It is obvious that on her countenance, besides the stamp of exceeding beauty, there must appear sorrow, self-reproach, fortitude, majesty, and undying tenderness. All these the painter thought he read in Nina Algernon's girlish face.
So she sat to him dutifully enough for a model of his fairy queen, and if she wearied at times, as I think she must, comforted herself with the remembrance that in this way she helped the family who gave her bread.
For the convenience of sitters, Simon Perkins had his painting-room in Berners Street: thither it was his custom to resort in the morning, by penny steamer or threepenny omnibus, and there he spent many happy hours working hard with palette and brush. Not the least golden seemed those in which Nina accompanied him to sit patiently while he studied, and drew her, line by line, feature by feature. The expeditions to and fro were delightful, the labour was pleasure, the day was gone far too soon.
A morning could not but be fine, when, emerging from an omnibus at Albert Gate, Simon walked by the side of his model through Hyde Park on their way to Berners Street; but about this period one morning seemed even finer than common, because that Nina, taking his arm as they crossed Rotten Row, thought fit to confide to him an interview of the day before with Aunt Jemima, in which she extorted from that dear old lady with some difficulty the fact of her own friendless position in the world.
"And I don't mind it a bit," continued the girl, catching her voice like a child, as was her habit when excited, "for I'm sure you're all so kind to me that I'd much rather not have any other friends. And I don't want to be independent, and I'll never leave you, so long as you'll keep me. And O, Simon, isn't it good of your aunts, and you too, to have taken care of me ever since I was quite a little thing? For I'm no relation, you know—and how can I ever do enough for you? I can't. It's impossible. And you don't want me to, if I could!"
Notwithstanding the playful manner which was part of Nina's self, there were tears of real feeling in her eyes, and I doubt if Simon's were quite dry while he answered—
"You belong to us just as much as if you were a relation, Nina. My aunts have said so ever since I can remember, and as for me, why you used to ride on my foot when you were in short frocks! What a little romp it was! Always troublesome, and always will be—and that's why we're so fond of you." He spoke lightly, but his voice shook nevertheless.
"So you ought to be," she answered. "For you know how much I love you all."
"What, even stern Aunt Jemima?" said this blundering young man, clumsily beating about the bush, and thus scaring the bird quite as much as if he had thrust his hand boldly into the nest.
"Aunt Jemima best of all," replied Nina saucily, "because she's the eldest, and tries to keep me in order, but she can't."
"And which of us next best, Nina?" continued he, turning away with extraordinary interest in a mowing-machine.
"Aunt Susannah, of course." This very demurely, while tightening her pretty lips to keep back a laugh.
"Then I come last," he observed gently; but there was something in the tone that made her glance sharply in his face.
She pressed his arm. "You dear old simple Simon," said she kindly. "Surely you must know me by this time. I love you very dearly, just as if you were my brother. Brother, indeed! I don't think if I'd a father I could be much fonder of him than I am of you."
What a bright morning it had been five minutes ago, and now the sky seemed clouded all at once. Simon even thought the statue of Achilles looked more grim and ghostly than usual, lowering there in his naked bronze.
She had wounded him very deeply, that pretty unconscious archer. These random shafts for which no interposing shield makes ready are sure to find the joints in our harness. A tough hard nature such as constitutes the true fighter only presses more doggedly to the front, but gentler spirits are fain to turn aside out of the battle, and go home to die. There came a dimness before Simon's eyes, and a ringing in his ears. He scarcely heard his companion, while she asked—
"Who are those men bowing? Do you know them? They must take me for somebody else."
"Those men bowing" were two no less important characters than Lord Bearwarden and Tom Ryfe, the latter in the act of selling the former a horse. Such transactions, for some mysterious reason, always take place in the morning, and whatever arguments may be adduced against a too enthusiastic worship of the noble animal, at least it promotes early rising.
Tom Ryfe was one of those men rarely seen in the saddle or on the box, but who, nevertheless, always seem to have a horse to dispose of, whatever be the kind required. Hack, hunter, pony, phaeton-horse, he was either possessor of the very animal you wanted, or could suit you with it at twenty-four hours' notice; yet if you met him by accident riding in the Park, he was sure to tell you he had been mounted by a friend; if you saw him driving a team—and few could handle four horses in a crowded thoroughfare with more neatness and precision—you might safely wager it was from the box of another man's coach.
He was supposed to be a very fine rider over a country, and there were vague traditions of his having gone exceedingly well through great runs on special occasions; but these exploits had obviously lost nothing of their interest in the process of narration, and were indeed enhanced by that obscurity which increases the magnitude of most things, in the moral as in the material world.
Mr. Ryfe knew all the sporting men about London, but not their wives. He was at home on the Downs and the Heath, in the pavilion at Lord's, and behind the traps of the Red House. He dined pretty frequently at the barracks of the household troops, welcome to the genial spirits of his entertainers, chiefly for those qualities with which they themselves credited him; and he called Bearwarden "My lord," wherefore that nobleman thought him a snob, and would perhaps have considered him a still greater if he had not. The horse in question showed good points and fine action. Mr. Ryfe walked, trotted, cantered, and finally reined him up at the rails on which Lord Bearwarden was leaning.
"Rather a flat-catcher, Tom," said that nobleman, between the whiffs of a cigar. "Too much action for a hunter, and too little body. He wouldn't carry my weight if the ground was deep, though he's not a bad goer, I'll admit."
"Exactly what I said at first, my lord," answered Tom, slipping the reins through his fingers, and letting the horse reach over the iron bar against his chest to crop the tufts of grass beneath, an attitude in which his fine shoulders and liberty of frame showed to great advantage. "I never thought he was a fourteen-stone horse, and I never told you so."
"And I never told you I rode fourteen stone, did I?" replied Lord Bearwarden, who was a little touchy on that score. "Thirteen five at the outside, and not so much as that after deer-stalking in Scotland. He's clean thoroughbred, isn't he?"
The purchaser was biting, and Tom understood his business as if he had been brought up to it.
"Clean," he answered, passing his leg over the horse's neck, and sliding to the ground, thus leaving his saddle empty for the other. "But he's thrown away on a heavy man. His place is carrying thirteen stone over high Leicestershire. Nothing could touch him there amongst the hills. Jumping's a vulgar accomplishment. Plenty of them can jump if one dare ride them, but he's really an extraordinary fencer. Such a mouth, too, and such a gentleman! Why he's the pleasantest hack in London. You like a nice hack, my lord. Get up and feel him. It's like riding a bird."
So Lord Bearwarden jumped on, and altered the stirrups, and crammed his hat down, ere he rode the horse to and fro, trying him in all his paces, and probably falling in love with him forthwith, for he returned with a brightened eye and higher colour to Tom Ryfe on the footway.
It was at this juncture both gentlemen started and took their hats off to the lady who walked some fifty paces off, arm-in-arm with Simon Perkins, the painter.
Their salute was not returned. The lady, indeed, to whom it was addressed seemed to hurry on all the faster with her companion. It was remarkable, and both remarked it, that neither made any observation on this lack of courtesy, but finished their bargain without apparently half so much interest in sale or purchase as they felt five minutes ago.
"You'll dine with us, Tom, on the 11th?" said Bearwarden, when they parted opposite Knightsbridge Barracks, but he was obviously thinking of something else.
"On the 11th," repeated Tom—"delighted, my lord—at eight o'clock, I suppose," and turned his horse's head soberly towards Piccadilly, proceeding at a walk, as one who revolved certain reflections, not of the most agreeable, in his mind. A dinner at the barracks was usually rather an event with Mr. Ryfe, but on the present occasion he forgot all about it before he had gone a hundred yards.
Lord Bearwarden, rejecting the temptation of luncheon in the mess-room, ran up-stairs to his own quarters to think—of course he smoked at the same time.
This nobleman was one of the many of his kind who, to their credit be it said, are not spoiled by sailing down the stream with the wind in their favour. He had been "a good fellow" at Eton, he remained "a good fellow" in the regiment. With general society he was not perhaps quite so popular. People said he "required knowing"; and for those who didn't choose to take the trouble of knowing him he was a little reserved; with men, even a little rough. His manner was of the world, worldly, and gave the idea of complete heartlessness and savoir faire; yet under this seemingly impervious covering lurked a womanly romance of temperament, a womanly tenderness of heart, than which nothing would have made him so angry as to be accused of possessing. His habits were manly and simple, his chief ambition was to distinguish himself as a soldier, and so far as he could find opportunity he had seen service with credit on the staff. A keen sportsman, he could ride and shoot as well as his neighbours, and this is saying no little amongst the young officers of the Household Brigade.
Anything but a "ladies' man," there was yet something about Bearwarden, irrespective of his income and his coronet, that seemed to interest women of all temperaments and characters. They would turn away from far handsomer, better dressed, and more amusing people to attract his notice when he entered a room, and the more enterprising would even make fierce love to him on further acquaintance, particularly after they discovered what up-hill work it was. Do they appreciate a difficulty the greater trouble it requires to surmount, or do they enjoy a scrape the more, that they have to squeeze themselves into it by main force? I wonder if the sea-nymphs love their Tritons because those zoophytes must necessarily be so cold! It is doubtless against the hard impenetrable rock that the sea-waves dash themselves again and again. Bearwarden responded but faintly to the boldest advances. There must be a reason for it, said the fair assailants. Curiosity grew into interest, and, flavoured with a dash of pique, formed one of those messes with which, in stimulating their vanity, women fancy they satisfy their hunger of the heart.
Bearwarden was a man with a history; of this they were quite sure, and herein they were less mistaken than people generally find themselves who jump to conclusions. Yes, Bearwarden had a history, and a sad one, so far as the principal actor was concerned. Indeed he dared not think much about it even yet, and drove it—for he was no weak, silly sentimentalist—by sheer force of will out of his mind. Indeed, if it had not wholly changed his real self, it had encrusted him with that hardness and roughness of exterior which he turned instinctively to the world. The same thing had happened to him that happens to most of us at one time or another. Just as the hunting man, sooner or later, is pretty sure to be laid up with a broken collar-bone, so in the career of life must be encountered that inevitable disaster which results in a wounded spirit and a sore heart. The collar-bone, we all know, is a six weeks' job; but injuries of a tenderer nature take far longer to heal. Nevertheless, the cure of these, too, is but a question of time, though, to carry on the metaphor, I think in either case the hapless rider loses some of the zest and dash which distinguished his earlier performances, previous to discomfiture. "Only a woman's hair," wrote Dean Swift on a certain packet hidden away in his desk. And thus a very dark page in Lord Bearwarden's history might have been headed "Only a woman's falsehood." Not much to make a fuss about, surely; but he was kind, generous, of a peculiarly trustful disposition, and it punished him very sharply, though he tried hard to bear his sorrow like a man. It was the usual business. He had attached himself to a lady of somewhat lower social standing than his own, of rather questionable antecedents, and whom the world accepted to a certain extent on sufferance, as it were, and under protest, yet welcomed her cordially enough, nevertheless. His relations abused her, his friends warned him against her; of course he loved her very dearly, all the more that he had to sacrifice many interests for her sake, and so resolved to make her his wife.
For reasons of her own she stipulated that he should leave his regiment, and even in this, though he would rather have lost an arm, he yielded to her wish.
The letter to his colonel, in which he requested permission to send in his papers, actually lay sealed on the table, when he received a note in a well-known hand that taught him the new lesson he had never expected to learn. The writer besought his forgiveness, deploring her own heartlessness the while, and proceeded to inform him that there was a Somebody else in the field to whom she was solemnly promised (just as she had been to him), and with whom she was about to unite her Lot—capital L. She never could be happy, of course, but it was her destiny: to fight against it was useless, and she trusted Lord B. would forget her, etc., etc. All this in well-chosen language, and written with an exceedingly good pen.
It was lucky his letter to the colonel had not been sent. In such sorrows as these a soldier learns how his regiment is his real home, how his comrades are the staunchest, the least obtrusive, and the sincerest of friends.
Patting his charger's neck at the very next field-day, Bearwarden told himself there was much to live for still; that it would be unsoldierlike, unmanly, childish, to neglect duty, to wince from pleasure, to turn his back on all the world had to offer, only because a woman followed her nature and changed her mind.
So he bore it very well, and those who knew him best wondered he cared so little: and all the while he never heard a strain of music, nor felt a ray of sunshine, nor looked on beauty of any kind whatever, without that gnawing cruel pain at his heart. Thus the years passed on, and the women of his family declared that Bearwarden was a confirmed old bachelor.
When he met Miss Bruce at Lady Goldthred's, no doubt he admired her beauty and approved of her manner, but it was neither beauty nor manner, nor could he have explained what it was, that caused the pulses within him to stir, as they stirred long ago—that brought back a certain flavour of the old draught he had quaffed so eagerly, to find it so bitter at the dregs. Another meeting with Maud, a dance or two, a whisper on a crowded staircase, and Lord Bearwarden told himself that the deep wound had healed at last; that the grass was growing fresh and fair over the grave of a dead love; that for him too, as for others, there might still be an interest in the chances of the great game.
Surely the blind restored to sight is more grateful, more joyous, more triumphant, than he who, born in darkness, finds himself overwhelmed and dazzled with the glare of his new gift!
Some men are so strangely constituted that they like a woman all the better for "snubbing" them. Lord Bearwarden had never felt so grave an interest in Miss Bruce as when he entered the barracks under the impression she had cut him dead, without the slightest pretext or excuse.
Not so Tom Ryfe. In that gentleman's mind mingled the several disagreeable sensations of surprise, anger, jealousy, and disgust. Of these he chewed the bitter cud while he rode home, wondering with whom Miss Bruce could thus dare to parade herself in public, maddened at the open rebellion inferred by so ignoring his presence and his love, vowing to revenge himself without delay by tightening the curb and making her feel, to her cost, the hold he possessed over her person and her actions. By the time he reached his uncle's house, he had made up his mind to demand an explanation, to come to a final understanding, to assert his authority, and to avenge his pride. He turned pale to see Maud's monogram on the envelope of a letter that had arrived during his absence; paler still, when from this letter a thin slip of stamped paper fluttered to the floor—white to the very lips while he read the sharp, decisive, cruel lines that accounted for its presence in the missive, and that bade him relinquish at a word all the hope and happiness of his life. Without unbuttoning his coat, without removing the hat from his head, or the gloves from his hands, he sat fiercely down, and wrote his answer.
"You think to get rid of me, Miss Bruce, as you would get rid of an unsuitable servant, by giving him his wages and bidding him to go about his business. You imagine that the debt between us is such as a sum of money can at once wipe out: that because you have been able to raise this money (and how you did so I think I have a right to ask) our business connection ceases, and the lover, inconvenient, no doubt, from his priority of claim, must go to the wall directly the lawyer has been paid his bill. You never were more mistaken in your life. Have you forgotten a certain promise I hold of yours, written in your own hand, signed with your own signature, furnished, as itself attests, of your own free will? and do you think I am a likely man to forego such an advantage? You might have had me for a friend—how dear a friend I cannot bear to tell you now. If you persist in making me an enemy, you have but yourself to blame. I am not given to threaten; and you know that I can generally fulfil what I promise. I give you fair warning then: so surely as you try, in the faintest item, to elude your bargain, so surely will I cross your path, and spoil your game, and show you up before the world. Mine you are, and mine you shall be. If of free will, happily; if not, then to your misery and my own. But, mark me, always mine!"
"The wisest clerks are not the wisest men." It is a bad plan ever to drive a woman into a corner; and with all his knowledge of law, I think Mr. Ryfe could hardly have written a more ill-advised and injudicious letter than the above to Miss Bruce.
IN THE SCALES
It was a declaration of war. Of all women in the world—and this is saying a great deal—Maud was perhaps the least disposed to accept anything like usurpation, or assumption of undue authority, especially on the part of one in whose character she had detected an element of weakness. Tom Ryfe, notwithstanding his capabilities, was a fool, like most others, where his feelings were touched, and proved it by the injudicious means he used to attain the end he so desired.
Locked in her own room, she read his letter over and over again, with a bitter curl of her lip, that denoted hatred, scorn, even contempt. When a man has been unfortunate enough to excite the last of these amiable feelings, he should lose no time in decamping, for the game is wholly and irretrievably lost. Mr. Ryfe would have felt this, could he have seen the gestures of the woman he loved, while she tore his letter into shreds—could he have marked the carriage of her haughty head, the compression of her sweet, resolute lips, the fierce energy of her white, cruel hands. Maud paced the floor for some half-dozen turns, opened the window, arranged the bottles on her toilet-table, the flowers on her chimney-piece, even took a good long look at herself in the glass, and sat down to think.
For weeks she had been revolving in her mind the necessity of breaking with Tom Ryfe, the policy of securing position and freedom by an early marriage. That odious letter decided her; and now it only remained to make her choice. There are women—and these, though sometimes the most fascinating, by no means the most trustworthy of their sex—who possess over mankind a mesmeric influence, almost akin to witchcraft. Without themselves feeling deeply, perhaps for the very reason that they do not, they are capable of exercising a magic sway over those with whom they come in contact; and while they attract more admirers than they know what to do with, are seldom very fortunate in their selection, or happy in their eventual lot. Miss Bruce was one of these witches, far more mischievous than the old conventional hags we used to burn under the sapient government of our first Stuart, and she knew a deal better than any old woman who ever mounted a broom-stick the credulity of her victims, the dangerous power of her spells. These she had lately been using freely. It was time to turn their exercise to good account.
"Mr. Stanmore would, in a moment," thought Maud, "if I only gave him the slightest hint. And I like him. Yes, I like him very much indeed. Poor Dick! What a fool one can make a man look, to be sure, when he's in love, as people call it! Aunt Agatha wouldn't much fancy it, I suppose; not that I should care two pins about that. And Dick's very easy to manage—too easy, I think. He seems as if I couldn't make him angry. I made him sorry, though, the other day, poor fellow! but that's not half such fun. Now Lord Bearwarden has got a temper, I'm sure. I wonder, if we were to quarrel, which would give in first. I don't think I should. I declare it would be rather nice to try. He's good-looking—that's to say, good-looking for a man. It's an ugly animal at best. And they tell me the Den is such a pretty place in the autumn! And twenty thousand a year! I don't care so much about the money part of it. Of course one must have money; but Selina St. Croix assured me that they called him The Impenetrable; and there wasn't a girl in London he ever danced with twice. Wasn't there? He danced with me three times in two hours; but I didn't say so. I suppose people would open their eyes. I've a great mind—a very great mind. But then, there's Dick. He'd be horribly bored, poor fellow! And the worst of it is, he wouldn't say anything; but I know exactly how he'd look, and I should feel I was a least! What a bother it all is! But something must be done. I can't go on with this sort of life; I can't stand Aunt Agatha much longer. There she goes, calling on the stairs again! Why can't she send my maid up, if she wants me?"
But Miss Bruce ran down willingly enough when her aunt informed her, from the first floor, that she must make haste, and Dick was in the large drawing-room.
She found mother and son, as they called themselves, buried in a litter of cards, envelopes, papers of every description referring to "Peerage," "Court Guide," visiting-list—all such aids to memory—the charts, as it were, of that voyage which begins in the middle of April, and ends with the last week in July. As usual on great undertakings, from the opening of a campaign to the issuing of invitations for a ball, too much had been left to the last moment; there was a great deal to do, and little time to do it.
"We can't get on without you, Miss Bruce," said Dick, with rising colour and averted eyes, that denoted how much less efficient an auxiliary he would prove since she had come into the room. "My mother has mislaid the old visiting-list, and the new one only goes down to T: so that the U's, and the V's, and W's will be all left out. Think how we shall be hated in London next week! To be sure it's what my mother calls 'small and early' like young potatoes, and I hear there are three hundred cards sent out already."
"You'll only hinder us, Mr. Stanmore," said Maud. "Hadn't you better go away again?" but observing Dick's face fall, the smiling eyes added, plainly as words could speak, "if you can!" She looked pale though, and unhappy, he thought. Of course he felt fonder of her than ever.
"Hinder you!" he repeated. "Why, I'm the mainstay of the whole performance. Don't I bring you eight-and-twenty dancing men? all at once if you wish it, in a body, like soldiers."
"Nonsense, my dear," interrupted Aunt Agatha. "The staircase will be crowded enough as it is."
"But are they real dancing men?" she asked, "not 'dummies,' 'duffers,'—what do you call them? people who only stand against the wall and look idiotic. They're no use unless they work regularly through, as if it was a match or a boat-race. I don't call it dancing to hover about, and be always wanting to go down to tea or supper, and to haunt one and look cross if one behaves with common propriety—like some people I know."
Dick accepted the imputation.
"I'm not a dancing man," said he, "though my eight-and-twenty friends are. I cannot see the pleasure of being hustled about in a hot room with a girl I never saw before in my life, and never want to see again,—who is looking beyond me all the time, watching the door for another fellow who never comes."
"Then why on earth do you go?" asked Miss Bruce simply.
"You know why," he answered in a low voice, without raising his eyes to her face.
"O! I dare say," replied Maud; but though it was couched in a tone of banter, the smile that accompanied this pertinent remark seemed to afford Dick unbounded satisfaction.
Mrs. Stanmore looked up from her writing-table.
"I can't get on while you two are jabbering in that corner." (She had not heard a word either of them said.) "I'll take my visiting-list up-stairs. You can put these cards in envelopes and direct them. It will help me a little, but you're neither of you much use."
She gathered her materials together, and was leaving the room. Dick's heart began beating to some purpose; but his step-mother stopped at the door and addressed her niece.
"By the bye, Maud, I'd almost forgotten. I'm going to Rose and Brilliant's. Fetch me your diamonds, and I'll take them to be cleaned. I can see the people myself, you know, and make sure of your having them back in time for the ball."
The girl turned white. Dick saw it, though his mother did not. He observed, too, that she gasped as if she was trying to form words which would not come.
"I am not going to wear them." She got it out at last with difficulty.
"Not wear them! nonsense!" was the reply. "Bring them down, my dear, at any rate, and let me look them over. If you don't want it, you might lend me the collar—it would go very well with my mauve satin."
Maud's eyes turned here and there as if to look for help, and it was Dick's nature to throw himself in the gap.
"I'll take them, mother," said he. "My phaeton's at the door now. You've plenty to do, and it will save you a long drive. Besides, I can blow the people up more effectually than a lady."
"I'm not so sure of that," answered Mrs. Stanmore. "However, it's a sensible plan enough. Maud can fetch them down for you, and you may come back to dinner if you're disengaged."
So speaking, Mrs. Stanmore sailed off, leaving the young people alone.
Maud thanked him with such a look as would have repaid Dick for a far longer expedition than from Belgravia to Bond Street.
"What should I do without you, Mr. Stanmore?" she said. "You always come to the rescue just when I want you most."
He coloured with delight.
"I like doing things for you," said he simply; "but I don't know that taking a parcel a mile and a half is such a favour after all. If you'll bring it, I'll start directly you give the word."
Miss Bruce had been very pale hitherto, now a burning blush swept over her face to the temples.
"I—I can't bring you my diamonds," said she, "for the first of those thirty reasons that prevented Napoleon's general from bringing up his guns—I haven't got them: they're at Rose and Brilliant's already."
"Maud!" he exclaimed, unconsciously using her Christian name—a liberty with which she seemed in nowise offended.
"You may well say 'Maud'!" she murmured in a soft, low voice. "If you knew all, you'd never call me Maud. I don't believe you'd ever speak to me again." "Then I'd rather not know all," he replied. "Though it would have to be something very bad indeed if it could make me think ill of you! Don't tell me anything, Miss Bruce, except that you would like your diamonds back again."
"They must be got back!" she exclaimed. "I must have them back by fair means or foul. I can't face Aunt Agatha, now that she knows, and can't appear at her ball without them. O! Mr. Stanmore, what shall I do? Do you think Rose and Brilliant's would lend them to me only for one night?"
Dick began to suspect something, began to surmise that this young lady had been "raising the wind," as he called it, and to wonder for what mysterious purpose she could want so large a sum as had necessitated the sacrifice of her most valuable jewels; but she seemed in such distress that he felt this was no time for explanation.
"Do!" he repeated cheerfully, and walking to the window that he might not seem to notice her trouble. "Why do as I wish you had done all through. Leave everything to me. I was going to say 'trust me,' but I don't want to be trusted. I only want to be made use of."
Her better nature was conquering her fast.
"But indeed I will trust you," she murmured. "You deserve to be trusted. You are so kind, so good, so true. You will despise me, I know—very likely hate me, and never come to see me again; but I don't care—I can't help it. Sit down, and I will tell you everything."
He did not blush nor stammer now, his voice was very firm, and he stood up like a man.
"Miss Bruce," said he, "Maud—yes, I'm not afraid to call you Maud—I won't hear another word. I don't want to be told anything. Whatever you have done makes no difference to me. Some day, perhaps, you'll remember how I believed in you. In the meantime tell my mother that the diamonds will be back in time for her ball. How late it is! I must be off like a shot. Those horses will be perfectly wild with waiting. I'm coming to dinner. Good-bye!"
He hurried away without another look, and Maud, burying her head in the sofa-cushions, burst out crying, as she had not cried since she was a child.
"He's too good for me!—he's too good for me!" she repeated, between the sobs she tried hard to keep back. "How wicked and vile I should be to throw him over! He's too good for me!—too good for me by far!"
"A CRUEL PARTING"
The phaeton-horses went off like wildfire, Dick driving as if he was drunk. Omnibus-cads looked after him with undisguised admiration, and hansom cabmen, catching the enthusiasm of pace, found themselves actually wishing they were gentlemen's servants, to have their beer found, and sit behind such steppers as those!
The white foam stood on flank and shoulder when the pair were pulled up at Rose and Brilliant's door.
Dick bustled in with so agitated an air that an experienced shopman instantly lifted the glass from a tray containing the usual assortment of wedding-rings.
"I'm come about some diamonds," panted the customer, casting a wistful glance towards these implements of coercion the while. "A set of diamonds—very valuable—left here by a lady—a young lady—I want them back again."
He looked about him helplessly; nevertheless, the shopman, himself a married man, became at once less commiserating, and more confidential.
"Diamonds!" he repeated. "Let me see—yes, sir—quite so—I think I recollect. Perhaps you'll step in and speak to our principal. Mind your hat, if you please, sir—yes, sir—this way, sir."
So saying, he ushered Mr. Stanmore through glass doors into a neat little room at the back, where sat a bald, smiling personage in sober attire, something between that of a provincial master of hounds and a low-church clergyman, whose cool composure, as it struck Dick at the time, afforded a ludicrous contrast to his own fuss and agitation.
"My name is Rose, sir," said the placid man. "Pray take a seat."
Nobody can "take a seat" under feelings of strong excitement. Dick grasped the proffered chair by the back.
"Mr. Rose," he began, "what I have to say to you goes no farther."
"O dear, no!—certainly not—Mr. Stanmore, I believe? I hope I see you well, sir. This is my private room, you understand, sir. Whatever affairs we transact here are in private. How can I accommodate you, Mr. Stanmore?" Dick looked so eager, the placid man was persuaded he must want money.
"There's a young lady," said Dick, plunging at his subject, "who left her diamonds here last week—quite a young lady—very handsome. Did she give you her name?"
Mr. Rose smiled and shook his head benevolently. "If any jewels of value were left with us, you may be sure we satisfied ourselves of the party's name and address. Perhaps I can help you, Mr. Stanmore. Can you favour me with the date?"
"Yes, I can," answered Dick, "and the name too. It's no use humbugging about it. Miss Bruce was the lady's name. There! Now she wants her jewels back again. She's changed her mind."
Mr. Rose took a ledger off the table, and ran his finger down its columns. "Quite correct, sir," said he, stopping at a particular entry. "You are acquainted with the circumstances, of course."
Dick nodded, esteeming it little breach of confidence to look as if he knew all about it.
"There is no difficulty whatever," continued the bland Mr. Rose. "Happy to oblige Miss Bruce. Happy to oblige you. We shall charge a small sum for commission. Nothing more—O dear, no! Have them cleaned up? Certainly, sir; and you may depend on their being sent home in time. At your convenience, Mr. Stanmore. No hurry, sir. You can write me your cheque for the amount. Perhaps I'd better draw out a little memorandum. We shall make a mere nominal charge for cleaning."
Dick glanced over the memorandum, including its nominal charge for cleaning, which, perhaps from ignorance, did not strike him as being extraordinarily low. He was somewhat startled at the sum total, but when this gentleman made up his mind, it was not easy to turn him from an object in view.
The steppers, hardly cool, were hurried straight off to his bankers', to be driven, after their owner's interview with one of the partners, back again to the great emporium of their kind at Tattersall's.
A woman who wants to make a sacrifice parts with her jewels, a man sells his horses. Honour to each, for each offers up what is nearest and dearest to the heart.
Dick Stanmore lived no more within his income than other people. To get back these diamonds he would have to raise a considerable sum. There was nothing else to be done. The hunters must go: nay, the whole stud, phaeton-horses, hacks, and all. Yet Dick marched into the office to secure stalls for an early date, with a bright eye and a smiling face. He was proving, to himself, at least, how well he loved her.
The first person he met in the yard was Lord Bearwarden. That nobleman, though knowing him but slightly, had rather a liking for Stanmore, cemented by a certain good run they once saw in company, when each approved of the other's straightforward riding and unusual forbearance towards hounds.
"There's a nice horse in the boxes," said my lord; "looks very like your sort, Stanmore, and they say he'll go cheap, though he's quite sound."
"Thanks," answered Dick. "But I'm all the other way. Been taking stalls. Going to sell."
"Draft?" asked his lordship, who did not waste words.
"All of them," replied the other. "Even the hacks, saddlery, clothing, in short, the whole plant, and without reserve—going to give it up—at any rate for a time."
"Sorry for that," replied Bearwarden, adding, courteously, "Can I offer you a lift? I'm going your way. Indeed, I'm going to call at your mother's. Shall I find the ladies at home?"
"A little later you will," said honest, unsuspecting Dick, who had not yet learned the lesson that teaches it is not worth while to trust or mistrust any of the sex. "They'll be charmed to give you some tea. I'm off to Croydon to look over my poor screws before they're sold, and break it to my groom."
"That's a right good fellow," thought Lord Bearwarden, "and not a bad connection if I was fool enough to marry the dark girl, after all." So he called out to Dick, who had one foot on the step of his phaeton—
"I say, Stanmore, come and dine with us on the 11th; we've got two or three hunting fellows, and we can go on together afterwards to your mother's ball."
"All right," said Stanmore, and bowled away in the direction of Croydon at the rate of fourteen miles an hour. If the horses were to be sold, people might just as well be made aware of the class of animal he kept. Though the sacrifice involved was considerable, it would be wise to lessen it by all judicious means in his power.
How great a sacrifice he scarcely felt till he arrived at his country stables.
Dick Stanmore had been fonder of hunting than any other pursuit in the world, ever since he went out for the first time on a Shetland pony, and came home with his nose bleeding, at five years old.
The spin and "whizz" of his reel, the rush of a brown mountain stream with its fringe of silver birch and stunted alder, the white side of a leaping salmon, and the gasp of that noble fish towed deftly into the shallows at last, afforded him a natural and unmixed pleasure. He loved the heather dearly, the wild hillside, the keen pure air, the steady setters, the flap and cackle of the rising grouse, the ringing shot that laid him low, born in the purple, and fated there to die. Nor, when corn-fields were cleared, and partridges, almost as swift as bullets and as numerous as locusts, were driven to and fro across the open, was his aim to be foiled by a flight little less rapid than the shot that arrested it. With a rifle in his hand, a general knowledge of the surrounding forest, and a couple of gillies, give him the wind of a royal stag feeding amongst his hinds, and despite the feminine jealousy and instinctive vigilance of the latter, an hour's stalk would put the lord of the hills at the mercy of Dick Stanmore. In all these sports he was a proficient, from all of them he derived a keen gratification, but fox-hunting was his passion and his delight.
A fine rider, he loved the pursuit so well, and was so interested in hounds, that he gave his horse every opportunity of carrying him in front, and as his natural qualities included a good eye, and that confidence in the immediate future which we call "nerve," he was seen in difficulties less often than might be expected from his predilection in favour of "the shortest way."
His horses generally appeared to go pleasantly, and to reciprocate their rider's confidence, for he certainly seemed to get more work out of them than his neighbours.
As Mr. Crop, his stud-groom, remarked in the peculiar style of English affected by that trustworthy but exceedingly impracticable servant—
"Take and put him on a 'arf-bred' 'oss, an' he rides him like a hangel, nussin' of him, and coaxin' of him, and sendin' of him along, beautiful for ground, an' uncommon liberal for fences. Take an' put him on a thoro'-bred 'un, like our Vampire 'oss, and—Lor!"
One secret perhaps of that success in the hunting-field, which, when well mounted, even Mr. Crop's eloquence was powerless to express but by an interjection, lay in his master's affection for the animal. Dick Stanmore dearly loved a horse, as some men do love them, totally irrespective of any pleasure or advantage to be derived from their use.
There is a fanciful oriental legend which teaches that when Allah was engaged in the work of creation, he tempered the lightning with the south wind, and thus created the horse. Whimsical as is this idea, it yet suggests the swiftness, the fire, the mettlesome, generous, but plastic temperament of our favourite quadruped—the only one of our dumb servants in whose spirit we can rouse at will the utmost emulation, the keenest desire for the approval of its lord. Even the countenance of this animal denotes most of the qualities we affect to esteem in the human race—courage, docility, good-temper, reflection (for few faces are so thoughtful as that of the horse), gratitude, benevolence, and, above all, trust. Yes, the full brown eye, large, and mild, and loving, expresses neither spite, nor suspicion, nor revenge. It turns on you with the mute unquestioning confidence of real affection, and you may depend on it under all pressure of circumstance, in the last extremity of danger or death. Will you say as much for the bluest eyes that ever sparkled in mirth, or swam in tears, or shone and deepened under the combined influence of triumph, belladonna, and war-paint?
I once heard a man affirm that for him there was in every horse's face the beauty each of us sees in the one woman he adores. This outrageous position he assumed after a good run, and, indeed, after the dinner which succeeded it. I will not go quite so far as to agree with him, but I will say that in generosity, temper, and fidelity, there is many a woman, and man too, who might well take example from the noble qualities of the horse.
And now Dick Stanmore was about to offer up half-a-dozen of these valued servants before the idol he had lately begun to worship, for whom, indeed, he esteemed no victim too precious, no sacrifice too dear.
Driving into his stable-yard, he threw the reins to a couple of helpers, and made use of Mr. Crop's arm to assist his descent. That worthy's face shone with delight. Next to his horses he loved his master—chiefly, it is fair to say, as an important ingredient without which there would be no stud.
"I was expectin' of ye, sir," said he, touching an exceedingly straight-brimmed hat. "Glad to see ye lookin' so well."
To do him justice, Mr. Crop did his duty as if he always was expecting his master.
"Horses all right?" asked Dick, moving towards the stable-door.
"'Osses is 'ealthy, I am thankful to say," replied the groom gravely, "and lookin', too, pretty nigh as I could wish, now they've done breakin' with their coats. There's Firetail got a queerish look—them Northamptonshire 'osses is mostly unsound ones—and the mare's off leg's filled; and the Vampire 'oss, he's got a bit of a splent a-comin', but I'll soon frighten that away; an' old Dandybrush, he's awful, but not wuss nor I counted; and the young un—"
"I'll look 'em over," said Dick, interrupting what threatened to be a long catalogue. "I came down on purpose. The fact is (take those horses out and feed them)—the fact is, Crop, I'm going to sell them all. I'm going to send them up to Tattersall's."
Every groom is more or less a sporting man, and it is the peculiarity of sporting men to betray astonishment at no eventuality, however startling; therefore Mr. Crop, doing violence to his feelings, moved not a muscle of his countenance.
"I'm sorry to part with them, Crop," added Dick, a little put out by the silence of his retainer, and not knowing exactly what to say next. "They've carried me very well—I've seen a deal of fun on them—I don't suppose I shall ever have such good ones—I don't suppose I shall ever hunt much again."
Mr. Crop began to thaw. "They're good 'osses," he observed sententiously; "but that's not to say as there isn't good 'osses elsewheres. In regard of not huntin' there's a many seasons, askin' your pardon, atween you and me, and I should be sorry to think as I wasn't goin' huntin', ay, twenty years from now! When is 'em goin' up, sir?" added he, sinking sentiment and coming to business at once.
"Monday fortnight," answered Dick, entering a loose box, in which stood a remarkably handsome mare, that neighed at him, and rubbed her head against his breast.
"I should ha' liked another ten days," replied Crop, for it was an important part of his system never to accept his master's arrangements without a protest. "I could ha' got 'em to show as they ought to show by then. Is the stalls took?"
Dick nodded. He was looking wistfully at the mare, thinking what a light mouth she had, and how boldly she faced water.
"That leg'll be as clean as my face in a week," observed Mr. Crop confidently. "She'll fetch a good price, she will. Sir Frederic's after her, I know. There's nothing but tares in there, sir; old Dandybrush is in the box on the right."
Dick gave the mare a loving pat, and turned sadly into the residence of old Dandybrush.
That experienced animal greeted him with laid-back ears and a grin, as though to say, "Here you are again! But I like you best in your red coat."
They had seen many a good gallop together, and rolled over each other with the utmost good-humour, in every description of soil. To look at the old horse, even in his summer guise, was to recall the happiest moments of a sufficiently happy life.
"I'd meant to guv it him pretty sharp," said Crop; "but I'll let him alone now. He'd 'a carried you, maybe, another season or two, with a good strong dressin'; but them legs isn't what they was. Last time as I rode of him second horse, I found him different—gettin' inquisitive at his places—and when they gets inquisitive they soon begins to get slow. You'll look at the Vampire 'oss, sir, before you go back to town?"
Now "the Vampire 'oss," as he called him, was an especial favourite with Mr. Crop. Dick Stanmore had bought him out of training at Newmarket by his groom's advice, and the highbred animal, being ridden by an exceedingly good horseman, had turned out a far better hunter than common—not invariably the case with horses that begin life on the Heath. Crop took great pride in this purchase, confidently asserting, and doubtless believing, that England could not produce its equal.
He threw the box-door open with the air of a man who is going to exhibit a picture of his own painting.
"It's a pity to let him go," said the groom, with a sigh. "Where'll you get another as can touch him when the ground's deep, like it was last March? I've had a many to look after, first and last; but such a kind 'oss to do for in the stable I never see. Why, if you was to give that 'oss ten feeds of corn a day he'd take an' eat 'em all out clean—wouldn't leave a hoat! And legs. Them's not legs! them's slips of gutta-percher an' steel! To be sure he'll fetch a hawful price at the 'ammer—four 'underd, five 'underd, I shouldn't wonder—why he's worth all the money to look at. Blessed if you mightn't ride a good 'ack to death only tryin' to find such another!"
Nevertheless, the Vampire horse was condemned to go up with the rest. Notwithstanding the truth of the groom's protestations, its money value was exactly the quality that decided the animal's fate.
Driving back to London, Dick's heart bounded to think that in an hour's time he should meet Miss Bruce again at dinner. How delightful to be doing all this for her sake, yet to keep the precious secret safe locked in his own breast, until the moment should come when it would be judicious to divulge it, making, at the same time, another confession, of which he hoped the result might be happiness for life.
"I'd do more than that for her," muttered this enthusiastic young gentleman, while he trotted over Vauxhall Bridge. "I liked my poor horses better than anything; and that's just the reason I like to part with them for her sake. My darling, I'd give you the heart out of my breast, even if I thought you'd tread it under foot and send it back again!"
Had such an anatomical absurdity been reconcilable with the structure of the human frame, it is possible Miss Bruce might have treated this important organ in the contumelious manner suggested.
SIXES AND SEVENS
In the meantime, while Dick Stanmore is hugging himself in the warm atmosphere of hope, while Lord Bearwarden hovers on the brink of a stream in which he narrowly escaped drowning long ago, while Tom Ryfe is plunged in depths of anxiety, jealousy, and humiliation that scorch like liquid fire, Miss Bruce's dark eyes, and winning, wilful ways, have kindled the torch of mistrust and discord between two people of whom she has rarely seen the one and never heard of the other.
Mr. Bargrave's chambers in Gray's Inn were at no time more remarkable for cleanliness than other like apartments in the same locality; but the dust lies inch-thick now in all places where dust can lie, because that Dorothea, more moping and tearful than ever, has not the heart to clean up, no, nor even to wash her own hands and face in the afternoon as heretofore.
She loves her "Jim," of course, all the more passionately that he makes her perfectly miserable, neglecting her for days together, and when they do meet, treating her with an indifference far more lacerating than any amount of cruelty or open scorn.
Not that he is always good-humoured. On the contrary, "Gentleman Jim," as they call him, has lost much of the rollicking, devil-may-care recklessness that earned his nickname, and is often morose now—sometimes even fierce and savage to brutality.
The poor woman has had a quarrel with him, not two hours ago, originating, it is but fair to state, in her own extremely irritating conduct regarding beer, Jim being anxious to treat his ladye-love with that fluid for the purpose, as he said, of "drowning unkindness," and possibly with the further view of quenching an inconvenient curiosity she has lately indulged about his movements. No man likes to be watched; and the more reason the woman he is betraying has to doubt him, the less patience he shows for her anxiety, the less he tolerates her inquiries, her jealousy, or her reproaches.
Now Dorothea's suspicions, sharpened by affection, have of late grown extremely wearisome, and Jim has been heard to threaten more than once that "if so be as she doesn't mend her manners, and live conformable, he'll take an' hook it, he will, blessed if he won't!"—a dark saying which sinks deeply and painfully into the forlorn one's heart. When, therefore, instead of drinking her share, as usual, of a foaming quart measure containing beer, dashed with something stronger, this poor thing set it down untasted, and forthwith began to cry, the cracksman's anger knew no bounds.
"Drop it!" he exclaimed brutally. "You'd best, I tell ye! D'ye think I want my blessed drink watered with your blessed nonsense? What's come to ye, ye contrairy devil? I thought I'd larned ye better. I'll see if I can't larn ye still. Would ye now!"
It was almost a blow,—such a push as is the next thing to actual violence, and it sent her staggering from the sloppy bar at which their altercation took place against a bench by the wall, where she sat down pale and gasping, to the indignation of a slatternly woman nursing her child, and the concern of an honest coalheaver, who had a virago of a wife at home.
"Easy, mate!" expostulated that worthy, putting his broad frame between the happy pair. "Hold on a bit, an' give her a drop when she comes to. She'd 'a throwed her arms about your neck a while ago, an' now she'd as soon knife ye as look at ye."
Wild-eyed and pale, Dorothea glared round, as Clytemnestra may have glared when her hand rested on the fatal axe; but this Holborn Agamemnon did not seem destined to fall by a woman's blow, inasmuch as the tide was effectually turned by another woman's interference.
The slatternly lady, shouldering her child, as a soldier does his firelock, thrust herself eagerly forward.
"Knife him!" she exclaimed, with a most unfeminine execration. "I'd knife him, precious soon, if it was me, the blessed willen! To take an' use a woman like that there—a nasty, cowardly, sneakin,' ugly, tallow-faced beast!"
Had it not been for the imputation on his beauty, Dorothea might perhaps have blazed out in open rebellion, or remained passive in silent sulks; but to hear her Jim, the flash man of a dozen gin-shops, the beloved of a score of rivals, called "ugly," was more than flesh and blood could endure. She turned fiercely on her auxiliary and gave battle at once.
"And who arst you to interfere, mem, if I may wenture to make the inquiry?" said she, with that polite but spasmodic intonation that denotes the approaching row. "Keep yerself to yerself, if you please, mem. And I'll thank ye not to go for to come between me and my young man, not till you've got a young man of your own, mem; and if you'd like to walk out, there's the door, mem, and don't you try for to give me none o' your sauce, for I'm not a-goin' to put up with it."
The slatternly woman ran her guns out and returned the broadside with promptitude.
"Door, indeed! you poor whey-faced drab, you dare to say the word door to me, a respectable woman, as Mister Tripes here knows me well, and have a score against me behind that there wery door as you disgraces, and as it's you as ought to be t'other side, you ought; for it's out of the streets as you come, well I knows, an' say another word, and I'll take that there bonnet off of your head, and chuck it into them streets and you arter it. O dear! O dear! that ever I should be spoke to like this here, and my master out o' work a month come Toosday, and this here gentleman standing by! But I'll set my mark on ye, if I get six months for it—I will!"
Thus speaking, or rather screaming, and brandishing her baby, as the gonfalonier waves his gonfalon, the slat-slatternly woman, swelling into a fury for the nonce, made a dive at Dorothea, which, but for the interposition of "this here gentleman," as she called the coalheaver, might have produced considerable mischief. That good man, however, took a deal of "weathering," as sailors say, and ere either of the combatants could get round his bulky person, the presence of a policeman at the door warned them that ordeal by battle had better be deferred till a more fitting opportunity. They burst into tears, therefore, simultaneously, and the dispute ended, as such disputes often do, in a general reconciliation, cemented by the consumption of much excisable fluid, some of it at the expense of the philanthropic coalheaver, whose simple faith involved a persuasion that the closest connection must always be preserved between good-fellowship and beer.
After these potations, it is not surprising that the slatternly woman should have found herself, baby and all, under the care of the civil power at a police-station, or that Gentleman Jim and his ladye-love should have adjourned to sober themselves in the steaming gallery of a playhouse.
Behold them, then, wedged into a front seat, Dorothea's bonnet hanging over the rail, Jim's gaudy handkerchief bulging with oranges, both spectators too absorbed in the action of the piece to realise its improbabilities, and the woman thoroughly identifying herself with the character and fortunes of its heroine.
The theatre is small, but the audience if not select are enthusiastic; the stage is narrow, but affords room for a deal of strutting and striding about on the part of an overpowering actor in the inevitable belt and boots of the melodramatic highwayman. The play represents certain startling passages in the career of one Claude Duval, formerly a running footman, afterwards—strange anomaly!—a robber on horseback, distinguished for polite manners and bold riding.
This remarkable person has a wife, devoted to him of course. In the English drama all wives are good; in the French all are bad, and people tell you that a play is the reflection of real life. Besides this dutiful spouse, he cherishes an attachment for a young lady of high birth and aristocratic (stage) manners. She returns his tenderness, as it is extremely natural a young person so educated and brought up would return that of a criminal, who has made an impression on her heart by shooting her servants, rifling her trunks, and forcing her to dance a minuet with him on a deserted heath under a harvest moon.
This improbable incident affords a favourite scene, in which Dorothea's whole soul is absorbed, and to which Jim devotes an earnest attention, as of one who weighs the verisimilitude of an illustration, that he may accept the purport of the parable it conveys.
Dead servants (in profusion), struggling horses, the coach upset, and the harvest moon, are depicted in the back scene, which represents besides an illimitable heath, and a gibbet in the middle distance: all this under a glare of light, as indeed it might well be, for the moon is quite as large as the hind wheel of the coach.
In the foreground are grouped, the hero himself, a comic servant with a red nose and a fiddle, an open trunk, and a young lady in travelling costume, viz. white satin shoes, paste diamonds, ball-dress, and lace veil. The tips of her fingers rest in the gloved hand of her assailant, whose voice comes deep and mellow through the velvet mask he wears.
"My preservier!" says the lady, a little inconsequentially, while her fingers are lifted to the mask and saluted with such a smack as elicits a "hooray!" from some disrespectful urchin at the back of the pit.
"To presurrve beauty from the jeer of insult, the grasp of vie-olence is my duty and my prowfession. To adore it is my ree-ligion—and my fate!" replies the gallant highwayman, contriving with some address to retain his hold of the lady's hand, though encumbered by spurs, a sword, pistols, a mask, and an enormous three-cornered hat.
"And this man is proscribed, hunted, in danger, in disgrace!" exclaims the lady, aside, and therefore loud enough to be heard in the street. Claude Duval starts. The start of such an actor makes Dorothea jump. "Perdition!" he shouts, "ye have reminded me of what were well buried fathom-deep—obliterated—forgotten. Tr'you, lady, 'tis ee-ven so! I have a compact with my followers—the ransom—"
"Shall be paid right willingly," she answers; and forth-with the comic servant with the red nose wakes into spasmodic life, winks repeatedly, and performs a flourish on his "property" fiddle, a little out of tune with the real instrument in the orchestra at his feet.
"What are they going to do?" asked Dorothea, in great anxiety.
"Hold your noise!" answers Jim, and the action of the piece progresses.
It is fortunate, perhaps, that minuets have gone out of fashion, if they involved such a test of endurance as that in which Claude Duval and his fair captive now disport themselves with an amount of bodily exertion it seems real cruelty to encore. His concluding caper shakes the mask from his partner's face, and the young lady falls, with a shriek, into his arms, leaving the audience in that happy state of perplexity, which so enhances the interest of a plot, as to whether her distress originates in excess of sentiment or deficiency of wind.
"It's beautiful!" whispers Dorothea, refreshing herself with an orange. "It 'minds me of the first time you and me ever met at Highbury Barn."
Jim grunts, but his grunt is not that of a contented sleeper, rather of one who is woke from a dream.
After a tableau like the last, it is natural that Claude Duval should find a certain want of excitement in the next scene, where he appears as a respectable householder in the apartments of his lawful spouse. This lady, leaving a cradle in the background, and advancing to the footlights, proceeds to hover round her husband, after the manner of stage wives, with neck protruded and arms spread out, like a woman who is a little afraid of a wasp or earwig, but wants to catch the creature all the same. He sits with his back to her, as nobody ever does sit but a stage husband at home, and punches the floor with his spur. It is strictly natural that she should sing a faint song with a slow movement on the spot.
It is perhaps yet more natural that this should provoke him exceedingly, so he jumps up, reaches a cupboard in two strides, and pulls out of it his whole paraphernalia, sword, pistols, mask, three-cornered hat, everything but his horse. Then the wife, from her knees, informs all whom it may concern, that for the first time in their happy married life she has learned her husband is a robber, as they both call it, by "prowfession."
Dorothea's sympathies, womanlike, are with the wife. Jim, whose interest is centred in the young lady, finds this part of the performance rather wearisome, and thirsts, to use his own expression, for "a drain."
Events now succeed each other with startling rapidity. Claude Duval is seen at Ranelagh, still in his boots, where he makes fierce love to his young lady, and exchanges snuff-boxes (literally) with a duke. Next, in a thicket beset by thief-takers, from whom he escapes after prodigies of valour, aided by the comic servant, and thereafter guided by that singular domestic to a place of safety, which turns out to be the young lady's bedroom. Here Jim becomes much excited, fancying himself for the moment a booted hero, rings, laced-coat, Steinkirk handkerchief, and all. His dress touches that of his companion, but instinctively he moves from her as far as the crowded seat will permit, while Dorothea, all unconscious, looks lovingly in his face.
"She's a bold thing, and I can't abide her," is that lady's comment on the principal actress. "She ought to think shame of herself, she ought, acause of his wife at 'ome. But he's a good plucked 'un, isn't he, Jim? and lady or no lady, that goes a long way with a woman!"
Jim turned his head aside. Brutalised, besotted, depraved, there was yet in him a spark of that fire which lights men to their doom, and his eyes filled with tears.
But the thief-takers have Claude Duval by the throat at last; and there is a scene in court, where the young lady perjures herself unhesitatingly, and faints once more in the prisoner's arms. In vain. Claude Duval is sworn to, found guilty, condemned; and the stage is darkened for a grand finale.
Still gay, still gallant, still impenitent, and still booted, though in fetters, the highwayman sits in his prison cell, to be visited by the young lady, who cannot bear to lose her partner, and the wife, who still clings to her husband. Unlike Macheath, he seems in no way embarrassed by the position. His wife forgives him, at this supreme moment, all the sorrow he has caused her, in consideration of some unexplained past, "gilded," as she expressed it, "by the sunny smiles of southern France," while the young lady, holding on with great tenacity to his hand, weeps frantically on her knees.
A clock strikes. It is the hour of execution. Dorothea begins to sob, and Gentleman Jim clenches his hands. The back of the stage opens to disclose a street, a crowd, a hangman, and the fatal Tyburn tree. Faint cheers are heard from the wings. The sheriff enters, bearing in his hand a reprieve, written apparently on a window-blind. He is attended by the comic servant, through whose mysterious agency a pardon has been granted, and who sticks by his fiddle to the last.
Grand tableau: Claude Duval penitent. His wife in his arms. The young lady conveying in dumb show how platonic has been her attachment, of which, nevertheless, she seems a little ashamed. The sheriff benignant; the turnkeys amused; the comic servant, obviously in liquor, brandishing his fiddlestick, and the orchestra playing "God save the Queen."
Walking home through the wet streets, under the flashing gaslights, Dorothea and her companion preserve an ominous silence. Both identify themselves with the fiction they have lately witnessed: the woman pondering on Mrs. Duval's sufferings and the eventful reward of that good lady's constancy and truth; her companion reflecting, not on the charms of the actress he has lately been applauding, but on another face which haunts him now, as the wilis and water-sprites haunted their doomed votaries, and which must ever be as far out of reach as if it belonged indeed to some such being of another nature; thinking how a man might well risk imprisonment, transportation, hanging, for one kind glance of those bright eyes, one smile of those haughty, scornful lips; and comparing in bitter impatience that exotic beauty with the humble, homely creature at his side.
She looks up in his face. "Jim," says she timidly, and cowering close to him the while, "if you was took, and shopped, like him in the long boots, I'd go to quod with you, if they'd give me leave—I'd go to death with you, Jim, I would. I'd never forsake you, I wouldn't. I couldn't, dear,—not if it was ever so!"
He shudders and shrinks from her. "It might come sooner than you think for," says he, adding brutally enough, "now you could do me a turn in the witness-box, though I shouldn't wonder but you'd cut out white like the others. Let's call in here, and take a drop o' gin afore they shuts up."
The great picture of Thomas the Rhymer, and his Elfin Mistress, goes on apace. There is, I believe, but one representation in London of that celebrated prophet, and it is in the possession of his lineal descendant. Every feature, every shadow on that portrait has Simon Perkins studied with exceeding diligence and care, marvelling, it must be confessed, at the taste of the Fairy Queen. The accessories to his own composition are in rapid progress. Most of the fairies have been put in, and the gradual change from glamour to disillusion, cunningly conveyed by a stream of cold grey morning light entering the magic cavern from realms of upper earth, to deaden the glitter, pale the colouring, and strip, as it were, the tinsel where it strikes. On the Rhymer himself our artist has bestowed an infinity of pains, preserving (no easy task) some resemblance to the original portrait, while he dresses his conception in the manly form and comely features indispensable to the situation.
But it is into the fairy queen herself that Simon loves to throw all the power of his genius, all the resources of his art. To this labour of love, day after day, he returns with unabated zest, altering, improving, painting out, adding, taking away, drinking in the while his model's beauty, as parched and thirsty gardens of Egypt drink in the overflowing Nile, to return a tenfold harvest of verdure, luxuriance, and wealth.
She has been sitting to him for three consecutive hours. Truth to tell, she is tired to death of it—tired of the room, the palette, the easel, the queen, the rhymer, the little dusky imp in the corner, whose wings are changing into scales and a tail, almost tired of dear Simon Perkins himself; who is working contentedly on (how can he?) as if life contained nothing more than effect and colouring—as if the reality were not better than the representation after all.
"A quarter of an inch more this way," says the preoccupied artist. "There is a touch wanting in that shadow under the eye—thanks, dear Nina. I shall get it at last," and he falls back a step to look at his work, with his head on one side, as nobody but a painter can look, so strangely does the expression of face combine impartial criticism with a satisfaction almost maternal in its intensity.
Before beginning again, his eye rested on his model, and he could not but mark the air of weariness and dejection she betrayed.
"Why, Nina," said he, "you look quite pale and tired. What a brute I am! I go painting on and forget how stupid it must be for you, who mustn't even turn your head to look at my work."
She gave a stretch, and such a yawn! Neither of them very graceful performances, had the lady been less fair and fascinating, but Nina looked exceedingly pretty in their perpetration nevertheless.
"Work," she answered. "Do you call that work? Why you've undone everything you did yesterday, and put about half of it in again. If you're diligent, and keep on at this pace, you'll finish triumphantly with a blank canvas, like Penthesilea and her tapestry in my ancient history."
"Penelope," corrected Simon gently.
"Well, Penelope! It's all the same. I don't suppose any of it's true. Let's have a peep, Simon. It can't be. Is that really like me?"
The colour had come back to her face, the light to her eye. She was pleased, flattered, half amused to find herself so beautiful. He looked from the picture to the original, and with all his enthusiasm for art awarded the palm to nature.
"It was like you a minute ago," said he, in his grave, gentle tones. "Or rather, I ought to say you were like it. But you change so, that I am often in despair of catching you, and, somehow, I always seem to love the last expression best."
There was something in his voice so admiring, so reverential, and yet so tender, that she glanced quickly, with a kind of surprise, in his face; that face which to an older woman, who had known suffering and sorrow, might have been an index of the gentle heart, the noble, chivalrous character within, which, to this girl, was simply pale and worn, and not at all handsome, but very dear nevertheless, as belonging to her kind old Simon, the playmate of her childhood, the brother, and more than brother, of her youth.
Those encounters are sadly unequal, and very poor fun for the muffled fighter, in which one keeps the gloves on, while the other's blows are delivered with the naked fist.
Miss Algernon was at this time perhaps more attached to Simon Perkins than to any other creature in the world; that is to say, she did not happen to like anybody else better. How different from him, to whom she represented the very essence of that spiritual life which, in our several ways, we all try to live, which so few of us know how to attain by postponing its enjoyment for a few short troubled years.
It is probable that, if the painter had thrown down his brush at this juncture, and asked simply, "Nina, will you be my wife?" she would have answered, "Thank you kindly, yes, I will!" but although his judgment told him he was likely to succeed, his finer instincts warned him that an affirmative would be the sacrifice of her youth, her illusions, her possible future. Such sacrifice it was far more in Simon's nature to make than to accept.
"Will she ever know me thoroughly?" he used to think. "Will the time ever come when I can say to her, 'Nina, I am sure you care for me now, and therefore I am not afraid to tell you how dearly I loved you all through'? Such a time would be well worth waiting for, ay, though it never came for seven years, and seven more to the back of that. Then I should feel her happiness depended on mine. Now I often think the prince in the fairy tale will ride past our Putney villa some summer's day, like Launcelot through the barley sheaves (I'll paint Launcelot when I've time, with the ripe ears reddened in the sun, and the light flashing off his harness), ride by and take Nina's heart away with him, and what will be left for me then? I could bear it! Yes, I could bear it if I knew she was happy. My darling, my darling! so that you walk on in joy and triumph, it matters little what becomes of me!"
The sentiment was perhaps overstrained. It is not thus that women are won. The fruit that drops into people's mouths is usually over-ripe, and the Sabine maiden would have thought less of her Roman lover, though doubtless she would have taken the initiative rather than miss him altogether, had it been necessary to pounce on him in the vineyard and desire him straightway to carry her home. But the bird of prey must have its natural victim, and such hearts as our poor generous painter possessed are destined for the talons and the beak. Ah! those who value them least win the great prizes in the lottery. Fortune smiles on the careless player—gold goes to the rich—streams run to the river, and if you have more mutton than you know what to do with, be sure that in your folds will be found the poor man's ewe-lamb. Put a ribbon round her neck, and be kind to her as he was. It is the least you can do!
"You've taken a deal of pains, Simon," says the sitter, after a long and well-pleased scrutiny. "Tell me, no flattery now, why should I be so difficult to paint?" Why, indeed, you saucy innocent coquette! Perhaps, because, all the while, you are turning the poor artist's head, and driving pins and needles into his heart.
"I ought to make a good likeness of you," answers Simon rather sadly. "I'm sure, Nina, I know your face by heart. But I'm determined to take enormous pains with this picture. It's to be my great work. I want them to admire it at the Academy. I want all London to come and look at it. I want the critics, who know nothing, to say it's well drawn; and the artists, who do know something, to say it's well treated; and the public to declare my fairy queen is the loveliest, and the sweetest, and the dearest face they ever beheld. You see I'm very—very—ambitious, Nina!"
"Yes, I suppose all painters are," replies Miss Algernon, with a little gasp of relief, accompanied by a little chill of something not quite unlike disappointment. "But you ought to be tired of working, and I know I am tired of sitting. Hand me my bonnet, Simon—not upside down—why that's the top where the rose is, of course! And let's walk back through the Park. It will be nearly full by this time."
So they walked back through the Park, and it was full—full to overflowing; nevertheless, amongst all the riders, drivers, sitters, strollers, and idlers, there appeared neither of the smart-looking gentlemen who had roused Nina's indignation by bowing to her in the morning without having the honour of her acquaintance.
THE OFFICERS' MESS
A gigantic sentry of her Majesty's Household Cavalry paces up and down in front of the officers' quarters at Knightsbridge Barracks some two hours before watch-setting. It is fortunate that constant use has rendered him insensible to admiration. Few persons of either sex pass under his nose without a glance of unqualified approval. They marvel at his stature, his spurs, his carbine, his overalls, his plumed helmet, towering high above their heads, and the stupendous moustaches, on which this gentleman-private prides himself more than on all the rest of his heroic attributes put together.
Beyond a shade of disciplined weariness, there is no expression whatever on his handsome face, yet it is to be presumed that the man has his thoughts too, like another. Is he back in Cumberland amongst his dales, a stalwart stripling, fishing some lonely stream within the hills, watching a bout at "knurr-and-spell" across the heather, or wrestling a fall in friendly rivalry with his cousin, a son of Anak, tall as himself? Does that purple sunset over Kensington Gardens remind him of Glaramara and Saddleback? Does that distant roar of wheels in Piccadilly recall the rush and ripple of the Solway charging up its tawny sands with the white horses all abreast in a spring-tide?
Perhaps he is wishing he was an officer with no kit to keep in order, no fatigue-duty to undergo, sitting merrily down to as good a dinner as luxury can provide, or a guest, of whom he has seen several pass his post in starched white neckcloths and trim evening clothes. Perhaps he would not change with any of these, after all, when he reflects on his own personal advantages, his social standing amongst his comrades, his keen appreciation and large consumption of beer and tobacco, with the innumerable conquests he makes amongst maids and matrons in the middle and lower ranks of life. Such considerations, however, impress themselves not the least upon his outward visage. A statue could not look more imperturbable, and he turns his head but very slightly, with supreme indifference, when peals of laughter, more joyous than common, are wafted through the open windows of the mess-room, where some of our friends have fairly embarked on that tide of good-humour and hilarity which sets in with the second glass of champagne.
It is a full mess; the colonel himself sits at dinner, with two or three friends, old brothers-in-arms, whose soldier-like bearing and manly faces betray their antecedents, though they may not have worn a uniform for months. A lately-joined cornet looks at these with a reverence that I am afraid could be extorted from him by no other institution on earth. The adjutant and riding-master, making holiday, are both present—"to the front," as they call it, enjoying exceedingly the jests and waggeries of their younger comrades. The orderly-officer, conspicuous by his belt, sits at one end of the long table. Lord Bearwarden occupies the other, supported on either side by his two guests, Tom Ryfe and Dick Stanmore. It is the night of Mrs. Stanmore's ball, and these last-named gentlemen are going there, with feelings how different, yet with the same object. Dick is full of confidence, elated and supremely happy. His entertainer experiences a quiet comfort and bien-etre stealing over him, to which he has long been a stranger, while Tom Ryfe with every mouthful swallows down some emotion of jealousy, humiliation, or mistrust. Nevertheless, he is in the highest spirits of the three.
"I tell you nothing can touch him, my lord, when hounds run," says he, still harping on the merits of the horse he sold Lord Bearwarden in the Park. Of course half the party are talking of hunting, the other half of racing, soldiering, and women. "He'd have been thrown away on most of the fellows we know. He wants a good man on his back, for if you keep him fiddling behind, it breaks his heart. I always said you ought to have him—you or Mr. Stanmore. He's just the sort for both of you. I'm sorry to hear yours are all coming up at Tattersall's," adds Tom, with a courteous bow to the opposite guest. "Hope it's only to make room for some more."
Dick disclaims. "No, indeed," says he, "it's a bona fide sale—without reserve, you know—I am going to give the thing up!"
"Give up hunting!" expostulates a very young subaltern on Dick's left. "Why, you're not a soldier, are you? What shall you do with yourself? You have nothing to live for."
Overcome by this reflection, he empties his glass and looks feelingly in his neighbour's face.
"Are you so fond of it too?" asks Dick with a smile.
"Fond of it! I believe you!" answers the boy. "What is there to be compared to it?—at least that I've tried, you know. I think the happiest fellow on earth is a master of fox-hounds, particularly if he hunts them himself: there's only one thing to beat it, and that's soldiering. I'd rather command such a regiment as this than be Emperor of China. Perhaps I shall, too, some day."
The real colonel, sitting opposite, overhears this military sentiment, and smiles good-humouredly at his zealous junior. "When you are in command," says he, "I hope you'll be down upon the cornets—they want a deal of looking up—I'm much too easy with them." The young soldier laughed and blushed. In his heart he thought the "chief," as he called him, the very greatest man in the world, offering him that respect combined with affection which goes so far to constitute the efficiency of a regiment, hoping hereafter to tread in his footsteps and carry out his system.
For ten whole minutes he held his tongue—and this was no small effort of self-restraint—that he might listen to the commanding officer's conversation with his guests, savouring strongly of professional interests, as comprising Crimean, Indian, and continental experiences, all tending to prove that cavalry massed, kept under cover, held well in hand, and "offered" at the critical moment, was the force to render success permanent and defeat irretrievable.
When they got into a dissertation on shoeing, with the comparative merits of "threes" and "sections" at drill, the young man refreshed himself liberally with champagne, and turned to more congenial discourse.
Of this there seemed no lack. The winner of the St. Leger was as confidently predicted as if the race were already in his owner's pocket. A match was made between two splendid dandies, called respectfully by their comrades "Nobby" and "The Dustman," to walk from Knightsbridge Barracks to Windsor Bridge that day week—the odds being slightly in favour of "The Dustman," who was a peer of the realm. A moderate dancer was freely criticised, an exquisite singer approved with reservation, and the style of fighting practised by our present champion of the prize-ring unequivocally condemned. Presently a deep voice made itself heard in more sustained tones than belong to general conversation, and during a lull it became clear that the adjutant was relating an anecdote of his own military experience. "It's a wonderful country," said he, in reply to some previous observation. "I'm not an Irishman myself, but I've observed that the most conspicuous men in all nations are pure Irish or of Irish extraction. Look at the service. Look at the ring—prize-fighters and book-makers. I believe the Slasher's mother was born in Connaught, and nothing will convince me but that Deerfoot came from Tipperary—east and west the world's full of them—they swarm, I'm told, in America, and I can answer for them in Europe. Did ye ever see a Turk in a vineyard? He's the very moral of Pat in a potato-garden: the same frieze coat—the same baggy breeches—the same occasional smoke, every five minutes or so—and the same rooted aversion to hard work. Go on into India—they're all over the place. Shall I tell you what happened to myself? We were engaged on the right of the army, getting it hot and heavy, all the horses with their heads up, but the men as steady as old Time. I was in the Lancers then, under Sir Hope. The Sikhs worked their guns beautifully, and presently we got the word to advance. It wasn't bad ground for manoeuvring, and we were soon into them. The enemy fought a good one—those Sikhs always do. There was one fine old white-bearded patriarch stuck to his gun to the last. His people were all speared and cut down, but he never gave back an inch. I can see him now, looking like the pictures of Abraham in my old Sunday-school book. I thought I'd save him if I could. Our chaps had got their blood up, and dashed in to finish him with their lances, but I kept them off with some difficulty, and offered him 'quarter.' I was afraid he wouldn't understand my language. 'Quarter,' says he, in the richest brogue you'll hear out of Cork—'quarter! you bloody thieves! will you stick a countryman, an' a comrade, ye murtherin' villains, like a boneen in a butcher's shop!' He'd have gone on, I dare say, for an hour, but the men had their lances through him before you could say 'knife.' As my right-of-threes, himself a Paddy, observed—he was discoorsin' the devil in less than five minutes. The man was a deserter and a renegade, so it served him right, but being an Irishman, you see, he distinguished himself—that's all I mean to infer."
The young officer was exceedingly attentive to an anecdote which, thus told by its bronzed, war-worn, and soldier-like narrator, possessed the fascination of romance with the interest of reality.
Lord Bearwarden and his guests had also broken off their conversation to listen—they returned to the previous subject.
"There are so many people come to town now-a-days," said his lordship, "that the whole thing spoils itself. Society is broken up into sets, and even if you belong to the same set, you cannot insure meeting any particular person at any particular place. Just the same with clubs. I might hunt you two fellows about all night, from Arthur's to the Arlington—from the Arlington to White's—from White's to the Carlton—from the Carlton back to St. James's Street—and never run into you at all, unless I had the luck to find you drinking gin and soda at Pratt's." Tom Ryfe, belonging only to the last-named of these resorts, looked gratified. Dick Stanmore was thinking of something else.
"Now, to-night," continued Lord Bearwarden, turning to the latter, "although the ball is in your own step-mother's house, I'll take odds you don't know three-fourths of the people you'll meet, and yet you've been as much about London as most of us. Where they come from I can't think, and they're like the swallows, or the storks, or the woodcocks, only they're not so welcome. Where they'll go to when the season's over I neither know nor care."
Tom Ryfe would have given much to feel equally indifferent. Something like a pang shot through him as he reflected that for him the battle must be against wind and tide—a fierce struggle, more and more hopeless, to grasp at something drifting visibly out of reach. He was not a man, however, to be beat while it was possible to persist. Believing Dick Stanmore the great obstacle in his way, he watched that preoccupied gentleman as a cat watches a mouse.
"I don't want to be introduced to any more people," said Dick rather absently. "In my opinion you can't have too few acquaintances and too many friends."
"One ought to know lots of women," said Mr. Ryfe, assuming the air of a fine gentleman, which fitted him, thought Lord Bearwarden, as ill as his uniform generally fits a civilian. "I mean women of position—who give things—whom you'd like to be seen talking to in the Park. As for girls, they're a bore—there's a fresh crop every season—they're exactly like each other, and you have to dance with 'em all!"
"Confound his impudence!" thought Lord Bearwarden; "does he hope to impose on me with his half-bred swagger and Brummagem assurance?" but he only said, "I suppose, Tom, you're in great request with them—all ranks, all sorts, all ages! You fellows have such a pull over us poor soldiers; you can be improving the time while we're on guard."
Tom looked as if he rather believed he could. But he only looked it. Beneath that confident manner, his heart was sad and sinking. How bitter he felt against Miss Bruce, and yet he loved her, in his own way, too, all the while.
"Champagne to Mr. Stanmore!" said his entertainer, beckoning to a servant. "You're below the mark, Stanmore, and we've a heavy night before us. You're thinking of your pets at Tattersall's next week. Cheer up. Their future masters won't be half so hard on them, I'll be bound. But I wouldn't assist at the sacrifice if I were you. Come down to the Den with me; we'll troll for pike, and give the clods a cricket-match. Then we'll dine early, set trimmers, and console ourselves with claret-cup under affliction."
Dick laughed. Affliction, indeed, and he had never been so happy in his life! Perhaps that was the reason of his silence, his abstraction. At this very moment, he thought, Maud might be opening the packet he made such sacrifices to redeem. He had arranged for her to receive the diamonds all reset and glittering at the hour she would be dressing for the ball. He could almost fancy he saw the beautiful face flushed with delight, the dark eyes filled with tears. Would she press those jewels to her lips, and murmur broken words of endearment for him? Would she not love him now, if, indeed, she had not loved him before? Horses, forsooth! What were all the horses that ever galloped compared to one smile of hers? He would have given her his right arm, his life, if she wanted it. And now, perhaps, he was to obtain his reward. Who could tell what that very night might bring forth?
Mr. Stanmore's glass remained untasted before him, and Lord Bearwarden observing that dinner was over, and his guests seemed disinclined to drink any more wine, proposed an adjournment to the little mess-room to smoke.
In these days the long sittings that delighted our grandfathers have completely given way to an early break up, a quiet cigar, and a general retreat, if not to bed, at least to other scenes and other society. In ten minutes from the rising of the colonel, Lord Bearwarden, and half-a-dozen guests, the larger mess-room was cleared of its inmates, and the smaller one crowded with an exceedingly merry and rather noisy assemblage.
"Just one cigar," said Lord Bearwarden, handing a huge case to his friends. "It will steady you nicely for waltzing, and some eau-de-cologne in my room will take off all the smell afterwards. I know you dancing swells are very particular."
Both gentlemen laughed, and putting large cigars into their mouths, accommodated themselves with exceeding goodwill to the arrangement. It was not in the nature of things that silence should be preserved under such incentives to conversation as tobacco and soda-water with something in it, but presently, above other sounds, a young voice was heard to clamour for a song.
"Let's have a chant!" protested this eager voice; "the night is still young. We're all musical, and we don't often get the two best pipes in the regiment to dine here the same day. Come, tune up, old boy. Give us 'Twisting Jane,' or the 'Gallant Young Hussar.'"
The "old boy" addressed, a large, fine-looking man, holding the appointment of riding-master, smiled good-humouredly, and shook his head. "It's too early for the 'Hussar,'" said he, scanning the fresh beardless face with its clear mirthful eyes. "And it's not an improving song for young officers neither. I'll try 'Twisting Jane' if you gentlemen will support me with the chorus;" and in a deep mellow voice he embarked without more ado on the following barrack-room ditty:—
I loved a girl, down Windsor way, When we was lying there, As soft as silk, as mild as May, As timid as a hare. She blushed and smiled, looked down so shy, And then—looked up again— My comrades warned me: 'Mind your eye, With Twisting Jane!'
I wooed her thus, not sure but slow, To kiss she vowed a crime,— For she was 'reining back,' you know, While I was 'marking time.'
'Alas!' I thought, 'these dainty charms Are not for me, 'tis plain; Too long she keeps me under arms, Does Twisting Jane.'
Our corporal-major says to me, One day before parade, 'She's gammoning you, young chap,' says he, 'Is that there artful jade! You'll not be long of finding out, When nothing's left to gain, How quick the word is "Threes about!" With Twisting Jane!'
Our corporal-major knows what's what; I peeped above her blind; The tea was made—the toast was hot— She looked so sweet and kind. My captain in her parlour sat, It gave me quite a pain, With coloured clothes, and shining hat, By Twisting Jane.
The major he came cantering past, She bustled out to see,— 'O, major! is it you at last? Step in and take your tea.' The major halted—winked his eye— Looked up and down the lane; And in he went his luck to try With Twisting Jane.