Part 3 out of 5
suspected, and she was anxious to have her ordeal over. But,
though Mrs. Corfield came, and was just the same as ever, bustling,
inquisitive, dogmatic, before ten minutes were over having put the
girl through her scholastic facings and got from her the whole of her
curriculum, yet Alick did not appear. He waited until after Sunday,
when he should see her first in church, and so nerve himself as it
were behind the barrier of his sacred office; but after Sunday had
passed and he had seen her in her old place, he called, and found her
When they met, and she looked into his face and laid her hand in his,
she knew all. He shared her secret, and knew what she had done. It was
not that he was either distant or familiar, cold or disrespectful,
or anything but glad and reverent; nevertheless, he knew. He was no
longer the boy adorer, her slave, her dog: he was her friend, and
he wished to make her feel that she was safe with him--known, in his
power, but safe.
"You are changed," he said awkwardly.
He thought of her as Leam, heard her always called Leam, but he dared
not use the familiar name, and yet she was not "Miss Dundas" to him.
"It is four years since you saw me," she said with a grave smile. "It
was time to change."
"But you are your old self too," he returned eagerly. He would have
no disloyalty done to the queen of his boyish dreams: what worm soever
was at its root, his royal pomegranate flower should be always set
fair in the sun where he might be.
"You seem much changed too," she said after a short pause--"graver and
older. Is that because you are a clergyman?"
Alick turned his eyes away from the girl's face, and looked mournfully
out onto the autumn woods. "Partly," he said.
"And the other part?" asked Leam, pressing to know the worst.
"And the other part?" He looked at her, and his wan face grew paler.
"Well, never mind the other part. There are things which sometimes
come into a man's life and wither it for ever, as a fire passing over
a green tree, but we do not speak of them."
"To no one?"
"To no one."
Leam sighed. No proclamation could have made the thing clearer between
them. Henceforth she was in Alick's power: let him be faithful,
chivalrous, loyal, devoted, what you will, she was no longer her own
unshared property. He knew what she was, and in so far was her master.
Poor Alick! This was not the light in which he held his fatal secret.
True, he knew what she had done, and that his young queen, his ideal,
was a murderess, who, if the truth were made public, would be degraded
below the level of the poorest wretch that had kept an honest name;
but he felt himself more accursed than she, in that he had been the
means whereby she had gotten both her knowledge and the power to use
it. He was the doomed if innocent, as of old tragic times--the sinless
Cain guilty of murder, but guiltless in intent. It was for this, as
much as for the love and poetry of the boyish days, that he felt he
owed himself to Leam--that his life was hers, and all his energies
were to be devoted for her good. It was for this that he had prayed
with such intensity of earnestness it seemed to him sometimes as if
his soul had left his body, and had gone up to the Most High to pluck
by force of passionate entreaty the pardon he besought: "Pardon her, O
Lord! Turn her heart, enlighten her understanding, convince her of her
sin; but pardon her, pardon her, dear Lord! And with her, pardon me."
The man's whole life was spent in this one wild, fervid prayer. All
that he did was tinged with the sentiment of winning grace for her and
pardon for both. In his own mind they stood hand in hand together;
and if he was the intercessor, they were both to benefit, and neither
would be saved without the other. And he believed in the value of his
prayers and in the objective reality of their influence.
For the final changes in the ordering of home and society at North
Aston, the week after Leam returned Edgar Harrowby came from India,
and took up his position as the owner of the Hill estate; and the
child Fina was brought to Ford House, and formally invested with
her new name and condition as Miss Fina Dundas, Sebastian's younger
daughter. Mindful of the past, Mr. Dundas expected to have a stormy
scene with Leam when he told her his intentions respecting poor
madame's child; but Leam answered quietly, "Very well, papa," and
greeted Fina when she arrived benevolently, if not effusively. She was
not one of those born mothers who love babies from their early nursery
days, but she was kind to the child in her grave way, and seemed
anxious to do well by her.
The ladies all bestowed on her their nursery recipes and systems
in rich abundance--especially Mrs. Birkett, who, though glad to be
relieved from the hourly task of watching and contending, was still
immensely interested in the little creature, and gave daily counsel
and superintendence. So that on the whole Leam was not left unaided
with her charge. On the contrary, she ran great risk of being
bewildered by her multiplicity of counselors, and of entering in
consequence on that zigzag course which covers much ground and makes
but little progress.
Thirty-two years of age; tall, handsome, well set-up, and every inch
a soldier; manly in bearing, but also with that grace of gesture and
softness of speech which goes by the name of polished manner; a
bold sportsman, ignorant of physical fear, to whom England was the
culmination of the universe, and such men as he--gentlemen, officers,
squires--the culmination of humanity; a man who loved women as
creatures, but despised them as intelligences; who respected socially
the ladies of his own class, and demanded that they should be without
stain, as befits the wives and mothers and sisters of gentlemen, but
who thought women of a meaner grade fair game for the roving fowler; a
conservative, holding to elemental differences whence arise the value
of races, the dignity of family and the righteousness of caste; an
hereditary landowner, regarding landed property as a sacred possession
meant only for the few and not to be suffered to lapse into low-born
hands; a gentleman, incapable of falsehood, treachery, meanness,
social dishonor, but not incapable of injustice, tyranny, selfishness,
even cruelty, if such came in his way as the privilege of his
rank,--this was Edgar Harrowby as the world saw and his friends knew
him, and as North Aston had henceforth to know him.
His return caused immense local excitement and great rejoicing. It
seemed to set the social barometer at "fair," and to promise a spell
of animation such as North Aston had been long wanting. And indeed
personally for himself it was time that Major Harrowby was at home and
at the head of his own affairs. Matters had been going rather badly on
the estate without him, and the need of a strong hand to keep agents
straight and tenants up to the mark had been making itself somewhat
disastrously felt during the last three or four years. Wherefore
he had sold out, broken all his ties in India handsomely, as he had
broken them in London handsomely once before, when, mad with jealousy,
he had fled like a thief in the night, burned his boats behind him,
and, as he thought, obliterated every trace by which that loved and
graceless woman could discover his real name or family holding; and
now had come home prepared to do his duty to society and himself. That
is, prepared to marry a nice girl of his own kind, keep the estate
well in hand, and set an example of respectability and orthodoxy,
family prayers and bold riding, according to the ideal of the English
But, above all, he must marry. And the wife provided for him by the
eternal fitness of things was Adelaide Birkett. Who else could be
found to suit the part so perfectly? She was well-born, well-mannered;
though not coarsely robust, yet healthy in the sense of purity
of blood; and she was decidedly pretty. So far to the good of the
Harrowby stock in the future. Neither was she too young, though by
reason of her quiet country life her twenty-four years did not count
more to her in wear and tear of feeling and the doubtful moulding of
experience than if she had lived through one London season. She was a
girl of acknowledged good sense, calm, equable, holding herself in the
strictest leash of ladylike reserve, and governing all her emotions
without trouble, patent or unconfessed. Hers was a character which
would never floreate into irregular beauties to give her friends
anxiety and crowd her life with embarrassing consequences. She
despised sentiment and ridiculed enthusiasm, thought skepticism both
wicked and disreputable, but at the same time fanaticism was silly,
and not nearly so respectable as that quiet, easy-going religion which
does nothing of which society would disapprove, but does not break its
heart in trying to found the kingdom of God on earth.
All her relations with life and society would be blameless, orthodox,
ladylike and thoroughly English. As a wife she would preach submission
in public and practice domination and the moral repression belonging
to the superior being in private. As a mother she would take care
to have experienced nurses and well-bred governesses, who would look
after the children properly, when she would wash her hands of further
trouble and responsibility, save to teach them good manners at
luncheon and self-control in their evening visit to the drawing-room
for the "children's half hour" before dinner. As the mistress of an
establishment she would be strict, demanding perfect purity in the
morals of her servants, not suffering waste, nor followers, nor
kitchen amusements that she knew of, nor kitchen individuality anyhow.
Her servants would be her serfs, and she would assume to have bought
them by food and wages in soul as well as body, in mind as well as
muscle. She would give broken meat in moderation to the deserving
poor, but she would let those who are not deserving do the best they
could with want at home and inclemency abroad; and she would have
called it fostering vice had she fed the husbandless mother when
hungry or clothed the drunkard's children when naked. She would never
be talked about for extremes or eccentricities of any kind; and the
world would be forced to mention her with respect when it mentioned
her at all, having indeed no desire to do otherwise. For she was of
the kind dear to the heart of England--one of those who are called the
salt of the earth, and who are assumed to keep society safe and
pure. She was incredulous of science, contemptuous of superstition,
impatient of new ideas--appreciating art, but holding artists as
inferior creatures, like actors, acrobats and newspaper writers. She
was loyal to the queen and royal family, the nobility and Established
Church, bracketing republicans with atheists, and both with unpunished
felons; as also classing immorality, the facts of physiology and the
details of disease in a group together, as things horrible and not to
be spoken of before ladies. She was not slow to believe evil of her
neighbors, maintaining, indeed, that to be spoken of at all was proof
sufficient of undesirable conduct; but she would never investigate a
charge, preferring rather to accept it in its vile integrity than to
soil her hands by attempting to unweave its dirty threads; hence she
would be pitiless, repellent, but she would never make herself the
focus of gossip. She was a human being if you will, a Christian in
creed and name assuredly; but beyond and above all things she was
a well-mannered, well-conducted English lady, a person of spotless
morals and exquisite propriety, in the presence of whom humanity must
not be human, truth truthful, nor Nature natural.
This was the wife for Edgar Harrowby as a country gentleman--the
woman whom Mrs. Harrowby would have chosen out of thousands to be her
daughter-in-law, whom his sisters would like, who would do credit to
his name and position; and whom he himself would find as good for his
purpose as any within the four seas.
For when Edgar married he would marry on social and rational grounds:
he would not commit the mistake of fancying that he need love the
woman as he had loved some others. He would marry her, whoever
she might be, because she would be of a good family and reasonable
character, fairly handsome, unexceptionable in conduct, not tainted
with hereditary disease nor disgraced by ragged relatives, having
nothing to do with vice or poverty in the remotest link of her
connections--a woman fit to be the keeper of his house, the bearer
of his name, the mother of his children. But for love, passion,
enthusiasm, sentiment--Edgar thought all such emotional impedimenta
as these not only superfluous, but oftentimes disastrous in the grave
campaign of matrimony.
It was for this marriage that Adelaide had saved herself. She believed
that any woman can marry any man if she only wills to do so; and from
the day when she was seventeen, and they had had a picnic at Dunaston,
she had made up her mind to marry Edgar Harrowby. When he came home
for good, unmarried and unengaged, she knew that she should succeed;
and Edgar knew it too. He knew it so well after he had been at home
about a week that if anything could have turned him against the wife
carved out for him by circumstance and fitness, it would have been the
almost fatal character of that fitness, as if Fortune had not left him
a choice in the matter.
"And what do you think of Adelaide?" asked Mrs. Harrowby one day when
her son said that he had been to the rectory. "You have seen her twice
now: what is your impression of her?'"
"She is prettier than ever--improved, I should say, all through," was
Mrs. Harrowby smiled. "She is a girl I like," she said. "She is so
sensible and has such nice feeling about things."
"Yes," answered Edgar, "she is thoroughly well-bred."
"We have seen a great deal of her of late years," Mrs. Harrowby
continued, angling dexterously. "She and the girls are fast friends,
especially she and Josephine, though there is certainly some slight
difference of age between them. But Adelaide prefers their society
to that of any one about the neighborhood. And I think that of itself
shows such good taste and nice feeling."
"So it does," said Edgar with dutiful assent, not exactly seeing for
himself what constituted Adelaide's good taste and nice feeling in
this preference for his dull and doleful sisters over the brighter
companionship of the Fairbairns, say, or any other of the local
nymphs. To him those elderly maiden sisters of his were rather bores
than otherwise, but he was not displeased that Adelaide Birkett
thought differently. If it "ever came to anything," it would be better
that they satisfied her than that she should find them uncongenial.
"She is coming up to dinner this evening," Mrs. Harrowby went on to
say; and Edgar smiled, pulled his moustaches and looked half puzzled
if wholly pleased.
"She is a pretty girl," he said with the imbecility of a man who ought
to speak and who has nothing to say, also who has something that he
does not wish to say.
"She is better than pretty--she is good," returned Mrs. Harrowby;
and Edgar, not caring to discuss Adelaide on closer ground with his
mother, strolled away into his private room, where he sat before the
fire smoking, meditating on his life in the past and his prospects
in the future, and wondering how he would like it when he had finally
abjured the freedom of bachelorhood and had taken up with matrimony
and squiredom for the remainder of his natural life.
Punctually at seven Adelaide Birkett appeared. This, too, was one
of her minor virtues: she was exact. Mind, person, habits, all were
regulated with the nicest method, and she knew as little of hurry as
of delay, and as little of both as of passion.
"You are such a dear, good punctual girl!" said Josephine
affectionately--Josephine, whose virtues had a few more, loose ends
and knots untied than had her friend's.
"It is so vulgar to be unpunctual," said Adelaide with her calm
good-breeding. "It seems to me only another form of uncleanliness and
"And Edgar is so punctual too!" cried Josephine by way of commentary.
Adelaide smiled, not broadly, not hilariously, only to the exact shade
demanded by conversational sympathy. "Then we shall agree in this,"
she said quietly.
"Oh I am sure you will agree, and in more than this," Josephine
returned, almost with enthusiasm.
Had she not been the willing nurse of this affair from the
beginning?--if not the open confidante, yet secretly holding the key
to her younger friend's mind and actions? and was she not, like all
the kindly disappointed, intensely sympathetic with love-matters,
whether wise or foolish, hopeful or hopeless?
"Who is it that you are sure will agree with Miss Adelaide, if any one
indeed could be found to disagree with her?" asked Edgar, standing in
Josephine laughed with the silliness of a weak woman "caught." She
looked at Adelaide slyly. Adelaide turned her quiet face, unflushed,
unruffled, and neither laughed sillily nor looked slyly.
"She was praising me for punctuality; and then she said that you were
punctual too," she explained cheerfully.
"We learn that in the army," said Edgar.
"But I have had to learn it without the army," she answered.
"Which shows that you have by the grace of nature what I have attained
only by discipline and art," said Edgar gallantly.
Adelaide smiled. She did not disdain the compliment. On the contrary,
she wished to impress it on Edgar that she accepted his praises
because they were her due. She knew that the world takes us if not
quite at our own valuation, yet as being the character we assume to
be. It all depends on our choice of a mask and to what ideal self we
dress. If we are clever and dress in keeping, without showing chinks
or discrepancies, no one will find out that it is only a mask; and
those of us are most successful in gaining the good-will of our
fellows who understand this principle the most clearly and act on it
the most consistently.
The evening was a pleasant one for Adelaide, being an earnest of the
future for which, if she had not worked hard, she had controlled much.
Edgar sang solos to her accompaniment, and put in his rich baritone to
her pure if feeble soprano; he played chess with her for an hour, and
praised her play, as it deserved: naturally, not thinking it necessary
to make love to his sisters, he paid her almost exclusive attention,
and looked the admiration he felt. She really was a very pretty young
woman, and she had unexceptionable manners; and having cut himself
adrift from his ties and handsomely released himself from his
obligations, he was not disposed to take much trouble in looking far
afield for a wife when here was one ready-made to his hand. Still,
he was not so rash as to commit himself too soon. Fine play is never
precipitate; and even the most lordly lover, if an English gentleman,
thinks it seemly to pretend to woo the woman whom he means to take,
and who he knows will yield.
And on her side Adelaide was too well-bred for the one part, and too
wise for the other, to clutch prematurely at the prize she had willed
should be hers. Her actions must be like her gestures, graceful,
rhythmic, rather slow than hurried, and bearing the stamp of purpose
and deliberation. When Edgar should make his offer, as she knew he
would, she would ask for time to reflect and make up her mind. This
would be doing the thing properly and with due regard to her own
dignity; for no husband of hers should ever have cause to think that
she held her marriage with him as a thing so undeniably advantageous
there was no doubt of her acceptance from the first. Every woman must
make herself difficult, thought Adelaide, if she wishes to be prized,
even the woman who for seven years has fixed her eyes steadily on one
point, and has determined that she will finally capture a certain man
and land him as her lifelong possession.
Thus the evening passed, with a subtle undercurrent of concealed
resolves flowing beneath its surface admiration that gave it a
peculiar charm to the two people principally concerned--the one
feeling that she had advanced her game by an important move; the
other, that the eternal fitness of things 'was making itself more
and-more evident, and that it was manifest to all his senses
whom Providence had destined for his wife, and for what ultimate
matrimonial end he had been shaped and spared.
A book of photographs was on the table.
"Are you here?" asked Edgar, lowering his bright blue eyes on
Adelaide as she sat on a small chair at Mrs. Harrowby's feet, carrying
daughterly incense to that withered shrine.
"Yes, I think so," she answered.
He turned the pages carefully--passing over his sisters in wide
crinolines and spoon bonnets; his mother, photographed from an old
picture, in a low dress and long dropping bands of hair, like a
mouflon's ears, about her face; Fred and himself, both as boys in
Scotch suits, set stiffly against the table like dolls--with gradual
improvement in art and style, till he came to a page where Adelaide's
fair vignetted head of large size was placed side by side with
another, also vignetted and also large.
"Ah! there you are; and what a capital likeness!" cried Edgar, with
the joyous look and accent of one meeting an old friend, giving that
gauge of interest which we all unconsciously give when we first see
the photograph of a well-known face. He looked at the portrait long
and critically. "Only not so pretty," he added gallantly. "Those
fellows cannot catch the spirit: they give only the outside forms, and
not always these correctly. Here is a striking face," he continued,
pointing to Adelaide's companion-picture--a girl with masses of dark
hair, dark eyes, large, mournful, heavily fringed with long lashes,
and a grave, sad face, that seemed listening rather than looking. "Who
is she? She looks foreign."
Adelaide glanced at the page, as if she did not know it by heart.
"That? Oh! that is only Leam Dundas," she said with the faintest,
finest flavor of scorn in her voice.
"Leam Dundas?" repeated Edgar--"the daughter of that awful woman?"
"Yes, and nearly as odd as the mother," answered Adelaide, still in
the same cold manner and with the same accent of superior scorn.
"At least she used to be, you mean, dear, but she is more like other
people now," said kindly Josephine, more just than politic.
Adelaide looked at her calmly, indifferently. "Yes, I suppose she is
rather less savage than of old," was her reply, "but I do not see much
"I do not remember to have ever seen her: she must have been a mere
child when I was here last," said Edgar.
"She is nineteen now, I think," said Mrs. Harrowby.
"Not more?" repeated Adelaide. "I imagined she was one-and-twenty at
the least. She looks so very much older than even this--five or six
and twenty, full; dark people age so quickly."
"She seems to be superbly handsome," Edgar said, still looking at the
"For those who like that swarthy kind of beauty. For myself, I do not:
it always reminds me of negroes and Lascars."
Adelaide leaned forward, and made pretence to examine Leam's portrait
with critical independence of judgment. She spoke as if this was the
first time she had seen it, and her words the thought of the moment
"There is no negroid taint here," Edgar answered gravely. "It is the
face of a sibyl, of a tragedian."
"Do you think so? It is fine in outline certainly, but too monotonous
to please me, and too lugubrious; and the funny part of it is,
there is nothing in her. She looks like a sibyl, but she is the most
profoundly stupid person you can imagine."
"Not now, Addy: she has wakened up a good deal," again interposed
Josephine with her love of justice and want of tact.
"But do you not see the mother in her, Josephine? I do, painfully; and
the mother was such a horror! Leam is just like her. She will grow her
"A bad model enough," said Edgar; "but this face is not bad. It has
more in it than poor old Pepita's. How fat she was!"
"So will Leam be when she is as old," said Adelaide quietly. "And do
you think these dark people ever look clean? I don't,"
"That is a drawback certainly," laughed Edgar, running through the
remainder of the book.
But he turned back again to the page which held Leam and Adelaide side
by side, and he spoke of the latter while he looked at the former. The
face of Leam Dundas, mournful, passionate, concentrated as it was,
had struck his imagination--struck it as none other had done since the
time when he had met that grand and graceful woman wandering, lost in
a fog, in St. James's Park, and had protected from possible annoyance
till he had landed her in St. John's Wood. He was glad that Leam
Dundas lived in North Aston, and that he should see her without
trouble or overt action; and as he handed Adelaide into her carriage
he noticed for the first time that her blue eyes were not quite even,
that her flaxen hair had not quite enough color, and that her face, if
pure and fair, was slightly insipid.
"Poor, dear Adelaide!" he said when he returned to the drawing-room,
"how nice she is! but how tart she was about this Leam Dundas of
yours! Looks like jealousy; and very likely is. All you women are so
"Not all of us," said Maria hastily.
"And I do not think that Adelaide is," said Josephine. "She has no
cause; for though Leam is certainly very lovely, and seems to have
improved immensely for being at school, still she and Addy do not come
into collision any way, and I do not see why she should be jealous."
"Perhaps Edgar admired her photograph too much," said Fanny, who
was the stupid one of the three, but on occasions made the shrewdest
Edgar laughed, not displeasedly. "That would be paying me too high a
compliment," he said.
Whereat his three sisters echoed "Compliment!" in various tones of
deprecation, and Josephine added a meaning little laugh for her own
share, for which Edgar gave her a kiss, and said in a bantering kind
of voice, "Now, Joseph! mind what you are about!"
ON THE MOOR.
It was a gray and gusty day in November, with heavy masses of
low-lying clouds rolling tumultuously overhead, and a general look
of damp and decay about the fields and banks--one of those melancholy
days of the late autumn which make one long for the more varied
circumstances of confessed winter, when the deep blue shadows in the
crisp snow suggest the glory of southern skies, and the sparkle of the
sun on the delicate tracery of the frosted branches has a mimicry of
life, such as we imagine strange elves and fairies might create.
There was no point of color in the landscape save the brown foliage of
the shivering beech trees, a few coarse splashes of yellow weeds, and
here and there a trail of dying crimson leaves threading the barren
hedgerows. Everything was "sombre, lifeless, mournful", and even Edgar
Harrowby, though by no means sentimentally impressionable to outward
conditions, felt, as he rode through the deserted lanes and looked
abroad over the stagnant country, that life on the off-hunt days was
but a slow-kind of thing at North Aston, and that any incident which
should break the dead monotony of the scene would be welcome.
He had been thinking a great deal of Adelaide for the last four or
five days, since she had dined at the Hill, and making up his mind to
take the final plunge before long. He was not in love with her, but
she suited, as has been said; and that was as good as love to
Edgar, who had now to take up his squiredom and country gentleman's
respectability, after having had his share of a young man's "fling" in
rather larger proportion than falls to the lot of most. All the same,
he wished that her face had more expression and that her eyes were
perfectly straight; and he wanted to see Leam Dundas.
He had made a long round to-day, and was turning now homeward, when,
as he had almost crossed the moor, athwart which his road led, he saw
standing on a little hillock, away from the main track, the slight
figure of a woman sharply defined against the sky. She was alone,
doing nothing, not seeming to be looking at anything--just standing
there on the hillock, facing the north-west, as if for pleasure in the
rough freshness of the breeze.
The wind blew back her dress, and showed her girlish form, supple,
flexible, graceful, fashioned like some nymph of olden time. From her
small feet, arched and narrow, gripping the ground like feet of steel,
to the slender throat on which her head was set with so much grace
of line, yet with no sense of over-weighting in its tender curves, an
expression of nervous energy underlying her fragile litheness of form,
a look of strength--not muscular nor the strength of bulk or weight,
but the strength of fibre, will, tenacity--seemed to mark her out as
something different from the herd.
Edgar scarcely gave this vague impression words in his own mind, but
he was conscious of a new revelation of womanhood, and he scented an
adventure in this solitary figure facing the north-west wind on the
Her very dress, too, had a character of its own in harmony with the
rest--black all through, save for the scarlet feather in her hat,
which burnt like a flame against the gray background of the sky;
and her whole attitude had something of defiance in its profound
stillness, while standing so boldly against the strong blasts that
swept across the heights, which caught his imagination, at that
moment ready to be inflamed. All things depend on times and moods, and
Edgar's mood at this moment of first seeing Leam Dundas was favorable
for the reception of new impressions.
For, of course, it was Leam--Leam, who, since her return from school,
alone and without companionship, was feverish often, and often
impelled to escape into the open country from something that oppressed
her down in the valley too painfully to be borne. She had never been
a confidential nor an expansive schoolfellow; not even an affectionate
one as girls count affection, seeing that she neither kissed nor
cried, nor quarreled nor made up--neither stood as a model of
fidelity nor changed her girl-lovers in anticipation of future
inconstancies--writing a love-letter to Ada to-day and a copy of
verses to Ethel to-morrow--but had kept with all the same quiet
gravity and gentle reticence which seemed to watch rather than share,
and to be more careful not to offend than solicitous to win.
All the same, she missed her former comrades now that she had lost
them; but most of all she missed the wholesome occupation and mental
employment of her studies. Left as she was to herself, thoughts and
memories were gathering up from the background where they had lain
dormant if extant all these years, and through her solitude were
getting a vitality which made her stand still in a kind of breathless
agony, wondering where they would lead her and in what they would end.
At times such a burning sense of sin would flash over her that she
felt as if she must confess that hideous fact of her girlish past. It
seemed so shameful that she should be living there among the rest, a
criminal with the innocent, and not tell them what she was. Then the
instinct of self-preservation would carry it over her conscience, and
she would press back her thoughts and go out, as to-day, to cool her
feverish blood, and grow calm to bear and strong to hold the heavy
burden which she had fashioned by her own mad deed and laid for life
on her own hands.
If only the ladies had not insisted so strongly on mamma's personality
in heaven! if only they had not lighted up her imagination, her
loyalty, by this tremendous torch of faith and love! How bitterly she
regretted the childish fanaticism which had made her imagine herself
the providence of that beloved memory, the avenger of those shadowy
wrongs! Oh, if she could undo the past and call madame back to life!
She would kiss her now, and even call her mamma if it would please her
and papa. So she stood on the hillock facing the north-west, thinking
these things and regretting in vain.
As Edgar came riding by his large black hound dashed off to Leam and
barked furiously, all four paws planted on the ground as if preparing
for a spring. The beast had probably no malice, and might have meant
it merely as his method of saying, "Who are you?" but he looked
formidable, and Leam started back and cried, "Down, dog! go away!" in
a voice half angry and half afraid.
Then Edgar saw the face, and knew who she was. He rode across the
turf, calling off his dog, and came up to her. It was an opportunity,
and Edgar Harrowby was a man who knew how to take advantage of
opportunities. It was in his creed to thank Providence for favorable
chances by making the most of them, and this was a chance of which it
would be manifestly ungrateful not to make the most. It was far more
picturesque to meet her for the first time, as now, on the wild moor
on a gusty gray November day, than in the gloomy old drawing-room at
the Hill. It gave a flavor of romance and the forbidden which was not
without its value in the beginning of an acquaintance with such a face
as Leam's. Nevertheless, in spite of the romance that hung about the
circumstance, his first words were common-place enough. "I hope my dog
has not alarmed you?" he said, lifting his hat.
Leam looked at him with those wonderful eyes of hers, that seemed
somehow to look through him. She, standing on her hillock, was
slightly higher than Edgar sitting on his horse; and her head was bent
as she looked down on him, giving her attitude and gesture something
of a dignified assumption of superiority, more like the Leam of the
past than of the present. "No, I was not alarmed," she said. "But I
do not like to be barked at," she added, an echo of the old childish
sense of injury from circumstance that was so quaint and pretty in her
"I suppose not: how should you?" answered Edgar with sympathetic
energy. "Rover is a good-old fellow, but he has the troublesome trick
of giving tongue unnecessarily. He would not have hurt you, but I
should be very sorry to think he had frightened you. To heel, sir!"
"No, he did not frighten me." repeated Leam.
Never loquacious, there was something about this man's face and
manner, his masterful spirit underneath his courteous bearing, his
look of masculine power and domination, his admiring eyes that fixed
themselves on her so unflinchingly--not with insolence, but as if he
had the prescriptive right of manhood to look at her, only a woman, as
he chose, he commanding and she obeying--that quelled and silenced
her even beyond her wont. He was the first gentleman of noteworthy
appearance who had ever spoken to her--not counting Alick, nor
the masters who had taught her at school, nor Mr. Birkett, nor Mr.
Fairbairn, as gentlemen of noteworthy appearance--and the first of all
things has a special influence over young minds.
"You are brave to walk so far alone: you ought to have a dog like
Rover to protect you," Edgar said, still looking at her with those
unflinching eyes, which oppressed her even when she did not see them.
"I am not brave, and I do not care for dogs. Besides, I do not often
walk so far as this; but I felt the valley stifling to-day," answered
Leam, in her matter-of-fact, categorical way.
"All the same, you ought to have protection," Edgar said
authoritatively, and Leam did not reply.
She only looked at him earnestly, wondering against what she should
be protected, having abandoned by this time her belief in banditti and
If his eyes oppressed her, hers half embarrassed him. There was such
a strange mixture of intensity and innocence in them, he scarcely knew
how to meet them.
"It is absurd to pretend that we do not know each other," then said
Edgar after a short pause, smiling; and his smile was very sweet and
pleasant. "You are Miss Dundas--I am Edgar Harrowby."
"Yes, I know," Leam answered.
"How is that?" he asked, "_I_ knew _you_ from your photograph--once
seen not to be forgotten again," gallantly--"but how should you know
Leam raised her eyes from the ground where she had cast them. Those
slow full looks, intense, tragic, fixed, had a startling effect of
which she was wholly unconscious. Edgar felt his own grow dark and
tender as he met hers. If the soul and mind within only answered to
the mask without, what queen or goddess could surpass this half-breed
Spanish girl, this country-born, unnoted, but glorious Leam Dundas? he
"And I knew you from yours," she answered.
"An honor beyond my deserts," said Edgar.
Not that he thought the notice of a girl, even with such a face
as this, beyond his deserts. Indeed, if a queen or a goddess had
condescended to him, it would not have been a grace beyond his merits;
but it sounded pretty to say so, and served to make talk as well as
anything else. And to make talk was the main business on hand at this
"Why an honor?" asked Leam, ignorant of the elements of flirting.
Edgar smiled again, and this time his smile without words troubled
her. It seemed the assertion of superior intelligence, contemptuous,
if half pitiful of her ignorance. Once so serenely convinced of her
superiority, Leam was now as suspicious of her shortcomings, and was
Edgar did not see that he had troubled her. Masterful and masculine
to an eminent degree, the timid doubts and fears of a young girl were
things he could not recognize. He had no point in his own nature with
which they came in contact, so that he should sympathize with them.
He knew the whole fence and foil of coquetry, the signs of silent
flattery, the sweet language of womanly self-conscious love, whether
wooing or being won; but the fluttering misgivings of youth and
absolute inexperience were dark to him. All of which he felt conscious
was that here was something deliciously fresh and original, and that
Leam was more beautiful to look at than Adelaide, and a great deal
more interesting to talk to.
"If you will allow me, now that I have had the pleasure of meeting
you, I will see you safe for at least part of your way home," he said,
passing by her naive query "Why an honor?" as a thing to be answered
only by that smile of superior wisdom.
Flinging himself from his horse, he took the bridle in his hand and
turned toward home, looking to the girl to accompany him. Leam felt
that she could not refuse his escort offered as so much a matter of
course. Why should she? It was very pleasant to have some one to walk
with--some one not her father, with whom she still felt shy, if not
now absolutely estranged; nor yet Alick, in whose pale face she was
always reading the past, and who, though he was so good and kind
and tender, was her master and held her in his hand. This handsome,
courteous gentleman was different from either, and she liked his
society and superior ways. And as he began now to talk to her of
things not trenching on nor admitting of flirtation--chiefly of the
places he had visited, India, Egypt, Italy, Spain--she was not so much
abashed by his unflinching looks and masterful manner.
When he entered on Spain and his recollections of what he had seen
there, the girl's heart throbbed, and her pale face grew whiter still
with the passionate thrill that stirred her. The old blood was in her
veins yet, and, though modified, and in some sense transformed, she
was still Pepita's daughter and the child of Andalusia. And here was
truth; not like that poor wretched madame's talk, which even she had
found out to be false and only making believe to know what she did not
know. Spain was the name of power with Learn, as it had been with her
mother, and she lifted her face, white with its passionate desires,
listening as if entranced to all that Edgar said.
It was a good opening, and the handsome soldier-squire congratulated
himself on his lucky hit and serviceable memory. Presently he touched
on Andalusia, and Leam, who hitherto had been listening without
comment, now broke in eagerly. "That is my own country!" she cried.
"Mamma came from Andalusia, beautiful Andalusia! Ah! how I should like
to go there!"
"Perhaps you will some day," Edgar answered a little significantly.
Had she been more instructed in the kind of thing he meant, she would
have seen that he wished to convey the idea of a love-journey made
She shook her head and her eyes grew moist and dewy. "Not now," she
said mournfully. "Poor mamma has gone, and there is no one now to take
"I will make up a party some day, and you shall be one of us," said
She brightened all over. "Ah! that would be delightful!" she cried,
taking him seriously. "When do you think we shall go?"
"I will talk about it," Edgar answered, though smiling again--Leam
wished he would not smile so often--a little aghast at her
literalness, and saying to himself in warning that he must be careful
of what he said to Leam Dundas. It was evident that she did not
understand either badinage or a joke. But her very earnestness pleased
him for all its oddity. It was so unlike the superficiality and
levity of the modern girl--that hateful Girl of the Period, in whose
existence he believed, and of whose influence he stood in almost
superstitious awe. He liked that grave, intense way of hers, which was
neither puritanical nor stolid, but, on the contrary, full of unspoken
passion, rich in latent concentrated power.
"They are very beautiful, are they not?" Leam asked suddenly.
"What? who?" was Edgar's answer.
"The Andalusian women, and the men," returned Leam.
"The men are fine-looking fellows enough," answered Edgar
carelessly--"a little too brutal for my taste, but well-grown men for
all that. But I have seen prettier women out of Spain than in it."
"Mamma used to say they were so beautiful--the most beautiful of
all the women in the world; and the best." Leam said this with a
disappointed air and her old injured accent.
Edgar laughed softly. "The prettiest Andalusian woman I have ever
seen has an English father," he answered, with a sudden flush on his
handsome face as he bent it a little nearer to hers.
"How odd!" said Leam. "An English father? That is like me."
Edgar looked at her, to read how much of this was real ingenuousness,
how much affected simplicity. He saw only a candid inquiring face with
a faint shade of surprise in its quiet earnestness, unquestionably not
"Just so," he answered. "Exactly like you."
His voice and manner made Leam blush uncomfortably. She was conscious
of something disturbing, without knowing what it was. She first looked
up into his face with the same expression of inquiry as before, then
down to the earth perplexedly, when suddenly the truth came upon her;
he meant herself--she was the prettiest Andalusian he had ever seen.
She was intensely humiliated at her discovery. Not one of those girls
who study every feature, every gesture, every point, till there is
not a square inch of their personality of which they are not painfully
conscious, Leam had never taken herself into artistic consideration
at all. She had been proud of her Spanish blood, of her mantilla, her
high comb and her fan; but of herself as a woman among women she knew
nothing, nor whether she was plain or pretty. Indeed, had she had to
say offhand which, she would have answered plain. The revelation which
comes sooner or later to all women of the charms they possess had not
yet come to her; and Edgar's words, making the first puncture in
her ignorance, pained her more by the shock which they gave her
self-consciousness than they pleased her by their flattery.
She said no more, but walked by his side with her head held very high
and slightly turned away. She was sorry that he had offended her. They
had been getting on together so well until he had said this foolish
thing, and now they were like friends who had quarreled. She was quite
sorry that he had been so foolish as to offend her, but she must not
forgive him--at least not just yet. It was very wrong of him to tell
her that she was prettier than the true children of the soil; and she
resented the slight to Spain and to her mother, as well as the wrong
done to herself, by his saying that which was not true. So she walked
with her little head held high, and Edgar could get nothing more out
of her. When Leam was offended coaxings to make her forget were of no
avail. She had to wear through an impression by herself, and it was
useless to try for a premature pardon.
Edgar saw that he had overshot the mark, and that his best policy now
was absence; wherefore, after a few moments' silence, he remounted his
horse, looking penitent, handsome, full of admiration and downcast.
"I hope we shall soon see you at the Hill, Miss Dundas," he said,
holding her hand in his for his farewell a little longer than was
quite necessary for good breeding or even cordiality.
"I very seldom go to the Hill," answered Leam, looking past his head.
"But you will come, and soon?" fervently.
"Perhaps: I do not know," answered Leam, still looking past his head,
and embarrassed to a most uncomfortable extent.
"Thank you," he said, as if he had been thanking her for the grace of
his life; and with a long look, lifting his hat again, he rode off,
just escaping by a few hundred yards the danger of being met walking
with Leam by his sisters and Adelaide Birkett. They were all driving
together in the phaeton, and the sisters were making much of their
At that moment Edgar preferred to be met alone and not walking with
Leam. He did not stop the carriage--simply nodded to them all with
familiar kindness, as a group of relatives not demanding extra
courtesy, flinging a few words behind him as he rode on smiling. Nor
did the ladies in their turn stop for Leam, whom they met soon after
walking slowly along the road; but Josephine said, as they passed, how
pretty Learn looked to-day, and how much softer her face was than it
used to be; and Maria, even Maria, agreed with kindly Joseph, and
was quite eulogistic on the object of her old disdain. Adelaide sat
silent, and did not join in their encomiums.
It would have been a nice point to ascertain if the Misses Harrowby
would have praised the girl's beauty as they did had they known
that she had grown soft and dewy-eyed by talking of Spain with their
brother Edgar, though she had hardened a little afterward when he told
her that she was the prettiest Andalusian he had ever seen.
During the dinner at the Hill, where Adelaide was one of the family
party, Edgar mentioned casually how that he had met Miss Dundas on the
moor, and had had to speak to her because of Rover's misbehavior.
"Yes? and what do you think of her?" asked Mrs. Harrowby with a sharp
"I scarcely know: I have hardly seen her as yet," he answered.
"Did she say or do anything very extraordinary to-day?" asked
Adelaide with such an air of contemptuous curiosity as seemed to him
"No, nothing. Is she in the habit of saying or doing extraordinary
things?" he answered back, arching his eyebrows and speaking in a
well-affected tone of sincere inquiry.
"At times she is more like a maniac than a sane person," said
Adelaide, breaking her bread with deliberation. "What can you expect
from such a parentage and education as hers?"
Edgar looked down and smiled satirically. "Poor Pepita's sins lie
heavy on your mind," he answered.
"Yes, I believe in race," was her reply.
"Mother," then said Edgar after a short silence, "why do you not have
Miss Dundas to dine here with Adelaide? It would be more amusing
to her, for it must be dull"--turning to their guest and speaking
amiably, considerately--"I am afraid very dull--to be so often quite
alone with us."
He did not add what he thought, that it was almost indelicate in her
to be here so often. He was out of humor with her to-day.
"She is such an uncertain girl we never know how she may be. I had her
to stay here once, and I do not want to repeat the experiment," was
Mrs. Harrowby's answer.
"But, mamma, that was before she went to school, when she was quite a
child. She is so much improved now," pleaded Josephine.
"Good little soul!" said Edgar under his breath.--"Wine, Joseph?"
aloud, as his recognition of her good offices.
"And I like coming alone best, thanks," said Adelaide with unruffled
calmness. "Leam has never been my friend; indeed, I do not like her,
and you all," to the sisters, with a gracious smile and prettily,
"have always been my favorite companions."
"Still, she is very lonely, and it would be kind. Besides, she is good
to look at," said Edgar.
"Do you think so?" said Mrs. Harrowby with crisp lips and
"Do I think so, mother? I should have no eyes else. She is superb. I
have never seen such a face. She is the most beautiful creature I have
ever known of any nation."
Adelaide's delicate pink cheeks turned pale, and then they flushed a
brilliant rose as she laid down her spoon and left her jelly untasted.
There were no trials of skill at chess, no duets, no solos, this
evening. After dinner Edgar went to his own room and sat there
smoking. He felt revolted at the idea of spending two or three hours
with what he irreverently called "a lot of dull women," and preferred
his own thoughts to their talk. He sauntered into the drawing-room
about ten minutes before Adelaide had to leave, apologizing for his
absence on the man's easy plea of "business," saying he was sorry to
have missed her charming society, and he hoped they should see her
there soon again, and so on--all in the proper voice and manner,
but with a certain ring of insincerity in the tones which Adelaide
detected, if the others did not. But she accepted his excuses with the
most admirable tact, smiling to the sisters as she said, "Oh, we
have been very happy, Josephine, have we not? though," with a nice
admission of Edgar's claims, not too broadly stated nor too warmly
allowed, "of course it would have been very pleasant if you could have
come in too."
"It has been my loss," said Edgar.
She smiled "Yes" by eyes, lips and turn of her graceful head. In
speech she answered, "Of that, of course, you are the best judge for
yourself; but none of us here feel as some girls do, lost without
gentlemen to amuse them. We can get on very well by ourselves. Cannot
And Josephine said gallantly, "Yes," but her heart was more rueful
than her voice, and she thought that some gentlemen were very
nice, and that Sebastian Dundas especially made the dull time pass
THE CHILD FINA.
Nothing surprised the North Astonians more than what it was the
fashion to call "the admirable manner in which Leam behaved to
the child Fina." If the world which praised her had known all the
compelling circumstances, would it have called her admirable then? Yet
beyond those natural promptings of remorse which forced her to do
the best she could for the child whom her fatal crime had rendered
motherless, Leam did honestly behave well, if this means doing irksome
things without complaint and sacrificing self to a sense of right. And
this was all the more praiseworthy in that sympathy of nature between
these two young creatures there was none, and the girl's maternal
instinct was not of that universal kind which makes all children
pleasant, whatever they may be. Hence, she did nobly when she did her
duty with the uncompromising exactness characteristic of her; but then
it was only duty, it was not love.
How should it be love? Her tenacity and reserve were ill matched with
Fina's native inconstancy of purpose and childish incontinence of
speech; her pride of race resented her father's adoption of a stranger
into the penetralia of the family; and to share the name she had
inherited from her mother with the daughter of that mother's rival
seemed to her a wrong done to both the living and the dead. Naturally
taciturn, unjoyful, and ever oppressed by that brooding consciousness
of guilt hanging like a cloud over her memory, formless, vague, but
never lifting, Fina's changeful temper and tumultuous vivacity were
intensely wearisome to her. Nevertheless, she was forbearing if not
loving, and the people said rightly when they said she was admirable.
Her grave patience with the little one did more to open her father's
heart to her than did even her own wonderful beauty, which gratified
his paternal pride of authorship, or than her efforts after docility
to himself--efforts that would have been creditable to any one, and
that with her were heroic. For Mr. Dundas, being of those clinging,
clasping natures which must love some one, had taken poor madame's
child into his affections in the wholesale manner so emphatically his
own, now in these first days of his new paternity seeming to live only
for the little Fina, and never happy but when he had her with him. It
was the first time that he felt he had had a child of his own; and he
gave her the love which would have been Leam's had Pepita been less
of a savage than she was, and more discreet in the matter of
The little round, fair-haired creature, with her picturesque
Gainsborough head and rose-red lips, pretty, pleasant, facile, easily
amused if easily made cross, divertible from her purpose if she was
but coaxed and caressed, and if the substitute offered was to her
liking--without tenacity, fluid, floating on the surface of things and
born of their froth; loving only those who ministered to her pleasure
and were in sight; forgetting yesterday's joys as though they had
never been, and her dearest the moment they were absent--a child
deliciously caressing because sensual by temperament and instinctively
diplomatic, with no latent greatness to be developed as time went on
and the flower set into the fruit. Epitomizing the characteristics of
the class of which her mother had been a typical example, she was the
pleasantest thing of his life to a man who cared mainly to be amused,
and who liked with a woman's liking to be loved.
The strong love of children inherent in him, which had never been
satisfied till now, seemed now to have gathered tenfold strength, and
the love of the man, who had never cared for his own, for this his
little daughter by adoption was almost a passion. If Leam could have
been jealous where she did not love, she would have been jealous of
her father and Fina. But she was not. On the contrary, it seemed to
soften some of the bitterness of her self-reproach, and she was glad
that madame's motherless child was not deserted, but had found a
substitute for the protection which she had taken from her; for Leam,
criminal, was not ignoble.
A few days after the meeting on the moor between Learn and Edgar, Mr.
Dundas drove to the Hill, carrying Fina with him. Leam had a fit of
shyness and refused to go: thus Sebastian had the child to himself,
and was not sorry to be without his elder and less congenial daughter.
He owned to himself that she was good, very good indeed, and a great
deal better than he ever expected she would be; yet for all that, with
her more than Oriental gravity and reserve, and that look of tragedy
haunting her face, she was not an amusing companion, and the little
Mr. Dundas had begun to take up his old habits again with the
Harrowbys. He found the patient constancy of his friend Josephine not
a disagreeable salve for a wounded heart and broken life; albeit poor
dear Joseph was getting stout and matronly, and took off the keen edge
of courtship by a willingness too manifest for wisdom. Sebastian liked
to be loved, but he did not like to be bored by being made overmuch
love to. The things are different, and most men resent the latter, how
much soever they desire the former.
Edgar was in the drawing-room when Mr. Dundas was announced. He was
booted and spurred, waiting his horse to be brought round. "What a
pretty little girl!" he said after a time. True to his type, he was
fond of children and animals, and children and animals liked him.
"Come and speak to me," he continued, holding out his hand to
Fina.--"Whose child is she?" vaguely to the company in general.
"Mine," said Mr. Dundas emphatically--"my youngest daughter, Fina
Edgar knew what he meant. He had often heard the story from his
sisters, and since his return home he had had Adelaide Birkett's
comments thereon. He looked then with even more interest on the
pretty little creature in dark-blue velvet and swansdown, careless,
unconscious, happy, as the child of a mystery and a tragedy in one.
"Ah!" he said sympathetically. "Come to me, little one," again,
Fina, with her finger in her mouth, went up to him half shyly, half
boldly, and wholly prettily. She let him take her on his knee and kiss
her without remonstrance. She was of the kind to like being taken on
knees and kissed--especially by gentlemen who were strong and matronly
women who were soft--and she soon made friends. Not many minutes
elapsed before, kneeling upon his knees, she was stroking his tawny
beard and plaiting it in threes, pulling his long moustache, playing
with his watch-guard, and laughing in his face with the pretty
audacity of six.
"What a dear little puss!" cried Edgar, caressing her. "Very like
you, Joseph, I should think, when you were her age, judging by your
picture. Is she not, mother?"
"They say so, but I do not see it," answered Mrs. Harrowby primly.
She did not like to hear about this resemblance. There was something
in it that annoyed her intensely, she scarcely knew why, and the more
so because it was true.
"Poor madame used to say so: she saw it from the first, when Fina was
quite a little baby," said Josephine in a low voice.
She was kneeling by her brother's side caressing Fina. She always made
love to the little girl: it was one of her methods of making love to
"Is she like her mother?" asked Edgar in the same low tones, looking
at the child critically.
"A little," answered Josephine--"not much. It is odd, is it not, that
she should be more like me?"
Just then Fina laid her fresh sweet lips against Edgar's, and he
kissed her with a strange thrill of tenderness.
"Why, Edgar, I never saw you take so to a child before," cried Mrs.
Harrowby, not quite pleasantly; and on Sebastian adding with his
nervous little laugh, which meant the thing it assumed only to play
at, "I declare I shall be quite jealous, Edgar, if you make love to
my little girl like this." Edgar, who had the Englishman's dislike
to observation, save when he offered himself for personal admiration,
laughed too and put Fina away.
But the child had taken a fancy to him, and could scarcely be induced
to leave him. She clung to his hand still, and went reluctantly when
her stepfather called her. It was a very little matter, but men being
weak in certain directions, it delighted Edgar and annoyed Sebastian
"I hope your elder daughter is well," then said Edgar, emphasizing the
adjective, the vision of Leam as he first saw her, breasting the wind,
filling his eyes with a strange light.
"Leam? Quite well, thanks. But how do you know anything about her?"
was Sebastian's reply.
"I met her yesterday on the moor, and Rover introduced us," answered
"How close she is!" said her father fretfully. "She never told me a
word about it."
"Perhaps she thought the incident too trifling," suggested Edgar, a
"Oh no, not at all! In a place like North Aston the least thing counts
as an adventure; and meeting for the first time one of the neighbors
is not an incident to be forgotten as if it were of no more value than
meeting a flock of sheep."
Mr. Dundas spoke peevishly. To a man who liked to be amused and who
lived on crumbs this reserved companionship was disappointing and
"Leam is at home making music," said Fina disdainfully. She had caught
the displeased accent of her adopted father, and echoed it.
"Does she make much music?" asked Edgar with his hand under her chin,
turning up her face.
The child shrugged her little shoulders. "She makes a noise," she
said; and those who heard her laughed.
"That is not a very polite way of putting it," said Edgar a little
"No," said Josephine.
"You should speak nicely of your sister, my little one," put in
Fina looked up into his face reproachfully. "You called it a noise
yourself, papa," she said, pouting. "You made her leave off yesterday
as soon as you came in, because you said she made your head ache with
her noise, and set your teeth--something, I don't know what."
"Did I, dear?" he repeated carelessly. "Well, we need not discuss the
subject. I dare say it amuses her to make music, as you call it, and
so we need say no more about it."
"But you did say it was a noise," persisted Fina, climbing on to his
knees and putting her arms round his neck. "And I think it a noise
"Poor Leam's music cannot be very first-rate," remarked Maria, who
was a proficient and played almost as well as a "professional." "Four
years ago she did not know her notes, and four years' practice cannot
be expected to make a perfect pianiste."
"But a person may play very sweetly and yet not be what you call
perfect," said Edgar.
"Do you think so?" Maria answered with a frosty smile. "I do not." Of
what use to have toiled for thirty years early and late at scales
and thorough-bass if a stupid girl like Leam could be allowed to play
sweetly after four years' desultory practice? "Adelaide Birkett, if
you will, plays well," she added; "but Leam, poor child! how should
"I hope I shall have an opportunity of judging for myself," said
Edgar with his company manner.--"When will you come and dine here,
Dundas?--to-morrow? You and your elder daughter: we shall be very glad
to see you."
He looked to his mother. Mrs. Harrowby had drawn her lips tight, and
wore an injured air doing its best to be resigned. This was
Edgar's first essay in domestic mastership, and it pained her, not
"Thanks," said Sebastian. "Willingly, if--" looking to Mrs. Harrowby.
"I have no engagement, and Edgar is master now," said that lady.
"And mind that Leam comes too," said Josephine, sharing her favorite
brother's action by design.
"And me," cried Fina.
Whereat they all laughed, which made Fina cry, to be consoled only by
some sweetmeats which Josephine found in her work-basket.
It was agreed, then, that the next day Leam and her father should dine
at the Hill.
"Only ourselves," Edgar said, wanting the excuse of her "being the
only lady" to devote himself to Leam. It was strange that he should
be so anxious to see her nearer, and in company with his sisters and
mother; for after all, why should he? What was she to him, either near
or afar off, alone or in the inner circle of his family?
But when the next day came Mr. Dundas appeared alone. Leam had been
taken with a fit of shyness, pride--who shall say?--and refused to
accept her share of the invitation. Her father made the stereotyped
excuse of "headache;" but headaches occur too opportunely to be
always real, and Leam's to-night was set down to the fancy side of
the account, and not believed in by the hearers any more than by the
Edgar raged against her in his heart, and decided that she was not
worth a second thought, while the ladies said in an undertone from
each to each, "How rude!" Maria adding, "How like Leam!" the chain
of condemnation receiving no break till it came to Josephine, whose
patient soul refrained from wrath, and gave as her link, "Poor Leam!
perhaps she is shy or has really a headache."
In spite of his decision that she was not worth a second thought,
the impression which Leam had made on Edgar deepened with his
disappointment, and he became restless and unpleasant in his temper,
casting about for means whereby he might see her again. He cast
about in vain. This fit of shyness, pride, reluctance--who knows
what?--continued with Leam for many days after this. If she went out
at all, she went where she knew she should not be met; and if Edgar
called at Ford House, she was not to be found. She mainly devoted
herself to Fina and some books lent her by Alick, and kept the house
with strange persistency. Perhaps this was because the weather was
bad, for Leam, who could bear wind and frost and noonday sun, could
not bear wet. When it rained she shut herself up in her own room, and
pitied herself for the ungenial skies as she had pitied herself for
some other things before now.
Sitting thus reading one miserably dark, cold, misty day, the child
Fina came in to her with her lessons, which she repeated well. They
were very small and insignificant little lessons, for Leam had a
fellow-feeling for the troubles of ignorance, and laid but a light
hand on the frothy mind inside that curly head. When they were
finished the little one said coaxingly, "Now play with me, Leam! You
never play with me."
"What can I do, Fina?" poor Leam replied.
She had never learnt to play when she was a child: she had never built
towers and towns, made railway trains and coaches with the sofa and
chairs, played at giants through the dark passages and screamed when
she was caught. She had only sat still when mamma was asleep, or when
she was awake played on the zambomba, or listened to her when she told
her of the things of Spain, and made up stories with her dolls that
were less edifying than those of Mother Bunch. She could scarcely,
however, unpack that old box full of waxen puppets, with the one
dressed in scarlet and black, with fishbone horns and a worsted tail,
and a queer clumped kind of foot made of folds of leather, cleft in
the middle, that used to go by the name of "El senor papa." What could
"Shall I tell you a story?" she then said in a mild fit of
desperation, for story-telling was as little in her way as anything
"Yes, yes, tell me a story!" Fina clapped her chubby hands together
and climbed up into Leam's lap.
"What shall it be about--bears or tigers, or what?" asked Leam
"Tell me about mamma, my own mamma, not Aunty Birkett," said Fina.
Leam shuddered from head to foot. This was the first time the little
girl had mentioned her mother's name to her. Indeed, she did not know
that she had ever heard of her at all--ever known that she had had
a mother; but the servants had talked, and the child's curiosity was
aroused. The dead mother is as much a matter of wondering inquiry
as the angels and the stars; and Fina's imagination was beginning to
bestir itself on the mysteries of childish life.
"I have nothing to tell you about her," said Leam, controlling
herself, though she still shivered.
"Yes, you have--everything," insisted Fina. "Was mamma pretty?"
playing with a corner of her sister's ribbon.
"People said so," answered Leam.
"As pretty as Cousin Addy?" she asked.
"About," said Leam, who thought neither supreme.
"Prettier than you?"
"I don't know: how can I tell?" she answered a little impatiently.
The mother's blood that ran in her, the mother's mould in which she
had been formed, forbade her to put herself below madame in anything;
but, as she was neither vain nor conscious, she found Fina's question
difficult to answer.
"Oh," cried Fina, in a tone of disappointment, "then she could not
have been very pretty."
"I dare say she was, but I do not know," returned Leam.
"And she died?" continued Fina, yawning in a childishly indifferent
"Yes, she died."
"Why? Who killed her? Did papa?" asked Fina.
Leam's face was very white: "No, not papa."
"I cannot tell you, Fina," said Leam, to whom falsehoods were
abhorrent and the truth impossible.
"Did you?" persisted Fina with childish obstinacy.
"Now go," said Leam, putting her off her lap and rising from her chair
in strange disorder. "You are troublesome and ask too many questions."
Fina began to cry loudly, and Mr. Dundas, from his library below,
heard her. He came up stairs with his fussy, restless kindness, and
opened the door of the room where his two daughters, of nature and by
"Heyday! what's all this about?" he cried. "What's the matter, my
little Fina? what are you crying for? Tut, tut! you should not cry
like this, darling; and, Leam," severely, "you should really keep the
child better amused and happy. She is as good as gold with me: with
you there is always something wrong."
Fina ran into his arms sobbing. "Leam is cross," she said. "She will
not tell me who killed mamma."
The man's ruddy face, reddened and roughened with travel, grew white
and pitiful. "God took her away, my darling," he said with a sob.
"She was too good for me, and He took her to live with the angels in
"And Leam's mamma? Is she in heaven too with the angels?" asked Fina,
opening her eyes wide through their tears,
"I hope so," Sebastian answered in an altered voice.
Leam covered her face in her hands; then lifting it up, she said
imploringly, "Papa, do not talk to her of mamma. It is sacrilege."
"I agree with you, Leam," said Mr, Dundas in a steady voice. "We meet
at the same point, but perhaps by different methods."
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA
BY LADY BARKER.
CAPE TOWN, October 16, 1875.
Safe, safe at last, after twenty-four days of nothing but sea
and sky, of white-crested waves--which made no secret of their
intention of coming on board whenever they could or of tossing
the good ship Edinburgh Castle hither and thither like a
child's plaything--and of more deceitful sluggish rolling
billows, looking tolerably calm to the unseafaring eye, but
containing a vast amount of heaving power beneath their slow,
undulating water-hills and valleys. Sometimes sky and sea
have been steeped in dazzling haze of golden glare, sometimes
brightened to blue of a sapphire depth. Again, a sudden change
of wind has driven up serried clouds from the south and east,
and all has been gray and cold and restful to eyes wearied
with radiance and glitter of sun and sparkling water.
Never has there been such exceptional weather, although the
weather of my acquaintance invariably _is_ exceptional. No
sooner had the outlines of Madeira melted and blended into
the soft darkness of a summer night than we appeared to sail
straight into tropic heat and a sluggish vapor, brooding on
the water like steam from a giant geyser. This simmering,
oily, exhausting temperature carried us close to the line.
"What is before us," we asked each other languidly, "if it be
hotter than this? How can mortal man, woman, still less child,
endure existence?" Vain alarms! Yet another shift of the
light wind, another degree passed, and we are all shivering in
winter wraps. The line was crossed in greatcoats and shawls,
and the only people whose complexion did not resemble a
purple plum were those lucky ones who had strength of mind
and steadiness of body to lurch up and down the deck all
day enjoying a strange method of movement which they called
The exceptional weather pursued us right into the very
dock. Table Mountain ought to be seen--and very often is
seen--seventy miles away. I am told it looks a fine bold bluff
at that distance, Yesterday we had blown off our last pound of
steam and were safe under its lee before we could tell
there was a mountain there at all, still less an almost
perpendicular cliff more than three thousand feet high. Robben
Island looked like a dun-colored hillock as we shot past it
within a short distance, and a more forlorn and discouraging
islet I don't think I have ever beheld. When I expressed
something of this impression to a cheery fellow-voyager, he
could only urge in its defence that there were a great many
rabbits on it. If he had thrown the lighthouse into the
bargain, I think he would have summed up all its attractive
features. Unless Langalibalele is of a singularly
unimpressionable nature, he must have found his sojourn on
it somewhat monotonous, but he always says he was very
And now for the land. We are close alongside of a wharf,
and still a capital and faithful copy of a Scotch mist wraps
houses, trees and sloping uplands in a fibry fantastic veil,
and the cold drizzle seems to curdle the spirits and energies
of the few listless Malays and half-caste boys and men who are
lounging about. Here come hansom cabs rattling up one after
the other, all with black drivers in gay and fantastic head
and shoulder gear; but their hearts seem precisely as
the hearts of their London brethren, and they single out
new-comers at a glance, and shout offers to drive them a
hundred yards or so for exorbitant sums, or yell laudatory
recommendations of sundry hotels. You must bear in mind that
in a colony every pot-house is a hotel, and generally rejoices
in a name much too imposing to fit across its frontage. These
hansoms are all painted white with the name of some ship in
bright letters on the side, and are a great deal cleaner,
roomier and more comfortable than their London "forbears." The
horses are small and shabby, but rattle along at a good pace;
and soon each cab has its load of happy home-comers and swings
rapidly away to make room for fresh arrivals hurrying up for
fares. Hospitable suggestions come pouring in, and it is as
though it were altogether a new experience when one steps
cautiously on the land, half expecting it to dip away
playfully from under one's feet. A little boy puts my thoughts
into words when he exclaims, "How steady the ground is!"
and becomes a still more faithful interpreter of a wave-worn
voyager's sensations when, a couple of hours later, he demands
permission to get _out_ of his delicious little white bed
that he may have the pleasure of getting _into_ it again. The
evening is cold and raw and the new picture is all blurred and
soft and indistinct, and nothing seems plain except the
kindly grace of our welcome and the
never-before-sufficiently-appreciated delights of space and
How pleasant is the process familiarly known as "looking
about one," particularly when performed under exceptionally
favorable circumstances! A long and happy day commenced with a
stroll through the botanic gardens, parallel with which runs,
on one side, a splendid oak avenue just now in all the
vivid freshness of its young spring leaves. The gardens are
beautifully kept, and are valuable as affording a sort of
experimental nursery in which new plants and trees can be
brought up on trial and their adaptability to the soil and
climate ascertained. For instance, the first thing that caught
my eye was the gigantic trunk of an Australian blue-gum tree,
which had attained to a girth and height not often seen in its
own land. The flora of the Cape Colony is exceptionally varied
and beautiful, but one peculiarity incidentally alluded to by
my charming guide struck me as very noticeable. It is that
in this dry climate and porous soil all the efforts of
uncultivated nature are devoted to the _stems_ of the
vegetation: on their sap-retaining power depends the life of
the plant, so blossom and leaf, though exquisitely indicated,
are fragile and incomplete compared to the solidity and
bulbous appearance of the stalk. Everything is sacrificed to
the practical principle of keeping life together, and it is
not until these stout-stemmed plants are cultivated and
duly sheltered and watered, and can grow, as it were, with
confidence, that they are able to do justice to the inherent
beauty of penciled petal and veined leaf. Then the stem
contracts to ordinary dimensions, and leaf and blossom expand
into things which may well be a joy to the botanist's eye.
A thousand times during that shady saunter did I envy my
companions their scientific acquaintance with the beautiful
green things of earth, and that intimate knowledge of a
subject which enhances one's appreciation of its charms as
much as bringing a lamp into a darkened picture-gallery. There
are the treasures of form and color, but from ignorant eyes
more than half their charms and wonders are held back.
A few steps beyond the garden stand the library and natural
history museum. The former is truly a credit to the Colony.
Spacious, handsome, rich in literary treasures, It would
bear comparison with similar institutions in far older and
wealthier places. But I have often noticed in colonies how
much importance is attached to the possession of a good public
library, and how fond, as a rule, colonists are of books. In
a new settlement other shops may be ill supplied, but there
is always a good bookseller's, and all books are to be bought
there at pretty nearly the same prices as in England. Here
each volume costs precisely the same as it would in London,
and it would puzzle ever so greedy a reader to name a book
which would not be instantly handed to him.
The museum is well worth a visit of many more hours than we
could afford minutes, and, as might be expected, contains
numerous specimens of the _Bok_ family, whose tapering horns
and slender legs are to be seen at every turn of one's head.
Models are there also of the largest diamonds, and especially
well copied is the famous "Star of South Africa," a
magnificent brilliant of purest water, sold here originally
for something like twelve thousand pounds, and resold for
double that sum three or four years back. In these few hours I
perceive, or think I perceive, a certain soreness, if one
may use the word, on the part of the Cape Colonists about the
unappreciativeness of the English public toward their produce
and possessions. For Instance, an enormous quantity of wine is
annually exported, which reaches London by a devious route and
fetches a high price, as it is fairly entitled to do from its
excellence. If that same wine were sent direct to a London
merchant and boldly sold as Cape wine, it is said that the
profit on it would be a very different affair. The same
prejudice exists against Cape diamonds. Of course, as in other
things, a large proportion of inferior stones are forced into
the market and serve to give the diamonds that bad name which
we all know is so fatal to a dog. But it is only necessary to
pretend that a really fine Cape diamond has come from Brazil
to ensure its fetching a handsome price, and in that way even
jewelers themselves have been known to buy and give a good
round sum, too, for stones they would otherwise have looked
upon with suspicion. Already I have seen a straw-colored
diamond from "Du Zoit's pan" in the diamond-fields cut in
Amsterdam and set in London, which could hold its own for
purity, radiance and color against any other stone of the same
rare tint, without fear or favor; but of course such gems are
not common, and fairly good diamonds cost as much here as in
any other part of the world.
The light morning mists from that dampness of yesterday have
rolled gradually away as the beautiful sunshine dried the
atmosphere, and by midday the table-cloth, as the colonists
affectionately call the white, fleece-like vapor which so
often rests on their pet mountain, has been folded up and laid
aside in Cloudland for future use. I don't know what picture
other people may have made to their own minds of the shape and
size of Table Mountain, but it was quite a surprise and the
least little bit in the world of a disappointment to me to
find that it cuts the sky (and what a beautiful sky it is!)
with a perfectly straight and level line. A gentle, undulating
foreground broken into ravines, where patches of green _velts_
or fields, clumps of trees and early settlers' houses nestle
cosily down, guides the eye half-way up the mountain. There
the rounder forms abruptly cease, and great granite cliffs
rise, bare and straight, up to the level line stretching ever
so far along. "It is so characteristic," and "You grow to be
so fond of that mountain," are observations I have heard made
in reply to the carping criticisms of travelers, and already
I begin to understand the meaning of the phrases. But you
need to see the mountain from various points of view and under
different influences of sun and cloud before you can take in
its striking and peculiar charms.
On each side of the straight line which is emphatically Table
Mountain, but actually forming part of it, is a bold headland
of the shape one is usually accustomed to in mountains. The
"Devil's Peak" is uncompromising enough for any one's taste,
whilst the "Lion's Head" charms the eye by its bluff form
and deep purple fissures. These grand promontories are not,
however, half so beloved by Cape Colonists as their own Table
Mountain, and it is curious and amusing to notice how the
influence of this odd straight ridge, ever before their eyes,
has unconsciously guided and influenced their architectural
tastes. All the roofs of the houses are straight--straight
as the mountain; a gable is almost unknown, and even the few
steeples are dwarfed to an imperceptible departure from the
prevailing straight line. The very trees which shade the
Parade-ground and border the road in places have their tops
blown absolutely straight and flat, as though giant shears
had trimmed them; but I must confess, in spite of a
natural anxiety to carry out my theory, that the violent
"sou'-easters" are the "straighteners" in their case.
Cape Town is so straggling that it is difficult to form any
idea of its real size, but the low houses are neat and the
streets are well kept and look quaint and lively enough to my
new eyes this morning. There are plenty of people moving about
with a sociable, business-like air; lots of different shades
of black and brown Malays, with pointed hats on the men's
heads: the women encircle their dusky, smiling faces with a
gay cotton handkerchief and throw another of a still brighter
hue over their shoulders. When you add to this that they
wear a full, flowing, stiffly-starched cotton gown of a third
bright color, you can perhaps form some idea of how they
enliven the streets. Swarms of children everywhere, romping
and laughing and showing their white teeth in broadest
of grins. The white children strike me at once as looking
marvelously well--such chubby cheeks, such sturdy fat
legs--and all, black or white, with that amazing air of
independence peculiar to baby-colonists. Nobody seems to mind
them and nothing seems to harm them. Here are half a dozen
tiny boys shouting and laughing at one side of the road, and
half a dozen baby-girls at the other (they all seem to play
separately): they are all driving each other, for "horses" is
the one game here. By the side of a pond sit two toddles of
about three years old, in one garment apiece and pointed hats:
they are very busy with string and a pin; but who is taking
care of them and why don't they tumble in? They are as fat as
ortolans and grin at us in the most friendly fashion.
We must remember that this chances to be the very best moment
of the whole year in which to see the Cape and the dwellers
thereat. The cold weather has left its bright roses on the
children's cheeks, and the winter rains exceptionally having
this year made every blade of grass and leaf of tree to laugh
and sing in freshest green. After the dry, windy summer I am
assured there is hardly a leaf and never a blade of grass to
be seen in Cape Town, and only a little straggling verdure
under the shelter of the mountain. The great want of this
place is water. No river, scarcely a brook, refreshes one's
eye for many and many a league inward. The necessary water for
the use of the town is brought down by pipes from the numerous
springs which trickle out of the granite cliffs of Table
Mountain, but there is never a sufficiency to spare for
watering roads or grassplots. This scarcity is a double loss
to residents and visitors, for one misses it both for use and
Everybody who comes here rides or drives round the "Kloof."
That may be; but what I maintain is that very few do it so
delightfully as I did this sunny afternoon with a companion
who knew and loved every turn of the romantic road, who could
tell me the name of every bush or flower, of every distant
stretch of hills, and helped me to make a map in my head of
the stretching landscape and curving bay. Ah! how delicious it
was, the winding, climbing road, at whose every angle a fresh
fair landscape fell away from beneath our feet or a shining
stretch of sea, whose transparent green and purple shadows
broke in a fringe of feathery spray at the foot of bold, rocky
cliffs, or crept up to a smooth expanse of silver sand in a
soft curling line of foam! "Kloof" means simply cleft, and is
the pass between the Table Mountain and the Lion's Head, The
road first rises, rises, rises, until one seems half-way up
the great mountain, and the little straight--roofed white
houses, the green velts or fields and the parallel lines of
the vineyards have sunk below one's feet far, far away. The
mountain gains in grandeur as one approaches it, for the
undulating spurs which run from it down to the sea-shore take
away from the height looking upward. But when these are left
beneath, the perpendicular Walls of granite, rising sheer
and straight up to the bold sky-line, and the rugged, massive
strength of the buttress-like cliffs, begin to gain something
of their true value to the stranger's eye. The most beautiful
part of the road, however, to my taste, is the descent, when
the shining expanse of Camp's Bay lies shimmering in the warm
afternoon haze with a thousand lights and shadows from cloud
and cliff touching and passing over the crisp water-surface.
By many a steep zigzag we round the Lion's Head, and drop once
more on a level road running parallel to the sea-shore, and so
home in the balmy and yet bracing twilight. The midday sun is
hot and scorching even at this time of year, but it is always
cool in the shade, and no sooner do the afternoon shadows grow
to any length than the air freshens into sharpness, and by
sundown one is glad of a good warm shawl.
Another bright, ideal day, and the morning passed in a
delicious flower-filled room looking over old books and
records and listening to odd, quaint little scraps from the
old Dutch records. But directly after luncheon (and how hungry
we all are, and how delicious everything tastes on shore!) the
open break with four capital horses comes to the door, and we
start for a long, lovely drive. Half a mile or so takes us
out on a flat red road with Table Mountain rising straight up
before it, but on the left stretches away a most enchanting
panorama. It is all so soft in coloring and tone, distinct and
yet not hard, and exquisitely beautiful!
The Blue-Berg range of mountains stretch beyond the great bay,
which, unless a "sou'-easter" is tearing over it, lies glowing
in tranquil richness. This afternoon it is colored like an
Italian lake. Here are lines of chrysoprase, green-fringed,
white with little waves, and beyond lie dark, translucent,
purple depths, which change with every passing cloud. Beyond
these amethystic shoals again stretches the deep blue water,
and again beyond, and bluer still, rise the five ranges
of "Hottentots' Holland," which encircle and complete the
landscape, bringing the eye round again to the nearer cliffs
of the Devil's Peak. When the Dutch came here some two hundred
years ago, they seized upon this part of the coast and called
it Holland, driving the Hottentots beyond the neighboring
range and telling them that was to be their Holland--a name it
keeps to this day. Their consciences must have troubled them
after this arbitrary division of the soil, for up the highest
accessible spurs of their own mountain they took the
trouble to build several queer little square houses called
"block-houses," from which they could keep a sharp look-out
for foes coming over the hills from Hottentots' Holland.
The foes never came, however, and the roofs and walls of
the block-houses have gradually tumbled in, and the
gun-carriages--for they managed to drag heavy ordnance up the
steep hill-side--have rotted away, whilst the old-fashioned
cannon lie, grim and rusty, amid a tangled profusion of wild
geranium, heath and lilies, I scrambled up to one of the
nearest block-houses, and found the date on the dismounted gun
to be more than a hundred years old. The view was beautiful
and the air fresh and fragrant with scent of flowers.
But to return to our drive. I could gaze and gaze for ever at
this lovely panorama, but am told this is the ugliest part of
the road. The road itself is certainly not pretty just here,
and is cloudy with a fine red dust, but this view of sea and
distant hills is enchanting. Soon we get under the lee of
the great mountain, and then its sheltering arms show their
protective power; for splendid oak avenues begin to border the
road all the way, and miniature forests of straight-stemmed
pines and shimmering belts of the ghostly silver tree run up
all the mountain-clefts. Stem and leaf of the silver tree are
all of purest white; and when one gets a gleam of sunlight
on a distant patch of these trees, the effect is quite
indescribable, contrasting, as they do, with green of field
and vineyard. The vines all about here and towards Constantia,
thirteen miles off, are dwarf-plants, and only grow to the
height of gooseberry-bushes. It is a particular species, which
is found to answer best as requiring less labor to train and
cultivate, and is less likely to be blown out of the ground
by the violent "sou'-easters" which come sweeping over the
mountain. These gales are evidently the greatest annoyance
which Cape Colonists have to endure; and although everybody
kindly suggests that I _ought_ to see one, just to understand
what it is like, I am profoundly thankful that I only know it
from their description and my own distinct recollection of the
New Zealand "nor'-westers." Those were hot winds, scorching
and curling up everything, whereas this is rather a cold
breeze, although it blows chiefly in summer. It whirls along
clouds of dust from the red clay roads and fields which
penetrates and clings to everything in the most extraordinary
manner. All along the road the stems and lower branches of the
trees are dyed a deep brick-dust color, and I hear moving and
pathetic stories of how it ruins clothes, not only utterly
spoiling black silk dresses, but staining white petticoats and
children's frocks and pinafores with a border of color exactly
like the ruddle with which sheep are branded. Especially is
it the terror of sailors, rendering the navigation along the
coast dangerous and difficult; for it blends land and water
into one indistinct whirl of vaporous cloud, confusing and
blurring everything until one cannot distinguish shore from
The vineyards of Constantia originally took their pretty name
from the fair daughter of one of the early Dutch governors,
but now it has grown into a generic word, and you see
"Cloete's Constantia," "Von Reybeck Constantia," written upon
great stone gateways leading by long avenues into the various
vine-growing plantations. It was to the former of these
constantias, which was also the farthest off, that we were
bound that pleasant summer afternoon, and from the time we got
out of the carriage until the moment we re-entered it--all
too soon, but it is a long drive back in the short cold
twilight--I felt as though I had stepped through a magic
portal into the scene of one of Washington Irving's
stories. It was all so simple and homely, so quaint and so
inexpressibly picturesque. The house had stood there for a
couple of hundred years, and looks as though it might last for
ever, with its air of cool, leisurely repose and comfort and
In the flagged hall stands a huge stalactite some ten feet
high, brought a hundred years ago from caves far away in the
distant ranges. It is shaped something like a Malay's hat,
only the peak tapers to a point about eight feet high. The
drawing-room--though it seems a profanation to call that
venerable stately room by so flippant and modern a name--is
large, ceiled with great beams of cedar, and lighted by lofty
windows, which must contain many scores of small panes of
glass. There were treasures of rarest old china and delfware,
and curious old carved stands for fragile dishes. A wealth of
swinging-baskets of flowers and ferns and bright girl-faces
lighted up the solemn, shady old room, in which we must not
linger, for there is much to see outside. First to the cellar,
as it is called, though it is far from being under ground,
and is, in fact, a spacious stone building with an
elaborately-carved pediment. Here are rows and rows of giant
casks, stretching on either hand into avenues in the black
distance, but these are mere children in the nursery, compared
to those we are going to see. First we must pause in a middle
room full of quaintest odds and ends--crossbows, long whips of
hippopotamus hide, strange rusty old swords and firearms--to
look at a map of South Africa drawn somewhere about 1640. It
hangs on the wall and is hardly to be touched, for the paint
and varnish crack and peel off at a breath. It is a marvel of
accurate geographical knowledge, and is far better filled
in than the maps of yesterday. All poor Livingstone's great
geographical discoveries are marked on it as being--perhaps
only from description--known or guessed at all that long time
ago. It was found impossible to photograph it on account of
the dark shade which age has laid over the original yellow
varnish, but a careful tracing has been made and, I believe,
sent home to the Geographical Society. It is in the long
corridor beyond this that the "stuck-vats" live--puncheons
which hold easily some thousand gallons or so, and are of a
solemn rotundity calculated to strike awe into the beholder's
heart. Here is white constantia, red constantia, young
constantia, middle-aged constantia, and constantia so old as
to be a liqueur almost beyond price. When it has been kept
all these years, the sweetness by which it is distinguished
becomes so absorbed and blended as to be hardly perceptible.
Presently one of the party throws a door suddenly open, and,
behold, we are standing right over a wild wooded glen with a
streamlet running through it, and black washerwomen beating
heaps of white clothes on the strips of shingle. Turtle-doves
are cooing, and one might almost fancy one was back again on
the wild Scotch west coast, until some one else says calmly,
"Look at the ostriches!" Here they come, with a sort of
dancing step, twisting their long necks and snake-like heads
from side to side in search of a tempting pebble or trifle of
hardware. Their wings are slightly raised, and the long fringe
of white feathers rustles softly as they trot easily and
gracefully past us. They are young male birds, and in a few
months more their plumage, which now resembles that of a
turkey-cock, will be jet black, except the wing-feathers. A
few drops of rain are falling, so we hurry back to where the
carriage is standing under some splendid oak trees, swallow a
sort of stirrup-cup of delicious hot tea, and so home again as
fast as we can go.
It is decided that I must take a drive in a Cape cart; so
directly after breakfast a smart workman-like-looking vehicle,
drawn by a pair of well-bred iron-gray cobs, dashes up under
the portico. There are capital horses here, but they fetch
a good price, and such a pair as these would easily find
purchasers at one hundred and fifty pounds. The cart itself
is very trim and smart, with a framework sort of head, which
falls back at pleasure, and it holds four people easily. It
is a capital vehicle, light and strong and uncommonly
comfortable, but I am warned not to imagine that all Cape
carts are as easy as this one. Away we go at a fine pace
through the delicious sparkling morning sunshine and crisp
air, soon turning off the red high-road into a sandy, marshy
flat with a sort of brackish back-water standing in pools here
and there. We are going to call on Langalibalele, and his
son, Malambuli, who are located at Uitvlugt on the Cape
downs, about four miles from the town. It is a sort of
farm-residence; and considering that the chief has hitherto
lived in a reed hut, he is not badly off, for he has plenty
of room out of doors as well as a good house over his head. We
bump over some strange and rough bits of sandy road and climb
up and down steep banks in a manner seldom done on wheels.
There is a wealth of lovely flowers blooming around, but I
can't help fixing my eyes on the pole of the cart, which is
sometimes sticking straight up in the air, its silver hook
shining merrily in the sun, or else it has disappeared
altogether, and I can only see the horses' haunches. That
is when we are going _down_ hill, and I think it is a more
terrible sensation than when we are playfully scrambling up
some sandy hillock as a cat might.
Here is the location at last, thank Heaven! and there is
Langalibalele sitting in the verandah stoep (pronounced
"stoup") on his haunches on a brick. He looks as comfortable
as if he were in an arm-chair, but it must be a difficult
thing to do if you think seriously of it. The etiquette seems
to be to take no notice of him as we pass into the parlor,
where we present our pass and the people in authority satisfy
themselves that we are quite in rule. Then the old chief walks
quietly in, takes off his soft felt hat and sits himself
down in a Windsor arm-chair with grave deliberation. He is
uncommonly ugly; but when one remembers that he is nearly
seventy years of age, it is astonishing to see how young
he looks. Langalibalele is not a true Kafir at all: he is a
Fingor, a half-caste tribe contemptuously christened by the
Kafirs "dogs." His wool grows in distinct and separate clumps
like hassocks of grass all over his head. He is a large and
powerful man and looks the picture of sleek contentment, as
well he may. Only one of his sons, a good-natured, fine
young man, black as ebony, is with him, and the chief's one
expressed grievance is that none of his wives will come to
him. In vain he sends commands and entreaties to these dusky
ladies to come and share his solitude. They return for answer
that "they are working for somebody else;" for, alas! the only
reason their presence is desired is that they may cultivate
some of the large extent of ground placed at the old chief's
disposal. Neither he nor his stalwart son would dream for
a moment of touching spade or hoe; but if the ladies of the
family could only be made to see their duty, an honest penny
might easily be turned by oats or rye. I gave him a large
packet of sugar-plums, which he seized with childish delight
and hid away exactly like the big monkeys at the Zoo.
By way of a joke, Malambuli pretended to want to take them
away, and the chattering and laughing which followed was
almost deafening. But by and by a gentleman of the party
presented a big parcel of the best tobacco, and the chuckling
old chief made over at once all my sweetmeats "jintly" to
his son, and proceeded to hide away his new treasure. He
was dressed exactly like a dissenting minister, and declared
through the interpreter he was perfectly comfortable. The
impression here seems to be that he is a restless, intriguing
and mischief-making old man, who may consider himself as
having come out of the hornets' nest he tried to stir up
We don't want to bump up and down the sandy plain again, so
a lively conversation goes on in Dutch about the road between
one of my gentlemen and somebody who looks like a "stuck-vat"
upon short legs. The dialogue is fluent and lively, beginning
with "Ja, ja!" and ending with "All right!" but it leads to
our hitting off the right track exactly, and coming out at a
lovely little cottage-villa under the mountain, where we rest
and lunch and then stroll about up the hill spurs, through
myrtle hedges and shady oak avenues. Then, before the
afternoon shadows grow too long, we drive off to "Groote
Schuur," the ancient granary of the first settlers, which is
now turned into a roomy, comfortable country-house, perfect
as a summer residence, and securely sheltered from the
"sou'-easters." We approach it through a double avenue of tall
Italian pines, and after a little while go out once more for
a ramble up some quaint old brick steps, and so through a
beautiful glen all fringed and feathered with fresh young
fronds of maiden-hair ferns, and masses of hydrangea bushes,
which must be beautiful as a poet's dream when they are
covered with their great bunches of pale blue blossom. That
will not be until Christmas-tide, and, alas! I shall not be
here to see, for already my three halcyon days of grace are
ended and over, and this very evening we must steam away
from a great deal yet unvisited of what is interesting
and picturesque, and from friends who three days ago were
strangers, but who have made every moment since we landed
stand out as a bright and pleasant landmark on life's highway.
ON SANKOTA HEAD.
"Yay, Jim, there ain't no doubt but Sairy Macy's a mighty nice gal,
but, thee sees, what I'm a-contendin' fur is that she's tew nice fur
thee--that is, not tew nice egzackly, but a leetle tew fine-feathered.
No, not that egzackly, nuther; but she's a leetle tew fine in the
feelin's, an' I don't b'lieve that in the long run thee an' she'll
sort well tugether. Shell git eout o' conceit with thy ways--thee
_ain't_ the pootiest-mannered feller a gal ever see--an' thee'll git
eout o' conceit with hern. Thee'll think she's a-gittin' stuck up, an'