and, of course, a girl of respectable connections, with no cloud or mystery hanging over her past; and Gerald, infatuated as he may be now, knows this as well as I do. His people are proud, and so is he, though you might not guess it; and he will hesitate, I trust, ere he breaks his dear mother’s heart! An uncongenial marriage,” pursued the old lady in her humming, droning voice, “is fatal to the prospects of any young man. Gerald might just as well shoot himself at once; it means social ruin for the husband, and a life of misery for both. Ah! my sweet child,” pressing the girl’s arm, “I have seen so many of these wretched marriages out here. I know one man, who is a gentleman, and who drives a tram in Calcutta, all owing to his dreadful wife. I knew another, who married an hotel-keeper’s daughter, and who lives in the bar, and is never sober. He was the son of an official very high up in my husband’s service. Yes, these sort of affairs have but one end. Gerald is a promising, popular officer. I know that the general at Neemuch-I heard this privately,” with another squeeze of Juliet’s arm, “is anxious to secure him for an A.D.C. Just imagine an A.D.C. with a wife no one could visit!”

She paused at last, completely breathless.

“Why do you say these things to me, Mrs. Bax?” inquired Juliet, gently but firmly removing the old lady’s hand, and turning to confront her with her eyes aglow. “Why do you suppose that I am anything to Mr. Romilly?”

“Now, my love, please don’t quibble,” retorted Mrs. Bax, peevishly. “I don’t merely suppose-I see.”

“And why do you presume that I am not fit for society, and am under a cloud?”

“My dear, I will answer your questions when you tell me one or two little things. You have relatives, I believe, in England, a father and step-mother, well-to-do people?”

Juliet nodded.

If Dolly Carwithen could hear himself spoken of as a well-to-do person!

“Then why are you not under their roof? Why are you living in such an equivocal position, and in complete seclusion, with the Nootes? Most dreadful, uneducated, low-born creatures, who assure every one that you are a connection of theirs.”

Juliet could not answer, save with her changing cheeks. She could not find a word to utter. She was unaccustomed to apologize for herself, and there was a dead silence. She grasped one of the cold iron bars of the cemetery gate, and endeavoured to collect her wits and her self-possession. She recalled the words she had accidentally overheard.

“The Romillys will never forgive him if he entangles himself with a woman of low birth.” And was she not of low birth on her mother’s side?

What Mrs. Bax had put into such forcible words was true. In her heart she believed that Gerald Romilly did care for her, though it had scarcely dared to whisper it till that moonlight walk last night; and unequal marriages were fatal. She thought of her own parents, and how the blight of their miserable match had fallen on herself. The facts of her position arranged themselves, and stood out clearly for her inspection. They were as plain as the gravestones on which her eyes were resting

“You spoke of charity just now, Mrs. Bax,” she faltered at last. “Charity thinketh no evil.”

“My dear love, you can scarcely suppose that any one will accept a quotation from Scripture as a proof of character! Of course I know that this is not a gracious thing to say; but if your own people refuse to receive you, how can you expect Gerald’s friends to do so? If he is nothing to you, there is no harm done. I have just spoken a kind little word, as I thought, in season; but if you do care for him, and really value his happiness, then the more firmly resolved I know you will be to sacrifice your own feelings, and to pass entirely out of his life.”

Mrs. Bax enjoyed hearing herself talk, and considered that she put her ideas into eloquent language—these ideas, in the present instance, were chiefly the property of Mrs. Dickson. She paused, and looked at her companion expectantly. Hitherto the girl had said so little. How tall she appeared, standing with one hand clinched on the gate. Yes, she now understood what people meant by saying she had a stately carriage; this white-faced young woman, with angry, dark eyes, rather frightened her. It was not in this spirit that the maidens of Durano had accepted exhortations and rebukes. Generally they had been weeping, abject, and incoherent. There was nothing abject about this girl; no, not a trace of tears.

Mrs. Bax, looking very like the white queen in “ Alice and the Looking-glass,” feeling small, dumpy, and nervous, now regretted she had brought her victim quite so far afield, and awaited what she had to say, with an anxiety that surprised herself.

“Mrs. Bax, you have jumped to some very strange conclusions. What do you wish me to do?” she asked at last, in a cold, clear voice.

“To imagine for one moment that I am Gerald Romilly’s mother!”

A scornful smile, like the flicker of summer lightning, played round Juliet’s lips.

“Yes, my precious love; and to give me a promise that if he asks you to be his wife you will say no.”

“And what do you offer me in return for such a promise?”

“My honour, friendship, and esteem.”

Miss Carwithen turned a pair of haughty eyes on the old lady as she inquired, “How can you honour and esteem a girl who, as you say, is under a cloud? Your friendship I decline.” Could Mrs. Bax have heard aright? “You ask me to imagine that you are Mr. Romilly’s mother. I should be sorry to do her, even for a moment, such a gross injustice! I do not wish to say all that I think of you, for you are an old woman, and if there is nothing else to respect about you, I must respect your age, though you have shown no respect for my feelings; and you have always lived a sort of sheltered, comfortable life, that you cannot realize what it is to be without a home.” Here her voice faltered for a moment, and then she resumed, “I may assure you that if Mr. Romilly ever asks me to marry him—and I believe you are unnecessarily alarmed——”

“Well?” burst out this meddlesome old lady.

“I shall be guided entirely by my own judgment.”

As she made this statement, looking straight into Mrs. Bax’s round blue eyes, she gave her a slight bow, and turning, walked unexpectedly away.

Mrs. Bax stood gazing and gazing, her mouth slightly agape, until the tall, upright figure turned an angle of the path and disappeared. She then drew a long breath, and exclaimed aloud, in her most emphatic tone,“ Well, I never!”

Chapter XXXII

“’Twixt Love and Duty.”

“I must be cruel, only to be kind.”

Whilst Juliet, looking unusually white and carrying herself unusually erect, was hurrying to the club from one direction, Mrs. Casson, whose ten minutes had swelled into fifty, was approaching it from another. Gerald Romilly walked beside her, wearing a surprisingly grave expression. The mail just arrived had brought him unexpected news, and he had an urgent-service telegram in his pocket, ordering him to start for Lucknow, on court-martial duty, within the next two hours.

Sophy’s face betrayed unwonted excitement as she said, “And so they want you to go home at once?”

“Yes,” he answered, laconically.

“And do you intend to do what is called ‘chuck the service?’”

“I suppose I must.”

“And—and,” in a lower key, “everything else?”

Nothing else. As to the service, I cannot help myself. How can I serve out here and live at home? Of course I won’t go for a couple of months; one cannot sever all one’s old ties in a few days.”

“And new ones you might take with you!” said the lady, significantly.

“I’ll have a good try, at any rate. I mean to marry Miss Carwithen, if I can persuade her to have me.”

“She goes back to-morrow. I promised Mrs. Noote most faithfully; but, of course, under some circumstances, she need never return to Kala Dara at all; and here she comes. Certainly these dissipations are bad for a country mouse like Juliet; she is looking quite fagged.”

“You don’t mean to say that you have been going round the cemetery?” inquired Mrs. Casson, in a high key of astonishment. “No wonder you look so grave. No, that’s not a pun; I never attempt them.”

“I am glad you did not stroll into the Session-house garden,” said Gerald; “you require a guide for that—a local guide to point out the views. Will you come and look at them before it grows dusk?”

“I am rather tired, and I think I won’t mind to-day, thank you,” was the unexpected answer.

“Tired!” echoed Mrs. Casson; “my dear child, you have scarcely walked a step, and the garden is within a stone’s throw.”

“Very well then, thank you. I suppose I ought to see all I can. Sophy, of course you are coming?” glancing appealingly at her friend. “Not I,” was the ruthless answer.

With respect to this expedition, Mrs. Casson was of the opinion that three was an awkward number, and waving her hand with a deprecating gesture, said, “Oh, my dear, I have seen all the sights years ago. I am much more inclined to go in and see the newspapers.”

Thus abandoned, Juliet, followed by Gerald, reluctantly ascended the worn grey steps, and passed through the gate into the garden. It had not been over-praised. It was a charming spot, that might have been cut out of some old-fashioned manor at home, and bodily transferred, like Aladdin’s palace, into this setting of circling white mountains.

There was a green lawn smooth as velvet, swept by a few dark deodars; the gravelled walks were bordered by roses, gladioli, and enormous bushes of heliotrope. Mr. Romilly plucked a spray of the latter, and offered it to his companion, and she accepted it and stuck it in her dress-in complete ignorance of its significance, and of the language of flowers. In the midst of the grounds stood a spacious grey bungalow, shaded by clumps of feathery bamboos, and reserved for the use of the lord sahib and other Burra sahibs, when they had occasion to pass through the district. The Sessions Garden, like all Durano, was situated on a range that ran out into a valley, resembling an amphitheatre, surrounded by hills on all sides; east and west it commanded a noble view in opposite directions.

It was the hour of sunset; sunset in the Himalayas! The cold white peaks were bathed in gold, whilst the valleys were steeped in every shade of delicate amethyst and purply blue. Romilly, as good as his promise, pointed out the different views to his companion, as they leant against a wall overhanging a precipice; but Miss Carwithen seemed dull and irresponsive, so different to her usual air of animation and interest.

“What is the matter?” he inquired at last, half-playfully. “You seem to be saying to yourself—

‘Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.’”

“I was scarcely thinking of the prospect,” she returned, with a half-embarrassed smile; “and as to the rest of your quotation, I—— Well, woman is something vile also. The mail is in, is it not?” making an effort at conversation. “Not that it interests me much; I have long given up looking forward to mail-day,” she concluded, with a half-stifled sigh.

“Yes; it came in an hour ago, and it interests me a good deal to-day, for it has brought me a great piece of news. I wanted to tell you about it, and that is why I made you come here almost in spite of yourself. You do look tired. Won’t you sit down on the wall?”

Juliet accepted the suggestion, and then said, “And what is your great piece of news?”

“I am going home very shortly.”

His listener made no reply, merely plucked off the head of a gaudy gladioli, and surveyed him with an expression of serene composure. This was a bad omen; she did not care a straw. However, he would persevere all the same; he was going to see it out.

“My father has come in for a large property and a title most unexpectedly.” He felt actually shy and embarrassed as he added, “He is now Lord Egremont, and I am certain no one is half as much astonished as he is himself.”

“Yes, this is indeed great news,” with a determined smile on her pale lips, “and I congratulate you.”

“The late Lord Egremont was my father’s cousin,” he continued; “his son and grandson died of yellow fever, recently, in the West Indies, and my father is the next in succession; the estates and title go in the male line. I am very sorry for his people, though we don’t know them; you see, we have always been out here; and there were so many good lives between my father and the title that he no more dreamt of coming in for it than the old tahsildar up there in the bazaar.”

“Yes, but he has come in for it all the same! It will make a difference to you, won’t it? Have you a title too? I am so ignorant of anything connected with rank and grandeur.”

“What a contrast to her own father!” thought her companion; “how well he could post her up!”

“No, I have no title,” he added, aloud; “but an insignificant one by courtesy. I may call myself Honourable.”

“But you have always done that, have you not?”

“Yes, I hope so, in one sense.”

“And you are going home?”

“Yes; my father wishes me to leave the service. Now he has an estate of his own, and tenants to look after, it will tie him down to one place, instead of roaming about the world. Now he has an object in life.”

“And your mother?”

“Yes, she will have her ponies and her garden again. Oh, and by the way, she comes in for some marvellous family diamonds, necklace, and tiara, and all sorts of things. They won’t be much in her line, for she always sticks to a cap. However, I dare say her daughter-in-law can manage to wear them for her.”

“Her daughter-in-law?” echoed Juliet, interrogatively.

“Her future daughter-in-law, I mean,” he rejoined, with a nervous laugh. Here was his opportunity, and here the hour and place, guarded from unwelcome intrusion and inappropriate listeners. His heart beat fearfully fast, his throat felt as if there was a brick in it. He had never experienced this sensation when swarming up a hill-slope under a heavy fire. Yes, he would speak now. The words were almost trembling on his lips, when the young lady gave the conversation an abrupt turn, by saying—

“And now of course all your plans are at an end. You will not care to explore Thibet, even if the Chinese guard would let you pass.”

“No, I shall not have time to make my way to L’Hassa, and bring you back that golden prayer-wheel that I promised you; but-but-perhaps you would accept something else from me instead—also in gold?”

His companion, who had been listening intently, with her gaze bent on the valley beneath her, was conscious of something unusual in Mr. Romilly’s tone, something that made her turn and look straight at him. In answer to her inquiring glance, he let fall the words—“a wedding-ring.” Juliet was so surprised, that she rose to her feet, and dropped the spray of red gladioli.

“It is true,” he went on, hurriedly, “that I can count the time I have known you by days; but whatever I am to you, you are no stranger to me. I fell in love with your picture ages ago. They used to chaff me about it at home. My mother will tell you; and when she urged me to marry, I always said, ‘Find me a girl like Lady Juliet.’ But you see I discovered you for myself here in these Kumaon wilds just two months ago. It was Kismet.”

Juliet never spoke; her face was now turned towards the mountains, as if she was lost in contemplation, and had scarcely heard him; but in truth not one precious syllable had been lost. And she was also listening to two other voices—firstly, that of her own happy throbbing heart, which said, “Gerald loves me; it is no dream.”

But another voice, a strange one, said, “Romilly might just as well shoot himself at once! It means social ruin for the husband, and a life of misery for both. If you really care for him, and value his happiness, you must sacrifice your own feelings and pass out of his life.”

Yes, it would be the case of her own mother over again. She could not escape from her parentage, nor deny her disreputable old grandfather. She must crush her own heart, stifle its appeals, and save Gerald. He would be sorry now; yes, but some day-oh, perhaps some day soon!—he would be grateful to her, and say that she had been the wiser of the two. His mother would marry him as befitted his prospects to some lovely well-born English lady of rank, and he would soon forget all about the miserable homeless girl he had made love to among the Himalayas. No, it had not been Kismet after all!

“I am afraid I have been too abrupt,” he recommenced. “I meant to have waited; but this sudden news upset all my plans; still, they say, ‘Happy is the wooing that is not long a doing.’ Of course I know I am not half good enough for you, Juliet; and you have seen nothing of the world; it seems a shame to rush you like this. I am thinking of myself—I am afraid in this case I am abominably selfish; but you are all the world to me. I would not have believed that such feelings as I have experienced the last two months were possible, for I have never cared a straw for any one before. I used to laugh at love, and now—and now love has come and changed my whole life. Won’t you speak one word to me, Juliet?”

He waited for some seconds in intense expectant silence; he could distinctly hear the throbbing of his own heart. And then she turned towards him; her face was deadly pale, and by the tension of her clasped hands, he could guess at the strength of the emotion she controlled. Poor girl, she had experienced a mortal combat between love and what she thought to be duty-and duty had conquered for love’s sake!

“Mr. Romilly,” she began, in a low, tremulous voice, “I am very, very sorry, but it can never be—never!”

“Then you do not care a straw for me? I was afraid so,” he returned, bitterly.

“It is not that. I do. Why should I not speak the whole truth? It was you who found me, and brought me out of the wilds—you who saved my life! I do care for you very much-oh,” with a ring of anguish in her voice, “too much; and that is why what you wish can never be.”

“But you are giving me the strongest of all reasons why it should be. Love is enough; what more do we want?”

“I want you to forget that you have ever seen or known me.”

“You might as well ask me to forget to see or breathe!” he broke in, impatiently.

“To forget me,” she repeated, in a clearer voice. “After a time it will be easy enough; your mind will be filled with other things.”

“It shows how little you understand me, when you say this; but, then, you have only known me a few weeks. My mother, any of my brother officers, will tell you that once I make up my mind to gain an object I never give it up. I am often laughed at, for I carry this trait out in small things as well as great. My object now—my chief one in life—is to gain you for my wife, Juliet. Nothing but death will turn me from my purpose. You will say yes,” taking her hand in his; “and before you stir from this spot.”

As they stood hand-in-hand—for Juliet made no effort to release herself—they formed a picture that would have charmed an artist.

Possibly a third of the love-scenes in the world have taken place in gardens, and none in a more appropriate garden than this, where so handsome a pair as the present couple had never plucked its flowers or paced its paths—the slender, graceful girl, with her finely poised head, her delicate features, her pathetic eyes, and the soldierly looking young man, with his handsome, determined face.

The sun had now sunk, the last golden-tipped peak had faded, and the great range of snows had merged into the sky like ghosts. The deodars stood out in black outline; the evening breeze played sleepily with their branches, shaking their needles to the ground. The passion flowers were closing; it was time to go.

“Juliet,” said Romilly, “I have never loved another girl; it will always be you—you or no one. I am waiting for my answer. If you have some idle chimera in your mind, dismiss it; do not trifle with my happiness and your own; it is for you to decide. See all that lies in your power—all my future and yours. I appeal to you, for God’s sake; allow your heart to speak, and let your answer be yes.” As he uttered the word “yes,” he involuntarily tightened his grasp on her hand.

Juliet looked at him steadily, though her eyes were swimming in tears. She was passing through the most tragic phase in her existence as she said in a low but perfectly distinct voice

“You lay a great responsibility on me, and therefore my answer must be no.”

“And your reason?” suddenly dropping her hand.

“You are honourable, and,” with a quick indrawing of her breath, “I am honourable too; there is my reason.”

Chapter XXXIII

Mr. Romilly Refuses to Be Refused

“Let us consider the reason of the case!”

“That is no answer,” he exclaimed, passionately, “it is a woman’s reason-it is a riddle. I can’t imagine what you mean? What is there to stand between us? It’s—it’s not possible, that all this time you have been engaged to some one else?”

“No,” sharply, “not possible. I could scarcely call myself honourable in that case, could I?”

“And do you think it right to have gained every thought and wish of my heart, to have made me absolutely indifferent to family, friends, regiment, to have turned my life upside down, and have changed me into a different man, and then to throw me over with the simple remark that you are honourable?”

He paused. She made no answer, but stood like a statue, save that her white lips quivered visibly.

“You say you care for me; if you did, you would not give me up. But I won’t be given up. I shall be your husband, as sure as I stand here!”

Juliet laughed,—a queer little ghostly laugh that almost frightened herself, and she slowly raised her beautiful dark eyes upon him as she answered—

“And as far as I can see, Mr. Romilly, we shall never meet again after to-day.”

“Time will tell, time will show, which of us is the true prophet. Before we part for the present give me a sensible reason—your real reason. I shall never rest until I know it?”

He never guessed that Mrs. Bax’s harangue had been accepted as true worldly wisdom, and had burnt into a young and smarting soul, and a most sensitive and innocent nature; that his offer had come at an unfortunate moment, before cool common sense had time to make itself heard; and that Juliet’s love had taken arms against herself to save, as she believed, his career and happiness.

There was a sound of heavy crunching boots upon the gravel, and two figures, portly and middle-aged, who had outlived their love affairs by thirty years, came slowly upon the scene.

“Juliet,” said the young man, hastily, “this is not your last word or mine, it cannot be. You have not done with me—now or ever. I shall write——”

“Do not,” she rejoined, emphatically. “It will be of no use; it will be only the same thing over again,” and she abruptly turned to depart.

To listen to further pleading was too much for her self-control; her heart was too full to speak. She had done right, and the actual moment of sacrifice was over! and oh, how thankful she would be to creep away somewhere, and hide herself and her misery! She walked in advance of her companion, through the garden, and as she passed the gate, it seemed to her as if she was quitting Paradise, and being driven out into the stern, cold world by an angel, with a two-edged sword, signifying honour and duty.

She must keep a brave front, and pretend to be merry and happy for a few hours. Only a few hours more, and she returned to Snow View en route to Kala Dara, and there she could be as miserable as she pleased; no one would notice her. No one, seeing the slight figure come down the steps, instinct with pride and grace, could dream of the agonized feelings that the girl carried in her bosom, and that because she had been assured she was an outcast and “adventuress,” she had just refused the man she loved and the most eligible match in the North-west Provinces. As she stepped into the full light of the verandah, with a smile on her lips, half a dozen pairs of eyes surveyed her expectantly. “Where was young Romilly?” They had gone into the garden together, why did she return alone? Had he proposed or not? Had they quarrelled? Oh, here he came, looking grave to sternness—an unwonted expression on his cheery countenance. Mrs. Casson, who was standing outside in the dark, and for whom her visitor was searching, beckoned him to her side.

“Well, is it all right, is it all settled?” she whispered, in a voice palpitating with sympathy and feeling. “Am I to congratulate you at last?”

But he merely shook his head, and before he had time to open his lips to reply, one of Sophy’s numerous friends bustled up to her, saying—

“So you are really off to-morrow, I hear. My dear, I want particularly to speak to you.”

And moving out of the circle of lamps, Romilly vanished into darkness.

Somehow, ere Sophy had said her last good-bye, there was a whisper, a sort of rumour in the air, that at last reached her ears—“Young Romilly had proposed for Miss Carwithen and been refused.”

How this got about no one could say. Such matters seem to have no beginning and no ending.

Sophy settled herself in her dandy in a state of great, though repressed, indignation, for Mrs. Dickson had just breathed in her ear, “I hear your pretty young friend has refused Gerald Romilly. I am so sorry. It was in the garden just now; some one overheard them.”

Yes, Sophy was extremely angry with her friend. Had she been nourishing a young serpent in her breast, a viper who had most unexpectedly turned on and stung her cheery, generous, dear cousin Gerald?

She maintained a silence-a hostile silence—all the way home, and Juliet was aware that her friend was deeply offended. During that most unpleasant evening her manners were frosty, and Juliet’s constrained. Sophy was too proud to ask her companion any questions, much less for her confidence, and Juliet was naturally reserved, and such a scene as she had recently experienced seemed to her too sacred to discuss; and therefore these two intimate friends conversed of their journey and the weather in brief, jerky sentences.

Juliet did all in her power to conciliate Sophy,—short of opening her heart to her,-and Sophy remained unappeased, and suffered her to depart to Kala Dara with one cold kiss, and without the faintest hint at a future meeting. She felt a secret satisfaction in knowing that this abominable little flirt (for the globe trotter she had no sympathy, but Gerald was quite another thing) was about to undergo a certain amount of penance at the hands of the Nootes. It would be a fitting and just punishment. It was evident that she had refused Gerald, for besides the whispers about the club, she had one very strong piece of personal evidence—he had never come to wish them good-bye, much less to see them off. Why had the girl refused him? Clever Mrs. Casson puzzled over the matter for hours. It could not be possible that there was another Richmond in the field? Gerald, besides being a thorough gentleman, good-looking, young and popular, was now a magnificent match. The whole thing was most mysterious; there was something queer about Juliet Carwithen after all!

Poor Juliet, with what different feelings did she retrace the well-known path towards home—and what a home! What a vital difference between herself and the girl who had left Kala Dara a month ago! Instead of rising, her spirits sank lower and lower every yard of the way. She had refused Gerald; she had offended Sophy, her only friend in India; and now she returned to the Nootes, her last resource. If Mrs. Radford did not send for her soon, she felt that she must die; she never could support her old life and her new misery together.

As she approached her destination, it struck her that it had never looked so mean and squalid, with its weedy garden, untidy outhouses, and littered verandah. There was no one to greet her. She entered the sitting-room, and there discovered a strange man seated at a late breakfast; he wore carpet slippers, and soiled white socks, and was engrossed in a paper, whilst a whisky and soda stood at his elbow. Instinct assured her that she was in the presence of the renowned William John. Hearing footsteps, he glanced up. He was a big broad-shouldered individual, with thick dark brows, that looked as if they had been corked, bold light eyes, a shiny skin, and a coarse black moustache. He was not actually ill-looking; some cook or parlour-maid might have considered him a splendid man. The milliner’s assistants thought him an Adonis, but to Juliet he far, far surpassed her most gloomy anticipations; and he for his part was equally disappointed in her. Was this thin, white-faced chit, with her great dark eyes and scornful little mouth, the beauty his mother had vaunted? He called her plain; there was nothing of her—she looked as if you could blow her away; she had reddish hair, and no colour. Certainly she seemed a lady, and she had two thousand pounds, and was to be had for the asking. Well, he could not afford to be particular, he was not too prosperous just now. He had been “haunked” out of his last berth; he was over partial to the stimulant beside him, and had a knack of being cheeky to his superiors; and a lady wife with money would suit his hook well enough. He rose, laid down the paper, and, offering Juliet a huge red hand embellished with several brass rings, exclaimed—

“At last! I thought you were never coming. ’Pon my word, I began to be afraid you had picked up some beau over there! Delighted and happy to see you. Hope you haven’t left your heart behind you, eh? Mother,” he bellowed, “here is Miss Judy, dying of hunger-get her some breakfast, and look slippy;” and turning once more to the young lady, said, “Don’t be shy about asking-say the word—if you would like a peg?”

Chapter XXXIV

“A Wild-Goose Chase”

“The name of the Slough was Despair.”

“Que le bonheur passe vite! Mon Dieu, qu’il passe vite! et qu’on souffre en y pensant plus tard.”

William John’s presence made a considerable difference in the simple ménage at Kala Dara, and many expensive additions in the shape of tinned provisions and European stores were added to the usual frugal fare. He ruled the whole establishment, everything gave way to him, for he was his mother’s idol. He rose late—was rarely in time for any meal—but never condescended to tender an apology. He smoked the rankest tobacco all over the house, sat with his cumbersome slippered feet on a chair, and always appropriated the paper—now a daily arrival by special coolie—and round which poor Captain Noote wandered with a sort of hungry restlessness, meekly awaiting his step-son’s good pleasure. Rough and ready as were Mr. Pogson’s manners, he was transparently anxious to make an agreeable impression on Miss Carwithen; he bounced up and placed a seat for her when she entered a room, paid her highly coloured compliments, talked to her incessantly “of what we do down on the plains,” and last, but not least, insisted on accompanying her in her walks.

He walked not because he liked it, as he frankly assured her, but solely to enjoy the delights of her company-presuming that the delight was mutual, with an air of exasperating confidence—and the poor girl did not dare to snub him too severely, for was she not wholly in his mother’s power? Had she not cast away of her own accord both lover and friend? She was miserably unhappy. Sometimes she feigned a headache, and remained in the seclusion of her own room in order to avoid Mr. Pogson’s detestable attentions. Sometimes she slipped away secretly, and enjoyed a long, solitary ramble; but she was ever haunted by the fear that William John was stalking her, as the hunter stalks his prey; and trembled lest, round some corner or boulder, she should descry a certain odious, ginger-coloured cap, and a big-checked suit, advancing jauntily in her direction. More than once she had eluded her tormentor, and more than once “Pouchee” had basely betrayed her. Mr. Pogson had been nearly ten days at home, and was becoming anxious to bring his wooing to a close. He hated Kala Dara, he hated old Noote, with his greedy eyes bent on the ebbing whisky, and the long-withheld newspaper. There was no bar-no billiards, nothing to amuse a fine young fellow-nothing to do, but make love to a haughty little minx, with the airs of an empress. However, he would soon make her cut all that, once he had brought matters to a close, and once he had secured his lady wife and her two thousand pounds. Lord! wouldn’t he make the rupees fly! and when they were gone, he would put the screw on the old boy at home; for he, thanks to inquiries, knew a thing or two about Dolly Carwithen.

This sanguine suitor was enveloped in such a rhinoceros-hide armour of self-approval, so blinded was he by his mother’s admiration, and her firm determination to turn her lodger into her daughter-in-law, that it never once dawned upon him that he was distasteful to the young lady whose hand he sought. Her cold silence, her averted eyes, her haughty monosyllables were simply “her little way,” and so many games to draw him on. Yes! thanks to careful and early fostering, Mr. Pogson’s vanity just paused on the threshold of insanity.

How Juliet dreaded and shrank from those enforced tête-à-têtes, when she sat with her knitting in the verandah, compelled to endure the society of a man she loathed, whilst the ever-watchful eyes of Mrs. Noote contemplated her from afar.

“Don’t you find it infernally dull?” inquired William John, one afternoon, as they sat under the creepers. She was knitting and he was smoking, as usual.

“It is rather lonely,” she assented.

“Scarcely ever seeing another white face. I can’t think what the missus and the old man see in it, unless the money! Of course they save a heap.” And with a wink, “So much the better for W. J. Still, you are not saving money, and it must be deadly for a girl; and not such a thing as a beau, eh?”

Juliet made no reply; possibly Mr. Pogson might consider Gerald a beau! Odious word.

“Never mind,” he continued, cheerfully, “there is a good time coming for you before long. Buss, buss,” to the bearer who was pouring soda-water into a tumbler. “You know that joke, eh?” to Juliet.

“No,” in a key devoid of all interest.

“Oh, you must hear it, then. A lady from India at home, said, ‘Buss, buss, John,’ to the footman, when he was filling her glass, and he said, ‘Oh no, ma’am; not with the master at table!’ Haw, haw! don’t you see it? If you will say ‘Buss, buss, John,’ to me, I’ll show you the joke sharp enough! ‘Buss,’ means a kiss.”

“Oh, does it?” in a very frosty tone.

“How scornful you look. I suppose no one has ever kissed you? I’d like to, uncommonly—some day, I——”

“I should like to see you!” she rashly rejoined, her eyes sparkling with anger.

“Oh, then, by Jingo, you shall! No time like the present,” and he made a futile lurch in her direction, thereby upsetting and smashing the soda-water tumbler, whilst the victim escaped with a beating heart into her own room. After this disagreeable little scene, intercourse between Miss Carwithen and Mr. Pogson became decidedly strained. His compliments and hints were, as it were, addressed to deaf ears; but she could not sit at table with her eyes shut, and his vulgar, stolid stare was absolutely unsupportable. All the pleasures of her walks were gone, for was not William John her too-frequent companion; he forced his society on her indoors and out-of-doors. She was his partner at whist against Captain Noote and dummy; this, at least, was one degree better than a tête-à-tête over the backgammon-board, including William John’s amorous whispers. Juliet was truly miserable; even Sophy’s heart would have been softened had she been a witness of her daily penance. Shut up with these three uncongenial companions in a small, isolated bungalow, the mother fiercely resolved that she should accept the son—the son determined to marry her—the old man stolidly quiescent and neutral. The wretched girl imagined that it was impossible that she could be more unhappy, that Fate had exhausted all her arrows; but she was mistaken. Misfortunes are sociable visitors, and rarely come alone. One morning the now daily post brought her two letters from London. Her heart sank as she received them. One was directed in Mr. Radford’s writing, and the envelope had a black edge; the other was from Miss Dix.

Yes, Mrs. Radford was dead—had died suddenly of some affection of the heart. Her husband’s letter enclosed a half-written one to Juliet, begun by a hand now rigid in death. She was not a girl to give way to extravagant demonstrative grief. She did not share her trouble with her fellow-inmates, but sat in her own room, with her usually busy fingers locked idly in her lap, gazing with a face of white misery on the rain streaming down the panes, the mountains rolled in grey mist, her thoughts as melancholy as the prospect. She had now lost her oldest, her best, her almost only friend. Of course she could not be permitted to indulge for hours in solitude. She was obliged to come forth and join the Noote family at meals, to knit socks, print butter, to play whist, and to listen, with what patience she could muster, to the rhapsodies of William John. He noticed that she was unusually silent and “choop,” as he called it, and his mother remarked facetiously upon her small white face and most scanty appetite, and actually induced her preposterous son to interpret these as signs of love.

It had rained steadily for four days and nights, but at last it cleared, the sun shone again, the snows stood out more brilliantly than ever, and heavy-footed crows recommenced their usual perambulations up and down the zinc roof of Kala Dara. Juliet hailed them as doves to the ark. She had been pining for fresh air, and now, putting on her strongest shoes, and taking her alpenstock, crept forth like a thief, leaving traitorous Pouchee behind, and made her way with nervous speed to a favourite retreat that commanded a view of Snow View and Durano. There she sat, with her back against a rock, her hands clasped in a favourite attitude round her knees, contemplating familiar surroundings. She had lived all her life in the mountains, and loved them with the passion peculiar to hill-people. After days spent in a close, tobacco-laden atmosphere, how good it was to inhale the sharp clear air; dear to her senses was the smell of the pines and the wood smoke. Almost as dear as the far-away line of snowy white pinnacles which were blushing under the sun’s last kisses.

Juliet sat motionless, gazing towards Durano, her dark eyes, beneath their delicate brows, bent on that scene of many new sensations with almost tragic intentness. She was endeavouring to follow up a long line of thought. She was slowly reviewing her whole past life; then she glanced at her present lot, with its sordid surroundings and hopeless outlook, and the hateful, ever-haunting presence of William John.

Her recent and acute grief had almost driven Gerald Romilly out of her thoughts-almost—but not quite. It was not so easy to forget that evening in Durano, his eager, broken words, the stars, the dim garden, and the breath of the flowers. And that it had not been a dream, the bit of heliotrope was an outward and visible token. She wondered if it was wicked to keep it in her Bible, pressed between two leaves. She had refused Gerald abruptly, almost roughly, because her heart was proud and sore. Had she been right? Fortune had opened her a door of escape from her present life, and she had closed it with her own hands. She had been offered a great gift, which she had impetuously rejected for Gerald’s good. Yes; but if he were to come and seek her now, what would she say? Would she suffer him to judge for himself, whether an obscure, country-born girl, unacknowledged by her relations, was a suitable wife for him or not? He had said he would write, and she had protested. Had she really done right? her heart urged clamorously:

Yes, and the proof was ever with her. She was so miserably unhappy and forlorn. Had she not always been taught that to do wrong was delightfully easy and pleasant; to do right a distasteful, uphill task, for which the sense of an accompanied virtue was the sole reward?

Gerald’s appearance, his character, his manners, were in conspicuous contrast to her other suitor—this horror in a flannel shirt and greasy collar, who winked at her and squeezed her hand when he bade her good-night, so that his dreadful brass rings sank into her fragile fingers.

Then her thoughts wandered away to Sophy. Should she have told Sophy? If Sophy had not looked so grim and severe, and been so painfully curt in her remarks at that last dismal meal in the dâk bungalow, she might have screwed up her courage to utter one word, but she was naturally shy in speaking of her own feelings and concerns. To open her heart, to unburthen her mind to another, was an operation that most rivalled keen physical torture. And Sophy had looked utterly unapproachable; when she carried her chin at a certain angle, it was tantamount to a declaration of war. So Robbie had more than once jestingly assured her during those happy days at Snow View. Surely that was years ago! And she herself was reserved by nature. Mrs. Radford had frequently pointed out this-what she considered-grave defect in her character. Her life of monotonous seclusion had blocked the natural outlets of emotion, and her mind was prone, as in the present instance, to feed solely upon itself.

Suddenly her reverie was interrupted. She started, and a curious expression dawned on her face and brought a bright colour into her cheek. This change was caused by the sound of that simple tune, “Two jolly black eyes,” whistled by some one who was rather out of breath, some one approaching rapidly. Yes, here was William John scaling the hillside, and yet she had been positive that she had stolen away unseen, whilst he slept and snored in the verandah. But then she was not aware that Mrs. Noote had set a coolie to watch her, and that the same coolie had marked her down just as accurately as if she had been a jungle sheep or a minall pheasant.

Mr. Pogson was somewhat portly; neither his figure nor his boots were built for mountaineering, and he was not in the best of tempers when he flung himself heavily down beside his quarry and panted out, “So I have found you, after all. This is a fine wild-goose chase you have given me!”

Chapter XXXV

“Starve You Shall!”

“Which of us is the wild goose?” she asked, with wretched attempt at gaiety.

“Why, you are! At any rate, you are a wild deer,” with a delightful laugh at his own wit.

“I am sure I am much obliged to you,” picking up her alpenstock. “It is getting rather late, and I am just going. A case of welcome the coming, speed the parting guest,” and she nodded a farewell.

“No, no, by Jove! You are not off like that! You are always giving me the slip; but I have you now, my wild deer!” holding her dress firmly in his hand.

“Well,”-feigning a nonchalance she was far from feeling, “what do you want?”

“I am a plain man,” he said, scrambling to his feet (a very plain man in Juliet’s opinion), “and I am plain-spoken—none of your humming and hawing chaps. I want you to marry me, and be Mrs. William John Pogson; and let me tell you that you are the first girl as has ever had an offer from W. J. P.”

A momentary silence, during which Juliet was searching for some polite phrase in which to reject the third offer of marriage she had received within the last month.

“My mother is set on it; and, of course, you’ve seen that yourself. I know you are one of your stand-off ones; but, blow me if I don’t like it for a change. I am sick of girls throwing themselves at fellow’s heads. There’s one in Allahabad very nearly landed yours truly. This will be a facer for her! but I don’t care; let her rip! Well, Juliet,”—attempting to take her hand—“now we have settled it, when is it to be?”

“When is what to be?” moving a pace backwards.

“Our wedding, to be sure!” now successfully seizing her hand.

“Never, as far as I am concerned,” wrenching away her fingers. “I—I think you must be joking!”

“Oh, come, you know I’m in dead earnest; and you need not be trying it on! What’s the good?”

“I am not going to marry any one!”

“And pray why not, miss?” he demanded, with a mixture of wrath and astonishment.

“For several reasons.”

“Because you are too swell a lady?” he snorted.

“No, no; if I really cared for you, your position would make no difference to me; but I am surprised that you have not seen quite plainly that I do not like you!”

“Position!” with an angry laugh. “Well, that’s as good a one as I ever heard. Old Joe Smithson’s grand-daughter, a young person as her family disowns, talking of position to me, Gentleman Pogson-do you hear that?—Gentleman Pogson; maybe,” squaring himself as he spoke, and placing his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, “I’m not personally to your taste. I heard all about that officer chap. I suppose you’d rather have him? but he didn’t see it. That’s why you came back so low in your mind. Eh?”

“I have already said no,” replied Juliet, endeavouring to be calm. “Please take your answer; is not ‘No’ enough?”

“By jingo, it isn’t,” he retorted, savagely. “Blow me if it is! You said you’d like to see me kiss you, and now, by Jove, you shall. I’ll have the first kiss off your proud little mouth, whoever has the last.”

As he spoke he laid hold of her arm; but she succeeded in twisting herself free, and, leaning against the rock, seizing her alpenstock in a short firm grasp, said, with clinched teeth and throbbing pulses, “If you dare to come near me, I shall strike you.”

“Pah! you and your knitting-needle!” making a grab at the end of it. “What! you won’t, won’t you?” endeavouring to wrench it out of her hands, but she held it firmly, with a sort of silent, enraged tenacity.

The path on which they struggled was soft and slippery with the recent rains, and Mr. Pogson’s footing was none too secure, when the impetus of a sudden violent push upset his equilibrium; he stumbled, scrambled, fell backwards, and with a howl of mingled rage and terror, toppled over the low bank, and rolled rapidly down a considerable descent, where his career was brought up by a boulder stone.

Meanwhile, his victim had fled with the speed of a deer, and ere he had recovered the perpendicular, his cap, and his wits, she was completely out of sight.

“Well, what news?” inquired his eager parent, as she hurried out to meet him at the gate. “She is in her room, and has her door shut fast.”

“I’ll show you what she said,” sullenly displaying his muddy coat, his hands and face all scratched by bushes he had snatched at as he rolled by. “She gave me a shove and knocked me over the khud, and nigh killed me. She had the will to do it too, I saw it in her eyes. She would not even listen to me, much less let me kiss her; she was just like a mad jungle cat, and I riled her proper about that chap Romilly!” with a laugh of vindictive complacency. “She’s a young devil, that’s what she is? I would not marry her if she had the Bank of England at her back; and a nice fool you’ve made of me,” turning on his mother savagely. “It’s all your fault, telling me a pack of nonsense and lies, and bringing me up to this beastly hole, and my railway ticket alone twenty-eight rupees!”

*  *  *

“A pretty way you have treated my poor boy,” said Mrs. Noote, bursting into Juliet’s room. Nearly knocked him over the khud, a real grateful return for all our kindness!”

“I gave him a plain answer to a plain question, Mrs. Noote, and he insulted me.”

“He asked you to marry him, the greatest compliment he could pay you, miss; and he offered to kiss you, and you call that an insult!”

“Most certainly I do,” her voice shaking with passion, “and I must say——”

“And I don’t,” storming down the interruption. “And you gave him a shove, and sent him over the bank, and might have murdered him. It was all one to you whether he fell ten feet or ten hundred. He is just a mass of bruises, and his clothes destroyed; he ought, by rights, to have the law of you. You just come out this moment, and beg his pardon.”

Juliet looked at the furious matron and laughed, a laugh that drove Mrs. Noote wild.

“I will not; it is he who should beg mine,” replied the girl, scornfully. “As long as he remains here, I refuse to meet him.”

“And drive the poor child out of his mother’s house?” shrieked his parent.

“Oh, I dare say, indeed!” and—unfailing storm signal—Mrs. Noote’s light eyebrows and hair looked almost white against her face, which was crimson with passion.

“No, I need not do that; but whilst he remains I shall take my meals in my own room.”

“And don’t you wish you may get them? No, not one bite, unless you come to table for it; so you can starve.”

“So be it. I would much sooner starve than endure the society of Mr. Pogson.”

“Starve you shall. I’ll bring you to your bearings, you nasty, uppish, impudent, red-haired minx!”

“That will do, Mrs. Noote,” said the other, with superb courage. “This is my room; will you be good enough to leave it?”

Mrs. Noote stared—swallowed—and then flounced out, banging the door violently behind her.

Teatime came; no tea for Juliet. She remained in her apartment, in the dark, and hungry-hungry, and in the dark, she went to bed. The next day was wet, but her friend the ayah—kindly, wizened old person, who smoked a huka—brought her some chupatties, and these, with rain-water, caught in a jug, were her food for that day. Meanwhile, the mother and son conferred together, and had come to the conclusion that “it was best to humour Miss Judy.” She might write and make complaints to the Cassons; and therefore Mrs. Noote proposed a truce through the keyhole, offered an apology through the window, and thrust a note under the door, to notify that if she would come forth, Mr. Pogson was prepared “to forgive and forget.”

In answer to his mother’s threat of starving Juliet out, he had rejoined, in his own forcible way, “You will never starve her into marrying me, and I would as soon marry a young tigress! She has a pride and will that beat all. She would sooner die than let you break her spirit; you may see it in her eye.” To which Mrs. Noote vulgarly retorted, “Very much in her eye.”

Nevertheless, she was concerned that none of her arts would lure the girl from her retreat. No; she refused to appear, as long as Mr. Pogson was in the house. She wrote this down in black and white, and gave it to her own emissary, the ayah.

For two days it poured incessantly, and the rain brought the cholera. The villagers awoke one morning and found seven corpses in their midst. Ill news flies fast; at half-past six it was at Kala Dara, and the awful word had been whispered into Mrs. Noote’s ear. When she carried the announcement to her son, he was still in bed. He started up, his face a pale lemon colour, his bold, light eyes seemed to protrude from their sockets, the damp dew of a mortal fear was on his brow.

“Then, in that case, my name is Walker!” he exclaimed, sitting up in bed. “I am off, sharp; tell them to saddle the pony.”

“But you will wait for your breakfast, lovey?” pleaded his mother. “It’s downright dangerous to start fasting.”

“It’s far more dangerous to stop. Clear out while I stick on some clothes; you can send my kit after me. You come and tell me that the black cholera is in the village, and press me to stop! No; not for Joe!”

Such was his panic that in five minutes Mr. Pogson was equipped. True, he was unwashed, and unshaven, and hardly spared a second to swallow a cup of coffee, and say good-bye to his mother.

As he hastily saluted her, he pointed to Juliet’s door and said, in a hoarse voice, and with his mouth full of toast—

“You’d better tell her, and let her clear out, too; mind you, it’s very close.”

“Not closer for her than for me!” rejoined Mrs. Noote, tartly. “I wonder you haven’t more pride than to trouble your head about the hussy! Just wait five minutes, Willie, dear, and the pony will be ready, and an egg.”

“Pony and egg be bothered! Not five seconds! It’s the black cholera, you say, and I’m in a devil of a funk!” hurrying down the garden as he spoke. “Put up my traps, and send them after me; and tell them to look sharp with the pony. By-bye,” and he banged the gate and fled.

“You can come out!” screamed Mrs. Noote, as she dried her eyes, and rapped with her knuckles on Juliet’s door. “Come out! Mr. Pogson has gone, and you need not be afraid; there is no one here now as cares a straw about you.”

Chapter XXXVI

“The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness”

“Death calls ye to the crowd of common men.”

The spirit was willing enough in Juliet’s case, but the flesh was deplorably weak. A hungry girl of nineteen, who has been almost starved for two days, finds a strong aroma of breakfast a very potent argument with which to silence pride. Yes; the humbling truth must be confessed, Juliet was famishing, and could not resist the clattering of the cups and saucers. She came forth, and took her usual seat at table; as she sat she heard Captain and Mrs. Noote holding high converse through the open door of the next room. Captain Noote was saying—

“I declare he went off as if the devil was at his heels! I never saw the match of it. A regular runaway. Them’s the sort that ketches it! And look here, Eliza, here’s a letter for Miss Judy. I found it in the bottom of the tobacco-jar; how the dickens did it come there?”

“How do I know? Drat her and her letters! Whist! Oh”—to Juliet—”so you have made your way out? I hope you are better?”

“Thank you. I never was ill,” was the stiff rejoinder.

“Only a pain in your temper!” returned the other, with her most aggressive glare, and she seized the tea-pot as if she would like to shake it. “I don’t hold with girls as has black dogs on their backs.”

“See, Miss Judy, this is a letter for you,” broke in Captain Noote, as he threw it to her across the table.

Juliet coloured violently as she took it up. It was from Gerald Romilly. She recognized his bold black writing. Of course it was merely to say good-bye. She turned it over; the postmark was Lucknow, the date ten days previously. He was no doubt already in the Indian Ocean on his way home. She felt a hard lump rise in her throat; and she caught Mrs. Noote’s pale eyes fixed on her interrogatively. No; she was not going to open it under their supervision. She thrust it into her pocket, intending to take it out and read it alone on the hills.

Mrs. Noote was intensely disappointed, and exclaimed, with a sneer—

“It’s not very important, seeing as it’s not worth opening. A pity I did not keep it another week!”

Juliet made no reply. She felt that there was something unusual in the domestic atmosphere. Why had William John raised the siege and run away? Why was Captain Noote staring at her as if he would like to say something, and dared not; an above all, why, at ten o’clock in the morning, did he go boldly and openly to the whisky-bottle, pour out nearly half a tumbler of raw spirits, and swallow it without any remonstrance from Mrs. Noote? But she had no time to speculate. She was longing for some fresh air, and to be out among the hills, and, putting on her hat and calling Pouchee, she set forth for a long ramble. The air and the motion were good for her. She walked steadily on for nearly four miles before she ventured to open the letter-it would only contain bad news, and she put off the evil moment, and allowed sinking hope to utter its last dying whispers.

At length she reached a well-known retreat, sat down, and tore the envelope with tremulous fingers; the contents were very short and very legible, in half a minute her eyes mastered them.


“Dear Miss Carwithen,

“Just as I left you on Tuesday, I was handed an urgent telegram, ordering me on court-martial duty. I arrived here this morning, and hope to get away in a week. May I go straight to Kala Dara on my return. You say you care for me; you can never recall those words, and they are enough. If you do not answer this, I shall take silence for consent.


“G. Romilly.”

This letter was now eleven days old! The band of fate had answered it. Gerald would take silence for consent; he would come to Kala Dara. Juliet’s heart beat fast at the thought. What was she to say to him now? Had she the strength of mind to reject him twice? She doubted it; as she sat engrossed in reflection—time flew, minutes passed into half-hours and hours, and she still remained motionless. A goat and two little brown kids appeared to think she was a permanent portion of the landscape, and came and browsed near her. A pair of noisy hill minars fought out a long-standing quarrel at her side.

At last she rose, feeling stiff and cramped; and, having come to no fixed decision, made her way slowly back to Kala Dara. As she walked along the familiar tracks, her thoughts miles away, she could not help noticing an unusual number of people travelling on the road below her, apparently bound for a long distance. Men driving cows and sheep, and ponies laden with women and children, cooking-pots and bedding; they seemed in haste too. Another time she would have run down and questioned them; but to-day her mind was too full of her own affairs to have room for her neighbours’ business.

As she passed through the village, she was struck by its unusually dull and silent aspect. The Bunnia’s shop was shut, and, strange spectacle! groups of patient goats and cows waited at the closed doors of their owners’ houses. From one dwelling emerged a little group, bearing on a bier a stark body covered with a thin muslin shroud. From another hut came the piercing sounds of lamentation and woe.

Juliet paused at the threshold and looked in; there was the beaten mud floor, the unused grinding-stone and brass cooking-vessels, though it was the evening hour. A still, stiff form lay twisted up on a charpoy, half covered with a rezai. A child was playing with the dead man’s huka; whilst a woman, with her hair down, sat on the floor, screaming and beating her breast.

As Juliet stood irresolute, a withered old crone suddenly rose, and darted to the door.

“Begone!” she shrieked. “Breathe not in the place of death! Miss Sahib, it is the ‘Hyjah ka Bim-ar hai’ (the cholera). Fifteen people have died since yesterday’s dawn! Why should you die too? You are young and fair. The gwala is dead; they carried him but now to the burning-ghat, and also his sons, Punee and Krisna. There is none of his race to light the pyre.”

“The gwala dead!” repeated Juliet, in a tone of incredulous horror; “and the children. Oh, this is too dreadful! And their mother?”

“She has escaped. She had gone down with corn to her mother’s house in Durano. Behold, her own house is empty now; but Jangu, the father of all, went first. Well, he is thrice blessed. Last year he made the great pilgrimage to Gangoutri temple. Yea, old man as he was, he ascended to the very cow’s mouth itself. Mahadeo, therefore, took him speedily; but Ganea Thapa, here,” pointing to the distorted corpse, “devils tore his body from his soul!”

Juliet shuddered instinctively as she said, “Are any sick now? We will send to Durano for the doctor and remedies——”

“No need,” interrupted the hag; “those who were stricken are gone. They died speedily, and in great torment, in spite of the hakim, who gave medicine, opium, and ginger, and did poojah to the gods, and also magic. We others wait now to see who will be called next. It is all as the gods will. Go; you can do naught! Go, Sanduria-go!”

Meanwhile, the newly made widow sat wailing and tearing her hair, and beating her head upon the ground with all the wild extravagance of Eastern grief. Juliet had heard of the cholera, and knew that its visits were periodical in these hills, and that, when it came, it had been known to sweep away whole villages. This was the same pestilence that walked in darkness, whose approaching steps had terrified Mr. Hodder. It had reached Kala Dara at last.

“You can give no help, Miss Sahib,” continued the old woman. “Be warned by me, and flee. Do not return to the bungalow. It will surely take some one from there. See—it always spreads in this shape;” and she made the mark of a rude triangle on the floor. The bungalow represented one point, two rows of stricken homes the others.

“I will go back, and tell Captain Noote,” said Juliet, “and see if we cannot do something to help you all.”

As she entered the house, the captain hurried out to meet her in a transport of excitement, crying—

“Keep away-keep away! She has got it. Took it three hours ago, and is nearly gone. Go-go-like the rest! They have all run from us save the ayah, and she is almost useless, and Ibraham, and he is dying. We have not a soul to help; but you must not stay. To keep you would be murder.”

“I am not afraid,” said Juliet, firmly. “I will remain. I will go to Mrs. Noote at once.”

“I said she should have packed you off, and she refused. It has been raging these two days. The very air is poisoned. In the village below they are dying like flies.”

“I know. But there are no cases now. Let me go to Mrs. Noote.”

“Well, brace yourself up, my girl; for if you have never seen cholera, you’ll want a stout heart to face it. Here, take a little whisky; it’s the best stuff to keep out cold and fear.” As he spoke, his red face faded to an ashen hue.

But Juliet put the proffered whisky aside, and passed into the sick-room. It was true that she had never seen cholera before, and that she required all her nerve and self-command for the present crisis. To all appearances, Mrs. Noote had aged thirty years in three hours. She looked exactly like a wizened old woman of eighty. She received Juliet with signs of gratitude, and appeared much comforted by her presence; and Juliet hastened to apply the most available remedies. She got hot bottles, hot stupes; she inoculated the shivering ayah with some of her own courage, confidence, and energy, and ordered Captain Noote to and fro; but all exertions to save Mrs. Noote failed. The fatal blue look stole over her face, and round the eyes and lips; the mouth sank in; the extremities became deathly cold. The final collapse succeeded the acute stage, and Mrs. Noote was sinking rapidly. She recognized Juliet more than once, and pressed her hand, and struggled painfully to articulate; but all that Juliet’s straining ears could catch from this last impulse of fading vitality was a murmur that sounded like bank-book. She fell into a stupor, and about three o’clock in the morning passed almost imperceptibly away.

Of course her burial must take place without delay-no need, as among the natives, to wait five hours ere burning the body, in order to give the soul time to reach the abode of Yama. Captain Noote was amazed to discover that there was a coffin in the house—“But then,” as he sobbed, when his first surprise had abated, “Eliza was always such a wonderful woman for stores,”—and in the coffin which she had purchased for her husband, was Eliza Noote laid. Captain Noote began to dig her grave in the garden at daybreak. Meanwhile, Juliet stood at the little gate, and watched the sun rise over the snowy range, and flood the nearer hills with opalescent tints, with a face worn with watching, and haggard from the strain of a night of ghastly unfamiliar horrors. Mrs. Noote was dead, the bearer was dead—who was to be the next? Must she wait for her fate to overtake her, like the people in the village?

But her fate, in another shape, was approaching rapidly; her ear caught the clatter of galloping hoofs, and, lifting up her tired eyes, she saw Gerald Romilly. In a second he had jumped off his horse, and his hand was on the gate. “Do not come here!” she almost shrieked. “Go, go, this instant! Do not come near this house! Go, go, please!” she repeated, hysterically, holding the gate fast in both hands.

He gazed in amazement at her pale, sharp face. What had happened?

“Why should I go?” he asked, with a smile. “I wrote——”

“Oh, please, please go away,” she interrupted. “Please go, dear Gerald.”

He laughed as he looked at her, with keen, dancing eyes, and said, “Do you think that is the way to get rid of me, by calling me dear Gerald? You are mistaken. I am coming in; you don’t suppose that I am afraid of Mrs. Noote?”

“If you were, you need fear her no longer,” vainly endeavouring to speak calmly. “Mrs. Noote died three hours ago.”

“Cholera!” he ejaculated, almost under his breath, and his eager, happy face became grave. In a second, he had changed from the lover to the man of action—the soldier who was familiar with all the horrors of a plague-stricken camp.

“Open the gate, Juliet,” he said, authoritatively; “I must get you away from this at once. I’ll put the side-saddle on my horse, and start you off in five minutes. There’s no fear of me, I’m used to this sort of thing; and you may rely on me to look after him, and do everything,” glancing expressively at the half-dug grave.

“So you have heard it,” cried Captain Noote, hurrying out of the house. “A strong, healthy woman—she took it yesterday at three o’clock. She was after feeding the fowls, and she staggered in, and screeched out, ‘I’ve got the cholera, and I’m a dead woman!’ It’s the black cholera; they’ve had it in the village this two days, and Eliza knew, and held her tongue. The bearer took it and died, and all the servants ran away except the ayah, and left me and Miss Judy alone. She has done everything. She’s a grand, brave girl, but this is no place for her; she must not stay here, take her away.”

“Where am I to go?” she asked, with serious eyes.

“Here comes your answer,” said Romilly, pointing to a distant figure—Robbie Casson, at the top of his speed, leading a pony with a side-saddle.

Chapter XXXVII

Referred To Sophy

“Love took up the harp of life,
And smote on all the cords with might.”

It is notoriously trying to a clever-managing woman to have her pet plans frustrated by a silly, wilful girl—and Sophy Casson had neither forgiven nor forgotten her young protégée. She would have been down to Kala Dara to upbraid her and see how she fared, but had been laid up for two weeks with a very severe cold. And she honestly believed that a little of the undiluted society of the Nootes would do Juliet no harm, and bring her to her senses, meaning that it would enable her to see more clearly the error of her ways in refusing Gerald Romilly, and thwarting her best friend’s most cherished schemes. But when she saw a pale girl, with a tired, haggard face dismounting from her pony (the Bandersnatch), all old scores were overlooked, she even forgot her own dread of infection as she received her prodigal with open arms. Juliet was completely prostrated, and only too thankful to obey her hostess’s commands to go and lie down and sleep. She slept for fifteen hours, and awoke entirely revived and refreshed. As she and her friend sat over a blazing log fire in the twilight, the next evening, Sophy said, “Well, Juliet, I suppose you are aware that I have been very, very angry with you?”

“Have you, Sophy? And why?”

“Because, to me, your best friend, you refuse your confidence. My dear, that is your greatest fault—reserve.”

Silence, and then Sophy went on, “Your second offence is, that for no reason that I can see, you have refused Gerald Romilly—is not this true?”

Juliet shaded her eyes with her thin hand, and said, “Yes, partly.”

“What does the girl mean?” exclaimed Mrs. Casson, impatiently.

“I mean that I did refuse him, and for a very good reason.”

“Then please let me have your idea of a good reason at once.”

No reply; but Sophy could see that a tear had splashed into her companion’s lap.

“You don’t mean to say you don’t care for him?”

“That is just it,” now boldly dashing away her tears. “I do. To you I may say it, Sophy-only to you. I do care for him; and that is the very reason that I will never be bis wife.”

“The poor girl has lost her wits,” said Sophy, addressing the fire.

“No, Sophy, I have not lost my wits; but I am not fit be his wife. You know I am not his equal. My own father refuses to acknowledge me or receive me; how can I expect his father or mother to do so? My mother was not a lady—all these things would soon be known and talked of among his friends. He would be ashamed of me and mine. I not accustomed to society; I am merely an ignorant girl, who does not even know how to receive visitors, or to get into a carriage. A carriage!” with an hysterical laugh. “Why, I have never even seen one! I should make him ashamed of me sooner or later.”

“Juliet, I am ashamed of you—to hear you saying such things. You are—I don’t want to flatter you—as much of a lady as any one I ever saw, and you have the real grand air, which is given to so few. You might have the blood of all the Howards in your veins, by the manner you hold your head, the way in which you come into a room. Your very voice and laugh are those of a gentlewoman. These are legacies that are better than money. Be very truly grateful, my dear, to your ancestors, who endowed you with birth and breeding and beauty.”

“Sophy, you are fond of me; of course you are prejudiced because you are my friend; but you should have heard what Mrs. Dickson said of me; she said I was a nobody and an adventuress.”

“I don’t wish to hear anything she may say. Who cares for Mrs. Dickson?”

“Mrs. Bax told me that if I married Gerald it would be his social ruin, as I was a nobody, and worse—disowned by my own relations.”


Après, I went to the Sessions-house garden with Gerald, and whilst my heart was hot within me he asked me to marry him, and I refused him. What else could I do?”

“Then all I can say is, that you were a little fool.”

“Oh, dear, dear Sophy, do you honestly think so? Do you not think it would be very wrong and dishonourable of me to marry him?”

“What do you mean?” inquired Mrs. Casson, impatiently.

“Listen to me, Sophy. I leave my fate in your hands; you shall decide,” said Juliet, raising a pale, tense face.

“Why should I decide, my dear? What have I to say?”

“You know the world so well, and I do not. You know people and their position, you know me and my position. You can see both sides impartially-now I am partial. I see much of my own side, and my heart tempts me, tempts me horribly! But now I put temptation out of its power. I ask you, I beg of you, to think of him, not of me. I only wish to do what is best for him. Yes, you shall decide; yes, you must decide,” and Juliet suddenly knelt down, and laid her beautiful head in her friend’s lap.

Mrs. Casson loved power, and she never had realized its delights more thoroughly than at the present moment, when she held the future lot of two people in her own hands. She was by no means a perfect woman (but who is?), and it certainly gave her a tiny twinge of envy to think that this forlorn girl, who had lived a homeless, insignificant existence among these wilds, who had looked up to her—Sophy Casson—as her only friend, had been invited to go forth and take her place in the great world, whilst she, Robbie Casson’s clever wife, must remain on a remote tea-plantation for the best part of her life, and yet at a word from her, this quixotic child would resign this brilliant prospect!

But no, the struggle (if such it could be called) was but momentary. Juliet was a dear, simple, honourable girl; and Gerald was a resolute man. Once his mind was set upon an object, he strove hard to attain it; and his whole soul was set upon this pretty creature, whose proud little head, with its mass of auburn locks, lay buried in her lap.

“I think, Juliet, you should have left it to him to decide,” she said, after a long pause.

“Do you really, really?” exclaimed the other. “I sometimes thought so myself when I was wretchedly unhappy; and then one is tempted to do things just to escape from one’s misery.”

“I do-really, really. Gerald will be here to-morrow, and you will give him his answer.”

“I don’t know.”

“Of course you know! Or else I shall begin to think you can’t have any backbone. Naturally your father will have to provide a new home for you, and where would you find a fitter one than sharing Gerald’s? Believe me, my dear, that when Mr. Carwithen hears of your approaching marriage——”

“Oh, don’t, Sophy! It is no question of approaching marriage. I am not even engaged, and I——”

“Well, well, that can remain an open question. Here comes Robbie. Dry your eyes and give me a kiss, and leave everything to me.”

The next day as Gerald galloped out to Snow View, he was much surprised to find Sophy waiting for him near the teahouse. She was wrapped in a fur cloak, and alone.

“Get off,” she cried, “and send on the pony. I have a great deal to say to you.”

“About her, of course?” springing to the ground.

“Yes. Pray what else do you think would bring me out to waylay you this cold evening?” And, as she paced beside him, she volubly and emphatically repeated the previous evening’s conversation, and Juliet’s honourable scruples.

“And is that all that stands between us?” he cried. “What nonsense! As if I would listen to it for a moment! I’d marry her if her father was a sweep, and be proud to call her wife!”

“No doubt,” said Sophy, dryly. “But perhaps your father and mother would not be equally proud of the connection. However, she is not a sweep’s daughter, as it happens. Sweeps don’t have daughters like Juliet Carwithen. You must make a little allowance for her. I suppose you are very fond of her, Jerry?”

Mr. Romilly did not think it necessary to answer such a preposterous question.

“And I think she is fond of you.”

“Why?” rather eagerly.

“Oh, I can tell!—A woman can always tell!” nodding her head significantly.

“But give me one reason.”

“Well, when she speaks of you behind your back, she calls you Gerald, and says it quite naturally!”

(Once she had called him dear Gerald to his face, and said that quite naturally too.).

“What? you mean by making allowance?” he inquired, after a considerable silence.

“Make allowance for her pride. She does not know how proud she is. Oh, if she could only be married like other girls, from her father’s house!”

“Look here,” said Gerald, drawing a paper out of his pocket, “I brought this to show you.” Handing her a Pioneer, he said, as he pointed to a paragraph, “Just read it. It’s rather a curious coincidence.”

“Passengers from Brindisi to Bombay, via S.S. Arcadia: Lord and Lady Castle Blarney, the Marquis and Marchioness of Blankenburg, Sir Vincent Peerwith, Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus Carwithen and maid.”

“There, you see, we have the whole affair in a nutshell. I heard from the mater to-day. She says Mrs. Carwithen has never given dear Dollie a moment’s peace till he joined this noble party. She is a strong woman to bring him here in spite of himself. I fancy they are at Ajmeer by this time, beginning the sights.”

“And I shall show him one sight that he does not expect to see,” said Mrs. Casson, emphatically.

“And that is his daughter?”

“Yes; and he has arrived most opportunely, has he not? Just in the nick of time. Juliet is much changed the last few weeks,” said her friend. “She has felt Mrs. Radford’s death acutely, and has quite lost her spirits. Poor girl, she has so few friends; and then she has had this worry about you!”

“Worry about me?” echoed her lover, indignantly.

“I am the last person in the world to give her worry. But this awful experience of the cholera is enough to shake any girl’s nerve. You must get her away from these hills, Sophy.”

“Yes, down to Lucknow, where we will come across Mr. and Mrs. Carwithen—naturally by the merest accident.”

“I shall happen to be there, too; also by the most extraordinary coincidence!” he added, with a smile.

“Only if it is all right, and you are engaged to her. But she has not accepted you yet, you know. She has left it to me to decide!”

“To you to decide?” he echoed, with angry incredulity,

Sophy saw that her love of importance had for once carried her too far.

“I mean, she stated her scruples to me, and asked me if she was right or wrong. I am not sure that I should have told you all this.”

“If you ask me,” rejoined Gerald, sternly, “I am sure you ought not. But it was just like a woman!”

Poor Sophy! and this was her thanks! She was almost in tears, as she said—

“I meant it all for the best. At any rate, I said she was wrong, and her ideas of honour strained; and that she had better leave it all to you.”

“To me? Oh, that is a different thing! Then that settles it!” he exclaimed, triumphantly.

“But I am not sure that she intends to take my advice,” added Sophy, a little maliciously. “You are not out of the woods yet. Here we are at home; you can arrange your own affairs your own way. She is in the drawing-room. I will go and see about tea.”

“Sophy,” he said penitently, “I am afraid I spoke very rudely and ungratefully to you just now-forgive me, it shall be the last time; but you cannot realize how it stings a man, and cuts him to the quick, to hear that, when he offers his love to a girl, she calmly refers the matter to another woman.”

“It was not that-not that—not put in that way. She was only afraid of her own feelings tempting her. She offered to sacrifice herself,” said his cousin, eagerly.

“And you were to be the executioner, Sophy, eh, I see! Well, Sophy, will you forgive me, and wish me luck?”

“Of course I forgive you—of course I wish you luck,” and she pointed to the drawing-room door.

Juliet was sitting over the fire with a book in her lap, and started up when she heard a familiar voice in the passage; the door opened, and a familiar figure entered.

“How do you do, Mr. Romilly?” she said, accosting him calmly. Would he remember that she had called him dear Gerald the last time they had met? She hoped not.

“Sophy has told me all your scruples, your ridiculous reasons for not marrying me, Juliet,” he began at once.

“Has she?” slowly raising her eyes to his handsome face, aglow with animation.

“Yes, you referred the matter to her. She has handed it over to me, and this is your answer,” and he crew her towards him by both hands, and kissed her.

Juliet did not blush, protest, or tremble; she became rather white, and said in a low voice—

“Please let go my hands, Mr. Romilly;” and then, to his extreme consternation, once they were released, she turned away, sat down, and covered her face with them and wept, whilst he stood in the middle of the room overwhelmed with dismay.

However, to his intense relief, she speedily recovered her self-possession, dried her eyes, and said, with extraordinary composure—

“Has Mrs. Casson told you everything? How people say that there is a mystery about me which is true; that I am a nobody—which is also true? Have you thought of my own father and mother? We would be like them.”

“I have thought of everything; I have heard everything. As to my being like your father; you don’t know him, or you would not suggest such a thing.”

“I can never marry as long as my father disowns me,” she continued, gravely.

That his and Juliet’s happiness should depend upon the will of Dolly Carwithen—whom he despised from the bottom of his heart—that Dolly should have it in his power to bestow such a rare and priceless treasure, a treasure he had scorned. The idea was monstrous.

“As you will, Juliet; but I must say that I think you are treating me very badly. I have waited more than a month for your answer. You know that I love you. I can assure you that my father and mother will be only too delighted to call you their daughter; you know in your heart that I can make you happy, that I shall be wretched if you are not my wife; that as long as I live I will never love another woman; and yet I am to be put off, and my fate remain dependent on the caprice of your father, a man who has neglected you all your life, and whom you have never even seen.— Well, good-bye, Juliet, I suppose you will be able to give me an answer in a year’s time,” and he held out his hand as if to say farewell. But when Sophy Casson entered the room five minutes later this farewell bad evidently been postponed. The happy pair were standing at the fire, and Gerald turned to her and said, “Sophy, come here and kiss your future cousin.”


Lady Castle Blarney Refuses to Believe Her Ears

“Can such things be?”

In the verandah of the Royal Hotel, Lucknow, a long row of hawkers’ goods are arranged as usual at this the busy season. Silver work, Japanese curios, shawls, phoolcarries, jewellery, photographs, and mud figures, are all outspread; every chair is occupied by possible purchasers, and the performing birds are choosing letters, and firing miniature cannon to a select audience under the porch. A stout, impressive-looking old lady, with a high nose and eye-glasses, is haughtily bargaining with a silver merchant, who is only asking her four times the usual price, for he knows that she is a Burra mem Sahib, has three English servants, and that the best hotel carriage is at her disposal. Next to her sits a pretty little American lady with white hair, whose nimble fingers are busy, whilst her sharp, dark eyes are similarly occupied; nothing escapes them, the snowy-robed, insinuating hawkers, the chaffering tourists, the guides, the prim, elderly couple, the loud girl with the dyed hair, the French marquis. This is a handsome young man who has just dashed up in a high dog-cart, with a fine, chestnut horse. Yes, on closer inspection, well-dressed, well set up, and very good-looking; what brings him here? who is he going to call on? Ah, the two ladies sitting outside No. 11; the blonde chaperon and the pretty, elegant girl with the chestnut hair, she is the most remarkable woman in the hotel. Yes, and she has noticed a splendid ring on her engaged finger. This is evidently the young man who has given it to her. She puts down her knitting to watch their greeting, she dearly loves a bit of romance; the girl blushes a little as the young man approaches and says something, and she looks up at him, every dimple full of mischievous laughter (yes, Juliet had quite recovered her spirits). The American lady resumes her sock with a half-stifled sigh. She, too, has had her day; nevertheless, she cannot help envying this happy girl, who has youth and beauty, and a handsome and acknowledged lover, for the other lady beams on him too! What a good-looking pair they will make! She would like to see their wedding. She means to find out their names, and write them down in her diary. Meanwhile, Gerald’s glance fell upon Lady Castle Blarney, and she has her eye-glass up, and is staring hard at him.

“I am sure I know your face,” she drawled, as he doffed his hat.

“Yes,” he rejoined, “I had the pleasure of meeting you in Dover. I am very glad to see you out here.”

“Why should you be glad to see me?” she asked, rudely. “Pray, what do you know about me? By-the-bye, I suppose you can talk the language?”

“Yes, if you give me time, and there are not more than two or three listeners,” he answered, good-humouredly.

“Then just tell me what this creature is saying. Will you tell him I’ll give him fifty rupees for the little sugar-bowl, and no more?”

“But possibly you are not aware that you are offering him double its value; the usual price is twenty-five rupees.”

“And he began by asking one hundred!”

“Oh, he will ask anything. Shall I settle with him?”

“Thanks so much, if you will,” charmed at getting a bargain. “And now you have been so useful, pray tell me who are you?”

“I am Gerald Romilly. I met you at home last year.”

“To be sure, to be sure. I am good at faces, but I can’t put names to them. Here comes my hired barouche and pair, not a bad turn-out, is it? Suppose you take a little turn with me—I am only going as far as the shops—and explain who all the people are!”

“I shall be delighted,” he rejoined, snatching at this unexpected opportunity; and helping her ladyship into the carriage, he took a seat opposite her.

“Tell them where to drive to; you shall be my interpreter,” said Lady Castle Blarney, who fully understood the art of making use of people. “By the way, what a piece of luck that was for your father the other day! Redland is a lovely old place, and just the right distance from town.”

“Is it? I have never been there.”

“How odd; but, of course, your father’s chance of succeeding was very remote. And now tell me the names of the people at the hotel. All sorts and conditions of men and women; some rather smart, some scarcely human. I saw one wretch actually cutting the butter with his nasty fishy knife.”

“Oh, most of them are tourists, I fancy. The residents don’t go to hotels; so I dare say you know more about them than I do.”

“At any rate, you know the pretty girl in white, who waved her hand to you as we drove off. Oh, I saw her,”—wagging her head significantly—“she really is most distinguished-looking. I sat beside her at dinner last night, and asked her to pass me things—I did it on purpose. I declare I never saw such pretty hands. Who is she?”

“She is Miss Carwithen.”

Oh, indeed; any relation to our friends? They have gone to Cawnpore for the day with Castle Blarney. Is she any relation to Dolly?”

“Yes”-he paused, and then added—“she is his daughter.”

“His what?” shrieked her ladyship. “Look here, young gentleman, I did not bring you out to chaff me, or invent scandal, or jokes.”

“I swear to you that she is the only child of Mr. Carwithen by his first marriage; as to her existence being a joke, it is a joke he has kept to himself for nineteen years.”

“Stop the horses! make them walk!” cried the old lady, imperiously. “I can’t hear properly, with the clatter of the carriage. Now relate the whole story straight off; begin at the very beginning.”

Thus invited, Gerald Romilly began and told it not grudgingly or of necessity, sparing no detail, laying bare Dolly’s secret before the eyes of one of his most influential acquaintances—and a woman noted alike for her outspoken tongue and nimble penmanship.

“Dolly married to a sergeant’s daughter! Dolly, who is specially severe on low marriages! What a double-faced rascal, hiding this charming girl at the very back of the world; the heartless, unnatural monster! And it appears that you discovered her, Mr. Romilly. What a clever young man you are.”

“I am exceedingly flattered to hear you say so; but I’ve always understood that I was rather a duffer.”

“You don’t look stupid, and every one has his own special gift. And so this girl is my cousin! Her grandmother and my grandfather—let me see-I forget—at any rate, I claim the connection. I’ve not seen any one I admired so much for years. She would be a credit to any family. I shall take her home-yes, she shall represent my Indian curiosity. I shall dress her, present her, and marry her off to some good parti. I am an impulsive old Irishwoman, and I never do things by halves. Eh, what do you say?”

“I beg that you will not attempt anything of the kind, Lady Castle Blarney, for she is going to marry me.”

“Oh, ho! So you intend to keep your discovery.”

“Finders are keepers,” he retorted, with a smile.

“That is true. Does she know that her devoted and amiable father is here?”

“No; nor is he aware that she is in Lucknow. He supposes her to be securely concealed in the fastnesses beyond Durano. Mrs. Casson, her friend, and a cousin of mine, has brought her down on purpose. We wish to make her known to her father, and have her properly acknowledged by him. She is as proud as Lucifer, and will not marry into any family as long as she is not received in her own.”

“Well, my dear young man, I’ll receive her with open arms.”

“Thank you. You are very kind.”

“You must introduce me to her without delay; it’s quite a delicious romance. Dolly Carwithen comes back to-night, and I beg that you will allow me to present his daughter to him. Now, don’t say no. I am an arrogant, wilful old woman. Every one is afraid of me, and gives me my own way.”

“I never had the smallest intention of saying no. I really don’t think that the introduction could be in better hands.”

“What will Mrs. Carwithen say?” exclaimed the countess. “She goes in for being so girlish, and so fond of admiration. How will she like a very pretty step-daughter suddenly sprung upon her?”

“Her step-daughter will not trouble her. I do not think that Juliet is anxious to be actually received into the bosom of the family; a mere formal acknowledgment will content her, and be more than ample for me.”

“And a formal acknowledgment she shall have, as sure as my name is Constantia. She is the image of an ancestress they are both so proud of. You know the picture of Lady Juliet?”

“Yes; I know it well.”

“Actually that woman-I mean Mrs. Carwithen-carries a large photograph of it everywhere. She has it out here in her sitting-room; it is the family fetish, and here is the double of Lady Juliet, Carwithen’s own daughter, cast out and neglected. If he had ever dreamt she was like the picture, of course he would have had her home; he is a slave to appearances. Now his despised daughter stamps him as a man of birth.”

Chapter XXXIX.

Mr. Carwithen Has a Bad Quarter of an Hour

“I own the soft impeachment.”

Lady Castle Blarney was charmed with Juliet (who had a pleasant, bright way with elderly people). She insisted on taking her out for a drive to the Wingfield Park in the afternoon, and on her sitting beside her at dinner, and subsequently accompanying her into the private room, to partake of coffee.

“And so Gerald Romilly tells me that you are going to marry him?” said Lady Castle Blarney, as she seated herself.

“Yes,” assented the girl, with a heightened colour; “some day.”

“Some day, you saucy puss! Considering that you have lived in the wilderness, you have not done badly for yourself. He is a very good-looking young man. I like his laugh, and his nice white teeth, and in the natural course of events be will be Lord Egremont, and you will be my lady.”

“Oh, that is nothing! I don’t think of that,” said Juliet, hastily.

“Oh, no, of course not,” ironically; “but it makes things pleasanter when you have a fine fortune and a handle to your name. My handle has got me many things in the way of comfort and civility that, if I had been plain Mrs. Castle Blarney, I must have gone without. And tell me, child—just give me that cushion to my neck; these chairs were surely made for deformed people—have you never seen your father?”

“No, never,” replied the girl, with a deep blush.

“How extraordinary! I never heard of such a case in all my life.”

“But I am going to England on purpose to make his acquaintance. I have the certificates, and everything to prove who I am, and I ask nothing, but that he will acknowledge me, so that it may not be said that Gerald married an adventuress—a nameless nobody.”

“Hoity, toity! How her eyes shine! There’s a spirit for you! Well, my dear, you may spare yourself the trouble of going to England-though of course you must go home to get your trousseau. Your father and your step-mother are in this country.”

“In this country?” she repeated, incredulously. “And I never knew! Where are they? I shall go in search of them immediately.”

“You may spare yourself that trouble also. They are actually staying in this hotel. They have gone to Cawnpore for the day. You shall see them to-morrow.”

“Sophy must have known!” exclaimed Juliet. “She was so bent on coming here. And to meet them so soon! I feel dreadfully frightened, and yet it must be got over; and the sooner the better.”

“And better late than never. As for being nervous, it is not for you to be abashed. Now I understand Mr. Carwithen’s reluctance to come out, and his horror of India; but she has a strong will, and rules the roost. By the way, I don’t fancy you will be allowed to do that, eh? I imagine your young friend has got a pretty strong will of his own.”

“Yes, he has,” said Juliet, with a smile.

“And you have had some tussles already?”

“No-no! I always give in gracefully.’

“As you do most things, my dear. But to return to your father. In vain he pleaded for the south of France, the south of Africa, Italy, Malta, Egypt. He even clung to Suez like a drowning man; but she was firm, and would not listen to his piteous appeals. Now we are here, he seems happy enough. He has scarcely met any old friends, except a Mrs. Manders, who lives here—and avoids him. I wonder why? I wonder what she knows?” she concluded, with a world of speculation in her eye.

“And I shall see them to-morrow! Oh, Lady Castle Blarney, my heart goes pit-a-pat at the thought! I shall never sleep all night.”

“Oh, yes, you will. Young people always sleep. And you had better run away now, for there’s a carriage under the porch. I hear Mrs. Carwithen’s laugh. You can always tell an ill-bred woman by that. She has a voice like a pea-hen! Well, good night, dear,” holding up her face. “Kiss me. I wish I was about to discover a pretty young daughter like you.”

In the verandah Juliet encountered a big, burly, elderly man, in an ulster, a fashionably dressed woman in a smart silk dust-cloak; finally, a good-looking, greatly bored gentleman. He must be her father. She glanced at him with trepidation, and his eyes met hers with a look of sleepy approval, and they passed by—strangers yet. Juliet’s prediction was fulfilled in spite of Lady Castle Blarney’s disclaimer; her usually sound slumbers were fitful and broken, and she rose very early, but she was restless and nervous, and could not settle to anything. She took extraordinary pains with her toilet; she tried on two dresses; she took down her hair three times, and yet she was dissatisfied with her appearance. When she took her seat at the breakfast-table between Gerald and Mrs. Casson, Lady Castle Blarney gave her a friendly pat on the back as she passed to her own place.

Mr. Carwithen came in late, and sat opposite. Juliet knew that he was there, but scarcely ventured to raise her eyes.

She was deadly pale, and her two companions could see how she was trembling. It was useless for Gerald to whisper to her, and for Sophy to implore her “not to be a goose;” for very little, she would burst into tears.

“Hullo, Romilly,” said a hearty voice across the table, “how are you?” (He was accosted by Mr. Carwithen with that degree of intimacy and warmth of manner to which his position entitled him,-according to Mr. Carwithen’s scale of merit.)

“How are you?” he rejoined, coldly.

So young Romilly was going to put on side, was he, and give himself airs?

“I need not say I am surprised to see you out here, for this is your country,” continued the other, in his most genial manner.

“Yes, in these days, one never is much surprised at anything,” replied the younger man, in a cool tone.

“No, I can answer for myself; by Jove, it would take a good deal to astonish me. I’ve seen most things, I fancy.”

At this moment Mrs. Carwithen, in a faultless travelling-gown, with her fringe curled to the last hair, sailed in and sank into the vacant chair beside her husband. Presently she looked across, and cast a beaming smile at Gerald, and a sharp, inquisitive glance at the girl beside him.

“How do you do, Mr. Romilly,” she called out, in her rather shrill voice. “I am so pleased to see a familiar face; you must be sure and call on me; come to tea. My room is number twenty, and we will have a grand talk over old times.”

Gerald muttered something, and she went on.

“You see”-nodding at Dolly—“I have dragged him out to India, after all. I said I would,” she concluded, triumphantly.

“Yes, I knew you would carry your point. I am glad you have come out. I hope you are pleased with your trip.”

“I am delighted, perfectly fascinated, and if Dolly is not very, very good, I tell him that I shall take a house in the hills, and settle out here for life!”

“Oh, I don’t think you would care about that, you are not an old Indian born and bred, with many friends and attractions.”

“That is true; and talking of attractions, have you forgotten how crazy you used to be about that picture, how madly you were in love with Lady Juliet Carwithen, or has another image effaced her from your heart?”

“No,” he answered, gravely; nor ever will.”

“Bravo! what a model of constancy!” cried the lady, and then resumed her breakfast.

Juliet admired Gerald’s entire self-command. What a contrast to the irrepressive nervousness against which she herself was struggling, and which it cost her a great effort to conceal.

Young Romilly was not nearly as cheery and talkative as he used to be, thought Mrs. Carwithen; and the same idea occurred to her as to her husband.

Was he going to give himself airs? That was a very nice looking girl beside him; if she would only raise her eyes, and not seem so pitiably shy. The other lady, too, was good style; why was she smiling and biting her lips?

Mr. Carwithen stuck his glass in his eye, and looked at young Romilly, and at the girl on his right hand. Her face struck him as curiously familiar.

She was pale, but very handsome, and, there was certainly an understanding of some sort between her and Master Jerry. (He would tell Master Jerry’s mamma). He was speaking to her in a low voice; why did she not look up; he would like to see her eyes.

After breakfast, he strolled over to Lady Blarney, to talk to her about Cawnpore; but her ladyship was very short in her answers, and absolutely uninterested in his adventures.

“By the way,” he said, “who is that pretty girl you spoke to just now? So you have been making acquaintances, after all. She sat opposite us at breakfast. I seem to have seen her before. Who is she?”

“I believe you have seen her before,” rejoined the old lady, laying down her knitting, and transfixing him with her sharp eyes. “Shall I tell you who she is?”

Dolly rushed upon his fate with a hearty, “By all means,” and one of his most killing smiles.

“She is your own daughter!”

The killing smile faded at once, and left on his face a grey, blank look, his lips closed, his nostrils twitched convulsively. For once in his life he had not a word to say. He made a half-articulate exclamation which died away in his throat.

“I wonder you never told us you had a daughter,” said Lady Castle Blarney, sarcastically. “Was the fact too insignificant? You have a daughter, and you have a tongue—speak!”

“Yes, I-I-have a daughter. I am afraid some things may appear a little strange; but I can explain.”

“You cannot explain her away, at any rate, and you had better take an early opportunity of explaining matters to your wife. You see, a grown-up daughter, like murder, will out.”

“Are you quite sure that she is my daughter?” inquired Dolly, who was rapidly recovering his sang froid.

“Perfectly certain. She has all the legal proofs, and the family likeness is unmistakable.”

“Yes, yes; I see it now, to the picture. I am afraid I have gone down in your good opinion.”

“You could not possible lower than you are.”

“Oh, my dear Lady Castle Blarney,” in a tone of virtuous amazement. You are a woman of the world; do you make no allowance for an unfortunate young fellow, just out of his teens, inveigled into a low match?”

“Teens! why, you must have been five-and-twenty, and no doubt the inveigling was the other way. You have treated the girl barbarously; however, she will have a firm friend in me, and she is going to marry Gerald Romilly.”

Here at least was one spark of comfort,—a brilliant match.

“You had better come to my sitting-room, and be formally introduced, I think. Imagine being introduced to your own child!”

“Certainly, I shall be only too delighted; but really, Lady Castle Blarney, you are awfully hard on me. You have not heard the story; let me tell it to you.”

“You have told enough stories,” she answered, indignantly. “I know everything. All you have to do is to make the best of the situation. Come with me, or go and wait in my room, and I will fetch her.”

As Mr. Carwithen stood in the middle of her ladyship’s somewhat bare sitting-room, his feelings were decidedly mixed-intense disgust at being found out, intense anxiety as to the effect of the discovery on Lyddy, were tempered by a certain amount of satisfaction at being the parent of such an elegant, aristocratic-looking girl-a girl who would one day be a peeress.

What a sublime elevation for a sergeant’s granddaughter! Presently the door-chick was pushed aside, and Lady Castle Blarney entered, followed by the very pale young lady who had sat opposite him at breakfast. She raised her eyes and looked at him steadily, but wistfully, and, with all his assumption of affection and bonhomie, he felt indescribably small and sneaky, his knees were shaky, and his backbone limp.

“This is your father, Juliet, my dear. Mr. Carwithen, this is your daughter,” said Lady Castle Blarney, in a clear voice.

The girl offered a small, cold hand, and he brushed her trembling lips with his moustache, and then they regarded one another in silence.

“Now I shall leave you to make one another’s acquaintance,” said the countess. “I shall come back presently, I have letters to write,” and she departed and left them alone.

It was one of the most embarrassing moments in Dolly’s existence, an existence in which critical interviews had not been lacking. This enforced tête-à-tête with a strange and rather dignified girl, whom he had systematically ignored, but who was nevertheless his daughter.

How had she come by her piquant beauty, her stately head and throat, her air of aristocratic calm? She sat silent, evidently waiting for him to break the ice—and what was he to say?

Bearing in mind the maxim, “qui s’éxcuse s’accuse,” he plunged into his delight in thus unexpectedly meeting her, and declared that he had always intended to have sought her out at Durano. (This was a startling fiction, they both knew that.) He said he was charmed to find such a beautiful daughter; but grieved to hear that he was to lose her so soon.

To all his questions, Juliet replied in monosyllables. She appeared perfectly composed and collected, but she was inwardly in a tumult of agitation, and was doing her very utmost to restrain her feelings and her tears. She was at last in the presence of one she had idolized for years, and she found him a shallow, elderly dandy, who was admiring her hands and her hair, and complimenting her on the excellent match she was about to make.

“Ah! you shy puss,” he said, “if you had had a couple of seasons in London, I doubt if you would have done better. And so you have lost Mrs. Radford?” he continued. “I saw her death-yes!” with a flash of sublime audacity, suddenly pouncing on a scape-goat. “She was a fraud! How she deceived me about you! She led me to believe you were like your mother’s side, a girl of the people. She threw dust in my eyes. She kept me and my darling child apart all these years, and for her own ends!”

“What ends?” inquired the darling child, in a sharp key.

“Why, sixty pounds a year.”

“You are quite mistaken, quite,” she rejoined, with passionate decision.

Ah, my sweet, innocent girl, you don’t know the world,” shaking his head mournfully.

“I have not had much opportunity of learning its ways, no doubt, but I knew Mrs. Radford. She was my best and truest friend. I will never listen to a word against her.”

“Well, well, you shan’t; we can each have our own thoughts, can we not?” with a playful air.

“I know that I have mine,” she answered, grave to sternness.

“And I am sure they are all as sweet and kind and beautiful as yourself. Now, shall we vacate this good lady’s room? You will sit with us at table in future, and, in fact, make yourself over to us altogether, eh? By the way, you naughty girl, you have given yourself away without my leave! How was that, eh?”

“Gerald said you would not mind.”

“Oh, he said so, did he? Well, remember you belong to us now.”

“I don’t know. Perhaps you had better consult Mrs. Carwithen, and I will speak to Mrs. Casson.”

“Very well, my dear,” preceding her out, and holding back the purdah for her to pass, as if she were a duchess; and there ensued the curious spectacle of Dolly Carwithen walking all the length of the great verandah a proudly complacent man, escorting his beautiful, distinguished-looking daughter-Dolly, who by rights should have appeared, so to speak, in a white sheet!

Chapter XL

By Special License

“Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.”

If Dolly Carwithen had had an awkward quart d’heure with his offspring, who shall depict the ensuing bad moment with his wife?

Fired with the rash courage of a coward at bay, he without the smallest preamble, abruptly plunged into the unexpected topic, and gave the whole unabridged history of his first marriage and his daughter of nineteen, on the principle that he might just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb; nor did he spare to reveal the antecedents of his former partner, the offspring of a barrack-sergeant. His grown-up daughter! the girl who had sat opposite to him at breakfast! It was incredible.

Mrs. Carwithen had an unusual command of language, and for ten minutes she taxed her powers to their fullest extent. “So, all the time, he had played the hypocrite and liar? (a nasty word, but true). He that was so fastidious, so great on birth and alliance, rank and precedence! Oh, what a fall was here! How could he, how dared he, face his friends?” Apparently his treatment of the girl was quite a secondary consideration, a mere bagatelle. What preyed on Lyddy’s mind was that vital question, “What the world would say?”

But well as she thought she knew him, she had not plumbed the depths of her lord’s resources. She had not grasped the fact that he always contrived to find convenient shoulders on which to shift his sins. Now it was Mrs. Radford who was to bear the load. She was dumb—for she was dead; and he boldly declared, with a fine show of righteous indignation, that she had purposely misled him; had told him that the girl was common, vulgar, and stupid, and actually wanting in ordinary intelligence; and under these painful circumstances, the kindest and best course for all parties, Lyddy herself included, had been to pay the yearly allowance, and to hold his tongue. How was he to know that the girl, his darling, was like a princess of the blood, and one of Nature’s gentlewomen? Lady Castle Blarney had taken her up with all her might, and Gerald Romilly was her future husband.

On hearing these two items of intelligence-artfully reserved till the last–Lydia’s face relaxed, and she became calm. Lady Castle Blarney was a social power; Juliet a future peeress. Yes; the situation had its compensations, and might be borne. They must receive her, be seen with her, and take her about, and, for the present, “Miss Carwithen” must be inserted on the hotel board list, under the names of Adolphus and Mrs. Carwithen. They would, of course, pay all expenses, and make the best of it, and no one could say but that she-Lyddy-had behaved magnificently, and like a wife in a thousand. Yes; but the question was, how she would have behaved if the newly discovered step-daughter had been fat and vulgar—if she had had a cast in her eye, or dropped her h’s--and, above all, if she had had no prospective coronet in the background? And the other side had called in counsel also. Mrs. Casson decided to efface herself, and Juliet wept on her neck when her adviser assured her that she must study appearance, and travel about for a little while with her new-found relations—carrying Gerald in her train as an alleviation.

Mr. and Mrs. Carwithen determined to make Lucknow their head-quarters, and to take short trips therefrom to Agra, Delhi, and Benares. So that Juliet did not lose sight of Sophy, who remained on at the hotel, having numerous acquaintances in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Carwithen enacted her new part to perfection; was elaborately amiable to her step-daughter, drove with her, sat beside her, embraced her—morning and evening and always called her “dear.”

As to Mr. Carwithen, he dropped into the rôle of father to a handsome girl quite easily, and seemed totally to ignore his former attitude towards the same young lady. Fortune had been indulgent to him. Who would have thought he had such a trump in his hand as this picture-card so long discarded? He beamed; he boasted; he button-holed Gerald, and patronized him, and seemed to take immense credit to himself for giving him his peerless daughter. He monopolized her society, and shouldered poor Gerald into the cold. Alas! there were no more pleasant moonlight pacings in the garden, no whisperings in the verandah, no strolls together, whilst the band played at Mahomed Bágh. No; these delights were all appropriated by Mr. Carwithen, in the character of the proud and devoted parent. He summoned Juliet to his side, and kept her there, utterly insensible to her lover’s claims. He took her arm, and liked the other people in the hotel to witness the touching sight as they strolled up and down in full view of the community, whilst Romilly surveyed the spectacle with angry eyes, and nearly chewed the ends off his moustache. Yes; Romilly detested his future father-in-law, and resolved to see nothing of him once Juliet was his wife; but just for the present he must bear and forbear.

Dolly calmly ignored young Romilly’s thinly veiled dislike, his terrible politeness, and endeavoured to carry off matters with a high hand-offering him cigarettes, and patting him on the back and calling him “his dear boy”—but in more than one small passage-at-arms he had been severely worsted; and, after that notable little encounter across the table at Benares, Mr. Carwithen shrank into himself, and left his young friend alone. Dolly was bragging to the company of his own wide experience, and drawing unfavourable comparisons between the young men of the present day and his particular achievements in years gone by.

“I was not a lazy chap-like some!” and he glanced at Romilly. “I was up to every mortal dodge, and was always well posted up in everything.”

“I don’t mind not being posted up, as you call it,” rejoined Gerald, with complete equanimity, “so long as I’m not posted after a race!” And he looked straight at Mr. Carwithen.

Mr. Carwithen evidently read something in his future son-in-law’s eyes. He became livid. “Yes,” he said to himself, “the Romillys were an old Indian family, and, ten to one, young Romilly knew!” In fact, it was evident that he was acquainted with the particulars of a certain unpleasant episode in his own past.

He grinned a ghastly smile, and buried his face in a peg tumbler; and for the remainder of the meal it was noticed that old Carwithen was extraordinarily “choop!” This was ever his demeanour in Gerald Romilly’s presence from that day forth.

Before the Carwithens and party left Lucknow, Juliet received two visits. The first was a state call from Mrs. Manders, in a splendid barouche drawn by a pair of valuable walers.

Gerald was present during the early part of the visit, and he and his friend compared notes and news from home; but presently he was called out, and Mrs. Manders turned to Juliet and said—

Ah, my dear, I knew all about you—I knew of your father’s first marriage, and I heard that you were out here. My dear old friend Susan Romilly was most inquisitive about your father’s past. She pressed me very much, but I would not tell her; and now his secret—and a very pretty secret—is going to be her own daughter-in-law! Is it not odd?”

Juliet coloured, and admitted that it was strange.

“Gerald is a dear boy,” continued her visitor, “and just like my own son. Mind you make him a good wife.” Then, as she rose and said good-bye, she drew Juliet towards her and whispered, “I must write to-morrow to Susan, and tell her I have seen you, and you must allow me to give you a kiss for her; she and I are like sisters.”

“It is evident that Mrs. Manders approves of you, Ju,” said Gerald, as he re-entered the hotel drawing-room, after putting that lady into her carriage.

“I’ll give something to see her letter to my mother! though, no doubt, the mater will show it to me when she goes home; but I don’t think it would be good for you to read.”

Juliet’s next visitor was not quite such a success as the collector’s lady, with her imposing turn-out and smart gown. Mr. and Mrs. Carwithen, the Castle Blarneys, the marquis, and Sir Augustus, were all sitting at the shady end of the verandah, lazily awaiting their afternoon tea, when “Some one to see Miss Carwithen,” was announced. Some one who had no card. Visions of another imposing acquaintance filled Mr. Carwithen’s mental eye; but-but-who was this square, squat person toddling towards them.

It was Captain Noote, who had arrived on foot (vide his dusty boots), and who still clung fondly to his fur cap and red shirt, and carried a cotton umbrella, and a gift of walnuts, tied up in a towel. As the ancient warrior waddled up the verandah, bundle in hand, his eyes caught sight of Gerald Romilly, and he pounced on him, greeting him as a long-lost friend, and ignoring the cold glances and levelled eye-glasses with which he was surrounded.

“Ay, last time I saw you, you and me was burying her. I’ll never forget all you did for me that time-never! Where’s Miss Judy?” he inquired, after a pause, still shaking Gerald’s arm like a pump-handle.

“She will be here directly; we will send for her at once. This is Mr. Carwithen, her father,” presenting him to the horror-stricken Dolly.

“Proud and delighted, sir, to make your acquaintance,” tendering a hairy paw. “I am the gentleman as your daughter lived with in the hills. Noote-Captain Noote—at your service, you and I ought to know one another pretty well.”

And all his friends were looking and listening. What a story for the clubs! A damp dew of perspiration stood on Mr. Carwithen’s brow, but there was no escape for him. Gerald Romilly took excellent care of that, yes, the young brute—and stood beside this horrible, hideous intruder, all polite attention and animation.

“I kept her very retired, sir, according to your orders; so did my Eliza; but, all the same, this ere gentleman found her out,” and indicating Romilly with his thumb, he grinned and chuckled facetiously.

“Yes, Captain Noote,” admitted the young man; “I rather pride myself on my discovery.”

“Mrs. Noote didn’t like it a bit, your discovery, as you call it. She’d laid out her son William John for Miss Judy. She was awful mad,” he continued, in an explanatory tone, now addressing himself principally to Lady Castle Blarney, “when this young lady would not look at him, ay, and gave him his walking papers, and nigh sent him flying over a khud. He is a fine, whacking young chap, and assistant station master at Kutchapore, drawing his hundred and twenty a month; but no doubt Miss Judy has done better!”

This imbecile remark seemed to call for no verbal reply, and was answered by an icy affirmative silence. Lady Castle Blarney’s face was a most amusing study, as she slowly raised her long handled glasses, and surveyed the speaker with an air of pensive curiosity.

The captain was in one of his garrulous moods, and thoroughly enjoyed the attention he was receiving from an unusually distinguished audience.

“That time we had the cholera,” he proceeded, “and all the servants ran, and the bearer was took, and Mrs. Noote, both in the same hour, Miss Judy was just an angel, and talk of an angel, here she comes! Hullo, my dear, I’ve dropped in to say good-bye to you,” seizing and wringing her hand; “for you was very good to me, and her that’s gone—that you was; and I’ve come to wish you every luck and happiness.”

“Perhaps, Juliet, you would like to take your friend into my private siting-room?” said Mrs. Carwithen, with a determined smile upon her thin lips-Mrs. Carwithen, who was nearly as much upset as her husband.

“No, no!” rejoined the visitor, hurriedly; “I’ve no time for that. No; but I would not say anything against a split whisky peg with one of you gents,” looking round appealingly at Mr. Carwithen, the marquis, and Sir Augustus in turn.

“Í only came here to say a word with the young lady,” continued Captain Noote, who talked at the top of his voice, and was standing close to the marchioness, and smelt powerfully of raw spirits.

“I found her savings,” he went on confidentially. “Lord! how she got all that coin together beats me; but she was a tight housekeeper, as you and I know,” with a sly wink at Juliet. “I mean to cut the farm, and go and live in some big garrison, where I can hear the bugles, and be near the canteen, and see the red-coats, and, maybe, some old pals.”

“You will like that, I am sure,” said his former inmate.

“Well, yes, the hills is lonely. Who’d ’a thought of my burying Eliza?” (not Eliza, certainly)! “She was a fine figure of a woman, in her Sunday clothes. You remember the green bonnet she had? And what a manager! But you were good in your way, too—a first-class hand at turning my coats, and keeping the butter accounts.”

“Oh, it was something to do, and I liked it,” rejoined Juliet, who actually began to pity her father.

Would the old man, with his awkward reminiscences, never depart? No, not yet—not till he had had a special word with Dolly.

“Mr. Carwithen, sir!” he said, “I’ve an explanation to make. If you hear people talking, as you will, no doubt, and saying that Miss here is a relation of mine” (pointing a horny thumb at Juliet), “it wasn’t me as started it, as I told the captain there. There ain’t a word of truth in it.”

“You need not tell me that!” exploded Dolly, almost suffocated with rage.

“No, I know; but Mrs. Noote, you see—now she’s gone, I’m free to speak—thought it sounded better to give out as Juliet was her niece, as she seemed to have no respectable belongings, and she let on to Skippers the agents as Smithson and I was step-brothers. It made them keener about sending the young lady to us, you see! Smithson and me was brother sergeants, that was all; and Smithson was a gentleman ranker. I mind his joining. There was not much of the gentleman about him when you saw him, Mr. Carwithen,” with a chuckle; “but drink is a terrible thing! You quite understand, don’t you, as I never gave out as you was any relation of mine?” he persisted, anxiously.

Dolly could not trust himself to speak; but Gerald came forward and said, in his most genial manner—

“Yes, we thoroughly understand. You explained it to me, you know, long ago, up at Kala Dara. You can make your mind easy.”

“Very well, then. And now I must be going; and wishing you and Miss Judy here every luck, and wishing all this grand company good-bye.” He wrung Gerald’s and Juliet’s and the marchioness’s hands, and, with various shakings and chucklings, so took leave.

*  *  *

Juliet and her fiancé, the Cassons, and Lord and Lady Castle Blarney, went home early in March in the same steamer, Lady Castle Blarney having shaken off the bride elect’s parents in some mysterious but efficient manner, the details of which she kept entirely to herself. In these days—indeed, in all his days—Dolly bore a great deal, with meekness and long-suffering, from Constantia, Marchioness of Castle Blarney.

The voyage home was smooth in every sense; there was not even a breeze between the ladies, much less between Miss Carwithen and her intended. And a sea-voyage, with its long, idle days, often proves; in more ways than one, “a trial trip.“ Lady Egremont was enchanted with her daughter-in-law, and admired her immensely, even although she proved to be the facsimile of the picture that had originally bewitched Gerald.

The wedding took place, with great éclat, early in July. There was hardly standing-room in St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, notwithstanding that admission was by ticket; and the list of presents filled two columns in the Morning Post, for Juliet’s pretty face and brilliant prospects—not to speak of Lady Castle Blarney’s and Lady Egremont’s trumpet-tongued praises-ensured her many friends.

Mr. Carwithen presented his daughter with a tiara of diamonds, and gave her away as if he had ever been the best and proudest of fathers. His emotion during the ceremony was really touching, and his studied pose of dignified abnegation quite a sublime spectacle in its way!

Mr. Hodder, who had asked for a ticket, was among the crowd, and heaved an enormous sigh as he saw the bride and bridegroom pass down the aisle. Well, every one said they were a handsome couple, and that such a beautiful bride had not been seen for three seasons; he hoped she would never repent her choice! As far as his experience went, the Honourable Gerald Romilly had a sharp tongue and a hot temper.

Mr. Hodder had contributed to the wedding gifts a hideous but expensive clock, and received a pretty little note of thanks in reply, which he displayed to all his acquaintances with much pride, invariably adding, when they had perused it, “She’ll be lady Egremont some day, you know.”

And to his intimates, in expansive moments, on his own hearthrug, with his coat-tails under his arms, he mysteriously alluded to a “certain young lady who did all she could to catch him when he was in India, but was now married to a sprig of nobility in his stead!”

His friends the Honourable Gerald and Mrs. Romilly, are well known to his circle by description; their names are household words. The happy pair would no doubt be astonished to hear how very fond they had been of him out in India, and how he had taught the young lady to play tennis, and the young man to shoot big game (he had read up the names and species of animals in a book of travels—his own book is as yet unknown to fame).

The Romillys spent their honeymoon in Switzerland, where, in Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa, Juliet endeavoured to recall her old friends and confidants, Trisul and Nanda-devi. Mr. Carwithen has now no reluctance to be seen in company with Lord Egremont, no fault to find with his boots and appearance. He is as anxious to pursue and accost him as he was formerly eager to escape from his society; he buttonholes him, and talks effusively of “our young people,” and secretly hugs himself with satisfaction when he speculates upon the future, and thinks that in the course of time-in his own lifetime, he trusts—his once ignored and neglected daughter will be what he grandiloquently calls a peeress of the realm.

*  *  *

“She certainly is very like me, or, rather, I am very like her,” said Juliet, complacently, as she and her husband stood before the portrait of her double and namesake. “However, picture or no picture, you would have discovered me, all the same; it did not make much difference.”

“All the difference in the world,” he rejoined. “She was my first love; it was your extraordinary resemblance to her that attracted me. Only for Lady Juliet, I should never have known who you were. She introduced us to one another, Mrs. Romilly; and, as far as I am concerned, I must confess that I wish for no better introduction than a speaking family likeness.”

The End