Some One Else

“Then must you speak
Of one, not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplex’d in the extreme; of one, whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away,
Richer than all his tribe.”

*  *  *

To My
Anglo-Indian Friends
I Dedicate This Book,
As a Slight Acknowledgment of Their Kindness
And Hospitality, During the Years
I Lived among Them.

*  *  *

Volume I

Chapter I

The Last Chance

“I don’t and won’t believe it! There must be some mistake! It’s too bad to be true!”

The above reckless assertion came from the lips of a tall girl of seventeen, who was leaning her shabby elbows on a wide, old-fashioned window-sill, and looking out on a steady downpour, in an attitude of the deepest dejection; staring blankly at the whity-grey sky, the dripping bushes, the roses like sponges, and the flattened flower-beds, with a countenance entirely in keeping with the weather—for her pretty face was drowned in tears.

Behind her, gazing gloomily over her head, with his hands in the pockets of his shooting-coat, stood a young man. No, not her lover—for in him we trace a strong family likeness, and notice the same very dark blue eyes, and crisp brown hair—he is merely her youngest brother, who, five minutes previously, had burst into the room, and abruptly informed her that, “just as he expected, he had been spun for the army, and it was his luck all over.”

On the carpet beside him, lay the Morning Post, containing a list of the successful candidates, among whom, alas! the name of Edward Brabazon does not appear.

“Please yourself, my good girl! Believe it or not, as you like,” he returned gruffly; “I don’t fancy it will make much difference at the Horse Guards. You may just as well take my word for it. I really wish to goodness, Haidée, you would not go on like this,” he added impatiently. “What’s the use of crying about it?”

“But it was your last chance,” she sobbed in a muffled tone behind her handkerchief. “And after working so hard, and reading for hours and hours, with a wet towel round your head—it’s too hard. And—to think of how I coached you, and questioned you, till I nearly got softening of the brain! To think of the days and days—we have spent in this very room—and it has all been——”

“Fine weather for young ducks!” suddenly interrupted a gay treble voice; and another girl, having pushed the door open with her knee, entered slowly, bearing a tray covered with jam pots, with an air of the deepest solicitude and respect.

She is Miss Brabazon, Augusta, known as “Gussie” in the bosom of her family; not so tall as Haidée, and not nearly as pretty; still, as she says herself, “she is by no means an unprepossessing young person;”—she has a bright vivacious face, a pair of twinkling mischievous brown eyes, a neat little figure, and an impudent nose. She, like her sister, is dressed in a well-washed blue zephyr, with linen collar and cuffs, and wears a jaunty black silk apron with two pockets, (one of which contains the house keys, and a bread bill, the other—a love letter, and a paper of chocolate creams.)

“Tears!” she exclaimed, carefully depositing her tray on the schoolroom table, and gazing interrogatively at the dismal couple in the window. “Tears, idle tears! I know not what they mean?” she quoted, raising her voice authoritatively, “and Teddy looking as if he was going to be hanged! What has happened? Who is dead? or is it only one of the dogs?”

“The list is out, and I’ve been spun,” replied her brother curtly, now stooping to pick up the paper, and handing it impressively to his sister.

“Oh, nonsense!” she cried, with a gasp of incredulity. “You don’t mean to say so,” almost snatching the paper out of his hand, in her eagerness to verify the fact.

“There it is, near the top,” said Teddy, indicating the place with his brown forefinger.

“Ah—yes—I have it. I see it now,” scanning the column with a pucker on her brow, as if in hopes that Teddy might (by some extraordinary inadvertence) have overlooked his own name!

But no; nothing in the least like Brabazon met her searching eyes, although she went through the list twice.

“And that odious young Thomas has actually passed!” she exclaimed at length, as if anxious to vent her feelings on somebody. “A miserable little creature in spectacles, who could never originate one single remark beyond ‘Yes, Miss Brabazon,’ ‘No, Miss Brabazon,’ ‘Thank you, Miss Brabazon,’ that positively dared not say ‘Boo’ to the proverbial goose! And——” now pausing as if suddenly struck by some unhappy thought, “talking of saying ‘Boo’ to a goose, who is to break this to Mrs. B.?” gazing significantly at her brother, and still weeping sister.

“I am, I suppose!” returned the former doggedly. “It is the third occasion I have had to ‘break’ the same news to her, as you call it. There’s a kind of fatal familiarity about the subject by this time! Upon my word, girls, I don’t mind telling you in confidence, that I funk facing her; although,” he added with a kind of sob, “it’s twice as rough on me, as on any one! I did work my very dead best. I was so keen upon getting into the service, and now I’m out of everything. I’ve no prospects, no profession. No one can be half as much cut up as I am!” he concluded rather huskily.

“Except me!” put in a lachrymose voice from the window; “you forget me. And,” with a swift and complete change of key, turning to her sister, “don’t imagine for one second, that I’m going to cover jam to-day, for you may just put it out of your head at once!”

“You know you always will count your chickens before they are hatched,” returned Gussie oracularly. “I told you it was unlucky, the way you were going on! You had chosen the regiment, the uniform, his very camp furniture, in your mind’s eye. I believe you had even commenced some work for his room, and had rosy visions of marrying one of his brother officers!”

“I had,” sobbed Haidée; “at least,” correcting herself hastily, “I don’t mean that. And how you two can laugh, I cannot imagine,” she exclaimed with lugubrious resentment; “but I had worked his table cover, and mantel border as a surprise—and now—now—they’ll never be wanted. I’d like to do—I don’t know what to those examiners,” she cried, stamping her foot. “I’m sure they spend all their lives composing maddening questions, and all sorts of scientific riddles. You told me yourself, Teddy,” now turning aggrievedly to her brother, “that you were bound to scrape through this time!”

“I never said anything of the sort,” he retorted, with an air of indignant repudiation. “I may, when I was in a foolishly sanguine mood, have said I had an ‘off chance,’ but you know in my soberer moments, I always told you that that topography paper had floored me! And as to the military law,” shrugging his shoulders expressively, “after I had written out the two stiffest answers at full length, and time was up, I discovered quite casually that I had entirely mistaken the questions. However, I did my best, bad as it was! I wrote away fifty miles an hour; not like the fellow next me, who simply put on his hat, and walked out,” the moment he looked over the tactic paper! Just threw up the sponge, then and there! You see, girls, you must just make up your minds to the fact, that I’m not clever,” strolling over to a low armchair, and throwing himself into it, with his legs stretched out, his arms looked behind his head, and gazing alternately from one sister to the other, with a face of unusual gravity.

“I always knew that your grammar was awful,” observed Haidée frankly, drying her eyes vigorously as she spoke; “enough to hasten the end of Lindley Murray. And your spelling; simply too frightful. You know it was only the other day, that you wrote of the corpse to which you hoped to have the honour to belong, and spelt——”

“It’s a wicked libel!” interrupted her brother explosively, “I remember nothing of the sort. I swear my grammar is as good as yours,” defiantly, “and I can spell like one o’clock. But all the same,” calming down after a moment’s reflection, “barring grammar, and spelling, and the three B’s, I am a duffer! Whenever I’ve hammered one subject thoroughly into this thick skull of mine,” striking it with his clenched fist, “and go on to another, I straightway forget all about subject number one. My mind, as far as it is concerned, becomes once more the virgin page!! My miserable brain is incapable of containing two ideas simultaneously. My head is like one of those buckets, those wretched young women in mythology were always trying to fill. What’s this their name was?” pausing meditatively. “That’s gone too! Well, never mind—you know who I mean. I am not the genius you always suspected, and you will have to try and accustom your minds to the fact. But after all,” nodding at Gussie consolingly, “as some fellow remarked, ‘We can’t all be genii.’”

“Teddy! How can you?” demanded his eldest sister reproachfully.

“Can what?” he asked with an air of child-like innocence.

“You know very well what I mean,” impatiently. “The thing to consider now, instead of lounging there, and making stupid jokes, is; what are you to do? What can you be?”

“Be,” reckoning on his fingers; “I can’t be a parson, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a soldier, or a sailor. One finger over, ought and carry one. I’ve wasted three years on these blessed exams., and now I’m too old for the other professions, besides having no money and no brains! I really see nothing before me, but hard manual labour!—A crossing sweeper has not half a bad billet, and no compulsory cramming! How gaily I would trip over hand in hand with all the pretty girls. How gallantly I’d rescue old ladies from cabs and omnibuses! A gentleman’s gentleman would not be too bad a berth; especially if we were something of a size; or a light weight groom! Only, as it happens, I’m not a light weight,” he remarked parenthetically.

“Upon my word, Ted, you really are too bad; you never can be serious for five minutes,” exclaimed Gussie austerely.

“There’s Manitoba!” burst out Haidée, who had evidently been thinking hard for some little time back. “You see it in all the papers—‘Grand opening for the sons of gentlemen!’ I’m sure you would make a splendid farmer!”

“‘I doubt it, said the carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.’”

Quoted Teddy impressively. “But I’ll tell you what, girls, I have a new idea,” pausing.

“A new idea,” exclaimed Gussie, with arched brows. “Then please to introduce it to us immediately, before it goes out of your unlucky head!”

“Well, just listen to me.”

“Mr. Edward, if you please, the mistress wishes to speak to you in the drawing room at once,” said a grim-looking, elderly woman from the doorway; a person whose figure resembled a deal board, covered with a tight black alpaca dress.

“To me! To speak to me, Nokes?” suddenly sitting upright.

“Yes, Mr. Edward, to speak to you,” she answered in a tone of decorous decision; a tone which, being interpreted by these experienced young people, meant— “And won’t you just catch it, that’s all!”

“Then she must have seen it,” exclaimed Haidée in an awestruck voice. “Oh, Teddy!”

“Of course she must have seen it,” he returned, rising deliberately from the depths of his chair; “and the sooner we get our interview over the better. All right, Nokes, I’m coming.” Exit Mr. Edward Brabazon, hands in pockets, softly whistling.

“He is trying to carry it off with a never-say-die manner,” observed his eldest sister, looking after him thoughtfully; “but all the same, he is frightfully cut up!—He has always been crazy about the army, ever since I can remember; all his toys were soldiers or drums; and he once walked the whole way to Burford, when he was quite a little fellow, to see a regiment pass through. Every one thought he was lost. A policeman brought him home, and he was whipped of course—I mean Teddy—not the policeman!”

“Yes. Poor Teddy,” said Haidée, now leaving the rain-blurred window and approaching the table. “ You should have seen his face when he showed me the paper. I do really believe, there were tears in his eyes!”

Chapter II

A Bad Quarter of an Hour

A few words about our surroundings, before we accompany the reluctant Teddy into the presence of his step-mother.

Down in the south of England, in a rural and retired part of Thornshire, and not more than ten miles from blue water and white sails, there stands a russet-coloured, rambling house, notable for its deep mullioned windows and heavy stacks of chimneys, sheltered by trees, its own contemporaries, and known by the name of Baronsford. You approach it through the little village of Maxton, with its triangular green, and neat irregular cottages, so smothered in ivy and Virginian creeper, that they look as if they had beards and whiskers, out of which their tiny top windows struggle to stare. Passing the Norman church, and Queen Anne vicarage, you turn into a shady road, which leads into a still shadier avenue, and you find yourself in a small park surrounding this picturesque weather-beaten mansion; that looks as if it were a likely place to have been the home of some good old family. At present, it is inhabited by Mrs. Adrian Brabazon and her four step-children (one of whom is, as we are aware, lingering on the mat outside the drawing-room door). The drawing-room (into which we follow Master Teddy), is in keeping with the exterior of the house; long, low, and panelled with black oak, and boasts of a wonderful carved chimney piece, extending from floor to ceiling. Various large settees, and curious three-cornered chairs, covered with shiny old-fashioned chintz, are scattered about, and a good many grim or smirking portraits, adorn the walls,—glaring out from backgrounds of Egyptian darkness. A respectable drawing-room! A drawing-room that had ancestors; and if its carpet, like the typical landlady, has seen “better days,” and its curtains are by no means in their first youth, it is undoubtedly a pleasant old-fashioned apartment, with a certain individuality and dignity, in spite of some gaudy wool-work, crochet antimacassars, and cheap ornamental rubbish, introduced by the present Mrs. Brabazon, who is seated at a writing table, in one of the windows. She is a lady with a very long, upright back,—a back that has a distinct character and expression of its own (and. that, of an aggressive nature). When we look into her face, we discover that she is between forty and fifty, dark and sallow, with thin lips pinched together in a manner that bodes but ill for the coming interview; in fact, her countenance is the embodiment of a thunder cloud, as she waits in an attitude of rigid expectancy, with the Times spread out before her, her eyes fixed on one particular column, engaged in the amiable task of nursing her wrath, to keep it warm. She heard the door open and close, she heard Teddy’s approaching footsteps, without moving for fully sixty seconds. At length, she turned her head slightly towards the culprit, and said, in a tone which had gathered intensity, from the preceding awful pause—

“This is a nice business!” rapping the paper before her with an impressive forefinger. “Pray what have you got to say for yourself, sir,—eh? I hope you are ashamed. Only,” hastily correcting herself, “it is not in your nature to be ashamed of anything. Come,” with a jerk of her chair, “speak; and don’t stand there looking like a fool.”

“What can I say, Mrs. Brabazon?” returned Teddy with heightened colour, “I am awfully sorry I failed to pass. I did my very best, as far as working went, but it was no use; there were three hundred candidates for thirty vacancies, and a stupid fellow like me had no chance. I am very sorry for all the time that has been wasted——”

“And money,” interpolated the lady sharply.

“And money, as you say,” he continued; “and I am very sorry you should be so much disappointed; but after all, it’s rougher on me, than any one else. I shall be the chief sufferer,” he added in a lower key.

“Chief sufferer! You!” she cried, glaring at him, with her fiery little coffee-coloured eyes, “You a sufferer, you idle, lazy, good-for-nothing lout! This is the third time you’ve come to me with this same story—failed to pass! Actually the third time,” bringing her hand down heavily on the writing-table before her as she spoke. “You could have passed if you had tried, but you did not want to! You spent your time idling about, amusing yourself, with a pipe in your mouth, and your hands in your pockets, along with a lot of other ne’er-do-well’s like yourself; and when your prospect of getting into a profession is at an end, you think you have nothing on earth to do, but come home and live on ME! I quite see your plan,” with a ferocious smile. “You think you can loaf about here, with a gun over your shoulder, or maybe a fishing-rod, and put in your time very comfortably—but you are greatly mistaken!” her words coming quicker and shriller every second; “very much mistaken. I will not put up with it! Suffer, indeed!” charging back on that unlucky word. “It has been my purse that has suffered! You must make up your mind to earn your own bread, and that without delay.” Here she was obliged to pause for breath, making an imperious sign to Teddy, that he was not to speak; that it was merely a temporary cessation of hostilities. Her step-son had become rather white during the above agreeable speech, and there was an unnaturally fixed look about his lips, but he made no attempt to defend himself. He knew of old that it would be useless, that he would be talked down, shrieked at, and silenced. It was Mrs. Brabazon’s favourite mode of warfare (a practice probably acquired in early years) to brow-beat and silence an adversary by mere clamour alone; to close her ears to any arguments that might be advanced by the other side, and thus invariably to remain a victor on every domestic battlefield. “Yes,” proceeded the lady with renewed vigour, “you must look about you, at once; we will waste no more time! When your father left me with small means, and large calls upon it” (this was one of her stock phrases), “I never dreamt of having to support you; and what with keeping up the place, and Florian’s allowance, and your sisters’ expenses, my hand is never out of my pocket!”

“Still there is a good deal of spending in three thousand a year, Mrs. Brabazon,” said Teddy impetuously, his soul revolting at her hypocritical rapacity, and meanness.

“Three thousand a year!! It’s nothing of the sort,” quickly turning to him with a livid face. “What business is the amount of my income to you? It is my money,” passionately, “not yours! I’ve put up with your insolence too long,” her nostrils quivering as she spoke, “and I won’t have you here, another week. I’ve been prepared for this,” pointing a trembling finger to the paper; “I’ve heard of something at the West Coast of Africa that will suit. There, you will learn industry, discipline, and manners, and I never wish to see you again! I shall write about your passage this very day—this very post. I——”

“You need not trouble yourself, Mrs. Brabazon,” interrupted Teddy decidedly. “I may as well tell you at once that I shall not go to the West Coast of Africa. I can find work for myself. After what you have said, I would rather break stones than be beholden to you for a crumb. I believe I know of something that will suit me better than the yellow fever.”

“Take care what you do!” she exclaimed hoarsely. “If you get into low company, or disgrace yourself, in any way, I shall wash my hands of you and your affairs. You shall be——” Here she suddenly discovered that she was merely haranguing the furniture, wasting her sweetness (?) on the desert air. The room was empty. Teddy had departed!

Mrs. Brabazon sat for fully five minutes in deep reflection, and then, her mind having recovered its equilibrium, she flung open her blotter with an air of decision, thrust a pen violently into the ink bottle, and scribbled a letter in haste; her steel nib travelling over the paper at unusual speed. This despatch concluded, closed, and stamped, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief, as if some great weight had been lifted from her mind, and ensconsing herself in a deep arm-chair, took up the paper, and glanced casually over the court news, the births, marriages, and deaths. But she could not read! her thoughts were elsewhere. “What can he be going ‘to do’?” she asked herself. “He has no money, and no friends; it is a mere idle threat! If he would only run away to sea, and never be heard of again! but one does not get rid of a plague like him so easily. How can he know the value of the property, unless young Pratt has blabbed.” (N.B. Mrs. Brabazon was not obliged to pick her words, when conversing with herself.) “That young gaby must have been talking,” she continued apprehensively. “Why, even old Jane does not imagine that it is more than a third. If she thought I was saving, and that the mortgages were paid off, it might be awkward. However, she knows that I am liberal to Florian, and she said so; but she might take it into her crotchety head that I ought to do more for the others; all the same, no matter what she thinks, I won’t, and that’s flat. Besides, he may have only been talking at a guess. I don’t see how he could know. Pratt has an eye to his own interests, and he is no fool! It was just a random shot, nothing more.” And with this mental salve, Mrs. Brabazon again took up the paper, and looked out the advertisements of sailings for the Cape Coast, and Sierra Leone. After a rather protracted search, she found what she required, and at once made up her mind with her usual promptitude. “ It will do very well,” she muttered to herself. “He shall go by the Cobra,” this day week—and second class.”

*  *  *

In the meantime, Haidée had been listening for the opening of the drawing-room door, with almost breathless anxiety.

“There he is,” remarked Grussie placidly—Grussie, who had been busily scribbling “strawberry jam,” “strawberry jam,” on countless paper labels. “She did not keep him long. ‘Few and short were the words they spoke!’” looking up at her sister with a significant smile.

“Yes! but he’s not whistling,” said Haidée; “and actually he is not coming in here”—holding her head on one side, as though to catch every sound—“he is going upstairs”—pushing her chair back, and rising excitedly.

“Never mind him!” returned Gussie dissuasively. “What nonsense, rushing out after him, simply because he happens to go upstairs, instead of down! He will be here, never fear, when the gong sounds. As to Mrs. B., he does not care a straw about her. He is not like me; and hard words break no bones,” she concluded philosophically.

“No; but they break people’s hearts, sometimes,” returned Haidée, who was still standing irresolutely by the table; “and Mrs. Brabazon says terrible things —that—hurt.”

“Hurt! Fiddlesticks! Here, now like a good girl, sit down, and help me to cover this jam. Mrs. B. says it must be done this morning. The white paper is—either in the cupboard, or under these music books, or maybe it’s in the portfolio; and the big scissors, oh—I don’t know where they are. I have not seen them since the day before yesterday, when Teddy had them cutting wire; but they are somewhere.” And with these encouraging directions, Miss Brabazon pushed eighteen pots over towards her sister, and requested her “to set to work at once.”

Chapter III

He Would Be a Soldier

The scene of the Misses Brabazon’s labours was the schoolroom; you recognized that apartment at the first glance. Three sides of the walls were covered with painted book cases (very untidily kept, I regret to add), great yawning gaps existed in some parts, whilst in other places, the books had been crammed in on top of one another, anyhow. One remarked, school books, and classics, and yellow-backed novels, in most improper propinquity: Colenso’s arithmetic arm in arm with “Kate Coventry,” Canon Farrar’s last, leaning affectionately on “A Princess of Thule.” A round table, with an ill-used blue and red checked table cloth, stood in the middle of the apartment; an old grand piano, with very yellow keys, almost staggered under a load of music books, (ay, and desks and work boxes); a few shabby but comfortable chairs were ranged about the room, and there had been some attempts at decoration! the walls were covered with coloured prints, in cheap frames, and Mrs. Butler’s “Missed” hung in the post of honour, above the chimney piece; between the fire and the door there was a very excellent comic screen—the fruit of many wet afternoons—and work, and flowers, and odds and ends, were liberally scattered about. A comfortable room; into which the brothers brought their dogs and pipes, the sisters their dressmaking and litter; where they made toffee and blackberry jam (under the rose), and laughed, and joked, and squabbled, and sang, and were perfectly at home, and happy.

Haidée hurried over her task, ran upstairs, washed her sticky fingers, and then went quickly to Teddy’s door, on which she beat an imperative tattoo. Two seconds later, it was flung open with a jerk, and revealed Teddy in his shirt sleeves, with a background consisting of the whole contents of his wardrobe, strewn about the floor; garments which had evidently been flung broadcast from a yawning chest of drawers, and were now in process of being stuffed into a little battered portmanteau.

“What on earth are you about?” demanded his sister, halting on the threshold, and pointing to the general confusion with a dramatic gesture. “What are you doing? You are not going away, are you?” in a tone of keen anxiety.

Rather,” was her brother’s laconic reply, as he laid violent hands on half a dozen shirts, rolled them up into a bundle the size of a sponge, and crammed them down into chaos!

“Oh, Teddy! what are you doing?” cried she, her female soul revolting at such treatment, dropping on her knees, and disinterring them promptly. “Here, let me pack,” turning out on the spot a heterogeneous mass of boots, books, brushes, breeches, pell mell. “And—now you can tell me, what it all means, if you please!”

“Never mind my dress clothes,” he said, swooping suddenly down and tossing them aside, with an odd laugh. “I don’t fancy I shall want them immediately.”

“Did she say much, Ted?” asked Haidée, looking up apprehensively. “Was she much worse, than last time?”

“Worse! I should just think so! You need not mind those ties, nor gloves. She said—what she will never have the chance of saying to me again. She told me I was an idle, insolent, ne’er-do-well, eating my head off. She called me a lout!”

“Oh, Ted! she didn’t!” incredulously.

“And not to expect that she was going to keep me any longer, for I was to be despatched to a nice suitable situation at Cape Coast Castle, immediately, if not sooner.”

“Now, Teddy! you know you are joking,” said his sister, pausing in her toil, and surveying him with an air of mild reproach.

“Joking,” indignantly; “by George, I am not! She has given me the key of the street this time, and no mistake.”

“Nonsense,” exclaimed Haidée decidedly; “you are not going to mind her. And what are you taking these things for?” alluding to two little faded photos, of herself and Gussie, in tarnished gilt frames—photos representing them with short frocks and long hair—photos in which justice had not been tempered with mercy; and no one would suppose for a moment that the pretty girl stooping over the portmanteau was the original of the lowering looking child, in the plaid frock, who was clinging to the back of a chair, as if for grim Death!!

“I’m taking them, bad as they are, because I have no others,” returned her brother, “and because I’m not coming back. Is not that a just and sufficient reason.”

“What?” looking up at him with a pair of neatly folded socks in either hand. “What rubbish, Teddy! This is as much your home, as it is mine. Mrs. B. has no power to turn you out, and you shan’t go!” thrusting down the socks into their place as she spoke, with vigorous decision.

“Oh yes I shall! It’s quite time, as she says, that I was doing something for myself, and getting my own living; only she might have put it in a pleasanter form,” he added with exaggerated composure.

“And pray what are you going to do? Nothing rash, I hope?” gazing at him anxiously.

“Promise me, that you won’t make a fool of yourself, or scream, or faint if I tell you,” impressively.

“I promise,” returned his sister, kneeling erect on the floor, and looking as grave, and nearly as white, as one of her ancestresses kneeling in effigy and coif, and farthingale, in Maxton church.

“Well, then, mind you are to say nothing about it, and keep the news to yourself, for it is a dead secret; I am going to—enlist,” stepping back a pace, so as to view the full effect of his announcement. “Hush!” putting up both his hands imploringly; “for mercy’s sake don’t faint! Just listen to me, and to reason, for two seconds. One would think, from your face, that I had confessed to a murder. Lots of gentlemen enlist. A fellow who was at the crammer’s with me the term before last, enlisted when he was spun, and is getting on like steam. He is a sergeant already,” impressively.

But this encouraging statement had no effect on his listener. She was staring at him, as it were, through a fog of stupefaction, and was apparently incapable of speech.

“Heaps of fellows have done the same thing, and will again,” he continued eagerly. “I’d rather do it than go out to the colonies, and work as sheep-farmer and stockman. I would have taken the shilling, long ago, only for you girls. I thought it only fair, to give you the chance of having a brother an officer, instead of in the ranks; and a mighty poor chance it was! You see, it no longer pays to put the fool of the family into the army!”

“But that you are not,” cried Haidée indignantly; “you are twice as clever as Flo. And as to enlisting——”

“I should pity Flo, if it was the case,” interrupted her brother. “But that’s not the question now. Mrs. B., you know, was never very partial to me, and has led me a life, ever since she overheard that unfortunate remark of mine, apropos of her feet; ‘that she had not left a live beetle in Maxton parish.’ It was bad, certainly; but she has recouped herself over and over again, with interest. I can’t stand her any longer. She has a hold over all of us, with regard to money, on account of the governor’s will: and though she talks of poverty, and economy, this place brings her in a clear three thousand a year, and she really ought to do something for you girls. But she wont; nor for me—not that I expect it, nor have any right to it. I’m going to fish for myself! Only for you I’d have cleared out ages ago; but now I’m at the end of my tether. The same house can’t hold Mrs. B., and me any longer, and, like the fellow I told you of this morning, I just take my hat, and walk out.”

“But not to enlist, my dear boy! I say, not to enlist!” cried Haidée, springing up suddenly, and confronting him with a face as pale as death. “You would not please her by doing that, now, would you?” artfully.

“I’ll go into the cavalry,” ignoring her remark, “far away from this part of the world, take another name, and work hard. Haidée,” angrily, “I wish to goodness, you would not look at me like that! I know I shall get on; you see if I don’t. I’m young, and strong, and willing, like the immortal Barkus; and I’ve always had a hankering after a red coat!”

“You cannot go like this,” said his sister vehemently; “and you are not going now,” sitting down on the edge of his bed, and wringing her hands helplessly. “What am I to do with you? What can I say to you? You must let me tell Gussie; you really must. She is twice as clever as I am, and she will reason you out of—of—this madness. You are angry now, and doing this in a hurry, and on the spur of the moment. Just wait even one week. You can go to Aunt Jane’s, while we see about something for you. She has interest; she has money,” pausing for breath.

“My good girl, I am not doing this in a passion. I’m perfectly cool now,” resuming his coat as he spoke; “and as to Aunt Jane, just please to think of what you are saying. Have you forgotten the little episode of Uncle Sandy? No, no; my mind is made up, and nothing shall unmake it. No one could talk me out of my resolve, not even Gus, and I’ll hack her tongue against most people’s. She is not to be in the secret, mind that. I shall tell Mr. Bell; he’s a good old chap, and he will give me a character—he and you are the only people who will know, that, by this day week, I shall be a full private, in the Prince’s Lancers.”

“Teddy, Teddy!” was all that Haidée could articulate, as she buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears. But Teddy was adamant. He made no reply; merely locked the portmanteau noisily, and set to work to strap its all but bursting proportions.

“You don’t know the hardships you will have, the life you will lead,” sobbed his sister, in a choked voice. “No one of your own class, no companions; and you have such a hot temper—you will live in the guard-room, or black hole, or whatever it is!”

“No fear,” returned Teddy decisively; “I’ll curb my temper. A whole regiment could not be half as aggravating as Mrs. B.”

“You will have hard common work,—cooking perhaps, washing, grooming horses, cleaning boots,” said his sister in tremulous tones.

“What harm! Have you never heard of the dignity of labour?” rejoined Teddy, still wrestling with the straps.

“You’ll never get anything to eat, except beefsteak and onions,” moaned this Job’s comforter from the edge of the bed.

“So much the better,” cheerfully. “I delight in beefsteak,—and strictly between you and me,—I’m passionately fond of onions! It’s no use, old lady, you can’t choke me off,” rising with a smile, and giving the portmanteau a kick, as much as to say, “ I’ve conquered you.”

“Wait even one week,” she pleaded. “Wait at Mr. Bell’s,” she urged, suddenly standing up, and seizing him by the arm. “Wait even one night, and sleep on it,” imploringly. “If you go and enlist,” leaning her head, against his tweed shoulder, “I shall be—miserable,” sobbing convulsively.

“Not a bit of it,” incredulously. “I shall be promoted; I shall get on, you’ll see. Cheer up, cheer up; you’ve cried enough this morning to float a troopship. Come now, be sensible! One would think that I was going to die! When I get furlough, I’ll come and see you. I’ll stop with old Mother Swoffer; and I’ll write—and of course you will write often. Now I must be off to Mr. Bell’s. I’ll look in again this evening to say good-bye to you and Gus in the schoolroom, leave the garden door on the latch. I’m going by the mail. Tell Jacobs to carry this portmanteau down to the ‘Barley Mow.’ Cheer up, cheer up, and come along,” pausing and looking back, with his hand on the handle of the door. “Who knows, but I may be carrying a portmanteau myself, before long,” grinning. “Who knows, but I may be an officer’s servant?”

“Teddy! how can yon!” exclaimed his sister indignantly. “As if I was not wretched enough already! I believe—you—you would be like that man in history—who joked on the scaffold. I really do,” drying her eyes as she spoke, and following him slowly out of the room.

*  *  *

At nine o’clock that evening, Teddy returned to take leave of his sisters. He found them both awaiting him in the schoolroom, with very long faces indeed. Each with a parting present in her hand: Gussie’s, a paper of sandwiches (in case he had not dined); Haidée, with all her little savings, in a not very plethoric-looking green leather purse. When the last moment came, Gussie clung to him with tears, and questions, and expostulations; and wild valedictions on Mrs. Brabazon; but it was Haidée who followed him out into the hall, and, snatching up a shawl, accompanied him down the still wet avenue, clinging to his arm in silence, (and secretly slipping her gift into the pocket of his coat). The rain had ceased; the cool night sky above them was covered with wild tattered-looking clouds, chasing each other across a pale impassive moon. They opened the avenue gate, scarcely speaking to each other—their hearts were too full—and walked along the road, till a sudden turn brought the village lights into view; and here Teddy halted, and said in a husky voice—

“Now, you have come far enough! we must say good-bye here.” And they said it, under an old ash, by the bend of the road. As they uttered their last words, and took their last embrace, a sharp gust of wind shook the tree, with a kind of long shivering sigh; and its heavy branches poured down a sudden shower of tears upon their pale up-turned faces—a bad omen,—if omens go for aught.

Chapter IV

The Brabazons of Baronsford

Mr. Adrian Brabazon had been an idle, indolent man, whose speciality was brilliant conversation, his predilection, congenial society, and his bête noire exertion or trouble of any kind; and who, when his pretty, well-born wife died, and left him with four small children, had promptly despatched the boys to school, the girls to the care of their aunt (his sister), shut up Baronsford, and taken himself off abroad. He spent a good deal of money in an easy-going gentlemanly fashion; posing as an invalid, a connoisseur in cookery, a patron of the fine arts, and rambling from Italy to the South of France, from Paris to the German Spas, in a kind of perennial circular tour. During his travels, he “picked up” (we quote the expression of the unmarried ladies in the immediate neighbourhood of Baronsford) “a low-born adventuress,” and made her his second wife. Beyond the fact that she was “a Mrs. Jupp, widow, aged forty,” nothing whatever was known of her antecedents; although the ears of the Maxton gossips were literally aching for particulars! Her former life, previous to her becoming Mrs. Brabazon, was, as far as they were concerned, enveloped in a cloud, which all their united efforts failed to pierce.

To speak quite frankly, Mrs. Brabazon was not a lady by birth,—nor yet one of nature’s gentlewomen. She was a shrewd, sharp, scheming woman, of low origin and scant education, who had worked herself up step by step, and who had recently come abroad as confidential travelling maid to an elderly lady in bad health. She and her employer happened to be inmates of the same hotel in Paris as Mr. Brabazon. It was an unhealthy season, low fever was prowling about, and carried off the elderly Englishwoman as one of its first victims. Mr. Brabazon himself became dangerously ill, and was tenderly nursed back to convalescence by Mrs. Jupp,—who was a skilled sick nurse, and soft-voiced, soft-footed, sympathetic, and soothing. She had no wish to return to England and seek for another situation, when, as she said to herself, “here was one to her hand, under the very same roof; and who knew what might happen?” (We cannot take upon ourselves to say, what vague possibilities were floating through Mrs. Jupp’s brain at this period.) In addition to a small legacy, she had succeeded to her late mistress’ handsome wardrobe; and made quite an imposing appearance, in soft cashmeres and rich black silks, and dainty little lace caps (whenever Mr. Brabazon was sufficiently convalescent, to notice such matters). She spoke of herself as “companion only” to her late “dear friend,” and talked tearfully of better days, far more affluent circumstances, and bewailed her losses in an apocryphal mine in Cornwall. N.B. This was a pleasant little fiction; for the real truth was, that in all her life, she had never been as prosperous as at the present moment! and a large outlay of indiscriminate flattery was the only investment, she had ever made. Mr. Brabazon was greatly broken down by his illness, both in mind and body; but he was still capable of recognizing a lady, when he saw her. And like the Scotchman, “he had his doots” about the widow Jupp—her lack of refinement, of education, her broad red hands, and her contempt for the letter H, told a tale of their own, in spite of “My intimate friend Lady Augusta Sharpshooter,” and descriptions of the palmy “days that were no more.” Nevertheless Mrs. Jupp, had made herself very necessary to the invalid; he liked her; he was grateful to her, she exactly understood his wants, knew his favourite little dishes, and did not suffer him to be troubled, or bored,—his health was uncertain; he told himself that he could not now dispense with her. In fact, to put the matter in another light, she would not be dispensed with; and the miserable man knew it. She clung to him like the traditional octopus; week after week she still remained at his side under one pretext or other, imperiously declaring that he was very ill, and totally unfit to be moved. He hated the trouble of combating her stronger will, and, telling himself, that “he was acting for the best, and required a clever sensible woman to look after him,” married her at the English church one morning in November, and as a reward, was carried away by his bride to Italy, immediately after the ceremony. Mrs. Jupp felt, as she signed the register, that she had now put the coping stone to all her successes! She was the wife of one of the landed gentry. She, hush— who had been a lady’s maid. For two or three years they roamed about in an unsettled fashion, and at last took a small country house, some miles from Florence, as Mr. Brabazon had latterly become a confirmed invalid, and never now went out, except in a bath chair. Mrs. Brabazon’s great aim was to obliterate her past, and to identify herself wholly with her new character. With commendable ingenuity, she baffled all who would read the back pages of her history; and artfully evaded leading questions; and yet, managing to make herself mistress of other people’s affairs, with a blunt disregard for their susceptibilities, and a morbid craving for information, on matters that in no wise concerned her. It was shrewdly noted that she never named the period prior to her “Hegira” (her marriage), and all her friends—dear friends, over whom she gushed—were of very recent acquisition. She did not dare to allude to Lady Augusta Sharpshooter and the Honourable Mrs. Babbington now, as she had once done so glibly in Mr. Brabazon’s sick room; it would be a dangerous experiment, as, for all she knew, she might be speaking to “their sisters, their cousins, or their aunts,” and they would naturally ask, and receive a reply to that never satisfactorily answered question, “Who was Mrs. Brabazon?”

It was observed that names were cut out of her books (which were but few), that she had no accomplishments, did not know one note of music from another, and shrank from all literary discussion like a sensitive plant. But people were not aware that she was laboriously educating herself in secret; that many and many an hour she spent, locked into her room, studying history, geography, and grammar, and wrote copy after copy, and pored over a manual on the “manners and customs of good society” till she could almost repeat it by heart! In due time, she made herself acquainted with many useful facts, and wrote a formal, stiff, but by no means vulgar hand. She was very ready to pick up hints, and observed, and imitated with such success, that after a time, casual acquaintances never supposed that she had not been born in the purple! She had a caressing, purring manner, and was an adroit flatterer (when she had anything to gain); little did people guess, how shrill her voice could be, what terrible talons, were concealed beneath that velvet “patte,” and that a very slight scratch on the polish she had recently acquired, revealed—a Tartar!

Gradually Mr. Brabazon became more and more feeble and decrepid, and during the last year of his life, his mind was much affected. At first he forgot things that happened thirty years previously, then twenty, then ten, then last year—then yesterday. His state was not generally known, beyond the small retinue of Italian servants, as for years Mrs. Brabazon had conducted his correspondence, and managed all his business, and his present unhappy condition made no alteration in his affairs. He had executed his will (his careful wife had seen to that); it had been in the hands of his English solicitors for the last three years. There was nothing now to do but wait for the end. It was a deplorable sight, this wreck of the once brilliant Adrian Brabazon, a bent, prematurely aged man, brought out to bask in a wicker chair on the terrace in the sun (and scolded and hustled about like a child by his former respectful valet, and present imperious keeper), sitting under the white walls of the house, with a blank neutral face, looking out upon nothing, with tears constantly rolling down his cheeks, and muttering foolish disconnected sentences. Mrs. Brabazon occasionally relaxed her watch, and spent a few days in Florence, where she posed as a martyr to circumstances, and a model of all the wifely virtues. She corresponded with her stepchildren from time to time, stiff conventional letters, whose contents might have been posted in the market place; but she firmly repressed any desire on their part, to come abroad and see their dear papa. The miserable state of his health, she declared in one of her first epistles she wrote to them after her marriage, precluded their much desired visit, although personally she was languishing to make their acquaintance. At last one day, they received a letter with an inch-deep black border, announcing the not unexpected death of their father; and Mrs. Brabazon having buried him under a touching and handsome white monument, in the cemetery at Florence, disposed of her villa, and dismissed her servants, returned as a widow to reign at Baronsford.

The will created a profound sensation. Everything was left in the hands of Mrs. Brabazon, until Florian attained his majority, and he was not to come of age until he was twenty-five: over the fortunes of her step-daughters and their matrimonial possibilities, her power was absolute. She was sole mistress of the property, till Florian came of age, and guardian to the four young Brabazons. The interest of the money in the funds, the whole yearly rental of Baronsford, and the nice large quarterly dividends accruing from the first Mrs. Brabazon’s fortune, was exclusively hers, during the minority of the testator’s children. There were no executors, no trustees; all power was vested in one person, and that person was the widow.

“The will of a mad man!” shrieked public opinion. “A shameful, unnatural, wicked will; most unfair to the young people.” It would never surprise them, some people declared, if Mrs. Brabazon had actually dictated the document herself—and she had.

“Most unaccountable!” exclaimed Miss Jane Brabazon, the late gentleman’s spinster sister, who lived in a large white house near the village, and had given her nieces a home during their early years. “Adrian must have had immense confidence in his wife. I sincerely hope that it will turn out that it has been well placed. I would gladly have acted as joint guardian or trustee. Most unaccountable,” drawing forth, unfolding, and shaking out a clean handkerchief, her invariable habit when she was exercised in her mind.

But after a while public opinion veered round (like a weathercock that it is); ditto Miss Jane, and gravely declared, “that when you came to look into the matter, the will gained upon you, and that really after all, Adrian Brabazon had more sense than they imagined. It was far wiser to leave the property in the hands of a clever, sensible person, like Mrs. B., who would keep the house together, and probably put by the money she saved for the benefit of her stepchildren, and be a second mother to them all, than if everything had gone to idle, thriftless, extravagant Florian.”

Mr. Pratt, the banker, had praised the widow up to the skies, as a wonderfully clear-headed, business-like woman, who had a capital idea of shares and investments; in fact, it was positively a pleasure to deal with her! Now that she had attained her heart’s desire—wealth, position, and ease for the rest of her life, Mrs. Brabazon sought to open the doors of all the upper ten in the county, to the new mistress of Baronsford. This was easier said than done. The late Mrs. Brabazon had been an earl’s granddaughter, “but who was this woman?” her neighbours asked themselves superciliously, over their five o’clock tea. However, her foreign polish, and her adaptable character, and the titled acquaintances she had made on the continent (and of whom she spoke in terms of easy familiarity, and warm affection) proved more than a match for the most exclusive, and she soon gained a footing in the best circles, picked her steps carefully among local prejudices, expressed rapture with her surroundings, subscribed largely to two popular charities, and felt that she had now established herself firmly in the county. If there were a few scandalous surmises about her, they were soon silenced. Had not the austere Miss Jane pronounced her sister-in-law “an amiable, sensible, agreeable woman?” And Miss Jane’s opinion went forth, as a kind of social “ukase”; for she was universally looked up to, and respected. Alas! for her, dear old lady! she was but as a babe, in the hands of her clever crafty sister-in-law. An humbly worded appeal, for advice on a few minor matters, half a dozen crocodile tears, and an enthusiastic admiration of Miss Jane’s two black cats, had done the business. Mrs. Brabazon was a nice new broom; every one was loud in her praises, every one—almost—was charmed with her; and she continued to enact the part of new broom, until her popularity was entirely accomplished; then she cast it aside, and briskly set to work with the besom of destruction. Old servants, who reckoned on ending their lives in the family, were dismissed with superb characters, and a month’s wages; venerable dogs and horses, who were dozing away the evening of their days, after years of faithful service, were discharged in another fashion—to wit, brought out and shot. Family pensioners were informed that their doles must cease. Gussie and Haidée’s maid was among the banished; their music master had a polite notification that his attendance was no longer required; and the young ladies were put on an allowance of twenty pounds sterling each per annum, to cover all expenses in the way of dress, travelling, and stationery, aye, and stamps! It was in vain, that the Misses Brabazon cried out, and declared that goody Stokes would starve, that Toby (who lay under sentence of death) had been their mother’s pony! Mrs. Brabazon cared for none of these things! no expostulations moved her; and the changes were carried out according to her orders, inflexibly, but quietly. They did not filter to the ears of her wealthy neighbours; but they were discussed in the village, with bated breath, and many ominous shakings of heads, and fitting of hands.

“Poverty” was this thrifty lady’s plea, “Retrenchment” her war cry; and she set about saving con amore (entirely, be it understood, at the expense of other people). For herself, she dressed as became her age and position, to quote her own words, kept a handsome carriage, and pair of horses, went out a good deal, took an occasional trip to London, leaving her own body servant (the respectable Nokes) as viceroy, and invested with the keys. She lived a life entirely apart from her step-daughters; they were rarely seen in her company; she did not approve of dinner parties for young people, nor morning calls; but now and then she appeared at an afternoon tea, accompanied by two shabby, silent, frightened looking girls, whom she introduced as “Miss Brabazon and Miss Haidée Brabazon.”

Augusta, who had tasted of the sweets of regency, in a very mild form (she was seventeen at the time of her father’s death) had been disposed to cling to some vestige of power, and to make a stand against her step-mother’s sweeping reforms; but, in one sharp, short, but wholly decisive, engagement, she was routed with immense loss, and obliged to beat a humiliating retreat, in floods of tears and the deepest disgrace, and had never since dared to rally her forces—it had been a moral Waterloo.

No, no; Mrs. Brabazon was not enthusiastic about her step-daughters; they were useful in the house, and did not interfere with her elegant leisure, and she kept them well in the background, with an iron hand. As for Teddy, she detested him. He made no secret of his dislike to the new régime; he chaffed Nokes under her mistress’s nose, he brought dogs into the schoolroom, he banged doors, he smoked, he argued the point, and was altogether prominently defiant and disobedient. Florian Mrs. Brabazon preferred to her other stepchildren (presumably because she saw so little of him); he was three-and-twenty, without any profession, or occupation, beyond what Teddy facetiously termed “inspector of public buildings;” an indolent, idle young sybarite;—his father’s counterpart, minus his father’s charms of manner and person;—lounging about London clubs and theatres, without any special taste, without any special weakness, and without any positive object in life, beyond the slaughter of his deadly enemy, “Time.”

Miss Jane Brabazon was Mr. Brabazon’s only sister; a richly endowed maiden lady —thanks to a wealthy godmother—who lived near the village, to which she enacted the part of Lady Bountiful; but a despotic Lady Bountiful, bien entendu! poking her long nose into every suspicious looking corner, asking many awkward questions, exhorting, advising, rebuking, and entreating, and doling out money, wine, coals, and blankets, with large-handed generosity. In appearance, she was a lady of about sixty, brisk as a bee, and upright as a young fir tree, with a thin face, and little sharp dark eyes, into which Mrs. Brabazon threw no end of dust. She wore her silver grey hair arranged in four model sausage curls on either temple, so round and regular were they, that they looked as if they were stuffed; a real cap with strings tied under her chin, a black silk dress (made in the fashion of 1855), black mittens, a monstrous mourning brooch, representing a landscape (funeral urn and weeping willow) in human hair, and gold spectacles. To this sketch of her outward woman, we may add a little basket, containing three bunches of keys, and a red knitted jug full of coppers, which key basket, gossips declared, accompanied her even to church; but this was a libel.

Miss Jane had a cold manner, and, strange to say, a hot temper; the one was acquired, the other constitutional. She was prejudiced, narrow minded, warm hearted, and charitable; not given to scandal, nor the too microscopic inspection of her neighbours’ affairs; never meddling in other people’s business, save and except her own little flock, and here she believed most sincerely that she meddled for their good. Very fond of her nieces and nephew (not Florian), though she always contrived to give them quite a contrary impression. But she considered it her bounden duty to correct their faults, and warn them sharply against their bad habits, such as stooping, giggling, untidiness, want of manners, and slang, etc., etc.; so that her conversations usually bore an unfortunate resemblance to a lecture, with a few of the old lady’s own experiences thrown in, to give the matter colouring and weight; and her nephew and nieces, looked upon her abode with distrust, and regarded it as the tabernacle of the demon Dullness. No novel had ever passed its threshold since those of Miss Porter and Miss Burney; no jokes were uttered within its dustless rooms; “no dogs admitted,” in deference to the wishes of Miss Jane’s two black cats—Moses and Lady Louisa.

Teddy was unmistakably Miss Jane’s favourite, though many a bitter rating she had given him; still there was an encouraging twinkle in her eye at the very worst of times; and it was a well-known fact in the family circle, that she would never listen to a word against him, and reserved the privilege of scolding him entirely to herself.

However, he had been in the very deepest disgrace ever since the previous Christmas, when he had perpetrated an enormity which threw all his previous misdemeanours entirely into the shade.

How often, and how vainly, had Gussie impressed upon her younger brother, that his taste for dressing up and playing practical jokes would lead to his social destruction.

Chapter V

Too Bad of Teddy

Miss Jane Brabazon’s eloquence, when she expounded on the manners and customs of “the good old times,” was both excusable and interesting; she was averse to progress on principle. “How did our worthy grand-parents manage without these new-fangled things?” was her invariable query, and mode of throwing cold water on every local innovation. Although she tolerated railways, in her secret heart she had a hankering and yearning after the spanking teams and the “Rockets” and “Lightnings” of her youth; tramways, underground locomotion, and telegrams were her aversion—post cards, her special detestation. She was fully persuaded that there was a lamentable falling off in the rising generation, and that many virtues, and many very superior qualities, were rapidly becoming as extinct as the mastodon. Everything had changed for the worse since her young days, even the climate. However, one thing was certain—Christmas festivities should never die out of Maxton village, as long as she was above ground. She believed in Christmas turkeys, Christmas puddings, Christmas carols, and Christmas boxes; year after year, she paid a mysterious solitary visit to the metropolis, provided with a long list of what she thought would be suitable and seasonable presents for old and young; she invariably sounded Gussie with regard to Haidée’s wants, and Haidée on the subject of Gussie’s deficiencies; both young ladies, feeling bound to express a certain amount of gratified surprise, when the gifts were duly presented. Each inmate of Baronsford was endowed with something; from the girls down to the scullerymaid (of course with perceptible gradations). More than this, no one in the village was forgotten. To behold Miss Jane on a certain frosty morning, early in December, seated at a round table, in her own private sanctum, tête-à-tête with her eldest niece, and in solemn conclave over her “lists,” was to see the spectacle, of a worthy old lady at her very wit’s end, wrinkles on her brow, her glasses planted on the top of her cap, (she had excellent sight)—her pen poised in her hand, in a great state of mental fog and mental fuss; affording a sharp contrast to her self-possessed little companion, who languidly stroked Lady Louisa, and made impossible, exasperating, suggestions. Lady Louisa, with her black satin coat, and emerald green slits of eyes, lay on a newspaper on the table, in a condition of superb contentment; and no wonder! It was whispered in the village, that it was on her account the fishmonger’s bills, were so heavy an item in the economy of the White House (whose menage afforded a perennial source of interest); that every morning she voraciously devoured a tin of sardines for her delicate breakfast. These were agreeable little fictions, that tickled the ears of the imaginative; but, all the same, it was quite true, that no sacred creature of Isis, no glorified Egyptian cat, was ever more luxuriously entertained than Miss Jane’s august favourite, Lady Louisa——poacher and thief!

“What can I give the Joneses this time, Augusta?” wearily demanded Miss Brabazon, pen in hand. “It must not be more expensive than the Swoffers’, for fear of giving offence. It was a clock last year,” referring to her book, and following down a column with one lean finger. “A tea-set they have had; a mangle, blankets, bedding, a lamp. You see they are old people, very particular—and a little jealous,” lowering her voice.

“Yes,” interrupted Gussie,with a laugh; “I remember last year, how Mrs. Jones grumbled, because there was what she called great disparagement between her Christmas box, and Mrs. Grant’s. I would give them nothing, if it were me;”—anxious to turn her aunt’s liberality into a more personal channel.

“That’s nonsense. You know,” retorted Miss Jane impatiently, “it is my rule, and Christmas comes but once a year! But, to tell you the truth, my dear, I never was so much at a loss as I am this time. I really have not an idea of what to give anyone,” looking hopelessly round a littered table as she spoke.

Now, be it known, that Augusta had thrown out more than one broad hint to the effect, that, as far as she was concerned, a sealskin jacket would meet her wishes, and had even strengthened her veiled suggestions, by coming down to the White House shivering in a thread-bare summer garment. Cunning Gussie, who had a warm (but countrified) cloth coat at home, and was merely endeavouring to work upon her venerable relative’s compassionate feelings. “I had such a funny dream last night,” she said, laughing rather affectedly, and stroking Lady Louisa, with her head on one side. “Lady Louisa’s lovely coat reminds me of it. Only fancy! I dreamt that I was given a splendid sealskin paletot, half-shaped, and deliciously long, just like Mrs. Brabazon’s! And who do you think gave it to me”—leaning both elbows on the table, and looking over at her relation with a confidential smile—”but you? You dear old, generous, Aunt Jane!”

“Did I, indeed?”—retorted that lady, in a chill unpromising voice; “but dreams, as of course you are aware, always go by contraries.” Which was a severe snub for Miss Augusta, who sat quenched, and crimson. “I wish I knew what to give the Dixons,” proceeded Miss Brabazon, returning to the charge, with her pen again uplifted in the air, “they had a warming-pan last year, you know. Eh!”

“It’s no matter what you give any of them,” returned her niece irritably, “they will grumble all the same! I never knew such a set! If the weather is fine they want rain, if it is wet, they want fine weather; give them coals, they wanted money; money, they wanted coals. They would grumble in Heaven; for if they managed to get there by the strait way, they would think it a hardship that the broader road had not answered equally well.”

“Gussie, my dear! how can you be so irreverent?” exclaimed her aunt in a tone of pious horror. “You young people of the present day are really——”

“Most unaccountable,” snapped out Augusta, reckless of her words, seizing her muff, and jumping up as she spoke; and having taken an abrupt leave of her companion she departed; secretly, sorely disappointed that her aunt had not met her views with regard to the sealskin. “Horrid, stingy old thing,” she said, as she permitted herself the pleasure of slamming the front door. “I would not have helped her, and slaved with her lists, if I had not thought she was sure to be in a good humour! If she gives me a trumpery desk, or a nasty little work-basket, I shall not take it—that I shan’t,” quoth Miss Brabazon, half aloud, as she stalked home through the frost, her little heart swelling high with virtuous indignation and a sense of underrated merit.

Miss Jane’s Christmas party this season had been on a scale of unusual magnificence; she had even condescended to borrow a silver cake-basket, and two pairs of candlesticks, and some dozen spoons, from Baronsford; and Nokes had started early in the afternoon, in her best black alpaca, and in charge of the plate, to help the servants at the White House, she said,—but in reality, to spend a couple of hours in sprightly dalliance with invulnerable Mr. Cox.

At half-past eight punctually, Florian, Gussie, and Haidée assembled in the hall with gloomy faces, and an interchange of critical and not, strictly speaking, complimentary remarks, anent each other’s appearance. Mrs. Brabazon was not at home,—and at the last moment, Teddy arrived, with his head tied up in flannel, and an expression of heart-rending anguish, on his usually beaming countenance, pleading “tooth-ache.” This statement was received with very dubious looks, and qualified expressions of belief, by his relatives; especially as they themselves were setting forth with the deepest reluctance. But to all their ejaculations of angry, and contemptuous incredulity, their brother merely replied, by holding his face in his hands, shaking his head piteously, and uttering low, agonizing, moans! Consequently, they were forced to be the bearers of his polite excuses to his aunt, and went down the avenue loudly declaring “that they did not believe Teddy had tooth-ache any more than they had, and it was very hard, they should have to go; loathing the entertainment just as much as he did, and be obliged to tell stories for Teddy, into the bargain!”

“Take notice, all of you,” said Haidée, giving her aunt’s door bell a vicious jerk as she spoke, “that I engage tooth-ache for myself next time.”

Most of the company at the White House had already arrived, when the two Miss Brabazon’s, with meek faces, and in washed white muslins, made their appearance in the drawing-room. Soon they were seated, and refreshed with tea or coffee, borne about by Cox, Miss Jane’s retainer, in a stealthy manner, on a large silver tray, and plied with cake and bread and butter, by an auxiliary buttons. Music there was: Gussie played Thalberg’s “Home, Sweet Home” with her usual brilliancy, and it proved a wonderful incentive to conversation;—before the first page was turned, there was a strong buzz of voices as a gratuitous vocal accompaniment.

Next to the piano came Mr. Bell, the rector, a cheery, broad-shouldered, ruddy-faced gentleman, who bellowed a passionate entreaty to “the maid of Athens” to restore his heart; he was in turn succeeded by two pale, plaintive-looking sisters, who executed a duet, which sounded something like a pair of angry sparrows fighting in a hedge, and was supposed by all (excepting the gentleman who turned over the leaves), to have been in Italian.

Thus St. Cecilia had been propitiated; and now the serious business of the evening commenced—cards. “Nap” was selected by the young people; whilst two solemn whist tables were set out for the elders; at which silence reigned, and gold and silver pieces shone upon the green cloth.

Miss Jane was fond of whist, and, entre nous, considered herself a first-class player. She was preparing to enjoy her rubber thoroughly; her old eyes sparkled, the corners of her mouth twitched, and her wrinkled jewelled fingers beat a slow triumphal movement on the table, for had she not cut her favourite partner, Sir Thomas Burton, and had she not three heavy trumps in her own hand! As she sat patiently waiting, (whilst old Mrs. Maxwell made up her mind between two cards,) she glanced complacently round upon her other guests. Cries of “I go two!” “I go three!” “I go nap!” came from the younger and more boisterous company. Yes! just as she liked to see it! there was Gussie banking with Mr. Vashon, and Florian beside Miss Brass. But what did Cox mean by making those mysterious signals from the door? His gestures were urgent, even violent. No angry shaking of her head availed her, she must rise and find out what he wanted. In another second, she had bustled over, cards in hand.

“A person downstairs to see me! Preposterous! I really wonder at you, Cox. You ought to know better than to bring me such a message. Tell him I’m engaged—particularly engaged,” in an angry undertone.

“But he says he won’t stir till he sees you, ma’am; and he is most owdacious in his talk; and he’s sitting in the hall as solid as a graven image.”

“Nonsense,” indignantly. “Why don’t you turn him out, or send for the police? What’s he like, eh?”

“Oh, elderly; a big man, and very shabby.”

“Most unaccountable!” she ejaculated, casting her eyes towards the card-table. “However, send him away, tell him he must go,” moving off.

“Stop, ma’am, one moment,” cried Cox in a husky whisper, “he—he—he—says he’s a relation!!”

“A what?” exclaimed Miss Jane, becoming instantly the colour of a lemon; whilst her wrinkled old taper hands trembled perceptibly, and she and the worthy Cox gazed at each other in silence for two seconds. Yes! their suspicions were the same! “Mr. Bell,” she said, accosting the rector in a quavering voice, “might I trouble you to take my hand for a few moments; I shall be back immediately;” but it was nearly half-an-hour before she returned to the card-table.

Meanwhile, her guests amused themselves quite as much as if she had been present; in fact the young people, unrestrained by her “eye,” waxed exceedingly hilarious and noisy over a wildly exciting game of “grab.” And the old people thought, and reckoned, and gazed meditatively over their spectacles, and begged to be allowed “to look at the last trick,” and won and lost, and enjoyed themselves, hugely, in their own special fashion. And a couple of firebrands sat aloof on the sofa, and talked enough scandal to take the roof off the virtuous White House; and two young people in retirement,—in a corner near the piano,—were so wrapt up in each other’s society, and the mutual interchange of soft nothings, that they were absolutely ignorant of their hostess’s absence!

After some time, Miss Brabazon returned, looking very grave indeed, and resumed her place with many apologies; but it was easy to see that her mind was distrait and preoccupied.

“I hope to mercy nothing has happened to the supper!” ejaculated one of the matrons on the sofa, as she drew her friend’s attention to their hostess’s face of unmistakable solemnity.

Sir Thomas stared at her, in indignant incredulity, and grunted, and frowned, and jerked himself up and down in his chair, as she ruthlessly trumped his very best cards, and wasted her finest suit; her play was wild, her blunders outrageous, altogether they had a bad evening, and their losses were serious! At length supper was announced, and the card-tables broke up, counted their gains or bemoaned their bad luck, and trooped down to what experience assured them would be a most recherché repast. And so it was!” But over all there hung a sense of fear, a sense of mystery their spirit daunted, “a mystery, not to be dispersed by boned turkey and dry champagne! Sir Thomas was like a thunder cloud; he had lost no less than four pounds ten. Miss Brabazon herself nobly represented the death’s head at the feast, and even Cox’s countenance wore an expression of impenetrable gloom. Yes, it was a very heavy supper indeed, in spite of the popping of corks, and a regular fusillade of crackers.

At one o’clock the guests took their departure. Our young people walked home along the hard frosty road, discussing the evening’s entertainment, with more or less animation.

“It was ten times better than the last,” said Gussie jovially. “Not half so many old caterpillars as usual, and, let me see,” reckoning to herself, “four young men, not counting you, Flo.”

“Yes, that’s the reason you liked it,” interrupted Haidée contemptuously; “and with two out of the four to talk to, one at each side of you, you were as happy as a queen, and looked like——”

“An ass between two bundles of hay,” suggested Florian languidly, removing his cheroot.

“But I was different,” proceeded Haidée, as if she had not heard this vulgar remark; “I actually lost three and ninepence at those vile cards.”

“Why did you not bank with George Jessop when he asked you?” said Gussie in a tone of friendly expostulation.

“Because I’m not like you. I don’t want strangers to pay for my losings, and I detest George Jessop!” explosively.

“You need not tell us that,” returned her sister with a giggle, “you showed it sufficiently plainly; you gave him a fine view of the back of your head most of the evening. But I quite agree with you; he is too lady-like a young man to be tolerated; he is always so very piano, that he has invariably the effect of making me tremendously forté—just to shock his delicate nerves.”

“Talking of shocks,” observed Florian, “what was the matter with our venerable relative this evening?”

“Yes. Did you remark her going out of the room? and the length of her face when she returned! She looked as if she had seen a ghost. I wonder what Cox was telling her?” exclaimed Gussie with deepening interest.

“Probably that the cook was intoxicated; or that Moses and Lady Louisa had stolen the salmon,” returned Haidée, who was now rapidly recovering from the loss of her unhappy three and ninepence.

“The supper wasn’t bad!” remarked Florian condescendingly. “I wonder where the old girl gets her champagne? But upstairs, the business was deadly. I never put in a more ghastly evening.”

“Why, I thought you seemed to enjoy it very much,” rejoined Gussie indignantly. “I heard you asking Miss Brass for her photo, and offering her a mount. You were getting on like a house on fire. You did enjoy yourself,” combatively.

“One must say something ‘pour passer le temps;’ but sitting round a table with a pack of fiddle-headed young women, playing a twopenny game of cards, is certainly not my idea of pleasure,” returned her brother loftily, as he ascended the steps, and threw open their own hall door with a loud bang. As the trio entered, a tall figure, with a flat candlestick in one hand, approached from the far side of the hall, and dramatically beckoned them towards the schoolroom! It seemed to be an old man, in shabby clothes, and his gestures were—to say the least of it—imperious and decided, as he turned once more, and gravely waved them forward.

“Who on earth is it?” whispered Gussie, turning a little pale. “A robber?”

“A lunatic, or a ghost,” suggested her sister, shrinking behind Florian, who, armed with a stout stick, was advancing rapidly—for him—on the position, or, in other words, the mysterious stranger in the schoolroom.

One bedroom candle but dimly lit up the apartment, as they entered in a compact body, and found a ragged, gaunt figure, with slouch hat, red worsted comforter, and crimson nose, standing in a magisterial attitude, with his back to the empty grate. He surveyed them calmly for some seconds, his head a little thrown back, his eyes half closed, and then with one accord the word, “Teddy,” burst from his indignant, and bewildered sisters.

“Upon my word, Teddy,” exclaimed Florian angrily, “this is very nice indeed! Are you aware that it is not Guy Fawkes day, nor even the first of April?”

To this harangue the culprit made no answer, beyond a deliberate closing of his left eye.

“So this is what you call tooth-ache!” proceeded the other, with scathing sarcasm; “dressing up and playing the fool, and shirking your social duties. Come, give us the key to the riddle. What has been your little game? What the deuce do you mean?”

“All right. Don’t hurry me, and I’ll tell you the whole story,” returned Teddy, looking round at his sisters in a condescending manner, and pulling down his ragged shirt cuffs.

“Then get on, and don’t keep us here all night,” said Gussie impatiently, now seating herself, candle in hand, whilst Haidée lit two tapers on the chimney piece to further illuminate the scene.

“Well,” clearing his throat, “to begin with; what would you take me for, all of you?” proudly surveying his audience, with his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat.

“Let’s have a look at you,” said Haidée, holding up a candle, and revealing the infirmities of Teddy’s coat and trousers; his butcher boots, battered white hat, and face deftly painted to represent age—age with a fiery nose!

“This is your coat, Flo,” he observed apologetically. “Mary sewed on the patches and I ripped up a couple of the seams. No harm done,” reassuringly. “The hat is the property of the garden scarecrow, the tie, an antimacassar——”

“But what does it all mean?” interrupted Florian, glaring at his brother resentfully. “Are we to sit here, at one o’clock in the morning, listening to the history of all the old clothes in the house?”

“Come then!” said Teddy, impetuously cocking his hat raffishly over his eyes, “What would you take me for? One at a time if you please.”

“For an idiot,” responded Florian with unusual promptitude.

“A broken down burglar, out of work,” suggested Gussie.

“An escaped convict,” chimed in Haidée.

Teddy received these doubtful, not to say left-handed compliments, with a grin of delighted complacency, and then glancing round the little circle, said impressively, “Then none of you would take me for Uncle Sandy, eh? Well,” with a triumphant chuckle, “Aunt Jane did!”

“You had better all sit down,” he continued graciously, seeing the effect of this announcement on his relations. “Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen,” waving his hand hospitably, “for it’s a long story. I’ve lately, as you are aware, been on distant, not to say delicate terms, with our respected aunt; and you, Florian, bet me half-a-crown the other day, that I would never, as long as I lived, see the colour of her money. Oblige me by handing over that half-crown. I’ve a cheque here,” producing a slip of paper, “for fifty pounds.”

“Oh, Teddy!” gasped Haidle, half rising from her chair, “then it was you who sent for her this evening. What awful thing, have you been doing now?”

“You all know,” he proceeded in a tone of easy narration, and not deigning to notice this interruption, “the family legend of Uncle Sandy? Uncle Sandy, who disappeared twenty-five years ago, and whose problematical return ‘homeless, ragged, and tanned,’ has been the one nightmare of Aunt Jane’s existence. Family black sheep business, etc.”

“Well, get on, get on, for goodness sake! You are as long winded as Mr. Bell,” urged Florian impatiently.

“It was very well, it was splendid,” bursting into a roar of laughter, whilst his audience sat by with faces of the deepest gravity and disgust.

“You know,” struggling for composure, “my talent for making up (my one talent). After your departure, I went and painted my face, and tired my head in this old wig, and succeeded beyond my warmest expectations in resembling a ruffian of the deepest dye! I then sallied forth, and made my way to the scene of revelry, and after some parley, effected a lodgment in the hall, from which vantage ground I flatly refused to retire; although Cox swore that he would bring in four coachmen and bundle me out. I assured him that if he did, I would smash the clock, barometer, and all small articles within reach, and yell fire, police, and murder, so as to bring down the whole company, including Miss Jane. Then I drew him towards me, and whispered in his disbelieving ear, the magic words, ‘gentleman,’ ‘relation,’ and in the end, he went upstairs, and actually came down with my aunt in tow! Meanwhile, I retired into the dining room, so that no profane or vulgar eye should witness the meeting between the long parted brother and sister.” Here the young gentleman was obliged to stop to take breath.

“Teddy, how you could dare!” ejaculated Haidée in a choked voice.

“Dare indeed,” contemptuously. “Well, in she came, bristling like a porcupine, but before she had time to say, ‘Jack Robinson,’ I fell upon her neck, and hugged all the breath out of her body, and asked her ‘if she had forgotten poor Sandy?’”

“Mind you,”pausing pompously,finger in air, “I did not say I was Sandy.”

“And she took you for him?” demanded his stupefied elder sister, in a tone of awed incredulity.

“She had no other alternative, my dear Augusta! I drew her down beside me, my arm enfolded round her waist, and poured a host of questions into her ear, about the family—all correct, of course. I flooded her mind with reminiscences, and gave her no time to get in a word edgeways for fully ten minutes. At last she stammered out, ‘Where had I been?’

“Where I had not been!” spreading out both his hands expansively, “was more to the purpose! Australia, New Guinea, Santa Fe de Bogota, the Laccadive Islands.”

“The Laccadive Islands!!” echoed Haidée in a tone of respectful admiration; “I don’t even know where they are!”

“Neither do I,” returned Teddy coolly, “but you must not interrupt, my good girl. And now, an old and broken man, I had come home to lay my bones beside hers. At this point, we had arrived at what, I suppose, you would call, the climax of the situation.”

Within the last few minutes, the audience had been reinforced by Nokes, who, in picturesque néglige, stood listening in speechless horror, whilst the storyteller, hat in hand, gesticulated before them, with great animation.

“I assured Miss Jane,” he proceeded glibly, “that I had no wish to detain her from her guests, but that I was ravenous, and so I was,” with an explanatory aside, “and the supper smelt uncommonly good. She could not, of course, refuse me; and in ten minutes, I had made an excellent meal—you know my capabilities—raised pie, truffled turkey, and champagne to the mast head! I then gently but firmly broke it to her, that I had pressing need of fifty pounds at once, and that from what I knew of her—which was an awful banger—she would be only too glad to have it in her power to oblige me! She was by no means as delighted as you might expect! No, by no means, by George! She is a hard one to part with her money. However, when I hinted that I would go upstairs, and mix with the company, and see some of my old friends, she caved in immediately, and scratched a cheque; and with one fond embrace, we parted, I, solemnly assuring her that she need not be uneasy, as I would look her up again soon! Whilst she was getting the cash, I pocketed half a dozen spoons, nine forks, a fish slice, and a salt cellar. Here they are,” diving into a capacious pocket and proudly producing them; “and here is the cheque; signed, Janet Brabazon!”

“Oh, Teddy, how could you?” cried Gussie, leaning back in her chair, as if she were in a condition of total mental, and physical collapse. “She will never forgive you, never. If it had been any one else but Uncle Sandy! It was too bad of you.”

“No wonder Cox was in a terrible way, poor man!” burst out Nokes explosively—Nokes, whose sketchy toilet had been eked out with a tartan shawl, which she held together with a convulsive grasp across her bosom. “With all that plate missing, he’ll never close an eye to-night! Aye,” angrily apostrophising Teddy, “deary, deary me, but you are an owdacious young gentleman!”

“Am I?” returned Teddy, coolly removing his comforter. “Audacious or not, I never had such a splendid lark in my life! I spent a delightful evening. I had a lovely time, as they say in America. Very different from yours,” glancing at his relations with an air of easy patronage. “I had an A 1 supper, if a trifle hurried; but I can do great things in ten minutes—champagne galore, and a cheque! When I came home I meant, like a kind little brother, to have waited up for you, and sprung out from some ambush in the avenue, and thus finish off the evening in a neat and symmetrical manner; but Morpheus overtook me, there,” pointing a dramatic finger to a deep arm-chair.

“And how about Nemesis?” demanded Haidée. “What of the reverse of the medal? How will you feel, when you go down to the White House to-morrow morning, restore the plate, refund the cash, and confess the hoax?”

“Oh, one of you girls, will do all that for me,” he returned carelessly, with an impudent wink at his brother.

“Will they indeed?” cried Haidée derisively. “No, no, young man, you must pull your own chesnuts out of the fire.”

“All right, then; I will write,” rejoined Teddy, with the air of a person making a handsome concession. “I suppose it would be as much as my life was worth, to wait upon her personally; but I’ve been in her black books for so long, that I may just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb! And, by the way, talking of sheep, here’s a riddle for you girls. I include you, Miss Nokes,” nodding affably in the direction of that rigid spectacle. “Why are sheep the most unprincipled of all animals? Don’t hurry yourselves; take your time.”

“Well, you are an idiot,” said his brother, now rising slowly and speaking emphatically. “Standing there like an old scarecrow, giving riddles at two o’clock in the morning! I wouldn’t be in your shoes for something, Uncle Sandy,” lounging sleepily towards the door, and nodding his adieux.

“Don’t alarm yourself! they would not fit you,” retorted Teddy, without deigning to turn his head. “Do you all give it up, eh? Because,” immediately proceeding with his riddle, “they gambol in their youth, spend all their lives on the turf, and the best of them are black legs!”

“Not at all bad, for an old black sheep like you, Uncle Sandy,” said Haidée, holding up her candle, and looking at him with an air of friendly criticism.

“Pooh,” exclaimed Gussie contemptuously, “it’s as old as the hills; ‘when is a door not a door’ style of conundrum. Come, be off to bed, both of you!” hustling her brother and sister out of the schoolroom, and driving them before her upstairs. On the landing she paused for a moment, and looking reprovingly at Teddy, said, “What will Mrs. B. say when she hears of this business?” pointing to his impersonation. “Aunt Jane will write to her, be sure.”

“She may telegraph for all I care,” interrupted Teddy recklessly, strangling a yawn as he spoke.

“I do declare, Ted, that you are too bad. As long as you can have a good laugh, you——”

“Come, come, now Miss Gussie! it’s too late an hour to stand here listening to one of your little sermons! Just let me give you one more riddle. Why was——”

But before he had time to say another word, Gussie had indignantly swept her sister into their mutual bower, and loudly banged and locked the door in his face.

Since this fatal evening Miss Brabazon had never spoken to, or alluded to, her youngest nephew; although he had returned his booty with an humble letter (jointly dictated by his sisters). So when Haidée had suggested that “he should go and spend a week with Aunt Jane,” it will be readily understood, that her resources, and expedients, were at a very low ebb!

Chapter VI

Private Brown

Ten suns had risen and set since Teddy took leave of his sister under the ash tree; and during that time, nothing whatever had been heard of him. Mrs. Brabazon never once mentioned his name, and maintained an ostentatious deportment of injured innocence—speaking in benumbing monosyllables, and generally taking her meals in her own sitting room; greatly to the relief of her stepdaughters, who talked about their missing brother, with bated breath, and minds full of misgiving, and conjecture.

At last, one morning, the news came! He had done it. Haidée knew it perfectly from her first glance at Mrs. Brabazon’s upper lip, as she entered the dining-room with a bundle of letters in her hand. The storm signal was hoisted, they might prepare for the worst; and, ridiculous as it may seem, they always expected rough domestic weather whenever Mrs. Brabazon donned a certain black foularde dress with lavender spots. All their worst quarters of an hour were connected, in their own minds, with that hateful garment.

“There will be no prayers this morning,” she said abruptly, herding the servants back into the hall with a peremptory wave of her hand. “You can all go! I am not in a fit frame of mind to go down on my knees, and ask a blessing on this house and family,” turning to her step-children with biting emphasis. “I do not know when I have been so upset as I am to-day! I suppose you have heard about your precious brother?” with a sneer specially dedicated to Haidée; and now taking her place before the teapot, as though it were a kind of judgment-seat, “he has written to you, I know, this Private Brown, of the Prince’s Lancers.”

“What!” cried Florian, startled out of his usual lethargy. “Oh, nonsense! you don’t mean to say that the idiot has enlisted!”

“He has,” she returned with vicious energy. “He is now a soldier in the ranks; a common soldier,” she reiterated forcibly.

This was not such a startling announcement to Haidée as it was to her brother and sister, who sat staring at one another in incredulous amazement.

“Well, of all the idiots!” ejaculated Florian contemptuously.

“He has disgraced us,” continued Mrs. Brabazon hoarsely, snatching up the sugar tongs in a kind of blind fury, and commencing to make tea; but her hand shook so violently that half the lumps were scattered about the tray. “If he had gone to sea it would not have mattered; no one would have known! What will people say?” she demanded fiercely of her audience. “What are we to tell them, when they ask for him? Fancy, my step-son, your own brother, a common soldier! What will be thought of it in the county? What will Lady Trevelyan say? and Lady Lucas, and everybody?” now handing about cups, that literally rattled in their saucers. “If he was abroad, even; but in a regiment at home. I thought at the worst,” she continued excitedly, “that he was staying with some of his boon companions, some of the friends, he had picked up at the crammer’s; staying away till he had come to his senses, and was prepared to return, and make me an ample apology for his conduct. But positively, I was not prepared for this,” bringing out the “this” with a kind of hiss, and pausing for some seconds. “However, my mind is fully made up on the subject, and you all know that I am a woman of my word! He has sunk of his own accord into another—into—” correcting herself, “the lowest grade of society, and for the future he shall be dead to us,” pausing to take breath, and to glare defiantly round the petrified breakfast table. “He had every advantage,” she continued, as if arguing with some inward monitor; “and I had the promise of an excellent appointment for him on the West Coast of Africa, as deputy superintendent of a jail; but without a word he leaves my roof, and walks off and enlists as Private Brown. Such base ingratitude never was heard of! Private Brown may fancy that I shall purchase his discharge, when he is getting a little tired of his new rôle, but Private Brown he shall remain to the end of his days as far as I am concerned,” giving her chair a little jerk backwards, and once more looking impressively round her audience.

Gussie and Haidée were both in tears, and Florian was slicing the ham before him very delicately and very deliberately, with an air of deep meditation on his sallow brow.

“His name I forbid to be mentioned by any one in this house,” proceeded Mrs. Brabazon. “I forbid you girls to correspond with him, or to speak of him! Edward has as much passed out of your lives now, as if his death were in the morning’s paper. As it is, I shall not go to the Yorkes’ dinner party, and I have desired Nokes to keep all the front blinds down for three days.”

Here Haidée laughed hysterically, and at once brought the whole storm upon her unlucky head (acting as a kind of lightning conductor, to Mrs. Brabazon’s wrath).

“You laugh! you dare to laugh, miss! but it is only what I would expect from you. I believe you were in his confidence, and knew all about it. I’m sure you encouraged him in his abominable conduct. You and he have always been a heavy trial to me. Little do the outer world know what I have to put up with; and how defiant and insolent you can be. It makes me feel quite ill to hear people saying what a quiet, retiring looking girl Miss Haidée Brabazon is. Ah! I think to myself, if they only knew her in private life. Still waters run deep—the temper of a fiend—the tongue of a fishwife.”

The young lady with these delightful attributes made no sign, no reply; she sat with her untasted breakfast before her, her face on fire, her eyes on her plate, her heart in her mouth. Hard words, as Gussie said, broke no bones, but then Gussie had never been compared to either a fiend or a fish-wife!

You had a letter this morning too,” proceeded Mrs. Brabazon; “be so good as to hand it over,” extending, as she spoke, a large bony member glittering with rings.

“I cannot, Mrs. Brabazon,” replied Haidée tremulously, “it—it—is private,” glancing appealingly at her step-mother.

“And full of abuse of me no doubt. Well, you may keep it” (making a virtue of necessity), “and make much of it, for it is the last you will receive! Every other I find in the post-bag I shall burn. Mark my words! into the fire it goes.”

“Florian and Gussie,” said Haidée timidly, glancing from her brother to her sister, “are neither of you going to say anything? Won’t you speak for Teddy?” she asked piteously, “or is it to be left to me?”

Evidently it was, for a dead silence followed her appeal, Florian merely helping himself to mustard with an air of great dignity, and Gussie burying her face once more in her pocket handkerchief.

“Mrs. Brabazon,” she continued, her courage now wound up by a superhuman effort, looking at her step-mother with a fiery spot on either cheek, and speaking in a clear, but rather shaky voice, “surely you cannot forget that Teddy is our brother, and will always be so as long as he lives. He is not dead to us, at least, he is not dead to me, and I hope he will be spared for the next fifty years,” gaining boldness as she went on, and speaking in a firmer tone. “I think it only right and honourable to tell you, that I will never give him up; that I shall write to him, and receive his letters, and meet him, and speak to him, whenever I get the chance! His being a private makes no difference whatever; he is my brother all the same. It was not his fault he could not pass; he did try, and he wanted so much to be a soldier.”

Gussie stared at her sister with mingled awe and amazement and respect; but Haidée had always been courageous, even from the time when she could hardly toddle—there was a family legend that she had slapped Aunt Jane’s face for calling her (wrongfully) a story-teller—to the other day, when she had dragged off a huge bull dog who was about to murder their beloved Woggy; and here she was now, certainly looking both red and frightened, but all the same, taking up the cudgels for Teddy, and braving Mrs. Brabazon to her face!

“What do you say to this tirade, Augusta?” demanded that lady, turning on Gussie with a portentous frown.

“I think it is all very dreadful about Ted, of course,” she stammered; “but he is my brother,” looking hard at Haidée, as though endeavouring to borrow some of her spirit. This was really valiant on the part of Gussie, who had about as much moral courage as a titmouse.

“And you, Florian?” demanded Mrs. Brabazon, in an awful hollow voice.

“Oh!, if you want my opinion,” returned that gentleman, carefully stirring his tea, “ I think Ted is a confounded ass, and has made a regular fool of himself, and all that sort of thing, and it’s no end of a bore,” irritably. “Why couldn’t he go to the Gold Coast, or into an office? I wash my hands of him just as much as you do, Mrs. Brabazon. I would pass him now, if I met him in the street!” pulling up his collar as he spoke, and feeling that he was a very important, dignified, illustrious young man!

“Oh, Flo!” exclaimed his youngest sister reproachfully.

“Now you have your brother’s opinion, Haidée, the opinion of the head of the house, I hope you are satisfied,” said Mrs. Brabazon, with malicious triumph. “You see he is, as usual, quite of my way of thinking! If Teddy had behaved respectably I know that Florian would have done something for him, and used his interest with his influential friends; he has always been such a good, generous brother”—speaking as if he were not present.

This was gall and wormwood to Haidée, who mentally writhed as she listened, knowing so well in her heart that, all his life, Teddy had been Naboth to Florian’s Ahab; from his tenderest years, when his best and indeed only toy, was annexed to appease the screams of his senior, down to the other day, when Florian had calmly appropriated his brother’s gun, and shot all the best covers, in company with a party of his “influential” friends, whilst Teddy had merely the questionable satisfaction of “looking on.” And Flo’s generosity was over stated; it was chiefly represented by the gift of a broken fishing-rod, a pair of top boots much too small for himself, and a couple of o’er-gaudy ties.

Mrs. Brabazon indulged Florian’s overweening self-esteem with these kind of pleasant titillations. He liked to pose as a man of influence and importance; he liked to imagine that every one was looking up to him, craving his notice. It was really an improving spectacle, to see him walking down Piccadilly, with his head held high in the air, and a vacant abstracted eye, that seemed to say, “You may all admire me if you choose; I don’t mind!”—His wily step-mother understood the mechanism of his little brain. She had not managed his prototype, her husband, for five years for nothing. Florian was “Mr. Brabazon of Baronsford,” as he took care to let it be known. He was the heir, her necessary ally.

She treated him en Prince during his short visits, and he saw everything coleur de rose. He did not know of the pinching, and scraping, and petty economies, that were carried for ten months out of the year. He looked upon his brother, and sisters, as discontented, thankless, good-for-nothing grumblers.

Thus Teddy fell into disgrace with his people; his name was erased from the family roll, and written down, instead, in nearly every one’s black book. We may just as well read the letter which Haidée has refused to submit to Mrs. Brabazon, and find out how he is getting on.

“From 5371, Private E. Brown, C Troop, Prince’s Lancers, York, to Miss H. Brabazon, Baronsford, Thornshire.

“My dear Haidle,

“It is more than a week since I took the shilling, and have been a full-blown soldier. I am shaking down at last, and getting quite accustomed to my new life. I like the colonel and officers, and hit it off very well with the men. At present I am deep in the mysteries of foot drill, and the next step will land me in the riding-school. I had to go before a magistrate, and sign a paper swearing that I had never been sentenced to penal servitude, or married (same thing), and a lot of other rum questions. Then I passed the doctor, with flying colours, was taken to the quarter-master’s stores, and rigged out, received my regimental number, and was told off to a squad, and I am pretty busy all day, for, besides drill, I have three horses to clean. Seriously, Haidée, and on my word of honour, I am glad I enlisted, even now when it is all so strange. So never fret for me, and when you do think of me, think of me as having taken the first step on the road to fortune. ‘Ce n’est que le premier pas qui coute.’ Is that spelled right? Never mind, you know what I mean. It took me two or three days to fall in with the washing arrangements, and wait my turn at the tap; and I found dinner at 12.45 instead of at 8 p.m. rather a floorer; but these are little details I shall soon be accustomed to, and I have always (as you know) had a first-class appetite at any hour. I have indited a letter to Mrs. B., telling her of the evil thing I have done (looked at from her point of view). I rather fancy my epistle will act as a moral explosive, so stand clear! I return your money, dear old girl. I do not want it, and if I did, I would not take it; I know you are short enough. But if you like to employ your leisure moments in knitting me some stout worsted socks, I shall accept them with gratitude, also as many letters as you like to send me, and now and then a ‘Thornshire Spy,’ to keep me posted up in local news. How is Woggy? does he miss me much? but, bless his heart, of course he does! Love to you and Gus.

“Your affectionate brother,

“Teddy B.”

Chapter VII

Climbing the Ladder

Teddy’s letter was certainly very cheerful, but Haidée was not so easily reassured; more especially as Mrs. Brabazon set her vigorous mind to work to, as it were, stamp out the memory of the Prodigal son. His room was, so to speak, razed and rendered unrecognizable; his precious fossils, stuffed birds, and eggs, were thrown into the dust-bin, the furniture scattered to the four parts of the house, the apartment, swept, and garnished, and purified, became the bower of the respectable Nokes; his clothes—shabby and well worn, were bestowed upon the first happy beggars who chanced to pass that way; his photo was publicly withdrawn from the family album, and solemnly committed to the flames; his dog would have been disposed of to the same people who were endowed with his wardrobe, only for Haidée—she positively made a stand there. To quote Mrs. Brabazon, “she was downright violent,” and declared that, if the dog went, she went too! So her stepmother, merely contented herself with snatching off his collar, and throwing it into the drawing-room fire. This deed brought its own immediate Nemesis, for she had to put up with a hideous odour of burnt leather for the remainder of the afternoon.

Thus Teddy was socially obliterated, and, in time, out of sight became out of mind. The neighbours believed that he had got into some terrible scrape, and been shipped off to foreign parts (a low marriage, forgery, debt, were some of their amiable surmises), and, in time, his existence was entirely forgotten. For twenty-four hours subsequent to his brother’s disgrace, Florian was morose and unusually irritable, but this was the only tribute he paid to the memory of the late Edward Brabazon. He was too inert, and too intensely selfish, to care for any one but himself; his whole affections were centred on his own plain person; and as long as he was fed, and clothed, to his liking, had a good brand of cigars, sufficiency of ready money, and was “let alone,” he did not care two straws if his brother was a chimney-sweep (provided no one knew it); and if his sisters led a monotonous vegetable life all the year round at Baronsford, working and mending, making preserves, and knitting stockings, it was a very sensible existence! There were too many girls in society as it was; and if they were brought up to town, they would only be getting their heads filled with nonsense and extravagant ideas—ideas which could not possibly be carried out, for Mrs. Brabazon had gravely impressed upon him, more than once, that his large allowance (which she did not grudge, as he had a position to maintain), left no margin for much outlay on the younger members of the family. This was quite obvious and easy to understand; so the Miss Brabazons were left, like two roses, to blush unseen, in a rural neighbourhood, whilst their elder brother, whom they nick-named “London’s Pride,” flaunted on the top of coaches in the Row, on race stands, in ball-rooms and theatres, contributing but little to the gay world beyond his drawl and his languid person, his studied get-up, and a continual conjugation of the verb “To Bore”—I am bored, he bores, it bores, ye or you bore, they bore. So much for Florian! In a very short time, he had stowed his brother away in the lumber closet of his not very roomy mind, and so, I deeply regret to add, had Gussie! For about a fortnight she was in miserably low spirits, for her; and then, a new curate (and embryo admirer) coming upon the scene, and her brain being similarly constituted to Teddy’s—incapable of containing two ideas simultaneously—her brother was cast out, and only brought forward now and then, during melancholy tête-à-têtes with Haidée. In the end, it was Haidée and Woggy who kept his memory green. Woggy was a rough-haired white terrier, with a yellow patch over one eye (which gave it the effect of being much smaller than the other, and a chronic wink); he was also remarkable for a short brisk tail, exactly resembling a shaving brush; and a constant heart. For days, after Teddy’s departure, he diligently searched the fields, the garden, the village, or he lay outside his master’s door, flat on the mat, with his nose glued to the threshold, indulging in long exhaustive sniffs, and totally oblivious of his dinner. Think of this, ye human friends!! Finally, wearied out by hours of watching and waiting, he would throw back his head, and open his mouth, and howl in this fashion:—-- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh— o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh— o-o-o-o-oh! At last, when time went on and brought him nothing but several severe thrashings from the angry Miss Nokes, armed with a nasty knobby hearth-brush, he relinquished his post, and threw himself on Haidée, for sympathy and protection. He would sit gazing at her with eager, questioning, clear, brown eyes, that surely spoke, if ever eyes spoke, and said, “Where is he? Where is he? When is he coming back?”

So Haidée and Woggy sympathized with each other, and many were the hopes, and wishes, and fears, she breathed into his friendly ear, although he was only a dog.

*  *  *

Nearly two years had passed since Teddy enlisted, and during these two years there have been some little changes even at Baronsford. Haidée was now nineteen, prettier than ever, but stiff and shy in general society, viz. a few garden parties, chiefly composed of ladies, schoolboys and curates, in summer; and Christmas Tree festivities in winter. Gussie, on the contrary, seemed born for the social circle, was always the centre of a little knot of swains on these occasions, and had played havoc with the affections of several too susceptible young men. Mrs. Brabazon still frequented stately houses and stately dinner tables, and had saved a sum of money that would have made Miss Jane exclaim “most unaccountable,” had she seen her banker’s book, and that quite entitled her to the serious consideration of elderly impecunious bachelors. Time has not stood still with Teddy. Here is his last letter. It lies on the schoolroom table beside Haidée, as she stands with her head held meditatively on one side, and a huge pair of scissors in her hand, contemplating a large paper pattern, and a pile of black cashmere, preparatory to plunging into the dangerous, and delicate task, of cutting out a bodice.

“From Troop-Sergeant Brown, York, to Miss H. Brabazon.

“My dear Haidée,

“Always the culprit! you need not tell me that! I’ve written to you at least ten times in imagination; long letters, too, but I suppose that does not count. The fact is, I have hardly a moment to myself, I am so busy; but never too busy to read your effusions. The very sight of your hand (and what a jam-crock one it is!) always gives me a kind of glow. I have news for you, good news. You know that for a long time I was instructor in the riding-school (I did not break in Farmer Fleury’s long-tailed colts for nothing, you perceive), and now I am promoted to be troop-sergeant, which, by the way, I suppose is Greek to you, old lady; but I dare say your mind can grasp the word ‘promotion.’ I am getting up the ladder at last. The colonel hinted to me, the other day, that, if I went on as I had commenced, he would be happy to recommend me for a commission; so we begin to see daylight! I don’t mind telling you now, that it is all over, that it was not strictly speaking a bed of roses, just at first. There was a sergeant in my troop, who was death on gentlemen. He hated me with the purest hatred, honoured me with a double dose of his aversion, and nearly played ‘old scratch’ with all my little prospects. I dare say I looked ‘insubordinate,’ as he said; and may have used grossly improper language to my superior officer. Superior! I wish you saw him!—a fellow with a figure like a frog, and a face red enough to set the whole barracks in a blaze. ‘How often, oh, how often,’ as the song says, was I sorely tempted to fall upon him and smite him, till my arm ached; but I restrained myself miraculously, and between you and me, it was just as well I did. Privates are not supposed to give way to their feelings in that style, the sequel is usually six months’ imprisonment with hard labour, and promotion backwards. I worked hard, and did my best to hold my tongue. My friend said he would ‘’umble my ’aughty spirit,’ but he didn’t—it’s just as flourishing as ever; nay, not though I carried coal for six days out of the seven, and was stuck on every fatigue; you don’t know what that kind of fatigue is, but no matter. I am A 1 at pipe-claying, polishing, and burnishing my accoutrements, all of which I could do by deputy, if I chose to pay three shillings a week, but that’s not my form. I undertook to go into the ranks, and do my duty there, and my duty includes these little items. I pull along all right with the men; they are a capital set of fellows; they call me Lord Brown. How deeply gratified Mrs. B. would be if she were to hear them! I was only plain ‘Mister’ in my former state, so you see I have had a rise in life!—I am a first-class groom, though self-praise is no praise; I can turn out a horse in a manner, that would bring the tears of envy to John Jacobs’ eyes. I have a beautiful brown mare, a trooper of course, Irish, six years old, and in my humble opinion the handsomest animal in the ranks. She used to be a regular devil, and would have taken about four men and a small boy to hold her on some occasions, but now she is a reformed character, thanks to me! I put her through the school myself, and I’ve taught her lots of pretty tricks; she can bow, shake hands, pick up your handkerchief, and follows me about like a dog; besides all this, is a clipping jumper, with a great turn of speed. I call her ‘Kathleen’ (I couldn’t call her ‘ Haidée,’ it is such a rum name), and she is brown by nature. There is another gentleman in my troop, a little fellow of the name of Gibson, a duffer like myself; he and I are great chums, and take our walks abroad in company. I hope to see you early in the autumn, before we embark for foreign service; we are next on the roster. I shall come down, and lie perdu at Mother Swoffer’s; it would never do for you to be seen parading about in public with a sergeant of lancers!!! It will be a case of ‘meet me by moonlight alone,’ but that will be better than nothing. Only fancy, Haidée, I’ve not spoken to a lady for two years. Give my love to Gussie and Aunt Jane. Do you know that she sent me £25 lately in a very crabbed little letter. Never mind; she shall be proud of me yet. How is that old—no adequate word at hand—Nokes? Has she succeeded in snaring the wily Cox? She’d better look sharp, for she is getting rather long in the tooth. There’s the tattoo! I’m off!

“Your affectionate brother,

“Teddy B.”

Chapter VIII

Uncle George’s Legacy

“She hasn’t been here, has she?” panted Gussie, thrusting an eager red face inside the schoolroom door. “No,” with a gesture of relief, “I see she has not!” now introducing her whole person in walking costume; tossing off her hat, as she subsided into the nearest chair, and altogether presenting an aspect of the wildest excitement. “You haven’t heard it?” she gasped, still breathing quickly. “I thought I’d be the first. I ran,” putting her hand to her side. “Such news!”

“Upon my word, Gussie,” said her sister, slowly raising herself from a stooping attitude, and gazing at her with calm dispassionate eyes; “you only want a personal attendant, and a few straws in your hair, to look a complete lunatic.”

“But you haven’t heard my news! You don’t know what I have to tell you!” returned Miss Brabazon exultantly.

“Your news!” contemptuously. “I know the style so well! Mrs. Bell has got a new bonnet, and all Maxton is shaken to its centre. Just let me get round this corner first,” proceeding to clip, clip, clip, with steady scissors. “Break it to me gently, or who knows but it may incapacitate me for work for the rest of the afternoon. You are about to inform me, that Lady Louisa has had a fit, or—or—could it be that Mr. Vashon has again made you an offer of his hand and heart.”

“You are getting quite hot, I declare! quite hot!” cried Gussy, rubbing her hands ecstatically. “It’s a wedding in the family, but I am not to be the victim.”

“No?” in an accent of surprise; “then it must be Flo?”

“No, no, no,” each “no” louder than its predecessor.

“You don’t mean to say that Mrs. Brabazon——” with a gesture of horror.

“Not Mrs. Brabazon,” laughing and still rubbing her hands, “though I would not mind if it was! I would ‘give her away’ with pleasure. Try again.”

“Then there’s no one left but Aunt Jane,” said Haidée, looking at her sister dubiously.

“And pray what do you call yourself, my dear?” impressively.

“I call myself a foolish young person, who has just cut this sleeve the wrong way of the stuff,” holding it up with a face of disgust.

“Haidée!” exclaimed her sister impatiently, “put that rubbish down this very instant, and listen to me.”

“I know—I know!” she interrupted, nodding her head, and smiling complacently; “how stupid of me! Of course I know! it’s Nokes; better late than never!”

“No, it is not Nokes; it is you—you, who are going to be married. Now then,” folding her arms, pursing out her under lip, and shaking her fringe, with a gesture of decision.

I?” pausing and surveying her sister with bewildered eyes, her mouth slightly parted, and the scissors in her hand to match. After a silence of a clear sixty seconds, she found speech. “Only that I know that you are almost a teetotaller, my good girl, your whole appearance and conversation would warrant the suspicion that you had been visiting the Barley Mow.”

“Barley Mow or not, you are going to be married, Miss Haidée Brabazon!”

“Well, if I am, it is certainly the first I have heard of it,” ironically, “which is curious, not to say unusual. And pray who is to be the happy bridegroom? Have I the pleasure of knowing him, even by sight?”

“No, you have not,” exultantly. “Yes, yes!” hurriedly, in answer to the expression of her companion’s face. “I’m quite sane and perfectly serious, although it sounds quite too unaccountable, as Aunt Jane would say; but,” clearing her throat, “you are aware that Uncle George is dead.”

“Well,—considering that I’ve known that fact for quite three weeks, and that I am at present making our mourning, your news is something astonishing!!” sarcastically. “Uncle George is dead; I’m going to be married! Do try and think of something else, or is it a new game?”

“Be quiet, Haidée; you are just as bad as Teddy,” irritably. “The will has been found, after a long search, in a coat pocket—of all places! and particulars have come by the afternoon post. Mr. Bell has been over to Byford and brought our letters——”

“But to the point, my good girl, if there is one!” impatiently.

“The point is, that he has left two hundred a year to Sopp, and the parrot, twenty pounds to each of us for a mourning ring——”

“And this has turned your head,” broke in her sister. “How I wish he had left us the money instead!”

Do let me finish,” cried Gussie, with an angry little stamp. “I want to be the first to tell you! I’ve kept the last as a kind of plum; listen,” gesticulating excitedly. “All his money in the funds, forty thousand pounds, goes to you and Miles Brabazon; and here is the cream of the whole thing, provided—you—marry—each—other within six months of his disease, or decease—whichever it is! Now, is not that news for you? What do you call that but a wedding in the family?” she demanded triumphantly of her sister, who, suddenly dropping the scissors, with a loud clang, stood staring at her with pale wide-eyed astonishment.

“It is not true! I don’t believe it! It’s a joke,” she said at last in a faint voice, after gazing at Gussie for some seconds, with a look of horrified incredulity.

“It’s quite, quite, true; beautifully, delightfully true!” returned that young lady, jumping nimbly up. “Come and let us have a dance of jubilee,” humming a waltz, and seizing her stupefied sister round the waist, and beginning to whirl her about the room.

“Stop, stop, stop, Gussie!” she cried breathlessly; “are you in your right senses?” holding her fast, and gazing into her flushed face and sparkling eyes. “You cannot be serious? Just let me look at you?” drawing her towards the window.

“Perfectly serious,” she panted, “and nearly out of my mind with joy! You will have a nice little house in town, a Victoria for the park, lots of dances and dinners, at which your elder sister, charming Miss Brabazon, will be the piece de résistance,” and there will be the end of all this,” suddenly making a swoop on the table, gathering the new black cashmere into one huge wisp, and tossing it contemptuously into a corner of the room, whilst Haidée stood by, in silence, endeavouring to collect her scattered ideas, and to realize Gussie’s news.

“If you don’t do as you are bid, like good children,” she continued, “you and Miles, all the money goes to found a college in Calcutta, for natives who wish for an English education. Did you ever hear of such a funny will?”

“Poor old gentleman! I always thought he was odd; very queer indeed,” returned her sister slowly; “but I never knew that he was quite crazy. What a pity he did not leave his money to an hospital, or a school at home, instead of to these heathen.”

“Heathen!” echoed Gussie shrilly; “and pray is that what you call yourself and Miles!! He is in Burmah, I believe. I wonder what he will think of his legacy,” looking at her sister with her head on one side.

“Think—what every one must think,” returned Haidée decidedly, “that Uncle George was mad!”

“Not a bit of it, my dear. I grant you, he was odd, eccentric. Mrs. B. once wanted Aunt Jane, and Flo, to have him looked after, and locked up; but it would have been utter nonsense. Because a man wears queer clothes, and devours hot curries, and Arabian, and Persian, love tales, it does not naturally follow that he is a lunatic! He was perfectly well able to manage his affairs, and was as sharp about money as Mrs. Brabazon herself!”

“Well, it’s no business of mine,” said Haidée, shrugging her shoulders; “only I’m sorry he made such a ridiculous will.”

“Ridiculous will!” cried Gussie. “What do you mean? It’s a beautiful will. Don’t tell me, that you are not going to marry Miles Brabazon, not going to jump at him, and the legacy.”

“I certainly am not. What a way you talk. Jump, indeed!” getting rather red, and stooping to pick up her scattered work. “I would not marry him, on any account,—nor he me;—we are not crazy! We have not, as the French say, ‘Spiders in our garrets,’ like poor old Uncle George.”

“He will marry you fast enough, once he sees you,” observed Gussie decisively. “I don’t know any one as pretty anywhere—though you are my own sister, and I say it as shouldn’t. Everybody thinks you are the prettiest girl in Thornshire,” boastfully.

“The prettiest girl in Thornshire” took not the least notice of this brilliant compliment, but began to shake out, fold up, and put away, her unfortunate work, evidently incapacitated for any further industry that afternoon.

Gussie’s sisterly partiality was certainly excusable. Haidée Brabazon was a very pretty girl. Her eyes alone would distinguish her from the crowd; dark, dancing, mischievous blue eyes, as bright as diamonds, as truthful as a lake that mirrors the sky, with straight delicate brows and long thick lashes, curling upwards at the tips; a chiselled nose, and a dazzling complexion (with just a few freckles), were among her most striking charms. She had besides quantities of wavy brown hair, with a dash of gold through it, which she wore drawn off her face (for Miss Jane looked upon fringes as absolutely improper)—though half a dozen rollicking little curls had edged themselves down to peep over her milk-white forehead. Her mouth was well cut, and merry, but not specially small, and with all its lurking smiles, there was a possibility of decision in its curves; add to this a tall, straight, slight figure, and Haidée’s portrait is complete.

“The fairy godmother behaved nobly to you,” continued Gussie, gazing exhaustively at her sister. “She gave you one splendid gift—beauty.”

“Beauty!” contemptuously, “opinions may differ about that. And even supposing I was a second Venus, what good would it do me? I would much rather have brains; people only stare very hard at me when I go into Byford, and if I were a dwarf, or a giantess, they would stare just the same. I suppose,” frankly, “I am good-looking; but what is the use of this ‘gift,’ as you call it? Aunt Jane preaches about ‘beauty being a snare,’ and shakes her head suggestively at me. Mrs. Brabazon declares that I spend hours before the glass, and prophesies that in ten years’, time, I shall be an enormously stout plain woman! Now, no one ever says these disagreeable things to you.”

“Nonsense! nonsense!” impatiently; “Mrs. B. is madly jealous of you, that’s all. Aunt Jane is as proud as a peacock of her pretty niece. Your face has not been of any account to you so far, because it is so seldom seem, and then under some dowdy old hat. Nevertheless, the fame of your charms has been noised abroad, and even throws a glamour over my appearance. We are spoken of, in our limited circle, as the beautiful Miss Brabazons, and very limited it is, thanks to Mrs. B.,” indignantly.

“Who told you that we were spoken of as the beautiful Miss Brabazons?”

“Amy Bell’s cousin, Miss Kane.”

“Oh! I hope you said something equally pretty to her. From what I know of her, she quite expected a return in kind.”

This suggestion was contemptuously pooh-poohed by her companion, who went on to say—“When I had my little fling in London at the Staffords’ last spring, I was really made a great deal of, and made the most of my opportunities,” giggling with comfortable complacency.

“I would not boast of that,” rejoined her sister austerely. “You returned home engaged to two people; and I believe the Stafford boys came to blows about you. You will never be asked there again! No wonder—-”

“Nonsense, my dear! You must not lecture your elder sister! And what was I saying? Oh, this: when I was—well, we will say—appreciated,” modestly, “I, who am as the moon to your sun! what would not you be? I often asked myself the question. I saw no one—no one, speaking impartially—fit to hold a candle to you; not even that American girl they were making such a fuss about. She was all eyes and teeth! And to return to my original topic, if Miles Brabazon is not impressed, I am,” pausing for an appropriate, and forcible simile.

“A goose,” suggested her sister. “Don’t talk rubbish to me,” about beauty, or this Miles Brabazon,” impatiently; “talk of something else, by way of a change. For instance, what did the fairy give you, pray?”

“Sense, my gentle sister; sound, common sense,” with amiable self-satisfaction.

“Indeed!! Well, I should never have guessed it,” sarcastically. “You don’t mean to say, that you have a larger supply than I have?”

“I should humbly hope so,” expressively. “Why, you have none! You always brave Mrs. B. when she runs counter to your principles, as you call them, instead of smiling sweetly, and holding your tongue, like me! You never propitiate her with little compliments and sugared speeches, nor make well-chosen offerings to the faithful Nokes.”

“No, nor never will,” indignantly.

“But these are the things, my daughter, that grease the wheels of life’s chariot.”

“And you call that sense?” cried Haidée, with a curl of her lip.

“Yes, sense,” complacently.

“I call it hypocrisy,” returned her companion indignantly.

“Oh, fie! what a horrid name; but you may call it anything you please. If you would only bend that long stiff neck of yours; you would show your prudence! instead of being led a life, and being our family ‘Cinderella.’ You have to sew, and work, and weed; you are left alone in your glory; whilst I am taken out to sun myself in the smiles of society. This little pig,” patting herself affectionately, “goes to market; that,” pointing to her sister, “little pig stays at home. You go scraping along on your twenty pounds a year, with your incubus of old pensioners, and you lead a dog’s life. Woggy has a far better time! And now, when a chance comes of getting away from all that,” waving her hand dramatically towards the drawing-room, “your pride is up in arms at once. Do you call that sense? I call it simply wicked folly. I call it flying in the face of Providence!” concluded Gussie piously.

To this exhortation, her companion made no reply, and she took up her parable once more.

“What’s that line about ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,’ and of course women——”

“Oh, for mercy sake I leave Shakespeare alone,” interrupted Haidée, in a tone of exasperation, “and do try and concentrate your energies in your own legacy. Mine is a dead letter!”

“A dead fiddlestick,” rejoined the irrepressible Augusta, now suddenly breaking into song, “He will return, I know he will,” she chanted in a high, shrill soprano. “He is sure to come here. Yes, I see it all beautifully in my mind’s eye. When he arrives, I shall take him privately aside, and tell him of all your good qualities, ditto Flo, and ditto Aunt Jane. Then we will go in quest of you, and entice you as far as the drawing-room door. After a short scuffle, we will thrust you headlong into the room, with dishevelled hair, and face the colour of pickled cabbage. He will see you, and once he sees you, all will be well!”

“In spite of the pickled cabbage complexion, and hair like a haystack!” rejoined Haidée contemptuously. “That mental optic of yours is a wonderful organ, but for once it is wrong; he will never see me,—never!”

“I remember him quite well,” continued Gussie vivaciously. “He was here about ten years ago, when you were nine and I was twelve. Alack, alas! how old I am getting, and nobody coming to marry me,” nobody coming to woo!”

“And whose fault is that? Two of Mr. Bell’s curates have gone away broken-hearted, and he has had to give up having single men. And as to Mr. Vashon!” As to Mr. Vashon, seemingly, words failed her.

“Never mind him,” interrupted Miss Brabazon briskly; “we will go on with a much more interesting subject—Miles. I recollect, he came to Aunt Jane’s to say good-bye, and he asked me to kiss him, and of course I wouldn’t, and he chased me round the garden and over the flower beds, and caught me. I’m not quite sure, but I think he was dark,” reflectively, “and rather nice.”

“I hope to goodness he may catch you and kiss you again,” said her sister wrathfully. “Happy thought—why should he not marry you? You who have such pleasing recollections of him!” in a withering tone.

“Because I’m not selected. I’m not his co-legatee! Ah! I always knew that that umbrella business had made your fortune!”

“Fortune! a pretty fortune! a fortune I renounce most decidedly. Had I known that such a—a legacy was to be the result of my civilities, I would have thrown his old gamp out of the window, and his hat after it. Yes, and his red silk handkerchief, and snuff-box to boot!”

“Gently, gently, my dear; you must not say such terrible things! Wait till Aunt Jane gets hold of you, not to speak of Mrs. B. How delighted she will be to get you married!” theatrically casting up eyes and hands.

Will she?” defiantly. “She may drag me bound to the foot of the altar, and gagged into the bargain, but I shall shake my head in a way that there will be no mistaking.”

“If you do, I shall immediately recommend your being put into a reserved compartment in the next train, and sent straight off to Earlswood,” said her sister in a tone of stern determination.

After this remark there was a somewhat lengthy silence, during which Haidée fidgeted with the ornaments on the chimney-piece, tore up a letter, and began to make it into spills, and then Gussie spoke again. Sweet, very sweet to her, was the sound other own voice.

“Don’t you think, Haidée,” she asked diffidently, “that we might have a little jollification in here, on the strength of this grand piece of news? Tea all by ourselves, and some of those hot cakes that you are so fond of? I’ll just go and sound Nokey,” rising and picking up her hat.

“One for me, and two for yourself! Have your tea and cakes by all means, my dear, if you can get them,” sarcastically; “but pray don’t dedicate your little feast to me,” nor have a jollification on my account! The very idea of the legacy makes me feel hot all over; it’s like a kind of bad dream, or a story about another person! it’s—it’s—frightful!”

“Well, well, never mind,” said Gussie soothingly; “we will have a little debauch, on the strength of my mourning ring; you can’t object to that!”

“Gussie,” ejaculated her sister in a shocked voice, “I’m certain you would be in your element at an Irish wake, and would dance a jig in the room with the coffin.”

“Troth and I would, me lady,” adopting a rich brogue; “I’d take the floor in style, and see if I wouldn’t get some one, to draw down a match for me.”

“Gussie!” But Gussie was gone.

Chapter IX


Let us now adjourn to British Burmah, and pay a visit to the other legatee, Captain Miles Brabazon. A single flight of imagination will land us in Rangoon, without undergoing forty days’ torture on the high seas. We escape the too notorious Bay of Biscay, the not always blue Mediterranean, the scorching Red Sea, and the chance of meeting a cyclone tearing up the Bay of Bengal. No rickety “sampan” need take us ashore from the Glasgow steamer; we are there already! We have left Baronsford in the month of April (a late spring) when the trees were just beginning to clothe themselves scantily in new green suits, the grass was short and bare, and the primroses were peeping timidly out underneath the hedgerows, in spite of a steel-coloured sky, and nipping winds.

Here we find a very different scene! A molten heaven, a penetrating royal sun, and the densest, greenest, most luxurious foliage on which our eyes have ever rested (the nearest approach to vegetation and climate is the Palm house in Kew Gardens). We observe, on all sides, strange, unfamiliar, and magnificent trees. The teak, the palmyra palm, the boo tree (or Ficus religiosa),” the neem, the bamboo, the pedouk, the tamarind, and the gorgeous gold mohur, all seen through an atmosphere, as it were quivering and tremulous with heat. The borders of the roads, as we leave the busy town for the cantonments, are edged with flowering shrubs, and the most brilliant verdure, and all manner of curious tropical plants. We pass many brown bungalows, elevated on long wooden legs—which have an indecent, short-frocked appearance to our European eyes. We pass Tommy Atkins in snow-white garb, pipe in mouth, cane in hand, and dog in wake, en route to the ever fascinating bazaar. We pass groups of gaily dressed, chattering, laughing, Burmese girls, on their way up to the “Shway Dagon” or Great Pagoda, the ubiquitous John Chinaman, with a long pole over his shoulder, hawking tea or sweets. We turn the corner of “Sandwith road,” enter a compound, and here we are at last!

*  *  *

“I only wish I had your luck, that’s all! But I always knew you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, and that Dame Fortune had her eye on you.”

The speaker, a young man in polo costume, long boots, and dangerous-looking spurs, was sitting on a teak wood table in an easy, dégagé attitude, with his cap set on the side of his close-cropped sandy head, a polo stick in one hand, and a brandy and soda in the other.

The gentleman upon whom Dame Fortune was supposed to “have her eye”—also in polo garb—was sunken in the depths of a Bombay chair, with his coat rucked up discontentedly behind his ears, and an expression of gloomy dissatisfaction upon his naturally gay and good looking countenance. He held a large blue letter in his hand, and the ground around him was littered with papers and envelopes, evidently the “Europe” mail had just come in. The young man with the brandy and soda is Mr. Gee, the other Captain Brabazon, both officers in the Royal Marchers, at present luxuriating in the climate of British Burmah. They are friends, and partners, in the straggling wooden bungalow in which we find them; which is situated close to the officers’ mess, on the left-hand side of the road, as you go up to the big Pagoda, and is known (too well known) by the name of “Tumble-down Dick,” or, as is rudely chalked above the door, “Dilapidated Richard.” A glance is sufficient to assure us that this is entirely a bachelor establishment. Mr. Gee is housekeeper, and manages the commissariat, lighting, ponies’ gram, dogs’ dinners; it is with him that their mutual butler has to deal, and a “very clever” gentleman he finds him! Captain Brabazon merely contents himself with raving at his dhoby when his shirts are not to his liking, and swearing at his syces when they provoke him to wrath. The furniture (to return from this digression) is of a rough and ready description. No elegances of any kind are scattered about, there are no pretty chair backs, there is no sofa, no piano, but we observe with a thrill of distrust, a brand new cornet, lying on a distant table; which instrument Mr. Gee is commencing to learn with great zeal and enthusiasm (needless to remark to the exquisite delight of his immediate neighbours). Night, is the time when the muse visits him—late at night; and sometimes nothing short of a boot at his head from his infuriated brother officer will silence, “The light of other days.” The walls of the sitting-room, are partly covered with trophies of the chase, stags’ heads (Taming), elephant tusks, rifles, tennis bats, snipe sticks, etc., which show that these young men find most of their amusements out of doors! They are also decorated with many sketches, in charcoal or sepia, dashed off on the wood, with wonderful spirit and effect, field-days (extravagantly burlesqued), pony races, some excellent caricatures of regimental notorieties, and a nearly life-size copy, in charcoal, of “Old Father William,” with the eel on his nose. These are Captain Brabazon’s contribution, to the adornment of the bungalow. The room opens into a long verandah overlooking a large compound shut in by many trees—mangoes, jacks, prickly pears, and bananas, of densely luxurious foliage—and commands a noble view of a range of open stables, with bamboo chicks, outside of which no less than four very trim, smart-looking ponies, are having their toilets made, with much champing, and stamping, and tail frisking.

“Luck, indeed,” growled Captain Brabazon angrily, crumpling up the letter and thrusting it into his breast pocket, “I see no luck in it; quite the other way! And as to being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I have not discovered it yet,” although I made my appearance on this planet just twenty-nine years, ago.”

“Will ye listen to him?” cried Mr. Gee, apostrophizing an enormous lizard on the ceiling—a reptile common to Burmese bungalows, and known as a “Tucktoo.” “Have you not always had enough for your modest wants?”

“That’s because they were modest,” returned the other promptly.

“Have you not had the best of health, even in this beastly climate? which is enough to undermine the constitution of a rhinoceros! Have you not had speedy promotion? Haven’t you youth?” pausing a second for breath.

“Go on, don’t shirk it? Why not say beauty at once?” suggested his companion encouragingly.

“Well, I’ll even go as far as that,” generously, “though that was not what I was going to remark; but every one knows, yourself included, that you’re a deuced good-looking fellow, and quite one of our show men—as you hint!”

“I never hinted anything of the sort,” returned his friend indignantly, now searching for his cigar-case; “but go on. Anything else in a small way?”

“You have no debts,” blinking cheerfully.

“Not that I’m aware of, beyond my mess bill for the current month.”

“No love affairs?” experimentally.

Here Captain Brabazon was understood to thank his stars most warmly, that he had not.

“You have a brace of the best polo ponies in Burmah, and can ride them.”

“What the deuce would be the use of them, if I could not? I don’t keep them to look at, like Fordyce; couldn’t afford it,” taking his cheroot out of his mouth, and surveying the end of it, with some suspicion.

“You never get a bit of blue, like me; you are never slanged in the orderly-room, as I was this morning! And, by the same token, the old chief will go off in one of these rages, some day, if he does not mind himself. It’s dangerous for a man of his dimensions, to let his angry passions rise to such an extent in this climate, and there will be a step,” holding out his hand, as though he were offering it on the spot.

“You must remember, that I have not your extraordinary genius for practical joking, and playing the fool,” observed his friend with contemptuous irony.

“I’m not so sure of that!” winking confidentially at the Tucktoo; “however, it is admitted that you have youth, health, promotion, no debts, no love affairs, no scrapes, and you have actually the cheek to sit there calmly, and tell me to my face, that you are not a lucky fellow, when bang on the top of all this, comes a thumping legacy of forty thousand pounds!!! I only wish I had half your complaint, that’s all!” jumping violently off the table, as though to emphasize the fact.

“I wish to goodness you had”” returned the other sulkily. “You seem to forget, my very clever and sanguine friend, that I’ve only a half-share in the booty, a half-share and a better half. Sounds like a pun, eh? You have overlooked one little detail—matrimony, and that if I don’t marry this girl, within six months, all the coin goes to this college in Calcutta. Did you ever know such an old hunks?” Now standing up, walking to the doorway, and leaning against one of the posts, “Why the mischief could he not divide the money, and leave us each half?” he demanded angrily of his companion.

“Ay, why indeed?” rejoined Mr. Gee, lazily appealing to the Tucktoo, who still remained glued to the ceiling, in an apparently torpid condition.

“I believe it was all this Tucktoo, Miles,” pointing upwards with his polo stick, “that brought you the fortune. You know they say, they are awfully lucky in a house. Cricket on the hearth business. What do you think, eh?”

“I think you are mad about Tucktoos,” rejoined his companion impatiently—“Tucktoo indeed! It all came of my tipping him a ten-pound note.”

“Your grandmother!” ejaculated Mr. Gee, with a laugh of the rudest incredulity.

Great grandmother, if you like; but it’s a fact! When the old chap came home from India, with pots of money, he was awfully afraid of being set upon by hordes of needy relations, and we are rather an impecunious family,” candidly. “A bright idea struck him. He hastily retired to a shady suburb in London, well aloof from all connections, and set up as a pauper. In other words, sent round a begging letter, or appeal to the family for a little help, to keep him from want in his old age. Rather a grim kind of joke, eh?”

“Rather,” returned Mr. Gee admiringly; “and not at all a bad idea!”

“An old fellow who was capable of that, would be capable of anything, this will inclusive,” exclaimed his nephew emphatically. “However, to go on with my story, Mrs. Adrian Brabazon—my future step-mother in law—pleaded poverty; Aunt Jane made no excuse of any kind, doubtless she smelt a rat; and I, being just then rather flush of coin, sent him a tenner, with a promise to do what I could; for, after all, he was my father’s brother, and I could not let the old beggar starve,” apologetically.

“Go on, go on; I’m just boiling to hear the sequel,” said Mr. Gee, nodding his head like a mandarin.

“Patience! give me time, my dear sir. In a few days, back came a letter, saying that the other was a hoax,” and he had only sent it to try me, and feel the family pulse, so to speak; and as I had responded in a liberal spirit (I being a needy young subaltern myself), I would never have any cause to regret my generosity. However, he closed on the tenner, all the same; and that’s the last I heard of him, till I got this thing to-day!” indicating the blue letter in his pocket, with a jerk of his thumb.

“I wish to goodness a wealthy relative would play me the same trick,” said his companion fervently. “A sprat of ten pounds, landing a salmon of forty thousand, is ‘plenty good business,’ as they say out here. And, by the way, about your cousin; did she tip him too?” grinning.

“Not that I am aware of. She must have been in short frocks, at the time of this particular episode.”

“And have you never seen her?” inquisitively.

“Not to remember distinctly. There were two little girls at Aunt Jane’s, when I went to say good-bye, years ago. I recollect chasing one of them round and round the garden, and kissing her tremendously; but which it was I don’t know, and I suppose it would be a delicate subject to inquire into. By a violent effort of memory, I recall long thin legs, and a cocked nose.”

“Pretty picture! But if she were as ugly as the pig-faced lady herself, I’d marry her and never think twice about it,” said Mr. Gee resolutely. “There’s a lot of spending in forty thousand pounds; but I can’t fancy an old stick-in-the-mud like you, chasing and kissing any girl, young or old,” grinning. “Tell me some more about her,” tossing off his cap and subsiding into a chair in the verandah. “Where does she live, when she is at home? Has she any sister that would be likely to come in for money? Come, don’t be so glum, man alive!”

“I would have to go into our family history,” said Miles, also going out on to the verandah, and leaning against one of the wooden pillars, with his hands in his pockets, “and that sort of thing is rather a bore, in this climate especially.”

“Never mind for once in a way,” rejoined his companion cheerfully; “it’s not every day you can tell me the pedigree of your future wife,” now deliberately sticking his eyeglass in his eye, and critically scanning his friend.

At this encouraging remark, Captain Brabazon actually coloured, and looked as if he were about to make some angry retort; however, on second thoughts, he merely observed, “You are as fond of news and as full of curiosity as any old woman. Now then, listen once for all. My grandfather had four sons and one daughter. Firstly,” ticking them off on his fingers, “Adrian, who died, leaving a widow and four children; secondly, Uncle George, who made a fortune in indigo; thirdly, my father, who was killed in the Crimea; fourthly, Sandy, who mysteriously disappeared some twenty years ago, in consequence, it was supposed, of a disastrous love affair; fifthly, Jane, our rich spinster aunt, who lives near Baronsford, and acts as moral policeman to the family. Now you have us root and branch! I hope you are wiser!”

“Yes. But I’ve not heard anything about your young lady. It has been Hamlet minus the Prince of Denmark, with a vengeance.”

“Then I’ll read you a letter, and enlighten you, for I know very little about her myself. There are lots to choose from,” pointing indoors with his cheroot. “See what it is to come in for a fortune! There’s Mrs. Brabazon’s, frightfully gushing, and full of delight, congratulation, and consent. It would be manners to wait till she was asked! There’s Aunt Jane’s, that looks as if it was written with a pin, crammed with advice. There’s my sister Connie’s——”

“That’s the one for my money,” interrupted, Mr. Gee, loudly snapping his fingers. “Mrs. Curzon will tell us all about it, so fire away;” now composing himself comfortably, with half-shut eyes, and a judicial expression on his shrewd little countenance, whilst his companion, having picked out the letter in question, and leaning against the pillar once more, began to read aloud the following effusion (we spare the reader Mr. Gee’s constant interruption):—--

“Chesham St., S.W.

“My dear Miles,

“Of course, you have opened and read Mr. Barker’s letter, and know the great news, i.e. that you are now a rich and an engaged man! I wonder how you are taking it? I’m sure your face is a beautiful study this minute; I wish I could see it.” (“I wish she could! interpolated Mr. Gee, emphatically.) “Fancy old Uncle George, a curmudgeon, who hated all womenkind with a deadly animosity, and called Aunt Jane a ‘she devil’ to her face, becoming a matchmaker in his latter days, and providing you with a wife and fortune! We are gradually recovering from the first shock, and our own special disappointments. Mrs. Brabazon thought (I’m sure I don’t know on what grounds) that she would have been ‘remembered.’ Florian declares that, being his godson, he had a legal claim; and I had my own pleasant little anticipations. Was I not saddled with the name of Georgina, in his honour? I had quite put myself down for five thousand pounds (which, by the way, you may as well hand over), and here has Haidée, what you would call ‘a dark outsider,’ come in and won in a common canter. Do you know how it happened? No, of course you don’t; and you shall hear without further delay. Three years ago, when she was returning from school, just as the train was starting from Victoria, an old gentleman and his man servant came scuffling up. He was the queerest old guy you ever beheld, in a white beaver hat, a blue cut-away coat (date unknown), and a checked tie, and carried an umbrella that would frighten you! The carriage door was flung open, but the inmates showed no flattering desire for his society; very much the other way, squared themselves and scowled. But Haidée, who is good natured, (please make a note of this) made room for him, furled his gamp, and in fact did the honours of the compartment so agreeably, and comported herself so worthily, that when he descended at a station, he begged the favour of her name and address, which she gave, little dreaming that the yellow-faced old fogey was the renowned Uncle George. About six months later came an invitation, asking her to spend three days with the old gentleman. You can picture her feelings. Something similar to those of Beauty, when her father broke it to her gently, that she was to be the guest of the beast! However, like Beauty, she returned alive; and now it appears that you are to be the Prince! Her description of the ménage (she spent a day with me), the parrot, the mongoose, the Hindostani, always talked by Uncle George, old Sopp, and the parrot, simply made us screech. It seems that she made a very favourable impression on Uncle G., Sopp, and the bird; and that they laid their heads together, and took council, and came to the conclusion that she was to be rewarded with your hand, and that it was a pity to divide the money in the funds!

“Seriously, my dear Miles, she is a very nice girl—pretty and lively, or would be the latter, only for her stepmother, who keeps these poor girls strictly in the background, and is the embodiment of a dozen wet blankets, consequently they are shy—at any rate Haidée is—and countrified. I should like her for a sister-in-law very much; and you have my full, and free consent! This, as the King says in the trial in Wonderland, is most important. Of course you will come home at once. By the time this reaches you, six weeks of the six months will be gone. You will never be so mad as to let the money go to the college in Calcutta; if you do, I shall consider that you are not responsible for your actions,” and I put such an awful idea quite outside the range of possibility! If this effusion is slightly incoherent, it is because there is a frightful storm going on, and I am what cook calls, ‘that nervous,’ expecting every instant the roof to be blown off the house! I wish to goodness the Americans would keep their gales to themselves.

“And send us fine weather! The boys have all had scarletina, very mildly, and are better, dear fellows, and out every day. You will see them immensely grown and improved. Horace is the image of what you were! Mind you sell off your little effects without delay, and come home immediately to your affectionate sister,

“Connie Curzon.

“P.S. If you like to bring me a Tolizan, a basket-teapot, some eggshell china, and two silver bowls, also some jars of ginger, for the dear boys, you may.


“Sell off my little effects! I think I see myself!” exclaimed her brother, folding up her letter with deliberate contempt. “With the snipe just coming in, and the races on next month!”

“But you will have heaps of racing and shooting at home,” observed Mr. Gee.

“No sport to hold a candle to what we have out here. Thirty brace of snipe within four miles at Ya Goo; or if you like to go down the river to Siriam, there are a couple of hundred actually expecting you! Besides all this, I’m going to have a shot for the gold cup with Destiny, and I’ve promised Patterson to ride Typhoon, in the hunt steeplechase, so I don’t stir for a month—if then.”

“I’ll tell you what!” Mr. Gee’s favourite preamble, “You are too old to be talking such nonsense! A child would know better than to be playing with his—his fate, in this way! And as to Typhoon—a nasty, bad-tempered, pulling little devil, with as much mouth as a wall; he’ll kill somebody yet! Ferguson had to be carried home in a sheet after the Sky races. Why doesn’t Patterson ride him himself?” peevishly. “If he is to kill any one, let him kill him! It’s murder to ask a man to ride him!” blinking his white eyelashes with lightning rapidity. “Why doesn’t he ride?” he reiterated, suddenly sitting erect,

“Oh, Pat is too heavy; he can’t hold him,” rejoined his companion, throwing away the stump of his cheroot.

“Rather not,” contemptuously, shrugging his shoulders. “I saw him bolting smack into a gharry in Halpin’s road yesterday, with his mouth wide open.”

“Who, Patterson?” in a tone of ironical inquiry.

“No,” irritably; “but your precious mount, Typhoon. I should not wonder if he broke your neck.”

“I see that the comforters of the man of Uz are not yet extinct,” returned Captain Brabazon with a laugh; and whilst he is arguing his friend into a more hopeful frame of mind, we will take the opportunity of sketching his portrait.

He is of a little above middle height, slight and well made, with a thin sunburnt face, rather dark lazy-looking eyes, set under a square brow, regular features, a well-grown moustache,—several shades lighter than his closely cropped brown hair. There is something indolent in his look and attitude, that reminds us a little of his cousin Florian; but a certain curve of lip and chin point to decision of character, and fund of energy, that is the very antipodes to the heir of Baronsford; and it would never surprise us to hear that Captain Brabazon had latent capabilities in the shape of a fiery temper. Undoubtedly he is a very presentable young man, as Dicky has already hinted, and “Miles,” as he was usually called, by his brother officers, was very popular, and unanimously considered to “do.” True, that in the early part of his career, a smart comrade had wittily endowed him with the nickname of “England Brabazon,” because “he expected every man to do his duty;” but these were very early days, and he had long since grown out of his reluctance for monotonous regimental work, and had roused himself into being one of the smartest skippers in the Battalion. He was dressed in neat breeches and boots, like his companion; a tweed coat, and a scarlet and white polo cap set on the back of his head, completes his costume, as he stands before us lighting his second cheroot since we have made his acquaintance, and assuring Mr. Gee that if Typhoon can stand up “he is a moral, my dear sir; a moral for the hunt steeplechase,” and come what might, he won’t stir from Rangoon till after the races!

Now for Mr. Gee’s portrait! Dame Nature has not been nearly so liberal to him. As he frankly says himself, “he was at the back of the door, when beauty was being served out.” He is, in fact, small and sandy, with freckled features, white eyelashes, and a very faint but fondly cherished moustache. There is a good deal of intelligence in his twinkling grey eyes, and it is a generally accepted fact, that “Gee is a clever little beggar, you know, passed well out of Sandhurst, hardly mugged a bit, and could do anything he chose.” But now, Mr. Gee does not choose to do anything but amuse himself, and has flung learning to the winds; and goes in for polo, paper chasing, shooting, and young ladies. Yes, he “fancies” himself very much indeed as a ladies’ man, and has been known to give capital tea-parties in Tumbledown Dick,—always, be it understood, in the absence of his partner. If Miles were to return, and find their mutual sitting-room full of petticoats, and tea cups, with Bobby Knox in the middle, playing on his banjo, there would be, we quote Mr. Gee himself, “nothing less than murder.” Dicky has only to open his mouth, to proclaim his nationality—he hails from the province of Ulster, where the Irish brogue is usually adulterated by a strong Scotch accent, and where Irish wit is not uncommonly allied to that shrewdness, for which the land o’ cakes is so justly famous.

“Come along, and have a look at the stud,” said Captain Brabazon, after a long silence. “I want to see Rocket and Squib bedded down.” N.B. A goodly portion of these young men’s leisure was spent in what they called “looking at the stud.” A stud comprising eight handsome, hardy Pegu, or Shan ponies.

“That was a tremendous tussle we had for that last goal this afternoon,” said Mr. Gee, stretching himself lazily, and rising leisurely.

“Yes. By George! I should think so,” assented the other emphatically. “Tommy Hawkins is perfectly useless; he ought to be put out of the team; standing in the middle of the ground, in everybody’s way, with his mouth wide open, as if he expected the ball to come to him and be swallowed.”

Having unanimously voted Tommy “an awful duffer,” and “a thundering nuisance,” they clattered down the wooden steps, and in another moment were half-way across the compound, followed by a motley pack of dogs, who had appeared on the scene as if by magic, and were now scampering exuberantly in their wake.

Chapter X

The Gold Cup

Picture Rangoon on a brilliant afternoon, late in the month of May, dense masses of magnificent foliage hiding its widespread dimensions, the treacherous green Irrawaddy swirling past its ship-besieged wharves, the great “Shway Dagon,” or Golden Pagoda, towering high above the trees, one mass of blazing light, and the Pehn Gyee Kyouns (or priests’ houses), showing their graceful pointed roofs here and there, among the luxuriant palms, frangipannis, and mangoes. It is the chief day of the races, the “Cup Day,” and all the world and his wife are flocking to the course in their best bibs and tuckers. Burmans in gorgeous checked orange and red putsoes, and hordes of Chinamen in roomy blue trousers, white coat, and pig tail. All are bent in the one direction; in dusty gharries, drawn by sturdy ill-used ponies, on foot, or (as in the case of the Europeans) in T-carts, broughams, or waggonettes, all are either on the racecourse, or on their way to that universal goal. The grand stand is crammed, and many are the pretty faces, and new “Europe” bonnets and frocks. We do not venture to ascend, but humbly pass on to the paddock, and are brought up by this announcement in large letters:—--

Notice. Rangoon Spring Meeting. Subscribers are informed, that only the syces and attendants of owners and riders will be admitted to the paddock; other servants, butlers, ayahs, and so forth, will not be allowed inside the enclosure unless on payment of gate-money. Signed, John Smith, Secretary.

What a butler, much less an ayah, can have to do with the “weighing in” of jockeys puzzles us for a few seconds; but we have no time for speculation, and pass into the enclosure and discover Miles Brabazon and his friend, anxiously superintending the saddling of “Destiny;” Mr. Gee, between sundry clouds of smoke, declaring impressively “that he ought to about do it! for he is as hard as nails,” and that, in his opinion, “no fitter pony ever stood on iron!”

Various formidable jumps are dispersed over the midan (plain), and not a few well-shaped animals in clothing, and hoods, are being walked up and down near the bamboo stables, under the plane trees, (which surround the course on all sides like a park). Round the stand, there is an immense surging crowd, plentifully besprinkled with Tommy Atkins, and John Chinaman, whose loud monosyllabic “jabber,” drowns all other voices, but chiefly composed of the merry fête-loving Burmese, well named “the Irish of the East.” Every one is pushing and thrusting in a perfectly good-humoured, semi-jocular manner, to get well to the front and see the ponies parading down from the paddock; and now they appear, these thick-set, well-made, gentlemanly little creatures, of only thirteen hands, with hogged or plaited manes, and short vivacious tails, carrying as much money on their fate, as first-class racers in faraway foggy England. The first event was only a mile on the flat, not specially interesting, as the favourite won, in turf parlance, in a common canter. Next came a dozen Burmans, in high-peaked red saddles, with massive bits in their ponies’ mouths, long white rods in their hands, and yards of their black hair streaming wildly behind them; lashing their ponies, the air, and each other with strict impartiality, yelling they pass the stand, and twice round the course full speed; brandishing their wands and their arms, and looking as if the whole contents of the lower regions, were after them in hot pursuit. The race was won amid shrieks of triumph by a white pony called “Neela,” the property of Moung Lla Phaw Yan, and we were not very much wiser than we were before. Next on the card came the Gold Cup, and a solemn pause precedes this, the great feature of the May meeting. The crowd refresh themselves with fruit and sweets, and delicacies of a very questionable appearance, begin to circulate on lacquer trays among the Burmese spectators. All smoke furiously, men and women alike, from the coquettish cigarette, to the formidable green cheroot, nearly the size of a penny roll; and a buzz of animated conversation is kept up, with a brisk interchange of the richest jokes, judging from the peals, and peals, of laughter.

Presently four of the best ponies in British Burmah file out of the paddock, as hard as nails, as smooth as satin, take their preliminary canter, and are off! Our sympathies of course are with the chestnut—and the white jacket—Destiny and his rider. How many hearts are throbbing double time! How many eyes are strained, and fixed on that fleet quartette! How many young men are sorry now, that they plunged so heavily in the lotteries last night! as Destiny, Dundalk, Blue Ruin, and Odd Trick, round the last quarter of a mile in company, and commence a desperate struggle for the “run in.”

“Odd Trick has it,” stream the multitude, hoarsely. Counter yells of “Blue Ruin! Blue, Ruin! Ride him out! Ride him out!” Then one unanimous roar of “Destiny!”—Yes, Destiny has come with a rush, in the last thirty yards, and landed his master winner of the Gold Cup, and the proudest man in British Burmah!

Excited voluble crowds, now swarm round the hardy, game little chestnut, who, in spite of his two-mile gallop, and eleven stone eight on his back, is quite on the qui vive to be off again! The men of Captain Brabazon’s company are with difficulty restrained from carrying the winner bodily into the paddock; indeed, the whole regiment look upon the achievement as a brilliant personal triumph, and many drinks are quaffed to celebrate the occasion. The gold cup is “a trophy,” and Destiny is toasted in beer, arrack, sham-shoo, and champagne. The prize itself, filled with the latter popular beverage, circulates for the behoof of the ladies on the stand, escorted by Mr. Gee, who accepts all their congratulations and good wishes, as Captain Brabazon’s proxy, and is thoroughly in his element, and in unbounded good humour.

“It’s all the Tucktoo, my dear fellow,” he said, thumping his friend on the back enthusiastically. “Ever since he has been our lodger, you have had it all your own way! And I’ve not done too badly; I won three thousand rupees on this myself. By Jove! I won’t stir without him in future. I’ll bottle him up in spirits of wine, and carry him on my person. Eh?”

Do,” for goodness sake!” said his companion energetically, “and then, there will be an end of him.”

“I say, Miles,” insinuatingly, “you’ll have to go up above, you know,” jerking his thumb, “just for a moment. There are a lot of nice girls, all dying to make your acquaintance; and Mrs. Cameron says she must, and will, speak to you!”

“No—no—no!” impatiently, “the starring business is not my line! I’m not like you; I’m,” lowering his voice, “too shy,” laughing.

“Not a bit of it! Up you go. You must.” And up he had to go, in Mr. Gee’s wake—who acted as a kind of conductor, or showman, on the occasion—and managed to say a few words to the few ladies of his acquaintance, with extraordinary composure (considering his shyness), and avoiding various alluring introductions, pleading another imminent race, hurried away at the first opportunity. But in spite of the ladies’ good wishes, and the all-powerful Tucktoo, Miles’s luck was at an end for that day. The fourth event was the popular hunt steeplechase, two and a half miles; and the obstacles to be cleared by those active Pegu ponies would have had to be seen to be believed. Twice round the whole parade ground, twice across the road, was the course. There was a brook, several banks, hurdles, and the well-known “log” jump—a by no means tempting leap. Away they go, greedy for galloping, and no less than twelve in number, Captain Brabazon riding the notorious Typhoon (who could win every steeplechase with ease, if he could but be kept on the course). Typhoon, (well named), with an Egyptian bit between his set teeth, is giving that muscular young man, his jockey, just as much as he can do to hold him. He goes storming along, merely shaving the flags, an excellent imitation of a runaway; maddened to his utmost exertions, by the eleven other ponies thundering at his heels. By dint of sheer riding, Miles keeps him within bounds, and gets over the jumps somehow. A mile is accomplished; but such a pace, begins to tell, even on a furious little steam-engine, like Typhoon, and the inevitable catastrophe comes at last! Frantic at being collared by the “Snark,” he valiantly attempts to fly a big bank—a well-meant flight, but catching his fore feet on the top, he turns a very complete somersault, landing heavily on his back, with his rider underneath him!

“Hullo,” cry the spectators, “there’s a nasty one! Who is it?”

“Brabazon and Typhoon, of course; been bolting all the way round!” “He is up!” “No, he is not!” “He is not moving!” “Yes, he is!’ were some of the conflicting exclamations.

Typhoon, but slightly stunned, jumped up with the agility of a kid, shook himself thoroughly, curled his tail gaily over his back, and tore off after his late companions at the very top of his speed, taking fence for fence like clockwork, and bothering every one very much at the finish, by jockeying himself in an excellent third.

And meanwhile his rider, very pale and shaken, had staggered, with Dicky’s assistance, to the weighing-room, and collapsed into the nearest chair.

“Rather a crumpler, wasn’t it? A most imperial crowner! How about the Tucktoo now?” he asked, with a ghastly smile. “No,” to a doctor, “I don’t think I add to the long list of bones Typhoon has smashed; but I do feel as if I had just spent ten minutes under a steam roller. He is a heavy brute, and no mistake!”

But in spite of this cheery view of the matter, three broken ribs were his contribution to the casualties caused by Typhoon, who was taken off the turf as a hopeless runaway, and subsequently sold to a gharry man in Phayre Street; (and is now, you may be sure, a sadder, if not a wiser pony! )

The races concluded with a kind of impromptu John Gilpin performance that caused the spectators to shout with merriment. A match between two horses was the last item on the card; between a “waler” and an Irish horse. They looked ridiculously out of place, after all the small racers who had preceded them. The waler was a veteran, who had won this event for years; the Irish horse a new arrival, and a great lumbering monster of seventeen hands high. At first he positively declined to leave the post at any price! but on second thoughts, suddenly went away at a tremendous pace, literally devouring the ground, with his long, black legs. Soon the waler was yards behind—soon there was a distance between them—and presently the black horse passed the Judge a scornfully easy winner. But this did not satisfy him! The race was twice round the course only, and he had been galloped four times round every morning, and four times round he meant to go, and nothing should prevent him. In vain his jockey, a slight young man, in heavily leaded saddle, endeavoured to stop his headlong career; it was useless. Donnybrook was determined to do his duty, and round the course he tore, amidst the shrieks of the spectators, who were literally convulsed with delight. At last, when he had accomplished his usual morning’s work, he hastily dashed through the thickest of the crowd—scattering Burmese, Chinese, cheroots, and refreshments—sprang over the water-jump as if it were a potato furrow, and clatteredoff down the road, in the direction of his own stables.

Captain Brabazon’s accident detained him more than a month in Rangoon. It was the first of July, before the doctors gave him a reluctant permission to take his passage in the next steamer. “He was running it very fine,” as Mr. Gee reminded him most gratuitously, about three times a day (not forgetting the proverbial friendly “I told you so,” anent Typhoon, and a severe course of lectures)—

“The idea of risking time, and life, and limb, when so much was at stake,” etc., etc. And then his unlucky patient, would make angry answer, and declare, “If you say another word, Dicky, I won’t go home at all. I’ll be shot if I do!”

His brother officers were very kind in coming to see him, and paying him long visits, bringing him books, papers, and all the news they could collect, to entertain him, as he lay on his narrow portable cot, in Tumbledown Dick. The dogs, too, were disposed to be exceedingly attentive; six of them would have sat upon his bed, on the smallest encouragement, and with the greatest pleasure. No one but Mr. Gee, knew how unfortunate was this enforced delay; how the precious golden moments were running away like sands in an hour-glass; and how short a time remained to Miles Brabazon, to see, and woo, and win his cousin Haidée.

Over and over again, he had told Mr. Gee that “he did not wish to go home at all. He did not want a wife, much less one of his uncle’s choosing; that if he did go, it would simply be because he had bothered him, and made his life a burthen to him; and that he heartily wished he could make him over the whole business. Yes,” in answer to a maliciously worded inquiry, “money and all!” “ However, as he knew, he would have no peace otherwise, he would go home as a matter of form; but the chances were, he would return a bachelor.” He even went so far as to quote Herrick’s lines:—--

“A bachelor I will
Live as I have lived still,
And never take a wife
To crucify my life.”

To all this Mr. Dicky listened with angry contempt, saying, “I tell you what! If you do return a bachelor, you shan’t come here! You shall be stowed away with the lunatic criminals in the jail,” blinking furiously. “Take the goods the gods provide, and don’t be a fool!”

“No, I won’t be a fool if I can help it, Dicky,” said the other, who was so far convalescent, as to be promoted to a chair in the verandah. “If I don’t like her well enough to marry her, without a sixpence, I won’t marry her at all,” resolutely. “And there is another view of the subject that I should like to introduce to your notice. Supposing she won’t have anything to say to me? I’m not a lady killer, like you, you know.” (Here Dicky blinked half a dozen times with intense complacency, in pleased acknowledgment of the implied compliment.) “Supposing she does not like me; it’s just possible, you know. I may not suit at all. I’ve no compliments at my fingers’ ends, no pretty little speeches, no experience of young ladies, and—I—have a temper,” apologetically.

“Yes, thank you,” derisively, “you need not tell me that. I’ve not lived five years under the same roof with you for nothing. But there are only a few things that rile you properly, and I could give her a little chart! Sneaking of any sort, scarcity of starch, abusing your friends, snobbishness, badly cleaned saddles “

“Shut up, will you,” interrupted Miles, impatiently, “and let me go on. A temper I have got, I’m aware, but it soon goes over.”

“A word and a blow,” suggested Dicky, grinning; “and a will of your own into the bargain. You know you always lead me by the nose, whenever you choose, and keep me under your thumb.”

“Do I?” smiling incredulously. “I’m not so sure of that! However, you and I can always dissolve partnership at a moment’s notice; but with a wife, it’s another affair, and as I own to a temper, and you say I’m a tyrant, it’s more than likely we should not hit it off at all.”

“Yes, you would,” exclaimed Dicky impulsively; “every one gets on with you, old fellow, and it will be her fault if she does not! I’ll lay a hundred to one.”

“Nonsense! Keep your compliments for young ladies—or do you happen to want anything?”

“No, nothing to-day,” grinning, “only to see you off en route to marry the heiress. Mind you, if it ever comes to anything, and she becomes Mrs. Miles, you tell her, like an honourable man, how I stood her friend, and the difficulty I had in bringing you to the scratch!”

“You may rely upon me, to inform her before we leave the church. But seriously, it’s more than likely, there will be no wedding! My heart is not set like yours, with a hair trigger, ready to go off, on the faintest provocation! I’ve got on very well so far without a wife and fortune. Why should I marry, and, as some fellow said, sow the seeds of a life-long hatred? It’s extremely probable, that she will have nothing to do with me; and I certainly shan’t die of grief, if the whole thing ‘busts up,’ as they say in Yankee land.”

These sentiments were stigmatized by Mr. Gee as drivel, and bosh, and the ravings of a madman, more or less; and he would be really quite beside himself, when the patient, wearied of a monotonous indoor invalid life, became captious and irritable, and would sometimes declare that “he did not intend to take his passage at all! He would not go home on a wild-goose chase; hanged if he would!”

However, he did. Early in July the establishment at “Dilapidated Richard” was broken up; the ponies Destiny, Cheap Jack, Rocket, and Squib found other masters; the dogs, good regimental situations; and one fine morning, Captain Brabazon (who had obtained leave, on urgent private affairs) was seen off on board the Madras steamer, by his brother officers en masse; and was soon steaming down between the high jungly banks of the rapid Irrawaddy, taking his last look at the far-famed Golden Pagoda, and bidding adieu for ever, to the Land of the Lord of the White Elephant!

Chapter XI

He Has Come Home

“Your young man has come home, Haidée!” Thus delicately was the matter broken to her by Florian, one sultry August afternoon, as he stood on the schoolroom rug, with his back to the empty grate, and his coat-tails under his arm, surveying his sisters with lazy patronage. Gussie was seated at the table, doing two things at a time—reading a novel, and eating raspberries from a cabbage leaf which lay before her. I am afraid, we cannot conceal from ourselves the deplorable fact, that Augusta is—greedy! Well, it is not a nice word, but what other will imply this little failing? From her tenderest youth, a tart or cake have appealed to her feelings more directly than aught else; and now, in her maturer years, she is still honestly constant to her love of good things, and takes the keenest personal interest in the daily menu. Gussie paused, with a raspberry en route to her lips, and glanced quickly at her sister, who was sitting in a low chair, mending a pair of gloves whose glory had long departed. Yes, Haidée’s face now outrivalled, in colour, the fruit in her hand. “I met him yesterday in town,” proceeded Florian. “He was walking with a fellow I know—Jack Dennis—and he introduced me to him. He said he was on his way to his tailor’s, and I’m sure it was not before he wanted a new kit!” contemptuously. “His clothes looked awfully seedy; I wouldn’t have been seen speaking to him in the Club, for a fiver! I suppose, when he has made himself presentable, he’ll come down here!” he concluded condescendingly (having a sustaining consciousness, of his own immaculate appearance).

“You should have told him what powerful influence a good tailor has on a young man’s prospects,” said Gussie, despatching her last raspberry. “What is he like?”

“Oh! nothing startling,” in a “hold cheap” voice. “But I should not wonder if he fancied himself a good bit! I hear the Marchers have a lot of side on!”

“Well, that’s a family failing,” said Gussie tolerantly. “But is he fair or dark, tall or short, fat or thin?”

“Dark. He’s got very good teeth; that’s all I remarked about him, except his mouldy-looking clothes. I wonder what tooth-powder he uses,” he added meditatively. “By Jove, I’ll ask him, when he comes down.”

“Probably his teeth are false!” said Augusta discouragingly; throwing down the last stalk as she spoke, and putting away the cabbage leaf. “When do you think he’ll be here?”

“I say! how badly you girls are always turned out,” returned her brother irrelevantly. “I’m sure I’ve seen Haidée in that old cream-coloured gown for the last three years. It has no cut about it at all, no make, or shape,” discontentedly. “Why, the landlady at my lodgings has a better made garment.”

“Pray don’t abuse it, too much; I made it myself,” said Haidée, speaking at last. “But as you have condescended to take such flattering interest in my appearance, I shall get all my gowns in future from Madame Elise! I wonder, if she’d let me have a dress at the same cost as this—seven-and-sixpence?” holding out her arm, and surveying the sleeve, and material, quite gravely.

“How sharp we are!” retorted Florian with a sneer. “If you don’t look out, that tongue of yours, will get you into trouble! Your face may be very taking, but defend me from your manner! However, as he has run it so fine” (Mr. Gee’s very words)—“only five weeks between this and the fatal day—-Miles Brabazon won’t have much time, to find you out!”

“You need not make yourself uneasy about him,” returned his sister coolly, snipping off a thread. “Neither my appearance, nor my temper, will concern him in any way.”

“Considering that you are going to marry him, I don’t know any one they will concern more!” combatively.

“Who says I’m going to marry him?” her eyes flashing challenges at her brother.

“I do—Mrs. Brabazon—every one,” pulling up his collar with a jerk.

“Then you are all quite mistaken, for I am not going to do anything of the sort!”

“What! Are you mad?” raising his voice from C natural to F sharp.

“Don’t mind her. Don’t mind her!” broke in Gussie soothingly. “I never do; it is all talk!”

“Is it?” impetuously. “You’ll soon see.”

“Miss Brabazon,” said a familiar figure at the door, “the washing has come home, and can you come, please?”

“Haidée, it’s your week,” nodding authoritatively towards her sister, who, without another word, picked up the key basket, took off her thimble, and left the room, holding her head in an unusually lofty manner.

“She does not mean it, does she?” said Florian, looking over at Gussie, with a face of genuine alarm.

“No,—I don’t know. The best thing is, never to talk about it; just leave it all to chance!”

“Chance! Humph!” contemptuously. “It’s quite time one of you were getting off, you know,” with brotherly candour.

“So it is; and I should be the one to ‘go off,’ as you call it first, for I’ve been out, and Haidée hasn’t,” returned Gussie, with the utmost composure.

“She’s an uncommonly handsome girl,” said Florian grudgingly, “and would probably make some swell marriage, if she had a season in town, and knew how to dress herself properly, and hold her tongue! However, Miles Brabazon will do very well, as times go,” yawning and stretching; “and from the little I saw of him, I shouldn’t wonder, if Miss Haidée ‘Spitfire’ has met her match!”

For months (three), Miles Brabazon and the legacy had been dinned into Haidée’s ears by Mrs. Brabazon, Miss Jane, and Gussie; her good fortune, their belief that she would make a favourable impression, their fears that her brusqueness would ruin her prospects. At one moment, petted as the possible fiancée; at another, lectured as the possible failure! At times she was nearly beside herself.

She had had great hopes that her cousin would not return; hopes that rose very high, when May, and June, and July, passed, and he failed to make his appearance. But now he was actually in London. He was coming. Her heart, like that of the psalmist, felt like melted wax, when she thought of their first interview. She could not sleep, she could not eat, her mind was in such a whirl of terrified expectation. She resolved (seeing that she must meet him, and that there was no escape for her), to give him the most freezing, and unconciliatory reception, that had ever been accorded to a young man; and to let him know, with the shortest possible delay, that she would be no party to Uncle George’s arrangement. Besides this dreaded interview, which was hanging over her head, like the sword of Damocles, there was another meeting, to which she was looking forward with very different anticipations. Teddy was coming down for a few days; he was to stay at Mrs. Swoffer’s, and visit his sisters prudently, and discreetly,—under the rose, and the shades of evening.

Haidée has a letter in her pocket, which makes her heart glow every time she thinks of it. It came that morning, and, in comparison with it, that black cloud on her mental horizon, the possible arrival of her dreaded co-heir, fades away, into a mere secondary consideration.

“My dear Haidée,

“The story you send me is admirably adapted for the horse-marines, but I suppose you are in earnest? I have hardly grasped it yet, for my imagination is but a feeble thing; it is my opinion, that old Uncle George borrowed the idea from the Arabian Nights, or some of his Eastern story books, and flatters himself that he has acted the part of a beneficent caliph, or geni, to you and Miles. You know in fairy tales, young women were never asked whether they would or would not, but were just handed over bodily! ‘So he gave him, his youngest, and loveliest, daughter in marriage, along with a sackful of diamonds,’ that’s the style, as well as I can remember. Joking apart, you recollect how we used to chaff you about being our venerable relative’s heiress? But this will surpasses our wildest anticipations! I shall be with you on Tuesday evening. Look out for me about seven o’clock at the white gate, back avenue, and we can then go into the affair seriously! Little Gibson has a cousin of the name of Gee, who is Jonathan to this Brabazon’s David, and he says he is an awfully good sort (he has met him), and rather like me in appearance. This ought to give him a strong hold on you at once. But, mind you, he is not a lady’s man. You must be tender with him, for he is very shy. As you are supposed to be bashful, outside the home circle, it will be rather a lark to see you together.” (Here was drawn a rude (a very rude) pen and ink sketch, of a couple sitting on the extreme ends of a sofa, with their fingers in their mouths, surveying one another, apprehensively, out of the corners of their eyes.) “Be sure, and don’t let him know anything about me; I’ve a particular reason for it. I mean to burst on him some day, as an officer and gentleman. See if I don’t! You shall have the pleasure of presenting me—grand tableau—fireworks. Mind you bring Woggy, to meet your affectionate brother,

“T. B.”

Chapter XII

The Wrong Man

Miles (as we have already heard), had arrived in England early in the month of August—and squandered some time with his sister at Folkestone, dawdling up and down the Lees, criticising the young ladies, watching the arrival of the French boat, looking up friends at Shorncliffe camp, and staving off the “evil day,” as he called it, in his own mind; when he must present himself at Baronsford, in the ridiculous character of an engaged young man, who has never set eyes on his fiancée!

Mrs. Curzon, was a well-jointured widow (some years older than her brother), and any affection she could conveniently spare from her three idolized boys was bestowed on him. Her sons were the delight, torment, and occupation of her life; she was given up to them, soul and body, and was never so happy, as when she had the three of them at home, even if their visit was due to measles, mumps, or whooping cough—and they seemed to have a fatal facility for catching everything that was going in that way. “The house is always so cheery when the boys are back,” quoth their adoring, and indulgent, parent! Cheery was a mild way of stating the case. It was more like a private lunatic asylum, in their uncle’s opinion; and his ultimate departure for Baronsford, was not altogether on account of his sister’s eloquent persuasions. Mrs. Curzon was a very tall, stylish-looking, woman, with brilliant white teeth, an infectious laugh, plenty of practical common sense, an unfailing flow of speech, and inexhaustible supply of energy! She, like his friend, was quite resolved that Miles should “take the goods, the gods had provided,” and discussed, and argued, the matter in a manner that would have thrown Mr. Gee himself completely into the shade.

“There was no use in postponing the visit,” she declared for the tenth time. “It looked so extremely odd! it looks as if you did not want to carry out the engagement,” she exclaimed in tragic accents.

“Neither I do,” muttered her brother, with his elbows on the window sill, his hat on the back of his head, his eyes fixed on the blue, blue sea, and the opposite white coast of France,—and the frequent cigar between his lips.

“You don’t know, when you are well off!” said Connie with decision. “It’s not one young man in a thousand, who has your opportunities! A pretty girl, and large fortune, for the mere picking up! You would be mad not to go to Baronsford, at least to see her. Time is getting on. Time and tide wait for no man!”

In the end, her eloquent counsels prevailed; and Miles sat down, and wrote off a letter on the spur of the moment, whilst his sister stood over him, dictating the epistle and announcing his arrival, for the following day. “Strike while the iron is hot,” was Mrs. Curzon’s maxim. The resources of Baronsford were large, its hospitality in old days notorious, so Miles waited for no reply; but, turning his back upon the attractions of Folkestone, and the brilliantly crowded Lees and gardens, set forth for Thornshire the next afternoon. In three hours’ time, he found himself on the platform at Byford station, about four miles from his destination; and leaving his portmanteau to follow, set off across the fields, thinking he would make the old short cut, and meet familiar stiles and pathways. But ten years had worked a change. He rambled about, and lost his way, and nearly an hour and a half elapsed, before the big red chimneys of the house he sought, were to be seen shyly peeping through the surrounding trees. As he walked along, he had been, very naturally, thinking a good deal of the approaching meeting, and meditating upon the kind of reception he would receive, at the hands of his cousin and co-legatee.

“I shall not shake hands with him, I shall only bow,” she had told her sister (who was fond of speculating on the scene) scores of times.

Would she be stiff? Would she be shy? Would she—oh, horror!—-be gushing? Would she be plain, passable, or pretty? (Connie had declared that she was lovely; but then he never admired her style—all her geese were swans!) “It is bad enough for me,” reflectively, “but it’s worse for her, in every way, this solemn meeting, this ordeal of mutual inspection.” If it were another person’s lot, and not his own, how he would laugh! He felt that he was approaching a crisis in his life, and his pulse beat somewhat quicker than usual, as he turned into the road leading from the village to the back gate of Baronsford. (It was the one chiefly used, in preference to the stately iron gates, with imposing pair of lodges, on a highway, in an oppo site direction.) “Now,” he said to himself decisively, “in ten minutes’ time this terrible encounter will be over, and I shall know whether I like her or not! I may be rash, but I am inclined to agree with that cynical old beggar, Talleyrand. I believe in first impressions; first impressions, and second thoughts. I wish it was over. I wish to goodness, Dicky, you, or any other fellow, were in my shoes this moment, and that I was safely back, smoking my peaceful cheroot, in the verandah at Tumbledown Dick. It’s not possible,” he asked himself angrily, “that I’m what’s called ‘nervous?’ I believe I am!”

*  *  *

The road leading to the entrance was overhung by many thick wide-spreading trees, and near the gate itself, the avenue was as dark as Erebus. It was a perfect August evening, the sequel to a broiling, blazing, August day.

There was a majestic stillness about the country that impressed our traveller.

Not a sound was to be heard, beyond the faint lowing of a cow in distant fields, and the trickling of running water close by. As he approached the gate, all his dreamy speculations, and nervous forebodings, vanished; his mind was galvanized to sudden alertness, as he noticed, for the first time, the figure of a tall girl in white, standing on the drive beyond the trees, in the full bright light of the harvest moon. She was young and slender, as well as he could judge,—unless distance added enchantment to the view. Her head was bent forward in an attitude of listening, and her whole pose, denoted eager expectation. She was without doubt waiting for somebody. Waiting for him? Impossible! The instant she heard his footsteps, and caught an outline of his figure, she made a quick gesture of welcome, and gathering up her dress, with one sudden swoop, came flying down to meet him with the swiftness of a tropical squall.

He could now hear her running towards him in the dark—for it was dark—her hasty high-heeled shoes, pattering rapidly over the gravel. Nearer, nearer, nearer they came. His heart beat faster than ever; faster even, than when, in dense and distant Indian jungles, he had heard the stealthy tread of a tiger, creeping through the underwood, and approaching the tree in which he was posted. She was at the gate even sooner than he was. She had dashed it open, with hurried hands, and almost before he could realize the fact,—her arms were round his neck!

He drew his head back with a quick jerk, whilst she breathlessly gasped out—

“I can hardly believe it! I’ve been waiting for you for ages, and now you have really come. It seems too good to be true. But how funny and dignified you are!—Let me have a look at you!” she panted, taking him by the wrist, and dragging him towards the light.

To say that he was astounded at this reception, but feebly conveys his feelings. The first shock over, and having successfully eluded her proffered kiss, oh, let him not sink too, too deeply in the public estimation, when they learn that his next thought was his unhappy collar. Nevertheless, he yielded amiably enough to her blandishments, and suffered himself to be almost hauled into the full, searching, white moonlight—to be inspected!

As its first chaste gleams fell upon him, his companion stopped, as if she had been shot, gazed into his face with an expression of agonized incredulity, dropped his hand, with a kind of smothered exclamation,—and then fled up the avenue, like an arrow from a bow! He stared after her speeding figure, in speechless amazement, until she disappeared into a shrubbery, and vanished like the Maid of the Mist. The whole adventure had been so sudden, and had passed so quickly, that it seemed a kind of dream! It could not be a ghost? Another White Lady of Avenel? But no; that hug was certainly human.

“There is no use in my standing here, and staring like a stuck pig,” he said to himself at last, having somewhat recovered from his startling rencontre; “I may as well be moving on, and ten to one I’ll find the key to this riddle. It’s certainly some girl who has mistaken me for her lover. Ecstasies of the lover had he seen her! She was a lady by her voice, and young decidedly. By Jove! she can run a bit. Maybe it’s Miss Augusta; there are only two of them.”

Supposing it had been his fiancée! But, strange to say, this notion did not please him at all; and turning over this very unwelcome idea in his own mind, he reached the hall door. He was soon ushered into the drawing-room (just five minutes before dinner time), where he found Mrs. Brabazon dressed for the evening, awaiting the gong, with her hands lying idly in her lap, and an air of pleasant anticipation pervading her aquiline features. Eight o’clock p.m. was her favourite hour in all the twenty-four. Florian was lounging in a deep arm-chair, absorbed in a yellow paper-backed French novel. Few and evil were the books that he read. Gussie flitting about the room putting away papers, work, and magazines. “So it was not Gussie,” observed the new arrival to himself, when he had once more made acquaintance with his cousin Augusta, with her saucy black eyes and bewitching smiles.

“This is quite an unexpected pleasure,” said Mrs. Brabazon, immediately assuming her very best company manners. “I think it so very nice of you, taking us unawares like this—without any formality!”

“Unawares,” he echoed; “did you not get my letter?”

“Your letter will probably arrive here the day after to-morrow,” said Florian sarcastically. “Don’t you know that we live in the backwoods here, and have no second post? What did you put on the envelope? Byford?” measuring his cousin from head to heel.


“Then that means that it stops in Byford post-office for twelve hours.”

“You seem to he progressing since I was here last,” said Miles, with a laugh, glancing surreptitiously round, in search of another figure.

“Gussie, my dear,” said Mrs. Brabazon (interpreting the glance, with her usual alertness of understanding), “go and tell Nokes, to see about a room at once; and Brown to lay another plate, and,” in a stage whisper, “let Haidée know.”

Gussie, having given some hasty directions to Nokes, pushed into the schoolroom with her great news. But it was empty. So was the dining-room. Accordingly, she ran up the shallow stairs, two steps at a time, breathless to pant forth the intelligence to her sister, and plunged into their mutual bedroom headlong. At the first glance there was no one to be seen. Stay. What was that limp, crumpled, object, on Haidée’s white bed? Haidée herself? Never! (Haidée, who had cast herself down in an attitude of hopeless misery, and seemed crushed out of all shape and form.)

“Why,” pausing in mid-room, “what on earth is the matter? Are you ill?” demanded Miss Brabazon aghast.

“No,” returned a choked voice, half buried in the pillows.

“Then what are you about? Get up this instant,” imperiously. “Mrs. Brabazon says you are to come down at once. Miles, your Miles, is in the drawing-room.”

No answer.

“Haidée. Do you hear me?” irritably.

“Yes, of course I hear you! I’m not stone-deaf,” she moaned querulously; then all at once sitting erect, revealed scarlet cheeks, swollen eyes, and a very dishevelled head.

“Why, you’ve been crying,” exclaimed her sister amazed. “Your nose is like a plum!”

“I should rather think I have,” impressively. “Gussie,” she added slowly, keeping her eyes intently fixed on her companion’s face, “did you ever hear of anybody dying of shame? because I shall.”

“Look here, Haidée,” returned the other severely, “this is no time for such nonsense. Dinner is just going in, and you must come down. Mrs. B. says so. Here,” going over to the washstand, and hastily pouring out some water, “get up and bathe your eyes, and smooth your hair, and don’t be an idiot.”

“What will you say,” inquired Haidée slowly, getting off the bed, and rising to her feet, a tall and very much creased young figure—“what will you say,” she reiterated solemnly, “when I tell you that I have seen him already, that I was a long way the first to welcome him?” with rather a hysterical laugh.

“Have seen him? And when, if you please?” disbelievingly.

“At the avenue gate! Oh, Gussie, I don’t think I ever can leave this room alive,” burying her face in her hands, and speaking in a somewhat muffled voice through her fingers. “I took him for Teddy.”

“And what harm if you did,” replied her sister.

“Harm!” echoed Haidée, “just listen, and you will soon hear! You know, how I’ve been counting the days and hours till Teddy came,” now declaiming with one hand, “and I was waiting for him near the white gate, ever since six o’clock——”

“Haidée, how rash of you! Supposing Mrs. B. had seen him skulking about,” ejaculated Gussie reproachfully.

“I would not care two straws if she did,” defiantly. “I would meet him on the hall doorsteps in broad daylight,” she panted breathlessly.

“Here, have a drink of water,” said Gussie compassionately, seeing that her sister was on the verge of hysterics, “there’s no hurry.”

“No, no, no,” motioning it from her irritably; “I’ve drank a carafe full already; but,” gasping out her words, “to go on. I waited ages for Teddy, and at last I heard footsteps, and saw some one that I was certain was him, coming along the road in the moonlight. Need I say, that I tore down to the gate, threw it wide open, caught him in my arms, and hugged him like a bear; telling him I could hardly believe it, it was too good to be true! that I had been counting the days and minutes till he came, and altogether was nearly beside myself with joy” (gasping hysterically). “I forcibly dragged him into the light, to feast my eyes with a good look at him, and I then discovered, that I had been hugging a perfect stranger—a dark young man, who did not seem to approve of it at all, and whom my prophetic instinct told me, was Miles Brabazon!

“There!” she cried, with fevered cheeks, and blazing eyes, “did you ever in all your life hear, or read, of anything so awful as that!”

Evidently Gussie had not,” for she deliberately put down the tumbler of water, and collapsed in a sitting posture, on the side of her sister’s bed.

“No!” with a sort of vicious triumph, now pacing the room with her hands behind her. “I think you must admit, that this feat of mine, is rather hard to beat! If I don’t die of shame, I ought to. As to going downstairs, under the circumstances, I need scarcely remark that such a proceeding is entirely out of the question,” she concluded doggedly.

“Oh, Haidée!” exclaimed her sister in a choked voice, “you will be the death of me! After your saying you would only bow to him; after hearing that he was so deadly shy. Oh—oh—oh!” holding her sides, and rocking herself backwards and forwards in absolute convulsions of laughter, whilst the unlucky heroine of this (to Gussie) killing adventure, stood in the middle of the room, a tall tragic-looking figure, and surveyed her with stony-eyed resentment.

“And—and—what am I to say?” panted Gussie, recovering her breath at last, and drying her eyes as she spoke. “How is your absence to be accounted for, pray? Am I to tell Mrs. B. that, having already embraced——”

“Say,” with an indignant gesture, pausing in her walk—“say, that I am extremely ill; and so I am, in mind.”

“If I give her that message, she will immediately send for Dr. Goggin. How will you like that?”

“Then say anything you please,” irritably. “Say that I’m not going down; no, not if she came and carried me herself. Indeed, Gussie, you must think of some excuse. You know very well,” stammering with excitement, “that you yourself would not go into public, after such a frightful disgrace; and I think,” now recommencing to cry, “that I shall never be able to look any one in the face again.”

“Did he recognize you, do you think? Did he return your embrace with equal ardour?”

“Not he; he rather held back—which naturally surprised me. He was too much astounded to speak, and indeed I did not give him time to open his mouth. I was so sure and certain that it was Teddy; only, if I had not been an idiot, I might have remembered that Ted would be in uniform; but I never gave myself a moment to reflect, and just sprang on him, like a tigress!” burying her burning face in her hands, at the mere recollection.

“And did he recognize you?” reiterated Gussie.

“I’m not sure,” slowly. “I think not. I need scarcely tell you that one glance was enough for me, and I ran. If—if—you had not been in the drawing-room when he came,” she proceeded discontentedly, “he might have thought it was you,” or at any rate given me the benefit of the doubt! You look such a much more—more—likely sort of girl—to do that sort of thing!”

“Thank you, kindly,” said Gussie, giggling; “but looks go for nothing! It was you that did it, my dear prudish sister,” again giving way to a long and uncontrollable fit of laughter, that threatened to become quite hysterical.

“Well, well, well,” at last, rising reluctantly; “I must be going, or Mrs. B. will be coming after me,” wiping her eyes. “I suppose toothache will do for your complaint?” interrogatively.

“The plague—paralysis—cholera —anything,” returned her companion impetuously. “Suppose,” wringing her hands, “it were ever to be known. Suppose Flo were to hear, or Aunt Jane——”

“You need not be uneasy on that point. He appears to be a gentleman.”

“Did he say anything to you?” in a tremulous voice.

“What would he say, beyond ‘How do you do?’”

“He did not look put out, or flustered, or queer,” in any way, when he first came in, did he? or as if a strange girl had nearly throttled him?”

“Not the least,” coolly; “probably he is accustomed to it. And now, my gentle, but impulsive sister, may I inquire if you are too ill to dine? Shall I send you up some fish, and game?” smiling.

“I believe you are enjoying the whole thing, and thinking it a splendid joke,” said the other angrily; “and it’s very unfeeling of you. You may tell Nokes to bring me a cup of tea. I’m going straight to bed,” with an aggrieved air. “And now be sure, and give a proper, a probable, account of my illness. Impress upon them, that it will be tedious. Toothache is too common, and Mrs. B. might ask to see the tooth, and have it out. No; I have it—a headache. I know I’m going to have one,” running after her sister to the head of the stairs, and gesticulating eagerly over the banisters. “Be sure you say a headache, and remember, that I’m very bad. Don’t let her come up with kind inquiries for your life!” To all these injunctions, Gussie nodded a confidential, smiling, acquiescence, as she tripped hurriedly downstairs.

“Where is Haidée?” demanded Mrs. Brabazon in a tone of sharp surprise, as her elder step-daughter, entered the drawing-room alone.

“She is not feeling very well, Mrs. Brabazon, and begs you will excuse her,” returned Gussie, avoiding, as she spoke, three pairs of inquisitive eyes.

“Haidée ill! Rubbish,” ejaculated Florian. “I saw her in the avenue an hour ago.” Brothers are sometimes brutal.

“She won’t be able to come down to dinner,” protested Gussie. “She has a bad toothache—no, I mean to say a splitting headache,” becoming very red, and floundering about in a sea of vague excuses, whilst her mother and brother volleyed exclamations and cross-questions, and Miles sat by, pulling Woggy’s ears, with a command of countenance that would have reflected credit on a North American Indian.

Chapter XIII

Miles Objects to Play Second Fiddle

Whilst Gussie had been absent on her errand, Mrs. Brabazon conversed, in her most agreeable “visiting” manner, with her nephew-in-law; professed unbounded pleasure at his arrival, descanted on the weather, and the most prominent social topics of the day, and surreptitiously “took stock of him,” as the saying is, at the same time.

He was a Brabazon, of an even more pronounced type than her step-children, and she resented this unconsciously. There always had been, and always would be, some subtle difference between her and them. They were pur sang,” and she was not; and though she tyrannized over them, and bullied them, and kept them under her heel, she was aware (even in her most violent moments) that they belonged to another and superior race. It was this envious, instinctive feeling of inferiority, that made her detest them so thoroughly; if they had been of congenial fibre, she might have tolerated them. However, she was very proud of being a Brabazon, and had taken all their ancestors to her bosom as her own; and adopted the family root and branch, and cast out the plebeian Jupps. She was familiar with all their connections, and had their pedigrees at her fingers’ ends, and talked so glibly of “Dear Algernon this,” and “Lady Louisa that” that it was now generally believed by those who knew nothing of the matter, that she herself, was an off-shoot of the noble race. Yes, this young man sitting opposite to her, was undoubtedly a Brabazon, and he had a vague resemblance to Teddy, which, needless to remark, did not enhance his merits in her opinion. He also had a deliberate way of speaking, and there was a questioning look in his deep-set, dark eyes, that awakened in her mind a suspicion that he was mentally classifying her, and this did not tend to raise him in her estimation. He was as quiet, and self-contained, as if this critical visit was an ordinary morning call. But beneath his reserved exterior, there lay, she felt instinctively, a very different nature to that of his kinsmen, whom she had been accustomed to dominate—her late husband, and Florian.

“Are you all at home at present? All the family?” he asked. “You have another stepson, I believe. A young fellow——”

“You mean Edward,” in a frozen voice.

“Yes. He is all right, is he not?”

“No,” in a tone of funereal import, and with a face to correspond. “He will never be at home again.”

“Do you mean that he is—dead?” pausing and hesitating. “I have heard nothing of it.”

For an instant she wavered, and debated with herself; then brought forth the following gigantic falsehood, and replied, with her eyes gravely fixed on the carpet, “He is.” And Florian sat by consenting thereto.

“I had no idea; pray pardon me. But Burmah is quite out of the world, you know. Even bad news does not travel there.”

And here the entrance of Gussie, with another untruth in her hand, turned the tide of conversation, into a different channel.

*  *  *

Gussie was surprised to find her sister, in spite of all her protestations, still sitting up, when she went to bed.

“I stole out,” she said apologetically, “to look for Teddy. I could not bear to think of him waiting hour after hour, at the gate, poor boy.”

“I should have thought that you had had quite enough of ‘looking for Teddy’ for one evening,” returned Augusta drily, walking over to the toilet table andviewing herself dispassionately in the glass; “and that reminds me that I have a message unto thee, oh, young woman!”

“A message?” blankly. “From Mrs. B.?”

“From Miles Brabazon. He said he hoped that your toothache, and headache, would be all right to-morrow.”

“He didn’t!” incredulously. “A nice account of me, you must have given,” cried Haidée, with her face aflame, confronting her sister in a magisterial attitude, a bright blue dressing gown, and a yard of brown hair flowing down her back. “What did you say was the matter with me? honour bright!”

“Well, to be honest, I bungled it rather at first; but I have left a general impression of a bad headache, on the public mind.”

“And he really sent that message? I never heard of such presumption! And you call him shy,” scornfully.

“No, no! pardon me, I never did,” raising her hands with an air of virtuous repudiation.

“And how did he say it?”

“Oh, he hesitated a little at first——”

“I’m glad he had that much grace,” interrupted the other quickly.

“And said, ‘Tell your sister I hope her headache, and toothache, will be better to-morrow, and that I shall have the pleasure of seeing her.’”

“Then he won’t!” impetuously, “pleasure or no pleasure. I could never look him in the face—never. I feel a miserable, degraded wretch. That’s how I feel. Of course he understands that I took him for some one else?” anxiously.

“Of course,” in a teasing tone. “What does a young man usually understand, when a girl comes skipping to meet him, with outstretched arms, singing, ‘And doth not a meeting like this, make amends?’”

“Gussie,” struggling with a smile, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!—And equally, of course, he understands that my illness is all fiddle-de-dee?”

“Equally of course,” impressively. “Ah! you can smile! I see you are recovering. You are not going to die this time. You are better!”

“No, I am not,” angrily. “I shall never get over it—never! And it shows what an odious, unmaidenly, girl, I must be, when I can laugh, or even smile, at your miserable jokes under the circumstances,” now stalking up and down the room, with clattering heels, and flowing gown.

“I shan’t stir out of this apartment till he goes; and that’s poz. Oh! you are at your prayers. I beg your pardon.”

“Well!” very eagerly, after ten minutes’ silence, “and what is he like?”

“Why, you saw him yourself,” aggravatingly.

“Not to recognize. Is he nice to talk to, or does he only stroke his moustache, and say, ‘Haw, indeed,’ or ‘What a bore,’ like Flo?”

“No, no. He had plenty to say for himself, only Flo would not let him alone; telling him all about the theatres, races, and professional beauties and actresses, as if he was a kind of savage, who had never been in England in his life! I think he is cleverish!” thoughtfully.

“What did he talk about?”

“Oh,” impatiently, “if you expect me to warm up the whole conversation for you, it’s rather too much of a good thing! We talked of Connie, she is going abroad this winter; about Burmah, and ponies, and promotion; and he is fond of music.”

“And did you indulge him, and remark quite casually, that I was a second Arabella Goddard?”

“Not likely,” contemptuously. “I played Schumann and Chopin, but he admires the heavy classical style; not like Aunt Jane, whose preference is always for what she calls ‘something tuney.’ He is going to ask Mrs. B. to allow you to have lessons on the violoncello; and he means to buy one for you.”

“Nonsense!” pausing in her tramp, and staring at her sister incredulously. “He may buy fifty if he likes! I think I see myself playing one.”

“He is very fond of dancing——”

“Ah, that’s better,” approvingly.

“But, will never permit his wife to enter a ball-room. He does not think it a place for married ladies.”

“What?” with a little scream.

“Hush-sh!” giggling. “Don’t make such a noise; I’m only inventing these little items, about the fiddle and ball, just to see how much you would believe. They are merely the figments of my too luxuriant fancy!”

“Oh!” evidently greatly relieved. “Not that it matters one single pin to me. He may make his wife play the bagpipes, and shut her up in a convent for all I care! But I do think it very unkind of you, to make fun of me when I’m in such low spirits. Play to you and death to me.” A pause. “And you really think he is nice?”

“Yes, very. In fact I would not mind taking him off your hands myself. But I fancy he is not the sort of young man that one could play with!”

“By play, you mean, fool him to the top of his bent, like the rest of your army of martyrs, and then throw him over. That’s your idea of play,” disapprovingly.

“No. I fancy he takes everything seriously,” returned Gussie, not condescending to notice her sister’s remark. “And let me tell you, as I said before, that he is anything but shy——”

“And you are sure——”

“I’m sure and certain of one thing,” crossly; “and that is, that he won’t get a wink of sleep to-night, with you stamping overhead as if you were on watch.”

“What?” pausing aghast. “You don’t mean to say that they have put him in the Blue Room, and that he has been listening to us making all this noise and clatter for the last hour?”

“Us,” indignantly. “Speak for yourself, if you please! And considering that you are supposed to be very ill in bed, he will think it rather odd, to say the least of it. Good-night!”

*  *  *

But Gussie need not have been uneasy about her cousin Miles; he was wide awake, fully dressed, leaning out of his window, smoking, and so wrapt up in his own reflections, that the chattering and pattering overhead was entirely unnoticed, as far as he was concerned. As he rested his elbows on the open sash, and stared out abstractedly on the clear balmy night, and the outlines of the majestic looking old trees in the park beneath him, his brain was very busy, and he was thinking, that as far as it was possible for him to know his own mind at present, he was not favourably impressed with the Brabazon family! In the first place, he felt a strong latent antipathy to “Mrs. B.,” as they called her; he disliked her hard set smile, her searching narrow eyes, the sly way in which they peeped out from under their lashes, and said, “I wonder what you are like?” He hated eyes that follow you about a room, and yet that cannot face you. At dinner he had discovered them, furtively watching him when his guard was down, as it were, and he was laughing across the table with Gussie. Then he heard her snubbing her step-daughter. Oh yes; it had been very quietly, and as it were privately accomplished, but he had his wits about him; and the way in which she flattered that very stupid, limp, young ape, the future master of the house, had actually interfered with his appetite! Then, his soul revolted against the manner in which his dead ancestors were trotted out and paraded; it was quite too much of a good thing! And if the old woman (if she had but heard him) went on like this in the bosom of the family, what would she not be, when she boasted high to unhappy outsiders? knocking the ash off the end of his cheroot, with a gesture of impatience.

Then, she had told him a most foolish and gratuitous untruth; apropos of some queer old china dishes on shelves above, or rather forming part of, the mantelpiece. These she had declared, with uplifted hands, and one black prunella foot on the fender, had belonged to her people, French refugees from the Edict of Nantes, the Le Jupes. (Such was her happy rendering of the more plebeian Jupp.)

“I like old-fashioned things, don’t you, Miles?” contemplating him with an air of interest.

He was by no means certain that he liked her to call him Miles; and he replied, very gravely, that “he liked some old-fashioned things very well, such as china.” And he might have added, that he had every reason to remember, that these very identical dishes were Brabazon crockery, not Jupp; as when he was a small boy he had visited Baronsford, during his aunt’s lifetime, and had had the misfortune to smash one of those very plates. Such events are remembered distinctly, whilst things of yesterday soon slip from one’s mind. Episodes at six years old, connected with a ball, a valuable plate, a furious nurse, and a birch rod, are apt to be branded on the memory!

No, he did not like Mrs. B., nor Florian. He was inclined to write him down an ass on the tablets of his mind! Then, Gussie! she was certainly several shades better; lively, tolerably good looking, and rather a flirt. She and Dicky would hit it off splendidly. She had a sidelong way of looking out of her audacious little dark eyes, and curling up her eyelashes, that no doubt some fellows would think rather fetching, but she talked too much to please him. And as to Haidée, his special young lady, there was no getting over that trifling mistake at the gate! “Some lover, of course! I’m not going to play second fiddle,” he muttered aloud. “No, not for ten times forty thousand pounds. My wife (not that I want one) must be like Caesar’s. I’ll just put in a couple of days, for the sake of appearances, and then I’ll clear out! Whether I see her, or not, it won’t make any difference. I’ve come on a nice wild-goose chase, that’s all! Mrs. B., from the way she smiled, and spoke this evening, evidently looks upon us as good as married! She doesn’t imagine that ‘her sweet Haidle,’ as she called her, has another string to her bow! By Jove! wouldn’t she be in what Dicky calls a flame,” if she knew as much as I know?” pausing reflectively for some minutes. Then his thoughts went back to the young lady once more.

“By George! how spoony she is on the other fellow; and what a hug she gave me! Only I held my head back, with extraordinary propriety and presence of mind, she’d have kissed me!—Rather sorry, now, I didn’t let her!” And so saying, he threw the stump of his cigar out of the window, closed the sash with a bang, indulged in one extravagant yawn, and went to bed.

Chapter XIV

The Prettiest Girl in Thornshire

“What fine old timber you have! Splendid trees,” remarked Miles, who, under the escort of the sprightly Augusta, was sauntering through the pleasure ground, the morning after his arrival (Haidée being still in retirement). “We could hardly beat you, even in Burmah,” looking admiringly round.

“Yes, we rather pride ourselves on our old oaks, all but Flo,” rejoined Gussie complacently. “He considers them so much sunken capital, and would give anything to cut down the timber, melt the silver, and sell the place.”

“Sell the place!” echoed her companion, in a tone of indignant amazement, “that has been in the family since the time of James the First—or was it Elizabeth——”

“Oh, pray don’t ask me!” laughing and putting up her soiled chamois garden gloves with a gesture of deprecation; “Haidée could tell you; but my knowledge of history is on a par with the woman’s, who, pointing out a castle, remarked that ‘one of the Johns had died there!’” opening the garden gate as she concluded, and tripping through, in her well-starched pink cotton, and neat little Oxford shoes.

“But of course you are joking about Florian,” continued her cousin, as he followed her down three steps, into the large walled-in enclosure, intersected with wide gravelled walks, and filling the eye with an impression of espalier fruit trees, strawberry beds, rows of peas, bee hives, and monstrous bushes of lavender, and old-fashioned China roses.

“Joking? not I. Flo will tell you, that ‘every one for himself,’ is his motto; that entailed estates, are a ridiculous remnant of the dark ages; that every one ought to lay hands on all they can, and spend it on themselves; that he would like to turn every acre into hard coin of the realm, and squander the money in any way he pleased; snapping his fingers at his heirs, and saying, ‘après moi le deluge.’”

“In short, he agrees with the well-known Irishman, who said, ‘that posterity had done nothing for him and he would do nothing for posterity!’” rejoined Miles sarcastically.

“Yes, I think that conveys his idea very neatly,” returned Gussie, now making an energetic raid upon the strawberry beds; but her search was, so to speak, fruitless, only a few half-ripe white giants rewarded her exertions; and as she raised a flushed, indignant face to her companion, she said, “Mrs. B. has been having these beds picked for jam, and it looks as if a swarm of locusts had been over them! Come, and we will have a look at the plums and apples,” rising from her knees, and shaking out her skirts. After a few moments’ chatter, she came to a halt before an espalier, and after a critical inspection of its fruit, plucked one, and holding it to her little retroussé nose, said, “These are our earliest pippins. I believe it’s ripe! Have one.”

“No, thank you,” bowing politely.

“And why not?” regarding him with unaffected curiosity.

“Because, if you must know,” smiling, “I don’t feel inclined to try any experiments on my constitution, with green apples.”

“Well, you see, I don’t mind!” sinking her even white teeth immediately into the one in her hand. “Have you any in Burmah?”

“No; but we have lots of mangoes, mangosteens, and dorians.”

“Dorians? what are they?”

“A fruit like a small melon, with an odour too unspeakably frightful; but once you can get over that,” excellent eating; in fact, the Burmans say it is the only fruit left here from Paradise.”

“And I suppose that was on account of its smell,” flippantly. “Why did you not come home sooner?” she asked after a pause.

“Oh, I got a bad fall riding a race, and that kept me on my back for weeks.”

“You don’t look as if there was much the matter with you now,” said Gussie, surveying him steadily. “I wonder,” she added, quite inconsequently, “what you will think of Haidée?”

“Have you much society about here?” asked Miles, adroitly parrying her question by another; and feigning not to have heard her remark.

“We go out very little; but as usual in country places, I believe, there are battalions of girls, and we could furnish nearly a corps d’armée—isn’t that what you call it?—of old women; but there are no men!”

“And how is that? Is the race extinct in Thornshire?” he asked, with raised brows.

“Oh, the brothers, and sons, are away in the uttermost parts of the earth, in the army or navy. The whole country resembles ‘The Princess,’ Tennyson’s poem.”

“Still, I believe there are a few men left in London. And you were there last spring,” significantly.

“Yes!” reddening faintly (but otherwise not the least discomposed), “I see that Connie has been telling you about my miserable little peccadilloes! What a shame!” in a tone of playful regret.

“How do you know, that Connie has been telling me anything about you? I never said so. I’m afraid,” smiling, “that you have a guilty conscience.”

“Oh! well, I don’t mind if she did tell you,” returned Miss Brabazon recklessly. “What does it matter, now you are going to be one of the family?” glancing at him under her eyelashes.

Miles made no reply;—he was by no means so confident on the subject.

“Let us sit down on this seat, and bask in the sun,” patting, as she spoke, a grass-green painted bench. “You may smoke another cigar, and I’ll make you my father confessor!”

Undoubtedly these Brabazon girls were most extraordinary young people, nevertheless Miles accepted the invitation with alacrity, and prepared to abandon himself to the occasion.

“You may as well know the worst of me at once!” taking a bite out of her apple as she spoke. “I’m fond of sweets, fruits, and all good things. Haidée says I am greedy, and that I shall be a terrible old woman, living only for my dinner; but I’m not a bit worse than other people! Then, I’m a flirt, if she, and Connie, and Eva Stafford, are to be believed.”

“And I suppose they must have some grounds for saying so,” said Miles expressively. “There’s never smoke without a fire, you know!”

“Oh,” aggrievedly, “because I’ve been engaged once or twice——”

Once or twice,” he repeated to himself. “The girl talks as if she were speaking of being photographed.”

“And because other people have been—well—attentive.”

“Really. How extremely odd. You allude to the corps d’armée of old women, of course, for you told me just now, that there were no men in these parts.”

“Oh,” smilingly, “you must not take everything quite au pied de la lettre. Of course there are a few.”

Certainly this Cousin Miles, who was tracing diagrams on the gravel with his cane, was very superior, in appearance, to any of her own particular admirers. He was really extremely good looking, and she would not be the least surprised if he could flirt a bit too! But here the voice of honour interposed, and said in very decided tones, “No poaching!”

“I wish you could see Haidée,” she said, suddenly changing the subject, and throwing away the stalk of her apple.

“I wish I could,” still drawing abstractedly, “for I’m going away tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, nonsense!” aghast.

“No; I’m quite serious. Is your sister like you?”

“Not the least” (emphatically). “Far, far,” better looking. She is lovely. The prettiest girl in Thornshire! Very tall, and slight, and active. Dances beautifully; and you should just see her run!”

He could testify to that! he said to himself, with a smile. “She is younger than you are, I believe?”

“Yes, three years; but she is far more like the eldest. She takes the lead in everything; she has such a strong will, and what Mr. Bell calls ‘great force of character.’ I hope,” laughing, “that you haven’t a strong will, and great force of character, for two of a trade, never agree?”

“Oh dear, no; nothing to speak of,” shaking his head. “And I suppose your sister has lots of admirers too,” he added, without raising his eyes from a very striking, almost speaking sketch of Mrs. Brabazon, which he was still, almost unconsciously, touching off, in the fine gravel before him.

“No, not one,” triumphantly; “nor ever had.”

“Oh, I say—come,” he expostulated, with a vivid recollection of the gate scene.

“I—I—know what you are thinking of,” replied Gussie mysteriously, “but I assure you,” lucidly, “that that was no one.”

“And yet you say that she is the prettiest girl in Thornshire,” observed Miles, not wishing to enter upon a discussion of the little episode of the previous evening, with the loquacious Augusta.

I don’t say it alone! everybody says it,” boastfully; producing, as she spoke, yet another apple from her pocket. “When we go into a room everybody looks at her; she is what you would call the cynosure of every eye. And so far so good; but once men begin to talk to her their enthusiasm cools. She is so stiff, and cold, and stand-off; and if they presume, in spite of this, to pay her any compliments, or to make sweet little speeches, she snubs them so unmercifully, that they go away nearly crying,” and, I need scarcely remark, never more return. Oh, never, never more!”

“A lively look-out for me,” isn’t it?” expressively.

“Oh,” encouragingly, “you must not mind her, her bark is worse than her bite! Don’t seem to notice her, or admire her, and treat her quite in an every-day manner, as if she was nothing at all out of the common, and she will be as pleasant as possible. She says, herself, that the moment any man seems disposed to be extra civil—you know what I mean?” nodding her head expressively “she can’t help taking the most violent dislike to him. But it’s nearly all shyness, nothing else,” cheerfully. “She has been to one or two small parties; very slow affairs they were, and do you know, that the first time she was going, she was just trembling all over, and cold with fright. Now,” proudly, “I’m quite different. I delight in society, from first to last. I love dressing, arriving, dancing, etc.”

“Etc., I suppose, means flirting?” slightly elevating his eyebrows.

“Never mind, what it means,” playfully; “I can go into a room with my head in the air, a kind of female Coeur de Lion,” in a tone of sublime complacency.

“Exclaiming, ‘Come one, come all!’” added her companion, with quiet suggestiveness.

“Now, Miles! I won’t have you chaff me—yet; and you must not interrupt. But Haidée’s courage, is of a different description. She’s awfully brave in accidents, and would face a tramp, or a savage dog, just like a man; whilst I would be cowering behind her, my knees literally knocking together, and my teeth chattering in. my head. And she is the only one of us that dares brave Mrs. B. now.”

The last word was significant, and suddenly recalled to Miles the gap in the family circle.

“Oh, by the way, Gussie,” he said, “I was very sorry to hear about your youngest brother. I never knew of it till last night. Connie never told me. I suppose it happened some time ago?”

“Yes,” she returned, looking rather red and embarrassed; but to her cousin’s disgust, there was not a trace of regret on her little round face. “Please don’t talk about him; above all to Haidée, or Mrs. B.”

“What had this young fellow done,” Miles asked himself, “that his name was thus tabooed,—his memory consigned to oblivion?”

“Some day, perhaps, you will know all about him,” continued Gussie, interpreting her cousin’s thoughts, with characteristic astuteness. “And I declare, here is Mrs. B.,” she added, with a slight start, as the garden gate swung back on its hinges with a clang, and a tall figure in black, with a handkerchief over her head, and a parasol in her hand, came slowly into view.

“Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest! I’m off,” cried her stepdaughter, jumping up. “I’ll leave her to entertain you; two is company—ahem!”

“No, no,” hastily responded Miles, “stay where you are, don’t desert me; you have not half made your confession.”

“Nonsense,” contemptuously, “you are not going to pretend that you are afraid of her already;” with a mocking laugh. “No, no, Cousin Miles, I must leave you to your fate. She has come out to talk to you about business,” significantly, “and I shall say au revoir.”

“It won’t be au revoir,” if you eat any more of those green apples,” shaking his head emphatically; “it will be, farewell for ever!” he rejoined in a tone of melancholy conviction.

For all reply, Miss Augusta blew him an ironical, airy salutation, from the tips of her fingers, and turning the corner of the nearest walk, disappeared from sight.

Chapter XV

No More Her Lover than Mine

Part of the same afternoon was dedicated by Miles to a formal visit to his Aunt Jane. After luncheon the three young people set out for the village together; Gussie and Florian being en route to a “tennis party” at the rectory, and the former impressing most eagerly on her cousin, that he was not to stay long at the White House, but to be sure and follow them in a quarter of an hour, “which will give you five minutes for the weather, five minutes for Burmah, and five for Haidée. Mind you come. I will never forgive you if you don’t turn up! A new young man, especially an officer, is a perfect godsend in these parts.” Her injunctions were interrupted by a well-to-do looking black cat (who had been trotting along the footpath in front of them, with most delicate action), being now called upon to “stand and deliver” by the bristling and bellicose Woggy. But pussy had a stout heart, and received the charge with eyes like two glow-worms, a tail like a bottle brush, and a series of spits, resembling a battery of soda-water corks, and distinctly refusing to be “treed,” and presently pursued its intrepid way, with a dignified, if somewhat hurried walk.

“That cat ought to have a V. C.,” remarked Miles admiringly. “Did you ever see anything like its impudence, and pluck?”

“Oh, it’s Lady Louisa, Aunt Jane’s best puss, and her ‘familiar,’ as some imagine,” returned Gussie. “She and Woggy know each other well, and he is aware that if he were to worry Lady Louisa, he would be hanged by the neck until he was dead; and she, I believe, knows it too.”

“I’m sure she has been up to no good, by the look of her,” observed Florian, removing his cheroot, as the cat darted into a hole in a hedge. “She’s death on young chickens—spring chickens, if you please—and ducklings, and is nearly as expensive in the way of ‘fowl money’ as three or four fox covers. Here we are,” hastily chucking away his weed, “and here’s the old girl herself.” (He alluded to his venerable aunt.)

The door of the White House stood open; and Miss Jane was in the hall, bonnet on head, key basket in hand, as the little party walked up the steps. She greeted Miles very warmly (for her), nodded to Flo in a disparaging manner, and turning to Gussie without any preamble, said abruptly, and in a very sharp voice, “Have you finished making your preserves up at the house, Augusta?”

“Yes, I think so, on Saturday last,” dubiously.

“Then, why in the world, don’t you send back my copper preserving pan? Here have my strawberries been waiting for days;—all the fruit fermenting!”

“It was Haidée’s fault,” replied Gussie meanly; “she made the preserves this year.”

“Humph! and every other year, and everything else besides. Well, I see you are off to this tennis party, you and Florian; so don’t let me keep you. Your cousin Miles, I dare say, would like to stay, and have a little talk with me.”

At this announcement, which had a curiously significant sound, her nephew’s heart sank like lead, and his memory eagerly presented him with a retrospect of other interviews with Aunt Jane, which had not always been of a pleasing nature.

“And by the way, where is Haidée?” she asked suddenly. “How is it that she is not with you?” she demanded in a more decided tone. “Most unaccountable.”

“She has gone out riding. A message to Mrs. Hogben,” returned Gussie demurely.

“Riding! I did not know that she ever rode!”

“I dare say you did not,” said Florian patronizingly. “She has been suddenly fired with a desire to shine in the saddle, and, with that worthy end in view, leads old Jacky no end of a life—and he her. I saw them leaving the yard now, a bottle tied to the saddle, à la John Gilpin, and Jacky in the worst of tempers, his ears laid back, his tail between his legs. They left together, but it’s my opinion, that they will come home separately,” he concluded with a lazy laugh.

“You do not appear to be very uneasy about her,” said Miles, surveying the placid Florian with some surprise.

“Oh, rather not; we are never uneasy about one another in this family,” he rejoined complacently; “it’s a little way we have.”

“And anyhow,” put in Gussie, “there is not much fear. Haidée is light, and falls soft; and Jacky, although a cross-grained, old beast, is too much attached to the family to do anything serious.”

“Come, come, get away to your party,” exclaimed Miss Jane impatiently, who was chafing at this long enforced silence. “Don’t stay chattering on my steps all the afternoon. Augusta, my dear, I don’t think,” reprovingly, “that you can know how very short your dress is——”

“Oh, it’s all right, Aunt Jane!” twirling round, by no means averse to displaying her neat shoes and ankles; “it has only shrunk a little bit in the wash. Well, good-bye; I won’t forget the preserving pan,” tripping lightly down the gravel pathway. “And, Miles,” pausing at the gate, and looking back with a coquettish wave of her hand, “remember.”

“Now, come along, and let me have a good look at you, Miles,” said his aunt, briskly leading the way upstairs into her prim, old-fashioned drawing-room—a room which was only used for state occasions, such as card-parties, and grave family debates. This was undoubtedly to be one of the latter.

“In the first place, I want to see who you are like,” leading him up to the narrow window, and settling her spectacles well on her nose. “Yes,” with a little sigh, and after a long exhaustive stare; “yes, you are like your father,” slowly removing her glasses, and rubbing them in her handkerchief. “Now, come and sit down here beside me, and we will talk over things comfortably.”

In answer to this invitation, Miles took a chair opposite his aunt, and disposed of his cane; but still grasping his hat, awaited her next remark in silence.

“This is a very odd affair, is it not. this will of your uncle’s?” she began confidentially. “Most unaccountable!”

“Very odd indeed,” returned her nephew, endeavouring to accommodate himself to his slippery high-backed seat.

“I suppose you were a good deal surprised?” she proceeded, fiddling nervously with her spectacle-case.

“Well, yes,” frankly, “I must say I was,” looking his aunt straight in the face.

“She is a nice girl,” proceeded Miss Jane in an emphatic tone, “and a good girl; and they tell me the prettiest in Thornshire. What do you think of her?” stroking down her silken lap with an air of complacent anticipation.

“I have not had the pleasure of seeing her,” shortly.

“What! Not seen her? And how was that? Most unaccountable.”

“I really cannot tell you the reason,” very stiffly. (He could,” all the same.)

“Ah, well,” indulgently, “she is a little shy, and of course it’s rather an odd position, and she really is a very diffident girl—entirely unlike the usual run of fast, painted, impudent, young women one hears of nowadays, that throw themselves at the men’s heads.”

“Indeed?” in a tone of ironical incredulity,—of course lost on Miss Jane.

“Yes; she and her sister have been brought up quite in the shade, and in the good old-fashioned way.”

“Do you mean that she has never been to balls, theatres, or races, or any society beyond what is round Maxton?”

“Never!” returned Miss Jane triumphantly. “She is not out, and hardly knows a soul besides the Bells, the Vashons, and the Heriots.”

“And does Mrs. Brabazon, keep herself locked up too?”

“Mrs. Brabazon!” rather taken aback by this unexpected question. “Well, no; she goes into society a good deal; in fact, a great deal.”

“Really. Quite an inversion of the usual routine; the young ladies stay at home, and the old one goes out,” said Miles, looking into his hat with an innocent air.

“That is putting it rather strongly,” objected Miss Jane, “and in quite a new light; but perhaps it is a pity that they are such home birds. Mrs. Brabazon says she does not mind for herself, but she likes to be very exclusive with regard to them—the girls; they have been very strictly brought up, I can assure you.”

I am not sure that I think that such a very good plan! young people will be young people,” said Miles darkly (thinking of Haidée’s mysterious friend). “I had no idea that my uncle was so badly off. That is probably one reason why Mrs. Brabazon cannot take them out.”

“What are you talking about, Miles? My brother left a very comfortable estate behind him.”

“Which now is entirely managed by his widow. Oh, I see. However, I have no business to ask questions; it is not my affair.”

“But, my dear Miles, it is your affair. Haidée will have a share of her mother’s fortune, if that is what you wish to know.” Seeing him shake his head emphatically, and seized by a sudden suspicion, she added hastily, “But perhaps you have given your heart elsewhere? Perhaps you have a prior attachment?” her eyes resting on his, with an eager questioning expression,

“No, no; none whatever. Young ladies are not very plentiful in British Burmah, and I’ve always been too poor to cast a thought to matrimony; but,” now repossessing himself of his stick, and poking at Miss Jane’s best Brussels carpet—“but Haidée, has some one on hand.”

“Haidée!” in a shocked voice. “Certainly not; no more than I have. She hardly knows a single young man; and—and between you and me, in spite of her great beauty, her manner is against her, so ungracious and stand-off.”

Miles could not refrain from a smile, as he compared this description, with his own personal experience.

“Now, if it had been Augusta,” waxing communicative, “it would be different. She has had proposals from several quarters, and poor Mr. Vashon has offered to her three times. A most desirable match!”

“But I know—I know that Haidée has a lover,” persisted Miles obstinately, averting his eyes from his aunt, and digging his cane still more fiercely into her unhappy carpet.

“Goodness, mercy, gracious, Miles! leave my carpet alone, and tell me this instant what you mean,” in great alarm.

“Well; I don’t mind if I do! In strict confidence, you know. I’d rather tell you than Mrs. B.”

“Certainly, certainly,” returned Miss Jane, whose very curls were actually bristling with apprehension.

“You see, my letter did not arrive till this morning, a post late; and I was not expected last evening, of course. As I opened the white gate in the dusk, a girl, Haidée apparently, came flying to meet me, and gave me a very,” casting about for a not too forcible word, “friendly greeting; told me she had been waiting for hours, and could hardly believe I had come at last; it was too good to be true. When she found her mistake, she ran like a lamp lighter! But the question remains, for whom did she take me? Who was it?” raising his eyes significantly to his aunt’s, and pausing for a reply.

“Ah!” replied Miss Jane, breathing a little sigh of relief. “So that was all, was it? Well, I know who it was, and I can assure you,” tapping him on the arm with her spectacle-case, “that it is no one of whom you have any reason to be jealous. Make yourself quite easy on that score.”

“But who was it? A man, I’ll swear. And seriously, Aunt Jane, although forty thousand pounds is a large sum, I don’t feel inclined to buy a wife. If there is some other fellow that she is in love with, in Heaven’s name let him marry her. I won’t!” emphatically.

“But there is no other fellow, as you call it,” cried Miss Jane, in a state of great agitation. “I cannot tell you everything; but this I may say to you,” in a voice shaking with excitement, “that the person for whom Haidée mistook you, is no more her lover than he is mine! I will give you my solemn word of honour, as a Brabazon,” holding out a thin black-mittened hand, which he had to perforce accept. And as he took it, she squeezed his fingers gently, and said, “If you are as free from a prior attachment as she is, the sooner you meet and make up your minds, as to whether you can like each other or not, the better. I know very little about you,” frankly, “but as far as Haidée is concerned, I’ve known her all her life. She is a well-principled, truthful, humble-minded, young gentlewoman; and, to quote a homely proverb, ‘you may go farther and fare worse.’”

This was indeed a glowing character from Miss Jane. If her niece had been behind a curtain, she would have doubted the evidence of her own ears.

The audience was now brought to an end, by the pompous entrance of Cox, with the silver tray, bearing cake and wine (Cox, who did not forget to take a good look at Miss Haidée’s young man); and when Miles had poured out two glasses of sherry, Miss Jane raised one of them to her lips, and making her nephew a formal old-fashioned bow, said, “I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity; and I hope that Providence will guide your judgment, in the matter that lies before you.”

To this unexpected toast Miles made no distinct reply. Although twenty-nine years of age, he blushed, yes, coloured to the very roots of his hair, and mumbling something incoherent about “obliged” and “thanks,” and wishing his elderly relation at Hongkong, at the first available opening he seized his hat and stick, and with a hurried adieu, made for the door.

“Not at all a bad sort of young man,” said Miss Jane to herself (when she heard a bang, announcing his exit), hurrying nimbly to the window to look after him, her glasses hastily assumed. “Good looking, like his father, and evidently a soldier and a gentleman; inclined to be a little jealous too, which they say is an encouraging sign! Well, well, it was a very odd meeting. Most unaccountable! I wish I could have told him the truth, but I dared not. She mistook him, of course, for poor Teddy.”

End Of Vol. I


Volume II

Chapter I

Face To Face

“It’s too late for the tennis party,” said Miles to himself, as he closed Miss Jane’s gate with a bang; and any way he was not in a festive mood, nor disposed to face a whole neighbourhood of strangers, who were all acquainted with the ridiculous errand that had brought him to Baronsford. No, he was resolved to go for a long walk, to sort his ideas, and to make up his mind, which was, at present, in a somewhat chaotic condition. He was not, it must be confessed, in a particularly urbane or genial humour as he strolled through the fields, that lovely August afternoon, cane in hand, viciously decapitating harmless meadow-sweets. However, the balmy atmosphere, the scented hedges, and the long strange, but familiar rural surroundings, and the élan of a disposition easily stirred by outward objects, soon conduced to increased serenity.

Miss Jane’s eager and vehement assurance, that the stranger at the gate was “no more Haidée’s lover than her own,” was a startling announcement, and made so impressively, and in such earnest good faith, that Miles felt that he was compelled to believe his aunt,—despite the evidence of his own senses.

Then, too, the volatile Augusta had mysteriously hinted that it was “No one,” an Irishism, outrivalling the well-known “It was neither of us,” and sheer, and incredible nonsense! Haidée had plainly been expecting some one—some one to whom she was very much attached; and if it was not her lover, who was it?

Not Florian; not the other brother, for he was dead. Could it have been a woman? Something told him instinctively that it was not, although nothing that had fallen from his cousin’s lips pointed to either sex. “Been waiting for ages; thought you would never come; too good to be true.” There was no reason why this greeting should not have been addressed to some other girl; and it had certainly been pitch dark, darker to her-she had come out of the light—than to him. Even supposing that he had been entirely mistaken in his surmise, and that this cousin Haidée was as fancy free as she was beautiful and bashful, what, he asked himself, was he going to do? Did he mean to marry her, if she would have him? On due reflection he did not. No, now that he was away from the angry expostulations of Dicky, the eloquent entreaties of Connie, he told himself decidedly, that it was they who had urged him thus far. Dicky lad despatched him from Rangoon, only to fall into the hands of his sister, who had a very strong opinion on the matter, an opinion precisely similar to Mr. Gee’s. But now that he was, so to speak, away from these influences, and a free agent, and had time to confer with himself, was it right to barter the privileges that every man had, to choose his own lot in life, for forty thousand pounds? Was it not like selling his birth-right for a mess of pottage? What business had a half-crazy old relative to try to meddle, after death, with the destinies of two inoffensive young people? Had he not been very well content with his life as it was? With his partner, his ponies, and his lean purse? Why try to better himself?

He had never sought ladies’ society, but still he had felt that the future had had vague dim possibilities for him. Who could have told how or when he might have met just the one woman in the world, who would have beckoned him into a temporary Paradise-as other people had been beckoned?—True, he had sneered and reviled at these supremely blessed individuals! but they had seemed so essentially happy, so utterly removed from all temporal cares (for a time), that he had told himself that, “After all, there must be something in it!” Had not Charley Burrows, a morose misanthrope, been converted into an impassioned lover, and a model husband, no later than last year? Supposing, just for the sake of argument, that after having married his cousin-and the money—he were subsequently to meet what is poetically called his “fate.” How would it be then? His present position was both hateful and ridiculous! It was not too late to retreat; he had not even seen his cousin. His coming to Baronsford was a mere matter of form. He had not burnt his boats, thank goodness, and his destiny was still in his own hands. He told himself this fact, with a sense of deep congratulation, as he swept the heads off three tall ox-eyed daisies, with a dexterous semi-circular cut of his cane!

Doubtless, my good gentleman! firmly as you imagine, you hold your destiny in your grasp, and high, as you carry your head, and emancipated as your air is, before another hour has elapsed, you will be led in manacles by the blind god. You will be no longer a free agent, and, to quote your own thoughts, you will have “met your fate.”

*  *  *

After walking for some time along a deeply rutted, sandy, shady, bridle-path, a sudden turn in the lane brought him in sight of a closed wooden gate right across his present track, at the other side of which he beheld, with a thrill of unaccountable recognition-a thrill which turned him hot, and sent his heart beating double quick time—the figure of a girl in a blue habit, riding a large dun pony. He could see, even at a distance, by the gestures of the young lady, and the shape of the pony’s back, that they were having a serious difference of opinion! The human being wished to open the gate from the saddle, without dismounting, and the dumb animal positively declined to entertain the idea for one second. Evidently, he considered that he had come far enough! No sooner had she urged him up to a certain pitch, and reached forth a long and eager arm, than he instantly whisked round, with his tail exactly where his head should be. Two or three times he had repeated this exasperating manoeuvre, and had immovably resisted her blandishments. Vainly did she ply reins, and whip, and utter soft persuasive sounds. Vainly indeed! and from the most casual glance any one could tell that the pony had the best of the dispute, and was sternly resolved to have his own way. They had been contending thus for quite ten minutes, and Haidée was getting both hot and angry; and the words, “Hideous beast, hateful imp of a pony,” were borne to Miles’s ears by a gentle little afternoon breeze, that daintily rustled the ash trees, and the hedgerows.

In her all-absorbing struggle with Jacky, Haidée had never noticed that she and he were not alone, that there was a spectator on the scene-a slight, dark young man, in a tweed suit, with a big daisy in his button-hole, rapidly coming to her assistance. No, her stiff-necked quadruped occupied her whole attention. At last she relinquished the struggle; and jumping off his back, was hastily proceeding to unfasten the hasp, when her obstinate, unruly animal backed suddenly, threw up his head with a violent jerk, and wrenching the bridle out of his mistress’s hand, lashed out playfully, and galloped down the field, a loose, and a triumphant pony!

“Oh, you demon of the deepest dye!” cried Haidée passionately. Then suddenly catching sight of some one at the other side of the bone of contention, she exclaimed eagerly, “Oh, do please help me to catch him! He will knock the saddle all to pieces, and perhaps break his knees;” and gathering up her skirt, without waiting for an answer, set a laudable example, by starting off at once in hot pursuit.

Of all the cunning, tiresome animals that ever were shod, Jacky must have the precedence! They would succeed in hunting him into a corner, and he would pause, and leisurely crop the grass, with streaming reins, and one malicious whity-blue eye cocked in their direction, and just as they fondly imagined they had him, he would give a contemptuous kick, accompanied by a squeal of derision, and thunder past them twenty miles an hour.

Three or four times he had played them this trick, and foiled them successfully, and they were out of all patience, not to say both hot and furious. In fact, Haidée had retired from the chase (for running round a thirty-acre field in a riding habit, on an unusually warm August afternoon, is an exercise that soon palls, be you ever so young and nimble) Victory! At last Miles has captured Jacky, by dint of sheer running, and brought him triumphantly back to his mistress; who stood under a tree, with her hat off and a small branch of horse-chestnut in her hand, with which she had been fanning herself in the vain hope of cooling her hot cheeks.

“The prettiest girl in Thornshire! there could not be much doubt about that!” said Miles to himself, as he approached her, with the bridle of the sullen and shameless captive over his left arm.

The recent chase had loosened various stray little locks and curls about her temples; her cheeks were an exquisite rose colour, her eyes like two sapphires, but both defiant and bashful; and had he known the truth, she was on the brink of running away; for, now that the excitement of the pony hunt was at an end, she began to realize that, at last, she was really face to face with her much-dreaded cousin Miles. And behold the critical moment! why was not Gussie there to see?

“I’ve got him at last,” he cried cheerfully, whilst still at some distance. “What a cunning old beggar he is! I think,” now being quite close to her and doffing his hat, “that you must be my cousin Haidée. I,” colouring a little, but looking at her steadily, “am Miles Brabazon.”

“I suppose so!” she returned, becoming crimson, tossing away her impromptu fun, but making no attempt whatever to shake hands. “Just lead him up to that stone, will you; and hold him tight, or he will bite,” she added rather cavalierly. (None so bold, as your desperately shy people, at bay.)

He had fancied that a smile, a word of thanks, would have rewarded his success. But no, her eyes did not even meet his; all he beheld was an averted, disdainful face.

“May I not put you up?” he asked humbly.

“Oh no, no, thanks,” impatiently, mounting, as she spoke, with nimble ease, and settling herself in the saddle.

“Does he often play you these tricks?” he ventured to ask, taking, as he spoke, a wisp of grass out of Jacky’s reluctant mouth, and putting the reins in her hands.

“Yes, often,” snappishly.

“And yet it does not cool your ardour for riding him,” smiling.

“No!” very shortly.

“And now, if you will be so good as to open the gate, I shall be much obliged,” she added, with ostentatious politeness.

The gate was duly opened, and Jacky condescended to pace through; Miss Haidée, bestowing on her cousin a stately little bow, evidently meaning to part company with him then and there. But no such idea was in Jacky’s mind! No, no. He planted his feet firmly together, as it were rooted himself in the soil of the next field, and positively declined to stir one step further; deaf as the traditional adder to the most soothing endearments, and as callous to the whip as if he had been cased in mail; merely shaking his ears disapprovingly, and at last showing a strong desire to lie down!

It was a humiliating situation for Haidée, and ludicrous in the extreme. She could not honestly say, if she had been asked on oath at the moment, which of the two she hated most; her cousin, or the pony! There was a twinkle in Miles’s eye that had not escaped her; and, indeed, it was only by putting a strong restraint upon himself that he had been able to decently command his countenance! After a time a little compromise was effected—Jacky was satisfied to proceed, provided that he was gently and indulgently led by the bridle. And in this manner the trio slowly left the fields, and proceeded along the narrow lanes leading to Mr. Hogben’s farm.

Miles struggled bravely to make conversation, about the weather, the beauty of the country, and the lovely wild flowers in the hedges; but his well-meant efforts resembled a monologue, until, by a brilliant inspiration, he touched upon the delinquencies of Jacky, and then Haidée found speech; her pent-up indignation, broke forth in spite of herself.

“Odious, ungrateful, ugly little wretch! Would you believe that he is twenty-one years old! and has hardly a tooth in his head?”

“No, indeed, I would not; he seems to be as lively as a two-year-old,” delighted that this fair and disdainful divinity had found voice at last.

“Yes, that he is; and his temper is getting worse every year! Would any one imagine, that ages and ages ago, when he was being led out to be shot, along with the old carriage horses and another pony, I actually went down on my knees to Mrs. Brabazon, I grovelled to her, to spare Jacky!”

“And did she?” inquired Miles, thoughtlessly; eager to keep the ball of conversation rolling at any price.

“Did she? What a stupid question!” lifting her eyebrows eyebrows contemptuously. “If he had been shot, how could he be here now? But he was spared, because Jacobs said he had a lot of work in him, and he would do very well for carting.”

“Yes,” acquiesced Miles, afraid of committing himself further.

“And so he does, but he hates being ridden. Isn’t it vile of him?” indignantly. “And when he sees the side saddle brought out, he makes the most hideous grimaces.”

“And is to-day a fair sample of his usual conduct?”

“Oh no; he is not always so mulish. But generally, just the very times I want to stop he goes on, full gallop, and when I want to go on, he stops, and won’t move.”

“As was the case just now, when you were so anxious to get away from me,” said Miles, with quiet emphasis.

At this remark, the young lady’s face assumed the colour of a danger signal; but she merely replied, very stiffly—

“You may let him loose now, thanks; he knows there is no help for it, and that he is going to Mrs. Hogben’s.”

But Miles still held the bridle, and declined to accept this broad hint, walking beside his cousin, till Jacky suddenly came to a violent halt at the back gate of a large farmyard, surrounded by high red-tiled, deep-roofed barns, and a noise of lowing, and barking, and clucking, and crowing.

“Oh, Miss Haidée, dear!” cried a ruddy-cheeked elderly woman, in a large checked apron, who was in the act of feeding a mob of ducks. “She’s been asking for you the whole afternoon! Go in and see her, like a dear young lady. You’ve brought the wool?” anxiously.

“Yes, but I’ve no time to stop, Mary. Jacky has kept me hours on the road. He went half-way into the horrid green pool near the Bull Ring, and was going to lie down, only a boy rushed in and dragged him out; and he got loose in the long field, and I thought he never would have been caught. I’ll give you the fingering, and I’ll come in again,” evidently anxious to be gone.

“Oh, but here is Tom to hold the pony, and you must just run in for a minute, dear. She’s been awful irritable all day, and maybe you’d put her in a good humour for us; you know how she takes to you. Do now,” coaxingly. “Tom, go to the pony’s head!”—to a youth with a shock of red hair.

Thus adjured, Haidée jumped off Jacky, and hastily went into the farm house, followed by Miles, who found himself in a long, low, tiled kitchen, with small, latticed-paned windows, and well-stored rafters, and in the presence of a little old woman, who was sitting near the fire in a kind of beehive chair, with glittering, dark eyes, lighting up a face as wrinkled as a roasted apple, and as sharp as a needle.

“Well, so you were not for coming in, missy!” she cried, in a high, reedy voice. “I saw you. My sight is spared to me, though it would be as well sometimes if it wasn’t, to see the waste going on all around,” glaring at her daughter-in-law, and lifting, as she spoke, a large ear-trumpet to the ear nearest Haidée.

“I would have come in, only I’m late, granny,” returned that young lady down the trumpet, in her most apologetic tone of voice; “and here is the wool,” placing a packet in the old lady’s lap.

“It’s grey!” she exclaimed. “I don’t want grey wool. I said brown,” she returned, ungratefully, as she held it up and felt it fastidiously between her claw-like fingers; her eyes all the time fixed on Captain Brabazon, with a critical interrogative expression.

“I can change it,” said Haidée, making animated signs.

“No, no, no; then I would not get it for another long spell! It will have to do,” very peevishly. And now, suddenly sitting up quite erect, and still staring hard at Miles, she nodded her head confidentially. “And so this is the young man that has come all the way from the other end of the world, hasn’t he?” Haidée made a quick sign of assent, unprepared for the sequel—“to marry you.”

“No, he hasn’t!” she shouted down the trumpet.

“It’s no use your screaming at me, missy,” she returned shrilly. “I never can hear what you say, and it just goes through my poor head,” now planting the trumpet in her lap, and thus cutting off any possible reply, “and it’s no good shaking your head like that! What’s he come for else?” demanded this very terrible old person.

“She’s a good girl,”—in a patronizing staccato—“and you’ll get a pretty wife!” she cried, raising a high chirruping voice, and addressing herself specially to Miles, who, now that he had seen Haidée, was by no means so averse to congratulations as he had been two hours previously, and accepted the situation with fortitude.

As for his unhappy cousin, who knew from years of experience the extraordinary loquacity of Granny Hogben, and the liberties she allowed her tongue, she got herself-how she never exactly knew-once more out into the yard, and was soon in the saddle, anxiously attended by Mrs. Hogben, junior, declaring “she humbly hoped she wouldn’t mind; it was a bit orkerd, but the old woman was terrible contrary and crabbed all day, dear; and there was no pleasing her!”

However, Miss Brabazon had no time to make any lucid reply. Before the last words were well out of Mrs. Hogben’s mouth, she was departing through the yard gate on the now impatient and exultant Jacky, who was stepping homewards at a rapid, consequential walk, when Miles overtook them running, saying, as he got up to them,

“Surely you are never going to be so inhuman as to desert me, and leave me to my fate in these outlandish lanes? It would be ungrateful, to say the least of it,” breathlessly.

“Oh,” answering him very reluctantly, “I will point you out the road, and you can easily make your way home. You go up this lane,” pointing with her whip, “and take the first turning on the right, then the second on the left, then——”

Then,” he interrupted emphatically, “I shall have lost my way, and shall be rambling about the fields all night. Pray spare me this miserable fate!”

Miles was amazed at his own persistence, and his own flow of language, but the rude avoidance of an exceedingly pretty girl, is occasionally a sufficient incentive to put a young man on his mettle!

“Come, then, if you like,” was the grudging answer; “but you must walk fast,” she added imperiously, or we shall be late for dinner.”

“I’ll run the whole way. I’ll be your syce, as if you were in India,” he returned eagerly. “Only don’t leave me!” laughing.

“To hear you, one would imagine you were one of the babes in the wood,” returned his cousin scornfully; glancing down on her companion as she spoke.

“What an amiable person Mrs. Hogben’s aged parent seems to be,” he remarked irrelevantly. “I quite love her.”

“Do you? You must be susceptible indeed.” (Yes, he certainly had a look of Teddy when he laughed.)

“I wanted to say something to you,” continued Miles, nervously flourishing his cane about in a manner that excited the ire of Jacky; “and all the way up from the fields I was cudgelling my brains, but I could not say it. I wanted to speak to you about-about-this will, and yonder worthy old woman broke the ice for me at one plunge. You know——”

“I know,” interrupted his companion hastily, with averted face, “that if ever you break it any further, I shall never speak to you again! Also, that I shall leave you here, to find your own way home as best you can.”

“May I not say one word on the subject?” addressing the back of her hat.

“Not one. Please put the whole affair out of your mind. If you even hint at it I—I—I shall hate you!”

Here was a threat! He had no resource but to obey this very imperious young lady; but he made a solemn mental resolve to bring forth the subject on some future occasion.

“And what may I talk about?” he asked. “What topics are not labelled dangerous?”

“Oh,” hitting Jacky with her whip, “talk of the weather, the crops, the new moon, anything; talk of Burmah, tell me about Burmah!”

And thus encouraged, he lamely began to make some conversation. But even under their peculiar circumstances, young people of their age were sure to find subjects in common; and he, perceiving he had an eager and intelligent listener, launched forth about the wonders of Mandalay, that impostor the white elephant, the hill reported to be composed of solid silver. Then he gave a few Burmese legends, a short sketch of Bangkok, reputed to be the richest city in the world, with its huge golden altar, streets full of gamblers, and river cheery with the celebrated singing fish. From this (apropos of a vicious snap from Jacky), he turned to the names, ages, and tempers of his four ponies, and gave her a short resumé of his dogs and their characteristics. How one went in for ratting, another fighting, another hunting; and was about to enter upon a detailed description of the eight young ladies in Rangoon, when to his and Haidée’s astonishment, they found themselves already at the back gate at Baronsford.

Pray do not suppose that she had been silent all the time! She had (after her interest was aroused, and feeling an agreeable conviction that she had overawed and silenced the young man beside her), thawed, and thrown in remarks, questions, and nods, just as plentifully as opportunity occurred. He had a look of Teddy. Only for this one great point in his favour, she would never—so she assured-herself, have eagerly opened her lips to him, even once. And yet in what did the likeness lie? He was dark and sunburnt, and not much above middle height; whilst Ted was tall and fair!

“Why, we are actually at home!” he exclaimed in surprise. “We must have come by a short cut. How quick we have been.”

“Yes,” returned Haidée, “those stories of yours made the time pass. I don’t mean to flatter you,” she added frankly, “but those descriptions of Burmah were so interesting, and I do like to hear about other countries--having seen so little myself no matter from whom; and of course no one, however stupid, goes about the world for nothing.”

In this cruel manner did she qualify her compliment; but Miles gratefully accepted it; concurring in the time-honoured adage, that “half a loaf, is better than no bread!”

“We have only ten minutes before dinner,” said Haidée, glancing nervously at the yard clock. “No, no,” waving her cousin away impatiently, “I always dismount alone; but,” jumping down, gathering up her skirt, and commencing to run, but if you like to follow me in by the back door, you may,” she called to him condescendingly over her shoulder. “It saves time.”

Three minutes later, she had burst into her bedroom breathless; where she found her sister decorating her little person with the deepest interest, and absorbed in the contemplation of her charms in the looking glass.

“We have met at last, and the worst is over,” cried Haidée, tossing her hat and whip down upon a sofa.

“And you are alive to tell the tale,” said Gussie, turning round, with a broad smile on her face and some flowers in her hand. “‘We met, ’twas in a crowd, and I thought he would shun me,’” she began to hum. “Go on, please; I’m thirsting for particulars.”

“I’ll tell you all about it afterwards,” rapidly commencing her toilet. “Like a dear good Samaritan, help me; I’m so frightfully late. I’ll do as much for you another time.”

“All right. What are you going to adorn yourself in?” rather dubiously.

“Hobson’s choice—my Madras muslin! and,” suddenly pausing with a little shriek of dismay, “why Gussie, you wretch, you have it on. Take it off this instant, miss!”

“Can’t possibly, my dear; and it would be of no use to you,” returned Augusta with perfect composure. “My own was simply like a sweep’s, so awfully grimy, and yours was clean, and I inducted myself into it, as Mr. Vashon and a friend of Flo’s—a notoriously susceptible youth-are coming to dinner.”

“But that is all nonsense,” said Haidée imperatively. “Gloves, handkerchiefs, stockings, I don’t mind; but I really must draw the line at my only clean dress!”

“I’ve had all the trouble of cobbling a big tuck in it,” replied her unabashed relative. “It’s not too short, is it?” walking over to an old cheval glass, and surveying her fresh crisp skirt with some anxiety. “Don’t look so angry, my sweet girl; you know,” addressing herself to her indignant companion, “sisters should be sisters.”

“But not to this extent, my dear Gussie; not to leaving one without a gown to their back. I’ve nothing on earth but my old black grenadine!”

“It’s not half bad by candle light,” consolingly.

“It is brown, and all darns; it’s not decent.”

“Nonsense, my love, you know you’d look beautiful in brown paper! You don’t require the adjuncts of dress like me. Now, I’m nothing, unless I am adorned, and then, with the light well behind me, I don’t do so badly!” surveying herself complacently, with her head on one side.

Do? And pray what am I to do? Am I to appear in rags?” demanded Haidée angrily.

“My dear child, listen to me, and I will tell you a little parable! Last night, in this very room, you declared that you would not appear at all (alive or other wise), whilst Miles was here. Come now, you know you did! Consequently, what do you want with dress? I pause for a reply!”

“But I am going down,” returned the other, colouring; “second thoughts are best.”

“Then you should have said so before, and I would not have laid hands on your muslin garment; now you will be obliged to wear the old black, as a fitting penance for telling such an abominable tarradiddle,” nodding her head impressively. “Come, I’ll fix you up with some white lace,” she proceeded, soothingly. “I’ll make you as beautiful as a butterfly!”

“No you won’t,” indignantly; “I’ll just wear the old black, with grandmamma’s red and gold Algerian necklet.”

“Grandmamma’s necklet! Why, I was thinking of wearing that myself!”

“Then you may put the idea out of your head,” returned her sister decisively, “for I shall certainly take the liberty of wearing my own, and only ornament!”

“How horrid of you, not to lend it to me!” exclaimed Gussie, amazed at such unaccommodating conduct; “and you know it does not suit you at all; you look awful in it!”

“Well, at any rate, I’ll risk it,” returned Haidée composedly, clasping her coveted bauble round her neck, with a little defiant snap; and, thus equipped at last, the two young ladies floated downstairs, in answer to the gong, apparently on excellent terms with themselves, their clothes, and each other. In spite of Haidée’s shabby dress (its deficiencies were not visible to the uninitiated eyes of mankind), as she walked into the drawing-room in the wake of her elder sister, Miles, and the susceptible youth previously alluded to, both mentally declared to themselves, that she was the prettiest girl they had ever seen!

Chapter II

All or Nothing

Let us sing of first impressions; of love at first sight, of that unaccountable mental production that (sometimes) once in a lifetime springs up in a few hours, like the prophet’s gourd,—that is irresistible, intangible, indescribable!

*  *  *

What is the matter with the usually cool, unimpressionable, Miles this morning? He has cut his chin shaving, he has found himself abstractedly drawing on his evening dress coat, he has pocketed a button hook, under the serene impression that it is his favourite knife. What does this portend? Where are his thoughts? They are engrossed with Haidée! She has taken an extraordinary hold upon his mind; he cannot shake her off, and he cannot understand it. He is a long way the first to appear in the dining-room, and, although he stands in the far window, calmly discussing the prospect, and the pine trees, with his affable hostess, he is all the while eagerly listening for the first sweet boom of the gong, which will summon her (yes, she is already her), to his presence. He feels a feverish, ridiculous impatience to see her again; (especially by the sober practical morning light), to discover if she is really all his fancy has been so industriously painting, during the empty hours which have elapsed since he had beheld her last! The gong sounds. Six decorous servants, headed by Nokes, file in, and occupy six chairs. Florian, yawning in a manner that is uncomplimentary to his night’s rest, lounges after them; then there comes a sound of swiftly running feet: enter Augusta and Haidée, in their second best gowns, late, and deprecatory of Mrs. Brabazon’s awful eye. Kind Gussie, beams on her kinsman, and seats herself in the vacant place beside him; but Haidée extends the tips of her cool fingers, and accords him a glance, that embodies both defence and defiance! All through breakfast she never opens her lips, excepting to murmur a request to her sister to “pass the honey.” She sits exactly opposite to Miles, and once or twice, when he met her glance, he was made aware that she considered that in merely looking at her, he was guilty of a very great liberty! But she was so exceedingly pretty, that he boldly repeated the offence again, and again, with ever increasing impunity. Why had she frozen up this morning? How had he offended her? Of course he could not possibly know that this severely distant demeanour was due to one or two of Florian’s ill-timed gibes, privately addressed to her on the stairs, the preceding night, and to her sister’s delicate badinage, as she accomplished her morning toilet. Then, was not Mrs. Brabazon’s ever watchful eye, speaking in a language to her that was peculiarly its own, from its ambush behind the big silver tea-urn, and saying, “Be agreeable.” All these forces, fought against Miles and his co-legatee! She was resolved not to notice him, to smile on him, or pretend, that she would be friends with him. Why should she, when she was positively certain that she was going to hate him? As for him, he had a latent conviction, that he had fallen in love with his beautiful cousin Haidée, and was prepared to abandon himself to circumstances without another struggle.

However, the young lady displayed unparalleled strategic capabilities, for a skilful avoidance of their visitor (and could not have gone a more effectual way to work, to heighten her attractions, had she but known it). She left her fiancé to be entirely entertained by her obliging little sister; who, nothing loath, played tennis with him, walked with him, talked with him, and used him unscrupulously, as a powerful moral engine, wherewith to inflame the jealousy of her miserable adorer, Mr. James Vashon.

Miles could see that the second Miss Brabazon was shy, stiff, and brusque in society. He also remarked other things as well: he noticed that although Augusta smilingly dispensed afternoon tea, and entertained visitors, with graceful hospitality, endowing them frequently with fruit and hothouse flowers (by Mrs. Brabazon’s permission), yet that it was Haidée who really bore the burthen of administration. He had observed her filling flower vases, darning table linen, cutting bread and butter, and picking fruit; and it was she who invariably responded to significant beckonings from doorways, and made long absences, in answer to the usual formula, “Can I speak to you for a moment, miss?”

She was decidedly the most popular among the people about the place, and in the village; here, “Miss Haidée was referred to as an authority, when Miss Brabazon was never even mentioned. He had observed her coming out of cottages, he had seen her pick up and console a roaring urchin who had had a tumble in the road, tenderly wiping his muddy hands with her own clean handkerchief, and personally conducting him back to his ejaculating mother; whilst Gussie, like the Levite, had passed by on the other side. One old man, in a tall hat and smock frock, a venerable patriarch, with a bent back and quavering voice, had furtively beckoned to Miles, as he idly lounged outside the village shop, whilst Gussie made some purchases for her own personal adornment, and seized this occasion to utter a word of council. “See here, mister,” he wheezed, with a look of senile intelligence, “you have nothing to say to that one!” jerking his horny thumb in the direction of the unsuspecting Gussie; “you keep to the other, as was left to you, Miss Haidée. Take an old man’s word for it, she’s the flower of the flock, the flower of the flock.” Thus muttering to himself old Gaffer Grindlay hastily hobbled away, chuckling and nodding mysteriously; for Augusta had at last matched her primrose ribbons, and appeared upon the scene, charged with playful apologies.

It did not need Gaffer Grindley’s assurance to convince Miles of Haidée’s worth; but what did it all avail, when “the flower of the flock” would have nothing whatever to say to him, and repudiated him and the forty thousand pounds with equal contempt? He never had a chance of speaking to her alone, although he had the pleasure of her sister’s society, for hours at a time! By the way, how exceedingly glum Mr. Vashon had looked, the day that he discovered them under the cedar! Captain Brabazon lying on the moss, staring up at the big dark branches over his head, with an expression of profound attention, (in good truth wondering where Haidée was, what she was doing, and whether he could invent any plausible excuse to “draw” the village?) whilst Gussie, with his straw hat perched on her head, was reading aloud portions of Maud in a sing-song voice, with delicious complacency, pausing occasionally to moralize and rhapsodize.

Mr. Vashon did not ejaculate, “Oh, Arcadia! what a scene!” when he came upon this picture. No, no, he merely looked like a dog, who finds that another has appropriated his bone, and asked Miles rather savagely, firstly, “If he was not afraid of rheumatism?” secondly, “When his leave was up?”

*  *  *

In early days, Augusta had been bribed by her sister as follows:— “If you will solemnly promise, never to leave me alone with Miles, no matter under what circumstances, to sit by us, walk by us, stick to us like a leech, no matter how intruding you appear, and so that he may never have an opportunity of broaching that odious legacy business, I will give you, when he goes, grandmamma’s gold necklet!”

This was an inducement, for the necklet was a long coveted article; and Gussie agreed to the negotiation without demur; “not that your precautions will be of any use,” she informed her sister candidly,“he will make an opportunity, or he will write, if the worst comes to the worst! The engagement must be spoken of; there are only five weeks now, to the end of September, and you are just a silly old ostrich, sticking your head in the sand. You are an uncommonly lucky girl, and don’t know when you are well off. You are going to marry Miles, of course; every one knows that. However, with regard to the necklet, a bargain is a bargain.”

Whether it was that Mr. Vashon showed signs of defection, or that Haidée had changed her mind, or that her sister had received a still heavier bribe, I cannot say; but for the last few days Miss Gussie had relaxed her watch, and been rarely on duty; and Haidée and Miles were constantly to be met walking about the garden, the grounds, or the village, alone, merely chaperoned by Woggy, and apparently on very easy pleasant terms with one another.

*  *  *

One afternoon about four o’clock, two couples were to be seen coming down from the tennis ground; the first were Gussie and Mr. Vashon, a very plain little man with a sunburnt face, goggling blue eyes, and a remarkable talent for silence, excepting on two subjects-horseflesh and the young lady beside him. As she says herself, in reply to her sister’s request for a likely topic to arouse the taciturn gentleman—

“Harangue him on the subject of me, my dear, and he is all there!” He is a wealthy, a very wealthy parti; has a fine old country place, excellent shooting, a stable full of hunters, and only wants the sprightly demoiselle beside him for his wife, to complete his happiness. Even in white flannel tennis clothes, he contrives to look horsey, and there is no doubt that his appearance is at its best, when he is to be seen in the saddle, mounted on a smart-looking hunter, and garbed in scarlet swallow-tailed coat, neat breeches, and top boots wrinkled like a concertina; then he certainly seems to be “the right man in the right place.” Probably Miles is quite as good a horseman as Mr. Vashon, but he appears perfectly at home in his cool white flannels, as he strolls along behind, in company with Haidée. Gussie and Mr. Vashon naturally diverge to the garden; when they come to the end of the pleasure ground; and our young couple, bend their steps towards the river (called so by courtesy), being merely a stream swollen in winter to imposing proportions, but dancing noisily over its scantily covered pebbles this grilling afternoon.

“Poor devil!” ejaculated Miles, almost unconsciously, as his eyes travelled lazily after Augusta and her swain, with an expression, half of curiosity and half of derision. “It reminds me of a cat playing with a mouse. I call it a shame!” turning to Haidée, with a laugh. “Cruelty to animals!”

‘Oh, she will marry him yet!” returned her sister placidly, “and then, it will be his turn. I dare say,” smiling, “that he will pay her out, in the coming by and by.”

“You don’t mean that she intends to have him after all?” said Miles incredulously.

“Yes, I do,” seating herself on a mossy log under a lime tree by the river, as she spoke, spreading out her white skirts, and adjusting her red parasol. “He is a very good-hearted little man,” she proceeded. “Although he resembles a gargoyle in the face, and his nose is like a potato, he is quite popular. I can never get on with him myself,” frankly, “but that is of no consequence. I can’t talk about hunting, and racing, and horses, and don’t understand half the shibboleth. Fancy his telling me, apropos of Woggy, that he wasn’t an ill-shaped one, but he had no quarters, and his tail was badly put on! Did you ever hear such rubbish?” picking up a little branch of leaves, and commencing to beat off the midges, and agitate the sultry air.

“But your sister doesn’t care a straw for him,” said Miles decisively, stretching himself at full length on the moss, and tilting his straw hat over his eyes.

“I don’t know that,” returned Haidée reflectively. “He has heaps of money, you know?”

“And is that the pass-key to her affections?” picking a blade of grass, and putting it in his mouth.

“Oh,” raising her eyebrows, “I could not say that; but I’m sure she likes him. You may observe that she never allows any one else to laugh at him; and she snubs him so frightfully.”

“And you call that encouraging?” ironically.

“With her, certainly.”

“Then if snubbing is to be regarded as a token of esteem, how fond you must be of-me.

“Miles,” she ejaculated indignantly, “you know, you are different; you are only my cousin,” with much emphasis on the last word, “and you should not be personal.”

“Would it be personal, to ask who gave you that pretty little blue ring? Was it Florian?”

“Florian, indeed!” with an amused expression. “He never makes presents; he never gave me anything in his life, but the measles.”

“Then who gave it to you?” he urged persistently, his eyes still jealously fastened on Teddy’s Christmas-box.

“I fancied men were never inquisitive; at least they like people to think so. It is not a gage d’amour, at any rate. Will that satisfy your curiosity, Cousin Miles?”

“I suppose it must, Cousin Haidée!” brightening perceptibly. “By the way, I have often meant to ask you, how you came by such an outlandish name? Surely it was not selected by your worthy godmother, Aunt Jane; it smacks too much of the romantic,—of the isles of Greece,—for such a prosaic old lady!”

“It is not my real name; didn’t you know?” she asked, with smiling surprise. “My own name is Ada; my nurse insisted upon the aspirate, and called me Hada, and I believe papa softened it into Haidée, and Haidée I shall be called, I suppose, to my dying day.-Haidée Brabazon goes rather well, does it not?”

“Admirably,” returned her companion, promptly seizing this inadvertent opening. “You could not possibly improve on it. I hope, when you marry, you will not change your name. I wish you would tell me one thing, Haidée,” suddenly resolved to put his fate to the touch, and nervously plucking, and flinging aside, several blades of grass. “May I speak of Uncle George’s legacy? you know it’s all nonsense going on like this. Time and tide wait for no man. I’ve been more than a fortnight here. May I speak now?

“Oh, if you like!” twisting a leaf off her rustic fan, with discouraging indifference (but her hands were trembling).

“Then will you tell me, if Uncle George’s arrangement is to stand good?” he demanded boldly. After a moment’s pause he went on—”It is true, that I have only known you for a very short time, as days go; but I know you long enough to care for you, more than all the rest of the world put together. I’m saying this very stupidly and lamely, I know; but at any rate, you can see from that, that I have never said it to any girl before. You know what I mean, Haidée!” he added, in a lower voice. “You know that I love you! Will you be my wife?”

The worst was over— the dreaded question asked.

“No, no, Miles,”-she answered, in an equally low voice, with averted face (much startled by the tumult of her own emotions). “And now that you have relieved your conscience, and said all that Uncle George expected of you,—we can be quite cousinly,—and really good friends, can we not?” looking at him at last, with considerably heightened colour.

“I was perfectly in earnest, Haidée,” returned her companion, reproachfully; but firmly resolved, now that the trenches had been at last opened, to make a valiant fight for the word “Yes.”

“You know you don’t really want to marry me, or any one, a bit,” she replied, nervously plucking more leaves off her fan. “It’s all this odious forty thousand pounds! And we heard—-”

“The money has nothing to do with it!” interrupted Miles, very impetuously, “nothing now! I would marry you without sixpence. I can’t say more than that! And to prove it to you, I’m ready to wait till after the allotted time, if you are not afraid of being a poor man’s wife!” continued this rash, indeed all but insane young man, now springing to his feet, and gazing eagerly at his companion. (What would Mr. Gee have said to this?)

“That would be a strong test!” she returned emphatically. “Only fancy, if Mrs. Brabazon, and Gussie, were to hear you, they would declare you were out of your senses,” returned Haidée, who, perceiving that she was absolutely mistress of the situation, had ceased to feel a little frightened fluttering in her throat, and had now become perfectly cool; and as composed as any veteran man-killer! “And I should mind marrying a poor man, very much indeed, for I”—slowly fanning herself, with her eyes dreamily fixed on the water—“have a great respect for money;-in fact-I love it!”

“You!” he cried in amazement. I should have thought, you were the least mercenary girl in the world—brought up with such simple tastes!”

“You are quite mistaken, then! I am like a child living on a bare, bleak common, who now and then has had a peep into some lovely garden, through a locked gate. If that gate were open to her, do you not think she would rush in?” nodding her head impressively. “I am tired of making my own dresses, of practising petty economies, of never having a sovereign in my purse, of living an out-of-the-way, monotonous life. I want to see the world—to travel—to live! Money is a great power, and if you were on as distant terms with it as I am, you would respect it; but probably in your case familiarity breeds contempt!”

“I assure you it does nothing of the sort! I appreciate pounds, shillings, and pence as much as any one,” he returned, frankly; “and since you value money so much, Haidée, why do you not accept this forty thousand pounds—and me?

“No, no, no. That is different. That is another matter! I am not quite so mercenary as all that.”

“Then you care for somebody else,” said Miles, with calm decision, “and in that case you are quite right, and I will say no more about it.”

“I do not care for anybody else!” she returned, with cheeks the colour of her parasol, “and you have no right to say so!” tremulously.

“No? Well, then, I am the only obstacle that prevents you possessing yourself of this fortune. You would take the money without any scruples, if it was not encumbered with me?”

“Yes,” she rejoined, now speaking with cool cheeks and tranquil air, “I would.”

“You would accept this fortune, if you could get it without me, and I would gladly take you, minus the fortune! Is not that the present state of affairs?” he asked, with a look of troubled appeal.

“It is very nice of you to say this, Miles,” she replied, “and more than I deserved; and I do like you very much indeed, as a cousin. If you knew how I once hated you, you would be quite astonished, and all the horrid things I said about you to Gus. But do not ask me to do more than like you!” entreatingly.

Haidée Brabazon did not in the least mean what she said. (She thought she did.) She entertained much warmer feelings for her handsome kinsman than she suspected; and I am greatly afraid that, during her recent conversation, she had a recollection of Gussie’s feats in the flirting line before her mind’s eye, and was trying to copy a very unworthy model.

But Gussie--an astute young lady—had declared, the very first time she had met her cousin, “that he was not a person you could play with!” and he was not.

“Then you really mean what you say, Haidée?” he asked, standing gravely before her. “Your yes means yes; your no, no?”

“Of course it does!” pouting a little. “What else?”

“Merely that in that case, there is no use in my hanging on here any longer. I may as well say good-bye to you now,” holding out his hand with a look of grave decision.

“What do you mean?” she asked, rising to her feet as she spoke, and confronting him with a rather pale face, and the most exquisite pair of searching eyes. “Do you mean, that you are going away altogether? I don’t want you to do that. Why cannot you stay, as--as my cousin?”

“Because that would be nonsense,” he returned impetuously. “There is no use in prolonging the agony. I will confess to you now, Haidée, that I came home,came here—with some reluctance. I am not, as you may have seen, a squire of dames, a ladies’ man. I did not want a wife, and I found to my great surprise, that Uncle George had chosen for me just the one girl I had ever met, I cared a straw about; however, it was scarcely to be expected the attraction would be mutual; I shall go back to Burmah, as I came. And yet,” becoming rather white, “not just as I came. I have gained a new experience, one that I shall never forget; an experience, that at any rate, will do me no harm, that will make me more tolerant now of other fellows, and better all round. I have spent the happiest days of my life here, with you, Haidée, and now they have come to an end. It is not your fault-nor mine. Good-bye.” Once more holding out a thin sun-burnt hand, and looking at her steadfastly. “Believe me, I shall never care for any girl, as I do for you,” he stopped, for his voice was becoming unsteady, but he still held out his hand in silence.

“I-I-” began Haidée, “told you I liked you very much,” turning away her face. “And, perhaps, I may like you better,” ignoring his hand altogether, “if you stayed a little longer. Will you?”

“No, no,” he returned resolutely, perceiving his small advantage, and prepared to push it to the utmost. “I will go; if not to-day, to-morrow; but if I come back in a week’s time, will you give me my answer then, an answer once for all?”

“I will, if I can, but,” poking her parasol vigorously into the moss, “I think you might stay,” with a half shy, questioning glance.

“No, I will leave you alone, to reflect” (with a crafty recollection of an old proverb). “And Haidée, are you sure there is no one—no one you care for?”

“Not one,” she answered with slow distinctness.

“On your word of honour?” looking into her eyes, as if he would read her very soul.

“On my word of honour. Why are you so pressing? Could you be jealous?” she asked, with a smile.

“All—or nothing, is my motto,” he returned emphatically; “and it seems preposterous to me that Gussie should have so many admirers, four proposals you told me, not counting our friend,” nodding his head towards the garden, “who presses himself upon her periodically, and you, who are a thousand times prettier, not to have a dozen fellows in love with you. It seems incredible!”

“Where would they come from, pray?” asked Haidée mockingly. “Whom do we see? The curates one and all are Gussie’s slaves. She has such pleasant fascinating manners, such a fund of repartee. Now I never think of an appropriate reply till the middle of the following day! Mr. Vashon was taken with me at first, I believe—in fact they all are,” smiling, “but I displayed such inconceivable indifference to his ‘Blue Gown colt,’ and confused hock a wine, with hock part of a horse’s leg, that he withdrew in disgust. I tell you candidly, all men hate me!”

“Hate you, indeed,” with an incredulous smile.

“Yes, it’s perfectly true, I have such gauche, awkward manners, and, I don’t mean to be sharp, but I am; and when I am fancying that I am making myself frightfully agreeable; all the time I am snubbing people in the most atrocious manner! But I am three years younger than Gus, and I may improve.”

“I hope to Heaven, you never will! ” ejaculated her companion fervently, “but remain just as you are!”

“Ah, I understand! you don’t want me to be a general favourite like Gussie,” nodding her head; “but there is no fear that I shall ever rival her,” cheerfully. “Look at the immense results she has woven out of such small materials! Only fancy, now lowering her voice mysteriously, “she has four engagement rings, strung on a ribbon upstairs! Of course she can’t wear them, but she brings them out occasionally, and dangles them before me, and calls them her ‘scalps,’” laughing and curling up her eyelashes, as if the reminiscence was exceedingly diverting.

“And have you not one little trophy?” he asked suspiciously.

“I!” in a key of amused repudiation. “Not even one,” impressively, tossing her fan of leaves into the stream, and drawing forth her handkerchief as she spoke. In so doing, a small carte-de-visite tumbled out of her pocket, on the moss, where it lay a most prominent object! Like lightning, she pounced on it, but it had fallen precisely at Miles’s feet, and he was beforehand. The photograph was upside down; he picked it up, and handed it back to her without any comment; but all the same, he was perfectly conscious of its being the likeness of a man in cavalry uniform! Oh, sweet simplicity! Oh, disenchantment!! A curious expression flitted across his mouth, and the colour of Haidée’s face was positively distressing to see. Each was visibly stirred by some strong inward agitation, and for some seconds an eloquent silence was unbroken by aught, but the water trickling merrily over the stones.

“You have said no to me already, Haidée,” began Miles at last, in a strange repressed tone. “Had I not better take it as my answer, once for all?”

“Please yourself,” she returned curtly, holding her parasol well between herself and her companion, and feeling that fate had used her abominably.

“Pardon me,” with cool authority, “I must ask you just one plain question. Assure me, that there is no one else,” he said, boldly taking the parasol out of her hand, and looking her straight in the face. “Do not be afraid to tell me, Haidée; be frank, give me your confidence. It would be a cruel kindness to leave me in uncertainty; and under any circumstances—I am always your friend.”

“I am sorry you think that I was not speaking the truth just now,” she answered very stiffily. “I assured you fact a few minutes ago, on my word of honour; you do not appear to value it much, Cousin Miles!”

“Yes, I do,” he returned impetuously; but this is no time for picking one’s words, “and I believe I could be confoundedly jealous. If I thought there was another fellow that you cared for, I would never think of-of-you,” he stammered; “but if it was a clear course, and no favour——”

“It is a clear course, as you call it. Be good enough to return me my parasol. And—why, what on earth is the matter? Just look at Gussie!” pointing with her now recovered treasure, towards her eldest sister, who was flying towards them over the grass, with her arms extended like the sails of a windmill.

“It cannot be possible that she has accepted him!” smiling at her companion. But Miles was evidently not in a smiling humour; he looked gravely towards the little figure coming towards them. If Haidée had not been in earnest during their recent conversation, he had. He wished he knew her real mind in the matter, and he angrily consigned the vivacious Augusta to Jericho!

“News, news, news!” she screamed breathlessly, before she was within thirty yards. “Great news!” now arriving in à panting state; “I’ll give you each three guesses!”

“Pooh!” returned her sister, “I know! The Bells are going to have a musical party.”

“No,” scornfully.

We are going to have a musical party!”

“Nonsense; you’ll never guess, so I’ll tell you. Listen attentively, both of you.”

“We are—at least I am—all ears,” said Miles politely.

“No, no, Miles, it is only Mr. Vashon that is all ears,” returned Haidée gravely; “they are like an elephant’s, they actually flap.”

“The better to hear with, my dear,” said Gussie complacently; “but personal remarks are exceedingly vulgar. Now for my little story. Aunt Jane has just been up, and paid a state visit in her Sunday bonnet, and some clever, charming person, whom I could hug (effusively), has been introducing various new ideas to her about us. She says, we don’t go out enough-ahem!”

“I am the person that told her that,” cried Miles triumphantly; irresistibly infected by Gussie’s gaiety, holding out both his arms. “Here you are!”

“Nonsense,” delightedly; “you don’t say so! How very sweet of you,” she exclaimed, gazing at him with widening eyes. “We are to go to balls,” she proceeded glibly, “we are to have new dresses!”

“Good gracious!” ejaculated Haidée, “you are not in earnest. Her mind is not giving way?” staring blankly at her sister, whilst Gussie made a series of cheeses on the grass, as a kind of accompaniment to her great tidings. “She said that in her day, young people were satisfied with white muslins in summer, and one good merino dress in winter, but now it is all changed, girls go out fifty times more, and dress to match, and that we must march with the times! To be brief,” spreading out her small plump hands towards her listeners, “the long and the short of it is, that she is going to take us over to Sandborough next week, for two days. We are to appear at a grand county ball! Can your mind grasp it? And she is going,—this is the next best part of it, to present each of us with a beautiful ball dress, for the supreme occasion, all the way from London town! Money, no object! Isn’t it quite too deliciously charming?”

“And Mrs. B.?” demanded her sister significantly.

“Between you and me, my dear friends, she does not half like it, but she has been borne away on the current of Miss Jane’s eloquence, and has accommodated herself to circumstances. And now, for the only bitter drop in the cup, the thorn in our rose, the serpent in our Eden! She is coming—and Nokes,” pulling down the corners of her mouth.

“And when is the ball to be?” cried Haidée, with dancing eyes.

“Next Tuesday week, the 24th inst.! We are to get our frocks from town, and I was thinking,” now addressing herself to Miles, “that Connie would choose them. Of course we shall be both alike, two violets on one stem! I see the dresses before me now; closing her eyes, and pressing her hands together rapturously; “brown tulle, and sprays of laburnum.”

“Brown and yellow!” cried Haidée; “hideous! frightful! What guys we should look!--like two burnt pancakes. Of course we ought to wear white!” she added eagerly; “don’t you think so, Miles?”

“No, no, white doesn’t suit me; at twenty-four one wants some colour,” objected Gussie with much feeling.

“And you know you can wear anything; everything suits you, even that old red cotton parasol!” figuratively flinging this compliment at her sister’s head.

“Well, I won’t wear yellow and brown, that’s flat,” as Nokes says.

“Then let us leave it to Miles,” rejoined Gussie. “Come, now, Miles, what do you say? Haidée had much better wear some colour, had she not?” insinuatingly, “for she will be in such a deadly fright, she will look like a ghost going into the ball-room; she will want lighting up. What do you say to pink-pale pink?”

“Upon my word, I am the worst person in the world to give an opinion. I never know how a girl is got up; but I think, perhaps, that white looks better than anything else,” glancing as he spoke at Haidée’s white cotton; “so I say, white, as I have the casting vote,” he concluded, rather nervously.

“Oh, of course you take her part, rejoined Gussie with a pout. “I was very foolish to ask your opinion! I’m sure Aunt Jane, herself will be all for pink or brown!”

“A brown merino!” suggested Haidée sarcastically.

“You have no taste,” replied her sister austerely; “but I forgot, by-the-by, that I was sent to tell you, Miles, that Florian wants you to go out fishing, and that he is waiting for you all this time. How angry he will be! and you must take the blame.” And thus squabbling and laughing, the trio passed up the long pleasure ground, and out of sight. To the last we hear Gussie’s soprano declaring, that she knows, “that she would look a dream in pink-pale pink!”

Chapter III

On the Brink of Discovery

Under a shady bank, overhung by two nut trees, a clump of lilacs, and a very ancient mulberry, the summer-house at Baronsford seeks to screen itself from the vulgar gaze—aye, although a wide and much frequented path, passes its very door! Its kind old friend, the nut tree, spreads its leafy arms above its pointed thatched roof, and conceals its wigwam proportions from strangers’ eyes. Indeed, it is but little sought nowadays, having, figuratively speaking, retired into private life, and resigned itself to cobwebs, ants, ferocious looking beetles, and other creatures of the insect tribe, too numerous to mention. I wonder how many romantic little anecdotes it could relate, were it gifted with speech? for it is old, and has known as many winters as its confidante the nut tree. How many stolen interviews have taken place within its rustic shelter? In fact, its experiences in this line have not come to an end yet, despite of its age and obscurity.

Who is the girl in white, huddled up on the wooden seat, that runs all round the interior, a girl with her dress tightly gathered round her, and the tips of her shoes merely resting on the ground, her whole attitude bespeaking distrust of the insect inhabitants—caterpillars, and black beetles inclusive—and with her eyes bent on a young man in uniform, who is sitting on the venerable and rickety table, with his forage cap over one ear, and his arms akimbo? They are Haidée and Teddy of course. We have not seen the latter for two years, and undoubtedly he is a good deal altered, since the evening we accompanied him down the dripping avenue, and saw him off into the wide wide world, like Hans Andersen’s ugly duckling! He is brown, broad-shouldered, and soldierly-looking; and in his sister’s eyes, well favoured a young man as ever wore spurs.

She is far prouder of his personal appearance than she is of her own; his moustache she considers simply perfect, and her vanity is divided between that, and the three-cornered white patch on his forehead, usually covered by his jaunty forage cap. It is dusky in the summer house; not a single moonbeam penetrates from outside,—thanks to the careful nut tree. That patch of white, at Teddy’s feet, is only Woggy; who, having made a searching and exhaustive inspection of the premises, and found nothing worthy of his notice, is curled up, and hunting rabbits (or Lady Louisa) in dreamland.

“You will never guess, where I supped and slept last night, Haidée,” Teddy was saying. “At Aunt Jane’s!”

“I don’t believe you,” returned his sister politely, after a minute’s pause.

“Nevertheless, it is a fact all the same. I went down in fear and trembling to wait upon the old lady, of course after dark, and knocked an humble single knock; however, I flatter myself I made it up on the ring, which brought Cox to the door simply white with passion. He was not visibly appeased, I need scarcely mention, by seeing a mere soldier in uniform, asking for Miss Jane. I had not set foot in the hall since the notable evening when I figured as Uncle Sandy! However, I was admitted to the presence of my aunt after a short debate. I heard her exclaim, ‘a soldier to see me—most unaccountable—show him in. Show him in!”

“When she saw me, she stared very hard for about half a minute, and then cried ‘Goodness, mercy, gracious! why it’s Teddy!’ She had not expected to see me in uniform, you know; in fact, she had not expected to see me at all. Well, then she put up her arms and drew me down and kissed me—first time, I’ll bet, she ever kissed a moustache—and then she turned me round and round as if I was on a pivot, and then looked me all over; and then, by George, she kissed me again! and made me sit down beside her and tell her all about myself, and my career, as she called it. And I did; I showed her my three stripes, and told her of my prospects, and how you had stuck to me through thick and thin, and then—oh, incredulous young woman—she ordered in supper, champagne; in fact she killed the fatted calf, and told me I was not to dare to go back to Mrs. Swoffer, but to stay with her. She says I remind her of a very dear friend—that means lover, of course—a young officer she knew forty years ago, when they all wore uniform, always. I’m sure she was deadly spoony, on him, poor old lady; as her voice quite shook, when she spoke; at any rate the resemblance pleases her! She presented me with fifty pounds, and once I’m promoted, I’m to have a large allowance; and for the future I am to consider myself her boy, and by a few little hints she let fall, I fancy you are her girl!”

“Not I,” cried Haidée, with a laugh of incredulity. “However, as long as she is good to you, she is doubly good to me,” emphatically.

“I’ve been staying there all day,” continued Teddy, talking, and walking, and smoking—the latter in the garden. “She says, you are to be sure to slip down to breakfast to-morrow, by hook or by crook. Would any one ever have believed that she was such a tremendous old trump? I’m awfully sorry now for all the games I played on her in days of yore,” striking a match as he spoke, and holding it, with tender care, in the hollow of his hand.

“And now, Haidée—to turn to another subject for a change—what about this chap, Miles Brabazon?”

“Oh, I was going to tell you, Ted; I got a desperate fright this morning, what our Irish laundrymaid calls ‘a regular turn.’ I was talking to him down by the river——”

“About what?” interrupted Teddy, inquisitively.

“Never you mind; I was down by the river, and in pulling out my handkerchief, I dragged out that new photo you gave me last night; it fell precisely at his feet. Tableau!”

“Tableau, indeed!” grinning. “And what did he say? what did you do?”

“Of course I pounced on it at once, but he was too sharp for me; he got hold of it first, and handed it back without looking at it; but he did not appear to be over and above well pleased.”

“And pray why not?”

“Why not? you ridiculous wooden-headed Teddy; because I believe he thought it was some lover of mine!”

“The deuce he did!” puffing out clouds of smoke.

“And I rather fancy that he could be jealous.”

“You don’t say so,” ironically. “Well, and so could I, if I was engaged to a girl and caught her carrying other fellows’ portraits about her person. I suppose he asked you no questions, and you told him no—ahem, fibs?”


“I say, Haidée,” confidentially, “are you going to marry him? to come to the point, as they say.”

“I don’t know,” she replied, with perceptible hesitation.

“Don’t know! what rubbish! You know your own mind, surely, by this time. ‘Toby or not Toby,’ that is the question,” he demanded, waving his hand towards her imperiously.

“I’m to give him an answer in a week,” replied his sister in a low tone.

“Whew!” removing his pipe, “so you are taking a leaf out of Gussie’s book. Well, mind you don’t go too far with your shilly-shallying; by all accounts he is a rattling good sort, and if he is like me, his appearance is beyond criticism.”

“He is like you, and he is not,” she rejoined meditatively.

“Well, that’s lucid.”

“He is not so tall quite, and he is darker and older; and Teddy dear, would you mind, if I said that he was better looking.”

“Mind! of course I should mind; I should be broken-hearted, I should also say, Haidée, never more be sister of mine,” declaiming with his pipe.

“Oh, take care, Teddy, you nearly put my eye out,” she exclaimed pettishly.

“And now, you transparent young person, I know all I want to know. You mean to marry him; for though I’m a duffer at tactics and topography, I can see through a stone wall as well as anybody. By-the-by, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear, that I’ve got a first-class educational certificate, which qualifies me for a commission, when I get one.”

“Of course you will be promoted,” returned Haidée, decidedly; “and now, Teddy, I want to know if you will grant me a great favour,” in a coaxing tone, standing up, and laying her hand implor ingly upon his arm; “Let me tell Miles.”

“No,” very shortly; “sorry to refuse you, my dear child, but that is just the very thing I cannot allow you to do! Can’t you hold on a bit? there’s no hurry.”

“Oh, but there is,” she returned eagerly. “So many things must seem so strange to him—my rushing out and hugging him by mistake, as I told you; that photograph this morning, and other things,” indefinitely. It’s like living in a powder mill, any moment there may be an explosion. Do please, please, let me tell him!” she pleaded eagerly. “If”—becoming extremely red, but the kind darkness concealed the fact—”if I—he,” stammering, “we, are to be married, the sooner you know one another the better; and I should like to introduce you.”

“I dare say!” scornfully, “and walk up to him with me in tow, and say, (Permit me to present my brother Teddy, alias Sergeant Brown, of the Prince’s Lancers,” and I would have to salute him and call him ‘Sir,’ as would befit a non-commissioned officer, and it would be a very pretty little picture altogether! I could never feel the same to him, if I met him by-and-by on an equal footing. It may seem ridiculous nonsense and vanity to you, but it is just my one weakness; and I should like to put my best foot foremost, and appear to the best advantage to your husband, old lady; when we meet as brother officers and there is no yawning gulf between us; and,”—with a sudden start of surprise, “talk of the devil, and by all that’s embarrassing here he is! at least I suppose that this is he, this fellow in evening clothes, coming down the middle walk, smoking a cigar?”

“It is! it is!” she gasped. Oh, Ted,” creeping closer to her brother, and speaking in an agonized undertone,“what shall we do if he discovers us?”

“Keep cool, and don’t be in such a funk!” returned Teddy, imperatively. “Get well behind the table, and don’t sneeze, or crunch the gravel with your shoes. It’s as dark as pitch in here to any one outside. Imagine his face,” he continued, in a smothered whisper, “if he were to walk in, and find his pretty Haidée, tête-à-tête with a sergeant of Lancers! His feelings would be what you might call mixed! I suppose he would murder me!

“If he does find us, Teddy, you must tell!” returned his sister, hysterically; crouching still nearer to her companion, and scarcely daring to breathe, as she sat with her gaze riveted on the unconscious cause of her trembling trepidation.

Closer and closer he came; his eyes bent on the ground, his hands behind his back, evidently lost in the deepest abstraction. When he had approached to within a few paces of the summer-house, he suddenly discovered that his cigar had gone out, and, pausing, fumbled in his pockets for matches, whilst the couple, in their dim retreat, watched him with throbbing anxiety.

Haidée’s heart was thumping as loudly as a big drum, it seemed to her own terrified ears, and that every other sound was swallowed up in its audible pulsation.

Teddy’s energies were centred in Woggy, whom he held firmly in his arms, his head muffled in his handkerchief, with ruthless, muscular, determination.

Miles came nearer. He was within a yard of the summer-house, and whilst they themselves were wrapped in darkness—a darkness which might be illumined any second now by the match in Captain Brabazon’s hand—he himself stood in the full view of the searching, white moonlight. They could note the accuracy of his tie, the rather withered little flower in his buttonhole, the parting of his hair, the gold links in his shirt cuff. Now, he stood on the very step, and struck the match loudly, and Haidée, with a kind of choking gasp, made an effort to rise; but a violent nudge from Teddy’s elbow restrained her. The match, although it was struck, declined to do its duty! It gave one weak, feeble little sputter, and then died out. It was the last in the box, too; and I’m afraid the smothered exclamation, “Confound it!” escaped from Captain Brabazon’s lips as he tossed it angrily into the bushes, and throwing his cigar after it, turned slowly away, and began to retrace his footsteps.

“By Jove! that was a narrow squeak! ” muttered Teddy, drawing a long sigh of relief. “Praise be to damp matches! Only for me, you little goose, you’d have run out, and shouted, ‘Here I am!’ Why, what are you trembling for still?”

“I can’t help it, Ted. I feel so dreadfully frightened. I know I’m very foolish; for, after all, if he had come in, and I had told him who you were, there would have been no harm done.”

“Of course he has never heard of me—the family black sheep!”

“I believe Mrs. Brabazon told him you were dead!”

“The deuce she did!” indignantly.

“Upon my word! She does not stick at a trifle!”

“Oh, Teddy! may not I tell him?

“You shall, the moment I get my commission—no sooner! Just have patience! You’re always so impetuous, and in such a hurry about everything. I’m glad I’ve had a good stare at him. He’s not a bad looking fellow; very like that picture in the hall—the chap with the dish cover, and red sash, that was killed at Naseby!”

“I suppose you mean Rupert Brabazon, in the steel cuirass?” dubiously.

“I’m glad I’ve seen him,” nodding his head towards his now distant cousin, “but I doubt if the satisfaction would be mutual, were he to see me.”

To this remark Haidée made no response, and Teddy, having relighted his pipe, puffed away in silence for some minutes.

Haidée was thinking, as she sat beside him, with her eyes riveted on Miles—thinking deeply and seriously for once in her life. Her mind was the battlefield for conflicting emotions. She felt that a new element had entered her life—something hitherto unknown—that refused to be cast out, silenced, or crushed; that had been scarcely perceptible at first, but had now grown to the dimensions of the geni when the fisherman uncorked the bottle, and became portentous!

“Was it possible,” she asked herself, remorsefully, “that in one short ten days she could like Miles as well as her own brother Teddy, whom she had known all her life?” Yes, unfortunately it was, painfully possible! She had a horrible conviction that some day she would like him better—yes, even better than Teddy, if she did not already do so! If she were asked, “Which of them she would part with, never, never, to see again?” she told herself promptly, “Miles, a thousand times! Miles of course!” but having thus sacrificed him in her own mind, her vagrant thoughts dwelt regretfully on her cousin! To Teddy, she had always been a kind of motherly sister; who had shielded him from blame, helped him out of scrapes, taken his part in every family engagement, mended his clothes and his spelling, and been, in a sort of feeble way, his patroness and protector. Now with Miles, it would be different. He wanted no protector—no one to get him out of scrapes, to fight his battles, or to mend his spelling. Had he not passed first out of Sandhurst in his year, and got the much-prized sword?

He would be more likely to stand between another, and the buffets of fate. She would lean on him, not he on her. This was the difference between him and Ted. Poor Teddy! She was very, very, fond of him all the same; and with a kind of involuntary compunction, she took his hand in hers, and laid it against her wet cheek.

“Now, Haidée,” he said suddenly, “I think you had better be moving off. I don’t want to get you into a row; it’s getting on for ten o’clock, and that time, I know by experience, means with Mrs. B. ‘the last post.’ Good-night, old lady. Just you nip in by the side door, when he gets to the bottom of the walk, and he will never twig you. Tell Gussie, tomorrow will be her only chance!”

In a few moments Haidée had said a hurried good-night to her brother, seized her opportunity, darted round the corner of the summer-house, and buried herself in a thick dusky walk, which led straight to the friendly side door, through which she vanished.

Meanwhile Teddy’s retreat was completely cut off! He could not go by the same route, his exit was at the opposite end, and his cousin was unconsciously keeping him a prisoner, by walking up and down the broad gravel walk like a sentry.

What would he say, if he saw a strapping young sergeant marching out of the summer-house? or discovered him skulking among the bushes? “A maid-servant’s young man,” would be the construction he would naturally put upon the vision, and Teddy did not choose to pose as Mary Anne’s lover, and said to himself that he would stay where he was, and sit his cousin out.

Miles had been a prey to Mrs. Brabazon all the evening; to her grand friends, her health, and her airs; bound to her side by strong social cords, he could not get away, but he had not been indifferent to the fact that Haidée had stolen out of the room an hour ago. He had seen her running down the pleasure ground. Why should he not slip out too, and meander by her side through the shady walks under the chestnut trees, instead of being pinned to the apron strings of a prosy, egotistical old woman? At last he was released, and had come out partly for a smoke, but chiefly in hopes of meeting Haidée. For to-morrow he was going away for a whole week, to return and learn his fate at the Sandborough ball. Something told him that the answer would be “Yes.” “Chateau qui parle, femme, qui écoute,” and she had listened; but that photo he had seen on the moss at her feet, that very morning, kept protruding its ugly presence into his rosy dreams, and trying to imbue his mind with the poisonous taint of suspicion. Who could it have been? A man in uniform. “No one that Haidée cared a straw about,” he kept assuring himself, but still it was a man in uniform! His soul shrank from the plain truth, but was compelled to embrace it, all the same. Haidée and his aunt had positively assured him that she had no other suitor but himself; and he believed them. He was not such an infidel as to doubt the solemn word of two ladies of his own family—one who bore the weight of years of uprightness, and the other who looked at him with eyes so true and so frank, that if her tongue had dared to utter a falsehood they themselves would have betrayed her. That meeting at the gate he had now attributed to Miss Bell! Yes, he had been mistaken; Haidée and Miss Bell were friends; she had been from home, and she was an unusually tall young woman of almost masculine proportions. Yes, the apparition at the gate was peacefully laid. It is wonderful how young men in love, will eagerly furbish up and present excuses to themselves—and accept them,—rather than be brought face to face with any little imperfection, or flaw in their divinity. The photograph, Miles boldly told himself, was some public character! Girls carried all manner of queer things in their pockets, as he knew from his experience of his own sister—papers of chocolate, wool, letters, knitting needles, button hooks, and even books. Haidée had a craze for collecting the photos of royalties and celebrities. Why should not that suspicious picture be the Crown Prince of Germany, our own Prince of Wales, or that handsome man, the late Emperor of Russia? What a fool he was not to have asked her! Yes, it was easy enough to say this now; but the time he dared not; he was slightly in awe of his beautiful, imperious, impetuous cousin Haidée. She knew her power over him latterly, and, I am sorry to say, used it remorselessly. It was a wholly new and delightful experience, to find herself the keeper of another person’s happiness; to discover that by a word or look she could exalt him to the highest pinnacle of bliss, or cast him down into the corresponding depths of misery.

“He is an idiot about you,” said Gussie one afternoon, in a sudden burst of frankness, “and it is very plain that he has never been in love before; if he had he would know better than to show his hand. If he were to ‘dissemble,’ as they say in plays, or to bully you a little, it would be all the better for him, poor deluded young man!” From which it will be seen that Miles pitied Mr. Vashon; and Augusta pitied Miles!

Chapter IV

The Bachelors’ Ball

The great day of the Bachelors’ ball, at Sandborough, dawned at last; and had you been on the platform at Byford, about two o’clock p.m., you would have seen Mrs. Brabazon, Miss Jane, her two nieces, her own maid Flack, and Nokes, all departing with a world of baggage, and an extraordinary amount of fuss; easy to understand, that most of the party were but inexperienced travellers.

The two Miss Clippertons, and their meek little mother, filled up the compartment in which the Brabazons had taken their places. They were two fast young ladies, bound for the ball, whose slangy conversation nearly made Miss Jane’s hair come out of curl. Men were “fellows,” and “Charlie,” and “Jimmy,” and “Bertie,” with these free and easy maidens, and everything was either “awfully slow,” or “awfully jolly;” and thus they rattled on to Gussie and Haidée all the way to Sandborough, whilst Mrs. Brabazon dozed in her corner by the window, and Miss Jane sat rigidly erect, her reticule on her arm, her spectacles on her nose, glaring at them as if they had been a couple of young cockatrices.

They wore their hair cropped close to their heads, very manly hats, coats, and collars, and were an entirely novel experience to the dear old person with the bobbing curls and worked black satin hand-bag. They were going to the same hotel—horror! their rooms were already taken; and they knew a number of men who were coming down for the hop, and they expected to have “no end of larks.”

“I say,” whispered Hatty Clipperton, who was sitting next Gussie, “what a delicious old fossil your aunt is; and how awfully astonished she is at me! I’m quite a new light. You just see if I won’t surprise her still more. Look here!”

“Pray, madam,” she said, now fumbling in her pocket, and speaking in her best company tone of voice, “have you any objection to smoking, may I ask?

“Eh, what, smoking! Certainly I have; the very greatest objection—the greatest objection,” still more emphatically. “The greatest possible objection!”

“Oh-ah-really,” with arched brows and an expression of blank, sorrowful surprise; “then of course (politely), in that case, I won’t mind,” discontinuing to search her pockets; whilst Miss Jane, after staring at her for some seconds in speechless disgust, drew down her thick lace veil with studied deliberation, leaned back, and closed her eyes as if she wished to shut out such a vision of depravity.

There was no smoking, but there was a great deal of merry talking and laughing—chiefly sustained by Gussie and the two Miss Clippertons—until the train reached Sandborough station; and our party were duly packed into two roomy flies, and set off for the Grand Hotel. Firstly, the Miss Brabazons had tea; then their hair was “done” by a local coiffeur; then they partook of dinner; and then, oh, solemnity! they were dressed! Miss Jane herself personally conducting the operation with the very keenest interest. White silk dresses, white tulle overskirts, with chains of silvered daisies, low white bodies, similarly trimmed, long white gloves, pearl necklaces, and satin shoes, transformed our two country cousins into a pair of very fashionable looking young ladies; and then, at the last moment, a chamber-maid knocked at the door with two white bouquets the size of cheeses (straight from Covent Garden), with Captain Brabazon’s compliments.

And their cup was full.

“There is a dignity about a large bouquet,” said Haidée, when she had sniffed at, and praised hers, with much energy. “I can walk into a room with twice the courage, behind a big thing like this. It seems a kind of shield.”

“Shield!” cried Gussie scornfully; “it will be awfully in the way dancing; if you hold it on your partner’s shoulder, you will suffocate him; if you put it down, somebody will sit on it. I shall think twice, if not three times, before taking mine.”

The fact was, that Miss Gussie was a little ruffled that her good Vashon had not bethought him of the same sweet attention! However, of course she did wear a bouquet, in spite of her grumbling; and carefully selected the largest and freshest looking, in her opinion—not that there really was the difference of a bud between them; and, having made her choice, she turned round, made a deep curtsey to her aunt, and asked, with a complacent smile, “if she would do?”

To say that our young friends looked well, but feebly expresses their appearance. Even the wooden-faced Nokes relaxed the usual severity of her aspect, and volunteered an opinion, that, “Miss Haidée, now, she did look uncommon!” And Miss Jane fussed round her nieces, but chiefly Haidée, pinching out a flower here, another there, and gave her spectacles a great many rubbings.

“Dear me, I feel quite young again myself, looking at you two girls!” her eyes on Haidée. “It seems only the other day when I was going to the 14th Dragoons’ ball—my first ball. And now, Haidée, my dear, be sure you don’t dance more than twice with any partner,” impressively, “and return and sit beside me, between every dance. Do you hear?”

“Perhaps I shall be a wall-flower, and get no partners at all, Aunt Jane. Now it’s drawing so close, I am so frightened. I am beginning to feel cold water running down my back. And just feel my hand! it’s shaking all over; and I’ve got quite a lump in my throat. Supposing Miles is not there, and no one asks me to dance, and I sit benched by your side all the evening, how disgraced I shall feel—”

“No fear of that,” interrupted Miss Jane with affectionate decision.

“And if, on the other hand, I am asked to dance, I shall be so dreadfully nervous for fear I am doing the wrong step, I shall be scarcely able to totter round!”

“The fly is waiting,” interrupted a too well-known contralto, “I hope you are ready. Ah! very nice indeed,” in a tone of the deepest annoyance. “Really, quite nice. What pretty dresses”—which, considering that they had come from Russell and Allen, and cost--no, this is a secret that remains buried in the bosom of Miss Jane, but the price was not a low one—was but faint praise.

And now behold our party descending at the Town Hall, and stepping delicately on the red cloth carpeting, which was lined at either side by a dense discriminating crowd, who exchanged audible and critical remarks, anent the arriving company.

“My eye, there’s a pretty girl,” exclaimed a stout woman with a gaudy bonnet on her head, who was leaning her substantial arms on the improvised wooden barricade well in the van of the other sight-seers. Her opinion was heartily endorsed by a murmur of warm approval from the crowd behind her.

“I wouldn’t mind walking out with her of a Sunday,” said a facetious butcher’s boy, “if she was very pressing.”

“No, I dare say you wouldn’t,” returned the stout matron ironically. “Nor your betters either.”

And then Miss Jane, and Mrs. Brabazon, swept their young people up the stairs before them, into the ladies’ waiting room, where great pulling out of skirts, and touzling of fringes, and re-arranging of flowers was going on.

The new arrivals were carefully looked over by those already on the spot. “Who were these girls in white?” was whispered by one or two. However, they had some acquaintances, who welcomed them cordially, helped them to take off their wraps, and envied Haidée, her bouquet, and her first ball.

“Indeed you need not envy me,” returned that young lady emphatically; “if it were my fifth or sixth, I should be far more easy in my mind! Feel me,” holding out her hand; “I’m quite cold, and I’m shaking all over.”

Whilst this conversation was going on Mrs. Brabazon had arrogated to herself an entire toilet table, and was pulling out a ruffle here, straightening a fold there, and re-arranging her diamond stars as deliberately as if she were in her own apartment, and not keeping an aristocratic old lady, with a haughty nose and very, white hair, awaiting her good pleasure.

This old dame waited for some five minutes with ill-concealed impatience, and as she waited, she had ample time to study the lady, who was figuring before the glass with such aggravating tardiness.

Suddenly she started, looked scrutinizingly into Mrs. Brabazon’s face, and said in an awestruck tone, “Why, Jupp! I declare it is Jupp! How do you come here?” measuring her, and her velvet, gown, lace, diamonds, and all, from head to foot.

“Madam!” exclaimed the other, with a face the colour of a brick, “what do you mean?” trembling violently all over.

“I mean, that it’s a pretty thing that I should have to stand and wait, whilst my sister’s former maid arranges herself at the looking glass,” returned the other in a hard uncompromising tone, and with an inexorable eye! “The world is upside down!”

“I—I—am Mrs. Brabazon of Baronsford,” replied that miserable woman, you are making some mistake.”

“None whatever,” very decidedly; “whoever you are now, you were and are Jupp—you can’t deny it—and you know me; you have brushed my hair, and buttoned my boots many and many a time! I am Lady Augusta Sharpshooter and you were my sister’s——”

“Hush, Lady Augusta,” implored the other, “for mercy’s sake, hush! You are quite right. I have become what you see—the widow of a gentleman of fortune. I entreat you to keep my secret,” humbly pleaded Mrs. Brabazon; brought to her knees for once in her life; and in truth a most terrified abject spectacle! At this critical moment, Gussie and Haidée came forward, accompanied by Miss Jane, and declared “that they were quite ready now, if she was,” and with an extraordinary effort to regain her composure, and one long beseeching glance at her austere old acquaintance, Mrs. Brabazon was carried away. No words could paint her feelings; she felt that a veritable sword of Damocles was hanging over her head. She had no spirit to seek out, and attach herself, to the great ones of the land. No; she sat alone and aloof for fully half the evening; reviling fate for having sent “that hateful old cat” across her path, and asking herself, what the world would say, when they were acquainted with her former career? That would not matter so much, if she had not built up for herself a noble French pedigree, and foolishly prated about titled foreign potentates, and people of high degree, who were her near kinsfolk. After supper, after two hours’ mental agony, during which she imagined that Lady Augusta had told her history to every second person in the room, she came face to face with that lady. So far she was secure! She immediately threw herself on her generosity, flattered, coaxed, and bowed down before her, and received a gracious promise that she, Lady Sharpshooter, would respect Sara’s astonishing position, and her young step-daughters, (who were presented in due form, much amazed at Mrs. B.’s unusual obsequiousness of demeanour to this eagle-eyed old lady,) and that her lips should be locked concerning Sara’s past! But to return to Augusta and Haidée. They had entered the ball-room side by side, in the train of their aunt and stepmother, and found Florian in unimpeachable evening dress, and a very sulky frame of mind, awaiting them near the door. This new freak of Miss Jane’s, did not please him at all; and one’s womankind, tacked on in this way, were a terrible bore! most confounded nuisance! His sentiments were plainly inscribed on his face, as he lounged up to them, glass in eye. He knew most of the men in Sandborough, as he was a constant habitué of the club, and to his great surprise, his relations were scarcely seated, before he was beset for introductions to his sisters—especially the tall one!

And now that he came to inspect her dispassionately, she was by no means bad looking—quite the reverse; and fine feathers make fine birds, and no mistake. She hardly looked like the same shabby girl he was accustomed to see at Baronsford, in a battered garden hat, and washedout print. As Haidée stood under the gallery, and gazed timidly about her, she felt absolutely dazzled; the immense hall was filled by a gay crowd, who were walking, standing, or sitting after the second dance. The oaken walls were hung with flags, and covered with dark old paintings and coats of armour, brightened up with festoons of lovely flowers. At the opposite end of the room the band were established in a green bower, outside of which were immense blocks of ice, and fountains, and banks of ferns. She had reserved two dances for Miles, and given away the others on her programme, and with a quickly beating heart, had taken her first frightened plunge into the giddy maelstrom, and whirled and whirled, and whirled, to the time of one of Strauss’s most soul-stirring waltzes. She had a good partner, and got on very creditably, neither falling down, tearing her dress, or otherwise disgracing herself; and when she returned to her chaperon, flushed and elated, she found that Miles had appeared upon the scene, full of apologies for his tardy arrival, the sole fault of the train, which was late. He could hardly believe his eyes when he beheld Haidée floating round with such grace and elan; looking still more lovely than the image, he had fondly carried away in his mind. Certainly, there was no doubt that dress was an adornment, and that even Haidée was more beautiful in this silvery gauzy garment, with pearls on her neck, flowers in her hands, excitement in her eyes, than in her ordinary common white gown, even when reinforced by the crimson parasol.

“I have kept two dances for you,” said she, holding out her hand with a smile. “What! only two?” ungratefully.

“Yes, lancers and waltz. Aunt Jane,” lowering her voice, “made me promise not to dance more than twice with any one.”

“Not even with me?” expressively.

“Not even with you.” Here Haidée’s partner made a bow, and retired gracefully. “Evidently,” he said to himself, “the dark fellow was the man.”

“I suppose your card is full?”

“Yes, I can’t believe it,” smiling; “for I don’t know any one in the room. Isn’t it funny?”

“Excessively funny; most unaccountable,” replied Miles, with a smile quivering under his moustache.

“But who is your friend opposite? the little man with the shiny face, who is nodding at you like a mandarin?”

“Oh, look away, look away!” imploringly; “he is a horror I met at the Clippertons’ Christmas party!”

“Haidée,” whispered her sister breathlessly, over her shoulder,” there’s little Madden, and he is coming over, he has caught your eye! mind you mount your very highest horse.”

“Now for it,” said Miles, as a little man with a red face, and the tallest of collars, and an air of being on admirable terms with himself, advanced with a kind of grin.

“So charmed to see you, Miss Brabazon; this is indeed a treat. Hope you have kept a couple of dances for me?”

“No, I have not,” very stiffly returned the young lady, ostentatiously avoiding the proffered hand.

“Ah! but you’re going to da-ance this with me, are you not? or the next. I’ll get you lots of partners. Don’t you recollect me?“ in a tone slightly tinged with amazement. “We had the pleasure of meeting at Mrs. Clip’s.”

“I do not remember the pleasure,” returned Haidée, with very emphatic significance, whilst Miles and Gussie exchanged glances of the keenest delight.

But even this snub had but little effect on Mr. Madden! He rose to the surface, with cork-like buoyancy, and boldly demanded at least one dance, and his persistent entreaties were only cut short by Miles abruptly leading his partner away to take their places in one of the rapidly forming sets of lancers.

“I did not think you had it in you to snub any one but me. Poor beggar, you were awfully rough on him!” said Miles, as they came to anchor.

“Rough! you don’t know him!” viciously. “At the Clippertons’ party he was quite—quite——”

“Elevated?” suggested her companion, interrogatively.

“Yes, very much so; he actually took me for a schoolgirl, and had the impudence to try to kiss me under the mistletoe,” growing rather red, and speaking very fast.

“Confounded cad!” muttered Miles, looking over in the direction of Mr. Madden, with a countenance now the reverse of indulgent or sympathetic.

“I suppose,” said he, glancing round, “that you are as great a stranger to all these people, as I am; and you don’t know any one from Adam?”

“Not quite so bad as all that!” responded Haidée, with a smile; “some of the Maxton and Byford people are here. There, you see that nice looking lady over there, in the white lace shawl, she is Mr. Bell’s sister; and between you and me, that is Mrs. Bell’s shawl!” lowering her voice to a whisper.

“Oh, and the girl near her in the swell dress and diamonds?”

“That is a bride; and the old gentleman with the bald head, holding her fan, is her husband. She is his fourth wife.”

“Oh, come now,” in a tone of amused expostulation.

“She is!” indignantly. “She is number four.”

“She is a courageous woman!” ejaculated Miles; “and he reminds me of a story I heard in town, from an Irish fellow (who caters for our amusement), about a man who was late for a funeral in Dublin, the funeral of the late mistress of the house, fourth or fifth wife of the proprietor. ‘Which way has it gone?’ he demanded of an old hag, who was standing on the hall door-steps. “’Deed and I don’t rightly know, your honour,’ said she, ‘but he mostly buries them at Mount Jerome!’ There’s great scope for one’s imagination, in that mostly! He might have had a dozen wives. Imagine, a dozen surviving mothers-in-law!”

“Miles,” laughing, “you are too ridiculous. You talk as much nonsense as—-” suddenly stopping short.

“As who?” eagerly.

“Some one,” growing rather red, “that, that you don’t know—but that I’m sure——”

“Inside, outside; inside, outside,” interrupted an excited looking young man, coming round to tell them off; and so they parted in different directions, and Haidée’s sentence was never completed.

“How do you do, Miss Brabazon?” said a tall, plain girl in a pink dress, accosting Haidée in the tea-room, whilst Miles was procuring her a cup of coffee, addressing her with such warmth, that she felt quite taken aback, for she had only met Miss Courtenay Green at one or two garden parties, and then she had barely deigned to notice her, save by a few tepid monosyllables, and a fish-like clasp of the hand.

“Your first ball, I suppose! I hope you are enjoying it!” eyeing Haidée’s dress as she spoke with an air of critical inspection, looking at it side ways and front ways, and evidently not merely appraising its value, but taking the pattern in her eye, as she drawled forth remarks about the band, the floor, and the lights, in an abstracted manner. “Is that your cousin, Captain Brabazon?” she asked, having at length summed up Haidée’s ball costume; “the dark young man who was dancing with you?” lowering her voice mysteriously.


“The one who has come in for such heaps of money?” with still greater animation, “Very good-looking too. You may introduce him to me, when he comes back. Here he is,” eagerly. “Now,” with a sharp nudge, from a still sharper elbow.

“Miles,” said Haidée in the innocence of her heart, “what ages you have been getting this coffee! Miss Courtenay Green wishes you to be introduced to her.”

Miss Courtenay Green, beamed and bowed, with laudable presence of mind, but felt at the moment that she would have been almost justified, in having Miss Brabazon’s life! However, Miles duly begged leave to inscribe his name on her rather empty programme, and she chatted away in her most agreeable manner, and bestowed not a few wreathed smiles on him, as he nodded au revoir and led his partner once more back to the ballroom.

The doorway through which they had to pass was blocked for a few moments. Florian was standing there, and evidently looked upon the right of entrance as his own exclusive property, for he was engaged in what he considered elegant dalliance with no less than three ladies, and leant against the door post in a condition of tranquil complacency, being the happy possessor of a a very neat moustache, a superlative get up, an eyeglass, and a pair of the longest, most pointed, patent leather shoes in Christendom. In spite of themselves, Haidée and Miles could not avoid overhearing a few scraps of conversation as they waited.

“I’ll tell you what it is,” lisped this agreeable young man, to a pretty bright little woman in black, who was eating an ice whilst he scribbled languidly on her card. “Look here, Mrs. D—, you know this sort of thing won’t do, you know! next time you are so late, I shan’t be able to give you two dances!”

Miles and Haidée gazed at their relative in angry amazement. He was not joking. No, he was perfectly serious, and the little lady was actually laughing, and taking his remark, as the most natural thing in the world.

“Well,” exclaimed Miles, when he had pushed past his cousin, with an indignant shove. “I certainly cannot compliment you on your brother’s manners! Not able to give her a dance! Of course, were such a terrible event to happen, she would go home in tears. Not able to give her a dance! Upon my word, what next?” feeling what a truly refreshing pleasure it would be to him to seize upon his languid cousin, and shake him till his arm ached; and thus possibly disperse some of his outrageous conceit.

Haidée merely laughed and shook her head, and said, “Please do not think that his manners are home-made! though, indeed, most of us leave much to wish for in that line. And here comes my next partner. Good-bye, till number twelve,” nodding him a beaming adieu.

Number twelve came in due time, and was duly danced by the cousins, and as they paused for breath, after a long round, Haidée held forth in rapturous terms on the delights of the evening.

“I’ve danced every dance right through and hardly missed a bar,” she observed triumphantly, “and the funny thing is, I don’t know half my partners’ names; people mutter so, or write so badly; these scratches on my card might be anything—Hebrew, Hindostani!”

“I can read Hindostani,” said Miles; “let me have a look at them,” putting out his hand. “There, it’s all over,” alluding to the music; “come and sit down in this window, and I will interpret the riddle unto thee, O young woman!”

“What’s this?” frowning, “Muffin, Boffin—no—give it up! Next, Trafford,—that’s as plain as print. Next, Zambesi it looks like—no, I have it—it’s Berkeley; what a fist he writes!”

“And who is he? point him out, please.”

“There he is passing now, with the lady in the ‘auto-da-fe’ dress, ‘Captain Berkeley, Prince’s Lancers,’ to give him his full title.”

“Prince’s Lancers! with a visible start, and colouring perceptibly. “Oh! if I had only known,” regretfully, gazing as she spoke with eager interest, at the swarthy little cavalry man. “However,” as if struck by a sudden happy thought, “just let me look at my card! I think I’m going to dance with him again—yes,” triumphantly. “Here it is; it looks like Buttermilk this time,” laughing, “and it is the next dance! I want to ask him about a friend of mine,” with rash indiscretion.

But her cousin was not in a merry mood, to judge by his face, which looked darker than she had ever seen it, and set, and stern—“stormy” symptoms that Dicky Gee could vouch for.

“May I inquire the reason of your sudden interest in Captain Berkeley, and why the very name of his regiment sounds as music in your ears?” he asked in a freezing tone.

“Why should I tell you?” she rejoined playfully. If Miles was going to be disagreeable, and to bully her, as Gussie had suggested, she was not going to put up with it! Her great social success, the whispers of admiration, that had reached her, the many pairs of scrutinizing eyes she had encountered, had just turned her head a little wee bit; she was quite conscious of her own importance as belle of the evening; and by no means inclined to tolerate Miles’s “tyranny,” as she called it.

“But supposing that I insist on knowing,” he said in a low impressive tone, standing up and confronting her, with his back to the ball-room, and a scowl on his brow.

“Insist! what an ugly word! What does insist mean?” raising her pretty eyebrows, and surveying him defiantly.

“It means, that I’m not going to be trifled with. I’ve stood a good deal as it is,” his mind suddenly flaming up with recollections of the gate scene, and the photograph. “It means, that you must , and shall tell me, who it is you know, in that fellow’s’ regiment, and what he is to you?”

“Supposing I say, I won’t,” shutting her lips very tight, and looking rather white, “what then?”

(This was not the way to make her reveal Teddy’s secret, standing over her authoritatively, his voice shaking with passion, his face as dark as a thunder cloud!)

“Very well then, so be it,” rejoined Miles, almost beside himself with anger. “That puts an end to everything. Endurance has its limits. I draw the line at your friend in the cavalry!”

“My friend in the cavalry is infinitely obliged to you,” she returned with a little aggravating laugh. “And as to an end to everything! I don’t see how there can be an end, to what never had a beginning! If you imagine that you are breaking off an engagement with me, please to bear in mind that it never existed. I would not have believed,” now breaking down a little, “that you could be so rude, so suspicious, that you had such an awful temper!”

“Oh, yes,” smiling rather constrainedly, and winking back two big tears, “our dance, is it, Captain Berkeley?” rising as she spoke, and throwing her bouquet ostentatiously down on the sofa, she walked away with great dignity, leaving it, and its donor, side by side.

She had no heart for dancing now, nor for all the clever, veiled questions she meant to have addressed to her present partner. Miles had effectually spoiled all her pleasure! How could he be so jealous, so angry, so unreasonable! She felt a desire to retire to some secluded corner, and have a good cry, with a longing that was almost fierce; but she danced and kept up an appearance of vivacity and enjoyment, and laughed, and chatted, and smiled! Standing once close beside Gussie, the latter asked her rapturously if “everything was not far beyond her wildest expectations, and if it was not the happiest evening she had ever spent in all her days?” and Haidée nodded, and beamed acquiescence; whilst all the time, she was telling herself in her heart, that it was the most miserable, and complete failure, and that she and happiness were alienated for life, they had had a deadly quarrel!

Chapter V

Any Volunteers?

During the remainder of the evening Haidée did not once see Miles. He must have left immediately after their quarrel, and she went home in the fly, undoubted belle of the ball, and acting chorus to all her sister’s encomiums and expressions of delight; and yet with a heart as heavy as lead.

“It was ridiculous! She would not have believed it!” she said to herself, angrily, as, when Gussie was sleeping the sleep of the just, she, wrapped in a shawl, leaned out of the open window, and watched the dawn creeping over the sea. More than the dawn—the fishing-boats were out, the sparrows were up, it was four o’clock.

“I did not think I should have cared so much,” she said to herself aggrievedly. “He may imagine what he likes, but I shall keep Teddy’s secret! If he had not been so angry, I might—I might have told him, but if he really cared for me, he would not be so ready to suspect me!” and Miss Haidée Brabazon leant her arms on the window-sill, and, burying her face in them, wept bitterly.

Breakfast was late, of course, and when Haidée joined the family circle with pale cheeks and hollow eyes, her aunt said, as she kissed her primly on either cheek, “Dissipation does not agree with you, my dear! No more balls for you!” sportively, for the old lady was immensely delighted with her niece’s début, and all the compliments that had been paid to her about the “beautiful” Miss Brabazon. Any thing but “beautiful” this morning!

“You look, as if you had not been in bed for a week!” remarked Florian pleasantly, “and, only it is out of the question, I’d say, you had been crying hard for the last four-and-twenty hours!” surveying his sister with a cool, discriminating stare, his eye-glass screwed into his eye.

“I’ve got rather a headache!” said Haidée, passing her hand across her forehead, and wincing under such keen inspection.

“A cup of good tea, and a walk on the parade will soon cure that,” said Miss Jane cheerfully. “Now you are at the seaside, you must make the most of your time, and drink in all the ozone you can.”

Gussie gazed at her sister suspiciously. She had her own little theory on the subject. Now that she came to think over matters. Where was Miles? He had not been one of the crowd of men who had conducted them to their carriage, in a kind of semi-triumphal procession, and he had not as yet put in an appearance at the breakfast table, although he was supposed to be Miss Jane’s guest. Had he and Haidée had a row? It looked like it! surveying her sister with her little dark detective eyes.

Presently they all fell to discussing the ball, Miss Jane joining in with as much zest and animation as if she were eighteen. She had enjoyed herself vastly, in her own way, and laid up a store of new ideas to last her for the next five years. She was great on the subject of a little fair woman, who had danced the whole evening with the same partner.

“The whole evening! The whole entire evening!” she reiterated, as if it were ridiculous to expect people’s minds, to grasp the awful fact in one telling. “I don’t know what the world is coming to!” casting up her eyes.

“Something very different to what it was in my day! And there was Lady Charlotte Fountain, a woman of my own age—sixty-three (never had Aunt Jane divulged this fact before), “bare headed, bare necked! I blushed for her! A flaxen wig, like a wax doll; a pink satin dress, such as it was, rouged, painted, and dancing—actually dancing with boys about the age of her grandsons! I could not get ‘Jezebel’ out of my head every time I looked at her!”

This was very strong language for Miss Jane—almost tantamount to swearing in another person!

“I went over, and reintroduced myself, ‘Janet Brabazon, an old school-fellow.’ She was surrounded by fashionable acquaintances, and was not a bit too well pleased to see me, nor to be reminded that she and I had come out at the same ball, the year the Queen was married! But I did not spare her,” complacently, “and although I saw all her friends, smirking and grinning at me, I’m sure I looked far more in keeping with my time of life, and a respectable, decent old woman, in a high, plain velvet, and lace сар, and my own hair, than she, with her bare shoulders and yellow wig!”

It was plain that Miss Brabazon had enjoyed this rencontre not a little, and felt quite proud of herself!

After breakfast (that is to say, after twelve o’clock) Gussie and Mrs. Brabazon went off shopping, and Haidée fell an easy prey to one of the Miss Clippertons, who, anxious to fight the battles and victories of the evening over again, led her off to the parade in triumph. The sun was shining, and it was a bright, cold day, with a very high wind. The bathing-machines were not down, the boats were drawn up, and formidable white horses were beginning to show their crests, although but an hour ago it had been a very tolerable morning. Many were the fashionable promenaders up and down in twos and threes,—but chiefly twos. There were some pretty faces to be seen, and some pretty frocks, and not a few yachtsmen, in blue serge suits, and various invalids in bath chairs. After our young ladies had taken one turn, they came to the very end of the parade, and were surprised to see a large crowd down on a rocky part of the beach, at a little distance, all looking out on the sea in one direction—at what?

Miss Clipperton and Haidée (true daughters of Eve), immediately hurried down to the spot, and were in time to hear a weather-beaten old gentleman, in a pea-jacket, asking imperiously, as he pushed and elbowed his way into the crowd, “what the deuce is the matter?”

“Three poor men drowning,” returned a woman with pallid cheeks. “They are out there,” pointing; “they were bathing, and swam out, and can’t get back again. Holiday people; cheap trippers.”

“Bathing such a day!” cried the old gentleman, putting his telescope to his eye. “Madness, madness! Escaped lunatics!”

“It wasn’t half so bad when they went out, but the wind has risen since.” And so it had, suddenly and furiously, as it often did along that coast; and what had been but a fresh breeze an hour ago, was now half a gale, and increasing in force every minute.

The great grey waves, with white curling tops, were getting bigger and bigger, and landing periodically on the shingle with louder and more resounding booms, like distant artillery. The crowd was increasing to immense proportions, and Haidée and her companion were rudely thrust apart. Some of the fashionable world were gathered within a respectful distance of the smartly stinging spray; and bath-chair men, organ grinders, flower sellers, cheap photographers, and Punch and Judy men, had all left their usual haunts and flocked to the shore. Besides this, there were bathing women, fish wives, and sailors, or boatmen, in blue knitted Jerseys, standing aloof in a sullen, stolid group, and prognosticating the worst,—but not venturing to put an oar in the water. All eyes were strained upon the three little brown dots, still to be seen above the surface; but for how long? It was a question of minutes, now.

“Where’s the lifeboat?” demanded the naval officer, raising his voice to a shout.

“She’s under repair; and any way she’d never be round in time,” responded a surly voice from the crowd. “They’ll not hold out more than ten minutes,” with stoic calmness.

“It was only a bit roughish when they first went in,” volunteered another spectator; “and they were good swimmers till the tide took them, and now they can’t make the shore at any price,” speaking from the middle of a scarlet worsted comforter.

“And must they perish before our eyes, good friends?” said an elderly clergyman, looking anxiously round the throng. “Will no one put out a hand to save our fellow creatures? Boatmen!” addressing himself to that compact body, “Will none of you venture?”

“Venture, indeed!” echoed a shrill-tongued fish woman in a checked shawl, with her hands on her capacious hips; “What boat could live in that sea? but be smashed on the shingle, ere she was launched. Our sailors’ lives are just as much to us, don’t you think? as those strangers’ out yonder. Venture, indeed!” with a snort of indignation.

“Anyhow, ’tis an easy death,” observed a Punch and Judy man, soothingly; his eyes, as he spoke, intently riveted on the objects in the distance. “There, there’s one of them gone now! He has sunk, God help him!” and a kind of low shuddering murmur went through the crowd.

At this instant, a man broke into the midst of them, without his cap or coat, in a state of the utmost excitement and despair. He had been one of the bathers, but fortunately for himself had not been carried out so far, and had gained the shore, by superhuman exertions.

“Will none of you put out a boat?” he demanded fiercely. “Will you stand there, not moving a finger, and see my comrades drown before your eyes? I’ll go on my bended knees, to any one that will lend a boat, and pull an oar with me!” looking eagerly about; but there was no reply, in the weather-beaten stolid countenances that surrounded him.

“No boat could live,” said one man at last; “and you’re a fool not to know it! If they had kept out to sea instead of beating inland, they’d have run a chance of being picked up by a steamer, or a yacht.”

“Keep out to sea! Why, they are all but spent as it is.”

“Oh! will no one save them,” implored the stranger in despair, looking helplessly around, and at last bursting into loud sobs and tears, as the dead silence answered, “No one.”

Haidée had been a bystander, and an eager listener to this hopeless appeal, and was now wrought up to the highest pitch of mental excitement; the waves to her were as nothing, in comparison with the men’s lives. “Will no one go out?” she cried, looking round distractedly, and wringing her hands in a frenzy; all shyness and bashfulness swallowed up in the horror of the moment. “Will no one venture? No, I see you won’t!” surveying her stolid neighbours with blazing eyes, and lips trembling with excitement and indignation. “You are all cowards! There is not a man here!”

Her appeal, and her taunts, fell on callous ears; the people merely stared at her, as a curious, excitable, wild-looking girl; and, sitting down on a large piece of rock, she, like the stranger, broke down, and, covering her face with her hands, wept bitterly. She could no longer bear to look at the hungry heaving sea, so soon to be the grave of those two miserable men; and the tears streamed plentifully through her fingers, and fell into her lap.

“Shall I go, Haidée?” said a voice beside her, a well-known voice that made her start, and glancing up with streaming eyes, she beheld Miles, who had apparently just arrived upon the shore.

“Yes, oh yes,” she cried, hastily jumping to her feet, “do you go,” forgetting, in the agonizing scene before her, the delicate terms on which they had last parted; “and quickly, quickly, Miles!” seizing his arm eagerly, “there is not a second to spare, not a moment to lose!”

“I’m going out,” he shouted, raising his voice without hesitation, and addressing the throng, “any volunteers?”

No answer, beyond the whistling soughing wind, and lashing grey green waves.

“Twenty pounds!” he continued, elbowing his way towards the centre, and speaking in a clear decisive voice (he had not been adjutant of his regiment for nothing), “Twenty sovereigns, for a seaman and a boat! Who is coming? Don’t all speak at once.”

Twenty pounds, ah! that was a consideration; though for an instant there was no reply. At last, after a muttered discussion, there was a murmur, a move in the crowd, and a long-armed sailor in a blue knitted Jersey, shambled out from among the group of boatmen, and said, “I’m your man for twenty sovereigns. I’m game to go, being single, and I’ve a tight boat, but I’d like to see the money first!”

“I’ve only a few pounds with me, but my watch is worth double, and I’ll leave it as a pledge,” returned Miles, hastily unfastening it, and handing it over as he spoke.

“’Tis the price of your life, Jack Small!” said the big fish-woman impressively. “You’ll be food for the fishes,” in a tone of hoarse remonstrance.

“Well, ’taint a bad price! many a man has risked his self for less, and the gentleman is venturing for nothing,” rejoined Jack in a deep growl.

The fish-woman was understood to say, that “the gentleman was a fool,” but at any rate, he was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet!

“Here, you, don’t stand jawing there,” taking off his coat and flinging it to Haidée. “Come along you fair weather sailors, lend us a hand to shove her off; you are not afraid to do that, are you?”

“Brabazon, Brabazon!” cried an acquaintance in the crowd, a little withered looking individual, with a querulous voice, “you are not going out in that sea! What the mischief are you thinking of? You are not going!” seizing him imperiously.

“I am, and that’s all about it,” pushing him aside; “out of the way, there’s a good fellow!” In another second, he was up to his waist in water, shoving the Mary Ann Small with might and main, and in two minutes he and his adventurous companion were afloat. Afloat! it was appalling to see them; more than once, they appeared to be lifted up perpendicularly on the wave, and about to be dashed back upon the shingle, but the long-armed Jack had the strength of two, and Miles himself was a muscular young man.

Hard-mouthed Pegu ponies had given him fine biceps; and, moreover, he pulled with a truly British doggedness, and with his teeth hard set; besides, and above all, was not Haidée looking on from the beach! First they conquered one breaker, then another, but their position was frightful; the boat looked a mere cockle-shell, the sport of those thundering grey waves, and the wind howled louder and louder every moment, as if uttering shrill shrieks of wild defiance! The smiling, indifferent, pitiless sun shone warmly down, in a manner that was strangely out of harmony with the tragic occasion—the failing swimmers, the fierce tumbling water, and the sea of anxious faces, all set with straining eyes, in one direction, and watching in an agony of suspense, the little struggling boat that seemed barely to escape one wave, to be engulfed by another. It was a hard struggle, a life and death struggle, in the very teeth of the gale. Well for those men, that their arms were as stout as their hearts; they bent to their oars, strained every sinew, and fought and conquered one wave after another, by dint of sheer British pluck.

“I would not give a pinch of salt for their lives!” remarked an old woman in a large black bonnet (set rakishly on her head, over a frilled, I cannot say, white cap). “Jack Small’ll never have the spending of that twenty pound,” in a tone of dismal prophetic warning.

“And the young gentleman, that went for nothing!” said a milder voice, compassionately.

“Nay, the girl bid him go,” exclaimed the virago in the checked shawl, darting as she spoke a vindictive glance at Haidée, who stood as close as she dared to the water’s edge, trembling and shivering with excitement, unconscious of the cold salt spray blowing sharply in her face.

“God help you then, young woman!” said a bath-chair man piously.

“You never meant it, but you just sent him to his death! No boat could live in such a sea; there, see that!” his voice rising to a shriek, as a vast wave came tumbling over the others, and entirely hid the boat from sight.

“She’s foundered!” shouted the crowd hoarsely.

“She’s not! she’s through it, safe this time,” bawled the old gentleman with the telescope under his arm; and there, sure enough, was the Mary Ann still afloat, still fighting her way, conquering every inch of water by sheer determination and muscle alone.

“Sent him to his death!” and the words rang in Haidée’s ears as she looked out over the awful sea, with eyes nearly glazed with terror. She felt that the woman was right, she had sent him to his death. Oh! was it too late to recall him? They had only made a little way. Flying to the very edge of the water, regardless of wet, and spray, regardless of the gaping crowd, she stretched out her arms and cried: “Come back, come back, Miles, you will be drowned too.”

But the wind and the waves roared in partnership, mocked her entreaties, and swallowed up her feeble voice; and the fluttering figure, gesticulating wildly at the water’s edge, was wholly unnoticed in the boat.

“It’s no use, my dear, they can’t hear you,” said the old naval officer kindly—a venerable salt in a pea-jacket, with a telescope under his arm. “He’s a fine young fellow, and ought to have been a sailor. Don’t you go to measure our sailors, with that lot of landlubbers yonder, pleasure-boat men, afraid of a wetting; the real Jack, as every one knows, is always the first man to risk his life for another, bless him. As to your brother, if he never fetches the shore again here, he’ll make the port of heaven straight, for this morning’s work. Here, keep by me, and lay hold of my arm,” seeing that Haidée could hardly stand.” Is he your brother—eh?”

“No—no, my cousin, and oh what a wicked, miserable girl I was, to send him,” she said in a voice inarticulate with emotion.

“Maybe he’d have gone any how; you see, you strangers don’t know the danger of our coast and the tricks the wind plays here. A cap full, is soon half a gale.”

“No, no, I mean yes,” she assented, without moving her eyes, which were fixed on the boat with unflinching steadiness. It was getting nearer, and nearer, and nearer to the men, it was alongside of one, and the fact was notified by a hoarse prolonged cheer from the crowd; who although by no means inclined for deeds of daring in their own individual persons, heartily appreciated those deeds in others!

They are doing finely; here, look through the glass,” said Haidée’s old gentleman, “I’ll fix it for you.”

“No, no, I could not see, it would be no use;” in fact, she was shaking so helplessly that she could not have held it.

“Well, I’ll look for you instead,” cheerily. “Ah! they have him, yes, now for it, bravo! that’s one,” excitedly; “now for the other, steady, steady; I tell you, young lady, they’ll do it yet, as sure as my name is George Williams. Aye, this poor chap seems very weak, but he has got him; keep her head to it, easy does it, there! your fellow has him!” drawing a long sigh of relief. “So far so good, thank God; and now for it, they are coming back!”

“Here they are, they have got the other!” was announced triumphantly from one to another, all along the beach; which was now one seething mass of human beings, with hundreds of eyes, fixed on the sea.

“I can’t bear to look, and yet I must,” said Haidée, with a shudder, and a face the colour of chalk. “Something makes me, whether I will or no. How slowly they are coming, they seem to be hours.”

“Hours, nonsense! in ten minutes’ time, if all go well, they will be here upon the beach, and you will be able to tell your sweetheart what you think of him with your own lips; and I dare say, if he is what I take him for, he’d rather have it, than the Humane Society’s medal!”

And now the boat is among the surf once more, and the hush of suspense denotes that every one is aware that this is the critical moment, the moment of life or death. Which will it be? It will be life; after various ineffectual struggles, after being on the brink of capsizing twice, after bringing every one’s heart into their mouths, about half a dozen times, they grate on the beach, and are landed far up on the shingle, on the crest of a monstrous wave.

The Mary Ann was almost instantly swallowed up by a surging, clamorous crowd; the half-drowned men were carefully wrapped up in coats and jackets and carried out first; and then a roar of acclamation greeted Miles and Jack Small! The feat had been accomplished bravely, and successfully; and many contemptuous glances were now levelled at the little knot of boatmen, who looked more sullen than ever. Indeed, one bold, shrill-voiced young woman loudly declared that had a barrel of beer been anchored out there beyond for them, they’d have pulled to it smart enough. The cowardly good for nothing sots!”

Miles, quickly seizing his coat, whispered to Jack that if he came up to the “Grand” he would find his twenty pounds; and was about to hurry away, leaving him to receive both shares of the popular ovation, but Jack could not part from his fellow boatman in this fashion.

“If I may make bold, sir,” he said bashfully, “I’d like to shake hands with you,” tendering a horny paw.

“We have been partners together for half an hour, and a rare half hour it were! I never wish a better mate.”

Miles quickly wrung the proffered hand; and leaving Jack to expound, and talk, and swagger; once more made an effort to escape. He dreaded, horribly dreaded, being remarked or, spoken to, with the hatred of notoriety common to his class; and felt that he would sooner take to the sea again, than listen to a speech! In short, he was as shy and frightened as a girl. On the edge of the crowd he encountered Haidée, pale, dishevelled, and breathless, totally unlike herself.

“Oh, Miles, Miles!” was all she could gasp.

“What in the world has happened to you?” he said, pausing and surveying her blankly, their quarrel of the previous evening now apparently entirely forgotten by both. “However,” eagerly holding out his hand, “don’t let us stay here; come along, come along,” hurrying his cousin up the beach, goaded onward by his fears; and before any one could realize the fact, he was gone! actually gone!

The crowd were hurt, and indignant, that their lion had left them thus; they would have liked him to talk to them, a little, to roar for them a bit; to tell them all about himself, who he was, and where he came from! But he and the tall girl in the serge dress were already far away down the parade, and almost out of sight.

For some time they walked along at a brisk pace, battling with the wind (at least Haidée was). At length she came to a full stop, under the lee of a boat, gasping for breath.

“Yes, I’m going too fast,” said her companion apologetically.

“Hold on a bit, and fix up your hair,” which was hanging down below her waist (starred with loose hair pins) in one thick shining plait; however, a few vigorous twists made it once more a compact mass at the nape of her neck, and turning to her companion, who was now engaged in tying up a bleeding hand with his handkerchief, she said very humbly, “Miles, will you forgive me for last night?” tears welling up into her eyes, as she spoke.

“For heaven’s sake,” nervously, “don’t cry, Haidée! of course I will; it was all the fault of my own vile temper; I’m afraid (though I’ve only just found it out) that I am an awfully jealous fellow—worse luck; and I can’t bear to see you speaking to, or noticing any one. That’s the truth in plain English!”

“No, no, no! it was all my doing,” interrupted the young lady, not to be outdone, “I was provoking; I was in a rage; I would have told you, and I will tell you, although it is not my secret——”

“Then don’t,” he exclaimed emphatically; “never mind it now, if it is another person’s secret, keep it. I know I can trust you, Haidée,” determined to show how magnanimous he could be, and to make amends for his foolish suspicionsfor Haidée’s wild distracted appearance, had revealed more than her lips had ever uttered; and he felt, that he could afford to be generous!

“And what can I say to you, for risking your life just now?” she asked tremulously.

“Pooh! nothing, it was not half so bad as you thought; any other fellow would have done the same.”

“And pray why did they not?” indignantly.

“Those lubberly cats of boatmen, afraid to wet their feet, choked them off! I would not insult a brave race of men, by calling them sailors.”

“But it was touch and go, Miles; an old naval officer said so. We never expected to see you back, and you went to please me. How am I to thank you? what can I say?”

“That’s easily answered,” he replied, moving a few inches nearer to her, “I’ll tell you what you can say—say, Yes.” This was a strange place in which to decide such a momentous question, under the lee of an old fishing smack, in the midst of a high gale, which was blowing about the sand and spray, and almost drowning every sound, but the thunder of the waves breaking on the shingle. Haidée leaning her back against the boat, bareheaded, endeavouring to repair the elastic of her hat, which she held in her hand. As her cousin bent over, and suggested this one word, the colour returned like a flood to her pale face, and rushed up to the very roots of the little curls, which were frolicking merrily about her forehead in the breeze. For fully two minutes she made no reply, but kept still mechanically twisting the elastic in her hand, not once raising her eyes, but her blushes and her quivering lips, betokened that she was not absolutely indifferent.

“Well, Haidée,” exclaimed her cousin, a little impatiently, “I suppose you know the old proverb, ‘Silence gives consent.’ What am I to think?” he asked with impetuous insistance.

Haidée made no verbal reply to this somewhat imperious appeal, but after a moment’s hesitation, she put out her hand very shyly.

“Dearest,” he said, seizing it eagerly; but almost ere he had touched it, she snatched it hastily from his grasp, exclaiming in a hurried whisper,

“Oh, here are the Clippertons!”

It is not unlikely that Miles mentally made use of strong language, nevertheless he managed to confront the two eager-faced young ladies with tolerable self-command. Little did they imagine that they had arrived at a most inopportune moment!

“Put in for repairs, in this shelter, wise people!” cried Hatty Clipperton approvingly, as she shook hands with Miles. “I knew you were somewhere, along the Parade. Tom Bowyer said he saw you, and now we’ve run you to ground,” she added with a laugh of comfortable complacency. “I was down with Haidée, but I got so pushed, and jammed, I came away. Besides, I hate looking at horrid sights! However, now that the crowd are dispersing, and it’s all over, I want to hear the particulars.”

“What particulars?” said Miles stiffly.

“How innocent we are!” she screamed at the top of her voice, resolved not to be outdone by the roaring gale. “I’m just jumping to hear all about this rescue business, from your own lips, Captain Brabazon; everybody is talking of you, you are the hero of the hour! What did you do?” she demanded shrilly.

“Oh, nothing very wonderful. Like the little boy Billee, ‘we took a boat and went to sea,’ that’s all.”

“But history does not mention that the little boy Billee saved any people’s lives, or that the sea was mountains high,” shouted the eldest Miss Clipperton. “I hope your cousin Haidée has been saying something pretty to you, as a reward for your valour?”

She had, as we know; and he would have been extremely glad if these two talkative ladies would have given him an opportunity of hearing the sound of his cousin’s voice; but they were young women of action, and carried everything before them in all social matters, and bore the two Brabazons off to their joint hotel—Hatty walking ahead with the deeply disgusted Miles, and Josephine escorting the abstracted and unusually silent Haidée.

“Hullo,” cried Florian, as Miles appeared in the dining-room in dry clothes (Haidée having vanished the instant they had entered the hotel)—“Where have you been? it’s nearly three o’clock. However, we’ve left you a little lunch!”

“Only cold beef,” put in Gussie apologetically, “the lobster mayonnaise is all gone—it is to us, a sweet memory of the past!”

“All right, I’ll manage very well with the cold beef,” returned Miles; “but one of you young people will have to carve, I’ve hurt my hand,” holding up bandaged member.

“How on earth did you do that?” said Gussie sympathetically.

Oh, it’s not much. I jammed my knuckles out in a boat.”

“Out in a boat,” cried Florian, opening his half-closed eyes. “You never mean to say that you are the lunatic—the hero, that all the people are talking about at the club—who went out in the teeth of the gale, and brought in those men! This beats anything I’ve heard, for some time—what do you say?” glancing round at Gussie, who was sitting with her mouth half open, and Miss Jane, who was busily rubbing up her spectacles, preparatory to taking a good look at Miles. (Mrs. Brabazon was not present.)

“I’ll tell you something else, that is far better worth listening to,” said Miles, becoming, in spite of himself, a little red and conscious looking.

“I know I know what you are going to tell us,” exclaimed Gussie; “let me guess,” ecstatically.

“Yes, you may if you like. I know you are fond of guessing.”

“I always said it! I always knew it!” jumping up, and dancing a delighted pas seul.

“Goodness, mercy, gracious, child!” cried Miss Jane pettishly, “do sit down, and behave reasonably. What do you mean?”

“Mean! Don’t you all see it? He and Haidee are going to be married,” bestowing on her astonished aunt a hug that would have become a Cornish wrestler, in the exuberance of her joy. “I always said how it would be,” she continued volubly, “and I was right—I always am.” From which it will be understood, that in whatever else Gussie failed, she did not err upon the side of modesty.

Chapter VI

Five O’Clock Tea

But a short period now remained to be dedicated to what George Eliot terms, “the few imaginative weeks called courtship,” and if Miles and Haidée were to be married, there was no time to lose. There were settlements to be drawn up, the trousseau to be set in hand, and many weighty questions to be decided. Miles talked over these matters with Miss Jane, the evening after he had been accepted by his cousin, and between them they persuaded Mrs. Brabazon to have a quiet wedding, and to let the two girls go and stay with Connie, and choose the trousseau with her assistance. Miss Jane was also to be squeezed into Mrs. Curzon’s band-box of a house, but such an important person as Mrs. Brabazon (not to speak of Nokes) would have to go to a neighbouring private hotel. Indeed, Mrs. Brabazon loved not her step-niece; she took up her abode close to Chesham Street, with a useful, fashionable, friend, and was elaborately amiable to Miles and Haidée, but disposed to be very arbitrary about the trousseau, and close-fisted with the necessary funds. London was empty (figuratively speaking), but to our young ladies from the country, even in September it looked remarkably full, and they enjoyed themselves immensely. Haidée, of course, especially. She had the daily society of Miles, who loaded her with flowers and gifts, and anticipated her most capricious whims. A splendid diamond ring adorned her third finger—a ring that represented the whole price of Destiny (till then lying at Cox’s), a diamond butterfly and pair of solitaire earrings swallowed up Cheap Jack, as well as Rocket and Squib. It was useless to endeavour to restrain him. He declared to Haideé, that this being his own money, and not their mutual property, he had every right to spend it as he pleased. He had all the pleasure of taking her to a theatre for the first time, of introducing her to Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court and the Parks, and he was a pattern of patience with regard to Bond Street and Regent Street, allowing her to flatten her pretty straight nose against as many shop windows as she pleased, and to stare in at hats and costumes, in a perfectly unbridled manner; so different to Mrs. Brabazon or Connie, who always walked relentlessly on, deaf to every appeal. Really, for once in her life, Haidée had everything she could possibly wish for! Miles at her beck and call all day long (and yet not too conspicuously present). Quantities of lovely presents, numbers of exquisite new dresses, she ought to have been the happiest girl in the world, and would have been, but just for one drawback,—Teddy’s approaching departure for the Cape. This was the thorn, in her otherwise perfect rose, and it was a sharp one!

As she and Miles were walking in Piccadilly one afternoon, they met Captain Berkeley, rushing out of a bootmaker’s, evidently in a violent hurry.

“Hullo, Brabazon!” he cried, “what on earth are you doing up in the village, at this time of year? Why are you not among the turnips? Miss Brabazon,” raising his hat as he recognized Haidée; “how do you do?”

“You are off next week to the Cape, are you not?” said Miles.

“Yes, by Jove, the order has come; not much time to lose! I’m trying to get my kit together! We embark on Thursday.”

Miles glanced at his beautiful fiancée and was amazed to see that she had become very pale, and that her lips were quivering strangely!

“Your second battalion is going out too, I see by this morning’s paper. No chance of meeting you out there, eh? Well, good-bye, I must be off: time is money. Good-bye, Miss Brabazon.”

“Safe home with a V.C.,” returned Miles cheerfully; and thus they parted; Captain Berkeley springing into a passing hansom, and being rapidly whirled away. Miles walked on beside Haidée in silence. She looked grave and preoccupied. What was the mysterious connection between her and the Prince’s Lancers? What was the secret she had been on the brink of divulging to him, and which he had declined to hear? He was too chivalrous to seek to force her confidence; and had she not assured him, on her honour, and with her hand in his, that she never had cared for any one but himself; and surely that ought to satisfy a gentleman. She was not a demonstrative young lady, like her sister; and although she was going to be his wife in a week, he felt that she was still in some ways a stranger to him; there were recesses in her mind, which he had never penetrated. Whether it was shyness or not, she kept him at a distance, which he thought very hard lines considering the circumstances, and he told himself, as he glanced at her pale clear-cut profile and rather firmly-set lips, that in their case it was he who was “bridled and saddled;” he was far more in love with her, than she with him.

And now it was the last day of the Miss Brabazons’ sojourn in town. On the morrow they returned to Baronsford, previous to the wedding, which was to be very quiet: limited to relatives, and the Bells; but Miss Jane had stipulated for a proper breakfast, a wedding-cake from Gunter, a wedding dress, veil and orange blossoms; and had herself invested in a lavender silk that could nearly stand alone, and in the fulness of her heart, promised a grand dinner to the whole village of Maxton.

Towards the end of September, the evenings are shortening, and it is dusk at five o’clock, Mrs. Curzon’s very popular tea time. It was just over; everybody had had second cups, Miss Jane, Mrs. Curzon, Gussie, and Haidée. The little table had been wheeled away, and the company had drawn nearer to the fire in various luxurious chairs, when the door opened and Miles entered.

“What has made you so late?” said his sister, making room for him; we have had our tea, and are just in the thick of ghost stories. Aunt Jane has told us one, that has turned me into what is called goose flesh. About a lady without a head!”

“No one comes here,” said Gussie, putting up her hand authoritatively, “unless they can tell a good ghost story. So if you are not ready with something really grisly, you can go away.”

“Oh, come, I say! this is too much of a good thing. I can’t compete with the headless lady! And Connie, if you had been the affectionate sister, you would have kept me a cup of tea.”

“Tea! you humbug! you know you men have regular five o’clock tea at your clubs.”

“It is a libel as far as I am concerned,” emphatically.

“Well, then,” stretching towards the bell, “you shall have some tea; but, only on condition, that you make yourself pleasant, and tell a ghost story.”

“Yes, Miles, even if you have to make it up,” said Haidée, who was sitting next to the chimney-piece, holding a peacock fan between her face and the fire.

“Will a Burmese one do?” in a dubious tone.

“Yes, of course it will, beautifully; it will be something new!” cried Gussie, with lively zest.

“Then please to remember, that if you are all afraid to go about alone in the dark for the next six months, it is not my fault; you brought it on yourselves,” with a gesture of solemnity.

“Agreed, now no more preliminaries. Commence—commence.”

“I must have my tea first, and then your entire attention,” looking round impressively; “if I hear so much as a pin drop, you may whistle for the rest.”

Chapter VII

Burmese Ghost Stories

“This story was told me by a settlement officer,” said Miles, laying down his cup and saucer. “You don’t know what he is, but it is of no consequence; and he declared in the most solemn manner, that he had it from the old priest’s own lips.” End of introduction. “This settlement officer had business up the Salween. The Salween is a large river, south of the Irrawaddy, very broad and very long, flowing smoothly between picturesque banks, covered with trees and jungle, with here and there a temple, or a town.

“We don’t want a lesson in geography, we want a ghost story,” interrupted Connie impatiently.

“I’m coming to that. If you interrupt again, you know the consequences! This settlement officer hired a boat, a three-ton boat, to make the voyage up the river; you travel in the boat all day, and if possible anchor or land at night. This particular evening, he stopped at a place where the Salween made an immense bend, and this bend was the site of a large village, surrounded by fruit gardens, and patches of bananas, and bamboos. He strolled out on the sandy flat shore before sunset, with his gun over his shoulder, and had the luck to surprise and shoot an enormous alligator. There was great rejoicing thereupon among the Burmans. The carcase was duly dissected; and inside it were found many indigestible articles, such as stones, old iron, but notably a woman’s broad gold bangle, engraved with quaint characters.”

Here Miles paused, and there was a hitching of chairs, which manifested that the public interest was becoming aroused.

“Next morning the officer paid a visit to a very learned and celebrated old Buddhist priest; and ere leaving happened quite casually to mention that he had shot the alligator, and produced the bangle, which the old Poungyee took in his withered hand, and turned it over carefully; and, recognizing it, became very much troubled and shaken.

“There is evidently some story about it,’ said the officer, and you know it.”

“The priest admitted that he did, and after some hesitation related the history of the bangle, which was as follows: Many, many years previously, the priest had a very pretty niece, who, when she grew up, married a well-to-do young man in the wood trade, and had one child, a girl. Shortly after its birth, the mother was perpetually haunted by a dream, always invariably the same; at last it had such an effect upon her mind, that she went and told her uncle, the priest. She related that she dreamt she was in a canoe, going quickly down the river, and whenever she came to a certain sandy flat, about a mile below the village, something horrible, but unknown, came out of the water, and she remembered no more; but she always awoke trembling all over. ‘Be advised, my daughter,’ said the Poungyee gravely; ‘accept the warning; avoid that sandy flat as long as you live, or evil will befall you.’ And she prudently acted on his advice for years and years. In time her daughter grew up, and was one of the most beautiful girls in that part of the world, and beset by crowds of would-be suitors; but the only one of them which pleased her fancy, was a young boatman called Moung Jo, and according to Burmese etiquette, she intimated to an old woman that Moung Jo might ‘come and talk to her.’ The talking is this! Burmese houses are raised on piles of wood, twelve feet high: the lady sits upstairs, the man below, and thus they converse. She must on no account show herself, or look over the balcony, that would be very improper; nor must she sit above his head, that would be unlucky! Her father and mother, though not present, are well within ear shot, and hear every word.”

“How ridiculous!” interrupted Gussie in a tone of indignant contempt.

“Moung Jo accordingly came in his best putsoe, and his most gaudy silk handkerchiefs, and squatted under the house every evening; and ‘Mar Shay Thaw,’ or ‘she of the golden tooth,’ sat above, powdered and jewelled, and in all her Sunday best; and they held sweet converse together. And the other suitors, having seen Moung Jo talking to the young lady’s old woman, and giving her betel nut, concluded that it was ‘no go’ for them, and sheered off. Mr. and Mrs. Moung Jee, the girl’s parents, gave their formal consent; for Moung Jo had so much money saved, so many boats, and his affairs were all on the square. But he did not wish to be married at once; he had a good contract up the river, he must carry out first, taking narpie to the Shan country.

“And pray what is narpie?” asked Connie.

“A delicate decoction of putrefied fish, madam, and considered a most delicious dainty! And when he had carried out this business, Moung Jo would come back, marry, and settle. To this the old people agreed; so he and “golden tooth” were betrothed, and he departed with his narpie, very low in his mind, leaving his young lady shedding enough tears to swamp his boat. After a short time, an epidemic broke out in the village where the Moung Jees lived, and among the first to be attacked was Mar Shay Thaw. One night when she was very ill, she started up quite suddenly on her mat, and screamed, ‘Moung Jo, Moung Jo! I have seen Moung Jo,’ and fell back dead! Her mother, who came running in, was nearly wild with grief, and ran out of the house in the bright moonlight, like one possessed and beside herself, followed by a servant; and not seeming to know where she was going—moaning, and screaming, and tearing her hair, and beating her breast in a frenzied manner—she arrived in time at the sandy flat; and as she ran wailing up and down, an alligator came swiftly out of the water, gave a sudden turn of his body, there was one smothered shriek, and she was gone! So Moung Jee lost wife and daughter in one night; and shutting up his house, departed for one of the large towns, probably Moulmein, intending, when his grief had abated, to enter the priesthood.

“Shortly afterwards a young Burman passing the Moung Jees’ house was amazed to hear a great clattering of pots and pans, and some one moving above stairs; so he, after the manner of his kind, squatted down to await events. The event shortly arrived, in the shape of a very beautiful young woman, who came down from the house to fetch water. The Burman immediately picked himself up, and put his best foot foremost, and begged to be allowed the honour of carrying the water; and she smiled, and displayed her teeth, and was most agreeable; and they entered into conversation, and she told him she had taken this house, and her people were coming shortly. Every evening this susceptible young man went and sat under her verandah; and told his friends with many nods and hints, that he would not be the least surprised, if the lady became Mrs. Moung Baw.

“One very still hot night, when not a breath of air was stirring the leaves of the bamboos, the whole village was awoke by a rushing mighty wind; like a hurricane it passed overhead, followed by a silence; and then most piercing shrieks, then another silence, and the rushing wind passed back again, and the usual death-like tropical calm was only broken by the croaking of frogs, and the lapping of the river. Next morning, the remains of poor Moung Baw were found. He had been strangled, and there were black prints of fingers burnt into his neck, and an expression of indescribable horror on his distorted countenance. The strange girl was immediately acquainted with the news, and took it very coolly indeed; said that, ‘she supposed it was his fate, and that every one’s fate was written on their forehead.’ In a short time, no less than five other young Burmans came to the same untimely end, and the village was appalled! There was no clue, and the deaths had all been from the same cause—black fingers and strangulation.

“After a while, Moung Jo returned, to find desolation. He was heart-broken, and wandered about the Moung Jees’ deserted fruit garden for hours, by day and night.

At last, one evening,he beheld, standing on a walk close to him, Mar Shay Thaw herself! His astonishment was simply too great for words. ‘Oh, Mar Shay Thaw, they told me you were dead,’ he cried vehemently; ‘what is this?’

“‘They told you lies,’ she returned viciously; ‘I have been waiting for you for months and months,’ with a pout. ‘But, Moung Jo, do not tell any one you have seen me! I only come here of an evening, till my father returns. Come to my house to-morrow at this hour,’ and she vanished.

“Moung Jo departed almost dancing with joy, and was of course up to time in his old place the next evening. But what was his horror, to behold his fiancée come out and look over the balcony. Now this, be it known, was a frightful breach of etiquette, and Moung Jo, being a respectable Burman, was awfully shocked! However, he smothered his feelings, and held his tongue. Next evening, she invited him up into the verandah. This was worse still, and he firmly but politely declined to budge from his mat; he was at a loss to understand how his bashful golden tooth had become so abominably forward? When he was leaving, he chanced to look back, and to his horror and surprise, saw her face hideously contorted with hate and fury; so he prudently went and told the old Poungyee, who warned him not to enter her house, or touch food, on peril of his life. Next day he found the young lady was on the ground, with her mat beside his, and a splendid feast spread beside it, of every imaginable delicacy; but Moung Jo was prudent, and would not eat; and after some high words, culminating in violent abuse from the lady, he got up and walked off, and related his little story to the priest. The following morning at daybreak, all the men of the village, armed with shovels and spades, set out for Mar Shay Thaw’s grave, in the wake of the holy man, who ordered it to be opened, saying, ‘in rare cases such as this, a devil takes possession of a human body after death; probably as punishment for something that body has done in a former and remote state.’ The coffin lid was loose, according to Burmese fashion; it was raised, and there lay the lovely Mar Shay Thaw, as if asleep, and in perfect health!—She opened her eyes, and glared at the priest, who, seizing a pointed stake, drove it right through her heart. There was one fiendish yell, and the body collapsed into a mere coffin full of bones, which were quickly collected, and burnt to ashes. The ashes were scattered on the Salween, and that was positively the end of the beautiful golden tooth.”

“I declare I’m quite hoarse,” said Miles, as he concluded. “Is there any more tea?”

“What an extraordinary, odd, horrible story,” exclaimed Gussie, breaking the long silence; “and not an orthodox ghost story at all; it’s more of the vampire style; there was no apparition. Do tell us another, like a good, agreeable Miles!”

“It’s not my turn; and——”

“Never mind that; let us have a short one just to fill up the next ten minutes before the dressing bell,” said Connie, sociably.

Miss Jane said nothing. She was not quite sure that she approved of these tales about vampires and demons.

“Well, a fellow I know very well, a commissioner, swears by all his gods that this is true, and it is short and to the point, at any rate,” said Miles, thrusting his hands into his pockets, and making a fresh start, in answer to a clamorous appeal.

“He and some Burmans had been out shooting on the banks of a river, and as they were returning to their village, just before sunset, they went along a path parallel to the water’s edge, through a jungle of elephant grass, which was about seven feet high; here and there it was in thick patches, but in some places there was nothing but the short grass of the surrounding plain. As they marched along in single file, a sudden rustling among the high elephant grass attracted the fellow’s attention, and he raised his rifle, thinking it was some wild animal. However, seeing nothing, he walked on. Again the grass moved violently, as though some large beast were pushing its way through it. This time he put his rifle to his shoulder, but quickly withdrew it when he saw that it was merely a Burman moving parallel to the party. It struck them at the moment, that he must be of gigantic stature, as his head and shoulders were above the jungle (seven feet high). He seemed to keep up with them step for step, till they came to an opening, and there was no concealment, only bare green plain, and the whole party were horrified to see that their fellow-traveller consisted only of the head, arms, and trunk of an immense man, which kept moving along about four feet from the ground! The Burmans shrank together, muttering, ‘A Bloo! A Bloo!’ (Evil Spirit), and were, as well as their European companion, excessively uncomfortable, even although the ‘Bloo’ was once more partially concealed in the elephant grass.

“At length they came to a cross road, and here the figure for the first time turned, and looked at them leisurely; and they saw its full face, which was that of a devil, and hideously wicked-looking, and malignant. To their immense relief, he took the other path—a path leading to another village—and they hurried home at the top of their speed, and one of the Burmans went and told the Poungyee, who sent him off at once to the village down the river, to go to the priest, warn the inhabitants to leave it that night, and cross to the opposite bank, or evil would befall them! The priest of this village, when he heard the message, summoned all the head men, and told them of the notice he had received. Some said they would not stir. It was not convenient to move their families in such a short time. Some prepared to shift their quarters at once, and wisely crossed the river without further parley. It was well they did. By next morning, every soul who had elected to remain behind, was dead of cholera!”

“Motto—never disregard good advice,” said Gussie, shaking her head solemnly.

“There’s the gong,” said Connie. “That last was a ghastly story, Miles, and I believe you invented it! Come, come, girls; it is time to dress for dinner. Robert will be arriving! Away with you!”

Haidée, nevertheless, lingered behind, with one foot on the fender, gazing speculatively into the fire.

“Of course those Burmese legends are all nonsense, Miles. I think the first was the worst. The woman in the shape of a fiend! What a shame, to have made it a pretty girl!”

“Oh, was it?” ironically. “Pretty girls do lots of harm in their own way! Perhaps it is only intended as a parable—merely to show how many men’s lives, or happiness, the fair golden tooth had wrecked! We hear of such things in this country, you know!”

“Not often!” combatively.

“Oh, pretty fairly well, as Robert says! Girls who carry on with one fellow, and are engaged to another; amusing themselves by making fools of them both! There was a man I knew, who was engaged to a girl at home, and he was just starting for England, when he received a telegram at the railway station. It was short, and very much to the point—‘Do not come. Maude is married!’ She had been engaged to another fellow as well all the time! I believe she was distractingly pretty, and quite untrammelled by any scruples. And the other man had the most coin. Poor old Thompson went nearly mad! He has never been the same since!”

“Really! Now what would you do, Miles, if a girl, say if I, were to treat you like that?” inquired Haidée, leaning her elbow on the chimney-piece, and speaking to his reflection in the glass.

“What would I do?” he echoed, turning a little pale. “As I could not realize it, I cannot tell you! What is the use of trying to answer impossible questions, or anticipating such a contingency?”

“But try to think!” she persisted teasingly “Just for once draw on your imagination to amuse me!”

“It would be an ugly picture!” he said, after a moment’s silence, “if I thought that you could deceive me! You would not merely destroy my faith in you, but my belief in everything—in all womankind, in truth,—in God!”

“Good gracious, Miles!” she ejaculated in a rather shocked voice.

“Yes,” he proceeded, “but what is the use of discussing the impossible! I sometimes—mind you, only sometimes—think, that you do not care very much for me, Haidée! and that if we had known each other longer, I might have been able to put you to the proof, for there is no test like time; but time has been denied to us, and, as it is, I trust you absolutely and unreservedly. I would stake my life and honour for your word!”

“You will never have to do that,” returned Haidée, a little frightened at his vehemence. “I do not make many professions or promises, but when I do, I keep them.”

“I believe you do. I know you do; and that you don’t care for me as much, not within a tenth part, of what I do for you; it is not your fault, it must be always so. Like the French proverb—‘Il y a toujours un qui baise,’ et ‘un qui tend la joue;’ and, after all——”

“Miles, you are quite wrong!” she interrupted hastily; “quite. You must not say that, nor think that because I am brusque and stiff, and perhaps ungracious, I——” becoming very red and stopping, no coherent reason being forthcoming.

“Great patience!” ejaculated a little figure in the doorway, glancing at the couple on the hearthrug; “so this is what you call dressing for dinner! Connie is coming down; Robert will be here in five minutes, and if you keep him waiting, a hungry bear will be a playful domestic animal in comparison! It is well you have me to throw myself into the breach. I’ll give you just ten minutes—not a second longer,” pushing her sister out of the room as she spoke.

Chapter VIII

Seeing Is Believing

Connie’s brother-in-law (who always dined in Chesham Street now, to keep Miles in countenance), was a heavy faced, taciturn man, who was a noted bon vivant, and had the reputation of being one of the best judges of a dinner in the city of London, and no mean cook.

“It’s a great honour his coming at all!” exclaimed Connie confidentially to her aunt, as they sat over the fire. “I rarely dare to ask him. I assure you cook and I consult for an hour, when he is expected. I can always see by his face whether he is pleased or not. But sometimes when he says to Kirk in a sepulchral voice, ‘Here, take this away,’ giving his plate a push, I feel ready to burst into tears.”

“I’m sure you have always everything perfectly served and cooked. I would not ask him to dine, much less pander to his whims,” exclaimed Miss Jane indignantly. “Ham boiled in champagne, prunes stewed in maraschino. I call it sinful waste!”

“Yes, but dear Aunt Jane, I must. I have the boys to think of. He is immensely rich, and they ought to come in for his money,” said Connie impressively. “And now he has taken quite a fancy to Gussie, it is such a blessing. She amuses him and makes him laugh. I never saw him so easily pleased before, or in such good humour.”

“Ah,” said Miss Jane. “Gussie is quite a little epicure in her way. That’s the bond of union between them. And she would flirt with an octogenarian, with a youth in jackets, with anybody! But she is a cool calculating girl, who will never allow her heart to betray her head. She will marry for money.”

“Good gracious, Aunt Jane, you don’t mean to say that she has any idea of Robert?” cried Mrs. Curzon in genuine alarm.

“No, no, my dear. He is merely a stop-gap, to keep her hand in. You need not be the least uneasy! It is really quite amusing to see how animated he has become the last few evenings.”

Indeed, the little dinners in Chesham Street were a great success, and a buzz of conversation was kept up without cessation, until the ladies retired upstairs (the younger ones to sit on the drawing-room rug before the fire, the elder to indulge in forty winks, indulged in surreptitiously, and subsequently indignantly repudiated). It was their last evening. and Miles was resolved to cut short the half-hour devoted to Mr. Robert Curzon’s exhilarating society (his reminiscences of banquets, his recipes for lobster salad, and his admiration of Augusta); and join the merry party above stairs.

“Egad, I’ll go with you,” cried the other with unusual alacrity. “We’ll go up and see what all the laughing is about, eh? I’m sure that Miss Gussie is at the bottom of it,” chuckling, rising heavily, and throwing his cigar into the grate. “That cook of Connie’s is improving in her soups. That we had tonight was fair, very fair,” he murmured as he climbed up the narrow steep stairs, in the wake of his companion.

The drawing-room door was half ajar, and many and merry were the tongues within. Mrs. Curzon’s high imperative treble was saying,

“Come now, turn round and let us have a good look at you, Mrs. Miles Brabazon,” as her brother pushed the door open and walked in.

There was a little scream of dismay from various quarters, and an energetic attempt on the part of his sister, to hustle him out of the room. But her ponderous brother-in-law was already blocking up the doorway, exclaiming, quite vivaciously for him, “Hulloa, hulloa, hulloa, what’s all this?”

And it was of no use, she could not move him; he kept his place, and saw to his amazement and admiration, Haidée standing in the middle of the room in her wedding dress, wreath, and veil. A dressmaker in a bonnet was eyeing her handiwork most complacently; Miss Jane was in the act of walking round her niece, spectacles on nose; and Gussie and Connie’s French maid were volubly expressing their raptures to each other, with great gesticulation, and in broken French and English, and two or three women servants were standing in the background.

“You know, you of all people should not be here, Miles,” said his sister, shaking him angrily by the arm. “It’s not at all correct, in fact, like the Burmese girl who looked over the balcony, it’s most improper, and just every bit as unlucky as if she had sat above the young man’s head! Here then, you may have one peep at her and get you gone,” throwing wide the door.

“Why should I go?” folding his arms resolutely “I’ve as good a right to be here as you have; if it comes to that, better. I like to stay, and I will stay,” leaning doggedly against the wall.

“Then in that case I’m going,” cried Haidée, making a sudden swoop on her long train, which she gathered over her arm, and vanished through the open doorway, like a flash of white satin lightning

“I’m sorry you saw her, Miles,” said his sister very gravely; “they say nothing can be more unlucky.”

“Rubbish!” shrugging his shoulders contemptuously; “you are as bad as little Gee, who is always raving about luck; it’s all humbug in my opinion. What is the harm of looking at a girl in a white satin gown, I should like to know?”

“No harm, if she were not your future bride in her wedding dress,” impressively.

“Well, all I can say is, that I hope nothing will come of it,” shaking her head in a melancholy manner.

*  *  *

Next morning the Brabazon ladies, young and old, departed from the metropolis with loads of luggage, and Miles was left to put in a whole week intervening before his wedding day, as best he could. The fourth day of this time had passed, and he was beguiled into going down to Portsmouth to see an old friend off to the Cape. Anything pour passer le temps. He met his chum at the Pier Hotel, where they lunched together, and then sallied forth to the dockyard. The trooper was alongside, and a regiment of lancers in the act of embarking. (The Prince’s Lancers, of course.) Horses, obstreperous and otherwise, were being put on board, and crowds were watching the proceedings with the gravest interest. Miles and his friend, after inspecting the latter gentleman’s cabin, which was one of those known as a “horse-box,” ascended to the upper regions, and began to pace the deck together, and have a few last words.

“I rather envy you fellows going out,” said Miles, nodding his head at the crowd of soldiers between decks; “and only for circumstances I would be going too.”

“You mean matrimony,” said the other, smiling. “And when are you to be told off?”

“The day after to-morrow.”

“By Jove! that’s coming pretty close. Married men are best at home; it plays the deuce with a fellow having to leave a wife or a sweetheart. I’ve always done my level best to keep out of such matters. Look round now on this pack of wretched women, crying their eyes out; come to say good-bye, and take their last look at fellows they will never see again. My sister’s husband goes out with us; he is on the staff out there; it was an awful wrench for her, but he would not let her come here, and he showed his sense; these partings at the last moment are a ghastly business, in public too. You’re a lucky chap not to have to leave your sweetheart, like that poor fellow over there under the lee of the shed. Look! it’s a desperate bad case; the girl seems heart-broken. I don’t believe she’ll ever let him go!”

Miles glanced indifferently over in the direction indicated, and beheld a tall, handsome, young sergeant of lancers, who was evidently making a brave struggle to keep his feelings well in hand, and a girl with her back towards him, leaning on his arm in a perfect abandon of grief. The lancer appeared to be trying to soothe and comfort her, with but little success; every now and then she kept shaking her head, in a hopeless and despairing manner.

“She looks like a lady,” said Major Vere, speculatively; “and I would not wonder, if she was a pretty girl into the bargain.”

“It’s rather a shame to watch them, returned Miles; “and hard lines that they have to say good-bye to one another at all, poor girl!”

“A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind,” quoted the other with a laugh. “There was a time, old chap, when you would have called them a pair of fools!”

“Ah! I—--” Whatever else he was going to say remained frozen on his lips, for the girl had suddenly turned her face towards them; he could see it plainly now, and one glance at those familiar features was enough. It was the face of the girl who was to be his wife the day but one following; the face of his cousin, Haidée Brabazon. Haidée pale and distracted, her eyes swollen with crying, but still Haidée!

And he also recognized Miss Jane’s own maid, Mrs. Eliza Flack, pacing up and down at a discreet distance. In one instantaneous scorching flash, everything was revealed to his mind, everything accounted for, now. The meeting at the gate, the photograph, Haidée’s unaccountable interest in this particular regiment; and all Miss Jane’s solemn asseverations were lies, she and her niece were partners in a league and covenant to deceive and delude him. In an instant, this had passed like fire through his brain; he felt as if he was going to choke, and dizzy with rage and bewilderment, and for a moment the dockyard, and sky, seemed to reel before him, but he clutched the bulwarks with a vice-like grasp, and nerved himself “to look” once more; as he gazed with livid face and dilated eyes, he comprehended that the hour of parting had come! Haidée flung her arms round the sergeant’s neck and kissed him, and clung to him in a wild abandon of despair, and as if she would never release him; and he, Miles Brabazon, was looking on quite sane, quite in his right mind; it was no delusion, no dream! At last the lancer, who seemed a good deal moved, beckoned to Flack to approach and take charge of her young lady, and Haidée made no resistance, but allowed herself to be led away towards a fly, that was evidently waiting for them, for a short distance. But then she turned and looked back—it was fatal—he was doing the same; in a second she had rushed to him, and clasped him once more in an agonized embrace. Finally with an heroic effort, she motioned him to leave her, and with her face buried in her hands, was instantly seized upon by Flack, who, taking her arm in a peremptory manner, and shaking her head very expressively, led her young charge away seemingly bowed down to the very earth with grief. The whole scene had a horrible fascination for Miles; not a look, not a gesture had escaped him; and now that it was all over, now that his betrothed had passed weeping from his sight, he turned his whole attention to her late companion, who was coming up the gangway, pale indeed, but not so pale as the man on the poop above him, who was literally devouring him with a pair of glowing dark eyes.

“Tell me,” he said to Major Vere, as he pulled him by the sleeve, “who is that fellow of yours coming on board now—there, the tall sergeant?” pointing with unsteady finger, and speaking in a voice that sounded strange and far away, even to himself.

“Oh, that!” returned the other briskly, “that chap is our young sprig of nobility, as some will have it; anyway, he goes by the name of Lord Brown, or Gentleman Brown; looks frightfully down in the mouth too, poor devil! Did you see the girl? Hullo, Brabazon, what ails you, old chap?” suddenly looking round at his friend, and struck by his altered appearance, his drawn and ghastly face. “Come along down, and have a whiskey and soda, or something below; you look awfully seedy—’pon my honour you do!”

“It’s nothing,” said the other impatiently; “it will go off directly, don’t mind me. A—a— gentleman, you said,” recurring to Lord Brown; “a gentleman?”

“Yes, oh, yes, and a very smart fellow.

Safe to get his commission in a few months; the girl was evidently in his own rank of life; came down to say good-bye under the rose. I saw her at the station, was struck by her at once, awfully pretty, and looked quite frightened among all the soldiers. Never saw a troop train before, I’ll swear. I’ve a notion I’ve seen her somewhere; I wish I could remember when, but I’m sure I’ve seen her,” throwing back his head and half-closing his eyes, “but where? Oh, by George,” becoming scarlet, “I know,” as it flashed into his mind, that he had seen the young lady at Sandborough ball, where she had been pointed out as Brabazon’s fiancée! “Brabazon, old fellow, what can I say to you?” surveying him with a horror-struck expression, “I see it all! No wonder you look queer! Come along down,” seizing him firmly by the arm, “you must have a brandy and soda,” he urged imperatively.

“No, no,” stepping back, “I don’t want it, I tell you; and I must be going.”

“Then what can I do for you?” anxiously.

“Say nothing about what you have seen,” returned his companion; “keep your own counsel, that’s all you can do for me. And now I must be off; say goodbye to Berkeley for me,” wringing his hand, “and don’t keep me,” in answer to the other’s expressive face. “I must go,” once more shaking hands, and then hurrying blindly, headlong, down the gangway.

“What ails that fellow Brabazon?” demanded a brother officer of Major Vere’s; “he looks rum, to say the least of it. He is going to be married the day after to-morrow, and even for a chap in such a critical position, he looks out of the way queer! He’s not a little mad, eh? not got a slate off?”

“Oh, no, no,” returned the other, impatiently, his eyes following a hansom flying out of the dockyard. (“I hope to Heaven he is not going to murder her,” is what he remarked to himself, but aloud he merely replied,) “It’s that beastly Burmese climate; Brabazon has been there for years, and it always plays old gooseberry with every one.”

“Burmese climate!” echoed the other, with a loud laugh. “These attacks must come on suddenly! He looked as fit as a fiddle half-an-hour ago, when he was overhauling my charger. He gave me the impression of a man who had had a regular floorer, in the way of bad news, or seen a ghost!”

“A ghost be hanged!” was all Major Vere replied, as he abruptly went below, and pulled himself together with the peg which he had vainly prescribed for his late companion.

Miles was perfectly indifferent as to what any one thought of him, as he hailed a hansom, and told the driver to “go like mad to the railway station.” He might just catch Haidée, and two words were better than twenty letters. Thank goodness his eyes had been opened in time—it was not too late—he was not married yet!

The express was about to start, the engine was emitting great clouds of white steam, the platform was crammed, as pitching the driver a sovereign (poor crazy gentleman! that driver thinks of him affectionately to this day!) he dashed into the station, and looked into one carriage, another, and another.

Ah! here she was at last! close to the door, with her back to the engine, her handkerchief to her eyes, actually crying still; Flack, in an opposite corner, holding herself ostentatiously aloof from her broken-hearted companion, and revelling in the contemplation of flaming and gorgeous advertisements, of ships, and turnips, and furniture.

“Miles!” gasped Haidée in a tone of dismay, as her cousin flung the carriage door violently open, and stood before her astonished gaze.

“Yes, Miles,” he echoed, in a voice she was unacquainted with, bitter sarcasm struggling with some potent emotion. “An unexpected pleasure, is it not?

“But what has happened?” she faltered tremulously, justly alarmed by the expression of his face, and awed by some vague undefined dread.

“What brings you here?” vainly striving to master her long-drawn sobs.

“A mere trifle!” in a voice that shook in despite of himself. “Nothing to speak of. I was only on board the trooper just now, and had the honour,” striving to be calm, “of witnessing the affecting parting between you and your lancer friend! Everything is accounted for now,” breathing hard, “your flattering interest in the regiment included. I’m a lucky fellow to have found you out in time, am I not? Needless to tell you, that as far as I’m concerned, the money may go to the devil, and I’ve only one word to say to you, the word. ‘Good-bye.’”

“Stop, stop, Miles!” she cried, starting forward, with dilated eyes and quivering lips. “Do you mean,” catching her breath, “that you suppose, that that lancer was——”

“Your lover,” he interrupted fiercely. “I don’t suppose it, I know it.” A violent banging of doors, a small shrill whistle, an “I beg pardon, sir, time’s up,” from a running guard, and the train was already gliding out of the station, with Miles’ last passionate sentence vibrating in Haidée’s ears. “I don’t suppose it, I know it.” His angry eyes, his pallid face, were still before her vision, instead of the sheds, and trucks, and grimy red-brick walls, that they were passing with ever-increasing speed. For a moment or two she did not move, she seemed stunned; then, regardless of Flack, she flung herself on her knees, and buried her face in the dusty blue carriage cushion opposite, saying: “Oh, this is too much, too much!” Fate was too hard! Was she to lose both Teddy and Miles within the very same hour? It was impossible! and she wept unrestrainedly and violently. She had been so taken aback by Miles’ unexpected appearance, words had failed her just when they would have been of vital importance. She had lost her head altogether, and her presence of mind; and indeed, Miles had hardly given her a second’s time to exculpate herself; he seemed transformed with rage, literally wild with passion; how his voice shook, how rapidly he spoke, and how the hand that held the door of the carriage had trembled.

“Oh, I’m too miserable to live,” she moaned as Flack, came, and bent over her; insisted on her reseating herself and not “taking on” in this wicked way.

“He’ll come back, Miss Haidée, safe and sound. Don’t you be fretting for Master Teddy, you know as he said you wasn’t to—and you promised. Come now,” reprovingly.

“It is not him, Flack! it’s—it’s Captain Brabazon,” trying to stifle her ungovernable sobs.

“Laws, yes; I saw him a minute at the carriage door, and he seemed a bit put out.”

Flack was somewhat deaf, and being at the other end of the compartment, the hurried interview between the cousins had been nearly all dumb show to her; what with the noise on the platform, and the hissing of the engine, the sound of their voices had been entirely drowned.

“I never told him about Teddy,” said Haidée, in a choked voice. “Teddy would not let me, and now he thinks all kinds of dreadful things. What shall I do? what shall I do? wringing her hands in a frenzy of despair. Then taking off her hat, and pressing her hands to her throbbing temples, she gazed hopelessly at her companion, who sat before her open-mouthed, her puce cloth gloves on either knee, and stared stolidly back, in a condition of mental stupefaction. But a bright idea suddenly beamed upon her mind, and nodding her head two or three times with great satisfaction, she shouted: “I have it, miss; you can telegraph—telegraph,” raising her voice still higher.

“Telegraph, but where?”

“Well, to be sure! I don’t know, miss, wherever he is; but you may know!”

“His club, of course; that will find him. Oh, you clever, clever Flack, the instant we get to Waterloo I’ll telegraph that Teddy is my brother. Under the circumstances Teddy would not mind!”

“No, indeed, why would he?” indignantly. “Deary, deary me, I would not have believed it of such a quiet looking young gentleman,” shaking her head incredulously. “I would not have believed it!”

“Believed what?”

“Why, that Captain Brabazon could have worked himself up into such a terrible passion about nothing; that he had such an audacious temper. Lor-a-mussy, Miss Haidée, his eyes was blazing like two candles in his head.”

To this remark, Haidée made no reply. She could not talk; she dried her eyes, tried to master her long-drawn sobs and quivering lips, and sat with her hat in her lap, gazing vacantly out of the window, whilst the express thundered and roared through station after station, but went all too slowly for her!

The telegram was despatched the instant they arrived in London, and Haidée breathed more freely. Then she and Flack made their way across town in a growler, had tea at another station—the panacea, in Flack’s opinion, of every ill to which the flesh is heir—and after another railway journey, and a jolting drive, Haidée, tired, stiff, and dazed, descended at the side door at home. She was admitted by Gussie, with a rather frightened face, a candle in her hand, and her finger on her lips.

“So you are home safe and sound,” she whispered. “Well, my dear, I would not go through this evening again for a trifle,” walking before her sister and talking over her shoulder. “My heart has been in my mouth fifty times, expecting her down, with every little sound. She said it was most extraordinary, your spending the whole day and evening with Aunt Jane; and I quaked for fear she should smell a rat. Come in, come in, I’ve such a tasty little supper awaiting you by the schoolroom fire, my love!” Now gazing steadily at her sister, and helping her to remove her jacket, “What a lot of crying you must have done; Niobe was nowhere; and how pinched, and pale, and frozen you look. We must wrap you up in cotton wool to-morrow, or you won’t be at all the pretty bride we intend to show!”

“I don’t think I shall ever be a bride,” said her sister in an exhausted tone, sinking into the most popular schoolroom chair—which had been drawn up near the fire for her benefit.

“Get out!” returned Gussie playfully, busying herself over a small saucepan. “Of course you will be a bride, my dear! and take the bush out of the gap for me,” laughing. “And how did you leave Ted?”

“Ted! I’m not thinking of him. More shame for me! I’m thinking of Miles. He was at Portsmouth to-day, by chance, and saw me taking leave of Teddy. He came up to me at the station, literally stammering with rage. He looked as if he could have have killed me with pleasure, and in about three sentences cast me off, and said good-bye for ever! I was too much astonished to speak—to tell him the truth, and in one second more we were gone.

“Great heavens!” was all Gussie could articulate, as she knelt on the hearth-rug, with the saucepan lid in one hand, and the spoon in the other.

“I have sent him a telegram to his club—and if he goes back to London he will get it—telling him who Teddy is.”

“I’m surprised you had that much sense,” said Gussie, drawing a breath of relief. “And to what club?”

“The Mars and Jupiter.”

“Oh, you stupid, stupid owl! He never goes there, not once in a blue moon. You should have sent it to the Junior Red and Blue,” nodding her head impressively. “Well, well, well, I can’t have you dying on my hands, all the same; drink some of this nice hot soup at once. I saved it for you. Come, now, there’s a good girl; starving won’t mend matters,” cooling it carefully, and tendering it to her sister in a most insidious manner.

“What’s the use? It’s very good of you, Gus, but the very idea of swallowing makes me feel sick, indeed it does.”

“That’s hunger,” retorted Gussie promptly, “the pangs of gnawing hunger. Come, now, you really must, after my keeping it warm in a dear little saucepan for the last two hours. And think what a spectacle you will be, when Miles comes here to-morrow! arrives up the avenue—a penitent, on his bended knees, and probably with peas in his shoes!”

And thus Haidée was persuaded to be a good girl, and reluctantly accepted the soup.

“And poor Ted—what about him?” inquired Gussie, sitting on the rug and nursing her knees. “You saw him off, and see how dearly you have paid for it, you courageous but mistaken young person; you would have your own way.”

Haidée looked down thoughtfully at her vivacious sister.

“Don’t you know,” now expounding with one hand, “that you, poor dear, are one of the people who may never look over the wall, whilst others may steal a dozen horses without the smallest suspicion? Now I,” patting herself complacently, “might run down to Portsmouth three days a week, and see off half the army, and I’ll venture to bet that no one would ever burst like a shell upon me, as Miles did on you to-day. Poor Haidée—your only one little day. It’s all a matter of luck; and you have none!”

Chapter IX

He Cometh Not

In spite of her brain being in a perfect ferment, Haidée fell asleep almost before her head was on the pillow. The mind has to give way to the body sometimes, and her long railway journey up to London, and down to Portsmouth and back, and the exciting events of the day, had completely worn her out, and she slept; but her sleep was disturbed by dreams—better far she had remained awake. Now it was Teddy’s face, pale and death-like that came before her and whispered, with a sobbing sigh, “good-bye for ever.” Now it was Miles’s features, dark and threatening, that bent close to her and hissed into her ear, “good-bye.” Now she was left alone on a dark rock, in a dark sea, enormous black waves rising round her, and Miles and Teddy rowing away in a boat, deaf to her cries for help, leaving her pitilessly to her fate. Then she dreamt of Mrs. Brabazon (whose presence alone, was enough to turn any dream into a nightmare), Mrs. Brabazon and an earthquake. This latter vision was fulfilled on the spot; some one was violently shaking the foot of the little brass bed, some one standing there in a slate-coloured flannel dressing-gown. Haidée opened a pair of startled eyes, and beheld no less a person than her stepmother herself! Such a visitation was unparalleled; what awful catastrophe had brought her there, at such an early hour, in slippers and dressing-gown, and without her front teeth? She looked so odd, so very unlike herself, that her step-daughter stared at her for some seconds, in a kind of stupor, and foolishly assured herself, that she was only a portion of her recent dream; but no, the apparition spoke! Her face was lemon colour, her eyes lurid, her voice harsh. She held a letter clutched in her hand.

“Wake up, wake up, Haidée,” she exclaimed, once more jolting the bed violently; and Haidée, now thoroughly aroused, began to take in the recollection of yesterday, a recollection which stole over her mind like a wave of half-frozen water. She had had a kind of vague hope, as she first looked at Mrs. Brabazon, that it was all—all a dream; but now she was roused to the agony of a sharp mental awakening.

“Sit up at once, and listen to me, miss, and tell me what this means—this letter from Miles Brabazon,” unfolding, as she spoke, the epistle, which literally crackled in her hand. “He says”—reading in quick, short gasps)

“Dear Mrs. Brabazon,

“I think it right to tell you at once, that there will be no marriage between my cousin Haidée and myself. I refer you to her for the reason, and am, yours truly,

“Miles Brabazon.”

“Now, please to give me the reason this moment,” she proceeded, breathing hard, grasping the bar at the foot of the bed in both hands, and glaring at her stepdaughter. “Is he in his right mind, or was he drunk, when he wrote that note? the writing looks like it! No address, no date. Post-mark, Portsmouth.”

Still Haidée could not speak; vainly she tried to articulate. No words would come. She would have fared better if she had been up, standing on her feet; but with her furious step-mother, towering over her from the bottom of the bed, she was at her mercy in every way,—and speechless. “What does it mean?” panted Mrs. Brabazon fiercely. “What am I to understand? when a girl’s trousseau is all bought, and even packed, her visiting cards printed, her wedding breakfast and cake in the house, the wedding fixed to take place within twenty-four hours; what am I to understand, when the bridegroom writes a thing like this,” flicking it with a furious finger, “and says there is to be no marriage! What—what has he discovered, that at the eleventh hour he refuses to take” (with a bitter sneer) “the beautiful Miss Brabazon, and forty thousand pounds?”

Haidée tried to speak. She opened her dry lips, but no sound came.

She gazed helplessly at her step-mother, as a bird does at a rattlesnake.

Gussie, who, already dressed, stood trembling and quaking in the background (making unintelligible signals to her sister behind her step-mother’s back), now found courage to say

“Tell her, Haidée; it’s nothing so very dreadful after all!”

And Haidée, thus adjured, made an effort (unlike Mrs. Dombey), sat up, pushed her hair behind her ears, and found her tongue.

“I went down yesterday to spend the day with Aunt Jane,” she said tremulously.

“You did, miss!”

“And from that I went up to London.”

“To London! Oh!” in a tone of voice that implied that now, Mrs. Brabazon was prepared for anything—there were no surprises left for her.

“And from London I went to Portsmouth to see Teddy off.”

“Portsmouth! Alone, among a rabble of dirty, low, common soldiers,” ejaculated Mrs. Brabazon, in gasps.

“I wanted to bid Ted good-bye. I may never see him again, Mrs. Brabazon,” appealingly.

“So much the better,” snapped that lady remorselessly.

“And—and—by accident Miles was on the troopship, and saw me; and he believed Teddy to be dead—you told him so, you know. And he took him—took him—”

“I’m not in the least surprised,” cutting her short. “Not the very least. A nice way, you have disgraced yourself, you wicked girl! You see what your disobedience has brought upon you! And does Miles know that Edward is your brother?”

“No. He came to me at the station, very angry. I had no time to speak. There was only a second, before the train went on!” she faltered.

“You can find the use of your tongue at other times, goodness knows! However, it is not quite as bad as I expected. You had better stay in your room to-day. I shall write and telegraph to Miles and Connie and tell them the truth. There, you can keep that,” tossing Miles’s note contemptuously on the counterpane. “The trouble and anxiety I’ve had about this whole business has nearly worn me into my grave! What with your scruples, and Miles’s scruples, and the fatigue about your trousseau,—and now this.”

So saying she trailed majestically out of the apartment, closing the door with a bang, that made the jugs and basins rattle for nearly two minutes.

*  *  *

All that long day (a dull, grey, neutral one, with a low moaning discontented wind) Haidée remained upstairs, whilst Gussie brought her constant bulletins from the lower regions, and Nokes appeared periodically, with a large cup of tea on a small tray.

Mrs. Brabazon had sent off four telegrams, and declared that “her life was being shortened by years!”—one to the confectioners’, one to Miles, one to Connie, one to some guests. She had had a long interview with Miss Jane; and Gussie reported that, judging by sounds, they had high words for once in their lives, and that Miss Jane had had the best of it, for she seemed to talk the most! Then Mr. Bell had paid a visit of some length, and she, Mrs. Brabazon, was now very busy writing letters, and no one dare go near her, not even Nokes!

Every ring at the door was an event, and the cause of much heart throbbing.

“If he comes he will go to Aunt Jane’s,” quoth Gussie consolingly. “He can only come by the five o’clock now; and he will be there at half-past seven. Any ring you hear between that and eight o’clock will be him, or tidings of him. So cheer up, Sam! Whilst there’s life there’s hope, and we will have something to eat now, pour passer le temps. He will feel rather small and ashamed of himself, when he knows what a foolish mistake he has made! And now I hope you will do me the justice to remember that I always said, he ought to be told about Teddy! There’s where my common sense came into play. But you would pander to Ted’s vanity; and you see what a nice house it has brought down over your ears.”

Haidée, angrily declining truffled pâte de fois gras, and plum tart and cream, paced the room with her hands behind her, till she was unable to walk about any longer. Then she sat down, rested her head in her hands, and watched the little clock on the mantel-piece. Heavens, how it crawled! The hands scarcely seemed to move. She would look away, and count sixty, and there it was, still in the same place! Then it was half-past seven at last—eight o’clock. Oh, leaden moments till eight o’clock; and no ring, no note.

During these weary hours Gussie had been enacting the historical rôle of “Sister Ann,” coming in every quarter of an hour or so, with tidings of one kind or another, viz.

“Aunt Jane is here again! She has had a telegram from Connie. Miles is not in London—not been heard of at the club, for Robert went round. No one knows anything about him!” This was one announcement.

“The rectory girls have decorated the church most beautifully! It was too late to stop them. Lovely arches all the way up the aisle.”

“Here are two letters of congratulation, and another card case. There’s a thing downstairs like a plate chest, and I’m convinced by the look of it, that it is a wedding gift from Miles’ brother officers; it came just now by the carrier--carriage paid.”

“The Clippertons have sent you a lovely gold-mounted walking stick.”

These were a few of Gussie’s bulletins. And all day long, bouquets, letters, and presents, came showering in thick and fast. But not a line, not a sign, from the bridegroom.

*  *  *

And the morning itself dawned, grey, drizzling and cold (a November day thrusting itself uninvited into the company of mellow September). And there was a curious, odd, unaccountable feeling in the house. It seemed more as if a funeral was on the tapis, than a wedding.

No letter, no telegram, but still presents, notes, and flowers.

Mr. Bell arrived with an unusually solemn face, and had a long confidential interview with Mrs. Brabazon, who sat at the drawing-room fire with her handkerchief to her eyes. He was still to hold himself in readiness up to the hour of twelve o’clock. These were his final instructions.

“Only to think, Mr. Bell,” groaned the unhappy matron, “that once that hour strikes that miserable girl upstairs will have lost, not only a husband, but forty thousand pounds. By one o’clock to-day the money will belong to the trustees for the endowment of the Burrampootra College in Calcutta. It’s too frightful. What a vicious old man that George Brabazon was. I’m sure he knew that his odious will would lead to this kind of thing, and did it on purpose!”

Miss Jane paid Haidée a visit (Haidée, who was sitting at the fire in a shabby old morning dress, looking as pale and haggard as if she had not slept for a week). She was very much agitated, and very sympathetic, and held out hopes till positively the eleventh hour, and said “most unaccountable” at least thirty-five times in the course of the morning. To show that she had the courage of her opinions, she actually wore her new lavender silk. But she was the only person who dared to don a bridal garment, and there was a very general feeling that there would be “no wedding,” a feeling which the event subsequently confirmed.

Scouts hung about the church, outposts were to be seen upon the Byford road, but “he cometh not” was the burden of their song. No one appeared hurrying to the tryst over the already leaf-carpeted lanes! No one, for the wedding guests had been prudently put off.

At twelve o’clock, Mr. Bell divested himself of his surplice, closed the open register, and he and the clerk shut up the vainly-decorated edifice, and mournfully carried home the key.

Mrs. Brabazon, when all hope had expired, went straight to bed; the servants caroused on the wedding dainties, and Gussie occupied herself in locking away the goodly collection of wedding presents, in folding up the bridal dress and veil, and in writing off scores of vague, clever, little notes.

“She was a great deal fonder of him than we ever imagined!” she said to herself more than once. “Who would have

thought she would have taken it so dreadfully to heart? Though, of course, there is something quite too awful in the idea of being left in the lurch at the very last moment!”

Vainly she endeavoured with all her might, to arouse her sister from the kind of mental stupor into which she had fallen. “If she would only be furiously angry, if she would only talk, it would be something,” thought Gussie uneasily, “instead of sitting with her hands in her lap, and her eyes vacantly fixed on the fire, as if her very soul were petrified!”

And so ended Haidée’s wedding day!

Chapter X

“A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea”

Let us now return to Miles, whom we left on the platform at Portsmouth, nearly beside himself with rage, and almost blind with passion.

He was a young man of prompt action, and once he was roused he did nothing by halves. He hurried off to an hotel, and penned the blotted note we have already seen between Mrs. Brabazon’s twitching fingers. He then took the night train for Aldershot, where the second battalion of his regiment was now undergoing the agonies of inspection, previous to its departure for the Cape.

“One thing was certain,” he said to himself emphatically; “they should not sail without him.” The mere idea of remaining in England, to be harried by his friends about his broken engagement, was nothing less than madness! He interviewed the astounded commanding officer at eight o’clock in the morning. He begged and prayed to be taken as a supernumerary, or, vaguely, “anything.” Luckily for him, one of the captains was on the sick list, one who would probably retire, and with him he effected a prompt transfer. He telegraphed to Burmah, he telegraphed here and there, to the War Office, to outfitters, to any and everywhere but Baronsford. He lived in a kind of rain of orange envelopes. He made a flying trip to the Horse Guards, and to his tailor’s. He called at Connie’s, she was out; but he shunned the clubs as if the plague was raging in their vicinity. Did not all his chums know that he was to have been a married man ere this? Now the 2nd Battalion Royal Marchers were ignorant of his affairs; and he was comparatively at ease among them. Down at Aldershot all was confusion! Chaos reigned in the officers’ quarters, and in the mess. The regimental kit had been sold by auction. The huts were overrun by small dealers in furniture and old uniform; tradesmen with their little, or, as the case might be, big bills; by friends, by fathers and brothers, come to see the last of their own particular young officer; and over all there was a sense of desolation, damp straw, packing-cases, and old newspapers.

At last the regiment was fairly off to the station, and played away in two troop trains, by the band of another corps, whilst a crowd of sympathizing spectators cheered and waved handkerchiefs. Twenty-four hours later, they were aboard the Portugal, hired transport, steaming out of Plymouth harbour to the tune of “The girl I left behind me.”

“The girl I left behind me!” What a bitter irony, that well-known air implied to Captain Brabazon, as he leant his arms on the bulwarks, with his forage cap pulled over his brow, and his eyes fixed upon the fast receding shores of merry England; and he laughed to himself a grim, contemptuous, not very pleasant laugh, as he glanced at a boy close to him, whose eyes looked misty, whose whole attitude and expression conveyed the idea that he had left some fair lady love, in the land whose shores were becoming dimmer every moment! He, Miles Brabazon, had learnt a bitter lesson, he said to himself; one which would certainly last him for life. If Haidée, an innocent-looking, simple, unsophisticated, country girl, was all the time a beautiful living lie, capable of the blackest deceit, what were the rest of the world, her more experienced sisters? This was a problem on which he shuddered to speculate. If he had not been so infatuated about her, thinking himself scarce worthy to touch the hem of her garment, looking upon her as but little lower than the angels, the shock would not have been so great. How thoroughly, and cruelly, his eyes had been opened, and he had found that his divinity was but clay! He had seen it with his own eyes; that scene on the dockyard seemed burnt into his brain; and seeing was believing. He was a taciturn shipmate, but an excellent sailor, ever ready to take the duty of those miserable victims to Neptune, who lay like soles on a fishmonger’s slab in their several berths below, as the Portugal rolled, and strained, and plunged through the abominable Bay of Biscay; and Captain Brabazon did many “duties,” and stared at many stars, and, like the parrot, thought a great deal! We must do him the justice to admit that very few of these thoughts ever rested on the lost fortune the forty thousand pounds now gone for ever! No, his mind was too entirely occupied by Haidée and her evil deeds. She was the loss that he was always dwelling on; and nothing will testify how much in love he was, as this strange fact—that the other affair in comparison was but a mere bagatelle. He had always been poor, so he was no worse off than ever, but he had not always been in love, and to find that he had bestowed every thought of his heart on a worthless, wicked girl (yes, “wicked” girl he repeated to himself), left him in a very poor plight, indeed. If he had been a fellow like Gee, now; butterflying from flower to flower, and falling in and out of love half-a-dozen times a year, it would have been another affair, no great harm done; but he was different, he had staked all and lost, and with it, his faith in the whole sex; and all the softer and better feelings of his inner nature had received their death-blow. This was a far more serious matter, than the loss of those thousands in the three per cents.

*  *  *

At St. Vincent’s they put in for coal, after nine days’ steady steaming; that land-locked harbour represented a busy scene—colliers, and small vessels, and transports. The Portugal happened, by good luck, to be the first of a batch of troopers all bound for the Cape. Naturally first come, first served; and after twenty-four hours’ hard coaling, she steamed out through the fleet; the band playing “Rule Britannia,” and “We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo if we do,” amid loud cheers from all the other ships. It was warm work, crossing the line, and most of the Marchers brought their beds on deck, and many and valiant were the bear fights that ensued! Needless to remark, that Captain Brabazon did not lend himself to the sport, but like the “noir faineant,” merely kept all assailants at a respectful distance; and it began to be whispered among the subs of the second battalion, that, “Brab., whom they heard was such a rattling good sort, was deadly slow.” One adventure of his amused them not a little: his bed was spread and made very comfortably, as usual, and when he came to it, it was almost dark, and it was evident to him, that some sleeper already occupied it (whom he of course took to be one of the merry subs); so he walked up to the couch, growling, “So that’s your little game, is it? Out you go!”—upsetting the bedstead with one vigorous kick, undismayed by a suspicion of smothered giggling on all sides. Presently a figure struggled out from under the débris, and lo, and behold, it was the general in command of the troops! who, apologizing for his unfortunate little mistake, was, happily for Miles, nearly as much amused as the surrounding audience. Besides meeting whales, and porpoises, and flying fish, one of the sailors had the luck to catch an albatross; but he took four men to pull him on board, and was no great find after all! The “Sauté d’Albatross,” as one of the Marchers humorously called it, was pronounced too unspeakably nasty. The Portugal put in for more coal at Cape Town, and all all the Marchers were delighted to land, and have a run on shore, after a month at sea. Miles, and half-a-dozen others, made their way to the Civil Service Club, in hansoms, and who should be standing on the steps, all smiles, and freckles, and blinking lashes, but Captain Gee:—promoted to the second battalion, dressed in spotless white, and having landed that very morning from British Burmah! Very heartily did he greet the first arrivals, but to say that he was astonished to see his bosom friend, Miles Brabazon, among the crowd, but feebly expresses his feelings. Fortunately, he had the sense, and prudence, to restrain himself till opportunity suited! How impatient he felt at the questions that were vollied at him, anent the second battalion, and a “step” that was said to be going. How ardently he wished all these cheery young men at Jericho (or back on board ship). How he thirsted for a tête-à-tête with Miles. Miles, who looked anything but cheery. Was it, oh, horror! the baneful effects of matrimony already? And Miles did not seem eager to unbosom himself to his friend; he ignored hints, signs, and even winks, to adjourn to the billiard room.

At length a party to Wynberg was got up after lunch, which emptied the coffee room of all but our two comrades. No sooner had the door banged after the last light-hearted subaltern, than Captain Gee, who had been lying back in a very deep, very low chair, suddenly clutched either protruding arm, drew himself up to the very edge of it, and confronting his companion, eagerly asked these three questions in one breath: “Well, where is she? What have you done with her? Are you married?”

“No more than you are, thank goodness!” returned the other, knowing well that it was useless to attempt to evade or postpone a searching cross-examination. “It was a near thing. I can hardly bear to—to talk of it. We were within a day and a half of the wedding—and there was an end of everything!”

“Was the money a sell?” demanded Captain Gee, shrilly.

“No, that was all right.”

“Then,” said Dicky, decisively, “it must have been the girl!—I knew you’d make a mull of it,” he continued, in a tone of sorrowful conviction. No doubt you neglected her, snubbed her, and shut her up on all occasions. Oh! if I had only had your opportunities!” he added, with a gesture of quiet despair.

“There is another view of the subject, that has not struck you as yet,” said Miles gravely. “I suppose,” with a visible effort, “you must know it sooner or later. Let us get it over now, and never speak of it again. Come out on the balcony, it’s stifling in here.”

To notify that Dicky responded to the invitation with alacrity, but moderately expresses his movements; in an instant, he was leaning over the balustrades, his elbows on the top of them, looking up with sharp expectancy into his brother officer’s face.

“It was not my cousin who broke off the match; it was I,” he said, with slow distinct utterance.

“I wouldn’t doubt ye!” interpolated his companion in an angry undertone.

“And, whatever I tell you is sacred, Dicky; these other fellows know nothing of it,” nodding towards the distant masts of the Portugal. “They think it’s my liver!” smiling grimly. “I only wish it was!”

“Go on, go on, man alive! of course it’s your heart,” interrupted Dicky, unsympathetically. “Sure, haven’t we all had it! Don’t keep me here all day trembling with curiosity.”

“It’s easily told, in a few words. We were within less than two days of the wedding, when I accidentally discovered that she was madly in love with another man. I saw her kissing him, with my own eyes!

“There was no getting over that, I suppose? ” said Dicky, looking inquiringly out of the corner of his sharp little grey optic.

“And so,” not deigning to notice the suggestion, “I just took my congé, made my bow there and then” and then” (a mild statement of the case), “got a transfer by the greatest fluke, and here I am!”

“You’re sure there was no mistake; it was no other person?” inquired the wily Dicky anxiously.

“No, no mistake! I saw her with my own eyes; and seeing is believing, is it not?” sarcastically.

“Yes, generally,” admitted the other, with some reluctance.

“And the forty thousand pounds is gone, of course! I think,” pausing impressively, “your Uncle George ought to have been tarred and feathered for making such a will! Upon my honour, I do!”

“Well, you see, he took the usual precaution of not having it opened until after his death,” returned Miles drily.

“Was she pretty?” inquired Captain Gee, abruptly.

“Very,” was the laconic reply.

“And pleasant?”


“And did she pretend she was fond of you?”

“In a kind of way,” dubiously. “Yes, I may say she did.”

“A kind of way, is no way,” with great scorn. “I’m afraid you’re no hand at courting,” shaking his head. “I know your ‘take it or leave it manner’! it’s all well enough with men, but it don’t do with girls,” speaking with authority. “And the other fellow—what is he like? Who is he?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“That means you won’t,” resentfully.

“Well, after all,” with an effort, “I don’t see why you should not know, when you know so much; he is a sergeant in the Prince’s Lancers.”

What!” no pen could possibly convey the length and loudness of that one word.

“A gentleman, sure to be promoted, by all accounts!” with a grave air of explanation.

“And do her family know of—of—your painful discovery?”

“No. No one suspects her. I happened to be down at Portsmouth, seeing off a friend; and you may imagine my surprise, when I saw my cousin among the crowd, weeping over and embracing this sergeant; when all the time I fancied she was busily engaged at home, making preparations for our wedding.”

“The little serpent!” ejaculated Captain Gee, in a tone of pious reprobation.

“And now, Dicky, one word is as good as ten,” said his brother officer impressively. “Never, never again, rant and rave to me about women or girls. I won’t stand it as I did in days of yore; for now I know them, to my cost.”

“Pooh! you only know one; and what’s one?” rejoined Dicky. “Wait till you know hundreds, as I do!” encouragingly.

“Heaven forbid!” ejaculated his companion fervently. “I know one too many, as it is!”

“I am afraid you were fond of her,” observed Captain Gee—much in the tone of a physician, who would say, “I’m afraid you don’t take enough exercise; I’m afraid you smoke too much”—now surveying his friend with an air of serious speculation.

“I was! since you will have it,” rejoined Miles, morosely; “and that’s the worst of it! If I had not cared about her, it would not have mattered a straw,” he concluded, with would-be nonchalance, but a rather husky voice.

“Poor old chap! I’m sorry for you, for your sake; but I’m precious glad to get you back for my own,” slapping him vigorously on the back. “Cheer up, man, and don’t look so down in the mouth; it’s nothing, when you’re used to it! and remember this--that there’s as good fish in the sea as ever were caught; girls are plentiful; as to the young woman,” pausing, and flicking the ash of his cigar.

“Yes, and as to the young woman?” with a look of veiled contempt.

“All I wish to remark is,” scrutinizing his companion gravely, “that the loss is hers.”

*  *  *

Four days later, and the Portugal had cast anchor just outside the bar of Durban, and the Marchers were at the end of their voyage—all but the two miles which intervened between them and the shore. It was too late to disembark, or do anything that evening, although boats with despatches were soon alongside. After dinner Miles came up on deck for a smoke, rested his arm on the bulwarks, and gazed on the scene before him. Although it was night, it was not dark; the sky was lit up with millions and millions of stars that seemed closer and brighter than in our own northern region. The troopship lay just outside the bar and a fine bay (evidently fringed with trees). At one extremity blinked a light-house, and far away, towards the middle of the curve, were the lamps of the town of Durban.

“And so this is Africa,” thought Miles. “A new country to me, and a hard nut for the government to crack. I wonder what I shall find there?” he asked himself, as he looked at its distant silent shores, clothed with the dignity of night. “Shall I return home as I landed? shall I find a medal, or a grave?” And that other fellow, what would he find? in a few months’ time—perhaps even now, he was a spruce young lancer officer; he looked just the sort to shove along and distinguish himself; have his name in all the papers, and go home with a V.C. to receive his reward at Haidée’s hands. “If he does,” muttered Miles half aloud, “may I never live to know it,” dropping, unintentionally, his lighted cigar into the water, which gently splashed and rippled against the old ship’s sides. And if this was a wicked and unchristian wish, and argued an unforgiving nature, did it not also argue something else? that Miles, in spite of himself, in spite of his bitter thoughts, loved Haidée still. Down in the saloon they were playing at Nap. Captain Gee was the most enthusiastic and excited of gamblers in a small way, and the melody of his northern accent floated up through the open skylights. “By the Battle of the Boyne, I’ll go Nap; come on, now,” was his latest remark. “Come on now, and I’ll show you what play means!”

“What a thing it is to have an unfailing supply of animal spirits,” thought Miles. “Why am I not like Gee, a social cork, ever floating, ever on the surface, exploding and popping all over the place, instead of being the sulky looking devil every one thinks me? After all, I’ve got Dicky. I’m not so very much worse off than I was, this time six months. I think I’ll go below and see what the little beggar is making all that row about!”

*  *  *

Next morning the regiment landed, i.e. embarked for the shore in tugs and boats. Durban bar and surf was rather a ticklish business (as every one who has made the experiment can testify), and Captain Gee thoroughly sympathized with the old lady who said, that after a voyage “she was always so thankful, to have her foot on terra cotta once more!” Durban town, with its green turf, wild flowers, and trees and hedges, reminded one of home, although its long sandy streets, and curiously built houses, were more colonial than English. It boasted several places of worship, two clubs, and some good shops, and the Marchers, as they passed through en route to the station, were not likely to see anything so civilized again for some time.

The regiment travelled by rail as far as the rail went, and then the real campaigning business commenced; then they began to understand what was meant by “the tented field,” trek oxen, dongas, dust, mosquitoes, laagering; it was march, march, march, steadily march, day after day. The new arrivals speedily learned how to make the most of commissariat flour and beef, to pitch and strike tents, to out-span and in-span; but we need not pause to chronicle their route, as this story deals more with the fortunes of Miles and Teddy Brabazon, than with the Zulu campaign—which has been aptly and abundantly related elsewhere. Long, monotonous, stretching plains, covered with high grass, boulders, and ant hills, and veined with aggravating dongas. Here and there along the track a dead bullock, dead a week, another dead a fortnight, another, oh blessed change! a skeleton. We see no sign of life—no cattle, no smoke, no trees, no villages, nothing but the broiling sun over head, the baking veldt under foot. One, just one or two ominous objects we do pass, before the end of the march—one or two skeletons, and one or two knapsacks lying near the side of the track, in the long, coarse, dusty grass.

Chapter XI

The Other Fellow

In due time, the column came to a halt on the banks of the Buffalo river, and real camp life commenced. It was dull work enough; this waiting for the order to move to the front was trying to those who, to use their own phraseology, were eager to be “talking to the Zulus.” There was nothing to be done but grin and bear it, and the time was put in, in mending kits, making forays for food on Kaffir kraals, and Boer farms, cutting wood, and grumbling—there is a great luxury in a good grumble. Captains Brabazon and Gee had pitched their little bell tents side by side, and were almost as much together, as in the days of “Dilapidated Richard.” They had a scratch mess of three dining members, whereof Dicky was president, and (between ourselves), frequently cook; he had hitherto kept his light in this department under a bushel, but he now shone forth as quite a renowned cordon bleu. He had “a good finger,” as he said himself, for paste, his roly-poly puddings were famed, and his stews and ragouts tasted quite differently to the usual camp decoctions. What ingredients produced such an agreeable result, was a secret locked in his own breast. Miles had darkly hinted at gunpowder, and Windsor soap, but, at any rate, an invite to “dine with Gee and Brabazon” was always jumped at with alacrity. Miles, under the cheerful influence of Dicky’s society, was “coming round,” and when a man is busy all day on wood-cutting, or patroling parties, and has his usual regimental work into the bargain, when he is galloping about from about seven o’clock in the morning till late in the afternoon, he has not much time for dwelling on his grievances. Miles had had no letters from home, although he had been at the Cape now nearly four months; but the reason of this was, that a double supply, which had been coming to him, had gone down in the mail bags of the unfortunate American.

The nights were cold, the dew heavy, and white chill fogs of constant occurrence. Visiting the outposts and pickets was a duty that fell to Captain Brabazon about once a week. Between eleven and twelve o’clock one night, he was going round the sentries in a dense fog, which had come on quite suddenly and obscured the moon most completely, swathing every object in a cloak of thick white mist.

“I heard a noise just now, sir,” said one of the sentries, in a lonely spot; “something like a lot of men on horses, trampling below us in the valley. There it goes again!” and sure enough Miles made out the uncertain scrambling of hoofs, scattering stones hither and thither, as they made their way up the hill. Challenge!” he said promptly.

“Halt! who goes there?” demanded the sentry in one long word, bringing his rifle to the charge.

And out of the fog, a bold English voice replied, “A friend.”

“Stand, friend; advance one, and give the countersign.”

And very shortly, a trotting sound was heard through the soppy grass, and from the midst of the surrounding milk-white mist, suddenly loomed a man and horse, a lancer officer—in short, Teddy! Oh, happy Teddy! a lieutenant at last, though the glories of your uniform, are concealed beneath a cape, and the water is streaming from your helmet, and your very moustache is limp and wet.

“Are these the outposts of the Royal Marchers?” he asked in a cheery voice, as he reined up his charger.

“Yes, sir,” responded the soldier.

“I’ve been rambling over the whole country, lost in this beastly fog,” to Miles, who now came forward, and “only I heard the challenge of your sentries I’d be rambling still,” dismounting from his blowing horse, and following Captain Brabazon to the picket fire. As he came within the light thrown by the brushwood, his companion, had he noticed it, started preceptibly; and no wonder, for he recognized, standing beside him in the firelight, just the very one person in the world he never wished to see again—“Gentleman Brown.”

“I’ve despatches from Lord Chelmsford for your chief,” proceeded Teddy, unconscious of the sudden and ominous change that had come over his companion’s face. “Will you show me the way to his diggings?”

“Yes, if you will follow me; this way, down to the left, and look out for the tent ropes,” said the Marcher officer, in a hard mechanical voice.

“Come on, then, Kitty, old girl,” taking her by the bridle, “and mind yourself. We have been among bogs, and holes, and ant hills for the last couple of hours,” he went on, speaking to his guide, who was walking a few paces before him, “and upon my word, I thought we were lost; two or three times I’d have come to awful grief only for the mare here,” patting her affectionately; “she’s very quick on her pins; ain’t you, old lady?”

“You seem to have a good-sized camp,” he continued, as they steered and stumbled their way back to the tents. “The Marchers’ column must be pretty strong.”

What a silent beggar this Marcher was.

“Pretty well,” laconically. “Here is the colonel’s tent,” and he was going to add, “now I’ll leave you,” but this would not have been Marcher manners, or form! he would have to look after this cub, and his horse too—finders were keepers.

The colonel was a veteran, who considered four hours of sleep ample for any man; he was sitting up, writing, when Miles introduced the young Lancer officer bearing despatches. Having made a few inquiries about the route he had come, the condition of the roads, etc., the colonel dismissed him by saying, “Well, I shall see you again to-morrow morning, you must be pretty well done up now. Brabazon, you will look after him, and see that he has a comfortable shakedown for the night, and that his horse is attended to.” And Miles muttered something rather indistinct, which was meant to convey the fact that it would be all right, of course, and he would be delighted!

“My servant is in bed, but I’ll have him out in a minute,” he said; “he will look after your horse and I’ll see what I can find you in the way of supper; you must not expect anything very gorgeous.”

“Never mind rooting up your fellow,” said Teddy; “I’ll do up the mare myself, if you’ll just let me have a feed, and a sheet, and a picket-rope.” And sure enough, he set to work in the most professional manner, unsaddled her, groomed her a bit, fed her, and made her up; whilst Miles stood by with a lantern in his hand, and a sneer under his moustache, and told himself, contemptuously, “that ‘Gentleman Brown,’ had certainly not been in the ranks for nothing!”

This business accomplished, Captain Brabazon conducted the stranger to his own tent, and set the best fare he could find before him; cold stewed beef, cold tea in a silver mug, a bunch of bread, and, oh luxury, a tin of sardines. And Teddy sat on the side of his host’s bed, and did ample justice to the fare in question, for he was hungry! having travelled far and fast, and very, very, tired.

“I’m sorry to say, we are out of the region of bottled beer,” said Miles politely; “a fellow in the regiment has half a dozen, the only half-dozen in camp; but he is keeping them for his birthday.”

“Bottled beer is a thing I’ve not seen for ages and ages! This cold tea does very well; you’ve given me a supper fit for a prince, and I was as hungry as a hunter!”

Now, Captain Gee was a light sleeper, and had been aroused by this strange, loud voice in Miles’s tent. Who was it? There was but one means of discovering the fact, and that was, to go and see. For a time he struggled in his own mind between laziness and curiosity, but in the end the latter gallantly carried the day; he, like every one in camp, slept nightly in his clothes (uncommonly hard upon his clothes was this double duty), so in two minutes, his sandy head was presented in the the doorway, and his familiar voice was heard demanding: “What’s the row?’

His blinking eyes quickly took in a broad-shouldered young Lancer, in long boots and pantaloons, sitting upon Miles’s bed, busily engaged in polishing off their last tin of sardines, whilst Miles himself was carrying the laws of hospitality beyond all bounds, being in the very act of uncorking one of his precious half-dozen of beer! It was well he had appeared upon the scene, for this healthy-looking, hungry-looking, stranger might possibly be able to dispose of the whole sacred six!

“This officer has just ridden in from Lord Chelmsford’s camp, with despatches,” said Miles to his friend, by way of an introduction—trying to speak with unconcern.

But what ailed Miles? thought that astute little man, as he glanced sharply over at his brother officer; “why did he address him in such a curiously ‘company’ voice? why was all usual bonhommie absent from his manner? why did that manner convey an idea of mere frigid forbearance?”

Mr. Dicky had not been called “a cute little beggar” without good reason; he could put two and two together, better than most people. “In the cavalry, in this country,” and Miles’s face, told the whole story! He took in the scene before him with a cool discerning eye, and informed himself frankly, “that by the Lord Harry! this Lancer, sitting on Miles’s bed, playing havoc with their Europe stores—this good-looking chap, with the merry eyes, who looked as if when once he began to laugh, he could never leave off, was the other fellow!

*  *  *

In old times, he and Miles would have been eye to eye, foot to foot, and blade to blade. Now it was different; here he was, sitting quite at his ease, making stupid jokes about the fog, whilst his rival was pandering to his wants, with his, Captain Gee’s, all but priceless bottled beer! Captain Gee came in, found a seat on a water can, and commenced conversation; but the stranger was sleepy, his yawns were frightful to behold, and evidently all his present thoughts were bent on bed—Miles’s bed, of course! Dicky’s keen little orbs caught him once, watching his host, with a look of the most curious description, partly interest, partly amusement; it widened into a broad smile, as he met his own searching glance. “Ah, he is thinking of the proverb, ‘Those laugh who win,’” said Captain Gee to himself, indignantly, “and I should like to knock him down, and jump upon him;” (but oh! hospitable Marcher, he is a bigger man than you.) “He is not half, nor quarter as good looking as Miles, and I dare say the young idiot has no end of side on! I’ll not stay here, for I’m safe to be rude to him,” thought Dicky, prudently rising. Without a word, without even an admonitory wink, regarding the bottled beer, he walked out of the tent and returned to his pillow. His example, in one respect, was soon followed by the guest, who without requiring any pressing whatever, rolled himself up, boots and all, in Miles’s red blankets, and was soon in the arms of Morpheus, and sleeping as soundly as a child. His host made himself an impromptu bed, combined chair and portmanteau; but he was not in the humour to follow the Lancer’s example. “To think,” he said to himself, angrily, “that he, of all people in the length and breadth of Africa, should be sleeping in his tent, and his bed. Well, the world was small place! He had evidently been promoted! Short work; for the regiment was but a few months in the country.” He moved the little lamp stealthily, so that the light fell on the sleeper’s face; and he gazed at it long and meditatively. It was not a bad face; he must allow that, yes, he must admit that; and the forehead, and and a certain wave of the hair, reminded him of somebody. “He was certainly like somebody,” he added, clenching his fist against his own head. “Who, who is it? I seem to know the face so well!” It would be odd indeed, if you did not, Miles Brabazon; a face you have seen oftener than any other; a face you will see as you shave before your little shilling glass to-morrow morning; a face that looks very gloomy, just at the present moment; in short, your own!

Chapter XII

The Truth

At daybreak the bugles sounded the reveillé, and found Miles still awake. He got up, made a hurried toilet, and leaving “Gentleman Brown” fast asleep, he hastened out to his work. His morning rounds of inspection over, he strolled away down the hill from camp, and seating himself on the wall of a deserted mealie field, where he could have the full benefit of the rising sun, he pulled out his pipe and began to smoke.

“No need to return till that fellow had gone,” he said. He had done all that hospitality required, had given him a good supper, and his own bed, and now, let some other Marcher “speed the parting guest.”

But what was this he saw? This Lancer himself, hurrying down the hill, looking wonderfully spruce and smart; his kit a painful contrast to Miles’s shabby serge coat, and weather-stained leggings.

“What the deuce does he want now?” said Captain Brabazon to himself, irritably. “I believe he’s looking for me.”

“Hullo! I say, Brabazon,” he hailed cheerily from some distance, “I want to have a word with you before I go, clattering quickly down over the loose stones.

“With me?” returned the other in a surly tone, and most unpromising manner, removing his pipe as he spoke, but not rising, not showing any alacrity to greet him.

“Yes, with you, of course! I was too dead beat to talk to you last night. Don’t you know who I am, old chap?” accompanying the question, with a violent slap on the back.

“Yes, I know who you are, right enough,” morosely.

“Oh, you do, do you? Well you might seem a bit more pleased to see me, instead of sitting there like an old bear with a sore head,” in a tone of unqualified surprise.

“Look here, young fellow,” said Miles, suddenly rising, “I’d advise you to leave me alone; I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Don’t provoke me too far, or we might both be sorry for the consequences.”

“Hullo! Hullo! easy does it; you are on the wrong tack; you evidently don’t know who I am, come now. Where did you ever see me?”

“On board the Resistance, will that do?” looking rather dangerous.

“Oh!” quite coolly. “I suppose you recognized me, by being with Haidée. She was very plucky to come all that way. Poor girl, she was in a terrible state, I thought she would never let me go. How she cried!”

To this remark, Miles preserved an ominous silence.

“Tell me one thing,” continued this undaunted Lancer, squaring himself before his now boiling companion; “Why did you not marry her? What has happened? I declare when I recognized you last night in the colonel’s tent, you might just have knocked me down with a hatchet! Why did you not marry Haidée?” he reiterated persistently.

“I should think that no one knows the reason, better than yourself,” ferociously. “You forget that I witnessed the affecting parting between you and her,” he added, in a tone of scorching contempt.

“And what harm if you did?” indignantly. “I say, you know, if you are going to be jealous of a girl’s brother, you must be a most——”

Brother? brother?” was all his companion could ejaculate, as he leant against the wall, and stared at Teddy, with a dazed white face; and in so staring, brought conviction home to his very soul. For was not Teddy looking at him, with Haidée’s own dark blue eyes?

“Don’t you know that I’m Teddy Brabazon?” exclaimed the Lancer, seizing his cousin by the arm, and giving him a vigorous shake.

“No, I don’t,” returned Miles, at last rousing his mental faculties from the shock they had sustained. “Mrs. Brabazon told me that Teddy was dead,” speaking in a strange voice. “Yes, she said he was dead.”

“Oh, Mrs. B. would say anything!” contemptuously; “but all the same, I’m alive and kicking,” giving his relative another little shake. “Why, man, you look as dazed, as if I had knocked you on the head. Just listen to me, and I’ll tell you all about it,” still holding him by the arm as though he was afraid he would escape. “You must know, in the first place, that I’m as stupid as a fish-brains, nil—was plucked three times for the line, and as Mrs. B. cut up awfully rough, I went off and enlisted; was, in consequence, disowned by the family, and given out as dead,” speaking so rapidly that the words seemed to tumble over one another in their eagerness to be uttered. “The only one that stuck to me was Haidée; she clung to me like a limpet, from first to last.”

“And why was I never told?” interrupted Miles fiercely; suddenly wrenching himself away from Teddy’s eagerly detaining hand.

“Why did she never speak of you?”

“Because I would not let her,” replied the other frankly. “Over and over again she begged and implored leave to let you into the secret of ‘Sergeant Brown,’ but I would not listen to her. I said, time enough, when I could take your hand as an equal, and as a brother officer. It was just a whim of mine,” now forcibly possessing himself of Miles’ reluctant fingers, and shaking them very heartily as he spoke.

“A whim of yours, that has cost me pretty dear,” said his cousin bitterly. Forty thousand pounds, and Haidée!”

“How? What do mean?” blankly.

“How?” angrily. “Why, when I saw her down at Portsmouth that day, on the sly, taking an agonizing farewell of a sergeant of lancers, was not that enough?”

Teddy was now the one, whose face expressed incredulous amazement, and nonplussed dismay.

“I—I—” proceeded Miles, with a quick catch in his breath, “rushed after her to the station, feeling like a madman, and no doubt looking the character; had just time to tell her, that I had done with her for ever; then I exchanged out here within forty-eight hours, and, to think,” clenching his hand, “to think that after all it was her brother!” He stopped, unable to utter another word.

“You were in too great a hurry, old man,” said Teddy, reprovingly. “Why did you not take your time; you should look before you leap! Why did you not ask?”

“What was there to ask? Had I not seen for myself? And is not seeing believing? I never dreamt that she had another brother, never. In my case, you, or any fellow, would have done just the same.”

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Teddy slowly, speaking with his eyes meditatively fixed on the ground; “sorry for the money. It’s a bad business about that!”

“Money! it’s not the money I’m thinking of,” returned Miles huskily.

“Oh, if you are thinking of Haidée, she’ll be all right,” rejoined her brother cheerfully. “Once the mistake is known, and you make the amende honorable, you need not be a bit uneasy about her, it will be all right;” which was Teddy’s usual way of summing up most questions.

“All right. How very likely!” returned his cousin, sarcastically. “She will never speak to me again, as long as she lives, never. Do you not understand, that we were within one day and a half of being married, that the guests were bidden, the dresses, and everything in the house, all there but the bridegroom. I was, as I always am, when I’m in a rage, mad. I never stopped to breathe, much less to reflect, or think; all I wanted to do, was to put the seas between us.”

“Have you had any letters?”

“Not one line since I came out! You are the first, who has opened my eyes to the awful mistake I have made.”

“I hope, Miles,” said Teddy humbly, “that you won’t hate the very sight of me, for I was the cause—innocently enough, but still the cause of the whole catastrophe.”

“No, no. Why should I? It was not your fault, it was no one’s fault, it was just sheer bad luck. What evil spirit induced me to go to Portsmouth that day of all others?” he demanded passionately.

“It is all chance,” returned Teddy. “Do you know, that once you were actually within a hair of finding it out; it all turned upon such a little thing as the striking of a match! It did indeed. I don’t know, if you remember the last night you were at Baronsford, in August. Well, I was there too! prowling about the bushes on chance of seeing Haidée. She came running out about nine o’clock.”

“I now remember it perfectly,” interrupted Miles hastily.

“Yes, for you came to look for her, if I mistake not. We were sitting jawing together in the summer-house, when to our horror and disgust, you appeared in the walk, leading straight up to it, strolling along, with your hands in your pockets, smoking. Haidée again begged and besought me to let her tell you all about me, then and there; but I’m sorry to say, I was adamant. If I had only known the sequel! You came on closer and closer, and closer, and we two sat cowering behind at the other side of the table in the summer-house, I holding Woggy, Haidée scarcely daring to breathe, for, as I whispered to her, fancy your feelings, when you found her sitting in the dusk with a sergeant of lancers. You came nearly as close to me as you are now. I saw you as distinctly; you were lighting a match and evidently intended to come into our little retreat! Just on the threshold you struck the light. Fortunately. for us—unfortunately, as it now turns out—you never once raised your eyes; all your energies were fixed on the match in your hand, which, instead of blazing up and revealing us, gave one feeble sputter and went out. I distinctly heard you say, ‘Confound it, and I haven’t another,’ and you threw it into the bushes, and walked very discon tentedly away.”

“Don’t tell me these sort of things!” exclaimed Miles vehemently; “they make it worse. To think, that only for that beggarly match, I would not be here now! Upon my honour, I believe I shall go mad.”

“No, no, there’s no fear! Although we are a queer eccentric lot, there’s no insanity in the family. Is it not something to you to know that Haidee is cleared, and not the minx you thought her? Come now?”

“Yes, certainly, that’s one great point, but it is now a case of the boot being on the other foot; it is I who am the culprit! I suppose every one within twenty miles of Baronsford thinks me the most finished and complete scoundrel—and goodness knows, I cannot blame them. Appearances are frightfully against me! I think the best thing you can do for me, Teddy” with a grim smile—“is to blow my brains out,—quite accidentally!”

“Stuff and nonsense! If it is Haidée you are so much afraid of, I can tell you that you need not be uneasy; she will marry you all the same.”

“Even if she would—which I am sure she wouldn’t—how could I marry with scarcely anything besides my pay?”

“Pooh! That’s easily answered. Haidée has never been brought up to luxuries. She’ll make a grand poor man’s wife. Why she used to turn my ties, and patch my coats.”

“Yes; all very well for her to do these things for her brother, but I’m different. Why should I bring her to poverty? What right have I to ask her to share my pittance? Mrs. Brabazon would never listen to it.”

“Mrs. B. be bothered!” interpolated Teddy rudely; “who cares for her?

“And she will marry some rich swell. A pretty girl like her, a face like hers, will have dozens of suitors; and of course she will marry one of them, and I can’t blame her.”

“Not she,” returned Teddy, stoutly; “and I’ll tell you the reason, old fellow,” taking his cousin literally by the button of his red serge coat.

“She won’t look at a duke, if she’s the girl I take her to be, and I ought to know her pretty well, because——” smiling and pausing for a moment.

“Yes,” with feverish eagerness.

“Because she likes you. Can’t you grasp that?”

It was about the only pleasant fact that had been placed before him that morning, and he seized it with avidity. And he did grasp it most gratefully.

“Of course, the loss of the money is an awful bore,” said Teddy; “but I think you and Haidée would have fancied one another, anyhow, without that. Old George Brabazon was undoubtedly touched in the top story! leaving the reversion after six months to this perfectly unnecessary native college in Calcutta! I think we are all a little queer—Uncle Sandy, Uncle George, Aunt Jane, myself—and you, with your rushing out here at three days’ notice, have certainly qualified for being called ‘eccentric.’ Hullo, there’s the breakfast bugle, and I must be off. Cheer up, old man; it will be all right, you’ll see.” (His usual formula.)

“Captain Brabazon, Sor,” said a rich, Milesian accent breathlessly; “Mr. Mitchell’s compliments, and would ye oblige him, with the lind of a tin of cocoa?”

“Yes, yes, certainly,” impatiently; “go to White——”

“Time for us to be moving, too, to our morning meal; there’s not much to set before you, Teddy, but cold stew and black coffee; our rations being of the least luxurious description.”

“I’m not particular about quality, as long as I have quantity, and I fancy you are even better off for grub than we are! I nearly wept with delight, when you produced that bottle of beer last night, though I restrained myself stoically. You’re sure you don’t hate the sight of me, Miles?” he added diffidently, as they once more came near the tents.

“That’s the second time you’ve asked me that, Teddy. No. In fact, take it all round, now that I have got my breath again, so to speak, I’m very glad to see you. After all, things are not so black as they were yesterday. I might get on the staff. I might have some luck out here, and if Haidée will only forgive me, if I thought there was any chance of that, I would be all right.”

*  *  *

“I say, Miles,” exclaimed Captain Gee jealously, “what were you and that Lancer chap hob-nobbing about the whole morning? I saw you down by the wall, talking as if you were never going to stop, and he looked as if he was preaching. Do you know who I took him for last night? I got a most ridiculous idea into my head, you’ll roar when you hear it.”

“Well, go on; out with it. I am all ready to roar as much as you please; only look sharp, there’s a good chap, for I’ve to be off to the orderly room.”

“I’ll tell you what I fancied,” speaking very impressively, “that it was the other fellow—you know who I mean,” significantly—“young, good-looking, Prince’s Lancers, and your face,” summing up rapidly, and nodding his head at each telling item.

“And I fancied it too, strange to say; and have most effectually put the saddle on the wrong horse, and cooked my goose! He was the fellow I saw at Portsmouth. He had been plucked for the line, enlisted in the Lancers, was disowned by the family, all except Haidée. He is her brother! think of that! her brother, Teddy Brabazon!”

At this intelligence, Captain Gee stood back a few paces (at least, as far as the dimensions of the tent would permit), and actually gasped like a fish who had just been landed. “And you never guessed it?” he demanded fiercely.

“Never,” impressively.

“And you bolted out of the country, left the girl actually waiting in the church, left the forty thousand pounds! Oh, lord! this is too frightful!”

Dicky’s face was a study; his very light, almost white, brows and moustache stood out in bold relief from a crimson background, and his eyes blinked as they had never blinked before.

“Dicky, if you are going to take it like this——” exclaimed his friend irritably.

“Hullo, Miles, the colonel wants you,” interrupted Teddy, now thrusting his head inside the tent. “I’ve got my mail all right, and I’m off, unless you will put me a bit on my way. Won’t you introduce me properly to your friend, Captain Gee? I’ve often heard of him from Gibson.”

Captain Gee, who was mentally laying the loss of the fortune on this beaming young gentleman before him, merely condescended a very stiff bow, and a furious blinking of his eyelashes. He was taking it very badly indeed, quoth Miles to himself. In fact, any one would naturally suppose that it was he who had lost his sweetheart, and forty thousand pounds, instead of the other young man, who was now vigorously shouting for his horse. Ten minutes later, four of the Marchers were riding out of camp—Captain Gee was not among them—escorting their Lancer visitor; a very “good sort” they had found him at breakfast—a real cheery kind of chap, and they showed their appreciation of his society by putting him quite ten miles on his long monotonous way! Kitty was the object of universal admiration; every compliment paid to her, was accepted as a personal matter by her proud master. They parted on the summit of a hill, and Kitty and her rider soon became a mere little black speck upon the veldt, and Miles, as he lingered behind his companions, looking after them, had a strong presentiment that, in spite of all he had cost him, he was going to be very good friends with Haidée’s youngest brother.


Volume III

Chapter I

Care of Mrs. Brabazon

It would not be easy to describe the condition of Miles Brabazon’s mind at this period, unless the term “changeable” from fair to cloudy, might be applied to it. At one time, he was buoyed up with hopes that rested on Teddy’s assurance that “Haidée was a girl to stick to a fellow through thick and thin,” and that of course it would be “all right;” but these gleams of sunshine were but rare; generally he was plunged into an abyss of despair. To find that he had thrown away a wife and fortune entirely through a case of mistaken identity, from ignorance of a somewhat transparent family secret, was a maddening reflection! He hated to be alone, he hated the diatribes of Captain Gee, he hated to speculate on “what might have been.” He wrote to Haidée, of course; and also to Mrs. Brabazon, and he counted the very days until the answers would come. “Perhaps” (oh stinging thought!) “there would be none,” perhaps Haidée would never forgive him—he was by no means as confident of her pardon as her brother Teddy—Teddy, who always saw everything coleur de rose, and took a most sanguine view of the case. He thought with a sinking heart of the meagre balance at his bankers’, and of that day down by the river, when Haidée had told him the little parable about the child looking into the garden of flowers, and of how she loved money, and he, alas, had none to offer her. Two hundred and fifty pounds a year, besides his pay, was the very most he could scrape together. Ample hitherto for himself and his “modest wants,” to quote Captain Gee, but for Haidée, it would be beggary. And now, his mind sometimes dwelt for a very long time with the most poignant bitter regret, on the lost forty thousand pounds!

*  *  *

There was a pause in camp, a general resting on their oars, before the approaching struggle, and not a few letters were indited home. One of these was from Miles to Connie, and Teddy also sent a despatch to his sister. Here is Miles’s effusion:

“My Dear Connie,

“I have received your letters, and knew the truth before I read them, for Teddy and I have met; we are in the same column, and the same camp.

“What can I say? If I wrote from now till to-morrow morning, I could not tell you all I feel. I wonder if there ever was such a miserably deluded, unfortunate wretch, as I have been? and no one to blame; if there was, there might be some crumbs of comfort! No one but my idiotic self; but all my life it has been the same; when my anger is kindled, I am like a lunatic, and I never look before I leap. It is not the money that is weighing on my mind—I am no worse off than I was last year—it is Haidée! What you told me in your last letter about the letters, and telegrams, lying at the club, the church decorated, the bride and parson waiting for me, nearly drove me mad. And I, all the while, a hundred miles away, packing my kit for the Cape, with the feelings of a devil inside me.

You say she has never held her head up since, and I don’t wonder, nor to hear that Mrs. Brabazon would not give her to me even if I were the silver king himself; nor to hear that my name is now as much tabooed as Teddy’s! I sometimes think I shall blow my brains out; but I suppose I won’t, and it’s more than likely I am writing nonsense. But Connie, like a good sister (as you have always been), if you get a chance of seeing her, put in a word for me.

Teddy, the unconscious cause of all this, is my very good friend; he is in camp here now, and we meet every day; and the more I see of him the better I like him; he is indefatigable in scouting and out-post duty, and already known to fame in a small way. He will get on, I feel convinced; he is just the sort of chap to take the fancy of that fickle jade, Dame Fortune; she has always had a deadly spite against me, and I think has about done all she knows, this last time! Zululand is not much to look at, long monotonous plains, covered with grass up to your waist now, and dry as hay, and dotted about with white quartz bluffs, and intersected by the inevitable ‘donga.’ The most striking thing to me is the great silence, the immense stretching tract without a living thing to be seen, or heard. In our camp we make noise enough, and when the rouse goes at 4.30, the sudden buzz of many hundred voices all at once, reminds one of a lot of bees swarming. I have invested in a steed, a Cape horse, bay, all speckled over with a hail-storm of white; he is a good sound animal and does lots of work (of which he gets heaps, and so do I). He rejoices in the suspicious name of the “Murderer;” they say he has killed two men, each time with a kick, but this may, or may not be true! I fancy we shall soon be moved on nearer to the front; I’m sick of this standing camp; in fact I’m pretty well sick of everything, life included; do not think my mind is giving way! I must shut up, for a long-legged Kaffir, on a short-legged pony, is waiting for the letters.

“And I remain,
Your affectionate brother,

“M. B.”

*  *  *

“What has happened now? whence this beaming face, and these seraphic smiles?” inquired Gussie, raising her eyes lazily from her book, as her sister entered the room.

Gussie was sunken in the depths of a comfortable cushioned chair, drawn up well to the middle of a first-rate fire, with the front of her gown economically turned over over her knees, thereby displaying a scarlet petticoat, and a pair of feet on the fender.

“I’ve just had a letter from Miles,” replied Haidée, hastily advancing with an air of bashful elation; “such a nice letter.”

“Oh, is that it?” rejoined Miss Brabazon in a very wintry tone of voice. “And pray what has he got to say for himself? Peccavi, peccavi, peccavi?”

“Oh, of course he is in a dreadful state of mind. I believe it is really worse for him now, than it ever was for me,” leniently.

“I should hope so!” with a little angry sniff. “I should humbly trust that he was pretty thoroughly ashamed of himself and his insane and idiotic behaviour. You got out of the business better than could have been expected, thanks to Mrs. B.’s presence of mind and talent for invention; assuring every one, that at the very last minute, Miles had been compelled to go on foreign service!”

“That only passed with outsiders,” said Haidée, shaking her head; “of course all the servants, and the villagers, and the Bells, knew; and the way people used to stop on the road, and look after me, or whisper together and point, was too, too dreadful!”

“The little trip you took with Aunt Jane smoothed over matters; that and Mrs. B.’s courageous fabrications; so don’t be ungrateful,”

“Yes,” dubiously, “in a kind of way; but still I am always fancying that people are staring at me, and talking about me.”

“Nonsense, my dear! Your affair is forgotten long ago; you are not of such importance as you imagine; it was only a nine days’ wonder!”

“Yes, I dare say you are right, Gussie; people have had heaps of other things to think about. And!” now drawing a long sigh of relief, “of course it does not matter, as it’s all right.”

“What on earth do you mean?” demanded Augusta sharply; turning half round in her chair, and surveying her sister critically.

“I mean, that the wedding dress, locked away upstairs, will be worn after all, when he comes home,” said Haidée shyly. To this remark there was answer for at least a minute, and then Gussie said very decidedly——

“Haidée, you must be mad! you would not think of marrying him now?” speaking as it were in capital letters.

“And pray why not?” regarding her sister with angry blushes.

“He did not say anything about it in his letter, did he?” apprehensively.

“There was no occasion; we are as much engaged as before; there is no change.”

“No change! Oh dear, no, certainly not; by no means,” sarcastically. “What are you going to live upon, you goose? Your money is being turned into bricks and mortar at the other side of the globe, and Miles is a genteel pauper, who will find quite enough to do to keep himself, much less you, and your excellent appetite,” with homely candour.

“But,” hesitatingly, “but, Gussie, I have some money.”

“Not a penny until you are twenty-five, unless you marry to please Mrs. B., and she hates Miles like poison.”

“I think you are very unkind to say all these horrid things,” returned Haidée indignantly, and with a suspicion of tears in her voice; “this is not the way I take your good news, when you have any; and you always pretended to like Miles so much.”

“So I do, my sweet silly sister, as a cousin, but not as a brother-in-law. Just sit down here,” giving a chair a little push, “and listen, for a few minutes, to sound common sense. When Miles was an eligible parti, you would not marry him; your accepting him at all was simply because you saw him do a plucky thing at Sandborough, and carried off your feet by the emotion of the moment, you said yes; and then the wedding was hurried on, and the dresses, and presents, were such delicious novelties, you had not the heart to go back! But you were never one bit in love with him; you would rather have Teddy’s little finger, than fifty of Miles.”

“You are wrong, quite wrong; every word you have said has been wrong,” cried Haidée, with blazing cheeks; “because Miles and I did not make an humbling exhibition of ourselves, and sit hand in hand, and arm in arm like other people,” expressively, “you imagine that we—that I—don’t care for him, I do; very much.”

“That’s nothing but your old spirit of contradiction, my love; and you must not be hinting at the manners and customs of me and my Jimmy. We are not ashamed of being in love, you were; and so was Miles; but Miles was really head over ears, and you were not; but now, out of a pure spirit of contradiction, and because he has not a single shilling to jingle on a milestone, you declare that you are devoted to him; in spite, too, of that awful business last September, when, in a fit of temporary insanity, he rushed out of the country, leaving you and the forty thousand pounds, as he politely suggested, ‘to go to the devil!’ Of course he is very sorry, and very much ashamed, and very humble, but he will never dream of holding you to your engagement!”

“And pray why not?”

“How can he drag you about the world with him, my dear? Tell me that? Or if he retired on a pittance, your fate would be no better—a poky little house, one drab of a servant, the washing hung out in the back yard; cold meat, salt butter, shabby clothes; Miles moped to death, pining for his old life, nothing to do but loaf and smoke (if he could afford it)! the two of you leading the life of a couple of carrots or cabbages. I give you one year at the very longest, to hate each other most heartily, for ‘when poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window,’” rapping her little knuckles on the novel in her lap, to emphasize her favourite proverb.

During the latter part of this speech, Haidée had been sitting with her fingers in her ears, but now removing them she said, “I hate to hear you talk like this! you think of nothing but money, and luxury, and eating; you don’t believe in love.”

“Not to live on, certainly,” with a contemptuous laugh. “Seriously, Haidée, you and Miles must give each other up; and for each other’s sakes. You would not like to be a log round his neck all his life? As a bachelor, he can get along all right; but a married man, without a farthing, is, as Jimmy would say, frightfully handicapped. He will get over it easily; love is only a little parenthesis in a man’s life; and you will recover too. Look at me, sitting before you in rude health. How many affairs have I had? and never let a green and yellow melancholy prey on my damask cheek, or—was it a worm?” doubtfully.

“You are different,” replied her sister, slowly. “I will marry Miles, and no one else. I don’t mind waiting for years and years,” gazing meditatively into the fire as she spoke.

“Till you are an old maid, with thin hair and a red nose! but I should think he would mind, very much indeed. Men like their wives, when they marry them, to be young and pretty. No, no, Haidée, for once you must be sensible, and give up Miles; it will be just like having a tooth out, and you will be all the better when it’s over!”

You seem to think that love can be given and taken backwards and forwards, as if it was something on hire,” said Haidée indignantly.

“Fiddle-de-dee, fiddle-de-dee. not talking of love, I was talking of sense--my strong point, you will please to remember! This time next year, my beautiful impulsive sister, I shall have you up to London, and marry you to some very, very, nice, rich, and—if you are very good, titled young man! think of that!”

Marry any one you like, yourself, my dear Gussie; but as far as I am concerned, I shall never marry any one but Miles-never.”

“And yet, in this very room, and not so very long ago, you raved and stamped, and all but tore your hair out, and declared that, dragged to the foot of the altar you might be, but become his bride—never! And—ah, I see you remember the episode—I have just one little question to ask,—and only one. Supposing now, for the sake of argument, that he won’t marry you, what then?”

Ah! this was a phase of the matter that Haidée had never contemplated; but although she made prompt and cheerful answer to herself; to her sister’s query, she vouchsafed no reply, beyond what might be called a superior smile, and loud, and triumphant, poking of a most inoffensive fire.

*  *  *

Mrs. Brabazon, who had always been antagonistic to her nephew, when he was a moneyed man, was not likely to be any fonder of him now, that he was as poor as a church mouse. Quite lately she had awakened to a due appreciation of the unusual personal gifts of her youngest step-daughter, and thorough understanding of her marketable value—a coronet! Haidée’s visit to Brighton, her appearance at all the winter county balls, had given her quite a reputation, and a certain young honourable, the eldest son of Lord Mangel-Wurzle, was constantly finding his way over to Baronsford. He was received by Gussie with open arms, by Haidée with smiles, for he had been one of what Mrs. Brabazon would have called, Teddy’s “boon” companions. He was a pleasant, ruddy-faced young gentleman, with a cheery voice, frank unaffected manners, and was really very much enamoured of the beautiful Miss Brabazon. Of course he heard that she had been engaged to her cousin, but it was all broken off months ago, and “the dear girl had never really cared about him; it was entirely a family business,” so Mrs. Brabazon had whispered confidentially to Lady Mangel-Wurzle, and she looked forward to a double wedding before long (for Gussie had accepted her long-suffering suitor, who had come in for another fortune, and already, as she remarked complacently, “the presents had been both numerous and costly”). Now here was this inconvenient person, this odious, tiresome, Miles coming to the surface again, and writing Mrs. Brabazon a long letter, from some outlandish camp in Zululand. What was to be done with him? What a worry, and affliction, he had been from first to last! What a good thing it would be, if the Zulus were to kill him! thought this amiable lady. Should she answer his letter, or not? After some very grave reflection, she decided that she would reply, and by the next mail, in a friendly spirit, giving him largely of her forgiveness and sympathy; but appealing to him, forcibly, to release Haidée from her present ridiculous engagement. The epistle took some time to put together, and as she was sitting biting the end of her pen in the throes of composition, Haidée came into the room with her hat on, and said she was going to the village with the post-bag.

“I am not quite ready yet; but in ten minutes’ time I shall have finished. I am writing a rather difficult letter to—Miles.”

“Yes,” returned Haidée, colouring and looking at her interrogatively.

“Of course I forgive him, freely; but the engagement must not be talked of just at present; as matters are, it would be too imprudent. You see, my dear, although he is very nice in himself, he has nothing to marry on now.”

“But we can wait, Mrs. Brabazon,” she urged timidly.

“Ah, yes, you are only twenty; you have written to him too?”

“Yes,” holding up a letter—a solid-looking letter.

“Oh, dear me! you might have enclosed mine, and saved me sixpence; it is not stamped though, I see,” brightening.

“Not yet; I’m taking it to the post.”

“Then give it to me; it can go in mine, there is plenty of room in my envelope, and I have a stamp” (such generosity was unwonted).

Haidée handed it over, with a little reluctance. She would have liked to have posted it herself; but she did not for one moment doubt her step-mother’s honesty of purpose, and was firmly convinced ten minutes later, as she walked down to the village, with elastic springing steps, that she was carrying it over the first stage of its long, long journey, and that in five weeks’ time it would be in Miles’s own hands. Deluded young damsel! The instant she had left the room, Mrs. Brabazon had taken up her epistle, had turned it over meditatively and said to herself, “This billet doux will encourage him, and that would be fatal to all our hopes; probably she is telling him she will wait for him for years;” smiling contemptuously. “No, no, we cannot have any of that kind of nonsense;” so this right-minded, honourable lady, deliberately walked over to the fire, poked an open place among the coals, into which she carefully dropped the missive; for a second it lay, seemingly staring at her like some living thing, with its clear address confronting her thus:

Captain Brabazon,
2nd Battalion, Royal Marchers,
With the army in the field,

Then it became a delicate biscuit-colour, then it curled at the edges, and suddenly shot up in a bright flame, and in another moment, a few black fragments lazily sailing up the chimney, were all that remained of Miss Haidée Brabazon’s foreign letter.

Chapter II

She Sends Her Kind Regards

The Marchers had, as we have already heard, joined the column to which Teddy’s regiment was attached. They had recently crossed the drift of the Blood River, and were encamped on a desolate, wide-spreading plain, awaiting the general advance on Ulundi. The force was divided into three huge laagers, inside of which were picketed the cavalry horses (knee haltered), the stores, and the oxen; outside, were the tents and guns, irregular troops, native contingent, and cooking fires. Captains Brabazon and Gee had had their little bell tents pitched as usual side by side; the former is to be found in his, at the present moment, sitting on his bed, reading a letter, by the light of a lantern attached to the pole above his head. He has torn open the envelope with hasty, nervous fingers, and turned it completely inside out, in the hopes of discovering a line from Haidée; but no, there was nothing, so with a sharp spasm of misgiving, he falls back on the epistle in his hand—(the identical composition, which cost Mrs. Brabazon half an hour’s severe mental exercise, and two rough copies).

“Dear Captain Brabazon.”—

(“Ah, this looks ominous,” he says to himself, with a shake of the head.)

“Your letter has just arrived, with a full account of your unhappy mistake, and fatal precipitation. I am truly and sincerely sorry for you. It is the most unfortunate thing I have ever heard of in all my experience. Haidée’s disobedience and your rash, hot temper must, I am afraid, share the entire blame. Of course, it was a most painful time for all of us last September; but luckily, the wedding was to have been such a very quiet affair, that the real facts have never transpired beyond our own circle; and people imagine that you received a sudden order to join your regiment. Haidée was naturally greatly troubled. Her pride received a mortal wound; but I am glad to tell you, that a very gay visit to Brighton completely restored her spirits, and I cannot be too thankful now that the dear girl’s heart was never very much centred on the match.”

Miles opened and shut his eyes incredulously; he held the letter up quite close to the light, and stared hard at the last sentence. Yes, it was quite legible.

“The dear girl’s heart was never centred on the match, and that she only accepted you from a strong sense of duty.”

Miles again paused to digest this remarkable statement.

“Of course, when the marriage was so very advantageous in every way, I did not (wrongly, perhaps) analyze her feelings too closely, and I knew that you would make her an excellent husband. But now that you have hardly any means besides your pay, things are different, as I need scarcely point out. Both battalions of your regiment are abroad in countries where it would be impossible for Haidée to live; and you see, my dear Miles, much as I like you, I cannot consult my own feelings in the matter. I stand in a very responsible position to Haidée. I fill the place of both her parents, and it would not be right, would it, I ask you frankly, to allow her to marry a captain in a marching regiment, with nothing but his pay? It costs me a great deal to write this, but it is my duty, and from my duty I may not shrink. I appeal to your honour, to your love for Haidée, and your desire for her happiness before your own, to renounce her completely. Do not, I beg of you, write to her, or seek to renew your former ties, at least until you are in a position to offer her a suitable home. There is nothing more wearing, or more miserable for a girl, than a long and hopeless engagement. I am sure you will agree with me. Haidée desires me to say, that she received your letter, and sends her kind regards; and I am, your sincere wellwisher,

“Sarah Brabazon.”

This, then, was the death knell of his hopes—“Her kind regards.” How unnatural, how almost ludicrous, such a message sounded. Firmly crumpling up the letter into a ball, he flung it down passionately, and burying his face in his hands, sat without moving for many minutes.

Fleeting visions of forgiveness, of returning home, reading hard, and passing through the staff college, had flitted through his mind. He knew he had an average amount of brains; he was not afraid of putting his shoulder to the wheel, and working hard for Haidée. Now there was an end to everything. Mrs. Brabazon was right. Holding his cousin to her engagement, was like a drowning man clutching a straw. He had no business to suppose she would accept him and poverty—why should she? Had he not had vague misgivings about her heart, when he was rich. He had no choice, he must let her go. He glanced sarcastically round his bare little tent, and laughed a laugh of grim derision as he thought of Mrs. Brabazon’s stipulation with regard to “a suitable home,” and rising, leaving that lady’s effusion on the ground, walked out of the tent into the cool, dark night—itself the very embodiment of hopelessness and solitude, and fitting symbol of the black clouds which had gathered over his life within the last half hour. Some time later, Captain Gee looked in, to borrow a boot lace, and found the tent still empty; the lamp flaring away in solitary extravagance, an envelope on the bed. He glanced at it distrustfully. “A woman’s hand, and an old woman’s—slight mourning. I’ll bet it’s from that old serpent, Mrs. B., giving him a piece of her mind, and his congé, breaking off the whole business,” said Dicky to himself, blinking fiercely. At this moment, the crumpled letter also caught his roving eye. There was a suggestiveness of wild, upgovernable fury in its present crushed condition, that spoke whole volumes to the farseeing little gentleman, who surveyed it meditatively, as he anxiously pulled his tenderly fostered sandy moustache.

“So that’s it,” he remarked after a pause, “as plain as a pike-staff. I’ll say nothing, I’ll say nothing, though I know as much about it now, as if he had told me the whole story. If he likes to make a clean breast of it, well and good. I think myself, he is well out of it. A girl without a penny! However, I’ll say nothing—silence is golden.” With this valuable precept in his mind, and bestowing one last significant glance at Mrs. Brabazon’s ill-used effusion, he put his hands in his pockets, and slowly took his departure.

*  *  *

Plenty of work is a fine specific, and Miles had now hardly ever an idle minute. His mind was filled with other things, besides blighted hopes, and black despair; and we question the truth of the lines that say—

“’Tis an ill cure
For life’s worst ills, to have no time to feel them.”

Foraging parties, fuel, fire-arms, forage, ration boards, etc., occupied his thoughts, and he had very little leisure to dwell upon his lot. Love, as Gussie had quoted, “is a mere parenthesis in a man’s life;” he is not so fond of allowing himself to dwell on harrowing recollections as a woman, nor do his thoughts, like hers, find a melancholy pleasure in visiting the grave of dead hopes. Days and weeks went by, not so slowly as might be supposed; weeks spent in foraging, wood cutting, scouting and bringing in spies, and listening to their many marvellous tales—tales that would have compelled the great Munchausen himself to veil his face, for a Kaffir’s imagination can bestir itself at times. Most of Teddy’s spare hours were passed with his cousin, and he had become a very popular visitor in the Marcher camp.

He was even welcomed by “the ugly little fellow with freckles,” as he mentally called Captain Gee, who had now completely got over what Miles termed, “his ridiculous stiffness about the legacy,” and was prepared to extend the hand of good-fellowship to this other young Brabazon, with whom he found that he (besides a vast fund of irrepressible animal spirits), had a good many tastes in common. For instance, they were both fond of horses, of shooting, of arguing the point, and of lots of red pepper with their daily stew. To improve the flavour of this said stew, with some ingredient foreign to the everlasting trek ox, was the object of many a long expedition undertaken by the pair. Miles did not lend himself to these excursions; a twenty-mile ride for a brace of quail was “not good enough,” he growled, in answer to their frequent and pressing invitations; and he looked rudely contemptuous, when, as occasionally happened, the sportsmen returned with nothing but a couple of voracious appetites, and an empty bag. However, no one could twit them, or chaff them to-day, as they ride homewards, over the hard bare veldt, in the direction of the lurid, African setting sun, each with a well-stuffed bag hanging across his shoulders, each sportsman’s countenance wearing that well-known modestly complacent expression, “complimentary,” as they say in Ireland, to a day’s good luck. They sing, they joke, they tell stories, as they rapidly make their way towards camp, now galloping, now walking a while to breathe their horses, who are fully alive to the fact that they are going, not where “glory,” but where “mealies” await them.

Our young Nimrods are very excellent friends, but still they have their little quarrels like other people, as you shall hear. Dicky is disposed to be arbitrary, and does not brook contradiction, especially, as he says to himself, from a “boy” like Teddy.

“Why did not Miles come out?” said his cousin aggrievedly. “What a duffer he is, always sticking in camp.”

“Oh, he couldn’t very well have come to-day,” returned Captain Gee coolly, “for I got him to take my duty.”

“It would have been all the same, anyhow; I never knew such a queer, reserved, old head on young shoulders, sort of fellow! Was he always like this?”

“Oh, rather not,” emphatically. “He is not himself at all, Molly dear! Molly dear! It’s only since this blessed business about your sister, he is what you call ‘like this.’ Of course it’s the usual thing, a woman at the bottom of it,” he added ungallantly; and then, in a tone of melancholy conviction, “there is no doubt he liked her,” nodding his head sideways at his companion, as much as to say, “there’s feather in her cap!”

Well, it would be odd if he did not!” burst out Teddy, with fraternal warmth. “Let me tell you, that it’s by no means every day that you see as pretty a girl, as my sister Haidée.”

“Oh, indeed,” replied the other doubtfully.

An “oh, indeed,” that, being interpreted by Teddy’s subtle ear, meant “of course you think so, that’s all very well, but tastes may differ, my good sir.”

“It’s not because I am her brother, that I say so,” continued the Lancer hotly, fully alive to what Captain Gee had not said, but insinuated. “Every one admires her; she is the image of our great grandmother that set half the county fighting, and that the people used to run after in crowds, and when you walk with her in the street, you see every one looking at her.”

“What! at your great-grandmother?” retorted Captain Gee, with an aggravating laugh.

“No,” indignantly. “You know who I mean—Haidée!”

“Well, I have only seen your sister’s photograph, and it perhaps does not do her justice” (it was a libel), said Dicky, in a tone of patronage that exasperated his companion—resolved that he would not be over-crowed by this boasting brother; “but Miles is as good-looking a fellow as you could wish to see!” continued his champion aggressively.

“Yes; he is not half bad! He is like me; I even see it myself,” stroking his moustache to hide a smile.

To this complacent remark, Captain Gee made no immediate reply; he was thinking of something “nasty” to say to this very conceited, unconcerned, young gentleman—something that he had stored up in his little sling, for a considerable time; it was this:

“However, there is one thing that is very certain, with regard to Miles and your sister—putting looks to one side—they have to thank you for breaking off the match;” this he observed with the air of one who is advancing an unanswerable fact.

“Oh! Come! I say,” returned Teddy, getting extremely red, “I know I was to blame, because I bound her over to silence; but it was not all my fault; if he had not been in such mad haste to take everything for granted; if he had even waited another twenty-four hours, it would have all come right.”

“And now it’s all gone wrong,” said Captain Gee, bestowing a wicked, secret, cut upon his pony, “Circumstances” (Circumstances over whom he had no control), and who instantly resented this by lashing out savagely.

“I declare one would think that you were his brother,” muttered Teddy at last; “you take as much interest in his affairs as if they were your own.”

“Of course I do,” retorted “Pylades,” with much warmth. “Why wouldn’t I take an interest in the greatest friend I have in the world” (worruld)? speaking with gathering excitement, and the very purest Irish accent,—which two things were usually synonymous with Dicky. “And when I see him, a changed man,” eloquently expounding with his right arm, “when I see that his life is spoiled; when I see him lose a fine fortune, I feel it, I tell you, just as if it was myself,” letting grammar, and accent, and everything go by the board, in the heat of the moment.

“And you blame me for it all,” said Teddy doggedly; “I’m sure I’m much obliged to you.”

“No, no, no; I did at first—to tell you the truth—but there is no doubt now, between you and me, that Miles was confoundedly hot and hasty! When his temper is roused, by George! it is something out of the common!—Quite,” closing his eyes as if looking on some startling mental picture. “Once he nearly killed a butler we had, for thrashing his wife and knocking her about most awfully; the man was a brute certainly; and I myself would have interfered, verbally; but Miles! Lord! I shan’t forget him in a hurry; it was all I could do, to keep him from flinging the fellow over the verandah; he was white and shaking all over afterwards, when he cooled down. Oh, yes! his temper is volcanic, decidedly,” proceeded Captain Gee in a tone of sorrowful admission. “And just see what it has done for him!” holding out a sunburnt hand expressively. “Now if it had been me; if I had had his chances——” he paused significantly, as if his modesty expected his listener to conclude the sentence.

“You need not regret them, as far as that goes,” returned Teddy emphatically, resolved that his companion was not to give all the knocks that were going; “it would have made no difference. She would not have looked at you!”

But Richard Gee’s vanity, self-esteem, faith in his own fascinations, what you will, was of a fine, homespun, robust material. Such a speech as this was merely like water running down a duck’s back, for all the effect it had in damping his amour propre. He glanced at Teddy derisively, blinked his little white lashes with scornful incredulity, and then broke into a smile, of such comfortable, such seraphic complacency, that our young friend felt that it would be a purely unalloyed delight, to knock his comrade off his long-legged pony, and hammer his vain, empty skull upon the ground.

*  *  *

However, this slight friction between the two sportsmen was, as usual, but momentary; it never lasted; and it was, in the present instance, brought to an end by a yawning chasm, lying right in their way, no uncommon obstacle in South Africa.

“I say,” exclaimed Teddy, “now just look at this beastly donga! I’m all right, but how about you and Circumstances? You had better mind yourself!” impressively.

This caution was not in vain; that ill-tempered brute immediately justified his name, by turning sharp round, and bolting in the opposite direction, merely because his rider had gently suggested, with a spur, that he should follow in the steps of the nimble, cat-like, Kitty! After a prolonged and angry struggle between Circumstances and his master, the former triumphantly carried the day, by persistent “backing,” and this on the brink of a drop of thirty feet, is not an agreeable experience.

“I suppose I’ll have to lead him,” grumbled Captain Gee, reluctantly dismounting, and angrily hauling the animal after him to the edge of the donga. “Discretion is the better part of valour! He may break his knees, but he shan’t have a chance of breaking my neck! Good people are scarce.”

“What a brute that is!” ejaculated his companion, when they were once more cantering along side by side. “That Basutu fellow let you in nicely; he did you in the eye properly!”

“Oh, I don’t know that,” returned Captain Gee, who rather fancied himself as a judge of horse flesh, and was consequently not over and above well pleased at this remark. “There are worse hacks, and he is very game, and sound, though,” suddenly sawing at the reins to hold him in. “He has no mouth, bad luck to him. I say, though, to return to our mutton about Miles, and bar all chaff; do you think that he and your sister will make it up yet? eh?”

“I don’t know, no more than Adam! She never mentions him, and he is as close as wax. I have put out several gentle feelers on the subject, but he is a reserved sort of fellow, and if he does not choose to unbosom himself, he won’t—as I dare say you are aware.”

Yes, I’ve discovered that little peculiarity of his some years back,” returned the other drily. “It’s my humble and rooted opinion, that as he has made such an awful muddle of it this time, he will never marry now.”

“Oh, I would not be too sure of that!” replied Teddy, reining up his horse at the top of a steep ascent. “I thought we were nearer camp than this,” looking discontentedly around. “Where are we?”

“Oh, it’s all right! you see it from the next hill,” said Captain Gee, encouragingly; “it’s only four miles away now.”

“It’s such a long stretch of plain and hillock, the same thing over again, and again, and again. I’m sick of this African veldt!” Teddy continued impatiently. “I can’t tell you how I long for a glimpse of the sea, or a rattling good big river, or a forest; a bit of something like what we have at home. I have such a queer hankering after it sometimes, almost like thirst, and I feel as if I would give ten years of my life, just to see the spire of York cathedral!”

Captain Gee opened his little greyish eyes very wide, and looked at his companion curiously. Positively he was in earnest! Such cravings were totally unknown to him.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said at last. “You are home-sick, my good sir, that’s what ails you,” he observed with cool decision.

“I suppose so,” doubtfully; “but Gee, when I look round sometimes, only sometimes, mind you, I have a feeling that I shall never see anything else again, but these same weary plains; they give me an odd oppressive sensation, as if they were a great big pall spread out, especially by this grey and ghostly half-light, where you can make out nothing but the dark horizon; and I have a strange shadowy presentiment; only whatever you do, don’t tell Miles; that—that—that,” now suddenly lowering his voice a little, “when you all go home, I shall be left out here.”

“What on earth do you mean? What nonsense, what rot, you are talking, cried Captain Gee angrily. “I never heard such folly in my life, never! I’ll tell you

what you’d better do: go and see the doctor, that’s my advice to you, the moment we get back.”

“Doctor? I never had a doctor in my life. There’s nothing wrong with me! I might just as well call in the orderly officer. I’m all right,” now speaking in his everyday tone.

“So you think, no doubt; but believe me, young man, your liver is out of order, or you would not be talking of palls and such rubbish. And, oh, thank goodness, there’s the camp at last. Come along,” starting off at a gallop.

“Mind you say nothing about what I’ve been telling you to Miles,” urged Teddy anxiously, as they turned into the well-worn camp road. “I suppose it’s all fancy,” apologetically, “or the sun has touched me up a little, eh?”

“Very likely,” gruffly; “and as to telling Miles, you need not be afraid! I don’t want him to think you are getting softening of the brain; and here we are.”

*  *  *

Captain Gee’s birthday came round in due time, the supreme occasion for which the still remaining five sacred bottles of beer had been preserved intact. Of course he gave an entertainment (something between a dinner and a supper party), and issued invitations to three guests—who “had much pleasure”—besides the two Brabazons, to what all were sure would be a sumptuous repast. Six people assembled, elbow to elbow, encircling an inpromptu table—reversed bath tub—and did the most flattering justice to the ménu, and ate and drank, and were exceedingly merry. Firstly there was soup (oh, soaring Dicky!), next came an entrée, which had the impudence to call itself “Beef Olives;” this was followed by the pièce de résistance, two noble old roosters,—reverend, respectable birds, which Miles had brought from a distant kraal, tied to his saddle bow, much to the fury and amazement of the Murderer; a tin of sausages kept these very tough customers in countenance. This last was Teddy’s birthday offering, and as he paid eighteen shillings for the dainty, he remarked to his cousin, who had accompanied him to make the purchase, “I say, the pigs at home ought really to know of this! wouldn’t they swagger if they had a notion of their value out here.” Finally, there appeared one of the host’s own far-famed roly poly puddings, absolutely bursting with jam,—and when the empty dish was carried away, alas! the feast was over.

After supper there were stories, and smoking, and songs. Every one present lifted up his voice, except Miles (who had none). One of the Marchers possessed a delicious melting tenor, of remarkable purity, and was called on for song after song, and responded without demur, for he knew that he was giving his hearers real pleasure; and that the airs he sometimes permitted himself, in crowded London drawing-rooms, would have been very much out of place in this wretched little tent, in Zululand! The last song he sang before the general breaking-up was, “Then you’ll remember me.” He sang it with such thrilling pathos, such heart-stirring passion, that when the final note had died away, there was a momentary pause, ten times more expressive than the most rapturous encore.

Teddy was the first to break the spell. Rising from his cramped position, and straightening his long legs, he said, “It’s time for me to be moving. That is if I can,” laughing, now standing up to his full height, and holding the tent pole, as he looked round on his five companions, as seen through clouds of smoke. “I hope that wonderful beer of yours has not gone to my head, Gee! I’m so unaccustomed now to anything but cold tea, and cold cocoa, maybe I’ll be stumbling about among the tents, like a fellow once who went adrift among the trees in the back avenue at home, and said ‘he must sit down, till the crowd had passed’! Not bad, eh?”

“I never heard that, Teddy,” said his cousin, slowly removing his pipe, and looking up with an incredulous smile at his handsome young kinsman. “It’s one of your own good stories, invented on the spot! Come now.”

“It’s not, I assure you!” indignantly. “The original remark is the copyright, or whatever you call it, of a drunken tramp. You can ask——” he was going to add, Haidée, but picked himself up in time, and quickly substituted “any of them.”

Teddy is himself again! He has recovered his usual over-mastering, irrepressible animal spirits. No shadow of gloomy forebodings overclouds him now! He has been the life of the little party, the mainspring of the entertainment. Captain Gee mentally accords him a warm vote of thanks for having made everything “go off so well,” and as he glanced up askance through his blonde eyelashes, at the good-looking, merry young Lancer, he asked himself irritably, “Could he really be the very same boy, who had talked all that trash to him coming home the other evening in the dusk across the veldt?”

“I suppose nobody is bound my way?” continued Teddy, looking round. “I’m the only outsider from the other camp. Well,” stretching out his hand, and pulling his host half off his seat, with the vigour of his grasp, “Good night, Gee, old fellow. I’ll come and dine with you your next birthday! Here’s my hand on it”—another vigorous shake. “Good night, Miles; good night everybody. Please don’t stir,” stepping over one or two outstretched legs, “it’s all right.”

In another moment, he had passed out of the company, and was walking briskly in the direction of the cavalry lines, singing short snatches of the last song, as well as he casually remembered it—

“There may, perhaps, in such a scene
Some recollection be,
Of days that have as happy been,
And you’ll remember me.”

This verse he had mastered, evidently.

“By Jove, he has got that all right,” remarked Captain Mario, the tenor, approvingly. Then they all listened for a moment, till the intervening tents shut out the sound of the singer’s footsteps and the singer’s song; and one by one they also got up, and yawned, and looked at their watches, and were “surprised that it was so late,” and following Teddy’s example; departed, every one, to his own quarters.

Chapter III

An Empty Saddle

“You are not on duty to-day for a wonder, Miles,” said his cousin, bursting into his tent the next morning. “Shove away that venerable newspaper, and listen to me. There’s not a stir towards the front, and I invite you to join a foray party. We are going about twenty miles west to burn some kraals, and it’s better fun than sticking in camp doing nothing.”

“Another of your raids!” contemptuously. “You live a few hundred years too late! You’d have been in your glory in those old border times, lifting your neighbour’s cattle, and harrying them from year’s in to year’s end.”

“Can’t harry these beggars enough to please me! Come along. Here’s a chance to see some fun!”

“Fun! my good Teddy. If there was any fun, I’d go like a shot; but burning a few filthy kraals does not strike me as a very humorous employment. However, if I can’t raise any other job, I shall go, just to please you.”

“That’s right, and it does please me. There will be half a troop of ours, and some irregular horse, and who knows what may happen before we come back?”

Who knows indeed, Teddy? Little do you imagine, as you mount your brown charger, that to-morrow your saddle will be empty. That to-morrow and for many to-morrows, the animal now moving so buoyantly under you, will paw the ground and whinny shrilly, and strain at her picket-rope in vain—in vain, “for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.”

And thus they set forth, a goodly little band, nearly fifty sabres (counting the irregular horse), bent on carrying fire and destruction into a hitherto impracticable part of the country, beyond some rugged distant hills. Away they went, for miles across the barren plain, scored with yawning dongas, through bush, and scrub, and mealie fields, and finally arrived at the rocky hills, where they found a number of deserted kraals, but a few gourds, and mats, and skins, were the only spoils that fell into their hands. The place was thoroughly searched for buried grain, and then, from every kraal, a thin line of blue smoke was seen rising transparent against the rocky background. This feat accomplished, the party off-saddled, and turned the horses loose to graze, not without some qualms anent the deadly tulip root, had some bread and cheese themselves, and after a short rest set out homewards.

Teddy, careless and foolhardy, brought up the rear, with his cousin, at some distance in the wake of the irregulars, the Lancers and their captain, being perceptibly ahead.

“I think we had better be shoving on,” remarked Miles, noticing the crimson sunset, which was now bathing the veldt in his fiery flames, and the lengthening shadows of the boulders and big quartz rocks.

“Oh, nonsense; it’s all right, there’s no hurry,” returned Teddy placidly. “I know every inch of this ground, well. We’re only about seven miles from camp. The horses have had a hard day’s work, let’s take it easy. I never have a jaw with you now, alone, Miles. Dicky Gee is all very well, and I like him awfully; but we can’t hang out the family washing before him. Eh?” grinning.

“What the deuce are you driving at?” impatiently.

“I had a letter from home, last night; I found it when I got back, from Haidée,” giving his companion a searching glance. “She does not mention you,” boldly.

“No; I suppose not,” with aggravating composure.

“What’s the row between you now?”

“Nothing. There’s no row, as you call it. Come up, you blundering fool,” to the Murderer.

“Oh, but there is. I can see it! And to be wroth with one you love, doth work, like patent, spring, back-action, madness on the brain. I know you think I’m an interfering, meddling, young owl. That’s understood.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about, that’s all,” with a smile of disdainful tolerance.

“Oh, don’t I? Perhaps I know as much about it as my elders. What would

you say—brace yourself for a shock—if I told you I could sing ‘the girl I left behind me,’ too?

“I would say I did not believe you—that it was only one of your jokes,” returned his cousin coolly.

“Then you would be wrong for once! She—I’ve never spoken of her before, and I don’t know why I should now, for you’re as unsympathetic-looking as your own big drummer——”

“Well, never mind; go on and tell me about her. I’ll be as sympathetic as I can; but upon my word, I’m not sure all the time, that you are not chaffing.”

“I am not,” indignantly. “She is the only child of a retired colonel—a ferocious-looking old widower—with heaps of money. It was pretty good cheek for a troop sergeant to raise his eyes to his daughter?”

“It was,” with emphatic gravity.

“How it happened was this,” speaking confidentially, and now riding knee to knee with his companion. “I was walking alone one evening, for a wonder, about two miles from barracks, when in a country lane I heard no end of a shindy; snarling, and howling, and screaming. I found the row came from a big lurcher, who was half killing a fox terrier, and a girl, who was vainly belabouring the lurcher with her umbrella. Much he cared. I choked him off, and got an ugly bite for my pains, but rescued the terrier, more dead than alive. I bathed his wounds in a stream hard by, and his mistress and I became quite intimate over the performance, and then I tenderly carried him home behind her, about half a mile. When we reached the gate, she stopped, and got very red, and hesitated, and seemed greatly confused; for she was quite young, only about eighteen. At last she stammered out, ‘If you were only an ordinary soldier, I would offer you money, as well as my thanks;—but as I think you are a gentleman, I give you my thanks alone;’ and she bowed. You can’t think the odd feeling it gave me, to see a lady bow to me once more; and then she turned with the dog in her arms, and went away up the avenue, as if she was rather frightened—--”

“And thus saved herself half a crown!” derisively.

“Now, now; but of course I make allowances for you! I used to see her in church. She played the harmonium. It was a pretty little country church. Some of our men went in the summer evenings. I went always—summer and winter, wet and dry.”

“Poor Teddy! That bow was a dangerous concession.”

“She sang at a penny reading,” not heeding his cousin’s cynical remark, “and that finished me! She sang, ‘Please give me a penny, sir,’ and half the people had tears in their eyes, the other half lumps in their throats. I had both. I can’t tell you how lovely she looked—she——”

“There,” raising his hand impatiently, “now, like a good fellow, don’t; I’ve a large amount of faith, and will take it all for granted. Did you ever speak to her again?”

“Never! Of course, I was only a sergeant, and she a lady, the gulf was a pretty wide one. I won two prizes at our tournament. She was there, she saw me, she smiled—at least I imagined she did—when I carried off the first prize.”

“Of course, you never wrote to her?”

“Never!” emphatically.

“Never spoke, never wrote. Well, under these difficult and delicate circumstances, what was your next move?”

“I sent her flowers.”


“Having previously mastered their language?”

“No, not quite such a fool as all that! I got them from Covent Garden—money no object, as Gussie says—and I used to climb the wall and lay them on an old sun dial in the pleasure ground. I was never seen, and she may have imagined that they dropped from the skies; but at any rate, she wore them. I saw her at a concert, with one of my bouquets in her hand. There was a fellow always hanging about, his dog-cart was at their place three times a week; she may have thought they came from him; but as long as I knew, she would wear them, would even touch them, I was satisfied!”

“My poor Teddy! it was a desperate bad case!” in a tone of sincere commiseration.

“It was, it is,” emphatically. “Before we were ordered off, I left a bouquet of forget-me-nots, as big as an umbrella; and then we marched away, and of course there was an end of everything,—for the present!”

“And pray what is to be the sequel?”

“I hope the sequel will be, when this business is over, we of course will be sent home. I shall get leave, I shall go to York, like a shot out of an eighty pounder, and get introduced in my present character, and I shall ask her to marry me some day!” “Some day, some day,” beginning to whistle the air.

“A girl you have only spoken to once in your life! Edward Brabazon, I had no idea that you were such a susceptible young idiot; no milder word will do,” said his companion emphatically.

“Why am I an idiot?” angrily. “At least, I’ve seen, and to a certain extent, known her, for nearly two years. Why you came all across the world to marry a girl you had never set eyes on!”

“I did! And all I can say is, that I hope your venture, if you persist in it, will turn out better than mine; but if you will be advised by me—which you won’t, I would quote Punch’s far-famed caution to those about to marry, and say, ‘Don’t!’”,

“Oh, I dare say!” laughing derisively. “Like the fox who lost his tail.”

“What’s her name?” continued the other, unmoved by Teddy’s gibe.

“No, no, Mr. Miles! you don’t. I can keep my own counsel too. Some time or other perhaps——”

“Hulloa! what the mischief is this in front?” hastily interrupted his companion. “Zulus! By George! We’re in for it now! You’ve got your revolver all right. We must cut our way through them, not a second to lose. Come on,” setting spurs to the astounded Murderer.

He was quite right, about fifty Zulus, in full war dress, probably on their way to join an impi, seemed to have suddenly sprung from the earth, and cut off the irregulars and the two Brabazons from the rest of their party—who were now just disappearing over the crest of a hill.

Yelling like demons, their war cry, “Usuti! Usuti!” they swarmed round the little band, armed with a formidable array of guns and assegais. There was nothing for it but to cut their way through them, which they did, at full gallop, discharging their revolvers with telling effect. The dust, the smoke, the firing, and the shouting, lasted less than three minutes; and the Zulus had already melted away, among the high grass and rocks;—four of their number lay on the ground, a trooper, also, on his face, dead; Miles Brabazon had an ugly cut in his fore arm, and that was all!

“Come on, Teddy,” he shouted imperatively “We deserved this; that poor fellow is dead,” looking at the trooper, “we can’t do him any good! and there is no use in loitering.” So saying he put spurs to his horse, and galloped after the others, who were now endeavouring to overtake their party. They had not gone above a quarter of a mile, when, turning to Teddy, to make some remark, he was struck, even in the deepening twilight, by the drawn, and agonized expression of his face. “We got out of it better than I expected. What is the matter?” he exclaimed, reining up in alarm.

“I’m hit,” faltered his cousin, now reeling in his saddle, and falling forward on his horse’s neck. “I can’t go any further; you must leave me here. Go on. Go on, I tell you!”

Miles, and a trooper, carried him carefully into the shelter of a big boulder, away from the track, and poured a few drops of “square face” down his throat (which fortunately the latter carried), and this revived him a little; for he opened his eyes, and looked at his cousin eagerly.

“You go on, Miles,” were the first words he faltered. “I’m hit here,” pointing to his chest, “and it’s all over with me. Go—I desire you never mind me—go, I implore you.”

The irregular horse, all but two, had already vanished, considering that it was best to live and fight another day, not unnaturally believing that now, behind every boulder or rock, lurked a score of Zulus; and to the two who still remained, Miles said—

“Gallop into camp as hard as you can lay legs to ground, and send out an ambulance and a doctor. Go; there’s no time to lose! I’ll stay here!”

“No, no,” interrupted his cousin, feebly; “you shall not. You would be mad—it means—death.”

“Nonsense, Teddy!” returned Miles, resolutely; “for what do you take me! Is it likely that I should leave you? There’s no fear; we shall be all right,” quoting unconsciously his own saying.

The two troopers needed no second bidding, but mounting at once, and setting spurs to their horses, were soon out of sight. So was the Murderer, who, unpicketed and loose, followed them with streaming reins and a delicious sense of freedom; and then the last little speck of dust disappeared over the hill, and Miles and Teddy were left alone, with the grey mists of evening creeping gradually round them. The former quickly removed Kitty’s peaked saddle, and made it a pillow for her dying master; he put his own coat over him, after vainly endeavouring to staunch his wound—it was a bullet in the chest, and bled internally.

“It’s no use, Miles!” he gasped faintly, with half-closed, glazing eyes. “I’m bound to go; but I can’t bear to think of your running this risk for me; when every donga may be full of those fellows, every bit of bush swarming with them.”

“There’s not a soul on the veldt but ourselves, Ted,” returned the other boldly; “don’t you be uneasy about it. The ambulance ought to be here in an hour and a half, and we will have you in camp in less than no time,” cheerfully. “You must not talk like this.”

“But I must—I have so little time. Say good-bye to all the fellows for me, and to Farrar, my chum; he took my duty to-day. Well, I’ll never pay him now!”

What could Miles reply? A horrible chill conviction that what Teddy said was true, was creeping over him. His failing, struggling breath, his feeble voice, all pointed to something more mortal than a severe wound.

“Don’t talk, Teddy, my dear boy,” he implored; “it’s the worst thing you can do.”

“Let me speak!” with a faint gesture; “I have so little time. I know I’m going,” he gasped, “and I won’t say I’m not sorry, for I am. She will never know now——” A pause of some seconds, and then he spoke again. “Give my love to Gus, and Flo, and Aunt Jane—yes, and,” with a visible effort, “Mrs. Brabazon—why should I bear her ill will now?—and Haidée—this will be hard on her,” catching his breath; “but she will marry you, Miles—I know it—tell her I said so. And you will take Kitty—poor Kitty—and be kind to her, for my sake. Kitty,” raising his failing voice, “come here; put down your head, old girl, and say good-bye.”

Low as he spoke, her eager ears heard his well-known call, and she came at once, and gently pushed her soft brown nose into his nerveless hand.

“You will send everything I have—it’s not much—to Haidée, and let me be buried as I am—in my uniform. I did not wear it long!”

“Oh, Teddy!” exclaimed his companion, in a broken voice, “you cannot give yourself up like this! What can I do for you? God knows how gladly I would give my life for yours! How could I go home without you? what could I say to Haidée? I dare not face her alone,” wiping his cousin’s damp forehead, chafing his hands and pouring the last few drops of spirits down his throat as he spoke. “Keep up; the ambulance, and the doctor, have surely left camp by this time! We ought to have them with us in less than an hour.”

“Yes—but I won’t be here—when they come—they—will be—too late. I’m glad you are with me, Miles—you who have been a brother to me—it’s not so very hard to die—after all. Where is your hand? Let me hold it—for I’m going to set out on a long, long journey—longer than we thought when I left camp this morning”—a pause, then a faint pressure of the hand, and a still fainter, almost inaudible whisper, saying, “Miles, are you there? Tell Haidée—it will be all right,” and this was the last word.

Vainly Miles spoke, and bent his ear to his cousin’s lips. Vainly he chafed Teddy’s hands, vainly he assured himself, that “he had only fainted.” There was no sound now—only a vast irresponsive silence. Thick black darkness had suddenly set in; the night was cold, the moments leaden. Miles himself was silent and motionless, exhausted from loss of blood. He strained his ears anxiously for coming hoofs, and welcome voices.There was no trampling of horsemen, but his practised sportsman’s keen sense of hearing caught another less re-assuring sound; the sound of many footsteps—stealthy, bare footsteps—stealing through the high grass close by.

There were great numbers, probably a portion of the impi they had already encountered, for this secret march lasted for a long time. The huge boulder sheltered him effectually, and they passed on in the darkness. The last tread at length died away, and those moments of throbbing suspense were tided over in safety.

When the end came, Miles never knew; gradually, gradually, the hand in his had relaxed its hold, had become first cool, then cold, then icy. He was dead. Teddy was dead. How strange, how unnatural it sounded to say, “Teddy is dead.” How was this to be told to Haidée? Haidée, whose whole heart was given to this favourite brother! How dark, and silent, and bitterly cold it was! The black sky above, the hard veldt beneath him, were whirling and reeling in one giddy circle, and he remembered no more.

Long afterwards, when a strong party arrived, with lights, and rugs, and restoratives, and an ambulance, a party comprising several officers, including Captain Gee, that little gentleman, for once in his life, became livid, freckles and all, when his quick eyes rested, as he first believed, on the two dead Brabazons, with the faithful brown charger keeping guard over them. On closer examination, it was discovered that Miles was only insensible from exposure and loss of blood; but the knitted cardigan and coat, of which he had deprived himself hours previously,—they covered a corpse.

*  *  *

Next morning, at daybreak, there was a military funeral, and Teddy was buried within a short distance of the camp. His cousin, pale as death itself, with his arm in a sling, walked alone behind the rude coffin, as chief mourner; and Kitty followed her master for the last time. The coffin was covered by a Union Jack, and carried by the men of Teddy’s regiment; not a few rough troopers, felt a very unusual tightness in the throat, when they heard the hard yellow, earth rattle down on the coffin of “Gentleman Brown.” The dead trooper was buried beside him. They lie on the spur of a hill, south of the Umvolosi; around them stretches a wide melancholy sea of waving grass; above their heads are two rude wooden crosses. No foot is likely to come that way; no voice, no sound, disturbs their repose;—there is nothing but a vast plain, an awful unbroken silence; nothing but two soldiers’ graves!

And Miles was as one who mourned for his brother; he was stunned. How painful was the gap in his life! How he missed the bright face, the cheery voice, that half a dozen times a day had been thrust into his tent; the face he had known but so recently, and yet had liked so well. How blank were rides and foraging parties now, when he was forced to say to himself, “last time we came here, it was with Teddy!”

He collected his belongings, which as he had said were few, and put them up with the aid of Teddy’s soldier servant (whose voice was husky, and who many times turned away to rub the back of his horny hand across his eyes). But there was one little box that Miles investigated alone: it contained two photographs of Haidée; a small, battered, brown prayerbook, presented by her ten years previously, in a straggling round hand. Between its leaves were two or three withered flowers; there was his watch, with a broken mainspring; a programme of the regimental tournament at York; and last, not least, carefully folded up in silver paper and an envelope, a tiny four-button woman’s glove, rather worn.

“It was not Haidée’s,” said Miles, as he turned it carefully over, with a lover’s critical discrimination. “It probably belonged to Teddy’s nameless sweetheart.”

He did not despatch it along with the other relics, for it told a tale, intelligible to him alone; it was not to be thrown away, this token that Teddy had treasured; no, he himself, would keep this little tan glove, belonging to a girl he had never seen, whose name he would never know; nor would she herself ever learn the fate of her mysterious, unavowed lover. He had died, and made no sign.

Miles took part in that fifty minutes’ battle at Ulundi, when a solid square of English kept the bold and reckless Zulus at bay by a deadly wall of fire; he was present at Amanzi Kanzie, and subsequently returned with the column to Natal.

Of course he was the owner of Kitty; having purchased her for one hundred and fifty pounds, a purchase which reduced his exchequer to a very low ebb; but he was resolved to have her at any price, and a feeling that he had the best right to her, restrained the Lancers from bidding, when their late brother officer’s scanty possessions were sold by the committee of adjustment.

She likes her present proprietor, in an ordinary everyday fashion, but he did not break her in in the riding school; he never fed her, groomed her, or taught her pretty tricks. Moreover, he is only a line officer, and she yearns to be alongside the ranks once more; she still starts and trembles with excitement, and every nerve quivers, and responds, to distant but familiar trumpet calls. Miles has but two blankets, and the nights are bitterly cold; but one of these blankets has been appropriated to the brown mare, and no matter how meagre and scanty his own fare may be, her daily supply of pounded mealies is ample. She is loaded with care, attention and caresses; for her new owner is as good as his word, and very “kind to Kitty.” Nevertheless, her heart still remains constant to that other master, who lies far away, on the bleak hill side, under the yellow, waving grass.

Chapter IV

Mr. Bell Brings Bad News

To Mr. Bell was sent the telegram announcing Teddy’s death, and it was with a heavy heart that he walked up to Baronsford that lovely June morning. He himself had been very fond of the family scapegrace, and his usually cheery, ruddy countenance, was downcast and looked graver, and less florid than usual. Everything around seemed out of keeping with the tidings of which he was the bearer. A bright blue sky, unclouded by even one tiny white fleece, busy bees roaming importantly to and fro, butterflies flickering and darting across his path, the air loaded with the sweet perfume of new mown hay, and birds singing in the bushes, as if they were holding a morning concert. True, one specially heartless thrush, balancing itself jauntily on the top of a holly bush, appeared to be cheerfully proclaiming, “Ted is dead! Ted is dead!” The hall door was, as usual, wide open, and Woggy lay upon the steps, yawning idly and widely in the sun. Who does not know the look of a hall in a large country house, where there are young people? Parasols (including the famous red one, now much faded), and hats, and gardening gloves lay on the table, tennis bats and shoes on yonder stand; an old oak bench was heaped with shawls and rugs, some flowers had been dropped in a kind of floral track, all the way from the entrance to the swing door; some merry voices were coming downstairs, and Mr. Bell, with eight words in his pocket, is going to turn this house of sunshine and laughter, into a house of gloom and mourning. The swing door flew back with a bang, and displayed Gussie, tennis bat in hand, a grotesque scarlet felt hat with embroidered sunflower on head, and petticoats as brief as usual, calling over her shoulder, “Hurry, hurry, Haidée, don’t be all day! Oh, Mr. Bell,” as she suddenly confronted him, “this is a piece of luck! the very man to make up a set at tennis,” she cried affectionately. “Come along at once, you shall be my partner. There’s going to be a tournament at the Clippertons’ to-morrow, and we want to get our hands well in.”

Well does Mr. Bell know that neither to-morrow, nor for many to-morrows, will there be tennis tournaments for them. His expression unconsciously conveys a reflection of his thoughts; his round merry countenance looks grave, his twinkling, frank, blue eyes, dim and misty.

Connie, who had seen that there was something wrong at the very first glance, darted towards him, with a white startled face, and said quickly “It’s not one of the boys, is it?”

“No,” he returned, averting his glance and shaking his head emphatically.

“Then it is Teddy!” cried Haidée, with livid lips, having but that moment come upon the scene. “It is, it is! I see it in your face, Mr. Bell. He has been wounded! I’m sure he has,” with sudden conviction, seizing the rector by the arm as she spoke. “Oh,” in a voice of con centrated anguish, “do not be afraid to tell me the worst! I can bear it, I can indeed. I have a right to know first,” interposing herself between him and the drawing-room door. Is he badly wounded?”

“I must see Mrs. Brabazon,” he returned huskily, pushing her aside with assumed brusqueness, and shaking off her detaining hand with a gesture of decision. For once he was glad and thankful to seek sanctuary with the head of the house in her own apartment, and to shut out that girl’s agonised white face. What news was he telling Mrs. Brabazon behind that fast shut door? The three he had left outside stood in the hall in a torture of suspense, that petrified the power of speech, but their eyes asked each other the fatal question, “Who was it?” the boys were safe, Connie felt with a blessed thrill of relief; but Teddy—Florian—Miles—Jimmy Vashon!

Alas! they would know soon enough! Within half-an-hour, not only they—the household—but Miss Jane, and the entire village, had heard the bad news, that neither as private nor officer, would any of them again see Edward Brabazon, never again would his hearty laugh, and constant, if somewhat tuneless whistle, be heard about the Maxton lanes, never again would he “wipe a sportsman’s eye” out partridge shooting, or pound the field with the harriers, on a four-year-old colt. This time, the blinds were pulled down in earnest for poor Teddy.

*  *  *

Would any one have believed that Mrs. Brabazon would have wept, and wailed, and “carried on,” to quote the servants, as she had done? That she would set up handkerchiefs with portentous black borders to meet the emergency? That whilst Gussie was almost unrecognizable from crying, Haidée had never shed one tear? She refused to credit it; she went dry eyed, and stony faced, about the house, with an air of ghastly composure, very quiet, very pale, and unnaturally calm. It was useless for the others to whisper that they “wished she would cry,” that she might find the blessed relief of tears (she whose tears had always been so easily provoked). It was useless, she could not. “I cannot believe it,” she said to her sister. “Why should he be taken among hundreds? Even if he were, I don’t think I would mind it, my heart seems like a stone, I seem to have no feeling about anything now.” Gussie was very sorry for Teddy in her own way; indeed, quite as sorry as she could be for any one. She had meant to have been so good to him when he came home, have had him to stay in her smart London house, and visions of her handsome Lancer brother adorning her little receptions, had floated more than once through her brain; but now there was an end to all this, and really she was very, very sorry. How abominably trying mourning was to her, she told herself, frankly. She looked hideous in black, deep black! and just as she was getting her trousseau, too, it was unlucky. Flo was, for him, positively demonstrative; he ordered himself a suit of black, “for a near relation” he told his tailor. He put the following notice in the paper: “Killed near the Umvolosi River, South Africa, Edward Brabazon, Lieutenant, Prince’s Lancers, aged twenty-four, deeply regretted.”

And he talked a good deal to the fellows in the club about “My poor brother,” till any one would have imagined that they had been the most devoted of relations; in fact, Florian had now persuaded himself that he had been very fond of Teddy.

One morning, about three weeks after the arrival of the telegram, Mrs. Brabazon, in distributing the contents of the postbag, drew out an envelope covered with foreign stamps, a travel-soiled envelope, and handed it to Haidée hesitatingly. Those who were present will never forget her half sobbing, breathless cry, of boundless relief, of too painful happiness, as she snatched it, exclaiming—

“A letter from Teddy!! Yes,” she gasped, “in his own handwriting. Oh, Gussie! Mrs. Brabazon! Flo!” looking round the table with eyes that were now drowned in tears. “I always knew it was a mistake—he was not dead—see,” tearing it open with trembling fingers, “here is proof!” and she began to devour the lines before her, as well as she could see through her tears, which were falling over the paper now like rain.

Poor Haidée! She did not understand that the hand that traced the lines before her was stiff and cold now, and that where a letter took five weeks to travel, a telegram could come in five hours, and this is what she was reading with palpitating heart and swimming eyes:

“Dear Haidée,

“I’ve not had a line from you for ages and ages. This sort of thing won’t do, you know. ‘Most unaccountable!’ I’ve been expecting your letter of congratulation on promotion. I’m now, as I hope you are aware, a lieutenant, and Kitty is an officer’s charger, promoted too. I’ve heard the whole account of your—what shall I call it? (It was the girl he left behind him with a vengeance) from Miles himself. The Marchers are in our column. I met him first quite accidentally one night on picket, when I was carrying despatches to their camp. He did not know who I really was from Adam, but I had it out with him next morning, and you never saw a fellow so taken aback, or so cut up in your life. He never speaks of the business now, nor you. I believe he imagines you will never forgive him, and is awfully down in the mouth; but you must, Haidée, for I’ve gone security for you. It was all my fault from first to last, as you and I know. If I had imagined he would have cut up so frightfully rough, or twigged you that day at Portsmouth, I would have let him into the secret, the moment he landed in the country. However, the money is gone, and there’s no help for spilt milk; but you stick to him, for he’s a rattling good fellow, the more I see him the better I like him. I’ll dance at your wedding yet. I mean to bring you home a Zulu lady’s full costume as a wedding present. We are within a few marches of Ulundi, and expect to have a rare good ‘shake up’ with old C. very shortly. We have a fine large force here, and I fancy it will be all right. Zululand is not much of a place to look at; there’s not a profusion of what you would call ‘scenery,’ and once the war is over I shan’t fret if I never see it again. Long monotonous plains, the dry beds of rivers, and an extra powerful sun.

Kitty looks rather tucked up, but is fit enough; forage is bad, and scarce, and dear. If things don’t mend, I shall have to buy her a pair of green spectacles, and feed her on shavings. Love to Guss, I’m glad she’s going to marry Vashon, he is a good little chap, and beauty is only skin deep!

“N.B. I shall expect him to mount me with the Byford hounds next winter.

“Ever your affectionate brother,

“T. Brabazon.

“P.S. Don’t you worry yourself about me, old lady, campaigning suits me down to the ground; I never was better in my life.”

*  *  *

Who was to open her eyes? Who was to point to the date? Not Gussie, not Flo. They hurried from the breakfast table, on various shallow pretexts, and left her alone, with this letter from the dead.

She took it down to Miss Jane, and she it was who, with faltering voice and many tears—and it is a sad and an unusual thing to see an old woman weep, they have mostly outlived all outward emotions—made her niece to understand, and realize, the truth; made her renounce this desperate clinging to a straw; made her quench hope, and embrace despair.

Poor Miss Jane had felt her nephew’s death acutely; more than any one would have believed. The few days he had spent with her, had entirely reinstated him in her good graces. She liked him for himself; he was gentler, more considerate, and more manly, than the old troublesome Teddy; and he evoked a memory which endeared him to her especially, for he seemed to link old memories of the past, to realities of the present! A memory, notably, of a smart young officer of Light Dragoons, whose presence he recalled by his soldierly figure, his clanking spurs, his off-hand manners, and his handsome face. This officer’s epistles (on large letter paper, written in faded ink), were treasured up, along with a miniature, in the most secret recesses of Miss Jane’s bureau; also a lock of brown hair, the very selfsame shade as Teddy’s. The smart young Dragoon might have been a burly, stout, red-faced squire by this time, discussing shorthorns and turnips, addicted to snubbing his wife, squabbling with his brother magistrates, and grinding down his tenants, had he lived. But he had not; he had died, sabre in hand, on a far away Sikh battle field, and a halo of romance, and regret, for ever enshrined his memory.

Now, in Miss Jane’s heart, Teddy and her dead lover are bracketed together, and she grieves for her nephew—deeply and sincerely—in her own way. She is very white and quiet, and feebler than she used to be, and having caught a bad cold, is obliged to keep her room; and there she sits in a high chair, near the chimney corner, Lady Louisa curled up at her feet, her Bible, and salts, and key basket, on a little table at her elbow, staring meditatively into the coals, and asking herself, Why the young should be taken, and the old left?”

*  *  *

Time works wonders. Who can stand against him? Haidée has bowed to fate at last. She has even, in a way, become reconciled to Teddy’s death.

She can speak of it now, quite calmly; for have not three months elapsed, since the day of that fatal foray. Strange that as yet no letter has come from Captain Brabazon! she is ashamed to betray the longing with which she awaits it. Her dead brother is a bond between them. Did not Teddy die in Miles’s arms, with him alone beside him? She makes every excuse that a fertile brain can contrive, for this unlooked-for silence. How eagerly does she scan the mail news. How early she is down the morning the South African post is due, and she is always disappointed. Even ruthless Mrs. Brabazon herself feels a little pang of remorse, as, in answer to an unspoken appeal, she says with a smile, “Nothing for you, my dear, this morning,” and then there is another long week to get through; “but it will come, it will surely come,” she tells herself bravely. There are so many things that may have happened. The mails may have been lost, stolen, or seized by Zulus. The camp may be now beyond postal communication. She reads with blanched cheeks of the battle of Ulundi. Miles was there; but Miles is safe, his name is not among the killed or wounded. Still he may—be ill. And thus with thoughts and speculations, of a more or less gloomy complexion, does she torture herself through seven days longer.

*  *  *

The house is full of a subdued but busy bustle, for Gussie is going to be married. “It is to be a very quiet wedding,” she tells everybody apologetically; and “Jim is so anxious to be back for the cub hunting.” The trousseau is magnificent, though many of the dresses are of a mourning type—pretty lavenders, and greys, and black and white fabrics, and the presents are numerous and costly,—as has been previously hinted. The wedding takes place, without the smallest hitch in the programme, one lovely September morning. There was no waiting bride, no missing bridegroom, this time. Mr. Vashon, looking very red, very plain, and very nervous, was awaiting his extremely self-possessed little bride for fully a quarter of an hour. She came at last, escorted by Flo, and followed by Haidée, who was nearly as white as her dress. Haidée, who should have stood at that altar herself, just one year ago. Her face was thin, haggard, and woe-begone; her eyes had lost their brilliancy, there were dark marks under them, and her lovely colour had entirely faded from her cheeks. Truly, people were beginning to whisper, that the beautiful Miss Brabazon was now a positive wreck, and almost plain—being nothing more than a very thin, pale, dejected-looking girl! Augusta made a charming bride (though she was married in her bonnet and travelling dress), and beamed and smiled graciously on all her friends, as she walked down the aisle, on her bridegroom’s arm. She drove away from the church to Byford, and travelled by the mail up to London. Mr. Vashon, who had a shrinking horror of being recognized as a bridegroom, indignantly rejected the coupé which was tendered by an obsequious guard, and plunged, along with his Augusta, into a Pullman’s car full of other passengers. Alas, poor ostrich! little did your offhand manner, or a newspaper, avail you! At the next station, the beaming Miss Clippertons were in waiting, with an enormous white bridal bouquet. Gussie saw them eagerly searching the carriages, and shuddered; she closed her eyes, to shut out, if possible, what was coming. It was this: Hatty Clipperton’s smiling face (and the bouquet) at the window, saying, “Oh, there you are, Mrs. Vashon! We brought you this bouquet with our best, best wishes. Be sure you send us a piece of cake!”

Over Mr. Vashon’s face, and the faces of his fellow travellers, permit us to drop a kindly veil.

Chapter V

Because of Miles

What does this picture convey to the mind of even the most obtuse in such matters? The scene before us represents a dull December afternoon, a leaden grey sky, brown hedges, bare trees, and a damp country lane. The only bit of colour in the landscape is the scarlet coat of the young gentleman, who, in splashed top boots and leathers, is standing at the side of the road, with his horse’s bridle over his arm, whilst with the other, he endeavours to seize the hand of a tall girl in black, whose face is turned away in an opposite direction. The horse (unknowing of his master’s critical position) is stretching his neck to its fullest extent, and endeavouring to nibble at the scanty grass along the hedgerow, and a white dog is sitting on a tussock, shivering ostentatiously, and with a “martyr to circumstances” air about him, as he glowers at the young people who are thus curtailing his precious afternoon run.

Emboldened by a wedding in the family, Mr. Hepburn thought that surely he might now come forward and urge his suit, his courage permitting! He was very much in love, and had more than once been on the point of asking the all-important question, when his nerve failed him; and all the way home subsequently, and until the next occasion when he met the object of his adoration, he would rate himself soundly for his cowardice, and pass valiant new resolutions “to do better next time!” But Miss Haidée was so unaffected, so downright—shall we say, so brusque?—so ready to accept him as a friend, and she looked him in the face so frankly and yet so innocently, with her dark blue eyes, that his tongue remained tied. This particular afternoon, fate had favoured him. He was returning from hunting in an unusually elated frame of mind, whistling “Drink, puppy, drink,” when, turning the corner of a road, he suddenly came upon a girl in mourning, accompanied by a well-known white terrier. Now was his time. Now or never! he said to himself, imperatively, and trotting hastily forward before his courage had time to cool, he jumped off his horse, and accosted her warmly.

She looked (as she always did), pleased to see him, and questioned him eagerly about the run, etc., about the people who were out; but he quickly cut short all her queries, by an abrupt question of his own.

“Never mind the hunt now! I want to ask you something,” he said, be coming exceedingly red and miserable looking, “and I’m shot if I know how to put it. Do you know why I have been so much over at your place lately?” beating his boot with his hunting crop as he spoke.

“Oh, yes,” she replied, unhesitatingly. “Of course I do,” her mind at once recurring to his friendship for Teddy, and his sympathy in their trouble. “Of course I know; and it has been very kind of you.”

Mr. Hepburn stared at her in silence for nearly a minute, and then said, “I don’t believe you understand what I mean; though I think you might have noticed it,” aggrievedly. “I’ve been going to see you all along, and no one else. The more I see of you, the more I like you. And—and—and—my father and mother and I—want to know—if you will marry me. I’m not a bad fellow, and I’m awfully fond of you.”

It was now Haidée’s turn to gaze at him, in blank amazement. “Don’t talk to me in this way,” she said impatiently. “You are making fun; you are not in earnest, surely.”

“By George, I should think I was in earnest! And I hope you like me, even a little—Haidée,” venturing her name rather shyly.

“I do, I always did, as Teddy’s friend, but now—now—you have spoiled it all!” tearfully.

“Can’t you like me, as something more than a friend of Teddy’s?” appealing to her with a wistful face, and endeavouring to possess himself of her hand.

“No; I can be nothing more than a friend to you,—always,” she replied, ignoring his hand, and stepping back two paces, perilously near the edge of the ditch.

“And why? why? Tell me the reason.”

“You know the reason,” she returned, now averting her face, which had borrowed its complexion from his scarlet coat. “You have heard,” she proceeded, in a still lower voice, “of my cousin Miles.”

“Yes, but I don’t mind a bit!” very eagerly, and quite misunderstanding her meaning. “He treated you vilely. He was a confounded——”

“Stop, stop, before you say anything more,” cried Haidée, “and listen to what I have to tell you.” And thereupon, with rapid, almost incoherent utterances, and faltering breathless sentences, she told the whole story of Teddy’s secret and of Miles’s mistake—a tale which the young man beside her heard, with sinking heart, and remarkable and various changes of countenance. When she brought her story to a close, he put this one abrupt and crucial question—

“And you like him still?”

Yes,” in a very low voice.

“And would marry him after all?” “Yes,” in a whisper.

“Then there is no more to be said,” giving his innocent horse an angry chuck of the bridle. “Of course, if I had known, I wouldn’t have made such an awful fool of myself,” turning away with ill-assumed dignity.

“You are angry with me,” said Haidée, timidly, “and I don’t know what I am to say to you,” detaining him by a gesture. “If I had had any idea of this, of course I would have told you; but I never dreamt of it, and now I suppose,” with trembling lips, “you will hate me, and never be friends with me again?”

Mr. Hepburn was very much cut up; but at the same time he had a soft heart, and to see a very pretty girl, with large tears in her eyes, deploring the loss of his friendship, considerably cooled his indignation, and he hastened to assure her that when he had got over it a bit, he would still be her friend. Of course it was a facer! But he was not such a dog in the manger, as to grudge the other fellow what he could not have himself.

“I don’t understand it, you know, not a bit; for Mrs. Brabazon told the mater that you never had cared a straw for him, nor he for you,” impressively. “It was all a mere question of money; and you know, Haidée, I can give you heaps of that. The governor said he’d let us start with five thousand a year. He is very much taken with you himself——”

“I don’t care for money,” said the young lady hastily. “Mrs. Brabazon was quite wrong,” indignantly. “I was not going to marry Miles for money, nor he me; and I would be proud to marry him without a shilling!”

“And live on love,” suggested Mr. Hepburn, whose heart was still very sore indeed, and could not refrain from this one gibe.

Haidée coloured painfully, and was about to make some angry retort when he added—

“Forgive me. I could not help it. I envy that Miles of yours. He is a lucky fellow! It’s not every pretty girl in these days, that says she doesn’t care for thousands a year, and will take a chap without a penny! Well,” with one foot now in the stirrup, holding out his hand, good-bye,” wringing her fingers in a vice-like grasp. “What can’t be cured must be endured,” taking off his hat to her as he uttered this truism; and in another moment, he was trotting away down the road on his brown hunter, leaving Haidée and Woggy vis-à-vis and alone.

She stood for some seconds on the same spot, trying to recall the late interview and compose her mind, before she too set out towards home. It was very tiresome and provoking, and she was very sorry for Mr. Hepburn, but she never cast a thought to the thousands a year, the two large country places, and the splendid parure of family diamonds she had unhesitatingly rejected within the last ten minutes; nor did she speculate for an instant, on what Mrs. Brabazon would say or do if particulars of Mr. Hepburn’s dismissal came to her ambitious ears.

But there are some things cannot be hid, especially from a lynx-eyed lady such as Mrs. Brabazon. Mr. Hepburn’s infatuation for her step-daughter was one of them. She was seriously alarmed about a week later, to casually overhear at an afternoon tea that “young Hepburn had sent his hunters up to Tattersall’s, and was going abroad immediately, to Nice, or Monte Carlo.” What did it mean? Had he proposed, or not? She must see Haidée about it at once, and her mind was in a perfect ferment of impatience till she reached home, and ere she had even removed her bonnet she rang for Nokes to send Miss Brabazon to her in her own room as soon as possible. This was an unusual place for audiences. However, Haidée was soon on the spot, and discovered her step-mother seated on an ottoman, at the foot of the bed, her bonnet strings unfastened and thrown over her shoulders, her cloak open, one hand on either knee (it was not a graceful attitude, but it was decidedly magisterial).

“Shut the door,” she said, the instant her step-daughter appeared, “and come over here. I wish to speak to you.”

Haidée obeyed both instructions with a sinking heart. These private “speakings” with Mrs. Brabazon, had a bad reputation in the family, and were looked upon with no favour by any one, from Haidée down to the scullery maid.

“I want to ask you a question,” she proceeded, looking fixedly at her stepdaughter, who had taken a seat at some distance, with her hands locked in her lap and with a rather white and frightened face. “I heard to-day that young Hepburn had suddenly sent all his hunters up to Tattersall’s, and gone abroad. Perhaps you,” leaning her body forward as she spoke, “know what it means. Can you tell me the reason of this unaccountable conduct?”

“I? I, Mrs. Brabazon?” stammered Haidée faintly. “Why should you ask me?”

“Come, come, this fencing is no use, impatiently. “The man was head over ears in love with you. Is it possible? Is it possible that he has gone away without speaking?” she asked in a tone of resentful wonder.

To this she received no answer. Haidée sat quite still, her eyes glued to one particular pattern in the carpet, and made no reply. However, she had become extremely and painfully red.

“He proposed for you, I see. And when?” demanded Mrs. Brabazon authoritatively

“Last week,” returned Haidée, in a low voice, not daring to raise her eyes.

“And what did you say, might I be permitted to ask? ” proceeded Mrs. Brabazon in convulsive tones.

“I said—no!” replied Haidée, scarcely daring to speak above her breath.

“You said no?” almost screamed her step-mother, now rising to her feet. “Said no, to the heir to twenty-five thousand a year, to the finest emeralds in England! Oh!” casting her bonnet on the bed with such furious impetus that it rolled off it at the other side, “I can’t believe it. You could not—not be so wicked. It is impossible.”

To this harangue Haidée made no reply, evidently she had been quite capable of this outrageous deed. After some glaring at her down-faced companion for seconds, Mrs. Brabazon said, hoarsely—

“I should like to know what you said to him, and why you refused him; in fact, I insist upon hearing your reason,” demanded the lady with a lurid gaze.

Visions of her beautiful castle in the air, her step-daughter’s high position in the county, and her own increased importance, were now dispersing like mists before the sun.

“Your reason, miss, at once,” with an imperious gesture.

“My reason was,” returned Haidée, tremulously, “was—was—because of Miles!”

“Because of Miles! Forsooth, and a pretty reason! Do you mean to say, you would hold to your engagement still, and marry him if he would have you, you idiot?”

“I would,” rejoined the victim firmly, raising her eyes now for the first time.

“And what would you say if Miles would not have anything to do with you? What would you say if you were told that now the money was gone, Miles was not such a fool as to marry a girl without a penny? What would you say if Miles broke off the match?”

“I would simply say nothing, for I would not believe it,” returned Haidée, also rising, and casting a tall pale reflection into a mirror, in an opposite wardrobe.

“I suppose if you saw it in his own handwriting, you would believe it? Seeing is believing. Will that convince you?” dragging open as she spoke a drawer, and hastily hunting for something.

“Here!” tendering a thin foreign letter, “perhaps this will convince you! Take it with you, and go!” waving her step-daughter out of the apartment, and immediately afterwards giving the bell a passionate pull, and summoning Nokes, to bring her a glass of sherry, wherewith to restore her own shattered nerves.

Chapter VI

Most Unaccountable

It is unnecessary to state that Haidée lost no time in hurrying upstairs, with the letter in her hand. She did not go straight to her own room, but sat down in a big, wide window seat in the landing, where there was plenty of light, and where no one was likely to disturb her; and with throbbing heart, and trembling fingers, drew the following note from its envelope, unfolded it, held it close to the little diamond panes, and read:

“Dear Mrs. Brabazon,

“Your letter received, I have debated with myself for some time, and have come to the conclusion that your views on the subject of the engagement between Haidée and me are quite right, and that there must be an end to everything between us. I am, as you say, miserably poor. I have no prospects, and I am the last man in the world to ask any sacrifice from a girl I cared for. You may rely upon me not to write to her, nor seek to renew the “ties,” as you call them, in any way. Some richer, and some luckier fellow, will no doubt take my place before long.

“I remain,
“Yours truly,

“Miles Brabazon.”

Haidée read this through twice, the first time very quickly, the second time very slowly, before she could realize what it meant; and then, leaning her head against the window pane, she closed her eyes and tried to understand that Miles, of his own accord, and of his own free will, had renounced her; that some other luckier and richer fellow than himself was welcome to take his place!

Miles that she had believed in; Miles that was Teddy’s friend; that had pretended to have loved her with all his heart and soul; Miles—without a word of regret, in half a dozen cool lines, written in a steady unfaltering hand, and containing no message for her, of either friendship or concern—had calmly broken off their engagement, and renounced her! The blow was so unexpected, the revulsion of feeling so hideous, and so overwhelming, that she felt quite stunned; her one dim ray of hope was extinguished, her golden dreams turned in an instant into thick, black, dark despair. What had she left to live for now? Nothing but a dreary blank life, stretched out before her. Teddy was gone, and Miles was gone! And she had been building vast castles in the air, all based on his return. Now when he did return, his return would no longer concern her; he was nothing to her, nor she to him! How Mrs. Brabazon would jeer! How Gussie would triumph! The thought was maddening; but all the thoughts that came crowding to her brain were almost equally painful. The idea that Miles had been acting a part, had only cared for the money and not her, was the most stinging and humiliating of all! Once he had led her to think very differently; but whatever he said then, there was no doubt of his sentiments now. He was prudent; he did not wish to put any rash temptations in the way of fate; or to venture the rôle of a poor married man. She would have been willing enough to accept poverty, and him, she told herself with a sense of burning shame; but he declined the reckless experiment! How long she sat there in the dusk, her head leaning against the window panes, the letter mechanically clutched in her hand, she never knew—for two or three hours, at least; hours that gave her time to turn her over-wrought feelings into a channel of sober self-restraint, hours that enabled her to cast out the shattered remains of her idol from its shrine, to sweep up the ruins, and to lock the door on a, so to speak, empty heart.

The dinner gong’s sonorous “boom,” made her start back to present realities. She rushed to her room, having no time to change her dress, but merely bathing her face and re-arranging her tumbled hair, she hurried downstairs, resolved to impose an impassive front to Mrs. Brabazon’s all-watchful eye—an eye that devoured her step-daughter, as she seated herself at table with a low apology; an eye that said great things, as she deliberately ladled out the soup; an orb that never spared her miserable companion one glance, but that kept saying, “I told you so! I told you so,” each time she happened to encounter its hard metallic stare.

After dinner, when they were alone in the large empty drawing-room, with its silent shadowy corners, seated near the fire, one at either side, each with a book, and each with a lamp, Mrs. Brabazon could restrain herself no longer. She glanced over at the bent brown head across the hearth-rug, cleared her throat, laid a new novel upside down on her lap, indifferent to its poor back (for was it not that mere nobody’s child, a library book), and said one word, a word that meant a good deal, it was a kind of conversational rocket, the prelude to action, the word “Well? ” a well that was at once interrogative, triumphant, and authoritative.

Haidée raisedher eyes, and met her step-mother’s derisive malevolent smile, a smile that she felt like a stinging lash; her step-mother’s face alight with triumph, and athirst for information. She did not speak, but she looked across the hearth without lowering her lashes, or a change of colour.

“Well,” repeated Mrs. Brabazon, reiterating the word in a still louder, more aggressive key.

Oh, how Haidée dreaded the coming discussion!

“What is it that you wish to know, Mrs. Brabazon?”

“I wish to know your opinion of Miles Brabazon now,” she returned promptly. “His letter was to the point, was it not?” watching her companion closely.

“Very much so,” replied Haidéo quietly. My opinion of him——”

“Your opinion of him?” eagerly.

“I shall keep to myself. We are never likely to meet again. All is over between us, as he says; and if it is quite the same to you, we will never recur to the subject. I was mistaken—we are all liable to make mistakes—that was all!” As Haidée said this, her face was ashen white, tears stood in her eyes, and her lips, do as she would, trembled with emotion.

“You see, you might just as well have accepted Craven Hepburn, after all,” observed Mrs. Brabazon impressively.

“I do not see that it makes any difference. I do not care for Mr. Hepburn,” returned Haidée firmly, “excepting as a friend, and nothing would ever make me marry him. I shall never marry any one now. Her voice as she spoke was quick and low.

Mrs. Brabazon immediately draped herself, as it were, in a garment of obtrusive incredulity, smiled, poked the fire, coughed, turned up her lamp, and then remarked oratorically—

“Every girl who has had a disappointment says the same thing; but if I am not greatly mistaken, they generally change their minds within six weeks or so, and marry, making very often a far better match, just to show the young man that they think very little about him.”

Having thrown out this suggestion to her opposite neighbour, Mrs. Brabazon picked up her book, and was soon lost to her immediate surroundings, in the perusal of an exciting and romantic love story.

The next day Haidée walked down to the village, and registered and posted a small parcel for South Africa; with her own hands she dropped it into the depths of the letter-box. It was not every day the Maxton correspondence had such valuable companions as two diamond earrings, a brooch, and ring, all of the first water, and all bought with the price of three Burmese race ponies. Haidée had never worn them since that fatal day last September; but she had often taken them out of their cases, and looked at them affectionately; this, when she believed in their donor; now she returned them to him without a line. “Probably,” she said to herself bitterly, “he will give them to another girl. Some girl with money; she will never know, that they are not new!”

Haidée made a successful struggle to keep up appearances and to show a brave front. She never flinched, never relinquished the strong hold on her self-command, and assumed a certain amount of unconsciousness and gaiety, that baffled Mrs. Brabazon, and deluded Miss Jane. She was a modern Spartan girl, and was outwardly busy in the village, active in the house, smiling and cheerful, inwardly wearing her heart out with aching recollections, a bitter sense of humiliation, and vague unavailing regrets. Pride (which sometimes comes after a fall) came to her assistance, and enabled her to bear up nobly in public, to present a cool, natural, self-possessed appearance to the inquiring optics of Mrs. Brabazon, and the kindly, but curious and puzzled ones of Miss Jane, who one day suddenly made up her mind, that she would “speak to Haidée quite seriously,” and opportunity, for once, trod upon the heels of resolve, for at that very moment her niece walked into her sitting-room, charged with a message from a sick pensioner, and with Woggy in her wake.

“Haidée, my dear! dear! You are the very person I want; I have just been thinking of you,” said her aunt, taking off her glasses, and holding up her cheek for its accustomed salute. “Thinking of you and Miles.”

Haidée coloured vividly, and sat down with her back to the light, and then said indifferently, as she chased Woggy under the sofa with her umbrella—“What is it, Aunt Jane? I suppose you know?

“Know? I know nothing, my dear; and I want to know everything,” she returned emphatically.

“You have not heard, then, that he has written?” said her niece in a hard strange voice, as if she were repeating a well-learned but difficult lesson. “And it is all entirely at an end between us, there is no engagement now.”

“Bless my heart!” ejaculated Miss Jane, in a tone of breathless amazement, dropping her knitting as she spoke. “Tut, tut, tut, Haidée. I thought better of you. Come now—now—I really thought better of you—nay, I think better of you! You are not going to punish him always for his unlucky mistake. Come over here and sit beside me, my dear, and tell me all about it, there’s a good girl,” patting a chair invitingly, “and never mind my knitting, what does it matter?”

“But I must mind your knitting—see, you have dropped a needle,” taking the proffered place, and busying herself very earnestly over the stocking in her hand.

“Now, do leave it alone, Haidée,” exclaimed her aunt impatiently, “and just tell me the truth—at once.”

“The truth is, then, Aunt Jane, and I suppose you ought to know,” gulping down a huge lump in her throat as she spoke, “that it was not I who broke off the engagement—it was Miles.”

“What? What do you say?” said Miss Jane, in a low and horrified tone of voice. “It is impossible.”

“It is quite true, Aunt Jane, and if you wish you may see his letter, nothing can be—plainer.”

“His letter breaking it off! I can’t believe it! He must be mad. Most extraordinary! most unaccountable!” getting up and commencing to pace the room, a sure sign of intense mental excitement. “I had been always looking forward to his coming home, some day, and our having a grand wedding after all! What does he say? What does he mean? Miles is a man of honour. You have done something, Haidée? What?”

“He says—he says,” bringing out the words reluctantly, “that he is poor, and has no prospects—in short, he would have no money, and—and—he hopes some richer and luckier fellow will take his place,” she concluded, her lips quivering; she was looking at her aunt, through a mist of unshed tears.

“But this is monstrous!” exclaimed the old lady, suddenly pausing in her walk and surveying her niece fiercely, “and you—you—are taking it so coolly—so—so—so unnaturally. Oh, you young people of the present day have no feeling; but I can tell you that it’s a dreadful blow to me,” aggrievedly, “a dreadful blow. Iwould not have believed it of Miles. And as to the money, if I had only known,’ recommencing her walk, and dropping short incoherent sentences about—“No use to me, now Teddy’s gone. The two I liked. Rich,—old,—childless—woman. Too late now!”

Haidée gazed at her aunt helplessly, as she took up her dropped stitches, and wondered much, that she had taken her news so painfully to heart.

“I am very greatly upset, Haidée. I don’t know when I’ve heard anything that has put me out so much!”

“Then please don’t talk of it any more, Aunt Jane,” said Haidée, rising and speaking with strange composure. “Come out into the garden, and show me your new crocuses; we have none out yet. I’ll fetch your bonnet and shawl from the lobby; it will do you good to take a turn.”

“I do declare, Haidée,” said the old lady irritably, as her niece tied her bonnet strings carefully, with a pale, tranquil, enigmatic face, “you are a most unaccountable girl! You young people of the present day are queer, and indeed,” now taking her arm as they went slowly down the steps into Miss Jane’s model garden, with its wonderful clipped yew hedges, “maybe it is just as well. Why, if such things had happened to me when I was young as have happened to you—this postponed marriage and wicked fickleness—it would have gone nigh to breaking my heart.”

It was just as well that she did not happen to glance at her niece’s face at that moment. Perhaps her brimming eyes and trembling lips, would have told a tale, that would have made her regret her speech for many a day.

“And I should have liked it so much!” she proceeded querulously. “I know I’m a foolish, sentimental, old woman, but you and Miles were just a pair, to my mind; one dark and the other fair, at least you have a fair skin; both young and tall and handsome, and both in love with each other as I thought. On, dear, do you remember the night you tried on your wedding dress? and it’s all at an end, all over; and now I suppose—pausing and sighing heavily.

“What do you suppose, auntie?” inquired her companion with cheerful interrogation.

“Just that you will marry Craven Hepburn! Of course he is rich, and he is of good family, but,” regretfully, “it will never be the same to me.”

“Never fear, Aunt Jane, I’ve made up my mind, after my present experience, to one thing: I shall never marry—never! I’ll be single all my life, like you. I’m sure it is the best lot after all. You, at any rate, are very happy.”

“Yes, my dear, in a way, but it’s not a life I would wish for, for you; and I could not help myself. I had a lover once, too, as you may have heard; he was in the Light Dragoons. Aye, it’s an ancient story now; it’s enough to make you laugh, isn’t it, to hear an old woman like me talking of her lover; but I had one once. He was something like Teddy, and he was killed too, killed in a charge on an Indian battle-field, so many, many years ago, that every one has forgotten him now, except me. I was only twenty-two then. I never cared for any one again. I think my heart was buried out there, and now I’m going down to my grave a lonely old maid, though,” with a sudden touch of feminine pride, “that part of it was my own fault—my own fault. I never cared for but one—and—he died.”

Haidée gently pressed her aunt’s arm, in token of secret sympathy, but made no other comment. It was a curious sight to see these two—the bent and now infirm old lady, and the tall, slight, upright girl—slowly pacing the gravel walks, arm in arm, in silence. They represented the rising and waning generations, with more than forty years between them; and yet one chord vibrated alike in both their hearts, one identical topic filled their minds—Love. And although, in the case of the elder lady, it was but an old, faded, forgotten story, seen pale and faint through the “moonlight of memory,” and in the case of the other it was a dreadful, glaring, recent reality that pictured itself in her unhappy mind,—a fellow feeling united the aunt and niece in a manner that each was sensible of, in her inmost soul. Miss Jane now began to understand Haidée, and to put another interpretation on her studied, placid mien. She was not really cold, and callous as she seemed. She felt Miles’s defection just as she would have felt such a thing herself; sensitively, yet secretly, and the good lady’s anger burned hot within her, as she reflected on her nephew’s conduct; and as she stood on her door-steps, spectacles on nose, and gravely watched her favourite niece out through the little white gate, she muttered thrice to herself and Lady Louisa, “Most unaccountable, most unaccountable, most unaccountable!”

Chapter VII


The lives of some families are like a pool, in which (without being exactly stagnant) nothing occurs to ruffle the surface of the water from year’s end to year’s end, and then there comes a quick series of tremendous splashes, like naughty boys throwing stones! As regards the Brabazons, Teddy’s enlistment was splash number one, which was followed by Haidée’s legacy, her disastrous engagement, Augusta’s marriage, and now it remained only for Florian to make some small stir,—and this he accomplished in the following manner.

He arrived, quite unexpectedly, in time for dinner one day. Never before had he favoured his home in the bleak month of March, and Haidée said to him, half playfully, as she helped him off with his top-coat, “To what are we indebted for the honour of this visit, London’s Pride? What has brought you?”

“I will tell you, after the missus has gone to bed,” he returned impressively. “I shall go up, and come down again in a smoking-jacket; after she has retired we will have a talk.”

“Why, what can it be?” staring at him speculatively.

“You’ll hear soon enough, my good girl,” nodding his head expressively. “Have patience!”

So after Mrs. Brabazon had gone to roost, as he expressed it, the young people took possession of two arm-chairs in front of a fine fire in the drawing-room, and Florian actually drew out and lit a cheroot!

“For mercy sake, Flo,” exclaimed his sister, in a horrified tone, “don’t smoke here! What are you thinking of?”

“It doesn’t matter! I may just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb!” he replied lazily, planting one foot against the mantel-piece, and puffing away quite serenely. “I say, we shall want new curtains and carpet and chair-covers, and I think I’ll hunt all the ancestors up into the lumber-room—eh? We’ve improved on that style, haven’t we? Our ancestresses—to invent a word—were an uncommonly fiddle-headed lot!” pointing contemptuously with his cheroot to a wooden-faced lady, in a very low dress, with a brooch on her forehead. “Now, you are something worth painting!” gazing critically at his sister. “That straight nose of yours would come out well!”

“And what about yours?”

“Oh, I’m not too bad, as men go,” with a slow, self-gratulatory smile, “but I’m no beauty” (which was quite true). “Now Miles Brabazon is a handsome fellow. By the way, do you ever hear from him?” carelessly knocking the ashes off his cheroot.

“Never!” very shortly.

“Then I suppose it’s all u-p?”

“Yes,” averting her face.

“I wonder at that! Probably coin is scarce, and Mrs. B. always hated him; and, I’ll lay odds, has choked him off!”

“No, she had nothing to say to it!” rather sharply. “And now, Flo, what is your grand secret—to change the subject?”

“Can’t you guess it?” taking his cheroot out of his mouth, and staring at her fixedly, and with a conscious, complacent smile.

“You are going to be married,” she replied, after a pause.

“Right you are! Clever girl! I am going to marry Hatty Clipperton!”

“Hatty Clipperton?” with a little start. “Yes! An awfully jolly nice little girl! Some money! Heaps of go in her! Just my style down to the ground! I have not told Gus yet, nor, of course, Mrs. B. I want you to break the news to her gently, Haidée!”

I!” aghast. “My dear Flo, I would not—I could not—I dare not—not for a thousand pounds!”

“Oh, come, that’s nonsense; you are the only one all these years, who dared brave her; and you must do it for me; it’s the last time——”

“Why not speak to her yourself, Flo; you and she have always been friends; it would come best from you.”

“No no; when you have anything to do, you don’t like, always get some one else to do it for you,—that’s my idea; and you will do this little job for me, Haidée, like a good sister; there’s no time to lose. We are to be married in three weeks! Yes,—indeed, you may well open your mouth! but I’m telling you the truth. We have been engaged for two months, and I’m my own master, you know; and there was no one to consult. I used to say, I’d never let myself go under £3000 a year; but I’m knocked down a dead bargain, after all! Hatty likes you and Gussie well enough, but she hates Mrs. B. like old boots, and swears she shall never spend a night under her roof.”

“Meaning this roof?” said Haidée, with raised brows.

“Yes; and as old Clipperton wants to go off abroad, he has rather run me in, to get the wedding over—do you see?” confidentially; “and we are thinking of coming here for the honeymoon; and, of course, you and Mrs. B. will have to clear out, and let the house be done up a bit; don’t you understand?”

“This is very short notice, Flo. How long can you give us?”

“Well, say a week! You see, there’s nothing to move but yourselves,—and your clothes,” he drawled, unconcernedly.

“I am not so sure of that,” shaking her head. “I fancy from what Mrs. B. said one day, that she claims a lot of ornaments, silver plate, and pictures, and linen!”

“She be blessed! She had better not let me see her lay a finger on anything here, or I’ll set my lawyers at her. She has been playing a very deep game, by all accounts, and has feathered her nest right well.”

“Oh, Flo, you shouldn’t,” expostulated his hearer.

“Oh, Flo, but I should! I’m not at all friends with her, I can tell you; and the way in which she has treated you two girls has been simply abominable, and so everybody says! I shall give her a piece of my mind about it, one of these days. I’m not afraid of her,” valiantly. “Not I!”

“Then I very much wish you would tell her your news instead! How can I make her understand that she must turn out for ever, in a week’s time? I can’t do it, Flo,” rising and surveying him. “I really can’t.”

“Oh, yes, you can,” coolly; “there’s nothing like trying. You will manage all right. She would only make a scene with me; and I hate scenes! Of course you will live with Gus, or Aunt Jane, and here” (after thought) “as much as ever you please; it won’t be for long, I’ll bet. One wedding makes another, and with that face of yours you ought to do something respectable!”

“Never mind my wedding,” said Haidée, after a silence of some moments; your own is much more to the purpose at present. I have not wished you joy, Flo; but I do, with all my heart, I hope you will be very happy. Of course you will keep poor old Jacky, won’t you, to the end of his days?”

“Of course I will! he shall live in clover, and never do another hour’s work. Even Hatty shall never ride him! And now,” rising, yawning, and stretching, “I think I shall turn in; for I’m off by an early train. I’ll see you again before I’m told off; and of course you’ll be bridesmaid! Hatty is going to settle all that!”

“No, no, I couldn’t,” she answered quickly; but Flo was already in the outer hall, and did not hear her, and ascended to his chamber with lazy, leisurely feeling that a great load had been removed from his mind, his conscience (save the mark) unburthened, and that he was consequently fully entitled to sleep, the sleep of the just!

*  *  *

Haidée sat over the slowly dying fire for more than an hour, after her brother had retired; strange thoughts, and some very sad ones, chasing each other through her brain. So the old home, such as it was! was to be broken up at last; and in one week; well, as the wrench had to come, there was no use in prolonging the agony—the sooner it was over the better. She could not bear to think of Hatty Clipperton, of all people, reigning among their household gods; Hatty, with her loud laugh, her slangy ways, her contempt for old-fashioned things and people. She would no doubt store all the Chippendale furniture, the ancestors, and the china; and inaugurate blazing cretonnes and brilliant cromo-lithographs instead. She was prejudiced, she knew, and she told herself so very frankly. Flo had a right to please himself; things could not always go on in the old groove, and Hatty might steady down, and make him an excellent wife. For a long time, Haidée sat over the dying embers, till the loud old clock on the stairs chimed two; and shivering with cold, and feeling very miserable indeed, she took her candle, and glided like a ghost upstairs. What fun they had had on those stairs, and in the top corridor, in the days that were no more! What races, bolstering matches, and sieges, had been held, in their own long lobby! Well, there was no use in thinking over these things any longer, she remarked to her pale grave-looking face in the glass, as she slowly untwisted her hair. The old house was very dear to her, in spite of the many dark hours she had spent under its roof, when the weight of Mrs. Brabazon’s displeasure had crushed her to the earth; but there had been bright days toodays spent with Teddy, with Miles—and one or two tears gathered under her lashes, and crept stealthily down her cheeks.

“And how am I to tell Mrs. Brabazon?” she said aloud, brushing away these tears, and rousing herself with an effort. “It is quite too fearful to think of. I know I shall never sleep a wink to-night.”

How the tidings were broken to Mrs. Brabazon we need not linger to relate; for no pen could give the faintest idea of that lady’s indignant incredulity in the first phase, wild incoherent invective in the second phase, and hysterical weeping and denunciation of Florian’s inhuman ingratitude in the third and last scene! She went about, her handkerchief applied to her eyes, a model of injured innocence, or posing as a melancholy representation of fallen greatness! She wrote reams of letters, and made many farewell calls in the neighbourhood—good-naturedly taking her acquaintances into her confidence, as regarded her opinion of the bride elect—and she left not a few directions to Haidée of a distinctly testamentary nature. Indeed, one would imagine, from the way she bore herself, that once she had shaken the dust of Baronsford from off her feet, its downfall was a mere question of time. She made no attempt to conceal her reluctance to evacuate her comfortable home, and that Florian’s contemplated marriage was a terrible blow to her. That the girls should find partners and nests of their own was natural and desirable! She not only hoped, but impatiently expected this contingency; but as regarded the chance of Florian following their example (which would touch her more acutely) she was as persistently blind, as the traditional ostrich, hiding her head in the sand. She closed her eyes tightly, to an event that would be attended with unpleasant personal consequences. Indeed, Florian himself had always so loftily despised the sex, had such an exceedingly high opinion of his own merits, and a proportionately low one of the many young ladies of his acquaintance, that his step-mother took him at his word, and hugged herself with the idea that she would reign all her days as mistress of Baronsford! But this pleasing delusion was fated to be dispelled, and the fact that Hatty Clipperton was to rule in her stead (a girl whom she specially abhorred), was a circumstance that did not tend to mollify the situation. Of course Florian, the poltroon, had fled. He chivalrously left it to his sister to bear the brunt of the fray, to listen to Mrs. Brabazon’s stormy monologues, to sit by with burning cheeks, whilst that lady morally vivisected the whole family; sparing neither young nor old. “You are really the best of them!” she said to her step-daughter in one of her milder moments. And at times, her fossilized conscience, smote her with regard to the part she had played between Haidée and her penniless cousin. It did not matter to her now, who she married. She would not be here to reap the benefit of a grand connection; as far as she was concerned her pretty step-daughter might now marry a sweep; and really, if it had been any one else but Miles Brabazon, she might have brought herself to say a word. Any one but Captain Brabazon! how she hated him, always would hate him, with his studied courtesy, and cool, interrogative, and (it had seemed to her) mocking eye! No, he never should have the desire of his heart, as long as it was in her power to hold it from him. Miss Jane and Mrs. Brabazon were still “on terms,” and nearly every day the former lady came up to Baronsford, to see how the packing was going forward, and to ask if she could be of any assistance? This mode of speeding the parting guest, irritated Mrs. Brabazon to the very bounds of her good manners, but she stifled her feelings, and was fully resolved to part on an affectionate footing with “Old Jane,” as she mentally called her. “Old Jane” would see that her character was tenderly handled, in the coming by-and-by; it was well to leave one friend at court!

Mrs. Brabazon had a large, a really surprising amount of baggage; trunk and case, and case and trunk, were filled, and nailed down day by day; and certainly the china and curios about the house, became smaller by degrees, and beautifully less, as these packages increased in number and size.

One morning, Haidée (in the innocence of her heart) fetched her aunt upstairs to the big spare room, in which Nokes and her mistress, had been closeted since breakfast time. They simultaneously uttered an exclamation of hasty annoyance, as Haidée slowly pushed back the door against a pile of books and stuffs on the floor, and admitted Miss Jane.

“Now, now, Miss Haidée, just please to look where you are going,” said Nokes tartly; and indeed she had need to do so! Also her aunt, who stepped nimbly over all obstacles and stared about her with a face of undisguised amazement. The carpet was littered with lace, house linen, knick-knacks, and old china, and the bed (traditional four poster), was spread from top to bottom with family silver, punch bowls, teapots, cream jugs, marrow spoons, sauce ladles, snuff boxes, candlesticks—no trifle had been too insignificant to escape notice. The dressing-table was loaded with piles of old brocade, and needlework, and three greedy-looking big trunks, yawned, open-mouthed, in the middle of the room, ready to swallow these treasures! Before one of these boxes Mrs. Brabazon was kneeling, whilst Nokes was feeding her (so to speak) from the bed.

“Good morning, Sara,” said her sisterin-law briskly. “Busy, I see, as usual. I I just came up to ask, if I could help you in any way?”

“No, no, thanks; I can manage very well by myself with Nokes,” looking greatly put out, as she spoke, ånd scuffling away some articles out of sight; at the same time bestowing a look on Haidée, that commanded her to instantly remove her aunt at any price; but this look was not sufficiently intelligible, and Miss Jane showed no symptoms of leaving.

“I never can pack if I am watched,” said Mrs. Brabazon irritably; “it puts me out altogether. Here,” closing the lid with a bang, “I’ll come down with you, Jane!”

“But surely you are not packing these things, are you, Sara? You are only putting them away; and I can do that for you, you know,” said the old lady, still hanging back.

“Putting them by? No, I’m packing them up, to take away,” now driven to bay, “they are my own property.”

“Good gracious, Sara! what do you mean? Is not that my grandmother’s posset bowl, that Nokes has in her hand?” she asked with an air of pious surprise. “There must be some monstrous mistake in your packing up family silver, lace, linen, and china.”

“No mistake at all!” very decidedly.

“Everything in the room is mine,” waving her hand dramatically towards the floor, the bed, and the dressing-table, resolved to put down Miss Jane, as she had ever been wont to do. “My dear husband gave me all,” she added, with a kind of sniff that might mean either defiance, or a tribute to his memory!

But these were heirlooms; and for once the old lady was firm.

“He could not give you, what never was his, Sara. They are heirlooms; they belong to his children, and children’s children. This must be seen to,” impressively. “I’m really astonished that you do not see the mistake yourself,” stiffening visibly as she spoke.

Mrs. Brabazon failed to see any mistake; and her instincts of rapacity, and plunder, extinguished everything else in her bosom, even ordinary prudence. Each lady stoutly maintained her own opinion, and the result was a very pretty quarrel, to which Haidée and Nokes were the two speechless seconds!

Mrs. Brabazon figuratively bounded into the arena, and let herself go for once; she so far forgot herself, as to call Miss Jane a “miserly old sneak,” and a “meddlesome old cat;” and the latter, without descending to such vulgar expressions, made some very telling hits, and managed to have her say in a collected and impressive manner; and in the end, by a clever manœuvre, concluded the battle, by locking up the room and carrying off the key, which, needless to say, was tantamount to capturing her enemy’s colours and guns; and as she departed, key in pocket, she sternly announced that it was her immediate intention to summon the family lawyer.

The family lawyer duly arrived the next day, and went into the matter of the late Mr. Brabazon’s will and personality, and found not a few loopholes and flaws. It appeared that Mrs. Brabazon had far over-stepped her rights, that Florian was his sister’s legal guardian, and that the lady had for years been trading on the ignorance and innocence of her stepchildren; and regularly pocketing the interest of Haidée’s little fortune. Half the modern silver was the widow’s share; but of linen, plate, lace, and china, there was no mention; (a gross oversight, for which Mrs. Brabazon mentally remarked, she had only herself to blame.) A very solemn scene was enacted in the dining-room when the silver was divided, and weighed under the eyes of the lawyer, a silversmith, Miss Jane, Gussie, Haidée, and Nokes. Mrs. Brabazon, cold and trembling (with passion), stood very close to the scales, with an air of tragic protest. She considered (and said so), that she was being shamefully robbed! Still she made it a point to grasp what she could from the wreck of her property; and once, when her share in the balance was half an ounce lighter than Florian’s, she fiercely insisted on her due—her half ounce—and to that end wrested a spoon out of a mustard pot, with her own quivering, claw-like fingers! On the whole, this division of the spoil was harmoniously conducted, for Miss Jane and her nieces preserved throughout the ceremony a reserved air, and a prudential silence.

No one was sorry when Mrs. Brabazon departed. Not one single creature felt a pang of regret when they beheld her descend the steps, followed by Nokes (the unmarried and funereal), and drive away for good. She did not condescend to say good-bye to Miss Jane and Gussie (Gussie, who had, to quote her own words, “come down for a few days for the fun of the thing!”), but she made a little speech to Haidée in the hall, saying as she kissed her frostily, “Good-bye, Haidée, you are the only one in the family who is a lady; and who is honest, whose hand I could conscientiously take; the others,” raising her voice and glaring ferociously at the beaming Augusta, and rigid Miss Jane, “are thieves!”

And having fired this parting shot, she stepped into the brougham, and was promptly whirled away. It was by no means the style of exit she had pictured for herself; and she vowed many, many, vengeances, on Florian, and that little serpent, his future bride, as she took her last long look at Baronsford. However, there were crumbs of comfort—very solid, pleasant crumbs—in the shape of safe investments in the three per cents., so let no one commiserate her, as she is most cheerfully driven to the station and thus passes out of the story.

Chapter VIII

England, Home, and Beauty

Florian is a married man! Hatty Clipperton reigns boisterously at Baronsford, and Haidée has been spending a season in town, and has really seen the great world at last, has become alive to the fact that she is considered “one of the beauties,” and has had several “unexceptionable” offers. It is a very warm, an almost tropical afternoon, near the end of June, and she and Gussie are alone in Gussie’s little front drawing-room, which is crowded with flowers—in banks between the windows, in the grate, on the chimney-piece, and on every available bracket, shelf, and table. The windows open, the rose-coloured blinds are half drawn down; yet the atmosphere is oppressive and stifling. Both the sisters are dressed in white (Gussie with mauve ribbons, and Haidée with black); the former is stretched out on the sofa, in an attitude of complete physical prostration, now and then casting complacent glances at her silken hose, and sweet little shoes (which are displayed with her usual liberality), now and then looking over at her companion, who is fiddling with some fancy work in a frame; and most of the time gasping and fanning herself with a big red feather fan. She never keeps silence for long, as we know; and she is safe to speak first; and she does, after a lengthy, critical, survey of her exceedingly pretty sister.

“I have been thinking, Haidée,” she observed at last, “thinking seriously about you, and I have come to the conclusion that you are an idiot!” fanning away briskly as she spoke. “I don’t mean a candidate for Earlswood, quite, but simply that you have an unusual deficiency—of sense.’

“I’m sure I am greatly obliged to you,” rejoined the other, looking up with a smile. “May I ask why you think I have no sense?”

“Certainly, you may ask! Because here you are, refusing to make hay whilst the sun shines; obstinately declining offer after offer. There was,” now rapidly counting on her fingers, “Foster Forbes, Sir David Campbell, young Galloway, all sent to the right-about. Pray,” sarcastically, “what do you expect—a duke?”

“No,” with curt decision.

“The season is getting on, and you have been considered quite one of the belles, and yet you are not engaged,” grumbled Gussie, aggrievedly. “What is the good of having a pretty sister, and every one making a fuss about her, when she will not take any advantage of her opportunities? Haidée, are you listening to me? You are enough to provoke a saint!”

“Which you are not,” returned her companion, with more truth than courtesy, holding up, as she spoke, two skeins of silk, and making a deliberate selection. “I wonder you are not tired of the subject, Gus; I am. I have told you at least fifty times that I do not wish to marry. I mean to take a leaf out of Aunt Jane’s book. It is not penal to prefer single blessedness. I intend to be a very nice old maiden lady.”

“An old maid,” disdainfully. “A likely tale; but,” angrily, “I know why you talk like this! I believe you have still an arrière pensée for Miles; you infatuated young woman! Miles was good-looking and gentlemanly—I give you that in. Yes, yes,” half sitting up, and gazing keenly at her sister, “you need not speak, your face is sufficient. Positively I could light a candle at it, I do assure you! Ah, I see that it is still Miles.- And I must say, I wonder you have not more pride, even if he would marry you, to marry him would be madness. Believe me, my dear, to wed without money, and for love, ‘pour tout potage,’ is downright insanity. When the delusion—and it is a mental delusion—dies away, where are you?” now gesticulating with her red fan. “Simply face to face with poverty, a most hideous situation! But if, on the other hand, you marry a rich man, once the dream is dispelled, you have something substantial to fall back on—money. There are great comforts, and capabilities in a long purse. For instance, you know that I am very fond of Jim; but all the same, if he had not been well endowed with this world’s goods, I would not have married him!” she concluded, with an air of amiable candour.

“It is quite superfluous to mention that,” rejoined her sister sharply.

“Now, don’t be cross, Haidée! I’m only doing my duty, and it is really most unselfish of me, to put these things plainly before you, for I would much rather you remained single, and a companion for me. But when I see Craven Hepburn, and twenty-five thousand a year, actually begging of you to take them, I feel that I must speak.”

Well, now you have done your duty, and relieved your conscience, I will testify to the fact to all inquiring friends,” said Haidée impatiently, “and let us hear no more about it. How you do preach—money, money, money!”

“Yes, and much good it does you; goes in at one ear, and out of the other. However, I have said my say. I don’t want you to marry, as I have remarked before.”

Haidée raised her head, and stared at her in indignant interrogation.

“You see,” promptly answering the look, “you are my only sister. We know each other’s ways to a T; you are a credit to be seen with, in a carriage or a ball-room; you ride beautifully; Jim is delighted with you; such hands, such nerve; and you look perfect in your new habit; just as if you had been melted down, and poured into it! You ride my hateful chestnut with Jim, and keep him exercised; only for you, I should be disporting myself on the creature’s back every morning of my life, and you know I would rather have a tooth out; the very sight of a side saddle gives me a kind of spasm, and cold water trickling down my back.”

“What nonsense, Gussie; and as for the chestnut, you know it’s all play.”

“Oh, is it?” sarcastically. “And another thing, Jim is charmed with you, thinks you greatly improved, not half so snubby as of old. In fact, I believe that if anything were to happen to me,” giggling, “and they brought in the marriage bill, for the deceased wife’s sister——”

“Gussie!” interrupted her companion indignantly, “I won’t have you say such things, even in joke! You talk as much at random as if you were still in the nursery.”

“I wish I were! No, no, I’m not so sure of that. Fancy going back to bowls of bread and milk, and pinafores, and those awful hats with brown ribbon. I remember them well; what guys we were, to be sure! No, no, bread and milk for supper and porridge for breakfast would not be palatable. Now I know better. Youth is not everything, and I’ve had a good deal of amusement in my teens,” with some complacence.

“Play to you, death to them,” said Haidée significantly.

“You’ve had no experiences,” proceeded Gussie, “worth speaking of, except that mad engagement to Miles.”

“Never mind my love affairs, Gussie. What about going to the Bohuns’ this evening. It’s too hot, isn’t it,” coaxingly.

“Oh!” fanning very fast, “one may just as well be hot there, where one is amused, as here, where there’s nothing to do! We will go, of course,” with decision.

Mrs. Vashon was a little lady who lived on excitement, and was never happy, unless she was flying from one entertainment to another. Her appetite for constant amusement was insatiable, and the same spirit which prompted her to run down and play tennis at the Bells’, to walk into Byford, to volunteer for bazaars, children’s parties, and school feasts—anything for a change, anything for novelty—was the same that now impelled her in one continual round of dances, theatricals, flower fêtes, races, and dinner parties. If she had one day, one afternoon even, with “nothing on hand,” she was a miserable woman! She was never knocked up, never blasé, never satisfied. No sooner was one great event over, than she was thinking of another; and the suggestion that “they should stay at home for once, and have a quiet evening,” she looked upon as simply a monstrous absurdity. She was not, she frankly stated, over and above fond of the domestic hearth! “Time enough, when she and Jim were old oddities, in spectacles and slippers.”

Leaving Gussie ruminating over her wardrobe, with all the power of her shifty little brain, and Haidée, casting anxiously about for some good excuse to remain at home, we turn once more to Miles and his friend Captain Gee. The latter has been in England for six months on medical certificate; basking and butterflying in ladies’ society, not only in his native north, but in the larger, pleasanter pastures of the great metropolis. He does not look much like an invalid, as he hurries up the steps of the Junior Army and Navy in the wake of his friend Miles—Miles, who only landed from South Africa within the last twelve hours. It is nearly two years since he last stood in the dining-room of the club; two dreary years spent on Afric’s sunny strand, struggling to make the best of a dull, monotonous existence, endeavouring with all his might to forget what “might have been,” and yet (curious contradiction) dreading every newspaper he took up, every letter he opened, to see the announcement of his cousin Haidée’s marriage. Of course she would marry! From words ignorantly let fall by his brother officers lately from home, from copious descriptions from Connie, he was fully alive to the fact that Miss Brabazon (who had so nearly been Mrs. Brabazon) was no longer a mere pretty little country flower, born to blush unseen; but that all through the full fierce light of a London summer, she had ranked as one of the season’s beauties.

*  *  *

It was by no wish of his own that he found himself in London. He had been sent home, at two days’ notice, in charge of invalids, and had only had time to telegraph to Dicky from St. Vincent.

He found that gentleman eagerly awaiting him at Southampton, ready to welcome him the moment the gangway was out! He, Miles, was ignorant of family politics; Connie was abroad, and he had no other correspondent, and beyond the fact that Florian was married, and that Haidée divided her time between her aunt and sister, he was unacquainted with the doings of his relations. The two friends journeyed up to London, and of course dined at the club together, sitting a long time over their meal, and talking any amount of “shop,” for Captain Gee was greedy of regimental news. When he had severely cross-examined his companion, down to the personal appearance of the latest joined sub, the new pattern regimental button, and the last consignment of claret to the mess, he suddenly said, in the most matter-of-fact manner, but looking askance at his vis-à-vis from under his white eyelashes—

“By the way, Miles, I’m going to take you to a party to-night.”

Miles merely stared at his friend for some seconds with lazy amusement, and then said, as he deliberately helped himself to cheese, “Not if I know it, old man.”

“Oh, come, you know; none of your nonsense! You must come, to oblige me.”

“And why? What is the special attraction?”

“I promised Mrs. De Montmorency Bohun to go; to be sure and put in an appearance—and I could not disappoint her!” with conscious importance.

“Bosh, my good sir! She’ll never miss you,” said his companion, discouragingly. “She will never know whether you were there or not! I’m afraid you are getting that red head of yours turned!”

“I promised to go, and bring a friend, proceeded Dicky firmly, “to bring a friend. You are the friend,” with a pompous sweep of his hand.

“Am I?” ironically. “I rather fancy that by the time you are fighting your way into this good lady’s drawing-room, I shall be in bed!”

“I have invested in two of the most touching button-holes in London, and I’m not going to have yours wasted,” returned the other, coolly ignoring his friend’s remark. “ It would be rather hard lines if we did not spend the first evening together, eh? And, strictly between you and me, there’s a little girl, I particularly wish you to see.”

“Meaning the future Mrs. Gee?” expressively.

“I’m not sure,” grinning; anyway, she does not stand half a bad chance!”

“But can you not manage to present me some other time? Why not tomorrow?” feebly. “You know how I loathe parties.”

“You won’t loathe this one, I’ll go bail! You’ll come? You must come!”

“Well,” irritably, “I suppose I must; but, mind you, I’ll only look in for half an hour! I’ll come away before twelve, whether she is there or not. Remember, I’m not as keen a society man as you are, and I’m only going to oblige you.”

Talking and smoking absorb a good deal of time occasionally. It is within five minutes of midnight, ere we discover the two gentlemen leisurely wending their way up Mrs. Bohun’s wide staircase.

“I forgot to tell you it was tableaux vivants,” whispered Captain Gee, “and I suppose the best of the fun is over. They were to be A 1!” regretfully.

“Pray don’t apologize to me,” returned the other morosely. “The only tableau vivant I’ve come to see is your latest divinity!”

“And probably she’s not here after all!” coolly shrugging his shoulders.

“Then you have brought me out under false pretences! I say,” angrily, “you won’t let me in like this again in a hurry!”

The door of the drawing-room was blocked; and they hung outside for a considerable time, like a couple of Peris at the gate. At last they gradually succeeded in edging their way in, and found an immense, long room, with seats all down the centre, and an impromptu stage at the further end, upon which the eyes of nearly three hundred people were at present riveted, with the deepest attention. Immediately facing the audience was a huge picture-frame, filled in with curtains, which, when parted, revealed some scene. Just at the present moment there was a dead silence, a cessation of whispering and laughing, as the curtains slowly parted, and revealed “Helen of Troy,” a tall, white-robed, golden, diademed form, thrown out by a dusky background. The present personator was beautiful enough to represent the Spartan queen, whose face had launched a thousand ships, though some ladies present did not admire the tableau nearly as much, as Miss Torrens’ nerve and conceit in daring to pose as the renowned fair Helen! The audience gazed at the lovely living picture, for some time in appreciative silence, then, as the curtain gradually hid her from their gaze, they burst into long and hearty applause! The tableaux were over and people began to talk, to look about, and finally to move; and a great wave of human faces was soon set towards the door, and supper-wards; seeing which, our two friends retreated, and sought sanctuary with other belated folk, in a fern-embowered alcove on the stairs, from which coign of vantage, they could see the whole company file past, in imposing review order.

“We will have to go and make our bow to Mrs. Bohun, before we follow the multitude,” said Captain Gee; “and this gives one a splendid chance of seeing who is here,” indicating, with a jerk of his head, the stream of people now pouring out of the doorway. “You’ll see lots of pretty girls!” he added; “Mrs. Bohun makes them her specialité. This is an improvement on Natal, eh? Look at that lady, with the long neck and big eyes—she is thought a great beauty. She’s not my style!” superciliously. “Do you see those two coming out? They are American heiresses. And that’s a very pretty girl in black, behind the big woman in red satin. Here she is! What do you think of her? There’s nothing like England, home, and beauty, eh? Here she comes! Now,” enforcing his remark with a sharp nudge.

Miles obediently looked as he was bidden, and saw within two steps of him, on the crowded staircase, a girl in black, carrying an enormous white bouquet, arm-in-arm with a ruddy-faced young man, who was talking to her with eager empressement. She was listening with a smile, her gaze bent on the ground. A block in front compelled them to halt, and raising her eyes, Haidée found herself once more face to face with her faithless cousin Miles! And it would be hard to say which was the paler of the two. This sudden meeting was a shock to both. Each saw in the other the embodiment of two years’ tribulation—standing within two feet!

Haidée was certainly the most startled. She had been thinking of Miles as far away in South Africa, among Boers and Kaffirs, and to come upon him quite unexpectedly in a crowd on a London lobby, nearly turned her to stone. She was so overwhelmed with astonishment, that she stared vacantly at him without any token of recognition, and in another moment, pressed forward by the crowd, she had passed downstairs.

Captain Gee, who had been looking at her with all the power of his keen, little, light eyes, was amazed at the instantaneous alteration her face had undergone. The soft curves about her smiling lips, and her lovely colour, had disappeared as if by magic, and left instead a rigid expression and a deathlike pallor! Was she going to faint? Who, or what, had been the cause of this electrical effect? He glanced involuntarily at his friend, and beheld the same extraordinary change reflected in his countenance. The look of easy, careless indifference had given place to one of proud immobility; and yet he was pale, even through his African tan! What ailed him? What ailed her? The secret was revealed to him in one flash—he was generally very successful in jumping to conclusions—the girl in black was Haidée, poor Teddy’s sister—Miles’s forsaken bride!

Before he had time to put his thoughts into the form of a question, a very piquant little dark lady, clad in primrose tulle, and blazing with diamonds, had paused in front of his companion, with a stifled exclamation, and holding out her hand very eagerly, exclaimed—

“Why, Miles! It is Miles! Who on earth would have expected to find you here? How very rude of you, not to come and see me. Pray, where have you dropped from?”

“From South Africa, this morning,” he returned laconically, and now with completely restored self-possession.

“Mr. Trent,” said Gussie sweetly, turning to her cavalier, and withdrawing her hand from his arm, with affected reluctance, “this is my cousin, whom I’ve not seen for ages, just home from the Cape. If you don’t mind, I’ll go down with him,” and with a charming smile, Mr. Trent was coolly dismissed, and Miles, before he had time to realize the fact, found himself walking downstairs, arm-in-arm with Gussie, leaving Captain Gee glaring after them with an expression of indignant amazement, and muttering angry ejaculations, under his little sandy moustache.

Chapter IX

I Was the Man

“Well, Miles, this is a surprise!” said his cousin with eager friendliness, as they slowly followed the crowd into the supper room.

“I never was more thunderstruck than when I saw you just now! What has brought you home?—another legacy?”

“I was ordered off, at two days’ notice. You are not more surprised than I am to find myself in London,” not deigning to notice her ill-timed jest.

“Now,” seating herself at a little round table, removing her gloves, and thoughtfully scanning the ménu, “first of all, bring me some aspic jelly and champagne, and then come and sit down, and tell me all about yourself.”

“There is not much to tell,” returned her cousin, when he had obeyed her behest, taking a place opposite to her as he spoke. “I look to you for all the news; you, who have changed your name since I saw you, and become quite a leader of fashion.”

“Pooh!” immensely delighted, “I don’t know about that; but I’ve plenty of money, and plenty of time, and I enjoy myself. It’s rather different now,” unconsciously fingering the diamond stars in the front of her low corsage, “to those dreadful old times at Baronsford, when Haidée and I had but one Sunday go-to-meeting frock between us. Ugh! how I hate poverty. By the way, what are those nice, little, fat, brown birds over there? They look most delectable, suppose you bring me one.” The lady’s appetite was in good case.

As Miles was returning, plate in hand, he encountered Dicky, radiant and blinking, also foraging for some fair one, in fact, his own particular young lady. He had found her soon after Miles had abandoned him so suddenly, and his good humour was restored.

“I say, Miles, this,” indicating the contents of his plate, “is something more toothsome, than trek ox, eh? Who is the little woman in yellow, who carried you off?”

“My cousin, Mrs. Vashon; but don’t keep me now, there’s a good fellow,” passing on.

“You are not eating anything yourself, Miles,” remarked Gussie. “Do try some of this, it’s delicious!” in a tone of affectionate solicitation.

“No, thank you. I have dined,” expressively.

“Dined. You mean to insinuate that I have not,” laughing; “but I have, all the same, and can appreciate a good supper too. Now tell me,” she added, inconsequently, but lowering her voice a little, “have you seen Haidée yet? She is here.”

“Yes,” digging a fork into the tablecloth, and avoiding Gussie’s eyes.

“Did she speak to you? “pausing with a morsel half way to her lips, and gazing at him searchingly. Miles merely shook his head.

“Oh, but,” consolingly, “I’m sure she will; but, Miles, that was an awful mistake of yours.”

“No one realizes that fact as keenly as I do,” he rejoined gravely.

I always said you should be told,” she continued, with serene self-assertion, “but Teddy and Haidée would have their own way—at least Teddy would. To think, that only for that unlucky meeting at Portsmouth, you and she would be quite old married people by this time, and have your little quarrels, and storms in tea cups, just like Jimmy and me!”

To this remark, her companion vouchsafed no reply; apparently he had not heard her; but he had, and was saying to himself, that for a ruthless handling of delicate subjects, and for a fine disregard of other people’s feelings, Mrs. Vashon even surpassed Miss Brabazon.

“You are looking very well, Miles,” she remarked, after a lengthy pause, as she slowly drew on her gloves, “only a little older, and a good deal sunburnt. Pray,” with a little conscious simper, “how do you think I am looking? “

“As usual, perfectly charming,” standing up and offering her his arm with a slight bow, he was not in a humour for paying compliments.

“Haidée”—her sister’s name had, seemingly, an extraordinary fascination for her this evening—“Haidée,” she repeated as they moved away, “has changed very much. She is one of those emotional people who can’t stand wear and tear; she felt Teddy’s death dreadfully, she actually wears black still,” speaking, as it were, in capital letters.

Miles made no reply, but involuntarily glanced at Gussie’s yellow gown.

Mrs. Vashon interpreted and resented his glance, and said rather sharply, “However, it is all right now, she is consoled,” nodding her head significantly, as she launched her missile. “Come in here, and we will have a talk; the remainder of the evening is to be what Mrs. Bohun calls a conversazione. We will have ours here,” indicating a luxurious settee, in a dimly-lit library, where half a dozen couples were sitting, well aloof from one another. “There is to be music,” she continued in an aggrieved tone, “and looking at photos and prints, and all that kind of thing,” spreading out her dress and leaning back as she spoke. “But it’s far pleasanter down here, amateur music bores one frightfully. By the way, we were talking of Haidée,” she continued sociably, “were we not?”

“Yes; you said she was consoled. What does that mean?” inquired Miles, speaking with a visible effort.

“It means that she has replaced you, you fickle man,” playfully.

Mr. Hepburn had proposed, and been rejected. Of that Gussie was aware, but she believed that her sister would accept him yet, if a proper amount of moral pressure was brought to bear upon her; and Mrs. Vashon looked upon this premature announcement as a pardonable distortment of veracity. Just a mere ruse to discourage Miles, who was really charming, very good looking—his dark eyes were quite irresistible--and a delightful bachelor acquaintance. But, married to Haidée, and he and Haidée filling the humble rôle of poor relations—her poor relations, probably always hard up, borrowing money, shabby, pinched, and out at elbows—no, no, ten thousand times no.

These thoughts flitted like lightning through the little lady’s brain, as she sat with her bouquet to her nose, and her gaze meditatively fixed on her cousin’s profile. As the above bold declaration fell from Gussie’s lips, it sent a shiver through her companion. The bolt had fallen. The news he had always been dreading to hear, had come at last; and reality, contrary to the usual rule, was worse than anticipation.

“It’s a capital match,” she proceeded in a tone of cool unaffected triumph. “He has heaps of money. His people are everything we could wish; and he will let her have her own way entirely,” she concluded, with a little air of superiority.

“Which I suppose is a woman’s idea of ne plus ultra, of married bliss,” remarked Miles, with a bitter smile.

“Hush! here she comes!” exclaimed his cousin in a quick whisper of suppressed excitement, as another couple now entered the apartment, and looked vaguely round for seats, not observing the pair on a distant sofa—Gussie leaning luxuriously back, her plump white shoulders buried in the velvet cushions, a gigantic bouquet on her knee; Captain Brabazon sitting rather forward, his head resting on his hand, his eyes fixed abstractedly on the floor. An imperious wave of Mrs. Vashon’s bouquet attracted Mr. Hepburn’s attention, and gave the signal for the meeting between Miles and his late betrothed!

Mr. Hepburn was by no means a stupid young man, and he had not failed to notice his partner’s violent start, her sudden silence, and her sinking colour. In his own mind, he attributed these symptoms to a dark soldierly-looking fellow they had passed on the stairs. Her faint request for a glass of water, the shaking flowers in her hand, all indicated some unusual and painful agitation; for Miss Haidée was a serene, self-possessed young lady, and not given to demonstrations. He had known that his case was quite hopeless, and, strange and uncommon as it may appear, was content, at any rate resigned, to range himself as friend. If he had wanted further testimony that her heart could never be his, it had now been meted out to him abundantly. When had he ever had the power to make the girl beside him tremble, and turn pale, from the effect of unexpectedly meeting him! She was always as impassive, and cool, as the old Duke’s statue at Hyde Park Corner.

“Haidée, come here!” cried the tactless, the reckless Augusta, who considered it a good thing to get this meeting over (and was fully resolved, that it should take place in her presence. “She would not miss it for anything,” she told herself emphatically; and it was best to put everything on a comfortable footing once for all). “Don’t you see Miles? He only arrived to-day!” pointing to him with her fan.

Of course Haidée saw Miles; she was not blind. He had stood up, uncertain of his reception, and not presuming to make the first advance. Perhaps she would not speak to him. But she did. She put out her hand very promptly, and said in a cool, civil tone of voice—

“How do you do, Miles?” meeting her late lover’s troubled gaze, with the utmost composure.

He muttered something inaudible. He was not nearly as self-possessed as the young lady; but then, she had been schooling herself for this ordeal, and she would sooner die, than allow her faithless cousin, to imagine that he was anything to her now, but the most indifferent acquaintance.

Mr. Hepburn and Gussie, gazed with eager interest at this little drama in real life. It was a tableau vivant, not included in the programme; one at which they were the only spectators, although the room was crowded; none but they knew that the couple before them had not met since the eve of what was to have been their wedding day! They seemed like the rest of the company, to the casual, careless eye—a tall, pretty, pale girl, a bronzed, dark, young man, talking society platitudes; but sharp-sighted Gussie observed how grave Miles was, how strangely set his mouth, how formal his sentences; and Mr. Hepburn was not to be deceived by Miss Brabazon’s present easy manner, and soft society smiles—they were assumed for the occasion. Certainly the situation was a little strained, but happily it was soon modified by the timely arrival of Captain Gee, pompously conducting a commanding-looking lady in black velvet, who accosted his friend at this crisis, saying—

“Miles, I wish to present you to Mrs. Bohun;” and Miles, having made a deep obeisance to his majestic hostess, and uttered one or two disjointed remarks, was despotically borne away, and introduced to a lively young maiden, in an aesthetic white garment, with a large kind of alms-bag hanging from her girdle, and a touzled head, adorned with a very pointed, fierce-looking, green wreath.

Miles mechanically convoyed his partner to the music room, and found her a seat. Luckily for him, she was a very loquacious individual; he had only to smile, or nod, and drop an occasional monosyllable, to maintain his share of the conversation; and all the time he was revolving this one burning question in his head, “How am I to get away?” To be forced to meet Haidée, and Hepburn, to stand calmly by, and see another man in his place—was unbearable! He glanced eagerly round, in hopes of seeing Dicky—Dicky who had let him in for this—with the fixed intention of presenting him to his companion, and immediately making his escape; but, alas! amid the densely packed crowd around the doorway, he looked in vain for his brother officer’s little sandy head. He was now completely wedged in, with his back to the wall, and there was no exit. He must stay till the bitter end. Haidée and Mr. Hepburn were seated in a window nearly opposite, and do as he would, he could not help seeing them—nor resist looking at them. The young lady beside him, who had not caught his name, and who had been relating one or two interesting anecdotes of the company to his inattentive ear (whilst he recklessly dropped, “yes,” “really,” and “you don’t say so,” at random), observed that his eyes frequently strayed in one direction, and quite misinterpreting his gaze, said—

“I see you are looking at Miss Brabazon; is she not too utterly perfect? just a picture? I know her; we attend the same cooking class.”

“Indeed!” now all close concentrated attention.

“She is such a nice girl, and immensely admired, but she does not care for anything of that sort. I do think it is so sweet of her,” pausing and surveying Haidée with melancholy meditation.

“What do you mean?” rather sharply. “Why does she not care?

“There is,” promptly responding to this sudden show of interest, “a very romantic story about her. They say she will never marry, because, once,” lowering her voice, “she cared very much for some man; he was in the army, I believe, the wedding day was fixed, indeed the bride was dressed, the church decorated, and he never came; he left the country! Was it not quite too utterly awful? Some people say that she was to blame, that she had flirted with some one else. Still it was a frightful thing, to happen to any girl, was it not?” opening her eyes very wide, and surveying her companion interrogatively.

“Who—who told you this? How did you hear it?” he asked in a strange voice.

“An intimate friend of theirs told me. She begged me not to mention it, and,” colouring guiltily, “of course I don’t; but to you, a stranger, it does not matter. It gives her an interest to you, does it not? and accounts for her rather sad, and deliciously weary expression,” she concluded with rapturous enthusiasm.

“I am not a stranger,” returned Miles quickly; seized by some ungovernable impulse, that made him speak in spite of himself. “I can tell you even more than what you have been so good as to relate to me. I can tell you the whole story,” with a look of stern resolve. “Would you care to hear it?”

“Yes, I should,” she returned with frank curiosity, and a glance of mild interrogation, wondering much at the extraordinary change in his voice, and manner. This new acquaintance of hers, with the sombre dark eyes, and preoccupied manner, was evidently swayed by variable moods.

“Then listen to me,” suddenly leaning towards her, and speaking in a low and impressive whisper (an action not lost upon his late lady love). “I was the man!”

“You?” ejaculated the girl faintly. “Oh, no, you are joking, you look the very last person in the world, I am sure——” hesitating.

“To be guilty of such disgraceful conduct,” he added, completing the sentence for her. “Nevertheless it is true; I was the bridegroom who left the country; it was all owing to a mistake, a frightful delusion, that has cost me pretty dear.”

There was a frankness and simplicity about this confession, that almost took away his hearer’s breath. She looked at him, then she looked across at Haidée, trying vainly to think of some effective and sympathetic remark,—to recover the power of expression.

“You will think it strange that I should tell you; I don’t explain why, but I wish you to know, that it was my fault from first to last. I fancied—I—I—was under a delusion about some one else, and I,” glancing over involuntarily at Haidée, who was now quite feverishly gay, “am the only sufferer. If you hear the story again, you at any rate know the sequel,” he added in a low voice.

The mediaeval looking maiden beside him, was mute. Her bewildered, nervous, puzzled, stare, was a sight to see; so aghast was she at Captain Brabazon’s amazing announcement, as to be quite run short of words, until he started another less personal topic. Meanwhile, Mr. Hepburn was leaning closely, and confidentially, on the back of Haidée’s chair, presumably whispering soft nothings into her not inattentive ear, and now and then casting a rapid, but searching glance, over in the direction of Miles; glances wrongly interpreted by that hot-tempered gentleman as so many triumphant challenges, calling to his notice the fact that the jewel he had spurned, and cast away, had been won, and would be worn, by one who knew its value!

It was too much for any man’s patience! and he longed, with a longing that was almost painful, to go straight across the room, and fling Craven Hepburn through that open window that stood so invitingly behind him! If Miles had not cared for Haidée, it would have been quite another matter; but he still worshipped her with every fibre of his soul and body. He told himself, as he shot more than one furtive look across the crowd, that she was more to him than ever. He had lost her (and, fatal discovery), she had never been so dear to him as at this moment, when that fool, that idiot, that ape! was whispering and gibbering into her ear! As he sat with his arms crossed, his pulses fiercely throbbing, his eyes bent resolutely on the floor, bringing the hose of common sense, to play upon his fiery inclinations, the first bars of a too familiar air came ringing from the keys of the grand Erard at the other end of the apartment. A stout gentleman was standing beside the instrument, his head slightly thrown back, his eyes fixed sentimentally on the chandelier, a roll of music in his hand. In a rich penetrating tenor, amidst a sudden hush in the surrounding babble, he commenced, “When other lips and other hearts.” This was too much! this was beyond endurance. Miles could never listen to that air without its vividly recalling, the bright, white, staring moonlight, the African veldt, the rows of tents, and Teddy’s cheery voice singing that very verse, as he hurried back to his own lines for the last time.

“There may, perhaps, in such a scene
Some recollection be,
Of days that have as happy been,
And you’ll remember me.”

He rose abruptly, whispering incoherently to his companion, “Pray excuse me;—but I must be going. I had no idea it was so late; I—I—have important letters to write—and—and good-night.” In another moment, without one parting glance at Haidée, he had quickly threaded his way through the crowd and taken his departure, hurrying out of the house (unconscious of Captain Gee’s frantic signals from the bower on the stairs) as if it were stricken with the plague!

“No, no,” he said to himself, with fierce resolve. “No more parties for him.” Haidée, and, Haidée’s future husband, the cool recital of his own disastrous story, and now that song as a finale, were a little too much, collectively!

An hour later, Mrs. Vashon and her sister were rolling homewards in the little green brougham, tête-à-tête at last; for Jimmy and his cigar were banished to the box.

“Well, Haidée!” exclaimed her chaperone impressively, “was it not extraordinary our meeting Miles to-night? I nearly screamed when I saw him on the stairs; I positively thought it was his ghost! How nice he is; I wish poor dear Jimmy had a little of his good looks. All the same, looks bring in no income, and you are not to think of him, my love.” She paused expressively, and drew up the window.

“You need not alarm yourself, Gussie; everything was at an end long ago, between Miles and me,” she replied with an averted face, and a shade of frost in her tone.

“Delighted to hear it, I’m sure! You show your sense. Then I shall ask him to come and dine on Sunday, and to drop in whenever he pleases. I mean to be a sister to him; not a sister-in-law,” laughing at her own wit.

“Do not invite him, till I have gone to Aunt Jane’s,” said her sister gravely. “Put off your invitation for a day or two. I—we—it would be better, just at present, that we did not meet.”

“Fiddle-de-dee, my dear,” returned Gussie lightly; “you know, you must meet him now, constantly; if not here, at Baronsford. There’s no use in making a bug-a-boo of him! Thinking of these things is ten times worse than the reality; and if you and Miles are seen about together, in moderation, it will be the very best way of making people forget that other horrible affair! When he comes to dinner, he shall sit beside me,” generously. “I’ll do all the talking”—an unnecessary stipulation!—“you need not trouble your head to entertain him! I was always very fond of Miles. Here we are,” as they stopped at her own door, and she bustled out, and tripped gaily up the steps, and led the way into the morning room.

“Oh!” seeing her sister turn towards the staircase, “are you not going to sit up?” in a voice of dismay. “Come here, Haidée.”

“Well, what is it?” she asked wearily.

“Come and sit with me, in my dressing room, and have a chat. I want to talk it all over,” insinuatingly.

“Talk of what?” rather stiffly.

“Why, you stupid girl! of Miles, to be sure, and his sudden reappearance.”

Flighty, foolish, Gussie; where is your boasted common sense? At one moment declaiming against poverty, and forbidding Haidée to think of her cousin; and almost in the next breath, conjuring her to discuss him, and his reappearance, in the sacred privacy of hair-brushing! You are like a child playing with dynamite.

“Thank you, no, Gussie. I don’t want to talk about Miles,” suddenly gathering her white plush mantle round her shoulders, with an impatient shrug; “and as I’m tired, I’ll say good night;” and, nodding carelessly to her sister, Miss Brabazon departed, leaving her would be confidante both astounded and annoyed.

“Oh, ho! so she is on her high horse!” exclaimed Mrs. Vashon, with a face of disgust. “Jimmy, my angel! where are you? Come along, you shall talk to me, instead; and tell me what you thought of things in general, and of Miles’s sudden arrival in particular; dropping as it were from the sky! I declare the little rencontre, has given me quite a fillip,” walking over, and looking approvingly at herself in the glass.

“I’m glad he has come home, Gus, too,” he rejoined good-naturedly. “I suppose it will be all right now?”

“What on earth do you mean, Jimmy?” turning round hastily.

“I mean, that I suppose he and Haidée will make up their minds to run in double harness; he’s not likely to bolt again.”

“Oh, dear me,” fretfully; “Jimmy, how often, and often, have I drummed into your head, that he is not to think of Haidée now, nor she of him; they are paupers, my good man—paupers!”

“I don’t know about that,” returned Mr. Vashon sturdily. “She has a little money, and he has something besides his pay. I wonder how much he rides?” bringing his chin to a point, between a speculative finger and thumb. “He’s a good man on a horse, and my grey would carry him. We might knock up some riding parties. I always like to give a lame dog a lift over a stile,” grinning significantly.

“There will be no lifting of lame dogs, in this case, if you please, Jimmy,” very decisively, “you dreadful little match maker,” shaking her head at him, with a gesture at once of warning and reproof.

“But you know,” proceeded Mr. Vashon unabashed, “it was not really his fault; and it was awfully hard lines about the coin! What would you have done, if it had happened to you? Eh, Gussie?”

“I should be in a padded cell in Hanwell, my dear man!” with a promptitude that was quite startling.

“I think they are fond of one another still. Any way, you know, she won’t look at any one else! And she was as white as pipe clay; looked quite queer. I do think, my dear Gus, that you might lend a helping hand; any way you’ll wink at it, won’t you?” persuasively.

“Goodness, gracious, Jimmy!” cried his wife impatiently, “it would be downright sinful to do anything of the kind! He must marry an heiress; and she is booked for Craven Hepburn; and now, you sentimental, foolish person, I am not going to sit up any longer talking nonsense; if you encourage them in any folly,” shaking a warning forefinger at her lord and master, “I shall blow up, and be found in the roof!” and with this extraordinary and unintelligible threat, and nodding her head three times with great significance, Mrs. Vashon hastily collected her fan, and wraps, rang loudly for her Abigail, and departed; leaving her husband to meditate at his leisure.

Chapter X

So This Is Kitty

A fortnight elapsed; and as yet, Mrs. Vashon had not had an opportunity of carrying out her benevolent intention of enacting the part of “sister” to her cousin Miles. He had called, certainly, but she had not been at home, and he had declined a subsequent invitation to dinner—pleading a previous engagement—and now he had gone out of town. In fact, he had gone down to Maxton, in answer to an imperious summons from Miss Jane, who had a great deal to say to him, and many questions to ask, with regard to Teddy in the first place, himself in the second, and Haidée in the third. She was sternly resolved to pass him under the harrow of a searching examination. No excuse, or subterfuge, should avail him, he should not escape. Indeed he had no wish to escape, as it turned out; he was far less reticent than Haidée, and made a completely clean breast of everything to his aunt, who listened to the recital with greedy ears, and constantly re-arranged spectacles.

“Mrs. Brabazon is at the bottom of it!” she said at last, as if she were carefully, summing up the evidence; “believe me, she has been tampering with letters! she had set her heart on a match between Haidée and young Craven Hepburn; and has neither conscience nor scruples. Dear me, how we were all taken in in that woman!” as if suddenly stung by some poisonous recollection.

“Pray do not include me, Aunt Jane,” said Miles; “I never was; but I scarcely think as badly of her as you do. Haidée never wrote to me; she will have nothing to say to me, and you can scarcely wonder at it!”

“Have you seen her and spoken to her alone? Have you made the amende honorable by word of mouth?” demanded Miss Jane sharply.

“No, only by letter.”

“Then you must contrive to do so at once. Promise me that you will make a point of seeing her as you go through town,” leaning eagerly forward.

“I can easily promise you that. I always intended to call, and say goodbye, before I go abroad.”

“Yes, but be sure that you see her alone; half-a-dozen words are better than twenty letters. If you really care for her still, she will marry you yet. I’m afraid I may seem a meddling old woman, and that you will think I have no business mixing myself up in young people’s love affairs; but honestly, Miles, my heart is set on the match! You have my very best good wishes,—that is, if you are in the same mind as before,” gravely.

“I am; but she is not;—in short, she is going to be married,” he returned with slow intensity.

“What?” half rising from her chair, “married to whom, pray?”

“To the fellow you mentioned just now. A man with heaps of coin—Hepburn.”

“I don’t believe it,” exclaimed Miss Jane, re-seating herself with a kind of plunge. “Who told you? Strange that I should be the last to hear of it,” with severe incredulity.

“Gussie. And besides, he is always about with her in town, as I was once,” with a rather bitter laugh. “So you see, Aunt Jane, your good wishes must be passed on to him.”

“They never will!” emphatically, “never. And Miles, you have no spirit! Why do you not ask her, why have you not put your fate to the touch, why have you been hanging back?” To this her nephew made no immediate reply, and his aunt suddenly exclaimed—

“Ah! here is Florian in his dog-cart! come to drive you to the the station. I’m sorry you have to go, but you must come back to-morrow or next day, and tell me how you have sped with Haidée. I believe, Miles,” with increasing tenacity of tone and gesture, “that you will bring me good news. Now promise me, that you will return,” squeezing his hand as she spoke, “I shall expect you the day after to-morrow. Here, you must go!” impatiently. “I don’t want Florian to be coming in,” and with a little push she hurried her nephew out of the door, whispering one last hasty injunction—“mind you see her alone.”

To this Miles nodded impressive acquiescence, and running down the steps, was soon rapidly driven away.

*  *  *

It is the very fag end of the season, very hot weather in July, and yet crowds linger on in town, unable to tear themselves away. Among the crowd one morning in the Row, sits Gussie, determined to see the season “out,” as she says, to the very bitter end. She delights in London, and is by no means looking forward to the orthodox two months at the sea side. Haidée, on the contrary, is yearning for the deep, cool, country lanes, the hayfields, and the little trickling streams round Maxton, and it is only Gussie’s urgent insistence that keeps her at her side. Mrs. Vashon is very fond of taking what she calls a “pennyworth in the Row of a morning,” and watching the riders (although she does not care for figuring in the saddle herself). Haidée is seated beside her; she looks pale, evidently she is oppressed by the heat; despite her thin white dress and large white parasol. She is not joining in the conversation, nor is she missed. She sits in a rather abstracted attitude, looking coldly meditative, with Woggy at her feet—Woggy, who is figuratively turning up his nose at all the pugs and dachshunds, of high and low degree, who are passing continually before him; his face and pose expresses derision and contempt; especially towards those who were led by a string (presumably prize animals), which for a common, unfashionable, country dog like him, is, to say the least of it, grossly impertinent! Gussie is chattering away incessantly, to a young man seated on her left hand, with her usual volubility, and criticises everybody on horseback, or foot, with her unmerciful little tongue. She had just stigmatised two stiff, respectable, elderly ladies, as “a funny old pair of jackdaws,” when her attention was attracted by Miles—actually Miles, riding;—going up the ride on a very fine brown horse, accompanied by an elderly gentleman, with whom he was deep in conversation.

“That’s good-looking, Gee,” remarked her companion, following her eyes, with a look of lazy interest.

“It’s my cousin! I mean,” correcting herself, “riding it; Captain Brabazon. Oh,” impetuously, “I wish he would look this way! How stupid of him! I’m sure he’s talking shop to that old fossil he is with. Haidée,” turning quickly to her sister, “do you see Miles, and the beautiful horse he is riding? Where on earth did he get it? Mr. Delafosse says it’s worth a couple of hundred pounds.”

“Hush, Gussie,” said the other, in a low voice. “Don’t you know what horse it is? It’s poor Teddy’s charger,” with a sob in her throat.

“What! You don’t say so! Oh, then, I must see it! Mr. Delafosse,” excitedly, “hurry, hurry along, and beckon him! Say I wish to see him at once! He is riding my poor brother’s horse; he brought it home.”

And thereupon, in spite of Haidée’s agonized, unspoken appeal, Mr. Delafosse was despatched up the ride, to summon Miles.

In three minutes more, he was beside the railings; and Gussie was leaning over them, full of enthusiasm, surprise, and admiration, reproaching her cousin for his neglect, in her most sprightly manner.

“You have never been to see us once! and you say you are off to Germany the day after tomorrow. I really think, Miles, considering all things, that you have behaved badly,” looking up at him witchingly.

After a few minutes’ voluble conversation, the vivacious Gussie glanced towards her sister—sitting aloof, apparently indifferent, with somewhat lowered parasol.

“Is she not a queer girl?” exclaimed the flighty Augusta. “She who used to be so fond of Ted—who nearly went crazy when he died—and now she won’t even take the trouble to come and look at his dear horse,” stroking its neck very timidly, with a pale kid glove.

“It is only because I am riding her,” returned Miles, with a mental pang; “I will send her round to-morrow, for her to see at your house. I know she would——”

“Nonsense! Rubbish!” turning briskly away, and accosting her sister excitedly.

“Haidée! how can you be so sulky!” in a hurried undertone. “Here is Miles, riding poor Teddy’s horse; go over and speak to him, and don’t be so stiff and disagreeable! I wonder you can show such temper!”

And afterwards Mrs. Vashon declared, with uplifted eyes and hands, that she had had nothing to do with it.

Haidée thus adjured, rose with visible reluctance, and walked over to where Kitty was stretching her beautiful lean thorough-bred head over the rails, gazing with questioning eyes at the approaching figure, who came and laid her hand upon her glossy neck.

One would almost imagine that the dumb animal had sense; that she knew that this was her late master’s favourite sister; for after a few preparatory stampings, she lifted, and politely tendered, her right fore leg.

Her accomplishments had afforded unlimited amusement in the livery stable, where she had once more tasted good English corn and hay; there was frequently a little knot of spectators round her stall. At first she had been taken for (oh, scandal!) a retired circus horse! but an intelligent ostler had displayed the government brand; and it was soon known to all that she was a charger—a favourite charger recently—brought home from the Cape.

“Maybe she’s seen some fighting; she’s a rare well-shaped one; well-bred; Irish, I should say,” quoth a judge. “Who knows, if some man wasn’t killed on her back!” looking round his audience impressively.

“That’s a bad shot for once! Tim Doyle,” said another; “her master is in town; and comes to see her every day, and makes as much fuss about her as if she was first favourite for the Derby! There’s nothing too good for her!”

But to return to Haidée, after this digression. She laid her hand on the smooth hard neck of Teddy’s charger, and said in a low voice—

“So this is Kitty? I’m—I’m glad you brought her home, Miles,” raising her eyes to his; but the strain was too severe, beyond her endurance; the memory of Teddy, the presence of Miles, who was leaning over Kitty’s neck, and looking straight down into her upturned face, was too much for her composure.

Great big tears sprang to her eyes, in spite of a valiant struggle to suppress them, and one of them actually fell on Kitty’s brown nose. She hastily turned, without another look or word, and precipitately sought her chair, with her eyes on the ground, and her parasol held well between herself and her lynx-eyed elder sister.

“I saw such a funny thing just now!” said a girl who had gaily cantered past. “Look back,” to her cavalier; “do you see the man on the brown horse by the rails, and the girl in a white dress with the big parasol?— Well, only imagine, she is crying!

*  *  *

A little later, Gussie and her sister, in their smart victoria, with superb stepping cobs, were bowling homewards and lunchwards. An irritating block caused some little delay, and Gussie impatiently exclaimed—

“Pouff, how hot it is! and what a dust! The Dawsons are off next week. I think we may soon be thinking of a move, too; though it’s an awful bore. By the way, what a show Mrs. Dawson makes of herself in that big hat! I suppose she imagines, that because that shape looks heavenly on a girl like you—why, what’s the matter? You are not ill, are you?” noticing for the first time, her sister’s exceeding pallor.

“My head aches little. It’s the heat, and this heavy hat,” mendaciously.

“Really and truly, you must lie down, and put eau de cologne on your forehead when we get home. You know there are a heap of people coming to dinner; and I’ve asked Miles,” defiantly.

“Oh, Gussie,” in a tone of pained dismay, “how could you? Well, I shall not appear, my head is splitting.”

“Oh, come now, I know your little games,” with blunt vulgarity. “I shall not tell stories for you this time; nor screen you, as I did, when you kissed him at the gate!”

“I never kissed him at the gate,” exclaimed Haidée, indignantly, with a sudden flood of colour in her white face.

“Well, my dear, if you did not, you tried to; and that was all the same, if not worse! You must come down this evening; if you don’t, it will be so very marked; and there is no quarrel, is there?”

“No—of course not—no quarrel,” she murmured faintly.

“Then you will dine, my love! I cannot have the table put out for your caprices—we should actually be thirteen!”

Thus Gussie triumphed as usual, and Haidée succumbed.

Chapter XI

Teddy’s Message

The dinner party was a rather dull affair, despite of Gussie’s French cook, and her own unflagging powers of sustaining conversation. Haidée sat beside Mr. Hepburn, and endeavoured to eat what was placed before her, and to talk to her companion, with but small success.—The social atmosphere around her was overcharged. When the ladies rose, she retired altogether; and did not reappear during the remainder of the evening; her head ached badly—it was no empty excuse this time.

Gussie took an unaccountable pleasure in bringing Miles and Haidée together. The situation was piquante, it gave her an odd sensation to watch them stealthily, and there was a fine flavour of danger about the whole proceeding that appealed to her love of excitement. She was a mass of contradictions. She did not mean her sister to marry this good-looking, impecunious cousin, and yet she could not resist asking him to her house. She was, as we have before remarked, like a child playing with combustibles, and would be not a little startled if she made a grand conflagration.

When some of the chief guests had departed, Mrs. Vashon drew her relative aside, for a comfortable confidential tête-à-tête—which, by the way, resembled a soliloquy on her part, for her companion was preoccupied, and his answers but brief and vague.

“I was afraid, you never meant to come to us, Miles,” she remarked, with a smile. “I’m so glad to see you in my own house,” glancing complacently round the luxurious apartment. “When you come back from Germany, you must drop in here, just as you would with Connie, and make yourself quite at home. Don’t wait for an invitation.”

“You are very kind, Gussie; but you won’t see me again—for some time. I came to-day to please you, as you made such a point of it; not to please myself.”

“Thank you,” reddening angrily. “Commend me to one’s own relations for rude speeches!” returned his little hostess, with ire in her eye.

“I mean nothing rude, and you must be denser than you used to be, if you cannot perceive that it is purgatory for me to come here—and why. Do you think, I’m made of granite that I’ve no feeling—that it can be pleasant for me, to see another fellow in my place? Yes,” with a deprecating gesture. “I know what you would say: it was my own fault—the fruit of my own mad folly. But don’t you understand that that makes it still worse, still harder to bear? I’ve often wondered out there, how I should feel if she were going to be married, and tried to imagine myself indifferent, or resigned. What a fool I was,” bitterly. “The reality is another thing! What I’ve endured in seeing her and that fellow Hepburn——” he paused, unable to say more, leaving Augusta’s vivid imagination to fill in the picture.

She was sorry for him; yes, and not a little startled, at the storm she had raised. “Then you really were very fond of her?” opening her eyes widely.

“Fond of her! of course I was! Did you not know that? Did you think I was going to marry her for the money only?” he demanded angrily.

“I—I—did not know,” faltered Gussie, with a conciliating smile; cowed by her cousin’s low-toned vehemence, and remarking to herself, en passant, “that she would be very sorry to trifle with Miles’s fiery temper.”

Mrs. Vashon’s conscience was rather out of order; but now and then it pricked her sharply. She always believed that her sister had had what she called an Arrière Pensée for Miles, in spite of everything; but of Miles’s own sentiments, she never had been quite certain till now. Now there was no mistaking his meaning. Query,—was it right of her, to stand between these two young people, flaring the danger signal of poverty in one hand, and an untruth in the other? Would it not be better to let them go their own way, and take their chance? But as her eyes roved over her own costly possessions, and she thought of the delights of ease, and riches, of a French cook, powdered footmen, high-stepping horses, dress, diamonds, and contrasted what she considered would be Haidée’s fate—a bare barrack room, a few tables and chairs, she stifled conscience, and was resolved to allow no sentimental considerations to come between her and her sister’s well-being. Once Miles was fairly out of the way she would marry Mr. Hepburn, and be thankful to her prudent Augusta for the remainder of her natural life!

Whilst these thoughts had been flitting through her brain, Mrs. Vashon had sat in silence, with her eyes fixed on the floor; her cousin (little dreaming of the busy schemes she was weaving at his side, and the curious workings of her feminine mind), suddenly stood up, and, in spite of her indignant protestations, bade her an abrupt good night, and took his departure.

As he walked back to his club in the cool summer night, he made up his mind that he would see Haidée the next day; of course it would be a painful interview to him, but it seemed somehow cowardly, not to speak to her, and beg for forgiveness from her own lips; a word at an evening party, another in the Row, and a look across the dinner table, had been all the intercourse they had had hitherto. He could see that she shrank from him; she would not forget, nor forgive. Teddy had declared that it would be “all right;” but poor, ever sanguine Teddy had been miserably mistaken!

*  *  *

It was undoubtedly a fitting penance, for the fib she had told Miles; that Gussie should be obliged to ride with her husband the following morning! Now and then Mr. Vashon insisted that his wife should accompany him to Rotten Row, on the abhorred chestnut—and this was one of those painful occasions. Haidée still complained of a bad headache, and her sister, in her riding habit, in the very worst of humours, her little face looking as cross as two sticks, was mounted at the door, and soon proceeding in a gingerly manner towards the Marble Arch; sitting very forward in the saddle, with the reins convulsively clutched in her hands, and her heart in her mouth.

She hated riding in the streets, with nimble hansoms and thundering omnibuses swarming round her. She hated just as much riding in the Row, where the abominable chestnut (oh, how she wished he was dead!) was wont to be unusually light hearted, and capered along sideways, like a feather in the breeze, whilst his unhappy mistress, with beating pulses and clenched teeth, declared to herself

most solemnly (as she always did on similar occasions), “that this would be positively her last appearance on horseback.” How tiresome of Haidée to have a headache; it was a real one this time, unmistakably, for she looked as if she had not slept all night.—“A good thing Miles was going!”

But Miles had not gone yet! Whilst Mrs. Vashon complacently imagined that he was speeding down to Folkestone, he was actually standing on her own doorstep, holding parley with one of her powdered giants!

“Mrs. Vashon had gone out riding, about half-an-hour ago, but,” encouragingly, “Miss Brabazon was at home.”

More things are known in that vehmgericht, the servants’ hall, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. At this critical moment the young lady herself appeared upon the stairs, accompanied by Woggy. She was drawing on her gloves. There is a saying “that French women put their gloves on in their dressing-rooms, English women on the stairs, Irish women in the street.”

“Gussie is not at home,” she said, offering her hand formally.

“And you are going out, too?” interrogatively.

“Yes, just to give Woggy a run in Kensington Gardens.”

“Then, in that case, if you will allow me, I will accompany you,” walking beside her down down the steps, as he spoke.

Whilst the impassive Jeames stood with his hand on the door, and looked after the couple with an air of almost paternal valediction.

“What a warm day it is!” observed Miles, striking at once into that very safe subject—the weather.

“Yes, broiling,” returned his cousin, acquiescently.

As they passed a grinning Italian and his instrument, he said, “Despise me as much as you shall think fit, but I like a street-organ. That is to say, as long as ‘Tommy make room for your uncle’ is not among its répetoire.”

“Yes?” with indifferent politeness.

“What,” she was asking herself, “ did her cousin mean, by offering her his escort, and talking foolish platitudes about the weather and street music?”

“I did not know that Gussie rode,” he continued, opening a new subject, and evidently anxious to keep the ball of conversation rolling. Anything, he assured himself, would be better than dead silence; and he could not broach the topic uppermost in his mind here in the street!

“Nor does she, of her own free will,” responded her sister gravely. “She hates it, but it is just one point on which Jim is inflexible; he does not believe in her fears; but the chestnut really is rather too much for her! She was nearly crying this morning before she set out.”

“And no doubt agrees with the Spanish proverb that declares ‘a running horse to be an open sepulchre,’” said Miles grimly.

“It admirably conveys her views; but I doubt if she ever heard of it. How refreshing it is under these trees after the baking glare of the streets,” she added, as they walked down an avenue and encountered hordes of children, and nurses, girls with books and music en route to classes, and a few well-dressed idlers like themselves.

“It is better over there,” said her companion, indicating a distant clump of trees and a seat. “Come along.”

“Gussie will be sorry to miss you,” she observed politely, as they strolled slowly across the grass, “but she will be at home all the afternoon,” seating herself as she spoke on a wooden bench. “I am not going any further; thanks.” But Miles did not accept this covert dismissal; on the contrary, he sat down beside her, exclaiming—

“Not going any further! neither am I. In fact, Haidée, my visit to-day was not to Gussie, but to you.”

“To me?” very stiffly.

“Yes; to you. I see you are about to add, ‘And to what am I indebted for the honour?’ I will tell you as well as I can. I wanted to speak to you—speaking is harder than writing—but it is more satisfactory—to ask you once more, to forgive me—you might; it has been worse for me, than for you, a thousand times.”

“I do forgive you,” startled at this sudden appeal, and becoming very white. “I forgave you freely long ago,” looking straight before her, as she spoke. “Let us never, never speak of the subject again. We will forget it.”

“You may,” replied her cousin impressively; “but I never can.”

“Oh yes, you can; you will find it easier than you think,” with veiled significance. “And now, Miles,” she continued, her mind wavering between impulse and reserve; eager on one hand to seize this unrivalled opportunity to question her companion about Teddy, and yet reluctant to break down the barrier of cool formality, she had raised with such labour, “I want you to tell me about Teddy.”

Her cousin had been most completely taken aback by the cool, half contemptuous manner in which she had absolved him, and her eager haste to quit the subject which had such a vital interest for them both. He could have borne it better if she had turned upon him with angry reproaches, with bitter, hot upbraidings, with indignation—yea, with tears. This calm tranquil indifference, this complete and prompt forgiveness, was intolerable.

“About Teddy,” he replied, after a very perceptible silence. “You saw my letters, did you not? What more can I tell you? What do you wish to hear?” digging up a daisy with his cane, without raising his head.

“About his death,” casting reserve to the winds, and gazing at her cousin with tightly clasped hands, and agonized eyes. “I’m always, always thinking of it; did he suffer much?” her voice sinking to a whisper.

“No—no—he passed away almost as if he were asleep, with his hand in mine, his head on my shoulder—he said, it was not hard to die,” he added in a lower tone.

“Tell me some more--you were with him alone, you only. I know that he sent me his love, but were there no last wishes, was there no—” with quivering lips, “no message for me?”

“Yes,” returned Miles, speaking with an effort. “There was a special message for you,” slowly turning his head, and looking at his cousin gravely.

“And what was it?” breathlessly; rising to her feet, and confronting her companion with anxious wistful eyes. “Tell it to me, oh, tell it to me quickly!”

“I cannot,” also standing up. “It has no sense now, it is a dead letter.”

“What do you mean?” indignantly. “Do you intend to keep it from me?” hurriedly drying her eyes, and surveying him with amazed incredulity. “I will not believe it!”

“But you may believe it,” replied her cousin in a low but steady voice.

“Miles! how can you be so dishonourable! you are betraying a trust he left with you, a message for me; you must, you shall tell me,” unconsciously seizing his arm, carried away by passion and strong emotion, and regardless of time, person, or place.

“I have told you before that I cannot; he would not wish it now. Be satisfied to know, that his last thoughts were for you; that yours was the last name he uttered.”

“I know, I know,” she returned, with dropping tears; her anger and resentment somewhat subdued by Miles’s resolute but sympathizing assurance.

“But why may I not hear all? How changed you are, Miles—how hard.”

“So are you,” he replied in a constrained tone. “I know, in spite of your assurance just now—that your forgiveness is but hollow. If Teddy had lived, it might have been different. He said you would not be implacable. He said you would have answered my letter,” reproachfully.

“And he was quite right,” she returned impetuously, “I did answer it.”

“You answered it? Well, I never received any reply. How did you send it?”

“I gave it to Mrs. Brabazon to enclose in hers,” now becoming very pale.

“Ah, well she omitted to do so; probably she put it in the fire.”

“Oh, never! how could she!” stammered Haidée, incredulously.

“Probably without the smallest compunction. Possibly she thought she was acting in your best interests.”

“I knew she never liked you, Miles; never. Oh what a dreadful day it was for us, when papa married again, and gave us such a step-mother!” exclaimed Haidée passionately. “She drove Teddy from home; she made us all very wretched. She did many things that were not right—no, they were not right; and now, she has done this,” clasping her hands very tightly together.

“Yes,” assented Miles, “she has done this.”

“Happily, there are not many stepmothers like her; I know two or three who are very different,” rather incoherently.

“No doubt, that is true—but yours was more like the typical lady in old fairy tales,” bitterly.

“I know that she detested you, Miles; but I never, never would have believed that she would have stooped to that; it was stealing,” said Haidée in an awestruck whisper.

Worse than stealing!” returned Miles with fierce emphasis; and then there was a curious silence, for some moments.

He had become very pale; he was thinking of Mr. Hepburn, seeing with too painful vividness, that mental mirage, “what might have been.”—Alas, alas! for the many who look with dim eyes on that same fatal picture! All we can say is—would that Mrs. Brabazon had been within reach, that she might have received the vials of her victim’s wrath! She had ruined his life; she had misrepresented him to Haidée, and Haidée to him. As to his marrying her, there was an end to that possibility now; his beautiful cousin beside him was engaged to another man—he must not forget that. He must be careful of what he said.

“Mrs. Brabazon wrote to you; what did she say?” demanded Haidée, after this long silence. Silence is sometimes far more eloquent than speech.

“She said,” speaking with a decent semblance of composure, “that thanks to my mad haste in leaving the country, I had of course lost the money, and you. That having nothing worth mentioning to live on, and no prospects, she appealed to my honour to release you unconditionally—adding that your heart had never been in the engagement,” accompanying his reply, with a steady penetrating glance. It was Haidée’s turn to keep silent now.

She stood with the shadows of the branches flickering on her white dress, her eyes on the ground, her colour coming and going.

“I want you to do something for me, to show that we are friends, Haidée,” he proceeded at length. “I am going to ask you a favour. I go away to-morrow, and shall probably not be in England again for years.”

“Why not?” tremulously, and resolutely repressing humiliating tears.

“There is nothing to keep me in the country now; my friends are chiefly elsewhere,” evasively. “I shall spend my leave with Connie, and then go back to the Cape. I cannot take Kitty out there again, can I? and I want to give her to you.”

“To me? Oh, Miles,” colouring with amazement.

“Yes, you are really the fittest owner for her. She will carry you well; you will give her a good home, if Hepburn does not object; but he won’t; you need not mention me in the matter; you can tell him that she was Teddy’s charger.”

“Tell Mr. Hepburn?” she exclaimed, in a high key of astonishment. “Why should I? What on earth has he to say to me?”

“Everything, according to Gussie,” in a tone of suppressed bitterness.

“Oh, but you know Gussie of old; she,” smiling faintly, “is always thinking of marriages and money.”

“Do you mean,” hesitating, “that she is mistaken? that you are not engaged to Hepburn?”

“I am not engaged to any one,” emphatically.

“But Gussie——”

“Oh,” impatiently interrupting, “Gussie wishes that I would marry Mr. Hepburn, but that is all,” turning away and taking her parasol off the bench, as if to intimate that she considered the subject closed.

Hope began to revive. Something indefinable in her manner, in her half-averted face, was an unintentional revelation to Miles, and flinging his stern resolutions, and all prudence, to the winds, he came a step nearer, and speaking in a voice which he did his best to master, said—

“Then listen to me, Haidée. What would you think of giving me another chance?”

She paused, became extremely red, and dug the point of her parasol into the turf, without raising her eyes, but her heart was throbbing wildly.

“I know that I am no match for you now,” he continued hurriedly; “that I am poor;—that it seems presumption to ask you to share my life; still I am not absolutely a beggar. Money is not everything,” expressively; “and I believe I could make you happy.”

The young lady before him was nearly as agitated as he was himself. She felt that fate had been kind to her at last. She knew full well that she would rather marry her cousin Miles (and take in sewing, if need be), than Craven Hepburn and all his thousands; and, without any undue reluctance, she answered, “Yes.”

“But what will Gussie say?” she exclaimed, after a pause, with a rather hysterical laugh.

“She will call it midsummer madness. She will declare you are crazy,” returned her cousin without hesitation; “and I’m afraid most people will agree with her! A captain in a marching regiment, to quote Mrs. Brabazon—Haidée, you know you are throwing yourself away!”

“I do not think so,” with a reassuring smile.

“You see, you have waited to marry me without the money after all, in spite of your assurance to the contrary, that day by the river.”

“I have. One never knows what may happen! No one can say we are going to marry for money this time, that’s one comfort!”

“I know one person who would have been glad of this—poor Teddy,” observed Miles gravely, after a long silence. “He always said it would be all right. He always assured me, that you would never give me up. And now I may tell you his message. It is only a few words, but they seem prophetic. You will understand now, why I could not repeat them before, believing you to be engaged to Hepburn. They were——”

“Yes,” breathlessly.

“‘She will marry you, Miles. Tell her I said so.’”

*  *  *

Woggy, who had galloped himself off his legs (and who was now rather inclined to embonpoint, as befitted advancing years), lay in the shade, his tongue lolling out, his eyes rolling slowly from his mistress to her lover, and back again, with a gaze of affectionate toleration. But it was luncheon time, and in his imagination, he lifted up his nose, and sniffed a fragrant aroma of chicken cutlets.

These young people seemed to have forgotten the time. It was his dinner hour,--and he had not. At last, to his intense relief, they appeared to realize that it was past two o’clock, and commenced to stroll slowly homewards, under the trees.

As they crossed the road near Lancaster Gate, the trio were espied by Mrs. Vashon (who was returning alive and alone), and whose quick little roving eyes, had noted Woggy, her sister, and, was it possible? Miles. “Then it was all over!” she said to herself, with a rapid acceptance of the situation. She knew it instinctively. There was something so horribly confidential in their attitude, in their loitering, leisurely, walk. Leisurely as it was, they reached home before her, and Haidée fled upstairs, leaving Miles alone on the steps to receive her sister, and break the news to her as best he might! But Mrs. Vashon saved him all trouble on that score. Before she had brought her horse to a standstill, she called out to her smiling, good-looking kinsman—

“I’ll have nothing to say to it! Nothing whatever! I wash my hands of the whole business,” throwing him the reins as she spoke, without waiting for her groom.

“Very well, my dear Augusta,” lifting her carefully down. “Don’t make yourself uneasy. I will undertake the whole responsibility.”

“Oh, you wicked, faithless Miles! How could she?” recovering her spirits a little from the mere fact of being once more on terra firma. “Fancy her marrying you, in spite of everything! More than I would do,” leading the way into a cool, dim library, and tossing her whip contemptuously on the table, as though to give point to the remark.

“We are not married yet,” he ventured to remark.

“No,” sitting down, “and if you and she have settled it all to your entire satisfaction, the sooner we have the wedding the better. Delays are dangerous,” looking at her companion, with intentional significance.

“Gussie,” he expostulated, reddening with anger, “I don’t think I deserved that!”

“No, no, you did not,” with eager contrition, “forgive me! but riding always makes me as cross as a cat. I’m not responsible for my actions, after a morning canter.”

“But you are at other times; and now I wish you would tell me,” looking at her steadily, “what possessed you to say, that Haidée was going to marry Hepburn?”

“Oh, dear! oh, dear! now Miles, don’t look so tragic! I admit that I embroidered a little; but it was with the best intentions. I meant it for her good, and yours—of course you are aware of that!”

There was a boldness and simplicity about this extenuation, of her little moral backsliding, that fairly took away her cousin’s breath.

“I know I’ve deceived you, but if you had not come home just at this particular crisis, Haidée would have married Craven, and all would have come right.”

“Gone wrong, you mean,” indignantly. “Tell me honestly, Gussie, do you believe I care for Haidée? Come now, candidly.”

“Well, yes, I suppose you do,” grudgingly, “and there were not many pretty girls in South Africa to turn the current of your thoughts. Don’t try to make a boast of your constancy to me! I know men’s constancy, virtue is an absence of temptation!”

“Do you believe, that Haidée cares for me?“ not deigning to notice the rider, which the loquacious Gussie had appended to her previous admission.

“It looks like it,” reluctantly.

“Then why should we not marry, and be happy? Can you give me a good, and sufficient reason?”

“I can give you fifteen!” with prompt decision.

“One will do, thank you,” drily.

“You have no money,” turning out the palms of her empty hands expressively, to illustrate her remark.

“Money, money! I’m sick of hearing of it,” angrily. “We have enough to live on. I suppose that’s the main thing.”

“I don’t call it living, existing on five hundred a year; but every one to their taste! I don’t like poverty. But I know you and Haidée will do as you please,” with a shrug of resignation.

“You are quite right, Gussie; and now, having lodged your protest, you will have to make the best of us,” smiling, “and as you suggested just now, we will have the wedding soon.”

“Yes,” brightening up a little, “and from here, of course! I will give it; and if I have seemed hateful and odious to you, Miles, remember, it is all because I’ve been trying to do my best for Haidée.”

“According to your lights,” corrected Captain Brabazon.

“According to my lights, as you say, and I see you are both too much for me, and I give in gracefully.”

“Gracefully? then in that case, I hope you will go upstairs, and say something to Haidée, as she is rather doubtful about your consent.”

“I will, of course! I’ll wish her joy with all my heart. Personally, you know,” darting a look from under her eyelashes, “I like you very much, far, far better than poor Craven. You have never doubted that?”

“Then why should you be so very much surprised, and scandalized, if Haidée does the same?” demanded her cousin impressively.

To this query Mrs. Vashon could find no immediate or appropriate reply. Miles had beaten her with her own weapon; for once she was silent.

*  *  *

Thanks to Miss Jane Brabazon’s well-filled purse, the young people were endowed with a sufficient income, and even Gussie’s fears were dissipated. Miles was now notoriously Miss Jane’s heir; and she told him anxiously that she hoped he would leave the army and settle down near her, “for you surely cannot expect me to spare you Haidée altogether.” Her delight at this unexpected realization of her hopes, of seeing one love match in the family, was expressed in a very tangible form. It took the shape of an allowance of five hundred a year, carriages, piano, plate, house-linen, and many other gifts too numerous to mention.

Gussie was firmly resolved to have her way, in at least one matter; there would be no “quiet wedding” this time, but a very grand choral ceremony, and a magnificent déjeuner at her house afterwards. She had an ardent co-operator and confidante in Captain Gee, who entered into all the arrangements con amore; partly because he was charmed with the sprightly Mrs. Vashon, and partly because the proceedings took the form of a stupendous surprise, a delightful practical joke, on his friend Miles; who, in consequence of long mornings spent in Kensington Gardens, and afternoon rides to Richmond or Bushy Park, with Haidée and Mr. Vashon (who secretly plumed himself, on having made “all square”), was absolutely ignorant of the extensive preparations that were going forward, and who fondly imagined that it was to be merely a family gathering.

Haidée has held out firmly for her former wedding gown; in despite of her sister’s almost passionate entreaties on behalf of a substitute with “a cream velvet brocade bodice, and train.” No, no, the “old thing,” as Mrs. Vashon disrespectfully termed it, was disinterred from sheets of tissue paper, in a spare-room wardrobe at Baronsford, was brought to town, inspected, and was not yellow,—not so bad as was anticipated, and accordingly, was triumphantly worn by the bride. Miss Jane’s lavender silk also saw the light once more. Many were the presents offered by friends and relations; but we question if any of them were as heartily bestowed, as Gussie’s gift; the light-hearted chestnut hack, of which Haidée is now the happy possessor! Of course Captain Gee was best man, and fulfilled his part to his own entire satisfaction; was tyrannical to the bridegroom, brotherly to the bride, “charming” to the six pretty bridesmaids, and confidential to Mrs. Vashon; indeed he informed her that he was going to follow Miles’s example before long (having metaphorically flung the handkerchief to the little girl he met at Mrs. Bohun’s conversazione), and he intends to pitch his tent, as usual, near his friend and brother officer. Let us hope that Mrs. Brabazon and Mrs. Gee will coalesce.

And now we have a vision of a grand choral ceremony; of white flowers, and white dresses, of a crowded church, of countless favours; finally of a storm of rice and old shoes. In the midst of the throng we notice Miss Jane, her grey curls bobbing, her face beaming. Here at last is a wedding to her mind! She holds her white satin missile in her hand, throws it with hearty satisfaction (for is it not an ancient custom?); and we ourselves, with equal goodwill, figuratively fling a slipper after Captain and Mrs. Brabazon.

The End