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The Lady of the Ice - A Novel
by James De Mille
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"You see," said I, "I put that notice in myself."

"You!" cried O'Halloran, Miss O'Halloran, Marion, this time in greater surprise than before.

"Yes," said I. "I did it because I was very anxious to trace some one, and this appeared to be the way that was at once the most certain, and at the same time the least likely to excite suspicion."

"Suspicion?"

"Yes—for the one whom I wished to trace was a lady."

"A lady!" said O'Halloran. "Aha! you rogue, so that's what ye'er up to, is it? An' there isn't a word of truth in this about Verrier?"

"Yes, there is," said I, "He was really drowned, but I don't know his name, and Paul Terrier, and the disconsolate father, Pierre, are altogether imaginary names. But I'll tell you all about it."

"Be dad, an' I'd be glad if ye would, for this exorjium sthrikes me as the most schupindous bit of schamin that I've encounthered for a month of Sundays."

While I was saying this, the ladies did not utter a single syllable. But if they were silent, it was not from want of interest. Their eyes were fixed on mine as though they were bound to me by some powerful spell; their lips parted, and, in their intense eagerness to hear what it was that I had to say, they did not pretend to conceal their feelings. Miss O'Halloran was seated in an arm-chair. Her left arm leaned upon it, and her hand mechanically pressed her forehead as she devoured me with her gaze. Marion was seated on a common chair, and sat with one elbow on the table, her hands clasped tight, her body thrown slightly forward, and her eyes fixed on mine with an intensity of gaze that was really embarrassing.

And now all this convinced me that they must know all about it, and emboldened me to go on. Now was the time, I felt, to press my search —now or never.

So I went on—

"Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebaut Inde toro Sandy Macrorie sic orsus ab alto: Infandum, Regina, jubes renovare dolorem."

That's about it. Rather a hackneyed quotation, of course, but a fellow like me isn't supposed to know much about Latin, and it is uncommonly appropriate. And, I tell you what it is, since Aeneas entertained Dido on that memorable occasion, few fellows have had such an audience as that which gathered round me, as I sat in that hospitable parlor, and told about my adventure on the ice.

Such an audience was enough to stimulate any man. I felt the stimulus. I'm not generally considered fluent, or good at description, and I'm not much of a talker; but all that I ever lacked on ordinary occasions I made amends for on that evening. I began at the beginning, from the time I was ordered off. Then I led my spellbound audience over the crumbling ice, till the sleigh came. Then I indulged in a thrilling description of the runaway horse and the lost driver. Then I portrayed the lady floating in a sleigh, and my rescue of her. Of course, for manifest reasons, which every gentleman will appreciate, I didn't bring myself forward more prominently than I could help. Then followed that journey over the ice, the passage of the ice-ridge, the long, interminable march, the fainting lady, the broad channel near the shore, the-white gleam of the ice-cone at Montmorency, my wild leap, and my mad dash up the bank to the Frenchman's house.

Up to this moment my audience sat, as I have before remarked, I think, simply spellbound. O'Halloran was on one side of me, with his chin on his breast, and his eyes glaring at me from beneath his bushy eyebrows. Marion sat rigid and motionless, with her hands clasped, and her eyes fixed on the floor. Miss O'Halloran never took her eyes off my face, but kept them on mine as though they were riveted there. At times she started nervously, and shifted her position, and fidgeted in her chair, but never did she remove her eyes. Once, when I came to the time when I led my companion over the ice-ridge, I saw a shudder pass through her. Once again, when I came to that moment when my companion fainted, Marion gave a kind of gasp, and I saw Miss O'Halloran reach out her hand, and clasp the clinched hands of her sister; but with these exceptions there was no variation in their attitude or manner.

And now I tuned my harp to a lighter strain, which means that I proceeded to give an account of my journey after the doctor, his start, my slumbers, my own start, our meeting, the doctor's wrath, my pursuasion, our journey, our troubles, our arrival at the house, our final crushing disappointment, the doctor's brutal raillery, my own meekness, and our final return home. Then, without mentioning Jack Randolph, I explained the object of the advertisement—

"Sic Sandy Macrorie, intentis omnibus, unus Fata renarrabat Divum, cursusque docebat, Conticuit taudem—"

[Hack Latin, of course, but then, you know, if one does quote Latin, that is the only sort that can be understood by the general reader.]

The conclusion of my story produced a marked effect. O'Halloran roused himself and sat erect with a smile on his face and a good natured twinkle in his eyes. Miss O'Halloran lowered her eyes and held down her head, and once, when I reached that point in my story where the bird was flown, she absolutely laughed out. Marion's solemn and beautiful face also underwent a change. A softer expression came over it; she raised her eyes and fixed them with burning intensity on mine. Her hands relaxed the rigid clasp with which they had held one a another, and she settled herself into an easier position on the chair.

"Well, be jakers!" exclaimed one O'Halloran when I had concluded, "it bates the wurruld. What a lucky dog ye are! Advintures come tumblin' upon ye dee afther dee. But will ye ivor foind the leedee?"

I shook my head.

"I'm afraid not," said I, disconsolately. "I put out that advertisement with a faint hope that the lady's sympathy with the unfortunate driver might lead her to make herself known."

At this point the ladies rose. It getting late, and they bade adieu and retired. Marion went out rather abruptly, Miss O'Halloran rather slowly, and not without a final smile of bewitching sweetness. I was going too, but O'Halloran would not think of it. He declared that the evening had just begun. Now that the ladies were gone we would have the field to ourselves. He assured me that I had nothing in particular to do, and might easily wait and join him in "something warrum."



Chapter XVII.

"SOMETHIN' WARRUM."

I must say I was grievously disappointed at the departure of the ladies. It was late enough in all conscience for such a move, but the time had passed quickly, and I was not aware of how late it was. Besides, I had hoped that something would fall from them that would throw light on the great mystery. But nothing of the kind occurred. They retired without saying any thing more than the commonplaces of social life. What made it worse was, the fact that my story has produced such a tremendous effect on both of them. That could not be concealed. They evidently knew something about the lady whom I had rescued; and, if they chose, they could put me in the way of discovery. Then, in Heaven's name, why didn't they? Why did they go off in this style, without a word, leaving me a prey to suspense of the worst kind? It was cruel. It was unkind. It was ungenerous. It was unjust. It was unfair.

One thing alone remained to comfort and encourage me, and that was the recollection of Miss O'Halloran's bewitching smile. The sweetness of that smile lingered in my memory and seemed to give me hope. I would see her again. I would ask her directly, and she would not have the heart to refuse. Marion's graver face did not inspire that confident hope which was caused by the more genial and sympathetic manner of her sprightly elder sister.

Such was my thoughts after the ladies had taken their departure. But these thoughts were soon interrupted and diverted to another channel. O'Halloran rang for a servant and ordered up what he called "somethin' warrum." That something soon appeared in the shape of two decanters, a kettle of hot water, a sugar bowl, tumblers, wine-glasses, spoons, and several other things, the list of which was closed by pipes and tobacco.

O'Halloran was beyond a doubt an Irishman, and a patriotic one at that, but for "somethin' warrum" he evidently preferred Scotch whiskey to that which is produced on the Emerald Sod. Beneath the benign influences of this draught he became more confidential, and I grew more serene. We sat. We quaffed the fragrant draught. We inhaled the cheerful nicotic fumes. We became friendly, communicative, sympathetic.

O'Halloran, however, was more talkative than I, and consequently had more to say. If I'm not a good talker, I'm at least an excellent listener, and that was all my new friend wanted. And so he went on talking, quite indifferent as to any answers of mine; and, as I always prefer the ease of listening to the drudgery of talking, we were both well satisfied and mutually delighted.

First of all, O'Halloran was simply festive. He talked much about my adventure and criticised it from various points of view, and gayly rallied me about the lost "gyerrul."

From a consideration of me circumstances, he wandered gradually away to his own. He lamented his present position in Quebec, which place he found insufferably dull.

"I'd lave it at wanst," he said, "if I wern't deteened here by the cleems of jewty. But I foind it dull beyond all exprission. Me only occupeetion is to walk about the sthraits and throy to preserve the attichood of shuparior baying, But I'm getting overwarrun an' toired out, an' I'm longing for the toime when I can bid ajoo to the counthry with its Injins an' Canajians."

"I don't see what you can find to amuse yourself with," said I, sympathetically.

"Oh," said he, "I have veerious pushoots. I've got me books, an' I foind imploymint an' amusemint with thim."

And now he began to enlarge on the theme of books, and he went on in this way till he became eloquent, enthusiastic, and glorious. He quaffed the limpid and transparent liquid, and its insinuating influences inspired him every moment to nobler flights of fancy, of rhetoric, and of eloquence. He began to grow learned. He discoursed about the Attic drama; the campaigns of Hannibal; the manners and customs of the Parthians; the doctrines of Zoroaster; the wars of Hercalius and Chosroes; the Comneni; the Paleologi; the writings of Snorro Sturlesson; the round towers of Ireland; the Phoenician origins of the Irish people proved by Illustrations from Plautus, and a hundred other things of a similar character.

"And what are you engaged upon now?" I asked, at length, as I found myself fairly lost amid the multiplicity of subjects which he brought forward.

"Engeeged upon?" he exclaimed, "well—a little of iviry thing, but this dee I've been busy with a rayconsthruction of the scholastic thaories rilitiv to the jureetion of the diluge of Juceelion. Have ye ivir persued the thraitises of the Chubingen school about the Noachic diluge?"

"No."

"Well, ye'll find it moighty foine an' insthructive raidin'. But in addition to this, I've been investigarin' the subject of maydyayvil jools."

"Jools?" I repeated, in an imbecile way.

"Yis, jools," said O'Halloran, "the orjil, ye know, the weeger of battle."

"Oh, yes," said I, as light burst in upon me; "duels, I understand."

"But the chafe subject that I'm engeeged upon is a very different one," he resumed, talking another swallow of the oft-replenished draught. "It's a thraitise of moine which I ixplict to upsit the thaories of the miserable Saxon schaymers that desthort the pleen facts of antiquetee to shoot their own narrow an' disthortid comprayhinsions. An' I till ye what—whin my thraitise is published, it'll make a chumult among thim that'll convulse the litherary wurruld."

"What is your treatise about?" I asked, dreamily, for I only half comprehended him, or rather, I didn't comprehend him at all.

"Oh," said he, "its a foine subject intoirely. It's a thraitise rilitiv' to the Aydipodayan Ipopaya."

"What's that?" I asked. "The what?—"

"The Aydipodayan Ipopaya," said O'Halloran.

"The Aydipodayan Ipopaya?" I repeated, in a misty, foggy, and utterly woe-be-gone manner.

"Tis," said he, "an' I'd like to have your opinion about that same," saying which, he once more filled his oft-replenished tumbler.

It was too much. The conversation was getting beyond my depth. I had followed him in a vague and misty way thus far, but this Aydipodayan Ipopaya was an obstacle which I could not in any way surmount. I halted short, full in front of that insurmountable obstacle. So far from surmounting it, I couldn't even pretend to have the smallest idea what it was. I could not get over it, and therefore began to think of a general retreat.

I rose to my feet.

"Ye're not going yit?" he said.

"Yes, but I am," said I.

"Why, sure it's airly enough," said he.

"Yes," said I, "it's early enough, but it's early the wrong way. It's now," said I, taking out my watch, "just twenty minutes of four. I must be off—really."

"Well," said O'Halloran, "I'm sorry ye're going, but you know best what you must do."

"And I'm sorrier," said I, "for I've spent a most delightful evening."

"Sure an' I'm glad to hear ye say that. And ye'll come again, won't ye?"

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure."

"Come to-morrow night thin," said he.

"I shall be only too happy," said I; and with these words I took my departure.

I went home, and went to bed at once. But I lay awake, a prey to many thoughts. Those thoughts did not refer to O'Halloran, or to his Aydipodayan Ipopaya. On the contrary, they referred altogether to the ladies, and to the manner in which they had heard my narrative.

What was the meaning of that?

And my speculations on this passed on even into my dreams, and thus carried me away into



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE FOLLOWING MORNING.—APPEARANCE OF JACK RANDOLPH.—A NEW COMPLICATION.—THE THREE ORANGES.—DESPERATE EFFORTS Of THE JUGGLER. —HOW TO MAKE FULL, AMPLE, COMPLETE, AND MOST SATISFACTORY EXPLANATIONS.—MISS PHILLIPS!—THE WIDOW!!—NUMBER THREE!!!—LOUIE RAPIDLY RISING INTO GREATER PROMINENCE ON THE MENTAL AND SENTIMENTAL HORIZON OF JACK RANDOLPH.

"Well, old chap," cried Jack, as he burst into my room on the following morning, "what the mischief were you doing with yourself all last night? Come, out with it. No humbug. I was here at twelve, lighted up, and smoked till—yes—I'll be hanged if it wasn't half-past two. And you didn't come. What do you mean, my good fellow, by that sort of thing?"

"Oh," said I, meekly, "I was passing the evening with a friend."

"The evening! The night you mean."

"Well, it was rather late," said I. "The fact is, we got talking, and I was telling him about my adventure on the ice. We had been at the concert first, and then I went with him to his quarters. By-the-way, why weren't you there?"

In this dexterous way I parried Jack's question, for I did not feel inclined just yet to return his confidence. I am by nature, as the reader must by this time have seen, uncommonly reticent and reserved, and I wasn't going to pour out my story and my feelings to Jack, who would probably go and tell it everywhere before the close of the day.

"The concert!" cried Jack, contemptuously—"the concert! My dear boy, are you mad? What's a concert to me or I to a concert? A concert? My dear fellow, what kind of an idea have you formed of me, if you think that I am capable of taking part in any festive scene when my soul is crushed under such an accumulated burden of fuss and bother?"

"What, are you bothered still? Haven't you begun to see your way through the woods?"

"See my way?" cried Jack. "Why, it's getting worse and worse—"

"Worse? I thought you had reached the worst when you were repulsed by Louie. What worse thing can happen than that? Weren't all your thoughts on death intent? Didn't you repeat your order for a gravestone?"

"True, old boy; very correct; but then I was just beginning to rally, you know, and all that, when down comes a new bother, and, if I weren't so uncommonly fruitful in resource, this day would have seen an end of Jack Randolph. I see you're rather inclined to chaff me about the gravestone, but I tell you what it is, Macrorie, if this sort of thing continues you'll be in for it. I've pulled through this day, but whether I can pull through to-morrow or not is a very hard thing to say."

At this Jack struck a match, and solemnly lighted his pipe, which all this time he had been filling.

"'Pon my word, old chap," said I, "you seem bothered again, and cornered, and all that. What's up? Any thing new? Out with it, and pour it info this sympathetic ear."

Jack gave about a dozen solemn puffs. Then he removed his pipe with his left hand. Then with his right hand he stroked his brow. Then he said, slowly and impressively:

"She's here!"

"She!" I repeated. "What she? Which? When? How?"

"Miss Phillips!" said Jack.

"Miss Phillips!" I cried. "Miss Phillips! Why, haven't you been expecting her? Didn't she write, and tell you that she was coming, and all that?"

"Yes; but then you know I had half an idea that something or other would turn up to prevent her actual arrival. There's many a slip, you know, 'tween cup and lip. How did I know that she was really coming? It didn't seem at all probable that any thing so abominably embarrassing should be added to all my other embarrassments."

"Probable? Why, my dear fellow, it seems to me the most probable thing in the world. It's always so. Misfortunes never come single. Don't you know that they always come in clusters? But come, tell me all about it. In the first place, you've seen her, of course?"

"Oh, of course. I heard of her arrival yesterday morn, and went off at once to call on her. Her reception of me was not very flattering. She was, in fact, most confoundedly cool. But you know my way. I felt awfully cut up, and insisted on knowing the reason of all this. Then it all came out."

Jack paused.

"Well, what was it?"

"Why, confound it, it seems that she had been here two days, and had been expecting me to come every moment. Now, I ask you, Macrorie, as a friend, wasn't that rather hard on a fellow when he's trying to do the very best he can, and is over head and ears in all kinds of difficulties? You know," he continued, more earnestly, "the awful bothers I've had the last few days. Why, man alive, I had only just got her letter, and hadn't recovered from the shock of that. And now, while I was still in a state of bewilderment at such unexpected news, here she comes herself! And then she begins to pitch into me for not calling on her before."

"It was rather hard, I must confess," said I, with my never-failing sympathy; "and how did it all end?"

Jack heaved a heavy—a very heavy—sigh.

"Well," said he, "it ended all right—for the time. I declared that I had not expected her until the following week; and, when she referred to certain passages in her letter, I told her that I had misunderstood her altogether, which was the solemn fact, for I swear, Macrorie, I really didn't think, even if she did come, that she'd be here two or three days after her letter came. Two or three days—why, hang it all, she must have arrived here the very day I got her letter. The letter must have come through by land, and she came by the way of Portland. Confound those abominable mails, I say! What business have those wretched postmasters to send their letters through the woods and snow? Well, never mind. I made it up all right."

"All right?"

"Oh, yes. I explained it all, you know. I cleared up every thing in the completest way. In fact, I made a full, ample, intelligible, and perfectly satisfactory explanation of the whole thing. I showed that it was all a mistake, you know—that I was humbugged by the mails, and all that sort of thing, you know. So she relented, and we made it all up, and I took her out driving, and we had a glorious time, though the roads were awful—perfect lakes, slush no end, universal thaw, and all that. But we did the drive, and I promised to go there again to-day."

"And did you call on the widow?"

"Oh, yes; but before I went there I had to write a letter to Number Three."

"Number Three! You must have had your hands full?"

"Hands full? I should think I had, my boy. You know what agony writing a letter is to me. It took me two hours to get through it. You see I had written her before, reproaching her for not running off with me, and she had answered me. I got her answer yesterday morning. She wrote back a repetition of her reason for not going, and pleaded her father, who she said would go mad if she did such a thing. Between you and me, Macrorie, that's all bosh. The man's as mad as a March hare now. But this wasn't all. What do you think? She actually undertook to haul me over the coals about the widow."

"What! has she heard about it?"

"Oh, yes. Didn't I tell you before that she kept the run of me pretty closely? Well, she's evidently heard all about me and the widow, and accordingly, after a brief explanation about her father, she proceeded to walk into me about the widow. Now that was another shock. You see, the fact is, I pitched into her first for this very reason, and thought, if I began the attack, she'd have to take up a strictly defensive attitude. But she was too many guns for me. No go, my boy. Not with Number Three. She dodged my blow, and then sprang at me herself, and I found myself thrown on my defence. So you see I had to write to her at once."

Jack sighed heavily, and quaffed some Bass.

"But how the mischief could you handle such a subject? Two hours! I should think so. For my part, I don't see how you managed it at all."

"Oh, I got through," said Jack. "I explained it all, you know. I cleared up every thing in the completest way. In fact, I made a full, perfect, intelligible, ample, and satisfactory explanation—"

"Oh, that's all downright bosh now, old boy," I interrupted. "How could you explain it? It can't be explained."

"But I did though," said Jack. "I don't remember how. I only know the letter struck me as just the thing, and I dropped it into the post-office when on my way to the widow's."

"The widow's?"

"Yes, as soon as I finished the letter, I hurried off to the widow's."

"By Jove!" I cried, aghast "So that's the style of thing, is it? Look here, old man, will you allow me to ask you, in the mildest manner in the world, how long you consider yourself able to keep up this sort of thing?"

"Allow you? Certainly not. No questions, old chap. I don't question myself, and I'll be hanged if I'll let anybody else. I'm among the breakers. I'm whirling down-stream. I have a strong sense of the aptness of Louie's idea about the juggler and the oranges. But the worst of it is, I'm beginning to lose confidence in myself."

And Jack leaned his head back, and sent out a long beam of smoke that flew straight up and hit the ceiling. After which he stared at me in unutterable solemnity.

"Well," said I, "go on. What about the widow?"

"The widow—oh—when I got there I found another row."

"Another?"

"Yes, another—the worst of all. But by this time I had grown used to it, and I was as serene as a mountain-lake."

"But—the row—what was it about?"

"Oh, she had heard about my engagement to Miss Phillips, and her arrival; so she at once began to talk to me like a father. The way she questioned me—why the Grand Inquisitor is nothing to it. But she didn't make any thing by it. You see I took up the Fabian tactics and avoided a direct engagement."

"How's that?"

"Why, I wouldn't answer her."

"How could you avoid it?"

"Pooh I—easy enough—I sat and chaffed her, and laughed at her, and called her jealous, and twitted her, no end. Well, you know, at last she got laughing herself, and we made it all up, and all that sort of thing, you know; still, she's very pertinacious, and even after we made up she teased and teased, till she got an explanation out of me."

"An explanation! What, another?"

"Oh, yes—easy enough—I explained it all, you know, I cleared up every thing perfectly. I made an ample, intelligible, full, frank, and thoroughly satisfactory explanation of the whole thing, and—"

"What, again? Hang it, Jack, don't repeat yourself. This is the third time that you've repeated those words verbatim."

"Is it? Did I? Odd, too. Fact is, I believe I made up that sentence for my letter to Number Three, and I suppose I've got it by heart. At any rate, it's all right You see I had three explanations to make, and they all had to be full, frank, ample, satisfactory, and all the rest of those words, you know. But it's awfully hard work. It's wearing on the constitution. It destroys the nervous system. I tell you what it is, old chap—I'm serious—if this sort of thing is to go on, hang it, I'll die of exhaustion."

"So that was the end of your troubles for that day?"

"Well—yes—but not the end of my day. I got away from the widow by eight o'clock, and then trotted over to Louie."

"Louie?"

"Yes, Louie. Why, man—why not?"

"What, after the late mitten?"

"Mitten? of course. What do you suppose I care for that? Isn't Louie the best friend I have? Isn't she my only comfort? Doesn't she give magnificent advice to a fellow, and all that? Louie? Why, man alive, it's the only thing I have to look forward to! Of course. Well, you see, Louie was luckily disengaged. The other girls were at whist with their father and the aunt. So I had Louie to myself."

"I hope you didn't do the sentimental again."

"Sentimental? Good Lord! hadn't I been overwhelmed and choked with sentiment all day long? Sentiment? Of all the bosh—but, never mind. Louie at least didn't bother me in that way. Yes, it's a fact, Macrorie, she's got an awful knack of giving comfort to a fellow."

"Comfort?"

"Well, I can't exactly explain it."

"I suppose she was very sad, and sympathetic, and all that. At any rate, she didn't know the real trouble that you'd been having?"

"Didn't she, though?"

"No, of course not; how could she?"

"Why, she began questioning me, you know."

"Questioning you?"

"Yes—about—the three oranges, you know."

"Well, and how did you manage to fight her off?"

"Fight her off?"

"Yes."

"Why, I couldn't."

"Couldn't?"

"No."

"Nonsense! A fellow that could baffle the widow, wouldn't have any trouble in baffling Louie."

"Oh, that's all very well; but you don't know the peculiar way she goes to work. She's such an awful tease. And she keeps at it too, like a good fellow."

"Still you were safe from her by reason of the very fact that your daily adventures were things that you could not tell her."

"Couldn't I, though?"

"Of course not."

"I don't see why not."

"Impossible."

"But I did."

"You did?"

"I did."

"To Louie?"

"Yes, to Louie."

Again my thoughts and feelings found expression in a whistle.

"You see," resumed Jack, "she badgered and questioned, and teased and teased, till at last she got it all out of me. And the way she took it! Laughing all the time, the provoking little witch, her eyes dancing with fun, and her soul in a perfect ecstasy over my sorrows. I was quiet at first, but at length got huffy. You see if she cared for a fellow she ought to pity him instead of laughing at him."

"But she doesn't pretend to care for you—and lucky for her too."

"That's true," said Jack, dolefully.

"But what did she say about it?"

"Say? Oh, she teased and teased, and then when she had pumped me dry she burst out into one of her fits-and then I got huffy-and she at once pretended to be very demure, the little sinner, though I saw her eyes twinkling with fun all the time. And at last she burst out:

"'Oh, Captain Randolph! You're so awfully absurd. I can't help it, I must laugh. Now ain't you awfully funny? Confess. Please confess, Captain Randolph. Ple-e-e-ease do, like a good Captain Randolph. Ple-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ease!'

"So my grim features relaxed, and I looked benignly at her, whereupon she burst out laughing again in my face.

"'Well, I can't help it, I'm sure,' she said. 'You do look so droll. You try to make me laugh, and I laugh, and can't help it, and then you blame me for doing the very thing you make me do, and I think it's a shame—there, now."

"Whereupon she began to pout, and look hurt, and so, you know, I had to go to work and explain to her."

"What! not another explanation, I hope. A 'full, frank, free, fresh, ample,' and all that sort of thing, I suppose."

"Oh, bother, chaff! I'm in earnest. I merely explained that I didn't take any offence from her laughter, but that I thought that if she cared for a fellow she wouldn't laugh at him.

"'But, I never said I cared for you,' said she.

"'Oh, well—you know what I mean—you're my friend, you know, and my only comfort,' said I.

"At this she went off again.

"'Well, then,' said I, 'what are you?'

"She sat and thought.

"'Well,' said she, 'I won't be your friend, for that's too cold; I won't be your sister, for that's too familiar. Let me see—what ought I to be? I can't be your guardian, for I'm too volatile—what, then, can I be? Oh, I see! I'll tell you, Captain Randolph, what I'll be. I'll pretend that I'm your aunt. There, sir.'

"'Well, then,' said I, 'my own dear aunt.'

"'No. That won't do—you are always absurd when you grow affectionate or sentimental. You may call me aunt—but no sentiment.'

"'Well, Aunt Louie.'

"She demurred a little, but finally, I gained my point. After this she gave me some good advice, and I left and came straight to you, to find your room empty."

"Advice? You said she gave you advice? What was it?"

"Well, the advised me to get immediate leave of absence, and go home for a time. I could then have a breathing-space to decide on my future."

"Capital! Why, what a perfect little trump Louie is! Jack, my boy, that's the very thing you'll have to do."

Jack shook his head.

"Why not?"

He shook his head again.

"Well, what did you say to Louie?"

"Why, I told her that it was impossible. She insisted that it was the very thing I ought to do, and wanted to know why I wouldn't. I refused to tell, whereupon she began to coax and tease, and tease and coax, and so the end of it was, I told her."

"What was it?"

"Why, I told her I couldn't think of going away where I couldn't see her; that I would hare blown my brains out by this time if it weren't for her; and that I'd blow my brains out when I went home, if it weren't for the hope of fleeing her to-morrow."

"The devil you did!" said I, dryly. "What! after being mittened?"

"Yes," said Jack. "It was on my mind to say it, and I said it."

"And how did Louie take it?"

"Not well. She looked coolly at me, and said:

"'Captain Randolph, I happened to be speaking sensibly. You seemed to be in earnest when you asked for my opinion, and I gave it.'

"'And I was in earnest,' I said.

"'How very absurd!' said she. 'The fable of the shepherd-boy who cried wolf, is nothing to you. It seems to be a fixed habit of yours to go about to all the young ladies of your acquaintance threatening to blow your brains out. Now, in getting up a sentiment for my benefit, you ought at least to have been original, and not give to me the same second-hand one which you had already sent to Number Three.'

"She looked so cold, that I felt frightened.

"'You're—you're—not offended?' said I. 'I'm sure—'

"'Oh, no,' said she, interrupting me; 'I'm not offended. I'm only disappointed in you. Don't apologize, for you'll only make it worse.'

"'Well,' said I, 'I'm very much obliged to you for your advice—but circumstances over which I have no control prevent me from taking it. There—is that satisfactory?'

"'Quite, 'said Louie, and her old smile returned.

"'Do you wish me to tell you what the circumstances are?'

"'Oh, no—oh, don't—' she cried, with an absurd affectation of consternation. 'Oh, Captain Randolph—please. Ple-e-e-aase, Captain Randolph—don't.'

"So I didn't."

"Well, Jack," said I, "how in the world did you manage to carry on such conversations when the rest of the family were there? Wouldn't they overhear you?"

"Oh, no. You see they were in one room at their whist, and we were in the other. Besides, we didn't speak loud enough for them to hear— except occasionally."

"So Louie didn't take offence."

"Oh, no, we made it up again at once. She gave me a beaming smile as I left. I'll see her again this evening."

"And the others through the day?"

"Oh, yes," said Jack, with a sigh.

"Miss Phillips?"

"Of course—and then I get a note from Number Three, requiring an immediate answer—and then off I go to the widow, who will have a new grievance; and then, after being used up by all these, I fly to Louie for comfort and consolation."

I shook my head.

"You're in for it, old chap," I said, solemnly, "and all that I can say is this: Take Louie's advice, and flit."

"Not just yet, at any rate," said Jack, rising; and with these words he took his departure.



CHAPTER XIX.

O'HALLORAN'S AGAIN.—A STARTLING REVELATION.—THE LADY OF THE ICE. —FOUND AT LAST.—CONFUSION, EMBARRASSMENT, RETICENCE, AND SHYNESS, SUCCEEDED BY WIT, FASCINATION, LAUGHTER, AND WITCHING SMILES.

After waiting impatiently all day, and beguiling the time in various ways, the hour at length came when I could go to O'Halloran's. I confess, my feelings were of rather a tumultuous description. I would see the ladies again. I would renew my endeavors to find out the great mystery of the ice. Such were my intentions, and I had firmly resolved to make direct questions to Nora and Marion, and see if I couldn't force them, or coax them, or argue them, into an explanation of their strange agitation. Such an explanation, I felt, would be a discovery of the object of my search.

Full of these thoughts, intentions, and determinations, I knocked at O'Halloran's door, and was ushered by the servant into the comfortable parlor. O'Halloran stood there in the middle of the room. Nora was standing not far from him. Marion was not there; but O'Halloran and Nora were both looking at me, as I entered, with strange expressions.

O'Halloran advanced quickly, and caught me by the hand.

"D'ye know what ye've done?" said he, abruptly, without greeting or salutation of any kind. "D'ye know what ye've done? Ye seeved my loife at the concert. But are you aweer what you've done be-soides?"

He looked at me earnestly, and with so strange an expression that for a moment I thought he must be mad.

"Well, really," said I, somewhat confusedly, "Mr. O'Halloran, I must confess I'm not aware of any thing in particular."

"He doesn't know!" cried O'Halloran. "He doesn't know. 'Tis'n't the sloightest conception that he has! Will, thin, me boy," said he—and all this time he held my hand, and kept wringing it hard—"will, thin —I've another dibt of gratichood, and, what's more, one that I nivir can raypay. D'ye know what ye've done? D'ye know what re are? No? Will, thin, I'll tell ye. Ye're the seevior of me Nora, me darlin', me proide, me own. She was the one that ye seeved on the oice, and riscued from desthruction. There she stands. Look at her. But for you, she'd be now lost forivir to the poor owld man whose light an' loife an' trisure she always was. Nora, jewel, there he is, as sure as a gun, though whoy he didn't recognoize ye last noight passes moy faible comprayhinsion, so it docs."

Saying this, he let go my hand and looked toward Nora.

At this astounding announcement I stood simply paralyzed. I stared at each in succession. To give an idea of my feelings is simply impossible. I must refer every thing to the imagination of the reader; and, by way of comparison to assist his imagination, I beg leave to call his attention to our old friend, the thunder-bolt. "Had a thunder-bolt burst," and all that sort of thing. Fact, sir. Dumbfounded. By Jove! that word even does not begin to express the idea.

Now for about twenty hours, in dreams as well as in waking moments, I bad been brooding over the identity of the lady of the ice, and had become convinced that the O'Halloran ladies knew something about it; yet so obtuse was I that I had not suspected that the lady herself might be found in this house. In fact, such an event was at once so romantic and so improbable that it did not even suggest itself. But now here was the lady herself. Here she stood. Now I could understand the emotion, the agitation, and all that, of the previous evening. This would at once account for it all. And here she stood—the lady herself —and that lady was no other than Miss O'Halloran.

By Jove!

Miss O'Halloran looked very much confused, and very much embarrassed. Her eyes lowered and sought the floor, and in this way she advanced and took my proffered hand. 'Pon my life, I don't think I ever saw any thing more beautiful than she was as this confusion covered her lovely face; and the eyes which thus avoided mine seemed to my imagination still more lovely than they had been before.

And this was the one—I thought, as I took her hand—this was the one —the companion of my perilous trip—the life that I had saved. Yet this discovery filled me with wonder. This one, so gay, so genial, so laughter-loving—this one, so glowing with the bloom of health, and the light of life, and the sparkle of wit—this one! It seemed impossible. There swept before me on that instant the vision of the ice, that quivering form clinging to me, that pallid face, those despairing eyes, that expression of piteous and agonizing entreaty, those wild words of horror and of anguish. There came before me the phantom of that form which I had upraised from the ice when it had sunk down in lifelessness, whose white face rested on my shoulder as I bore it away from the grasp of death; and that vision, with all its solemn, tragic awfulness seemed out of keeping with this. Miss O'Halloran? Impossible! But yet it must be so, since she thus confessed it My own memory had been at fault. The face on the ice which haunted me was not the face that I saw before me; but, then, Miss O'Halloran in despair must have a different face from Miss O'Halloran in her happy and peaceful home. All these thoughts passed through me as I took her hand; but they left me with the impression that my vision was a mistake, and that this lady was in very deed the companion of that fearful journey.

I pressed her hand in silence. I could not speak. Under the pressure of thoughts and recollections that came sweeping in upon me, I was dumb; and so I wandered away, and fell into a seat. Yet, in my stupefaction, I could see that Hiss O'Halloran showed an emotion equal to mine. She had not spoken a word. She sat down, with her eyes on the floor, and much agitation in her manner.

"Nora, me pet," said O'Halloran, "haven't ye any esprission of gratichood?"

Miss O'Halloran raised her face, and looked at me with earnest eyes.

"Indeed—indeed," she said—"it is not from want of gratitude that I am silent. My gratitude is too strong for words. Lieutenant Macrorie needs no assurance of mine, I know, to convince him how I admire his noble conduct—"

The sound of her voice roused me from my own abstraction.

"Oh, of course," said I, "a fellow knows all that sort of thing, you know; and I feel so glad about the service I was able to render you, that I'm positively grateful to you for being there. Odd, though —wasn't it?—that I didn't recognize you. But then, you see, the fact is, you looked so different then from what you do now. Really, you seem like another person—you do, by Jove!"

At this Miss O'Halloran looked down, and seemed embarrassed.

"But what made you clear out so soon from the Frenchman's?" said I, suddenly. "You've no idea how it bothered me. By Jove! it didn't seem altogether fair to me, you know. And then you didn't even leave your address."

Miss O'Halloran's confusion seemed to increase. She murmured something about having to hurry home—pressed for time—fear of her friends being anxious—and all that.

Then I asked her anxiously if she had been any the worse for it.

"Oh, no," she said; "no ill consequences had resulted."

By this time I had sense enough to perceive that the subject was an extremely unpleasant one. A moment's further thought showed me that it couldn't be any thing else. Unpleasant! I should think so. Was it not suggestive of sorrow and of despair? Had she not witnessed things which were never to be forgotten? Had she not seen her hapless driver go down beneath the icy waters? Had she not herself stood face to face with an awful doom? Had she not twice—yes, and thrice—tasted of the bitterness of death?

"I beg pardon," said I, as these thoughts came to me—"it's a painful subject. I spoke thoughtlessly; but I won't allude to it again. It was bad enough for me; but it must have been infinitely worse for you. The fact is, my curiosity got the better of my consideration for your feelings."

"That's thrue," said O'Halloran; "it's a peenful subjict."

At this Miss O'Halloran looked immensely relieved. She raised her head, and involuntarily cast upon me a touching look of gratitude. Yes; it must, indeed, have been a painful subject. The consciousness of this made me eager to make amends for my fault, and so I began to rattle on in a lively strain about a thousand things; and Miss O'Halloran, seizing the opportunity thus held out of casting dull care away, at once rose superior to her embarrassment and confusion, and responded to my advances with the utmost liveliness and gayety. The change was instantaneous and marked. A moment ago she had been constrained and stiff and shy; now she was gay and lively and spirited. This change, which thus took place before my eyes, served in some measure to explain that difference which I saw between the Lady of the Ice and Miss O'Halloran in her own home.

O'Halloran himself joined in. He was gay, and genial, and jocose. At about nine o'clock Marion came in. She seemed dull and distrait. She gave me a cold hand, and then sat down in silence. She did not say any thing whatever. She did not seem even to listen, but sat, with her head leaning on her hand, like one whose thoughts are far away. Yet there was a glory about her sad and melancholy beauty which could not but arrest my gaze, and often and often I found my eyes wandering to that face of loveliness. Twice—yes, three times—as my gaze thus wandered, I found her eyes fixed upon me with a kind of eager scrutiny—a fixed intensity which actually was startling to encounter. And strange, vague, wild, unformed memories arose, and odd ideas, and fantastic suspicions. Her face became thus like one of those which one sees in a crowd hastily, and then loses, only to rack his brain in vain endeavors to discover who the owner of the face might be. So it was with me as I saw the dark face and the lustrous eyes of Marion.

And now, 'pon my life, I cannot say which, one of these two excited the most of my admiration. There was Nora, with her good-nature, her wit, her friendliness, her witchery, her grace, the sparkle of her eye, the music of her laugh. But there, too, was Marion, whose eyes seemed to pierce to my soul, as twice or thrice I caught their gaze, and whose face seemed to have some weird influence over me, puzzling and bewildering me by suggestions of another face, which I had seen before. I was fascinated by Nora; I was in love with her; but by Marion I was thrown under a spell.

On the whole, Nora seemed to me more sympathetic. With all her brightness and joyousness, there was also a strange timidity, at times, and shyness, and furtive glances. An occasional flush, also, gave her a sweet confusion of manner, which heightened her charms. All these were signs which I very naturally interpreted in my own favor. What else should I do?

I have been calling her indiscriminately Miss O'Halloran and Nora. But to her face I did not call her by any name. Nora, of course, was not to be thought of. On the other hand, Miss O'Halloran seemed too distant For the memory of our past experience made me feel very near to her, and intimate. Had we not been together on a journey where hours create the familiarities of years? Was not her life mine? In fact, I felt to her as a man feels when he meets the old flame of his boyhood. She is married, and has passed beyond him. But her new name is too cold, and her old name may not be used. So he calls her nothing. He meets her as a friend, but does not know how to name her.

As we talked, O'Halloran sat there, and sometimes listened, and sometimes chimed in. An uncommonly fine-looking old fellow he was, too. Although about sixty, his form was as erect as that of a young man, and his sinewy limbs gave signs of great strength. He sat in an easy-chair —his iron-gray hair clustering over his broad brow; his eyes keen, penetrating, but full of fun; his nose slightly curved, and his lips quivering into smiles; small whiskers of a vanished fashion on either cheek; and small hands—a right royal, good fellow—witty, intellectual, and awfully eccentric—at once learned and boyish, but for all that perhaps all the better adapted for social enjoyment, and perhaps I may add conviviality. There was a glorious flow of animal spirits in the man, which could not be repressed, but came rolling forth, expressed in his rich Leinster brogue. He was evidently proud of his unparalleled girls; but of these all his tenderness seemed to go forth toward Nora. To her, and apparently to her alone, he listened, with a proud affection in his face and in his eyes; while any little sally of hers was always sure to be received with an outburst of rollicking laughter, which was itself contagious, and served to increase the general hilarity.

But the general hilarity did not extend to Marion. She was like a star, and sat apart, listening to every thing, but saying nothing. I caught sometimes, as I have said, the lustrous gleam of her eyes, as they pierced me with their earnest gaze; and when I was looking at Nora, and talking, with her, I was conscious, at times, of Marion's eyes. O'Halloran did not look at her, or speak to her. Was she under a cloud? Was this her usual character? Or was she sad and serious with the pressure of some secret purpose? Such were my thoughts; but then I suddenly decided that by such thoughts I was only making an ass of myself, and concluded that it was nothing more than her way. If so, it was an uncommonly impressive way.

The ladies retired early that evening. Marion, on leaving, gave me a last searching glance; while Nora took leave with her most bewildering smile. The glance and the smile both struck home; but, which affected me most, it is impossible to say.



CHAPTER XX.

"OUR SYMPOSIUM," AS O'HALLORAN CALLED IT.—HIGH AND MIGHTY DISCOURSE. —GENERAL INSPECTION OF ANTIQUITY BY A LEARNED EYE.—A DISCOURSE UPON THE "OIONEESOIZIN" OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.—HOMERIC TRANSLATIONS. —O'HALLORAN AND BURNS.—A NEW EPOCH FOR THE BROGUE.—THE DINNER OF ACHILLES AND THE PALACE OF ANTINOUS.

The servants brought us the generous preparations for the evening —sugar, spoons, hot water, tumblers, and several other things.

O'Halloran began by expressing his gratitude, and saying that Nora could not speak on the subject. He hoped I would see, by that, why it was that she had not answered my questions. Whereupon I hastened to apologize for asking questions which so harshly reminded her of a terrible tragedy. Our mutual explanations were soon exhausted, and we turned to subjects in general.

As our symposium proceeded, O'Halloran grew more and more eloquent, more discursive, more learned, more enthusiastic. He didn't expect me to take any part in the conversation. He was only anxious that I should "take it hot," and keep my pipe and my tumbler well in hand. He was like Coleridge, and Johnson, and other great men who abhor dialogues, and know nothing but monologues.

On this occasion he monologued on the following subjects: The Darwinian hypothesis, the positive philosophy, Protestant missions, temperance societies, Fichte, Leasing, Hegel, Carlyle, mummies, the Apocalypse, Maimonides, John Scotus Erigena, the steam-engine of Hero, the Serapeium, the Dorian Emigration, and the Trojan War. This at last brought him on the subject of Homer.

He paused for a moment here.

"D'ye want to know," said he, "the thrue business of me loife, an' me sowl occupeetion?"

I bowed and gave a feeble smile. I thought of Fenian agencies and a dozen other things, and fancied that in this hour of confidence he would tell all. I had several times wondered why he lived in a place which he hated so, and had a vague idea that he was some kind of a secret emissary, though there was certainly not a single thing in his character which might warrant such a supposition.

"Me object," said O'Halloran, looking solemnly at me, "and the whole eem of me loife is the Oioneesoizin of the language of the Saxon. He's thrust his language on us, an' my eem is to meek it our oun, to illivate it—an' by one schtoopindous illusthreetion to give it a pleece among the letherary doialicts of the wurruld."

"Oioneesoizin?" said I, slowly.

"Yis, Oioneesoizin," said O'Halloran. "An' I'm going to do this by mains of a thransleetion of Homer. For considher. Since Chapman no thransleetion has been made. Pope and Cowper are contimptible. Darby is onraydable. Gladstone's attimpt on the fust buk, an' Mat Arnold's on the seem, an' Worsley's Spinsayrians are all feclures. Ye see, they think only of maythers, an' don't considher doialicts. Homer wrote in the Oionic doialict, an' shud be thranslated into the modern ayquivalint of that same."

"Oh, I see," said I, "but is there such an equivalent?"

"Yis," said he, solemnly. "Ye see, the Scotch doialict has been illivatid into a Doric by the janius of a Burruns; and so loikewise shall the Oirish be illivatid into an Oioneean dolalict by the janius of O'Halloran.

"For Oirish is the natural an' conjayneal ripriseentitive of the ancient Oioneean. It's vowel-sounds, its diphthongs, its shuperabundince of leginds, all show this most pleenly. So, too, if we apploy this modern Oineean to a thransleetion of Homer, we see it has schtoopindous advantages. The Homeric neems, the ipithets, and the woild alterneetion of dacthyls an' spondees, may all be riprisinted boy a neetive and conjayneal mayther. Take for a spicimin Barny O'Brallaghan. "Twas on a windy night about two o'clock in the mornin." That is the neetive misure of the Oirish bards, an' is iminiutly adapted to rendher the Homeric swinge. It consists of an Oiambic pinthimitir followed by a dacthylic thripody; an' in rhythm projuices the effects of the dacthylic hixamitir. Compeer wid this the ballad mayther, an' the hayroic mayther, and the Spinserian stanzas, of Worsley, an' Gladstone's Saxon throchaics, and Darby's dull blank verse, an' the litheral prose, an' Mat Arnold's attimpts at hixameters, an' Dain somebody's hindicasyllabics. They're one an' all ayqually contimptible. But in this neetive Oirish loine we have not only doialictic advantages, but also an ameezing number of others. It's the doirict riprisiuteetive of the Homiric loine, fust, in the number of fate; secindly, in the saysural pause; thirdly, in the capaceetee for a dactylic an' spondaic inding, an' fowerthly, in the shuperabundince of sonorous ipithits and rowling syllabeefeeceetions. An' all this I can prove to ye by spicimins of me oun thransleetion."

With this he went to a Davenport at one end of the room, and brought out a pile of manuscript closely written. Then he seated himself again.

"I'll raid ye passages here an' there," said he. "The fust one is the reception of the imbassy by Achilles." Saying this, he took the manuscript and began to read the following in a very rich, broad brogue, which made me think that he cultivated this brogue of his purposely, and out of patriotic motives, from a desire to elevate his loved Irish dialect to an equality with the literary standard English:

"'He spake. Pat Rokles heard, an' didn't dacloine for till do it, But tuk the mate-thray down, an' into the foyre he threw it: A shape's choine an' a goat's he throwed on top of the platter, An' wan from a lovely pig, than which there wor nivir a fatter; Thase O'Tommedon tuk, O'Kelly devoided thim nately, He meed mince-mate av thim all, an' thin he spitted thim swately; To sich entoicin' fud they all extinded their arrams. Till fud and dhrink loikewise had lost their jaynial charrums; Thin Ajax winked at Phaynix, O'Dishes tuke note of it gayly, An' powerin' out some woine, he dhrunk till the health ov O'Kelly.'"

After this he read the description of the palace of Antinous in the "Odyssey:"

"'For benchus heights ov brass aich wee wos firrmlee buildid, From the front dure till the back, an' a nate blue corrinis filled it; An' there was gowldin dures, that tastee dome securin', An' silver posts loikewise that slid the breezin' dure in; An' lovely gowldin dogs the intherrance wee stud fast in, Thim same, H. Phaestus meed, which had a turrun for castin'. Widout that speecious hall there grew a gyardin, be Jakers! A fince purticts that seeme of fower (I think it is) acres.'"

I have but an indistinct recollection of the rest of the evening. If I was not sound asleep, I must have been in a semi-doze, retaining just sufficient consciousness to preserve the air of an absorbed listener. I had nothing but an innumerable multitude of visions, which assumed alternately the shape of Nora and of Marion. When at length I rose to go, O'Halloran begged me to stay longer. But, on looking at my watch, I found it was half-past three, and so suggested in a general way that perhaps I'd better be in bed. Whereupon he informed me that he would not be at home on the following evening, but wouldn't I come the evening after. I told him I'd be very happy. But suddenly I recollected an engagement. "Well, will you be at leisure on the next evening?" said he. I told him I would be, and so I left, with the intention of returning on the third evening from that time.

I got home and went to bed; and in my dreams I renewed the events of that evening. Not the latter part of it, but the former part. There, before me, floated the forms of Nora and of Marion, the one all smiles, the other all gloom—the one all jest and laughter, the other silent and sombre—the one casting at me the glowing light of her soft, innocent, laughing eyes; the other flinging at me from her dark, lustrous orbs glances that pierced my soul. I'm an impressible man, I own it. I can't help it. I was so made. I'm awfully susceptible. And so, 'pon my honor, for the life of me I couldn't tell which I admired most of these two fascinating, bewildering, lovely, bewitching, yet totally different beings. "Oh, Nora!" I cried—and immediately after, "Oh, Marion!"



CHAPTER XXI.

JACK ONCE MORE.—THE WOES OF A LOVER.—NOT WISELY BUT TOO MANY.—WHILE JACK IS TELLING HIS LITTLE STORY, THE ONES WHOM HE THUS ENTERTAINS HAVE A SEPARATE MEETING.—THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.—THE LETTER OF "NUMBER THREE."—THE WIDOW AND MISS PHILLIPS.—JACK HAS TO AVAIL HIMSELF OF THE AID OF A CHAPLAIN Of HER MAJESTY'S FORCES.—JACK AN INJURED MAN.

It was late on the following morning when I rose. I expected to see Jack bouncing in, but there were no signs of him. I went about on my usual round, but he didn't turn up. I asked some of the other fellows, but none of them had seen him. I began to be anxious. Duns were abroad. Jack was in peril. The sheriff was near. There was no joke in it. Perhaps he was nabbed, or perhaps he was in hiding. The fact that no one had seen him was a very solemn and a very portentous one. I said nothing about my feelings, but, as the day wore on without bringing any sign of him, I began to be more anxious; and as the evening came I retired to my den, and there thoughts of Jack intermingled themselves with visions of Nora and Marion.

The hours of that evening passed very slowly. If I could have gone to O'Halloran's, I might have forgotten my anxiety; but, as I couldn't go to O'Halloran's, I could not get rid of my anxiety. What had become of him? Was he in limbo? Had he taken Louie's advice and flitted? Was he now gnashing his splendid set of teeth in drear confinement; or was he making a fool of himself, and an ass, by persisting in indulging in sentiment with Louie?

In the midst of these cogitations, eleven o'clock came, and a few moments after in bounced Jack himself.

I met him as the prodigal son was met by his father.

He was gloomy. There was a cloud on his broad, Jovian, hilarious, Olympian brow, with its clustering ambrosial locks.

"Jack, old fellow! You come like sunshine through a fog. I've been bothering about you all day. Have you been nabbed? Are the duns abroad? Has the sheriff invited you to a friendly and very confidential conversation? You haven't been here for two days."

"Yes, I have," said Jack, "I was here last night, and waited till three, and then walked off to sleep on it. You're up to something yourself, old man, but look out. Take warning by me. Don't plunge in too deep. For my part, I haven't the heart to pursue the subject. I've got beyond the head-stone even. The river's the place for me. But, Macrorie, promise me one thing."

"Oh, of course—all right—go ahead."

"Well, if I jump into the river, don't let them drag for me. Let me calmly drift away, and be borne off into the Atlantic Ocean. I want oblivion. Hang headstones! Let Anderson slide."

Saying this, Jack crammed some tobacco into his pipe, lighted it, flung himself into a chair, and began smoking most vigorously. I watched him for some time in silence. There was a dark cloud on his sunny brow; he looked woe-begone and dismal, and, though such expressions were altogether out of harmony with the style of his face, yet to a friendly eye they were sufficiently visible. I saw that something new had occurred. So I waited for a time, thinking that he would volunteer his confidence; but, as he did not, I thought I would ask for it.

"By Jove!" said I, at last "Hang it, Jack, do you know, old man, you seem to be awfully cut up about something—hit hard—and all that sort of thing. What's up? Any thing new? Out with it—clean breast, and all that. 'Pon my life, I never saw you so cut up before. What is it?"

Jack took his pipe from his mouth, rubbed his forehead violently, stared at me for a few moments, and then slowly ejaculated.

"There's a beastly row—tremendous—no end—that's what there is."

"A row?"

"Yes—no end of a row."

"Who? What? Which of them?"

"All of them. Yesterday, and to-day, and to be continued to-morrow. Such is life. Sic transit, et cetera. Good Lord! Macrorie, what's a fellow to do but drown himself? Yes, my boy—oblivion! that's what I want. And I'll have it. This life isn't the thing for me. I was never made to be badgered. The chief end of man is for other things than getting snubbed by woman. And I'm not going to stand it. Here, close by, is a convenient river. I'll seek an acquaintance with its icy tide, rather than have another day like this."

"But I'm all in the dark. Tell what it is that has happened."

Jack inhaled a few more whiffs of the smoke that cheers but not inebriates, and then found voice to speak:

"You see it began yesterday. I started off at peace with the world, and went most dutifully to call on Miss Phillips. Well, I went in and found her as cool as an icicle. I didn't know what was up, and proceeded to do the injured innocent. Whereupon she turned upon me, and gave it to me then and there, hot and heavy. I didn't think it was in her. I really didn't—by Jove! The way she gave it to me," and Jack paused in wonder.

"What about?" said I.

"The widow!" groaned Jack.

"The widow?" I repeated.

"Yes—the widow."

"But how did she hear about it so soon?"

"Oh, easy enough. It's all over town now, you know. Her friends here heard of it, and some were incredulous, and others were indignant. At any rate, both classes rushed with delightful unanimity to inform her, so you may imagine the state of mind I found her in.

"You can easily imagine what she said. I don't think much of your imagination, Macrorie, but in this case it don't require a very vivid one. The worst of it is, she was quite right to feel indignant. The only thing about it all that gave me the smallest relief, was the fact that she didn't do the pathetic. She didn't shed a tear. She simply questioned me. She was as stiff as a ramrod, and as cold as a stone. There was no mercy in her, and no consideration for a fellow's feelings. She succeeded in making out that I was the most contemptible fellow living."

"And what did you say?"

"Say? What could I say? She forced me to own up about the widow. Hang it, you know I can't lie. So, after trying to dodge her questions, I answered them. She wouldn't let me dodge them. But there was one thing left. I swore to her, by all that was true, that I didn't care a fig for the widow, that my engagement with her arose altogether through a mistake. She pressed me hard on this, and I had to tell this too."

"What? Look here, Jack—you didn't drag in Louie into your confounded scrape?"

"Do you think I'm such a villain as that?" said Jack, indignantly. "No —of course I didn't. Louie—I'd die first. No. I told her some story about my mistaking her for a friend, whose name I didn't mention. I told her that I took the widow's hand by mistake—just in fun, you know—thinking it was my friend, and all that; and before I knew it the widow had nabbed me."

"Well?"

"Well, she didn't condescend to ask the name of my friend. She thought the widow was enough at a time, I suppose, and so she asked me about the state of my feelings toward her. And here I expressed myself frankly. I told her that my only desire was to get out of her clutches —that it was all a mistake, and that I was in an infernal scrape, and didn't know how to get out of it.

"Such strong language as this mollified her a little, and she began to believe me. Yet she did not soften altogether. At last, I pitched into the widow hot and heavy. This restored her to her usual self. She forgave me altogether. She even said that she was sorry for me. She hinted, too, that if she ever saw the widow, she'd have it out with her."

"Heaven forbid!" said I. "Keep them apart, Jack, if you can."

Jack groaned.

"So it's all right, is it? I congratulate you—as far as it's worth congratulation, you know. So you got out of it, did you? A 'full, fresh, frank, free, formal, ample, exhaustive, and perfectly satisfactory explanation,' hey? That's the style of thing, is it?"

Jack gnashed his teeth.

"Come, now—old boy—no chaff. I'm beyond that. Can't stand it. Fact is, you haven't heard the whole story yet, and I don't feel like telling the rest of it, if you interrupt a fellow with your confounded humbug."

"Go ahead—don't fear, Jack—I won't chaff."

Jack drew a long breath.

"Well, then—I took her out for a drive. We had a very good time, though both of us were a little preoccupied, and I thought she had altered awfully from what she used to be; and then, you know, after leaving her, I went to see the widow."

"You didn't tell her where you were going, of course?"

"So," said Jack, with a sigh. "Well, you see, I went to the widow, and I found that she had heard about my calling on Miss Phillips, and driving out with her for a couple of hours, and I don't know what else. She was calm, and quiet, and cool, and simply wanted to know what it all meant. Well, do you know that sort of coolness is the very thing that I can't stand. If she'd raved at me, or scolded, or been passionate, or gone on in any kind of a way, I could have dealt with her; but with a person like that, who is so calm, and cool, and quiet, I haven't the faintest idea how to act.

"I mumbled something or other about 'old friendship'—'stranger in a strange land'—horrid rot—what an ass she must have thought me!—but that's the way it was. She didn't say any thing. She began to talk about something else in a conventional way—the weather, I think. I couldn't do any thing. I made a vague attempt at friendly remonstrance with her about her coolness; but she didn't notice it. She went on talking about the weather. She was convinced that it would snow. I, for my part, was convinced that there was going to be a storm—a hurricane —a tornado—any thing. But she only smiled at my vehemence, and finally I left, with a general idea that there was thunder in the air.

"Well, you know, I then went off to see Louie. But I didn't get any satisfaction there. The other girls were present, and the aunt. There wasn't any whist, and so I had to do the agreeable to the whole party. I waited until late, in the hope that some chance might turn up of a private chat with Louie, but none came. So at last I came home, feeling a general disgust with the world and the things of the world."

"Rather hard, that," said I, as Jack relapsed into moody silence.

"Hard?" said he; "that was yesterday, but it was nothing to what I met with to-day."

"To-day?—why, what's up worse than that?"

"Every thing. But I'll go on and make a clean breast of it. Only don't laugh at me, Macrorie, or I'll cut."

"Laugh? Do I ever laugh?"

Jack took a few more puffs, and relieved his sorrow-laden breast by several preliminary and preparatory sighs, after which he proceeded:

"To-day," he began, "I got up late. I felt heavy. I anticipated a general row. I dressed. I breakfasted, and, just as I was finishing, the row began. A letter was brought in from the post-office. It was from lumber Three."

"Number Three?" I cried.

"Number Three," repeated Jack. "As if it wasn't bad enough already, she must come forward to add herself to those who were already crushing me to the earth, and driving me mad. It seemed hard, by Jove! I tell you what it is, old chap, nobody's so remorseless as a woman. Even my duns have been more merciful to me than these friends whom I love. It's too bad, by Jove, it is!

"Well. Number Three's letter was simply tremendous. She had heard every thing. I've already told you that she keeps the run of me pretty well, though how she manages it I can't imagine—and now it seems she heard, on the same day, of my engagement to the widow, and of the arrival of Miss Phillips, to whom I was also engaged. This news seemed to drive her wild with indignation. She mentioned these facts to me, and ordered me to deny them at once. She declared that it was impossible for any gentleman to act so dishonorably, and said that nothing but the character of her informant could lead her to ask me to deny such foul slanders.

"That's the way she put it. That's the style of thing she flung at me when I was already on my back. That's Number Three for you! And the worst of it is, I don't know what to say in reply. I tell you what it is now, Macrorie, that was a pretty tough beginning for the day. I felt it, and I left my room with a dark presentiment in my mind, and the same general idea of a brooding thunder-storm, which I had experienced the evening before.

"Then I went to see Miss Phillips, and this was my frame of mind. I found her calm, cold, and stiff as an iceberg. Not a single kind word. No consideration for a fellow at all. I implored her to tell me what was the matter. She didn't rail at me; she didn't reproach me; but proceeded in the same cruel, inconsiderate, iceberg fashion, to tell me what the matter was. And I tell you, old boy, the long and the short of it was, there was the very mischief to pay, and the last place in Quebec that I ought to have entered was that particular place. But then, how did I know? Besides, I wanted to see her."

"What was it?" I asked, seeing Jack hesitate.

"What! Why, who do you think had been there? The widow herself! She had come to call on Miss Phillips, and came with a fixed design on me. In a few moments she managed to introduce my name. Trotting me out in that fashion doesn't strike me as being altogether fair, but she did it. Mrs. Llewelopen, who is Miss Phillips's aunt, took her up rather warmly, and informed her that I was engaged to Miss Phillips. The widow smiled, and said I was a sad man, for I had told her, when I engaged myself to her, that my affair with Miss Phillips was all broken off, and had repeated the same thing two evenings before. She also informed them that I visited her every day, and was most devoted. To all this Miss Phillips had to listen, and could not say one word. She had sense enough, however, to decline any altercation with the widow, and reserve her remarks for me. And now, old boy, you see what I caught on entering the presence of Miss Phillips. She did not weep; she did not sigh; she did not reproach; she did not cry—she simply questioned me, standing before me cold and icy, and flinging her bitter questions at me. The widow had said this and that. The widow had repeated such and such words of mine. The widow had also subjected her to bitter shame and mortification. And what had I to say? She was too much of a lady to denounce or to scold, and too high-hearted even to taunt me; too proud, too lofty, to deign to show that she felt the cut; she only questioned me; she only asked me to explain such and such things. Well, I tried to explain, and gave a full and frank account of every thing, and, as far as the widow was concerned, I was perfectly truthful. I declared again that it was all a mistake, and that I'd give any thing to get rid of her. This was all perfectly true, but it wasn't by any means satisfactory to Miss Phillips. She's awfully high-strung, you know. She couldn't overlook the fact that I had given I the widow to understand that it was all broken off with us. I had never said so, but I had let the widow think so, and that was enough.

"Well, you know, I got huffy at last, and said she didn't make allowances for a fellow, and all that I told her that I was awfully careless, and was always getting into confounded scrapes, but that it would all turn out right in the end, and some day she'd understand it all. Finally, I felt so confoundedly mean, and so exactly like some infernal whipped cur, that I then and there asked her to take me, on the spot, as I was, and fulfil her vow to me. I swore that the widow was nothing to me, and wished she was in Jericho. At this she smiled slightly, and said that I didn't know what I was saying, and, in fact, declined my self-sacrificing offer. So there I was—and I'll be hanged, Macrorie, isn't it odd?—there's the third person that's refused to marry me off-hand! I vow I did what I could. I offered to marry her at once, and she declined just as the others did. With that I turned the tables on her, reproached her for her coldness, told her that I had given her the highest possible mark of my regard, and bade her adieu. We shook hands. Hers was very languid, and she looked at me quite indifferently. I told her that she'd feel differently to-morrow, and she said perhaps she might And so I left her.

"Well, then, I had the widow to visit, but the letter and the affair with Miss Phillips had worn out my resources. In any ordinary case, the widow was too many guns for me, but, in a case like this, she was formidable beyond all description. So I hunted up the chaplain, and made him go with me. He's a good fellow, and is acquainted with her a little, and I knew that she liked him. So we went off there together. Well, do you know, Macrorie, I believe that woman saw through the whole thing, and knew why the chaplain had come as well as I did. She greeted me civilly, but rather shortly; and there was a half-smile on her mouth, confound it! She's an awfully pretty woman, too! We were there for a couple of hours. She made us dine—that is to say, I expected to dine as a matter of course, and she invited the chaplain. So we stayed, and I think for two hours I did not exchange a dozen words with her. She directed her conversation almost exclusively to the chaplain. I began to feel jealous at last, and tried to get her attention, but it was no go. I'm rather dull, you know—good-natured, and all that, but not clever—while the chaplain is one of the cleverest men going; and the widow's awfully clever, too. They got beyond me in no time. They were talking all sorts of stuff about Gregorian chants, ecclesiastic symbolism, mediaeval hymns, the lion of St Mark, chasuble, alb, and all that sort of thing, you know, no end, and I sat like a log listening, just the same as though they spoke Chinese, while the widow took no more notice of me than if I'd been a Chinaman. And she kept up that till we left. And that was her way of paying me off. And the chaplain thought she was an awfully clever woman, and admired her—no end. And I felt as jealous as Othello.

"Then I hurried off to Louie. But luck was against me. There was a lot of fellows there, and I didn't get a chance. I only got a pleasant greeting and a bright look, that was all. I was longing to get her into a corner, and have a little comfort, and a little good advice. But I couldn't. Misfortunes never come singly. To-day every thing has been blacker than midnight. Number Three, Miss Phillips, and the widow, are all turning against a fellow. I think it's infernally hard. I feel Miss Phillips's treatment worst. She had no business to come here at all when I thought she was safe in New Brunswick. I dare say I could have wriggled through, but she came and precipitated the catastrophe, as the saying is. Then, again, why didn't she take me when I offered myself? And, for that matter, why didn't Number Three take me that other time when I was ready, and asked her to fly with me? I'll be hanged if I don't think I've had an abominably hard time of it! And now I'm fairly cornered, and you must see plainly why I'm thinking of the river. If I take to it, they'll shed a tear over me, I know; whereas, if I don't, they'll all pitch into me, and Louie'll only laugh. Look here, old boy, I'll give up women forever."

"What! And Louie, too?"

"Oh, that's a different thing altogether," said Jack; and he subsided into a deep fit of melancholy musing.



CHAPTER XXII.

I REVEAL MY SECRET.—TREMENDOUS EFFECTS OF THE REVELATION.—MUTUAL EXPLANATIONS, WHICH ARE BY NO MEANS SATISFACTORY. JACK STANDS UP FOR WHAT HE CALLS HIS RIGHTS.—REMONSTRANCES AND REASONINGS, ENDING IN A GENERAL ROW.—JACK MAKES A DECLARATION OF WAR, AND TAKES HIS DEPARTURE IN A STATE OF UNPARALLELED HUFFINESS.

I Could hold out no longer. I had preserved my secret jealously for two entire days, and my greater secret had been seething in my brain, and all that, for a day. Jack had given me his entire confidence. Why shouldn't I give him mine? I longed to tell him all. I had told him of my adventure, and why should I not tell of its happy termination? Jack, too, was fairly and thoroughly in the dumps, and it would be a positive boon to him if I could lead his thoughts away from his own sorrows to my very peculiar adventures.

"Jack," said I, at last, "I've something to tell you."

"Go ahead," cried Jack, from the further end of his pipe.

"It's about the Lady of the Ice," said I.

"Is it?" said Jack, dolefully

"Yes; would you like to hear about it?"

"Oh, yes, of course," said Jack, in the same tone.

Whereupon I began with the evening of the concert, and told him all about the old man, and my rush to the rescue. I gave a very animated description of the scene, but, finding that Jack did not evince any particular interest, I cut it all short.

"Well," said I, "I won't bore you. I'll merely state the leading facts. I got the old fellow out. He took my arm, and insisted on my going home with him. I went home, and found there the Lady of the Ice."

"Odd, too," said Jack, languidly, puffing out a long stream of smoke; "don't see how you recognized her—thought you didn't remember and all that. So you've found her at last, have you? Well, my dear fellow, 'low me to congratulate you. Deuced queer, too. By-the-way, what did you say her name was?"

"I didn't mention her name," said I.

"Ah, I see; a secret?"

"Oh, no. I didn't suppose you'd care about knowing."

"Bosh! Course I'd care. What was it, old boy? Tell a fellow. I'll keep dark—you know me."

"Her name," said I, "is Miss O'Halloran."

No sooner had I uttered that name, than an instantaneous and most astonishing change came over the whole face, the whole air, the whole manner, the whole expression, the whole attitude, of Jack Randolph. He sprang up to his feet, as though he had been shot, and the pipe fell from his hands on the floor, where it lay smashed.

"WHAT!!!" he cried, in a loud voice.

"Look here," said I—"what may be the meaning of all that? What's the row now?"

"What name did you say?" he repeated.

"Miss O'Halloran," said I.

"O'Halloran?" said he—"are you sure?"

"Of course, I'm sure. How can I be mistaken?"

"And her father—what sort of man is he?"

"A fine old felloe," said I—"full of fun, well informed, convivial, age about sixty, well preserved, splendid face—"

"Is—is he an Irishman?" asked Jack, with deep emotion.

"Yes."

"Does—does he live in—in Queen Street?" asked Jack, with gasp.

"The very street," said I.

"Number seven hundred and ninety-nine?"

"The very number. But see here, old chap, how the mischief do you happen to know exactly all about that house? It strikes me as being deuced odd."

"And you saved her?" said Jack, without taking any notice of my question.

"Haven't I just told you so? Oh, bother! What's the use of all this fuss?"

"Miss O'Halloran?" said Jack.

"Miss O'Halloran," I repeated. "But will you allow me to ask what in the name of common-sense is the matter with you? Is there a bee in your bonnet, man? What's Miss O'Halloran to you, or you to Miss O'Halloran? Haven't you got enough women on your conscience already? Do you mean to drag her in? Don't try it my boy—for I'm concerned there."

"Miss O'Halloran!" cried Jack. "Look here, Macrorie—you'd better take care."

"Take care?"

"Yes. Don't you go humbugging about there."

"I don't know what you're up to, dear boy. What's your little joke?"

"There's no joke at all about it," said Jack, harshly. "Do you know who Miss O'Halloran is?"

"Well, I know that she's the daughter of Mr. O'Halloran, and that he's a fine old fellow. Any further information, however, I shall be delighted to receive. You talk as though you know something about her. What is it? But don't slander. Not a word against her. That won't stand."

"Slander! A word against her!" cried Jack. "Macrorie, you don't know who she is, or what she is to me. Macrorie, this miss O'Halloran is that lady that we have been calling 'Number Three'."

It was now my turn to be confounded. I, too, started to my feet, and not only my pipe, but my tumbler also, fell crashing to the floor.

"The devil she is!" I cried.

"She is—I swear she is—as true as I'm alive."

At this moment I had more need of a good, long, low whistle than ever I had in my life before. But I didn't whistle. Even a whistle was useless here to express the emotions that I felt at Jack's revelation. I stood and stared at him in silence. But I didn't see him. Other visions came before my mind's eye, Horatio, which shut out Jack from my view. I was again in that delightful parlor; again Nora's form was near—her laughing face, her speaking eyes, her expression—now genial and sympathetic, now confused and embarrassed. There was her round, rosy, smiling face, and near it the sombre face of Marion, with her dark, penetrating eyes. And this winning face, this laughter-loving Venus— this was the one about whom Jack rated as his Number Three. This was the one whom he asked to run off with him. She! She run off, and with him! The idea was simple insanity. She had written him a letter—had she?—and it was a scorcher, according to his own confession. She had found him out, and thrown him over. Was not I far more to her than a fellow like Jack—I who had saved her from a hideous death? There could be no question about that. Was not her bright, beaming smile of farewell still lingering in my memory? And Jack had the audacity to think of her yet!

"Number Three," said I—"well, that's odd. At any rate, there's one of your troubles cut off."

"Cutoff?"

"Yes."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean this, that Number Three won't bother you again."

Jack stood looking at me for some time in silence, with a dark frown on his brow.

"Look here, Macrorie," said he; "you force me to gather from your words what I am very unwilling to learn."

"What!" said I "Is it that I admire Miss O'Halloran? Is that it? Come, now; speak plainly, Jack. Don't stand in the sulks. What is it that you want to say? I confess that I'm as much amazed as you are at finding that my Lady of the Ice is the same as your 'Number Three.' But such is the case; and now what are you going to do about it?"

"First of all," said Jack, coldly, "I want to know what you are proposing to do about it."

"I?" said I. "Why, my intention is, if possible, to try to win from Miss O'Halloran a return of that feeling which I entertain toward her."

"So that's your little game—is it?" said Jack, savagely.

"Yes," said I, quietly; "that's exactly my little game. And may I ask what objection you have to it, or on what possible right you can ground any conceivable objection?"

"Right?" said Jack—"every right that a man of honor should respect."

"Right?" cried I. "Right?"

"Yes, right. You know very well that she's mine."

"Yours! Yours!" I cried. "Yours! You call her "Number Three." That very name of itself is enough to shut your mouth forever. What! Do you come seriously to claim any rights over a girl, when by your own confession there are no less than two others to whom you have offered yourself? Do you mean to look me in the face, after what you yourself have told me, and say that you consider that you have any claims on Miss O'Halloran?"

"Yes, I do!" cried Jack. "I do, by Jove! Look here, Macrorie. I've given you my confidence. I've told you all about my affair with her. You know that only a day or two ago I was expecting her to elope with me—"

"Yes, and hoping that she wouldn't," I interrupted.

"I was not. I was angry when she refused, and I've felt hard about it ever since. But she's mine all the same, and you know it."

"Yours? And so is Miss Phillips yours," I cried, "and so is Mrs. Finnimore; and I swear I believe that, if I were to be sweet on Louie, you'd consider yourself injured. Hang it, man! What are you up to? What do you mean? At this rate, you'll claim every woman in Quebec. Where do intend to draw the line? Would be content if I were sweet on Miss Phillips? Wouldn't you be jealous if I were to visit the widow? And what would you say if I were seized with a consuming passion for Louie? Come, Jack—don't row; don't be quite insane. Sit down again, and let's drop the subject."

"I won't drop the subject," growled Jack. "You needn't try to argue yourself out of it. You know very well that I got her first."

"Why, man, at this rate, you might get every woman in America. You seem to think that this is Utah."

"Come, no humbug, Macrorie. You know very well what I am to that girl."

"You! you!" I cried. "Why, you have told me already that she has found you out. Hang it, man! if it comes to that, what are you in her eyes compared with me? You've been steadily humbugging her ever since you first knew her, and she's found it out But I come to her as the companion of the darkest hour of her life, as the one who saved her from death. You—good Lord!—do you pretend to put yourself in comparison with me? You, with your other affairs, and your conscious falsity to her, with me! Why, but for me, she would be drifting down the river, and lying stark and dead on the beach of Anticosti. That is what I have done for her. And what have you done? I might laughed over the joke of it before I knew her; but now, since I know her, and her, when you force me to say what you have done, I declare to you that you have wronged her, and cheated her, and humbugged her, and she knows it, and you know it, and I know it. These things may be all very well for a lark; but, when you pretend to make a serious matter of them, they look ugly. Confound it! have you lost your senses?"

"You'll see whether I've lost my senses or not," said Jack, fiercely.

"You've got trouble enough on your shoulders, Jack," said I. "Don't get into any more. You actually have the face to claim no less than three women. Yes, four. I must count Louie, also. If this question were about Louie, wouldn't you be just as fierce?"

Jack did not answer.

"Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you say that I had violated your confidence? Wouldn't you declare that it was a wrong to yourself, and a bitter injury? If I had saved Louie's life, and then suddenly fallen in love with her wouldn't you have warned me off in the same way? You know you would. But will you listen to reason? You can't have them all. You must choose one of them. Take Miss Phillips, and be true to your first vow. Take the widow, and be rich. Take Louie, and be happy. There you have it. There are three for you. As for Miss O'Halloran, she has passed away from you forever. I have snatched her from death, and she is mine forever."

"She shall never be yours!" cried Jack, furiously.

"She shall be mine!" cried I, in wrathful tones.

"Never! never!" cried Jack. "She's mine, and she shall be mine."

"Damn it, man! are you crazy? How many wives do you propose to have?"

"She shall be mine!" cried Jack. "She, and no other. I give up all others. They may all go and be hanged. She, and she alone, shall be mine."

Saying this, he strode toward the door, opened it, passed through, and banged it behind him. I heard his heavy footsteps as he went off, and I stood glaring after him, all my soul on fire with indignation.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A FRIEND BECOMES AN ENEMY.—MEDITATIONS ON THE ANCIENT AND VENERABLE FABLE OF THE DOG IN THE MANGER.—THE CORRUPTION OF THE HUMAN HEART. —CONSIDERATION OF THE WHOLE SITUATION.—ATTEMPTS TO COUNTERMINE JACK, AND FINAL RESOLVE.

So Jack left, and so I stood staring after him in furious indignation.

"By Jove!" I exclaimed, addressing my own honorable self, "are you going to stand that sort of thing, Macrorie? And at your time of life, my boy! You, twenty-two years of age, six feet high, and with your knowledge of the world! You're not altogether an ass, are you? I think I can depend on you, my boy. You'll stand up for your rights. She's yours, old chap. Cling to her. Remember your ancestors. You'll get her, and if Jack chooses to make a fool of himself, let him!"

After this expression of opinion, I replaced my last pipe and tumbler, and resumed my seat. Over my head the clouds rolled; through my brain penetrated the gentle influence, bringing tranquillity and peace; bringing also wisdom, and the power of planning and of resolving.

My reflections made me feel that Nora mast be mine. She seemed dearer than all the world, and all that. Hadn't I saved her life? I had. Then that life was mine. No one else had such a claim on her as I had. Jack's absurd pretence at a claim was all confounded stuff and nonsense. I considered his attitude on this occasion a piece of the worst kind of selfishness, not to speak of its utter madness. The dog in the manger was nothing to this. I was not the man to let myself be pushed aside in this way. He would not have thought of her if I had not put in my claim. Before that she was no more to him than "Number Three," one of his tormentors from whom he longed to get free, one who annoyed him with letters. All this he had confessed to me. Yet the moment that I told him my story, and informed him of her identity with the Lady of the Ice, at once he changed about, and declared he would never give her up.

All of which reminded me forcibly of the language of a venerable female friend, who used to hold up her hands and exclaim, "Oh, dear! Oh, my! Oh, the corruption of the human heart! Oh, dear! Oh, my!"

On the other hand, I was not so blind but that I could see that Jack's impudent and ridiculous claim to Hiss O'Halloran had made her appear in a somewhat different light from that in which I had hitherto viewed her. Until that time I had no well-defined notions. My mind vibrated, between her image and that of Marion. But now Miss O'Halloran suddenly became all in all to me. Jack's claim on her made me fully conscious of my superior claim, and this I determined to enforce at all hazards. And thus the one end, aim, and purpose of my life, suddenly and almost instantaneously darted up within me, and referred to making Miss O'Halloran my own.

But, if this was to be done, I saw that it must be done quickly. Jack's blood was up. He had declared that he would win her, and had departed with this declaration. I knew him well enough to feel sure that his action would be prompt. He was capable of any act of folly or of desperation. If I could hope to contend successfully against him, it would be necessary for me to be as foolish and as desperate. I must go in for a headlong game. It was to be a regular steeple-chase. No dilly-dallying—no shuffling—no coquetting—no wooing—but bold, instant, and immediate action. And why not? Our intercourse on the ice had been less than a day, but those hours were protracted singly to the duration of years, and we had been forced into intimacy by the peril of our path and the horror of our way. We were beaten together by the tempest, rocked by the ice, we sank together in the wave, together we crossed the tottering Ice-ridge—together we evaded the fall of avalanches. Again and again, on that one unparalleled journey, she had received her life from me. Was all this to count for nothing? This! Why, this was every thing. What could her recollections of Jack be when compared to her recollections of me? For one who came to her as I had come there need be no delay. Enough to tell her what my feelings were—to urge and implore her for immediate acceptance of my vows.

This was my fixed resolve; but when, where, and how? I could not go to the house again for two days, and, during two days, Jack would have the advantage. No doubt he would at once reply to that last letter of hers. No doubt he would fling away every thought but the one thought of her. No doubt he would write her a letter full of protestations of love, and implore her, for the last time, to fly with him. He had done so before. In his new mood he might do it again. The thought made ay blood run cold. The more I dwelt upon it, the more confident I was that Jack would do this.

And what could I do?

One of two ways could be adopted:

First, I might go there on the following day, and call on Miss O'Halloran. Her father would be away.

And, secondly, I might write her a letter.

But neither of these plans seemed satisfactory. In the first place, I did not feel altogether prepared to go and call on her for such a purpose. It came on a fellow too suddenly. In the second place, a letter did not seem to be the proper style of thing. The fact is, when a fellow seeks a lady, he ought to do it face to face, if possible.

The more I thought of it, the more strongly I felt the absolute necessity of waiting for those two days which should intervene before I could go. Then I might go on a regular invitation. Then I might have an additional opportunity of finding out her sentiments toward me. In fact, I concluded to wait.

And so I waited.

The two days passed slowly. Jack, of course, kept aloof, and I saw nothing and heard nothing of him. Where he was, or what he was doing, I could not tell. I could only conjecture. And all my conjectures led to the fixed conviction that Jack in his desperation had written to her, and proposed flight.

This conviction became intensified more and more every hour. I grew more and more impatient. My mood became one of constant and incessant fidgetiness, nervousness, and harrowing suspense.



CHAPTER XXIV.

TREMENDOUS EXCITEMENT.—THE HOUR APPROACHES, AND WITH IT THE MAN.—THE LADY OF THE ICE.—A TUMULTUOUS MEETING.—OUTPOURING OF TENDER EMOTIONS.—AGITATION OF THE LADY.—A SUDDEN INTERRUPTION.—AN INJURED MAN, AN AWFUL, FEARFUL, DIREFUL, AND UTTERLY-CRUSHING REVELATION.—WHO IS THE LADY OF THE ICE?

At last the appointed evening came, and I prepared to go to O'Halloran's. By this time I was roused up to a pitch of excitement such as I had never before experienced. For two days and two nights I had been brooding and dreaming over this one subject, imagining all sorts of things, making all sorts of conjectures about Jack's letter and Miss O'Halloran's reception of it. Was it possible that she could share his madness and his desperation? That I could not tell. Women in love, and men in love also, will always act madly and desperately. But was she in love? Could that serene, laughing, merry, happy face belong to one who was capable of a sudden act of desperation—of one who would flit with Jack, and fling her father into Borrow at a moment's warning? How could that be? So by turns my hopes and my fears rose in the ascendant, and the end of it all was that, by the time I reached O'Halloran's door, Jack himself, in his most frantic mood, could not have been more perfectly given up to any headlong piece of rashness, folly, and desperation, than I was.

I knocked at the door.

I was admitted, and shown into the room. O'Halloran, I was told, had just arrived, and was dressing. Would I be kind enough to wait?

I sat down.

In about two minutes I heard a light footstep.

My heart beat fast.

Some one was coming.

Who?

The light footstep and the rustling dress showed that it was a lady.

But who?

Was it the servant?

Or Marion?

Was it Nora?

My heart actually stood still as these possibilities suggested themselves, and I sat glaring at the door.

The figure entered.

My heart gave a wild bound; the blood surged to my face, and boiled in my veins. It was Nora's self! It was—it was—my Nora!

I rose as she entered. She greeted me with her usual beaming and fascinating smile. I took her hand, and did not say a word for a few moments. The hour had come. I was struggling to speak. Here she was. This was the opportunity for which I had longed. But what should I say?

"I've been longing to see you alone," I cried, at last. "Have you forgotten that day on the ice? Have you forgotten the eternal hours of that day? Do you remember how you clung to me as we crossed the ice-ridge, while the waves were surging behind us, and the great ice-heaps came crashing down? Do you remember how I raised you up as you fell lifeless, and carried your senseless form, springing over the open channel, and dashing up the cliff? And I lost you, and now I've found you again!"

I stopped, and looked at her earnestly, to see how she received my words.

And here let me confess that such a mode of address was not generous or chivalrous, nor was it at all in good taste. True chivalry would have scorned to remind another of an obligation conferred; but then, you see, this was a very peculiar case. In love, my boy, all the ordinary rules of life, and that sort of thing, you know, must give way to the exigencies of the hour. And this was a moment of dire exigency, in which much had to be said in the most energetic manner. Besides, I spoke what I thought, and that's my chief excuse after all.

I stopped and looked at her; but, as I looked, I did not feel reason to be satisfied with my success so far. She retreated a step, and tried to withdraw her hand. She looked at me with a face of perplexity and despair. Seeing this, I let go her hand. She clasped both hands together, and looked at me in silence.

"What!" said I, tragically, yet sincerely—for a great, dark, bitter disappointment rose up within me—"what! Is all this nothing? Has it all been nothing to you? Alas! what else could I expect? I might have known it all. No. You never thought of me. You could not, I was less than the driver to you. If you had thought of me, you never would have run away and left me when I was wandering over the country thinking only of you, with all my heart yearning after you, and seeking only for some help to send you. And yet there was that in our journey which might at least have elicited from you some word of sympathy."

There again, my friend, I was ungenerous, unchivalrous, and all that. Bad enough is it to remind one of favors done; but, on the heels of that, to go deliberately to work and reproach one for want of gratitude, is ten times worse. By Jove! And for this, as for the other, my only excuse is the exigencies of the hour.

Meanwhile she stood with an increasing perplexity and grief in every look and gesture. She cast at me a look of utter despair. She wrung her hands; and at last, as I ended, she exclaimed:

"Oh, what shall I do? what shall I do? Oh, dear! Oh, what a dreadful, dreadful thing! Oh, dear!"

Her evident distress touched me to the heart. Evidently, she was compromised with Jack, and was embarrassed by this.

"Follow your own heart," said I, mournfully. "But say—can you not give me some hope? Can you not give me one kind word?"

"Oh, dear!" she cried; "it's dreadful. I don't know what to do. It's all a mistake. Oh, I wish you could only know all! And me!! What in the world can I do!"

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