صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]


with sufficient sense to appreciate his worth,

CHAPTER II. and sufficient courage and candor to volunteer

WHAT IS THE PLOT ? the state of her heart to the object for which it beats, or else we may consider his fate as

“So, Miss Beaty! My introduction of my sealed, I suppose."

friend, John Mortimer, last night, was altogether Mr. Mortimer would never marry any

superfluous, it seems. You were already acwoman who could forget in the slightest degree

quainted ?” womanly delicacy or propriety," my wife re

“ I have seen the—the gentleman before, turned with much dignity.

cousin Frank," answered Miss Francis loftily, “ Then may the saints help him, my dear;

but with that faltering tell-tale color rushing for help from man or woman availeth not, as I

over her face nevertheless. understand you," said I, dismissing the subject.

Dignity is not my cousin's forte; she can be I had pooh-poohed my wife's observations, of saucy and loving, and pettish and tender, course, thus vindicating my natural supremacy

charming always, but she cannot be dignified and superiority, but secretly I own they had nor awe inspiring, consequently I pursued the weight with me, and I had long ago set down subject, in no wise daunted by the little lady's Jack as not a marrying man, in spite of his

displeasure. natural predilection for the society of women,

What, in the name of wonder, did you as evinced in his seeking that of those who

mean by that awful pause before “gentleman,” were safely provided with husbands.

my dear? What denomination did it take the The tender evening light was fast fading into place of ?” the transparent darkness of a midsummer night

* Squatter, perhaps,” was the pert answer. as we sank into mutual silence. Streaks of

“ Is not that what the creatures are called, who mellow light from the wide-open windows of live in the outlandish place your friend comes the adjacent drawing-room chequered the long from?” shadows of tree and shrub on the lawn with

Certainly not, Miss. The term is not broad bars of quiet light. The low airs of even- euphonious, I admit, but it is neither one of ing sighed tenderly to the trees, which whis- ignominy, nor reproach, as you in your ignorance pered back answers all lovingly tremulous, and would imply, being only another name for a then, suddenly, there grew out from that mur

landed proprietor, and signifying the same murous accompaniment, a strain of plaintive thing: My friend was merely a cattle dealer, passion, of wondrous sweetness.

and I own it puzzles ine to imagine where your * Einsam bin Ich."

high mightiness could have met an individual I think we both held our breaths as that in- in so lamentably an inferior condition of life.” spiration of Carl Maria von Weber's, breathing

“ What does it matter where I met him?" sorrowful regret, passionate yearning, came my cousin burst out with a vehemence that borne to us on a rich young voice; and when, quite startled and overwhelmed me, her sweet in a few minutes, it sank and faltered into si- face crimson, her eyes filling with tears-of lence, Jack rose from his chair and leaned out anger, of pain, of mortification-of what ? of the window without speaking. “Come," said “I never wanted to see him; I wish I never I, presently, “ let us join the ladies.” “ Music had! Oh, how often I have wished I never, hath charms,” especially on an evening like this.” never had! Why did he not stay out at the

The sudden change from the darkling atmos- other side of the world? I thought he was phere of the room we had left, to the radiance gone for ever.” of that which enshrined the ladies of my house- These sentences full of "evers” and “nevers," hold, was a little dazzling and bewildering. came in jerks from lips that quivered pitifully, Was it only that? or did I see, as Jack Morti- and when they were ended, two great tears mer turned from his friendly greeting to Mrs. fought their way through restraining lashes, Marchmont, to bow in response to my introduc- and rolled heavily down her face. tion of “Mr. Mortimer” to “Miss Francis," a If I was utterly surprised, I was moved also. sudden start, followed by utter confusion on My little cousin was very dear to me; she had Jack's part, a vivid blush, and an exceedingly been my pet and plaything ever since the day hanghty up-rearing of the head, on that of my when I, a rough schoolboy, used to steal away pretty little cousin, Beaty Francis ?

from companions of my own sex and ace to



play with a pretty toddling baby in a white comes between us with a better, and that can frock and blue shoes.

only be a husband.” I took her two hands and drew her up beside No husband will ever come between us.

Frank, dear, I shall never marry—never!" said “My dear,” said I, “I ask your pardon if I Beaty, with much energy, through her tears; have jested on a subject that really touched and beyond reiterating this presently, when she you in any way. I never dreamed of your sat up and dried her eyes, I could extract nothhaving any special interest in Jack Mortimer; ing at all from my cousin on the subject that how could I ?”

moved her. I had loved this little girl very Hard is it for the mind masculine, to follow dearly. I had been accustomed to think of her the twists and twinings of the one feminine. I as mine by a peculiarly near and familiar tie. had touched the wrong string again. Up went I was wounded to think the woman could have my cousin's head, while a hot flush came to dry a secret, when the child had confided all. I up the two great tears.

was hurt, and I suppose I showed it, for with a “ And I have no interest—special or other faltering smile Beatrice put her arms round my wise-in Mr. Mortimer. He is nothing to me, neck as she said nor ever will be. I beg you to believe that “There are some things—some troubles—that once for all, Frank.”

are best never told, dear Frank, I think, and “Of course, dear,” said I soothingly, but this is one of them. It could do me no good, taking leave, at the same time, to doubt that and would, perhaps, be wrong also, since another assertion under the circumstances. “ Any one is concerned in it. You could not help me, could see from your meeting last night that dear, no, not if it were possible to wish to do your previous acquaintance must have been of

so more than you do—which could not be, I the most casual nature. A ball-room one, per- know-and-and its nothing new-and I don't haps, dear, when you danced five out of every often think of it now-only, last night, it all six dances with Jack, ate ices together under seemed to come back so freshly. I am afraid I the orange trees in a shady conservatory, have been very silly, and pained you needlessly. watched the moon out of the cool balcony, and Don't speak or think of it any more, and I will passed him in the street the next day, without try and forget it also.” so much as even a glance of recognition. It “One word, Beatrice ; do you know that Mr. Was something of that kind, wasn't it, my little Mortimer is our near neighbor and constant Beaty ?”

visitor ? Tell me, my dear, would you rather “ No, Frank-nothing like it. A ball-room not see him any more, while you remain here ?" and dancing! Oh, no, no! A death-chamber,

“Oh! I don't know, I don't care, Frank; and dying words rather. Oh, Frank, Frank! let that be as he likes," again with that burning I wish that I could tell you all!” And with color ; “ don't say any more about it;" and that, poor Beaty nestled her flushed face on my with this I was obliged to be content. breast (many a time in the old days she had

Feign to be so, I mean, for content I certainly cried herself to sleep there after some childish

was not. grief, or a fit of naughtiness) and wept.

A horrible, haunting idea that Jack Morti“ Then tell me, as, indeed, my pet, who has mer whom I had hitherto sworn by, as the a better right to know all that vexes or pleases worthiest, kindest, most chivalrous of men, had you than your poor cousin Frank; and in the fallen short somehow of right-doing where my dear old days that are gone, Beaty, to whom little cousin was concerned, beset me painfully. did you ever carry all your griefs (thank God, It seemed incredible, and yet how otherwise they have not been many, nor heavy, my dear!) | account for what had passed between my cousin but to him?"

and me? “ Ah, used, Frank !" she cried, nestling ever I could not rest, so, laying the reins upon the closer and closer.

neck of my inclination, they straightway led me “ And will still-yes; for I have never sepa- in the direction of The Wild. rated the Beaty of to-day from the little child Mr. Mortimer was at home--yes-would I I used to love so dearly; and I claim the right walk into the study or the dining-room, while still to be the sharer of all that pleases, all that Binks went in search of his master, who was grieves her: I shall never give it up till one somewhere ont of doors ?

[ocr errors]


say, Frank ?”

* Out of doors ? No, I would not come in plaintive music of that melody of last night, then. I would prefer finding Mr. Mortimer whistled very deftly and sweetly, whistled as I myself;” and being pretty well acquainted with think only one man can execute that accomJack's habits, I turned confidently down the plishment, that man being Jack Mortimer. shrubbery walk that led towards the stables. I let him finish and then turned rather sudThe responsible-looking head groom was stand- denly : ing at the door of the harness room (the stable “ By-the-bye, Jack, you never told me you department at The Wild was much more ably were acquainted with my cousin, Beatrice administered than the rest of the establishment). Francis !”

He touched his forelock in answer to my Jack's brown face gained a perceptible access inquiry.

of color. * Mr. Mortimer? Yes, sir, in the loose box, “ Didn't I? Well-no-I dare


I sir, along of Ajax-mostly there at this time. did. I saw her once, I think, before I went to This way, sir."

Australia, five years ago-never since I came In the loose box accordingly—an apartment home till last night. I don't even know, being as spacious and much more neatly kept than mightily ignorant on such matters, whether one the dwelling rooms of many a family—I found meeting gives me any right to claim acquainmy friend seated, pipe in mouth, and in a very tanceship with Miss Francis—what should you easy position, on one corner of the manger, out of which black Ajax was leisurely partaking of “ That it depends upon the circumstances his midday meal, yet lifting his head ever and under which the meeting took place, of course,” anon to look into his master's face with that I answered, remembering with great perplexity pensive kindness we see in the eyes of the Beaty’s reference to death-chambers and dying horse or dog that loves us. Close at Jack's feet, words. Under what possible combination of too, lay an animal of the last-named species, a circumstances could these, my friend Jack, and splendid kangaroo dog, that, too noble for jeal my little cousin be associated ? ousy, watched yet, with a certain wistfulness, I had been quite accustomed to suppose I the hand so often withdrawn from its resting possessed Jack's confidence as well as that of place in the sort of sash Jaek wore, in place of my cousin; yet here evidently was a mystery I a belt or braces, to fondle the horse's short was not to know, and one that had existed for velvet ears, or shining crest.

five years, apparently, without my ever having The man, the horse, and the dog, all powerful had an inkling of it. I had felt wounded on and beautiful of their kind, made a pretty the first discovery; by this time I began to pieture, and verily, Jack's frank face, and kind experience a feeling of injury, and, with pereyes were not those of a man who could wilful haps unwise frankness, avowed the same. ly wrong any of God's creatures, great or small,

Jack withdrew his pipe from lis lips, shook The doubt lying heavy at my heart vanished out the ashes in troubled silence, put the pipe somehow, when my hand was griped in that slowly into its case, and the case into his pocket, friendly one; but curiosity and interest, deep before he spoke. and overpowering, remained.

“I hate mysteries and secrets; they are nt Jack duly inquired after Mrs. Marchmont's at all in my way, as you know, old friend. I health, but referred in no way to our visitor or never expected the thing to befall me that I his recognition of her, and biding my time I could not talk over with you; but, Frank, there made none either. After half an hour with comes something into most men's lives, sooner Ajax, stable topics, local matters, crops, and or later, that they do not care to speak of, that neighborly talk generally, we sauntered away no good could come of speaking of, and befrom the stable precincts, out under a row of sides” He paused and then added : “ Th's flowering limes, where the bees were making is not my own affair either, entirely—another drowsy music.

is concerned as well as 1One of those intervals of silence had ke- " Why, those were Beaty's very words and fallen--that more than anything, almost, goes reasons for denying me any explanation,” I to show the complete intimacy that subsists be- ejaculated in intense astonishment. tween those who indulge it in each other's “ Have you spoken to Miss Francis—to your society and presently into this silence stole the I cousin on the subject?" asked Jack, flushing,

[ocr errors]

“ Certainly, and got the same amount of sat- | ones, bright and still, hot and glowing. Brilisfaction as from yourself.”

liant sunshine steeped the fields of waving “ Thank Heaven, then, that I never breathed grain, fast ripening now to harvest, in floods of word of it to living creature,” said Jack. “I golden light; but the arching trees that met might have done it one day to you, Frank, overhead, above the pretty woodland path I though I never regarded myself as having any walked, only admitted here and there glimpses right to talk of it. But tell Miss Francis of that glowing splendor. Shadows, broad and assure her from me, that I never have, never cool, closed all around me; the light that came will now—she need never fear any allusion, not in here, all soft, and dim, and broken, caused the slightest, to what is gone, from me-tell her one to think of solemn old churches in a land this, please, Frank," said Jack, earnestly. beyond the sea; dim with painted windows,

“ I'll tell her nothing of the kind. Hang me misty with incensed altars, and grave with the if I ever speak to either of you again on the gathered memories of the bygone years. Permatter!” I answered, losing patience; " and I haps, too, of trysting-places, and waiting lovers, wish your future wife joy of the nice little all the joy of meeting made tremulous, and Bluebeard secret you carry about with you, sorrowfully sweet, by the shadow of that ineviJack!”

table parting that waits upon all meetings here. “ I shall never marry,” Jack said quietly. As this last thought strayed across my fancy, I

“Grant me patience,” I cried out; " she said reached a sudden opening in the trees around that, too!”

me, through which the pathway wound, and “ Did she ?” inquired Jack, very earnestly. turning into it, I came to an abrupt halt in

The next minute he turned away his head, utter and unbounded surprise. and I heard him mutter; “Oh! Amy, Amy!”

Lovers and trysting-places, truly! Why, In a few minutes more Jack and I parted, what was this, and who were these, standing for the first time in our lives, with mutual relief. among the flickering shadows yonder ? Surely

I could not mistake that figure, full of graceful

lines and flexile curves; I knew, too, the downCHAPTER III.

ward bend of that golden head, with its pretty

rippled hair drawn into a knot behind the ears; A week, a fortnight went by; long days of I could fancy the very look on the downcast rich unclouded sunshine, evenings of tranquil face at this moment, though it was turned from sweetness, evenings long, and still, all perfumy me-and then-well-yes, I knew my cousin with the breath of Aowers, like those Jack had Beaty's usual walking dress of simple holland, declared made the loneliness of his empty old and the little velvet hat with the bright winghouse intolerable to him; but neither glancing in which she looked-like herself, in short, and sunshine, nor tranquil sunset brought my old like no one else ever did, in my eyes. friend any more to Meadowsleigh.

And if this was unmistakeably my cousin I cannot tell all that want was to me; I Beatrice, the tall gentleman in light morning scarce knew myself; and I chafed angrily, as I clothes, the set of which was somehow indescriwas forced to own that I was powerless to do bably loose and easy, who stood hat in hand anything but mourn over it.

beside her, speaking so earnestly, and looking Who but Jack himself, could judge how far so steadily at the bent-down face that yet his presence was fitting in the house where the turned towards him too, was no less certainly sharer of this precious mystery was for the Mr. John Mortimer. present domiciled ?

How long had this conference between these At the end of the first week I had called at

two apparently hostile powers lasted ? How The Wild ; but Mr. Mortimer was from home, long was it going to last ? Was a truce being and not expected to return till night; at the declared, war determined on? Or was peace, end of another, I sallied forth once more in mild-eyed and beautiful, hovering over this that direction.

communing pair? The footway to the domain called The Wild How could I tell, who had never been adled up through my own grounds, crossed the mitted within the mysterious circle that seemed high road, and entered my friend's by a low somehow to enclose these two ? Should I gate. The day was one of these same summer advance now, on my way, which would lead me


straight upon the unconscious creatures ? or necessity of keeping up this show of common should I turn back and pretend I had not seen intercourse. But from this time the communiwhat I had ? While I remained dubious, pon-cation between The Wild and Meadowsleigh dering these things, Beaty turned and saw me; was resumed upon something of its old footing; and observing that without an instant's hesita- and yet no, for I never now, as I threw up my tion she came slowly towards me, and that window of a morning, and leaned out to inhale Mr. Mortimer followed her, I in my turn ad- the health-giving breeze of early morn, was vanced.

greeted by a cheery voice nor gladdened with I did not care to look too closely into the a sight of Jack Mortimer, coming, with those child's face, as she came up and quietly put her long quiet strides of his, across the dewy lawn hand within my arm, but I did look at Jack of Meadowsleigh in time for an early breakfast.

He colored a little, but he met my eyes very He did not drop in to luncheon, nor saunter up frankly and steadily, and when he held out his between the lights in his old fashion. It is true hand, it was with the unmistakeable look about he might still have come at some of these times, him, somehow, of a man who never had, who but never now without being asked. never could do anything he was ashamed to be Nor did these symptoms of an agreed on and caught in.

regulated demeanor towards each other, which "I was on my way to The Wild, Jack.” I had detected at first between my cousin ard

“ Were you? It is well we fell in, then, for my friend, disappear on continued intercourse. I was coming over to call on Mrs. Marchmont, They showed now, in a mitigated form, perhaps, whom it seems an age since I saw. I met Miss but they were still observable. Francis a few yards from here, and learnt she And over my little cousin a shadow had was at home."

fallen, that, try to hide it as she would, she Was that simple inquiry the one Jack was could not cover from my sight. I could not making so earnestly as I came upon them? accuse her of moping or pining-she did not

We all turned, and strolled back towards sullenly turn her back upon life and its duties, Meadowsleigh together, I disguising whatever refuse companionship, nor decline her daily curiosity I had (I may as well own, it was

meals. No; whatever her trouble was, she intense) under, as I flatter myself, a very per

strove with it, as the good, healthy-minded fectly simulated aspect of unconsciousness that English girl she was, and had evidently never a my companions stood towards each other in any thought of giving up, nor giving in. than the ordinary relations of a lady and gen

But as I noted sometimes how the sweet tleman who met then and there, for the second laughter would falter into sudden silence—the or third time in their lives; but I speedily ar- words lightly begun end in a sigh-her pretty, rived at the conviction that that confabulation childish beauty deepen, and sadden at times, among the trees, which I had interrupted, had into thoughtful womanhood—my heart was sore partaken of the nature of a truce, or an ac

within me. My little Beaty! thou wert very commodation, at least, the demeanor of the dear to me; but, alas ! what human love avails contracting parties was so evidently in accord- to shield its object from the doom of all th: ance with rules and regulations laid down and

world ? I could only stand silently on one side, agreed upon.

and grieve that it had come at last upon theeJack did not. as on the oecasion of their that burden and heat of thy day here, which I

« السابقةمتابعة »