To Charles Dickens, Esq.

My Dear Sir,

I thank you sincerely for permitting me to write your name upon the dedication page of ‘Véronique.’ My offering is but a common flower—perhaps a weed—but, at any rate, plucked freshly from the fields of my imagination; and neither forced in a hot-house, nor sprung from a dunghill, as some of the criticisms upon modern novels would lead one to believe. ‘Véronique’ will not live longer than a gathered blossom, but whilst she does so I lay her at your feet, with greater pride in the remembrance that you were one of my dead fathers nearest friends, than that you are the greatest living novelist of the age.

Believe me,
With every kind regard and wish,
Sincerely yours,

Florence Marryat Church.

Brussels, May, 1869.


To The Novel-Reading Public

Although my name has been now for more than four years your common property, to praise or censure as you please, I have never yet ventured to appear before you in my proper person, or speak a word upon my own behalf; nor should I intrude myself upon your notice even now, did not the plot of “Véronique” call for a brief explanation.

The word “sensational’ has been so twisted from its original meaning by the cant of what, in this age, we term criticism, that it has become difficult to know in what use it should be applied. To affirm that the story I submit to your approval is not sensational, i.e., that its incidents are not intended to appeal to your feelings, would be erroneous, since it boasts no higher claim; but on the other hand, should I be accused of distorting nature in order to give birth to a “monstrosity of fiction,” my answer is, that the most unlikely scenes depicted here, the adventures on the Nilgiri Hills, and the wreck in the Chinese seas, have happened, and are drawn from life; and it is a remarkable fact, that those incidents in my novels which have incurred most abuse or ridicule at the hands of the public press, have invariably been those gained from the same source. The situations which I create are passed as probable; those which I have seen take place, rejected as libels against nature. To quote an abler authority than myself:— “Whenever you present the actual simple truth, it is somehow always denounced as a lie; they disown it, cast it off, throw it on the parish; whereas the product of your imagination, the mere figment, the sheer fiction, is adopted, petted, termed pretty, proper, sweetly natural; the little spurious wretch gets all the comfits, the honest lawful bantling all the cuffs.” Perhaps my honest bantling may share the same fate, but I attest his legitimacy before the world.

I perfectly agree with the following sentiment, as delivered by the Saturday Review, on the ninth of last January:— “Let a man once have absolute confidence in his line, whether of thought or action, and he smiles at attack.” And I have proved it by carrying out this tale to its legitimate conclusion, in spite of the onus which will probably accrue to me.

But a novelist is professedly a delineator of human nature, and I maintain that whilst half the world sits in mourning, a true craftsman has no right to paint life one clash of marriage bells. He has no right, in fact, to deny the instinct which is in him, and will make itself heard, since, strive as he may, his best achievement must fall so far short of his lowest ambition, in order to bring his novels up (or down) to the standard of the circulating libraries. And for my own part, ephemeral as are the secondary romances of the present day, I have sufficient reverence for the profession of which I know myself to be so unworthy a disciple, to make me prefer that my efforts should fall stillborn from the press, rather than flourish by pandering to a false taste for falser art. Notwithstanding which avowal, I venture to hope that “Véronique” may be received with no less kindness than her predecessors, and I gladly take this opportunity of thanking you, who are my true critics, (and the only critics whose opinions make or mar my fortune), for the cordial hand-grasp which from the first you have stretched forth to me, and which, (though doubtless in a great measure given for my father’s sake), has had more than the power to counterbalance such small disagreeables as a woman placed in my position must inevitably incur.

Florence Marryat Church.

Volume One

Chapter I

On the Blue Mountains

On the blue mountains! What pleasant memories does not the phrase recall. The vision of a lofty ghaut with tropical vegetation clinging about its steep and rugged sides, up which the straining oxen labour painfully, stopping to breathe at every twenty paces, little recking the while that their cloven feet are trampling down a bed of flowers, which conveys no idea of rest or beauty to their wearied senses.

The vision of bright waters: some, leaping in foaming wrath from one mountain’s ledge to another, dashing their frothy spray around them as they fall, and emitting a never-ceasing roar, which may be heard for half a mile away; others dripping noiselessly from rock to rock, and quietly trickling over their time-worn courses—furrows in the cheek of mother Earth—though Nature’s sluices were open, and she were weeping silently over the little notice taken by man, of her exceeding beauty.

The memory of eleven miles of romantic tangled loveliness, but every step of which is a wearisome ascent, until the traveller stands on table-land once more, and turning to survey the mountain he has left behind him, finds that the snowy clouds are lying beneath his feet, hovering half way down the ghaut which he has just ascended.

Up in the clouds! what kind of country can this cloud-land be? A belt of hills, verdant everywhere, except where the pathways are cut, like deep scars upon their broad, green breasts, and in the valley formed by their magic circle, a wide, calm lake, across the centre of which, a bridge connects the two sides of the English settlement, known by its native name of Ootacamund.

Dark fir-trees, standing out in bold relief against the clear blue sky, and white chalet-looking houses nestling in their bowery gardens against the sides of the hills, remind the stranger at a first glance of Switzerland; the church with its tall spire topping the umbrageous trees, and the roses, geraniums and heliotropes, with which even the hedges are lined, carry his thoughts back to old England; whilst the dirty native huts, huddled about the margin of the lake, recall his mind at once to the fact that he can be nowhere but in the tropics.

Yet that vast range of undulating hills which meets his eye on every side, rising smoothly one above another like waves upon a summer ocean, and stretching far out into the distance, until the naked sight can follow them no longer; to what country, if not to cloud-land, can they belong? Hills upon hills—vapoury—undefiled and yet existent; the majority of which have never, to European knowledge, been trodden by the foot of man; whose echoes have never resounded to the gossip of camp scandal or the whisper of unlawful wooing; the pure and undefiled amongst the Nilgiris. There they lie—no one peak particularly surmounting another in height, but forming an interminable vista of hill and valley; mist-crowned top and sheltered sholah; each mountain a great possession in itself of probably fertile ground, and certainly never placed there with the intention of remaining uninhabited and unused.

As the eve roves over them, bathed in the soft smile of moonlight, or laughing in the brighter glories of the sunshine, and the mind remembers that, save for the sustenance of the samba, ibex, and wild buffalo, and the protection of the cheetah, tiger, and bear, they are useless, it naturally reverts to the numbers of unhappy wretches who lie festering in our London courts and alleys: who die by hundreds, weekly, of disease induced by starvation and foul air: and sighs to think how easy it is to plan, how hard to do!

Is it impossible that a possession of such magnitude, and the pure and bracing atmosphere of which has rendered it the most famous of our sanatoriums in the East, could be utilised for the benefit of those thousands who might emigrate with advantage to their country and themselves?

But it is less trouble to bury them after all, and whilst Government is considering the matter, their great great grandchildren will have had ample time to be pulled up, and pulled down, in like manner with themselves.

Beyond a few miles’ circuit of the three English settlements, Ootacamund, Coonoor, and Jackatella, the Nilgiri hills are unknown territory, and will probably remain so to all time; for even the aboriginal Todahs, though they retreat yearly as the progress of civilization encroaches on their villages, are too much alive to their own interests to separate themselves entirely from the more fortunate people who have usurped their native soil.

Their maunds are always erected within a convenient distance of the cantonments, and the droves of fierce-looking buffaloes, from the produce of which they derive their chief support, may be met, with lowered horns and threatening attitudes, on every mountain path.

If Todahs ever think, I wonder with what kind of feelings they regard the careless equestrians, who, jesting, and flirting, and making merry with each other, canter round the lake each evening; who fill the houses they have erected on the spot where Todah maunds once stood, with laughter, mirth, and feasting; who call Ootacamund their property, and have rebaptised it in their own language; and who pass them by, the true lords of the soil, with a look either of indifference or disdain—if they honour them with a look at all.

Marius weeping over the ruins of Carthage could not make a grander picture, than the portraiture of one of these poor Todahs as he stands, gazing with proud melancholy at the altered aspect of his country; his only covering, the wide blanket cast round him like a Roman toga, concealing a form as fine in its proportions as its height; whilst his dark face, with its deepset eyes, Jewish features, and curled Assyrian beard, expresses but too plainly what his tongue has neither the courage nor the power to reveal.

But the Nilgiri Hills are not Carthage, and our innovations have very much improved the appearance of the place, and ought to, if they have not, increased the felicity of its first inhabitants, therefore it is useless saying anything more about it. Besides, the Todah has one resource left him, denied to his European brethren; if he does not like the situation or his neighbours, he can always “move on.”

*  *  *  *

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon, and the Nilgiri sun, which, at its meridian, is generally too powerful to render walking a pleasure, was beginning to cast long shadows on the grass, and show symptoms of decline, when a young man, fashionably dressed in morning attire, appeared in the doorway of the reading-room of the Ootacamund club, and stood on tl. threshold, leisurely examining the occupants of the apartment.

In age not over four-and-twenty; fair, well-featured, and ahove the middle height, his appearance was decidedly distingué: but the full, bright blue eye betokened a want of power in his reasoning faculties, and the retreating mouth and chin (although this latter defect was nearly concealed by the large moustaches and whiskers which he wore) a corresponding want of decision in his character.

That he was a stranger there, was evident, by the cool indifference with which he returned the inquisitive glances directed to his figure, from above every newspaper and magazine in the room, and the motionless attitude he retained upon the threshold, as though he were attentively scrutinising a collection of curious animals.

Until, indeed, a cheery voice from the other end of the apartment, exclaimed:

“Gordon Romilly! as I’m a living sinner!” and a man, some years his senior, capsizing his chair, in the excitement of the discovery, rushed forward to greet him with extended palm. Some sort of interest did seem to light up Captain Romilly’s handsome, passive countenance, at the sound, and he appeared almost as pleased as his friend, as he gave vent to the response.

“Romer! by all that’s sacred! Why, who on earth would have dreamt of meeting you here?”

“I might put the same question to yourself. I knew you were in India, of course, but thought you would have had too much duty on your hands to permit of your leaving Madras. When did you arrive?”

“This morning!”

The words were dragged out slowly, and with a peculiar intonation, as though the speaker were articulating from the back of his throat—Captain Gordon Romilly being one of those young gentlemen of the modern time, who consider it the correct thing (when in society at least) to appear so utterly fatigued with the mere fact of existence, that they are not even equal to the exertion of speaking plainly. His manner, in this respect, was a great contrast to that of his friend, who was a bluff, hearty Englishman, talking, perhaps, a trifle too loudly, but never guilty of saying a word of which he had need to be ashamed.

“What an age it seems since we parted!” said Captain Romer; “why I don’t think you had doffed jackets, Romilly, when I said good-bye, to the dear old College; and now we have met on the Nilgiris! What brings you here, old fellow! not ill health, I hope?”

“Want of change, my dear Romer! I’ve been sick of my life ever since I landed in this detestable country.”

“Tired of it already,” exclaimed the other, and you have not been in Madras three months?”

“Three months! I beg your pardon, but have you ever been quartered in the place you mention?”

“I should think I had—for three years, and only took sixty days’ leave during the whole time.”

“Indeed! Well, I wonder you’re alive to tell the tale.”

“Why, what has the old town been doing to fall into such disfavour with you?” asked Captain Romer.

By this time every ear in the reading-room was pricked up to listen to the conversation passing between the two young men, and eyes were beginning to glare at the turn that it was taking.

“Doing, my dear Romer,” was Captain Romilly’s sarcastic expostulation, “I wish to heaven it had been doing anything, but, as far as I can judge, it has done nothing at all ever since I was unfortunate enough to place my foot in it.”

“No balls—no dinners—or parties of any sort?”

“I have been to one or two entertainments, at which people have attempted to dance; and where, after the first half-hour, the men’s shirt-collars have laid down like lambs, and the women’s faces have been something too horrible even to think of. But I have taken good care never to try anything of the kind, myself,”—and here Captain Romilly made such a comical gesture of disapprobation that Captain Romer laughed.

“But they give good dinners there, at any rate.”

“Very good, doubtless, if one had the chance of tasting them; but with this new system of serving dinners, à la Russe, and confiding the carving part of the business to natives, the most I have ever succeeded in obtaining was a cold cutlet, or the drumstick of a turkey, just as the second course was bring handed round, so that I am not in a position to testify to the excellence of their dinners.”

“And yet you must have been in the way of seeing the best of them, Romilly.”

“I daresay I have!”

“And have not a word more to say in their praise than this?”

“Oh! excuse me—the champagne is excellent, and Bass knows what he is about when he bottles the beer for this country, else I really don’t believe I should have survived it so long.”

“You look in very good case, nevertheless, and you have come to the very place to put you in still better. But what about the ladies, Romilly—have you done any damage amongst them?”

At this query, perceiving the eyes of the whole room fixed upon him, Captain Gordon Romilly feigned total inability to understand.

“Excuse me!”

“Didn’t you lose your heart to any of the Madras beauties?” repeated Romer, who could hardly help laughing to see the consternation depicted on some of the faces around them, at the profanity of his friend’s answers.

“I didn’t see any,” was Captain Romilly’s reply.

“What no young ladies fresh from England; nor fascinating widows on the look out for number two! I heard there had been quite an importation by the last steamer.”

“I believe I was introduced to two or three girls just fresh from their boarding-schools; but they looked so horribly as if they expected me to propose to them, each time I opened my mouth, that I was afraid to cultivate their acquaintance. And as for the widows, Romer, you ought to know better than to mention them to a fellow just before dinner-time. Fact is,” and here Captain Romilly drew out his cigar-case, and proceeded with a critical eye to select his next victim, “I haven’t seen a woman, fit to be called a woman, since I came to this infernal country.”

At this assertion, which rung like flat blasphemy in the ears of those who listened, a considerable commotion was apparent amongst the various members of the reading-room; and a little old man, dressed in a tight suit of native cloth, who had hardly been able to keep silence for some minutes past, sprung from his seat, and advancing to where Captain Romilly stood by the side of his friend, spluttered out—

“If you say that, sir, you cannot boast the acquaintance of either Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, or Mrs. General MacSquirt, both of whom, I will venture to affirm, are as fine women as you will meet anywhere the the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland!”

At this unwarrantable intrusion, Gordon Romilly gazed down on the incensed speaker, standing many inches below him, much as a mastiff might calmly contemplate an irritated cur—and was silent.

“Let me introduce you to General Perkins,” said Captain Romer, hoping thereby to prevent anything unpleasant occurring from the interruption. Captain Romilly bowed, but still declined to speak.

“You cannot have seen either Mrs. “MacSquirt, or Mrs. Dowdson, sir,” repeated tlie infuriated little General, throwing down the gauntlet a second time.

“I have not had that honour,” replied Captain Romilly in his most throaty tones, as he bit off the end of his cigar, and turned it several times between his lips; and then addressing his friend, he continued, “Romer! don’t you think we might have a weed together outside? I fancy this place is getting a little too hot for me.”

Upon which the young men strolled out of the reading-room, and the club members threw down their books and papers, and entered into a noisy discussion concerning the individuality of the stranger.

“Who is he?” “What is his name?” “What does he belong to?” were the questions which eagerly poured from all sides; and an outcry was immediately raised for the club waiter to produce the book in which visitors wrote down their names and addresses upon first arrival.

“Captain the Honourable Gordon Romilly, A.D.C.,” was the last insertion there, and then a gentlemanly man with grey hair, who had kept silence hitherto, volunteered to furnish the desired information.

“I can tell you all about him,” he said quietly, “for my friend Kinnaird is intimate with the family. He is the youngest son of Lord Erskine Romilly; grandson to the Earl of Bournemouth, and A.D.C. to the present Governor. He belongs to the Rifle Brigade, and took up his appointment in Madras, a few months ago, when young Plowden was invalided home. A fine young man! as far as personal appearance goes.”

“A conceited puppy!” growled General Perkins, but the opinion no longer met with unqualified assent. Captain Gordon Romilly was conceited no doubt, and a puppy into the bargain, but he was the son of a Lord, and grandson to an Earl, paid Honourables are too scarce in India, to be sniffed at with impunity.

Meanwhile Captain Romer had ordered his pony-phaeton to the door, and proposed to take the new comer a drive round the lake.

“I will point out some of our hill beauties to your notice, Romilly,” he said as he gathered up the reins, and the spirited little animals he drove set off at a swinging trot down the steep decline, “and you shall see whether they do not contrast favourably with those you have left behind you in the plains.”

“I hope you won’t take the trouble to do any such thing,” exclaimed the A.D.C. languidly, as he settled himself down amongst the cushions; “because if they’re really pretty, I shall be getting an introduction to them; and I didn’t come up to the hills with the intention of going through that kind of business.”

“Are you afraid that love-making would prove too hard work for your delicate constitution?” exclaimed Captain Romer, laughing.

“I really don’t think anything about the matter. I’m happy to say I never experienced the sensation; and hope I never shall; for if what fellows tell me on the subject, is truth, it must be deucedly fatiguing.”

“And yet you came here for a change! said his friend, merrily.

Chapter II

The Missionary’s Family

“But tell me truly, Romilly,” continued Captain Romer more seriously, as the ponies landed them on level ground, and they commenced to make the circuit of the lake. “What is it, in this country, with which you find such fault?”

“With everything and everybody, my dear fellow,” was the decided reply. “The climate is simply abominable, the people, for the most part, stuck-up, and intensely opinionated; and there is no earthly enjoyment, that I can see, to be extracted from any part of this quarter of the globe.”

“With the first clause of your argument, I have no intention to combat,” said Romer. “there is no doubt that the climate is utterly unsuited to our English constitutions, and those men who are able to live in it, become so enervated and dried-up, and unlike their former selves, that they appear unfitted for any atmosphere but that which has ruined them. But I have received a great deal of hospitality and kindness from my countrymen in India; so that I do not like to hear you pass so sweeping a condemnation on them.”

“I speak of a man as I find him,” said Romilly carelessly, “and perhaps I have not happened to come across your friends. The people I have been introduced to, have been well enough as long as I praised Indian manners and customs; but once compare them unfavourably with those of England, and they were up in arms immediately.”

“Well, it is natural, is it not? This is their adopted country; they are right to stand up for her.”

“Very natural, doubtless, but uncommonly disagreeable at the same time. It riles a fellow to hear them talking of Madras institutions, and entertainment and ceremonies, as though they were the grandest the world had ever produced. Why, would you believe, that one woman had the assurance to tell me, at a Government House dinner, that she supposed I had never seen so large a party assembled before?”

Captain Romilly put this last question so seriously, that he infinitely amused his friend.

“I can quite believe it, Romilly, and also that the lady was perfectly sincere in making the assertion.”

“Well, then, she must have been a fool,” rejoined the other, not over politely, “or could know nothing of the way in which we live in England.”

“There you’ve hit it, Romilly! For the most part they do know nothing of what we call ‘society’ at home. They come out to India, fresh from their boarding-schools; and if they visit it at intervals, it is generally in the capacity of parents with large families, and when they are under the necessity of economising by hiding their heads in furnished apartments, or burying themselves, somewhere in the depths of the country. You can’t expect them to have any knowledge of the method of living amongst the higher classes of England, for they have never seen it!”

“Then why do they brag so? They talk of their dances, and their dresses, and their suppers, as though they were the best in the world; and yet I have never been to a ball in India which could compare with a respectable one at home!”

“Because they are the best in the world to them,” replied Romer, “Madras is their London, and Government House, their Buckingham Palace. We brag of ours, don’t we?”

“Well! it’s aggravating, to say the least of it,” returned Captain Romilly. “They talk so big whilst they’re in India, and when they go home, suddenly collapse and are nobody.”

“To which lamentable conclusion, your displeasure may safely leave them, with every prospect of being amply revenged,” said his friend. “I think there is no more pitiable sight than the spectacle of some old Colonel’s or General’s better half who has been lording it for years over the inferior officers and their wives, in India; landed in England, still bristling with the pride of importance, to find herself in twelve hours, just nowhere at all! No wonder the generality of them hate a country, where, if a woman has nothing in herself to recommend her, we have no time to take her husband’s length of service into consideration; and where Generals’ wives, and Subalterns’ wives find alike, that without a certain income it is impossible to keep pace with the herd. In England, everyone finds his level: that soon takes their bragging out of them, poor things! and so, Romilly, I think we needn’t grudge it to them whilst they are here.”

“I’m sure I don’t care what they do,” replied the A.D.C., yawning, “so long as they don’t ask me to listen to them. I am quit of it for sixty days, at all events, so let us be thankful for small mercies.”

“Well, I’m not sure that I can promise you that the Ootacamundians shall be entirely free from the same weakness,” said Captain Romer, laughing: “but you need not throw yourself in the way of it, unless you choose. What do you think of the cantonment from this point of view? You will, at least, acknowledge that we might boast of the scenery, without exaggeration.”

“Exactly so, only you didn’t make it. I admit that it is lovely. I have no fault to find with it, and could exclaim with the inspired Watts:

‘That every prospect pleases, and only man is vile.’

Will you have a cigar?”

“Thanks! it wasn’t Watts who wrote that line, by-the-bye, but the quotation is too apt to be quarrelled with. If you admire lovely scenery, we can shew you lots about here, Romilly. You have come in the very nick of time, for Newland is here at present, and we are going after ibex tomorrow morning, and shall be delighted with your company. You remember Newland, don’t you?”

“I can’t say I do.”

“What, not Henry Newland? that very tall fellow, who used to be in the first form at the college? Perhaps not, though; he must have been near leaving when you arrived. He’s up here now, however, and a crack shot. By the way, Romilly, he’s a widower, his wife died a few months ago, and they say he was most awfully cut up about it, so don’t talk of the happiness of married life, or anything of that sort before him.”

“Am I likely?” pathetically demanded Captain Romilly. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing.”

“I’m afraid you’re a bit of a misanthrope,” said genial-hearted Romer; “but if so, you’ve come to the best place in which to be cured. There’s nothing like a good stalk over these breezy hills to make a man feel in charity with his fellow creatures, and in a good temper with his dinner. We’ll try the remedy on you tomorrow, Romilly, and you shall see that it will work like a charm.”

“You quite mistake my disposition, my dear Romer,” said Captain Romilly, “for I’m one of the easiest, best-tempered fellows going; but it is impossible for me to speak of what I know nothing. I never cared for a woman yet, and I never expect to care for one; therefore the pleasures to which you allude are as sealed books to me, either in experience or imagination. I have never had anything to do with the sex, from my royal mother downwards, but it ended in some trouble or other; so I’ve determined to keep my hands clear of them for the future.”

“A very good determination,” said Romer, “and one which the Nilgiri Hills are not likely to afford you much temptation to break. If you will join our shooting party, Romilly, I promise you you shall encounter no more dangerous ladies than the poor does, and you are more likely to break their hearts, than they are to break yours.”

“It would take a great many ladies to do that,” remarked the A.D.C., sententiously.

They had just arrived at the end of the lake, where a curve in the road would put the ponies’ heads in a homeward direction, along the opposite side, and from which several paths, branching over the hills, led to various scattered houses, a little distance from the cantonment.

“We will turn here,” observed Captain Romilly, “and we shall reach the hotel just as dinner is being placed on the table.”

But at that moment, as he commenced to walk the ponies round the curve alluded to, the figure of a woman, who, with a wild and hurried air was muttering to herself, as she went, walked rapidly past them. Her manner was so extraordinary, and the few words which dropped from her lips as she passed so incoherent, that she attracted the attention of both the young men, and they looked at one another in surprise.

“What can be the matter?” whispered Captain Romer to his friend.

“Mad!” suggested Gordon Romilly, “or drunk, perhaps.”

“No! no! nothing of the kind,” was the prompt reply, “why, it’s Mrs. Ward, the missionary’s wife. Hold the ribbons a moment, Romilly; I must speak to her,” and without waiting for assent, he threw the reins to his companion, and jumping out of the phaeton, ran after the striding figure.

“Mrs. Ward! is anything the matter? can I do anything for you?”

At the sound of his friendly voice, the woman stopped and looked him vacantly in the face. She was a thin, middle-aged creature, with a worn and patient countenance, whose cotton dress and washed-out shawl clung painfully round her attenuated form, revealing but too certainly the want of under garments; but the most pitiful things about her were her eyes, which looked as though she were walking in her sleep, and unable to comprehend what passed around her.

“Mrs. Ward!” repeated Captain Romer, alarmed at her appearance, “are you not well?—will you let me take you home?”

“I’m all right, thank you!” she said in a hurried, nervous manner. “They say that there’s been an accident, and some one’s killed; and they fetched me from the town, where I had gone to—dear me! where did I leave my basket?” she continued wanderingly, as she turned her head in all directions, and then, re-fixing her gaze upon Captain Romer—“there’s been an accident, no doubt, and some one’s killed; but it cannot be my Alice, it cannot possibly be my Alice.”

“If there has been an accident at home, and you are going there, exclaimed Captain Romer, “let me drive you, Mrs. Ward! You cannot walk so fast as I can take you in the pony-chaise. Come! let us go at once.”

He dragged her hastily towards the phaeton: and almost lifted her up into the seat.

“Romilly, my dear fellow! You won’t mind taking the back seat for ten minutes, will you? Some report has reached Mrs. Ward—exaggerated no doubt—of an accident having taken place at her home, and she is anxious to reach it as soon as possible. Keep up your courage, Mrs. Ward, my ponies are stout little fellows, and will take us over the hill in no time. I daresay after all, it will prove a false alarm.”

But Mrs. Ward was in no condition to listen to any of his kind assurances. Relieved from the temporary pressure that excitement had put upon her, the poor creature had leisure to realise the horrors she was anticipating, and with a half-smothered exclamation of “it can’t be my Alice!” sunk down almost insensible at the bottom of the pony-chaise.

“What is it?” whispered Romilly in his friend’s ear.

“I can hardly say: I think she has heard bad news. Poor thing! she is the very best of creatures. We must get her home as soon as possible,” and, whipping his animals into a gallop, Captain Romer sent his phaeton, bounding and jolting in the most unorthodox manner, over the stony road which led to the missionary’s house. A few minutes’ drive took them to the top of the hill, on the other side of which, lying in a hollow, they could see Mrs. Ward’s home. The descent to it was too steep for the phaeton to traverse, even had it not been only an irregular path strewn with sharp flints; and as Captain Romer drew rein, and the panting ponies obeyed the motion of his hand, he could see that the plot of grass in front of the building was covered with quite a crowd of natives.

“I’m really afraid there has been an accident,” he remarked to Captain Romilly as he stood up to survey the scene; “what shall we do next?”

“Oh, let me go! let me go!” cried Mrs. Ward, as she struggled into a sitting position; and Romilly had just sprung out to assist her to the ground, when a grey-haired man toiled up the rocky path to meet them.

“Emma, it was the will of God!” he said in a solemn tone as he took hold of his wife’s hand.

“Not Alice, George! not Alice!” she shrieked, looking wildly in his face.

“Yes, Alice. Has He not the right to take which He chooses?”

But the poor mother was unable to reason or to reply. She sank down again insensible where she stood, and Captain Romer assisted her husband to carry her into the house—where Romilly, after having procured a native to hold the ponies’ heads, was too interested not to follow them. As he reached the lawn in front of it, the little crowd separated, and disclosed a sight so startling to his eyes, that he sickened and turned pale. On its back, extended on the grass, was lying the corpse of a fine girl of about fourteen or fifteen years old, but who looked, as is usual with English children reared upon the Nilgiris, much older. Her fair unbound hair was streaming on the grass beside her; her stockingless feet and legs, barely covered sufficiently for decency by her scanty petticoats, were marble in their whiteness, and her blue eyes, unclosed, were staring upwards to the sky, as though appealing to Heaven against the cruel death which had so suddenly snapped the thread of her young life. Every now and then, an inquisitive native would attempt to raise the corpse; and Romilly could see, by the way the head fell back, that the unfortunate girl had broken her neck. Feeling almost unable to endure so sad a sight, he shudderingly turned aside in search of his friend Romer, and encountered him on his way back to join him.

“What a horrible accident!” he ejaculated.

“Horrible indeed! it seems the poor child, in company with her brothers and sisters, was amusing herself by riding a half-trained pony up and down that rocky path. It had on a boy’s saddle with an iron stirrup, in which her foot somehow got twisted, and before she could disengage herself, the brute threw her, and then dragged her down the hill, striking her head on the stones at every step. When he landed her on the lawn, the father says she was quite dead. There is an awful scene going on in there; and, to tell you the truth, Romilly, I don’t feel as though I could stand it much longer, and as we can’t be of any further use, I think we had better go home.”

“But is that to lie out here all night,” said Captain Romilly, pointing to the body of the dead girl, “to be pulled about by these curious natives? Surely they ought to carry it into the house!”

“I should think so; but there seems no woman here to take the direction of things, and I hardly like to interfere. The poor mother is utterly incapable, and the father seems little better. I never saw people so utterly prostrated by a blow as they appear to be by this. And yet they have nine children left, and scarcely bread to give them. One would have thought they could have spared a daughter!”

“She seems to have been a fine girl,” said Captain Romilly.

“Yes. Poor little Alice! How often I have seen her running about the cantonment!”

“I don’t half like to go and leave her lying out here,” said his friend musingly.

But whilst they deliberated on their best course of action, a commotion was visible amongst the assemblage of natives, who first spoke a few words to one another and then drew back as though to make way for some one; but before Romer and Romilly had time to speculate on the new arrival, a rich, pathetic voice, exclaiming—“Ah! ma petite! est-ce vraiment toi?” sounded on the air; and a young girl rushed suddenly between them and the dead body of Alice Ward, and threw herself upon the grass beside it.

“Est-ce vraiment toi? Ah! mon Dieu, ayez pitié de nous.”

She lifted up the dead face, tenderly put away the stray locks of hair which had fallen over it, pressed it eagerly to her own, and feeling its unnatural coldness, burst into a flood of tears.

Meanwhile, the two friends could only gaze at her in silent surprise. No taller and much slighter than the body she embraced, it was yet evident from the maturity of her figure, that she was several years older than Alice Ward had been, although the long black cloak which she wore, only allowed her shape to be revealed by glimpses. She had no covering on her head, and her dark hair was bound closely to it by two long, thick plaits which fell below her waist. In her ears she wore a pair of large gold earrings, very old-fashioned and curious in appearance, and yet her shapely feet were but indifferently covered, and the rest of her costume betokened poverty. Her burst of grief was transitory as it was sudden; in another moment she had turned a pair of dark blue eyes, glittering with emotion, upon them and saying rapidly—

“Pardon! mais c’est bien triste, n’est-ce pas?” rose to her feet and brushed her tears hastily away. “Il ne faut pas qu’elle reste ici,” she resumed, appealing to Captain Romer; and then perceiving the look of incomprehension on the face of her listener, she repeated rather slowly, and with a slight French accent—“She must not rest here, gentlemen; aid me to carry her to her bed.”

She unbuttoned her cloak at the throat as she spoke, and threw it over the body, revealing white arms bare to above the elbows, and a fair throat and neck, over which a little red neckerchief was quaintly crossed and pinned. Then she stooped, placing her hands beneath the shoulders of the corpse, and Captain Romer and his friend gently raising the lower part of the body they carried it together through the passage of the house, up the narrow stairs to the scantily-furnished bedroom, and placed it reverently on the bed, whence it had risen that morning in life and health. As soon as it was disposed there, the girl, heedless apparently of the presence of the two men, drew a silver crucifix from her bosom, kissed, and placed it on that of the corpse, and sank down upon her knees in prayer. They lingered for a moment to watch her clasped hands and uplifted eyes, and would then have turned away and left her to herself, but that she rose from her position, and with a slight serious inclination of the head, ran past them down the stairs, whilst they picked their way after her, fearful of disturbing the bereaved parents in the room below. They could hear the moaning of the poor mother as they passed it, and the foreign accents of the young stranger speaking some words of consolation, and the father met them at the door with a few broken sentences of gratitude for all that they had done, which they were thankful to escape.

As they again stepped out upon the grass plat, the moon had risen, the band of natives had dispersed, and everything looked calm and peaceful. Their pony phaeton was in waiting for them at the top of the hill, and as they found themselves on the road to the cantonment again, they simultaneously gave vent to their feelings in a long sigh of relief.

“I shall never care to drive round that way again,” said Captain Romer, “I don’t know when I’ve witnessed anything that made me feel so queer as I have done tonight.”

“I can quite understand it,” replied Gordon Romilly. “I never wish to see such another sight. But I say, Romer—I wonder who the deuce that little girl with the long hair is. She was the only one who seemed to have her wits about her.”

“I’ve not the slightest notion! The thought of the poor parents’ grief haunts me so, that I had almost forgotten her. No relation evidently, because she is a Roman Catholic. There are lots of them about here! Good heavens! that there should be such misery in the world. No need to warn one against talking too much of the happiness of married life after this; eh, Romilly?”

“I never did talk of it, did I?” returned the A.D.C. in his most sententious tone.

Chapter III

The Avalanche Bungalow

The next morning was bright and cloudless; and as the young men met at the door of the club, preparatory to starting on their shooting excursion, they felt that much of the painful impression received the day before, had been dispelled by a good night’s rest.

Romer, and Major Newland, were mounted on stout hill ponies; but Gordon Romilly rode a high-mettled Arab, which, much against the advice of his friends, he had insisted upon taking up to the Nilgiris with him. As he bestrode it, with the half-careless, half-insolent air which became his handsome face so well, he formed so fine a picture, that even the worst enemies he had made on the previous day, could not but acknowledge that the Governor’s aide-de-camp was uncommonly good-looking; and Colonel Greene, the gentleman who had recorded his pedigree for the benefit of the club members, went up and spoke to him, introducing himself through the name of his friend Kinnaird.

At which mention, Captain Romilly shewed there were two sides to his character, for his face lit up with genuine friendliness, and his grasp of Colonel Greene’s proffered hand was hearty and sincere.

“Kinnaird! the very best fellow going; I am proud to meet one of his friends. And so you know something of my family, sir! Sorry to hear it, for taking one with another, I’m afraid they’re a very bad lot! Have you seen Kinnaird lately?”

“Not since last year; for he is holding an appointment in the Punjaub. I hope your father, and the rest of the family are weii r

“My father is not well, thank you; he has been a martyr to the gout for the last six months.”

“Nothing alarming, I trust?”

“Oh! by no means; not half alarming enough in fact, or he might be induced to allow me to return to England, instead of insisting upon my remaining in this detestable country until the Governor dispenses with my services. It’ll be the death of me, I’m convinced of that. However, I’m only a younger son, so I suppose it won’t much signify.”

“I’ll think you’ll survive it a little longer,” said Colonel Greene smiling.

“That’s all you know about it, sir. You judge by my exterior, like most other people. You don’t know what I have to suffer internally, every day of my life.”

“I know one thing, my young friend,” said the old man, as he approached nearer to Gordon Romilly, and laid his hand upon his saddle-bow. “I see that you’re inclined to be a little bit discontented, and to view all things here in their worst light. But take the advice of an old soldier, and treat India, (whilst you are in it) as we are cautioned to treat our wives—

Be to her faults a little blind;
And to her virtues, very kind.’

It’s the only way to get on out here!”

“But I don’t want to get on,” replied Gordon Romilly, half-smiling and half- serious, “my only desire is to get off.”

“You’re incorrigible!” laughed Colonel Greene; and the order to start being given, with a few words of farewell, the shooting party rode out of the compound.

“When did our baggage go on?” demanded Captain Romilly, as they rode abreast through the cantonment roads.

“This morning at five o’clock,” replied Romer, “I was virtuous enough to rise, and see it all dispatched myself. We have nine women coolies and two bullocks.”

“Nine women, and two bullocks! In the name of Heaven, how long do you intend to stay in the wilderness?”

“Five or six days, if it suits us,” replied Captain Romer; “but remember, Romilly, we have to provide food for all the servants who accompany us, as well as carry ‘gram’ for the horses. I can assure you we shall not live luxuriously, for I have only been able to send on the merest necessaries for ourselves.”

“Who needs or expects to live luxuriously when out shooting?” remarked Major Newland, a tall, gaunt, taciturn man. “A true sportsman cares for nothing so long as he has enough to eat.”

“Oh! of course, of course,” said Gordon Romilly, who was very apt to agree with what his friends said, to save himself the trouble of argument. In reality however he was much too selfish, and too sensuously-inclined to make a keen sportsman, although his self-esteem prevented him from acknowledging the fact.

“How far shall we go this afternoon?” he demanded presently of Captain Romer.

“To the Avalanche Bungalow, where we shall dine and sleep. It is only distant eleven miles, but as soon as we are clear of the cantonment we shall have to travel very slowly, for it is all up and down hill, and in places very slippery. Have an eye to that horse of yours, Romilly! He’ll have you over the precipice if you allow him to dance about in that absurd manner.”

Captain Romer’s prophecy being literally in danger of fulfilment, it was some little while before the Arab’s master could put the question he had been about to ask, of why the Avalanche Bungalow had been so named.

“I really can’t tell you for certain,” replied Romer; “but some people say that an avalanche of earth fell near the spot years ago, so I suppose that is the reason.”

“It sounds so devilishly romantic,” resumed Romilly, “that I expect to see a Hebe in short petticoats and thick ankles, tripping down the steps of a vine-covered chalet to receive us as we arrive.”

At this instance of the A.D.C.’s frivolity, Major Newland gave a grunt of dissatisfaction.

“You’ll find it ‘devilishly romantic,’ if your horse takes you over the side,” he said, observing that the antics of Romilly’s steed had not yet subsided; whilst Captain Romer begged him not to raise his hopes as high as his horse’s heels.

“The bungalow itself is picturesque enough,” he said, “but instead of a Hebe to wait on you, Romilly, you’ll have to put up with the attendance of an old withered native man, in a pair of cloth trousers, and a linen ‘puggry.’”

At which prospect Captain Romilly made a wry face, and said it was just what he might have expected in such an abominable and heathenish country.

But when at five o’clock in the afternoon they came in sight of the Avalanche Bungalow, even Captain Romilly’s spleen was powerless to prevent his expressing his admiration at the sight. At the foot of a high hill, the lower part of which was thickly covered with vegetation, stood a small building, formed of wood, and having something the appearance of a Swiss cottage, which was entirely shut in on three sides by the surrounding jungle, and in front of which ran a stream of the purest water. The appearance of this little shooting box, all ready to receive them, seemed to put fresh vigour into the travellers, who were wearied, not so much by the distance they had come, as by the slow progress they had been forced to make, and they gladly pressed forward to the door. Their servants having arrived before them, their dinner was prepared, and ready to be placed on the table, as soon as they should have refreshed themselves after their ride; but Major Newland’s native servant, who had been appointed major domo of the commissariat department, met them at the door with a long face, as he informed them that the cow belonging to the man in charge of the bungalow had been carried off by a tiger the night before; and therefore he had been unable to procure any milk for their coffee.

“A tiger!” exclaimed Major Newland, his dull face brightening up as nothing yet had enabled it to do; “and only last night. Here’s luck!” and calling to his “shikarry,” he commenced a rapid conversation with him in Hindustani, during which it would have been hard to say whether the master or the servant gesticulated most.

“No milk!” said Captain Romer, “well, Daniel, I suppose there’s a cocoa-nut to be got about here, anyhow.”

“What will be the use of that?” demanded Romilly, as he jumped off his horse, which had fretted itself into a perfect lather from the unusual restraint which had been placed upon its actions. “You’re not going to put any of that nasty stuff they call milk into our coffee, I hope, for I shall prefer café noir.”

“No! but Daniel will express some milk from the nut itself, you ignoramus; and if I hadn’t said anything about it, I daresay you would never have found out the difference.”

As soon as Major Newland could be persuaded to leave off calculating his chances of tracking the marauding tiger of the night before, and to betake himself to his dressing-room, the friends separated to make a hasty toilette before the dinner was served up; but Captain Romilly had hardly plunged his head and face into cold water, before Romer burst into his presence again, brimful of a fresh piece of news, which he delivered in his usual hearty manner.

“I say Romilly, old fellow, by the living jingo, here’s the greatest bit of good luck that ever befell a man. Just fancy! here’s Powell located in this very bungalow, and he says if we’ll go out with him tomorrow, that he’ll shew us no end of ibex, and—”

“And who the devil is Powell?” said Romilly, lifting his head out of the basin, and looking like the rose of a watering-pot.

“Powell! why he’s the best fellow possible to go about with out here; he knows every inch of this part of the hills, and has shot over it scores of times. I’ve asked him to join his dinner to ours, (that’s a common thing when chums meet together at these out-of-the-way places, you know), and it’ll all be ready in another minute. Make haste with your dressing!”

“How can you expect a man to make haste, whilst you require an answer to your remarks every second? Go away, do, Romer, and then I may have a chance of getting some dinner before that long fellow, Newland, swallows it, table and all.”

Upon which Captain Romer disappeared, laughing and whistling, and for the next ten minutes the conversation with his friend Powell, carried on from the dressing-room to the general sitting-room, was the only sound to be heard in the bungalow.

When the four men met at the dinner-table, they promised to make a very agreeable party. Major Powell proved to be a regular old Indian, with thin grey hair, a rough weather-tanned complexion, and a keen sportsman-like eye. He welcomed Major Newland and Captain Romilly, as if he had known them for years; congratulated them on the treat in store for them. if luck attended their sport, and affirmed that though he had stalked in the Highlands, shot in the Himalayas, and even hunted on the prairies of South America, he had never had better sport than he had enjoyed on the Nilgiri Hills.

“We are most anxious to get some ibex,” observed Captain Romer, as they settled themselves at table. “Newland, who has slain his tigers by the dozen, has not accomplished an ibex yet, and I have never even tried for one.”

“They are very difficult game, as perhaps you are aware, and require more patience in stalking than any other species; not only on account of their long scent, which is marvellously fine, but their instinct, which never permits a buck to feed without a sentinel beside him to warn him of approaching danger.”

“How very curious!” observed Captain Romilly.

“It is true nevertheless, and for this reason, although they usually feed on the heights, leaving the does and young in the valleys, and are visible in this clear air from a great distance, it is extremely difficult to approach them without being perceived. However I have no doubt that you gentlemen have plenty of patience, and plenty of courage, and with it, every prospect of success; and I shall be delighted if my hints can be of any use to you. Have you had any experience of shooting in this country?” addressing himself to Romilly.

“None whatever, I have only been out here three months, and this is my first visit to the hills.”

“Then you are about to see India under her most favourable aspect,” said Major Powell with a grim expression. “There is nothing in the place worth living for, except the shooting.”

“Now, Romilly!” cried Romer gaily, “you and Powell can have a good dish of abuse together against the country. I don’t think you can hate it more than he does; he has always been an inveterate grumbler.”

“Do you dislike it?” asked Romilly, quickly turning to Major Powell.

“Mortally,” was the decided reply, “and I have good reason to do so. It has killed half my relations, and sent the other half to the dogs. I hate everything connected with it, except the sport.”

“Then, why do you stay here?”

“For the best of reasons; because I can’t help myself. I don’t suppose any man, with a soul, would do otherwise. The country is all very well for those it was made for, but it’s not a fit place for Christians.”

“Particularly when their literary productions are not appreciated by the public press,” laughed Romer.

“Oh! I’ve got over that old sore long ago,” replied Major Powell.

“May I ask to what you allude?” said Romilly.

“Certainly, it is no secret. Some years back, I was fool enough to imagine that I had discovered a means by which I might benefit my fellow creatures, by rendering the method of instruction in drill less monotonous and less puzzling than it is at present. I worked for a long time at my manual until I had brought it to perfection; and several superior officers who took the trouble to listen to my explanations, considering the plan would be a successful one, I went to the expense of having my rules and diagrams printed; confidently expecting to receive, at least, a few thanks for my pains.”

“It is not often that Government repays her benefactors in any heavier coin,” remarked Romilly. “But what was the issue?”

“The issue, my dear fellow, was—smoke! Still, I never will believe but that my pamphlet would have attracted notice from head quarters, had it not been so roughly handled by the local paper.”

“But what was their object?”

“None! excepting to annoy me. But, having unfortunately alluded, in a sort of preface which I wrote to the work, to the dormant state of the native faculties, and the necessity there was for presenting everything to their imaginations, in the simplest guise, I suppose I hit some of the sub-editors or writers, rather hard, and they revenged themselves in consequence, by damning my manual.”

“How could such an allusion affect them?” demanded Romilly.

“My dear Romilly, don’t you know that most of these fellows who have anything to do with the local Indian papers, are half castes,” said Captain Romer, “and of course they don’t like the dormant state of the faculties of their nearest relations alluded to in that cool manner. How would you like the dormant state of the faculties of your mama or papa, shown up in public print? It was cruel of Powell, as I’ve always told him, and he ought to have had more consideration for their feelings.”

Major Powell shrugged his shoulders and laughed. “Well, it’s all over now, and the less said about it the better, but I’ve made my last attempt to improve the condition of my fellow creatures. They may march out of step, and get themselves into inextricable confusion on the brigade grounds to all eternity, before I’ll ever attempt to make the business plainer to their dormant faculties again. I’ve done with philanthropising, or being a ‘man and a brother’ either.”

“But excuse me if I say,” observed Captain Romilly, “that it seems incredible to me how anyone could mind attacks from such quarters, any more than you would heed the snapping of a mongrel cur. Why, I should have thought that a glance at one of their local papers, was sufficient to decide the worth of their criticisms. Printed on tea-paper, with every other word spelled wrong, and the rules of grammar ‘no-where;’ how is it possible that their reviews can affect the success of any book? Even were they universally read and believed, they can only bias the opinion of residents in India, and what are they, compared to the mass of minds to be swayed in England? A drop of water to the ocean.”

“True, my dear Romilly, all perfectly true: but when the cur is determined to bite, he can draw blood as well as a nobler animal, and it is a well known fact that government throws every obstacle she can in the path of her inventive offspring; on the principle, I suppose, of the North American Indians, who half-murder their children in order to find out which are the strongest and best able to survive the treatment.”

“Have done!” cried Romer emphatically, as having finished their meal, the four men rose from table, and ensconced themselves comfortably before the little wood fire which their servants had kindled: “I vote that Government, the Indian press, and her majesty’s British possessions in the east, are from this moment subjects utterly tabooed, and that Powell gives us his last hunting adventure as a change. Come, Powell! you owe us something in return for the patience with which poor Newland here, and myself, have been listening to your abuse of our adored adopted country.”

“My last hunting adventure,” replied Major Powell, as he lit a huge meerschaum, and commenced, in company with his friends, to fill the room with smoke, “dates no further back than yesterday morning, but I daresay it will be not the less acceptable to you for being new. I was strolling out with my gun after nothing particular, when I came upon two tigers hunting samber on their own account: and as I was too far off to get a shot at them, I just sat down quietly to watch the sport, thinking that when the tigers were busy with their prey, I might have an opportunity of spoiling their little game. I saw one of the brutes conceal himself in a narrow gorge, which he evidently expected the deer would pass; whilst the other made a detour so as to get beyond the herd, and drive it towards the hiding-place of his companion.”

“What cunning,” observed Major Newland.

“Oh! the instinct of these animals is marvellous: I could tell you a dozen stories much more wonderful than this, only Romer asked for the very last. Well, the tiger having succeeded in creeping round the herd, advanced cautiously upon them: but the samber were too quick for him, and bolted before he was near enough to spring; and his friend in the gorge was likewise disappointed, for the herd passed far beyond his reach. I then thought it was time for me to appear upon the scene of action, but before I could get within shot of them, the two tigers walked off together into a sholah where it would have been foolhardiness in me to follow them. I never was more put out in my life. But, talking of tigers, did I never tell you of my friend Blast, who succeeded in getting three at one time to his own gun, in the Annomally Forests?”

“Three tigers all at once! Powell, you must be joking.”

“I’m in sober earnest, Romer, and you will allow they must have made a very pretty bag. I forget the exact circumstances of the case, as it happened many years ago; but I know that as he was walking with a native attendant looking after some of the government timber which was in his charge, he suddenly came upon three tigers who had just gorged themselves on the carcase of a samba, and were lying under a tree fast asleep. Blast shot two of them as they lay, right and left, and following up the third for a short distance, put a couple more bullets into him, and finished the business. I know this to be a fact, for my friend was anything but a boaster, and I have heard the story, and seen the three tiger skins, not once but a dozen times.”

“Three tigers at a go!” exclaimed Romer, “well, that beats anything I ever heard. Come, Romilly, if you’ve any idea of emulating that feat, I think it’s time we turned in, and took a little rest beforehand,” and with many good wishes for the next day’s sport, the friends separated for the night.

Chapter IV

Lost Among the Precipices

At an early hour the next morning, the sportsmen were again astir, and it was agreed over the breakfast table that they should hunt in couples, and that as Romer and Romilly were strangers to the hills, the former should be the companion of Major Newland, and the latter, that of Major Powell, for the day.

“You have got the best of the bargain,” said Romer, addressing himself to the aide-de-camp, “for I’d lay a poney, that if any game worth having is shot today, it will fall to Powell’s gun. He is the luckiest beggar going—in that way.”

“Ah! you may well add, ‘in that way,’ Master Romer,” said the Major, laughing, “for it’s the only way it has come to me yet.”

“Now, not a word about the local papers ‘an’ thou lov’st me, Hal,’” said Romer, imploringly.

“I had no intention of alluding to them, you saucy younker! but I’ve no time to argue the subject with you today. I don’t know what you two gentlemen intend to do, but Captain Romilly and I are going to ride out five miles towards ‘Buffaloes’ Swamp,’ and then send our horses back by the horsekeepers.”

“Perhaps we had better do the same in the opposite direction,” said Major Newland: “it’s no good tiring ourselves without cause.”

“Certainly not; you will have had plenty of walking before we meet again; and so, Romilly, if you are ready we’ll start at once. Good bye, Romer, good luck to you, and don’t think of shewing your face here again without being able to produce a good fat ibex into the bargain!”

“In which case, say farewell to it for ever!” quoth Romer pathetically; and then the first detachment of the shooting party rode away from the Avalanche Bungalow.

They had not gone many miles before they met a solitary native woman, walking so fast that she might almost be said to have been running, and evidently anxious to escape observation. She was very lightly clothed, and appeared so unfit to be travelling about the hills alone, that Major Powell sent his horsekeeper after her to ask where she had come from and where she was going to. At first she seemed very unwilling to give any information respecting herself; but on being pressed, confessed that she was journeying to Ootacamund, but still declined to say from what place she had started. Major Powell instructed his servant to try and persuade her to stay at the Avalanche Bungalow for the night, where he promised she should have food, and be allowed to go on the first thing in the morning; but the woman refused all his overtures of assistance with a hurried and frightened air, and seemed only anxious to be permitted to continue her journey undisturbed. When she had passed on, and Major Powell’s horsekeeper had related the circumstances to his master, Captain Romilly asked him what interest he had in trying to stop the woman’s progress.

“Simply in the cause of humanity,” he answered. “It is impossible she can reach Ootacamund on foot before night, and she will probably lie down and die as soon as the darkness falls. These natives cannot stand the cold night air of the hills, especially with such inadequate clothing. But my horsekeeper tells me that she has run away from one of the coffee plantations hereabouts, before she has worked out the advance pay she has received; and she was afraid lest we should detain her, poor creature, and send her back again.”

“A fugitive slave,” exclaimed Romilly.

“Exactly so—and very likely from a master not much kinder than ‘Legree.’ But you can have no idea what numbers of coolies die on the hills during the rains from wet and cold. A man I know, not long ago found nine coolies sitting by the roadside in a pouring shower, who had evidently given in, and made up their minds to die. He gave them all the brandy which was in his flask; tried to persuade them to move on by every means in his power—even took to thrashing them to force them to exert themselves; but it was all of no avail. He was obliged at last to relinquish his benevolent intentions, for fear of being benighted himself; and the nine coolies were subsequently found dead.”

“How incredible! and after their friend had taken the trouble to thrash them! Pure ingratitude I call it!”

“Ah! you may laugh, but it was the kindest thing he could have done for them. It shews how doggedly determined they must have been to commit suicide, not to have benefited by the hint. But only the other day a friend of mine going to see a beautiful view from a high hill not far from Ootacamund, found on its summit a dead native, who was proved on enquiry to have lost his way, been benighted, and died of cold. An European under such circumstances would have had the sense to keep moving about, but a native has no energy, he succumbs to his fate at once—like the Chinese, who are so used to be carried off by tigers that when they see one coming they quietly sit down, to save him the trouble of pursuing them any further.”

“But I should think it was no joke to be lost upon these hills.”

“No joke at all; the walking, in parts, is dangerous enough even by daylight; and at night each footstep becomes a fresh peril. But we must dismount here, Romilly, and send our horses back to the bungalow; our shikaris and our guns are all we shall want for the remainder of the day.”

Having dismissed their animals under the charge of their grooms, the two men first took their luncheon, and then, followed by their game-beaters, or ‘shikaris,’ toiled up and down some very steep hills for the best part of an hour, after which they sat down on the top of one of the highest, not only to take breath, but to survey the surrounding landscape, for which purpose Major Powell produced a powerful telescope. Having swept the horizon with it for a few minutes in silence, he handed it to his companion.

“Look in that direction, Romilly, towards the highest point beyond those two, and you will see something on the move, which, if I mistake not, are a couple of ibex.”

“I see them,” exclaimed Romilly, “I can see them plainly; but they must be nearly a mile distant. One is feeding, whilst the other stands perfectly motionless on a rock. Let’s be after them at once!” and throwing down the telescope, in another second he was on his feet, and replacing the shot-belt and powder-flask which he had loosened from his shoulders.

“Gently, gently!” said Major Powell, amused at the other’s eagerness: “if you go to work in this manner, my dear fellow, you will have the ibex a couple of miles the other way before you have had time to collect all your belongings.”

“But it is impossible they can see us at this distance: we can only just make them out, even with the telescope.”

“And they have a telescope in either eye; and a scent so fine, that the air tells them of our approach long before we are in sight. If you want to get anywhere within range of them, you must follow my example.”

Whereupon Major Powell commenced to creep in the direction of the ibex, climbing the acclivities on all fours, and cautiously examining each spot before he put down his foot on it, so that their progress was exceedingly tedious; and Gordon Romilly, who had none of the old sportsman’s patient deliberation, soon tired of the pursuit, and wanted to know, in a very audible whisper, whether they couldn’t get on a little faster.

“Hush!” said Major Powell, emphasising the caution with knitted brows; “you mustn’t utter a syllable, Romilly, or you’ll spoil sport. Look there! the sentry evidently thinks that all is safe, for he has actually commenced to browse near his companion. We must make a wide circuit, to avoid giving them our wind, and perhaps we may be fortunate enough to get near to them.”

They proceeded as before, with caution, which appeared to Captain Romilly very unnecessary, until they had advanced to within sixty yards of the game, still unperceived, when a thoughtless exclamation from the aide-de-camp startled the sentinel ibex, and both the animals darted off as hard as they could go.

Major Powell fired first at one, and then at the other, but, as they went on, apparently unhurt, he concluded that he must have missed them.

“You lost me that buck, Romilly,” he said, almost testily, to his companion. “What the deuce you meant by holloaing out in that way, when I had just warned you to be quiet, I can’t imagine! We shan’t get within shot of anything if you are not more cautious—you can have no idea how sound is carried in this rarefied air—it’s of no use our going on unless you can promise to be silent.”

But here Captain Romilly apologised so amply, that the Major was feign to be pacified.

“I’m awfully sorry, Powell; I am, indeed: but I touched up my favourite corn on a sharp piece of rock, and it isn’t easy to hold one’s tongue entirely under such circumstances.”

“Don’t say anything more about it, my dear fellow; I should have remembered that you’re new to this sort of work. Now I wonder where the plague those two brutes have hid themselves. I’m sure I put a bullet into one, if not into both of them; and I think it will be worth our while to follow them up a bit.”

The shikaris, on being appealed to, said that the deer had run down a very steep hill before them, into a sholah; but they were both quite certain that neither of them had been hit by the Major Sahib’s gun.

“They may be as sure as they like,” remarked their employer to Captain Romilly, “but I happen to have an opinion of my own upon the subject; so with your leave, Romilly, we’ll make our way towards the sholah.”

They began to descend the hill as he spoke, and had not gone many yards before they saw one of the ibex emerge from the other side of the brushwood, walking very slowly, and evidently wounded.

“That fellow’s hit!” exclaimed Major Powell, his tanned face beaming with excitement, “and why is the other not with him? He would never have remained behind unless he were dead or badly wounded. Follow up the track at once,” he continued, directing the shikaris in their native tongue, “and see if you cannot find him.”

Almost as excited as their master by the sight of the wounded deer, the men now willingly set off in search of his companion, and before they had penetrated the sholah for more than a dozen yards, Powell and Romilly heard them calling out that they were successful.

“Come on, Romilly,” cried the Major, as (regardless of thorns and briars) he prepared to plunge into the densely-wooded thicket, “here’s an omen of good luck—we shall have the laugh over Newland and Romer yet!” and hurrying to the spot, they found the ibex lying dead on its back, amongst the bushes; and from its position, they perceived that it must have run to the edge of the sholah, and turned a somersault in dying. The difficulty now was how to get the animal out of the thicket, in order to skin it, for it was a very large and heavy male, and the sportsmen found that with the assistance of their shikaris, they could not even lift it from the ground.

“I’ll tell you what we must do, Romilly.” said the Major, “we must all set to work with our hunting-knives, and cut away the branches, until we have made a path wide enough, through which to drag the brute along to a more open spot. I shouldn’t like to lose it, for although I have often killed ibex, I never brought down such a fine one before.”

They all fell to work, and followed his advice, but it took them a long time to accomplish, and before they had skinned the ibex, and cut off its head for preservation, it was nearly dark.

“Good God! I had no idea it was so late as this!” exclaimed Major Powell, as he lifted up his heated face, streaming with the exertion he had undergone, and surveyed the fast increasing gloom; “what can we have been about to let the time pass so? Romilly! we mustn’t loiter here another moment! Neither I nor my shikaris are familiar with this particular part of the hills, and if we wait till the night has fallen we may experience some difficulty in finding our way; that’s the worst of the Nilgiris, there is no twilight here, and if you are not continually consulting your watch, you have the place pitch-dark before you know where you are.”

Captain Romilly and himself took the charge of their own guns as he spoke, and the head and skin of the ibex being carried by the shikaris, the party commenced as quickly as they could, to reascend the steep, rocky hill before them. But the gentlemen found the rapid and irregular climbing so unusual an exertion, and the weight of their weapons added so much to their fatigue, that Romilly soon proposed that the ibex skin and head should be left behind them till the morning, when the shikaris might return and fetch them.

“They would be devoured, or at least spoiled by jackals in the night,” returned Major Powell, “so if we wish to preserve a trophy of our adventure, Romilly, we must struggle on a little longer as we are.”

They toiled on again, jumping over ditches, pushing their way through bushes, and almost tumbling on their noses at every other step they took.

“Are you sure we are in the right track?” said Romilly, panting, “I don’t remember coming across all these bushes in our descent?”

“Don’t question it, man, for Heavens sake,” was Major Powell’s reply, “only mind your footing, and push on as fast as you can, till we have left these treacherous hills behind us.”

By this time the evening had grown so dark that they could not see their hands before them, and Powell could hear the natives behind him grumbling at the turn affairs had taken, and telling one another that they had not the least idea where they were going. The walking, which was bad enough in the day time, had now become quite dangerous; every moment the sportsmen hit their feet against large stones or pieces of loose rock, which bounded from beneath their tread, and fell down unknown depths, where they almost feared that they should follow them, and the shikaris constant warning cry of “precipice,” sounded terrible in the darkness.

Major Powell was growing very anxious, but he did not like to communicate his fears to his companion, lest he should unnecessarily depress his spirits, but kept up a continual jesting instead, on the evil adventure which had befallen them, whilst Romilly followed closely on his heels, not nervous, though rather silent, and only occasionally startled by the earnestness of his friend’s caution that he should be careful where he trod.

At last, however, the shikaris, having collected sufficient dry wood as they walked, lighted a small fire, from which each of the four men selected the largest brands to serve for torches, and by the light they afforded them, fancying they were not quite in the right track for the spot from which they had started, they altered their course and turned in another direction.

The air had now become bitterly cold, which, added to the darkness, made the travelling doubly disagreeable, and Gordon Romilly, whose hands and feet were becoming quite numbed, felt sorry when his brand had burned itself out, and he was deprived of the warmth which it afforded him. But, by this time they had arrived at a large sholah, in which the shikaris found a quantity of dry bamboos.

“These are just what we want!” exclaimed Major Powell, “now we shall get on famously; the men will make some first-rate torches by tying a bundle of bamboos together, which will light us from here to the bungalow with ease.”

He spoke cheerfully, although he did not feel so, and he and Romilly busied themselves in helping the natives to bind the bamboos together, which, when lighted, really produced a very fine effect; and the unexpected discovery put the aide-de-camp in such good spirits that, torch in hand, he commenced to cut some boyish capers amongst the brushwood, thereby endangering the safety of the whole.

“Take care, take care,” called out the Major. “At this season of the year the sholahs are like tinder, and one spark will set the whole of it alight.”

The words were no sooner out of his mouth, than Captain Romilly’s torch, being carried aslant, came in contact with an unusually dry bush, and in a shorter time than it takes to relate, the thicket was on fire, and the four men had to run out of it as quickly as they could. They had hardly left it sufficiently behind them for safety, before the entire brushwood became a mass of flames, and there was a splendid bonfire, the dry wood crackling with successive sharp reports like that of musketry, and the flames rising high above the sholah into the night air.

“That was a sharp retreat,” said Major Powell, laughing, as they stood and watched the burning brushwood. “The torch you’ve lighted for us, Romilly, ought to be bright enough to guide us home.”

They stood and watched the blazing sholah until the fury of the fire was exhausted, and the burnt and blackened bushes had fallen, one by one, into the general mêlée, and left nothing behind them but a heap of calcined ashes. Then they turned away to remember, with fresh perturbation, that they were miles from the Avalanche Bungalow, and that the rapidity with which they had been compelled to quit the burning thicket had left them still more at a loss to imagine to which point of the compass they might be steering.

“There is no help for it, Romilly!” said the Major, without making any further attempt to conceal his alarm. “We have got into a terrible scrape, and the only thing left for us to do is to keep moving as cautiously as we can in one direction, wherever it may lead us, for there is no possibility of determining the right one. We may, by good chance, hit on our own road; but if we don’t, we must walk till daylight, for it will never do to sit down or stand still in the terrible cold of this night air.”

The prospect was not a pleasant one; but Englishmen are not given to lamenting in the face of real danger, and natives are very patient under misfortune, particularly when they have a good example before them; so that the little party plodded on almost cheerfully, and tried to make as light as they could of the disagreeable position in which they found themselves. But when they had almost given up hope of reaching any shelter before morning, and resigned themselves to the idea of walking in single file until daylight; when Major Powell’s feet were so blistered that he could hardly take a step without pain, and Captain Romilly’s were so numbed with the cold, that he scarcely felt what he was treading on, the older and more experienced of their shikaris declared that he heard something, and entreated them to halt. Only too thankful to admit a hope of succour, they obeyed him gladly, and the man, after having listened steadfastly for a short time longer, gave a prolonged “hilloo,” which, after a moment’s pause, was answered from above them.

“Was that a voice, or was it echo?” asked Captain Romilly, doubtfully.

“A voice, my dear fellow! Don’t you see that dull light coming over the hill towards us? We have most likely fallen in with some herdsman seeking his cattle, who will be able to direct us into the right path. Thank God for it! for I had begun to fear we had not seen the worst of our night’s adventure.”

“What the devil are these?” exclaimed Romilly, as two huge heads, with long, twisted horns and glaring eyes, suddenly appeared across their path, and seemed anxious to dispute the narrow way with them.

“Only buffaloes, Romilly; but take care they don’t push you over the edge. They probably belong to the man who answered us just now. Yes! see, here he is!”

And as Major Powell spoke, a figure bearing a horn lantern came up with the shooting party, and carelessly thrusting his cattle to one side, placed himself in front of the sportsmen. As he swung his lantern over the group, the gentlemen could see that he was a tall athletic young native; but differing from his race in ordinary by wearing his hair cut like an European’s, and being dressed in corduroy trousers, a flannel shirt, thrown open from his broad, well-covered chest, and a soft felt hat, which had attained no shape in particular. In one hand he bore a thick twisted staff, with the other he held the handle of his lantern, and as the light fell on his face, it shewed an honest kindly countenance, the smile on which disclosed a set of dazzling teeth. Major Powell began explaining their plight to him in Hindustani, though rather doubtful whether the herdsman would be able to understand him through that language; but when he answered, to their infinite surprise, he spoke in perfect English.

“From ‘Buffaloes’ Swamp’ to the Avalanche Bungalow? Why, gentlemen, you are miles out of your way! You have been walking backwards all this time, and are much nearer Ootacamund than you are to the bungalow. It would take you hours to get there, if you could do it at all to-night, which I very much doubt.”

“But what on earth are we to do, then?” demanded Major Powell, his surprise at the herdsman’s address swallowed up in renewed anxiety, “we can’t remain on the hills till morning, we shall be frozen to death!”

“If you will take such shelter as we can give you, sir, Père Joseph will make you heartily welcome to it! Our cabin is not twenty yards further on, and there you will obtain rest, if nothing else, till you can pursue your way.”

“We shall be but too glad to accept your offer!” replied the Major and Captain Romilly, who felt at that moment as though they would be thankful to be quartered with the buffaloes, and filled with curiosity to learn who their new acquaintance might be; their spirits raised by the unexpected relief which had come to them, they followed closely on the young herdsman’s heels, whilst he further excited their surprise by apostrophising his milch buffaloes as “Célestine,” and “Philomèle,” and telling them to “Allez donc!” and “prenez garde!” as they stumbled over the precipitous paths which led to the abode of Père Joseph.

Chapter V

Père Joseph

After the lapse of a few minutes, the sportsmen felt that the path beneath their feet had become wider and more trodden down, and Célestine and Philomèle having suddenly dived into a rough shed which appeared upon the right, their conductor held up his lantern to show them the entrance to a sloping garden, planted on the side of the hill, and surrounded by stout palisades; on traversing which they came upon a small wooden-built house, having a verandah in front of it, paved with brick and covered with creepers. They had scarcely entered within these precincts, before a light was shown at the open door, and an old man appeared on the threshold, and called out—

“C’est toi! n’est-ce pas mon fils? comme tu viens tars.” To which David replied—

“Oui! mon père, c’est moi, et je ne suis pas seul.” And then, changing his language, continued: “These gentlemen have lost their way on the hills, Père Joseph, and I have brought them home until the morning. They are half-perished with the cold, and have had nothing to eat since noon. It is most fortunate that I met them. Had the cows not strayed beyond their usual ground to-night, I should not have come across Monsieur and his friend.”

Mon Dieu! is it possible!” exclaimed the old man, as he peered scrutinisingly at the strangers. “Enter, gentlemen, enter, I pray you; you are welcome to everything that we can give you. And you have your servants with you also,” observing the shikaris in the background. “How is it that they permitted you to lose your way?”

“It was not their fault,” said Major Powell, as with Captain Romilly he stepped into the sanded sitting-room. “We had brought down an ibex, which proved too heavy for us to carry; and it took so long to skin the animal that the night had fallen almost before we were aware of it.”

“And you encountered my son as he brought home his straying buffaloes. Well, the blessed Virgin is good, and watches over the safety of all her children. David, take the shikaris round to the ‘go-downs,’ and see that their wants are attended to; and you, sirs, please to be seated, and make yourselves at home.”

They did so, surprised meanwhile to hear a man of European blood claiming a native for his son, and curious to learn the truth of the connection between them.

The room in which they found themselves was poorly, but very comfortably furnished, and showed none of those traces of abject poverty which had distinguished the missionary’s home the night before. The sanded floor was boarded and beautifully clean, the chairs and tables were substantial, and curtains shut out the draughts from the diamond-paned windows. In a corner of the room was a large old-fashioned eight-day clock; above the mantleshelf hung a crucifix, carved in wood; and against the wall, where a staircase led to the upper apartments, was a bénitier of holy water, surmounted by a little figure of the Virgin and a natural branch of yew. From these symbols of the Roman Catholic faith, the strangers turned to look at their host in the full light of the lamp, and were not surprised to perceive that he was evidently a priest of the same persuasion; for though, in the privacy of his own fireside, he had cast aside his official robe, and supplied its place by a loose linen blouse, the robe itself was hanging on a nail just behind his armchair; and the black skull-cap which he wore on his head was not sufficient to conceal his shaven tonsure. Meeting the eyes of his visitors, Père Joseph smiled and said: “My house, sirs, is doubtless very different to what you have been accustomed; but, rudely built as it is, you will find it warmer than the open air. It is but a ‘shanty,’ as we should call it in Ireland, but it has sheltered my head now for many a long year, and will do so, I expect, till it needs a roof no longer.”

“Have you been in Ireland?” exclaimed Gordon Romilly with interest. “I am of that country myself.”

“Indeed, sir! Yes, I know it well, for I was stationed ten years in Ireland before I was sent out to India.”

“But you are not English!”

Père Joseph smiled knowingly. He was a stout rubicund-faced man, with a roguish expression in his eye, particularly apparent when he felt amused.

“No, sir; by birth I am a Belgian, having been born in the town of Rêve; but I have not seen my native country since I was twenty-five years old; and it is now thirty since I came out to India, and twenty since I was sent to do duty on the hills. Ah! well, there was a time when I little thought I should end my days up here; but it might have been worse perhaps, so I must not complain.”

“Have you been settled here so long as all that?” said Major Powell, who, with Captain Romilly, was busied in drawing the charges from his gun, “I wonder I have never come across your house before. How far are you from the cantonment?”

“Five miles, sir.”

That is along way to walk in and out.”

“We don’t think much of five miles,” replied Père Joseph, “but neither have we much need of the cantonment. My little chapel is close by, as you will see in the morning, and my people are scattered here and there upon the hills around us. They are but a handful, sir—scarcely worth saying the masses for; any preacher would have done for them; but what can a man do when he is under orders?” and here Père Joseph shrugged his shoulders, and heaved a weighty sigh of discontent. “But I must keep you fasting no longer, gentleman. You must accept such supper as we can offer you, and believe it would be better if we had it.”

With a bow which would not have disgraced a courtier, the priest rose from his chair as he spoke, and walking to the foot of the staircase, rapped twice with his stick. and called Véronique.

“That’s not a bad idea of the old gentleman’s,” whispered Romilly to Major Powell. “I’m so hungry that I feel as though I should commence on him if he kept us waiting much longer.”

“We’re in for a regular adventure,” was the Major’s reply. “I wonder what on earth Newland and Romer will imagine has become of us.”

“We’re deuced lucky to have got here, I think,” said Captain Romilly; “the priest seems a right jolly old fellow! I like him exceedingly.”

Meanwhile, the summons of Père Joseph having produced no effect, he called again:

“Véronique, mon infant I où es tu?”

To which a female voice replied—a voice which made Gordon Romilly turn his head to listen:

“Me voici, mon père, que veux tu?”

“Descends, descends vite! voici des étrangers qui réclament nos secours.”

As Père Joseph uttered these words, he turned and apologised to his guests.

“You will pardon my speaking French, gentlemen; but we are so used to do it amongst ourselves, that it seems difficult to express our meaning in any other language.”

“I should not have guessed that you experienced any difficulty in talking English,” said Gordon Romilly; “you speak it a great deal better than I do.”

“Do you think so?” was the reply. “For myself, I find that I have never acquired sufficient ease and fluency in the English language; but my children speak it better than I do, although I taught it to them.”

“How many children have you?” enquired Powell brusquely.

“You do not suppose I speak of my children after the flesh, sir,” said Père Joseph smiling. “I am a Catholic priest. But those whom I call by that name are, the young man David, who conducted you hither, and whom I have reared from an infant, and my niece Véronique, my sister’s orphan child, who has also lived under my roof since she was two years old. And here she is, gentlemen, to speak for herself.”

The door, at the heading of the staircase, was flung open impetuously as he spoke, and a young girl appeared upon the topmost step, and stood still for a minute regarding the strangers. She was slight and graceful in figure, with large blue eyes set in a fair oval face, and long black hair hanging in two plaited tails either side her head. In fact, she was the same girl who had wept over the missionary’s child the day before, and whose general appearance had so impressed the usually mdifferent Captain Romilly as to betray him into wondering who she was, and where she could have come from. She was clad on this occasion in a short blue petticoat, and a black stuff jacket, and round her throat was loosely knotted a white silk handkerchief, so loosely that it fell beneath a red rose which was carelessly pinned into her bosom.

As Gordon Romilly looked up from the cleaning of his gun and recognised her, he would have given vent to an exclamation of surprise, had not she forestalled him, by first starting backwards to make a little gesture of astonishment with her hands, and then flying down the stairs to take up her stand in front of him.

Tiens! they are the same gentlemen whom I met yesterday; ah, no! not both, but one. You are the same, are you not?” appealing to Gordon Romilly, “I told Père Joseph I should know you anywhere by your belle chevelure. Mon père” she added, turning to the priest, “this is the monsieur who helped me to carry la pauvre petite on to her bed. Ah, what a sad sight, and what a terrible! Could you drive it from your eyes all the night long?”

“Hardly,” he replied, as he saw her blue eyes glisten with tears; “do you know the family very well?”

“No, Monsieur! they are not my intimes, but I have often passed that way and made friends with the little children; and when they told me what had happened, what could I do but go? And the poor mother! Ah, it was a scene to frighten one!” brushing her hand across her eyes as she spoke.

Tais-toi, Véronique! I will hear no more of the death of that poor little heretic!” cried her uncle; “thou hast spoken of nothing else all day, and if thou canst not change thy subject, thou wilt give me what these gentlemen here would call ‘the blue devils,’”

“Les diables bleus! qu’est ce que cela veut dire?” exclaimed Véronique, laughing through her tears.

“Keep thy questions till after supper.” replied Père Joseph. “These gentlemen have been fasting since noon, having lost their way on the hills, and are ready for whatever thou canst give them. So be quick!”

“Oh, are you hungry?” she said earnestly, still addressing herself to Captain Romilly, “we have potage, Monsieur, and curry, and rice, and cheese, and perhaps a salad, and—”

“Get thee gone and make it ready!” exclaimed the old priest in a serio-comic tone, and then as the girl flew into the back of the house, calling “David” authoritatively as she went, he continued: “a woman’s tongue is the only horse that never tires. They would feed you with words, lodge you with words, and clothe you with words: and words are things that a man likes only when he is well fed, well lodged, and well clothed.”

“It would take a great deal of starvation to make one quarrel with such words as your niece’s,” replied Gordon Romilly: and then Major Powell asked him where he had met the girl before, and rather unwillingly, and with very little detail, he related their adventure of the previous day.

Much sooner than the Englishmen expected it, the supper made its appearance, by the hands of David and Véronique. A smoking bowl of vegetable soup, a dish of curry and rice, salad, cheese, and bread, formed a repast on which the hungry guests fell with appetites that charmed their hospitable entertainers; but it was some time before Captain Romilly could persuade Véronique, who was hovering about his chair, to take a seat at all, and when she did so, she shyly rejected the one which he had set beside his own, and took up her station on a little stool by the knee of her uncle. But the young man David shewed no such bashfulness; he was a wonderfully fine specimen for a native, having a figure as muscular and well-built as that of an European, and possessing with it the regular features and singularly fine eyes of the Hindoos. His complexion was very dark, but his manners were as easy and unconcerned as those of the priest and his niece, whom he had evidently been brought up to consider his equals. He conversed as familiarly with the gentlemen, even more so than they had done, and had it not been that his eyes followed every movement of Véronique with ill-concealed admiration (a circumstance which Gordon Romilly was quick to discover, and inwardly resent), it might have been said that he treated the girl as much like a sister, as the priest treated him like a son. As soon as the meal was concluded, David, by order of Pére Joseph, placed a large stone bottle of whisky on the table; and Véronique having produced glasses and hot water, the priest begged his visitors would make themselves comfortable, and set them the example himself, by lighting his pipe, a proceeding in which he was speedily imitated by Major Powell and David.

Only Captain Romilly professed to be disposed for neither tobacco nor whisky and water, and under cover of the general dissipation, managed to approach nearer to Véronique, and carry on a bantering conversation with her, in a voice so low that the others could not catch the meaning of his words. He commenced by addressing her in French, and so delighted was she to find that he could converse in her favourite language (although he spoke it very indifferently), that her shyness melted away, and she kept on answering his questions, now with a light laugh at his mistakes; and then, in a tone of incredulity at the fervour of his compliments—until, indeed, the parley was made public by her exclaiming, in a voice of pleasure—

“Ecoute, mon pére!Monsieur a découvert que je ne suis pas Belge.”

Et comment?” demanded the priest, smiling.

En regardant mes yeux—by my eyes!” she added, perceiving the comprehension was not general, for Major Powell did not understand a word of French. “Monsieur says that my eyes are English, and would betray me did I never speak a word of that language.”

“But Monsieur is mistaken,” said her uncle, smiling; “thine eyes are Irish, Véronique; there is not a drop of English blood in thy veins.”

“Is Mademoiselle Irish?” demanded Captain Romilly, “I could have sworn it, without asking.”

“Her father was,” replied Père Joseph. “Her father was a brave good man, an Irish soldier named Thaddeus Moore, who fell fighting for his country in the Afghanistan war; and left his Irish eyes to his daughter, the only things he had to leave her, le pauvre homme! Thy father’s eyes were the same as thine, Véronique—blue and saucy: there is not a thing in thee to remind me of thy mother, my poor Justine, except it be thy useless hands and feet.”

Here the girl put out her small hands and feet, regarding them with comical compassion, and her blue eyes looked saucy enough as she pinched Père Joseph on the side of his cheek, and asked him what he would do for his breakfast and his dinner and his supper, if those “useless” members were not at his beck and call. As Véronique carried on this little badinage with her uncle, Gordon Romilly looked at her animated face with unfeigned admiration. She was like an April day, easily moved to tears or laughter, and he saw that she had inherited the Irish character with the Irish face.

Major Powell, under the combined influences of whisky and fatigue, had now fallen fast asleep in his chair, and with his limbs stretched out and his head well back, was making “night hideous” with his snores.

“It is time that we were all in bed,” observed the priest, as a louder snort than usual from the slumbering Major surprised the little party into a laugh. “These gentlemen must be in need of rest. Shew the Captain to his room, mon enfant, and the other Monsieur must take the little cabinet on this floor. David and I will sleep together to-night.”

No expostulation on the part of his guest being able to shake this hospitable determination of the priest, Captain Romilly consented to be shown to his room, and attended by his pretty handmaid, rose to say good-night. As Véronique, with the lighted candle in her hand, stepped on the stairs, she dipped her finger in the bénitier, and crossed herself, murmuring some words of prayer; and Captain Romilly, hardly knowing why, but certainly more for curiosity than any other feeling, followed her example, so far as touching the holy water was concerned. He thought that his action was unnoticed, but Véronique perceived it readily, and turning on the staircase, called to her uncle in a tone of real excitement—

“Mon père, mon père, il est de notre religion: vois donc comme il prend l’eau bénite.”

“I rejoice to hear it, my son!” said the old priest, in a gratified voice. “I hoped it might be so, but almost feared to ask. The Holy Catholic is the Irishman’s true faith.”

“C’est vrai, n’est-ce pas?” said Véronique, appealingly.

“Mais oui—je suis Chrétien” replied Captain Romilly, dubiously.

The moment he had uttered the words, he knew that he had unintentionally told a falsehood. He had meant to tell the girl that he was as much a Christian as herself, and that the outward distinctions of their faith signified nothing; but his French was not equal to the emergency, he stopped short because words failed him, and when he saw the universal gratification he had given by the confession of what he was not, he had not the moral courage to retract his avowal, and explain in English the mistake into which they had been led. And when he found himself in the passage above, alone with Véronique, and she turned her blue eyes, now softened by feeling, upon him, and whispered: “J’etais sûre que vous n’etiez pas hérétique,” he felt still less capable of undeceiving her. And, after all, he argued to himself, it mattered little. His night’s shelter over, he should probably never see the inmates of the priest’s cottage again; or if he did, it would be under circumstances of far less familiarity, and if it pleased them to consider him a Roman Catholic like themselves, the innocent delusion could not possibly hurt anyone.

The bed-room into which Véronique now ushered him was spotlessly clean, and he lay down between the sheets with an assured conviction that he should not open his eyes again until daylight. But the varied incidents of the past day prolonged their influence through his sleep, and some little time after he had retired to rest, he was suddenly roused from a night-mare dream of falling over precipices, and being whirled round and round in unfathomable darkness, by a sharp grating noise (like the bark of a mammoth watch-dog with a sore throat), which sounded close against his window panes, and, as it seemed to him, almost in his ears. Startled from a deep sleep, and quite unable to conceive whence the sound proceeded, Captain Romilly sat up in his bed, and shouted the first name that came into his mind.

“Powell! Powell!” he called out, without having the slightest notion whether his friend were sleeping above, below him, or at his side. No answer, however, was extracted from the Major, who was then blissfully unconscious of all externa] things; but after a few moments’ delay, a slight rustle was heard in the passage, and a timid knock sounded on the bedroom door.

“Monsieur, Monsieur, is anything the matter? Did you call?”

The voice was Véronique’s, and she had opened a little bit of the bedroom door, that he might hear it more plainly. She spoke so quietly, and so entirely without alarm, that Gordon Romilly only remembered that he had heard a strange noise, and called out, like a great frightened schoolboy, and felt very much ashamed of himself.

“It is nothing,” he stammered, “I am so sorry I disturbed you, Mademoiselle. But I have had bad dreams, and when I woke some animal made a noise close to my window, and startled me!”

“I daresay it was the samber barking,” she answered, cheerfully, “they try to get into the garden at night, Monsieur, and steal the vegetables; but we have a stout paling, and they cannot possibly break through it. In a wooden house like this, one hears everything so plainly.”

“I am really very sorry,” apologised Romilly. “I ought to have known better, but—”

“It is nothing, Monsieur. I hope you will not be waked again; but if you want me or David, you have but to call: Mais n’ayez pas peur: le bon Dieu qui nous protége ne dort jamais.” With which words the door quietly closed again, and she was gone.

Chapter VI

On the Track of the Tiger

No further disturbance interrupted the tranquillity of Captain Romilly’s dreams, and he slept till so late an hour on the following morning, that when he descended to the lower room, Major Powell and David were already pacing the little garden together, and Véronique was standing in the bricked verandah, watching their proceedings and shading her eyes with her hand from the brightness of the early sun.

“Bon jour, Mademoiselle.”

The girl started and coloured.

“Bon jour, Monsieur; look there!” and she pointed to a deep print in the garden mould before them, as large and as round as a small dinner-plate.

“And what of that?” asked Gordon Romilly, peering at the mark with eyes that saw nothing beyond itself.

“Why, Monsieur, it is the track of a tiger! you were right about the noise which disturbed your rest last night, and had we not all been very sound asleep we must have heard it too. No wonder the poor samber barked, and the cows must have been in terror also. The tiger’s footprints are all round their shed, and he has walked the garden two or three times over. That is where he must have climbed over, Monsieur,” pointing to a part of the palisades beneath which the earth and flowers had been much disturbed, “and he has broken my favourite rose-tree in his spring—the clumsy brute!”

“By Jove! you don’t mean to say so!” exclaimed Captain Romilly, who felt quite uncomfortable on hearing in what close quarters he had been to the “monarch of the jungle.” “It’s very dangerous, you know, he might have got in at any of the windows, if he had chosen.”

Vcronique laughed, first turning her blue eyes upon him to make sure that he was in earnest.

“Oh! Monsieur, they never choose to attack, the poor creatures, unless they are very hungry. This one must have had his dinner, David says, or he would not have smelled round the cow shed without trying to enter it. David!” she continued, raising her voice, “Monsieur est descendu.”

At this the young native looked up, and raised his cap to Romilly, like a well-bred Englishman, and the Major quitted his side to approach that of his friend.

“Romilly,” he said, pointing to the track of the tiger, “I expect this is the same gentleman who carried off the cow from the Avalanche Bungalow the night before last, and who has probably been sleeping off his debauch in some sholah ever since. I am going to stroll a little way farther, with David and the shikaris, to see if the trail is easily followed, for if so we must carry back the news to rejoice Newland’s heart. Will you come with us?”

“Thank you; no, I think I would rather stay here,” replied Romilly, his handsome eyes still half closed from the effects of his long slumber, “but when you’ve found him, Powell, if you’ll let me know, I shall be charmed to make one of the party!”

“Indeed I shall do no such thing,” laughed the Major, “since you won’t take the trouble to look for him, yourself! You’d like your friends to do all the work, I suppose, and send for you just as the fun is going to begin!”

“Exactly, Major! you’ve hit it off to a nicety,” said the A.D.C., “that’s just what I should like.”

“Well, you’re honest at all events,” replied Powell, “and so am I, in saying you won’t get it from me. Come, David, if we are to do anything before breakfast, we must be off!” and in another minute the men had clambered over the fence together, and were stretching their legs in the sunshine across the breezy, pathless hills.

Captain Romilly stayed behind, in the verandah, and surveyed the scene around him. The dwelling of the Catholic priest, although like dozens of others on the Nilgiris, was so picturesquely situated and surrounded, as to attract his eye at once. The house itself, which was thatched and painted white, would have appeared common-place, had it not been for the natural beauties which adorned it, but its roof and sides were so clothed and wrapped about with creepers that scarcely a square foot of the building materials was left visible. Long, wreathing branches of honeysuckle and clematis hung from the top of the verandah, and trailed upon the shoulders of the girl who stood beneath them, and bushes of red and scarlet geranium set in the bed beside it, their gorgeous blossoms heavy with the morning moisture, reached higher than Captain Romilly’s knee.

A fuchsia, covered with its crimson and purple bells, and a sweet-scented verbena, twined together above the porch, both plants having attained the height of six or eight feet, a growth which appeared almost incredible in Romilly’s English eyes.

The long, narrow garden, which sloped away precipitately in front, was chiefly dedicated to the culture of vegetables, but all round the inside of the palisades had been set a hedge of various coloured roses, which were now in full blossom of red, and pink, and damask, and yellow, and white; and about which the little inhabitants of the beehives, placed in a sheltered nook at the corner of the enclosure, were wonderfully busy.

To the right of the dwelling stood the tiny Roman Catholic chapel, to which Père Joseph had made allusion the night before, but which would never have been recognised as such had it not been for the wooden cross surmounting its humble entrance. Far away as the eye could reach, all round the cottage, rising one above the other, stretched the verdant, billowy hills; with the exception of a couple of stacks of chimneys, just visible in the distance, the priest’s house seemed to stand utterly alone, and as Gordon Romilly gazed about him, he thought he had never seen more isolated an abode.

“Monsieur will not fast any longer!” said the mellow voice of Véronique, at his side; and there she was with a cup of chocolate in one hand, and a plate of biscuits in the other, beseeching with her eyes, that the sultan would sit down and refresh himself.

“Many thanks, Mademoiselle! I am sure I am infinitely obliged to you, but are you not going to take any yourself?”

“I had mine, with the others, two hours ago,” she answered, “but Monsieur slept late, and now, who is to know at what time they will return for their breakfast.”

“Is your uncle not at home, then?”

“Père Joseph was called out to a sick person at four o’clock this morning, and he is so good he never delays to go—for the same reason, though, I hope he may be back the sooner! Oh! he is so good—so good! There is not a man on earth who is so good as Père Joseph.”

She uttered this eulogium with clasped hands and such evident faith, that Gordon Romilly, as he drank his chocolate, thought it must be very charming to be so believed in.

“And I ought to know,” she added, fervently, “for I have known him all my life.”

“Have you lived here very long?” said Captain Romilly, with somewhat of a shrug of distaste, as his eye wandered over the surrounding hills; “it must be horribly dull, sometimes.”

Her face fell.

“Do you think so, Monsieur? I do not; but then I have never known another home, so I am not fit to judge; and I have so much to do, with my cow, and the garden, and the bees, that sometimes the days do not seem half long enough for me! Monsieur has not yet seen my little cow—she is so pretty and so gentle—I call her ‘Erin.’ because Père Joseph told me that is another name for Ireland, and I love Ireland, though I have never seen it.”

“Were you born on the hills, Mademoiselle?”

“Oh, no, Monsieur; I was born in Bengal, but I cannot remember it. My poor mother was travelling with my father’s regiment, in boats up the river, when I was born, and she was so ill that she died, and they threw her body over into the water. I was such a weakly little baby, and they had no milk to give me, so that everybody thought that I should die, too, but my father fed me with bread and water for five days, until they got to shore again, and he found a woman to attend to me—my poor, dear father! I wish that I could remember him!”

“How old were you when he died?”

“Only two years, Monsieur; and then a black woman brought me all the way over here to Père Joseph, and he has been my father ever since. And David was a big boy when I first came—he is five years older than I am, and he used to nurse me, oh, so kindly!—David has always been very kind to me.”

“And how did David come to live with Père Joseph?” asked Captain Romilly, who had several times before wished to put the same question.

The expression of Véronique’s eyes changed instantly from grave to gay.

“Oh! has not Monsieur yet heard how Père Joseph picked up poor little David one day when he was walking by himself—not here, but in the plains? He heard a faint cry coming from a small bundle by the roadside, and there, tied up in matting, was the poor little naked baby, half dead from hunger, which some wicked people had thrown out to starve and die. David says he hopes that it wasn’t his mother who was so unkind to him, but hell never find out now,” said Véronique, shaking her head, “so what is the use of thinking about it. Père Joseph brought him home, and made a little Christian boy of him, and gave him me for a sister, and so I tell him, he must try and be contented. He is very nice, is David! strong and tall, and well-looking; does not Monsieur think so?”

She fixed her eyes enquiringly on him as she spoke; but on this theme Monsieur did not seem inclined to be enthusiastic. He acknowledged that David was a good specimen of his race, and ought to be very grateful to Père Joseph and Mademoiselle for all they had done for him; but he soon changed the subject, by asking Véronique if she had no wish to visit England.

“Yes! I should like to see England very much,” she said, “if there were no sea between it and this country.”

“Is Mademoiselle afraid of the sea then?”

“I cannot say that I am really afraid, Monsieur, because I have never seen it. But I dread the very thought of seeing it. I am tossing on it sometimes in my sleep, and it is always angry with me; it never rests or is peaceful.”

He gazed up in her face astonished, us she spoke, and he saw that her eyes were fixed in a dreamy listless manner upon the boundless space around them.

“But those are dreams, Mademoiselle—they have no truth or substance in them. I have often crossed the sea myself, and I have never come to harm. If it does toss about a little sometimes, it is half in play: and our English ships are stout, and care nothing for a storm.”

“Not always!” she answered quickly.

“Perhaps, not quite always; but it is a thousand chances to one if you meet with an accident. People are crossing the ocean every day, and the lives that are lost are few. You will not be such a coward when the time comes.”

He spoke gaily, not supposing but that her fears were half-affected; but Véronique, taking his empty cup from his hand, turned from him with a deep sigh, and entered the house.

“Good morning, Captain!” rung the cheery voice of the priest, as he unlatched the garden gate, and advanced to meet his guest. “They tell me that we have had a visitor here last night, who may take it into his head to pay us the same compliment again, in which case it shall not be my fault if he does not receive a warmer reception than he met with yesterday!”

“You are a sportsman, then, mon père?”

“Well! hardly—or if I am I must not talk too much about it. There are people would deny a priest the pleasure of his dinner if they could. But being in these wilds, and subject to such intrusions as this one of last night, we are obliged to keep a few weapons in the house; and, having them, we take care, as in duty bound, that they do not rust—voilà tout,” and Père Joseph’s roguish eyes twinkled with secret understanding as he spoke. “I met David with Monsieur, voire ami,” he continued, “busy over their trail within a few yards of the house; but it is useless for them to think of tracking the tiger so near the place. He’s far enough away by this time, you may depend upon it; these animals will travel miles in a night. Véronique, Véronique!” he shouted, as, having gained the shelter of his arm chair, he rapped on the table with a stick, “depêche-toi sers le déjeûner—les autres seront ici dans un instant!”

Before the words were well out of his mouth, the steps of David and Major Powell were heard in the verandah.

“Romilly!” exclaimed the latter with glee, “we must be off directly after breakfast, and look up those fellows from the Avalanche Bungalow. I have great hopes that we shall be able to follow up the trail of this brute, and shall leave one of the shikaris behind me for the purpose: but it would be a shame to go after him without poor Newland—added to which, they will probably be wasting their own time looking after us.”

“Yes! I suppose it would be as well to let them know that we are alive,” replied the A.D.C. “It’s a deuced bore, though, isn’t it, that one’s friends will persist in being anxious on one’s account, and all that sort of thing—because explanations, and so forth, take up so much of one’s valuable existence.”

“Now, Romilly, do cut Bond Street and Buckingham Palace for once in a way, and attack these deer steaks like a rational being. These are samba, if I mistake not,” he continued, addressing Père Joseph, whilst Véronique—who appeared to have shaken off her fit of pensiveness—told Captain Romilly that he must taste them, because she had cooked them herself.

“Yes, sir, they are samba steaks,” replied the priest, “and this curry is made of kid. We live chiefly upon deer and goats’ flesh out here. Don’t be afraid of Véronique’s coffee, Monsieur; I taught her how to make it myself, and I’ll lay you won’t get a better cup in all India! That dish before you contains roasted sweet potatoes. You’ve come to a poor man’s table, Captain, or you should be better treated; but such as it is, you are heartily welcome to it!”

They assured him, as indeed they might do, that they desired nothing better; and, the meal being concluded, Major Powell and Captain Romilly buckled on their shotbelts, and, throwing their guns over their shoulders, stood up to say farewell.

They shook the old priest heartily by the hand, thanking him again and again for his hospitality, in return for which they did not like to offer any more substantial proofs of gratitude; whilst Père Joseph assured them that never had visitors been more welcome to a host, and that if such poor entertainment as he could offer were not too humble for them, he hoped he might see them there again. The young native, David, refused to say good-bye, declaring his intention of walking back to the Avalanche Bungalow with them, lest they should again miss their way, and if they would permit him, of helping them also to follow up the tiger’s trail, an offer which they gladly accepted. Only Véronique did not appear during these farewell moments. Captain Romilly’s eyes sought her more than once, but she did not come, and no one seemed to miss her but himself.

Major Powell could not imagine why his companion lingered, when they had so much work before them, and when at last he persuaded him to proceed, he seemed to do it unwillingly. But as soon as Captain Gordon Romilly had placed his foot in the verandah his step was quickened, for there by the palisades stood Véronique with a bunch of roses in her apron, which she had gathered for him as a parting present.

“You said that they were pretty,” she murmured bashfully as he came up with her, and took the flowers from her outstretched hand.

“How foolish of thee, Véronique, to wish to cumber Monsieur with a large bouquet, just as he is about to set out on a long walk,” said David in a tone of reproach, which made the girl colour to her eyes.

“Give them back to me, Monsieur,” she cried, as she attempted to reclaim her offering; “David is right—it was thoughtless of me to think that you could carry them.”

“David is wrong,” was the A.D.C.’s reply, as he held the roses far above her reach; “the flowers are mine, Mademoiselle, since you have been so kind as to give them to me, and I will resign them to no one.”

He lifted his hat and turned away gaily with the bouquet in his grasp as he spoke; but if one might judge by the sudden crimson which rushed to his hearer’s cheeks and brow, his looks had said more to her than his words.

The sportsmen’s return journey to the Avalanche Bungalow was unattended by any accident, unless being nearly knocked over by Romer, in the exuberance of his delight at seeing them again may be counted as one.

“My dear fellows! if I had brought with me a single pocket-handkerchief more than I shall absolutely need, I would weep with joy at your safe return—I would, ’pon my honour. If you hadn’t turned up by dinner-time this evening, Newland and I had decided to go back into cantonment to purchase our mourning. We fully intended to appear at church next Sunday, like the Siamese twins, in complete suits of black glazed calico, made after the ‘muster’ of General Perkins. And, now here you have come back, and knocked our neat little plan completely on the head. Where have you been? what have you been doing? and why didn’t you send us a letter by the post to come and join you? When four fellows agree to come out together for a little enjoyment, and two of them rush off and have the lark all to themselves, I call it an awful shame!”

“My dear Romer, when you’ve done talking, perhaps you will let us begin. If you consider it a lark to be tumbling in the dark amongst precipices, and risking your neck at every step you take, I wish you’d have let me know of it a little sooner, and you should have been quite welcome to my share of the pleasure.”

“Why! you don’t mean to say it’s been so bad as that, Powell?” exclaimed Romer seriously.

‘I do mean to say that we have had a very narrow escape of meeting with a bad accident, and if you’ll call Newland, you shall hear all about it; but I never can persuade myself to tell a long story twice over.”

“Not even when it’s against her Majesty’s Government?” said Romer slyly.

But as soon as the sportsmen had related their personal shares of the adventure of the previous night, for the benefit of their friends, and come to that part of it which related to the tiger’s track, the danger they had undergone, the surprise first elicited at the mention of the priest’s cottage, as well as the admiration for the ibex head and skin, were all alike forgotten in the eager delight manifested by both Major Newland and Captain Romer at the bare chance of being able to follow up and kill the thieving brute who had carried off the poor native’s cow.

“Just fancy your having the luck to come across the beast in that way!” exclaimed the Major; “why, I sent my shikari out the whole of yesterday, and he could find no traces of him anywhere.”

“Well, there are plenty of traces of him about the priest’s bungalow, at any rate,” said Powell; “and David, the young native I spoke to you of, who examined them with me, thinks we shall have very little difficulty in following up the trail, so I left the old shikari behind us to keep a sharp look-out till we come.”

“Where’s Daniel? Where’s David? Where’s Jehoshaphat?” cried Romer in his absurd excitement, “bring him in, and let us hear all about it. I shall neither eat, drink, nor take my rest, until the hour for starting and all the other preliminaries are arranged.”

But on holding a consultation with the young native, it was decided that, as the day was already past its meridian, it was too late to think of going after the tiger until the next morning.

“I don’t think he can be far from our cabin, gentlemen,” said David, as he stood respectfully before them with uncovered head; “because his footprints were so fresh when I first saw them, that I expect he crossed our garden as he was looking for shelter after his night’s prowl, and he is most likely lying down in one of the sholahs round about. He may move further on this evening, but if he does, your shikari ought to be aware of it, but I have known them lie for two or three nights in the same place when they have been well filled. If we went after him this afternoon, it would be growing dusk before we reached his lair, and it would be very dangerous to beat the sholahs after dark; so, if you’ll take my advice, sirs, you’ll go to bed early and be up with the sun, ride on horseback as far as our place, which you can easily do if I show you the road, and from there we will go after the brute on foot.”

“But what will you do, David, if we ride?” asked Major Powell.

“I will borrow a ‘tat.’ Monsieur; there is one belonging to the man in charge of the bungalow.”

And so it was agreed that they should follow David’s advice, and be ready for a tiger-hunt the first thing in the morning, and Romer and Newland insisting on the young native sitting at the dinner table with them—a proceeding which, notwithstanding his European education, made him terribly uncomfortable—they brought him in amongst them, and made merry with him for the remainder of the day.

Chapter VII

An Awkward Tumble

“Would it be impossible for Monsieur to procure any other animal to ride this morning?” asked David, as he watched Captain Romilly tightening the girths of his horse’s saddle, and observed how restive the Arab became under the operation.

“Why do you ask?” said Romilly, curtly. He had not taken the same fancy for the young native as his friends, and was rather disposed to resent the intimacy they had established with him.

“Because the road by which we shall travel is very narrow, Monsieur, and in parts broken. A spirited horse is never a safe mount for the Nilgiri Hills; a pony is much more sure-footed, and less apt to shy. I would not venture to ride anything myself but a pony over the paths we must cross today.”

“You may ride a pony, or a bullock if you like,” replied Gordon Romilly; “but I wouldn’t mount one if I had it. I have ridden this horse ever since I have been in India, and I never found him refuse to go at anything, yet. When I mount an animal, I become the master of it!” and with an air of supreme authority, the A.D.C., (who was as conceited of his horsemanship as he was of most other things), flung himself into his saddle, and sat there like a rock, whilst the Arab performed sundry curvets and other unnecessary exhibitions in front of the Avalanche Bungalow. David glanced at the fidgety animal for two or three seconds in silence, and then turned away without saying another word.

“We were so full of our exploits and adventures yesterday, Newland,” observed Major Powell, as soon as the party was en route, “that I really believe we were egotistical enough never to enquire what kind of sport, in the meanwhile, you and Romer had enjoyed. Did you see any ibex?”

“Not one; for having sent off my shikari in search of the tiger, we did not feel competent to find our way over the hills without a guide. So we confined our explorations to the jungle at the back of the bungalow, where I brought down a couple of deer, and Romer got a good shot at a samba, and missed it.”

“But killed a wolf instead,” said Romer, laughing.

“A wolf! why there are no such things here. If you had said a bear, I should not have been surprised.” said Major Powell.

“Well, it was as big as a wolf, anyway!”

“It was a wild dog,” observed Newland, bluntly.

“There’s Newland, as usual, calling himself a friend, and trying to put my light out. There’s not much difference after all between one of these wild dogs and a wolf, is there, David?”

“Not when you meet them in packs, Monsieur,” replied the young man, who was mounted on a mangy “tat,” or native pony, so low in height that the long legs of his rider nearly touched the ground. “I saw a large samba once pulled down by them as easily as though it had been a sheep or a calf.”

“Did you really; where was that?”

“In the Annomally Forests, sir! I had gone down to the plains for a few weeks, to have some shooting with a friend, and I lost myself in the jungle. I’m sure I don’t know how it happened, for we had been together all the morning; but in the afternoon we separated, and though I had ‘blazed’ the trees as I went, I couldn’t for the life of me find my way back to the place of meeting. I fired shot after shot from my gun, in hopes that my friend would understand the signal and answer it; but I heard nothing in return, except the occasional distant crack of his rifle, which seemed to go farther from me, the more I wandered about after its sound, till at last all my own ammunition was expended, and the night was drawing on so fast, that the only thing left for me to do was to climb up the straightest and most difficult tree I could find, in hopes of remaining safe in its branches until the morning.”

“What a deuced uncomfortable position!” exclaimed Romer.

“It was so, Monsieur; I can assure you, I never wish to be placed in such a one again! As the daylight faded away, (which it quickly does in so densely wooded a situation), the forest became alive with hideous noises, and what with the darkness and the peril, I felt as though I were already in purgatory. All the animals of prey, the tigers, cheetahs, hyenas, and jackals, left their hiding-places, and prowled about, calling after each other, or howling for their own amusement; and more than once my heart nearly stopped beating, as I heard a rustling about the foot of the tree in which I sat, and felt (for the darkness was so great where the shadows fall, that I could not see), that some brute had smelt me out, and was making up his mind whether it would be worth his while to clamber up and fetch me down, or not.”

“Good heavens! how horrible!” said Major Powell. “David, I wonder your hair is not grey.”

“Should that have turned it grey, Monsieur?” said the young native, laughing, as he ran his fingers through his coal-black curls. “I don’t think it has; but I never passed so long a night before! I am sure that forty-eight hours of ordinary darkness could not appear longer than those twelve did to me.”

“Go on, go on!” cried Romer, impatiently.

“Well, Monsieur, I suppose it must have been about the middle of the night, when I saw the scene I mentioned to you. I had half fallen asleep, through weariness and fatigue, when I was roused by a most horrible noise, as if all the fiends in hell had been let loose about the forest. Yelping, snapping, snarling, whining, on it came like a torrent of sound, and just as I was wondering from what animals it could possibly proceed, there was a crash and a burst through the jungle near the tree in which I was concealed, and right before it, just in the line of the moonlight, flew panting, an enormous samba, with its head thrown back, its tongue thrust out, and its flanks literally bathed in sweat; whilst before it, around it, and on its heels, rushed a pack of these wild dogs. There must have been a hundred of them, if there was one. They were leaping at its throat, rushing between its feet, and hanging on its hinder quarters, and I was not surprised, the moment after the yelping crew was out of sight, to hear a heavy fall and a long moan, and to know that the poor samba had succumbed to its pursuers. I heard the devils through the darkness, tearing the flesh off its quivering carcase; and I was thankful, gentlemen, that it took place out of my sight, for to listen to it only made me feel quite sick.”

“I don’t wonder at it,” said Major Newland. “I had no idea these creatures were so powerful. And did you remain in the tree till daylight, David?”

“Yes! Monsieur, I had no alternative. I saw several things that night that made my blood creep, considering that I had neither shot nor powder left. At one time, two tigers gambolled together under the tree like a couple of cats for more than half an hour, whilst I was dreading every moment lest they should smell me out, and turn their play into business; and at another, a huge elephant scratched his back so vigorously against the bark of it, that he nearly shook me out of the branches. But, thanks to the Blessed Virgin, nothing was suffered to molest me, though when the sun had risen, I was so cramped from sitting all night in one position, that I had hardly strength to leave it.”

“There are a great many elephants in the Annomally Forests, are there not, David?”

“Hundreds, Monsieur, it is famous for them! Has not Monsieur heard of the young English officer who was killed there by one, about this time last year?”

“He means poor Williamson!” interposed Major Powell. “He held one of these appointments for looking after government timber, and spent almost all his time out in the Anaimalais , shooting elephant. I can’t tell you how many he shot in a year, the number was almost incredible. But he grew foolhardy with success, and at last took to going after them on foot, by which means the poor fellow lost his life, for having wounded an elephant without killing him, the huge brute wheeled round before Williamson could get out of his way, and crushed him to death.”

“I thought elephants turned so slowly, that it was always possible for a man to avoid them if he were careful,” remarked Newland.

“Not always! they turn slowly, it is true, but they cover an immense deal of ground, and should never be hunted except on horseback. A wounded elephant is the most dangerous of animals, for nothing destroys life more effectually than the pounding of their ponderous feet and knees. When poor Williamson’s body was rescued from the one in question, there was neither shape nor consistence in it!”

“And was the brute killed eventually?”

“I believe not! To kill an elephant on the spot you must send your bullet through the socket of his eye, for they have been known to flatten against his frontal bone, and it requires an experienced shot to do that. Williamson’s followers were probably too much occupied in collecting all that remained of their poor master, to think of looking after the animal that had destroyed him. It was a dreadful accident.”

“But what was the end of your adventure, David?” demanded Captain Romer, “why hadn’t your friend sent some one to look after you?”

“He had, Monsieur, both sent and searched himself, but when the darkness fell, they were as fearful to walk about the jungle as I should have been, for it is so thick there, that it is impossible to say at one step, what you may not meet the next. They sat up all night, however, in hopes I might come home, and in great distress lest I had been devoured; and as soon as the day dawned, they were on the search again, and I could hear their guns being fired in every direction, although I had nothing except my voice wherewith to answer them. I had watched the sun rise by that time; I had seen all the cowardly beasts of prey, the tigers, hyenas, and jackals, skulking home after their nightly prowl, as if they were terribly ashamed of themselves; and the gentler animals, the elephants, samber and spotted deer, going to browse on the outskirts of the jungle before the hot sun should have sucked up the moisture from the herbage; so I was no longer afraid to descend from my restingplace, and what with the reports from the fire-arms and my own shouting, my friend and I managed to get nearer one another, until we met. We were very glad to see each other, gentlemen, as you may suppose; and I was very glad to get into a bed the next night, and leave the elephants and tigers to their enjoyment without me.”

“I should think you must have been,” said Romer. “David, is that your home that we have just come in sight of?”

“Yes! Monsieur, that is the house of Père Joseph; and beside it, you see, stands our little chapel.”

“By Jove! how pretty! You must let me come and pay you a visit, David, before we go back to cantonment, for I shall not be out this way again before my leave is expired.” And then as the party of horsemen drew nearer to the priest’s cottage, he continued, “And is that your—your—sister, who is leaning over the palings and looking in this direction?”

“Véronique is not my sister, Monsieur,” replied the young native quickly.

“She calls herself so, at any rate,” interposed Captain Romilly, who was near enough to have heard the remark, and noted the readiness of its answer.

“She may call herself so, Monsieur,” replied David quietly, “because she knows no better title; but for all that, Véronique is not related to me in any way.”

“One might easily see that, by Jove!” said the A.D.C. scornfully; at which remark Captain Romer threw him a quick glance of reproof, and the young native’s cheeks flushed darkly; but neither spoke to him; and Gordon Romilly appeared perfectly indifferent to what they chose to feel.

“Véronique! mon père, est-il à la maison?” said David, as he rode a little in advance of the others; perhaps to better hide the discomfiture which had assailed him.

“Non! il y a deux heures qu’il est parti pour la ville,” came back in Véroniques rich, shy voice, but she was gazing meanwhile, not at her adopted brother, but a little further on, where the handsome, Saxon-haired A.D.C. bestrode his thoroughbred Arab; with a red rose, selected from her bouquet of the day before, conspicuously displayed in his button-hole.

“Shall we dismount and leave the ponies here, David?” demanded Major Powell.

“I think not, Monsieur. It is impossible to say how far we may have to walk. I think it will be best to ride as long as the road is practicable; and then send the animals back to our stable by the horsekeepers, to attend your return. But if you will wait a minute I will go round to our ‘go-down’ and see whether the shikaris may not be there, or have left some news of his whereabouts. Pray take care of your horse, Monsieur,” he added, earnestly appealing to Captain Romilly, who was most unnecessarily reining in his Arab in order to make him perform sundry evolutions on his hind legs for the benefit of the blue eyes fixed upon him, “you have got the curb-rein a great deal too tight. He will have you over the side of the hill if you are not more careful!”

“D—n the fellow’s impertinence! why doesn’t he mind his own business?” exclaimed Captain Romilly, not quite sotto voce to Captain Romer; but the words were scarcely out of his mouth before the native’s prophecy was fulfilled. A harder pull than before, in his impatience, at the Arab’s tender mouth, made the restive animal (naturally resentful of the treatment he was undergoing) suddenly back towards the unprotected side of the narrow path, and in another moment he had reared violently upon a particle of loose earth, and, together with his thoughtless rider, fallen over the precipitous decline. A simultaneous exclamation from his friends, and a scream from Véronique, was all that Gordon Romilly heard, before he was whirled in mid-air and thrown with a violent crash against some opposing obstacle, which he had hardly had time to realise when an iron hoof, planted in his face, laid his forehead and part of his cheek open, and deprived him of all consciousness. The horse had fallen backwards, but providentially came against a clump of bushes in its descent; where, finding itself in a reversed and unnatural position, it had disengaged itself from its unfortunate master, by an unceremonious struggle and kick, which had rendered Romilly senseless, and caused the animal to roll still further down the hill, where it now lay bruised and injured, with its fore-feet entangled in the reins.

All above was now hurry and confusion. The sportsmen quickly dismounted from their steeds, and delivering them over into the charge of the natives, prepared with cautious steps, to go to the succour of their friend; but as Romer and Newland planted their feet upon the yielding, treacherous soil, they found that their intention was forestalled. Some one had already scaled the high palisades which surrounded the garden of the priest; some one had pushed everyone (even David himself) who attempted to interfere with her actions, to one side—and swift as a deer, and surefooted as an ibex—rushed down the precipice to the assistance of Captain Romilly.

“Take care, Véronique; take care,” cried David in their familiar language, as he anxiously watched the fearlessness with which, having gained the clump of bushes where the Englishman lay, she seated herself by his side, and placed his head upon her lap, “remember that with the shallow soil upon these rocks, the roots of the trees can have but little hold, and do not lean thy weight against them.”

“I am safe enough!” she answered, hurriedly, “how canst thou think of me? Quick, David! fetch water, and something with which to stem this dreadful blood. He will bleed to death if thou dost not make haste!”

They all dispersed in different directions to try and find something which should aid the recovery of the A.D.C., and left her with him, for a space, alone. Meanwhile Véronique had tenderly placed a hand under his head, whilst with her little apron she strove to absorb the blood which welled freshly over his face as fast as she wiped it away: and her tears commenced to fall upon the unconscious stranger. Gordon Romilly certainly presented an appearance to frighten any sensitive beholder. His handsome nose and cheek had been severely cut by the horse’s hoof, and being youthful and full of blood, the sanguineous stream flowed freely, and had dyed his bright locks crimson, and pretty well obliterated his comely features. And then to see a young, strong man suddenly deprived, apparently of being, is always an alarming sight: and Véronique’s soft little heart quailed with apprehension at it. When Gordon Romilly awoke to consciousness again, it was to see a pair of dark blue eyes, eagerly searching his own to find some sign of life, and to feel hot tears slowly dropping at intervals upon his hands and face. He stared at her wildly for a moment, not knowing where he was, then half started from his recumbent position and gazed around him.

“I am all right, thank you,” he said, hurriedly, as though in answer to some question. “I can go on now,” and with the words fell back upon her lap, utterly unable to move.

“If you could manage to get to the top of the hill, with the aid of Véronique and myself, Monsieur,” said David, who, armed with cloths and cold water, was also by his side, “I think it would be a good thing; for you must be very uncomfortable lying here.”

He had descended to the help of Captain Romilly as soon as he had procured what Véronique desired him, and with her, had watched until he regained his consciousness. The A.D.C.’s friends had also been very anxious to go to his assistance, but David had entreated them to remain quietly where they were, representing to them that not being, like himself and the girl, accustomed to run up and down the precipices, they might meet with some accident themselves, and could not possibly be of any use to Captain Romilly. And so, considerably disheartened by the contretemps which had interrupted their sport, they were anxiously awaiting above, the moment when their companion should be able to rejoin them.

“Oh, I can walk well enough!” said Romilly, in answer to the natives last suggestion, “just stand out of my way, and I’ll get up.”

“Why should not Monsieur rest quietly here, until he feels a little stronger?” said Ve*ronique compassionately.

“Monsieur can do as he thinks fit,” replied David, who considered that the compassion was undeserved.

“Thanks, but I will go on, I am all right again!” said Romilly, with a look of gratitude at Véronique, and then he staggered to his feet, and placing a hand upon each of their shoulders, forced himself to climb the steep ascent down which he had fallen, and having accomplished it, without a sound to denote that he was suffering, sunk down upon the pathway in a deep swoon.

“Romilly!” Romer had just exclaimed, “will you be able to go on with us?” when Romilly tumbled down unconscious at his feet, “Good heavens! he has fainted! he will never be able to proceed, it would be folly to try.”

“So it would, Sir,” said David, “I dare say Monsieur is very much bruised, he has had an ugly fall. If you will kindly lift him up, gentlemen, and carry him between you into the house, Véronique will shew you what bed to place him on; (le lit qui est dans le cabinet du rez-de-chaussée, Véronique,) and I will go and look after the poor horse, who, if I mistake not, is still more hurt than his master.”

Newland, Powell, and Romer, did as he desired them, and preceded by the girl, whose face had re-filled with anxiety, carried Gordon Romilly into the cottage of the priest, whilst David descended to the succour of the horse. He found it in a deplorable condition, though not so dangerously injured as he had imagined. It had been much bruised and shaken by the fall, had an eye closed, and was lamed from the shoulder; but having led it gently down the remainder of the declivity, and brought it home to the stable by a more circuitous though easier path, he threw it down a litter of clean straw, and hastened into the house to enquire what news there was of its master.

Captain Romilly, having recovered from his faint, had been tenderly undressed by the kind offices of his friend Romer, and put into the bed which stood in a little room next the priest;s parlour, whence he was now vehemently adjuring his companions to continue their search after the tiger, and leave him to take care of himself.

“I will take care of you, Monsieur,” interposed Véronique, naïvely.

“I am sure you will, Mademoiselle, and it will be a great deal more than I deserve. It was entirely my own fault that I came to grief, and it will be a deuced shame, Romer, if you fellows let me spoil sport in this way. You’ll force me to get up and remount that unhappy animal if you persist in remaining by my side; Newland, Powell, do say that you’ll go on, and leave me here until I’m fit to follow you. Who knows what the rest of an hour or two, may not do for me?”

Notwithstanding all his conceit, and folly, and thoughtlessness, he had borne his pain, and now frankly confessed his fault so like a true Englishman, that his friends stood together cogitating, and could not come to a satisfactory conclusion about him. They wanted to follow up the trail of the tiger: but a new feeling was springing up in their breasts regarding the A.D.C., and they could not quite make up their minds to leave him behind, alone. First one, and then the other, proposed to keep him company, but Gordon Romilly put a decided veto upon each proposition, and declared his intention of remaining by himself or not at all.

“David!” he exclaimed, as the young native made his appearance amongst them, “persuade them to continue their hunt after the tiger! I shall never forgive myself if it is given up on my account.”

“I see no reason why it should be, gentlemen,” was David’s consequent remark, “I am sure that Monsieur will be well cared for during our absence, and that the best things for him now, are rest and quiet. Père Joseph will be home in another hour, and see that he has everything he wants; meanwhile, he will be all the better for not talking, or being talked to. We have plenty of time before us; and the old shikari is here, and tracked the tiger into a sholah about four miles off this morning, where in all probability he still lies. So that if you are agreed, gentlemen, I am quite ready to accompany you, and by the time we return this evening, I hope that Monsieur will be able to sit up, and listen to the account of your adventures!”

So it was settled that they should leave Captain Romilly as he desired, to recover the effects of his accident; and with many wishes for a speedy convalescence, the sportsmen filed out of the cottage door.

Chapter VIII.

Sainte Véronique.

The fleshwounds received in his face, although very disfiguring, were the least part of the injury which Gordon Romilly had sustained. He had hurt his back very seriously in his fall, but unwilling further to interrupt the pleasure of his companions, had carefully concealed the discomfort he was enduring, until they should have taken their departure.

Now, considering himself alone, he thought it no longer necessary to place a restraint upon his feelings, and turning on his pillow gave vent to a deep groan of pain.

“Monsieur, Monsieur! are you suffering very much?” said Véronique, in a subdued, half-fearful voice, as she left her position in the sitting-room and came and stood by his pillow. He did not answer her, except by another groan, and the girl grew frightened. With the exception of an old native woman, who took the rougher part of the house-work off her hands, she was quite alone with him, and the dread lest he should again be about to faint, quite overpowered her.

Her tender bosom began to heave, and the tears rose freshly in her liquid eyes, as she stood, silently regarding him, with a look in which fear and compassion were marvellously blended.

“Is there nothing that I can do for you, Monsieur?” she demanded presently in a timid whisper, as she laid her hand gently upon his shirt-sleeve. Romilly raised his face from the pillow and stared at her.

“Are you there, Mademoiselle? I had really no idea of it. What must you think of me?” and he tried to smile, but bit his lip in the midst of the attempt.

“You are in great pain I am afraid, Monsieur!”

“Yes! confound it! I can’t conceive what it is; I feel as though my hack were being seared with red-hot irons. But I daresay it will be better presently! Do you know, Mademoiselle, how my poor horse is?”

“He is lame, Monsieur, but David says that a few days’ rest will be enough to cure him.”

Something in the tone in which these words were uttered, attracted Gordon Romilly to examine the face of Véronique; and then he saw that tears were on her cheek. The girl caught his look, and blushed beneath it.

“Are those tears for me?” he said quietly.

“Oh! Monsieur! it is so sad to see you suffer.”

He put his hand out from the bedclothes as she spoke, and held it towards her, and when she placed hers in it, he raised the little fingers to his lips. The action made Véronique turn scarlet; she snatched her hand away from his, so quickly that he could not distinguish whether the action arose from modesty or anger; and drawing it across her still wet eyes, ran into the next apartment. But it was not long before she heard his voice calling her again, and she could not but answer it.

“Mademoiselle! where are you?”

“I am here, Monsieur, close by; what is it that you want?”

“You don’t know what pain I am suffering, nor how lonely I feel when you leave me here by myself.”

“What can I do for you, Monsieur? Will you have a cup of coffee, or chocolate? or shall I put fresh bandages about your head?”

“No—no!—none of these! only come in here and sit down somewhere where I can lie and look at you; for the pain is twice as bad to bear when you leave me, all alone.”

“Have patience for one moment, Monsieur, and I will do as you ask me; but I must get the meat and potatoes on the fire first, or we shall have no dinner today.”

“What are you doing now, then!”

“Peeling potatoes, Monsieur!”

“Can’t you bring them in here, and let me watch you peel them. It is so stupid with nothing to amuse me.”

He spoke so like a fractious child that the girl, although she laughed at him, made no further objection to his request, but lifting the heavy wooden bowl which contained her potatoes, carried it, spilling water over the floor at every step, into the bedroom where he lay, and placed it on a chair beside him.

“Now, Monsieur, I hope that you will be satisfied.”

“Thank you, yes! that will do very nicely, and you need not talk unless you desire it. I only want to have something just to look at.”

This generous permission of silence accorded her by the A.D.C., had the effect of chaining Véronique’s tongue altogether; and, washing, scraping, and peeling her potatoes, she stood by the wooden bowl for the next ten minutes without speaking a word, whilst Gordon Romilly kept his eyes fixed upon her changing face, as though he were studying her features with a view to reproducing them on canvas. Presently he said, and rather abruptly:

“Why were you called Véronique, Mademoiselle?”

“Because I was born on the ninth of July, Monsieur, which, as doubtless you know, is the day of the blessed Sainte Véronique Giuliani. I was christened Véronique Marie after her and the Blessed Virgin.”

“Véronique Marie Moore,” said Gordon Romilly slowly, as though wishing to impress the words upon his memory. “That is a very pretty name! And so Sainte Véronique is your patron saint, I suppose.”

“Certainly, Monsieur, and which is yours?”

“I haven’t one,” replied Captain Romilly, forgetting he was supposed to be a Roman Catholic.

“Not any!” exclaimed Véronique, dropping the potato upon which she was engaged, in her surprise. “Not any, Monsieur; but how can that be? On which day were you born?”

“On the third of November,” said Gordon Romilly, aware that he had got into a scrape, but not the least how he should get out of it, for of saints and saints’ days, their peculiarities and obligations, he was utterly ignorant.

“The third of November,” replied Véronique, “it is the feast of the blessed Saint Hubert. Are you not named Hubert, Monsieur?”

“I have no name but Gordon,” said the A.D.C., ruefully.

“Gordon, Gordon,” repeated the girl, pronouncing the syllables as though they were French. “I don’t think there is any saint of that name. And Monsieur is sure he has no other!”

“Quite sure!” said Romilly, shaking his head. “You see my friends were very negligent, Mademoiselle, and didn’t care whether I had anybody to look after me through life or no.”

“The Blessed Virgin and the saints protect you all the same,” said the girl, earnestly; “but it is strange it should have been omitted.”

“I must adopt a saint, Mademoiselle, if you do not think it is too late for me to begin. Which shall I take? you shall help me to a choice.”

“St. Hubert is your proper guardian,” replied Véronique, without an idea that he was jesting, “and you should have borne his name.”

“But I prefer a lady guardian,” said Captain Romilly, looking up into her eyes. “I shall take Sainte Véronique. Do you think she will look after me properly, Mademoiselle?”

The girl lowered her gaze to his, and saw that he was laughing.

“This is not a subject for jest, Monsieur,” she said, gravely; and Captain Romilly had to groan several times, and talk a good deal about the pain he was enduring, before he could get her to look as interested and sympathetic as she had done before. As soon as the potatoes were ready, they were obliged to be carried away into the kitchen, and set upon the fire; and just as Véronique had assured the A.D.C. that in another ten minutes he should have his dinner the sound of horses’ hoofs was heard, and Père Joseph’s stout mountain pony ambled round to the stable door.

“Here is mon père,” exclaimed Véronique, as she flew out of the cottage door to meet the priest, and before they reentered it together, she had put him in possession of all that had happened since his departure.

“I am very grieved to see you like this. mon fils,” was the greeting of Père Joseph to the prostrate A.D.C.; “but since you did fall, let us be thankful that it happened so close to the house. Véronique and I will take every care of you till you are able to move about again, which, for your own sake, I trust may be very soon.”

“I am only afraid that I shall be such a trouble to you and Mademoiselle, mon père,” said Captain Romilly, as he tried to turn himself, and made a wry face in the attempt. “I never intended to tax your hospitality like this; but they carried me in here, whilst I was still unconscious.”

“And where else should they have carried you?” demanded the priest, smiling. “I only spoke for your own sake, Monsieur. You will not find Véronique or myself complain of the pleasure of your company, however long we may have it. But allow me to look at your back; I am a bit of a doctor as well as a priest, and have a famous stock of potions and liniments upstairs, made from my old grandmother’s receipts. Ah! I see what is the matter with you,” he continued, as he lifted the coverings, and discovered the young, straight spine, now fast discolouring from the effect of a mass of bruises. “It is very painful, without doubt, but there is nothing dangerous here, and a good rubbing, and a couple of days’ rest, will set you all right. I am afraid your back will be mended before your face, Monsieur; you’ve spoilt your beauty for awhile, there’s no doubt of that, and it’s just as well that you’re in the jungle, with no ladies to look at you;” and chuckling over his own remark, Père Joseph stumbled up stairs, to return with a huge bottle of liniment, which he insisted upon rubbing into Romilly’s back at once, although the latter was most eloquent in his entreaties that he should wait at least until he had had his dinner. As soon as the meal was concluded, the good-natured priest fell to work again, and Captain Romilly found the effect of these continued lubrications so soothing, that when Père Joseph, fairly tired out, called to Véronique to bring his pipe and his arm-chair into the bedroom of his guest, the A.D.C. requested her to hand him his likewise out of the pocket of his coat, and the two men fell to smoking together.

“Ah! my grandmother was very famous for everything of the kind,” remarked the priest in answer to an expression of gratitude on Romilly’s part, for the good the liniment appeared to be doing him; “if anyone was sick in Rêve, they always came to her for the remedy, and believed in it much more than they did in the doctor’s.”

“Is Rêve a large place, mon père?” said Romilly.

“No, no, quite the contrary, though it appeared a grand place to me because I saw it through the eyes of youth. It is a small town on the outskirts of Belgium, and not far from the famous forest of Ardennes. Ah! they were happy days I spent at Rêve, Monsieur, I have had none like them since; and never shall again.”

“The days of our childhood are usually the happiest,” rejoined Captain Romilly, whose pipe had awakened in him quite a moralising mood, “when we have no dunning letters, nor tailors’ bills, nor anything of that kind to bore and disturb us!”

“My troubles have not lain in the way of tailors’ bills, as Monsieur may well believe,” said the priest smiling, “but they have had the power to affect me nevertheless. I quitted Rêve with hopes of rising high in the profession I had chosen, and I have lived to see my hopes disappointed, and to find myself in a position little better than that I left behind me.”

“You were ambitious, mon père,” said Romilly knocking the ashes from his pipe against the bedpost.

“I was: I don’t deny it, but the feeling was instilled in me. My father was a small avocat in the town of Rêve, and his greatest wish had always been that one of his three sons should enter the church. My eldest brother, Pierre, flatly refused to do so; he took a wife from the bourgeoisie instead, and entered into partnership with his father-in-law; the second, Henri, as soon as the proposal was made to him, ran away from home and enlisted in the French army; there remained, therefore, but myself, le pauvre petit Joseph, to fulfil the wish of my father’s heart. So, fearing I should follow the example of my brothers, he took me early in hand, and pointing out to me all the glory and honour of serving in the church, expatiated on how I might rise to wear the robes of a cardinal, and officiate in the grand cathedrals of our cities. I was shown all the pomp and splendour of the profession, Monsieur; I saw the priests in their gold and silver vestments, followed by their attendants and bowed down to by the people, and I thought as my father told me, that I should rise to be the same some day, and receive like honour. I little dreamt it would come to this,” said Père Joseph as with a comical glance his eye roved round the barely furnished apartment, “and a darned black gown. However, doubtless it is for the best!”

“But how did you get so separated from all your people?” demanded Romilly.

“When a man has taken a vow of implicit obedience, Monsieur, what can I do? I belong to the order of Jesuits, and I suppose those in authority had their own reasons for sending me out of the country, for try as I would, I have never been able to get back to it again. First, I was ordered to Ireland, and much against my wishes remained there for ten years, during which time my youngest sister Justine, who had joined me, married her soldier and followed him to Bengal; and just as I was hoping to revisit my own place and people, I was drafted out to India also, and have been here ever since. Thirty years is a long time to be expatriated, Monsieur!”

“It is, indeed,” said Romilly, who could not help recalling his own impatience over an expatriation of three months, “and have you never seen one of your family since then?”

“Not one, Monsieur! except little Véronique there, who was born to her parents after ten years of wedded life, and cut short their happiness just as they thought it was going to be increased. But that’s generally the way in this world.”

“Have you made no efforts to rejoin your family, Père Joseph?”

“It is out of my power, mon fils, I am bound to do only as I am bid.”

“But you are happy here, are you not?” said Romilly dubiously.

The priest shrugged his shoulders.

“I am contented, Monsieur; were I to say more I should speak falsely. My parents are dead—my brothers and sisters scattered—why should I now desire to return to a place where probably all is changed from when I knew it? But for one reason I could almost wish that my days might end where they most probably will, in this little settlement.”

“And what is that?”

“Véronique, Monsieur; I cannot bear to think that when I die, Véronique shall be left alone in this country, to marry whom she will, or to live how she may. For the child’s sake I would yet return to my native land; for my own, I would lay my disappointed hopes in the grave as soon as may be,” and Père Joseph began to take long pulls from his pipe, and look more solemn than Gordon Romilly remembered to have seen him do before.

Mon père, thou shalt not speak of the grave, nor anything so melancholy,” said the caressing voice of Véronique as she came and laid her hands about the old man’s shoulders. “Thou art not to die, nor anything of the sort; but to take me home to Rêve some day, and let me say a prayer with thee beside thy mother’s grave. How canst thou talk so? Thou wilt make Monsieur have—what is it that thou callest them?—les diables bleus, if thou canst not find some more cheerful subject to discourse upon. And how is he to sleep, or take his rest at all, if thou talkest to him all the day?” and Véronique smoothed down Gordon Romilly’s bed clothes, and changed the bandages about his head, with quite the air of a nurse who imagines that her patient has been injured by some meddling interference in her absence.

“Eh! bien, ma petite,” said the priest good-humouredly, as he rose from his chair and laid his pipe on one side, “if thou sayst it must be so, it must be so; and we will leave Monsieur to try and get a little sleep. Sleep will do you more good than any medicine, Monsieur, for your nerves have been shaken as well as your body, and nothing but rest will effect their cure. Try to sleep, and by the time your friends return I hope they will find you considerably better.”

“Dormez bien, Monsieur” said . as she softly drew down the blind, and prepared to follow her uncle from the room, “et que le bon St. Hubert vous ait en sa sainte garde.”

Gordon Romilly would rather Sainte Véronique had remained to watch over him herself, for he was becoming more and more interested in the priest and his pretty niece; but he acknowledged the wisdom of their advice, and having lain for some little while longer, perfectly certain that he could never comply with it, suddenly dropped his eyelids over his heavy eyes, and became profoundly unconscious to all external things.

Chapter IX

The Prostrate A.D.C.

“Holloa, Romilly! here we are again; we’ve bagged the tiger and no mistake. How are you, old fellow? will you be able to come on with us, to-night?” shouted Captain Romer, with no manner of discretion, from the front of the priest’s bungalow.

“Silence, Monsieur! il dort!” exclaimed Véronique, as, with her finger on her lip, she rushed out to quiet the intruder. Captain Romer understood the action, though he did not understand the words.

“I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about, Mam’selle, but can’t I see Captain Romilly? is he worse?”

“He is asleep, Monsieur,” replied Véronique, “and if you make so great a noise you will awake him!”

“I say Powell, Romilly’s asleep!” said Romer, in not much softer a key, as he turned to his friends—

“No, I’m not!” thundered Gordon Romilly, through the closed door of his apartment, “Come in, Romer, I want to speak to you!”

He had been roused from his doze, which had lasted until five o’clock, by the vociferous greeting of his companion, and was at once all anxiety to hear what success had attended their day’s undertaking.

“Oh! he’s awake, it’s all right,” exclaimed Romer, as he jumped off his pony, and prepared to enter the bungalow, “I won’t be a minute, Powell, but I must just see how the fellow is, and tell him of our luck.”

“If he’s awake, it is you who have waked him, Monsieur,” said Véronique, as, slightly pouting, she walked back to her seat.

“Well, Romilly! how do you feel now?” said Romer, as he entered the presence of the A.D.C. “Will you be able to go out with us after ibex tomorrow—it will be our last day, remember, and we want to make it a success.”

“I wish I may be able to turn myself in bed by tomorrow,” groaned the unfortunate Romilly, “I’m so stiff, I can hardly bear the weight of my coverings; and yet if I lie in one position for ten minutes together, I ache all over. But have you got the tiger?”

“To be sure we have; it was the most splendid thing you ever saw—I wish you had been with us, but I can’t possibly wait to tell you of it now, I promised Powell I wouldn’t stay a minute, for we’ve got some way before us, still, and he doesn’t want to be benighted on the hills a second time. But tomorrow—”

“Oh! can’t you stay a little longer?” said Romilly, in a voice of disappointment. “I want so much to hear all that you’ve been doing, and how you set about it!”

“Cannot we persuade you, Monsieur, to stay the night with your friend?” interposed Père Joseph, who had entered the room during their colloquy; “we have a bed at your service, if you will accept it, and you might join the other gentlemen at any place appointed, in the morning. Captain Romilly will be very glad of your presence.”

Romilly’s eyes said “stay,” and Captain Romer only hesitated for fear of the trouble he should cause.

“I would stop, directly,” he stammered, “only it must be such a bore for you and your niece to have a lot of strangers knocking about the place.”

“Monsieur!” said Père Joseph, with that courtly air which he sometimes assumed, and which bespoke his foreign breeding, “you have but to glance round this wilderness, to believe me when I say that to secure the occasional company of one or two guests is a real luxury to us. I dwell in these solitudes because I must; not because I prefer it: and if you will consent to enliven them with your presence for a few hours, we shall be the debtors, and not yourself.”

“Hang it! I can’t refuse to stay after that!” whispered Romer to Romilly; so having given a brief explanation to his companions, and made an agreement where to meet them on the following morning, he returned to the bedside of the A.D.C, while Newland and Powell rode home to the Avalanche Bungalow.

“And now tell me all about the tiger!” said Romilly, as soon as they were together again, “Where is the brute? and whose shot brought him down?”

“I believe the honour is divided between us,” laughed Romer, “but it was on this wise. After we had parted with you, this morning, the old shikari conducted us about three miles from this, and then we had to dismount and walk about a mile further on to where there was a large, thick sholah, between the cleft of two hills. The man declared that the tiger was lying asleep a few paces within the sholah, but David said it was not safe for any one to venture in, and so he gathered some large stones, and threw them as far as he could into the bushes, to see what he could rouse by that means. We were all waiting outside, with our guns on full cock, but really not in the least expecting that the brute was so close at hand, when, after a larger stone or a longer throw than before, out he came into the very midst of us, with a spring like a huge cat. I fired at once, and it was very lucky I didn’t kill somebody, for just as I pulled the trigger, that fool of a young shikari, with a yell of terror at the sight of the tiger, rushed against me, and knocked me right over on my back, upon a heap of stones. I was up again in a minute, but the poor brute was already disabled; Newland had put a bullet into his shoulder, and Powell another into his throat, and he was lying over on his side, panting, snarling, and lashing his tail at us. There was nothing left to be done but to walk up as close to his head as one dared, and put an end to his pain. It was all over a great deal too soon for me, but it was jolly excitement whilst it lasted. David had not the chance of a shot at him, and the only one of us who was hurt was the coward of a shikari who tumbled over into a nullah in his flight, and barked his shins in a most glorious manner.”

“How I wish I had been there,” sighed Romilly, “however, it’s no use wishing. This confounded fall will cut me out of all enjoyment for the rest of our trip. How large is the tiger?”

“Not very large! about eight feet from tip to tail, but beautifully marked, and in prime condition—we are going to toss up for the skin, for we really don’t know whose by right it should be—I hope I shall get it.”

“I’d have a hunting suit made of it, were I you.”

“Not I! a young fellow lost his life up-country some years ago, by that means. He had had a suit made of cheetah-skin, thinking in consequence to get nearer to his game, and one of his brother officers, catching a gleam of it through the jungle foliage, mistook him for a cheetah, and shot him dead. No tiger suits for me, thank you, Romilly! you’ll be trying your maiden hand on me, if I do.”

“It will be a long time before I try my hand on anything again, I am afraid,” said the A.D.C., ruefully.

“Nonsense! you mustn’t be so ‘blue.’ Shall I write home to your friends, and tell them of your precarious situation?”

“I wish you would! perhaps his lordship might be induced thereby to make a small addition to my usual allowance in order to defray the expenses of the doctor’s bill!”

“Oh! if that’s your game, why not carry the joke a little further, and say you’re dead at once. I’ve heard of a scamp in these parts, who had got so much money out of the home powers, by constant representations of illness, that at last they refused to credit his assertions any longer, and only sent condolences in return for his pathetic letters. So, reduced to extremities, he got a friend to write to his hard-hearted relations, announcing his premature death, and requesting they would send a remittance to defray his burial expenses, which they accordingly did. What became of the gentleman after he had spent his funeral-money, I never heard, but I think he deserved to be supported for his ingenuity.”

As they were amusing themselves over this anecdote, Véronique appeared at the door to announce that tea was ready, at which meal Captain Romer made himself so facetious, that David and the priest were soon laughing as heartily as Romilly had done before them, and the A.D.C, with his bed-room door open and his mouth full, almost forgot his aching bones as he joined in the general merriment. Only Véronique seemed to regard the new-comer with distrust, almost amounting to distaste: she was jealous of the inspiriting influence he exercised over her patient, although she did not sufficiently recognise the feeling to acknowledge it to herself.

“Why does your friend call eggs ‘hoofs.’ and say ‘let’s parley voo, Mam’selle,’ every time I speak English to him? she enquired with knitted brows of the A.D.C., as she brought him his second cup of coffee. “He speaks good English, and we can understand him; why doesn’t he keep to his own language?”

“Because he wants to have some fun with you,” replied Romilly, who was secretly pleased at the dislike she evinced to Captain Romer.

“I don’t like that sort of fun,” said Véronique, shortly.

“It isn’t everyone who can speak such beautiful French as I can, you see,” said Romilly, archly; “mine is pure Parisian, is it not, Mademoiselle?”

The girl cast down a smile upon him, a contradictory smile, but a very lenient one.

“You speak better than your friend!” she said, evasively.

“Now, Moosoo,” cried Romer, as he stood up after his tea, “I feel all the better for your kind attentions. There’s nothing like a good meal to make a man feel at charity with himself and the world; and I begin already to experience pricks of compunction for having helped to kill the poor tiger.”

“Don’t do that, Monsieur,” said David, laughing, “for I warrant he would have had no compunction whatever at making a meal off you.”

“Well, I suppose not, and who’s to blame him? If there’s one thing I despise above another, it is the man who can’t eat himself, nor let his friends eat. It’s very evident to me, Moosoo, that you don’t belong to the same tribe as my friend Dr. Baddell, in the cantonment yonder, who cuts down the provisions for himself and his household so short, that he has been known on more than one occasion to be forced to eat his own words!”

“Ha! ha! Monsieur,” roared the priest, “airy nourishment, upon my faith; but very hard to digest, sometimes.”

“You speak truth, but what do you think of the digestive powers of his poor horse, whose allowance of ‘gram’ was diminished, day by day, until one night, rendered desperate by hunger, he first ate up the whole of his bed, and then devoured the ‘joul ‘ with which he was covered?”

“Like the rattlesnake in the Zoological Gardens, who swallowed her blanket,” said Romilly.

“Exactly so, the only difference being that the blanket re-appeared after a few days’ seclusion; but Dr. Baddell’s ‘joul’ was never seen again!”

“How hot your head is, Monsieur,” said Véronique, as she dipped Captain Romilly’s bandages in cold water, and replaced them about his wounded forehead.

“It does ache a little,” he said, wearily.

“There is too much noise and talking going on in the next room,” replied the girl. “Let me close the door, Monsieur, and try to go to sleep again.”

“No! no! I should not be able to sleep a wink at night,” he answered, hastily. “The fact is, Mademoiselle, I present so ugly an appearance with these bandages about my head, that I frighten you, and you want to shut me out of sight.”

She looked at him for a moment without speaking; then, pulling the bedclothes straight, and tucking them in at the side, passed into the next room.

These little quiet attentions on her part were very attractive to Captain Romilly; he liked to be thus taken possession of, and gently rebuked when he was forward, and coaxed into good behaviour when refractory. He had alreadv begun to consider the attendance of Véronique about his pillow a necessary thing, to think the room looked empty when she was gone, and to feel himself more easy in her presence—and he excused the fact to himself on the score that women were born for nurses, and understood the art by intuition. But Captain Romer volunteered to be his nurse that night; he had stayed behind, he said, for the sole purpose, and refusing all offers of a comfortable bed, avowed his intention of lying down on the floor of Captain Romilly’s room. It was in vain that the priest and David offered to sit up with the A.D.C. themselves, and that Véronique, who seemed most anxious that Romer should be ousted from his position, declared that the room was much too small for two people to sleep in, and that the patient could not possibly need any attendance. If they had not given him a mattress, he would have lain on the bare boards; and so, in deference to the rights of hospitality, they were compelled to let their guest do as he liked. But Véronique was so very particular in impressing upon Captain Romilly that if he wished his head to be any better in the morning, he must not talk further that evening, that as soon as the final goodnights were said, and the members of the priest’s family had betaken themselves upstairs, her interference called forth some trite remarks from Captain Romer.

“I say, Romilly, what does that little French girl mean by looking at me as if I meant to eat you? What earthly difference can it make to her whether your head gets well or not? As if it wasn’t of twice as much consequence to me as to anybody else. She’s rather pretty when you can get a good view of her face, but confoundedly cheeky, that’s my opinion of her.”

“Like all her sex!” responded Romilly, meanly evading the argument, like most of his, when a woman is concerned in it. “I daresay I’m a bit of a bore to her, lying here to be waited on, and she’ll be glad to see me well enough to walk out of the cottage door; however, don’t let’s waste our time talking about her, Romer, I want to ask if you could manage to send over my things from the Avalanche Bungalow tomorrow, because I must have them if I’m to stay here a day or two longer.”

“Is there any chance of that?” enquired Romer, with a lengthened face.

“Well, you see, I can’t move; the question is how soon I shall be able to do so?”

“Won’t you see a doctor?”

“Where would be the use? I’m only bruised, and the priest’s lotion will bring me round as soon as anything else.”

“It’s such a bore it should have happened so,” said Romer, grumbling, “for I shan’t have another chance of going out with you, Romilly. We must return to Ootacamund the day after tomorrow, and my leave will be up next week. Powell is going down about the same time, so we’ve agreed to travel together, and take a couple of days’ shooting at Bandypoor on our way, and I had quite hoped you would have accompanied us so far; it’s just at the foot of the ghaut.”

“Vain are the hopes of man!” exclaimed the A.D.C.

“You seem to take it uncommonly quietly,” rejoined Captain Romer, rather disposed to resent his friend’s passiveness.

“How else can I take it, my dear fellow, tied hand and foot as I am? As soon as I can walk by myself again, I shall only be too glad to rejoin you anywhere; but till then, I suppose I am a prisoner here.”

“Well, I’ve got to be up early, so I’ll say good-night to you,” replied Captain Romer, ensconcing himself under his bedclothes, when he was soon fast asleep.

Gordon Romilly could not follow his example; the unusual siesta he had indulged in during the afternoon had made him wakeful, and his aching back and burning forehead rendered him doubly so. He tossed about his narrow couch, groaning at every fresh movement, till he had rendered it thoroughly uncomfortable; and then, when he called Captain Romer to his assistance, they got the bed-clothes into such a puzzle between them, that they gave it up as a bad job, and ended by putting them all back in a heap, the weight of which was almost intolerable to the A.D.C.’s tender back and shoulders. He lay, lamenting his condition, and reviling Captain Romer’s hearty snores, until the seemingly interminable night had passed, and the grey dawn appeared through the flimsy blind, which alone protected the little casement; and then he fell into an uneasy troubled sleep for a couple of hours, and woke to find that his companion had risen, and that the morning sun would have been streaming in upon his face, had not some one pinned up a dark cloth across the bed-room window. Some one also had arranged the bedclothes comfortably for him, and placed a sweet fresh rose, tied up with a sprig of scented verbena, upon his pillow.

Gordon Romilly had scarcely had time to note these changes, before the rustling which he made in turning, brought footsteps to the outside of his door, and he heard the voice of Véronique asking if she might enter, and as soon as he had given her permission, she stood before him with a cup of coffee in her hand.

“You have not slept well, Monsieur,” she said, “I knew you wouldn’t; and nothing is so nice to take, after a bad night, as coffee.”

“How did you guess that I should not sleep?” enquired Romilly, as he proved his acquiescence in her sentiments by drinking her coffee.

“Because your friend is too boisterous, too vif for you,” she replied without smiling. “I am glad he goes today; you will get well sooner without him, Monsieur. I am quite sure he has never had an aching head, he cannot know what it is.”

“No! by Jove! nor an aching heart either,” said Captain Romilly, sentimentally. “If you can cure one, Mademoiselle, perhaps you can cure the other.”

“I know of an excellent remedy for either of them,” replied Véronique demurely.

“Do you? what is that?” demanded the A.D.C.

“Silence, Monsieur!” she answered, placing her finger on her lip, but as she said so, Véronique laughed.

Chapter X

A Touch of the Green-Eyed Monster

Captain Romer had rejoined his friends, and sent Romilly’s belongings to him from the Avalanche Bungalow, by a native messenger, together with a brief note to say that he had brought down an ibex and a samba, “all by himself;” and that they should return to Ootacamund the following morning, where he hoped that the A.D.C. would soon be able to follow them.

But this event did not take place so soon as either of them anticipated. It was three days, notwithstanding the priest’s liniments, before Captain Romilly could even leave his bed; three days before, with the aid of a stick, and Véronique’s arm, he could hobble, laughing at his comical situation, yet groaning with pain the while, to the chair opposite Père Joseph’s by the sitting-room fireside, and a couple more, before he could stand upright and walk like other men. The violent contusions he had incurred, left him for awhile, as stiff and helpless as though he had suffered from rheumatic fever; and he felt the effects of them for many a day after he had almost ceased to remember their existence. During this period of seclusion Véronique was constantly by his side, waiting on him as though she had been his servant, (for although his personal attendant had been sent with his clothes, Captain Romilly had a horror of being touched by a native, and shrunk visibly even from David’s handling, a fact which the young man was not slow to observe;) and short as the time was, he had more opportunity during its course of reading the various phases of the girl’s character, than months of ordinary acquaintanceship would have afforded him.

She was open as the day, but fitful as the channel waves; and every emotion which she experienced found immediate reflection in her countenance, which changed as many times in the twelve hours as the shadows of the sun. She was warm-hearted, and passionate as her Irish father: piquante and coquettish as her Belgian mother; but over all spread the influence of the pure country life she had led upon the Nilgiri hills, which neutralised much that might have been dangerous to her simplicity, and made that natural which would otherwise have been affected.

“Why do you always call me Mademoiselle?” she said on the second day of Captain Romilly’s sojourn with them, as having performed some trifling office for him, she lingered by his bedside, plaiting her apron between her fingers, instead of leaving the room. “No one else does so, and it sounds so strange.”

“But what else shall I call you?” he enquired,—“Miss Moore?”

“Mon Dieu! non,” with a merry laugh, “ce serait encore plus drôle.”

“What then?”

“Call me Véronique, Monsieur; I am known by no other name!”

“Very well, Mademoiselle; (Véronique, I mean,) I only waited for your permission. But then, you must promise on your part, no longer to call me Monsieur.”

“I cannot speak your proper name,” she said, shaking her head, “Rome-eely; it is too long and hard for me, Monsieur.”

“But you must call me by my Christian name, Véronique.”

“Comment! Gor-don?” she exclaimed, raising her dark eye-brows, “c’est pire encore! cela me fendrait la bouche jusqu’aux oreilles.”

He laughed at her dashing so suddenly into French; a certain sign with Véronique that she was becoming excited over her subject; and assured her that he would accept of no excuses, and that if he were to call her by her Christian name, she must learn to pronounce his. And so after a good many blushes and false starts, she made a compromise with her guest, and called him, “Monsieur Gor-don,” from that day.

But however pleased Véronique might be to wait upon the handsome aide-de-camp, and however assured Gordon Romilly of the welcome accorded him by both Père Joseph and his neice, there was one member of the priest’s household who would have gladly contemplated his charms from a greater distance, and that was the young native David. An instinct, unrecognised by either man, had rendered these two antagonistic from the commencement of their acquaintance; and the more intimate Captain Romilly became with Véronique, the more did her adopted brother regard him with mingled dislike and fear.

“What has induced the Englishman to change his mode of addressing thee?” Romilly overheard him say one day, in French to Véronique. “Didst thou not run quick enough when he called thee ‘Mademoiselle,’ that now he must needs use thy baptismal name?”

“I know not,” answered the girl carelessly. “What does it matter? one name is as good as another.”

“Then, why dost thou call him, ‘Monsieur Gor-don,’ instead of plain ‘Monsieur?’ It is not the English custom, Véronique.”

“I know nought about the custom,” replied Véronique as she moved away from him; “Monsieur asked me to do so, et cela m’est égal,” with which words Gordon Romilly heard her close the conference, by marching up to her own room.

He had suspected before that David was jealous of his intimacy with Véronique, and, now that he was sure of it, the discovery only made him anxious to cement the intimacy further. As the days went on, and. the A.D.C.’s recovery progressed, the young native left no means untried—short of plain speaking—by which he might get rid of their guest. He suggested that a little wholesome exercise and change of air would expedite the cure; he volunteered to procure a “palanquin” and bearers from the cantonment, in which Captain Romilly might be carried back to Ootacamund; he even walked in there himself, and gave such an improved account of the A.D.C.’s condition to his friend Romer, that Romilly was immediately beset by notes of entreaty that he would make haste and rejoin them before they set out on their trip to Bandypoor. But all David’s machinations to oust Captain Romilly from his position before he chose to quit it proved fruitless. He was too comfortable where he was, and too interested in his new acquaintances to have any intention of leaving them before he was absolutely obliged; and, secure of the smiles of Véronique, and the hospitable inclinations of her uncle, he could afford to laugh at poor David’s jealousy, which he considered, both on account of his position and his blood, to be but another instance of his “d—d impertinence.” But though the native appeared to make no secret of his feelings on the subject, they were evidently unsuspected by any one but his rival.

“Tell us something about Rêve, mon père,” Véronique would say coaxingly of an evening, after Gordon Romilly had made his re-appearance in their family circle. “Relate to Monsieur Gor-don, how the good little sisters in the maison réligieuse used to dance and play about in the summer evenings with the children whom they taught; and how, when the sacrilege was committed at the cross-roads where the large crucifix stood, and some ‘vilain’ robbed the box and threw the blessed cross upon the ground, the sisters rose two hours earlier every morning for a twelvemonth after, that they might restore, by their earnings for needlework, what the robbers had destroyed.”

“Quel idée!” would David sarcastically utter from his corner, “as if Monsieur cared, Véronique, to hear what happened at Rêve fifty years ago. What interest can the childhood of notre père possess for him? Monsieur is not one of us!”

“Tais-toi,” the girl would answer sharply in her turn, for she did not like rebuke, and took it least well when offered on any subject concerning Gordon Romilly; “what dost thou know of Monsieur Gor-don’s likes or dislikes? Let Père Joseph judge for himself.”

And then Captain Romilly would assure his host there was nothing he should like better than to hear some stories of the past; and the priest would look gratified, and Véronique triumphant; and David would retreat to the furthest end of the apartment and smoke his pipe in silent misery.

“I have very little to tell, Monsieur,” Père Joseph would commence, “but if you should ever be near the spot, go to Rêve, and it will speak for itself. The bold hills swelling on either side of the valley—aye! bold as some of these, and densely clothed with vegetation—the bright river which glided like a serpent through the green fields, the tumbling water-falls spouting from the rocks, and the infinite variety of mosses, lichens, and ferns which peeped from every cleft, make Rêve in my remembrance an earthly paradise.”

“It must have been beautiful,” said Romilly, who had no more artistic taste for a fine view than he had consideration for David’s feelings; but Véronique’s eyes were sparkling at the description, and rewarded his affected enthusiasm with a glance of gratitude.

“Then the town,” continued the priest, lost in a dream of the past—“I think as I sit here, Monsieur, that I can see the town, situated, as it was, upon a hill, with its one long, steep, irregular street, in which the houses of rich and poor, though placed side by side, still seemed to amalgamate, from being built of the same grey stone. My father’s house stood in the centre of the street, behind a row of iron palings. It was always kept severely clean, that house. My mother would not allow a speck of dust to rest upon any part of her furniture, and the ‘salon’ was forbidden ground to us children, even after we had attained to years of discretion. The ‘parquet’ there was always so polished and so bright, the ‘poêle’ such a miracle of shining blackness, and the embroidered white net curtains so spotlessly white, that I was even afraid to cross the room when summoned to it on state occasions, and used to leave my ‘sabots’ in the hall outside.”

“Bah! I should not like to wear ‘sabots,’” said Véronique, glancing at her dainty feet.

“Thou wouldst have been glad of them, had thou been bom in Rêve,” replied her uncle. “We never wore leather there except to mass, and when we went to be catechised by the priest.”

“But tell of your visit to Brüssenburgh, mon père; when you went with your mother to see your father’s family, and were taken to the greatest church in Belgium.”

“Monsieur has doubtless been to Brüssenburgh himself, and seen Ste. Genevieve Véronique,” was the priest’s answer; “all are not such mountain cats as thou, remember!”

“Have you been there?” enquired the girl, with a look at Gordon Romilly.

“I have been at Brüssenburgh, Véronique, but I do not remember to have visited Ste. Genevieve.”

“Then you missed a grand sight, Monsieur,” Père Joseph replied; “as grand a sight as your St. Paul’s, or Westminster Abbey. I think there is nothing makes a man feel so small, and so little contented with himself as to stand in one of those magnificent buildings, which are but bricks and mortar, and yet had their commencement ages before he began, and will stand, firm and unshaken, ages after he has crambled into dust. Ste. Genevieve is a church to make one think thus, Monsieur. Of vast size, the light is admitted only through exquisitely-painted windows, each one of which is surrounded by a chapel, rich in fresco, carvings, and stone work, and dedicated to the tutelary saint. The altar and its surroundings are things to dream of; and the paintings, images, and other works of art with which the church is adorned, require a day’s leisure to examine properly. You should have seen Ste. Genevieve!”

“I wish I had, and when I pass that way again I will not forget to visit it.”

“But tell of thy seeing the king and queen in their carriage, mon père,” said Véronique, who evidently considered that sight a far finer one than Ste. Genevieve; “and of the little prince who now sits upon the throne, riding about the park on his pony, in a hat and beautiful white feather?”

“Quiet, thou silly child!” replied Père Joseph, smiling. “Dost thou imagine that Monsieur thinks as much about a tuft of feathers as thyself? I tell such tales to thee because thou art no better than a baby; but Monsieur would think I took him for the same were I to repeat them now. Besides, he has been to Brüssenburgh, and doubtless seen the royal family for himself!”

“The present king I have,” said Romilly, amused at Véronique’s look of wondering incredulity at the news.

“Have you travelled much on the Continent, Monsieur?”

“Pretty well; but more in France and Germany than Belgium. But when I return home I am very likely to go there again.”

“And do you return to England soon?”

The question was put by the priest; but Véronique awaited the answer in breathless anxiety.

“I hope so! I intend to go as soon as ever I can.”

“Monsieur does not like this country, then?”

“Not at all—in fact I hate it, and am doing all I can to get back to England again.”

“Ah, well! For those who can afford it, home is the place to live in!” replied Père Joseph with a sigh; at which turn of the conversation, Véronique’s face would considerably lengthen, and the eyes of David glisten with delight.

But Gordon Romilly had yet to be introduced to another phase of Véronique’s character, neither grave nor gay, which, whilst it placed the girl in a new light before him, seemed to open his eyes to what he had half-hoped, and half-expected. It was on the fourth day of his stay at the priest’s bungalow, when his back was so much better that Véronique had persuaded him to limp out into the sunny garden, and to sit on a chair against the palisades whilst she busied herself amongst her bees and blossoms.

“I never saw such a profusion of roses in my life before,” he said, as he watched her pull flower after flower from the variegated hedge, and without causing any palpable difference in its appearance, “do they grow naturally, or have you cultivated them?”

“Almost naturally, Monsieur Gor-don,” she answered, smiling, as she tossed a heap of white and pink beauties into his lap. “We set the plants in the first instance, of course, but they are never pruned, and they bloom from January until December. You have seen the garden hedges made of them in the cantonment, have you not?”

“Yes! but I thought they must be no end of trouble to keep up. But I find the sweetest things in this country, Véronique,” he continued, with an expressive look in the girl’s face, “are those which run most wild. The so-called cultivated part of the scenery, to say nothing of the so-called cultivated part of the community, is a great deal too tame for me.”

She laughed softly and returned to her occupation. She did not half understand what Captain Romilly meant by his allusion, but she knew that he was paying a compliment to herself, and that was sufficient for her appreciation of it.

“Véronique!” he exclaimed, presently, “do come and look here! What is this long train of bullocks coming over the hills from the direction of Sispara? Men too, and, by Jove! women; who can they be?”

Véronique left her roses for a moment, and came and stood by Captain Romilly’s chair, shading her eyes with her hand whilst she looked in the direction indicated.

“Those are brinjaris Monsieur Gordon, and their cattle are laden with grain. They are passing here, on their way to Ootacamund, where they will probably part with most of the merchandise they carry.”

“And what are brinjaris, Véronique? you forget what a griffin I am.”

“Gipsies, Monsieur Gor-don, or something like it. They are wandering tribes whose chief wealth consists in cattle and grain: and they are always travelling about from place to place, disposing of, or exchanging it.”

The long train of brinjaris, which, on account of the narrow pathway, was compelled to journey very slowly, now filed along the road at the bottom of the priests garden, and as it passed, Captain Romilly observed that though most of the men made some kind of salutation to Véronique, the women never raised their eyes at all, but walked behind their lords and masters, handsomely clothed and covered with gold ornaments, but with looks strictly downcast, and hands meekly folded before them. This was on account of the brinjaris’ laws, which, regarding their women, are exceedingly stringent: so much so, that the least breach of chastity on their part, is immediately punished by death: a rule which makes the fair sex (and some of the brinjari ladies are very fair) uncommonly well behaved.

“Look at the little children packed upon the bullocks, Monsieur Gor-don!” said Véronique, as a load of brown urchins of all shapes and sizes passed grinning before them. “Some of these brinjaris are said to be very rich, and really one would think so to see all the gold chains and bangles which they wear.”

“Why do all the women hold their heads down?” demanded Roinilly, “I haven’t seen the face of a single one yet.”

“They are not allowed to look about them!” said Véronique, quickly, “it is against their rules, and the men are very strict with them.”

“What a shame,” said Gordon Romilly. “I should like to catch one of the ladies without her blue beard husband, and see whether she would be so particular. By Jove, that must be a pretty girl!” he exclaimed, as he pointed out one that was just passing them, “what splendid hair she has, and what a beautiful figure. Just stand a little to one side, Véronique, I want to have another look at her!” and apparently forgetful of his stiff limbs, Captain Romilly jumped on the seat of his chair, and leant over the palisades to watch the retreating form of the brinjari woman.

“Why, her hair is plaited with gold,” he continued, “and what an immense length it must be, it hangs almost to her knees. Do you think it can be all her own? And what pretty little feet she has. I expect she must be a favourite wife, or, perhaps, a bride, for the fringe on her cloth is twice as deep as that of any other woman. I don’t suppose she can be more than sixteen, or perhaps younger, eh, Véronique? I wish I could see her face.”

Receiving no answer to his rhapsody, Captain Romilly turned to discover what had become of his companion, and to his astonishment, beheld her apparently busy at the other end of the garden, and quite beyond earshot of any of his remarks on the pretty brinjari.

“Véronique!” he exclaimed, “why, when did you run away? I thought you were close beside me;” and then he descended from his perch and found it a much more troublesome operation than the ascension had been. “Oh dear, oh dear! how my back does hurt me when I move. I really don’t believe I’m any better today. What shall I do, Véronique, to make myself well?”

“Take exercise, Monsieur; why don’t you walk into the cantonment and back?”

“You are laughing at me, Mademoiselle Véronique: you know I should be unable to accomplish that, unless, indeed, you would give me your arm for a support.”

“There is not much chance of that, Monsieur.”

“And why not? Are you quite tired of looking after me?”

“I don’t think you require any more looking after. You can jump on a chair so easily that your recovery must be nearly perfect.”

“Have I offended you, Véronique?”

“Offended me, Monsieur?” with a little glance of haughty surprise. “Mon Dieu! how could you have offended me? You must not imagine every time I follow my household occupations that I have a cause for offence. When you were helpless I was glad to wait on you: now that you are so far recovered you will not mind sometimes waiting on yourself,” and Véronique dug her spade vigorously into the flower-bed and turned the mould up, all over the A.D.C.’s feet.

Captain Romilly was in one of those dilemmas in which men who meddle with the “unfair” sex, occasionally find themselves, and for a little space he felt quite bewildered. He saw that something had occurred to annoy the girl before him, but what it was he could not for the life of him, imagine. He stood by her side for a few seconds, thoughtfully pulling his moustache, and wondering “why the deuce” women would be so unreasonable; until seeing that one of Véronique’s long tresses of hair had fallen over her shoulder in front and was impeding her vision, he ventured to touch it gently, with, the intention of putting it back again. In a moment the girl’s dark, blue eyes had flashed fire at him, and with a passionate gesture she seized the heavy plait from his hand, and flung it across her shoulder.

“N’y touchez pas!” she cried, indignantly, “ma chevelure n’est pas assez longue pour vous plaire!” and before Gordon Romilly could remonstrate with her petulance, or deny her words, she had burst into a flood of tears, and run away into the house to hide them. The circumstance flattered his conceit, already excited by her evident admiration of him, and he looked forward with anxietv to the moment when he should see her again. But Véronique did not re-appear until the evening meal was served, and then she bore no traces, either in looks or manner, of the emotion she had passed through. But Captain Romilly could not help smiling to himself as he observed that, for the first time, she wore her luxuriant hair, (which, unplaited, reached considerably below her waist) loose about her shoulders, and the silent compliments thereon, which the A.D.C. paid her, with his eyes, signed a tacit peace between them, whilst it augmented the uneasy sensations of poor David.

But, on the following day, unable longer, either on account of his horse or himself, to extend with any decency his visit, Captain Romilly, to the secret gratification of the native, and the sincere regret of Père Joseph and his niece, returned to his quarters at the Ootacamund Hotel.

Chapter XL

The Ootacamund Post-Office

Captain Romilly did not return to the cantonment in the very best of humours, either with himself or the world at large. In the first place he was vexed to think that he had injured his horse, a valuable animal, for which he had paid an exorbitant sum of money, extravagance being one of the most shining points in the luminous character of the A.D.C. It was true that the Arab was just able to limp back slowly to Ootacamund, but he promised to be unfit for active service for some time to come, and Captain Romilly did not relish the idea of mounting any meaner thing, and saw himself reduced in consequence to travelling about on foot. And he was vexed that he should have missed all the fun of the shooting excursion, to which he had looked forward with so much pleasure. He had pulled the trigger of his fine, new, double-barrelled gun, which, with its belonging had cost him nearly a hundred pounds, about half-a-dozen times, and he had seen next to nothing of his old friend Romer—the only person on the hills of whom he had any knowledge, and whose company he should lose the following week. And above all this, Gordon Romilly was vexed that he was obliged to leave the priest’s bungalow, without any reasonable excuse for revisiting it; and doubly vexed to think that he should be vexed to do so. Arrived at the Ootacamund Hotel, where he, as well as Captain Romer, was temporarily located, Romilly found that worthy in a great state of excitement, consequent upon his preparations for the shooting excursion to Bandypoor, on which he and Major Powell were to start the following day. He was most urgent in his entreaties that the A.D.C. should join them, and give them the enjoyment of his company for a couple of days further, but at first Gordon Romilly was sulky with his fate, and steadfastly refused; resolving to make himself as little pleasant as might be. But Romer’s genial temper, added to a secret knowledge, on the part of the A.D.C., that the sooner he shook off the feeling which oppressed him, the better for himself, won the day, and from having felt inclined for nothing but to ride back to the priest’s bungalow, and catch another glimpse of the smiling, pensive face of Véronique, Captain Romilly rushed into the other extreme, caught the infection of his friend’s enthusiasm, bought a splendid Pegu pony from one of the native dealers, at his own price, and employed himself for the rest of the day cleaning, oiling, and arranging his weapons, whilst he discussed the merits of his new purchase, and expatiated on the feats of skill which he hoped to perform.

Meanwhile the figure of the little Irish girl grew dim in the background, and powder and shot, Pegu ponies, and Westley Richards’ took its place. So much for the influence of the prettiest face in the world, when backed against a man’s amusements with his own sex, in whatever direction they may happen to lie.

“Romilly! come up to the post-office with me,” said Romer, on the following morning, for the A.D.C., having once got on his legs again, had made rapid progress, and, with the exception of a little stiffness, could now walk quite easily, “the mail is in, and we may as well see if there are any letters for us, before we start.”

They set off at a smart pace in the direction Captain Romer indicated, and took their way through a rural lane, bordered by green hedges and overshadowed by leafy trees, along each side of which were gardens filled with summer flowers, and enclosing pretty rustic-built cottages, shaded by verandahs, and covered with creepers bearing orange and white and crimson blossoms.

“What a strange place this is!” said Captain Romer, as he pointed out the beauties winch they passed, “who would think, to look at those flower-beds, that the puddles were all ice at four o’clock this morning. Charmingly romantic, though, isn’t it?—you must come here for your honeymoon, Romilly, if you ever have such a thing!”

“If I ever have such a thing,” repeated the A.D.C., “I think I may promise you I will—but should I be so unfortunate as to be obliged to sell myself, Romer, I expect there will be more money than honey about the business, unless my present opinions materially alter.”

“What nonsense! Surely, Romilly, you of all men, should be able to afford to do as you like in that particular!”

“If you think so, it only shows how little you can know of my affairs. I haven’t got a sixpence of my own, Romer, and if you saw my cheque-book you’d be aware that his Lordship keeps me most uncommonly low.”

“What do you call ‘low?’” laughed Romer, who had but his pay to depend upon, himself.

“Why! he only gives me five hundred a-year, beside my allowances, and it’s impossible for a man to live decently on that. To say nothing of the unpleasantness of being always dependent on one’s Governor—I can’t move hand or foot without being hauled up for it!—it’s ‘Gordon’this’ and ‘Gordon’that,’ and ‘I’ll stop your allowance, if I hear any more of it,’ every month in the year!—Deuced unpleasant, you know! it gives your father such scope to take liberties with you. If it hadn’t been for that, do you think I’d have come out to this country, and expatriated myself for a paltry A.D.C.ship, when I was quartered at Winchester, and could get up to Town every other night in the week? I would have seen myself further first! But that’s the curse of being the youngest son—all three of my brothers are better off than myself, I wish they’d been at Jericho before they’d been born at all—but it’s just like my luck; my mother ought to have been ashamed of herself.” And as Gordon Romilly, with his youth and his beauty, his staff appointment, and his five hundred ayear, uttered this monody, he looked so truly pathetic, that Captain Romer burst out laughing.

“My dear fellow, it’s a case for the consideration of your parish guardians, and you should not fail to place it before them as soon as ever you reach England again. Meanwhile, let us go and enquire for our letters.”

“Which is the post-office?” asked Romilly, staring about him.

“That little building on the hill before you, next to the flag-staff.”

“But what is that crowd of people collected round it?”

“Those are the residents of Ootacamund, waiting for their letters.”

“Have you no postman, then, in this place?”

“Oh! yes! but they get their dispatches half an hour earlier by coming for them. They walk up to the post-office hill as regularly as the sun rises—it is something for them to do.”

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Romilly, as though lost in the contemplation of human nature sunk so low as to derive daily excitement from the contents of the postman’s bag, “need we go inside?”

“Oh! yes! you must see the Ootacamund Post-office; for it’s quite a curiosity in its way. I’ll bet any money you never saw such another, wherever you may have travelled.”

They could hardly force their way in for the assemblage of Europeans collected round the door, and amongst which might be seen specimens of almost every variety of the species then collected upon the Nilgiri Hills. Veterans, who had retired from the army to pass the remainder of their vegetable existence in that climate; beardless “griffins,” who had fallen sick on their first introduction to the country, and been hastily despatched upwards to prevent their being shovelled downwards; officers, from Bengal, Bombay, and Madras, with yellow, parchment-like faces, who had undergone a wearisome course of “liver” and blue pills, and were trying what the sanatorium would do for them before they finally decided to take their “long leave home;” and soldiers from the various detachments stationed on the Hills, were all jostling one another in their efforts to get closer to a wire grating, which ran across one end of the inside of the post-office. The ladies of Ootacamund, also, were not unrepresented, although they did not show in such force as the men, but they made up for the deficiency of their number by the proficiency of their tongues, which kept up such a continual buzz, that when Romilly first found himself in the centre of the crowd, he could neither hear nor understand what it was all about.

“Try and edge your way towards the grating,” whispered Romer in his ear; “the letters are all laid out on a counter behind it, and you will be able to see whether there are any for yourself, or not.”

“All right!” said Romilly, “I will when I find it possible to stir, but at present I am wedged in so tight that I can neither move one way, nor the other.”

Meanwhile, the chatter and the buzz, intermingled with the gruffer tones of the male sex, went on incessantly. “Now, who can that letter for Mrs. Doveton be from, Miss Wheeler?—that one in the blue envelope, at the right-hand corner—I’ve never seen that hand before—a remarkable writing, too, hardly to be mistaken.”

“I wonder if it can be young Arkwright’s?” chimed in another voice, as the owner pushed forward to gain a sight of the suspected epistle, “it’s really not unlike his writing. I’m almost sure that’s the way he makes his D’s! Just fancy if it is—how disgraceful!”

“Well, for my part I could believe anything in that quarter—particularly after the way in which she went on with him at the Bangalore Ball.”

“Buffer has written to Bobson again,” interposed a man’s voice, “to ask him about the retirement money, I suppose, but it’s of no use. Buffer will find that Bobson—”

But to what phase of Bobson’s character Buffer had yet to be introduced, was lost in the medley of gratuitous news which was delivered on every side.

“But really, dear!” in a chirpy, harmless little tone, “if you’ll promise faithfully not to repeat it, I’ll tell you what I heard Mrs. Colonel Dowdson say with her own lips about that business. She told me that—”

“Excuse me, my dear Mrs. Browne, it was nothing of the sort. She may say he proposed to her, but everyone knows—”

“Deny it? oh, nonsense! she can’t deny it. Why he was seen coming out of the house!”

“Will you be good enough to make way here. I am in a hurry for my paper this morning! Yes, that one to your left! addressed Major Jones. Is not the next one for me?”

“No, sir; to the name of Steward.”

“Steward—Steward! how very odd. I wonder who should send Steward papers! All his friends are in England—frightfully in debt, you know. He’ll never be able to leave the country.”

“Ah, Major! it would be a good thing if his debts were the worst part of him. But that Rangoon business was quite shocking.”

Low, my dear! Low is no name for her dress. I wonder that any gentleman liked to take her in to dinner. But I suppose that is the English fashion, and we know nothing.”

“It will be a divorce, Miss Greene, and that before very long, mark my words!”

“Oh, dear! I hope not! so very scandalous, you know. But did I ever tell you what Mrs. Black said Miss White had told her she heard him say to her one evening at the Band? It was dreadful! She said that—” and here the fair coadjutors in promoting good-will amongst men, advanced their heads towards each other, and the thrilling climax which Gordon Romilly expected, was hissed into each others ears.

“Oh! Mr. Graham,” exclaimed a couple of ladies simultaneously, “here are three letters for you this morning, and one is in a lady’s handwriting! Now, who is it from? You really must tell us. We are all anxiety to learn.”

Mr. Graham, a young fellow of about Romilly’s own age, pushed forward to the grating, seized his letters, and shoving them into his pocket with a growl that was half an oath, unceremoniously escaped from the pertinacious enquiries of his unlicensed persecutors.

“Always so rude!” exclaimed the ladies as they returned to the contemplation of the letters behind the grating, and then Captain Romilly who had recognised his father’s splashy red seal from some little distance, heard them commence to speculate on the probable owner of the epistle.

“Captain, the Honourable Gordon Romilly, A.D.C.,” said one as she nearly twisted her neck off, in her endeavours to read the address upside down; “I suppose that is one of the governor’s aides-de-camp. I didn’t know there was anyone of that name upon the hills.”

“It’s a sweet name!” sighed a young lady who had been born and bred in her parents’ adopted country.

“Colonel Thompson, do you know a Captain Romilly? we are so curious to know who he is.”

“I have met a conceited young puppy who calls himself by that name,” growled the Colonel, of whom nothing was to be seen except a huge, white, pith helmet, by which he was usually distinguished and extinguished when in the open air.

“Thank you!” said Gordon Romilly haughtily, some two inches above the white pith helmet, but the sound penetrating to the Colonel’s ears, he looked up, got as red as a turkey-cock, and instantly disappeared in the crowd.

“My character precedes me!” remarked Romilly with a curl of his lip to Romer, but the ladies were too busy over the letter to have heard what had passed behind them.

“A lovely seal,” quoth one, “and with a coronet on it! I wonder what that’s for.”

“Why, his father is a lord of course, and he’ll be a lord himself by-and-bye, when his father dies.”

“Will he? Are all honourables lords as soon as their fathers are dead?”

“Of coarse they are. Why, you silly thing! didn’t you know that?”

The lady addressed, not liking to be thought so deficient in her knowledge of the customs and manners of the aristocracy, hastened to defend herself.

“Oh, yes! I was only joking. But fancy how nice! How I should like to see him! I wonder if he’s tall.”

Romilly’s lip curled higher and higher as he listened to the remarks made upon himself, but he kept his patience wonderfully; and by dint of “I beg your pardon,” and “will you allow me?” oft repeated, at last managed to approach the grating, near enough to speak to the official behind it.

“My letters, if you please?”

“What name?”

“Captain Romilly.”

Romilly said the words as low as he could, but nothing escaped the ears of the idlers about the grating; and surprise occasioned by his unexpected appearance amongst them, caused such a general clustering and whispering together, that he and Romer experienced no difficulty in passing out of their midst again, and were soon clear of the post-office, and marching down the hill on which it stood.

“Well, thank heaven that’s over,” exclaimed Captain Romilly as they gained the open air; “I think I shall be content to wait for my epistles in future, until the postman brings them round. What a hotbed for idle talk and scandal that post-office appears to be. Why, most of those people had either received their letters or learnt that there were none for them, and yet there they stayed, blocking up the place just to chatter and gossip with each other. It only wanted cups of tea to be handed round to render the scene perfect.”

“It is a rendez-vous,” said Romer, in his good-natured way of excusing everything, “and in this country people are so idle and so bored, that to look in each other’s faces only is a relief. You will find just such another gathering in the market-place on Tuesdays and Fridays, Romilly.”

“Excuse me, my dear fellow,” replied the A.D.C., “I shall find no such thing, for I shall make a point, on the days you mention, of riding just in the opposite direction. If you have no wish to go further at present,” he continued as he broke the seal of his letter and glanced over its contents, “I will ask you to walk back to the hotel with me, for this letter requires an answer, and perhaps I had better write it before we start.”

“No bad news, I hope!” said Romer, with friendly anxiety.

“Well—not exactly, but my father’s state of health is very unsatisfactory, and as I have not written to him for the last two mails, I am afraid he may think me negligent. Not that I am the favourite son by any manner of means, far from it, I am the prodigal and ‘vaurien’ of the family; but the poor old governor’s epistles, though crammed with good advice, are always kind, and I shouldn’t like him to fancy himself neglected or forgotten.”

Captain Romilly returned to the hotel, and wrote and dispatched his letter, and a few hours afterwards, finding himself mounted on the back of his stout Pegu, and making the descent of the ghaut, with Powell and Romer, reverted to the scene he had witnessed at the Ootacamund Post-office, and expressed his opinion of it rather freely. Major Powell only shrugged his shoulders at the relation, as much as to say that it was a subject not worth arguing about; but Romer took up the cudgels in defence of it, and wielded them manfully.

“You are too hard upon them,” he cried, “you forget the state to which a life of stagnation reduces people, bodies and minds, and should judge them by the standard of the habits of a little country village at home, and not by that of one of your bustling, go-a-head, thriving cities.”

“Exactly so,” replied Romilly; “but would they be pleased if you so judged them? To my mind they have every pretension to be considered as moving with the world, and are ready to be mortally offended with any one who appears to think otherwise. When I was down in Madras the other day, I met a man of some years’ standing in the army, red-hot with passion over an article which had appeared in one of the magazines, reflecting on some of the customs and manners of the Anglo-Indians. He was perfectly furious about it. I thought the poor fellow would have broken a blood-vessel; but not being competent to judge whether the article in question were true or a libel, I could only express my sympathy with his outraged feelings, and remain silent. Well, would you believe it, the very same night at their mess-table, that man having recovered his spleen of the morning, was the foremost in relating a lot of stories (equivocal, to say nothing worse) of the ladies of that cantonment and others. I stared in amazement, and thought (what I have had occasion to think several times since), that if men in India are so touchy on the score of such things being remarked upon or repeated, why on earth are they the first to cram them down a stranger’s throat? The land abounds with tittle-tattle and repetitions, and if what married men tell me is true, the women are not behindhand in spreading scandal of each other. One may talk, talk, talk in India as much as one likes, but directly it is whispered in England, or appears in print, the whole country is up in arms, at what has generally emanated from one of themselves.”

“You speak the truth there,” said Romer, gravely, “there is no doubt a vast amount of idle stories are constantly floating about; but you should remember that in so small a community as this, everything gets remarked upon. It is not that vice and folly are more prevalent with us here than they would be at home, but that they cannot be practised with such impunity.”

“That may be the case,” replied Romilly, “though I am not prepared to implicitly avow it; but if it is, it does not alter the fact. During the few days we have spent in each other’s company, you have told me yourself of half-a-dozen notorious cases, of which the subjects are still received in Indian society. I don’t deny that these cases might have occurred in England, human nature being the same all the world over; but I do say that, had they been as openly discussed, the offenders would have been cut by all respectable people.”

“But in a place like India, where you are brought into contact with your acquaintances every day, it would make one’s position so unpleasant to be ‘cuts’ with half-a-dozen of them,” said Romer.

“Then why make such a fuss about the matter? either be virtuously indignant, and shew your disapprobation of the proceeding, or—hold your tongue about it! But you Indians talk the greatest scandal of each other amongst yourselves; the names of men and women out here are handled with the most reckless impunity, (vide the conversation on the Post-office hill this morning!) and yet, if anyone else talks of you, you are surprised where they could have gained their information.”

“No one likes being abused, of course,” observed Captain Romer.

“Then why abuse each other? I never heard any Madras scandal in England, though I have been told that to listen to a lot of old Indians at Bath or Brighton, who have met together to talk over their reminiscences, is a caution, and beats all the books in their disfavour that were ever penned. But I have not been so fortunate. I received my information from your own mouths when I arrived in this country, where, you may depend upon it, Indian scandal always has its rise. Madras is like the adder who stings herself to death.”

“And what of Bengal and Bombay?” said Romer, laughing.

“Oh! I know nothing of the sister Presidencies,” returned Gordon Romilly, in the same strain; “but if what one hears of Simla and other places, is true, they have all three rightly earned their title to be considered feminine. For though want of something to talk about may make men descend to repeating stories, injurious to the characters of their friends, you may take your affidavit, Romer, that it is the women who provide them with the means. We may promulgate a scandal, but it is they who originate it.”

“Hear! hear! hear!” exclaimed Romer, sitting well back on his saddle, and sticking out his legs straight before him. “A Romilly come to judgment! Why, my dear fellow, you are quite a moralist! You must lecture on the subject as soon as you get back to Madras, and I’m sure all the ladies will flock to hear you, if only on account of the fascination attached to your name.”

“I daresay they would,” said the A.D.C., carelessly; “but I don’t intend to honour them. You may laugh at my arguments, Romer, as much as ever you like, but as long as you listen, and have nothing wherewith to answer me, I feel perfectly satisfied both with them and myself.”

And as Captain Romilly, bestriding his handsome Pegu, blew a thin curling cloud of smoke into the air from between his supercilious lips, he looked as though his words were true.

Chapter XII

“Erin” Amongst the Todahs

The two days’ shooting at Bandypoor was a perfect success. No further contretemps happened, to ruffle the serenity of the A.D.C., or to mar the pleasure of his friends; and it was a time to be remembered by all of them with satisfaction. As for Captain Romilly, he was almost ready at the close of it to admit that under some circumstances life might be enjoyable even in the East, though Romer took care not to risk the disturbance of his companion’s new-born contentment, by suggesting so treasonable an idea to him. He had brought down to his own gun two spotted deer, one tiger-cat, and at least a dozen and a half rose-necked parrots, to say nothing of having mortally alarmed a baby elephant, which he had caught attempting to browse on the outskirts of the jungle, and which, after having sent a bullet whizzing close to its tender trunk, he had caused to beat a hasty retreat to the side of its dam, to the tune of its own shrill trumpeting of fear.

So divinely affable, however, was the temper of the Honourable Gordon during these few days of sequestration, that he would not permit even this disappointment to elicit more than a naughty word from him; and consoled himself by having his deer-skins stretched and dried, preparatory to being transformed into half-a-dozen pairs of slippers, and making his rose-necked parrots into a pie, which he vowed was the best which he had ever eaten.

Their sport at Bandypoor was decidedly ordinary; but the cheerfulness and verve which all three men threw into the undertaking, caused the holiday to be a very pleasant one; and when at the close of the third day, Gordon Romilly shook hands with Powell and Romer for the last time, and mounted his stout little pony to reascend the ghaut by himself, he felt lonelier and more dispirited than he could have believed it possible he should be.

“Good-bye! old chum,” was Romer’s farewell advice, “get a jolly wife as soon as you can, and see if she won’t reconcile you to staying in India sooner than anything else would do!”

“A wife! my dear fellow. You might as well advise me to try hanging in order to make me contented with life. You are a great deal more likely to put your head in the noose than I am.”

“I wish I could,” said Romer with a shrug. “I’d try it fast enough, Romilly, if I had the means, for it’s the best thing a man can do after all.”

“Chacun à son gout” was the unsympathetic rejoinder. “With me, Romer, the charms of married life, like those of India, gain in proportion to the less I see of them—‘Distance lends enchantment to the view.’”

“You don’t deserve to see it any nearer,” replied the other jestingly, and his merry laugh was the last thing that Gordon Romilly heard as he turned his pony’s head in the direction of the ghaut.

As he ascended it, he hardly observed its order of high romantic beauty, which could not but have been appreciated, even by his inartistic eye, had his mind not been full of another subject. But he felt quite “hipped” at the prospect of returning to Ootacamund without the genial presence of Romer, who was not only the sole person he had liked there, but the sole person he had known. He had applied for leave to the hills, hardly aware of what he should do or find there; and his rencontre with his old schoolfellow had been one of those happy accidents which we occasionally experience through life, and for which we are not sufficiently grateful. But his meeting Captain Romer, with whom he had been intimate in days gone by, and speaking his mind so freely to him in consequence as he had done, had been the means of making him more enemies than friends amongst those who had been the recipients of his opinions; and Romilly knew that, without the shield of Romer’s companionship he should find a difficulty in mixing on anything like terms of intimacy amongst those whom he had offended. He told himself, as he performed the slow and fatiguing ascension of the ghaut, that the fact could make no possible difference to him, that he had nothing in common with the residents of Ootacamund, nor they with him; and that familiar intercourse between them would be productive of neither pleasure nor profit on either side.

Notwithstanding which private assertion, Captain Romilly was not such a fool as to be unaware that, as we journey through this world, we are all dependent upon one another for comfort and enjoyment; and he remembered that he was a greater stranger here than he had been even in Madras; and felt proportionately friendless and alone.

But as he ruminated on these things, the thought of Père Joseph and his niece flashed across his mind, and Romilly’s breast positively glowed as he recalled the hospitality which had been shown him from that quarter, the cordial welcome with which he had been received, and the honest regret which had followed his departure. He had almost forgotten the Roman Catholic priest and his family, amidst the pleasures of his shooting excursion; but now the recollection of them and all their kindness, diverted his thoughts into a pleasanter channel as he commenced to consider by what means he could best express his sense of all they had done for him during his late visit to the bungalow.

The A.D.C. was very extravagant, but he was generous at the same time, and his money was far oftener spent on others than on himself. From the first hour that he had been laid on the priest’s bed, he had intended to remunerate him handsomely for his trouble; but at the same time it was difficult to know in what way to do it, for an offer of money he felt that Père Joseph would reject with scorn. Had he been in England or France, he would have sent him the works of Victor Hugo, Blaise Pascal, or Chateaubriand, for the priest was a well-educated man, as his conversation denoted, and the want of books in his own language was one of the few privations at which he had murmured in the presence of his guest. But whilst making a note to have a box of literary food sent out for him from England as soon as possible, Captain Romilly did not wish to defer making Père Joseph some little offering until they arrived, and for a long time he could not imagine what sort of article would be most acceptable to the old man. At last he thought of an easy chair, for the sole one of which the little bungalow could boast was old-fashioned and worn; and so elated was he at his own ingenuity, that as soon as he reached the cantonment he could not rest until he had ransacked the stores of English furniture in the native shops, and found the article which he desired. A very handsome chair it was too, with a mahogany frame, covered in morocco; such an one as the priest’s bungalow had never known even in its palmiest days; and a handsome price did Mr. Hubbubbetty Chetty charge the unsuspecting A.D.C. for it, but who would have paid the sum twice over sooner than not have had what he had set his heart on procuring.

The same evening it was dispatched, by the hands of two coolies, to its destination, accompanied by a very pretty little note of thanks. And that it gave great pleasure there, and doubtless excited universal admiration, was proved by the answer, which, written in French, and in the crabbed foreign hand of Père Joseph, reached Gordon Romilly on the following morning—


“I have received, with the greatest pleasure, the magnificent present which you have had the kindness to send me. I cannot better express my gratitude for your remembrance of me, than by saying, that during my life I shall guard it with the greatest care; and after my death I shall leave it to my child, as a souvenir of the brave and generous Englishman who honoured us by staying under our roof. In conclusion, may I hope, that it will not be many days before your goodness gives me the opportunity of saying in person what I find it difficult to write. Receive, Monsieur, the assurance of my most perfect consideration.

“Joseph Quetin.”

When Captain Romilly read this note, which vividly recalled the memory of the frank cordiality with which the courteous old priest had received him, he was immediately seized with an unconquerable longing to rush out to the bungalow, and see Père Joseph and Véronique again.

This feeling, which had assailed him strongly ever since he had re-entered the cantonment and missed the companionship of his friend Romer, was but natural under the circumstances, but Captain Romilly knew sufficient of his own disposition to be aware that it was dangerous for him. He had felt interested in the little Irish girl from the first day that he had seen her, and when, recovered from his accident, he had left her uncle’s house, the knowledge that he did not like to part from Véronique had been the cause of his very palpable ill-humour.

She was attractive from every point of view, pretty enough to satisfy the demands of any man: educated enough to make him totally forget the difference in her station, and piquante, and coquettish enough to drive him to do anything foolish in order to see her at his feet. A dangerous companion for any one who did not intend to make her his wife, and particularly so for a man with the peculiar temperament of Captain Romilly. For when he had told Romer, on the first occasion of their meeting, that he had never cared for a woman, and never expected to do so, the A.D.C. had not adhered strictly to the truth. He had certainly never yet felt what it was to conceive a pure, faithful love for one individual, and to cleave to it; but as for what is termed “falling in love,”—that is, generating a hot fancy for a pretty face, not to be cured until a prettier comes in view—Gordon Romilly had been doing scarcely anything else, ever since he had arrived at years of indiscretion. It was on this account, and because he had become entangled with society beneath himself in point of station, that his father, Lord Erskine Romilly, had procured him his present appointment of aide-de-camp, and insisted upon his accepting it. He was truly as he had remarked to Romer, the prodigal and vaurien of his family, and the problem which his relations were constantly trying to solve for themselves, was: what would eventually become of “poor Gordon.” Meanwhile “poor Gordon,” spoilt by women on account of his face, and tolerated at the least, by men, on account of his birth and position, had not yet commenced (except on the score of his supposed poverty) to consider himself an object for universal compassion. Notwithstanding all his affectation of finding his existence a bore too great to be endured, he knew that his life was passing very pleasantly away, and he was not a person who concerned himself about the future. To-day was the god of Gordon Romilly, he let tomorrow take care of itself.

Now, when he felt that his interest in Véronique Moore was becoming deeper than it should be, he ought, knowing how quickly his fancy was apt to be entangled, to have turned his steps away from that part of the hills altogether, and sought a refuge from himself in Coonoor, or Jackatella.

We ought all to do the wise and prudent thing when temptation, like an armed man, meets us in the way; only, unfortunately for the credit of our powers of fighting nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand, prefer standing their ground and doing warfare for themselves. And though the pathway be strewn with the bodies of the slain, and the air resounds with the cries of the fallen, it would seem as though human nature were too proud to fly from the devil, though it knows that a hand-to-hand combat invariably ends in its defeat.

Gordon Romilly knew that he had no intention of wooing Véronique Moore to be his wife, such an idea had never entered his head, still less had he any design of injuring her. Perhaps he was not quite clear at that moment, what he did mean, but he knew that he liked to make love to a pretty girl, and to have his already sufficiently good opinion of himself bettered, by seeing how his attentions fluttered and excited her. And, therefore, as the prospect of that pleasure lay bright and shining in the path before him today, he pursued it as a thoughtless child pursues a painted butterfly, although the insect, in attempting to elude his grasp, may lead him over a precipice. He very much wished to make some little gift to Véronique as well as to her uncle, but had not thought of anything which appeared to him suitable to her position, until, in turning over the contents of one of his portmanteaux after his return to Ootacamund, he lighted upon a small jeweller’s box containing a sapphire ring which he had purchased in Madras. He had not bought the trinket, which was composed of remarkably fine stones, with the view of giving it to any particular person: for, thoughtless as he was extravagant, costly articles constantly found their way into his possession, simply because he admired, or considered them cheap at the price.

Now, however, as he caught sight of the ring with its brilliant blue stones, and thought how Véronique’s eyes would sparkle as he placed it on her finger, regardless of the value and inappropriateness of the gift, he put the box into his pocket, resolved to give it to her the next time they met; and when, on the receipt of Père Joseph’s note, he ordered his Pegu to the door, and rode away without an attendant, in the direction of the priest’s bungalow, he had it still about him.

The morning was exquisitely clear, and the atmosphere was soft and balmy—the sun had not yet climbed the highest heaven, and his warmth, without being oppressive, was just sufficient to draw forth the scent of the thousand and one flowers which blossomed in the cantonment, and made the air luscious with their fragrance. The carriage-road, about the lake, was full of moving figures; “tonjons,” bearing heavy weights, and being borne by groaning bearers, men and women mounted on horseback, “bullock-bandies,” full of children, rocking like boats at sea, from the ungainly movements of the awkward beasts that drew them, and open and shut vehicles of all sizes and descriptions, made the place look unusually lively.

And through them all rode Gordon Romilly, looking, for him, unusually lively also. The complaining grunting chant of the “tonjon” bearers did not appear to disgust him as it was wont to do; the sight of the bullock-drivers urging on their unfortunate animals by means of twisting round their tails and pricking them with an iron pointed goad, no longer provoked him to a shudder; he was tolerant of the glances shot at him by some of the “really not bad-looking” pairs of eyes which he encountered on his way, and even returned the broad grins with which the black “ayahs,” robed in their red and white cloths, saluted him in passing.

He felt, for once, light-hearted and content, but did not choose to recognise, or would not stay to enquire the reason of the change within him, although, more than once before, he had plunged into the intoxicating waters, on the brink of which he stood, and which have the power to alter the face of all external things for those who lave in them.

He might have guessed it, when he had left the Cantonment behind him, and felt how fast his heart beat at the thought that each step brought him nearer to the bungalow beside the little chapel. Yet he went on, doggedly determined not to acknowledge to himself how very much pleasure the anticipation of this visit gave him, but humming a tune, nevertheless, as he beat time with his Malacca cane on the “hogged” mane of his dauntless Pegu.

He was within a quarter of a mile of the residence of Père Joseph, and still sunk in a kind of dreamy reverie, when he was startled by hearing a voice call, “Monsieur!” some way below him, and looking down the side of the hill which he traversed, he perceived the slight figure of Véronique scrambling up the acclivity towards him. With the small uncovered head, the long hooded cloak, and the large gold ear-rings, it was unmistakably herself, and the suddenness of the rencontre sent Romilly’s blood flying so fast through his veins, that by the time she had reached the side of his pony, her face flushed with the speed she had exercised, his cheeks were almost as glowing as her own.

“Ah! Monsieur! vous pouvez monter à cheval, vous vous portez mieux, j’en suis bien aise,” poured from her voluble little lips, and then she stood, blushing and agitated beside him, and looking as though she had done wrong in attracting his attention.

“What a pretty pony!” she added, to cover her confusion, as she laid her hand upon the Pegu’s bristling mane.

Gordon Romilly seized it.

“I was on my way to see you, Véronique—that is to see Père Joseph. Is he not at home?”

“No, Monsieur,” gently withdrawing her hand, “I am sorry to say he is not—and David, he also is away. There is no one in the bungalow; I locked the door, and hid the key behind the beehives, but if you would like to go on, and rest, you can open the door for yourself, and they will both be home to dinner. Mon Père will be so pleased to see you, Monsieur! Ah! what a beautiful chair that is you sent him; and how good of you to keep him in your thoughts—too good! we all thank you much, Monsieur.”

“And where are you going, Véronique?” enquired Captain Romilly, professing to ignore her grateful glances, “I don’t anticipate paying a visit to an empty bungalow.”

“I am going in search of my little cow, Monsieur—she is such a naughty little thing, is ‘Erin;’ if ever she can stray away, she does, and yesterday she left the buffaloes to come home by themselves. But I think she has wandered after the Todahs’ cattle, for she has been there two or three times before, so I am going to their village to enquire.”

“‘Erin’ amongst the Todahs!” laughed Romilly, “that is quite a new idea, Véronique! And how far off may the Todahs live?”

“About half a mile from here, Monsieur.”

“And mayn’t I go with you?”

The girl looked uneasy.

“You could not ride, Monsieur; my way lies right across the hills, and it will be too steep for your pony.”

“But I can lead him, Véronique; I should not think of riding whilst you were on foot.”

“I shall not go over any beaten path, Monsieur, and those Pegus are sometimes very obstinate when led; he might refuse to follow, and break his rein, or pull you backwards.”

“Then I shall let him go by himself. Come, Véronique, it is of no use making objections to my company, because I am quite determined to look for ‘Erin’ with you in the Todahs’ village—I have never seen a Todah yet, and you promised once that you would show me one.”

“Very well, Monsieur, do as you please,” replied the girl, with a slight sigh, as she waited until Gordon Romilly had dismounted and thrown his pony’s bridle across his arm, before she led the way in the direction where the straying “Erin” was supposed to be.

Chapter XIII

Monsieur! Je Ne Peux Pas

As Captain Romilly rode on his way to the priest’s bungalow, he had thought of a hundred different things which he intended to say to Véronique, but strange to relate, when he found himself alone with her upon those solitary hills, so far removed from the habitation or the cognisance of man, that he might have said or done what he had chosen with impunity, his eloquence failed him, and he walked by her side in silence. This difference was partly owing to the manner of the girl herself, which, from being all excitement and pleasure at meeting him again, had changed, most unaccountably, to a shy reserve; and partly to his own feelings, which proved stronger than he had given them credit for. They paced beside each other for more than five minutes, without speaking a word, and then Véronique, who could bear the silence no longer, said abruptly:

“You are better, Monsieur, quite well, are you not?”

“Yes! I think I may pronounce myself quite well again, Véronique, at least as far as my bruises are concerned,” and with that he stole a side glance at her, to see if she had noticed the insinuation, but perceiving no signs of it, twitched the Pegu’s bridle violently instead, and desired him to “keep up.”

Le bon Saint Hubert has not forgotten you,” said the girl, thoughtfully. “Have you been reading or thinking anything about him since we parted, Monsieur?”

“Monsieur,” who had almost forgotten the pre-existence of Saint Hubert at all, here stammered out that he had been prevented doing what was so greatly his desire, by the shooting excursion to Bandypoor, which necessarily usurped much of his time. But Véronique did not seem to notice that he was confused.

Mon Père has told me,” she answered, “that Saint Hubert is the patron saint of the chase, therefore Monsieur could hardly have a more appropriate guardian. He was very wicked at one time, was Saint Hubert, and he used to hunt on Sundays, which is very wrong, of course. You never do so, Monsieur, do you?” with an appealing look, which at the same time was rather doubtful, until Romilly had assured her that he never did.

“He was out hunting one Sunday, as usual,” continued the girl, “in the great forest of the Ardennes, when a beautiful stag ran across the path, and as he raised his bow to shoot at it, it turned to face him, and there was the crucifix just between its horns. Saint Hubert was not a saint at that time, you understand, Monsieur, but when he saw this blessed miracle, he fell on his knees, and was converted at once; and he built a church on the very spot, and founded a monastery in the town, into which he retired till his death.”

“And never shot a stag on Sunday again,” said Romilly, laughing, “what a good boy.”

But Véronique’s quick look of distres and horror recalled him to a sense of the profanity of which he had been guilty.

“Monsieur, Monsieur! you cannot be thinking of what you say!”

“I beg your pardon, Véronique!” he answered, sobered in an instant; “but really, do you mean to tell me you believe that story?”

“Of course I do, Monsieur! am I not a Catholic? and are we not bound to accept the traditions of the Church? Surely you believe it also.”

Upon this appeal, sundry recollections of the Council of Trent, and the requirements of the Roman Catholic religion flitted in an undefined manner through Gordon Romilly’s brain, but it was all misty to him, and he felt sorry for the first time, that he had, however unwittingly, deceived the innocent child beside him, who was looking so earnestly in his face for a denial of what she feared.

He longed to tell her then, that she was mistaken in him, and that he was a Protestant who had abjured all such Popish errors; but he felt that the avowal would make her shrink from, and perhaps distrust him ever afterwards, and he had not the courage to confess his faith. So he answered vaguely—

“Well, you see I’m such a sinner, Véronique, that it is hard for me to believe in such things. But tell me what became of my patron Saint—I ought to know.”

“He lived in the monastery till he died, Monsieur, and then he was buried in the church. Père Joseph has seen his tomb; for the town Saint Hubert, which was named after him, is only a few leagues distant from Rêve. Perhaps if you saw his tomb, you would also believe.”

“Oh! I believe all right enough, Véronique! don’t be afraid of that! but I want to know what I have done that I am to be nothing but Monsieur with you again! You promised to call me by my own name, if I used yours, and yet I have been gone but five days, and you have already forgotten it—how is that?”

“Je ne l’ai pas oublié,” she said, softly.

“Then why don’t you use it? Has it altogether too rough and barbarous a sound for your dear little mouth?” and as Captain Romilly put the question, he placed his disengaged arm about her slender waist.

Véronique did not object, or twist herself away, but she grew very crimson, and the tears welled slowly into her downcast eyes.

“Won’t you say it, Véronique? it sounds sweeter from your lips than I ever heard it sound before.”

“Oh! Monsieur, je ne dois pas, je ne peux pas.”

“And why not?”

He was becoming so used to hear her express herself in French whenever she was agitated, either pleasantly or otherwise, that he took no notice of the change, but continued the patchwork conversation as composedly as though it had all been in the same language.

“Why not, Véronique? has anyone been setting you against me, or trying to make you believe that we are too intimate?” a thought of David and his jealousy flashing across him.

But she shook her head.

“Then perhaps you have ceased to regard me as a friend of your own accord. I am not so sincere or so honest as you expected. I have disappointed you in some way, and you already regret that you have shown me so much kindness. Is it so?”

“Oh! Monsieur, pray do not say such words.”

“Then you must tell me what has altered you, Véronique.”

But at that moment they came in sight of the Todahs’ “maunds.”

“There is the village!” she said quickly, “pray, Monsieur, take away your arm. Père Joseph would be angry were we seen thus.”

He withdrew his arm at once, and walked apart from her a little sulkily. He could not understand why she should repulse his advances, who but the other day had seemed so ready to attract them. The Todahs’ village, called so for want of a better designation, was simply a collection of “maunds,” as their dwellings are termed, heaped together like so many ant-hills. They were not unlike ant-hills, either, except in point of size, being long, low habitations formed of red earth, with rounded sides, and apertures for entrance so small that the Todah men were compelled to go on all fours in order to enter their houses, and Gordon Romilly was at a loss to imagine how the ladies (in general much broader and bulkier than their lords), managed to get in or out at all.

There seemed to be very little life moving about the Todah village when they first approached it, for the men were away, herding the droves of buffaloes, in which their wealth consists, and of children they saw none; but presently, a woman, attracted by the sound of their voices, appeared on all fours, at the entrance of her “maund,” and, showing her white teeth, in sign of welcome, dragged herself into the open air, and stood upon her feet.

“Did you ever see such dreadful places to live in?” timidly enquired Véronique of Captain Romilly, who had not addressed her since she had last spoken to him, “these ‘maunds’ are so filthy and so dark inside, that I have heard Père Joseph say that when the commonest coolies are overtaken by a storm upon the hills, they prefer to lie out in the soaking rain to entering one of the Todahs’ huts; they are so full of fleas and other vermin.”

“From the look of them I am not surprised to hear it,” answered Romilly.

The woman who now approached them, was a fine specimen of her race, being tall and well-formed. Her hair, in rich dark curls, hung down to her waist; her features were good, though coarsely moulded, and the blanket, which, pinned at her throat, was the sole covering she wore, revealed an arm and leg according with the rest of her person.

She grinned vehemently as she exchanged a few words with Véronique on the subject of the lost cow, and pointing to a rough shed, a little distance off, intimated that “Erin” was there, and that she would go and fetch her.

“They have my cow,” said Véronique, as the Todah woman walked away, “I thought that I should find her here. Do you know, Monsieur, that that woman who has just left us, has sixteen husbands.”

“By Jove!” exclaimed the startled A.D.C.

“She has, indeed! and some have even more. By their laws, when a girl is once married, if another man desires her for his wife, he has to make his proposals to the first husband, and it depends upon how many buffaloes he possesses, whether he is accepted or not; then the third one has to obtain the permission of both the other husbands; and so on. They all put their buffaloes together, so, of course, the more there are the richer they become; but it is a very strange custom, is it not?”

“Devilish strange!” responded Captain Romilly.

“The men spend all their time in looking after the cattle, and the wives stay at home and cook the dinners in these dreadful huts. Oh! here are two more women coming to speak to us; and see, Monsieur, they are bringing a baby to show you.”

“A baby!” exclaimed Romilly, in horror, “I wish they wouldn’t! I’ve a perfect detestation of them.”

The Todahs were close to them by this time, and in their arms they held up a little fat child, with glittering black eyes, and a head covered with tufts of curling hair, for the inspection of the strangers.

“It is a great curiosity,” said Véronique, smiling, “or they think it so, Monsieur. This is the only baby in the village, and the first that has been born here for the last four years. Mon Père says that the Todah race is completely dying out.”

“So much the better for them and for ns, I should think,” said Romilly, grimly, as he kept edging to one side and the other, in order to avoid the too near approach of the dreaded baby; until, at the suggestion of his companion, he threw the mother a piece of money, and she retired, with her treasure, to her “maund.”

The little cow now made its appearance, led by a halter, and Véronique, after rewarding its finder according to her means, threw the rope across her arm, and prepared to conduct her favourite back to its home.

Whilst they had been detained in the Todah village, she had spoken fast and continuously to the A.D.C., in order to cover the annoyance which the last words exchanged between them had caused her. but now that they were once more alone, she felt as though all her courage had evaporated, and laying her head gently against the neck of the truant “Erin,” pretended to be reproaching her for her misdeeds, whilst, in reality, she was struggling to keep back the tears which threatened to overflow her eyes.

“Happy ‘Erin,’” said Gordon Romilly, as he remarked the action, “your mistress extends to you the welcome which evidently she has not got for her friend.”

“Monsieur, you should not speak like that!” replied Véronique, as she lifted her face from the cow’s neck, and let him see how weary it appeared.

“Then what is between us, Véronique? why do you refuse to call me ‘Gordon?’ Why did you object to my accompanying you hither?”

She was again silent, and taking the sapphire ring from its case, he held it towards her, saying—

“See! what I had brought you, in hopes that you would accept it, in remembrance of all the kindness with which you tended me whilst I was ill.”

She glanced up at the sparkling jewel, and had half-uttered an exclamation of natural admiration, but the next moment her voice and eyes fell, and she resumed her former melancholy look.

“I shall never forget those days, Véronique,” continued Gordon Romilly, “nor how carefully you tended me; and I had thought that you also might look back upon them with something not unlike pleasure.”

He gazed into her face as he spoke, and saw that tears were falling on her cloak. The sight encouraged him.

“My dear Véronique! I am sure that you are only playing with me; your tears deny your words—I cannot have been utterly mistaken when I fancied that you liked me, just a little bit—was it not true?”

He was bending down, and almost whispered in her ear, and as he did so he caught a murmured “oui.”

“Then let me put this ring upon your finger, Véronique, and wear it there, in token that we are friends, and shall continue so.”

But Véronique drew backward, and would not let him even take her hand.

“Non, Monsieur, ne me le demandez pas, je ne le puis pas, vraiment! je ne le puis pas.”

“And why not?” he demanded almost angrily, “has Père Joseph forbidden you? has that fellow David dared to influence you? why will you not take my gift, Véronique? I must have an explanation.”

Frightened by his vehemence, she turned with terrified eyes and trembling lips to cling to his arm.

“Mon Dieu! ne m’effrayez pas ainsi, et je vous dirai tout.”

“No one has spoken to me of you, Monsieur,” she resumed after a short pause, during which she was trying to steady her voice, “what I think and feel has all come from myself, from my heart here,” laying her hand upon her breast, “I liked to nurse you, Monsieur Gor-don, I liked also to have you for my friend, and you saw that I liked it. But after you were departed, I questioned with myself whether to like you so much was good or safe for me! and I could not but answer no! It would be very pleasant, doubtless, whilst it lasted, but soon you will be gone, and I shall have no friend, and then, what is to become of me? For the same reason, Monsieur Gor-don, I will not take your ring; it is like your friendship, too valuable, too fine, for my poor life. It does not accord with it, I am better without the ring—or you!”

He felt the truth of her objections to his heart’s core, although they did not please him, and he walked beside her silently, with his eyes bent on the ground, as he pulled his long fair moustaches through his fingers, and considered in what words to answer her.

“N’ai-je pas raison?” she whispered, presently, but the reply was dubious.

“Yes! I suppose you are right, Véronique, though it’s a deucedly unpleasant prospect to contemplate.”

“But it must be wrong to amuse ourselves,” she urged, casting a timid glance at the tall figure beside her, “when so much harm might come from it.”

“And suppose the harm has come already,” said Romilly, rashly, “suppose I have a deeper interest in you than that of friendship, Véronique, what then?”

A flush of glad surprise spread itself over the girl’s brow and bosom, and for an instant she had almost yielded to the intoxication of the discovery, and confessed that the feeling was mutual; but the next moment, (recalling the difference in their positions) the hot blood retreated as suddenly as it had come, and left her sick and trembling with the bitter disappointment.

“Monsieur, that would be worse than all. You must not even speak of such a thing!”

“Worse than all,” repeated the A.D.C, as he put his arm again about her supple waist, “how dreadful a calamity my love must seem to you, Véronique.”

He saw the tender light which stole into her soft eyes at the thought, and emboldened by it, bent his lips towards hers. But before he could reach them, Véronique had placed her hand upon her mouth, and disengaged her slight form from his grasp.

Non non! vous ne devez pas faire cela! You must not do that,” she exclaimed loudly, in her excitement, “for what do you take me, Monsieur? You ask for my love, for my embraces, and you will give me in return—what?”

“My love, darling,” said Captain Romilly, who was growing more eager the more he was repulsed, “isn’t that a fair exchange?”

“And how will your love end, Monsieur?” asked the girl, still keeping aloof from her companion.

At this point-blank question, put with fearless eyes, the face of the young man fell, and Véronique perceived it. The flush which excitement had raised upon her cheeks, faded slowly away; and dropping her disengaged hand listlessly by her side, she hid her face against the dappled neck of “Erin” and burst into tears.

“Don’t cry, Véronique, pray don’t cry. urged the A.D.C., ruefully, “I am an awful fool to have said anything about it.” But that was all the consolation he could find it in his heart to give her.

“You see, Monsieur,” said Véronique, after a while, as she wiped the traces of grief from her countenance, “that I am right, and that anything beyond the commonest acquaintance between us, is quite out of the question. You are a gentleman, above me in birth, and station, and everything, and I am only a poor country girl, the daughter of a soldier, and unfit in every way to be your companion. Were you to meet with another accident, I should be as glad to nurse you as I was before, and whenever you can spare time to ride out to our bungalow, no one will be more pleased to see you than myself. But there, let it rest, Monsieur, never speak to me again, as you have done today, nor offer me souvenirs of this time; for it is best that I should forget it—and you also.”

“I wish to heaven we had never met!” exclaimed the young man passionately.

“And so do I, Monsieur,” was the simple reply, and then they walked the rest of the way in silence, their hearts within them burning, the one with disappointed passion, the other with pure regret.

“Well, good-bye, Véronique,” said Gordon Romilly, as they again reached the spot where he had met her, “I don’t feel inclined to go on to the bungalow today, but you can tell Pore Joseph that you met me, and that I said I should come to see him soon.”

“I will not fail to do so, Monsieur.”

“And you must forgive me for having been such a fool as to say anything to vex you. I can’t imagine what I was thinking about, but when a man gets alone with such a pretty face, he is not always master of himself.”

This remark, intended to convince the girl that he had meant nothing serious and there was an end of it, was not calculated to soothe her wounded vanity, but she accepted it meekly, as part of the disappointment destined for her, and responded in the same strain.

“There is nothing to forgive, Monsieur, I knew that it was only badinage on your part, but I shall never forget your kindness to me, nor cease to pray the Blessed Virgin to protect and keep you,” and clasping for a moment the hand which Gordon Romilly extended to her, Véronique guided her cow into the homeward path, and parted from him.

He stood for a little time, watching the graceful figure, which, with one arm cast about the neck of “Erin,” never turned to look at him again, and then, with a sigh, which really was heartfelt, he remounted his pony and rode him slowly back to the cantonment.

Chapter XIV

Gordon Romilly’s Decision

As Gordon Romilly re-entered Ootacamund, everything appeared dull and changed to him. The sun was shining as brightly as when he left it; the carriage-drive about the lake was as full of moving figures; but he passed through them now, utterly regardless of their vicinity, or noticing it with a return of his old impatience. He hated the place, the people, their customs and costumes, as much as he had ever professed to do; and was only desirous to escape the sight of them as soon as possible, and bury himself and his disappointment in the privacy of his own room.

For he was more annoyed and disappointed than he chose to confess. His vanity, wounded at her unexpected rebuff, had induced him to speak lightly of his failure on parting with Véronique, but he did not think lightly of it, even in the first moments of their separation. He had imagined that the little country-bred girl would consider herself but too honoured by the proffer of his love, and accept it for just so long as it pleased him to bestow; that she was too simple and child-like in her ideas, in fact, to calculate what might be the end of such attentions on his part, and to find, therefore, that she was so horribly alive to the probable consequences, was a regular downfall for all Captain Romilly’s hopes of amusement. Not, as has been said before, that he had any intention of deceiving Véronique; he was foolish and thoughtless, it is true, but he was too much of a gentleman to lay a fixed plan for a girl’s destruction; yet he had anticipated flirting with her at the very least; and now that her common sense had laid a veto upon even that small diversion, Gordon Romilly became aware that he had anticipated a good deal more. Thinking over what she had said, and the serious air with which she had said it, the A.D.C. felt as though he had proposed to, and been rejected by her; and he called himself a fool, with an adjective attached to it, twenty times that evening, as he paced up and down his room, and wondered how he could have been so insane as to court an interest in a girl respecting whom her virtue precluded him from having light intentions, and her birth from entertaining serious ones. Why did he ever go and tumble over that precipice? and, having tumbled, why did he persist in remaining in bed, long after he might have left it with comfort to himself, so that he might retain the presence of Véronique about his pillow, and excite the sympathetic pity which she was so ready to give—knowing the peculiarity of his temperament, Captain Romilly would have added, only something rose up inwardly to tell him that his former experiences were no criterion for this one, and that he had never felt before what he felt now. The knowledge only made him stamp and rave the more.

He had permitted himself to fall in love—yes! actually to fall in love, there was no denying the fact, and he was quite sure he had made himself miserable for life by doing so—with a half-bred girl little more than a child, quite uneducated or versed in the ways of society, and, in point of birth and station, utterly beneath himself. But here his affection, which for the time was real, rose up to rebuke the charges he had brought against her, and the piquante attractive face of Véronique appeared as a background to his arguments, and put them to the rout. She was not half-bred; she was a thorough Irish girl, with the genuine Irish mixture of blue eyes and black hair; and the drop of foreign blood which she had inherited was only sufficient to make her more distractingly charming in his eyes. She was not uneducated; she was better informed, as her conversation proved, than half the ladies that he knew; and better bred, and more fit to grace an elevated station, than half the women who sat in high places at that very moment. He had libelled Véronique in saying what he did. She was an object as far removed from being made the plaything of a gentleman’s leisure as from being made his wife. As Gordon Romilly uttered this truth to himself, he started.

“And why not his wife?” was the thought that ran rapidly through his brain; “why not my wife, as well as any other woman? once removed from this country and people, what is there in Véronique Moore that I should not be proud to own as belonging to myself?”

At the mere idea of thus possessing her, the young man felt his blood run quicker, and he could not but be aware therefrom how dangerous a notion it was for him to dwell on. For the next moment there rose up the image of his father, and of what he would say to the news of such a marriage. Captain Romilly had not forgotten his former peccadillo, nor the commotion it had caused at home. It had been slight compared to what this one would be, having never gone beyond a series of foolish letters to a pretty shop-girl, and a threatened action for breach of promise of marriage in consequence from her parent, but Lord Erskine Romilly’s strictures on the occasion were well remembered by his son. He was surprised, he was astonished, he was hurt beyond measure, to find that a child of his, that a Romilly, that a grandson of the Earl of Bournemouth, that an officer in her Majesty’s service, could so forget himself, lower himself, disgrace himself, and injure himself, as to make love to a woman of the plebeian classes.

He had thought better of him, hoped better of him, and expected better of him; and if such a thing ever occurred again, he should—stop his allowances, which was invariably the summum bonum of all Lord Erskine Romilly’s lectures to his prodigal son. But as he had found from experience that it was the only method by which he could keep Master Gordon in anything like order, no one contemned the old lord for his oft-repeated threat except the subject of it, who considered it an unanswerable proof of the severity with which his father regarded his youthful indiscretions. Whether this were true or not, however, it had had the power as yet of keeping them within due bounds; and Captain Romilly knew that he could not afford to disregard it now. It was his foolish love-affair at Winchester which had been the means of transporting him to India as an A.D.C., for his father, afraid of trusting him any longer in the same town as his inamorata, under the usual threat of stoppage of allowances, had compelled him to accept the appointment he procured for him, thereby unwittingly casting his son from the frying-pan into the fire. But though undoubtedly scorched, Captain Romilly as yet showed no signs of burning himself. With one serious thought of Lord Erskine Romilly’s anger, and consequent measures, should he hear of such an escapade on his part, he resolved it must not be—and tried to pooh-pooh the notion of such a marriage, as an excellent jest which he had raised for a moment’s entertainment, but which in reality he was as far from contemplating as from stringing himself up to the bed-post. Finding, however, that the jest lingered about his memory, notwithstanding the many pipes he smoked, and the many brandies and sodas he imbibed in order to exorcise it, longer and more perseveringly than he found pleasant, Gordon Romilly broke through the reserve he had hitherto maintained towards the members of the Ootacamund Club, and, stepping from his lofty pedestal, condescended to mix in their society, and join in their amusements.

He did not, to his misfortune, find a second Romer there (for the presence of his sensible and kind-hearted friend at this time might have been the saving of him), but there were several liberal-minded gentlemen amongst them, who, taking in account the A.D.C.’s youth and evident bringing-up, consented to overlook his former haughty bearing, and make him welcome to their company.

But billiards, cards, and smoking, although excellent adjuncts to this life, when the rest of the stream runs smoothly, have no power to dam up the course of a torrent like interrupted love. Do what Captain Romilly would to distract his wayward fancy, the image of Véronique haunted it by night and by day, until, when nearly three weeks had elapsed from the time when he had parted from her, he was so tired of fighting with his own feelings, and so disheartened by his want of success, that he resolved to leave the hills again without seeing her, and go down to Madras to resume the duties of his appointment. With which end in view he was one evening bundling all his possessions pell-mell into his portmanteaux, when his native servant appeared at his bedroom door, to say that “the Roman priest’ had asked to see him, and was waiting down below.

“Show him up!” cried Romilly. who, surrounded by articles of all sorts, was kneeling in shirt and trousers by the side of one of his travelling cases. “Tell him that I’m busy, and that if he wants to see me he must come up to my bedroom,” which direction was followed in a few minutes by the entrance of Père Joseph in the black canonical robe in which he always paraded the cantonment.

“Monsieur, I fear that I disturb you!” he said as Captain Romilly rose from his position to greet him.

“Not at all, mon père,” exclaimed the young officer with affected gaiety, for the sight of the priest recalled some of his most unpleasant recollections, “I am very glad to see you, only you must find yourself a chair to sit on. You see I am doing a little packing, preparatory to a move.”

“Another shooting excursion, Monsieur?” asked Père Joseph with a smile.

“No, not exactly! I’m going to give over shooting for the present, and hand ladies in to dinner again instead. I return to Madras tomorrow!”

“So soon! I did not imagine your leave was so short—”

“No more it is; it has a month still to run, but I am sick of this place. There is nothing to do here, nothing to see, and no one to speak to—and it’s so horribly healthy that there’s not the least chance of a fellows falling ill and getting sent back to England—so I consider that I am wasting my precious time; and am all impatience to get back to Madras and put my liver out of order that I may work up for an S.C.”

“A strange desire, Monsieur, as some people would think, but everyone knows his own requirements best. Yet, as it happens so, I am doubly glad that I took the liberty of calling on you today, else I should have missed the pleasure of seeing you again.”

“Oh! I daresay I should have found time to ride out to the bungalow between this and that,” said Captain Romilly, who had intended studiously to avoid doing anything of the kind; but the priest, though he bowed courteously as if he believed him, did not take any further notice of the remark.

“I had occasion to come into Ootacamund this afternoon,” he said, “to visit some of my flock, and not having seen you, Monsieur, since you had the great kindness to send me your valuable present (though Véronique told me she had met you once upon the hills), I could not resist making an attempt to gain your presence, in order that I might thank you in person for the honour you conferred upon me.”

“It is nothing—nothing!” said Captain Romilly, trying to waive the subject of the chair. “I trust that Mademoiselle is well?”

“I am sorry to say that I do not think she is well,” replied Père Joseph, “Véronique has drooped visibly for some weeks past, but then she has had great cause to fret herself, Monsieur, and the mind generally re-acts upon the body.”

At this Gordon Romilly stopped short in his employment, and coloured like a girl.

“What cause?” he asked quickly.

He thought, perhaps, that the priest had been questioning his niece on the subject of her failing looks, and drawing from her the reason of them, was there with the intention of taking him to task as the author and promoter of her melancholy. But such an idea was the very farthest from Père Joseph’s mind.

“I don’t know why I should hesitate to tell you, Monsieur, who have shown so kind an interest in all that concerns us, but please to understand that it is to go no farther. You have seen the young native David, who lives with us,” (Gordon Romilly nodded). “He has been to me, from his birth I may say (for he was only a few days old when I first found him), as a son, and to Véronique as a brother, and neither of us supposed, till lately, that he had ever cherished any thought or hope of becoming otherwise.”

Here Captain Romilly threw down the boots and brushes with which he had armed himself, and taking his seat upon a pile of coats and trousers, turned an anxiously expectant face upon his visitor.

“Till within the last few weeks, Monsieur, as I was telling you, I have always imagined that David loved Véronique as a sister and nothing more.”

“But surely he could never be so presumptuous!” interrupted the young officer hastily.

“Unfortunately for his own happiness, Monsieur, he is. Some trifling disagreement between my niece and himself, drew the truth from him, which came upon me and her as a thunder clap. So unexpected and hidden, indeed, was the intelligence that Véronique could in no wise bring herself to believe that he desired her for his wife; and the scene of distress which ensued was very trying, both to the girl and poor David. He being resolute in his insistance that she must have perceived his passion, and she in hers, that she had never dreamt of such a thing.”

“As who would have done!” exclaimed Captain Romilly hotly, “they are as opposite as night and day.”

“No one can be more aware of the difference between them, Monsieur, than my poor son,” said Père Joseph quietly; “he is very humble in his love, he only desires that it should be known as such, and that it is ready to do all things for her. So, seeing how his presence and dumb distress upset my niece, I have sent David down to the plains, to spend a couple of months with my fellow labourer Père Michel at Coimbatore, for which he departed yesterday. And there, for the present, the matter rests. Whether it will never again be revived between them, or whether after a time Véronique may come to view his proposals in a different light, I cannot say, but—”

“But,” interposed Gordon Romilly, who had risen to his feet with a face on fire, at the prospect presented to him, “you would surely never give your consent to such a sacrifice, mon père. You would never permit Véronique to marry a black—a native—a nigger? The very idea is too horrible to contemplate.”

“Monsieur!” replied the priest, who evidently did not like the terms applied to his adopted son, “David may not be of the same blood or nation as ourselves, but he has a heart equal to that of any white man, and far superior to most. I have watched that lad from a little child, Monsieur; I know how noble and generous a nature his is, and although I would never force the inclination of Véronique in any direction, I should be ashamed of her did I think that her principal objection to this marriage lay in the colour of my poor boy’s skin. A black skin, Monsieur, but a white soul! take my word for it; and a man likely to make the girl a better husband than nine-tenths of the Europeans she will meet out here. Besides, after all, should she finally reject the suit of David, for what is she reserved? Perhaps, to become the wife of a drunken soldier, or to sink still lower, who can tell? Monsieur, at times my heart is very heavy for Véronique: I see that she is well-favoured and admired; I know that I must soon leave her penniless and unprotected in this country, and I dread what may become of her, if she is not happily married beforehand. I cannot abandon her to become the prey of any lawless nature which she may meet; I would rather see her a wife, though against her own will!”

“Mon père! I will protect her against every possible danger. Give Véronique to me, and I will marry her tomorrow!”

If Gordon Romilly had drawn his pistols from the case beside him, and pointed their muzzles at Père Joseph’s breast, he could not have more powerfully astonished him. The priest was so taken aback by the unexpected proposal, that he continued to stare in silent dismay, as though he feared that the gentleman before him had gone mad; whilst the A.D.C. in striving to make his meaning clearer, did not tend to re-establish the fact of his sanity, by the torrent of excited language which poured from his lips.

“Give her to me, Père Joseph, and I will marry her tomorrow—she is not fretting about Davids suit, or any such rubbish, the darling! she is fretting about myself, and I know it as plainly as though she had told me; I said that I loved her, when I met her on the hills, but I did not say what I know now, that it is impossible for me to live without her. I was going down to Madras to try what change of scene and place might do for me; but I know I should have been back here again in a couple of days, so I may as well save myself the journey. Only say I may have her, mon père, and I’ll procure longer leave, or return to fetch her, or do anything you think, fit, in order to make her my wife.”

In his eagerness to secure the promise that Véronique should be his, Gordon Romilly had totally forgotten his father’s anger, and its probable consequences; he had forgotten everything, in fact, except the fear that the girl whom he had honoured with his love, should be sacrificed to his dusky rival. He stood before Père Joseph, with a glowing face and extended arm, vowing and swearing as though he had no one in the world but himself to consult on the subject of his wishes or intentions.

“But stay! mon fils,” said the priest, when he had a little recovered his intense surprise, “stay a minute, and let me fully understand what you are saying. If I have heard you aright, you love, or fancy that you love, my niece, and wish to make her your wife. This is a very startling and wonderful proposition to me, who have heard nothing of it up to this moment, but at the same time it cannot fail to be a very gratifying one. Yet, there is one important question to be first considered—what would your family say to such a marriage?”

At this appeal Captain Romilly’s face visibly lengthened. Hitherto he had ignored Lord Erskine Romilly’s opinions on the subject, but he knew what they would be too well to continue to do so, when brought so palpably to his recollection; so he stammered as he replied—

“I would marry Véronique directly. Père Joseph, as I said before, but I don’t think I should venture all at once to make my marriage known to my family. They have certain prejudices and fancies, which I scorn to hold, and it might require a little time for preparation before I broke the news to them. But what difference can that make?”

Yet that it did make a difference Gordon Romilly soon perceived from the priest’s continued silence and look of grave abstraction.

“See here, mon père,” continued the young man, frankly, “I am of age, it is true, but I come of a noble family, and my father, Lord Erskine Romilly, has very high ideas about the woman whom I shall make my wife. At present I am dependent upon him for the best part of my income, and any act which he considered a dereliction of duty on my part, might cause him to withdraw his aid from me. But my father is an old man, who at his death must leave me a sufficient sum of money to make me independent, and even without that prospect I am rising in my profession every year, and shall soon be able to do without aid from anyone. Meanwhile, let me have Véronique for my wife, and when I leave this country, if my father still lives, and I stand in the army where I do at present, I will risk everything, both friends and fortune, in order to acknowledge her right to the station I shall have given her.”

Still Père Joseph continued to look thoughtful.

“Your proposal is a very noble one, Monsieur, a very noble and a very generous one; and I think you must really be attached to Véronique to make it, but with all its promised advantages it is not to be accepted without due deliberation. You offer me the strongest temptation with which it is possible I should be assailed—the temptation of seeing my child make a marriage far above what even her worth or beauty could merit, or my highest ambition desire. Yet there is much to be said beforehand. Véronique is poor and lowly-born, and imperfectly educated, but she must not go to a man who will tire of her, or reproach her, or be ashamed of her!”

“Can you imagine I should be so base?” said Romilly, indignantly.

“No, Monsieur! I do not, but at present I can say no more about it. Her birth is so much beneath yours, that you must not act in the matter without a grave examination of your own feelings. At the same time, her virtue is so much above that of any man, that it is my part to see that it be not hastily thrown away. And, as yet, I am not even aware if the child loves you.”

“Ask her!” exclaimed Captain Romilly, the light of expectation dancing in his eye, “take your answer from her own lips, mon père.”

“I will do so, Monsieur, and meanwhile, this most sudden and unexpected proposal of yours has so upset me that I ask your permission to retire. I want to get home that I may ponder deliberately over this important question, amidst the quiet of my own thoughts.”

“And when may I follow you?” asked the young man, eagerly.

The old man smiled; such a smile as would almost have led one to believe that at some time he had experienced the same eagerness, and could feel for it.

“Tomorrow evening, if you do not hear from me, before, mon fils,” he answered, laying his hand for a moment on Gordon Romilly’s head; and with that he quitted the apartment, and left the A.D.C. to his own reflections.

Chapter XV

Honey Versus Money

The deed was done. Gordon Romilly had pledged his word that, always supposing she accepted him, he would marry Véronique Moore; and as a gentleman and a man of honour, it was impossible that he should now draw back. So he inwardly decided, as left to the cooling influences of solitude and silence, he sat down to calmly review what had passed between himself and Père Joseph.

Not that he repented of the promise which he had so rashly given; on the contrary, he was excited with pleasure as he reflected that in the delirium of the moment he had leapt the barrier, which he scarcely would have dared attempt by the light of common sense. It is true that he felt an occasional qualm of conscience as the thought of his father’s anger, and the objections of the entire family, rose to his mind; but he salved it over, by remembering that the marriage was to be a private one, and that if it suited his convenience to keep it so for the next ten years, there was no one of sufficient influence to gainsay his decision. With his usual reckless disregard of consequences, Captain Romilly refused to look forward to all the désagrémens which must inevitably result from such an union. Véronique stood in the path before him, smiling, with extended arms, and he saw but that one image, and rushed forward, panting and breathless, to secure it, and had any other incentive been needed to spur him onward in his headlong course, it would have been amply supplied by a vision of the unfortunate David, now broiling beneath the sun of Coimbatore, but ready at any moment, on the field becoming clear, to return and walk over the course.

For the rest of the evening Captain Romilly indulged in the most extravagant spirits, whistling, singing and dancing about his room, whilst he turned all the contents of his portmanteau out upon the floor again, and flew from one occupation to another with the heedlessness of a boy who has gamed an unexpected holiday, and does not know what to do in order to express his happiness. At the same time, it was difficult even for himself to say whether his gaiety were assumed or real. He anticipated what lay before him as much as it was possible for a man to do, but he had an uneasy sense the while of being about to take a great responsibility upon himself, and to promise more perhaps than he should be able to perform; and this uneasy sensation oppressed him, more or less, from that time forward, although he never admitted that he felt it, and usually carried it off with a vast amount of whistling and affected laughter.

Receiving no communication from Père Joseph on the following day, at about five o’clock he mounted his pony, and took the road to the priest’s bungalow, glowing with the anticipation of falling into the arms of Véronique as soon as ever he arrived there. But in this hope he was disappointed, for as soon as the sound of his pony’s hoofs was heard on the path outside the garden, Père Joseph himself appeared at the gate, and took the reins from him.

“Be good enough to walk inside, Monsieur,” he said, “and take a seat, until I have put your pony in the stable,” and when Captain Romilly had done as he desired him, he found that the room was vacant.

“Véronique! Véronique! my darling! come down to me?” he whispered loudly up the bedroom staircase, but no Véronique appeared in answer to his summons, and Père Joseph, catching him in the act, smiled at his discomfiture.

“She will not come down, Monsieur,” he said, quietly, “until I give her leave. You must excuse me if I say that I cannot allow you to have any communication with her until you and I have had a little further talk together.”

He motioned the A.D.C. to a chair, as he spoke, and Gordon Romilly sat down, burning with impatience, and in a mood to make any promises that might be required of him, so long as the coming interview w^ere speedily concluded.

“Monsieur!” commenced the priest, who appeared most distractingly cool in the lover’s impatient eyes, “the news which you conveyed to me yesterday has caused me a sleepless night.”

“Very sorry to hear it, I’m sure!” exclaimed Captain Romilly, who was wondering inwardly what earthly difference that could make to him.

“Yes,” resumed Père Joseph, “I came home, and I questioned Véronique, and discovered (more from her blushes and her silence than her words) that she was as well inclined towards your suit, Monsieur, as she is averse to that of poor David!”

“Didn’t I tell you so?” interrupted the A.D.C, with a bright smile.

“Yes! it was not more than I expected, for who could think otherwise, with such a dazzling prospect opened to the child? But she is but a child, Monsieur, she completed her seventeenth year two months ago, and if she had not an older head to think for her, she might fall into all manner of trouble and distress. Before I let you see her, or proceed any further in this matter, therefore, I must understand fully what are your intentions regarding her.”

“I told them to you yesterday,” replied Romilly, rather curtly, for he feared that Père Joseph might be about to stipulate for a public marriage. “I can’t marry your niece openly, nor acknowledge her as my wife just at present, because it would be the means of making me quarrel with my family; but I will marry her privately, if you will consent to my doing so, and she shall enjoy all the privileges of my name and station until she can publicly assume them. I cannot say more!”

“Some would say, Monsieur, that considering you are speaking of a soldier’s daughter, you had already said too much; yet Véronique is too dear to me to be given to you on any other terms. But in what manner do you intend her to live after she shall have become your wife? I am content that she, for awhile, shall dispense with the glory of being acknowledged as such; but I could not consent to see her maiden name dishonoured, without the means of confuting any probable slander cast upon it for your sake.”

“Do not be afraid for Véronique’s name or reputation, mon père,” said the young officer, gaily, “my wife’s will be as dear to me as my own. I shall leave her on the Hills, either with yourself, or in any position that you may think most desirable; and I promise you that if at any time my visits to her shall prove a source of scandal, I will take her down to Madras with me at once, and acknowledge her as Mrs. Romilly.”

At the mention of that name, the priest’s breast heaved with gratified ambition, and all his remaining objections to the marriage faded beneath the influence of his master passion.

“It is enough, mon fils,” he said, rising from his seat, “if you promise me that, I have nothing further to say. Véronique may well put up with a little privation and a little delay, for the sake of the brilliant future which opens before her. But you have still to ask her own opinion on the subject,” he added, smiling, “and I will not therefore keep her from you, longer.”

He walked to the foot of the staircase, calling “Véronique!” and then he turned to leave the room.

“She will not keep you waiting, Monsieur,” he said with a gentle inclination of the head, “and meanwhile I will attend to the wants of your pony. Since my poor lad’s departure, the care of the cattle has devolved upon myself,” with which words Père Joseph passed into the verandah, and Gordon Romilly took up the station he had vacated at the bottom of the staircase. In another moment, she was before him. In another moment, the door which led from the upper storey was flung open, and Véronique in holiday costume, with red ribbons twisted in her black plaits of hair, had set her foot upon the staircase, and meeting the glowing, ardent glance directed upwards to attend her coming, stood there, blushing and trembling from head to foot, too bashful to advance, and too delighted to retreat.

“Come here, Véronique,” said Gordon Romilly, holding out his arms to receive her, “come here, and tell me, if you’ll be my little wife!”

“Votre femme,” exclaimed the girl, without moving from her position, “Monsieur! c’est impossible, je ne peux pas le croire.”

“Say that it shall be so, Véronique, and I’ll soon make you believe it! But, perhaps, you would rather not?”

“Monsieur!” in a tone of remonstrance.

“Well, come down here then, and tell me what you wish.” She advanced a few steps timidly towards him, and he put out his hand and pulled her down the remainder of the flight, until she rested in the circle of his embrace.

“Will you marry me, Véronique?” kissing her.

“Mais oui, Monsieur.”

“Will you be my wife?” kissing her again.

“Mais oui, Monsieur.”

“Will you ever call me ‘Monsieur ‘ again?”

“Mais oui, Monsieur,” replied Véronique, not knowing what she said, in her coy struggles to escape from the vehement embraces which frightened rather than assured her. “Sainte Mère de Dieu! je vous benis pour toutes vos bontés” murmured the girl with uplifted eyes, as Gordon Romilly at last released her from his arms, and she could sufficiently collect her agitated thoughts to remember the good fortune which had fallen upon her. As she uttered her simple prayer the little Christian turned towards the bénitier, and solemnly crossing herself with its holy water, laid her wet fingers lightly upon Romilly’s forehead.

“Ah! que je suis heureuse que vous êtes chrétien, Monsieur Gor-don,” she exclaimed joyfully, “fussiez-vous resté un hérétique, notre mariage eût été impossible!”

But what was her surprise at the conclusion of this innocent speech, to see her lover, who had had his eager gaze fixed upon her face at the commencement, turn suddenly from the staircase and herself, and walk away to take up a position by the window which looked into the garden. Véronique could not imagine what had happened to disturb him, but she was too shy and too little familiar with Captain Romilly to demand an immediate explanation. So she only ventured to follow as far as the table, and to stand there in silent expectation, whilst she regarded the back of his figure with her wistful eyes. Meanwhile, his thoughts were in such a whirl that he hardly remembered where he was, nor how strange his conduct must appear to her, for her words had struck his conscience like a voice from heaven. Since the time that he had contemplated marrying Véronique Moore, until that moment, he had never once thought of the difference in their religion, nor of the difficulties that fact must throw in the way of a private union. To wed her as a Roman Catholic, in the little chapel beside which he stood, and with her uncle as officiating priest, would be easy enough, but to have a second ceremony performed in the Protestant church at Ootacamund, would be to render the business patent to all India. It was impossible; it was not to be thought of; he must go at once, and however unpleasant for himself, confess to Père Joseph the folly of which he had been guilty in concealing the truth respecting his religion, and point out to him the obstacles it would throw in the furtherance of the plan which they had agreed upon.

“Ai-je dit quelque chose pour vous deplaire?” enquired the gentle voice of Véronique, by his side, and Gordon Romilly started from his reverie to see two tender blue eyes, moistened with the fear of his displeasure, and two rosy parted lips, quivering with suppressed emotion. All his ideas changed at the sight. She loved him, and he had promised to marry her, and the powers of darkness should not wrest her from him now.

“No, my darling!” he replied, fervently, as he opened his arms again, and took the slight form into his embrace, “a sudden thought struck me that I am not worthy enough to be your husband, but if you will take me as I am, Véronique, with all my sins upon my head, I’ll cleave to you as fast and firmly as any other man.”

He said this, thinking to himself the while, that the Roman Catholic ceremony should be as binding on him as though he were of the same faith as herself; and that when he acknowledged her as his wife before all the world, he would marry her over again in his own church, and silence her scruples for evermore. It did not take much trouble on his part to reassure Véronique’s trembling fears, nor to make her light happy laugh ring through the little bungalow again; and Gordon Romilly wished that he could as easily have shaken off the gloom which oppressed himself, whenever he thought of the deception he had practised on her, or heard the allusions made by Père Joseph or his niece, to the religion which they supposed to be common to all three.

He was moody and silent for the remainder of the evening, and his manner would have excited suspicion in any one less simple than the priest, or less trusting than Véronique; but he turned off their kind enquiries as to the cause with the convenient plea of headache, and, on the promise of returning on the morrow, rose early to take his leave.

It was Véronique who, despite all his protestations, fetched his pony from the stable this time, and it was Véronique who stood in the moonlight by the garden gate to see her gallant lover ride away.

“Good-night, my pretty one!” said Gordon Romilly, trying to speak cheerfully in order to atone for his late gloom.

“Bon soir,” she whispered, “et que Dieu te garde!”

“But you must learn to talk English now, my darling, that you have promised to become an Englishman’s wife,” said the young officer in reply; “you must drop that habit of falling back on French every second minute, or I shan’t believe that I have married an Irish girl.”

She smiled at this rebuke, and repeated her sentence.

“Good-night, Monsieur, and take good care of yourself.”

“Good-night—what?” bending from his saddle-bow to catch her half-murmured words; but Véronique, conscious of what she had said, was too much ashamed to repeat it.

“Call me by my proper name,” said Romilly imperatively, “without any Monsieur attached to it at all;” and the coming lordship seemed to cast its shadow on her beforehand, for she obeyed him without hesitation—

“Good-night, Gordon, mon bien-aimé!”

The tone in which she uttered these words was so fervent that Captain Romilly lifted up the pretty face caressingly laid against his saddle-bow, and regarded it earnestly.

“Do you love me then so much, Véronique?”

“Gor-don, tu le sais,” she answered, and her glowing eyes met his, and mingled with them. He dropped the hand with which he had upheld her face, and heaved a sigh.

“Good-night, then, Véronique; goodnight, and don’t forget to pray that I may make as good a husband as you deserve to have,” and with that he rode away on the moonlit path, and left her standing by the gate alone. As he did so, his heart was full of trouble and confusion. He knew that he was going to do a wrong thing, and his principles were just correct enough to forbid his doing it without compunction, whilst they were not of sufficient force to prevent his doing it at all. He was quite ready to admit that in the eyes of the law he had no right to marry Véronique Moore as a Roman Catholic; at the same time he argued that the marriage would be quite as much a marriage in the eyes of Heaven, and therefore, whilst he adhered to the obligations incurred by it, he should not sin. And to strengthen this decision came the thought of Véronique’s love, and of her disappointment if he failed to keep his word; and, after all, as he said to himself, he could at any moment marry her over again according to the rites of the Protestant church, and put the matter straight. He intended to inform her of his own faith as soon as she should be irrevocably his; and to trust to her affection to pardon him for the deception practised on her.

Meanwhile it must be one of two things, either he must be united to Véronique under her present belief, or not at all, for a wedding at Ootacamund was not to be contemplated for a moment. And, reasoning thus to suit his own convenience, Captain Romilly arrived at the conclusion that his first intentions must hold good, for to surrender his hopes of possessing the sparkling, fascinating girl who had shown him so much of her heart that evening was, in his estimation, a calamity not to be borne.

So he quieted his conscience as best he might, although it pricked him, not only then, but many a time afterwards, when the old priest, in his anxiety to discover the state of mind of his future nephew, probed him with queries on the subject of religion, from which he could barely escape with truth.

The days went on, and before a week had elapsed all the preliminaries necessary for the simple marriage had been arranged. As the ceremony was to be kept a strict secret, not only from Romilly’s friends, but from David himself, it was agreed that the bridegroom should leave Ootacamund, as for a shooting excursion, and go and spend a fortnight at the priest’s bungalow instead. To this end he dispatched his native attendants and Arab horse (which by this time had quite recovered its lameness) down to Bandypoor the day before, with orders to remain there until they heard from him, and casually giving out that he expected to be absent for some time on a trip into the jungle, bade farewell to his acquaintances at the club, and rode away on his Pegu to the place of appointment.

As it was necessary that there should be witnesses to the nuptials, Père Joseph procured the assistance of some of his native converts, who lived still further from the Cantonment than he did, and, speaking no English, were not likely to blab the secret to any one of importance; and thus, one morning, surrounded by three or four East Indians, alone, Gordon Romilly received the hand of Véronique Moore from her uncle, and made her, to all intents and purposes, his wife. When the hour really arrived, he was too happy and elated to permit the illegality of the ceremony to disturb his bliss; and, notwithstanding all his former fickleness, notwithstanding his present deception, and the gloom in which his future actions were enveloped, Gordon Romilly’s heart beat as truly towards Véronique on the day he married her as ever bridegroom’s beat towards his bride.

He did not love her as well or as faithfully, perhaps, as some men can love; but he loved her as passionately as it was in his nature to do. And as Véronique, in her guileless innocence of love or its requirements, had no magic charm by which to gauge the depths of his affection, she also, for the time being, was supremely blest.

Volume Two

Chapter I

A Recall To England

For the next fortnight, notwithstanding his former protestations to the contrary, Gordon Romilly tasted as much honey as can possibly be digested during a single moon. As soon as she believed herself to be unalterably and entirely his, Véronique cast off the shy reserve, which to the last day of her maiden life she had maintained towards him; and without in the least degree intrenching on the barriers of modesty, gave full play to the ardour of her feelings, and let her husband read every thought of her simple heart. Without books or papers or anything to distract his attention from his new-made wife, Captain Romilly spent all his hours by her side, strolling about the hills with her in the mornings, sitting in the sunny patch of garden during the afternoons, and smoking his pipe in company with Père Joseph in the evenings, whilst Véronique’s smooth braided head was laid caressingly against his knee, and her bright eyes anxiously watched his countenance, in order to anticipate his wants. Her womanly character unfolded beneath the warmth of his affection, as a rich red rosebud bursts into being from the kisses of the sun, and every day he discovered something which he thought more loveable, in the disposition of his wife. While, as for Véronique, no hero, immortalised by history or religion, could compare in her idea with the fascinations of the handsome Englishman who had deigned to stoop to pluck her, and wear her in his bosom.

“How handsome you are, my Gor-don,” she naively exclaimed one day, as the A.D.C., extended on his back upon the sward, with a wide-awake slouched over his face, was busily employed, as usual, in fumigating the surrounding atmosphere. “I thought when I first saw you with your bright hair and brighter eyes, you were the handsomest man that I had ever met.”

“You’ll spoil me, Véronique, if you go on like this,” replied Romilly as he lifted a portion of his hat to meet the admiring gaze bent upon him, “you mustn’t make such a fool of me, little woman, or I shall become unbearable, for my friends say I am quite conceited enough as it is.”

“Your friends!” responded Véronique with a pretty indignation, “what can your friends know of you, Gor-don, in comparison with your wife?” these two last words with a grand assumption of dignity, “you are not conceited; you do not think enough of yourself! your hair is beautiful; when the sun shines on it, as now, it appears like threads of gold, and your eyes are blue as my sapphire ring, and as open and clear as those of a little child.”

“A flattering comparison,” laughed Romilly, “considering that children are my peculiar detestation.”

“You will no longer detest them when you have children of your own,” said the youthful matron gravely; “you will love them as much as you love me, Gordon.”

“Well, I hope that test of my natural amiability is a long way off, Véronique,” replied her husband. “I don’t want to divide the love of my little girl with anyone; not even babies.”

“But that is a selfish wish of yours, my Gor-don. I, on the contrary, should like to have six sons, all tall as yourself, with the same blue eyes and golden hair. Ah! how proud I should be of them!”

“Heaven preserve us!” exclaimed Captain Romilly, “limit your desires a little, Véronique, for pity’s sake, or you’ll make me draw out my clasp-knife an the spot and put an end to my miserable existence.”

And then she would fling her white rms about him, and shower kisses on his eyes and lips and hair, whilst she assured him again and again, that she wanted nothing and nobody to make her happy except his own dear self.

But once, as in the fulness of contentment, she was babbling of her innocent pride in him, and Romilly called her jestingly, “une petite menteuse,” all her vivacity seemed to disappear as though by magic.

“Gor-don, tu ne le crois pas?” she said with dilated eyes, painfully anxious to be reassured.

“Of course I do!” he replied smiling, amused at her taking his idle words in earnest. “You don’t suppose I’m such a goose as to believe all you tell me, Véronique.”

“Mais—mais—” she commenced pleadingly.

“Speak English, Mrs. Romilly,” interposed the A.D.C.

“You cannot mean in real,” she continued, talking brokenly, as she invariably did when she had not sufficient time to consider her sentences, “you cannot mean for truth, Gor-don, that you believe me not. I say not what I think not, and if I am so fool as to give you praise more than is your due, still it comes from my heart, it does, indeed!” and Véronique, to his intense surprise, finished her appeal in tears.

“Why, my little woman, what is this?” he exclaimed with real concern, as he drew the sobbing girl down by his side.

“I could not live—I could not bear to live, Gor-don,” she answered weeping, “if thou didst not think me true. To tell a lie, even by flattery or insinuation, is always in the sight of Heaven, a crime: and doubly so when it is against those we love—I could not lie to thee, mon bien-aimé, Thou knowest every thought of my heart, Gor-don, as I know thine: and couldst thou think otherwise, I should, indeed, he wretched! Were we to deceive each other, where could truth be found?”

Her words so stung his already unasy conscience, that he had none wherewith to answer her, and almost, then and there, confessed the truth. But Véronique mistook his silence. Not the least suspicion of his perfect honesty had ever assailed her mind; and now, feeling his warm caresses on her brow, she accepted them as pardon for her weakness, and therefrom arrived at the conclusion that her husband thought that pardon was required.

“Forgive me, Gor-don!” she said springing from her position, “forgive me that I am so much a child, and frightened by a passing shadow. You will never seriously distrust me, will you, dearest? and as for me, I have as much faith in your love and truth as I have in heaven.”

Her faith, at this time, in her husband, did, indeed, appear to be illimitable. No Circassian slave, living on the smiles of her lord, the Sultan—no bondsman, bound to follow and to obey—no dog that comes like lightning at his owner’s whistle—could be more deferential, more submissive, more humbly affectionate, than Véronique, in those first bright days of married life. She seemed to exist but in her master’s smile, to note his words as laws from heaven, to hang upon the expressions of his love for her with so much eagerness, that when he gave them, they oftener made her weep than smile, so deep lay the emotions which they stirred. Gordon Romilly, who never until then, had had such opportunity of studying a woman’s character, was surprised to find, that under the pure face and inartificial manners of the girl whom he had married, lay a nest of varied passions, which began to stir their wings and jostle one another beneath the influence of his own. Love, jealousy, indignation, anger and repentance passed as rapidly through her impulsive little heart as he chose to provoke their existence, and each one found so ready a reflection on her speaking features that it was impossible to misinterpret the feeling. One moment Véronique would be childishly gay, dressing herself up the absurdest of figures with grass, and flower and leaves, and bursting into successive peals of laughter as she called upon her husband to see what a lady she was, and to say what his friends would think of “Mrs. Gordon Romilly,” the next, at a word or a look from him which she translated into disapproval, she would throw all her finery of flowers away, and cast herself across his knees with an air of deep dejection, and big uplifted eyes which silently implored her lord to smile again and let her be forgiven. He was truly her lord—lord of her soul as of her body—he could move the strings which worked her facile mind with a movement of his little finger, and she would have sacrificed her life to preserve his from injury, and thought herself well paid for her devotion by knowing he was safe.

One day, as they were sauntering together, far from the little bungalow, and Véronique, with both hands clasped above his arm, was hanging on his murmured words of love, Romilly suddenly felt her stop and grasp him like a vice; and looking up, he beheld, standing in the narrow path before them, an enormous cheetah. Horrified at the sight, (for with the exception of a light cane he was totally unarmed) he was about to exclaim aloud, when her presence of mind recalled him to a sense of the danger he was incurring.

“Tais toi,” she whispered, firmly, “et regarde-le.”

She edged herself before him as she spoke, and fixing her eyes steadfastly upon the panther’s, glared at him immoveably, as also did her husband, for the space of about a minute, which seemed to them an hour. For a full minute the beast returned their gaze, evidently as disconcerted at the unexpected rencontre as they were, and then opening his jaws to their fullest extent, he gave a hissing snarl, half-bred of fear, at them, and with a sullen lash of his tail, leapt down the hill, upon the side of which they had been walking, and trotted off to a neighbouring sholah without once looking back upon his natural enemies.

Captain Romilly gazed after the retreating form of the panther with a sensation of horror which almost seemed to paralyse his faculties, until he was recalled to the deliverance which had been granted them, by the excited accents of his wife.

“Ah! mon Gor-don!” she exclaimed, as with glowing eyes and flushed cheeks, she threw herself upon his breast, “pour t’atteindre il aurait fallu qu’il pásse sur mon cadavre,” and saying thus, dropped fainting at his feet.

Romilly thought at that moment that never before had he read the full extent of her devotion for him, and lifting the senseless form which contained a heart, at once so timid and courageous, in his arms, had carried it all the way home before Véronique was again aware of the peril she had passed through. And then her gratitude was reserved, not for her own preservation, but for his.

“Thou art safe!” she murmured, contentedly, as she sunk off to sleep with her head upon his breast, and believed that it was not in the power of Heaven to grant her a more exceeding happiness than was conveyed by that knowledge.

But when Captain RomiHy had been feasting upon honey for rather better than a fortnight, he remembered that there must be letters and newspapers lying for him at the Ootacamund club, and announced his intention of riding into cantonment for the purpose of fetching them. Véronique came out to the garden gate to see him start.

“You will not be long, my beloved!” she said, coaxingly, as she fondled the hand which patted her blooming cheek. “You will soon come back to me!”

“Very soon, darling,” he answered, “before two hours are over our heads. And is there nothing I can bring my little woman from Ootacamund?”

“Nothing but thyself!” she said, earnestly; and then he laughed at her, and called her a little fool, and said she would soon find out that married ladies had other wants beside their husbands, and rode off, leaving Véronique shaking her head vehemently, in denial of so treasonable an assertion. The A.D.C., as he expected, found quite an accumulation of letters, bills, and newspapers waiting him in the reading-room of the club; and breaking their seals, one after another, in the rapid careless manner peculiar to himself, was soon eagerly employed skimming their heterogeneous mass of contents. He had just commenced to read a few lines in the handwriting of his eldest brother, when one of his Ootacamund acquaintances sauntered into the room and recognised him.

“Holla! Romilly! back again? Why, where have you been hiding yourself all this time?”

“Oh! out in the jungle,” replied Romilly, with an indifferent air, not caring to pursue the subject too closely.

“Well, if you can find enough game on the hills now to occupy your gun for three weeks, you must be much luckier than I am. Had good sport?”

“Excellent!” said the A.D.C., still busy over his correspondence, but with rather a perturbed countenance.

“What did you bag?”

“Oh! lots of things; but you must excuse me, Daniells, for the present. I have got a letter here which is of the utmost importance, and I must go over to the hotel to answer it.” Saying which, Gordon Romilly left the club reading-room, and with the papers in his hand, sought the apartment, the use of which he still retained at the Ootacamund hotel. As soon as he arrived there, he spread out the crumpled letter, the perusal of which had seemed so to disturb him, and read it over again. It was as follows:—

“Eaton Square, London,
“April 25th.

“My Dear Gordon,

“I regret to inform you that the health of our father has declined so rapidly during the last few weeks, that, although not in immediate danger, his doctors begin to entertain grave doubts as to the termination of the disease. Under these circumstances, he desires that you will at once apply for six months’ leave home, on urgent private affairs, which he feels confident the Governor will grant you as soon as he understands the necessity of the application. I enclose you a bill on his Lordship’s bankers for a couple of hundred pounds, in case you should, as usual, be short of funds. Our brothers, Stanhope and Preston, have already been to town to see their father, but Stanhope’s leave was necessarily short, and it is impossible that Preston can quit his incumbency for more than a parson’s week. In conclusion, I suppose I need scarcely urge on you a ready compliance with what may be the last request your sole surviving parent makes to you; but should any be required, you will find it perhaps in the fact that delay on your part may seriously affect your future interests. His Lordship has, to my knowledge, left you in a very comfortable position; but so quick is he to interpret any indolence from you as a proof of disobedience, that I believe it would take but a little thwarting in this matter to make him draw his pen through your name. Therefore, for your own sake, start as soon as possible after receiving this letter.

“With kind regards from my wife,
“Believe me,
“My dear Gordon,
“Yours sincerely,
“Erskine Romilly.”

Captain Romilly read this letter through two or three times before he could fully make up his mind to believe that he must quit Ootacamund at once. But he knew from the date on which the next Calcutta steamer was expected at Madras, that if he intended to sail by her, he must set off on his journey that very night. It was, to use his own familiar language, “deuced hard,” but it would be still worse if he delayed, and by that means lost the chance of supporting himself and Véronique in the position to which he had raised her. He said in the words of another son, some hundreds of years ago: “The days for the mourning of my father are at hand,” and consoled himself with the after-thought, “then will I acknowledge my marriage with Véronique.”

He spent another hour at the hotel, putting together the few things he had left there, paying what he owed, and making his arrangements for starting by “transit” that same evening; and then he remounted his pony, and with the fatal letter in his hand, rode away, with a flushed face, to break the news to his poor little wife. She was watching for him when he arrived—hanging over the palings, and straining her eyes to catch the first glimpse of his figure, and when she saw it she ran along the mountain path to meet him, and climbing up on the broad back of the sturdy Pegu, rode home behind him, as delighted as a child.

“Are you not well?” she enquired, anxiously, when they had dismounted, and she caught a glimpse of his forlorn countenance, “have you a head-ache? you have been too much in the sun!”

“No, Véronique! there is nothing the matter, but I have heard some news which has disturbed me, and I had better tell it to you at once. Come with me!”

He took her hand as he spoke, and led her, trembling with alarm, into their own room, and then he shut the door, and folded her in his arms.

“My little woman!” he commenced, (he never designated her his “wife,” but that omission she was too trusting to observe), “do you know that my leave here will very soon be up—that it was only for sixty days at the commencement?”

“But you can get an extension, Gordon,” she exclaimed, quickly, “have you not often told me that you would apply for one?”

“Yes! I know I have; but that’s just what I want to speak to you about, my darling,” he replied. “I can’t get an extension, Véronique, because I have received a letter from home to say my father is dangerously ill, and wants to see me, and I must apply for leave to England, instead.”

“To England! oh! take me with you. Gor-don,” she said, clinging to him like a terrified child, “do not leave me behind, or I shall die!”

“I wish I could, my darling,” he answered, straining her to his heart, “but how is it possible? have you forgotten that our marriage is a private one?”

Her hands dropped passively to her side, and her face assumed an expression of despair.

“And when will you come back to me?” she whispered, hoarsely—

“Very soon, I hope, my darling! as soon as ever I can, you may depend upon that; and meanwhile you must be good, and stay here patiently with Père Joseph until I can return to fetch you—will you do so much for my sake, Véronique?”

“I will try to be patient,” she answered, wearily, “when must you go?”


But at this she gave way to a fresh passion of grief.

“To-night!—oh! not to-night!—oh! my Gor-don, stay by me—leave me not; your Véronique can never live without you!

She flung herself upon his breast, she wound her slender arms about him, she watered his face with her tears, and called on all the saints in the calendar to protect her treasure till they met again.

“The sea! the dreadful sea!” she moaned, “you will be drowned; I shall never see you more, Oh! Gor-don venture not upon the cruel sea.”

“Why, my darling?” he said, trying to speak lightly, though his heart ached at the sight of her distress, “a truce to all such silly fears. The sea will be your best friend, Véronique; it shall bring me back to you: and as for me, I’d cross it a hundred times in order to find myself again in these dear arms!”

But finding that she could not stem her tears, and that her sobs were becoming almost hysterical, Captain Romilly adopted another line of argument.

“Am I to get ready all alone, Véronique? Is my little girl not going to help her awkward Gordon with his packing? for I must make haste, my darling—more depends upon the haste I make for you and me than I have leisure at this moment to explain.”

She raised her weary face from the shelter of his bosom, as he spoke, and with a deep sigh of patient resignation, stood upon her feet.

“I have been wrong,” she said, humbly, “I knew from the first, my Gordon, that I should not have thee ever—and it has been so bright—so bright and beautiful, and heavenly, that I might have guessed it could not last.”

“That’s nonsense!” he replied, smiling, “it will last for always, darling, and a good deal over that. But my father is in a dying state, Véronique; if you (who are sure to see me soon again) experience so much sorrow at our parting, what must he feel, who, even now, may die before I reach his side?”

He looked into her face as he spoke, and the sad, wistful eyes gazed back at him, as though they would imprint his features on her mind for ever, but she did not smile.

“I will not vex thee more, “Gor-don!” was all she said, as she turned to busy herself about her husband’s packing, and she kept her word.

Meanwhile, Père Joseph was not near so hard to convince of the necessity of the A.D.C.’s immediate departure as his niece had been. His first surprise at the announcement over, the letter which Captain Romilly had received was placed before him, and, as soon as he had perused it, he perfectly acquiesced in the wisdom of his making no delay in returning to Madras. The object for which he had permitted Véronique to contract a secret marriage with the A.D.C., that she might at some future day be acknowledged before the world as a gentleman’s wife, seemed nearer at hand than he had ever hoped it could be, and, during the course of their conversation, Romilly made, what appeared in the eyes of the priest, such liberal arrangements for the comfort of his wife, during the term of their separation, that before it was concluded, Père Joseph had decided within himself that the recall to England, on such an errand, was the very luckiest thing that could have happened for Véronique, although it might, at first sight, be difficult to persuade her of the fact.

Mr. Erskine Romilly, when he surmised that the funds of his youngest brother would, as usual, have run low, had not been far out of his reckoning; for ample as was the A.D.C.’s quarterly allowance, he had very little of it left by the time that the letter arrived. With his accustomed thoughtless generosity, he had completely furnished a couple of rooms in the priest’s bungalow on the occasion of his marriage, added to which he had naturally indulged himself by making sundry presents of ornaments and articles of clothing to his bride.

These expenditures had tended greatly to reduce his well-filled purse, but he had yet sufficient, with the help of an extra hundred pounds, to take him back to England.

Half of the cheque, therefore, enclosed in his brother’s letter, he handed over to Père Joseph, for the use of Véronique, until she should have heard of his arrival at home, and he desired that during his absence, she might continue, under her maiden name, to occupy the rooms which he had furnished for her use, and have a servant kept to do the work which had hitherto fallen to her share.

“When once I find myself in England,” he continued, “I will write you word of the position affairs have assumed there, and let you know exactly how soon you in expect me back again, or whether I shall send for Véronique. Meanwhile, here is the address of the Club to which I used to belong, and to which she must send me regular accounts of both her welfare and your own.”

The priest considered that nothing could be more liberal or straightforward. He put by the money confided to him, with the reverence due to its amount, and almost chided Véronique for appearing at the last meal they took together with swollen eyelids, instead of looking glad at the approaching fortune of her husband.

“Women are inexplicable creatures,” he said afterwards, as though in apology for her behaviour to the A.D.C., “there is nothing that they love on earth, like money and a good position, and yet they seem to expect that both are to be theirs without any trouble being taken either on their parts, or those of the men. They prate of glory far away, as though the theme could never tire them, but directly it draws near, they rust with their tears the sword they buckle to your side, until it is hardly fit for use or ornament.”

But Romilly did not chide her. As they stood together alone for the last time, exchanging passionate kisses and farewells, he was almost ready to mingle his hot tears with hers.

“Farewell, beloved, wear this for my sake,” whispered Véronique, as she detached the silver crucifix she always carried in her bosom, and hung it round her lover’s neck.

“It is worth but little, my Gor-don, but ’tis the same my mother used, and when you pray, it will bring the remembrance of your Véronique into your heart.”

“No fear of my forgetting it, my darling,” he replied, as he fondly pressed her in his arms. “I shall think of you both night and day, until we meet again. But meanwhile, what have I to give you in exchange? There is nothing but my watch, and I shall want that on the voyage.”

“Hast thou not given me everything?” she answered, hastily, “art thou not my very own? Tell me so, Gor-don, before we part, say that thou art, wholly and irrevocably mine, that no other woman can ever come betwixt thee and me, and for awhile I will be content to lose thee.”

She gazed into his face, anxiously waiting his reply, with straining eyes that seemed as though they needs must wrest the truth from him.

“By heavens, no!” he exclaimed, and as he said the words he meant them. “You are the first woman, Véronique, that I have ever truly loved, and you shall be the last. I swear it!”

“Je suis contents,” she murmured in a low voice, as, weakened by the emotion she had passed through, a dull film spread itself over her blue eyes until she rested heavy and unconscious against her husband’s breast. Gordon Romilly gazed at her for a moment, almost in despair, then laying her quietly on their familiar bed, pressed a dozen kisses on her cold and unresponsive lips, and not daring to trust himself with her any longer, rushed quickly from the room.

Chapter II

Eaton Square, S.W.

Arrived at Ootacamund, Captain Romilly bade farewell to Colonel Greene, and the few acquaintances he had made there, with so evident an air of depression that had he not communicated to them the unfavourable news which he had received relative to his father’s state of health, they would have been quite at a loss to account for the change in his spirits. As it was, however, Lord Erskine Romilly’s condition and the A.D.C.’s sudden recall to England, were quite sufficient to render his words few, and his manner nervous and hurried. So without searching for a further reason they gave him all the assistance in their power, and by the united efforts of his friends and himself, Gordon Romilly was packed into a palanquin the same evening, and carried down the ghaut to meet the “transit” which awaited him at the foot.

Not before he had found time, however, to write a hasty note to Véronique, (a note which lay against her heart until they met again); in which after imploring her to keep up her courage and her spirits for his sake, he begged her to retain the Pegu pony (which would reach her by its horsekeeper on the following day) for her own use, and let him hear that she both rode it and enjoyed the exercise. And then there was nothing more for him to do there, and with a heavy heart Captain Romilly proceeded on his journey to Madras, which he reached in the course of the next two days.

As his father had anticipated, the A.D.C. experienced no difficulty in obtaining his six months’ leave of absence, his services being neither so valuable nor so efficiently performed, as to render the procurement of a substitute a matter for speculation; and when the next Calcutta steamer puffed out of the Madras roads, she bore away, at once the handsomest and most useless member of the Governor’s staff of honour.

The homeward passage was without adventure. Life on board one of the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steam-ships is too familiar to the modern reader to be worthy of description. Everybody knows that on the outward bound, a vast amount of love-making goes on, and a like quantity of squabbling in those that steam the other way: and the ship which carried Captain Romilly as passenger was no exception to the general rule. Two or three young ladies, booked by some accident of circumstance for the wrong quarter of the globe for white satin favours, shewed themselves very desirous of doing a little business whilst they had the opportunity, and to that end, were persevering in their demonstrations towards Captain Romilly, giving him plainly to understand that if he wished to flirt, it need not be with himself. But the married A.D.C. was adamant. He had not the slightest inclination to flirt, or even to pretend to do so, and was so constant to his cigar and his thoughts of Véronique, that as he paced up and down the deck, smoking, star-gazing, and wondering what his darling was about the while, he felt so sure of himself, and so entirely hers, that he believed his marriage had been the best thing in the world for him, that he was really going to turn over a new leaf in consequence, and be discreet and virtuous for the rest of his existence.

Desirous of making as much haste as possible, Captain Romilly of course adopted the Marseilles route; but on landing at that place he received a letter to inform him that his father was already dead. A sudden and most unexpected increase of the worst features of the disease having set in shortly after his brother’s former epistle had been dispatched to him, Lord Erskine Romilly, notwithstanding the efforts of the first physicians in London, had succumbed to the complaint, and been laid in the family vault in Ireland, a fortnight before the day on which his youngest son heard the news of his demise.

To say that Captain Romilly did not sustain a shock on the receipt of this communication would be to write him down more callous to the serious ills of life than even his artificial rearing caused him to appear. He had not been a particularly dutiful or obedient son; he had often thought and spoken disrespectfully of his father; often been careless of his wishes, and sometimes even acted in direct rebellion to them. Yet he was not worse than hundreds of the rising generation who lash out against parental authority as soon as ever it threatens to interfere with their convenience; who fight for then own way, as babes just out of leading-strings will strive to gain the mastery over their attendants; and persist in considering advice from older heads as another name for thwarting their desires.

Gordon Romilly had said and thought all this, times out of mind; yet when he first heard that his father was dead, gone beyond recall far out of the reach of receiving kindness from his children, or of hearing them regret they had not always shown it, he would have given much to have him back again, even at the risk of losing his expected inheritance. He might have known that he could not live long to exercise his paternal control, for at the time of his death Lord Erskine Romilly was a very old man; Gordon, who had attained the age of four and twenty, being the youngest of his family.

He was the third son of the Earl of Bournemouth, and his title died with him. An Irish Lord, with no patrimony but such as he derived from Irish ground, Lord Erskine Romilly, like many others of his class, had preferred to live in England, and thus avoid the risk of being shot whilst taking a quiet stroll amidst the bogs and quagmires of his own estates. But the family on both sides was a high one; and, as soon as the young Romillys were old enough to understand the meaning of the injunction, it had been rigidly impressed upon them by their father, that he would disown them if they ever disgraced themselves by mésalliances; and, as far as he knew before his death, none of them had ventured to transgress this law.

Erskine, the eldest son, for whose house Gordon was now bound, had married Lady Maria Sellon, a daughter of the Earl of Tor; and Preston, the third brother, who held the incumbency of Rolandston in Kent, a living in the gift of his father, had wedded the buxom widow of Sir Calloway Douglas, with twenty thousand pounds for her portion, whose mother, as everybody knew, was nearly allied to three Lords and a couple of Baronets.

Stanhope, a colonel in the Royal Artillery, and a confirmed bachelor, had never given his father a moment’s uneasiness with respect to his future; and the two daughters also had married in their own station of life. It was reserved for Gordon, the yonngestr born and the most rebellious, from the irregularity of his habits and the independence of his ideas, to inspire Lord Erskine Romilly with the dread, that he would eventually disgrace his family by uniting himself with whom and what he chose.

All these things pressed on the memory of the A.D.C. as the mail train conveyed him rapidly from Paris to Calais; and at one moment he penitently wished he could recall his parent to life, if only for a few seconds, that he might assure him he would never again act contrary to his wishes; and the next, remembering Véronique, and the little chance there would have been of gaining his father’s consent to such a marriage, Gordon Romilly shuddered to find himself almost rejoicing at the idea that no one’s approval but his own could ever again be necessary.

It was in the afternoon that, worn out with travel and emotion, he arrived in Eaton Square. The house, which, like its fellows, could never contrive to look lively, unless the balconies were filled with flowers and a red awning stretched from the halldoor to the outside of the pavement, appeared more gloomy than usual to the A.D.C., as he glanced up from the closely-curtained lower windows, coated with the dust of a London June, to where the grim hatchment, with its rampant lions, sloped from the drawing-room verandah, completely obscuring the light of its middle casement.

“Is your master at home?” asked Captain Romilly hurriedly of the servant who opened the door to him, and receiving an answer in the affirmative, threw the Hansom-driver his fare, and was shown at once into his brother’s private study.

Mr. Romilly, a member of Parliament and by the death of his father an Irish landlord to a very considerable extent, was a man of about five and forty, already bald, slightly grey, and in every respect a great contrast to his fair-haired and fashionable young brother. He had received a telegram from Paris, apprising him of the A.D.C.’s arrival, therefore it was not to be wondered at that he expressed no astonishment at his appearance; yet, although he had not seen him for more than six months past, he greeted him with as restrained a smile, and as calm a pressure of the hand, as though they had been in the habit of meeting every day.

“We did not expect you quite so soon,” said Mr. Romilly, consulting his watch as the A.D.C., having thrown his travelling encumbrances to the servant, stretched himself comfortably in an arm chair. “The mail must be early today. What sort of a passage have you had?”

“Pretty well!” was the nonchalant reply, for the Romilly’s were not an impulsive family, and Gordon did not appear in the least disconcerted by the cool welcome he received; “it was deuced unpleasant, as usual, from Malta to Marseilles, but as I never suffer in that way, it signified little to me.”

“Ah, I suppose so. Have you dined?”

“Well, hardly—at three o’clock in the day.”

“Lunched, I mean. Shall I order you anything?”

“No, thanks: I can hold on till dinner-time. How are Maria and the children?”

“Quite well, thank you. Maria is in town this afternoon shopping. By the way, you received my letter at Marseilles, I suppose?”

Gordon Romilly’s face lengthened.

“Oh, yes. I got it all right. It was rather a shock to me of course. I didn’t think it would be so soon.”

“No more did any of us. Sir Philip Davidson had guaranteed him for another six months only the week before, and Dr. Money says he had not expected him to give in even by that time. But what reliance is there to be placed on the strength of seventy-five? My father’s constitution was as fine a one as ever man possessed; but it had been much tried of late, and towards the close it seemed to give way altogether. I was in South Audley Street at the time of his death, so were Stanhope and Preston; but after the crisis set in he recognised none of us!”

“I am glad of that,” said poor Gordon, “because then he could not have missed myself.”

“Oh, dear no! he missed no one,” replied Mr. Romilly indifferently, “but you did quite right to start at once. No one could have foreseen so speedy an end, and under other circumstances you might, as I told you when I wrote, have very seriously injured your prospects. As it is you are all right.”

The A.D.C. breathed again. He had been longing to put that question from the moment of his entrance, but from motives of delicacy, fearing to appear too eager in the eyes of his brother, had hitherto restrained himself. Now he waited but to be assured that what he had heard was true, to tell his family that he had left a wife in India, and intended to send for her at once. For what his brothers might think upon the subject Gordon Romilly did not care a rush; if his inheritance were no longer to be affected by the confession of his marriage, the sooner they knew of it the better.

“I am glad to hear you say so,” he observed in answer to Mr. Romilly’s last remark, “for to tell you the truth, Erskine, after what you wrote me out to India I have felt a little anxious about the matter. It would have been a cruel thing, considering the manner in which I have been brought up, if my father had left me penniless.”

“Oh! I fancy there was very little chance of that contingency,” replied the elder brother, as he rested his elbows on the sides of his arm-chair, and deliberately clasped the fingers of his long, thin hands. “He would have provided for your maintenance under any circumstances, Gordon, although he might not have bequeathed you so liberal a portion as now. As it is, I consider you have every reason to think yourself most fortunate.”

“Let me know my fate at once then,” said the young man laughing, “for it promises to be of some importance to me.

“I have a copy of the will in my secretaire, if you would like to peruse it.”

“No! not today; it would take me hours to arrive at the meaning of a lawyer’s deed. Give me an epitome of the will, Erskine, in your own language, and I’ll examine the original at my leisure.”

“You must be aware,” commenced Mr. Romilly in his slow, deliberate manner, “that it would not be possible for a man in the position of my father, to leave legacies to his children in proportion to the allowances he may have made them during his lifetime. Whilst living he gave to those who, in his ideas, most needed assistance, but after his death justice required that all should be fairly and equally dealt by.”

“Of course, of course!” said the A.D.C. impatiently.

“Under which circumstances you will not be surprised to hear that I inherit the Rammadroog estates with fifty thousand pounds, that Stanhope takes the farm of Kilsa, with a legacy of thirty thousand, that Preston has the same sum, retaining his incumbency for life (after which it returns into my gift), and that—”

“Well,” exclaimed Captain Romilly breathlessly.

“You are to have the same money as your younger brothers, under one condition—”

“And what is that?”

“In my opinion, a very reasonable one. You know, Gordon, that you gave your father much cause for fear during your stay in Winchester, that you might suffer yourself at some future period to be entangled in a marriage unworthy of your name; and he has thought proper to provide against such a contingency by the terms of your inheritance. The thirty thousand pounds is left you, unconditionally, on the occasion of your marrying in your own station of life!”

“On the occasion of my marrying?” exclaimed the young officer starting from his seat. “And what if I never marry—what then? Am I to starve?”

“Starve, my dear Gordon,” replied the other with an incredulous smile; “have you not your profession?”

“My profession! what is that? A beggarly commission that brings me in a hundred and fifty a year, and obliges me to spend six. Why, as it was, my father always allowed me five hundred a year, beside my pay, and devilish hard I have sometimes found it to make ends meet even upon that.”

“Then you must be extravagant,” remarked Mr. Romilly as though it were the first time the subject had been presented to his notice, “but in the event of your remaining single, Gordon, (which is most improbable, as, of course, you will now consider it your duty to marry) my father has charged me to make you a yearly allowance of two hundred pounds, which, in itself, ought to be sufficient to satisfy the demands of any reasonable man.”

“Ought to be sufficient!” growled the A.D.C., “do you know the cost of coats and trousers, and gloves, and boots, and cigars, Erskine?”

“Well, considering I have a family,” returned his brother, “I ought to do so; but if you dealt with my tradesmen, Gordon, you would find that such things cost you less than they do now. Whether you marry or whether you remain single, it will be better worth your while as you get on in life, to pay less for fashion and more for quality. But you young fellows of the present day never seem to think of such things, until circumstances like these compel you to do so.”

Mr. Romilly might have talked on for ever. He was as discoursing to deaf ears, for Gordon had again thrown himself into the chair, and with both hands thrust through his hair, and shading his countenance, was gloomily pondering over the news he had just heard.

“Two hundred a year!” he muttered, “it is nothing. My father had better have lived till Doomsday than left me like this; it is an insult—a mockery! He ought to have been ashamed to do it!”

“He knew well enough what he was about when he drew up that will, Gordon,” said Mr. Romilly sternly. “You may remember the trap in which you very nearly permitted yourself to be caught whilst quartered at Winchester, and the little we were able to learn respecting your doings at Madras, was not calculated to make us think you were much steadier whilst there. Your father’s great fear to the day of his death, was, lest you should be led into making a mésalliance, and consequently he did what he could to guard against it.”

“It shews how much he must have known of me,” replied the A.D.C., indignantly, “that he could think me capable of taking a common shop girl, with cheeks like nutmeg-graters, and a waist like a tarbarrel, to be my wife. A nice thing for a father to believe of his son. I thought mine had more gentlemanly feeling.”

“It is of no use discussing that question now!” said Mr. Romilly, quietly, “the danger (if there were any) is past, and I trust may never happen again—meanwhile, all you have to do, Gordon, is to look out for a suitable wife for yourself, and enter upon your inheritance as soon as possible. Sooner or later you must marry. No man, who wishes to lead a respectable life, does otherwise; and I think, for my own part, that the earlier you get over that sort of thing, the easier you get accustomed to it. Notwithstanding our mourning, you will have many opportunities of looking about you, before the season closes, and if you make good use of your time, we shall see you a married man before next Christmas.”

“I’ll be hanged if you do!” exclaimed the A.D.C., energetically, as with a troubled face he rose from the seat which he had occupied, and took up a position by his brother’s writing-table. “Whatever happens to me, beggary or disgrace, you may take your oath of one thing, Erskine, no power on earth shall induce me to marry as my father advises.”

“What! you are determined not to have a gentlewoman for your wife? You must be mad, Gordon?”

“I am as sane as you are,” returned the other, curtly, “and much more so than my father was. What I say is, that I am prepared to marry no one, gentlewoman or otherwise; that I am perfectly satisfied with my present condition, and that I intend to stick to it.”

“Follow your own inclination in the matter, of course,” said Mr. Romilly, coolly, “but in that case I am only empowered to pay fifty pounds a quarter, to your credit, and judging by myself, I should have thought the alternative a pleasanter one; but I think we have now talked quite enough about the business. You understand exactly how the land lies, and must decide for yourself. Shall I ring for Edwards to show you to your room?”

“As you like!” replied the A.D.C., morosely, and he went to the apartment destined for him, and sat for more than an hour at the foot of the bed, moving neither hand nor foot, as he reviewed the unpleasant tidings he had received, and wondered how on earth he should struggle out of the predicament in which he found himself.

Chapter III

Lady Rose

Two hundred pounds a year, doled out in quarterly instalments by the hands of his prudent brother, Erskine, so long as he avowed himself a bachelor, or thirty thousand, unconditionally his, on the occasion of his marrying a woman from his own sphere of life. To keep his union with the soldier’s daughter a secret, therefore, would be to reduce his income to less than half what it had been; to make it known, to lose assistance for the present, and all hope for the future.

As Gordon Romilly contemplated the prospect before him, he told himself he should go mad. Twist the conditions of his father’s will in what way he would, they still remained the same, and nothing stared him in the face except a future of privation and annoyance. There were but two courses open to him, either to return to his staff appointment, and the country he abhorred, or throwing it up, to rejoin his regiment and remain in England, where, if he kept up the appearances he had been used to do, he should spend more than his quarterly allowance between Lady Day and Midsummer. Meanwhile, what was to become of Véronique?

How was it possible that he could either have her home, and support her and himself on captain’s pay, or reside in India, keeping her in secret on the Hills, as in the ardour of his love he had at first thought easy?

Seeing the difficulties which beset him upon every side, and seemed to press more heavily the nearer that he contemplated them, Gordon Romilly shut daylight from his eyes, and wished, although too late, he had been dead before his fatal rashness had been the means of enticing himself and Véronique to their destruction. Roused at last from his painful reverie, by the entrance of a servant with hot water, and the intimation that the first dinner bell would ring in five minutes. Captain Romilly forced himself to stir about again, and change his travelling clothes.

The very fact of being obliged to hasten, cleared some of the depression from his spirits, but his countenance bore a look of gloomy dissatisfaction as, dressed in evening attire, he descended the broad staircase leading to the drawing-room. It was quite a family party that he found assembled there, the recent mourning of the Romilly’s rendering their temporary seclusion a matter of necessity, but there were sufficient of themselves to prevent the apartment looking empty. His sister-in-law and hostess, Lady Maria Romilly, with her eldest daughter, Ellen, a pretty blushing girl of sixteen, and her youngest sister, Lady Rose Sellon, a handsome blonde, of two or three seasons out, stood on one side of the hearthrug, whilst Mr. and Mrs. Preston Romilly, now visitors in Eaton Square, with the brother whom Gordon had already met, occupied the other. They were all standing, for the A.D.C. was late for dinner, and as soon as the first greetings were over, the party moved into the dining-room.

“My dear Gordon!” exclaimed Lady Maria, as she first advanced her cheek for a fraternal salute, and then placed her arm within his, for the purpose of being conducted downstairs, “how well you are looking! I declare you have grown positively handsome. India has not affected your complexion in the least; and if you are a trifle thinner than you were, it is rather an improvement to you. I think you know my sister, Rose! You met her at Compton Grange, didn’t you. Last year! Now, Preston, if you have finished with your brother, suppose you lot him take me into the dining-room, for if we stay here much longer, the soup will not be fit to drink.”

Lady Rose Sellon, with whom the A.D.C. had enjoyed a very decided flirtation at her father’s country house of Compton Grange, the year before, here advanced her hand for his acceptance, with the remark that she could hardly suppose Captain Romilly did remember her, considering how very long ago it was since they had met. To which Captain Romilly gallantly replied that Lady Rose was in herself a sufficient guarantee for not being forgotten, and having earned a bow from the lady in acknowledgment of the compliment, found, when he sat down to the dinner-table, that she occupied the seat next to him.

A well-lighted room (for Mr. Romilly was one of those men who maintain that it is impossible to dine comfortably by daylight), a good dinner, choice wines, and a pretty woman making cordial advances to him on his right-hand side, are powerful incentives for a man to shake off what poor Véronique had called “les diables bleus.” However little near or dear his family might be to Captain Romilly’s heart, it was pleasant (especially after absence in a country he abhorred), to find himself amongst them once again, to look round upon the appointments of the table, to listen to the drift of the conversation, to observe the air of good breeding and refinement which pervaded everything, and to feel that he was amongst his own people, in his proper sphere, and as much entitled to all he saw as they were.

It has been plainly shown that Captain Romilly hated India. He had set his face against the country from the first hour he had entered it, and instead of making allowances, as in charity bound, for the want of breeding, and the ignorance of fashion he encountered there, had permitted such puerilities to offend him, much as though they had been organised for his annoyance, and make him consider his sojourn in the East as a term of penal servitude.

It was this persistence in refusing to interest himself in any diversion which the country could afford him, that had led Gordon Romilly to seek the company of Véronique as an amusement, and to grasp so eagerly at any means of securing her for himself, when he had reason to fear she might be taken from him.

Such conduct on his part, had, of course, created many enemies. His countrymen in the East had talked almost as much against the insolent affectation of the handsome A.D.C., as he had talked of their barbarity and want of manners; some had even tried to resent it. He disdained to meet any of their advances in a friendly spirit, therefore they left off courting him; he turned up his nose at the poorness of their entertainments, therefore they left off asking him; he accorded so haughty an acquiescence when requested to take a partner from amongst them for the dance, that he was soon left to saunter up and down the ballrooms by himself, and silently confess the truth of the assertion that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Yet all these little lessons, taught him by experience, had not in one whit softened Captain Romilly’s heart: on the contrary, they had hardened it, and it is difficult to say whether the kicks or the caresses of the people of Madras had most effect upon him. He came back to England still less in love with India than when he went there, and had it not been for the one spot of earth which held his Véronique, he would not have tolerated the country even in his thoughts.

Imbued with such ideas, it is not wonderful that a return to Eaton Square, and all the luxuries and refinements of a first-rate establishment in London, should have had their effect upon the drooping spirits of the A.D.C. He could not shake off the remembrance of what he considered a piece of gross injustice on the part of his late father, but as the good dinner and the good wine began to exercise their influence over him, and turning every moment to encounter the bright glances of Lady Rose Sellon, he inhaled the faint fragrance which floated from her hair and dress, Gordon Romilly felt he was in his element once more, and, determined that the company should not guess at his discomfiture, made an effort to respond to the cordiality by which he was surrounded.

“Now do tell us something about India!” exclaimed Lady Rose, as soon as enquiries of a more personal character had been discussed and laid aside. “How did you like it, Captain Romilly, with its ‘coral strand?’ By the way, I hope you remembered to stuff a carpet-bag full of coral before you left, for it is the most fashionable ornament that can be worn this season!”

She was a handsome girl, of about two or three and twenty, tall, broad-shouldered, and full-bosomed, with bright brown hair, and eyes to match, which albeit they were usually kept a little too open to do good service in the cause of bashfulness, Captain Romilly remembered to have thought very attractive on more than one occasion when he had been left alone with her.

“What a pity you did not tell me so, before,” he said, in answer to her observation, “when you must have known that any commands of Lady Rose Sellon’s, I should only have been too happy to obey—I might have fished for it over the side of the steamer, all the way home, with a thread and a crooked pin. As it is, I wasted the precious opportunity, and fished for nothing.”

“Except compliments, I suppose,” said Lady Rose. “Ah! Captain Romilly, that’s very pretty talking, but I fancy I have heard you say something of the kind before, and you seem to have kept up the habit so well, that there is little doubt you have been practising during your absence from England. Maria and I were quite astonished, I can assure you, when we heard that you had returned both unmarried and unengaged; were we not, Maria?”

To this appeal Lady Maria Romilly returned a ready affirmative, and the A.D.C. grew hot and uncomfortable under the accusation, and displayed such evident signs of what he was enduring, that the ladies called the attention of the whole table to his confusion, which was unanimously declared to be a sign of guilt.

“It is of no use trying to deny it, Captain Romilly,” continued his lively tormentor, “for your blushes betray you, so it only remains for you to tell us her name, and whether she is dark or fair.”

“If she came from Madras, Lady Rose, she would most probably be dark,” he replied, struggling to get out of his dilemma, and appear natural at the same time, “but neither Maria nor you can have any idea of the beauties I have encountered in India, or you would not think of laying such an imputation on my taste.”

“What! by imagining you capable of admiring the ‘Maids of Ind?’ What does Moore say of them?” and Lady Rose repeated the lines—

“‘All the bright creatures, that, like dreams,
Glide through its foliage, and drink beams
Of beauty from its founts and streams.’

“I am afraid Moore can have had very little personal knowledge of the subjects of his verse,” said Captain Romilly, laughing, “My experience of the ‘Maids of Ind’ is, of greasy faces, coarse hair, broad stumpy figures, and flat feet, which added to a not devouring love of cleanliness, and a mouth full of betel-nut juice, make up a picture, I hope sufficiently unengaging, to absolve me in future from your suspicions.”

“Oh, fie!” said Lady Rose, “is it possible you can be talking of the fair sex? Captain Romilly, I did not think you could be so impolite. But if it is the case, I suppose you can have little idea of returning to a land so full of savages.”

“Cela depend!” he answered, carelessly, but with a sigh at the thought of what he had left there: and at that moment the ladies rose and mounted to the drawingroom, though not before his companion had whispered to him to make haste and join them, and not let “Erskine” sit for ever over that “horrid wine.”

As soon as they found themselves alone, the three brothers drew their chairs closer together, and entered into a confidential conversation.

“Gordon! you don’t appear to me, to be in very good spirits,” said Mr. Preston Romilly, kindly.

His brother Preston had always been the one most friendly with the A.D.C, most lenient to his youthful follies, and most certain that the day would arrive when he should abandon’them.

“Well! it’s not a pleasant thing to come home, and find that your father has been buried a fortnight beforehand,” replied the A.D.C, gravely, “and especially when the journey has been undertaken with the sole object of seeing him again.”

“And the provision he has made for your future is not arranged entirely to your satisfaction,” added Mr. Romilly, with a grim smile.

“Well, I am vexed, vexed and disappointed, I acknowledge it,” replied the youngest brother, “and what is more, I consider I have every reason to be so.”

“About the conditions on which you inherit your money?” said Preston, enquiringly.

“Yes! could any be more iniquitous or unjust? I am condemned, either to a life-long poverty, or to marry whether I will or no. Why was not Stanhope ordered to do the same? Why is he permitted to exercise his own judgment in the matter, and not myself? It’s a cruel shame; and if my father were not in his grave, I should feel disposed to curse him. As it is, he has left me no pleasure in recalling his memory.”

At this Preston Romilly stretched out his hand, and laid it gently, but firmly, on the A.D.C.’s shoulder.

“You had better not speak of him at present, Gordon,” he said quietly, “you are not in a fit state to discuss his motives in this matter: when you have overcome your first disappointment, and grown more accustomed to the conditions of the will, I think you will acknowledge that after all, they are not so unfair as they may seem to you now.”

Gordon Romilly pressed his brother’s hand, and remained silent; for his heart was burning within him, and he could not trust himself to speak. Mr. Romilly took advantage of the occasion.

“That is just what I said to you, Gordon, when we spoke together on the subject this afternoon. Stanhope never gave his father a moment’s uneasiness with regard to his future: but you did, and he evidently considered that by binding you down to contract a respectable marriage, he was doing you the greatest kindness in his power. You are not limited to the choice of one woman, or six, or a dozen: you have the whole world to choose from, and you may take your time about it: for until it pleases you to make up your mind, you have your allowance and your pay to live upon, and I cannot say that I see the extreme hardship of the case.”

“And nor will Gordon after a few days’ quiet deliberation,” interposed Preston Romilly. “Of course he will marry, it would have been desirable under any circumstances, and becomes doubly so, under the present ones.”

“And pray how do you expect to see me set about attaining this desirable end,” enquired the A.D.C., scornfully. “Am I to run up and down the West End making known my wishes and the reason of them to the respectable community at large, or shall I advertise for a wife in the public papers, and hold out the thirty thousand as bait? You sit at your ease quietly discussing this prospect,” he continued, his tone changing to one of indignation, “as though men were puppets, women articles of merchandise, and marriage a mere convenience, and as if it were worth my while to barter my happiness for life for a paltry sum of money.”

At this burst of grandiloquence, so unlike Gordon Romilly’s usually nonchalant manner of treating the subjects under discussion, his hearers looked at one another in surprise, exchanging glances of mutual significance.

“Oh!” said Mr. Romilly, at last, with a prolonged emphasis on the ejaculation, “if that is the way the wind blows, Gordon, I have nothing further to say about the matter. Else had you asked my advice in a quiet, reasonable manner, I might have put you in the way of accomplishing your object without resorting to any of the violent means which you seem to consider necessary.”

“Go on!” said the A.D.C., sulkily, “I am quite ready to listen to you!”

He believed that nothing his relatives said or left unsaid, could make any possible difference in his future actions: but he thought it best for the sake of keeping his secret, not to appear too bigoted in regard to adhering to his own opinion.

“I was going to suggest to you,” continued Mr. Romilly, “that you need not go very far out of your way to find a wife, who shall, in all respects, fulfil the intentions of my father’s legacy. A marriage with Lady Rose Sellon, towards whom you certainly did not seem unfavourably inclined, this time last year, would be as desirable a one, I suppose, as he even could have aspired to.”

“Is that the reason for which you asked her to meet me here?” demanded Gordon, sarcastically.

Mr. Romilly looked at his brother Preston with a deprecating smile.

“Would you not think,” he said, “to hear him talk, that I had some private interest in seeing him invested with his patrimony? My dear Gordon, if you reflect a moment, what possible difference can it make to me, whether you marry or remain single? Shall I be any the better, or worse off, in either case? I speak for your own good, and with the sole view of helping you. The young lady, if I mistake not, (of course this is between ourselves) would prove an easy conquest, for your attentions to her were rather talked of after your visit to Compton Grange, and Maria tells me that her sister was very well disposed towards you. Added to this, she has ten thousand pounds of her own, which, with your own money, would make a very nice little fortune. Now what could you want more?”

“Well, it won’t be, and so there’s an end of it,” returned Captain Romilly hotly, “and don’t you think it’s time we went upstairs and had some coffee? for I want to run round to the club and see if there’s a letter from Drewitt or any of the other fellows in the Brigade, before I go to bed.”

“It won’t be just yet; but you’ll think of it, Gordon,” said his brother Preston as all three men rose to their feet, “a lovely girl! fashionable, well-educated, and not portionless; it would be just such a marriage as all your friends would rejoice to see you make, and which would, doubtless, be eventually a source of great happiness to yourself. You must learn not to be too fastidious in such matters, my dear fellow; we should none of us marry at all if we waited until we had found our ideal; and if you are lucky enough in these days to get a young, pretty, and virtuous wife, you will have outstripped most of your contemporaries in the race of life.”

“I should prefer to be beaten,” replied the A.D.C. in the same sullen tone he had employed before; and then the others appeared to think they had wasted argument enough upon him, and they all went into the drawing-room, where they found Lady Rose Sellon half extended on the sofa, and apparently deeply engaged in the perusal of a new book. At sight of her, pretty as she was, Gordon Romilly turned away almost with disgust, and went and seated himself by his little niece at the other end of the apartment. But Lady Rose was not to be thus baffled. She was a time-hardened flirt, with manners so forward, that in another girl and in another century, they would have been termed bold; and she had no intention to let the handsome Captain Romilly slip so easily out of the meshes she had woven for him during the past season. So she tossed her volume to one side, and left the sofa and came and sat upon the other hand of Ellen Romilly.

“What do you think of our niece. Captain Romilly?” She enquired tenderly, (it was so delightfully suggestive to be able to link their interests together thus). “Has she not grown immensely? I say if this goes on she must be brought out next season, or we shall have some gentleman running away with her beforehand.”

“I hope it will be a long time before Ellen begins to think of such nonsense,” replied Gordon Romilly, who had been listening with some interest to the girl’s description of her school-room life, and of her little brothers and sisters in the nursery. “How old are you, Ellen?”

“Sixteen, Uncle Gordon, but I never dine downstairs when there is company, and mamma says I shall not come out for two years yet.”

“And a very sensible decision of mamma’s,” replied Captain Romilly, as glancing beyond the innocent face beside him, he encountered the unmistakable look of admiration which Lady Rose had fixed upon himself; and turned away abruptly to enter into conversation with his sisters-in-law.

Coffee was served in a domestic manner on the side-table, and as Lady Rose handed him a cup, and questioned with her large brown eyes in what she had offended him. the slight rancour which his brother’s allusion had raised in his heart against her, melted away; and when a short time afterwards she took her seat at the piano and commenced to sing, he followed her and stood beside the instrument.

Lady Rose sang well. She had a good voice, and was the pupil of one of the best Italian masters in town; and Gordon Romilly was very susceptible, both to music and the charms of women.

As he listened to the thrilling notes which she poured forth for his benefit, and met the warm glances which she turned upon him, and watched the graceful movements of her delicate white fingers, he sunk into a deep reverie, which the influence of the music she was singing caused unconsciously to become sad. The song which Lady Rose had chosen was the “Du bist mir nah’ und doch so fern,” of Reichardt, and the tender refrain—

“Du liebes aug, du lieber stern!
Du bist mir nah’ mid dock so fern,”

again and again repeated, sounded on his heart like the echo of a voice far away, calling on him to be true and faithful.

“Why, Captain Romilly, what are you dreaming of?” exclaimed Lady Rose Sellon as the third verse came to a conclusion, and he still maintained his attitude of thoughtful silence, “you look just like ‘the knight of the rueful countenance.’ I don’t know whether I am to accept your abstraction as a compliment to my singing or otherwise; but at any rate you shall have a less melancholy strain this time,” and tossing over a quantity of loose music which lay upon the piano, she selected “Liebes Bitte” another song by the same composer, and sung it to its English words. But when she came to the refrain—

“Stay with me, my darling, stay
And like a dream thy life shall pass away,”

giving it with the full pathos and meaning of which it was capable, accompanied by the most melting glances, Gordon Romilly could stand it no longer.

It seemed to him as though this woman must know everything: his love of luxury, the conditions of his fathers will, his mockery of a marriage; and with her beauty, and her money, and her evident advances, was in league with his brother Erskine and the devil to lure him from Véronique.

With an abruptness, unpardonable in the eyes of Lady Rose, and unaccountable in those of his relations, he left the instrument before the song was brought to a conclusion, and with his former lame excuse of wishing to go to the club to see if there were letters waiting for him, walked out into the open air.

Chapter IV

Money Versus Honey

Nine or ten days had elapsed since Gordon Romilly’s return to England, but although more than one mail had left for India during that period, he had not written by them. Half-a-dozen times at least had he placed the paper before him, and sat down, pen in hand, resolved to execute his task, and as often, finding that words in which he could express his meaning refused to come at his desire, had he cast them both aside, soothing his uneasy conscience with the forced assurance, that until his mind became a little more decided, and he had finally settled on the best course for his pursuance, it was useless, as impossible, to write. He knew that he had promised that Père Joseph should have the earliest news of his arrival, and the remembrance pricked him whenever it occurred; but at the same time, he had said that he would let him know what his intentions were regarding Véronique, and it was of no use keeping his bargain in one respect without fulfilling it in the other, He had no intentions regarding Véronique, or himself, or anybody; he was in a Slough of Despond, tied hand and foot in a quagmire of doubt and difficulty, and with no more idea how he should struggle out again, than how he should receive his legacy without fulfilling the conditions his father’s will attached to it. He pondered on his future, night and day, and was miserable and uneasy. He hoped that Véronique might not be learned respecting the arrival and departure of the mails. Still he knew how quick the senses grow when taught by love, and made a resolution every twelve hours that the next should not go by without taking her a few lines, however incoherently expressed, to assure her of his well-doing and unaltered affection. And still the letter was a thing to be accomplished.

One sultry afternoon, as he was sitting before his desk in his own room, thoughtfully regarding a sheet of paper on which he had scribbled a few words in his large irregular hand, a knock sounded on the panel of his door, and, hastily thrusting the unfinished letter between the leaves of his blotting-book, Gordon Romilly gave permission to enter, and in another moment his brother Preston was seated by his side. This gentleman, who, as has been said before, was Gordon’s most affectionate brother, was also the most like him in personal appearance, being tall, and fair, and well-featured; but, owing to his profession, he wore a clean-shorn face, which, by disclosing the formation of his mouth and chin, betrayed the weakness of his character more fully than in the case of the A.D.C. Notwithstanding which weakness Gordon Romilly had been used to look up to his brother Preston, no less on account of his sacred calling than of the difference of ten years existing between their ages, and he had asked for and taken his advice oftener perhaps than he had done that of any other man.

Now, as he saw who was his visitor, he smiled, though rather seriously; and when Preston asked him why, on such a lovely day, he kept himself a prisoner to his room, responded with a sigh and the confession that he had been thinking, and did not feel inclined for company.

“Shall I go, then?” suggested Preston.

“By no means! I am glad to see you there; you will save me for an hour perhaps from my own thoughts.”

“Are they such very bad companions, Gordon, then?”

“Deuced bad; in fact they couldn’t be worse. The truth is, Preston, my father’s will has put me in a hole, and I don’t believe I shall get out of it again.”

Preston Romilly wheeled his chair round so as to face his brother.

“My intention in seeking you this afternoon, Gordon, was to sneak to you about that very matter. We leave for Rolandstone tomorrow, as you know, for I only engaged my substitute for a month, and I may not have another opportunity of talking to you for some time to come.”

“No talking can undo the injury!” said Gordon, curtly.

“It may greatly lessen your idea of its extent,” replied his brother. “Come, Gordon! there is something behind all this, and you had better make a clean breast of it at once. Confide in me—let me know what it is that makes you so confident that you shall never marry, and I will do all in my power to help you out of the difficulty.”

At these words the A.D.C. started violently, and coloured like a girl—signs which did not pass unnoticed by his companion, but he turned his eyes the other way, and left him to recover by himself. At first Captain Romilly was about to deny the charge, or at all events, to try and laugh it off; but the next moment the thought had struck him, whether he might not tell his brother as much of his story as did not inculpate himself, and judge from his remarks what would be his decision did he hear the whole.

“Well, Preston, you are right!” he said after a pause: “there is a reason; but, remember, it must not go beyond ourselves. The fact is, whilst I was in India, I made an awful fool of myself, and I’m in a regular mess.”

“I was sure of it,” said Preston Romilly complacently, “there could be no other cause for your going on in the absurd manner that you have about your father’s will. You’ve entangled yourself with some woman, I suppose, and made promises to her which it is impossible that you can now perform. Well, you must be bought off, if there is no other way of getting out of it. A disagreeable job, of course, and doubtless an expensive one, but any thing is better than fulfilling an engagement which should never have been made.”

“But—but—” stammered Gordon, “it’s worse than that, Preston. It isn’t an engagement exactly—it—it—in fact it’s a deuced sight worse than that;” and as he spoke he looked down upon the carpet between his knees, and tapped the floor with his foot nervously, whilst his listener, with a significant sound, compressed his lips, and slowly nodded his head.

“Ah! it’s there, Master Gordon, is it?” he said after an awkward silence; “well, you continue to make difficulties for yourself as you pass through life, I must say. And what on earth could be your object—amusement, occupation, or sheer love of mischief?”

Gordon saw that his brother had misunderstood his meaning, but he dared not enlighten him further. And after all, had Mr. Preston Romilly put his insinuation into words, would he have miscalled his connection with Véronique?

“Not one of the three,” he answered, with a sigh. “I was seriously attached to her—”

But at this his brother looked seriously alarmed.

“Why, that’s the worst disclosure you’ve made yet, Gordon, though, knowing to what your ‘serious attachments’ have hitherto amounted, I am not yet convinced that the misfortune is irremediable. Now, look here, my dear fellow,” drawing his chair closer to his brother’s as he spoke, and laying his hand affectionately on his; “you know that I have your interests at heart, so I hope that you may trust implicitly that I should give you no advice but such as would be lawful to pursue. We’ll suppose that the girl to whom you have alluded is virtuous and discreet—”

“Of course she is,” interposed the A.D.C. with ready indignation.

Mr. Preston Romilly smiled.

“Yes, yes! of course; did I not say that we would take all that for granted? But at the same time she does not move in the same sphere of life as yourself.”

“No—not exactly,” murmured Gordon.

“Well, in such a case, and under other circumstances, I might say, marry her. If you were a hard-working, persevering man, and marriage with such a person entailed upon you no great pecuniary loss, and would be likely to prove a safeguard for the rest of your existence against a similar temptation, I should say, perhaps, marry her, and make her an honest husband to your life’s end. But I cannot believe, Gordon, that such a marriage would be for your ultimate good. You are a lazy, extravagant fellow—when I am giving you advice, you know, you must not mind my speaking plainly—who have been used to every luxury and every indulgence, and whom such a union as I allude to would at once plunge into a situation of comparative poverty. Would you be able to stand it? Do you love this woman, whoever she may be, sufficiently to contemplate such an existence with satisfaction for her sake? Would it not, on the contrary, become, in a short time, unbearable to you, and from sheer disappointment and disgust drive you into the very excesses from which, under other circumstances, it might have saved you?”

“But her feelings,” said Gordon, with excitement, “do I owe nothing to them, to the hopes I have raised by my promises, and the promises I have made of my love?”

“Doubtless you do; and not to be able to redeem such promises is one of the punishments you have brought on yourself by your ill-doing. It is the same with this, Gordon, as with many of your past money transactions; you have plunged head-foremost into debt, without the least notion of how, when called upon to pay, you may be able to cover your liabilities. But that does not alter the barren fact. The poor girl is very much to be pitied, there is no doubt of that, but, at the same time, I should consider you were doing her a greater kindness now, by leaving ber alone, to get over her disappointment as she may, than by searching her out again to share your penury with you—always, supposing of course, that you make her a proper compensation.”

“Ah! but you entirely mistake,” interrupted Gordon, quickly, “she won’t get over it so easily as that! this is not a case for compensation or for money; she would not take it, Preston—you don’t know—there is a reason—” and there he halted, looking foolish.

“Have you kept anything of importance back from me?” enquired his brother, almost authoritatively.

“No—that is to say, she is not so common as you seem to suppose, and—” commenced the other.

“You haven’t married the woman, have you?” exclaimed Mr. Preston Romilly, bursting into sudden suspicion, “you have not been to church with her?”

This last expression was the saving of Gordon’s secret, which at the first enquiry had been trembling on his tongue. He remembered that he had not been to church with her, that the ceremony in the Roman Catholic chapel was binding upon nothing but his sense of honour, and he stammered out a hesitating ‘no.’

“Well, then,” replied his brother, apparently much relieved by the assurance, “I see no difficulty in the matter. She will fret at your desertion of her, doubtless, but she will soon get over it—girls always do; you mustn’t judge of the strength of their affection by your own—and after a while she will many a soldier, or some other fellow in her own grade of life, and be much happier than she could have been with you. Not a day passes but we see how far less fine and sensitive the feelings of people in that class are, than ours.”

“You don’t know her!” muttered Gordon, as he recalled the memory of Véronique, and mentally compared her delicacy with that of ladies with whom he was acquainted.

“Of course not; I only speak from what I hear you say; but I know you, Gordon, and feel convinced that if you desire any happiness in the future, you must try to conquer this attachment as something not worthy of your pursuance. Strive to lose sight of your private feelings in the matter—trample them down, push them to one side, think only of your high birth and connections, and the wishes, breathed by your dying father for your welfare and respectability; and make up your mind to do the right thing, and fulfil the expectations which your family have formed for you. This folly must be rooted up altogether; did it result in marriage it would sink you like a stone—and if you even allow it to stand in the way of your making a more suitable connection, it will entail next door to poverty upon you. My dear brother! pray be advised by me—put it out of your head as soon as ever you can, and begin to look about you for the most creditable means by which you may enter upon your inheritance.”

“Sooner said than done,” said Gordon Romilly, huskily, as he rose from his seat, and leaned out of the bedroom window, “it seems a strange thing to me, Preston, that a man is not to be trusted to choose for himself in such matters, even at the age of five-and-twenty.”

“Do you think so?” returned his brother, with a smile; “I, on the contrary, consider it a mercy that in this world we are not always left to our own impulses; marriage would much oftener turn out happily were it made more a matter of deliberation and less of passion than it is at present. It is very seldom, Gordon—” Mr. Preston Romilly had risen also by this time, and was apparently about to make a move, “that we find it possible, in such an union, to combine those two great desirabilities, love and our own advantage; and when it has to be a choice between the two, depend upon it, the last-named wears the longer.”

“You never gave the other a trial.” replied the A.D.C., sullenly.

“I did not, I confess it; I was wise enough to look out for the main chance, and have not yet repented my choice. What difference do you think it makes to a man, Gordon, three months after marriage, whether his wife is young or old, fat or thin, pretty or commonplace? He is tired of making love to her, under any circumstances, by that time, and begins to long for his old friends, his old amusements, and his old occupations, again! And if his friends have cut him, and he has no money wherewith to pursue either his amusements or his occupations, what then? Do you imagine that a pretty face or a few caressing words will make up to him for the loss of these? If you do, you must know less of the world and human nature than I gave you credit for.”

A shrug of the shoulders from Gordon Romilly was all the answer that his brother got; and then the elder man moved towards the door.

“Well! I’m going now, my dear fellow, for I promised to drive in the park at four o’clock, with Maria and Lady Rose, but I do hope you will think seriously over what I have said. I know of no means by which you could sooner divert your mind, and cure yourself of any love-sick fancies you may be harbouring, than by the contraction of such a marriage as your father hoped to see you make. And with respect to the one Erskine urged upon your notice the night of your return home, I don’t see how you could possibly do better. By the way, do you feel inclined to take my place this afternoon in the barouche?”

With an expression, at once unpremeditated, unfraternal, and unreligious, Gordon Romilly hurled a negative at his ecclesiatical brother’s head, which sent him flying downstairs, lest the last part of their conference should have been overheard, and taken as criterion of the whole. And then the A.D.C. returned to his position by the open window, and leant from it, taking in the narrow view of bricked yards, chimney-pots, and leaden cisterns, as he gloomily reviewed the conversation he had just held with Preston, and attempted to persuade himself that the sweet idyll upon the Nilgiri Hills, of which Véronique had formed the central and the most attractive portion, was not fading fast upon the back-ground of his life, and receding further and further from him every day.

He gazed out on the stunted, blackened trees, of London growth, and watched the dingy cats creeping along from one wall to the next, and tried to disbelieve that between him and her already was a great gulf fixed, across which neither might stretch loving arms to reach the other. He burned with shame when he thought he could resign her for a lump of gold, but he shuddered at the prospect of retaining her in mutual poverty; he loved the flesh-pots and the leeks of Egypt, and he could not reconcile himself to the idea of losing everything that he most valued, for a woman’s sake.

At one moment, as the eyes of Véronique seemed to peer wistfully into his own, and he heard her soft voice say, “mon Gordon!” he swore beneath his breath that no power on earth should ever make him give her up; but at the next, a vision of the little bungalow upon the barren hills, of an existence isolated, monotonous, and save for love, devoid of all attraction, clashed with that of a luxurious home surrounded by the varied charms of town life and town companions; until he felt that though the one might be a brief elysium for him, the other was a real necessity.

But then, to put its light out, came a thought of the girl whom he had really learned to love, left to herself, and the entreaties of her suitors, of her hope in his affection, her trust in his fidelity, dying slowly day by day, until she came to look upon herself as lost, and in defence against despair, yielded to the solicitations of David or some other creature, waiting to take occasion of her first weak moment, and gave away the hand she had considered his.

This was a prospect which he could not contemplate, until he remembered that it must be one thing or the other; that he must either hold Véronique against the world, or resign her to her own devices—either shelter her in his bosom on a hundred and fifty a year—or give her up entirely, and try to lose the thought of what she had been to him, in the embraces of another woman and the happiness to be acquired for thirty thousand pounds.

Halting between two opinions thus, wavering first to one side and then the other, torn by conflicting thoughts, both threatening by turn to gain the mastery over him, Gordon Romilly lingered by the open window until the dusk had fallen, and the echo of children’s voices in the square had ceased, and the return of the carriage from the park with the lively remarks of Lady Rose as she climbed the staircase leading to her dressing-room, recalled him to a sense of his position and told him that it must be time to dress for dinner.

Turning from the window with a sigh, although at the same moment he yawned and stretched himself to make believe that nothing was the matter, he caught sight of the half-scribbled paper in his blotting-book, and seizing hold of it with an energy apparently quite unworthy of the occasion, tore it vehemently into a dozen pieces and scattered them far and wide into the open air.

Then as he watched them slowly part from him, borne gradually away by the breathless air of June; floating out of sight as though loath to disappear; a sudden thought that in like manner, he was casting from him something far more valuable than written words, or wealth, or luxury, or refinement, struck upon the very core of his pusillanimous heart, and with an oath at what he considered his weakness, Gordon Romilly threw himself across his desk, and with his hot face buried in his hands, shed tears.

He could neither hold her like a man nor resign her like a man. He was precisely in the same predicament that he had been when he first thought of marrying Véronique.

His conscience had reproached him then, but still he married her; his conscience reproached him now, and yet—he will desert her!

“Unstable as water,” the curse which was pronounced on Reuben, might have been as aptly said of him that (except in folly) he should “never excel.”

Chapter V

At Compton Grange

As soon as Captain Romilly had made up his mind—as much, that is to say, as so vacillating a mind is capable of being made up—that if he had any regard for his own advantage, he must try and resign all thoughts of Véronique Moore, he evinced an unaccountable restlessness to get out of town. After the first week of his arrival there he had been afraid to go near his club, from dread of having a letter from her which should shake his newly-formed determination, put into his hand; and yet he was so anxious to know if she had written, and what she had said, that, two or three times a day, he would start from home with the intention of enquiring, and returning to the house without having done so, out of temper with himself and the world, would display such evil humours that Lady Rose Sellon, (little as she cared for anything but his outward man,) would be almost ready to admit that the A.D.C., however handsome, was not worth the trouble she was taking to secure him. His propositions at this period were almost as changeable as his demeanour.

One morning he would announce that he was about to start for Scotland, to pay a visit to his mother’s family; the next to Winchester, to see his brother officers, or to Shoeburyness to stay a month with Stanhope; and on the third, to the amazement of the breakfast-table, would declare his intention of writing out to India to resign his staff appointment, and applying for leave to return to his regimental duty. Mr. Romilly became more despairing of him every day. He was quite certain that Gordon was going to give respectability again the slip, and enter on his old career, regardless of the feelings of anyone but himself. But Lady Maria gallantly threw herself into the breach.

“Your brother and Rose don’t seem to be getting on very fast together,” she said one evening in the confidence of the four-poster, “let me leave town before yourself this season, Erskine! There is nothing for us to do here, and the weather is abominably warm; I will take the children with your brother and Rose down to Compton Grange, where you can follow us as soon as your duties will permit; and depend upon it, if there is ever to be anything between them, it will come to a head in the country much sooner than here.”

Mr. Romilly admitted the sense of his wife’s suggestion, and on the following day put it before the unsettled mind of the A.D.C.

“Maria and Rose are tired of London, Gordon; and are going with the children to Compton Grange for a breath of fresh air. If it were not for my parliamentary duties I should, of course, accompany them, but as it is, I am bound to remain here until the House is dissolved. Will you therefore have the kindness to take charge of them for me? You have been expressing a wish, I think, for change, and the Earl and Countess will be charmed to see you at the Grange,”

The bait took. Gordon Romilly, relinquishing the idea of Scotland, Winchester, or Shoeburyness, prepared for croquet parties, strawberry feasts, and such innocent amusements as were not inconsistent with their late bereavement, instead. He accompanied his sister-in-law and Lady Rose Sellon down to Compton Grange, looked after the luggage in the train, and sat in the same carriage with the children, as though he had been the father of a family himself, and woke up on the following morning bound by a voluntary promise to remain the guest of the Earl and Countess of Tor for at least a month.

Compton Grange was one of those charming old-fashioned country places which possess every facility for entertaining a large number of people according to their various tastes, and owners who are never so happy as when they see their guests striving to amuse themselves. It had a croquet lawn, and a lake with pleasure-boats, and a good billiard table, and a stable full of horses. It boasted of a park, where ramblers might conceal themselves for ever, and a labyrinth, where they might wander and be lost, (or pretend to have been so), and various leafy arbours holding only two, and reared for love-making, with large umbrageous trees, which invited the beholder to stretch himself beneath their shade and rest.

And as, in addition to all this, the Earl of Tor, notwithstanding his numerous children, possessed a competency sufficient to lavish every luxury upon his friends, Compton Grange was a very pleasant house to stay at in the melting months of summer. The house was full of guests, and picnics, botanising excursions, and riding parties to the various places of note in the neighbourhood were being organised every day; but though Lady Maria Romilly generally contrived on such occasions that her sister Rose and her brother-in-law should be thrown together, their courtship did not appear to make much progress; for if, led away at one moment by the attraction of her thrilling glances and the infection of her deep-drawn sighs, the A.D.C. responded to his fair companion’s real, or studied interest in him, at the next, some chance allusion or some fleeting thought, by recalling his memory of Véronique, would make him quickly withdraw the eyes which he had fixed, or drop the hand which he had taken, until Lady Rose began almost to despair of ever claiming his attention for more than five minutes at a time. But one afternoon when, under the pretence of searching for some specimens of botany, she had persuaded him to join her in a ramble in the park, she almost thought the hour had come for him to make his wishes known.

It had been a sultry day, with little sun, the atmosphere was soft and languid, and not a breath of air stirred the heavy foliage of the trees. Lady Rose, flushed with the heat, excited by the occasion, and robed in a light diaphanous dress, over which her brown hair fell in tangled curls, looked so handsome, and made such desperate love to Gordon Romilly, that had it not been for the simple accident of a word, it is probable her expectations would have been fulfilled. But as she was leaning on his arm, and looking up into his face with her full brown eyes, she saw his blue ones catch a portion of their fire, and commence to sparkle in return, and Lady Rose was too accomplished a strategist not to know that the juncture had arrived when the exhibition of a little bashfulness would stand her in good stead. And so she withdrew her gaze with an affectation of timidity, and with another affectation of confusion, stopped short, professing to look for something in the hedge.

“Don’t turn away from me,” exclaimed the A.D.C., made bold by her advances to him. “What is it that you want, Rose, let me pick it for you,” and he thrust his head beside hers, so as to look again into her countenance.

“I thought I saw—I mean I wanted—” she commenced, averting her face as though to hide her blushes, and then burying it in her hands. “Oh! Captain Romilly, pray don’t look at me like that, you really make me so nervous that I don’t know what I mean,” and Lady Rose laughingly shook her curls over her eyes, and thought to herself that it was surely coming now.

“Do you know what I mean?” said Gordon Romilly, led away by the excitement of the moment, “do you know, Rose, that—”

“Oh! don’t! she cried, with mock alarm, as she professed to stop her ears, “pray, pray don’t, Captain Romilly! I cannot listen to you, I do not wish to hear it; I only wanted a tiny flower from the hedge;” and confident that her device would hasten rather than retard the A.D.C.’s proposal, Lady Rose Sellon darted on a bunch of common speedwell, and held it up before him. She had better far have left him to conclude his sentence.

“Look here!” she said, speaking rapidly, as if to cover her maidenly confusion, “this is the blue speedwell, is it not, the same flower which they call abroad the ‘véronique?’ Maria says it is the shepherd’s purse, and will insist that ‘véronique’ is quite another species; but this is it, is it not, Captain Romilly? You ought to know, who have travelled so much about the world.”

He had been so close to her when she commenced this sentence, that their shoulders touched; he had been so nearly stepping on the limed twig set for him, that he had even contemplated an assault upon her upturned mouth; but as the foreign term for “speedwell” left her lips, he changed colour, turned away from her abruptly, and took a few steps forward. This action cast cold water on the eloquence of Lady Rose. Fearful lest she should have over-acted her part, for a moment she stood where he had left her, in silent expectation; but seeing that the A.D.C. strode on, without betraying any consciousness that she was not beside him, she exclaimed, indignantly:

“Captain Romilly!”

Her voice recalled him to himself. He stopped, looked back, and returned to the spot where he had left her.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, stammering. “I really beg your pardon, Lady Rose! This is one of my abominable fits of absence, and I forgot for the moment you were not walking with me. I think you were asking me about this flower, but I am no botanist. I have often seen it in the hedgerows, but until you mentioned it, I did not even know its English name, Do you think it pretty? it appears very common and insignificant to me.”

But Lady Rose was not to be appeased in a moment.

“No! I don’t think it pretty!” she said, throwing the unoffending “speedwell” over the hedge, “and I feel dreadfully tired, Captain Romilly, and I intend to go home. No!” seeing him turn as though to accompany her, “I don’t wish you to go with me, thank you: I am tired of talking as well as walking, and would rather be alone.”

“Are you in earnest?” he said, though without appearing to resent her decision, “else I shall be happy, of course, to escort you!

“Yes, of course,” echoed Lady Rose, “but I should not be happy to have you, so you can save yourself the trouble,” and in another minute, her white dress had fluttered away from his side, and was lost amongst the trees.

He did not attempt to follow her, he only waited until she was out of sight, before he picked up the bunch of wild field blossoms which she had cast away from her, and looked into their innocent, blue eyes, recalling others, almost as blue and innocent, and put them in his breast with a deep sigh. This incident, slight as it appears, affected Gordon Romilly more than anything which had occurred since he had come to Compton Grange; it had seemed such sacrilege to hear the name of Véronique from the lips of the woman, for whom, a prophetic instinct whispered to him he should be false to her: such an insult to see her fling the namesake flowers so scornfully across the hedge, although she could not know the significance they bore for him. He wandered up and down the park, thinking of the proposal into which the charms of Lady Rose had so nearly betrayed him, until the gong sounded to recall all wanderers to dinner. And as he obeyed the summons, he resolved that he would take the first opportunity of telling his host that business of importance carried him in another direction, and seek a refuge from the attacks of his fair enslaver, in the hospitality of his brother Stanhope. When he descended to the drawing-room it was full of guests, but he looked in vain for Lady Rose. Generally she had been ready enough to embrace any occasion of talking with him, and the spare time before dinner he had considered especially his own: but on this day, she did not appear till quite the last, and then, although she was evidently armed for conquest, being dressed with the greatest care, and apparently in the best of spirits, she directed all her attention to others. More than once did Gordon Romilly, conscious that by his conduct in the park, he had offended her, strive to catch her eyes, and assure himself he was forgiven: but Lady Rose Sellon’s brown orbs were always turned in the opposite direction, and generally beaming upon some other man, and the A.D.C., although he had just resolved that he would leave the Grange in order to avoid her attentions, chafed under the idea that she had voluntarily withdrawn them, and sulked by himself on an ottoman, in one of the bay windows in consequence.

“Halloa, Romilly!” exclaimed the host, as the party sat down to dinner, and he caught sight of the A.D.C., “why, where have you been hiding yourself? I looked round the room half a dozen times for you, up stairs, but could see you nowhere. I wanted to introduce you to a great friend of mine, Major Taylor,” here the Earl intimated with his hand, a small, spare gentleman on his right, and the small, spare gentleman bowed. “He’s just home from India, and though he tells me he never met you there, I daresay that you’ll find some topic of mutual interest to talk about.”

Here, Gordon Romilly, who had been watching some bye-play between Lady Rose Sellon and a handsome young lordling cousin, whom she permitted to take, what he considered, very unpardonable liberties with her, directed his observation to Major Taylor, and thought he looked very unlike a promising subject with whom to discuss topics of mutual interest, though in obedience to his host’s request, he did his best to start a conversation with him.

But here the A.D.C. signally failed to make himself agreeable. What between the divided attention caused by Lady Rose’s flirtation, and the abuse which he commenced by levelling at the Major’s adopted country, the talk soon degenerated into a discussion which threatened to disturb the tranquillity of the Earl’s dinner-table, and to interfere with the appetite of at least one of the belligerents.

Major Taylor was a man who could not talk over a subject which annoyed him, quietly, and the dislike evinced by most Englishmen to Her Majesty’s possessions in the east, was his greatest sore. The country which fed them, the country which clothed them, the country which paid them, he could not find enough to say against those miscreants who eat of her bread and her salt, and yet said she was the most detestable country in the world. The Major fumed and spluttered over his favourite topic and forgot to eat and to drink in his anxiety to prove that India was quite as desirable a residence as England, and for some reasons, more so; whilst his cool, nonchalant looking antagonist leant back in his chair, occasionally drawing out an “ah!” or an “oh!” or “I’m glad you think so!” but not permitting the discussion to interfere in the slightest degree with the process of his digestion, until indeed, Lady Rose took the side of the opposite party, and leaving the lordling cousin to take care of himself, directed the battery of her glances upon the little Major, agreeing emphatically with every point which he advanced, and crying “bravo” when Romilly was worsted in the argument. Then the A.D.C. might have been seen to fill up his glass rather more frequently than he had done before: and had the Major allowed him to do so, he would have been glad at this juncture, to retire from the conversation.

But Lady Rose Sellon would not permit of such a thing. She saw that the turn matters were taking annoyed Captain Romilly, and she urged the fiery Anglo-Indian by every means in her power, to persevere until his adversary should be defeated.

At sight of her party spirit and the smiles with which she strove to inspire his opponent, the A.D.C. waxed warm, and throwing off his armour of reserve, abused the East, its habits, manners, and customs, so roundly, that the Major grew perfectly furious, and for the comfort of the whole dinner-table, the Earl thought himself bound to interfere, and beg his guests to change the subject. He thought it very unlikely, he said, that two gentlemen who had seen the country of India under such different aspects, the one having spent almost all his life there, and the other only a few months, should view it with the same eyes: but he did not see himself why each should not hold his own opinion on that topic, and still remain the best of friends and acquaintances. Upon which, Major Taylor, and Captain Romilly, bowed to each other; and the former, still simmering with indignation, sought relief by recounting the delights of Indian life into the sympathising ears of Lady Rose; whilst the A.D.C. re-applied himself to his comforter, the decanter, and drank a great deal more than was good for him. Annoyed by the incident of the afternoon, vexed by that which had just occurred, and jealous at the partiality affected by Lady Rose for her handsome cousin, and the little Indian Major, Gordon Romilly sat silent and sulkily, during the rest of dinner, and when it was finally concluded and the gentlemen rose from their wine, to join the ladies in the drawing-room, he stumbled up from his seat, none the clearer for the liquor he had imbibed, and walked out upon the cool, fresh lawn, the blades of which were heavy with the dew of night. The moon was shining brilliantly, and every leaf and flower beneath her light was as apparent as by day.

Gordon Romilly seemed to breath freer, as he stood beneath her rays; he ran his fingers through his heated hair, and was not certain why he should feel miserable, or whether he felt miserable at all; but all his thoughts (such as they were,) dwelt on Rose Sellon and the trick which she had played him; and the idyll of the Nilgiri Hills had, for the moment, melted quite away. He stood for a few minutes thus, stupidly regarding the moon, and the sheet of light she threw across the lawn, and thinking, it can scarce be said on anything particular, until his attention was attracted by the gleaming of a white dress which flitted past the sheet of moonlight, and disappeared beneath the drooping branches of a large acacia tree.

He knew whose dress it was; if he had not dulled his faculties by wine, he might have guessed why it was there; but he blundered after it, desirous of nothing but an explanation, and came on Lady Rose—Lady Rose pensive and alone, with tears upon her cheek!

Chapter VI

An Awakening

Véronique, opening her eyes from the swoon in which her husband had left her, saw Père Joseph sitting by her bedside, and watching her recovery with a look of deep solicitude. She guessed at once that Romilly was gone.

“Il est parti,” she said, as she lay back upon her pillow with a heavy sigh.

“Yes! my child, he is gone,” replied Père Joseph, in their familiar language, “but it is to bring thee wealth, and a position far above thine expectations. Think of that, Véronique, and be comforted.”

“I wanted but himself,” she answered wearily.

“True, because thou art a woman; but had thy husband nothing but thyself, he would soon weary of thee. Men want something else beside their wives, Véronique, they crave for money, and a station in the world, and a name to leave their children. The brave good Romilly loves thee, he will return before long to claim thee for his wife; and till then, if thou wouldst guard his secret, thou must be brave also, and not let strangers see that thou art suffering.”

“They shall not,” said the girl resolutely, as she rose from her recumbent position, and tottered to a chair. “Gor-don shall have a wife as courageous as himself. But tell me, mon père, upturning a white face, full of piteous entreaty, “how long shall I have to endure this? For how many months must I watch before I see his eyes look in mine again, or hear his voice call ‘Véronique?’ Let me know the worst at once, that I may say to each hour as it goes, ‘there are but so many more before I live again.’” Her uncle could not bear to meet the pleading eyes she fixed upon him, knowing himself powerless to give her comfort, and whilst he answered her, he turned away his own.

“That is impossible for me to tell thee, Véronique; the good Gor-don may be two or three, or even four months absent; who can decide when a dying man is in the case? but depend upon it, as soon as ever he is able, he will return to thy side, and expect to find thee cheerful and in health.”

“How could I be otherwise than cheerful when we meet again?” she answered quickly, “but I shall hear from him, mon père! How soon is it possible I can receive a letter?”

“In a couple of months,” replied the priest more briskly. “It will take thy Gordon one month to reach his native land, and he promises to write as soon as ever he arrives there.”

“Two months? two, long, weary months before I can even hear from him!” exclaimed the girl despondently, “oh! mon Dieu! c’est plus que je nen pourrai supporter,” And overwhelmed with grief at the prospect, she burst into a flood of tears. But her uncle soothed and consoled her, and held up the bright side of the picture with such skill to her imagination, that he almost made her believe that two months was a period so brief that it would be over, before she had realised it had begun, and quieted by his assurances, Véronique washed the traces of sorrow from her countenance, and went downstairs as usual to prepare his supper. But when the time arrived for her to retire to the couch which Romilly had forsaken, the flood-gates of her grief were again unlocked. She watered the pillow where his head had lain but the previous night, with her tears, and finally fell asleep, with swollen eyelids and stained cheeks, like a child exhausted with sobbing, clasping the sacred pillow to her breast.

The next morning brought the Pegu pony, and with it, the note written by Gordon Romilly from the Ootacamund Hotel, and Véronique became almost as excited with delight, as she had been the day before with sorrow. She kissed the note, she kissed the pony, she could almost have kissed the horsekeeper who brought them to her. The dear, dear note which he had written with his own hand so short a time before, which commenced, “My darling Véronique,” and ended with, “Your own Gordon;” she embraced it, she wept over it, she hid it away in her bosom as the most sacred treasure she possessed. And then the pony, the brave Pegu which had brought her lover to her, which had carried him so often on his stout little back, did he know that her Gor-don was gone from both of them, and that no hand but hers should feed him till his master came again?

This proof of remembrance from him whom she regarded as her husband, this last assurance that he loved and thought of her, this entreaty that for his sake she would be brave and patient, seemed to call forth all the heroism lying dormant in the simple breast of Véronique. The same virtue which had enabled her to retain her presence of mind when the missionary’s child was killed, and when the cheetah disputed the right of way with Gordon and herself, came to her assistance now, and from that day, if she gave way to fruitless tears, it was in the privacy of her own chamber, for she never shed them before Père Joseph; and, excepting that she did not quite regain her old light-hearted mirthfulness, little difference was to be observed in her demeanour.

It had been Captain Romilly’s wish that after his departure she should resign the household duties which hitherto had fallen to her share; and his wish was law to her, though she regretted he had thought it necessary.

“It would have been something to divert my mind, mon père,” she said when alluding to it, “but if Gor-don’thinks that it will spoil my hands, of course it must not be. Yet, I hope he will not vex himself if I continue to prepare your suppers. You would not relish them if cooked by any stranger, would you? and for me it is a pleasure to think of, and to dress them to your taste.”

And so Véronique retained that portion of the daily work; and excepting, as the priest observed, that she devoted one hour every morning to praying in the little chapel for the safety of her absent husband, her time passed much the same as it had done before her marriage.

But when David returned from his visit to Coimbatore, Père Joseph and his niece had a harder part to play. It had been an especial stipulation of the A.D.C., that the young native should not be admitted into the family confidence, and although the priest had more than once attempted to shake his resolution, Captain Romilly had enforced it to the last. He disliked David exceedingly, for reasons already mentioned; he distrusted as well as disliked him, and believed on account of his race that he must needs be crafty, treacherous, and revengeful. But he had altogether mistaken his character. The native was a man; he was very fond of Véronique, and the attentions of the Englishman to her had naturally called forth his worst feelings; yet, once convinced that she preferred the stranger to himself, he would have been the first to promise never to annoy her more. But now, ignorant of all that had taken place since his departure, he returned from Coimbatore, not hopefully, but certainly not despairingly, although the priest seized an early opportunity to assure his adopted son that he must never mention the subject of marriage to Véronique again.

“Is she so very averse to me, then, mon père?” demanded the young man mournfully.

“She loves thee as a brother, David, but she will never look on thee in any other light,” replied Père Joseph. “Be assured that what I say is true; put all thoughts of such a thing out of thy head, for it will only bring thee to misery and perhaps to crime.”

“Never to crime, mon père!” said David gravely; “be not afraid of that! But surely thou wouldest not grudge me hope,—hope, which is not denied to the greatest wretch who breathes.”

“But there is no hope for thee, mon fils!” replied the priest sadly, for he dearly loved his native child.

“Whilst there is life, there is hope,” responded the young man more cheerfully; “and remember, mon père, that thou speakest of a woman. I will not worry her. I will not say one word more to Véronique upon the subject of my love; but I will wait, and I will love her, though in secret, and some day le bon Dieu may send me what my heart is thirsting for.”

“No, no! my son,” exclaimed the priest earnestly; “thou must not even love her, in that way; for believe me when I say that Véronique is not for thee. She never will be thine; it is impossible; I would not give her to thee, there! take that as my final answer,” and Père Joseph, with a view to ending the colloquy, which was becoming painful to him, waved his hand hastily and was silent.

As he heard the words all the blood in David’s body seemed to rush into his dark handsome face, and he rose from the seat, as though to leave the room.

“I understand thee, mon père,” he said, in a broken voice, “it is this blood,” extending his bare arm, “this cursed black blood, which may not mingle with the stream of hers; and it must be cursed indeed since thou canst think it so—”

“No, no! David, my son! it is not that,” interposed the priest; but the native’s passions were aroused, and he would not stop to listen.

“Did I ask thee to save me from the fangs of the jackal or the pariah-dog?” he asked indignantly; “thou hadst better far have left me as a babe to their tender mercies, than have reared me to be a man, with all the desires and feelings of a man, but without a chance of obtaining the blessings which are showered so lavishly upon his fellow-creatures,” and saying thus, David rushed from the apartment, and did not appear again for several hours, leaving the priest in great trouble and distress of mind, though quite ignorant of what means should be employed to cure the native of his unfortunate attachment.

But when David had been a few days at home, he could not fail to observe the many articles of luxury which had been added to the bungalow since his departure, and hearing who had given them, again excited his suspicions with regard to the A.D.C.

“I see a pony in the stables,” he said to Véronique on one occasion, “and handsome furniture about the rooms, and a jewelled ring upon thy hand,” for Véronique wore her wedding ring against her heart, and the sapphire hoop upon her marriage finger, “and when I ask where they all came from, I am told from Captain Romilly. Is it usual, Véronique, for English gentlemen to scatter presents on all sides of them like this? Tell me, pray, for I know nothing of such things, remember; I am but a native.”

Véronique, hurt at his sarcastic manner, and blushing under his enquiries, reminded him that Captain Rornilly had been nursed beneath their roof when sick, and that it was not surprising he should wish to show Père Joseph he was mindful of his kindness. But the native was still unconvinced of the necessity of such lavish generosity.

“He must have thought mon père needed a great many reminders of his gratitude,” he answered scornfully; “and why did he place that ring upon thy finger, Véronique? is that also to shew Père Joseph that his hospitality is not forgotten?”

“How know you that he placed it there?” said Véronique, resenting the close catechism to which she was being subjected. “It is enough for you, mon frère, that Père Joseph knew that Monsieur Gor-don offered me the gift, and approved of my accepting it,” and she moved from David’s side with the air of a little queen, leaving him in a twofold state of misery from the information she had given him, and the way in which she had afforded it.

But as the period drew near when Véronique expected to receive her first letter from England, a great change came over her demeanour. She lost the serene aspect which, with few exceptions, she had invariably maintained since the departure of her husband, and displayed instead a constant restlessness, which never permitted her to keep to one occupation for more than a few minutes at a time. Since she had more leisure on her hands—(Père Joseph had accounted to David for the appearance of the native servant by saying that he thought his niece had formerly been a little overtasked)—she had tried to further her education (that she might not disgrace her Gordon when he came to claim her) by reading such books as the bungalow possessed, and learning German with her uncle, a smattering of which she had already acquired from him.

But now, she was too anxious and uneasy to fix her thoughts on anything, and being compelled to avoid an open expression of her feelings, rendered them doubly harassing to bear. She rode into the Cantonment almost every day to enquire whether the mail had yet arrived, and was sometimes driven to her wits’ end to account to David for the abstracted gaze and look of watchfulness, of which he was constantly accusing her.

At last the mail came in, and when Véronique was convinced that it had brought no letter for her, the violence of her grief was terrible. Not that she doubted for a moment that Gordon Romilly had written to her, or that he would have done so if he could, but she thought first that he must have been drowned upon the passage home—swallowed up by the devouring element whose fury haunted her dreams—and when Père Joseph procured a newspaper, and showed her the name of Captain Romilly in print, as having reached Marseilles in safety, she was then convinced that he was sick, that he had fallen ill through grief at separating from her, or that his letter, his precious longed-for letter, had miscarried, or been stolen on the way.

Nothing but her uncle’s oft-repeated warning, that by giving way to every disappointment she incurred, she would bring suspicion on herself, and betray her cherished husband’s secret, had the power to make the poor girl conquer her distress; but after a few days of unmitigated gloom, hope and trust gained the ascendency of her interrupted cheerfulness, and she was looking forward with the buoyancy of youth to the arrival of the next mail, which Père Joseph (who merely thought that Gordon Romilly had been too hurried to write immediately) assured her would be certain to bring the desired news.

At that period the mails between India and England only plied once a fortnight, and for two weeks Véronique lived upon expectation, only to be again disappointed. This time the priest was also seriously annoyed, although he attributed the default of the A.D.C. entirely to carelessness. He was a young, thoughtless man, and doubtless had met with many distractions on his first arrival at home; yet he might have remembered what a loving little heart he had left behind him, and how anxiously she would be looking out for news of his well-doing.

But to Véronique Père Joseph said, that it must be by reason of his father’s illness, which, if at its height, would leave him probably no time for writing letter

“What! not to me?” she pleaded, “not one line, mon père? Ah! thou dost not know my Gor-don, or thou wouldst not think so. No, he is ill! I am sure that he is ill, and longing for me, and I have not the means of going to my husband.”

Her uncle, as before, said all he could to comfort her, but, from that date, Véronique fell a victim to the fever of suspense. She never complained of feeling ill or miserable, and she said little to Père Joseph, even when he encouraged her to talk about her trouble to him, but she lost her appetite and spirits, her flesh began to waste away, and dark circles, (those sure signs of inward care), appeared about her eyes. She spent half her time writing long letters to her husband—letters which when completed, she would think she could write better, and tear up, to begin anew—letters which, even when despatched, never reached the unworthy hands of the man for whom they were intended.

The third mail now arrived, but still brought not a word from Captain Romilly; more than three months had elapsed from the date of his departure from the hills, and Père Joseph, to his annoyance added anger, and a little alarm; but Véronique said not a syllable. This third disappointment, although it must have weighed on her as heavily as the first and second, had not the same power to arouse the tempest of her grief, but it seemed to chill her very life-blood with despair, and put the seal upon her misery; yet she would hear nothing in the A.D.C’s disfavour.

He was not careless, nor idle, nor thoughtless; he had not permitted friends, nor amusements, nor business, to come between them; if Père Joseph could say so, if he could but for a moment seriously think so, he had not the slightest idea of the warmth, and the depth, and the truth, of her Gor-don’s love for her. But he was ill; he had fallen perhaps dangerously ill, and it was her misery to be absent from him, and unacknowledged. And then the poor child, with tearless eyes, but hollow, careworn cheeks, would creep away from the priest’s side, into the little chapel, and throwing herself prostrate on the paved floor, wrestle in prayer for the preservation of her husband’s life.

When the fourth mail came in, it found Père Joseph pacing up and down before the post-office at Ootacamund, feverishly anxious for the opening of the bags. They were examined, but still there was no letter. The old man grew nearly frantic; a horrible suspicion that the Englishman had not really loved his child, seized upon his mind, and he thirsted to ascertain whether any one else in the cantonment had heard from him since his departure—whether cither of his friends had had a letter, or received any news of his doings or whereabouts. He pondered for a long time on the best means of succeeding in this object, but although he knew that there were gentlemen staying at the hotel, who had been acquainted with Captain Romilly, it was difficult to find a valid excuse for putting such a question to them. At last he thought of one, and, whilst blushing for the subterfuge to which he was obliged to resort, trusted, that for the cause, it might be forgiven him, and, going up to the hotel, asked to speak with Mr. Daniels; who, happening to be within, walked out to meet him at the door, and politely enquired what he could do for him.

“I think I have seen you before,” he added, “you are the Roman Catholic padre, aren’t you? at least I believe that Captain Romilly told me so.”

“He told you right, sir,” replied Père Joseph, “that is the name by which I am known upon the Hills; and it is respecting Captain Romilly that I have ventured to trespass upon your attention—you know that he has gone home, sir. Can you give me his address in England?”

“What! does he owe you any money?” demanded Daniels, who could imagine no other reason for such a request coming from such a quarter.

“Do I look as though I could lend gentlemen money, sir?” replied Père Joseph, with a smile. “No, it is not that, but Captain Romilly visited me, at my bungalow, shortly before his departure, and he left a piece of property behind him, concerning which I should like to write to him.”

“What was it that he left?” said Mr. Daniels, curtly.

“Nothing of much consequence, sir; only a crucifix.”

“A crucifix! why, what the devil should Romilly want with a crucifix?”

“He is a Catholic,” replied the priest, quickly.

“Captain Romilly a Catholic!” exclaimed Mr. Daniels; “you can’t mean the same man that I do then!”

“I mean the gentleman who was aide-de-camp to the Governor of Madras, sir.”

“Well, he’s no more a Catholic (if you mean a Roman Catholic) than I am.”

“But I assure you, you must be mistaken,” urged the priest. “Captain Romilly has done me the honour to stay in my house, sir, so I ought to know.”

“Well, it’s the first I ever heard of it,” replied the young man, laughing, “though it is not of much consequence. Colonel!” he exclaimed, as an elderly gentleman crossed the hall, “here’s Romilly been stuffing up the priest that he’s a Roman Catholic! Now, is it the case? You are acquainted with his whole family, and ought to know.”

“What! Gordon Romilly, who was here the other day?” said Colonel Greene, advancing to the door-step, “of course he is not. His father was of the Bournemouth family, and they’ve all been staunch Protestants from the very first. He must have said so for a joke, my friend!” he added, turning to Père Joseph, who was almost speechless at this information.

“But—but—” he gasped, “might not the gentleman in question have entered the Romish Church at any time, sir? He is of age, he may have chosen to judge for himself.”

“I don’t know what his intentions may be for the future,” returned the Colonel, smiling, “but I am quite sure that Captain Romilly is not a member of your church at the present moment. But what has this to do with your business here? Is it anything in which I can assist you?”

“It was his crucifix—his crucifix!” said Père Joseph, hardly knowing what he said, in the agony of the discovery he had just made; “but it matters little, sir, it matters little.”

“But you want the address of Captain Romilly, do you not?” enquired Daniels, who was touched by the appearance of the old priest’s disappointment. “I have not got it, I do not correspond with him; but perhaps the Colonel does—is it so, Colonel?”

“I do not, but I could procure it if I tried.”

“It matters little, gentlemen, it matters little,” repeated Père Joseph, in the same broken voice, and bowing to them, he moved slowly away, and left the hotel garden.

“How dreadfully cut up the poor old gentleman appears,” said Mr. Daniels, as he returned with Colonel Greene into the house. “If Romilly has been playing any of his tricks upon him, I think it is a shame.”

“More likely he is vexed at the thought of losing a disciple,” replied the Colonel. “These Roman Catholics are red-hot after converts, and would not even despair of such a hopeless case as Romilly.”

“They must be enthusiastic!” was Mr. Daniels’ observation. Meanwhile Père Joseph was dragging his weary steps home to his bungalow. The news which he had received of Romilly’s faith, had crushed him like a stone, for at one glance he had taken in the height and depth, the length and breadth of the calamity which threatened to overwhelm him. Yet he would not tell what he had heard to Véronique, he could not bear to quench out the light in her young life at one fell stroke; he must wait, he must be patient, all sense of honour and justice could not be dead in Captain Romilly’s breast, he might have wronged his darling, but he would surely see her righted before long. He almost crawled the distance which lay between the cantonment and his home, and when he reached it, and found himself alone with Véronique, he sunk down exhausted in a chair, unable even to address her. She, knowing for what reason he had left the bungalow, and seeing the condition in which he returned to it, thought that the worst had happened.

“Say it quickly!” she panted, as she dragged herself to his feet, and lifted eyes of agony to meet his own. “Put me out of pain, mon père, tell me where he died and how, and I will try to bear it.”

This passionate appeal recalled Père Joseph to his senses.

“He is not dead, my child!” he said, affectionately, reproaching himself for giving her an extra pang, “for aught I know to the contrary, he is well and happy; but I have heard nothing, Véronique, there is no letter. God pity you, my lamb!”

She gave a quick gasping sigh as he pronounced the blessing on her, but his information, after all that she had dreaded, came as a relief.

“It is disheartening, but we must be patient,” she whispered, wearily. “As long as I believe he lives, mon père, I shall never lose my patience nor my hope. The sea may divide us, accidents or illness or enemies come between us, but it cannot be for ever. Gor-don loves me!” she continued, clasping her hands and glancing upwards with a look, almost of ecstacy, upon her pale, thin face; “my husband loves me, and will return to me, although it may be later than we wished for, or we hoped.” And as Père Joseph gazed upon her truthful countenance, he felt he would have given worlds, had they been his, to share the feelings with which it was irradiated.

Chapter VII

Père Joseph Takes a Journey

But before Véronique had had the opportunity to overcome many more such disappointments, another source of deep anxiety presented itself before her. Père Joseph was no bigot, he would have welcomed Gordon Romilly as a Protestant as heartily as he had done when he thought that he professed the same faith as himself; but from the hour that he heard he had been deceived in him, and consequently, that the marriage he had contracted with his niece according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, must be invalid, his health became much enfeebled, and his strength gave way. He was not a young man; for thirty years he had been exposed to the trying temperature of an Indian climate, and though twenty of those years had been spent upon the hills, the variable atmosphere of the Nilgiris does not suit every constitution, and when the mind of the priest began to suffer, his body fell an easy prey to one of those many diseases which are engendered in that country by the heat, and brought to perfection by the rainy season.

The mental malady under which he was labouring he carefully concealed, and it was only from the fact of his ceasing to speak of Gordon Romilly’s return with any hopefulness, that Véronique guessed that he mistrusted him, and thought him harsh towards her absent love in consequence; but the bodily complaint was not so easy to be hidden from the watchful eyes by which he was surrounded.

“Véronique! I begin to be alarmed about mon père,” said David, one morning, after having watched the shrunken figure of the priest depart upon the daily round of visits which he still insisted upon making. “His health does not improve, and it seems to me that he grows feebler every day.”

“Oh! surely, David, you do not think his illness serious?” exclaimed the girl, as she lifted her pale face from the work on which she was employed, and turned on him a look of horror. “You do not think that he is really ill, that there is any chance he will not soon be well again?”

“I may be mistaken, Véronique,” replied the young man, “but I do think so!” and as he concluded the sentence, he leaned thoughtfully upon the hoe he carried in his hand. Véronique burst into tears. In all her troubles she had never dreamt of this, that Père Joseph should go away and leave her to bear them by herself.

“What is it that ails you both?” asked David, earnestly, as he regarded her wasted form, and sunken tear-stained features. “What secret is there, Véronique, between Père Joseph and thyself, that should blanch thy face, and rob thee of thy spirits, and bring him to the level of the grave? I am curious to be told.”

“Secret!” repeated the girl colouring furiously beneath the accusation, “what secret should there be in lives like ours, David? We do the same things, week after week, year after year, until the day comes to lie down and die; and if, as you think, it is so close at hand for Père Joseph, the sooner that it comes to all of us the better,” and Véronique rocked backwards and forwards, moaning at the prospect before her.

“Véronique, dear Véronique! I wish I could console thee!” exclaimed David as he cast his hoe down on the ground, and came round to her side and clasped his dusky hands above her own.

“Thou dost console me, mon frère,” she answered gently, “the thought of thine affection is my best consoler; for when he is gone, what else shall I have to look to?”

Each day with Véronique the conviction was growing stronger either that Gordon Romilly was dead, or that he had been led to believe that she herself was so. She was so simple and so ignorant of the fashion in which the business of this great world is carried on—and Père Joseph had entered so little on the subject with her, lately—that she quite imagined such an event might happen or such a mistake occur, without the information of it reaching across the sea. And if her Gor-don were dead, or lost to her in any other way, and her uncle were about to follow him, she knew that she should have no love to turn to on this earth, except the love of her adopted brother.

The quiet reliance which her tone expressed had made poor David’s heart palpitate with hope, but the feeling was soon changed to disappointment when he heard the term by which she designated him. Since his return from Coimbatore he had never dared to mention the subject of his love for her; but that he had not relinquished the expectation that some day she might confess that it was mutual, was palpable enough to himself whenever he heard her call him by the name of “brother.”

As it struck his ear on the present occasion he rose hastily from the kneeling position he had assumed by her side, and recrossing the room to where he had thrown down his gardening implement, he picked it up again and prepared to quit the bungalow.

“He ought to have medical advice,” he said, alluding to the condition of Père Joseph.

“He must have it,” reiterated Véronique with determination, “and what reason is there that he should not? there is the money!”

“What money?” demanded the native quickly.

She stopped short again, colouring before. She had been thinking of the hundred pounds left by Gordon Romilly for her benefit, but she could not tell David so. Her confusion aroused all Informer suspicion.

“What money?” he re-demanded angrily, striking his hoe against the floor, “is this another secret, Véronique; another proof of the Englishman’s generosity to Père Joseph and thyself? Speak—or thou wilt drive me to think the worst of thee!”

“Oh, David! David!” sobbed the girl, frightened by the energy of his manner, “how unkind, how unreasonable thou art! What have I done that thou shouldst look at me like that? Am I not thy sister as I have ever been? Ah! how unfortunate, how miserable I am! I wish that I might die with mon père, and never see this wretched world again!”

By her tears, by the abandonment of her sorrow, David was softened in an instant. All the fire of jealousy, the scorn of suspicion, the malice of revenge, faded out of his dark face as if by magic; the expression of his eyes, which had become fierce and hard, melted beneath this appeal to his tenderness, and his clenched hands relaxed until they became pliable as those of a child.

“Véronique, ma soeur, forgive me! I am a brute, I am a devil to have frightened thee like this; but there is hot, black blood running in my veins, and I cannot bear even a suspicion of thy perfect truth and purity. Thou hast forbidden me to speak of what I feel for thee,” (as he uttered these words he was aware that the form round which his arms were thrown, drew farther from him, and he bit his lip to hinder his giving vent to the annoyance which the action caused) “but putting all that to one side, remember, Véronique, that whilst I exist thou canst never be alone in this world. If it pleases le bon Dieu to take nôtre père before we feel that we can spare him,” (at this the sobs of Véronique commenced again) “I will work for thee, strive for thee, toil for thee—aye! my arms are strong enough for that if not to hold thy love!—and think myself well paid in knowing that thy brother is nearer to thee than any other living thing. Couldst thou say so much, Véronique, were Père Joseph not alive?”

He regarded her earnestly, peering into her face with his black eyes as though he would be answered, whether she liked the task or no. But Véronique, without the certainty that her beloved was dead, how could she satisfy him?

“I do not know. I cannot tell,” she stammered, “David! I shall always love thee! always look on thee as my best friend! but thou must not ask for more.”

He unloosed the hold which he still maintained about her figure, and heaving a deep sigh, walked out into the little garden.

But Véronique could not forget the conversation they had held about her uncle’s health, and when the priest returned home that day, wearied and unstrung by the performance of duties for which he was no longer capable, and she had carefully administered to his comforts, she placed herself upon a low stool at his feet, and with an averted face ventured to allude to the subject of his illness.

“Mon père!”

“Mon enfant!” was the fond reply, and as he spoke Père Joseph laid his hand upon her head with so tender and fatherly a pressure that the girl had difficulty in proceeding.

“You are not well, mon père, and we are grieved to see it, David and I; and we want you at once to consult a doctor, and to get some medicine to cure yourself.”

“And what if I have already done so, Véronique?”

“You have, and are no better?” she exclaimed looking up in alarm.

“No, mon enfant,” he replied quietly, and the way in which he drew her head down on his knee was intended to soothe and reassure her beneath the misfortune that was coming, “I am not better, and I never shall be. I am going to leave thee, Véronique.’

“Oh! mon père, mon père!” and the worn face, still sheltered by his caressing hand, was turned against his knee and wept there silently. There was a pause of several minutes, and when it was concluded, Père Joseph, as naturally as though no revelation of any moment had passed between them, said—

“And what wilt thou do when I am gone, Véronique?”

“How can I tell—how can I tell?” she said wildly, “I have had no time to think.”

“Think now, my child! Let me speak to thee and advise thee whilst I can. ‘The night cometh when no man may work.’”

“I shall go to England,” she whispered softly. “I shall go to England to find out what has come between my Gor-don and myself; and if he is dead and thou art dead, I care not how soon I may come after you.”

“Mon enfant,” said Père Joseph, sadly, “he is not dead: were it the case, we must have heard of it!”

“Then he thinks that I am so!” she answered, quickly.

“How can that be, my child, when you have written to him regularly, and sent the letters to an address provided by himself.”

“He has not received them,” maintained the girl, confidently.

“What! not one out of half a dozen, or more? Véronique, thou art deceiving thyself.”

She shook her head—though sadly.

“Mon père, I know that some great suspicion has grown up in your breast against my Gor-don, but I cannot share it. I know all that you would tell me, that he might have written, that he might have come, that all has not happened as he said it would, and yet I believe in him. I believe that he is true, that he loves me still, that he mourns for me at this present moment, and that if he could, he would be by my side.”

“But how then do you account for this total silence, this apparent forgetfulness, this desertion, Véronique? Remember! it is five months since he left us!”

She shuddered slightly, but she did not waver.

“I can account for nothing,” she answered, simply, “but mon père, I can believe, I can believe, and trust, and love him,” and with uplifted eyes: “J’en aurai la force, je le jure à genoux.”

“Véronique! I cannot leave thee in such error,” exclaimed the priest excitedly, “he has deceived thee, he has deceived us both, it is impossible it can be otherwise. Oh, my sins! my foul sins of pride and of ambition! how does their heavy punishment weigh me down into the grave. Instead of considering only thine eternal welfare, I hoped to secure for thee a better temporal position, and a station in the world far above what I should have desired. I have not been contented with the simple blessings Providence ordained for me. I craved for grander and more carnal ones, and I am bitterly requited for my wrong doing. I thought to raise thee to a pinnacle of envy, oh! my child, and I have ground thine innocence to the dust instead. Mon Dieu, mon Dieu! pardonnez moi tous mes pèches.”

He raised his eyes to heaven as he spoke, and clasping his hands together, burst into a weak flood of tears. Véronique was shocked and moved at his distress, but the self-accusation which had preceded it, had not the least effect on her composure.

“Mon père,” she answered, brokenly, “no mortal can expect to be in all things free from error, and you did it for the best. And do you think I would undo it if I could? You gave my Gor-don’to me for three weeks, three weeks so happy and so blest, that all the misery of this suspense cannot wipe out the memory of a bliss, that did I never see him more, would be enough to live on till my dying day. Do not reproach yourself, mon père, this silence is an accident, an error which will be explained away as soon as Gor-don comes again: and till that time, I am content to wait and trust him.”

He had been about to tell her of the discovery he had made of Captain Romilly’s faith, but as he gazed upon her innocent, unsuspicious face, he felt his courage ooze away. She so implicitly believed herself to be his wife, her credence in his loyalty was so unlimited, her assurance so undaunted that he was neither careless nor forgetful, that Père Joseph asked himself what benefit he should do her by shaking to the centre, all this childlike trust. If he once made Véronique believe that she was both ruined and deserted, to what further depths of misery might not despair propel her, and if his worst suspicions respecting Gordon Romilly were true, would not the knowledge of her dishonoured name be the cruellest legacy he could leave his injured child? Added to which, he could not quite abandon his own hope; he could not bring himself at once to accept the truth that Véronique had been betrayed; he still clung, though almost unconsciously, to the frail chance that what the girl believed was true, and that accident, or the interference of Captain Romilly’s friends, might be the reason of their temporary separation. Yet, he could not but be aware that if his niece had seen the last of her grand lover, the best thing she could do would be to hold her tongue upon the subject, and that an acknowledgment of the mock ceremony which had taken place between them, would utterly ruin all prospect of her making a more suitable marriage in the future. And he feared lest Véronique, left to her own discretion, would blab the secret of what was so true, both far and wide, and make herself the laughing-stock of the cantonment; and his old sin of pride rose up against the notion, and led him to caution her anew.

“Véronique, when I am gone, remember that your marriage is a secret, and that you must keep it so, until you meet with Gordon Romilly again.”

“It was his wish,” she murmured, “I am not likely to forget it.”

“And if he never comes to claim you, Véronique, or if you never meet him more, what then?”

“That is impossible, mon père, unless he is in heaven. When thou art gone, I will not rest until I find him.”

“And should he be in heaven, Véronique?” replied Père Joseph, humouring her.

“Then I will seek some work to do for heaven, until the good God calls me there.”

“May He bless thee, mon enfant, for ever, and take more care of thee than I have done.”

The same night when Véronique had gone to bed, to weep in private over the fresh ill in store for her, Père Joseph spoke long and earnestly to his adopted son, and broke to him the tidings he had communicated to his niece. Whether he might live for days, or weeks, or months, it was impossible to say: but the fiat had gone forth that death was not far off, and to himself it seemed that he already had caught sight of the fingers of his beckoning hand.

David heard the news in silence, though the heaving of his broad chest and the nervous clenching of his muscular hands shewed how much he was moved by its reception: for he loved the good priest like a father, and had ever shown him the dutiful obedience of a son. Père Joseph alluded to this fact in the course of their conversation, and thanked the young man for it.

“You are very dear to me, mon fils,” he said, “no child of my own loins could have been dearer, and in your charge I leave the most precious thing which I possess. I leave you Véronique, David, as a dear sister, nothing more: to be loved, helped, and protected, nothing more; unless in God’s good time more should come of her own free will. But meanwhile, without trying to thwart her inclinations, aid her by all means in your power, lose sight of her as little as you can, and stand up for her, David, stand up like a man for her good name, if ever it should be attacked!”

“Who could attack it?” said the young native fiercely, “Véronique is as pure as snow, mon père, I should like to meet the man who dares say otherwise.”

“I know it, mon fils, as well as you can do, and yet the purest are not always safe from slander. But, be true to your own honourable nature, be true to your love for her, your sister, and all will go well. And I have another charge to give you, David, I have—I have—collected, put by that is to say, a little money for my Véronique; it is only a thousand rupees—”

“So much as that,” said David starting.

“Yes! is that an exorbitant sum to leave behind one after thirty years of toil?” replied the priest smiling, though rather uneasily. “Well! such as it is, mon fils, you will find it lodged in the hands of a Madras agent, the name and address of whom I have left amongst my private papers, and I desire that it is kept entirely for the use of Véronique, and that when she wishes to spend it, you will advise her how to lay it out most worthily. For she is but a child, David, a child in years as in spirit, but seventeen upon her latest birthday. Oh! it is cruel—cruel—that she should be so left!”

He had relapsed into his own thoughts, but the young man recalled him from them.

“She is not yet left alone, mon père. Thank God, the time is not arrived and may not come so soon as you imagine.”

“She will never be alone whilst she has her brave good brother to protect her. David. Remember, that whenever I am called away, I leave your sister Véronique to you.”

The care which the priest had taken to speak to both his children of their future on that evening, seemed prophetic, for another opportunity was never granted him.

He lay down that night cogitating in his own mind, whether or no, it would be wise for him to persuade Véronique to tell her adopted brother of her secret marriage, so that he might the better fight her battles with the world; but he was not permitted to bring his thoughts to a decision.

The hour, for which David had filially thanked God that it had not yet arrived, came but too soon, for the next day, Père Joseph was seized with an attack of Asiatic cholera, and his constitution, prostrated by a long course of weakening illness, having no power to withstand so terrible a foe, succumbed to the malady, which, notwithstanding medical assistance, carried him off in six hours from the date of its commencement.

The shock of his death, so fearfully sudden to what they had anticipated, had a great effect upon both those whom he had left behind him, but David seemed to feel it most. The grief of the young native for the loss of his adopted father, was at first so violent, and afterwards so despairing, that it excited the sympathies not only of the doctor who had attended the priest during his brief illness, but of all those who witnessed his distress.

To David, Véronique appeared as though she did not nearly comprehend the magnitude of the bereavement which had befallen them. Her tearless woe, her apathetic voice, the quiet gravity with which she performed all the sad offices required of her, struck the afflicted son as signs of want of feeling, instead of being what they were, the symptoms of a grief too deep to find any solace in outward expression. For if David had lost his staff and support, the friend and guide of his youth, to Véronique the world seemed crumbling away beneath her feet, as she looked upon the shrouded form of Père Joseph.

Yet even at that moment of her last adieu, something whispered to her that this was not her greatest sorrow, nor her greatest love. Even as her lips pressed, for the last time to all eternity, the marble brow of him who had truly been a father to her, Véronique realised for the first time, that she was a woman, independent, free, unshackled.

A woman, who would trust her husband to her dying hour; independent, to go forth into the world; free, to seek him where and how she chose—unshackled! ah never, from the cords of love which he had bound about her!

Chapter VIII

David’s Last Appeal

“David,” said Véronique gently, “je vais te quitter.” It was the third evening after the funeral, and they were sitting together, sadly silent, and uncommunicative, in the front room of the bungalow, she, occupied with her mourning garments, and he, with chipping a hazel stick, to the carving of which he was paying but small attention. As soon as the tidings of Père Joseph’s death had been spread abroad, a brother priest had come over from Coonoor to perform the office of interment for him; and hand in hand his adopted children had knelt beside his coffin, whilst the solemn mass for the dead, (solemn even when so imperfectly executed,) was being chanted above his remains, and hardly realised they were to be parted from him, until the holy water was finally sprinkled on the pall, and the tender blessing “Requiescat in Pace,” dismissed the bearers with their sacred burden into the grave-yard which surrounded the little chapel.

But it was all over now, the first violence of their grief, at returning to the deserted bungalow, had expended itself, and they knew that they must settle something regarding their own future, for the house in which they lived belonged to the Roman Catholic Mission, and would have to be resigned to the next priest appointed to the duty.

David had never ceased thinking of what he should like to do, since the hour that his adopted father died; but he had not had the courage to communicate his thoughts to Véronique, and she had settled on her course of action, but, hitherto, refrained from telling it for the same reason. Now, as her soft voice broke the silence between them, the colour mounted high into the native’s cheek, and he commenced to whittle fast and furiously, as he replied,

“You are going to leave me, Véronique, but why, where would you go?”

“We cannot remain much longer in this home,” she said evasively.

“True! but I will make another for you. What is it that you doubt? The strength of my arms, or the willingness of my heart, to work! both are at your service, Véronique.”

“I know it, mon frère,” she answered affectionately, “but—but—you do not consider, David. The time is come when you and I must seek a separate dwelling.”

“Why?” demanded the native shortly.

The necessity of explaining herself made Véronique stammer.

“Because—oh! you must know it well enough, David—it is not usual—not comme il faut—for a young man and woman, who are not connected, to live in the same house together. The neighbours would talk;” and as the girl concluded and bent her head over her work, her cheeks were scarlet, and David did not look much less confused.

“I am thy brother,” he said quickly, but his fast beating heart denied the words.

“No! David, you are not my brother, except in my affections,” answered Véronique, “and I know mon père would never have wished that we should live together, for I spoke with him upon this subject the night before his death;” and recalling the tenderness of that last conversation, the tears began to trickle down her cheeks. David saw them, and could not resist the impulse they created.

“Véronique,” he exclaimed, throwing his knife and stick upon the table, and crossing the fireplace to where she now sat with her face buried in her hands, “if I may not work for you, and cherish you by the name of brother, give me a better right to do it. Mon père left you in my charge; his last words were that I was to love, help, and protect you as a sister only, unless you gave me more of your own free will. Give me more, Véronique—give me yourself for my dear wife, and in whatever part of the world you wish to dwell I will make you a home, such as you shall not be ashamed to live in, and work till my last breath to maintain it for you. Oh, Véronique, do not look at me like that”—(for the wife of Gordon Romilly had risen from her seat, and was gazing at him with horror that was almost aversion)—“you know that I love you; you have known it for a long time; and now that our dead father has sanctioned it with his last words, I entreat you not to refuse me hastily.”

“He sanctioned it!” she exclaimed, almost breathless with surprise; “he sanctioned your attachment to me, David? it is impossible! you must be dreaming!”

“Dreaming!” repeated the young native indignantly; “is it likely I should dream on such a subject, when it has been the one desire of my heart for the last three years? Véronique, from the moment it was possible to love you otherwise I have never loved you as a sister. I could not live happily with you as a sister. I must have you for my wife, for my own, for my very own; and if any other man ever dared to glance at you, or smile at you, except in mere acquaintanceship, I would tear him asunder where he stood,” and with knitted eyebrows, beneath which his eyes glowed like fire, David looked thoroughly capable of what he said. But his ardour and excitement only made Véronique shrink the further from him.

“Oh, no!” she cried with abhorrence at the mere idea; “no, no! it is impossible! it can never be! Mon père must have been raving. David, stand off!—stand away from me, I implore you! I cannot bear that you should either touch or look at me like that.”

The feelings of her mind were so well expressed by her voice that the native’s dark skin turned livid (as dark skins will when the blood recedes from them), and he ground his teeth together in his rage and disappointment.

“So!” he exclaimed, as soon as passion let him speak; “so, it has come to this! that the hands that have fed you, and carried you, and guided your baby feet, are unfit to touch you now; and the eyes that, day by day, have watched you slowly change from a little child into a woman, are bidden to turn away and look upon the beauty which has grown so dear to them no more. But I know the reason,” he added fiercely, “the black hands were good enough for leading-strings, and the black breast was a patient pillow—but who would think of taking the one for life before the altar, or dream that the other held anything so unruly as a heart! Oh, mon Dieu!” continued the man vehemently, as he flung himself across the table, and concealed his face upon his outstretched arms; “pourquoi ne m’avez vous pas crée blanc, ou pourquoi nai-je pas eu un coeur aussi noir que ma peau?”

As he uttered this apostrophe to the Eternal, his chest heaved, his shoulders shook with the tempest of his emotion, whilst the tears of disappointed pride and passion, which he could no longer restrain, forced their way through the closed fingers with which his eyes were covered.

Véronique looked on in silence; dismay at the unlawful annoyance to which her secret marriage subjected her, and fear at the violence with which David received the rejection of his advances, for some while kept her speechless, but she could not view for long the distress of the man for whom she cared as for a brother, without responding to and sympathising with it. As she saw that he was weeping, her own eyes overflowed, and the first thing of which David became conscious was the touch of her little hand upon his stricken head.

“David, dear David! dear brother! for Heaven’s sake, don’t speak—don’t think like that! I love you, David; I have loved you from a little child, ever since you used to carry me in those dear arms—and I have never loved any one so much, not in that way, before or after. You were father and mother and sister and brother in those days, David; how could you think me so ungrateful as to forget it all?”

She had seated herself upon the table by his side by this time, and had taken possession of one of his dark hands.

“When I spoke to you just now, and said that marriage between us was an impossibility, I never thought a moment of the colour of your skin. I like your dark skin, David—I like all dark skins for the sake of yours, and if I could be your wife, the difference between our blood would make no difference to me. But it is not that! I swear it in the sight of Heaven! It is—it is, simply—because it cannot be!”

“You do not love me well enough!” he said sadly, as he raised his blood-shot eyes and gazed into her open countenance.

She stooped and kissed him on the forehead.

“I love you well enough,” she answered quietly, “but I do not love you in that way. David! never mention this subject again between us. If you care to keep me as your sister, let this be the last of it, for you have had my answer.”

“And you will never change your mind, Véronique?”

“Never, never!” she said, emphatically, shaking her head; “it is impossible! do not dream of it a moment more.”

“I will not!” answered the young man firmly, as he raised himself from his forlorn position, and walked a little distance from her. “You have heard the last of it, Véronique! Henceforward, I will set myself to overcome this weakness, and to treat you only as my sister. Give me a little time, and I shall be myself again.”

He walked out into the garden as he spoke, and when an hour afterwards he reentered the bungalow, and resumed his old occupation of carving the hazel-stick, there was not a trace left of the storm of passion to which he had abandoned himself.

“Tell me your plans, Véronique,” he said quietly, as he again took the seat opposite to hers—“that is, if you have made any—and let us consult together on the best method of carrying them out.”

“I thought it would be a good thing, David,” commenced poor Véronique, whose eyes had become terribly swollen from the effects of her hour of solitude, “if I were to take the few things that I wish to keep, and go and stay with the Wards until you shall have sold off the remainder. Mrs. Ward has kindly asked me to do so, until I shall have decided on my future actions.”

“But why sell off your furniture?” demanded the native, in surprise, (for that portion which Gordon Romilly had provided had been left to Véronique, and the remainder to himself), “if you will not live with me, you still must have a home, and the furniture will be useful to you wherever you may go.”

“But—but—I do not think that I shall stay in India, David!” she said, timidly.

“Not stay in India!” The clasp-knife fell from David’s hand in his surprise; “why, where then wouldst thou go?”

“I want to go to England,” replied Véronique, in a low voice; and then, fearful lest her reason for wishing to do so should be divined, she added, hurriedly, “that is to say, I want to go to Rêve, to my mother’s family; and of course to get there I must visit England first.”

“And why ‘of course?’” demanded David, abruptly.

“Because I must work my way there, David. Mrs. Ward says there is no other plan, and I can only do that by accompanying some lady on the voyage to England first, and then procuring another service, if I wish it, over into Belgium. And it is until such an opportunity occurs for me to go home, that Mrs. Ward has asked me to take up my residence beneath her roof. So you see that I shall not want my furniture, David.”

“You seem to have settled it all very nicely between yourselves,” said the young man, gloomily, as he threw his hazel stick upon the fire, and leant back in his chair; “but there is no need for you to work your way home in such a roundabout fashion, Véronique. Mon père left one thousand rupees behind him for your sole use, and that will be more than enough to pay your expenses to Belgium—I am sure he would never have wished that you should enter any one’s service.”

She had anticipated some such objections on his part, and was prepared to meet them, for if all her money were expended in sending her direct to Rêve, by what means could she prosecute her search for Gor-don?

“No, no! David!” she replied, “that must not be; suppose my mother’s family were not inclined to welcome me, what should I do without money in a strange land? Let me go home, as I desire—I shall accept no menial office, nor undertake to do anything of which mon père would have had reason to be ashamed, but by that means I shall cross the sea, ah!” (with a sudden shudder), “that dreadful sea! without expense and with protection; and indeed Mrs. Ward says, that it would be almost impossible for a young woman, in my position, to travel about alone—I am not a lady, remember, David, whom men would be afraid to insult; I am only a poor girl, and I shall be thrown, may be, amongst a rough set. But if I have a mistress to appeal to, I shall be, comparatively speaking, safe.”

“You shall be safe enough,” muttered David, in a tone so low that she hardly caught the meaning of his words, “and if you are determined to leave India, Véronique, I suppose it must be so; but what about the pony, is he to be sold with the furniture?”

“Shall you stay here, David, do you think?”

“I cannot say for certain, Véronique,—perhaps yes, and perhaps no.”

“Will you keep the Pegu for my sake?” she asked, more shyly.

“Thank you! but I would rather not. I might not know what to do with him should I move about.”

“Then he must be sold also,” concluded Véronique, with a deep sigh.

David echoed it, but he made no further attempt to shake her resolution, and in the course of a few days, she had removed, with the few articles she wished to preserve, to the protection of Mrs. Ward.

Ever since the occurrence of the terrible accident by which their child had met her death, the missionary and his wife had evinced a very cordial interest in the young girl who had been their staff and stay on that occasion, which rendered their offer to her of a temporary asylum, in the time of her own bereavement, a natural sequence, and they united in pouring forth their best powers of consolation in her behalf; and not without effect, for in a few weeks, Mrs. Ward, who had been puzzled to understand why Véronique should lose her health and spirits before her uncle’s death, had the pleasure to see both, in some measure, return; and after her wish to give her services to a lady on the voyage home in exchange for her passage-money, had been well bruited abroad, and she had received and accepted an offer to accompany the wife of Colonel Dowdson, who was about to leave Madras in the course of the following month, Véronique wa almost herself again.

It is true that she had still to endure the misery of utter silence on the part of Gordon Romilly, (that profound darkness, from which our cry upon the beloved one’s name falls back on our own soul, and withers it—than which the certainty of woe is almost better), but yet Hope was again busy in her heart. She was so young, she had so many of her childish feelings and ideas still left to her—so few of her childish anticipations had been rooted up, or destroyed, that Véronique could not but believe that to be in the same place with Gordon Romilly, in the same country, perhaps the same town, was to see and speak to him; and to see and speak to him was to have all the miserable miseonceptions which had risen between them, swept away for ever. And so she looked forward with eagerness to the day when she should leave the Hills, the green, billowy hills, in whose bosom she had been nurtured, where lay the cold remains of her adopted father, which still contained a warm heart beating for her—the only heart, had Véronique but known it, which she could call her own.

She panted to exchange their fresh breezes for the fevered and blistering plains of Madras; to take her feet off their firm pathways, and plant them on the planked decks trembling above the deep and trackless ocean, of which she entertained an unconquerable dread; to barter her life of liberty and social freedom for the service of a Mrs. Colonel Dowdson.

Mrs. Ward, notwithstanding the veil with which Véronique attempted to conceal her feelings, perceived her eagerness to be gone, and attributed it to a natural desire to quit the country where she had been called upon to suffer, for the young, who are unused to misery, generally imagine that out of sight is out of mind, and it is only after many an endeavour to shirk that which is inevitable, that we arrive at the knowledge that outward objects have very little effect in lightening or increasing a burden of the soul.

David also perceived the anxiety of Véronique to leave the Nilgiris, and with a heart quickened by affection, guessed the cause, although he had little conception of how much right she possessed to follow the Englishman of whom he was so jealous.

The idea that she wished to follow him, or at all events to be again thrown in his way, was but a half-formed idea with her adopted brother, but yet of sufficient strength to make him resolve that the promise which Père Joseph had demanded of him, that, as far as possible, he should not lose sight of Véronique, should be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the girl, whom circumstances were fast ripening to a woman, led forth into the world by that invisible cord of love bound so tightly about her heart that all her sense of feeling seemed to centre there, received the summons to join her employer at Madras with gratitude, and escorted by David, who insisted upon accompanying her to her destination, set out without delay for the abode of Mrs. Colonel Dowdson.

Chapter IX

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson’s Levée

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, as she loved to style herself, was a very great lady, at least in her own estimation, and there was no one in Madras bold enough to gainsay her. She had been an ordinary woman, somewhat soured by previous disappointments, and considerably past her première jeunesse, when, as her last resource, she had accept the hand of a “bread and cheese” lieutenant in the 99th Madras Native Infantry, and until the luckless Dowdson had scaled the interminable ladder of lieutenants and captains which stretched above him, (a slow process when promotion is not to be effected by purchase money), his existence was said to have been anything but an enviable one. Accomplished at last, however, he had the happiness also at the same time to rise considerably in his lady’s estimation, for to be a major’s wife was not quite so common a lot in her idea; still, there are always two or three majors attached to each regiment, and the ambitious mind of Mrs. Dowdson was not completely satisfied until her husband could write himself down a “pucka” Colonel, and reign in unapproachable glory, after which she felt considerably better, and more in charity with herself, and all womankind.

Colonels might be as plentiful as blackberries outside the 99th, but one only at a time could command that corps, and whilst he held that position, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson believed her sway to be as unlimited as that of her husband. She took every salute of the inferior officers as intended for herself, bowed graciously when a guard turned out to present arms to their Colonel, and made a point, as each fresh subaltern joined the regiment, of giving a dinner-party, in order that she might in proper form present him to his brother officers. In fact, Mrs. Dowdson was in her element, prosperity appeared to have no power to affect her condescension, she grew more and more gracious the higher her husband rose in the army, and the lower the military rank of the visitor she entertained, the greater was the amiability with which she patronised him. She was perfectly satisfied with herself, her house, and everything that belonged to her, and she had but one aspiration left, to write herself down “Mrs. General Dowdson,” and die.

After that climax of good fortune, that tottering pinnacle of human happiness, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson considered there could be nothing more worth living for. The 99th had been stationed at Madras for more than two years, and the Colonel’s house, for a residence in that climate, was everything that could be desired. English furniture and English books, French ornaments and French chintzes, vied with Java matting and India china, to render the drawing-room a melée of all that was curious and comfortable, and no one was better aware of the value of the articles contained in it than their owner. There was not a lady in the regiment, from poor Mrs. Clifford, who would have a baby every year, until her young husband in sheer despair sent her home to her parents again, to Mrs. Lennard, the major’s wife, who was reputed to have been an heiress, who cou]d boast of such a drawing-room, or such a dinner-table, or such a carriage, as Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, and Mrs. Colonel Dowdson knew the fact well, and appreciated it still more. Yet she had a strange way of making others arrive at the same conclusion, for it was by depreciating her possessions that she led her friends to remark on the superiority of them to their own. She called her large wide house her “humble cot,” her tall Arab horses her “pretty ponies,” and spoke of the expensively embroidered fabrics which she trailed about the floors after her as “nice light things for summer wear,” and women who had been unused to this style of deception, or were not sharp enough to distinguish the “pride which apes,” from true humility, really imagined that the Colonel’s wife thought what she said, and were proportionately impressed with an idea of her importance. For if Mrs. Dowdson thought so little of such grand things, what must she not have been accustomed to in days gone by? If her carriage horses of sixteen hands high, were only “pretty ponies” in her eyes, to what height must not her former pairs have attained? Thus they argued from conclusions, the falsest style of argument that we can follow, and Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, without any cleverness of her own, had sufficient cunning to take advantage of their ignorance.

This was the person to whom Véronique had engaged to give her services in return for a passage to England, for the eventful epoch had now arrived when the Dowdsons were to revisit their native country, a circumstance which imbued the Colonel’s wife with even a greater share of importance in the sight of the regimental ladies than before, for all that she now did or said, was with a reference to the magic name of “home.”

It was the first occasion of her return there, after a residence of twenty years in India, and she had little doubt but that she should be received on landing with as much pomp and just as many honours as though the Colonel and herself had been discharged from a “masoolah” boat on the strand of Madras. What she was to do in England, see in England, and hear in England, formed the chief topic of her friends’ conversation; but Mrs. Colonel Dowdson was a great deal too well informed, too elegant, and too certain of what was before her, to express any vulgar curiosity on the subject, and when a young lady who had just landed in Madras, suggested that as she would arrive home in the early spring, she would find something warmer than Indian muslins very acceptable as she went up the Channel, she received so decided a rebuff, that she wrote down in her journal that same evening that the residents of Madras were not remarkable for a spirit of gratitude.

It may perhaps be thought strange that so grand a lady as Mrs. Colonel Dowdson should be going home in a sailing vessel round the Cape, instead of making the overland journey, which is at once so much more pleasant and expeditious; but all is not gold that glitters, and although it is a fine thing to be the wife of a real Colonel in the Madras Native Infantry, the gold lace on their uniforms is generally the heaviest bullion which Her Majesty’s servants carry about with them, when they throw up their situations to take a holiday back to the old country. Therefore the Colonel, who had a juster notion of home expenses than his better half, had very wisely secured their berths in the A1 fast sailing passenger vessel, “Earl of Hardbake,” belonging to those celebrated agents, Messrs. Verdigris and Son, which was advertised to sail early in the month of December, and by which he had the further opportunity of going home in charge of troops.

Returning to England by “long sea,” had been a bitter pill for Mrs. Dowdson to swallow, until she remembered that she could throw all the blame of it upon the delicate health of the “poor dear Colonel.” and that the protracted voyage entailed the necessity of a servant to wait upon her, which she would have been obliged to do without by the other route. An English servant Mrs. Dowdson was determined to have, not only because it was cheaper, (native women always requiring to be sent back to India, and receive a “bonus” into the bargain), but that to speak of “my lady’s maid,” sounded so very much better than “my ayah,” and as if she had been accustomed to one all her life. And when she heard, through her friend General Perkins on the Hills, that not only was the maid in question English, but French, Mrs. Dowdson’s satisfaction was complete. Not that she could speak a word of the latter language, but that a French lady’s maid was what she believed no woman at that moment in Madras (not even the wife of the reigning governor) possessed.

From the day that she heard of the nationality of Véronique, she could not rest until she had despatched a summons for her, which as her services were only engaged for the voyage, she could not well do more than a week before sailing. At that time, however, she desired General Perkins to order the young woman to start at once for Madras, and a few days afterwards she was informed by her native servant that the “English missy” had arrived, and was waiting to speak to her. Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, who was reclining on a sofa in her dressing-room, and directing the work of half-a-dozen tailors employed upon her outfit for the voyage, ordered the native to shew the young woman in there.

Véronique was terribly nervous; David, who had accompanied her from the hills, had brought her to the very door of Colonel Dowdson’s house; but he knew that he must leave her then, and the way in which she clung to him and begged him not to quit her, made the parting hard for both of them.

“I shall not leave Madras till thou art gone, Véronique; I shall stay here till the very last; thou wilt see me again; dost thou think that I could go without a last adieu?” said David earnestly, and under that promise she let him depart, although it was with a tear-stained countenance and very sorrowful expression, that she presented herself before her future mistress. As she entered the door of the dressing-room Mrs. Dowdson raised her eyes expectantly to her figure, but her first glance was one of disappointment. Véronique, with her small, slight shape, her short petticoats, her simple, childish face, and her hair hanging in two long tails on either side of her head, looked more like a school-girl than a lady’s maid, and anything but calculated to swell the importance of Mrs. Colonel Dowdson’s retinue.

“Are you the young woman from the hills?” she demanded with unpleasant surprise, “whom General Perkins has engaged to accompany me to England? Why, you are only a child.”

“A child, Madame!” replied Véronique, bridling with offended dignity as she recalled the image of Gordon Pomiily and the remembrance that she was his wife, and yet half ready to verify the lady’s accusation by melting into tears. “I was seventeen on my last birthday.”

“Were you? well that’s young enough, and you don’t look more than fifteen, particularly with your hair done in that fashion. Oh, dear! I don’t think you’ll do at all. I understood from General Perkins that you were a full-grown woman.”

Véronique thought of the breaking-up of her home, of the expenses of her journey, of the delay which Mrs. Dowdson’s dissatisfaction might occasion, and threw off her timidity in the fear of losing her situation.

“Indeed, Madame, I am not so young as I appear to be, and I will do my hair in any way that you like best. Mrs. Ward said she thought I might be required to wear caps, and I am ready to do exactly as you wish. I have had no time to arrange myself this morning, for I came here straight from the last bungalow; but I am sure you will find that when my hair is twisted round my head, I look quite old enough to be your lady’s maid. Pray! Madame, do not say that I am not fit for the situation until you see how I look when my hair is properly arranged.”

With her large eyes beaming from anxiety, her small, clasped hands, and her graceful figure bent forward with expectation, Véronique made so pretty a picture that Mrs. Colonel Dowdson had not the heart to damp her ardour further. She was not an ill-natured woman, she was only insufferably stuck-up and self-conceited, and she began at once to consider what her acquaintances would say and think, were she to introduce the girl to them as a protegée, whom she was charitably taking home to restore to her friends and family. After all, it would sound better even than having a French lady’s maid, and the convenience of the arrangement would remain unaltered.

“Very well! very well,” she replied in answer to Véronique’s appeal, “we will settle all that afterwards, and meanwhile my ayah shall show you to your room, and when you are rested you can dress your hair in a somewhat more civilised fashion, for I have some ladies to spend the evening with me to-night, and I shall want you to pour out the coffee and tea for them. By the way, what is your name?”

“Véronique, Madame.”

“Veronick!” repeated Mrs. Dowdson, “I never heard of such a name. What is your surname? I think the General mentioned it, but it has slipped my memory.”

“Romilly, Madame,” was trembling upon the girls tongue, but she coloured, corrected herself, and said “Moore” instead.

“Oh! I can t call you ‘Moore,’” replied the Colonel’s lady, who did not seem quite certain whether the syllable were French or English, “have you no other name?”

“Marie, Madame,” said Véronique gently.

“Oh, Mar-rie! yes, that will do much better, so mind I shall call you so,” interposed her patroness, and then Mar-rie, thoroughly wearied both in body and soul, was dismissed to her own apartment and permitted to remain in peace.

She had no reason to complain of the manner in which it had been prepared for her reception, for everything was as nice as though the room had been destined for a lady’s use, and Véronique found that at all events as long as she remained in Madras, she was likely to be as well served as her mistress. As soon as the small box which she had been enabled to bring in the transit with her, had been unpacked, and she had refreshed herself with a cold bath, she lay down on the bed, and fell into a slumber which lasted until the fierce Indian sun had sunk beneath the horizon, and the sound of carriage-wheels and horses’ hoofs, and the voices of children at play witnessed that the day of the cantonment had commenced, and woke her up to the conviction that she must have slept for several hours. Then the ayah, who had crouched outside her door to watch for her awaking, brought in some dinner on a tray; and Véronique got off the bed, feeling almost ashamed to be so waited on, but at the same time very much interested by the novelty of the situation in which she found herself, and quite convinced that Mrs. Dowdson must be as grand as she seemed affable. She had scarcely finished her dinner, and arranged her hair and dress to her own satisfaction, when the carriage returned from the band with the Colonel and his wife, and the former was heard calling loudly in Hindustani for his “chokra” to come and help him in his dressing, whilst the latter popped her head into the apartment of her lady’s maid.


“Oui, Madame!” replied Véronique, rising at the sound, and then blushing and correcting herself she added, “pardon, I meant to say, yes, Madame!”

“Oh! you can say ‘wee’ as much as ever you like to me!” exclaimed her mistress, “in fact, I would rather you did say ‘wee,’ Mar-rie, because it sounds better. Are you ready for me when I shall want you?”

“Quite ready, Madame. Is my hair dressed to your satisfaction now?” and Véronique displayed a little head, round which the thick long plaits were turned and twisted until they crowned its summit.

“Oh, yes! that will do; only I think you have got a great deal too much of it. However, I have no time to talk of that now. There is a public dinner at the mess to-night, at which the Colonel, of course, must be present, and I have a little levée at home of all the ladies of the regiment, so I wish you to be in the room, and attend to the tea and coffee for me. I suppose you can do that?”

“Yes, Madame,” said Véronique, smiling, “and how soon shall you require me?”

“Not for an hour; I shall take my dinner first, and during that time, you can walk in the ‘compound’ if you like. As everything is so new to you, I shall let my ayah dress me this evening, and you can begin that part of your duty tomorrow.” Saying which, Mrs. Dowdson disappeared, and Véronique, who was still dreadfully nervous of coming in contact with her new mistress, thankful of the permission accorded her, wandered away in the large, straggling, shady enclosure which was dignified by the name of garden, wondering much at all she saw around her, and remembering at every turn, with flushed cheeks and quickening pulses, that her Gor-don had lived in that place and might have trod the very path she stood upon, and that she was on her road to meet him.

One of Mrs. Dowdson’s most felicitous modes of patronising the ladies of the 99th, was to hold what she termed, a “levée” whenever the regiment gave a public dinner, and rally the females round her as their acknowledged head, at the same time that the Colonel did the honours of the mess-table. If there was one thing that the wives of the 99th M.N.I. disliked more than another, it was these occasional “levées,” these “tabby” meetings, where they all sat and yawned in each other’s faces, secretly longing for the sound of their husbands’ footsteps, as, one after another, the officers left the mess and called to take them home. But woe to the woman sufficiently hardy to remonstrate with her lord and master, on the obligation of dancing attendance on his colonel’s wife, or to plead previous engagements, disinclination, or nursery duties, as an excuse for non-presentation.

“My dear!” was the invariable rejoinder, “if you offend Mrs. Dowdson you will make it most uncommonly disagreeable for me with the Colonel. I know she’s a spiteful old cat, and that you have not two ideas in common, but after all, it only comes about once a month, and you must conciliate her as much as possible.”

“But George,” perhaps the long-suffering female would feebly remonstrate, “just see how rude she was to me last time I went about my blue silk, and how she made remarks upon poor baby’s nose before all the band. I wouldn’t have minded what she said of my dress, but I won’t have my baby laughed at, and I am sure his nose is just like yours—and—and—” the remainder of the remonstrance lost in tears.

“Oh! tut, tut, tut!” the husband would impatiently reply, “these are all women’s affairs you know, and I can t have them interfere with my prospects. A word from her to the Colonel would make me lose my present appointment, and you don’t know in how many ways a commanding officer can make himself unpleasant in the regiment, if he chooses. You mustn’t mind what she says about your dress, Anna Maria, you must just behave as though you didn’t hear it, and as for the youngster’s nose, why you know it is all jealousy. She’d be precious glad to have a baby of her own, nose or no nose, so be thankful for your mercies, and for heaven’s sake keep me out of a row with the Colonel, or I shall feel inclined to throw the dress, and the baby, and yourself, all into the sea together.”

And thus adjured and trembling for her husband’s appointment, poor Anna Maria would sit out the next female levée, with smiles upon her face but rancour in her heart, and hating herself the while for seeming what she was not, even in so pious a cause.

The evening in question was no exception to the general rule. By the time that the mess-dinner commenced, some seven or eight ladies were assembled in Mrs. Colonel Dowdson’s drawing-room, talking furtively to one another, or trying to conceal their ennui behind the covers of albums or annuals, whilst a select few gathered about their hostess, whom they facetiously termed their “commanding officer,” and meekly swallowed the advice on their behaviour, or remarks on their costumes, which she labelled out as freely as though she had been their registered and appointed Mentor.

Véronique, standing at a side table before the tea and coffee equipage, and utterly ignorant of the forms of worship adopted by the devotees of the great god Rank, listened with innocent amazement to the conflictory remarks which reached her from every side, and it was not until the evening was concluded that she seemed to take in the real state of the case, and to comprehend that the reason the actions of the ladies of the 99th did not always tally with their words, was because in the religion which, by compulsion or of their own free will, they followed, policy invariably takes precedence of truth.

“My dear Mrs. Dowdson,” exclaimed a pale little lady with buff hair and a buff complexion, who was robed in a faded blue gauze, “is that your French maid?” glancing towards Véronique, (for the engagement of a foreign lady’s maid for their Colonel’s wife, had not been kept a secret from the 99th). “How very youthful she appears to be.”

“Well, yes! that is, not exactly,” replied Mrs. Dowdson, in a low voice, and somewhat entangled, “but I’ll tell you all about it presently,” and then turning to Véronique, she added: “Mar-rie, fetch me a pocket-handkerchief.”

“Oui, Madame!” replied Véronique, as she prepared to go in search of her mistress’s ayah.

“Dear me, can’t she speak any English?” said one of the ladies enthusiastically.

“Well, I’m sure I can hardly tell!” replied Mrs. Dowdson as though she had been speaking nothing but French herself with the new arrival. “Mar-rie, can you speak any English?”

“Yes, Madame, I speak it well,” said Véronique, smiling at the question, and wondering that Mrs. Dowdson had considered it necessary.

“I am glad she can speak it, poor child,” remarked the Colonel’s lady, humanely, as the girl left the room, “for she would have found it so awkward on board ship, with no one, perhaps, to understand her but myself.”

“Oh! then she is your new lady’s maid,” concluded the buff-coloured lady.

“Well, I hardly like to call her so,” replied Mrs. Dowdson, looking the picture of modest benevolence, “because, although of course, the poor girl would wish to shew all the gratitude in her power, it is not exactly a case of services, and payment, and so forth, between us. The fact is,” dropping her voice almost to a whisper, “she is an orphan, left in the country under very sad circumstances, without a protector, and I feel that I shall not be easy until I see she has been restored to her friends in Belgium.”

Here arose a chorus of sympathetic laudation from the ladies of the 99th, a paeon of praise of which the upshot was, that it was “just like Mrs. Dowdson to have thought of it,” but their commanding officer raised her hand to enforce silence.

“Hush, hush!” she exclaimed, professing to be quite shocked at the ovation, “it is nothing, a mere trifle, who could have done otherwise? and to look after her will be an amusement for me on this long, dreary voyage, which the poor, dear Colonel’s health obliges us to take. But here comes Mar-rie, so pray, not another word upon the subject.”

“What a sweet dress you have on, dear Mrs. Dowdson,” remarked one of her visitors with a view to change it easily, “a chiné silk, is it not?”

“Oh! dear no! only a châlé,” was the answer, given with supreme indifference, “a pretty enough thing, but only fit for some such little quiet evening as the present. However, it is long enough to do good service in sweeping the floors, if nothing else, and saves the poor servants some trouble when they bring their brooms in of a morning.”

“Oh! dear—ah! dear! isn’t that just like Mrs. Dowdson,” remarked her former questioner, appealing to the circle of “tabbies.” “But surely it is very like a chiné you wore last month?”

“You mean a green and white one,” replied Mrs. Dowdson, smiling, “I gave that away to Mrs. Simpson!”

“No! indeed!—how very good of you!”

“Oh! it was nothing—nothing—” said the Colonel’s lady, with the same deprecating air that she had used before. “Poor Mrs. Simpson always had colds and sore throats, and her husband told me he was sure it was because she would drive to the band in muslin dresses, so I just rolled up my chiné silk into a bundle, and sent it off to her at once, with a message not to let me see her out in the evening again in a thin dress, or I would just send her home.”

“Ha! ha! ha! he! he! he!’ tittered the ladies of the 99th, though two or three had turned very red at Mrs. Dowdson’s speech, and one rose and walked towards the verandah.

“A ‘chit’ from Snaffles, Mem Sahib,” said a native servant, bringing in a note upon a salver, and presenting it to his mistress.

She broke the seal and read it; and now it was her turn to grow red and look confused.

“Most unaccountable behaviour,” she exclaimed, “most unprecedented! This is the very last I have to do with Mrs. Snaffles.”

“Dear Mrs. Dowdson, what is it?”

“Well, my dear ladies! I think you will scarcely credit such a proceeding. I understood from the Colonel that Mr. Snaffles was going to send his wife to Calcutta by the next steamer, to spend a month with her sister, who has just arrived there, and I was very sorry to hear it. Mr. Snaffles, of course, poor, dear man, is a very good, well-meaning fellow, but quite led by his wife, and blind—perfectly blind to anything she may choose to do. And there was young Robertson—who was always at the house, singing with her, and riding with her, and so forth—went to Calcutta himself only a fortnight ago, to take up some civil appointment he had been offered there. Oh! I cannot bear such underhand doings—I could not see them and hold my tongue.”

“Everybody was talking about young Robertson and Mrs. Snaffles,” interposed the buff female, who appeared to be Mrs. Dowdson’s greatest toady.

“Everybody talks about everybody, here,” remarked the lady who was standing by the window.

“But not without cause, Mrs. Duncan, not without cause,” interrupted Mrs. Dowdson, sharply, “and in my position, I considered it a duty, for the credit of the regiment, to write to Mrs. Snaffles, and tell her that her place was to remain at home with her husband and children, instead of flying about the country alone.”

“And what is her answer?” demanded Mrs. Duncan, turning towards the speaker.

“Her answer is like herself,” said Mrs. Dowdson, spitefully, “forward, impudent, and presuming. It reflects so little credit on the writer that I have no hesitation in making it public—

“My Dear Mrs. Dowdson,

“‘I thank you for the good intentions, by which, I presume, the advice you have been pleased to send me, was dictated, but as long as my husband remains what he is—the head and ruler of this household—I consider myself accountable to no one but himself for anything I may choose to do, or think, or say. Under the circumstances, however, I hardly imagine my company this evening would be productive of any pleasure to you, and therefore you must permit me to decline your invitation.

“‘Yours sincerely,

“‘Laura Snaffles’”

“Dear! dear! how could she?” exclaimed several of the ladies in a breath, “how very thoughtless of her! But perhaps she does not mean all that she says.”

“I shall take her words as she has written them,” replied Mrs. Dowdson, with awful severity. “From this day I wash my hands clean of Mrs. Snaffles, and the lieutenant must be answerable for his wife’s proceedings. Excuse me, ladies, for a minute,” and, with the note in her hand, she passed into another apartment.

“What impertinence! what unheard-of impertinence!” exclaimed Mrs. Duncan, as with flashing eyes, she returned from the verandah. “Where is this to end?—what on earth will she take upon herself to do next?”

“Hu—sh!” interposed the buff lady, in a prolonged whisper, “she has ears on every side of her. But it is perfectly unbearable—I am very glad that Laura Snaffles wrote to her as she did.”

“But won’t she catch it when her husband hears of it,” said another. “You know he wants to get the adjutancy as soon as Mr. Smiles is promoted, and he won’t have a chance of it if the ‘old cat’ puts a spoke in his wheel.”

“They’ll be gone by that time.”

“Yes! but Snaffles will require credentials from the Colonel—I wouldn’t be Laura for anything.”

“But she has done quite right. Fancy, the impudence of Mrs. D. sending her old dress to poor Mrs. Simpson, and when they are so badly off, too. It was a double insult—I hope Captain Simpson won’t make her put it on—I would go in rags myself first.”

“So would I! She grows more presuming every day—impertinence is no name for it.”

“Of whom are you speaking, Mrs. Duncan?” demanded the voice of their commanding officer,” blandly, “who is it that is so impertinent?”

She was standing in the midst of them again, and the wives of the 99th coloured, looked guilty, and popping Truth into their pockets, pulled out Policy, and circulated him freely.

“Oh!—that young fellow who was here the other day,” replied Mrs. Duncan, in some confusion, “Captain—what was his name—the Governor’s aide-de-camp, I mean—Captain Gordon Romilly!”

The words fell on the listening ears of Véronique so unexpectedly that she started, and nearly dropped the cup and saucer with which she was engaged.

The ladies had apparently forgotten her presence until then, or fancied she was not sufficiently familiar with the language to understand what they were saying, but now their attention was directed towards her, and Mrs. Dowdson desired her to call the “boy” to remove the tea-tray from the drawing-room.

She executed the commission as quickly as she could, and when she returned and took up her station beside the sofa of her mistress, she found that the beloved name was still the topic of their conversation.

“A very amiable young man,” remarked Mrs. Dowdson, who had nevertheless reviled Gordon Romilly roundly whilst in Madras for avoiding an introduction to her; “others may have found him impertinent, but I never did so,” which was true in so far that she had never had the opportunity of finding him anything at all.

“It was the general opinion,” said Mrs. Duncan in self-defence, for which Véronique immediately hated her, “but doubtless he behaved differently to different people. Do you know whether he is likely to return to the appointment?”

“No! he has resigned it, and Sir James Greenfield’s son is to take his place. I suppose you know that his father died before he reached England?”

Véronique’s heart beat so rapidly, that she could hardly listen.

“No! I was not sufficiently interested in Captain Romilly to make any enquiries on the subject. His father was some Lord or other, was he not?”

“Lord Erskine Romilly!” said her hostess, in a tone of correction, “the Bournemouth family—one of the best in England. The Colonel is well acquainted with some of their most intimate friends.”

“Oh! then I suppose you will see Captain Romilly in England!” said Mrs. Duncan indifferently.

“Not the slightest doubt of it,” replied Mrs. Dowdson, with such certainty that Véronique’s heart throbbed for joy, although there was not the least chance in the world of its hopes being fulfilled after that fashion.

But the hour was growing late, and one after another, with few exceptions, the married men called in from the mess-table to release their weary wives from social purgatory, and to take them home.

“Laura not here?” said the cheerful voice of Mr. Snaffles, as he walked into the drawing-room and saluted Mrs. Dowdson. “Why! what can be the matter with the old lady? I am sure she meant to come.”

“She may have told you so, Captain Snaffles,” replied the Colonel’s wife, (Mrs. Dowdson always made a point, when addressing the subaltern officers, of giving them brevet-rank; it reminded them so powerfully of the blessings which ought to have been theirs, and rubbed their hair, up the wrong way, so sweetly,) “but Mrs. Snaffles was kind enough to send me a note to explain her absence, which set all my doubts on the subject at rest.”

“By Jove! I hope she hasn’t been rude to you!” exclaimed the startled lieutenant, who had already entertained serious misgivings as to how his Laura, and the ‘old cat’ would hit it off together, after the lecture which the former had received. “She’s rather hasty, you know, and very apt to say just what she thinks, but Laura would be very sorry to be rude to you, or that you should think her so.”

“Well! perhaps you and I may not agree upon what constitutes rudeness, Captain Snaffles,” replied Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, as, blandly smiling, she handed him his wife’s note, “but here is Mrs. Snaffle’s letter, which you can read at your leisure, and let me hear your opinion of it tomorrow morning, or any other time. Good-night!”

And grasping the “chit” in his hand, with a muttered imprecation on the folly of all womankind, Mr. Snaffles returned the lady’s greeting, and dashed out into the compound, fully resolved to go home at once, and give Mrs. Laura such a talking to, as she should not cease to remember for the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, the rest of the visitors having departed, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson gave her lady’s maid permission to retire to her bedroom, which Véronique had no sooner gained, than she flung herself prostrate before the Throne of Heaven, to return thanks for having been miraculously guided to take service in a family with whom her Gor-don had been so intimate, and in the bosom of which, it was next to impossible she should not encounter him again.

Chapter X

By Long Sea

The week which elapsed before the “Earl of Hardbake” was ready for sailing, was necessarily a busy one. Colonel Dowdson was fully occupied in looking after the sale of his own effects, and the embarkation of the troops of which he was going home in charge; and his wife had to superintend the furnishing of the stern-cabin, which had been reserved for their use; and the proper disposition of her personal property.

What with setting the last stitches to her mistress’s sea wardrobe, and packing the wardrobe when completed into a dozen or more large travelling cases, Véronique also found that she had plenty to do, for the lady, whose servant she now was, had the happy faculty of putting an immense deal of work upon her fellow-creatures in the most blandly affable manner possible. But the girl did not mind it, she loved to be so employed, for with every successive trunk that she strapped down, she felt herself drawing nearer that centre towards which all the hopes of her life converged.

Expectation was strong within her; so strong as almost to over-balance the weight of suspense under which she still laboured, and as the hours of waiting were, one by one, numbered with the past, Véronique had but a single regret, that she had not seen her adopted brother again.

Each day, since David had left her at Colonel Dowdson’s door, had she watched for his promised coming, and each day, had been disappointed, although she had been afraid even, when given permission to amuse herself, to leave the compound of the house, for fear that he should call to see her in her absence. She could not account for David thus failing in his promise not to leave the place until he should have bidden her adieu; and in her heart she called him hard names for so deserting her, but the last evening arrived, and still she had not seen him; and at six o’clock the next morning, she was put into a “masoolah” boat, with her mistress and her mistress’s guard of honour, and had no time thenceforth to think of anything but the bustling scene about her, and her own very uneasy sensations on a first introduction to the surf of Madras.

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson ought by rights to have been on board the night before, or at all events at four o’clock in the morning, but she knew that however irate at the delay, it was not likely that the Captain of the “Earl of Hardbake” would presume to sail without the wife of the officer in charge of the troops he was carrying, and to make her appearance when everybody else had been ready for a couple of hours past, and rolling about in the roads to no purpose for the same length of time, was attended with a certain degree of consequence in her short-sighted eyes, and looked as though the “Earl of Hardbake” were making the passage home solely on her account; or at all events as if she were, (what Mrs. Dowdson firmly believed she was,) the most important personage on board of her.

Véronique,—too sad now that she was really about to quit the land which had been home to her, and too frightened and uneasy by the noise made by the “masoolah” boatmen, and the uncomfortable seesaw motion of their craft, to notice anything or body, but herself,—missed seeing the little farce which was being enacted by the female commanding officer of the 99th, as she gave herself airs for the last time amongst the gentlemen of that regiment, several of whom accompanied her and the Colonel on board.

Mrs. Dowdson was in high spirits as the “masoolah” boat danced over the surf with her, for the bachelors of the 99th, the difficulty of securing whose intimate attendance at her house had ever been a sore point, had come to the scratch boldly during the previous week, making their appearance in clusters at all hours of the day; and here were actually seven of the youngest and best-looking amongst them, who had all insisted upon having the honour of conveying her on board. As they laughed and jested with Mrs. Dowdson, one arming himself with her shawl, another with her waterproof, and a third with her travelling-bag, and all seven stealing occasional furtive glances at the sweet pensive face of the girl who sat so quietly in the corner of the boat, straining her sad eyes for a last look at the flat and fiery shores of Madras, the Colonel’s wife felt like a queen, like Cleopatra being borne in triumph to her gilded barge; and as, still attended by her numerous aides-de-camp, she climbed the ship ladder, at the head of which appeared the captain ready to receive her, her affability was beyond all compare. Her exclamation of amiable horror at the small dimensions of the fine cabin to which Captain Hollyoak introduced her, mixed with girlish tittering at the idea of being obliged to live in it, was perfectly characteristic of Mrs. Dowdson, as well as the professedly forced amiability with which, in order to soothe the skipper’s feelings, she finally decided that it would do “very well indeed,” and they must all “expect to put up with a little inconvenience when so great an end was to be attained.”

However, Captain Holyoak had waited on the lady’s pleasure long enough already, and gave her no opportunity of exhibiting her consequence by showing off the docility of her aides-de-camp before the passengers of the “Earl of Hardbake,” for, having shown her to her cabin, he rushed on deck again, cleared the ship hastily of all strangers, and before Mrs. Colonel Dowdson remade her appearance, the anchor had been weighed, and the vessel’s head set in a direct course for home, whilst the seven bachelors tossing back to the strand of Madras, were congratulating each other on having got rid of their “old fool’ of a Colonel and his “old cat” of a wife, and wondering “who the deuce that pretty girl could be whom she was taking to England with her.”

Under that class of circumstances which can be better imagined than described, certainly come the first few days spent on board a vessel, be she sailer or steamer. With Véronique, fear at finding herself upon the element which she had always so much dreaded, and a pause in the excitement which had hitherto sustained her, combined with real physical weakness to render her very ill indeed; and for several days she lay in her berth quite incapable of moving or exerting herself; during which time Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, who had been remarkably free from seasickness, made much at the cuddy table out of the necessity of having a soldier’s wife to assist her in her dressing operations, and feared that, having been used to the services of a French woman, she must at times considerably startle the poor creature by addressing her in a language which she could not understand.

At last, however, the French lady’s-maid, by dint of the unremitting exertions of an admiring young doctor, added to the compulsion which, when occasion called for it, Véronique knew well how to put upon herself, crawled out of her berth again, and staggered to her feet. She still felt sick and giddy. Directly she opened her eyes and saw the pendulous motion of the swinging tray which hung in the centre of her cabin, and felt the rolling of the planks beneath her feet, all her old sensations returned; but she was determined, if possible, to conquer them, for Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, notwithstanding the benevolence in her servant’s cause which she exhibited at the cuddy table, had not failed to enter the cabin once a day, and reprimand Véronique smartly for not making a proper attempt to overcome her malady. She knew too that her mistress must require her services, and that she was doing nothing in return for her passage-money until she rendered them. And pride had some part in forcing Véronique to try to dress herself, and go on deck. But her fingers trembled so that she could not fasten her clothes, and her eyes were dim and her limbs shook with weakness, and finally, when only half-attired, she dropped down again upon her trunk, and shed tears from sheer inability to prevent their flowing.

As she was thus occupied, a tap sounded on her door. Véronique started: her cabin was situated in the steerage amongst those of the second-class passengers; Mrs. Dowdson never descended to it except once a day, and her visit had been already paid, added to which dinner was at that moment going on in the cuddy, and beside her mistress and the Colonel she knew not a single person upon board. Yet it was with pleasurable anticipation, with a faint hope that some woman had noticed her loneliness and pitied her for it, that Véronique listened to the gentle tap twice repeated, and then asked, “Who’s there?”

“Steward!” was the answer, in a voice which made Véronique tremble—it sounded so familiar to her. “I have some dinner for you, Mademoiselle. May I bring it in?”

“David, David!” she screamed, forgetting all her weakness in her pleasure and surprise, and flinging open the cabin-door, in another moment she was hanging round the neck of her adopted brother in a burst of hysterical tears. “Oh, David! how did you come here? what are you doing on board this ship? I thought that you had forgotten me, mon frère, that you were angry with your poor Véronique, because you never came to say adieu to me. Ciel! que je suis heureuse de te revoir.”

She clung to him, burying her fair face upon his breast, and winding her slight arms about him with an energy which w. akin to force, whilst he looked down upon her fragility and dependence on him with a proud tenderness, which would have been pathetic to anyone who had known the history of their hearts.

“I did not go to see thee, chérie!” he replied, whilst with one hand he fondly stroked her dark head, “because I hoped that what has come to pass would be, and that no adieux between us would be necessary, at any rate for some time further. Had I failed in getting this situation, thou wouldst have seen me, Véronique, and more than once. How could I have let thee go without another word?”

“But what situation, David! what are you?” asked Véronique, smiling through her tears.

“A steward! did I not tell you when you asked who was at the door?”

“A steward, to wait at table?” said the girl, in a tone of dismay, “and you, David, who know so much more than I, and—”

“Thou, who art a lady’s maid!” he interposed, gaily.

“Yes, but there was a reason, a necessity, for me to enter service, David.”

“And there is a reason why I should do so also, Véronique.”

She glanced up at him enquiringly.

“To watch over thee, ma soeur,” he said, in answer to that look, “to see that thou hast justice done to thee, and that on arriving in England thou art not cast off, as many girls in the same situation have been, without a home to go to, or a protector to stand up for thee. Mon Père left thee in my charge, Véronique, and it shall not be my fault if I do not carry out his wishes.”

“And you have done all this for me?” exclaimed the girl, wonderingly, “you have left your home, David, and parted with your property, and exiled yourself from your own country, that you may watch over me! Oh! you are too good to me.”

“Where thou art is my home, Véronique, I have no other,” he answered, quickly, and the look which accompanied his words melted her into fresh tears.

“Oh, David! David! how good you are,” she repeated, as she lifted her wet eyes to meet his own.

Her gratitude appeared to disturb him, for he turned away without a reply, and stooped to lift up a tray which he had set down outside the door.

“Now! what have we been about?” he said, affecting annoyance to conceal his discomposure, “I have let you prattle on so long that your dinner must be cold. Nevertheless you must eat it, Véronique, for I kept it from the cuddy-table for you, and you have fasted quite long enough already.”

He arranged the tray upon her travelling box, and made a seat for her of shawls and pillows, and averred that he would not listen to another word until he saw that she had eaten something.

“Oh! I shall get quite well now!” she said, cheerfully, as she permitted him to do just what he chose with her. “I cannot tell you how much better I already feel. But how is it that you did not come to see me before, David. We have been five days at sea, have we not?”

“True! but I heard from others that you were ill, and I feared to find strangers with you in your cabin. But today the Colonel’s lady remarked at the dinner-table that you had eaten nothing since coming on board, and at that intelligence my heart, Véronique, would permit me to rest quiet no longer.”

“Will madame be angry, think you, David, if I tell her that you are my brother?”

“You must not tell her that, ma soeur, or she will disbelieve you,” answered the native, with a serious smile, “but let her know the truth, and that she will not find that I take up the time which belongs to herself, for in the first place I shall have too much to do, and in the second, board-ship is a public situation, where everything is observed, and I must be careful of your reputation.”

“You are always careful of me, David,” said Véronique, slipping her hand into one of his.

“Who else have I to be careful for?” he replied as, with a gentle squeeze, he released it, and taking up the tray again, returned to his new and multifarious duties.

When he had disappeared, and Véronique had time to realise that he was to be near her during the voyage home, all that had vexed and troubled her seemed to have vanished with the comfort of his presence. She did not crave to see him constantly, to know that he was close at hand was quite sufficient for her, and from that hour she grew rapidly better, and in another couple of days was as good a sailor as anyone on board.

The passengers by the “Earl of Hardbake” were as heterogeneous a company as such assemblies usually are. First and foremost, of course, came Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, who sailed out of her stern cabin late for breakfast regularly every morning, and sunk into the seat reserved for her next the Captain, with a gracious bow, which included all at table, and gave them a tacit permission to begin. The officer second in command of the troops was a Lieutenant Reed, a light-hearted, merry young fellow, with a girl-wife as cheerful as himself, whose delight it was to draw out Mrs. Dowdson’s peculiarities for her own and her husband’s benefit, and towards whom, the Colonel’s lady, having more than half a suspicion that she oftener laughed at than sympathized with her, cherished unmistakable enmity. Mrs. Mac Bean, the coarse half-caste wife of a Calcutta shop-keeper, with her olive complexioned daughters, and Mrs. Leighton, a pretty flirting woman who was taking home three little children to place under the care of her mother, were the only other females amongst the first-class passengers, the rest of the cuddy-table being filled with men, chiefly foreigners, who seldom attended to anything during the momentous hour of feeding, except their own wants.

As soon as Véronique reappeared on deck, she found that her mistress kept her fully employed, not so much by reason of work—for of that there was little to do—as of constant attendance on her personal comforts. Mrs. Dowdson could do nothing without her lady’s maid: in her cabin, on deck, even at the cuddy table, was Véronique to be seen patiently standing behind the lady’s chair, either with a fan or smelling-bottle, or shawl, whilst the eyes of all the Englishmen present would be fixed upon her attractive features, delighting Mrs. Dowdson by the second-hand importance which the beauty of her maid devolved on herself, and making the black steward throw about the glass and crockery with unnecessary clatter as he saw the undisguised admiration to which Véronique was subjected. For, notwithstanding the rebuffs which she occasionally met with at the hands of Mrs. Reed—notwithstanding that, from her desire to appear perfectly au fait at everything which concerned the country to which she was going, and of which she knew so little, she was often betrayed into errors so ludicrous that the mirth of her listeners could not be restrained—still Mrs. Colonel Dowdson was in her glory, although that glory might be a shade paler than it had appeared when she was in the bosom of the 99th.

She was acknowledged to be the biggest person in the circle in which she moved; her cabin was the best in the ship, she had the place of honour at table, and when she lounged upon deck during the long sultry evenings, with Véronique sitting or standing near her chair, she was always surrounded by the most pleasant men on board. And Mrs. Dowdson, although far be it from her unworthy biographer to assert that she ever entertained the slightest wish or idea of carrying on a flirtation on her own account, being the strictest and most discreet of wives and women, yet liked the kudos, whether on board or ashore, of having a bevy of young men gathered about her, and by their demeanour silently admitting the power of her position, whilst younger and handsomer women, dependent on themselves for means of entertainment, might throw soft glances in the same direction in vain.

She had found this attainment a matter of difficulty until she had secured the services of Véronique, but although she well knew why the gentlemen surrounded her now, Mrs. Dowdson enjoyed even the semblance of being attractive, and the duties of her attendant became onerous in proportion. Véronique did not like the attention she received; she shrank from each look as though it were an insult offered to Gordon Romilly through herself; but if she tried to leave the company, her mistress never failed to call her back again, and the girl was too diffident and shy to speak openly of what, as yet, had been carried on only in secret. But one evening, when the darkness had fallen (for at sea and in those latitudes there is no dusk) and Mrs. Dowdson was busily engaged in talking to the first lieutenant, a young man to whom she was especially gracious, and of whom her lady’s maid stood proportionately in dread, Véronique rose quietly to her feet and slipped away, past Mr. and Mrs. Heed, sitting cosily together like true husband and wife, and Mrs. Leighton carrying on an unlawful whispering with the young doctor over the side of the vessel, to where she found David washing up glasses in the steward’s pantry, and grumbling because he had not had time to have a single pipe since that morning after breakfast.

“Is it such hard work, mon frère,” she said affectionately, “that you have undertaken for my sake? And I, too, have had not a moment to myself since I rose, or I should have come in search of you before now. But we shall soon be at the Cape, David, our journey is half way over. How thankful I shall be when it is done.”

“I do not know about that, Véronique. If our present is peaceful, it is folly to long to exchange it for a future of uncertainty. Who can tell what is before us?”

She sighed.

“Ah! who, indeed! What do you intend to do when you get to England, David?”

“I have not yet decided. What are your own plans, Véronique?”

He was looking at her so earnestly that she blushed crimson.

“How can I tell?” she answered vaguely, “it is impossible to know. I must wait and see what happens.”

“But I thought your object in coming was to get to Rêve to your mother’s family, Véronique! Once in England, why should you delay to do so?”

“Because—I must wait a little and see. I may not get another service just at first; besides, it would be hardly fair, David, would it, to leave Madame directly, whether she wishes it or no?”

“Perhaps not!” he answered with a sigh. “You and I are destined to be separated, ma soeur. I see that our paths in life lie in opposite directions. But I shall never be too far off to love and protect thee, Véronique.”

“Where wilt thou go, mon frère?” she enquired.

“Straight to Rêve, to see the curé there, and ask him what opening there is in that country for occupation for a man of my colour. I have sufficient money to take me there, Véronique; and I have a plan also in my head, which I will not disclose to thee until I know whether there is any chance of its fulfilment. Meanwhile, thou wilt know that I am safe at Rêve, and I will write thee such a description of the birthplace of notre père, that thou wilt not rest until thou hast joined me there.”

“I shall be glad to think thou art at Rêve,” she answered musingly, “Rêve, which I have so often longed to visit, and after a while, David, when I can see my way in life a little clearer, perhaps, I may come to thee.”

“Perhaps!” echoed the native, “say, certainly, Véronique. Surely thou art not so much in love with bondage as all that.”

She shook her head and smiled, although the expression brought to her mind another bondage by which she was sorely fettered.

“If I live, David!” she said earnestly; she placed her hand upon his shoulder, “if I live, I will come to thee and to Rêve.”

“Mar-rie! Mar-rie!” sounded in the sharp voice of Mrs. Colonel Dowdson from the upper deck, and Véronique started and prepared to quit the pantry.

“I must go; she never leaves me a minute to myself. David, I wish I might have a day’s holiday with you at the Cape; but I know that it will not be allowed me.”

“N’importe, ma soeur! Come with me to Rêve, and we will live a life’s holiday together, if you but say you wish it to be so.”

But to this proposition Véronique had no time to make reply, for as the native spoke, the head of Lieutenant Palmer, the ship’s officer, to whom she entertained so great an aversion, was thrust into the pantry, with a request that she would return to the presence of her mistress.

“Why were you so cruel as to leave us, Mademoiselle Mary?” he said with most unpleasant familiarity, as Véronique walked back to the poop, by his side. “You know that I can’t talk or make myself agreeable in any way, unless your eyes are beaming on me to brighten up my intellect. The old lady has found me most uncommonly stupid for the last half hour, I can tell you, and I think she has sense enough to discover the cause, for she said I was perfectly unbearable and sent me off in search of you, Mademoiselle Mary, in hopes, I suppose, that I should bring back my wits at the same time.”

But Véronique, unable through annoyance which was half fear, to reprove him for speaking to her in such a strain, pushed forward silently but glowing with indignation, to the protection of Mrs. Colonel Dowdson’s chair, and was thankful to receive even the rebuke with which she was welcomed for having presumed to quit it.

Chapter XL

The Lieutenant’s Story.

“Now, Mr. Palmer!” exclaimed Mrs. Dowdson, as soon as her reproof was over, and the party had once more settled themselves on deck, “we are quite ready for your account of the faithless widow, so pray, begin! Mar-rie, child, what are you seating yourself out there for? Come nearer, and sit down on the hen-coop, next to me. Mr. Palmer is going to tell us a most entertaining story, and I have no wish to interrupt him during its relation, by requests for my wrappers or eau-de-cologne.”

Véronique obeyed, although the darkness in which the deck was enveloped, and the contiguity of her position to that of the gentleman in question, made her do so tremblingly, and Lieutenant Palmer, who was an ugly, red headed fellow, but like many other ugly people, uncommonly amusing when he chose to be so, assured his patroness that she must not raise her expectations too high, for the story was a very ordinary one indeed, the only merit of which lay in its undeniable truth.

“If I chose to romance upon the subject,” he said, “I daresay I might make rather a good thing out of it, but invention, unfortunately, is not my forte, therefore I am compelled to adhere to the bare facts. This failing of mine has but one advantage that I know of, whatever I say may be implicitly believed,” and as Mr. Palmer uttered these words, Véronique knew by the sound of his voice that he had turned his head towards her, although the gloom was so great that it was impossible to read the expression of his features.

“Well, now that we understand that,” replied the Colonel’s wife, with an assumption of juvenility, “we are quite prepared to place credence in everything that you tell us, so there can be no reason why you should not proceed.”

“Your wishes, Madam, are law,” said Mr. Palmer, bowing from the hen-coop, which ran like a bench round three sides of the upper deck, “therefore I will commence without further delay. It was just about this time, four years ago, that amongst other passengers, we shipped Major Waddell, of the retired list of Bombay, bound for the Cape of Good Hope, where it was his intention to pass the remainder of his days. Now, ladies and gentlemen,” continued the Lieutenant, for quite a little group had gathered round Mrs. Dowdson’s chair of state to listen to the story, “you must understand that Major Waddell was a marrying man, or rather, I should say, a man on the look-out for a wife.”

“What’s the difference?” asked a voice, from the outside of the circle.

“A very great one, sir!” replied Mr. Palmer, “for I presume, from your putting the question, that you are a gentleman; the ladies are better informed on these vital matters; eh, Mrs. Dowdson? A marrying man is a man who will marry if opportunity and fortune favour him: but a man on the look-out for a wife, is a man who will marry the first woman who falls in his way. That’s the difference, Mr. Great Unknown, and a vast difference it makes to the individual on occasions. Have I explained myself to the general satisfaction?”

“Perfectly, perfectly, go on!” arose in a chorus of entreaty, from all but the girl who sat by the Lieutenant’s side, and dreaded, she hardly knew what, every time he turned towards her.

“Well, then, Major Waddell at fifty years of age, with the handsome pension awarded him by the Bombay Army (I think it is about a hundred pounds per annum), a head as smooth as a billiard ball from the united effects of age and climate, and a complexion which made him seem as though he were always in a passion, was on the look-out for a wife, and he had not been twenty-four hours on board before he had made his wishes and intentions patent to all the lady passengers. He described the beauties of the Cape of Good Hope, and the delights of a permanent residence there, until their mouths must have watered to make their future home in such a paradise. He had one box after another taken up from the hold, and displayed their contents for the admiration of his fair listeners, showing bale after bale of glistening Chinese silks, delicate Shanghai gauzes, embroidered India muslins and Delhi shawls, whilst he assured them that they had not seen one half of the treasures which he had collected for the happy woman who should become his spouse, and that the fans, card cases, stuffed birds, and Bombay inlaid work, which were stowed away down below, would be sufficient to stock a good sized curiosity shop. But unfortunately, although all our lady passengers gaped at his information, and would have been happy to accept his presents, not one was in a position to offer herself in honourable exchange for them. We had plenty of wives and old women on board, but the Major, notwithstanding his years, his bald head, and his complexion, had no idea of selling his collection of curiosities, himself included, under a fair price, and after having relieved his mind by making his wishes known, he locked up his treasures again, ordered the boxes back to the hold, and took no further notice of the ladies than politeness required of him, and we all said that he would have to wait till he got to his destination to commence his wooing. However we were mistaken—”

“I know!” interrupted Mr. Reed, “he bolted with one of the wives: some women would sell their souls for a hold full of dresses,” at which Mrs. Reed laughed profanely.

“No, Sir! he did no such thing,” replied the Lieutenant, “I beg leave to observe that this is a strictly moral story, and that if it had not been so, I should never have ventured to repeat it before the present august company.”

“I stand corrected,” said Mr. Reed, with mock humility, “I thought it would have been the natural sequence for old Waddell,” at which Mrs. Dowdson bridled in the dark, and considered that it was time he were reminded of her presence.

“Captain Reed, pray, remember where you are!”

“He’s not a captain, Mrs. Dowdson!” quickly interposed his young wife, “he’s only a bread and cheese lieutenant, and I can’t bear to hear him called anything else. I wish you wouldn’t do it.”

“And pray what would be your objection to see Mr. Reed a captain?” demanded the Colonel’s lady, in a tone of awful propriety, but her antagonist was not to be easily daunted.

“Oh! because, in this horrid India, where promotion is so slow, of course, the higher their rank the older they are, and I know that every step my husband gains in the army, will be the key-note for something lost from his capability of enjoyment. I like him best as he is, thank you, Mrs. Dowdson, and do not look forward with any pleasureable anticipation to exchanging my lieutenant for a toothless old general.”

At this piece of flat heresy against her favourite idol, military rank, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, with the serenest pleasure, could have boxed the speaker’s ears. But, as the rules of society do not admit of such indulgences, and she had no repartee at hand wherewith to crush her adversary, she turned off the remark with lofty displeasure, merely observing in a tone of coldness—

“If you have nothing more to say, Mrs. Reed, we will request Mr. Palmer to go on with his narrative.”

“Oh, no! I’ve quite done, thank you!” was the saucy answer, for which Mr. Reed gave his wife a warning pinch, and she evinced her docility at her husband’s correction by pulling his long moustaches for him.

“When I told you, ladies,” continued the Lieutenant, “that Major Waddell’s head was as smooth as an egg, I did not wish you by any means to infer that he always exhibited it in that condition. On the contrary, he had had two splendid wigs sent out to him, straight from Truefitt’s, and nothing offended him more than to receive a hint, even from his male acquaintance, that he did not wear his own hair. Well, the days went on, until we sighted the Mauritius, into which place the Captain had had no intention of putting when we started, but finding that, owing to some mistake at Madras, we were likely to run short of vegetables and other sundries, he determined to stay there for twelve hours on his way, and we had scarcely dropped anchor before we received a message, to know if we could take home another first-class passenger, as there was a lady desirous of proceeding to England by the earliest opportunity. We had plenty of room for her, and sent her word to that effect, and the same evening, just before we sailed, she came on board with all her traps. I’ve seen ladies climb up our gangway before who brought plenty of baggage with them, but in all my experience I never saw such a quantity of luggage as that lady had, and the queerest-shaped boxes and bundles I think I ever clapped eyes on. I was leaning over the side at the time, counting the packages as they were handed up, and if I remember rightly there were over thirty of them, amongst which was a huge barrel of spirits, or liquid of some sort, which struck us as a strange thing for a woman to carry about with her, however, it was no business of ours: she was a widow, taking home a good many of her late husband’s possessions, and down they all went into the hold together, and we thought no more about them. When the lady first came on board she was so wrapt up in black veils and shawls that we were quite unable to form any correct estimate of her form or features. But after a few days spent in the seclusion of her cabin, she made her appearance at the cuddy-table, and we then saw that she was a very nice-looking woman, of not more than thirty years of age, with a most seductive pair of dark eyes, of which one might imagine that in happier days, and when beaming on the dear departed, she had known how to make good use.

“Wrapped in grief, as of course she was, for her husband had only been dead for a few weeks, we vied with one another to draw the fair widow out from her deep melancholy, and to induce her to join the innocent amusements in which we indulged ourselves—and of all of us, it was observable that Major Waddell had the most success. The lady might listen courteously to our anecdotes, but she positively smiled at those of the facetious Major. She thanked us for our sympathy with a sigh, but she turned the full light of her dark eyes on him, until he was positively dazzled by their beams.

“Every evening might he now be seen in attendance on her, carrying her shawl, her chair, and her novel to the upper deck; and when it was too dark for her to read, beguiling the time until her bed hour with descriptions of all the delights of the Cape of Good Hope, and the wonders that he had down in the hold.

“He quite took the trouble of the widow off the hands of the rest of the passengers, and we were delighted that he should have discovered suitable employment for himself, and that every one appeared so satisfied with the arrangement. The lady’s tears became less and less frequent; she unrolled herself further every day from the reserve with which she had been at first enveloped, and had it not been for one little peculiarity (which she shared in common with most of her delightful sex), would have been as little troublesome a passenger as we had on board. But she could not rest easy respecting her possessions in the hold. She was always being quite sure that they were either lost, or injured, or the sea water had got into them; and if our men made a journey once down below, between the Mauritius and the Cape, for her satisfaction, they must have made it twenty times!”

“Now, Mr. Palmer!” cried Mrs. Dowdson, “I am sure that is a hint for me, because I had fears for my travelling chest of drawers last week. How very ungallant of you!”

“A thousand pardons!” exclaimed the Lieutenant, placing his hand upon his heart; “but upon my honour, Mrs. Dowdson, it is so much pleasure to do anything for you, that I had entirely forgotten the circumstance to which you allude. How can you think for a moment it could be otherwise? If you wanted to see all your boxes every hour of the day, I would carry them up and down on my own back, sooner than you should be disappointed! What do I live for, if it is not to please the fair sex?” and as Lieutenant Palmer uttered this charming sentiment, he edged himself so close to Véronique that their shoulders touched.

“Come, come! no more nonsense!” cried Mrs. Dowdson, who was delighted with the compliment implied, and then perceiving a sudden movement on the part of her lady’s-maid, she added—“Mar-rie! child! what are you fidgeting about in that manner for! keep still, I beg—you shake the back of my chair each time you move!”

“Madame, do you require my services? may I go down below?” pleaded Véronique in a voice of entreaty.

“No, no! stay where you are; I shall be going down myself in another minute—as soon, that is to say, as Mr. Palmer’s delightful story is concluded. But I am dying to hear what became of the widow and Major Waddell.”

“Well, Madam, what became of them was pretty much the same as what becomes of every unhappy creature of my sex when placed in hourly juxta-position with one of yours. The Major was no more adamant than the rest of us; indeed, I think I mentioned at the beginning of my narrative that he was rather less so. Any way the end of it was, what every one had foreseen from the beginning, that he lost his heart.

“But although he got the pretty widow to acknowledge, amidst such blushes as only widows blush, that if she could ever make up her mind to let another creep into that bleeding heart, left vacant by the defunct Diddleton (did I say her name was Diddleton?), that other should be no other than the seductive Waddell, his victory stayed there; for at the same time she informed him that her late husband had bound her, by an oath, never to entertain a thought of matrimony again, and showed him a miniature of the now seraphic Diddleton as he had appeared when in the flesh, with a savage frown upon his features, as though ready to execute vengeance upon her if she failed to keep her promise to him.

“But the gallant Major was in no wise daunted; he related every particular of his wooing to me in the confidence of the smoking hour, and affirmed that he should persevere until he had ground the widow’s scruples to the dust.

“‘A fine woman, sir!’ he would exclaim to me, ‘a deuced fine woman’ (I beg your pardon, Mrs. Dowdson—I am only repeating the Major’s words, remember!)”

“Granted,” replied the Colonel’s lady, par parenthèse, with a gracious inclination of the head.

“‘A deuced fine woman, and with no nonsense about her. I like a widow, sir—I’d rather have a widow for my wife (as long as she’s not too old), than half a dozen of your trumpery misses, who lose their tongues directly a man looks them in the face.’”

“Oh dear! Mr. Palmer! I’m afraid your Major Waddell must have been a very shocking man,” interposed Mrs. Dowdson at this juncture.

“Not at all, Madam, I assure you: his sentiments were as correct as his behaviour. But to proceed. He told me that he was determined to persevere until he conquered, and he kept his word, although it was not an easy victory. The widow held out for exactly two weeks and three days—rather a trial for a lover’s patience, as you will acknowledge, ladies: but the Major stuck to his colours and she surrendered at last, and in proof of it, she delivered up the portrait of her dead Diddleton, which she had hitherto worn next to her faithful heart, into the safe keeping of his successor, and replaced it with an auburn lock from the Major’s last new wig, whilst he, first carefully removing the setting, which was of gold, chucked the painted miniature overboard in my presence, whilst he chuckled over the idea that the remembrance of Diddleton should never bother either of them again, even by means of his pictured image.

“‘She is mine, sir,’ he said proudly on that occasion. ‘My Sarah-Maria has succumbed at last to my entreaties, and I will not hear of Mrs. Waddell carrying about the image of a dead Diddleton in her bosom. What is Diddleton to either of us, sir? Nothing—nothing! When I have once led Sarah-Maria to the hymeneal altar at Cape Town, I hope never to hear even the sound of his name again!’ I thought he was premature, but I made no remark on his proceeding. I daresay if I married a widow myself that I would rather she forgot all about her Diddleton as soon as might be. But am I tiring you, ladies? The dénouement is close at hand.”

“Not at all! not at all! We are very much interested in the Major’s love affair.”

“Are you tired of me, Mademoiselle Mary?”

This question was put in so low a voice, and during the clamour of the preceding answer, that it was unheard, save by her to whom it was addressed.

“What I am, or am not, sir, is of little importance!”

“Except to me,” he said hurriedly. “Well, Mrs. Dowdson, the natural sequence to the widow’s acceptance of the Major was, that all his boxes must come up from the hold again, and be opened on deck for her especial gratification, and when she saw all the treasures of many years’ collection, which were laid at her feet by the enamoured Waddell, I think she thought she had made a very good exchange for her defunct Diddleton. But there was one case which had not made its appearance with the others, one box of shawls and dresses which the Major had particularly wished to show her, and the men had been employed so long hauling up and down these heavy packages, that at last the Captain turned a little bit rusty, and refused to have anything more brought up that day. Now, as you are all aware, there is but one day a week on which passengers are allowed to have their luggage from the hold, and Major Waddell was told that he must wait until the next opportunity before he procured the box, the contents of which he so much desired to show Mrs. Diddleton. But, like all lovers, he was impatient, and after having stormed about his box for a long time in vain, he resolved that he would go down into the hold and get it himself.

“‘All right!’ I said, when he informed me of his intention; ‘do what you like, but don’t tell me of it;’ and consequently I heard no more of the Major and his possessions, until that evening when we were all, except himself, sitting round the cuddy table together.

“It had been a squally day, and when the night fell the air was so cold that the passengers were glad to sit in the cuddy with closed doors, and occupy themselves with their books, and games of draughts or chess, in preference to being nearly blown away on deck. Mrs. Diddleton was there, and evidently on the look-out for her Major’s appearance, from the manner in which she kept turning her eyes to the door through which she expected to see him enter.

“Now, ladies! are the pocket-handkerchiefs ready, for here comes the pathetic ending of my story?

“We were assembled, as I have told you, when a noise was heard from below, which I cannot describe better than as a yell of horror—such a yell as made the Captain and most of the passengers rise to their feet. But before they had had time to make any enquiries on the subject, the noise was repeated, accompanied by a great deal of tumbling about and scuttling, and in another moment the cuddy-door was burst open, and the Major, in shirt and trousers, the perspiration standing on his face from fright, and—that I should have to relate it!—without any wig upon his head, rushed into the midst of us, panting, breathless, and quite unable to articulate from emotion.

“‘Good Heavens! Major! what is the matter?’ enquired the Captain, as he looked with astonishment on the state of his passenger, who was covered with dust and cobwebs; ‘where have you been? what have you been doing?’

“‘He is there! he is there!’ exclaimed the Major, pointing, in a vague manner, on all sides of him; ‘he has risen, he has come after us—Sarah Maria! save me, save me!’ and he shook with terror and excitement.

“I had forgotten all about the hold, and the Major’s desire to procure his box, and I must confess that my first impression was that he had been taking a little drop of something to keep out the cold, and love and liquor combined had driven away his moderate stock of senses; but directly I said some words to him to that effect, I saw I was mistaken. It was real fright that was oppressing him, and when I found that there were three men waiting outside the cuddy door, much in the same condition, I called on a brother officer to accompany me at once to inspect the cause of their alarm.

“‘It’s there! it’s in the hold!’ panted Major Waddell, ‘don’t touch it! don’t go near it! Oh, Sarah Maria! that I should have gone through such a scene as this for your sake!’ and turning for comfort to his lady-love, the poor Major was woefully surprised to find that the widow, instead of flying into his arms, had risen from her seat, and was regarding him with a look of unmistakable aversion.

“‘Good gracious, Major,’ she exclaimed, ‘where is your hair?’ and conscious for the first time, that he had dropped his wig in his alarm and hurry, the hapless lover clapped his hand to his bald pate, and with a groan of dismay, rushed to hide himself in his own cabin.”

“But what was it, Mr. Palmer, that had frightened him so—was there anything in the hold? do tell us.”

“There was more than you would think for, ladies, and more than I ever wish to see again. Notwithstanding the protestations of the men who conjured us not to enter the hold till daylight, several of us at once took lanterns, and proceeded to inspect it, and as soon as we had pushed our way amongst the baggage with which it was encumbered, a most horrible sight presented itself to us. The cask of spirits which the widow had brought on board with her, being very bulky, had been stowed away on one end, in a corner, and where it stood, we now saw the figure of a man—or rather, I should say, a figure like nothing human—which, as we advanced towards it, slowly bobbed up and down before us, as though bowing in mock welcome!”

“Good heavens! Mr. Palmer, what was it?” exclaimed half-a-dozen voices, breathless with interest.

“I really hardly like to tell you, ladies, but remember that my tale is true. It was a corpse—the corpse of the defunct Diddleton, (I really shouldn’t laugh), which his disconsolate widow, wishing to convey to England, to be laid in the sepulchre of his fathers, had caused to be enclosed in a cask of spirits, that she might by that means the better carry out her pious intention.”

“But why didn’t Diddleton remain where he was put?” demanded Mr. Reed.

“Well! either the spirit was not good, or there was not sufficient of it, or, what sounds the most dreadful of all, Jack had smelt a rat, and helped himself on the sly, but the natural consequence of either alternative was that the body of Mr. Diddleton asserted its very unpleasant rights, and refusing to remain any longer in durance vile, stove out the head of the cask, and bobbing up and down by lantern light, in the small quantity of liquor which remained, looked anything but a pleasant customer for the man to encounter, who had just stepped into his widow’s affections, and sacrilegiously thrown his miniature overboard!”

“Oh dear! oh dear! what a dreadful story! What did the Major do, Mr. Palmer?”

“Do! Madam? There was nothing left for him to do, for the widow was so disgusted at finding he wore a wig, that she refused to have anything more to say to him from that day forward—though she made him pay right handsomely for the miniature he had destroyed. So we landed him at the Cape, with all his boxes and baggage, a wiser and a sadder man, and I have never heard since whether he has yet found a lady to his taste, or forgotten his brief engagement to the fair Sarah Maria!”

“But the dreadful Diddleton!”

“Oh! the dreadful Diddleton was consigned to the waves the day afterwards. His widow had a fit of hysterics when she was told of the necessity of the proceeding, but the Captain was firm, and indeed it might have caused a mutiny amongst the men had he not been so; for there is nothing which a sailor considers more unlucky than to carry a corpse on board; we always get rid of them as soon as possible. And now, ladies, that is the end of Major Waddell’s wooing: if you can discover a moral to it, you are very welcome to keep it for yourselves, but I have only related it for your amusement, and if I have in any degree succeeded in my object, I shall be well repaid.”

They were just about to thank him for the trouble he had taken, and to express their different opinions on the narrative, when a sudden exclamation from Mrs. Dowdson’s lady’s maid caused them all to look in her direction.

“Laissez-moi! vous ne devez pas faire cela!” came in agitated tones from Véronique, as she quickly left her position on the hen-coop, and then addressing herself to her mistress, she hurriedly added, “Pardon, Madame! il faut que je m’en aille, je ne puis tarder plus longtemps,” and without waiting for an answer, ran down the companion ladder which led to the lower deck.

This sudden departure threw the whole circle into a state of surprise. The few words which Véronique had spoken in her own language had been too rapidly enunciated to be intelligible to any of her hearers, and although the Reeds, perceiving that Mr. Palmer’s manner had become unaccountably confused, suspected that his behaviour had had something to do with the girl’s flight, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson had not an idea of the truth.

“Good gracious!” she exclaimed, “the child must be ill.”

She could not imagine that any dependent in her service would presume to quit her presence without permission, unless dictated to by some such urgent reason, and as it was already past her own bed-time, and she was very tired, she made a virtue of necessity, and averred her intention of going down at once, to look after “poor Mar-rie.”

“That is,” concluded Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, with a winning smile, “if Mr. Palmer will have the great goodness to see me safely down the companion-ladder?”

Upon which the Lieutenant, although not without a degree of trepidation, conducted the lady below, and with an awkward bow, left her at the door of her own cabin.

Mrs. Dowdson expected to find her lady’s maid there, for it was part of her duty, if she descended before her mistress, to await her coming in her own apartment, but she was scarcely prepared to see her cast on her knees by the bedside, and with her face buried in her hands, sobbing vehemently from mingled shame and anger.

“Why! Mar-rie, are you in pain; have you hurt yourself?” she demanded, in astonishment, “what is the reason of this extraordinary conduct?”

“Il ne doit pas agar ainsi,” exclaimed Véronique, indignantly, as for a moment she raised her crimsoned face to meet Mrs. Dowdson’s look of amazement. “C’est une infamie, je parlerai à Monsieur le Capitaine, je ne veux pas être insultée.”

Her words were as Greek in the earas of her listener, but the lady comprehended that her servant was neither sick nor sorry, and to subject her to the exhibition of any other emotion was what she considered a great piece of impertinence on a menial’s part. So that her answer was delivered rather stiffly, and Véronique saw at once that she had offended her.

“Whilst you talk such absurd gibberish,” said Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, loftily, “it is quite impossible that I, or anyone indeed, should understand you. Get up directly, Mar-rie, and let me know the meaning of this behaviour on your part, or I shall be seriously angry with you.”

Véronique remembered herself, and drying her eyes, rose to her feet. Her feelings had been so outraged, that she had totally forgotten that she was only a servant, and now that the recollection poured back upon her, she felt she owed her mistress an apology.

“I beg your pardon, Madame, indeed I do; but for the moment I could think only of myself. He insulted me, Madame, il s’est moqué de moi, that man beside whom I was seated, and I cannot bear it. I will not bear it from any one, it is a cruel shame, une indignité; he would not have dared to do it had I not been friendless and alone.”

“That man!” re-echoed Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, “of whom are you speaking? what man sat next to you, Mar-rie?”

“That lieutenant, Madame, that Monsieur Palmer! In the dark he put his arm about my waist, and his face close to mine, and it is not the first time, and I will not stand it. He should be punished for such grossiéreté,” and Véronique’s usually quiet eyes flashed fire, and her nostrils dilated, and her breast heaved beneath the remembrance of the indignity to which she had been subjected.

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson stood confounded. What was the world coming to, when servants mentioned a gentleman as a “man,” and spoke of the notice bestowed on them as an insult instead of considering it an honour?

At first she was going to address her maid to this effect, but something in Véronique’s demeanour ever warned her not to go too far with her, and her mistress feared if she did not take up her cause in this matter, she would procure the agency of some one else. At the same time, she had no wish to have a noise made about it, and to be obliged to express open disapprobation of the Lieutenant’s conduct, and therefore she affected to treat the whole concern as a matter of little consequence, and one in which the girl was just as likely to be mistaken as not.

“Dear me! did he, really? You don’t mean to say so? But perhaps you were mistaken, Mar-rie, we were all sitting very close together, remember, and Mr. Palmer, in moving, may have had no intention of giving you offence.”

“Mistaken, Madame!” exclaimed the girl, scornfully, “when his cheek touched mine. It was no mistake, I can assure you, it was a gross insult!”

“Tut, tut! a gentleman can never have intended to offer you that! He was just playing with you, child; sailors think nothing of a bit of fun.”

“But I am not a sailor, Madame,” said Véronique, firmly, “and I cannot go on deck again in the dark and sit near that gentleman. He has touched me before, often—many times—though he has never dared to go so far as he went to-night.”

“And does he hurt you by touching you, Mar-rie?” demanded her mistress, with a bland smile.

The girl looked at her in astonishment. Was it possible, she thought, that a lady could approve of such conduct. Women, even when their own feelings are not concerned, are so apt to take up the part of one another against the more amorous sex.

But Mrs. Colonel Dowdson did not approve of it; on the contrary, she was rather piqued at its having taken place, and under other circumstances would have exclaimed loudly against its impropriety. But she did not wish to lose either the services of her maid or her cavalier, and she did not care sufficiently for the welfare of the former to mind what annoyances she was subjected to in the performance of the duties she undertook for herself.

“What if the gentleman did brush against you, are you any the worse for it?” she asked again.

“He shall not do it!” replied Véronique, angrily, as she thought of him whose right to her had made her sacred in her own eyes.

“Well, well, of course not; but don’t be too ready to imagine that people intend to insult you. Mr. Palmer doubtless only wished to help you off the hen-coop, or to show you that he was friendlily disposed. Some girls would consider such an attention on a gentleman’s part a mark of great honour, and really, considering how you go on with that black man, calling him your brother, and shaking his hand, I don’t think you need be so very particular. So, dry your eyes, Mar-rie, pray, and undress me, and let me hear no more of such nonsense.”

Véronique did as her mistress required of her, trembling the while with suppressed resentment, and having performed the office of seeing Mrs. Dowdson safely into bed, rushed away to her own cabin to give fresh vent to her indignation. As she did so, she felt so completely, so entirely alone. It was a case which she shrunk from carrying to her adopted brothers ears, the passages in their past life rendering all such subjects sealed books between them, and she saw that she must expect no spirit of co-operation from her mistress.

Yet Véronique felt strong to act by herself, her love for Gordon Romilly was a breast-plate for her against the advances of the world, and though she wept to think that she should be separated from him, and for want of his protection, subjected to misunderstanding and affront, she never once blamed him for deserting her, but sunk to sleep, believing him in her heart to be all that was most faithful and tender and true.

Chapter XII

No. 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street

The rest of the voyage performed by the “Earl of Hardbake,” passed without further adventure, so far as the heroine of this story is concerned. Mr. Palmer, deterred, perhaps, by the frigidity of her manner towards him, did not venture to repeat his rudeness. Mrs. Colonel Dowdson continued to treat her with the same mixture of familiarity and snappish authority which she had maintained from the commencement of their agreement, and David, from his post of observation in the steward’s pantry, watched over her bodily and mentally, with such tender care and solicitude, that his kindness and the thought that it would never be in her power to repay it to him, often brought tears into Véronique’s eyes. They put in for a few days at the Cape of Good Hope, after which break the last half of the voyage passed, as is usual in such cases, much more quickly than the first had done, and on a bitterly cold day in February the “Earl of Hardbake” sighted Lizard’s Point, and commenced to run up the English Channel, a feat which, on account of the setting-in of contrary winds, she did not accomplish under little less than a week, during which time her unhappy passengers, without fires, and many of them provided with very inadequate clothing, were nearly frozen. Véronique, accustomed from childhood to the bleak air of the Nilgiri Hills, did not feel the change so much as some of her companions, and as each day brought them nearer to the white cliffs which she ardently desired to see, and to the accomplishment of that hope which she firmly believed would be fulfilled, her spirits rose to such a height that she was scarcely in a condition to feel any inconvenience, and bore all her mistress’s grumblings and ill-humour with the greatest sang-froid; but Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, whose Madras dignity had revolted against the acceptance of any advice on a subject concerning which her desire was to be considered au fait, and who had brought nothing warmer with her than what she had worn during the rainy season in India, suffered terribly with the cold. She shivered even in dresses of silk, and mantles which had been thought too heavy to wear in the East, for the circulation of her blood was stagnant from a lengthened residence in hot climates, and she had not had the slightest idea of the intensity of cold which can be conveyed by a February wind in the British Channel. However, there was no help for it then, and although she put on every available wrap which her really handsome wardrobe could produce, Mrs. Colonel Dowdson still sat and shivered in her cabin, her sole amusement finding fault with Véronique, or reviling her unfortunate husband for having placed her in such a situation, until the happy day arrived when the “Earl of Hardbake” ran into the river, and with fingers without any feeling in them, and a remarkably blue nose, she was lowered, together with her belongings, into a boat at Gravesend to be conveyed on shore.

Whilst the Colonel, who, leaving the troops under the charge of Lieutenant Reed, was about to take his wife to London, and then return to superintend their disembarkation, was busy with Mr. Palmer in seeing the things disposed in the boat, David drew Véronique aside to interchange a few last words.

“Véronique, I shall not be able to leave the ship for the next three days. Send me a letter to the docks to tell me your address, and I will come and see you before I leave London.”

“Yes; do, David! dear David, don’t forget! I shall feel so lonely in this strange place without you. I will send the letter without fail tomorrow.”

“You do not yet know where you are going to in London?”

“Not yet; but everything is ready for us. A friend of the Colonel’s has taken rooms for them, and we shall be settled in them to-night. And I will write to you at once, and watch each day for your appearing. Adieu! mon frère; je vous remercie millefois de tons vos soins.”

“Adieu, chèrie!” he echoed sadly as he took her two little hands between his own, and gazed earnestly into the depths of her liquid eyes. “Adieu, petite, que Dieu te garde et te bénisse toujours.”

There was not time to say another word, for Mrs. Dowdson was calling fretfully from the boat for her lady’s maid to join her, and the Colonel, who stood in the greatest awe of his wife’s humours, and had a corresponding dislike to see her pretty attendant bullied, was entreating Véronique not to keep her waiting any longer; so putting on one side the proffered assistance of the first lieutenant, the girl gave her hand to the black steward, and stepping lightly into the tub, was covered with the ship’s flag and lowered over the side of the vessel into the boat, where she was received with sundry reproaches for not having made more haste. Mrs. Colonel Dowdson was working up for a bad temper, her teeth were chattering and her body trembling with the cold, and when she glanced from the dark, sullen-looking water over which she was passing, to the dirty unromantic quay towards which she was being borne, she thought England appeared, without exception, the most detestable country she had ever seen. And when on landing at Gravesend, she was detained, standing about a small unfurnished room at the Custom House, for more than an hour, waiting to have her baggage examined before they were permitted to proceed, the land from which she had been so long an alien that it was a strange land to her, sunk still lower in her estimation. At least a dozen times did she desire her husband in an audible voice to inform the officials who she was, and that he had come over in command of the troops on board the “Earl of Hardbake,” but although her remarks were evidently overheard by those for whom they were intended, they only provoked a smile at her folly and did not have the least effect in making the Custom House servants hasten their operations; so that by the time the Colonel was enabled to put her in the train for Blackwall, Mrs. Dowdson was undeniably what ladies call “put out.”

“I should think your brother, or Captain Diver or Kitty might have come to meet us at Gravesend,” she said in a tone of offence, as the train commenced to move off with them towards London; “I certainly did not expect to be landed in this country without a soul to welcome me! And I think it is very extraordinary that not one of them should be here.”

“But my dear!” pleaded the Colonel, “only remember, it is quite impossible they should have known on what day and hour the ‘Earl of Hardbake’ would arrive, so I think it is just a little unreasonable to expect they would have been waiting at Gravesend for us.”

“I suppose she was telegraphed from the Downs,” said the lady sharply.

“Yes! but they may have thought that the troops would disembark at the docks. However, by the advice of Captain Hollyoak, I sent my brother a telegram from Gravesend, to say we had arrived, and so doubtless we shall see them all, ready to welcome us, at the other end.”

Cheered by which prospect Mrs. Dowdson condescended for awhile to abate her ill-humour, and speak of the eager pleasure, which she expected her friends would manifest at meeting her again.

“I think we will drive at once to our rooms, Colonel,” she said, “instead of going to an hotel. It will be so much more comfortable, for Kitty Diver is sure to have everything in readiness against our arrival; and then when you have had your dinner, you can return to the ship, if you must return today.”

“No! no!” replied the Colonel, who was foolish but good-tempered, “as soon as I have seen you safely deposited in your rooms, my dear, I must go back at once to Gravesend, and be thankful if I can get a few mouthfuls at the station on my way. To find dinner waiting our very uncertain movements, is rather more than we can expect.”

“Rather more than we can expect,” echoed Mrs. Dowdson, with a toss of the head, “why, Colonel, what are you talking about? Of course, dinner will be prepared for us, and everything else that we can need. Did I not write to Kitty Diver from Madras on the subject, and tell her exactly what we wanted, respecting apartments and all other arrangements? A most explicit letter also, and which it is quite impossible she can have misunderstood. Good Kitty! she is a faithful honest creature, and would go through fire and water to serve me, or mine. I shall be really quite pleased to see her again;” and Mrs. Colonel Dowdson settled herself in a complacent manner in the corner of the carriage, whilst her husband gazed vacantly out of the window, and Véronique, with her heart burning at the anticipation of what might be before her, dreamed of a future, painted by Hope and Love, and was insensible to all outward things.

“Here we are!” exclaimed the Colonel, as the train ran smoothly into the Blackwall terminus, and Mrs. Dowdson shook out her plumes, put on her blandest smile, and said,

“Now for Kitty Diver, and your brother.”

But although the platform was crowded with people, many of whom had come to meet their friends, no familiar faces struck the view of either Colonel or Mrs. Dowdson; and the latter, with her former ill-humour returned in full force, was compelled to accede to her husband’s proposal, that they should first go to an hotel, from which he would seek out Miss Diver or his brother, and learn at what address their apartments had been secured for them.

“It is most shameful—most inexcusable of Kitty Diver,” said Mrs. Dowdson angrily, as the cab rattled over the stones with them, towards the hotel recommended by the driver, “and I shall take care to let her know that I think so. Kitty will never be the same to me after this—never!—never!

“But my dear,” interposed the Colonel soothingly, “I daresay it is a mistake. You must make excuses for her—perhaps business or a previous engagement—”

“Colonel! I will not sit still and hear you defend such conduct. No business—no engagement should have been permitted to interfere with what I consider a sacred duty on her part. Look what I did for Kitty Diver in Madras! How often she dined with us, and drove with us, and spent the evening at our house. And do you mean to tell me that anything should have prevented her meeting me at the station? And your brother too, and Captain Diver? Where are they? tell me that! if you please; and then begin to invent paltry excuses for them, as well as Kitty. I am astonished to hear you.”

The Colonel shrugged his shoulders, and was silent.

“Well! have you nothing to say in their behalf?” she continued witheringly. “May they not be occupied with their breakfasts, or gone out for a walk, or got some other pressing business to keep them at home? eh, Colonel?”

“My dear! my dear!” exclaimed the unhappy man, looking much as though he would like to make his escape from his wife’s tongue by a leap through the cab window, “I do not wish to excuse their absence. I only say we had better wait to condemn it; until we hear by what means it may have been brought about.”

“Colonel, I’ve no patience with you,” said the lady, “you always try to creep out of an argument after that fashion. However, I shall not be so ready to find excuses for them; and that they will hear before we have been together many minutes.”

But at this crisis, the cab having arrived at the door of the hotel, the conversation was for the time suspended, and as Mrs. Dowdson refused to take either meat or drink, until she knew in what quarter of the town her future residence was located, her husband proceeded at once to his brother’s chambers, in order to ascertain the address, whilst she spent the hour of his absence in pacing up and down the apartment to which she had been shown, while she held forth to Véronique in unmitigated terms on the sin of ingratitude, and the duty of respect, particularly to one occupying so high a position as the wife of a “pucka” Colonel in Her Majesty’s Madras Native Infantry.

But when the “pucka” Colonel returned to the presence of his lady, it was with rather a rueful face, he felt so unpleasantly certain of the reception he should experience for his news. He had been to the chambers of his brother, but found them barred and closed with an intimation that their owner was out of town, and would not return for several days; upon which he had driven to the address of Captain Diver whom he had also been unfortunate enough to find from home, but whose sister had given him a card with the street and the number of the lodgings she had taken for them, and a message for his wife, to the effect that, she was glad she had arrived in safety, and that if her brother had made no other engagement for her, she would call and see her in the course of the evening.

“Kitty Diver sent me that message!” exclaimed Mrs. Dowdson, quite unable to believe her ears, “Kitty Diver said that ‘if she had no other engagement’ she would call and see me this evening. It is incredible! Why, Colonel, she must have gone mad!”

“No, no, my dear,” replied the Colonel, in the same soothing voice he had employed before, “you must remember that in this bustling city people have more cares and business to occupy them than in a place like Madras. You mustn’t be hard on poor Kitty—doubtless she does not wish to pay you the ill-compliment of a hurried visit, and so will defer it till she has leisure to have a long chat with you!”

“Why didn’t she come now?” demanded Mrs. Dowdson, fiercely, “why didn’t she return with you, or go on at once, and await me at my rooms?”

The Colonel didn’t dare to say that Miss Diver had altogether spoken rather nonchalantly on the subject of his wife and her apartments, so he pulled his moustaches and suggested—

“Perhaps she thought she would be in the way, my dear.”

“Fiddlesticks!” rejoined the lady, quickly, and then taking the card from his hand, she continued, “Where are my rooms? Oh, Number 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street. Did Kitty Diver say what they were like?”

“Kitty Diver said nothing about them, my dear, excepting that that was the address, and that they had been engaged for us a week ago. I was so anxious to get back to you that I did not stay above a minute at the Divers’. But now, if you wish to enter them at once, perhaps we had better start, although I advise you to have some luncheon or dinner here, first.”

“I shall do no such thing,” returned his wife, “It would be no use, for we shall find dinner waiting for us at 10, Fitz-Cavendish Street.”

“Kitty Diver did not mention anything about dinner,” said the Colonel, dubiously.

“Perhaps not! but of course she has ordered it. She has omitted to show me the respect I required of her, by meeting me at the railway station, but she would hardly presume to go so far as to neglect providing for our personal comforts. Order a cab, directly, if you please, Colonel, I wish to go on at once.”

Secretly fearful that his wife’s assurance would be disappointed, the Colonel yet knew his duty too well not to do as he was told; and in a few minutes they had left the hotel, and were on their way to No. 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street.

The rooms which were to be in readiness for her in London, had been a favourite theme with Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, on board the “Earl of Hardbake,” and she had never been tired, if the other passengers expressed doubts as to their movements or destination on arriving in England, of expatiating on the comfort and convenience and luxury of the apartments, which she had bespoken for herself and the Colonel, at the west end of London.

It would appear from her own description of what she had never seen, that Mrs. Dowdson had expected a palace to be prepared for her for three guineas a week; and Véronique, who had been accessory to most of her mistress’s conversations on the subject, had also had her ideas with respect to their future habitation considerably inflated.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the cab which conveyed them thither, drew up at the unpretentious door of a dingy slice of a house situated in a narrow street abutting on Fitz-Cavendish Square, both Mrs. Colonel Dowdson and her lady’s maid should have been hard to convince that the driver had not made a mistake, and had but to be told of it to rattle them off in another direction.

“This cannot be the house!” exclaimed Mrs. Dowdson, quite amused at the imbecility of their conductor.

“I should scarcely think so,” said the Colonel, peering upwards at the blackened London windows, through which appeared muslin curtains, yellow with smoke and time.

“Why, who would! it is impossible,” replied his wife, snappishly, “tell the man to get up again, and drive on.”

“Is this Number 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street?” enquired the Colonel, mildly, of the cabman, who had given a vigorous pull at the door bell.

“Can’t you read?” was the emphatic answer, as the driver jerked his thumb backwards.

“My dear! I really think it is,” suggested the Colonel, timidly, as he glanced in the direction indicated by the cabman’s thumb, and saw a large 10 in brass figures on the panel, “I daresay it is a very nice house inside, and at all events I had better get out and ask.”

These the rooms Kitty Diver has taken for me!” exclaimed Mrs. Dowdson. “Colonel, it is impossible! the man has made some mistake—tell him to drive on at once.”

“But, my dear, here is the servant, so I think it would be wise to enquire first. Pray is this Number 10, Little FitzCavendish Street?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the lodging-house Phillis, who had a long streak of smut right across her face.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” remarked the driver, with contempt, “perhaps you’ll believe me another time, sir!—shall I take down the boxes?”

“Yes, certainly—that is to say—” commenced the Colonel, hesitatingly—

“Colonel! Colonel! I will not descend,” said his wife, “this is not a fit place for me to reside in—Kitty Diver must be insane to have engaged it.”

“My dear! my dear!” replied her husband, lowering his voice, “pray do not speak so loudly—we shall offend the people of the house; let me persuade you to get out for the present—remember that I have to return to Gravesend, and that you have had no dinner, and that we should hardly know where else to go to for today. Be persuaded to lodge here, at all events, for to-night, and tomorrow you can make what fresh arrangements you choose.”

Mrs. Dowdson, notwithstanding her ill-humour, saw the sense of this proposal, and leaving the cab in high dudgeon, squeezed herself past her boxes, which were already blocking up the narrow passage, and was received by her landlady in a dingy little dining-room, furnished with dyed moreen of a sombre mulberry hue, and which, from having no fire in the grate, felt as cold as a cellar.

“Are these my apartments?” she enquired, with lofty dignity, as she gazed around her.

“Yes, Ma’am,” replied the landlady, who was all smiles and curtsies; “this is the parlour, with the bedroom next to it, and a room for your maid upstairs, all as comfortable and convenient as heart could wish for, as I said to Miss Diver, when she took them for you last week. And so you’ve come all the way from India, this morning! dear heart alive, if I’d known it you should have had a fire ready for you, but Miss Diver said it might be any day, and where was the use of wasting firing on an expectancy; but the girl shall light it up directly, Ma’am—and when would you be pleased to have your dinner?”

“At once!” said Mrs. Colonel Dowdson. “These are very different apartments from what I expected Miss Diver to prepare for me, but since she has made so gross a mistake, and we are in them, there is nothing to be done but to make the best of it for the present. Serve the dinner at once, if you please; the Colonel has to return immediately to Gravesend, to superintend the disembarkation of the troops.”

“At once!” exclaimed the landlady, whose tone changed visibly with the slight cast upon her apartments, “and where do you suppose, ma’am, I am to get a dinner to set before you at once? If you choose to bespeak anything in reason, you can have it in its proper time, but I don’t keep a boarding-house nor yet an eating-house, nor are there any black slaves here, nor mullatters for to be commanded about at a moment’s notice, whether they will or no,” and folding her arms across her portly person, the landlady stood and regarded the lady from India portentously.

“And has Miss Diver ordered no dinner to be prepared for us?” enquired Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, in amazement.

“Not as I know of,” replied the landlady, “I haven’t seen Miss Diver since the day she took the rooms for you, and in my ideas it would have been much more reasonable if persons fresh arrived from off the sea had gone to an hotel to warm and feed theirselves, instead of coming all of a sudden to turn a quiet house upside down. I ain’t used to such proceedings myself, and I can’t say I approve them.”

Saying which the implacable creature, whose milk of human kindness had been turned to curds by the first remark of her lodger, turned short round and stalked out of the apartment, calling to the girl on her way, to go up to the parlour, and if “they” had any further orders, to bring them down to her to the kitchen.

“My dear! I am really afraid that I must leave you,” said the Colonel, who foresaw a coming tempest, and unmanfully thanked his stars that business called him in another direction. “Reed will be quite at a loss to know what to do without me, and indeed it is absolutely necessary that I should be present at the disembarkation of the troops. I shall get a mouthful on board, or at the station on my way, and you will see me again tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I advise you to tell the servant just to get a little dinner ready for yourself and your maid, as soon as possible, and I daresay Kitty Diver will be round in the course of the evening, when you can have a chat together about these things. She has been in London now for some time, and will be able to give you any information you may require about shops or provisions or lodgings. And when I come back, you can make what alteration you please.”

So with a hasty farewell the prudent Colonel beat a rapid retreat, leaving Mrs. Dowdson indignant at the idea of requiring assistance in house-finding or house-keeping from Kitty Diver, or any other “creature,” but very much inclined to weep, nevertheless, from wounded pride, and cold and hunger and fatigue combined. However, the fire was now crackling in the grate, and the domestic, rendered still dirtier by the operation of kindling it, was standing meekly by, waiting for orders, so that personal discomfort gained the mastery of Mrs. Dowdson’s grandeur, and she condescended to ask the girl to let her have something to eat as quickly as it could be procured, which demand, after the lapse of another hour, produced two dishes of mutton-chops and beef-steak, accompanied by some watery potatoes, to which rather unappetising repast Mrs. Colonel Dowdson was feign to sit down, whilst poor little Véronique, who was nearly fainting from fasting and weariness, was desired to carry her share of the dainties into the adjoining room, where she ate it on the lid of one of her mistress’s travelling cases; to dine at the same table as a servant, even under the most untoward circumstances, being an indignity to which Mrs. Colonel Dowdson could never have submitted herself.

“I shall deny myself to Kitty Diver,” said that lady, emphatically, as she wiped her mouth, and rose from table, “when Kitty Diver calls upon me, I shall send out word that I am too much engaged to see her.”

There was no one but Véronique to listen to this spirited determination on the part of Mrs. Dowdson; but the mind of the latter was so completely filled with the baseness of Kitty Diver’s conduct towards her, that it was a relief to censure it, even for the benefit of a servant who had never seen her. But the individual in question did not give her friend an opportunity to carry out her resolve, for as the dusk was falling, a sharp ring sounded at the front door bell, and before Mrs. Dowdson had had time to expostulate against her admittance, Miss Diver pushed past Phillis in the passage, and was standing in the mulberry-tinted dining-room.

“Well, Mrs. Dowdson!” she exclaimed, cheerfully, “how are you? Welcome back to the old country! How thankful you must be to have escaped from that detestable Madras! I hope you like your apartments! How are you getting on with old Ball?”

The lady who poured forth this string of queries and ejaculations without waiting for a response, was a middle-aged person, small, sharp, and active-looking, who had made a journey out to Madras some years previously, ostensibly to keep the house of her brother, Captain Diver, in reality to see whether it were not possible to inaugurate an establishment of her own, and who (having been disappointed in the latter expectation) had returned (with the exception of being a little thinner, a little sharper, and five years older) much as she went, but with considerably reversed opinions of the country which had proved so false a hope to her.

Whilst in Madras, Kitty Diver had been one of Mrs. Dowdson’s most steady flatterers and insincere allies. She had permitted herself to be “poor Kitty,” and “good Kitty,” and “honest Kitty,” with the Colonel’s lady, until the latter had come to imagine that Miss Diver looked up to her as a subject to a reigning sovereign, and concluded, not unnaturally, perhaps, that she would find her as amenable to her playful discipline in England as she had been in Madras.

But Mrs. Dowdson had yet to learn (and a hard lesson it proves to some) that the mother country is not India, and that, as Mrs. Ball had neatly put it, there are no black slaves and “mullatters” here.

Miss Diver keeping the house of her brother in Vepery, and Miss Diver keeping the house of her brother in Pimlico, were two different persons. Under the first circumstances, policy had compelled to regard his welfare and her own shady prospects; under the second, she had no one to fear, no one to thank, and no one to regard but herself and him, which accounted for the entire freedom expressed by her voice and manner as she addressed the sometime awful Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, and the jaunty air with which she took that lady’s hand, whether she would or not, and shook it in recognition of her welcome.

“Are you comfortable? I daresay you expected to see me before this, but I really couldn’t get away. We have such a number of acquaintances in London now, and I had a succession of visitors this afternoon. Besides, I thought you would have plenty to occupy you in undoing your boxes and so forth, and that I should be wise to keep out of the way till it was well over, for you must know that ever since I returned from that odious place, Madras, I have had a perfect horror of packing-cases, and cords, and straw, and all the paraphernalia of a journey.”

Could this possibly be Kitty Diver, who in times gone by had never been able to say sufficient in praise of Mrs. Dowdson’s adopted country, and who had repeatedly lamented that she should not be at hand to help her dear friend through all the troublesome preparation needful for a voyage to England? The Colonel’s wife could hardly believe it, and yet there she sat, (having ensconced herself in an arm-chair by the fire), in propria persona, rattling on without pause or hesitation, and apparently without the least idea that either her conversation or her presence was unwelcome.

“Dear me! who’s that?” she exclaimed, as she caught sight of Véronique, “your lady’s maid? why, what a chit! I suppose you brought her home for her passage-money. You’ll find her a rather more expensive article to keep here than in Indica; and, by the way, where is the poor dear Colonel? Hard at work, I suppose. What slavery the army is! and how do you like your rooms, Mrs. Dowdson? I assure you it is no sinecure lodging-hunting for one’s friends. I wore out a new pair of boots before I lit on these apartments.”

“We think them exceedingly small,” returned the Colonel’s wife, loftily; it was almost the first time she had opened her regal lips to the new-comer, “and very different to what we had expected. And, indeed, had you taken the trouble to meet us at the station, Kitty Diver, as I quite thought you would do, and told me what sort of rooms these were, I should have requested the Colonel to take me to an hotel, until you had found us others. They are very inferior, as you must have known, to such as we have been accustomed to.”

“Then I’m very glad I didn’t meet you,” replied Miss Diver, bluntly, “for to find better apartments in this situation, and at this price, would be a simple impossibility. Why! you don’t consider, Mrs. Dowdson, that you wished your rooms to be at the west end, and not to exceed three guineas a week, and I think I must have gone to fifty houses before I found these, and I thought them very reasonable. You must remember that the season will be here directly, when all the swells return to town, and rooms in this quarter are snapped up at almost any price; and as to meeting you at the station, I couldn’t do it. Even had I been sure by which train you would arrive, I have too many occupations now to be able to leave home at a moment’s notice,” and Miss Diver shook out her skirts, and made sundry other little gestures indicative of a ruffled temperament.

“But there was not even a dinner prepared for us!” continued Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, in a tone of injury.

“My dear lady, these rooms were taken for you a week ago. You wouldn’t have had me tell Mrs. Ball to keep a joint of meat and et ceteras ready in the house against your coming, would you, when they are to be procured at a moment’s notice in any part of London? Who was to know when you would arrive, or whether you would dine here or elsewhere? Good Heavens! we are not in India; you have but to say what you want here, and it is done. You must try and rub off a little of your rust now that you have come back to England, and put all the antiquated ideas that one gets in the ‘benighted Presidency’ out of your head. And now I really must go, for Harry has some friends in to supper to-night, and I promised him not to stay away too long. I will come and see you again tomorrow, or next day; but remember, if you want to change your apartments, you must find others for yourself, for I’ve had quite enough of it; but if you’re wise, you’ll remain where you are. Good-bye! my love to the Colonel!” and with a hasty shake of the hand, Miss Diver ran out of the room, leaving Mrs. Dowdson in a state of surprise bordering on bewilderment.

To hear Madras abused, and the military service termed a slavery! to be told to “rub off her rust,” and get rid of her “antiquated ideas,” by Kitty Diver!—Kitty Diver! who had been proud to be seen driving by her side, and known as her intimate acquaintance,—was altogether too much for Mrs. Colonel Dowdson. Her dignity had suffered a great deal on board ship from the frivolity of Mrs. Reed, still more in the Custom House that morning, and at the hands of Mrs. Ball; but she had never received so sharp a setting down as from the mouth of her umqwhile toady, and she felt the affront in proportion to its unexpectedness.

How she wished in that hour that she had never resigned the proud position of “second in command” to the officers of the 99th M.N.I., nor consented to leave the place where she had reigned (or fancied that she reigned) a queen. As Mrs. Colonel Dowdson thought on these things, and reckoned up her losses and her gains, she actually shed tears of chagrin and regret.

Volume Three

Chapter I

Water to a Thirsty Soul

As soon as she found that Mrs. Dowdson intended to abide by the unpalatable advice of her friend, and remain in the apartments which had been procured for her, Véronique wrote word of her whereabouts to her adopted brother, and on the fourth day of her sojourn in London, David presented himself at No. 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street, at a time, luckily for him, when Colonel and Mrs. Dowdson had both gone out, and he could hold a long and uninterrupted conversation with Véronique.

He had just been paid off from the “Earl of Hardbake,” and looked very different from what he had done when on the Nilgiri Hills, or even on board ship; the picturesque, half Eastern, half European attire, which he had there affected, and had suited so well with the wild character of his native beauty, having been exchanged for an English suit of cloth, in which, although less handsome, he appeared perhaps more fit to claim acquaintanceship with a girl like Véronique, whose looks had gained instead of losing by a closer attention to the modern style of dress. To her it made small difference how David was attired, so long as he was well and glad to see her.

As yet, he was the only friend in that strange country to whom she clung; and though she had begun feverishly to anticipate hearing news of her absent husband, it was but an evanescent hope, born one moment to die the next, ever rising, ever falling, and keeping the poor child meanwhile in a continual state of anxiety and expectation, through which however, her enduring faith still burned brightly.

David was eager to learn what she had settled for the future, and quite disappointed when he heard that as yet she had decided upon nothing; for how could she decide until she saw her way a little clearer? Every day she waited in breathless expectation to hear the subject which was one of vital interest to her, mooted between Mrs. Dowdson and Miss Diver, but although they had held several conferences on the sayings and doings of mutual friends, the magic name of Gordon Romilly had never passed their lips, and Véronique in her simplicity, wondered how they could regard with such indifference a creature who was all the world to her.

David was anxious that she should give immediate warning to her mistress, and cross to Belgium with himself. Her service was completed—so he argued—the agreement into which she had entered was fulfilled, and there was nothing to hinder her asking Mrs. Dowdson to find herself another lady’s maid, and going to Rêve under his protection. He had money more than sufficient to take them both there, and she had the hundred pounds left her by Père Joseph, beside the proceeds of the sale of her own small possessions, to live on, until she should find means to support herself: what reason could there possibly be for further delay?

But Véronique knew the reason well, although she dared not breathe a hint of it to David; she knew that if she left London at that moment when, as Miss Diver expressed it, “all the swells were coming to town,” and buried herself in Rêve, she would lose all chance of hearing news of Gordon Romilly, and might as well have never undertaken the journey home in search of him.

She knew that her best hope lay in remaining where he was likely to come, and where, if she did not meet him in the house or the street, she might at least see or hear of those who could tell her if he were dead or alive. She knew all this as well as though it had been written down in black and white before her, for it was engraven on her heart.

To find her husband, whom she believed to be hers only, and faithful to his vows, was the first and last wish and hope of Véronique, yet, forced to conceal the truth, and substitute a fable of her own invention, she made so lame a matter of deception, that David mistook her blushes and confusion, and her hesitatingly-expressed wish to remain with her mistress until she was a little more settled, to reluctance to place herself beneath his escort, and ceased to urge compliance with his wish. Yet he begged her not to remain in London longer than was absolutely necessary, nor to travel to Belgium without due protection, and he gave her the address of a “Domestic Bazaar,” not far from where she lived, at which she was to apply when she wished to change services, and where he had ascertained she was certain to procure a situation.

As to his own intentions, David said little; he appeared to have some indefinite notions of a future floating through his brain, but he would not reveal them prematurely. All he disclosed was, that he meant to go straight to Rêve, and from Rêve he would write to her, and communicate his plans.

Had Véronique desired it, he would have offered to remain in London until she was ready to cross with him, but Véronique did not desire it; on the contrary, much as she was attached to the man she called her brother, she seemed relieved to hear that he had made up his mind to go to Belgium, and he perceived the feeling, and misinterpreted it.

The extreme sensitiveness which he had always entertained with respect to his colour, and which had increased tenfold since he found himself entirely amongst white people, made him misjudge her sufficiently to fancy she would rather not be seen talking or walking with him in a country where the nature of the connection between them might be mistaken, and wounded to the quick as he was by so foul a suspicion he had yet too much pride to ask her if it were not the case.

So they parted rather sorrowfully, for Véronique saw the shade which had come over David during the latter part of their interview, and grieved it was not in her power to disperse it; and they each felt (as they had so often felt of late before) that though they loved each other as much as they had ever done, something had arisen to divide them—something intangible as morning mist, yet impassable as adamant, which would never again be broken down, let their mutual confidence be as open and unclouded as it might.

But when days had passed since David’s departure without her having made any progress in the search upon which she was engaged, and the days stretched themselves into weeks, Véronique began to ask herself whether she were likely to hear more of Gordon Romilly whilst in the service of Mrs. Dowdson, than if she had been buried at Rêve. The numerous visitors which that lady had confidently reckoned upon receiving as soon as her imperial presence in London was made known, had resolved themselves into Captain and Miss Diver, who paid her an occasional call at intervals of three and four days’ distance, and the Colonel’s brother, a dry-headed, hard-working lawyer, who sometimes looked in at 10, Little Fitz-Cavendish Street on a Sunday evening, when he sat and discoursed in monosyllables.

Miss Diver’s flying visits were evidently paid at the call of duty, for she was always in a tremendous hurry, and was never able to stay above twenty minutes, or had time to talk over old days and old acquaintances.

Indeed, she generally shirked all such subjects, with the irreverent remark that she was sick of the very name of India and everything connected with it; and was used to receive the account of Mrs. Dowdson’s present grievances with some such words as—

“Ah! well! my dear, I see this kind of life doesn’t suit you, so the sooner you get out of town the better. You’d feel much more like yourself down in the country; a lengthened residence in India spoils one for enjoying anything which is at all ‘up to the mark’ at home,” which decision was not calculated to increase the serenity of her friend’s disposition. And at this time, indeed, Colonel and Mrs. Dowdson must have found their sojourn in London extremely dull. They had arrived at home in February, and that year Easter fell late, so that the town was almost empty, and the weather was cold and ungenial.

Mrs. Dowdson, sitting alone day after day in her little dark dining-room, without a soul except Véronique and the Colonel with whom to speak, felt as though she had been transplanted to the city of the dead; but every proposition for change on her part was met by her husband’s objection of, where should they go to? They had scarcely any friends but those they had left behind them in Madras; they had remained so long abroad that they had out-lived nearly all their own relations in England, and such as survived were alienated from them or settled far away; in fact, having given up the country for which God had intended them, and adopted one in which they were not fitted to live always, they found themselves in middle-age, childless, lonely, and strangers in the land which was by inheritance their own. And this is the curse which a life in India usually entails: it is separation between children and parents, wives and husbands, friends and friends; it is estrangement, unseen perhaps, but not unfelt, (for let poets sing what they will, love rusts from disuse) from the hearts which we should have every right to call our own; it is the resignation of bodily strength and mental energy, the warping of our best ideas, and the narrowing of our widest feelings.

India is the nursery of bigotry, prejudice, and small-mindedness; its enforced existence of enervating and soul-debasing indolence often kills all that promised to be noblest and best in a man’s character, whilst it seldom has the power to draw out his finer qualities, and make them sterling. She is truly the Juggernaut of English domestic life—year after year we lay beneath her wheels the flower of our British manhood, who, if they survive the process, deliver up in their turn, sweet home affections, the prattling of their children, often the best part of their wives, (for what true mother smiles as she could smile when leagues of ocean roll between her and her little ones?) generally, the best part of themselves. And then, when they have had youth, and all that makes youth beautiful—that can make old age serene—crushed out of them; when they have learned to look at life only through Indian spectacles, and to cavil at everything that is not done exactly after the same pattern as they do it in the East, they return to their native shores; to meet their children as grown up men and women, and to wander about in a listless manner like fish out of water, for the rest of their days, grumbling at what they cannot alter, and regretting what they cannot regain.

Were there no other reason to render life in India an evil, the separation from one’s children would cause it to be so. It was not for nought that the Almighty made the care of little children troublesome, and parents patient under it; and though men and women who know nothing of such small trials, profess to laugh at those who do, their laughter comes from ignorance of the blessings hid beneath such care. The trouble and the patience re-act upon each other, and it is of their co-operation that is born that marvellous and unalienable love existing between parents and their children. The father and mother who miss all this, who confide their infant charge to other hands, lose (it shall not be said a great pleasure since that is a matter of opinion) but a soul-fortifying influence for themselves. The watching, the inconvenience, the self-denial, all bear blessed fruits which no after kindness can, in like force, produce; and the man and woman, whose faces are the first things their children can remember to have known, whose hands have guided their baby footsteps, and at whose knees they have been taught their first prayer, have laid up for themselves a treasure which the world can neither give nor take away. Yet this is what nine out of ten resign when they accept a life in India, and for which ninety-nine out of a hundred, did they speak the truth, would confess that no wealth, or lack of trouble can repay them. Blessed little children! blessed from the time that Divine hands were placed upon their heads and Divine lips pronounced them so! the possession of them might have kindled life, and warmth, and sweet amenity in the character even of Mrs. Colonel Dowdson. But she had no such charm to brighten her existence; the hours in little Fitz-Cavendish Street passed dully and cheerlessly one after the other, and her temper was becoming more snappish, and her remarks more bitter every day. But one morning, as Miss Diver was paying her usual “duty” visit, she happened to mention that she had met a certain Miss Coxwell, a person whom Mrs. Dowdson had known in Madras, and who was anxious to renew her acquaintance with her.

“I told her you were quite alone here, and knew no one; and she said she would be very glad to come and sit with you sometimes. Shall I tell her, she may call?” concluded Miss Diver, in a tone of friendly commiseration.

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson winced. Miss Coxwell had come out to Madras as governess to the children of the Governor, and in that condition she had noticed her, but always in a lofty and condescending manner, and with a full understanding of the difference existing between their relative positions. To hear therefore that she had been represented to Miss Coxwell, (whose health had compelled her to return to England some time before,) as friendless and forlorn—she, who when in India, had always been a centre of attraction—was anything but agreeable for poor Mrs. Dowdson, and at first, she was about to say that Miss Coxwell and herself moved in very different spheres of society, and she had no wish to continue her acquaintance.

But second thoughts intervened: those thoughts which if not always the best, are generally the wisest, and remembering the long intervals of dulness, by which Miss Diver’s visits were divided, Mrs. Dowdson gave the required permission, although she could not help interlarding it with a little of her old stateliness, as she said that “if Miss Coxwell very much desired it, she should have no objection to receive her in Little Fitz-Cavendish Street.”

Accordingly, a few days afterwards, Miss Coxwell was announced, and Mrs. Dowdson, with whom Véronique was seated at work, told the girl to take her basket, and needles, and threads into the next room, and leave the folding-doors open in case she needed her. For her French lady’s maid was one of the last remnants of Mrs. Dowdson’s regality, and she still made the most of her on every occasion.

Véronique obeyed mechanically, for her heart was heavy, and her head was in a whirl, which condition had been brought about that morning by the following circumstance: Her mistress had given her leave, almost for the first time, to have a few hours to herself; and eager to put into execution a design which she had long contemplated, Véronique, first ascertaining from the lodging-house servant what street was nearest to the address of the club left her by Gordon Romilly, had stepped into a cab, and caused herself to be driven to it. Strange as she was to London, she had no difficulty in finding the place she needed, but arrived there she did not know how next to proceed. Her intention had been to ask if Captain Romiily ever went to the club now, or if his address were known; but when she came in sight of the large palatial-looking building with its frowning portico, and long flight of steps, every window of which seemed a framework for eager faces pressed forward to gaze at her graceful figure, and delicate feet and ankles, the heart of Véronique failed her, and fearful of the publicity and the apparent strangeness of such a request coming from her lips, she lingered about the precincts of the club, going “round the house, and round the house,” like the moon in the riddle, and “peeping in at every corner,” but never daring to obtrude herself on the notice of any of the waiters who were lingering about the door.

At last, however, a neighbouring clock warned her that her time was nearly up, and fear lest she should never again have such an opportunity in some measure gained the mastery of her apprehension, so approaching the youngest and least awful-looking of the men-servants, she ventured in an agitated voice to whisper her request to him, begging him at the same time not to make it public.

The personal appearance of the applicant, added to the beseeching look in her large blue eyes, had quite melted the young waiter’s heart, if it required softening, and after the delay of a few minutes, he returned to tell her that Captain Gordon Romilly was a member of that club, but that they had not his present address, and he was believed to be abroad.

“Oh! can’t you tell me where?” said Véronique with eager excitement, as she clasped her hands imploringly together; but the man could give her no further information, and she was obliged to be content with what she had received.

He was alive then! she thanked God, and the Blessed Virgin, and all the holy angels for that! but if alive, why had he not written to her, nor returned to fetch her, and been content to think her dead, or to suppose her false to him, without having received a proper confirmation of the fact? This was what made the girl that afternoon both sad and joyful as she bent over her work; it was the mystery and the suspense which oppressed her, the doubt which for the first time had crept into her heart that her Gor-don could be careless, or unjust, or inconsiderate towards herself.

And yet he was alive; he lived! she should see him again! and her trust was still sufficiently strong to enable her to believe that to meet him was to be restored to all that made life a glory to her. It was while she was in the midst of such meditations, that Miss Coxwell was admitted to the presence of Mrs. Dowdson, and after the first formality, consequent upon meeting after a lengthened separation, had rubbed off, the ladies became very familiar, and intimate with each other, and one by one the sayings and doings of their former acquaintances were submitted to the crucible of their opinion, and passed judgment upon.

Véronique listened to their conversation for some time with the utmost indifference, hearing without understanding it, dreaming as she was, meanwhile, of the subject which occupied her own heart, until her attention was arrested by a sentence from Miss Coxwell.

“My dear Mrs. Dowdson,” that lady was saying, (Miss Coxwell was a lively and affectionate rattle who dealt out her information much more generously than Miss Diver) “surely you must remember young Arkwright who was so much taken with that plain little person, Mrs. Doveton, and whom, people did say, he followed to the hills by appointment. But oh, those hills! those hills! they are shocking places for scandal, shocking! shocking! I never listen to such stories, dear Mrs. Dowdson. When people tell me anything that is wrong, I close my ears, I refuse to hear it, for after all, what are we? Worms! liable to be traduced any day; and do we like it when it happens to ourselves? No, no! most emphatically no!” and here Miss Coxwell clasped her hands together to produce an effect corresponding to her words.

“But I do not think that people who conduct themselves respectably are traduced, Miss Coxwell!” observed Mrs. Colonel Dowdson.

She did not mind so much being called a “worm,” because the Bible itself says we are all such, but she did not choose to be considered quite so low a worm as to be classed in the same sentence as Miss Coxwell.

“Oh, yes! they are,” returned her visitor, decidedly, (she had been somewhat of a martyr, herself, to the cause) “and it is but what we must all expect at times. There is very little charity in the world. As dear Sir Robert used to say to his girls,” (Sir Robert was the Madras Governor of whose acquaintance Miss Coxwell to the end of her small existence would never cease to boast), “charity, my dears, charity! whether ye eat, or whether ye drink, or whatever ye do, the greatest of these is charity,” with which new reading of the Apostle’s injunction, Miss Coxwell looked perfectly satisfied.

“But I have seen a great deal as you may imagine,” she continued after a pause, “mine has been a chequered career, dear Mrs. Dowdson, and it is my invariable rule to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut. You remember Mrs. Bradleigh, don’t you? She went home in the ‘Queen of the Wave’ just about the time that young Romilly came out. I suppose you haven’t forgotten Captain Romilly?”

At this, the heart of Véronique, with a great throb, altered its measure, and instead of proceeding in an orthodox and reasonable manner, kept leaping up and down with rapid and irregular jerks, which almost threatened to prevent her hearing what now she so ardently listened for.

“What Gordon Romilly, the aide-de-camp? oh, dear no! what of him?”

“Oh! I don’t know any thing particular about him now, excepting that he is abroad, but I was going to tell you what he said of Mrs. Bradleigh.”

But Mrs. Dowdson had had almost enough of Miss Coxwell’s rechauffée of Madras scandal, and attempted to turn the conversation into another channel.

“Abroad, is he? why what can people find to take them so much abroad? I am sure he must have had enough of travelling.”

“Ah, one would think so! wouldn’t they? but he is at Brüssenburgh, and I came by the information in a very curious way too. Only fancy! I was walking along Oxford Street a few weeks back, and on such a pelting day, I could hardly keep myself dry even with an umbrella, when I passed a trunk shop, and as I sadly wanted a new trunk—for the railway porters are really so careless, now-a-days, that they knock your boxes all to pieces for you—I thought I would just step in and—”

But what Miss Coxwell’s further adventures with respect to her new trunk were, or how she arrived therefrom at the information that Gordon Romilly was at Brüssenburgh, Véronique never ascertained, for filled with exultation at what she had over-heard, she ventured by another door to leave her mistress’s bedroom, and seek a refuge in her own from the burst of excited tears with which she could not help greeting the news she had acquired. At Brüssenburgh, in the very town of which he and Père Joseph had so often talked together, and which Gor-don had said he would take the first opportunity of visiting again! that he should be at Brüssenburgh, seemed a confirmation of her brightest hopes, for if her husband had forgotten or forsaken her, he never would have sought a spot where the thought of his deserted wife must intrude upon his memory each hour. Oh, no, no! it was some great mistake, some dreadful mystery which had kept them separate: she had but to meet him face to face, to look into his eyes, (those full, blue eyes of which she cherished so vivid a remembrance) to hear at once what had divided them and to have it swept away for ever. She must go to Brüssenburgh directly, she must not lose a single day in searching for another situation, and when with flushed cheeks, and swollen eyes but trembling with eager happiness, Véronique redescended to the sitting-room to find her mistress once more alone, she could not keep her information to herself another moment.

“Madame!” she exclaimed excitedly, without giving Mrs. Dowdson time to scold her for having absented herself without leave, “how soon will it be convenient for you to let me quit your service? I wish to go to Belgium as soon as possible. My friends are waiting for me there!”

At this appeal Mrs. Dowdson was so completely taken aback that she knew not how to answer.

“Go to Belgium!” she ejaculated; “what are you talking about, Mar-rie? Of course you can’t go to Belgium before I have done with you.”

“But, Madame,” said the girl more humbly, “I have been now for nearly a month in London; and my agreement with you was only for the voyage over. I had no intention of remaining in service after I had reached my destination. I wish to go to my mother’s family at Rêve.”

“Well, then, you can’t go to your mother’s family,” returned her mistress, sharply, “I have not yet given you warning, and you must remain with me until I do. Of course I shall pay you wages, if that is what you are thinking about, but you cannot leave my service, at all events for some time to come. So that is settled, and let me hear no more about it.”

But a stronger feeling than timidity was at work in the girl’s breast now, and it enabled her to speak with decision.

“I must leave you, Madame. I do not wish to go until you have found another lady’s-maid, but I must beg you to look out for one at once, and to let me seek a situation in some family going abroad.”

“Well, then, you shall do no such thing,” replied Mrs. Colonel Dowdson angrily. “This is like the usual gratitude of servants. I brought you over from India free of expense, and you repay my kindness by leaving me on the first opportunity. But I refuse to let you go, and if you quit this house without my permission you will forfeit all claim to your wages, or a character.”

Véronique looked aghast. She knew that in order to procure another situation she must have a good character from her present mistress, and if Mrs. Dowdson carried her threat into execution and refused to give her one, she might ruin her chance of re-meeting her husband.

At the prospect her heart sunk and her lips trembled. She was too near tears to be able to answer the Colonel’s wife again, and with a breast throbbing with a sense of her injustice, she retired into the bedroom and resumed her needlework.

The evening passed as usual. The Colonel was at home, and no further allusion was made to the desire which had been expressed by Véronique; but it occupied her mind all the night long, and in the morning she descended to the sitting-room with heavy eyelids, and a face pallid from excitement and want of rest.

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson was not yet up—she seldom rose before breakfast now, and it was Véronique’s duty to carry that meal to her in the bedroom—but her husband was sitting by the fire, and after a while he noticed the pale and wearied countenance of the lady’s-maid, and asked her the reason of it.

Now the Colonel was rather a gay old gentleman; not indeed that his gallantries ever exceeded a chuck under the chin or a squeeze of the waist of a pretty girl, but he had a youthful and sunny heart, and loved all that was fresh and young in a harmless and innocent way, and the childish look and manner of his wife’s little maid had excited his sympathies from the very first. He did not like to see the tender curves of her mouth fall, nor the lights fade out from her quiet eyes, and he could not bear to hear her worried and scolded and taken to task just as the humours of his lady dictated to her. And this predilection on the Colonel’s part, although so natural, had already provoked a few tart remarks from Mrs. Dowdson; for, notwithstanding his age and hers, she was as jealous of him on occasions as women can be when they know their own youthful charms have slipped away for ever.

“Qu’as-tu, Marie,” he said as he observed her woe-begone look, “es-tu malade?”

For the Colonel possessed a slight knowledge of French, and the fact of his sometimes speaking it when alone with Véronique was another source of jealous discontent with Mrs. Dowdson.

“Ce n’est rien, Monsieur,” she replied, but the sadness of her tone belied her words; “je suis un peu contrariée, voilà tout.”

“And what has annoyed you?” he continued in the same language.

So then Véronique thought that he might stand her friend with Mrs. Dowdson; and in a rapid half-articulate voice, she detailed to him her great wish to join her friends in Belgium, and how her mistress had refused to give her permission to leave her service, or to let her have a character if she did so.

“And it seems a little hard to me, Monsieur,” she concluded, as she quietly brushed away the tears which had risen to her eyes, “because my agreement was only for the voyage home, and I have a right to ask to go.”

“Of course you have,” he answered, “and it shall be managed for you, my dear—don’t be afraid of that. I will undertake to speak to Madame on the subject.”

They were standing at the window, side by side, looking out on the dull street, and as the Colonel spoke to her thus, Véronique lifted her tearful eyes to his face and thanked him warmly for his promised interference, and looked, as she performed the action, so innocent and so young that the old man’s best feelings were roused. With no thought but such as a father might have entertained towards a daughter, he laid his hand upon her shoulder and kindly patted it.

“Colonel!” ejaculated the angry voice of Mrs. Dowdson from behind them, “what are you about? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

She had heard the whispering which was going on in the dining-room through the folding-doors, and, rising to set them open, that she might be certain no nefarious practices were enacted between the Colonel and Véronique during her seclusion, had been witness to the paternal manner by which the former attempted to soothe the distress of her lady’s-maid. And there she now stood, gaunt and grim, in a flannel dressing-gown, regarding them with looks of angry dismay, and ready to shower down vengeance on the offenders.

“Colonel, how dare you: and at your age, when you’ve scarcely a tooth in your head that’s not false! And you too, you shameless, brazen-faced little hussy; what do you mean by letting him pull you about in that manner?”

Il n’a rien fait,” said Véronique, coolly, piqued by her mistress’s false accusation into standing up for herself.

“Don’t you stop there, talking your gibberish to me!” exclaimed Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, vehemently, “you think, I dare say, because I can’t understand all the stupid French you speak together, that I have no eyes as well as no ears. But you are very much mistaken, I see a great deal more than you think for, and have done so all along, and I’ll have a stop put to it now, or my name is not Caroline Dowdson.”

“My dear, my dear!” interposed the luckless Colonel, “pray be a little more moderate, you do not at all understand what you are talking about.”

“That’s what you think, Colonel,” she replied in the same strain, “but if I am deaf, I am not blind, and I refuse to be insulted in my own house: and as for that girl there, she goes out of it this morning.”

“I am going, Madame!” said Véronique, haughtily, as she turned towards the door. “It is what I asked of you yesterday: I am glad that you accord it me today.”

“Yes, you are going,” repeated her mistress, “and you are going without a character, and without wages, Miss Brazen Face; and if anyone comes to ask me the reason why, I shall tell them how you have been behaving with the Colonel.”

“Monsieur! ne dites plus rien, je vous en prie,” said Véronique, who saw that the husband was about to expostulate with his wife’s decision, “je n’ai pas peur: le ciel veille sur moi.”

With the insult thrown at her by Mrs. Dowdson, the girl’s native dignity had replaced all her former submissiveness; when simply remonstrated with, she had been a timid, tearful child, but unjustly accused, she became a proud and indignant woman, and it was with a look in her eyes before which even Mrs. Colonel Dowdson quailed, that she passed out of the sitting-room to her own apartment. She was determined that she would not stay another hour, she had half made up her mind to break her bonds before, and her mistress’s present behaviour decided her. She packed up her small wardrobe in her box, and getting Phillis, who had always been her friend, to call her a cab, left the house without exchanging another word with Mrs. Dowdson. As she did so, and remembering that lady’s nonchalant reception of the news of the real insult offered her by Mr. Palmer on board ship, compared it with her conduct of the morning, Véronique did not even feel sorry that she was quitting her without a farewell. She was only anxious to find herself clear of a service where the bread and water which she ate were made so bitter to her. But before the cab had gone the length of the street it was suddenly hailed by a passing passenger, and on its stoppage, the kindly, troubled face of the Colonel was thrust in at the window.

“You are not really going so soon?” he said in a voice of consternation.

“I am, Monsieur,” was the quiet reply, “after what Madame said to me this morning, I will never break bread in her house again.”

“But whereto, my child? You have no home, no friends in London. It is not fit that a girl should wander about the streets alone.”

“I shall not do that, Monsieur, I am going straight to the ‘Domestic Bazaar’ to procure service in some family crossing to Belgium.”

“But suppose you do not get it, Marie, where are you to go meanwhile? Servants wait for weeks sometimes before they can obtain a situation.”

“Do they?” she exclaimed, with widely dilated eyes, (she had made so sure, poor child, that to present herself at this magic bazaar was to get what she desired) “oh, do they, really? what shall I do? what shall I do?”

“You must let me provide for you, Marie,” said Colonel Dowdson, pulling out his purse, “there are your wages, my dear,” laying a five pound note on her lap, (good Colonel, he had very few of them to spare) “and if you cannot hear of a situation today, you must let me know.”

“Mais c’est trop, Monsieur, je ne veux pas le prendre!” said Véronique, as she returned the bank-note which the Colonel had given her, “it is only for one month, remember, my passage money was paid for me.

“Take it, take it,” he urged, attempting to replace it in her hands; but she held them behind her back.

“One sovereign, Monsieur, one sovereign, if you will be so kind, just that I may have a little money by me, but no more. If I need more, I promise I will ask you for it.”

“Very well,” he answered, “I suppose it must be as you wish. But here is the address of my brother in Lincoln’s Inn, Marie. If you have not obtained a situation by this evening, go to him and he shall find you a suitable lodging. I will speak to him about it at once. I wish I could do more for you, but you know how I am tied.”

“You have done more than enough, Monsieur,” she said, thankfully, “and for myself I have a strong hope that I shall obtain what I desire.”

And then the Colonel shook hands with her kindly, and the cab rattled off once more towards the “Domestic Bazaar.”

Chapter II

With Mrs. Conway Jones

The “Domestic Bazaar; was a large, uninviting looking building, situated in a street, not far from Fitz-Cavendish Square, outside the door of which were displayed placards detailing the fees of admission, both for the searchers of servants, and situations.

Véronique entered the wide vestibule timidly, she was too little used as yet to the bustling world in which she found herself to mix in it with any degree of assurance, and had it not been that a clerk standing behind his books, in a sort of enclosed office, at the further end of the place, called to her sharply, desiring to know her business, she would probably have remained close to the glass doors for some considerable time longer. Brought, however, to a recollection of what lay before her, though not emboldened by his address, she walked up to the small window through which his head had been thrust, and asked him in a low voice, if that were the place where servants came to be engaged.

“What situation?” he demanded briefly.

“Lady’s maid, Monsieur, or as bonne to little children; anything so that I can get a place quickly with some family going to Belgium. I want to cross to Brüssenburgh, Monsieur, as soon as possible, all my mother’s family are there, and—”

“Well, well! that’s no affair of mine,” interrupted the man brusquely, “you must tell all that to the matron, when you see her. What name?” preparing to write it down as he spoke.

“Véronique Marie Moore, Monsieur,” she replied in a subdued voice.

“Half-a-crown, if you please!”

She tendered the sovereign given her by Colonel Dowdson, and received back such a mass of silver, that, unfamiliar with English coin, she thought at first that it was impossible it could be all intended for her.

“Take your change!” said the clerk, pushing it towards her, together with a ticket inscribed with her name and number, “and go straight up those steps,” pointing to a flight at the other end of the vestibule, “and you will find the manager’s room. This fee entitles you to as many situations as you can get within the month. Now, Miss!” turning to a new comer, “what can I do for you?”

Véronique took her money, and following the direction given her by the clerk, presently found herself in a large carpeted room, in the centre of which was a table covered with writing materials, and two or three very respectable-looking women engaged with needlework, or books of reference, whilst round the sides of the apartment were placed narrow benches, at present occupied by some half-dozen girls waiting until their turn should come to make their desires known, and one was standing up before the table, undergoing the process of examination.

Véronique, being motioned to a seat, sank silently down on the bench nearest to her, and listened attentively to what was going on, although her heart sunk as she heard the rigorous catechism to which the applicants for service were subjected.

“So your name is Ann Hodges?” said the head of the establishment to the woman, standing before her, “what is your age?”

“Thirty,” was the answer, given rather hesitatingly.

“Thirty, I don’t believe it; you are not telling me the truth; what is your real age?”

“Well, say twenty-five, then,” tardily admitted the domestic.

“I don’t think that you are even so much as that; you do not look more than twenty-one. However, we will put you down at twenty-five. With whom did you live last?”

“Mrs. Darnley, of 25, York Terrace.”

“For how long?”

“Three months, or a little under,” said the woman unwillingly.

“That’s no time for a character. Will she give you a good one?”

“She’s no call to do otherwise.”

“Why did you leave her?”

“Because we couldn’t agree together. She was always a worrying, and a fidgeting of me, so at last I gave her warning.”

“It’ll go against you, unless you have some better reason to give for quitting your situation. What wages do you ask?”

“Twenty pounds, and all found.”

“It’s too much; you won’t get it, particularly under the circumstances. You’d better say fifteen, if you want to get service quickly.”

“Very well,” said the servant reluctantly, “you can put me down as fifteen, with everything found, and no housework. And I shall leave Mrs. Darnley’s on the 3rd of next month.”

“That you can settle with the lady who may engage you. Here is your ticket,” handing the girl a small card, “and the cooks’ room is to the right. Go in there, and wait until you are sent for.”

“I can’t stay above an hour,” remonstrated the woman, “I’ve got my dinner to dish up at five.”

“Well, you shall be sent for before the hour, if it is possible. Please to make way now for the next applicant. Why, Sarah Williams, are you back again? How many situations have we procured you during the last twelve months?”

“Don’t know, I’m sure,” replied the new comer, who was pretty and pert, “I keep no reckoning of ’em; but if they were all as bad as the last one, I think I’m well rid of the lot. Couldn’t stand her no ways: you sent me to a regular Tartar.”

“Who was it? let me see,” and the manager, as she turned the leaves of her book of references, “oh! Lady Carstairs; why I thought that was an excellent situation, Williams!”

“Oh! was it! I wish you’d have tried it yourself, ma’am, and then you’d know better. An old widow, with half-a-dozen sons, and some fresh fuss about ’em every day. I’m sure one couldn’t look at the young gentlemen in passing, but she’d make out as ’twas a crime. There ain’t one of us as wasn’t sick of our lives there.”

“Oh! it was that, was it?” returned the other, with an intelligent smile, “well, I hope, notwithstanding, that her ladyship will give you a good character, Williams? You can’t get on without it, you know.”

“Oh! she’s safe to do that, for she can’t say anything real against me—I defy ’er. Haven’t you got no ladies’-maids’ places open at present, ma’am?”

“Mrs. Conway Jones wants another!” observed the matron quietly.

“Oh! then she won’t get me,” retorted Miss Williams quickly, “I don’t mind work, but I likes my wages. No others on the list?”

“Yes, several; but I don’t think any of the ladies are here this morning. However, go into the room, and I’ll see about it presently. And so you are for the nursery,” she continued as Williams flounced away, and a simple, countrified-looking girl took her place; and then the same sort of catechism commenced over again, and continued till Véronique’s turn had arrived, and she took up her station before the inquisitorial table. She was quite worn out by that time, being the last on the list, weary of sitting on the hard unyielding bench, and disheartened at hearing the stress which had been laid in each case, on the necessity of having an irreproachable character, and when she advanced to answer the questions which might be put to herself, her look of fatigue struck the matron.

“You are very tired,” she said gently as she took the ticket from her hand and read the name and number inscribed on it.

“I am, indeed, Madame,” replied Véronique, into whose eyes the tears had nearly rushed at a word of kindness, “and I have been very unfortunate. I don’t know what you will say to my story.”

“Let us begin in order. You are foreign, are you not?”

“Partly so, Madame! I speak French better than English.”

“And what situation have you been filling?”

“That of lady’s-maid; but I will be a nurse or anything in order to get abroad. I want to go to Belgium at once to join my own people. I want to go to Brüssenburgh. All my family live there.”

“Oh! you wish to travel. What wages do you ask?”

“I have never thought about wages, Madame.”

The matron opened her eyes, and then Véronique detailed to her how she had made the voyage to England with Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, and how that lady had turned her out of the house that morning at a moment’s notice.

“But she will give you a character, I suppose,” said her questioner.

“I am afraid not, Madame,” replied the girl dropping her voice and her eye- “I am sure the Colonel would speak a good word for me, but Mrs. Dowdson said I should have neither character nor wages from her.”

“And she turned you out, at your age, without means of support or protection into the streets? What a shame! But the gentleman’s speaking for you would be simply no use at all, and sorry as I am to say it, I must tell you that without a character there is no chance whatever of your obtaining a situation anywhere. Ladies have been so often deceived that they are getting more particular every day, and under these circumstances I couldn’t venture even to send you to speak to one.”

“Oh! Madame! pray don’t say that,” exclaimed Véronique clasping her hands in an agony of tears, “only think! I have no where to go to, I am not even familiar with the ways or the streets of London, and I have not sufficient money to travel to Brüssenburgh by myself, even did I know how to set about it.”

She looked so unlike the style of women who generally presented themselves in the Domestic Bazaar, that her appearance had excited the interest of the matron and her coadjutors from the first moment of their seeing her; and now, as the genuine distress which she was suffering was depicted on her countenance and apparent from the inflexion of her voice, they gathered about her, begging her not to agitate herself, and they would do their utmost to give her help.

“Your chief object is to get abroad, is it not?” demanded one of them; “wages, I suppose, would be a secondary consideration with you.”

“Oh! quite—quite—” said Véronique excitedly, “but I must go to Brüssenburgh, Madame, all my friends are there; here I am utterly alone; I shall have no rest until I get to Brüssenburgh.”

“Mrs. Conway Jones,” suggested one of the women in a low voice to the others.

“But without a character?” enquired the matron. “She is always so very particular.”

The first speaker laughed.

“I suppose she finds it awkward being without anything of the kind about her,” and then they all three laughed, and the matron said, “for shame,” and told them they must be more careful.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you,” she continued turning to Véronique, “I know a lady, a very kind lady, but not very rich, who is going abroad at once, and I believe to the very place you mention, and if you like I will send you to her with a letter explaining how it is that you have no character, and, perhaps, as she is in a great hurry, she may overlook the circumstance and take you on trial, at all events as far as Brüssenburgh. Should you know what to do with yourself if you once got there?”

“Oh! oui, Madame, parfaitement bien,” exclaimed Véronique, lapsing into French in her pleasure and excitement, “I mean, that can I but once get there, I shall have no more fear for myself; it is happiness too great to think of.”

To be at Brüssenburgh was to be near her husband, and in hourly expectation of meeting him; and the joy which irradiated the features of Véronique at the thought, struck her spectators as not a common joy.

“And you will not be very particular about your wages then; I don’t mean what you ask her,” continued the matron, “for Mrs. Conway Jones always gives twenty pounds a year to her lady’s-maid; but about having them regularly paid. Mr. Conway Jones is a gentleman in no particular profession,” (here both the other women burst out laughing again) “and you may have to wait for your money sometimes. I think it right to warn you of this, as some servants anticipate their wages, and such a course might lead you into trouble.”

“Oh! I care for nothing—for nothing, Madame, except to get to Brüssenburgh,” said Véronique, “and I thank you exceedingly for the trouble you have taken for me. I am very grateful, Madame,” and as she thus concluded the girl stooped down and kissed the matron’s hand.

The good woman was confounded; she was not used to such demonstrations on the part of the cooks, and housemaids, and nurses who appeared before her regularly for situations, and it made her feel quite uncomfortable. She turned hastily away to her desk, and writing the promised recommendation thrust it into Véronique’s hand, with an injunction to lose no time about seeing after the place, as if she waited till the afternoon Mrs. Conway Jones would most probably be out.

“And if she should not engage you, my dear, or be already suited, come back here any time before four o’clock, and I will see what I can do about getting you a bed for the night.—I’ve taken quite a fancy to her pretty face,” she said to her own friends as Véronique, after overwhelming her with thanks for her kindness, turned to leave the bazaar, “she looks much more fit for a lady than a servant; and I’d like to see the woman whipped who let her leave her house without a home to go to. I think Mrs. Conway Jones will take her, for as she is to remain abroad, it will be much easier to send her adrift than a girl who wished to return to England; but if the child ever sees the colour of her money she will be cleverer than most that have gone before her.”

“I should think so,” acquiesced the other women, and then they returned to business, and the interest they had conceived for Véronique was superseded.

Meanwhile, with a heart like a feather, so eager is youth to look on the bright side of things, Véronique had hailed a passing cab, and directed the driver to take her to the address indicated on her letter of introduction to Mrs. Conway Jones—150, Rutland Gate, Hyde Park Corner—where, having arrived, and intimated on what errand she had come, she was ordered to sit down on one of the hall chairs, emblazoned with the crest and arms of Mr. Conway Jones, and there wait until the lady’s pleasure with respect to receiving her should be ascertained.

The family was evidently making preparations for a move, for the hall was full of packing cases, and the man-servant who had opened the door to her, wore a holland apron over his livery, and was further ornamented with wisps of straw, but as Véronique glanced around her at the carved oaken table, the bronze whip stand, and the stags’ antlers with which the place was decorated, and remembered what she had been told with respect to the owner of it, she wondered that the matron at the Domestic Bazaar could have called Mrs. Conway Jones “poor,” and when she was shewn up the handsomely carpeted staircase to an exquisitely fitted morning-room, she marvelled at the expression still more.

Mrs. Conway Jones, attired in a French wrapper, and engaged with the perusal of a French novel, was lying on a sofa, looking very lazy and extremely lady-like. She was a woman of from thirty to five-and-thirty, but although she had pretty features, and a faultless figure, her complexion was so faded and yellow, and her scanty hair so untidily arranged, that at first sight Véronique took her for several years older. She raised her eyes languidly as the girl entered the room, and having regarded her for a few moments in silence, during which time Véronique was blushing violently, she tapped the open letter she held in her hand and said, with a slight lisp, which Mrs. Conway Jones had affected because she thought it sounded interesting, until she was unable to break herself of the habit—

“I suppose you are the young woman of whom the matron speaks in this note!” (at which Véronique curtsied and said “yes,”) “Well! of course you must be aware that it is rather a serious thing taking a servant without a character. I have always made a point of being extremely particular about the characters of my domestics, and especially my lady’s-maids, and if I overlook the deficiency in your case, it will be solely because Mrs. What’s her name, the matron, lays such a stress on my doing so.”

“She is very good,” stammered Véronique, “and indeed, Madame, I ought to have had a character, for I served my last mistress faithfully; but she was a lady of very strange temper occasionally, and—”

“Oh! yes, yes! I can understand all that without your telling me,” interrupted Mrs. Conway Jones, “and I hate to hear anything about old women and their vagaries. How soon could you come to me?”

“I can come at once, Madame. I shall be thankful to come at once, for I have nowhere to go to, even for to-night.”

“Very well, you can stay here now if you like, for my last maid behaved very badly to me, and left the house without giving me any warning. I suppose you know that we are going abroad, and almost immediately, but as Mr. Conway Jones is connected with the ministerial affairs of the country, his movements are always uncertain, and what he proposes to do must never be made public. Now, remember what I say to you! the other servants know that business may soon call their master from London, but they are not aware when, nor the place we are bound for, and you must not disclose it to them. Perhaps you know that this is always the case with gentlemen employed under Government; their motto is—Secrecy and dispatch.”

Véronique had not known it, but the information greatly raised her future master in her opinion, and she promised Mrs. Conway Jones that she would not breathe a word upon the subject to anyone.

“I was compelled to tell the matron of the Bazaar,” continued that lady, “because I cannot travel without a servant; but did Mr. Conway Jones know that I had done so, he would never forgive me, although I bound her over to secrecy. What wages do you ask?”

“Would you think twenty pounds a year too much, Madame?” demanded Véronique, hesitatingly, although she had not forgotten the matron’s injunction on that subject.

“Oh dear no!” replied Mrs. Conway Jones, with the most perfect indifference, “I will give you twenty pounds, and everything found, with pleasure; but it must be on the understanding that you are ready to start with me at a moment’s notice, and that you whisper nowhere of your master’s affairs.”

“Oh dear no! Madame! indeed I will not, I hope you trust me!” exclaimed Véronique, elated at the prospect which had opened before her. “I will serve you faithfully both here and abroad, and I will never leave you until you have suited yourself with another lady’s-maid.”

“Very well!” lisped Mrs. Conway Jones, as she returned to the perusal of her French novel, as a signal that the interview was concluded, “I will take all that for granted until I find it otherwise. If you serve me well, of course I shall keep you, and if you don’t, I shall send you away. And, meanwhile, I hope you will not forget that I have taken you without a character, and that therefore it behoves you to be the more careful to obey me in the matter I have mentioned.”

“You may depend on my discretion, Madame,” answered Véronique, fervently, and then having obtained permission from her new mistress to return and inform the matron at the Domestic Bazaar that she had got the situation, she prepared to quit her presence.

“You had better go down first and get your dinner in the servants’ hall,” said Mrs. Conway Jones, “and then you can take a couple of hours, in which to do as you desire.”

Borne up all day as she had been by her excitement and anxiety, Véronique had yet terribly felt the want of the food which she had not given herself time to procure; and it was with thankfulness that she found her way down to the kitchen, where a savoury dinner was being laid out for the benefit of the servants.

“If you please,” she said, addressing the cook, who was busy dishing it up, “I am the new lady’s-maid, and Mrs. Conway Jones told me to come down here and have dinner with you.”

“Lor, now, are you?” ejaculated the good-tempered-looking greasy creature; she surveyed the little figure standing on the threshold of the kitchen; “very well, my dear, it’s all right; come along, John will be down in a minute, and then we’ll begin.”

Véronique advanced timidly, and took up her station at the table. Although she had already tasted the sweets of service, she had never yet been brought in close contact with those who had been bred up to it from infancy, and little pride as she maintained in furthering the object she had in view, she rather shrunk from the familiar address of the cook, and the close neighbourhood of her portly person.

“And so she’s engaged you, has she?” continued that worthy. “John told me as there was a gal come to speak to her about the place; but I didn’t think she’d take such a chick as you. Why, you don’t look much older than her own daughter.”

“Oh, are there children here?” asked Véronique quickly, for she loved little children, as all true women do.

“Oh, bless you, no! not here. They’re all at school, poor things, from the biggest to the youngest, and were put out at nurse before that. Mrs. Conway Jones ain’t a lady as cares about children, nor any other sort of nuisance, as you’ll find out for yourself before long. She likes to take her ease too well for that.”

“And does she never see them, then?”

“Yes, in once and a way. They come home about every month to spend the afternoon, and they stop down in the kitchen all the time along of me, and make pasties to take back with them. There’s four of ’em, all gals, and don’t care for then mother no more than I do.”

“How very sad,” said Véronique, to whom the tie between mother and child (perhaps because she had never known what it was to have a mother of her own), appeared the most sacred thing this earth possessed.

“What is sad?” demanded the manservant, who now made his appearance, and took the seat next to Véronique. “Your servant, Miss—I suppose by seeing you here that you and the old lady have come to terms, and we are to have the honour of your company always, I am very glad to hear it.”

Véronique shrunk from this address even more than she had done from that of the cook, and at first she was going to resent it, but remembered herself in time. She was a servant, sitting at the servants’ dinner table. She had no right to find fault with any kindly feeling expressed towards her; she ought rather to be grateful for it. Yet, as she felt the rings against her heart, the rings given her by Gordon Romilly, and which she no longer dared wear upon her fingers—she shuddered and was silent.

“She has engaged you, Miss, hasn’t she?” re-demanded the footman.

“Yes,” replied Véronique, making an effort to overcome her repugnance, “and as Mrs. Conway Jones is without a lady’smaid, I am to enter on her service at once. I hope it is a good one,” she added enquiringly.

“Oh, lor! yes—well enough!” responded the cook; “she flies out at times, but they all do that—have a bit of rabbit-pie, my dear; perhaps you don’t like stewed beef; you’re not eating hearty—and she’s very fond of change; you’re the fourth lady’s-maid she’s had in a twelvemonth.”

“Why did the last one go, cook?”

“Well, I can hardly tell you. She was a spiritty gal, and she and Missus were always fighting together; so one day she went off without any warning, and Master, he wasn’t for paying her wages, but she had him up to the court and got them out of him. Oh, she was a spiritty gal as ever you see, was Maria. She wouldn’t stand any of their nonsense, and no more will I. They’re awful backward with their wages sometimes in this house, but I insists upon mine to the day; and if they make a fuss about it, I say I’ll leave, and that always brings them down. Master wouldn’t go without his dinner for one day for any number of pounds.”

“But why should they be backward,” demanded Véronique ingenuously, “when they are so rich? They cannot have any lack of money. Look what a quantity it must have taken to pay for all the beautiful things with which this house is furnished!”

At this both her hearers laughed so loudly and coarsely and lengthily, that her cheeks became suffused at the idea of being the subject of their merriment.

“Lor! my dear,” shouted the cook, “you’ve no call to redden up after that fashion; but, bless your innocence, and may you never be the wiser—so say I.”

“But aren’t they paid for?” enquired Véronique, as the probable truth suddenly flashed across her.

“Well, Miss,” said the footman, “it is safest to tell no tales; but I’d rather have all the money they owe than that as they’ve got. However, I daresay yours and mine is safe, so it’s no business of ours.”

“And are we, then, the only servants?” said the girl, as for the first time it struck her that for so large a house they were a very small party.

“Well, we are at present; but I believe Missus’s name is down on the books of every bazaar in London’to get others. We were five the week before last, but Maria, the lady’s-maid, left, as cook told you; and Jane, the housemaid, went, because she said she was sick of asking for her wages and getting nothing but excuses, and Missus sent the boy away because she wants a bigger one. And I’m to take my holiday tomorrow, cook; so you’ll have to do without me for a day or so.”

“Well, she must have in a char-woman then, for I can’t go muddling after the housework, and I don’t suppose Miss here will. You didn’t engage to clean the rooms and answer the bell for her, I’ll warrant!”

“I shouldn’t mind doing it, to make myself useful until the new house-maid comes,” replied Véronique; and then, turning to the man, she continued—“what is in those large cases you were packing in the hall?” for she wished to find out if the servants knew that of which their mistress supposed them to be ignorant.

“Oh! only some pictures and ‘objects of virtue,’ which Missus is sending down to her sister in the country,” he said indifferently. “They’re always having in a lot of trash here, and carting it off again—and that reminds me that I must go back to work, if I’m to get them finished before their dinner time.”

Upon which the two rose from table, and Véronique, although rather startled by the revelations which had been made to her, hastened with a grateful heart tp tell the matron at the Domestic Bazaar of her success, and to write a little humble note of thanks to Colonel Dowdson, addressed to the care of his brother in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in which she informed him of the same circumstance.

Chapter III

A Sudden Start

Having despatched her business, Véronique hastened back to Rutland Gate, and was about to ring the area bell, as the cook had informed her she would be expected to do on demanding ingress, when she saw that the front door stood ajar, and thinking to save trouble by entering that way, she quietly pushed it open, and stepped into the hall.

“Do you belong to this ’ere ’ouse?” loudly demanded a rough voice, as she set her foot in it; and Véronique turned in amazement, to encounter the burly figure of a butcher, who, arrayed in the blue blouse customary to his species, and with his cap upon his head, was occupying one of the hall chairs, and regarding her with a look of insolent defiance.

“I am the lady’s-maid,” she answered, nervously, as she attempted to pass him.

“Oh! the lady’s-maid, are yer?” reechoed the man, with a coarse laugh, “and where’s the lady, pray? I should like to know that. To my thinking, there ain’t no ladies in this ’ouse, nor gentlemen, either! When did you last get your wages, my dear? You’d better by far come and take service with my old woman than with such gentlefolks as these. You’d have justice there, if nothing else. Gentlefolks!” he continued, with a withering sneer, and raising his voice so that the remark might have been hoard at the very top of the house, “gentlefolks! they ain’t nothing of the sort; they’re a pack of swindlers, who rob honest men of their earnings: and I’ll have the law of them before a month’s over my head, or my name’s not Josiah Griffin.”

“Hush! oh, pray hush!” exclaimed Véronique, terrified at the man’s words, and not knowing what to think of the menacing gestures, by which they were accompanied, and it was to her infinite relief that the next moment she saw the head of the footman appear above the kitchen stairs.

“Now, when are you going to clear out of this?” he said, as he advanced towards the butcher, “we can’t have you sitting here all day, you know; it’s getting on for six o’clock, and I shall have to bring up the dinner presently.”

“Bring it up!” exclaimed the man, loudly, “it’s my beef and my mutton—I’ve a better right to fall to it than they have, and I don’t leave this house till they’ve paid me for it.”

“You’d better come again tomorrow morning,” urged the footman, “you won’t see the master this evening, because he’s gone out, and he won’t be back till late.”

“That’s a lie!” returned Mr. Griffin, curtly. “However, early or late, I waits for him here; and you keep your advice, my cockrel, until you’re asked for it. I don’t wish to have no words with you. Like master, like man! If you was an honest fellow yourself, you wouldn’t take service with a pack of swindlers.”

“Come! none of that,” replied the footman, hotly; and in the midst of the noisy quarrel which ensued, Véronique was thankful to hear the voice of her mistress calling her over the banisters.

“Moore! Moore!” she lisped, in the most dulcet of tones, “come to me; I want you.”

Notwithstanding the unfamiliar appellation, Véronique guessed for whom it was intended, and running lightly up the staircase, encountered Mrs. Conway Jones upon the landing, but so transfigured from what she had appeared that morning, that had the girl not recognised her voice, she would hardly have known that it was she.

Her figure, now in the very zenith of its perfection, was admirably shown off by a tight fitting dress of black silk, about which was disposed a profusion of lace: her hair. to which a considerable addition had been made, was fashionably dressed, and on her cheeks and brow appeared, if not the lilies and roses of youth, at least the best semblance to them which has been yet discovered; whilst the dark lines drawn beneath her eyes, and the coral touch she had bestowed upon her lips, made her look, at a little distance, like a woman of four or five-and-twenty.

The start given by her unsophisticated maid upon first sight of her, caused the slightest tinge of natural colour to rise to the lady’s face, but it was not apparent through her rouge, and the next moment she had recovered her temporary confusion, and drawn Véronique after her into the shelter of the drawing-room from which she had emerged.

It was not empty; by the fire-place stood a middle-aged gentleman, whom Véronique—until she was undeceived by their subsequent conversation—mistook for Mr. Conway Jones.

“Moore!” exclaimed her mistress, as soon as they had reached the drawing-room, “there is a horrid man below, who says he wants to see Mr. Conway Jones, and he cannot do so this evening—it is quite impossible—but he will not listen to me or to John, or to any one. Do go down and see what you can do with him! Tell him that your master is gone into the country for a few days, and that I have no change in the house with me to-night, but that I will send the money for his bill round the first thing in the morning; and do impress upon him Moore, that Mr. Conway Jones is out of town, and that if he sits there till midnight it is quite impossible that he can see or speak with him.”

Véronique did not like the task of being sent to do battle with the defrauded and belligerent butcher, nor to tell him what she believed to be a falsehood, but she said “very well, Madame,” and was about to try her best, when the middle-aged gentleman interfered.

“This is scarcely a fit case to be settled by a woman,” he said, “Let me go and speak to the fellow, my dear Mrs. Jones, and I will engage that he shall leave the house without further trouble.”

He put his hand in his waistcoat pocket as he spoke.

“Oh! but my dear Sir Henry!” exclaimed the lady, expostulatingly, “I couldn’t, really—it is too much—you shall not be exposed to the insults of such a barbarian! Let Moore speak to him, it will all be arranged tomorrow morning,” closing her eyes and nodding her head, “and meanwhile he will doubtless hear reason, and go home to his own people.”

But notwithstanding her apparent earnestness, Véronique could not help thinking, she hardly knew why, that Mrs. Conway Jones did not intend the gentleman to take her at her word, and he seemed to think the same.

“The man will not insult me,” he answered, quietly, “and you must really allow me the pleasure of settling this little business for you—it is only what Jones would do, were he at home.”

“Oh! of course! of course!” rejoined the lady, and again Véronique, catching the look of intelligence which passed between her and Sir Henry, thought that she was purposely misleading her; “well then, if you will have your own way, I suppose you must, but it is only a loan till tomorrow morning, mind!”

“Only till tomorrow morning!” he repeated lightly after her, and then he went down-stairs to settle Mr. Griffin’s account, and Mrs. Conway Jones turned to Véronique.

“Moore!” she said, hurriedly, “would you mind helping John to wait at table this evening? I daresay I shall not have to ask you to do such a thing again; but Sir Henry is going to stay to dinner, and Mr. Conway Jones is so very particular that everything should be nicely served when we have friends with us. It is, of course, the housemaid’s business, but I was obliged to part with mine about a fortnight ago, and have not yet replaced her.”

Véronique assured her that she had no objection whatever to make herself useful in any way, and was only afraid that she knew too little of the business in question to be of much service in it.

“Oh! yes! you will; if you will do what John tells you, and run backwards and forwards to the kitchen for him. Thank you, Moore; I shall be so much obliged to you, you can’t think. I don’t know what we should have done without you.”

Mrs. Conway Jones always paid her dependents for their services in a profusion of thanks, couched in the softest words, which although they could not quite atone to them for the want of the baser but more substantial coin, had yet the power to make them stay longer with her, and depart more quietly than they would otherwise have done.

On the present occasion, as Véronique heard her acknowledge her promised aid in so sweet and silvery a voice, she thought her new mistress was one of the pleasantest ladies she had ever spoken to, and with alacrity she flew up-stairs to her bed-room, to arrange her dress and hair against the time when she should be required.

In another hour the dinner was on the table, and standing by the sideboard, as John directed her to do, she watched eagerly for the entrance of her master, whom, from all she had heard of him, she was very curious to behold. Sir Henry, as was natural, came first, with Mrs. Conway Jones upon his arm, and Mr. Conway Jones, with an eye-glass in his eye, followed them, in rather a subdued manner, which, however, brightened up as soon as he caught sight of the pretty face which beamed upon him from the sideboard.

“By Jove! Cissy, my darling!” he said, as he took his seat at the end of the table, “the new importation is rather an improvement on the last one, eh?—that’s a regular pair of piercers, Cleveland, and no mistake! they’d go through a deal board, and transfix a man the other side of it.”

“I wish you’d be a little more guarded in what you say,” observed his wife, quietly, “you seem to imagine no one has ears but yourself, Conway.”

“Oh, no, I don’t, my darling!” he rejoined, with a slight chuckle, as still, with the glass in his eye, without which he could see to do nothing, he bent his head over the table, rapidly gabbled grace, and proceeded to help the fish before him.

As soon as the course was served, Véronique, who was perfectly innocent that the foregoing conversation alluded to herself, had time to observe her mistress’s husband, and was struck by the foreign look which he presented. He was a slight dark man, with handsome features of the Jewish type, and with the exception of a small moustache and imperial, he wore his face close-shaved, which added to his un-English appearance. He had quick, restless eyes, which were never still, but always either looking up or down, or roving round the apartment, and he betrayed a nervous, unsettled manner, as though he momentarily expected to hear the report of a pistol close to his ear. Yet with it all he seemed a facetious and laughter-loving gentleman, who made jests on almost everything about him; and he invariably addressed his wife as “Cissy, my darling!” from which fact Véronique inferred that he must be very fond indeed of her.

Their guest, Sir Henry Cleveland, ws much more silent; he did not seem to enter into the jokes with the same spirit as Mr. Conway Jones, and when he made a remark, it was usually to his hostess, and often in so low a voice, that only she could hear it.

Yet her husband did not seem to resent this monopolisation of his wife, or permit it to have any effect upon his appetite; on the contrary, he ate more than Véronique had thought it possible one person could do, and in a greedy, self-absorbed manner, as though his whole soul had gone, for the time being, into his dinner.

At last, however, even Mr. Conway Jones had finished, and the dessert being placed on the table, Véronique accompanied her fellow-servant down below, where, to her astonishment, he threw himself into a chair, and laying his head on the table, gave vent to a prolonged fit of uncontrollable laughter.

“Lor! John! whatever’s come over you?” exclaimed the cook, beginning to shake her fat sides in sympathy with his merriment, even before she had heard the cause, “they’ll hear you upstairs, as sure as eggs is eggs.”

“I don’t care what they hear,” was the irreverent answer, “Good Lord! to stand beside that table is enough to kill a man—I shall never get over it—I shall rupture a blood-vessel if it goes on much longer! Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!” and off he went again into a peal of laughter which was almost hysterical.

“What’s up now?” said the cook, as she appealed to Véronique, who was laughing also, though only at the absurd appearance presented by the footman.

“I am sure I don’t know,” she answered, “I saw nothing out of the common way—but then I’m a stranger here.”

“Yes, that’s just it!” exclaimed John, as he rallied from his second attack, “you’re not up to it all, or you’d be as amused as I am. Why, Mrs. Hodson,” he continued, turning to face the cook, as he brought down his fist on the table, “if there wasn’t that fellow apologising to Sir Henry for the silver with which the table was laid, and telling the mistress it was such a—d old fashioned pattern they must change it for something newer, ‘But we’ve put it off as long as we can,’ he says, ‘because it’s old family plate, and we’re fond of it.’ And it’s Sir Henry’s all the time,” exclaimed the footman, bursting into a fresh peal of delight, “his own man brought it here the last time their things were grabbed; and he apologised to him for its being so d—d old and ugly looking. Oh! I say, Mrs. Hodson! or you, Miss, there, do come and pat me on the back, or I shall go off into the high strikes. Old family plate! and they didn’t like to exchange it because their mothers left it to them—ain’t it affecting?” and with one pathetic look at his amused hearers, John buried his face again from mortal view.

“But if,” demanded Véronique, after they were a little more composed, “if Sir Henry Cleveland lent the silver to the mistress, how is it that Mr. Conway Jones does not know of it?”

“Oh, you innocent!” exclaimed the cook, “Mrs. Conway Jones is one pusson in this house, and Mr. Conway Jones, he’s another, as you’ll find out before long. And Mrs. Jones, she has her friends, and Mr. Jones, he has—”

“None!” interposed the footman.

“Lor! nor don’t deserve to,” replied Mrs. Hodson. “And now, John, you just go and find out whether they’ll have tea or coffee to-night, for I must be getting it ready.”

The attendance of Véronique was not again required in the drawing-room that evening, for which she was sorry, as what she had heard had greatly piqued her curiosity to further watch the behaviour of Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones; but she had not the opportunity, and as she was much fatigued, she retired to rest early.

When she descended the next morning, she found Mrs. Hodson considerably put out, and on enquiring the reason, learnt that the footman, having obtained his master’s permission to leave the house for his three days’ holiday as soon as he chose to do so, had already taken his breakfast and his departure; added to which her mistress had ordered her to go all the way to Covent Garden, just to fetch a “rubbishing vegetable” on which she had set her heart, and which she declared was not to be procured fit to eat anywhere nearer.

“Sich stuff!” exclaimed the irate cook, “as if every greengrocer as is hadn’t got sea-kale at this time of year, good enough for her Majesty the Queen, if she wished to dine off it. And here am I, with none of my day’s work even begun, to tramp off miles, just to buy two pennorth of greens. How’s the dinner to be got ready without me, I should like to know?”

“Won’t you be home before that?” said Véronique timidly.

“Why, yes, child, in course I shall; but I walk very slowly at my age, and it takes me a good two hours to get to the market and back. And on this day of all others, when that fellow, John, has had the imperence to go off and leave the silver just as he brought it down last night. It’s regular inconsideration of the mistress, and so I tell her!”

“Could I clean the silver for you?” suggested Véronique.

“Oh, there’ll be a ‘char’ here presently to do all that; don’t you go to trouble yourself, my dear. But why I should be sent trapesing at this time of the morning after ‘chars’ and sea-kale I can’t imagine. ’T would serve her right if she didn’t get any dinner at all today.”

And grumbling at her mistress, and her ill destiny, Mrs. Hodson commenced to prepare the breakfast, whilst Véronique, hearing the sound of the bed-room bell, ran up to answer it.

Mr. Conway Jones was in his dressingroom, but Mrs. Conway Jones was still in bed, looking as faded, as yellow, and as passée as she had done on Véronique’s first introduction to her.

“What o’clock is it?” she demanded languidly, and on being told, continued—“well, you may bring my breakfast up to me here, Moore, for I have some business to do today which necessitates my rising earlier than usual, so it will not be worth while going into the boudoir.” And then as the girl, having received the orders for the meal, was about to leave the room and communicate them to the cook, her mistress added, rather hurriedly—“Have you unpacked your box yet, Moore?”

“No, Madame,” replied Véronique; “I was about to ask your permission to do so, after you had risen and had your breakfast.”

“Well, don’t do it yet,” said Mrs. Conway Jones in the same unsettled manner, “for I have something to say to you about your room first. And tell Hodson, Moore, to send up her master’s breakfast into the dining room as soon as possible, for I am anxious she should start for the market directly afterwards, and take her time about it. It is a long walk there and back for the poor thing,” and Mrs. Conway Jones sank on her pillows, with such a compassionate sigh, that Véronique wondered, since she was so well aware of the toil, that she inflicted it on such a busy day.

The breakfasts were duly served however, and then Véronique assisted her mistress in her dressing, and Mrs. Hodson, still grumbling loudly, departed on her errand in search of charwomen and sea-kale, and the grand house, save for its master and mistress and the lady’s-maid, was left empty.

Upon which the bed-room bell again rang loudly, and Véronique, on answering it, was surprised to see that Mrs. Conway Jones, who had seized the opportunity of her absence to apply those last fond touches to her face without which she never appeared in public, had once more blossomed into girlhood, and was standing in her bonnet and mantle, ready arrayed for going out.

“Moore!” she said quickly, “is that woman Hodson gone?”

“Yes, Madame!” replied Véronique, “she left the house ten minutes ago.”

“Very well, run up stairs and put on your bonnet and shawl. Your box is just as you brought it, is it not?”

“Yes, Madame?” stammered Véronique, “but—but—”

“I told you yesterday that we might have to go abroad at a moment’s notice,” returned the lady rather sharply, “and you agreed to do so. Come! don’t stand staring there. Go at once and put such articles in your box as you may have taken out; your master has gone to fetch a cab, and will be back directly.”

“But, Madame—your own things!” said Véronique, looking around the room in vain for any signs of preparation for travelling; “what will you do without any dresses?”

“They have all gone on,” replied Mrs. Conway Jones; “and what I require for the night I have in my bag. Now, lose no more time, if you please, for we must start directly, and Mr. Jones shall carry down your box when it is ready.”

Bewildered at the suddenness of the order, feeling that something must be wrong, and yet ready to brave anything rather than the risk of being left behind, Véronique flew to do as she was bidden, and had not been in her room five minutes before she heard the voice of her master demanding admittance, and asking if her box were ready to be taken down stairs.

“See what it is to be attached to the household of a man in the diplomatic service,” he remarked facetiously, as he shouldered her little trunk and walked away with it, “we are here today, and gone tomorrow. Just follow your mistress into the cab, Moore, and make no remarks. We don’t want all the world to know where we are going, or I may get into a scrape with the Government.”

Impressed with which idea, Véronique remained as mute as a mouse, (although she could not help wondering if her mistress had remembered to leave any explanation of her absence for the poor cook when she should return from Covent Garden Market,) and Mr. Conway Jones having slammed the hall-door of No. 150, Rutland Gate behind him, jumped into the cab, and gave directions that they should be driven to the station of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway.

“By Jove! that’s neatly done, Cissy my darling,” he said as he rubbed his hands together, and looked full into the face of his wife, “very neatly done—by Jove! The scoundrels won’t track us this time in a hurry. I was determined to have no repetition of the last escapade, with an interval of two minutes only, between embarkation and the prospect of board and lodging at Her Majesty’s expense.”

But Mrs. Conway Jones was more discreet than her husband, and only answered with a warning look, which he did not choose to take.

“By Jove!” he continued chuckling. “By Jove, Cissy my darling, only fancy the face of old Hodson when she comes back from market, and finds that we are flown. I’d give a pound to see it, by Jove! I’d give a hundred pounds to see the old girl’s first look of amazement, when she discovers that the house is empty. It would be worth any sum of money—thousands—millions,” and Mr. Conway Jones looked as delighted as though he were quite ready to produce thousands, and millions, in exchange for the pleasure of watching the poor cook’s disappointment at the loss of her quarter’s wages. He possessed the happy facility, in common with many gentlemen of his class, of talking with the utmost fluency about things of which he had not the slightest knowledge.

But Mrs. Conway Jones was unresponsive. Her husband had not chosen to accept her previous hint, and now she cautioned him more openly.

“How can you talk so foolishly?” she said sharply, as she knitted her brows, and trod upon his toe. “You will make the girl imagine that we are running away from Rutland Gate never to return. Of course Hodson will be surprised for the moment, but she knows well enough that secret business often compels you to leave home without warning: and she will look after the house for us, as she has done before, until we return to it. As soon as you allow me, I shall write and give her our address abroad, and if you are detained longer than you expect, I must return without you. My children are here, it is not likely I shall remain long away from them” with a sentimental air.

“I should think not,” returned Mr. Conway Jones, recalled to a sense of his duty. “By Jove! the little darlings! I should like to have seen them before I started; but what can a man do, when the—”

“When the Royal command sends him in a contrary direction,” quickly interposed his wife, “of course not! Men in your position have only to obey. And now, Conway, here is the station; do make haste and look after my boxes which are in the booking office. There are nine of them, and here is the ticket.”

She produced a printed paper as she spoke, and Véronique could not help admiring the forethought of her mistress, as she watched the nine large cases, containing her wearing apparel and personal property, which, in anticipation of a sudden move on the part of her husband, she had sent in advance of them, brought out from the booking office of the station, and placed in the luggage van. She did not travel to Dover in the same carriage as Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones, and when she joined them on the platform at the other end, another surprise awaited her, for the nine cases were multiplied by two, as many more having been sent on to the Dover station to await the arrival of their owners there.

“It was fortunate I thought of dispatching the Venetian glass, and Sêvres china,

when I did,” Véronique heard the lady whisper to her husband, as a large package marked ‘Glass, with care,’ was carried past them on the platform, “if it had been delayed a day later, we should probably have lost it.”

“Yes! by Jove,” exclaimed the gentleman, “those scoundrels would have thought nothing of bagging it again. Infernal robbers! But you’re a brick, Cissy my darling! a perfect brick! no other woman would have thought of such a thing; I’m sure they wouldn’t, by Jove! But where’s your girl? tell her to follow us at once. The packages are all right, and I don’t want to be seen standing about this platform. Some fool might recognise me!”

Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones had arrived too late to catch the mid-day boat for Calais, and therefore, annoying as it must have been to the gentleman, employed under Government, to delay transacting the business of the realm for another twelve hours, he was compelled to submit to his destiny, and spend the interval at an hotel, to which Véronique followed them mechanically, wondering much, meantime, why, since her mistress was sure of returning to Rutland Gate, she should have thought it worth while to pack up so much china, and glass, and pictures to take abroad with her; and who were the robbers, whom they feared would have carried them off in their absence.

But she had not solved this question to her own satisfaction, before she was startled by hearing another quite as enigmatical to her simple understanding.

“By Jove!” exclaimed Mr. Conway Jones, as with his disengaged hand he slapped his thigh, “what should I have done, Cissy my darling, if I had not thought of giving old Cleveland a bill of sale upon the furniture? I do think it’s the neatest thing I ever thought of, for Addison can’t come down upon us for the money under a couple of months at least, and I shall have dodged him half over the Continent by that time.”

“Addison’s claim will hold good, it is the prior one,” remarked Mrs. Conway Jones quietly.

“So much the worse for old Cleveland!” was the emphatic reply.

But Véronique understood nothing about “bills of sale,” or “prior claims.” The more she overheard of her employers’ conversation, the more puzzled she became; and she could not yet make up her mind, whether she liked Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones, or not.

Chapter IV

At Brüssenburgh

Safely housed in the Dover Hotel, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Conway Jones ventured to show themselves abroad again that day, but ordered an excellent dinner to be served them, with lots of champagne, over which they made very merry, and having given Véronique her full share of the good things, they took her on board the evening boat and crossed the same night for Calais. The unpleasant journey, though so short, completely upset Mrs. Conway Jones, and on arriving in Calais, she insisted upon being allowed to go to bed, instead of at once proceeding by the train. So that it was not until the afternoon of the next day that they arrived in Brüssenburgh. The varied feelings with which the breast of Véronique was filled as she sat in a second-class carnage, replete with smoking Belgians, and tried to realise that the train was rushing forward with her towards the place which held her husband, she could not have described even to herself. It seemed to her as though she had breathed more freely ever since she placed her foot on foreign soil; as if the fact of hearing the language which was most familiar to her spoken on all sides was a sign she had come home, as though the heavy burthen of suspense under which she had now laboured for so many weary months, was being lifted from her shoulders and would soon be cast away entirely. Each hour she became more talkative and gay—more like the lively, happy girl that she had been in the old days, before Père Joseph died—eye-laughter once more sparkled in her glance, and uncalled-for smiles appeared upon her mouth. The Véronique whom Gordon Romilly had left behind him on the Nilgiri Hills had been a broken-spirited, weeping creature, and the Véronique who had accompanied Mrs. Colonel Dowdson home in search of him, had been silent, subdued, and always restless and uneasy. But from the hour when she traced her husband’s dwelling-place, her demeanour altogether changed. It was but, after all, a few days since she had heard the news of his being at Brüssenburgh from the lips of Mrs. Dowdson’s friend, and here she was upon her very way to him, and as Véronique reflected on the fact, she scarcely thought she could be the same woman she had been a week before. Each station which they stopped at she was sure was Brüssenburgh, and when, after about three hours’ travelling, they really arrived at the place, and she was lifted out trembling with excitement upon the railway platform, had she obeyed the impulse of her heart she would have run away then and there, and made the streets resound to the name of her beloved. But Véronique lived in the nineteenth century, and therefore, although she was in reality so agitated as to be of little service, she was compelled to remain quietly by her mistress’s side, whilst her master collected the baggage, and then to take her seat in one of the *vigilantes* upon which it was piled, and consent to be driven just where he thought fit to direct her.

It was not, perhaps, the best time of the year at which to visit Brüssenburgh, for although the season, usually a very gay one, was not yet at a conclusion, the trees were still leafless, and consequently the greatest charm of the city, and that which made it pleasanter (like most foreign places), than towns of the same standing in England, was absent. The Boulevards, although crowded with pedestrians, were sheltered by bare branches only; the park was a network of the same, not an evergreen appearing in it from end to end, and the plaster statues which gave it so brave a look in the summer weather, had been turned into miniature straw-stacks, in order to preserve the fragile material of which they were formed, from the inclemency of a Belgian winter.

Yet Véronique cared for none of these disadvantages, it is questionable whether she even observed them. From the moment that the laden vehicle of which she was sent in charge, left the railway station, she sat well forward and kept turning her head incessantly from side to side, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the figure which she felt that, however altered by care or sickness, she should recognise again immediately. The curious little market-carts of milk or vegetables, drawn by dogs in leather and brass harness, and followed by stout Belgian girls in snow-white caps, short petticoats and wooden sabots, drew no more than a passing notice from her. She looked at them, it is true, as she did at the Flemish women with their huge gold ornaments and straw bonnets like moderately-sized clothes-baskets, and at the little babies tucked away in their perambulators beneath knitted coverlets lined with pink or blue; but the next moment her eye had caught another group of idle gentlemen, and was peering hungrily into each face as it successively passed before her.

When the vigilante reached that part of the Boulevards where the crowd was thickest, her excitement became painful, for it was impossible that she could scan each countenance of the multitude that thronged the pathway, and Véronique felt, oh! how keenly! that her Gor-don might be, even at that moment, crossing her, and she not know it. She watched costume after costume, of velvet, and silk, and cashmere; she grew dazzled with the vision of children decked in every colour of the rainbow; the horsemen on the other side passed her so rapidly that she could not catch a glimpse of their features; but yet, when Véronique found that the vigilante, in obedience to the directions given to its cocher, turned sharply away from the gay scene she had been contemplating, and rattled up a by-street leading to the boarding house which Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones had decided to patronise, she very nearly cried from vexation and disappointment. But the next moment she had reproached herself for being so childish, and the vehicle which contained her master and mistress following close upon her own, she was soon fully occupied in helping the latter to make herself comfortable, and had no more time to devote to her own unreasonable fancies. The boarding-house at which Mr. Conway Jones had determined to stay was quiet and retired, which on more grounds than one, suited his present position. It was also somewhat removed from the quartier of the town most occupied by the English, and it was seldom frequented itself except by Belgians, and those not of the first-class. But the caution and secrecy necessary to the movements of diplomatic servants, rendered all these circumstances desirable rather than otherwise, and Véronique was too unaccustomed to the ways and manners of English gentle-people to discover that her master and mistress had done anything unusual in selecting their present place of abode. Unlike her last employers, they both spoke French fluently; they were too familiar with the continent (having paid it several visits in the same hurried and peculiar manner before) to have done otherwise; consequently there seemed nothing strange to her in the fact of their selecting a boarding-house where the English language was not understood, and for her own part, when she was shown into the room allotted to her, she thought she felt more at home than she had ever done in her life before.

She liked the bright shining parquet which was flooded with water every morning, and then “swabbed” like the decks on board ship; the high muslin blinds, which excluded all observation from the outside world, were white as the peasant women’s caps, and the quaint little stove which stood in the centre of the room, with a huge funnel so disproportionate to itself, thrust through a hole in the wall, seemed as familiar to her as though she had known it always. She did not even care, that in order to get to her apartment, she was obliged to cross a vast and airy porte cochère and climb up three painful flights of uncarpeted stairs, so charmed was she to recognize in all around her, the descriptions which Père Joseph had so often given her of his native country and his visit to Brüssenburgh. The thought of him, of all his goodness and tenderness to her, and of his often expressed wish that she should first see Brüssenburgh in company with himself brought a few natural tears into Véronique’s eyes, but they were soon dispersed, for her rapid fancy flew again to Gordon Romilly, and the idea conceived before, that it was impossible he could stay in that city and be forgetful of her, gained the ascendency of her melancholy recollections, and wreathed her mouth in hopeful smiles. Yet Mrs. Conway Jones was not so pleasant with her maid that evening as was her wont, for several little things had combined to put her out. In the first place, Mr. Conway Jones, on whom the dinner-hour had been emphatically impressed, had gone out for a stroll and forgotten all about it, and kept her waiting until, as she declared, she was quite faint from hunger. And when he did return, he omitted to bring with him a certain cordial medicine which she desired to take, and which, knowing the town well, she had commissioned him to procure at an English chemist’s in the principal “rue.” When Mrs. Conway Jones was sweet tempered, it was not principle but policy on which she acted; and being at the present moment too upset and wearied by her journey to have any leisure to bestow on policy, she permitted herself to become thoroughly peevish and put out.

“Moore!” she exclaimed in a whining voice, as Véronique obeyed the summons which was sent her immediately after dinner, “you must go and get me some of this medicine. The shop is not far from here, and if you will take the trouble I am quite sure that you can find it.”

“Certainly, Madame!” replied Véronique, with ready compliance, “I will go at once,” and receiving as explicit directions as it was possible for her mistress to afford her, she took the vial in her hand, and set off in search of the chemist’s shop.

It was then eight o’clock in the evening, by no means a fit hour for an unprotected girl to be traversing the lighted streets and dark faubourgs of such a town as Brüssenburgh, and a few months back, Véronique’s natural timidity would have made her shrink from undertaking such a task in a strange place. But consideration for the safety or morals of her domestics was not at all the sort of consideration which the lady whom Véronique served ever exhibited: she rarely scolded or found fault with them, but they might get into trouble as they chose, for she considered it no part of her business to guard them from it. And the girl was not only willing but eager to go. She had been sitting at her bedroom window all the afternoon, gazing into the narrow, silent street, and longing to obtain permission to leave it and wander into the more frequented parts of Brüssenburgh. No life had seemed to penetrate their quartier whilst she watched thus, unless a barrow full of sand with an unfortunate little cur straining at the wheel in front, and a man lazily doing his part of the labour behind, whilst he made the street resound with a melancholy cry of “sable!” or a group of mendicants, or a few scattered pedestrians, could be termed life. She felt instinctively that this would be no thoroughfare for such as Gordon Romilly to frequent, and she panted to traverse the town itself, and go to the places that English gentlemen walked in. She felt like a prisoner as long as she was in the house, as if its doors and windows were bolts and bars to keep her from her husband’s arms: and when she heard the large portals, which were more like the entrance to a stable than a private dwelling, slam behind her, and found herself in the open air, she went eagerly on her errand, almost as excited as though she had been going by appointment to meet him. Conversant as she was with the language of the country, she experienced little difficulty in finding her way, for as soon as the instructions with which Mrs. Conway Jones had furnished her, were exhausted, she had but to step into one of the brilliantly lighted shops, and ask to be further directed.

The “Rue de la Haute Cour” in which was situated the English chemist’s shop, was the principal street of Brüssenburgh, and the many striking novelties with which the windows of its “magasins” were crowded, would have been sufficient to attract the notice of anyone with a mind less painfully absorbed than was that of Véronique, but she had no eye for the masses of jewellery, pictures, and fashionable millinery so temptingly displayed before her. She did not even observe the attraction provoked by her own appearance, or if by chance her eager gaze called forth an expression of admiration from some passerby, the blush occasioned by it would fade but too soon beneath the sigh of bitter disappointment by which it would be followed.

She found the chemist’s, received and paid for the medicine, and had nothing left to do but to carry it home for the comfort and relief of Mrs. Conway Jones. As she reached the top of the “Rue de la Haute Cour” again, and looking back upon its brilliant shops and crowded pavements, so full of life and light, contemplated the dark and lonely Boulevards which she must traverse before she reached the boarding-house, Véronique felt sorely tempted to walk down its length once more. It seemed so probable to her that Gor-don was pacing backwards and forwards amongst that gay company: it appeared so likely a position in which to find her glorious lover, to suit so well the glittering halo with which in her eyes he was still surrounded. But she knew that the hour was late and that her duty called her home; and so, with a sigh, Véronique deliberately turned her back on what, to her vivid, half foreign imagination, seemed like paradise, and bent her steps towards her destination.

The Boulevards certainly appeared most gloomy, and very unlike what they had done on that same afternoon, as she had driven past them into Brüssenburgh. The trunks of the tall bare trees, many of which were very old, looked like grim sentinels ready to challenge her as she passed, and the only lights her path could boast of, were those which gleamed from the little rectangular aubettes which were stationed at the corner of each crossing, and whose sides were formed of different coloured glass.

Véronique lost the confidence she had experienced when in the lighted thoroughfares: disappointment had quenched the buoyant hope with which she had started on her expedition, and with it disappeared her courage. The gloom and loneliness of her present route oppressed her spirits, and instead of examining the faces of those whom she encountered, she began to steal to one side as soon as she heard voices or footsteps approaching her through the night, and stand quietly behind one of the thick trunks of the trees until the owners of them had passed upon their way. She had performed this feat several times without observation, and had nearly reached that point at which she must quit the Boulevards, when she perceived a group of several men with lighted cigars in their mouths coming towards her, and an instinct for which she could not afterwards account, made her fly from their presence, obscurely as she traced it, and trembling with agigation, take shelter, as before, behind a tree. But this time the suddenness of her movement betrayed her, and she had scarcely arrested her footsteps, when to her horror she heard one of the gentlemen exclaim—

“Cours donc mon petit chat, mais je te suis,” and the next moment a burly figure, thickly enveloped in a fur-trimmed overcoat, had dodged her round the trunk of the tree, and laid his hand, though not ungently, upon her shoulder.

“Pourquoi veux-tu m’échapper?” he enquired, with a loud laugh, “je ne suis pas un ours, moi.”

“Oh! Monsieur! Laissez-moi m’en aller, je vous supplie,” said Véronique, in an agitated whisper, which conveyed the notion of greater alarm than any exclamation could have done.

“Ma foi! non!” returned her captor, “pas avant que je n’aie appris ton nom, car tu est fort jolie, je le devine sans le voir.”

“Monsieur, je vous en conjure ne me retenez,” continued the girl in an agony of entreaty which almost amounted to a cry, and then another voice was heard to interfere:

“Sacristi! Alphonse! laisse cette petite—voilà un gendarme qui arrive,” at which piece of information Monsieur Alphonse laughed lightly, gave her shoulder a playful shake, and ran to rejoin his companions.

She was about to proceed then, thankful the adventure had been no worse, when the sound of a voice arrested her—not the voice of Monsieur Alphonse, nor of the man who had addressed him, but a third, an English voice, thicker and more inarticulate than when she had heard it last, but still not to be mistaken by her faithful memory.

“Don’t play the fool, Thibault,” it said, in a tone of sulky remonstrance, “we are late as it is, already,” and then the three men linked arms again, and sauntered away in the direction from which she had come.

Véronique stood behind the tree as if she had been paralysed. She could not have called him if her life had depended upon it, she could not have uttered the name of Gordon Romilly if a drawn sword had been held above her head the while; she tried to do so, more than once, but the syllables stuck in her throat, and no sound was apparent but a dry gasping sob of pain. And yet it was he—she was as sure that those few ordinary words had been spoken by her husband, as though she had met him, face to face, in the broad light of day—and she had permitted him to pass on without saying a word to intimate her presence.

On the first conviction of the mistake she had made, of the good fortune she had missed, Véronique was powerless to move with chagrin and disappointment, the next moment she had rushed from her hiding place, and peered eagerly into the darkness, to catch a glimpse of the retreating forms of the three men; but they were already too far distant to be distinguished, and overcome by the conflicting feelings which had been raised by the rencontre, Véronique sat down on one of the benches of the Boulevards, and burst into tears. But it was not long before she conquered this emotion, which had been provoked more from sudden excitement and surprise than from any new anguish, and by the time that she had dried her eyes, and proceeded on her way, there was no room in her breast for any feeling but intense happiness. Had she not been in his presence, and heard his voice, what further confirmation could she need that all her troubles were drawing to a close?

As she considered this, she felt so humbly grateful for the blessing which had been accorded her, and her soul was so filled with a sense of the goodness of Him from whom it came, that she longed to kneel down upon the Boulevards and return thanks then and there for the restoration of her lover. No bitterer feelings mixed with the paeon of praise which was sounding in her heart at that moment, no thought of his unexplained desertion, of his silence, of his apparent forgetfulness, troubled her joyous spirit; he was there, living, breathing, warm, before her, and that knowledge was sufficient for her present happiness.

As she walked homewards, lightly and airily, sometimes almost running as she went, she vexed her trusting faith with no questions of the future, nor even thought of it, except perhaps of that first blissful moment when she should look into his eyes, and make her presence in Brüssenburgh a fact to him; but she dwelt lovingly upon the past, and conjured up each byegone word and glance and caress that he had given her, so vividly, thai at last it seemed impossible that she could have been separated from him for nearly twelve long weary months. And when she went to bed that night, she slipped her wedding ring off the ribbon by which she usually attached it to her neck, and put it on her finger with a proud and happy smile, and fell to sleep with it still there, to dream that Gor-don found her out, and came himself, eager and exultant, to carry her from the boarding-house and the service of Mrs. Conway Jones, and to take her home to live with him for ever.

Chapter V

Behind A Mask

With the rise of next morning’s sun (and the sun rose very early and very bright in Brüssenburgh) Mrs. Conway Jones’s fit of ill-humour had evaporated, for she had received a cordial far better suited to her need than that which Véronique had brought her from the chemist’s shop.

They had arrived in Belgium at the commencement of the carnival, that three days’ holiday of which foreigners know so well how to make use. and which immediately precedes the long course of lentils and bitter herbs, unbroken save by the mi-carême, and such small indulgences as the priests may be bribed or wheedled into bestowing on their fasting flocks; and Mr. Conway Jones, who had been swaggering in his usual manner about Brüssenburgh, and renewing some of his old acquaintances, had received an invitation from one of the rich Belgians living in the town to take his wife to his house on that day, that she might view the array of masques and masqueraders from his balcony.

Judging his importance by the magnitude of his ideas, the innocent Belgians took Mr. Conway Jones for a great English “milord,” and believed implicitly all that he chose to tell them respecting his houses and estates and property at home. And it was not only foreigners with whose credulity he thus played whilst prosecuting his tours upon the Continent. Englishmen were sometimes so simple as to believe that Mr. Conway Jones was a gentleman of honour, and Mrs. Conway Jones all that a lady should be; and, permitting an intimacy in consequence, found themselves after a while in a lamentable dilemma, from which there was no means of escape, except by pursuing a course more candid than polite. But the Conway Joneses were used to rebuffs on the part of society, and were as practised in gracefully backing out of it before the face of an awkward question, in pushing their way onwards whilst they had the opportunity of doing so. They had never visited Brüssenburgh except under favourable circumstances; that is, when friends had been weak enough to lend them money, or they had been sharp enough to raise it. As yet, therefore, the sun shone for them in that place, and they took care to make hay whilst it did so.

The invitation which she had received, although from strangers, was one after Mrs. Conway Jones’s own heart, for she hoped she would be made much of, as the only English lady amongst a score perhaps of the Brüssenburgh bourgeoisie, and since once known she found it impossible even to be allowed to serve in the social heaven, she was not above reigning in the other place.

She spent the whole morning arranging what robe, and mantle, and bonnet she should wear, and kept her lady’s-maid employed with needle and thread until it was time that she should dress her. Véronique was thankful when that time arrived; her heart and head were full of the one topic which engrossed them, and it fretted her to be obliged to sit still and listen to small details of millinery, and to have her advice asked on the disposition of a flower, or the settling of a fold. She longed to get away, all by herself, that she might think over the great happiness which was in store for her. She wanted to tell it out, though it were only to bare walls; and she intended, as soon as her mistress should have taken her departure, to employ her leisure time in transcribing a letter to David, by which he should see that she was happy, although he could never guess the cause which made her so. But when her task was completed, and the vigilante which was to convey Mrs. Conway Jones to the town stood at the door, her mistress desired her to put on her walking things and go with her.

“Me! Madame,” she exclaimed in astonishment.

“Yes, Moore,” was the reply. “I thought you understood so all along. Mr. Conway Jones is to meet me at Monsieur Trappeniers’ house, and if you were familiar with the ways of the Continent, you would know that a lady never goes about here alone, especially on such a day as this.”

Mrs. Conway Jones, like many another woman whose footing is insecure, professed to be exceedingly particular about trifling matters of etiquette, imagining that the public would infer from one point how particular she was on all; and perhaps she was not unwise in her generation. Her command at first greatly discomposed Véronique, who shrunk from going amongst a lot of strangers, and in the equivocal position of an uninvited servant; but the mistress did not show any inclination to retake her order, and the maid had nothing to do but to obey.

The house of Monsieur Trappeniers (of the firm of Trappeniers et Fils, fabricants de dentelles) stood in the very centre of the Rue de la Haute Cour, commanding a full view of all that went on in the town of Brüssenburgh; and when they reached it, they found the ‘salon’ and its balcony already filled with men and women, eagerly watching what was passing in the street below, and making merry with one another over the luncheon provided by the liberality of their host.

Mr. Conway Jones was there before them, and had evidently already worked himself into the good graces of the company, with whom he appeared as intimate as though he had known them for years; and when Mrs. Conway Jones, dressed in the most fashionable and becoming costume, and with her face got up à merveille, sailed into the room, and lispingly apologised to Madame Trappeniers for having taken the liberty of bringing her maid with her, as she was not accustomed to go anywhere alone; her Parisian bonnet, no less than her faultless accent, seemed to create a favourable impression on all present, and Monsieur and Madame, overwhelming her with thanks for having honoured them by accepting their invitation, led her to the best seat in the balcony, and pressed her to partake of everything on the luncheon table.

Mrs. Conway Jones received all these civilities with the condescension becoming so great a lady. She smiled blandly upon Madame Trappeniers, and half closed her eyes in answering Monsieur, until Véronique, who had taken up a station behind her mistress’s chair, thought that the compliments passing between the new acquaintances would never come to a conclusion. The gay scene, however, which was taking place before them soon distracted their attention from each other, for the Carnival had reached its height, and the streets were becoming more crowded every minute. Men with hideous masks, disguised as monkeys, dogs, or devils, called out to them incessantly, from beneath the window; bouquets of flowers, which Monsieur Trappeniers, with inimitable grace would raise and present to them every now and then, fell at the ladies’ feet; and occasionally a shower of bonbons from some passing carriage would be scattered far and wide, finding covert in their bonnets or mantles or skirts, whilst those which fell short of the verandah excited a lively scramble amongst the little gamins in the street below.

Véronique had followed her mistress that afternoon, vexed there should be a necessity for doing so, and indisposed to feel interested in anything she might see; but she had not been standing behind her chair long before she began to be as amused as the rest at the ludicrous novelties which she beheld. It was impossible to look without laughing at a monstrous tiger, formed of two men, both stooping, back to back, one of whom worked the string which caused the animal’s tail to move, and the other that which performed the same office for his jaws. Nor to calmly behold the same men, when tired out by the exertion, and nearly stifled from the close imprisonment, quietly slink out of their tiger case, and, taking up the royal beast in their arms, walk off with it until they should be sufficiently rested to recommence operations.

A group, intended to represent “Les Anglais,” according to the Belgian interpretation of the word, excited universal merriment; the lady being dressed in a cloak down to her heels, of a pattern not seen since the flood, with a large straw bonnet, long yellow curls, and prominent teeth; and the man, with a tightly buttoned coat, huge stock, and eye-glass in his eye, whilst they each held a child by the hand, attired after a similar fashion, with an enormous white collar and flapping broad-brimmed hat.

Yet many of the costumes were as picturesque and pretty as others were absurd, and the whole scene was a motley assemblage of Mirth and Folly. A great number of vehicles mingled with the crowd, carts gaily decked with flags and flowers bore groups upon them representing different scenes, allegorical, artistical, or natural; and a long string of carriages, some filled with maskers, and others with gentlemen in plain clothes, scattering bonbons and bouquets to the passers-by, blocked up the street, and necessarily made the procession pass very slowly; whilst every chink and cranny in the thick assembly seemed filled up with dirty children and ragged beggars, who pressed upon the rest, doubtless eager to seize the first opportunity of picking their pockets for them.

Meanwhile Véronique looked on at it all, at first with surprise, then with interest, lastly with the keenest delight, for she had been merry enough when things went right with her, poor child, and had a perfect appreciation of anything which tended to provoke mirth. So that she was in the very midst of as much merriment as she considered it respectful for one in her situation to give vent to, and was leaning as far as she could over her mistress’s chair, and gazing eagerly on every side of her, when there occurred a block amongst the carriages, and after a little delay the occupants of almost every vehicle rose up and peered around to discover the reason. In the midst of which temporary confusion, a masker, one of three gentlemen who had passed their balcony in an open carriage but a moment before, and thrown a splendid bouquet, accompanied by an airy kiss at the very feet of Mrs. Conway Jones, removed his mask for an instant, to pass a handkerchief over his heated brow. The action was almost instantaneous, but Véronique happened to have her eyes upon his figure at the time, and with the rapidity of lightning she recognised the features of Gordon Romilly, and forgetful of everything else in the excitement of the discovery, loudly called upon his name.

“Gor-don! Gor-don!” she exclaimed vehemently, “Gor-don ! je suis ici,” and without waiting to give an explanation of her words or her conduct, she left the chair of Mrs. Conway Jones, and ran swiftly from the apartment.

To gain the hall-door was the work of a moment, but to find her way through the dirty crowd which blocked it up to the very entrance, was not so easy. Panting, breathless, Véronique attempted to force a passage for herself, but was deterred from every quarter—a man pushed her rudely on the right, a flower-girl thrust a bunch of violets in her face from the left, gamins obstructed the way in front, and the vehicles had again been set in motion, and the procession was all moving on together. She called on Gordon Romilly once or twice, as, with clasped hands, she entreated the crowd to make way for her, but rude laughter and jeering was the only reply which she received, and she had had no time to make a further effort before she heard the voice of Mr. Conway Jones by her side.

“Moore! what is the matter?” he demanded; “why have you left your mistress? you must come back immediately; this is no place for you.”

“Oh, Monsieur, let me follow him, let me speak to him,” she said imploringly, “he does not know that I am here—indeed he does not; oh! my heart will break.”

They were speaking in English, on purpose not to be understood by the strangers by whom they were surrounded, but there is a language which is known all over the world, and the face of Véronique expressed it now, and the rough crew who witnessed her distress, responded by another laugh, and several sentiments not expressive of their sympathy.

“I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about,” replied her master, “but you must come into the house again, now, Moore; by Jove, you must, or you will have this rabble insulting you. Come with me, at once.”

He spoke authoritatively, taking her by the arm as he did so, and she submitted to his command, and suffered herself to be led back in silence to the room which she had quitted. But, as she climbed the staircase, it appeared to her distorted fancy as if God must be against her, since he permitted trivial circumstances so to interfere to keep her from her Gor-don; and as she entered the apartment, she felt as though her heart were dying within her at this second disappointment, and as Mrs. Conway Jones was just about to sharply reprimand her for her extraordinary behaviour, and ask the reason of it, her maid, from the reaction consequent upon sudden and excessive emotion, sank down on the carpet at her feet in a swoon. Then the women dropped surprise, and questioning, and conjecture, and thought of nothing but restoring her to ease and consciousness.

“Pauvre petite, sans doute elle a vu son amoureux,” said a motherly looking body, who was employing herself in chafing the girl’s hands.

“Mais, Madame, cest impossible,” interposed Mrs. Conway Jones, “elle ne connait personne ici.”

“Il n’y a rien d’impossible pour les femmes,” exclaimed a lively young Belgian woman, “il y a amour sous roche, j’en suis sûre. Ne l’avez vous pas entendu crier, Madame?”

Still Mrs. Conway Jones maintained that it was an impossibility that Véronique could be acquainted with any one in Brüssenburgh, and so the chafing and the patting, and the application of cold water and smelling salts went on without further discussion, though each lady preserved her own opinion on the subject.

“Well, Moore! do you feel better now?” enquired Mrs. Conway Jones, as after a lapse of seven or ten minutes, the girl opened her eyes again, stared wildly at the women who surrounded her, and then attempted to stagger to her feet.

“Have I been ill, Madame?” she asked, suspiciously, and then putting her hand to her forehead, as recollection returned to her, she added, despondently, “oh! mon Dieu!”

“Yes! but you are all right again, now,” replied her mistress, who was very curious to learn what it was that had affected her. “You saw something in the street which startled you, I suppose; or did you recognise a friend? I thought you knew no one in Brüssenburgh, Moore—that your people lived further south. These ladies must have thought you crazy to run off from my side in the way you did.”

“I beg your pardon, Mesdames,” said Véronique, as she looked up timidly in the faces bent over her, “but I was not quite myself,” and then blushing violently, as she remembered on whose name she had called in her agitation, she added, “I saw a person who reminded me of an old friend—that is all; but I am very very sorry that I should have caused you such trouble.”

“Would you like to go home?” said her mistress, who was seldom indifferent to her servants’ illnesses.

“Indeed I should, Madame, if you could spare me,” replied Véronique; and so they got a vigilante, and sent her back to the boarding-house, where she was not joined by Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones until late in the evening.

The interval was not passed unhappily by her. Once recovered from the shock and agitation by which her swoon had been occasioned, Véronique could not but accept the reason of it as an additional cause for thankfulness, and the glimpse, brief as it had been, which she had obtained of Gor-don Romilly’s face, was a fresh stimulus to her to persevere until he had seen her own, and from that moment she never again rested, day or night, until she had met him.

All her mistress’s half-playful, half-serious enquiries on the subject could but draw from her the confession that she had seen some one in the crowd who reminded her of an old friend, and Mrs. Conway Jones whilst telling her she was too young as yet to think of lovers, was left to decide for herself whether there was such an article in the case or not. But Véronique found full opportunity of prosecuting the search on which she was bent, for her master and mistress were soon so taken up with their new acquaintances, that they were generally absent half the day, during which time she might rove all over Brüssenburgh if she felt so inclined.

Perhaps it may seem strange that a woman so anxious to meet her lover should not have made more direct enquiries respecting his place of residence, and so at once have solved the mystery which was torturing her, but the spell which Gordon Romilly had cast over Véronique during the brief period of their married life, was not yet all dissolved, and in heart she was still as much his slave as she had ever been.

She had ventured so far as to mention his name to the servants at the boarding-house, and at one or two shops in the town, but the servants were freshly in from the provinces, and knew nothing of Brüssenburgh, and the English part of the population there being an ever-shifting panorama, the shopkeepers were not much better informed.

And Véronique had ever before her mind’s eye, the last injunctions of her husband and Père Joseph. Her uncle had been her ideal of all that was best, and holiest, and wisest in man, and if he had thought right to impress so deeply on her the necessity of keeping her marriage a secret, there must be some very stringent reason for her doing so. And Gordon Romilly was her ideal of all that was dearest and most loveable; she felt that his conduct was unaccountable, but her affection made her believe it could be satisfactorily explained: and her ambition was to be able to present herself before him, and say that she had kept their secret inviolate. So she plodded on towards what she believed to be the culmination of her hopes, steadfastly though wearily, for after the day that she had caught sight of him at the Carnival, Gordon Romilly accompanied some of his friends to Paris for a week, and the girl who loved him so faithfully, paced up and down the town and the Boulevards, directing her wistful glance towards every passenger in vain. This last week of waiting terribly tried Véronique, perhaps more than all the rest of the suspense put together had done; for she expected to meet him at every turn, each figure that approached her she hoped would prove himself, and constant expectation, and constant disappointment, made the hours pass like days, and the days like weeks. Sometimes she would ask herself with sudden alarm, if it were possible she could have been mistaken, whether the voice she heard upon the Boulevards, and the features which the removal of the mask so momentarily revealed, could have been delusions, phantasms, raised by her own fevered imagination: and that, because she was always thinking and dreaming about him, tones and faces assumed the colour of her mind. Or, supposing she were altogether on a wrong track, that Mrs. Dowdson’s friend had been deceived, that Gordon Romilly was not in Brüssenburgh at all, or having been there, that he had gone away again, perhaps to some far distant place where it was hopeless that, in her present position, she should have any chance of tracking him. As this suspicion struck her, Véronique would turn sick and faint beneath its influence, and think her hope was dying: but the next minute it would rise up again, lively and strong as ever, to rebuke her want of courage, whilst she would call herself to task for being so foolish as to imagine that she could mistake the voice or features engraven on her heart. Yet it was weary work to pace up and down, day after day, before those rows of tall, white houses, each one with its embroidered lace curtains and blinds, and its white hall door, looking exactly like the last: and to wonder in which lived Gordon, and whether he ever, ever thought of her now. And one day towards the close of the week when this idea was pressing very heavily upon the over-burthened little heart, Véronique took advantage of a long spare afternoon to go down to Ste. Genevieve, the cathedral church of Brüssenburgh, and join in the service there; she had visited it before, for one of her first desires had been to pray in the church of which Père Joseph had so often spoken to her, and she felt on this occasion as though the lofty grandeur of its vaulted roof, and the holy solemnity which pervaded its vast aisles, formed a fit refuge for one who wanted to hide from mortal eyes a grief too great to communicate to any but the Eternal.

It was a long walk from the boarding-house to Ste. Genevieve, but Véronique did not feel the distance, she was conscious of nothing but her own sorrow. She entered the building, silently and awestruck, and without stopping to examine its many beauties, to admire the noble carvings with which it was adorned, or the chaste colouring of the painted glass windows surrounding it, quickly found her way to a side chapel, and taking possession of one of the prie-dieux there, buried her face in her hands. The organ was rolling forth a solemn anthem as she did so, and the chanters’ voices rose in sweet unison with its chords, whilst the quiet tones of the priests as they performed mass, were yet sufficiently well heard by those who knelt near them. Véronique listened, and her tears, which had not been far off when she entered the cathedral, dropped faster and faster on her clasped hands. She had lost him; a conviction struck her in that moment that she had lost him for ever, and that if she desired any happiness in this world, she must seek it elsewhere than in man. But yet it was hard to give him up; hard to accept the truth that all her affection for him had been wasted, that she had stranded herself, for his sake, on a lonely shore, cut herself off, root and branch, from those who loved her, and deserted the only home that she had ever known—for this! to kneel in Ste. Genevieve alone, and believe him lost to her for ever.

At the thought, Véronique bent her head still lower, and the hot burning tears rushed afresh from her eyelids. Oh, Gor-don! who had been her love, her saint, her god, she could not, would not think him false to her. She prayed as she had never prayed before, that God would pity her distress, that He would give her back her husband, or take her away from so much misery and evil; that He would let her see her Gor-don if only once— once more before she died—that she might hear him say that he still loved and trusted in her.

She prayed so fervently, so abstractedly that lesser things were lost to her: she was kneeling alone before her Maker, and she had no ears for the sounds of the outer world. The tones of the priest as he repeated mass, were unnoticed by Véronique, for a greater voice was whispering to her soul: the organ pealed on unheard, for another music was vibrating on her heart: what wonder then that the entrance of a party of English sight-seers bent on “doing”; the Cathedral, should have had no power to disturb her devotions. Yet the chapel in which she knelt was one of the finest there, the altar piece was well worth inspection, and there were several beautifully carved tombs to be seen about it; and therefore, utterly regardless of the feelings of the worshippers (according to the custom of Englishmen upon the continent), the party, which was a numerous and very gay one, containing several fashionably attired ladies, entered without further demur, and proceeded in audible voices to criticise all they saw around them. They had accomplished the tour of the chapel and were about to quit it; one of the ladies having given it as her opinion, that after all, she didn’t “see much in it,” when, disturbed by their chatter, Véronique rose suddenly from her knees to find that she was standing face to face with—Gordon Romilly.

Yes, there he was! looking much the same, she thought, as when he had left her—but apparently without an idea, even when his eyes first met her own, that she could be herself! To Véronique his appearance at that moment seemed like a divine answer to her prayer. She had just been entreating Heaven that she might see and speak to him, if but for an instant—and lo! he was before her—gazing with wide-open eyes, as though spellbound by her extraordinary likeness to the girl he had deserted, but making no effort to recognise or communicate with her.

“Gor-don!” she ejaculated beneath her breath, as though awe-struck by the revelation granted her, and fearing that to break the silence would be to see the beatific vision melt away; “Gor-don, est-ce toi?” and her eyes dilated with excitement and pleasure, whilst over her brow, and cheek, and bosom, mantled the rosy blush of renewed hope and love! But with those few words her brief dream of happiness was indeed dissolved, and Gordon Romilly recalled to himself. She had spoken too low for her meaning to be distinguished by the strangers of the party, who might have taken her murmurings as an address to any of the images round them, but it was patent enough to him who had been staring at her for the last minute as though she had been a revenant; the spirit of that past which, try as he would, he had not been able to inter; and with the sound of her voice, of the tender foreign accent so well remembered, and proclaiming her to be flesh and blood, his manner instantly changed, and though Véronique read by the expression of his eyes and the pallor that overspread his countenance, that she was recognised, he turned abruptly away and almost pushed his party out of the chapel.

“You haven’t seen the altar screen,” he said loudly and hurriedly, “this way—this way—no! no! the other—turn to the left—that’s it—and go straight ahead.”

“Why, where are you taking us to?” Véronique heard one of the ladies exclaim, “quite to the other end? What is the good of all that, why can’t we see the place in order?”

She stood where he had left her, motionless, for the moment hardly able to realise that she had been so left, and then as the conviction forced itself upon her mind that it was so, and intentional; that Gordon Romilly—her husband—had wished to avoid and pass her by—the bitter, bitter sense of being deserted and forgotten, returned in its full force, and with a bursting heart she sunk again upon her knees.

“Oh, mon Dieu!” she exclaimed in an agony which no words can describe, “qu’ai-je fait pour être condamnée ainsi à une torture incessante.”

She wrung her hands; the sobs which she no longer cared to conceal shook her slight frame with unrestrained violence, and had the mass not been concluded and the worshippers dispersed, her anguish must have been patent to everybody there.

“But where on earth can he have gone to?” exclaimed a voice almost in her ear. She started to her feet again, hastily striving to conceal the traces of her grief, and found that the same party, minus him with whom her thoughts were occupied, had returned to the chapel and were peering about it as though in search of somebody.

“Oh! never mind! What does it signify?” said a pretty young woman whose masses of bright brown hair showed well from beneath a pink bonnet, “he has returned home most likely—got a fit of the sulks because we would not consent to go exactly where he chose to lead us—we can find our way back just as well without him.”

“Is it the custom of Mr. Romilly to turn sulky every time he is thwarted?” demanded one of her friends with mock gravity, “because in that case, Lady Rose, one ought to think twice before one takes a husband.”

“I don’t know what your husband may choose to do,” replied Lady Rose, laughing as she looked at her watch, “but I know that mine is very fond of his own way. Gordon may be led easily enough, but I defy anyone to drive him. Have we seen sufficient of this place? because, if so, it is nearly time for us to return home.”

They all protested that it was the case, and amidst a great rustling of silks and clatter of tongues, the party moved down the aisle again, leaving Véronique transfixed by the conversation she had overheard. For a moment, though scarcely believing she could have understood aright, she was about to abandon herself to fresh lamentation, but with the next a desperate feeling came over her, a feeling that if she died from its reception, she must learn the truth, and without a second thought upon the subject, she dashed after them into the cathedral porch.

Chapter VI

A Tree of Life

When she arrived there she found the ladies all grouped together like a gay mass of flowers, whilst they discussed whether they should drive home or walk.

“A little walk will do you good, Lady Rose!” urged one of her companions, “besides which we may meet Mr. Romilly as we pass through the town.”

“Well! that’s a wonderful inducement, certainly,” said Lady Rose, “particularly in his present frame of mind. I think the fact of its being good for myself will have more weight with me. But it’s a terrible hill to climb.”

At this Véronique looked about her in a wild manner for a vigilante, determined if they took one that she would engage a second and follow them.

“Oh, no! it really is nothing when you’re used to it,” said the first speaker, “and we will walk slowly. Come, Lady Rose, it is worth a little trouble only to see the shops in the Rue de la Haute Cour.”

Upon which Lady Rose yielded laughingly and a little reluctant, but her friends surrounded and bore her off; and sick at heart, and dizzy and half-blinded from the indulgence of her grief, Véronique dragged her weary limbs after them.

They proceeded leisurely up the principal street of the town, hanging about the shops and discussing the fashions and prices as they went, whilst behind them came the girl from whom life seemed to have been suddenly smitten, who tracked their forms without seeing them, listened to their remarks without hearing them, and was scarcely conscious herself of what she was doing, so weightily had the blow she had received, descended on her. She followed them as far as the Boulevards, and having watched them disappear, still laughing and gay, behind the doors of a large house overlooking the park, turned to the first person she encountered, and in a low voice enquired how that part of Brüssenburgh was called.

“C’est le boulevard de Valenciennes, Mademoiselle,” replied the polite Belgian, removing his hat with a profound bow.

Numero 8, Boulevard de Valenciennes.

Véronique regarded the situation and locality of the house for a few minutes, through eyeballs that were too scorched to weep, and a silence that was more emphatic than the loudest lamentation; and then turning slowly away, she bent her steps in the direction of the boarding-house, in the Rue d’Espagne, occupied by Mrs. Conway Jones.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.”

She knew that text well, for her uncle had not kept the Bible from her; and often had she repeated it lately to revive her drooping courage, and now as she crept homewards with trembling limbs, scarce able to support her body, she said it over again, trying to realise that it had been accomplished.

“A tree of life! a tree of life!” she murmured to herself, with dry fevered lips, and a wandering eye. “My desire has come—it must be a tree of life—God says so,” yet she did not look as though she had much life left in her, as she toiled upstairs to her own room in the Rue d’Espagne.

A letter was lying on the bedroom table, a letter in David’s writing, and enclosing another in an unknown hand. Véronique had written to her adopted brother during the last week, and this was his answer, containing an elaborate description of Rêve, and urgent entreaties that she would consent to join him there. Twelve hours before she would have read his many details of the beauty of the country, and the kindness and hospitality with which he had been received by the connections of Père Joseph, with eager interest; now they elicited no other token from her but a heavy sigh, to think that she should care so little about anything on earth.

The letter which David enclosed was from her aunt, Marie Quetin, the elder sister of her mother, who belonged to the order of the Soeurs de Charité, and who sent her unknown niece as genial a welcome as her kind heart could dictate; and a general invitation to go and stay with her at the maison réligieuse to which she was attached.

At another moment these letters would have done Véronique good; they would have made her feel that she was not utterly dependent on one individual for earthly affection; that the world was not quite empty, if Gordon Romilly’s doors were closed to her; that she had a refuge to fly to in case of need. But at the present, she was utterly incapable of thinking upon any subject but one. The frank and pious tenor of her aunt’s words had no power to strengthen or refresh her; she shrunk from the idea of encountering kindness however skilfully applied. She was like a creature writhing on a weapon, and longing for death to put an end to her pain, and she pushed the letters impatiently to one side, and returned to her own miserable suspicions.

Mrs. Conway Jones had an engagement for the opera that evening, and having dressed her mistress, and seen her take her departure, Véronique again put on her walking things, and hastening to the Boulevard de Valenciennes, took up her station opposite numero 8, and with her eyes hungrily fixed upon its portals, waited until they should once more open to give egress to Gordon Romilly. For she felt that she must speak to him, that she must hear the truth from his own lips, which she could never take on credence from another; that it were better to die at his feet in hearing it, than to live on in such suspense as she was then enduring.

It was now eight o’clock in the evening, the night had fallen, and it was cold as well as dark; but Véronique was too excited to feel the lowness of the temperature, or to understand that she had watched an hour thus, before she saw the white doors of numero 8 thrown open, and a figure, which muffled as it was by winter clothing, she knew too well, step forth, and after looking first up and then down the Boulevards, begin to walk deliberately towards the town.

In a moment she was after him; in a moment, like an arrow from a bow, she had sprung from the bench which she was occupying, and almost before the reverberation caused by the closing of the hall door had died away behind him, Gordon Romilly felt a hand upon his arm, and saw the tender pathetic face of Véronique, each line of which was engraven on his memory, gazing upwards in his own, with the same beseeching, earnest look, which it had worn of old. When he first beheld it, he made as though he would have thrust her to one side, and passed on his way, but as his eyes met her own, he staggered backwards, and for several minutes, they regarded one another in silence.

We left Gordon Romilly at a very critical and unpleasant period of his existence. We left him just as he was about to commit a wrong action—an action for which his heart and conscience alike condemned him, and towards which he was urged only by the base fear of losing what he considered temporal advantages.

But when men who know what is right, stoop to parley with the devil, the issue of the argument may be anticipated, and Gordon Romilly with his vacillating temperament was not likely to prove an exception to the general rule. He had erred once, he had acted in the face of reason and justice before, and each error makes the second easier. But when he espoused Véronique Moore in the Roman Catholic chapel, on the Nilgiri Hills, although he knew that he was committing a dishonourable action, he had not felt himself to be so utterly worthless, as when he received the hand of Lady Rose Sellon, in St. George’s, Hanover Square. On the first occasion he had fully intended to do right by and by; he had never meant to wrong the girl so grossly as subsequent circumstances induced him to do, but on the second, he had no such excuse, with which to flatter himself; he knew that he was deliberately committing a great sin, and he had appeared a villain in his own eyes ever since.

Often had he sat down and tried to argue the point out with his conscience, and as often had he failed to make it good. It was useless to call his connection with Véronique a folly, and to attempt to laugh it off, as he had heard men do similar exploits; he knew that with the girl their marriage had been a holy ceremony, he knew that with himself, so long as it lasted, it had been sacred as with her, and that Lady Rose, his wife, (in reality the only wife that he had ever had,) did not seem half so much his own as Véronique had done.

But though, the error committed beyond recall, he had tried hard to put away from him the thought of the girl he had deserted; though he had tried hard to banish the remembrance of all her innocent looks and ways and words and love for him, it is easy to believe that this task was a difficult one. Memory is an obstinate thing sometimes with which to wrestle in this life, and the features and the voices, which were they constantly before us we might learn to forget, become when distant never ceasing company, haunting us as we go.

Gordon Romilly wanted to forget Véronique; it was essential for the tranquillity of his mind, for the comfort of his existence, that he should forget all about her as speedily as possible, and learn to interest himself in the lot he had chosen, and he was surprised to find the end he coveted so hard to obtain. He had tried to persuade himself that in marriage one woman would be much the same to him as another, that a wife was a convenient article that might be associated with, or left to her own devices, as the humour of her husband dictated to him, and that if Lady Rose were not the one, par excellence, that, if free to choose, he would have selected from the world, she would, at all events, not have it in her power to render herself obnoxious to him; that she would do very well, in fact, for a wife! And he had already lived to learn, as others have before him, that such notions are chimeric.

It is impossible for a man to give his name to a woman, and with his name all the rights which accompany it, without at the same time investing her with the control of his life’s happiness. If she does not love him, and discovers his indifference to her, she can take her revenge in a thousand various ways, unreachable by the code either of social or domestic law; and if she does love him, and he has any spark of manly feeling left, she will prove a constant reproach to him, an ever-present witness of the wrong he has done her. It is possible to be intensely miserable in this world without having actual sores to present for public commiseration, and marriage is but a chance, even when entered on with every prospect of happiness and mutual love; without them it is sure to prove a curse.

Lady Rose was not an unpleasant wife to live with; on the contrary, she was lively, fashionable, and when nothing occurred to put her out, good tempered; a trifle selfish and careless perhaps, too much like himself, in fact, to make of Gordon Romilly anything better than she had found him, but still a woman not impossible to dwell in peace with, so long as there was no other woman in the case; and as yet her husband had had no reason to find fault with her, the only one he reproached was himself.

Their marriage had taken place with the full approbation of both families, and Gordon Romilly had enjoyed a very fair share of the comforts of this life since. He had found his cup filled to the brim with the coarse pottage for which he had bartered his birthright—the honour of an Englishman—but he had not thriven on it, although to the world he carried the same gay careless front that he had ever done, and there were but few amongst his friends who suspected that his wife was not all that she should have been to him. Lady Rose herself was perfectly satisfied. Perhaps her ideas of the extent of human love were limited, perhaps she had never known what it is to be the subject of an engrossing passion, at all events she had no wish to see her husband any fonder, or to change the tenor of her matrimonial course. If Gordon Romiliy suffered from remorse for having wedded her, as most assuredly he had done ever since her hand had been placed in his at the altar, he suffered by himself, and as far as Lady Rose was concerned, the sentiment was wasted, for she was not even cognisant of its necessity. She would reproach him sometimes with his silence or his sulkiness, and tell him that he was unbearable, but the next moment a lively air or a gay laugh would refute her charge, and prove how little she had meant by it.

They had settled nowhere since their marriage, for he had evinced an unaccountable restlessness, never seeming to care to live in the same place two days together, and they would not have remained so long in Brüssenburgh, had there not been a stringent reason that for the present Lady Rose should avoid more travelling than was necessary. That his sudden and most unexpected encounter with Véronique in Ste. Genevieve had been a great shock to him, there is little doubt. It would be a useless task to attempt to convince some people that it is possible Gordon Romilly may have loved this girl, and yet deserted her for the mere sake of money. We see men in this life constantly forsaking all for filthy lucre, selling their honour, their comfort, their health, even their daughters and wives for it; but yet if we read of such a thing we cry, “Impossible!” and close the book. Therefore let each reader draw the conclusion from his conduct, which seems most natural to himself. But one thing is certain, that whatever his feelings concerning her, he had thought of Véronique and dreamed of her far more since his marriage with Lady Rose Sellon than he had ever done in the days of their mutual affection, and although his dreams had always been of something far away, of something unattainable to him by touch, or sight, or word of mouth; of nothing that could follow and claim him, or appeal to his compassion and his love with large mournful eyes, they had yet had the power to render him thoroughly miserable. For Gordon Romilly’s greatest error, by which is meant his marriage with Lady Rose, had in a measure brought him to his senses. He had hurried on his life to that point, stifling his conscience with the assurance that his conduct was inevitable, but as soon as he had leisure to find out how great an evil he had done himself by deserting the creature whom he loved, his eyes were also opened to the injury he had wrought his wife, to the baseness with which he had acted towards both women, and at times he had pondered on his irremediable misdeeds, until he felt as though he should go mad.

When Véronique had risen up before him in the cathedral of Ste. Genevieve, and gazed upon him with so much tender reproach in her silent surprise, she had appeared like a resurrection from the dead to him; so little idea had he that it would ever enter the head of the girl whom he had left, planted for life as he imagined, on the Nilgiri Hills, to follow him to Europe, and remind him of all the promises which he had made and broken.

His first impulse had been to fly to her side, and enquire by what means she had reached Brüssenburgh, his next, to slink out of her sight as though not worthy to stand in it, and to hide his shameful and dishonoured head at home.

What end would be answered by his speaking to her? What could he say that should not add insult to injury, and make her hate him still more than she already must do. The title of “gentleman” Gordon Romilly felt was lost to him, but as a man, could he stand before the woman he had so grossly injured, and tell her the plain truth?

It was not cowardice or fear that sent him hurrying from Ste. Genevieve, it was some such thoughts as these, which, whilst they bowed his head with conscious shame, did him more honour than most which he had conceived in those self-glorious days when he had been more god than man in the eyes of the woman who loved him.

As he walked home from that brief interview his mind was in a turmoil of trouble and confusion; he could not imagine under what circumstances Véronique Moore could be in Brüssenburgh, nor what he should do or say if he encountered her again, nor how he should execute the task, if it fell to him, of breaking the news to her of his own dishonour. He felt as though he must start at once for Paris or for England—run away, anywhere, in fact, so as to avoid an explanation with her, and had she given him the time to do so, in some such manner he would probably have acted. Indeed, he had more than half settled on his future plans, when he turned out of his own house that evening, and found her tender grasp upon his arm.

He looked at her, first with surprise, then with horror, and lastly he staggered backwards as has been described, and they gazed at one another in bitter silence.

Chapter VII

Je Te Pardonne

It was an epoch to be remembered—such an epoch as but few men have the occasion to pass through, as occurs but once in the lifetime of any.

Gordon Romilly had no lack of physical courage; he would have led a forlorn hope, or endangered his safety in defence of the helpless, with any other Englishman worthy of the name; but his spirit quailed and his heart stood still beneath the searching gaze of the girl he had betrayed, and could the earth have swallowed him then and there, he would have been grateful for the release it afforded from the pain of having to stand before her, and confess himself a perjured man.

But Véronique gave him no time either for escape or reflection over what he should say to her. With eager energy she had seized his arm, determined to learn the truth to which she had a right, and when she found that he disengaged himself from her, and had not a word of welcome to bestow, her energy became despair, and she cared neither what she said to him, nor who should hear the story of her wrong.

“Gor-don!” she exclaimed, vehemently, as she strove in vain to meet the glance which he had lowered on the ground; “why will you not speak to me? why do you avoid me thus? have you forgotten who I am? Is it for this that I have followed you from India?”

But not a syllable came in answer to her excited questions, and again she laid her hand upon his arm.

“Speak—speak!” she said, almost in a tone of command, “what have I done that you should not speak to me?” and then altering her voice to one of passionate entreaty, whilst she extended her hands towards him, she continued, “Gor-don! mon bien-aimé, one word, one single word!”

“Why are you here?” he uttered hoarsely.

“Where else should I be?” was the ready answer. “Why have I never seen you? why have I never heard from you since the hour that we parted? Père Joseph died believing you to be untrue to me, but I—I would not believe it until—until—this morning.”

“Is he dead?” enquired Romilly, in the same strange tone.

“Yes! he is dead!” she answered shortly, “he is happier than I, Gor-don. Tell me the truth! I am here to know the truth—have you forgotten me? have you ceased to love me? have you given what is mine to another woman?”

“Which question am I to answer first?” he said evasively.

“Have you forgotten me?” with a sharp decision of which he had not thought her capable.

“I have not.”

“Have you ceased to love me?” There were tears in the eyes of Véronique, as she put this question, and Gordon Romilly trembled as he answered it.

“By Heavens, no! I wish I had.”

At this assurance, notwithstanding the wish which accompanied it, her heart, so cold and pulseless but a moment before, bounded to a new measure, and her next query was put almost with hope.

“Have you given what is mine to any other woman?”

But to this there was no reply.

“II faut me répondre,” she said passionately, “our marriage was a secret, Gordon—a secret which I have kept faithfully for your sake, which is known at present to no one but ourselves—but it made you mine, and if you deny it, I will proclaim it to the world. Is it true what I overheard that woman say this morning in Ste. Genevieve, that she calls you her husband, and believes herself to be your wife? She is not your wife, Gor-don; she cannot be. You can have but one wife, and that is myself!” and Véronique proudly drew her small figure up to its fullest extent.

“Hush! hush!” said her listener, almost fearfully, as he moved a few paces further from the vicinity of his own house.

“I will not ‘hush,’” returned the girl, fiercely, “I am your wife, and all Brüssenburgh shall know it! I do not fear that other woman; I will go into her very presence, and tell her that she has taken my husband from me. What right has she—what right has she to claim you, or to believe herself your wife—you cannot marry twice—it is impossible!” and then, as her voice suddenly fell, she added, plaintively,

“Oh! Gor-don! Gor-don! I was the first, and I loved you so well! come back to me, and do not break my heart!”

He tried to answer her, but words failed him. To listen to the tender cadence of her voice, brought back so vividly the old time upon the Hills, those few short weeks in which she had been so much his darling and his own, that Gordon Romilly was overcome with the sense of the treachery of which he had been guilty. He longed to caress and comfort her, he longed to tell her that he loved her still, but he dared do neither. He felt that with a knowledge of the truth she would learn to loathe him, and he could only walk by her side (they were moving slowly onwards now, to avoid attracting attention) in guilty silence.

“Am I not your wife?” she recommenced, her angry suspicions again roused by the strangeness of his manner.

“Oh! Véronique! I wish that I had never met you!” he replied, forced into saying something, “I wish that I had died before I had brought such a curse upon your innocent life as I have done!”

“Tell me the truth!” she said, gasping, as a dread fear seized hold upon her, “am I not your wife?”

He shook his head.

“How! not?” she repeated, in amazement, as stopping short she turned and flashed her eyes upon him. “Did not Père Joseph marry me to you in the little chapel?”

“Véronique!—” here Gordon Romilly made a dead halt, and then, swallowing something in his throat, went on so rapidly that his words were almost unintelligible—“Véronique, we were never married; I am not a Roman Catholic, I am a Protestant, our marriage was illegal; it was nothing at all, in fact, and when I came home—when I came home—” tapping the pavement nervously as he spoke, “when I returned to England—my family—that is to say by my father’s will—I found that—”

“C’est assez!” articulated a thick voice by his side. He glanced down at her, she was leaning against the wall, with dulled wide-open eyes, fixed upon the dark Boulevards opposite, and drawing her breath with so much difficulty, that each laboured stroke was painfully audible.

“Véronique!” he whispered, after a pause, during which the silence had been unbroken, “Véronique!” but she neither moved, nor shewed any symptom of having heard him speak.

Gordon Romilly grew alarmed.

“Véronique! don’t look like that! reproach me! curse me, if you will! I know that I deserve everything that you may choose to say or do; you cannot make me more miserable than I have made myself; but don’t refuse to speak, or you will drive me to do something desperate.”

But they had changed places now, it was his turn to implore, and hers to remain silent, and his words seemed to have no more effect upon her than on the brick and mortar against which she leaned. Gordon Romilly looked up and down the street, dreading lest some one should pass by and find them together in so strange a predicament; but Véronique still remained as though bereft of sense and feeling, staring into space.

“I can bear this no longer,” he exclaimed at last, and he strode away a few paces by himself. “Véronique,” he resumed, as he returned and made another effort to arouse her, “I dare not ask you even to enquire if there was any excuse for my conduct. I know I am not worthy to stand in your presence, but yet, if you knew all, perhaps you might not think me so guilty as you do now. I was forced by my father’s will either to marriage or a life of penury. I had no alternative, but I sealed my own misery in consenting to it.”

Still she moved neither limb nor feature, and for aught that she appeared to hear or understand him, he might have held his discourse to the night. Stirred by intense compassion, no less than by remorse for the ruin he had effected, Gordon Romilly, in looking on the hopeless grief-stricken face before him, ventured to give expression to his real feelings concerning her.

“My poor darling!” he said, as he grasped her by the hand, “I would lay down my life to retrieve the injury I have done you!”

The words and action warmed the automaton to being, she snatched her hand from his, as though she had been stung, and her loud, wild peal of laughter rung through the almost deserted Boulevards, startling the few passengers whose ears it chanced to meet.

“Your life!” she exclaimed, with a jeering intonation, which made his flesh creep. “What good would your life do me? would it bring back mine? would it restore what I have lost? what I have lost—what I have lost?” she repeated, her tones becoming less confident with each repetition of the words, until she ended in a burst of tears. There was nothing for Gordon Romilly to do but to stand still and look at her. In such a position a man is powerless to act, his arms are taken from him, he is bound and fettered, and his best refuge is in silence.

So he remained until the storm of the girl’s indignation had a little subsided, until she seemed less likely to be suffocated by her sobs, and the moaning which accompanied them had ceased. But just as he imagined that she was once more in a fit state to listen to him, and was preparing to address her, Véronique suddenly drew her handkerchief across her eyes, and turning from him, started off in the direction whence she had come. This action was so rapid and unexpected in its performance, that she was some paces distant from him before he was aware of her intention; but his first impulse was to follow her. He felt that he could not part from her without one enquiry as to her means of support, her prospects or her destination, and in another minute he was by her side, earnestly entreating her to satisfy him on these points. But the manner in which Véronique denied his right to interest himself in her affairs, though perfectly ingenuous, might have been studied for the occasion.

“Monsieur!” she exclaimed, as with a haughty look she stopped for a moment to confront the man who had injured her, “ce nest pas votre affaire; je n’appartiens à personne; permettez que je vous quitte sans vous en dire davantage.”

“My God!” exclaimed Gordon Romilly, struck by the change in her demeanour, “shall I never know then if I am forgiven?”

“Osez-vous le demander?” she cried, indignantly. “Allez! je ne veux plus vous voir,” and before the light which blazed upon him from her eyes, and the peremptory dismissal of her waving hand, he shrank back, silenced and shame-stricken, and the woman who could address him in such a strain, whilst her heart was bursting beneath the sense that he was lost to her, was suffered to pursue her way without further interruption. So long as she felt he was in sight, and might be regarding her actions, Véronique walked firmly and upright, but as soon as she had left the Boulevards, and turned into the dark street leading to the boarding-house, her courage failed, a blurred mist fell before her eyes, a sick trembling seized upon her limbs, and tottering, she groped the rest of her way homewards, guiding herself by instinct rather than by sight. Mrs. Conway Jones was not yet home, nor likely to be so for some time, and having climbed the tedious staircase to her own apartment, Véronique sunk down into a chair, and attempted in some measure to realise the position in which she found herself, and to recall the particulars of the interview she had just passed through with Gordon Romilly. But all was chaos and confusion, and she found it impossible to dwell on one subject for two seconds consecutively. Her mind, wearied with excess of grief, and stunned by the cruel blow she had received, was incapable of grasping any definite reflection, but wandered in a vague unreasoning manner over the area of the past, disinterring all those pleasant memories, the remembrance of which she had now most cause to shun, and holding them up before her mental vision as though in mockery of her desolation. In fancy she retraced every particular of her intimacy with Gordon Romilly, from the night on which he first came to her uncle’s bungalow, and the accident through which she tended him, to the moment when he told her that he loved her, and the few blissful weeks which followed it. She thought of the simple monotonous life which she had led before she met him, and how his coming had shed a glory for her on all earthly things, and how, when he had left her, gloom once more settled down upon the world. The little portion of existence which she had spent with him, seemed in the retrospect like a summer’s dream, too bright and beautiful to last; but through the troubled sea of waiting and suspense which followed it, she had still kept in view the star of hope gleaming before her, to light her way to him; the dream had ceased, it was true, yet sleep had not been broken. But now she was awake, wide awake. Merciful Heaven! what an awakening!

The night was past, the sweet deep dream dissolved, day had broken, a dull, dark, hopeless day; and Véronique felt that she should never sleep or dream again.

Was it—could it be Gor-don to whom she had been speaking—Gor-don, to a meeting with whom she had but yesterday looked forward with such keen delight? Was it possible that she had seen him—that her fondest hopes had been realised—that her tree of life had budded! and he had told her that she was nothing to him—nothing—that another held her place—that she was no one’s wife!

Oh, God! how could he be so cruel!

Self-pity and compassion—pity for her blighted name, her wasted youth—and indignation against him who had dared so to waste and blight them, brought the scalding tears in torrents from her eyes; which jealousy of the woman who had usurped her rights, and desperation at the thought of her own impotency of revenge, changed the next moment into clenched hands and peals of hysterical laughter more hurtful than the most violent weeping.

And then, despair at the knowledge that she had finally lost him—that never more would she be folded in her lover’s arms, nor cradle his fair head upon her bosom whose wife she had supposed herself to be—cast the unhappy girl, writhing and moaning on the ground, until unrestrained emotion had exhausted her powers of suffering, except such as were conveyed by closed eyes and lips, and almost pulseless limbs.

Passing in this manner from one phase of feeling to another, Véronique had made herself completely ill before midnight brought her mistress home from the opera house; and when Mrs. Conway Jones, surprised at not finding her lady’s-maid awaiting her as usual in the bed-room, and having (after continental fashion) no bell wherewith to summon her, climbed rather fretfully the wearisome ascent which led to her apartment, she was quite alarmed at the appearance she presented.

Pale and hollow-eyed, with feverish hands and head, and wild disordered tresses, Véronique ]ooked like anything but a trim attendant fit for the performance of her dainty duty; and when, in addition to her strange looks, she steadily refused to give any account of the means by which so marvellous a change had been effected, but only entreated her mistress to allow her to quit Brüssenburgh, the lady was at a loss to understand what could have happened in her absence.

“I know, Madame,” faltered Véronique, “I know that I have no right to ask to leave your service before you have found some one to supply my place, and I will not do so if you insist upon my remaining, but if you can, Madame, pray let me go, for I am afraid I shall never again be of use to you—or any one.”

“But why, Moore?” expostulated Mrs. Conway Jones; “what is the matter that you should speak so strangely? Do you feel ill, or have you heard bad news?”

But the only answer she received was conveyed by a half-stifled sob, and hands crushed suddenly together, as though to smother pain between them.

“Let me go, Madame! I entreat you to let me go,” repeated Véronique, as soon as she could speak; “I am not well; this place does not agree with me; I shall never be fit for anything in Brüssenburgh again.”

The lady descended to take counsel with her husband. With feminine instinct, she had dived to the bottom of the girl’s secret, the mystery was no longer a mystery with her.

“Of course it is some stupid love affair,” she said in a tone of annoyance. “I suppose the man won’t have anything more to say to her, and so I am to suffer for it. It is excessively provoking—and just as I have taught her to do my hair. What am I to say to her, Conway? If I refuse to let her go, she may give me a month’s warning, and insist on her wages. It is sure to be an inconvenience any way.”

But Mr. Conway Jones, having heard all the particulars of Véronique’s condition that his wife was enabled to give him, took a different view of the matter, and put her on another scent.

“By Jove! Cissy, my darling!’’ he exclaimed, “I’d lay anything she’s sickening for the fever,” alluding to an epidemic which was prevalent in Brüssenburgh at the time.

Mrs. Conway Jones gave a slight cry, and turned pale even through her rouge.

She was callous to dishonour, use being second nature; but she greatly feared death; and the thought of infection was terrible to her.

“Do you really think so?” she enquired in accents of horror.

“By Jove! I should consider it very probable,” replied her husband, who being, notwithstanding his cunning, much less clever than his wife, liked to establish a reputation for being the sharper of the two. “Don’t you remember how she fainted at old Trappeniers’ the other day, and how queer she was after that attack; and you remarked yourself yesterday that she had seemed very restless and strange lately. Depend upon it, it’s the fever coming on, Cissy, my darling! and the sooner you get her out of the house the better.”

“Oh, what shall we do?” exclaimed Mrs. Conway Jones, who, although indolently good-natured to domestics when her own interests were not concerned, was too much alarmed on the present occasion to take thought for any one but herself. “She can’t leave the house till tomorrow morning, but I won’t go near her again. You must go, Conway, and tell her she may leave as soon as ever she likes, in fact that she must leave as soon as ever she can; for I have my dear children to think of, remember; and what on earth would become of them were anything to happen to me.” and Mrs. Jones drooped her eyelids and looked maternal.

“By Jove! though, it isn’t a pleasant task to give a man, Cissy, my darling,” replied her lord and master, who was almost as much afraid of being infected as she was, “but if it is to be done, I had better go at once, for I dare say she’ll be twice as bad tomorrow morning as she is now.”

“Oh dear! don’t speak of it,” exclaimed Mrs. Conway Jones in alarm; “if I had had any notion the tiresome girl was going to be ill I would have sent her away a week ago. Who knows what we may not have taken in the interim? Tell her, Conway, that she must leave the house as soon ever she can tomorrow morning; and pray go out of doors yourself and smoke a cigar before you come near me again.”

“And of course she can’t demand her wages,” said the gentleman, waiting for his final instructions.

“Of course not,” was the decided reply; “she ought to pay us something for the risk we have run. Pray go at once, Conway, and give her her dismissal. I only trust it may not be too late.”

Thus urged, Mr. Conway Jones found his way up to the room of his wife’s lady’s-maid; and, having knocked boldly at the door, was answered by a feeble “entrez” on the part of Véronique.

“I don’t wish to come in,” he replied; and the unexpected sound of his voice roused the girl to listen to him. “I have brought you a message from your mistress, Moore! How do you feel now?”

“I will open the door, Monsieur,” she said wearily, as she rose from her seat.

“No, no, no!” exclaimed her master hastily, “don’t do that. I have no wish to come in personal contact with you; I only want to know how you feel?”

“I am all right, Monsieur, thank you!” though the tone of her voice belied her words.

“But your mistress says that you look very ill, and that you wish to leave Brüssenburgh at once. Have you a pain in your head, Moore?”

“Very great, Monsieur.”

“And are your hands hot?”

“Hot and dry.”

“And do you feel an occasional shivering or trembling in your limbs?”

“I have felt it more than once today, Monsieur.”

“By Jove!” exclaimed Mr. Jones, as he backed several inches from the key-hole. “By Jove! Moore, I am afraid you are going to be ill.”

“I don’t think so, Monsieur, but I cannot tell. I should be thankful to get home amongst my own people.”

“Of course; and so you shall—so you shall!” replied her master with ready acquiescence; “in fact I came up to tell you, Moore, that your mistress thinks the sooner you go the better. There’s a great deal of fever about the town just at present, you know, and were you taken ill here, and my duties carried me off in another direction, you would feel very lonely without your friends, so you will be much better off in the country, and Mrs. Jones will put up with the inconvenience of losing you as best she can.”

“She is very good, Monsieur. I may depart then tomorrow?”

“Yes, certainly; as early as ever you like, Moore. And look here!” continued Mr. Conway Jones confidentially, as he reapproached the bedroom door, “your mistress is very delicate, you know, and I am obliged to be careful that she runs no risks, therefore it will be advisable for you to get away as quietly as you can, and without asking to see us again. Leave before breakfast, if it is possible, and I will break the news of your departure to her after you are gone.”

Véronique smiled. Even in the midst of the misery by which this sudden separation was occasioned, she could not help smiling as she traced the motives which had led to so amiable an acquiescence in her desire. But she only answered—

“I will do as you wish, Monsieur.”

“And of course,” said her employer in conclusion, “of course, Moore, you wouldn’t expect to receive your wages when you ask to leave your mistress at a moment’s warning. You are putting her to immense inconvenience, as you must be aware, and probably to expense in finding some one to supply your place, so the least you can do is to go quietly, without making any fuss about it, and—”

“It shall be so, Monsieur,” she answered calmly, “you need not fear. I am only too thankful to be allowed to go.”

“And—and—you will leave early, Moore?” said Mr. Conway Jones with a final precaution.

“I will leave the first thing in the morning,” she answered wearily. She was tired of the discussion, tired of the suspicions which she knew were groundless, and of the cowardly prudence to which they had given rise, and she longed for the moment when her master should take his departure and leave her alone with her great grief. So Mr. Conway Jones, having neatly accomplished his mission, groped his way down stairs again, and walked out at the front door to take the disinfecting cigar which his wife had insisted on his smoking before he rejoined her, and Véronique sat down once more before the corpse of her dead hope, and gazed upon it with wild wandering eyes, to which no sleep would come, till the early rising sun peeped in at the bed-room window, and she looked at him with a sickly smile as she felt that with his rising a fresh life had commenced for her—a life above the loneliness of which his beams would never again have the power to shed either warmth or happiness.

When he had risen, she rose also, and having bathed her face and eyes, and arranged her disordered tresses, made such slight preparations as were necessary to be done before she could leave Brüssenburgh.

As she busied herself thus she was conscious but of one feeling, an intense longing to get it over and be gone. Of all other powers of sensation she seemed to have been suddenly bereft; her eyes were dry and tearless, her limbs no longer trembled, her heart was dead within her breast, and every part of her body seemed so weary as to be utterly incapable of expressing any further emotion. To quit the spot which held Gordon Romilly gave her no extra pain; to visit that which, at one time, it had been her most ardent desire to see, no pleasurable anticipation. For the one feeling the time was over; for the other it had not yet arrived; and to Véronique, time past or future, seemed for the present to be nothing. Her intended destination was naturally Rêve, she was not expected there, that is to say, a period for her going had not yet been mentioned, but as she placed amongst her other possessions the letter which she had received from her aunt, Sœur Marie, and from David, (could it have been but the day before that she had received them?) she knew she should be welcome, and the very name of the place made it more like going home to her than any other place could have been. She had a small sum of money which had been sent her by David in case of any emergency, therefore the loss of the trifling amount of wages which was due to her she did not feel, and before Mrs. Conway Jones had quitted her bed that morning, her infected lady’s-maid had left Brüssenburgh far behind her, and was speeding towards Rêve. For the first half of the journey (which altogether occupied about four hours) Véronique took little notice of the country through which she passed, but stared in a vacant manner on the objects which surrounded her, and could scarcely have said afterwards whether Belgium were flat and sterile, or wooded and productive. But when the train entered the province which held Rêve she could not fail to become interested. The rich valleys, the swelling hills, the fertile plains, and the flowing streams, of which she had so often heard Père Joseph speak, attracted her attention, first for their own beauty, and next for the sake of him who had described them to her; and as she looked on the scene which he had loved so well, and pondered on what he would have suffered had he lived to see her seek a refuge in them when heartbroken and betrayed, she thanked Heaven that he had been spared that sorrow, and in doing so shed quiet tears, which strengthened instead of weakening her. By noon she had reached Rêve, but before that time had gained sufficient control over herself to enable her to appear before her adopted brother and her new relations, without betraying the secret of her outraged affection. She knew she had that secret still to keep—for Gordon Romilly’s sake no less than for her own—and faithless though he had proved to her, the heart of Véronique was as truly his as on the day she first confessed it to be so. And, therefore, when she so unexpectedly broke in on David’s solitude that afternoon, pouring a flood of sunshine over his existence by her welcome presence, although he found her thinner, paler, and in many respects altered since their separation, he was ready to attribute the change to loneliness, or service, or fatigue, or to anything in fact, rather than the truth—that the child’s heart was broken.

*  *  *  *

And so this most important episode in her life was ended; the brief indulgence of her love for Gordon Romilly was a byegone thing, a book which had been opened and read, and closed and put away again. Closed and laid upon the shelf, but unforgotten by either of the actors in the short, sad drama inscribed upon its pages—to her a memory sorrowful, but most sacred—to him a root of bitterness, which bore fresh fruit with every thought that linked him to the past!

A past which did not become less dear to his remorseful spirit, when after he had left Brüssenburgh some months for Paris, a letter in Véronique’s handwriting which had been sent to the old address, was forwarded to him there, and on opening the envelope he found a strip of paper with these simple words upon it—

“Je te pardonne.”

Chapter VIII

Two Years Afterwards

Two years! is it a long or short period of which to have to record the events? It is long enough, under ordinary circumstances, for most of the accidents of life; long enough to be born in, and cut one’s teeth; to be married, and become fathers and mothers; to make a decent exit from the world, and enter on that never-ceasing holiday, to which death, for such as choose, is but precursory. Yet on the other hand, it is a short time in which to build a fortune, to complete an education, or to climb to the attainment of a high ambition, and it may be added, that for hearts which have truly loved, and sincerely lamented, it is a very short time in which to learn to forget.

It was just two years after the events recorded in the last chapter, that the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steam ship, “Sultana,” was lying at anchor before Aden, where she had arrived but an hour previously, and was to remain until the same evening, for the purpose of taking in coal.

A great confusion was visible amongst the passengers on board, not only on account of the anxiety, natural to men who had been at sea for weeks, to place their feet on land once more, even though it were represented by a strip of burning sand; but because on entering the harbour, the first sight which had met their view, had been that of the steamer of the week before, lying disabled and useless, having sustained some injury to her paddle-wheel; and the first news by which they had been greeted, that they were expected to take on both her mails, and her passengers.

And if there is one thing which the temporary inmates of a vessel dislike more than another, it is these sudden raids upon their comfort by adventitious cargo, which threaten to overload the cabins, and cause provisions to run short. The decks of the “Sultana,” on the present occasion, resembled a disturbed ant-hill, or an upset beehive; and her first-class passengers ran up and down stairs, and in and out of the saloon, adjuring the stewards, calculating the inconvenience to which they were likely to be subjected, and condoling one another on the evil which had befallen them; whilst the second-class, or steerage passengers, sat en masse at the end of the vessel appropriated to them, and kept up a continual buzz of grumbling discontent.

Just as they had arrived at the hottest and most unpleasant part of the voyage, when they wanted all the air, and all the space, (and precious little they got for their money any way,) that it was possible to give them; when they could scarcely sleep at night for the stifling heat, and pudding had already been stopped on two days in the week; to have a lot of strangers turned in amongst them, to shake down as they best could, was a thing to be borne quietly by no man.

It was shameful! it was too bad! it was robbing them of the money which they had laid out to secure a pleasant voyage, and if the “Arabia” had broken down, her passengers ought to be made to pay the penalty of the misfortune, and to wait until she was repaired, instead of being handed over to another vessel to take the food out of honest people’s mouths, and to upset all their comfort. They were told that an important personage, the new Resident Councillor of Macao, or some such place, going out to take up his appointment, was amongst the passengers of the “Arabia,” and that it was essential he should at once proceed to his destination, but what cared they for Resident Councillors, or men in authority, when they interfered with their personal convenience! Their gold was as good as a Resident Councillor’s any day, and when they paid down their money, they were entitled to their money’s worth; and did not see why they should be put out of their way, were it for Queen Victoria herself.

So they argued, in a thoroughly dogged British style, delighted to have found a grievance for discussion, and almost forgetting in the pleasures of discontent, that they had ever expressed a wish to set their feet upon Arabian soil. Aden, on its flat and sandy desert, lay stretched before them; grinning natives, hideous enough by nature, and rendered still more so, by having the hair of their heads dyed bright red, bobbed up and down in the water, beneath the stem of the vessel, clamorous for coin to be dropped, that they might exhibit their feats of diving; and a fleet of small boats surrounded the “Sultana,” ready to convey them on shore, and yet they still clustered together on the afterdeck, grumbling in each other’s ears, and missing in their discontent what might have distracted their thoughts from the imaginary ills they were bewailing.

Not that it was altogether unlikely that an innovation of strangers might somewhat interfere with their comfort, for there was a large number of them, and they seemed to belong to every class and nation. Servants, English, Hindoo, and Chinese, belonging to the different ladies on board; French and German workmen, either returning to their duties, or seeking a fortune; soldiers’ wives, about to join their husbands; Roman Catholic priests proceeding to their respective stations; all sorts and distinctions of the lower ones of the earth, appeared to have their representatives, amongst the steerage passengers of the “Sultana,” and there were even two or three flapping white caps to be seen in the crowd, denoting that she was carrying out “Sisters of Mercy,” to pursue their deeds of benevolence beneath the burning sun of India.

But presently, a more powerful incentive than the entreaties of the native boatmen, or the attractions of Aden, as seen at midday, was brought to bear upon the feeling of these discontented ones, and to induce them to drop their discussion, and take refuge on the shore. Coaling commenced, and everyone who could, got out of the way of the clouds of dust which settled on each available part of the steamer, and brought blackened faces and ruined garments in their train.

Each little pleasure-boat had soon received its load, and was dancing over the bright blue waves towards the town of Aden; whilst the red-headed divers, (although capable of sustaining their position in the water for hours together,) seeing how fast the vessel was discharging cargo, considered it hardly worth their while to grin at closed ports and empty decks all day, and with a final appeal, turned round likewise and made for home. At last, there was but a sprinkling of people left upon the steamer, and of these, the majority were also making preparation for departure.

“Are you not going on shore, my son?” enquired a Roman Catholic priest of a young native attired in European clothing, who was leaning over the ship’s side; “for if so, we will journey together.”

The man whom he addressed, turned round quickly, displaying a happy and contented face. It was our old friend, David, looking much the same as when we left him, excepting that the two years’ interval had brought an expression of peace to his countenance, which in his vain struggles to obtain that which was not designed for him, it had lacked before.

“I should very much like to go,” he answered readily, “but I must ask Soeur Marie first, what she intends to do,” and rising as he spoke, he crossed to the other side of the deck, and stopped before one of the women who wore black dresses, and broad white flapping caps.

“Will you come on shore, ma soeur?” he enquired, briskly. “Père Martin and I intend taking a boat together. There may not be much to see there, but you will be subject to a great deal of annoyance from this coal-dust if you remain on board.”

“But I would rather stay where I am, David!” replied Soeur Marie, gently.

“I shall not like to leave you alone, Marie! All the world is quitting the steamer, and you will be so dull by yourself.”

She smiled, but rather sadly.

“Do not be afraid of that, mon frère—I have my books and my beads, and I am never dull or lonely. Go and see Aden; and enjoy yourself, if possible. I shall be quite contented with a description of the place on your return.”

“You are feeling well, Marie?”

“Quite well, David, quite well and—happy,” she added, after a little pause; and upon that the young man left her, and with Père Martin proceeded to the shore, whilst she took her station by the side of the vessel, and watched their progress till they disappeared.

It was Véronique, but so changed, so greatly changed from the days when she had nursed Hope upon her bosom, that even without the dark mourning robes and disfiguring head-dress which she wore, it would have been difficult to recognise her. Her luxuriant hair had been cut short in accordance with the usages of the community which she had joined; her face, always small and oval-shaped, was now so thin and pale as to look positively insignificant—lost, as it appeared, in the huge recesses of her cap, and her large blue eyes, glowing like sapphires, with their unabated fire, were the only possessions she retained, which could remind even herself of the girl she once had been.

And yet she had not passed her twentieth birthday—it was barely three years since she had first met Gordon Romilly on the Nilgiri Hills!

It would be useless in this place to enter on a dissertation upon Love. It is too much the fashion in the present century to laugh at the notion of any one keeping faithful to a memory, and to call the believer in such faith “romantic,” and his ideas “high-flown.” People who have never loved, or who judge of others by their outward bearing only, find it hard to credit the fact that many with whom they daily laugh and talk, have had their whole lives over-shadowed by one disappointment, and that it is quite possible to eat, and drink, and sleep, and do one’s duty, and yet be a very unjoyous man or woman.

But if there are few men who can enter into this credence, there ought to be few women who are not ashamed to deny it,

“Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,
’Tis woman’s whole existence,”

and she who does not second this assertion is probably she whose existence has never been put to the test.

But it is generally the woman’s first lover to whom she keeps so faithful. If her first lover remain so, she may grow to value him less, but if she loses him, by death or separation, or even treachery, his vices become writ in water, whilst his virtues are engraven on a rock. Other men may spring up to adore her, and, after a fashion, she may return their love, but it is questionable if, when she poured out the full libation of her affection for the conqueror of her youth, she left much else than dregs for later comers.

And Véronique had been no exception to this rule. On the sad day when she had quitted Brüssenburgh, bereft of everything which made life dear to her, she had left it with a broken heart, which “brokenly” lived on; yet had had its best and purest gifts, its childlike faith and trust, and virginal pride, shattered and despoiled.

She had entered Rêve with but one desire—the wish conceived by every young untried spirit when first subjected to the bitter yoke of disappointment—that she might be allowed to die; to leave the load of misery which oppressed her far behind, and go to some place where recollection was not, and men, things unknown; and for a length of time the shock she had received in finding Gordon Romilly was faithless, had rendered her incapable of soaring to any higher or better aspiration. But after a period youth and nature had their way, the wildness of her grief became subdued, peace, in a measure, returned to her bosom, and Véronique was enabled to believe that though deserted and betrayed, all was not yet over for her.

She had found good friends in Rêve.

Kindly men, and simple-hearted women, connections of her dead mother and Père Joseph, had stretched forth their hands to her, and bid her welcome in tones not to be mistaken, and imagining that the restless and despondent state in which she appeared amongst them, arose from bodily illness, had done more by their indirect attentions towards effecting a cure, than if they had guessed the secret of her malady.

Her aunt Soeur Marie (in memory of whose kindness, no less than because all things connected with the past had grown distasteful to her, Véronique had adopted her present name) had received her as a daughter, and would have been charmed to keep her always by her side in the maison réligieuse, of which she was a member; but before she had been long in Rêve the girl had commenced to form other plans for herself, to which she was induced, partly from the example of her adopted brother, and partly from the necessity for action making itself known in her nature.

As soon as David found himself again with Véronique, he had confided to her that the great wish of his heart was to become a missionary, which desire it appeared had been conceived by him some time previously, but he had waited to communicate it to her until he should have consulted a priest upon the subject. Finding, however, that all that was required, beside a religious education, to fit him for the work, was a hearty resolution to perform his duty, he was already pursuing his studies for that purpose, but declared that he had no intention of making a final decision, until he had ascertained Véronique’s opinion with regard to the matter.

“You are all I have, Véronique!” he had said on that occasion. “I have no family, no friends, no relations, and as you know well, I shall never marry. I should like to devote myself to the cause of my own people; I believe I shall experience more happiness in such a life than in any other: but I have promised to be the guardian of your interests, and if I can be of use to you by remaining at your side, I will give up this project immediately!” And as he concluded, David had looked up in her face, almost hoping perhaps to see a shade of disappointment there at the prospect of their separation. But Véronique had remained unmoved.

“It is your duty,” she had answered him, “I will not keep you from it, David, for a moment, on the contrary I urge you to persevere. I cannot see my own way plainly yet, but I also shall never marry: I am quite assured of that, and if it is possible, I will help you in your undertaking.”

And so from this, it had grown at last to be understood amongst the people of Rêve, that Véronique Moore and the young native were amongst them only for a season, and that as soon as the term of probation of the one, and the religious education of the other, should be completed, she would leave them as a sister of mercy, and he as a missionary, to carry back the consolations of religion to the inhabitants of the country where they had alike received their birth.

But Véronique had taken no vows upon herself, she was free to pursue her occupation or to leave it, as seemed best to her: and her name and garb were but marks of the cause to which she was devoted.

The two years she had spent at Rêve had not been passed unhappily, for the simple duties entailed on her by the rules of the maison réligieuse in which she abode had proved as balm to her aching heart: and although time was powerless to give her back what she had lost, his influence had considerably softened the smarting of the wound. And David had profited by its effects still more than she had; indeed so ably had the preparation for his profession filled up the gap in his life, once made by her rejection of him, that Vdronique sometimes caught herself smiling to think he could be the same man who had pleaded with tears for her affection, and considered existence not worth having when she denied it to him. Now his whole heart and soul seemed absorbed by the prospect of his new duties, and he never even alluded to the days when it had been otherwise with him. He mixed freely with her, and evidently without pain: their intercourse was reduced to that of warm and steadfast friends, but nothing more, and his attachment had become in consequence a greater comfort to her than it had ever proved before.

As soon as he was considered eligible to undertake the work to which he aspired, David had accepted an offer on the part of the Roman Catholic Mission to send him out to China, where they were in great need of help: and Véronique had decided to accompany him, although her own wish had been that they should return to the Nilgiri Hills: and David still thought, (considering the length of the voyage to, and the dangers of the climate of, the place for which he was bound) it would have been much better had she consented to proceed there and dwell amongst her friends until circumstances enabled him to rejoin her.

But in some respects the conduct of Véronique was inexplicable to him.

That he had guessed that her deep melancholy and repugnance to himself arose from a disappointed love, was certain; and that he had also connected this love with Gordon Romilly (which fact had much aided him in weaning himself from her) there was little doubt: but it was only conjecture on his part, and he knew too little to enable him to find a clue to the reason of several actions on hers. Why, for instance, Véronique always avoided the company of young girls, and shrunk in general from the society of women, excepting that of the sisters, he had been quite at a loss to determine; nor why she had so steadfastly refused to quit the village Rêve, all the time they lived there, even for a day’s jaunt to Brüssenburgh. But above everything he had been puzzled to understand her repeated refusal to use the hundred pounds which Père Joseph had left for her sole benefit, even for the expense of her outfit and voyage; nor why, at the last, she had insisted upon depositing it in the hands of the curé of Rêve, to be kept for the relief of the poor of his parish, and prepared to follow him to China as a servant of the mission: which accounted for her being amongst the steerage passengers of the “Sultana.”

No! David would never understand her, nor would anyone in this world again; there was a sealed book in her bosom, of which the Almighty and herself alone held the key. Véronique felt this at all times, and never more deeply than when the young missionary accompanied Père Martin on shore at Aden, and left her sitting by herself on the after-deck, watching with eyes too calm not to be sad, for a girl of twenty, the boat which bore him from her. Gazing upon scenes, which though strange, still powerfully reminded her of the country where she had spent her happiest days, could not fail to make her thoughtful, and as she looked at them, the various passages in her brief life, which the sorrow, and the change, and the monotony of the last two years, had almost effaced from her remembrance, flashed across it once more, making her start to find how completely their influence had been absorbed or obliterated: and what a difference time had made for her in every respect but one—almost as great a difference (so Véronique sighed to herself,) as it had caused in her appearance.

Mrs. Colonel Dowdson, grown considerably more sour from the effect of disappointment, was still undergoing her term of penal servitude in second-rate furnish apartments in England, and wearing the Colonel’s life out with entreaties that he would take her away from a land where there are no government house dinners and no bands, and where one’s friends are independent, and a colonel is but a name. And Mr. and Mrs. Conway Jones, grown sharper by experience if not more wise, were still taking houses in places where they were unknown, and furnishing them on credit, and running off to the Continent at dead of night, followed by the execrations of servants and tradespeople; but Véronique had scarcely given either of her mistresses a thought since she had separated from them, so completely had all things (even the previous suffering and suspense) been forgotten in the pain of that culminating blow which tore the veil down from her trusting eyes, and killed all that was worth calling life in her.

With the discovery that she had no husband, no lover, nothing that she could call her own; that her affection had been outraged, and her confidence made a thing to mock at, the face of earth had changed for Véronique.

Nothing was the same as it once had been. As she thought this, leaning over the side of the “Sultana,” gazing sadly upon Aden, the poor child’s lips trembled, and the tears welled into her eyes. Père Joseph was dead, David cooled, (as she reviewed the alterations made by time, she was almost ready to quarrel with the fact upon which she had so often congratulated herself); even Rêve, that quiet harbour from the ills of life, she had voluntarily left behind, and launched herself upon the world to let destiny drive her where it would. So be it! there were none to care where she was driven, and why should she fear death or danger since she had nothing left to live for? She knew the kingdom to which, hour by hour, she was hastening: she believed most heartily in the communion of saints, and she prayed each day, that when she obtained admission at the gates of pearl, she might recognise one face amongst the throng of the redeemed. And that was the dearest hope that Gordon Romilly had left to Véronique Moore.

*  *  *  *

She did not seem to mind the coal dust. The other “Soeurs de Charité” who had nothing to do with herself or David, being bound for Madras, had disappeared below, to shield their spotless linen from contamination, and more than one of the ship’s officers advised “the little Sister,” (as they called Véronique, amongst themselves,) to follow the example of her companions: but still she sat on deck, apparently regardless of her comfort, but occupied with her book or her own thoughts, until the afternoon was nearly spent, and the unpleasant business of coaling was completed, and the boats began to put out again from shore, and bring back their freights to the “Sultana;” amongst which came a host of passengers from the disabled steamer of the week before. It amused Véronique to watch them all getting on board, to see the new faces full of expectation, and the old ones freshened up by their short holiday, and to look at the treasures, in the shape of ostrich feathers, fans, and other Aden curiosities, with which they appeared laden. She was hanging over the ship’s side, deeply interested in what passed before her, when her attention was suddenly attracted by the occupants of a boat which had just come along-side, and, with the exception of an English servant and a little child, seemed to carry no more valuable cargo than bundles and boxes.

The child, a boy of from eighteen months to two years old, at once caught the eyes of Véronique, who was exceedingly fond of children, and she kept them fixed upon his little curly head of flaxen hair, whilst the process of getting his attendant and himself on board was being effected.

The nurse, who was magnificently attired for a domestic, and seemed much more anxious to preserve her silk dress than her little charge from the contact of salt water, came mincing and tripping up the slippery gangway in so careless a manner, that as she stepped on deck she missed her footing, and had not Véronique started forward to prevent it, would have been thrown, together with the child, upon the ground.

“Oh! la! I’m sure I’m vastly obliged to you,” exclaimed the stranger as she looked with impertinent surprise on the garb of the woman who had helped her. “I never know where I’m going to on these horrid ships; to my mind there ain’t two of them built alike. Come now! you stop your noise, sir!” she added with a warning shake to the boy, who was roaring lustily from the fright he had sustained. “I’ve got all your mamma’s boxes to look after, and if you ain’t quiet I’ll put you down.”

“Let me hold him for you,” pleaded Véronique as she stretched out her arms towards the child.

“That you may and welcome, if he’ll go to you,” replied the servant, “but he is a cross-grained child as ever was, and don’t take to strangers. Come now, Master Too-too! I’ve had enough of this; nursey will put you on the deck if you don’t stop crying this very minute.”

“How many boxes had you in all, Miss?” demanded the man who was standing at the gangway and seeing the luggage brought up.

“Seventeen, I think—no! wait—that was counting the three baskets, but I’ve got a memorandum here if this tiresome child would only let me get at it. Hold him a minute, do!” she continued, as without ceremony she popped him into the arms of Véronique, and began to search her pockets for the required document.

“Don’t cry, Too-too! be a good boy, darling,” said the little Sister of Mercy in her most soothing voice, and Too-too stopped his wailing with surprise and turned two enormous blue eyes upon her. Such eyes! so clear, and full, and deeply blue. Véronique never remembered to have seen such before—except once—except once. She hardly knew at first why the sight of them so powerfully affected her—why her heart should beat faster and her breast heave as Too-too opened his baby orbs, and solemnly regarded his new friend; but the next moment she had remembered—and a flash of pain darted across her heart at the remembrance.

“Never mind, Too-too, nursey is soon coming back!” she said with a quivering lip, as she commenced to pace up and down the deck in anticipation of the child screaming at her, but Too-too cried no more, and when his nurse appeared to reclaim him she found him engaged in a silent examination of Véronique’s cap and beads.

“Well, I never!” exclaimed that worthy as she jerked him over her shoulder, “wonders will never cease! I expected he would have howled his head off by this time. Do you know where our cabin is, for I’m dead tired, and the sooner I can pack the brat away the better? When once his ma comes on board she won’t let anyone be attended to but herself.”

“The stewardess will tell you,” replied Véronique, “and if you go down the companion stairs, you will find her cabin at the bottom. I cannot show you the way because I am a steerage passenger. Goodbye, baby! I hope he will sleep well.”

“Oh! la! I hope so, too, or I shall have his pa a-fussing in and out of the cabin all night to ask what’s the matter with him. Down the stairs you say? thank you. Just disengage his hand from your beads, will you, or he’ll have them all over the deck. That’s it. Now, sir, you stop your noise,” and off she bore Master Too-too in a fresh burst of lamentation at having his new plaything wrested from him, whilst Véronique, after having looked wistfully at the child until he disappeared, went down to her own stifling little cabin and had a quiet cry all to herself.

She might deny it as much as she chose—might assure herself again and again that the past was past with her, and that she had conquered all those vain longings and regrets that had at one time threatened to overthrow her reason; but from her agitation at the least thing which reminded her of her lost happiness—even though it were but the colour of a baby’s eyes—Véronique knew that her love for Gordon Romilly was unabated.

Chapter IX


The first thought which flashed into Véronique’s mind on awaking the following morning, was the thought of the blue-eyed baby, and it was with all expedition that she dressed herself and ran on deck in anticipation of seeing him again.

As she set her foot upon the topmost rung of the companion-ladder, a strange sight presented itself to her view. The nights were now exceedingly warm, and in consequence, many of the passengers of the “Sultana,” both first and second-class, had taken to abandoning their legitimate sleeping places, and carrying their beds into the open air, to which custom, the inroads made upon their comfort by the innovation of the day before had added considerable force. So that the deck of the steamer was now strewn with mattresses, and pillows, and shawls, upon which lay indiscriminately occupants of both sexes, and in all stages of déshabille.

Véronique turned from the half-opened eyes and yawning mouths presented to her with disgust; the custom was one with which, under any circumstances, she never could have familiarized herself, and which under the present she would have considered positively improper, and she felt it to be quite a relief when the usual matutinal pails of water were unceremoniously emptied over the ship’s planks, and the startled sleepers, in dread of being soaked through, if not washed overboard, were compelled in all haste to take up their beds and walk, leaving the deck clear for earlier risers. Véronique took a seat as near the quarter-deck as it was permissible for her to do, keeping her eyes fixed on the stairs which led from the saloon; and the water had not dried upon the flooded planks before, amidst a train of other nurses and children, she caught sight of her acquaintance of the previous evening, bearing the little child who had so wonderfully taken her fancy, and greatly to her pleasure, the woman at once recognised and approached her.

“Well! you are early!” was her greeting, “I am sure I thought no one would have been out of their beds who wasn’t obliged to. But such a night as I’ve passed, you never see! Four mortal souls beside the child, packed into one cabin, and two of them as sick as though they’d never been a board a ship before. You may fancy I was glad enough to get out of it.

“I am sorry!” said Véronique, who had already got her fingers entwined in those of the baby, “and how did baby sleep—comfortably?”

“Oh! he’d have slept well enough if his pa had only let him be; but the child can’t turn in his bed without he’s after us, to know if he wants this, that, or the other, and her ladyship’s she’s just the opposite, and comes down on me if the baby cries, as though I’d done it. They’re just a pair on them, they are, and if I’d known half what I should have to go through, I wouldn’t never have consented to leave England. However, it’s only for a year, that’s one comfort.”

“Is the gentleman only going out for a year, then?” demanded Véronique, who had got the baby on her lap by this time, and was letting him play with the string of wooden beads and crucifix which she wore pendant from her side.

“La! my dear, I can’t tell you,” replied the nurse, who was nothing loath to be relieved of her heavy young charge. “I only know that I engaged myself for twelve months, and no more, and that’s twice too long, in my ideas, to go and live amongst heathen.”

Véronique sighed. She had engaged herself to live all the remainder of her life amongst heathen, and she knew that however right the resolution, she was not yet reconciled to it.

“Where are you going to?” she asked, quietly.

“To some outlandish place in China, I believe, but I never can remember the name, and why the master, who had a beautiful house and all that heart could wish for in London, beside a whole heap of lords to his relations, should leave them to take up his dwelling amongst a lot of niggers, I can’t think; but some folks must be always hankering after a change; and to drag this poor babe along with them too! I call it a shame, they’d better by half have left him at home with his grandma.”

“But I suppose they love him very much,” said Véronique, as she pressed her lips to the crown of his little flaxen poll. “It would have been terribly hard to leave him behind.”

The woman laughed.

“Well! you do seem a one for babies! though, as far as his pa goes, I expect you’re right. Master Too-too is the apple of his eye, I don’t think he cares for much else in this mortal world; but as for her ladyship, she’d have been precious glad to leave him at home with her own ma; in fact, she stood out for it a long time, but the master was one too many for her—as he generally is—he said he wouldn’t go without the child, and no more he would.”

“Oh! I don’t wonder at it!” exclaimed Véronique, warmly, “such a sweet little baby as he seems; if he were mine, I would never part with him.”

Too-too’s nurse stared at her, as though unable to comprehend her meaning.

“Lor! now,” she said, after a pause; “but that’s strange, isn’t it? for you can’t never marry yourself, can you?”

Véronique turned scarlet, and bent her head over the child, until her glowing face was concealed by her wide head-dress.

“Oh! no! no?” she answered, hurriedly, “and you mistake me, I never wish to do so, but I love little children, I can’t help it, I always did. There is nothing I should like better than to have the entire charge of a dear little child like this. I would never leave him, night or day.”

“Ah! well, I expect you’d sing to a different tune after you’d had him to sleep along with you a few nights,” said the nurse, laughing. “He’s terrible fractious at times with his teeth. But if you really have such a fancy for children, perhaps you wouldn’t mind holding him a bit, while I just run down and see after getting her ladyship up for breakfast. His pa takes him in general for me, but I don’t think he’s up himself this morning.”

“Oh! I shall be so pleased if you will trust him to me,” said poor Véronique, her careworn face quite brightening at the idea of being left in charge of the blue-eyed baby. “I will take the greatest care of him, I will not leave him for a minute, I assure you you may depend on me.”

“Well! many thanks,” said the woman, carelessly, “and when you’re tired of holding him, you can let him run, he walks well enough, and I won’t be gone, at the outside, more than half an hour,” saying which she disappeared down the companion stairs, leaving Too-too looking after her with very wide-open eyes, and a mouth which was suspiciously puckered, at the corners.

But Véronique would not let the baby cry; she was as proud and pleased of being left in charge of him, as though she had been a child herself, and she walked up and down the deck, talking and cooing to him in her sweet low voice, and directing his attention to everything which she thought might prove attractive to his infant eyes, until Too-too’s temporary dismay was quite allayed, and he reposed as complacently upon her arm, as though he had been used to be nursed by Sisters of Mercy in black gowns and starched white caps all the days of his life; whilst Véronique surprised herself to find how much at home she seemed in the novel position which had been thrust upon her.

“Look! dear baby!” she exclaimed, as she gazed intently in the deep blue eyes, from which she seemed scarcely able to remove her own, “look, Too-too, at the pretty beads! look at the bright black beads! Shall Marie roll them on the deck for baby? Shall Marie throw the beads upon the deck? will Too-too run and catch them?” and as she spoke she trailed her rosary along the ground, and the child clapped his little hands, and tottered in its shining wake.

“Whose child is that, Marie?” said David, who passed her whilst she was thus employed.

“I don’t know!” she answered, lifting a brighter face to his than he had seen her wear for many a long day past. “I don’t even know his name, excepting that his nurse calls him Too-too; but she left him with me for a little while, and he is such a dear little fellow. Don’t you think him very pretty, David?”

“I have hardly looked at him,” replied the native, “but won’t he tire you? Don’t let these nurses put their proper work on you, they are all too apt to shirk it when they can.”

“Oh! no! indeed he doesn’t tire me; I like to have him!” was the earnest reply, “I like to watch his pretty little ways, and hear his broken words; besides, she won’t be long, David, she will be back before I am ready to give up the baby.”

“Very well! only don’t fatigue yourself, remember you are not strong,” he answered, and then passed on to the other side of the vessel, leaving Soeur Marie with a smile upon her lip.

“He cannot understand the feeling,” she said to herself, with that sort of superiority which women in these matters are conscious of possessing over men, “how should he? It is only a woman who can guess the pleasure which a woman feels in waiting on and caring for a little child,” and with that the smile died away, to be replaced by an expression of such gravity, that Too-too nearly whimpered as he looked into her face, and found that for once his new attendant had forgotten to sympathise with him.

“How I should like to make him love me,” thought Véronique, as having again bent her attention towards amusing the baby, she watched the smiles which dimpled on his rosy cheeks. “I wish I could be with this little darling long enough to let him know me from amongst all others, and run to me the first. Yet what would be the use of it,” she continued, with another sigh, “we shall so soon be separated, and going on our different ways, it would be only laying up a fresh parting for myself in the future! But I shall never forget you, baby, though I have seen you for so short a time, for I think you are the very dearest little boy I ever met.”

She commenced again to exert herself for the benefit of the little child, and had succeeded so well, that Too-too was laughing loudly as she played bo-peep with him from behind a coil of rope, when she suddenly heard a deep voice exclaim, “Baby!” and glancing quickly from her place of concealment, saw the child turn away from the bench near which their game had been carried on, and with the exclamation of “Papa!” toddle from her side into the extended arms of a gentleman, who, with his eyes riveted upon his little son, was advancing through the crowd to meet him.

Kneeling as she was, and almost out of sight, Véronique looked up with eager curiosity, to see the father of the infant for whom she had conceived so deep an interest, and felt her breath abate, and her sight grow dim, as her eyes fell upon the form of Gordon Romilly! Yes! Gordon Romilly!—grown older, thinner, and in every respect less good-looking than when she had seen him last; but still Gordon Romilly—unmistakably her lover and her husband, whom Véronique had thought never to meet again!

For a moment the shock and the surprise were so great, that she felt as though she must yield to their influence; and, sinking downwards where she knelt, let her senses or her life take their flight as they would; but with the next, all the fear that possessed her was the fear of being recognised, and before she had realised what she was about to do, she had sprung to her feet, and abandoning Too-too to his destiny, dashed down to the shelter of her own cabin, and thrown herself, trembling with agitation, upon the narrow couch she called her bed. She had scarcely accomplished this feat before she remembered that she had left the little child who had been committed to her care, and that her duty was to return, aud see that he came to no harm; but when, obedient to the call, she attempted to retrace her steps, she found that all power of volition had been taken from her, and the most she could accomplish was to feebly call to one of the other Sisters of Mercy, and entreat her to go and see that the child was safely restored to his nurse, and that she was informed that Sœur Marie had been suddenly taken ill, and compelled to relinquish the charge she had committed to her.

“Why! what’s the matter with you?” demanded Soeur Thérèse, to whom she had addressed herself; “you seemed well enough on deck just now; do you want the doctor? shall I send him to you?”

“No, no!” exclaimed Marie impatiently, as she turned upon her berth, so as to conceal her countenance from her companion. “I wish for nothing but to be left in quiet. Leave me, Thérèse, I implore you, and tell no one but the nurse about my illness. It is a sudden vertigo, which will pass perhaps as quickly as it came. I know the pain of old—it is not in the doctor’s power to do me any good.”

Yes! she had known the pain of old, but had she ever felt it in the same intensity as now? Left once more to her own thoughts, to the task of attempting to make herself believe that she had been again thrown in the path of her recreant lover, and that every day and every hour until they arrived at their journey’s end she would be liable to be recognised and spoken to by him, Véronique found herself incapable of doing more than lie and tremble at the truth which she could not deny. And yet, now that it had occurred, it did not seem strange to her that it should be so. An hour before she had believed that she was parted for ever from Gordon Romilly; that first by his own act, and secondly by hers, a gulf had been placed between them which in this world could never again be crossed, and that she should see him and speak to him was the most unlikely of all unlikely things to happen. And yet, now, to think that she had been caressing and tending his child—that she was in the same ship with his wife and himself was an overpowering, a stunning thought, it is true, but still not such an unnatural one.

Does anything in this world appear unnatural after it has once happened? The friend whom we have known as such for months, perhaps for years, and never dreamt of in another light, tells us today that we are nearer to him than we thought, and that the feeling with which he regards us is of no modern growth, but has been ours almost since he can remember us. Does it appear unnatural that it should be so? Yesterday we should have smiled at the idea, if presented by a less authority; today we look back on the dead weeks and months, now numbered with the past, and know that we have been, not blind exactly, but walking with our eyes closed, and call ourselves (perhaps through tears of happiness) all kinds of hard names for having been so dull and senseless as to miss through our stupidity so much of what life’s chalice holds so little.

Or, we have stumbled through the world, bearing a small pain here, and mastering a temporary weakness there, and never taking the trouble to think but what we shall be strong and well again at some future time, though how or when we have not stayed to consider; until the day arrives when a physician gravely tells us that our disease is mortal, that our years are numbered, and that it is his duty to inform us that we shall not live to see another born. When the first shock, the disappointment may be, is over, does it seem unnatural it should be so? Yesterday we imagined we should live to a green old age; today we know that a few weeks will see us laid in the grave; and had we not wilfully kept our eyes shut, should we not have guessed it long ago? Can we not look back over the past years during which we have lived so carelessly, and plainly trace the symptoms of that which is now coming to pass? and are we not more surprised to think that we so easily mistook them, than that Death is advancing on us, like an armed man?

No! nothing in this world is so unnatural as that we should think nature so; and Véronique had not been by herself for many minutes before she had recovered her surprise at meeting Gordon Romilly again, and was occupied in considering what course of action she had best pursue to prevent his discovering her presence on board the “Sultana.” For though she had mastered the surprise, the shock and the unhappiness were still the same; and as the girl lay on her berth, remembering that he was not alone, that his wife and child accompanied him, jealousy, that acutest of all bitter earthly pangs, racked her tender bosom with pains worthy of hell, until she had no power left to do more than lie, face downward, moaning quietly to herself, whilst she longed that it were not wicked to pray that the sea might open her jaws and swallow them all up together, before another opportunity was afforded her of witnessing either his happiness or his remorse. She had been so sure—so very sure—that she should never see him again; she had striven so hard to banish the memory of his love from her rebellious heart; she had made so certain that the performance of her duty would bring her greater satisfaction than the indulgence of her passion ever had done, that it was hard—so Véronique moaned to herself—hard that he should have been thrown across her way, just as she had schooled herself to enter contentedly on her new sphere of action, to be the means of reviving all her worst feelings and most earthly desires! How she wished, poor child! in that moment, that she had been less energetic in the pursuance of what she considered to be right; that she had been contented to remain, as her friends had wished her to do, safely sheltered in the bosom of Rêve, and to abjure for ever that world into which it seemed as though it were impossible for her to step without encountering snares laid ready to entangle her feet.

For more than an hour had she remained thus, exhausting herself with fears and conjectures of what might come to pass, when she was startled from her reverie by hearing the voice of David, who had missed her from the breakfast-table, close at her ear.

“Ma soeur,” he exclaimed, “what is the matter with you—have you a headache? I am afraid you have over-tired yourself running about with that child! I knew how it would be when I saw you with him. You never will remember that you are anything but strong, and that a very little exertion knocks you up.”

“That’s strange, though, David, isn’t it, at nineteen years of age?” she said, as she raised herself on her elbow, and regarded him with a haggard smile upon her thin face.

“I don’t know about its being strange,” he answered, moodily, for the decline in Véronique’s health during the past two years had been patent to all who knew her, “but I know that it’s true, and that you must take more care of yourself, or—”

“Or I shan’t last long enough to make it worth while for the Mission to have sent me out,” she replied with forced gaiety, for her object was to deceive him; and then seeing that he looked grieved (for who could help regretting her), she added, “Don’t be vexed, dear David, it is wrong of me to joke on such a subject, but you know that it is only joking on my part—I have a headache, mon frère; I acknowledge it, but I do not think that it proceeds from fatigue, and I trust that it may soon pass over.”

She lay down again upon her pillow as she spoke, and he took her hand in his, and perched himself upon the edge of the berth.

“Marie! I have something to tell you!”

She guessed at once what news was coming for her, but she turned her face from him, and answered—

“Well, mon frère, what is it?”

“I find that a friend—or rather, I should say, an old acquaintance, of yours, came on board yesterday amongst the passengers of the ‘Arabia.’ Can you guess who it is?”

“There is no need of guessing,” she answered, quietly, “I have already seen him David; it is Captain Romilly.”

The tranquillity of her speech and manner deceived him. David had had his suspicions, as has been said before, with respect to Gordon Romilly and Véronique, but they had never been confirmed, and it was now so long a time since she had seen him, or alluded to him, that the native had come to consider it as a girlish folly on her part, now past and done with, and for aught he knew to the contrary, forgotten.

Still, he had a little curiosity to see how she would receive the news of the actual presence of the handsome Englishman on board the “Sultana.” and was much relieved to find it had so little power to affect her.

“You have seen him, have you? Did he speak to you?”

“Oh, no! nor I to him; and, David, if you would do me a kindness, you will try as much as possible to avoid a recognition between us. You must remember,” she added, speaking rather hurriedly and incoherently, “that when we met last it was under very different circumstances, and I doubt whether Captain Romilly himself would care to remember them; he was a bachelor then, free to know and associate with whom he chose, and now he is a married man—and—it is altogether so different—Oh, David! do promise me to keep out of his way, and if possible not to let him know that I am on board—I don’t wish either to meet him or to speak to him.”

“And I am sure I don’t.” replied David, who was delighted at her decision, “I never liked him much, Marie, as you know. and I am glad you wish to avoid him; but will he not be sure to recognise you the first time you meet on deck?”

“I think not; I hope not!” she answered, in a low voice, “not in this dress and cap; besides, I am changed, David—oh! I am greatly changed since that happy time when Père Joseph was alive, and we all lived together on the Nilgiri Hills;” and overcome by the recollections evoked by her allusion, Véronique turned on her pillow, and wept.

“Do not let such thoughts trouble you, ma soeur,” said David, as he gently patted her shoulder, (ah, how different was that touch from the passionate grasp of former days!) “depend on it, a peaceful future is in store for both of us. Meanwhile, we will do all we can to avoid encountering Captain Romilly or his wife, though as they are bound for Macao, I am afraid we shall have them for fellow-passengers to our journey’s end. But I cannot have you desert the deck on their account, Marie, for the fresh air is necessary for you, and you will droop without it.

She promised him that she would do exactly as he thought best for her, but she pleaded for a few hours’ repose during the heat of the day, so that it was not until the cool evening breezes had set in that she found herself once more seated on the bench which she had so summarily quitted in the morning.

She had not been settled there for more than five minutes before she heard Too-too’s shout of recognition, and found herself attacked by his nurse, on the subject of her late behaviour with regard to him.

“A nice body you are to leave in charge of a child,” she commenced, though only in mock reproach, “why, he might have gone through one of the port-holes for anything you cared about him! You got me into a proper scrape, too, with the master, I can tell you, for having left him with such a careless person, and I suppose I shall never be allowed now to put the brat out of my arms, so long as we remain on board ship. I’m downright angry with you, that I am. and after you had promised me so faithfully that you wouldn’t leave him for a minute. I’m sure her ladyship’s been a going on at me all day about it, in such a manner that I’m just sick of my life.”

“Oh! I am so sorry, nurse!” exclaimed Véronique, with genuine concern, “but I did feel so ill! And his papa was there, wasn’t he? is not that tall gentleman, with a fair beard, his papa? If he had not taken the baby, I would not have left him.”

“Of course it was his papa,” returned the nurse, with emphasis, “but Lor! that makes no manner of difference with unreasonable people like these here; every one’s to be at their beck and call, and they looks upon servants as if they were beasts of burthen—I’m pretty near tired of it!”

“But I should not have left him,” argued Véronique, self-reproachfully, “and particularly when I had promised—it was very wrong of me, and I’m afraid, nurse, that you’ll never trust him to me again—but I wouldn’t have done it if there had been any chance of his coming to harm.”

“In course not,” replied the nurse, “least said soonest mended. And how’s your head, my dear? I heard ’twas awful bad, and I’m sure you look white enough, even now.”

“It’s better, thank you,” said Véronique, faintly. “Was the gentleman—the baby’s papa—very angry, nurse?”

“La! no! what makes you think anything more about it—it was Lady Rose as went on the most. The Captain would be well enough if she was out of the way, he’s a pleasant-looking gentleman—did you see him this morning?”

“I just saw him,” replied Véronique.

“He’s a fine man, ain’t he? but he’s gone off terrible in his looks during the last twelvemonth. I’ve heard tell he’s only seven-and-twenty, but he’s more like seven-and-thirty to my mind. You haven’t seen her ladyship yet, have you?”

“No!” was the answer, delivered in a very low voice.

“Well, there she sits, just the other side of the paddle-boxes: she’s mostly considered to be very handsome by gentlemen. And there’s the Captain himself taken a seat beside her. He looks so weary, don’t he, for a young man? Call papa, Too-too! clap hands, and call papa!” and while the nurse was busy, directing the attention of the child towards his father, the Sister of Mercy slipped away again, downstairs, and remained to her comfort undiscovered during the rest of the evening.

It was a hard task she had set herself—to live, as it were, in the daily presence of the man, whom, to her sorrow, she still loved, without making herself known to him, but it was not actually so difficult a one as would be perhaps imagined.

The first and second-class passengers on board a steamer or sailing vessel are kept so separate, that they frequently arrive at the end of the voyage without having become acquainted with each others names or personal appearance; for though the former are privileged to roam the ship as they will, they seldom choose to mix amongst the occupants of the steerage, whilst the latter are not permitted to put their feet upon the quarter-deck, or, in other word to pass the capstan. Consequently, with the exception of gentlemen, who go there to smoke with the ship’s officers, or nursemaids to gossip with their kind, few of the favoured company belonging to the saloon ever tread these planks which terminate in the forecastle and the galley, and if they do so, it is easy for the rightful owners to avoid them.

And so it came to pass that the “Sultana” had reached Ceylon, and handed over her passengers for China to the care of Captain Henry, of the steamer “Samos,” (well known as one of the best boats which the Company had ever put on the service of those seas) before Véronique came in personal contact with the man who had deserted her.

Chapter X

Forgiven and—Forgotten!

But though Véronique continued to elude the notice of Captain Romilly and his wife, it was not so easy to repulse the attentions of Too-too, or of Too-too’s nurse.

Lady Rose appeared to take very little notice of, or interest in, her child. If she ever caressed or nursed him, it was but for a few minutes at a time, at the close of which brief period he was invariably handed over to his father, or back to his attendant, with the remark that he grew heavier every day, and would soon be too big to be lifted or carried about at all.

After which, perhaps Gordon Romilly would hold the boy for a little while, pacing the deck with him, and smiling to hear the compliments with which his fellow passengers were so lavish, on the subject of the blue eyes, and the golden curls, and the unmistakable likeness the child bore to himself; but nursing is not a man’s forte, and it was never long before Too-too found himself again in the arms of his nurse, and being conveyed in the direction of the after-deck. And, as soon as the little feet were set in motion on their own account, an infantine cry would be raised for “Marie,” and the little white frock with its short skirts, come fluttering in her direction, until the flaxen head was laid against her bosom, and the rosy fingers were busy with her beads and crucifix.

For Too-too, although he had no lack of playthings of his own, was like many an older person in this world, and thought, because Soeur Marie’s rosary had never been intended to minister to a baby’s pleasure, that it was, for that very reason, the most delightful toy that had ever been invented, and turned with the greatest indifference from woolly lambs, and barking dogs, and painted harlequins, to amuse himself with the string of black beads, and the roughly carved wooden cross, which depended from the slender waist of his new friend.

And Véronique had not the courage to rebuff this baby friendship. Too-too’s nurse had made several acquaintances amongst the steerage passengers beside herself, and notwithstanding her former defalcation, was always but too ready to leave the child in the care of the Sister of Mercy, whilst she pursued her flirtations, or carried on her gossip amongst the crowd; and though Véronique, from fear of its bringing her in contact with the parents, did not encourage the practice, she had not the heart altogether to refuse the charge. She had not the heart to turn away from the dewy lips which Gordon Romilly’s little child presented to her, night and morning; she had not the moral courage to appear cold or indifferent, when Too-too singled her out from the rest of the men and women by whom she was surrounded, and prattling in his baby language of all that interested him, sought the shelter of her knee, and was content to stay there. She knew that it was weakness to feel pleased, when the boy turned his big eyes upon her own, and gravely delivered the information that he loved her: she called herself a fool, because the clasp of his tiny fingers made her tremble, and she felt as though, if she might but take him in her arms, and carry him away to some desert place, where no one should find them again and he would be her own for ever more, she should be content.

It was utter weakness to purchase an hour’s intercourse with Gordon Romilly’s child, at the cost of a flood of bitter tears—it was folly to feel so happy under his caresses, and his broken words of love, and then to lie awake all night, and think how different her life might have been, had the Almighty granted her a similar blessing—and yet, for the time being, Véronique lived feverishly on the folly, and the weakness, and scarcely dared to think how she should feel when they were both removed from her.

Meanwhile, she never actually came face to face with Gordon Romilly. Several times had he paced the after-deck whilst she was on it, making her tremble with each step he took, and once, when she had Too-too on her lap, he stopped beside them, holding out his arms to the child, and calling him by name, before she was aware that he was present.

She nearly betrayed herself on that occasion, for the low hurried cry which escaped her, as she turned her face towards the sea, evidently attracted his attention, and when he had lifted the boy from her embrace, he remained in the same position for several minutes, gazing earnestly at the back of her slight figure, and still more so at the hand, with which she had grasped the side of the bench she occupied. The nurse, who luckily for herself, happened to be in close attendance at the time, noticed the attraction which Véronique’s hand appeared to have for her master, and, after his departure, commented on it.

“La! my dear! whatever made you turn away from the Captain in that manner? I’m sure he wanted to have a good look at your face! He seemed quite taken by your hand! Well! ’tis whitesome, though rather too thin, to my liking; but it don’t look as though it had seen much hard work—I should have had a pretty hand myself,” displaying a specimen, which was as broad as it was long, “if it hadn’t been for that—but la! service will spoil the best of hands, as it do the best of tempers! And there they are actually calling for me to take that child again. It isn’t worth the trouble of their carrying him away, if it’s only to make me tramp after him in five minutes’ time,” and off she went, grumbling to retake her charge, whilst Véronique trembling in every limb, still leant over the side of the steamer, thinking that another such rencontre must kill her; whilst Captain Romilly, in much the same mood, lolled at the other end, wishing—wishing—he hardly knew what, but anything rather than he were himself, and memory had so much power to torture him!

As may be supposed, David did not fail to notice this predilection of Véronique for the Romillys’ child, and to comment upon it.

“If you wish to avoid coming in contact with the father,” he said to her one day while speaking on the subject, il why on earth do you take the trouble to carry about and amuse the child. He has a nurse to do all that for him, and you are not so strong as to have any superfluous strength to waste on other people’s business. I am surprised at you, ma soeur!

“Are you?” she answered uneasily. “I am surprised at myself sometimes, David, but the baby has taken a fancy to me, and I have not the heart to repulse it!”

“Well! it will end in Captain Romilly’s speaking to you, see if it does not. I have noticed several times lately that he has stopped and played with the child, whilst you have been sitting close by.”

“That is because the nurse will always take a seat by me. I turn my face towards the sea, David, and who could my features beneath this enormous cap?” and with a sigh of distaste, Véronique gave a twitch to the unbecoming head-dress which she wore.

“You must be careful however, or he will recognise you, without seeing your features.”

“I think not. I doubt if he even remembers my existence. But I cannot cease to notice the baby, David! It loves me—and it is such a dear little thing—and—”

“Why, Marie! are you crying? What have I said to cause these tears?”

She struggled for a moment with her emotion, and then, in a broken voice, continued:

“Don’t think me wicked, David, or ungrateful, but it is hard sometimes to look on little children, and to remember—to remember—at least I as a woman think so, but perhaps it is only because I am so weak—that I shall never—never—have a baby of my own.”

He was silent, and thinking she had vexed him by displaying so little energy for the life she had voluntarily undertaken, Véronique put forth her hand, and laid it on his own.

“Don’t be angry with me, mon frère, or despise me. I am but a woman, remember, and these are but passing thoughts—prayer soon disperses them, and I doubt if I would change my lot now, if I could!”

“I do not despise you, Véronique,” he answered huskily, and even in that moment she could not avoid remarking that he called her by her old name. “I, too, am often obliged to have recourse to prayer, for the same reason, but when such thoughts assail you, ma soeur, do not forget that you have had the grace given you to embrace a profession by which every creature in this world, who is ignorant of the blessed truths of salvation, becomes your special charge—a child to be looked after, and instructed, and saved. As an earthly parent, your influence would probably have been confined to a very small circle—in your present position, its extension is unlimited. You must console yourself with that idea,” and striving to smile at the comfort which he felt himself to be but chilly, David left her side, and made no further objections to her intimacy with the little Romilly.

But when the change spoken of in the last chapter had been effected, when the “Sultana” took her course from Ceylon to Madras, and the passengers for China were transferred to the “Samos,” to be carried in the opposite direction, it was not so easy a matter for the second-class to keep clear of the first-class as it had been, theretofore. The steamer being a much smaller one, the decks were consequently closer to each other, and the passengers, having been reduced from a couple of hundred to forty or fifty, had many more opportunities of examining each other’s faces. Still Véronique and David managed to keep to their side of the vessel; and as they expected to reach their journey’s end in the course of another fortnight, hoped to remain unnoticed by the Romillys until it should be accomplished, and had it depended on themselves they probably would have done so, but Fate, and the perverse obstinacy of a dumb animal, ordained that an encounter between them should take place sooner than was otherwise intended.

In order to explain the latter sentence, it will be necessary to go back so far as to say that amongst other live stock which the “Samos” shipped at Point de Galle were a couple of very fine horses, destined to be carried to Hong Kong; and which, as the space in the hold was small and confined, and it was thought that the animals (which are liable to sea-sickness) would suffer less in the open air, had been placed in horse-boxes between the after and the quarter-deck. But one of them had conceived a great fright on being conveyed on board, a fright which it did not seem capable of overcoming, and although its box was well-padded and comfortable, it continued to strike out with its heels, right and left, by night and by day, until it had nearly exhausted itself, and was considered by most of the gentlemen passengers to be in a very dangerous condition.

Captain Henry was much concerned about the animal, as it was a valuable one which he was taking to Hong Kong as a favour for a personal friend, and he could not imagine what he should say to its owner if he arrived in port with the intelligence that the poor horse had been thrown overboard half way. He was in consequence never tired of consulting with the gentlemen as to the best means of quieting the restive brute; and when every possible remedy had been tried without effect, and the animal, having nearly kicked itself to death, was lying almost motionless against the side of its box, they decided in council upon taking him out of his close quarters, and lowering him into the hold, to see whether solitude and darkness combined might not produce a change for the better.

It was late one evening that this proposal was first made, and no sooner had it been started and agreed upon, than Captain Henry determined that it should at once be put into execution.

The nights were now unpleasantly warm when spent below, and no one thought of leaving the deck until they were absolutely obliged to do so. Véronique, who had been sitting by herself for several hours, busied herself with her own thoughts, and not even taking notice of the whereabouts of little Too-too and his nurse, heard Captain Henry and his passengers debating together about the animal, but hardly realised what they were going to do with him, until several men appeared with lanterns, and a small crowd assembled round the box, and it seemed but the next moment that she heard a great commotion and scuffling of horses’ feet, and looking up, saw the animal, which was a powerful Australian, plunging about the after-deck. It had remained so quiet for so many days, and was apparently so exhausted by the exertions it had made, that Captain Henry and his friends had miscalculated the creature’s strength, and thought it would have passively allowed itself to be lowered into the hold, instead of which, as soon as it was free of the bars by which it had been confined, it seemed as though the sense of liberty had driven it wild, and although two men immediately grasped the halter they experienced the greatest difficulty in maintaining their hold upon its head. The shouting of the seamen, the flash of the lanterns in its eyes, and the exclamations of the gentlemen as they begged the passengers to keep out of its way, seemed to madden the horse more and more, and in another moment it was backing towards an open port, and threatening to drag those who held it (and one of whom was Gordon Romilly) over-board.

“Close the port—close the port!” shouted Captain Henry, and the man who rushed to execute the order came so suddenly upon the animal, that with a tremendous rear and a snort of defiance it dashed to the other side of the deck.

Then it was that Véronique, who. naturally timid where others were concerned, was terrified for Gordon Romilly’s sake at what was going on, and had risen from her seat as she tremblingly surveyed the scene before her, saw, to her horror, a little white-frocked figure, delighted with the noise, and quite unconscious of the danger, come toddling from the quarter-deck, unheeded by either nurse or mother, and step right into the path of the infuriated, and almost unmanageable horse.

With a cry, which had no thought of self in it, with a promptitude and energy, and determination to succeed which would in like manner have taken her overboard to save his child, Véronique dashed forward to interpose herself between Too-too and what seemed certain death for him, and reached the unconscious infant just in time to shield his tiny person from a blow from the horse’s hoof, which laid her prostrate and senseless on the deck.

“Get out of the way, can’t you?” exclaimed Captain Henry angrily as he first saw the accident occur. “Good Heavens! he has been knocked over—a woman, of course—didn’t we warn them all to keep to the other side of the ship?”

“Stand back!” cried Gordon Romilly, in a voice of deep excitement, as the crowd pressed about him, but so authoritatively that they instinctively retreated again; “do you not see that she has saved my child? Take the horse! throw him overboard—do what you like with him—I must attend to this woman. She has risked her life for me,” and, delivering the halter into the hands of a bystander, and directing another to bear his child, he lifted the lifeless form of the Sister of Mercy in his arms, and carried her on to the quarter-deck.

All then was, of necessity, bustle and confusion. The nurse came hurrying back from where she had been gossiping with her friends, declaring that she had only left the blessed child a moment before, and that she thought of course that he would have been safe “along of his ma;” Lady Rose, weeping with fright and excitement, insisted that the woman had quitted her side without saying a word about the baby, and she naturally imagined that she had taken him with her; whilst David, hearing what had happened, appeared with glowing eyes to jealously snatch the senseless form of Soeur Marie from the hold of Gordon Romilly; and the ship’s doctor ran up and down the companion-ladder with sal volatile and smelling-salts, and talked about concussion of the brain and opening a vein if the patient did not recover her consciousness during the next ten minutes. Meantime, the poor horse, who had been the most active agent in the misfortune, and who appeared to have been completely sobered, as animals and children often are, by the sudden hush which fell upon the shouting crowd by which erstwhile he had been surrounded, had stood quite quiet after injuring Véronique, and permitted the seamen to lower him into the hold without further opposition.

And Gordon Romilly, who had seen and recognised (with what feelings were best known to himself, for he gave no utterance to them) the features of the Sister of Mercy who had imperilled her life for that of his child, before David appeared to claim his right to succour and look after her—had retreated to the further end of the quarterdeck, and apparently oblivious either of the complaints of his wife, or the speculations of his friends, was leaning in moody abstraction over the side of the vessel, communing with his own heart!

Happy are those who can commune with their own hearts and “be still;” who can search to their inmost depths, and whatever wounds they probe in doing so, say with truth that they have never been the means of inflicting such upon the hearts of those who loved them; that they have never offered stones for bread, nor given serpents in exchange for fish! For if so, they are happy-—happier than they think for—even though their best affections have been outraged, and their torn souls drip with blood.

Could Gordon Romilly have only said so in that hour of communing with his dishonoured self, he would have been thankful to exchange the knowledge for a cold death beneath the waters upon which he gazed.

*  *  *  *

When Véronique, revived by the attentions of the doctor and the care of David, felt once more strong enough to think, she had not the slightest consciousness of what had happened to her. She could not imagine why she should be laid upon her narrow berth, with a fellow-passenger sitting by her pillow, and enjoying silence as a stern necessity, nor why her head was bandaged and ached so badly as to make compliance easy to her. But after a few hours’ rest, David, who could not sleep whilst she was ill (and there were others waking in the ship that night), entered her cabin, and in answer to her numerous enquiries, explained to her by what means her accident had been brought about; in the course of which narration he naturally used the name of Gordon Romilly, and told her that he had both recognised and spoken to him.

But neither by word nor sign did Véronique betray what effect this intelligence had upon her. She merely turned her face away from the inspection of her adopted brother whilst he told his story, and if she blushed or trembled at it, her pillow and the cabin wall were the only recipients of her agitation.

David was, of course, aware that the service she had rendered to the Romillys must necessarily lead to some communication between them, but he entreated her not to feel any annoyance at the prospect, as a few words of thanks would probably be all that would be considered necessary, and if she desired no further intercourse, it would be very easy to make her wish known to them through him.

In a low voice, which yet was free from any traces of emotion, Véronique begged him not to think of her. She was quite equal, she averred, to receive the thanks of either Captain or Lady Rose Romilly, if they should think that thanks were necessary for what she had done; and at the most, another week or ten days would see them separated, probably for life. She had no such feelings against them as David seemed to imagine: she was thankful to know she had been the means of saving their little child from what might have proved his death—from what would certainly have proved his death, so David answered, for the doctor had asseverated that such a blow as she had received must inevitably have killed an infant on the spot—well, then! she was all the more thankful that she had been in time—and—oh! dear! her head ached terribly—she could hardly think or speak. So David left her to repose—and she took it in a new fashion—sitting bolt upright in her berth until the morning dawned, and staring out of the open port upon the deep-blue waters, rushing so noiselessly beneath the vessel’s prow, whilst she trembled to think what she should say to him, when they came face to face.

The blow upon her head which had inflicted a scalp wound, had made her feverish, to which the sleepless night contributed in no small degree, so that when the doctor visited her in the morning, she was glad to hear that he considered it necessary that she should lie in bed all day. The longer she could put off the interview which she so dreaded, and felt to be inevitable, the more strength she hoped to gather, with which to cope with it. But seclusion to her berth was not to save her from what was, perhaps, the most trying part of the ordeal she had to go through, for she had scarcely drained the cup of tea which the woman who attended to her wants had brought her from the steerage breakfast, when she heard the voice of Too-too, and of Too-too’s nurse advancing in the direction of her cabin, and accompanied, to her horror, by another which she recognised as that of Lady Rose.

“What a horrid place!” it was exclaiming. “I had no idea the steerage was so dark and dirty. You really mustn’t bring Master Too-too here any more, Lawson! I never would have let him go with you if I had known he played about on decks like these.”

As she heard these words Véronique started up in her berth, breathing hard and fast, and scarcely believing it possible that the visit could be intended for herself, but the next moment her doubts were at an end, for Lawson, the nurse, with Too-too hanging over her shoulder, popped her head in at the cabin door, and exclaiming—

“This is the way, my lady, this is the young person who saved Master Too-too,” ushered Lady Rose Romilly to the very bedside of the startled girl, whose agitation could not but be patent to both her visitors.

“La! you’ve no call to look so frightened, Sister Mary,” said the nurse with a good-natured attempt to set Véronique at her ease, “here’s Master Too-too come to thank you for what you’ve done for him, to say nothing of my lady herself. There ain’t a chair here, my lady, these cabins are so small, but—”

“Oh! never mind, Lawson! I can stand,” replied her mistress, “I shall only be here a few minutes. Well, my poor young woman, how are you this morning?”

“Better, thank you!” muttered Véronique whose first impulse had been to order Lady Rose out of her cabin, and say she never wished to see or speak with her again.

“Are you in pain?”

“Not much; nothing to signify,” replied the girl, who had unceremoniously turned her face away from her distinguished visitor.

“Well!” said Lady Rose, who felt uncomfortable at her reception, she hardly knew why, “of course Captain Romilly and myself are very sorry to think you should have suffered so much in saving our little son from being hurt, and we should like to know that you are well attended to, and have everything comfortable about you. Is there anything you want?”

“Nothing, Madame,” replied Véronique, who could not see Lawson’s warning gesture to call the lady by her proper title.

“Nothing to eat or drink that our interest could procure for you, nothing, in short, that would make you more easy? You must be aware that you have rendered us a great service, that Captain Romilly occupies a high position in the world, and that this child is his son and heir; there is nothing you could have done that would make him—or indeed myself—feel more obliged to you.”

Lady Rose Romilly spoke feelingly, for careless mother as she was when all went right with Too-too, she would have been less than woman could she have contemplated his late escape with indifference, but Véronique, try as she would, could not respond to her advances. She closed her eyes and turned her head away; she felt as though it were impossible to look on her bright presence, or to inhale the odour which diffused itself from her scented, silk-clad person, without blurting out the rough truth, that she had robbed her of what no tenders of kindness or of help could ever restore. The allusions which Lady Rose made to her husband, and their mutual interest in the child, had grated on the feelings of the wretched girl before her, until she was almost writhing beneath the torture of her jealousy, and the sense of the impossibility of her ever gaining relief from it.

The last question which had been put to her received no reply at all, until Lawson, annoyed at such discourteous behaviour on the part of one whom she had acknowledged as an acquaintance, took her roughly to task in demanding an explanation of it.

“Why don’t you answer my lady, Sister Mary?” she said, snappishly, “you can’t be that bad that you’re unable to speak. Don’t you hear her asking you if there’s anything as she can do for you?”’

“But there’s nothing—nothing,” replied Véronique, in a voice of pain, as she turn restlessly upon her pillow. “I want nothing, except to be left alone.”

“Well! there’s manners, if ever I see ’em,” exclaimed the nurse, in a tone of vexation, “I wouldn’t trouble myself about her any more, my lady, if I were you. I’m sure I can’t tell what’s come to Sister Mary today, she ain’t a bit like herself.”

“Hush, Lawson!” said Lady Rose, with every intention of being good-natured, “I daresay her head aches, and she does not feel inclined to talk, and I have something for her here which will do her much more good than words. My good girl, I won’t stay to worry you any longer today, but I hope we shall soon see you on deck again, and meanwhile, as I know that money is always more useful than any other present in a strange country, you must accept this from Captain Romilly and myself as a slight token of what we feel you have done for us;” and as she concluded, Lady Rose thrust a bank note for ten pounds between the closed fingers of Véronique’s passive hand, and prepared to leave the cabin.

But in an instant her footsteps were arrested; in an instant both women, the mistress and the maid, had turned with amazement to see the little Sister of Mercy spring into a sitting posture on her bed, and having first scornfully regarded the money which had been put into her hand, confront them with flushed cheeks and blazing eyes.

“Did he tell you to give me this?” she cried, as with knitted brows she stared enquiringly in Lady Rose’s face.

He—he—do you mean Captain Romilly?” demanded the lady, half fearfully. “Oh dear no! certainly not, he does not even know of it. It is a little present from myself, although I said that you must consider it from both of us. But doubtless Captain Romilly will do more for you on his own account—indeed I am sure he will—this is only from myself, a little gift to mark my appreciation of what you did for Too-too.”

“Then be pleased to take back your gift, Madame,” said Vcronique, haughtily, as she laid the bank note upon the hand of Lady Rose, “and tell Captain Romilly from me that if he thinks I will take money—or any other benefit—from him, for the common service I have rendered to his—his child, he is very—very much—he is altogether mistaken,” and with this declaration Véronique buried her face in her pillow, and burst into a flood of tears.

“Come away, my lady! pray come away,” whispered Lawson, “and let us send the doctor to her, she is going out of her senses, she’s got the deliriums, I assure you she has, she may do us an injury if we stay here much longer.”

And Lady Rose, looking from the bank note returned upon her hands, to where the Sister of Mercy lay convulsively sobbing on her pillow, really thought that the nurse’s suggestion had reason in it, and beat a hasty retreat from the steerage to her proper quarters, where, having an instinctive idea that her husband would blame her for the haste with which she had acted, she kept her own counsel, and directed Lawson to do the same with respect to the whole proceeding.

But this interview greatly retarded the recovery of Véronique. She had wept so much, and agitated herself so much over it, that when the doctor paid her his next visit, he found his patient in a high fever, and it was three or four days before she was again able to leave her berth; and when she did, she evinced an unconquerable objection to go on deck. The light hurt her eyes, she said, and the noise confused her head, and she preferred to be left quite alone, sitting on a box outside her cabin door, where, with her slight figure supported against the wall, and her hands idly clasped upon her lap, she would remain for hours, occupied with her own thoughts, and apparently unmindful of anything which went on around her; until one evening, when the deck was a mass of trampling feet, and the air resounded with noisy conversation, and everyone except herself appeared to be amused and happy, the doorway near which she sat was darkened by the figure of a man, and languidly unclosing her eyes, Véronique started to see that she was once more in the presence of Gordon Romilly. It had come then, the interview she so much dreaded was at hand. A faint flush overspread her thin face, and shutting her eyes again, she leant her head (the dark hair on which had been cropped as short as that of a child) against the wall, almost hoping that his business might not lie with her. But the next moment she was undeceived.

“Véronique!” he said, in a voice which was low and full of feeling.

“Gor-don!” she answered, but so languidly, so apathetically, so differently from the tone in which she had once pronounced that name, that the sound of it excited nothing but a weary sense of pain both in the breast of him who heard and she who uttered it.

“May I speak to you, Véronique, may I say two words to you?”

“I am listening,” she answered, simply.

“I want to thank you,” he went on, hurriedly, “if it is possible to thank you adequately, for what you did for my child. You saved his life for me, Véronique, and he is all I have—all I care for—all that is left me now!”

“I am glad that I was there to do it,” she said, quietly, but a great pulse which leapt up and down in her throat, as she leant back against the wall, betrayed that her agitation was rising.

“He loves you, Véronique, I knew that long before I knew that you were yourself, and you love him, do you not? my poor little child!”

“It would be strange if I did not love all children,” she answered, in a low voice, “since I am childless.”

But at these words, spoken so calmly that they conveyed a double sense of desolation, Gordon Romilly’s self-control gave way.

“Véronique! Véronique!” he exclaimed, as he grasped her arm, “do not speak like that, for God’s sake, or you will drive me mad. You have given me back my child, the only thing winch I dare now say I love, and I—I robbed you of—everything!”

“Tout est pardonne: tout est oublié” she said slowly, though every limb was trembling beneath the effort of speaking to him.

“Is that really true?” he demanded, “have you forgiven and forgotten it, Véronique? I can never do either for myself. Each day seems to make the burthen heavier, and the remembrance of the sin more dark.”

“It happened a long time ago,” she answered faintly.

She could not trust herself to speak more openly. She knew that at the first discussion between them, of what had been, all her feigned apathy would break down at once.

“And you have recovered from it, you have learned to view me in my true light, Véronique, to see that I was neither worth possessing nor regretting? Well!” with a deep sigh, “I suppose that it is best so, and that I ought to be very thankful for the change. I, too, am changed, Véronique; I have not forgotten; or forgiven myself, but I am not the same man that I was upon the Nilgiri Hills.”

At which words she opened her eyes wide, and steadfastly regarding him, saw that lines were visible across his forehead, and that from his mouth ran two deep furrows which had not been there before. His look, too, had grown duller, and lost the self-conceit it bore of old, and there was the weary expression patent in his countenance, of which the nurse had once complained, and which seemed to sit but strangely upon one so young. And as she gazed, Véronique rose up from her seat, and stood before him, staggeringly.

“Yes you are changed, Gor-don, you are sadly, terribly changed, and so am I: we are not the same man and woman that knew each other in the time gone by. And because of that; because we must be strangers, not only in appearance but in truth, I have one thing to ask of you, one request to make in return for having stood between death and your child.”

“Oh, what is it, Véronique? speak, tell it me at once: if it were to the half of my fortune, it should be yours.”

“It is not so much as that,” she answered with a miserable smile. “It is, that during the few days that we must be together, you shall not speak to me again.”

“Not speak to you again? when you have done so much for me, and for—for—Lady Rose. Véronique, you cannot be in earnest.”

“It is because I have, as you are pleased to call it, done so much for you and Lady Rose, that I am in earnest, Gor-don. If you—if you ever cared for me, I entreat you in God’s name, to grant me my request.”

He hid his face for a moment in his hands, and then he rose to leave her.

“I have no more to say,” he uttered brokenly, “the sin was mine; would that the punishment might descend on me alone. God keep you, Véronique, and if you have one prayer left for me, let it be that at some day before my death, He may remember me also.”

He passed away from before her as he spoke, and she, watching all that had made life sunshine to her, disappear up those narrow stairs, threw herself once more upon her berth in anguish which was too deep for words or tears.

Chapter XL

In Danger

When Gordon Romilly told Véronique that he was a changed man, he spoke no less than the whole truth. He was completely changed, and much more so in his mind than in his body. The two years of distaste which he had passed; of distaste for his life, for himself, and for everything which concerned him, had opened his eyes to his true character, and the full extent of the sin which he had committed. For though he had known from the day of his marriage with Lady Rose, that he was acting in a dishonourable and cruel manner towards Véronique, he had hoped that time would soften the pain of separation both for her and himself, and had not fully realised, until the interview which he had held with her at Brüssenburgh, how completely he had robbed her of what no length of time, nor penitence, nor after circumstances, could restore, or even atone for. When he had seen on that occasion the dumb suffering depicted on her upturned face, had heard the stifled cry of agony with which she received the news of her own ruin, and watched her silent apathy turn to scorn and proud defiance, Gordon Romilly felt for the first time what he had done. He had thought of her before that moment as a poor, deserted girl weeping quietly over her faded hopes, in her home amongst the hills, yet gradually deriving consolation from the simple duties and enjoyments by which she was surrounded: but he realised then, that where he had found the quiet happiness and contentment, with which it pleased him to flatter his imagination, he had left nothing but black ruin and desolation behind him; and that the pure and simple country maiden, who could derive pleasure from her flowers and her bees, had been changed through his agency, into a broken-hearted and indignant woman, who, whilst she acknowledged that she had been basely cheated by himself, out of all that made life dear to her, spurned his offers of assistance, and dared him to follow or to profess to hold a further interest in her.

And from that hour Gordon Romilly, who had been struggling ever since his marriage to regain his peace of mind, lost it entirely, and had never known a moment’s pleasure since. For he could not think of Véronique but as he had seen her last, flying from him through the dark night, whither she would not say, and he felt he had no right to ask. Flying from him, perhaps into a pit of destruction which his treachery had opened for her unsuspecting feet, and by which, were she hurled down to hell, the guilt would lie at his door alone.

The idea of so horrible a contingency, added to the affection which he bore the girl, the reality of which had been made painfully patent to him by meeting her again, had preyed upon his mind until he became a shadow of his former self, and more changed in disposition even, than in his outward appearance.

Nothing seemed to give him satisfaction, and even the birth of his child, which was the brightest event which had taken place in his existence during the last two years, had failed to do more than cause him a languid pleasure, for as he looked on Too-too, and remembered that with his father’s features the boy might have inherited the worst traits of his fathers character, he would turn away with a shudder from the contemplation of so evil a destiny.

But though his repentance came too late to enable him to make any amends to the woman he had injured, it produced an effect upon himself which, in all probability, no prosperity would have had the power of doing.

To lead a quiet, moral life must be good for all, and for some, essentially necessary, but it is equally true, that there are certain characters amongst our fallen race, who, without they commit a great crime, which shall thoroughly rouse them to a sense of their own iniquity, would quietly sink down to hell, overweighted with self-satisfaction, and ignorance that they have done anything worthy of repentance.

Whether Gordon Romilly was one of these sinners or no, the first evil of which he was purged by being convinced of the baseness with which he had acted towards Véronique, was his self-conceit. It was impossible that conceit and such a conviction could dwell in the same heart together, and the effect of his newborn humility was to make him more lenient towards the faults of others, and especially those of his wife.

He had not led an unhappy life with Lady Rose, on the contrary, had there been no remorse and no rival affection in the case, they might have been said to have got on very comfortably together, for Gordon Romilly was too indifferent to her to take umbrage at trifles.

It is only men and women who love each other very much indeed, who think it worth their while to make their lives mutually miserable, by suspicions of jealousy, and coldness, and slight, where none such were ever intended or desired.

Yet he had often pronounced her vain, and silly, and thoughtless, and let her see that it was the case, but with his lowered opinion of himself he became diffident of accusing a woman of faults which he felt he possessed, in a much higher degree.

And his forbearance with Lady Rose had extended to graver errors until it had become very noticeable, both to her family and his own. Indeed the fact of his being on board the “Samos” and on his way to take up an appointment, which from his former proclivities might have been supposed to be very distasteful to him, was only another proof of the gentle manliness with which he had learned to wield the sceptre of his marital authority.

So determined a flirt as Lady Rose Romilly had been before her marriage was not likely to make a very steady matron afterwards, but her flirtations had never reached to such a height as to render her husband uneasy, until they had returned from the continent a year before, and taken up their residence in England; at which period she had been thrown amongst all her old acquaintances and not a few of her old admirers.

Still Gordon Romilly had trusted her, thinking there was safety in numbers, and not believing it possible that she could ever contemplate bringing dishonour on her name or his own, until he found that the few admirers had dwindled down to one, and that that one was too often seen in public with his wife not to afford a handle for ill-natured gossip. And then he began to consider how he could best withdraw her from the influence of the man to whom she appeared to have taken such a fancy, without making it apparent to the world that he had thought it necessary to do so; and having had the Resident-Councillorship of Macao offered him, half in jest, by an old friend, had accepted it, to the utter astonishment of his family, who could not understand what motive should induce him to take an appointment of which he had no need, and return to a country which he was well known to detest.

But Gordon Romilly left them to their surmises, and kept his own counsel; he who but a few years back had scarcely hesitated to bring an innocent girl to dishonour, had learned to show consideration even to the folly of a half-guilty woman, and the secret of his becoming the Resident Councillor of Macao (the very thought of which filled him with disgust, so much did he dislike it) was kept even from the curiosity of Lady Rose, who found that all her complaints, though patiently listened to, were unable to shake the determination of her husband.

To find that Véronique Moore was on board the same ship with them, whilst it relieved his mind of a fearful doubt respecting her, added a fresh pang to the heart of Gordon Romilly. To know, that notwithstanding his misconduct, she had been preserved in moral as well as physical safety, was a subject of deep thankfulness with him, yet he could not look on her frail form and her sweet, sad face, without recalling the blooming joyous girl, who had so trustingly delivered her happiness to his keeping, and remembering with a shudder that the ruin he saw before him had been effected by his own hands.

Yet he respected the request she had preferred to him; and after the brief conversation which they held in the steerage, he made no further effort to seek an interview with her. He explained this conduct to his wife by saying that he had spoken to the Sister of Mercy who had risked her life for Too-too, and that she not only refused to take any acknowledgment of the service she had rendered them, but desired that the subject even should not again be mentioned in her presence; and Lady Rose, remembering the abrupt manner in which her own offering had been returned to her, was quite ready to believe her husband’s statement, and to promise to abide by his wishes in the matter. And therefore a quiet salutation when they came in contact with each other was all the recognition that passed from that time forth, between the Romillys and Soeur Marie; although the affection of Too-too for his friend was unabated, and he spent much more of his time in her arms than in those of his proper attendant.

In this manner more than another week had passed over their heads, and the “Samos,” having touched for a few hours both at Penang and Singapore, took her way into the treacherous Chinese seas, with every prospect of making a fair voyage to Hong-Kong.

One night, as Véronique, having lain awake for several hours, thinking over all that had happened to her during the last month, had dropped into a feverish, uneasy slumber, she was suddenly roused by the sound of—she knew not what; a harsh, grating sound, unlike anything she had heard on boardship before; but she had not been thoroughly conscious more than two seconds before she became aware that the “Samos” was no longer moving—that she was stationary in the wide waters, and that there was a great confusion and noise of tongues on deck. But when she rose in her berth and looked out at the open port, she could see nothing but the glassy blue sea, flowing peacefully beneath the black walls of the steamer, nor hear anything beside the vociferous orders being issued above, and the calm, cool gurgle of the waves below, as they lapped against the side of the vessel.

Véronique was not in the least alarmed—there had been just such a stoppage the week before, when a shark had got entangled in the chains, and they had been obliged to lay-to until matters were put straight again—she only wished that sailors could go about their business without so much shouting, and she hoped Too-too would not be frightened at the noise, and with that she lay down again upon her pillow, and closed her weary eyes in sleep.

But she was not destined to slumber long. The noise and confusion on deck increased instead of diminishing, and after a while several men with lanterns passed the open door of her cabin on their way to the hold, and from the stray words which Véronique (now thoroughly awake again) caught of their conversation, she was stimulated to ask them a question—

“Is anything wrong—is there any danger?” she called out from her berth.

“Danger! I should think there was,” replied one of the men, “we’re all going to the bottom together, young woman, as fast as ever we can, if you calls that danger.”

At this startling piece of intelligence Véronique’s heart began to beat very fast, and she experienced that natural alarm which any one would have done under the circumstances, but she did not lose her self-control, for the next moment she had slipped on her dress, and was standing at the head of the companion-ladder, looking anxiously about her.

There were several figures posted about the deck in various attitudes, many of whom were leaning over the ship’s side, in company with the captain, watching the movements of some officers who were busy in a boat below; but otherwise the steamer looked much the same as usual; the first confusion seemed to have subsided—no particular alarm was visible on any of the countenances which she saw, and Véronique began to doubt if the seaman had been in earnest when he told her there was any danger threatened to the “Samos.”

“Come now, young woman!” exclaimed a gruff voice near her, “what are you out of your berth for—we don’t want no females on deck at this time of night.”

“But do just tell me what’s the matter,” she said entreatingly, “why has the steamer stopped? Are we in any danger?”

“Danger!” repeated the old sailor scornfully, “of course not! why, what danger do you expect to happen to a ship like this? You shows your ignorance by putting such a question.”

What was she to believe? The statements of the two seamen were so contradictory that they amounted to no evidence at all. If she could but see David! but amidst all the faces assembled on deck, the native’s was not visible.

But presently, as she glanced timidly from one to the other, Véronique caught sight of the captain, and feeling that he must know the truth of the matter, her fear and anxiety emboldened her to speak to him.

“If you please, Captain,” she began in a low, hesitating voice, “will you tell me if anything is wrong?”

But with an impatient gesture of his hand Captain Henry waved her away from him.

“Don’t come bothering here,” he said without even looking at her, “you women must keep to your cabins; you have no business on deck at such an hour,” and rendered still more timid by this rebuff, Véronique turned quickly away, and with a drooping figure and tears of vague alarm upon her cheek, walked back in the direction of the companion-ladder. But before she had reached it a man had overtaken her, and she heard the voice of Gordon Romilly, saying—

“What is the matter, Véronique? what is it that you wish to know? Tell me; and, perhaps, I can satisfy you.”

“I am only frightened,” she answered slowly in order to conceal the agitation which immediately assailed her, “I am a little frightened—that is all. I woke from my sleep with the noise on deck, and a man said that we were all going to the bottom together; and so I came up to learn the truth, but no one will take the trouble to tell me.”

“I will tell you,” he answered confidently, “there is nothing to be alarmed at, Véronique—not at present. The steamer has grounded, and it is impossible to say, till the morning, when we shall be able to get her off. But there is no immediate danger—and if such should arise, I promise to let you know. Will you trust me?”

“Oh! yes!” she answered with a thrill of joy, to think that he should care to set her mind at rest.

“And you will try and make yourself easy till the morning, relying on my word that all is safe.”

“Yes, yes!” she said again, and then looking up in his face, she added, with a wan smile, “you know that I was always very foolish about the sea.”

This allusion, which so vividly recalled the days when she had trusted in him, grated on his feelings like a file, and he winced beneath it. Véronique saw the memory she had evoked, and was sorry she had spoken with so little thought.

“Gor-don!” she said with more of the old look and the old tone than she had ever used towards him since their separation, “your promise has set my heart much at rest. I shall sleep now like a little child. I shall no longer be afraid.”

He took her hand in his, held it for a moment, released it with a heavy sigh, and returned whence he had come, whilst she, forgetful apparently that he had broken the prohibition she had laid upon him, went down to her berth and fell asleep again, with a smile upon her lip at the thought that if danger should arise, Gor-don had promised to be the one to break it to her.

Tired from her short and broken sleep, she slept till late upon the following morning; and when (anxious to learn the result of the accident) she quickly dressed herself and went above, she found the deck swarming with passengers and seamen, who ran from one side of the ship to the other, or talked earnestly together in knots of two or three. And meanwhile the “Samos” was lying as immoveable as she had been the night before, and only gave a slow, heavy roll every now and then, as the waves, with a quiet lulling sound, broke against her sides. And the bright sky above them was scarcely less blue than the deep sapphire-tinted waters upon which they lay.

“Ma soeur,” said David with a long face as soon as Véronique appeared amongst them, “I fear we are in a bad plight!”

“How so, David? Cannot they get the steamer off?”

“Not the least chance of it! She has struck, hard and fast, upon a rock.”

“On a rock?” grasping his arm, “will she not go to pieces, David? what will become of us all?”

“That remains to be proved, ma soeur. But I believe there is no fear of her breaking up for several days to come; therefore, there is no immediate danger.”

“Danger! who talks of danger?” cried the cheery voice of Captain Henry close to them. “I trust, young man, you are not frightening Mademoiselle here, with any idle reports that may have got wind. The only danger we run is of being detained here against our will for a few days.”

“Nevertheless, she’s got the rock right through her bottom,” grumbled a seaman who was busied near them, “and we shall have to work hard night and day at the pumps to keep the water out of the hold—it’s several feet deep there already.”

“But how do you account for the extreme steadiness of the vessel if she has not actually struck?” demanded an inquisitive male passenger of Captain Henry.

“She has struck, sir. I’ve no wish to deny that; but, if you please, I will explain our exact position to you. Did you ever see a piece of bread on a knife? That’s just how the “Samos” has fixed herself upon this rock, the plagues confound it! and that’s just how she’ll stay upon it till some one comes to take us off.”

“And how long will it be first? Not longer than our provisions will last I hope?”

The Captain laughed outright at such a notion.

“Never you fear, sir! we’ve provisions enough on board to keep you for a year, and a little over that. And as for the time of our release, it may be this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next day, and it certainly must be in the course of a week, when the next mail steamer passes this way. Therefore let us try to fancy we are out on a picnic, or any other pleasant jaunt; and make the time go as fast as we can till then,” with which speech and a deceptive smile, Captain Henry walked down stairs to see how matters were getting on in the hold.

“It’s all very well for the Captain to talk like that,” remarked the same passenger to Gordon Romilly, “but what can he have been about to get us into such a scrape? If the captain of the next mail steamer is a whit more careful, which for the sake of his passengers it is to be hoped he will be, he won’t come within hail of us—I understand that we are something like twenty miles out of the track.”

“There must have been gross negligence somewhere,” replied Gordon Romilly gravely, “but it is the fault of the company who take men into their service ignorant of the navigation of these seas, the most treacherous in the world. This is the first voyage Captain Henry has made in this direction, and he ought to have had a pilot with him.”

“If the worst comes to the worst,” urged the first speaker, “are there enough boats to accommodate us all?”

“I am afraid not!” was the answer, and though it was delivered in a lower voice, Véronique who was standing near, heard every word of it, “and we are more than two hundred miles from Hong-Kong. Yet if we are fortunate, and the weather continues calm, I am assured that it will take fourteen or sixteen days to break up the steamer, though every ebb and flow of the tide widens the breach. But as for there being no danger, as the Captain thought fit to observe, that’s all nonsense. A storm, and you know how suddenly they arise in these latitudes, would knock us to pieces in no time; and what chance would there be in such a case, of our boats living in an open sea?”

“God help us,” sighed the other, “we are a numerous company.”

“And so many women and children,” said Gordon Romilly, thinking of his wife, his flaxen-haired baby, and of one other of the ship’s inmates, who was very dear to him.

“Oh! where is the doctor?” exclaimed a woman’s voice in distress, as a fat stewardess, whose cheeks were blanched with fear, and stained with weeping, rushed up from the saloon, and gazing wildly around her, fell upon the individual in question; “oh! dear! sir, do come down quick to the ladies, for I don’t know what on earth to do with them; they’ve heard of the accident, and they’re all in hysterics or faints; and as for the English nurse, Mrs. Lawson, she’s gone downright shrieking mad, and has frightened the poor baby almost into fits; and I’m alone, without a soul to help me, and it’s a great responsibility, and—”

“There! there! that will do,” replied the doctor testily, “it’s always the way with women, when there’s anything to be done that requires a little energy,” and off he went in search of his cordials.

“Could I be of any use to you!” demanded Véronique of the stewardess. “The baby knows me, and I will not add to the confusion, for I am not at all afraid.”

Gordon Romilly turned his grave fond eyes upon her, and regarded her earnestly.

“Lor! my dear, I shall be delighted to have you, come along at once,” exclaimed the fat stewardess. “They’ve almost wore me out with their kicks and screams, and if we are to go to the bottom, why we may as well go together as not.”

“There is no chance of that, I hope,” said Gordon Romilly, as he accompanied the women to the head of the companion stairs, “but,” he added in a low voice, intended only for the ear of Véronique, “if we do go to the bottom, it shall be—together?”

“Vraiment?” she exclaimed in a tone of pleasure, as she stayed her progress for a moment to regard him. Their eyes met.

“Vraiment,” he repeated, “ah! Véronique, you little think—you little know,” and then halted, as though unable to proceed:

“Oui, oui! je comprends! je comprends,” she murmured joyfully, “et Gor-don! après cela la mort n’est plus rien.”

Her tender eyes sought his, the same look of melting love, which she had been used to give him in the days of old, illumined them for an instant, and then she had disappeared down the cabin-stairs, and entered on her field of labour.

A trying field it proved to be. Too-too was soon appeased, and made happy, but to tranquillise his mamma, and his nurse, was a very different matter. Lavvson declared that she felt the ship sinking deeper in the water beneath her, every moment, and Lady Rose, who was not much more strong-minded in emergencies than her servant, imagined with each roll that they were going to the bottom; and their behaviour had proved so infectious, that not one of the lady passengers was mistress of herself.

The Doctor was soon amongst them, scolding them heartily all round, but no persuasion or entreaty operated so forcibly on them, as the example of the little Sister of Mercy, who moved calmly in their midst, neither ridiculing their fears, or attempting to deny their reason, yet proving by her own demeanour, that she neither shared their feelings, nor could appreciate so open an expression of them.

And yet she knew more of the probable or possible danger that might accrue to the vessel and themselves, than any woman on board of her.

*  *  *  *

Four or five days passed, during which time, both passengers and crew tried to make as light as they could of the great fear which loomed nearer to them with every ebb and flow of the tide, and Véronique had become so necessary to the comfort of the ladies in the saloon, that they would hardly let her out of their sight.

When one afternoon, to the intense joy of everybody on board, a sail was reported in the offing, and presently a huge Chinese junk hove in sight, and stood at a short distance from the ill-fated “Samos.” Captain Henry had no hope that she would be able to take them off the wreck, but as she was evidently on her way to Hong-Kong, he directed a boat to be at once lowered, and four of the Chinese lascars, who formed part of the crew of the steamer, to pull off to the junk, and beg the owner to make their condition known to the English authorities at the port for which they were bound, with the request that they would at once send out a vessel to rescue them. The Chinamen were only too pleased to be appointed to the task, and doubtless, could they have obtained berths on board the junk, would never have returned with an answer to the “Samos.” But their reception was different to what they had anticipated.

The amor patriae was doubtless very strong in the breasts of their countrymen, but they loved personal property better, and following therefore the instinct of their noble nature, they confiscated the boat, (thereby much reducing the chances of escape for the passengers of the “Samos,”) and stripping the unfortunate lascars of their scanty clothing, cast them back naked into the sea, to sink or swim, as they thought best, wherefrom three, from the distance between the vessels, were unwillingly compelled to choose the first alternative, and only one returned, half dead with the exertion he had made, to relate the story of his welcome.

The failure of this attempt, and the loss of one boat out of three, (for one had been washed overboard when the steamer struck), made Captain Henry look very grave, but it hatched a plan which had been long incubating in the minds of several of his companions.

“Look here,” they said, “it is possible we may miss seeing the mail steamer altogether, and it is evident that we need not look for aid from any of these native crafts. The weather is now calm, and likely to remain so, but every day increases our chance of having a squall. Let some of us take a boat, the smaller of the two, and make an attempt to reach Hong-Kong, and procure aid. If we succeed, we shall save you all, if we fail, you will not be in a much worse position than before.”

“It is a noble offer, gentlemen,” said Captain Henry, “but it will be a great risk. Two hundred miles in an open boat. Who would undertake it?”

“I will, for one,” exclaimed Gordon Romilly, as he stood forward from amongst the crowd.

You, Captain Romilly, with your wife and child? You must think of them, sir.”

“It is because I do think of them that I am willing to go,” was the decided answer; “whose life should be risked for theirs if it is not mine?”

“And I will go with you,” said the first lieutenant.

“And let me go, Monsieur,” urged David, as he advanced towards Gordon Romilly, “I have a strong arm, and I hope I have a strong heart, and I have not appreciated you, Monsieur, during the term of our acquaintance, and I feel that I should like to share this danger by your side.”

At this address Gordon Romilly turned in surprise, but meeting the frank look of the young native, thrust forth his hand, and grasped the black one warmly.

“So you shall go, David! we will go together, and do our best for the helpless creatures dependent on us. I am glad to have you.”

“And take me, sir! and me, sir! and me!” exclaimed several voices from among the seamen.

“Stay, my men!” replied the Captain, “you cannot all go—two more will be as many as the boat can carry. Let the two men who spoke first be the ones to accompany Captain Romilly and Lieutenant Walker. And now all hands to the boat, and let us see her packed and provisioned before night falls.”

He kept them busily employed, lest idleness should make their courage fail, and before that evening the little craft was stocked with all that could be spared them, and it had been settled that they should start with the dawn.

Lady Rose went into violent hysterics when she heard of the enterprise upon which her husband was bound, although she did not half comprehend the danger which was comprised in it; but Véronique heard the news in silence, though her rapidly beating heart would have deprived her of utterance, even had she wished to speak.

But Gordon Romilly was busy soothing the fears of his wife with many an assurance that he would be certain to bring back help for them, and it was not until just as he was stepping into the boat, that he had an opportunity to speak to Véronique, who, pale and patient, was standing by the gangway, having but just released her clasp of David’s arm.

“If I do not return,” he said, hurriedly, “my boy—Véronique—my boy!—”

“Je le soignerai comme mon propre fils,” she answered.

“And you will pray for me?” he said, with a farewell glance.

“Comme toujours,” she replied, and then he uttered a husky “God bless you,” and swung himself down into the little boat which was waiting to receive him, and the gallant five, followed by the cheers of the passengers and crew of the “Samos,” set off on their daring expedition.

But when the boat was nearly out of sight, and the cheering had died away, and the waving of handkerchiefs was over, they were astonished to find the little Sister of Mercy lying under one of the benches in a dead swoon.

“It’s over exertion,” said the Doctor, as he occupied himself with her recovery, “and no wonder, for what this poor creature has gone through during the last few days is known only to herself, and she’s anything but strong! I doubt if she has twelvemonths of life left in her, take what care of her they may.”

Chapter XII and Last


Ten days were born and died, ten weary anxious days, during which, notwithstanding the Captain’s idle boast, provisions and fresh water had both run very short, and the sea had so gained in the hold that, as the old sailor had prophesied, the pumps were going night and day, and the male passengers were beginning to take their share of the labour, and still the “Samos” remained fast wedged upon the pointed rock, but rolling more and more irregularly with the flow and ebb of every tide, and shewing symptoms, which were evident enough to those skilled in seamanship, that a few more days at the outside would see the struggle ended. Yet they scanned the horizon for coming deliverance in vain, for no trace or sign was to be seen of the return of the boats, on which hung their best hopes of rescue.

Captain Henry was growing impatient; he saw that at any moment their fate might be decided, and he had but that morning given orders for the jolly-boat (their last resource) to be made ready for sea, affirming that if they heard or saw nothing of their absent companions during the next twelve hours, he should start the women and children on their way.

“There is no need for us all to be sacrificed,” he added gravely; “and I, for one, have given up all hope of seeing poor Romilly or Walker again. It was next to impossible their strength should hold out until they reached Hong-Kong.”

Véronique heard his words, and shuddered at them. She too had almost resigned hope of their return; and though she could with the utmost calmness contemplate a violent death for herself, she had no such power when the danger extended to those she loved.

But as she sat by the side of Lady Rose that afternoon, bathing her temples with eau-de-cologne, and trying to soothe her fears, which were almost abject, a glad shout from overhead struck upon her ear, and she sprang to her feet trembling with eager expectation.

“Don’t leave me, Marie!” exclaimed Lady Rose in a fretful voice, as she attempted to lay the lady’s head, which she had been supporting on her bosom, on the cushions of the saloon sofa. “I always feel so frightened when you go away; if anything were to happen whilst you are on deck, I know they would leave us all to drown here like rats in a cage.”

A stranger would have smiled to hear this appeal from a stout buxom young woman of five-and-twenty, to the fragile attenuated little creature who stood by her side. But Véronique did not smile. Her tender care and attention to the wife of Gordon Romilly during those ten days of miserable suspense had been noticed by all on board the “Samos,” and had purged her own spirit of much that, in the face of death she had bitterly realised, had been far too gross and earthly before. She had watched by her, and soothed and caressed her, till Lady Rose had come to forget the difference in their stations, and to think of the Sister of Mercy only as an ally and protector; and now, when her plaintive request was made known, Véronique replied to it much as she would have done to that of an unreasoning child.

“Dear Madame! I will not be more than a minute away—and you must not fancy that anything is going to happen to us in so short a time. But I hear them shouting—hark! can you not hear it also? and I hope—I almost think—that it must be the boats come back again. For what else should they shout? Oh! let me go and ascertain for you?”

She gazed in the wife’s face, expecting to see her spring to her feet also in glad anticipation of her husband’s return. But Lady Rose only sunk further back upon the cushions.

“Very well, Marie, but pray don’t be long; and tell Captain Romilly to come to me at once. I’m sure what I’ve gone through during these last ten days no one would imagine. I feel sometimes as though I should be thankful if the steamer were to go down at once, and let there be an end of it;” and a few tears escaped from her closed eyelids, and rolled slowly down her cheeks.

Véronique looked at her for a moment, and then stooped and kissed them away. It was not the first kiss which had passed between her and Gordon Romilly’s wife.

“You’re a good girl, Marie,” was the acknowledgment she received. “I don’t know what I should have done without you!” and then Véronique caught up little Too-too, who was playing near, and ran on deck with him.

It was true! it was really true. Everybody on board the wreck was crowded together at one end of it, gazing eagerly across the sea, to where the boats were pulling slowly but surely towards them.

Véronique trembled with her exceeding happiness, and her eyes were so dim that she could not see; her mind was filled with but one idea, that he was safe; and she did not even start to hear the captain, after a careful survey with his glass, exclaim—

“Yes! ’tis them, sure enough; but they don’t seem to be coming back much richer than they went. One native prahu; what is that amongst so many? Well, well, ’tis the will of God, and we must manage the best way we can.”

In a few minutes more the boats were alongside, and the adventurers on deck—their number undiminished, though their appearance was sadly changed.

Captain Henry rushed forward, and grasped the hand of his lieutenant, and for a little while nothing went on but handshaking and attempted congratulations, which mostly died away in nothing; until Too-too recognised his father with a glad shout, and Gordon Romilly seized the child in his arms, and buried his face in its little fair dimpled neck. Then Véronique, notwithstanding that David was claiming her attention and receiving her thanks, had leisure to scrutinise his appearance, and it made her heart ache to observe how thin and sunburnt he had become, and how the exposure and privation of ten days seemed to have changed him from a young man to an old one.

“Captain Romilly!” exclaimed Captain Henry as he advanced to where the father and the little child still stood locked together, “it is impossible that we should express the gratitude we feel towards you and these other gentlemen, and these two brave fellows here, for the effort you have made in our behalf. It was a gallant action, in the performance of which I fear you must have suffered much, but which—”

“Pray say no more!” replied Gordon Romilly; “if we could not make a struggle for our own lives, and the lives of those dearer to us than ourselves,”—here he pressed the infant closer to him, but his gaze was directed to the drooping form of Véronique—“we should not be worthy the name of men. I only wish we had been more successful!”

“Tell us briefly what has happened to you.”

“We went on gloriously for three days after we had left the ‘Samos;’ there was hardly a ripple on the water; and except for the anxiety we felt for those we had left behind, we might have imagined ourselves on a pleasure trip. But then we met one of those huge tidal waves—what do you call them, Walker?”

“Bores!” said the Lieutenant. “We were keeping as close to the coast as we could, for fear of accidents, when we encountered a ‘bore.’ and you may imagine, Captain, what happened to us then. Our boat was tossed over and over—provisions, clothing, everything, including the compass, washed away; and the only thing left for us to do was to take our seats athwart the overturned boat till help came to us.”

“And how were you rescued?”

“By some natives, coasting, as they always do, with wood. David, being most fortunately able to speak their lingo, made them understand that it would be worth their while to be humane, so they picked us up, together with the boat, and carried us as far as the next native settlement, where we landed; and, knowing it would be useless to attempt to reach Hong-Kong without a compass, purchased the prahu, the only one they had, laid in a fresh stock of provisions, and returned whence we came. And I assure you,” concluded the Lieutenant, with a laugh (for men often laugh loudest when they are most anxious), “it’s by a mere chance you see us here, for all we could do was to row straight back in the direction we had come. When Romilly said he saw the wreck this morning, I could hardly believe it was the truth.”

Then they all commenced to pour fresh thanks upon their preservers, from which Gordon Romilly seemed anxious to escape.

“My wife is well?” he said interrogatively to Captain Henry.

“Yes, she is, sir!” was the reply, “and I think I may add, thanks to this young lady,” pointing to Véronique, “who has been a true Sister of Mercy amongst us, strengthening the courage of the weak, and doubling that of the strong. She has attended Lady Rose by day and night, sir, and I’ll venture to say has earned your gratitude by it.”

At this tribute the head of Véronique drooped lower and lower, and she dared not trust herself even to make a remonstrance at the general murmur of acquiescence by which it was concluded.

Gordon Romilly did not attempt to thank her, but he took her hand, and pressed it, before, with his child still clinging round his neck, he passed down the companion-stairs in search of his wife.

“Oh! Véronique! what a man he is!” exclaimed David, as soon as he was fairly out of sight, “how little we know of one another; I take shame to myself to think how often I have spoken against him, and called him vain, and frivolous, and pleasure seeking. He is none of all these; he is one of the noblest creatures that God ever made!”

“You are speaking of Captain Romilly,” she said, her eyes lighting up at the sound of his praises, “Ah, he may have been all you thought him, David, but I was always sure that, when necessity called for it, he would prove himself of better stuff—tell me of him—what has he done?”

“Everything that a generous-hearted, self-denying gentleman could do,” replied the native, enthusiastically. “He denied himself in every way for the sake of us, and of those men; he wouldn’t allow our courage to flag for a moment, and when we were all hanging on the boat together, and expecting death to overtake us every instant, his calmness was an example to us all. Oh, ma soeur! I wish you could have seen him—you never would have forgotten it, but he bears on his face the signs of what he has gone through for us—God bless him!”

“I am so glad—I am so very glad!” she said in a quiet voice, whilst the tears coursed each other down her cheeks for joy.

“Now, Mr. David!” exclaimed the Captain, (for David was the only name by which the native was ever known), “we have no time for idling. The jolly-boat is ready for launching, and we must pack these things into the prahu as quick as we can. I must see those three boats start before this evening, or I shan’t sleep with a quiet conscience.”

“But Captain!” said Véronique, laying a timid hand upon his arm, “is it possible that we can all get into those three boats?”

She had walked a few paces from where David sat, and they were alone.

“Well, my dear, the jolly-boat holds forty, and the prahu will take another twenty, and the little gig five or six.”

“And there are eighty of us,” she said.

The Captain coughed.

“Well, yes! but we must manage somehow, and we’ll look after you, child, don’t be afraid—if any one deserves to be taken off this wreck, it’s yourself; you’ve often reminded me, with your sweet, quiet ways, of my own dear girl at home—at home!” and there he halted, as though rather overcome by the allusion. “Well, God reward you, my dear, wherever you are—and there’ll be a place for you in the boats, never fear.”

“I wasn’t thinking of myself,” she answered, quietly.

In another hour everything was ready, the three boats were gently rocking alongside, stocked with all the necessaries that the steamer could afford them, and waiting for their loads, and the passengers, with sundry small bundles in their hands, were assembled on the quarter-deck, silent and anxious.

“Now, gentlemen!” exclaimed the Captain, cheerfully, “we must do all things In order. First, put the women and children in the jolly-boat, with all their comforts about them, and see that they have plenty of protection against heat and rain. Ah! Lady Rose! I’m glad to see you up on deck, and I hope that you will soon find yourself on shore, with an end put to all your troubles. The boy looks well, Captain Romilly, doesn’t he? we didn’t starve him whilst you were away. Not at this end, you lubber! stow all the baggage forward, and leave the best seats for the women. Now, Sir! will you be so good as to hand Lady Rose, and the nurse and child into the jolly-boat, and I’ll look after the other ladies!”

“Oh! but where’s Marie? I can’t go without Marie, and she’s got my warm shawl, too!” exclaimed Lady Rose, in a pathetic voice.

“I am here, Madame, close to you,” replied Véronique, and Gordon Romilly impatiently twitched the shawl which she was carrying for his wife, out of her hand, and insisted upon taking it himself.

“Now, my men, look sharp—all the rest of the passengers into the prahu. and the lot men into that and the gig. Don’t overload the boats—there’s no chance for an overladen boat in a squall. No, Walker! not another word—I insist upon your going; think of your mother and sisters.”

“Captain! you must either come as well, or I shall stop with you!”

“Nonsense, lad! I stay by the ship till there isn’t a plank left of her, it’s my duty—think of the poor fellows who have made no mistake, yet suffer with me—and don’t go against me in this; I promised your mother to look after you:” and with a gentle yet forcible action he pushed the young man upon the gangway ladder.

The boats were now all ready, and the Captain, with about a dozen seamen, stood at the ship’s side, waiting to see them start.

“God speed you!” he said, in farewell, “you will send us back help, if you can; and if you can’t, there’s help above for all of us!”

“Amen!” ejaculated one of the doomed seamen by his side.

“Captain! can you spare us more rope?” shouted a voice from the jolly-boat.

“I’ll go and fetch it,” he replied, and walked in the direction of the hold.

But at this moment a cry was heard, and a great noise of scuffling feet, and the fat stewardess, whom nobody had missed, struggled panting up the companion-stairs, with a huge bundle in her hands.

“Lor! ye’re never off!” she exclaimed, “I thought you’d be an hour or more getting things ready. Ain’t it lucky I catch’d you? Here, Jack! take my bundle, and help me in for mercy’s sake!” and she commenced to descend the gangway.

“It’s of no use!” said the man at the stern of the jolly-boat, “you’re too late, missus—we’re all as full as we can hold already.”

“Surely there is room for one more!” said Gordon Romilly.

“No, sir, there ain’t,” replied the sailor, who was one of the two who had accompanied him on his expedition in search of help, “Nothing is so dangerous as an overstocked boat, and we’re fuller than we ought to be at the present.”

“But there is room for this woman,” said Gordon Romilly, quietly, as he stepped out of the boat on to the gangway, and amidst a profusion of thanks, handed the fat stewardess into his own place.

“You wouldn’t never, sir!” said the seaman, expostulatingly.

“Hush!” was the low reply, “what—for a woman—it would be cowardly to leave her behind.”

“But, sir, think of what you’ve gone through, and your lady wanting you, and all—it’s too great a sacrifice!”

“My man, you must let me judge for myself—only if you would do me a favour, don’t let her know till you get to land—say I’m in one of the other boats!” and with that he quickly disappeared up the gangway ladder.

Véronique felt as though she were turned to stone. With ears made sharp by love, she had taken in every word of the conversation between the seaman and Gordon Romilly, and she guessed the drift of it—that he was about to sacrifice himself—to stay behind, and meet a cruel death upon the wreck for the sake of a fellow-creature. Should he die alone?

With the rapidity of thought, and the energy of love, she had leapt to her feet, and was stumbling after him.

“Now, young woman!” exclaimed the seaman in the stern, “where are you off to? we shall start in a minute.”

“Only to fetch something!” she murmured, hurriedly, and was gone before the other occupants of the boat had observed she was in motion.

At the last all was hurry and confusion, as was but natural under circumstances of so trying a character. The Captain came back and threw the rope to them, bidding them start at once, and God speed, and then turned away to hide the emotion which he could not help feeling, but was too proud to let them see.

Amidst tears from both men and women, and a dismal attempt at a cheer from the poor creatures left upon their living grave, the three boats got under weigh, and were soon as specks upon the distant ocean.

“God help and protect them!” prayed Captain Henry, as he watched their progress.

“Amen! amen!” said a deep voice near him.

“Captain Romilly, what you here?”

“Yes, Captain! there was not room for all, and it was to save a woman: we can but die once.”

“That is what I am trying to realise for myself, but it is hard—hard. I am not a young man. I have a wife—poor wife—and children, all dependent on me—and—and—you will forgive this weakness, sir: I trust God does!” and Captain Henry buried his face upon his outstretched arms.

“How long will she last?” inquired Gordon Romilly, when his emotion had subsided.

“Not twelve hours—if that. I thought it would have been longer, this morning, but the wind is rising fast—nothing to signify for the boats, sir, I daresay,” observing Romilly’s startled air, “but it will be the end of us.”

“Well! since it is to come, the sooner the better.”

“Perhaps so! perhaps so! but you will excuse my leaving you! I feel that I should like to spend these last hours alone in my cabin with my own thoughts and heaven.”

To this decision, Gordon Romilly could make no objection, and walking away by himself, he took a seat at the further end of the steamer.

“Yes, it is quite certain that we must all die alone!” he thought as he did so, “even were we on our beds and surrounded by faces we love, we should scarcely be less alone than in an hour like this!” and then he looked out across the line of sea where the boats had last been seen, and thought of the precious freight they were conveying. He thought of Lady Rose, and wondered whether she would mourn much when she found that he was gone: and he thought of Too-too, and of the hopes he had once entertained of seeing him grow up to be a good and great man: but he thought most of all of Véronique, his poor, little, deserted wife, whose pale, sad face seemed engraven on his memory.

“God forgive me!” he groaned, “a death like this, cheerless and alone, is but a fit recompence for such a life as mine has been.”

But even as he thought thus, the touch of a cold hand was laid on his, and turning he saw the woman whom he thought of, in her sombre dress and close cropped hair, standing smilingly beside him. He could not have started more violently had she been a visitant from the dead.

“Véronique!” he exclaimed, rising suddenly to his feet and grasping her by the arm, “Véronique! Véronique! why are you here? by what mistake have you been left behind? Did I not place you in the boat myself? Oh, my God! by what carelessness of mine has this fatal error been committed?”

“By none, Gor-don,” she answered, with the same tender smile upon her countenance, “I remained here of my own accord! Did you not promise me that if we went to the bottom it should be together? Did you think my love so feeble that I would let you die alone?”

“For me!” he said, staggering backwards, “for me! have you really sacrificed yourself for me? Oh, Véronique, my love! my darling!” He opened his arms wide as he spoke, and she flew into them, joyous as though it had been the embrace of life instead of death.

*  *  *  *

“And now, let us talk no more of such unhappy subjects,” said Véronique, as, after an hour’s discourse, she nestled down upon the deck beside his knee, and laid her worn cheek on his hand, “That is all past and gone, Gor-don, I have forgiven it, the good God has forgiven it. Let us blot it from our memories during these last precious hours.”

They were quite alone, for the Captain had locked himself into his cabin, and the poor sailors, as such men will, were busy searching for liquor to stifle the sensation of fear to which they were so unaccustomed.

“Do you remember,” Véronique continued, in her caressing voice, “how frightened I used to be of the sea? so frightened, that I used to scold myself for giving way to foolish fancies, and yet, perhaps, it was but an instinct of my coming death. Yet when I went to seek thee, Gor-don, I knew no fear, and now, thy presence takes it all away for me! You have not quite forgotten those happy days upon the Nilgiri Hills,” she rambled on: whilst he, listening to her girlish talk and remembering the doom fast coming on her, could hardly answer for his pain, “those first few happy days when we were married?”’

“I have never forgotten them, my darling.”

“When we used to take long walks together, and lose ourselves upon the boundless hills, and you said you would like to live for ever gypsying with me, and we used to gather flowers, and oh, Gor-don! that fearful day when the cheetah stood across our path and snarled at us?”

“I remember my brave girl’s conduct on that occasion, and how she flung herself between me and danger, Véronique.”

“How could I do otherwise?” she sighed, “thou wert my life!”

And so they talked on, not passionately, but fondly and very much at peace, with hands fast locked together, until the evening shadows fell: the last evening which they should spend on earth.

“Could you sleep, my darling?” said Gordon Romilly as he wrapped a warm rug about her fragile figure.

“Yes! if thou art with me and wilt hold my hand,” she answered quickly, and when he assured her that he would, she proved her words by falling into a childlike slumber, whilst he sat by her side supporting her head upon his knee, and watching the moonbeams as they played upon her pure and placid features.

But just at midnight, the “Samos,” which had been rolling more violently than usual during the last few hours, first giving a convulsive heave, as though she were attempting to lift herself off the rock on which she was embedded, sunk down with a groan and a shiver in her old place again, and Gordon Romilly knew by the gurgling sound which immediately followed, that their time was come, and she was filling fast.

“Véronique,” he cried, “my love—my wife—awake.”

She started up, and meeting his eyes, comprehended in a moment what had happened; but all consciousness of fear was lost in the joy which irradiated her countenance at the name by which he had called her.

“Ta femme!” she exclaimed as she cast her arms about him, “ta femme! oh! Gordon! répètes-le encore une fois.”

“Yes! yes! my wife! my only wife!” he answered straining her to his bosom, and as he did so, and heard her gently murmur—

“Seigneur! souviens-toi de nous, quand tu viendras en ton règne,” the cold waters ran smoothly over the deck on which they were seated.

*  *  *  *

The three boats reached Hong-Kong in safety, and then Lieutenant Walker, eager to go to the rescue of his captain and the other ill-fated creatures who had remained upon the wreck of the “Samos,” procured the efficient aid of a government steamer, and proceeded at once to the spot where they had left them.

“Is that there the rock, sir?” enquired a seaman who was on the look out for it, as he pointed to a shapeless black stump which appeared above the level of the sea.

“That? oh! no, it cannot be!” exclaimed Lieutenant Walker; “besides, where is the ‘Samos?’”

But on a reference to chart and compass, it was proved unmistakably to be the same.

Where was the “Samos?”

The blue waves, calm, and clear as crystal, were lapping the sides of the ugly misshapen thing, as though they were enamoured of its deeds; the heavenly sky, lighted up with a brilliancy unknown in our northern latitudes, was smiling down on it as if to say “well done;” the seabirds were hovering about its pinnacle and wheeling round it with hoarse screeches of delight; but there was neither sign nor token of what had been there—not a plank, nor a rope, nor a spar—to remind one that he stood above the “Samos’” grave.

“This is the rock, sure enough,” repeated the same seaman, “but as for the poor creatures as we came out for to rescue—all I says is, the Lord have mercy on their souls.”

Lieutenant Walker stood looking at the spot for a few minutes in complete silence, and then he turned quickly away, and sought the refuge of his cabin.

The End