Part 1 out of 7
[Illustration: "AND AS THEY STOOD THE CLERGYMEN SLOWLY CAME OUT OF THE
HOUSE"--[SEE PAGE 132.]
THE AMERICAN BARON.
By JAMES DE MILLE,
"THE DODGE CLUB," "THE CRYPTOGRAM," "CORD AND CREESE," &c.
NEW YORK: HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
By PROF. JAMES DE MILLE.
_THE DODGE CLUB_; or, Italy in 1859. Illustrated. 8vo,
Paper, 75 cents; Cloth, $1.25.
_CORD AND CREESE_. A Novel. Illustrated. 8vo, Paper, 75
cents; Cloth, $1.25.
_THE CRYPTOGRAM_. A Novel. Illustrated. 8vo, Paper, $1,50;
_THE AMERICAN BARON_. A Novel. Illustrated. 8vo, Paper.
PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.
_Sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any part of the United States, on
receipt of the price_.
* * * * *
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
THE AMERICAN BARON.
[Illustration: "PARDON, MEES."]
Somewhat less than a hundred years ago a party of travelers might have
been seen crossing over the Simplon Road, _en route_ for Italy. They
had been detained at Brieg by reports that the road was impassable;
and, as it was the month of March, the prospect of snow and storms and
avalanches was sufficient to make them hesitate. At length the road
had been reopened, and they were informed that the journey might be
made on sleds.
Unwilling to wait at Brieg, and equally unwilling to make a detour so
as to take the railroad, the party decided to go on. They were
informed that they could go on wheels as far as the line of snow, but
that afterward their accommodations would not be so comfortable as
they might desire. The road had been cleared for only a few feet; the
snow was deep; the sleds were rude; and progress would be slow.
These statements, however, did not shake the resolution of the party;
and the end of it was that they determined to go on, and cross the
mountain if it were possible.
On leaving Brieg the road began to ascend with a very slight incline,
winding around in an intricate sort of way, sometimes crossing deep
gullies, at other times piercing the hillside in long dark tunnels;
but amidst all these windings ever ascending, so that every step took
them higher and higher above the little valley where Brieg lay. The
party saw also that every step brought them steadily nearer to the
line of snow; and at length they found the road covered with a thin
white layer. Over this they rolled, and though the snow became deeper
with every furlong of their progress, yet they encountered but little
actual difficulty until they approached the first station where the
horses were to be changed. Here they came to a deep drift. Through
this a pathway had been cleared, so that there was no difficulty about
going through; but the sight of this served to show them what might be
expected further on, and to fill them all with grave doubts as to the
practicability of a journey which was thus interrupted so early.
On reaching the station these doubts were confirmed. They were
informed that the road had been cleared for sleds on the preceding
day, but that on the previous night fresh snow had fallen, and in such
quantities that the road would have to be cleared afresh. The worst of
it was that there was every probability of new snow-storms, which
would cover the road still deeper, and once more obliterate the track.
This led to a fresh debate about the journey; but they were all
unwilling to turn back. Only a few miles separated them from Domo
d'Ossola, and they were assured that, if no fresh snow should fall,
they would be able to start on the following morning. This last
assurance once more confirmed their wavering resolution, and they
concluded to wait at the station.
For the remainder of that day they waited at the little way-side inn,
amusing themselves with looking out upon their surroundings. They were
environed by a scene of universal white. Above them towered vast
Alpine summits, where the wild wind blew, sweeping the snow-wreaths
into the air. In front was a deep ravine, at the bottom of which there
ran a torrent that foamed and tossed over rocks and boulders. It was
not possible to take a walk to any distance. Their boots were made for
lighter purposes than plunging through snowdrifts; and so they were
forced to remain indoors, and pass the time as best they could.
On the following morning they found every thing in readiness for a
start. In front of the inn they saw five sleds of that kind which is
universally used in the northern part of America. Each sled was of the
rudest possible construction, and was drawn by one horse; straw was
spread over the sled, upon which fur robes and blankets were flung.
The party was distributed among these sleds, so that each one should
have as light a load as possible, while one of the rude vehicles
carried the luggage.
Thus arranged, they all started off. And now, since they are all
fairly under way, I propose to introduce them, individually and
collectively, to my very good friend the reader.
First of all I must mention the fact that the party consisted chiefly
of ladies and their attendants.
Of these the most prominent was a slim, tall, elderly lady, with
large, dark, soft eyes, that spoke of a vanished youth and beauty from
her heavily wrinkled face. She was the Dowager Lady Dalrymple, and
acted toward the rest of the party in the multifarious capacity of
chaperon, general, courier, guide, philosopher, friend, and Mentor.
Next came Mrs. Willoughby, a widow of great beauty and fascination, a
brunette, good-natured, clever, and shrewd. I might here pause, and go
into no end of raptures on the various qualities of this lady's
character; but, on the whole, I think I'd better not, as they will be
sufficiently apparent before the end of this story is reached.
Then there was Miss Minnie Fay, sister to Mrs. Willoughby, and utterly
unlike her in every respect. Minnie was a blonde, with blue eyes,
golden hair cut short and clustering about her little head, little bit
of a mouth, with very red, plump lips, and very white teeth. Minnie
was very small, and very elegant in shape, in gesture, in dress, in
every attitude and every movement. The most striking thing about her,
however, was the expression of her eyes and her face. There was about
her brow the glory of perfect innocence. Her eyes had a glance of
unfathomable melancholy, mingled with childlike trust in the
particular person upon whom her gaze was fastened. Minnie was
considered by all her friends as a child--was treated as a
child--humored, petted, coaxed, indulged, and talked to as a child.
Minnie, on her part, thought, spoke, lived, moved, and acted as a
child. She fretted, she teased, she pouted, she cried, she did every
thing as a child does; and thus carried up to the age of eighteen the
bloom and charm of eight.
The two sisters were nieces of the Dowager Lady Dalrymple. Another
niece also accompanied them, who was a cousin of the two sisters. This
was Miss Ethel Orne, a young lady who had flourished through a London
season, and had refused any number of brilliant offers. She was a
brunette, with most wonderful dark eyes, figure of perfect grace, and
an expression of grave self-poise that awed the butterflies of
fashion, but offered an irresistible attraction to people of sense,
intellect, intelligence, esprit, and all that sort of thing--like you
and me, my boy.
I am taking up too much time and anticipating somewhat, I fear, by
these descriptions; so let us drop Miss Ethel.
These ladies being thus all related formed a family party, and had
made the journey thus far on the best of terms, without any other
escort than that which was afforded by their chaperon, general,
courier, guide, philosopher, friend, and Mentor--the Dowager Lady
The party was enlarged by the presence of four maids and a foreign
gentleman. This last-mentioned personage was small in stature, with a
very handsome face and very brilliant eyes. His frame, though slight,
was sinewy and well knit, and he looked like an Italian. He had come
on alone, and had passed the night at the station-house.
A track about six feet wide had been cut out through the snow, and
over this they passed. The snow was soft, and the horses sank deep, so
that progress was slow. Nor was the journey without the excitement of
apparent danger. At times before them and behind them there would come
a low, rumbling sound, and they would see a mass of snow and ice
rushing down some neighboring slope. Some of these fell on the road,
and more than once they had to quit their sleds and wait for the
drivers to get them over the heaps that had been formed across their
path. Fortunately, however, none of these came near them; and Minnie
Fay, who at first had screamed at intervals of about five minutes,
gradually gained confidence, and at length changed her mood so
completely that she laughed and clapped her little hands whenever she
saw the rush of snow and ice. Thus slowly, yet in safety, they pushed
onward, and at length reached the little village of Simplon. Here they
waited an hour to warm themselves, lunch, and change horses. At the
end of that time they set out afresh, and once more they were on their
They had now the gratification of finding that they were descending
the slope, and of knowing that this descent took them every minute
further from the regions of snow, and nearer to the sunny plains of
Italy. Minnie in particular gave utterance to her delight: and now,
having lost every particle of fear, she begged to be allowed to drive
in the foremost sled. Ethel had been in it thus far, but she willingly
changed places with Minnie, and thus the descent was made.
The sleds and their occupants were now arranged in the following
First, Minnie Fay alone with the driver.
Second, Mrs. Willoughby and Ethel.
Third, the Dowager and her maid.
Fourth, the three other maids.
Fifth, the luggage.
After these five sleds, containing our party, came another with the
Each of these sleds had a driver to itself.
In this order the party went, until at length they came to the Gorge
of Gondo. This is a narrow valley, the sides of which rise up very
abruptly, and in some places precipitously, to a great height. At the
bottom flows a furious torrent, which boils and foams and roars as it
forces its impetuous way onward over fallen masses of rock and trees
and boulders, at one time gathering into still pools, at other times
roaring into cataracts. Their road had been cut out on the side of the
mountain, and the path had been cleared away here many feet above the
buried road; and as they wound along the slope they could look up at
the stupendous heights above them, and down at the abyss beneath them,
whose white snow-covering was marked at the bottom by the black line
of the roaring torrent. The smooth slope of snow ran down as far as
the eye could reach at a steep angle, filling up all crevices, with
here and there a projecting rock or a dark clump of trees to break its
The road was far beneath them. The drivers had informed them that it
was forty feet deep at the top of the pass, and that its depth here
was over thirty. Long poles which were inserted in the snow projected
above its surface, and served to mark where the road ran.
Here, then, they drove along, feeling wearied with the length of the
way, impatient at the slowness of their progress, and eager to reach
their journey's end. But little was said. All had talked till all were
tired out. Even Minnie Fay, who at first had evinced great enthusiasm
on finding herself leading the way, and had kept turning back
constantly to address remarks to her friends, had at length subsided,
and had rolled herself up more closely in her furs, and heaped the
straw higher about her little feet.
Suddenly, before them, and above them, and behind them, and all around
them, there arose a deep, low, dull, rushing sound, which seemed as if
all the snow on the slope was moving. Their ears had by this time
become sufficiently well acquainted with the peculiar sound of the
rushing snow-masses to know that this was the noise that heralded
their progress, and to feel sure that this was an avalanche of no
common size. Yes, this was an avalanche, and every one heard it: but
no one could tell where it was moving, or whether it was near or far,
or whether it was before or behind. They only knew that it was
somewhere along the slope which they were traversing.
A warning cry came from the foremost driver. He looked back, and his
face was as pale as death. He waved his hands above him, and then
shouting for the others to follow, he whipped up his horse furiously.
The animal plunged into the snow, and tossed and floundered and made a
But the other drivers held back, and, instead of following, shouted to
the first driver to stop, and cried to the passengers to hold on. Not
a cry of fear escaped from any one of the ladies. All did as they were
directed, and grasped the stakes of their sleds, looking up at the
slope with white lips, and expectation of horror in their eyes,
watching for the avalanche.
And down it came, a vast mass of snow and ice--down it came,
irresistibly, tremendously, with a force that nothing could withstand.
All eyes watched its progress in the silence of utter and helpless
terror. It came. It struck. All the sleds in the rear escaped, but
Minnie's sled lay in the course of the falling mass. The driver had
madly rushed into the very midst of the danger which he sought to
avoid. A scream from Minnie and a cry of despair from the driver burst
upon the ears of the horrified listeners, and the sled that bore them,
buried in the snow, went over the edge of the slope, and downward to
THE PERILOUS DESCENT.
The shriek of Minnie and the driver's cry of despair were both stopped
abruptly by the rush of snow, and were smothered in the heap under
which they were buried. The whole party stood paralyzed, gazing
stupidly downward where the avalanche was hurrying on to the abyss,
bearing with it the ill-fated Minnie. The descent was a slope of
smooth snow, which went down at an angle of forty-five degrees for at
least a thousand feet. At that point there seemed to be a precipice.
As their aching eyes watched the falling mass they saw it approach
this place, and then as it came near the whole avalanche seemed to
divide as though it had been severed by some projecting rock. It
divided thus, and went to ruin; while in the midst of the ruin they
saw the sled, looking like a helpless boat in the midst of foaming
breakers. So, like such a helpless boat, it was dashed forward, and
shot out of sight over the precipice.
Whither had it gone? Into what abyss had it fallen? What lay beneath
that point over which it had been thrown? Was it the fierce torrent
that rolled there, or were there black rocks and sharp crags lying at
the foot of the awful precipice? Such were the questions which flashed
through every mind, and deepened the universal horror into universal
In the midst of this general dismay Ethel was the first to speak and
to act. She started to her feet, and looking back, called in a loud
"Go down after her! A thousand pounds to the man who saves her!
At this the drivers came forward. None of them could understand
English, and so had not comprehended her offer; but they saw by her
gestures what she wanted. They, however, did not seem inclined to act.
They pointed down, and pointed up, and shook their heads, and jabbered
some strange, unintelligible patois.
"Cowards!" cried Ethel, "to leave a young girl to die. I will go down
And then, just as she was, she stepped from the sled, and paused for a
moment, looking down the slope as though selecting a place. Lady
Dalrymple and Mrs. Willoughby screamed to her to come back, and the
drivers surrounded her with wild gesticulations. To all this she paid
no attention whatever, and would certainly have gone down in another
moment had not a hand been laid on her arm, and a voice close by her
said, with a strong foreign accent,
She turned at once.
It was the foreign gentleman who had been driving behind the party. He
had come up and had just reached the place. He now stood before her
with his hat in one hand and the other hand on his heart.
"Pardon, mees," he said, with a bow. "Eet is too periloss. I sail go
down eef you 'low me to mak ze attemp."
"Oh, monsieur," cried Ethel, "save her if you can!"
"Do not fear. Be calm. I sall go down. Nevare mine."
The stranger now turned to the drivers, and spoke to them in their own
language. They all obeyed at once. He was giving them explicit
directions in a way that showed a perfect command of the situation. It
now appeared that each sled had a coil of rope, which was evidently
supplied from an apprehension of some such accident as this. Hastily
yet dextrously the foreign gentleman took one of these coils, and then
binding a blanket around his waist, he passed the rope around this, so
that it would press against the blanket without cutting him. Having
secured this tightly, he gave some further directions to the drivers,
and then prepared to go down.
Hitherto the drivers had acted in sullen submission rather than with
ready acquiescence. They were evidently afraid of another avalanche;
and the frequent glances which they threw at the slope above them
plainly showed that they expected this snow to follow the example of
the other. In spite of themselves an expression of this fear escaped
them, and came to the ears of the foreign gentleman. He turned at once
on the brink of the descent, and burst into a torrent of invective
against them. The ladies could not understand him, but they could
perceive that he was uttering threats, and that the men quailed before
him. He did not waste any time, however. After reducing the men to a
state of sulky submission, he turned once more and began the descent.
As he went down the rope was held by the men, who allowed it to pass
through their hands so as to steady his descent. The task before the
adventurer was one of no common difficulty. The snow was soft, and at
every step he sank in at least to his knees. Frequently he came to
treacherous places, where he sank down above his waist, and was only
able to scramble out with difficulty. But the rope sustained him; and
as his progress was downward, he succeeded in moving with some
rapidity toward his destination. The ladies on the height above sat in
perfect silence, watching the progress of the man who was thus
descending with his life in his hand to seek and to save their lost
companion, and in the intensity of their anxiety forgot utterly about
any danger to themselves, though from time to time there arose the
well-known sound of sliding masses, not so far away but that under
other circumstances of less anxiety it might have filled them with
alarm. But now there was no alarm for themselves.
And now the stranger was far down, and the coil of rope was well-nigh
exhausted. But this had been prepared for, and the drivers fastened
this rope to another coil, and after a time began to let out that one
Farther and farther down the descent went on. They saw the stranger
pursuing his way still with unfaltering resolution; and they sent
after him all their hearts and all their prayers. At last he plunged
down almost out of sight, but the next moment he emerged, and then,
after a few leaps, they saw that he had gained the place where lay the
ruins of the shattered avalanche. Over this he walked, sometimes
sinking, at other times running and leaping, until at length he came
to the precipice over which the sled had been flung.
And now the suspense of the ladies became terrible. This was the
critical moment. Already his eyes could look down upon the mystery
that lay beneath that precipice. And what lay revealed there? Did his
eyes encounter a spectacle of horror? Did they gaze down into the
inaccessible depths of some hideous abyss? Did they see those jagged
rocks, those sharp crags, those giant boulders, those roaring billows,
which, in their imaginations, had drawn down their lost companion to
destruction? Such conjectures were too terrible. Their breath failed
them, and their hearts for a time almost ceased to beat as they sat
there, overcome by such dread thoughts as these.
Suddenly a cry of delight escaped Ethel. She was kneeling down beside
Lady Dalrymple and Mrs. Willoughby, with her eyes staring from her
pallid face, when she saw the stranger turn and look up. He took off
his hat, and waved it two or three times. Then he beckoned to the
drivers. Then he sat down and prepared to let himself over the
precipice. This incident inspired hope. It did more. It gave a
moment's confidence, and the certainty that all was not lost. They
looked at each other, and wept tears of joy. But soon that momentary
hope vanished, and uncertainty returned. After all, what did the
stranger's gesture mean? He might have seen her--but how? He might
reach her, but would she be safe from harm? Could such a thing be
hoped for? Would she not, rather, be all marred and mutilated? Dared
they hope for any thing better? They dared not. And now they sat once
more, as sad as before, and their short-lived gleam of hope faded
They saw the stranger go over the precipice.
Then he disappeared.
The rope was let out for a little distance, and then stopped. Then
more went out. Then it stopped again.
The rope now lay quite loose. There was no tension.
What was the meaning of this? Was he clinging to the side of the
precipice? Impossible. It looked rather as though he had reached some
place where he was free to move, and had no further need of descent.
And it seemed as though the precipice might not be so deep or so
fearful as they had supposed.
In a short time their eyes were greeted by the appearance of the
stranger above the precipice. He waved his hat again. Then he made
some gestures, and detached the rope from his person. The drivers
understood him as if this had been preconcerted. Two of them instantly
unharnessed the horse from one of the sleds, while the others pulled
up the rope which the stranger had cast off. Then the latter
disappeared once more behind the precipice. The ladies watched now in
deep suspense; inclining to hope, yet dreading the worst. They saw the
drivers fasten the rope to the sled, and let it down the slope. It was
light, and the runners were wide. It did not sink much, but slid down
quite rapidly. Once or twice it stuck, but by jerking it back it was
detached, and went on as before. At last it reached the precipice at a
point not more than a hundred feet from where the stranger had last
And now as they sat there, reduced once more to the uttermost
extremity of suspense, they saw a sight which sent a thrill of rapture
through their aching hearts. They saw the stranger come slowly above
the precipice, and then stop, and stoop, and look back. Then they
saw--oh, Heavens! who was that? Was not that her red hood--and that
figure who thus slowly emerged from behind the edge of the precipice
which had so long concealed her--that figure! Was it possible? Not
dead--not mangled, but living, moving, and, yes--wonder of
wonders--scaling a precipice! Could it be! Oh joy! Oh bliss! Oh
revulsion from despair! The ladies trembled and shivered, and laughed
and sobbed convulsively, and wept in one another's arms by turns.
As far as they could see through the tears that dimmed their eyes,
Minnie could not be much injured. She moved quite lightly over the
snow, as the stranger led her toward the sled; only sinking once or
twice, and then extricating herself even more readily than her
companion. At last she reached the sled, and the stranger, taking off
the blanket that he had worn under the rope, threw it over her
Then he signaled to the men above, and they began to pull up the sled.
The stranger climbed up after it through the deep snow, walking behind
it for some distance. At last he made a despairing gesture to the men,
and sank down.
The men looked bewildered, and stopped pulling.
The stranger started up, and waved his hands impatiently, pointing to
The drivers began to pull once more at the sled, and the stranger once
more sank exhausted in the snow.
At this Ethel started up.
"That noble soul!" she cried; "that generous heart! See! he is saving
Minnie, and sitting down to die in the snow!"
She sprang toward the men, and endeavored to make them do something.
By her gestures she tried to get two of the men to pull at the sled,
and the third man to let the fourth man down with a rope to the
stranger. The men refused; but at the offer of her purse, which was
well filled with gold, they consented. Two of them then pulled at the
sled, and number four bound the rope about him, and went down, while
number three held the rope. He went down without difficulty, and
reached the stranger. By this time Minnie had been drawn to the top,
and was clasped in the arms of her friends.
But now the strength and the sense which had been so wonderfully
maintained gave way utterly; and no sooner did she find herself safe
than she fell down unconscious.
They drew her to a sled, and tenderly laid her on the straw, and
lovingly and gently they tried to restore her, and call her back to
consciousness. But for a long time their efforts were of no avail.
She lay there a picture of perfect loveliness, as beautiful as a
dream--like some child-angel. Her hair, frosted with snow dust,
clustered in golden curls over her fair white brow; her little hands
were folded meekly over her breast; her sweet lips Were parted, and
disclosed the pearly teeth; the gentle eyes no longer looked forth
with their piteous expression of mute appeal; and her hearing was deaf
to the words of love and pity that were lavished upon her.
THE CHILD-ANGEL AND HER WOES.
Mrs. Willoughby was in her room at the hotel in Milan, when the door
opened, and Minnie came in. She looked around the room, drew a long
breath, then locked the door, and flinging herself upon a sofa, she
reclined there in silence for some time, looking hard at the ceiling.
Mrs. Willoughby looked a little surprised at first; but after waiting
a few moments for Minnie to say something, resumed her reading, which
had been interrupted.
"Kitty," said Minnie at last.
"What?" said her sister, looking up.
"I think you're horrid."
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Why, because when you see and know that I'm dying to speak to you,
you go on reading that wretched book."
"Why, Minnie darling," said Mrs. Willoughby, "how in the world was I
to know that you wanted to speak to me?"
"You _might_ have known," said Minnie, with a pout--"you saw me look
all round, and lock the door; and you saw how worried I looked, and I
think it a shame, and I've a great mind not to tell you any thing
"About it--what _it_?" and Mrs. Willoughby put down her book, and
regarded her sister with some curiosity.
"I've a great mind not to tell you, but I can't help it. Besides, I'm
dying to ask your advice. I don't know what to do; and I wish I was
"My poor Minnie! what _is_ the matter? You're _so_ incoherent."
"Well, Kitty, it's all my accident."
"Yes; on the Alps, you know."
"What! You haven't received any serious injury, have you?" asked Mrs.
Willoughby, with some alarm.
"Oh! I don't mean that, but I'll tell you what I mean;" and here
Minnie got up from her reclining position, and allowed her little feet
to touch the carpet, while she fastened her great, fond, pleading,
piteous eyes upon her sister.
"It's the Count, you know," said she.
"The Count!" repeated Mrs. Willoughby, somewhat dryly. "Well?"
"Well--don't you know what I mean? Oh, how stupid you are!"
"I really can not imagine."
"Well--he--he--he pro--proposed, you know."
"Proposed!" cried the other, in a voice of dismay.
"Now, Kitty, if you speak in that horrid way I won't say another word.
I'm worried too much already, and I don't want you to scold me. And I
won't have it."
"Minnie darling, I wish you would tell me something. I'm not scolding.
I merely wish to know what you mean. Do you really mean that the Count
has proposed to you?"
"Of course that's what I mean."
"What puzzles me is, how he could have got the chance. It's more than
a week since he saved you, and we all felt deeply grateful to him. But
saving a girl's life doesn't give a man any claim over her; and we
don't altogether like him; and so we all have tried, in a quiet way,
without hurting his feelings, you know, to prevent him from having any
acquaintance with you."
"Oh, I know, I know," said Minnie, briskly. "He told me all that. He
understands that; but he doesn't care, he says, if _I_ only consent.
He will forgive _you_, he says."
Minnie's volubility was suddenly checked by catching her sister's eye
fixed on her in new amazement.
"Now you're beginning to be horrid," she cried. "Don't, don't--"
"Will you have the kindness to tell me," said Mrs. Willoughby, very
quietly, "how in the world the Count contrived to tell you all this?"
"Tell me where?"
"Why, once at the amphitheatre. You were walking ahead, and I sat down
to rest, and he came and joined me. He left before you came back."
"He must have been following us, then."
"Yes. And another time in the picture-gallery; and yesterday in a
shop; and this morning at the Cathedral."
"Yes, Kitty. You know we all went, and Lady Dairymple would not go up.
So Ethel and I went up. And when we got up to the top I walked about,
and Ethel sat down to admire the view. And, you know, I found myself
off at a little distance, when suddenly I saw Count Girasole. And
then, you know, he--he--proposed."
Mrs. Willoughby sat silent for some time.
"And what did you say to him?" she asked at length.
"Why, what else could I say?"
"What else than _what_?"
"I don't see why you should act _so_ like a grand inquisitor, Kitty.
You really make me feel quite nervous," said Minnie, who put her
little rosy-tipped fingers to one of her eyes, and attempted a sob,
which turned out a failure.
"Oh, I only asked you what you told him, you know."
"Well," said Minnie, gravely, "I told him, you know, that I was
awfully grateful to him, and that I'd give any thing if I could to
express my gratitude. And then, you know--oh, he speaks such darling
broken English--he called me his 'mees,' and tried to make a pretty
speech, which was so mixed with Italian that I didn't understand one
single word. By-the-way, Kitty, isn't it odd how every body here
speaks Italian, even the children?"
"Yes, very odd; but, Minnie dear, I want to know what you told him."
"Why, I told him that I didn't know, you know."
"And then he took my hand. Now, Kitty, you're unkind. I really _can
not_ tell you all this."
"Yes, but I only ask so as to advise you. I want to know how the case
"Well, you know, he was so urgent--"
"And so handsome--"
"And then, you know, he saved my life--didn't he, now? You must
acknowledge that much, mustn't you?"
"So what could I say?"
Mrs. Willoughby looked troubled.
"Kitty, I _wish_ you wouldn't look at me with that dreadful
expression. You really make me feel quite frightened."
"Minnie," said the other, in a serious voice, "do you really _love_
"Love this man! why no, not particularly; but I _like_ him; that is, I
think I do, or rather I thought I did; but really I'm so worried about
all my troubles that I wish he had never come down after me. I don't
see why he did, either. I didn't ask him to. I remember, now, I really
felt quite embarrassed when I saw him. I knew there would be trouble
about it. And I wish you would take me back home. I hate Italy. Do,
Kitty darling. But then--"
Minnie paused again.
"Well, Minnie dear, we certainly must contrive some plan to shake him
off without hurting his feelings. It can't be thought of. There are a
hundred objections. If the worst comes to the worst we can go back, as
you say, to England."
"I know; but then," said Minnie, "that's the very thing that I can't
"Can't do what?"
"Go back to England."
"Back to England! Why not? I don't know what you mean."
"Well, you see, Kitty, that's the very thing I came to see you about.
This dreadful man--the Count, you know--has some wonderful way of
finding out where I go; and he keeps all the time appearing and
disappearing in the very strangest manner; and when I saw him on the
roof of the Cathedral it really made me feel quite giddy. He is _so_
determined to win me that I'm afraid to look round. He takes the
commonest civility as encouragement. And then, you know--there it
is--I really can't go back to England."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Why there's--a--a dreadful person there," said Minnie, with an awful
look in her eyes.
"A--person," said Minnie.
Minnie nodded. "Oh yes--of course. Really when one thinks of one's
troubles it's enough to drive one distracted. This person is a man. I
don't know why it is that I should be _so_ worried and _so_ distracted
by men. I do _not_ like them, and I wish there were no such persons."
"Another man!" said Mrs. Willoughby, in some surprise. "Well, Minnie,
"Now don't, don't--not a word; I know all you're going to say, and I
won't stand it;" and Minnie ran over to her sister and held her hand
over her mouth.
"I won't say a word," said Mrs. Willoughby, as soon as she had removed
Minnie's hand; "so begin."
Minnie resumed her place on the sofa, and gave a long sigh.
"Well, you know, Kitty darling, it happened at Brighton last
September. You were in Scotland then. I was with old Lady Shrewsbury,
who is as blind as a bat--and where's the use of having a person to
look after you when they're blind! You see, my horse ran away, and I
think he must have gone ever so many miles, over railroad bridges and
hedges and stone walls. I'm certain he jumped over a small cottage.
Well, you know, when all seemed lost, suddenly there was a strong hand
laid on the reins, and my horse was stopped. I tumbled into some
strange gentleman's arms, and was carried into a house, where I was
resuscitated. I returned home in the gentleman's carriage.
"Now the worst of it is," said Minnie, with a piteous look, "that the
person who stopped the horse called to inquire after me the next day.
Lady Shrewsbury, like an old goose, was awfully civil to him; and so
there I was! His name is Captain Kirby, and I wish there were no
captains in the world. The life he led me! He used to call, and I had
to go out riding with him, and old Lady Shrewsbury utterly neglected
me; and so, you know, Kitty darling, he at last, you know, of course,
proposed. That's what they all do, you know, when they save your life.
Always! It's awful!"
Minnie heaved a sigh, and sat apparently meditating on the enormous
baseness of the man who saved a lady's life and then proposed; and it
was not until Mrs. Willoughby had spoken twice that she was recalled
"What did you tell him?" was her sister's question.
"Why, what could I tell him?"
"What!" cried Mrs. Willoughby; "you don't--"
"Now, Kitty, I think it's very unkind in you, when I want all your
sympathy, to be _so_ horrid."
"Well, tell it your own way, Minnie dearest."
Minnie sat for a time regarding vacancy with a soft, sad, and piteous
expression in her large blue eyes; with her head also a little on one
side, and her delicate hands gently clasped in front of her.
[Illustration: "ANOTHER MAN!"]
"You see, Kitty darling, he took me out riding, and--he took me to the
place where I had met him, and then he proposed. Well, you know, I
didn't know what to say. He was _so_ earnest, and _so_ despairing. And
then, you know, Kitty dearest, he had saved my life, and so--"
"Well, I told him I didn't know, and was shockingly confused, and then
we got up quite a scene. He swore that he would go to Mexico, though
why I can't imagine; and I really wish he had; but I was frightened at
the time, and I cried; and then he got worse, and I told him not to;
whereupon he went into raptures, and began to call me no end of
names--spooney names, you know; and I--oh, I did _so_ want him to
stop!--I think I must have promised him all that he wanted; and when I
got home I was frightened out of my poor little wits, and cried all
"Poor dear child!" exclaimed Mrs. Willoughby, with tender sympathy.
"What a wretch!"
"No, he wasn't a wretch at all; he was awfully handsome, only, you
know, he--was--so--_aw_fully persevering, and kept _so_ at my heels;
but I hurried home from Brighton, and thought I had got rid of him."
"And hadn't you?"
"Oh dear, no," said Minnie, mournfully. "On the day after my arrival
there came a letter; and, you know, I had to answer it; and then
another; and so it went on--"
"Oh, Minnie! why didn't you tell me before?"
"How could I when you were off in that horrid Scotland? I _always_
"You might have told papa."
"I couldn't. I think papa's cruel _too_. He doesn't care for me at
all. Why didn't he find out our correspondence and intercept it, the
way papas always do in novels? If I were _his_ papa I'd not let _him_
be so worried."
"And did he never call on you?"
"Yes; he got leave of absence once, and I had a dreadful time with
him. He was in a desperate state of mind. He was ordered off to
Gibraltar. But I managed to comfort him; and, oh dear, Kitty dear, did
you _ever_ try to comfort a man, and the man a total stranger?"
At this innocent question Mrs. Willoughby's gravity gave way a little.
Minnie frowned, and then sighed.
"Well, you needn't be so unkind," said she; and then her little hand
tried to wipe away a tear, but failed.
"Did he go to Gibraltar?" asked Mrs. Willoughby at length.
"Yes, he did," said Minnie, with a little asperity.
"Did he write?"
"Of course he wrote," in the same tone.
"Well, how did it end?"
"End! It didn't end at all. And it never will end. It'll go on getting
worse and worse every day. You see he wrote, and said a lot of rubbish
about his getting leave of absence and coming to see me. And then I
determined to run away; and you know I begged you to take me to Italy,
and this is the first time I've told you the real reason."
"So that was the real reason?"
"Well, Minnie, my poor child," said Mrs. Willoughby, after a pause,
"you're safe from your officer, at any rate; and as to Count Girasole,
we must save you from him. Don't give way."
"But you can't save me. They'll come after me, I know. Captain Kirby,
the moment he finds out that I am here, will come flying after me; and
then, oh dear! the other one will come, and the American, too, of
"The what? who?" cried Mrs. Willoughby, starting up with new
excitement. "Who's that? What did you say, Minnie? The American? What
Minnie threw a look of reproach at her sister, and her eyes fell.
"You can't possibly mean that there are any more--"
"There--is--_one_--more," said Minnie, in a low, faint voice, stealing
a glance at her sister, and looking a little frightened.
"One more!" repeated her sister, breathless.
"Well, I didn't come here to be scolded," said Minnie, rising, "and
I'll go. But I hoped that you'd help me; and I think you're very
unkind; and I wouldn't treat you so."
"No, no, Minnie," said Mrs. Willoughby, rising, and putting her arm
round her sister, and drawing her back. "I had no idea of scolding. I
never scolded any one in my life, and wouldn't speak a cross word to
you for the world. Sit down now, Minnie darling, and tell me all. What
about the American? I won't express any more astonishment, no matter
what I may feel."
"But you mustn't _feel_ any astonishment," insisted Minnie.
"Well, darling, I won't," said her sister.
Minnie gave a sigh.
"It was last year, you know, in the spring. Papa and I were going out
to Montreal, to bring you home. You remember?"
Mrs. Willoughby nodded, while a sad expression came over her face.
"And, you remember, the steamer was wrecked."
"But I never told you how my life was saved."
"Why, yes, you did. Didn't papa tell all about the heroic sailor who
swam ashore with you? how he was frantic about you, having been swept
away by a wave from you? and how he fainted away with joy when you
were brought to him? How can you suppose I would forget that? And then
how papa tried to find the noble sailor to reward him."
"Oh yes," said Minnie, in a despondent tone. "That's all very true;
but he wasn't a noble sailor at all."
"You see, he wasn't going to have a scene with papa, and so he kept
out of his way. Oh dear, how I wish he'd been as considerate with me!
But that's the way always; yes, always."
"Well, who was he?"
"Why, he was an American gentleman, returning home from a tour in
Europe. He saved me, as you have heard. I really don't remember much
about it, only there was a terrible rush of water, and a strong arm
seized me, and I thought it was papa all the time. And I found myself
carried, I don't know how, through the waves, and then I fainted; and
I really don't know any thing about it except papa's story."
Mrs. Willoughby looked at Minnie in silence, but said nothing.
"And then, you know, he traveled with us, and papa thought he was one
of the passengers, and was civil; and so he used to talk to me, and at
last, at Montreal, he used to call on me."
"At your house, dearest."
"Why, how was that?"
"You could not leave your room, darling, so I used to go down."
"And he proposed to me there."
"Where? in my parlor?"
"Yes; in your parlor, dearest."
"I suppose it's not necessary for me to ask what you said."
"I suppose not," said Minnie, in a sweet voice. "He was so grand and
so strong, and he never made any allusions to the wreck; and it
was--the--the--_very first_ time that any body ever--proposed; and so,
you know, I didn't know how to take it, and I didn't want to hurt his
feelings, and I couldn't deny that he had saved my life; and I don't
know when I _ever_ was so confused. It's awful, Kitty darling.
"And then, you know, darling," continued Minnie, "he went away, and
used to write regularly every month. He came to see me once, and I was
frightened to death almost. He is going to marry me next year. He used
an awful expression, dearest. He told me he was a struggling man.
Isn't that horrid? What is it, Kitty? Isn't it something very, very
"He writes still, I suppose?"
"Oh dear, yes."
Mrs. Willoughby was silent for some time.
"Oh, Minnie," said she at last, "what a trouble all this is! How I
wish you had been with me all this time!"
"Well, what made you go and get married?" said Minnie.
"Hush," said Mrs. Willoughby, sadly, "never mind. I've made up my mind
to one thing, and that is, I will never leave you alone with a
[Illustration: "HE BENT HIS HEAD DOWN, AND RAN HIS HAND THROUGH HIS
"Well, I'm sure I don't want the horrid creatures," said Minnie. "And
you needn't be so unkind. I'm sure I don't see why people will come
always and save my life wherever I go. I don't want them to. I don't
want to have my life saved any more. I think it's dreadful to have men
chasing me all over the world. I'm afraid to stop in Italy, and I'm
afraid to go back to England. Then I'm always afraid of that dreadful
American. I suppose it's no use for me to go to the Holy Land, or
Egypt, or Australia; for then my life would be saved by an Arab, or a
New Zealander. And oh, Kitty, wouldn't it be dreadful to have some
Arab proposing to me, or a Hindu! Oh, what _am_ I to do?"
"Trust to me, darling. I'll get rid of Girasole. We will go to Naples.
He has to stop at Rome; I know that. We will thus pass quietly away
from him, without giving him any pain, and he'll soon forget all about
it. As for the others, I'll stop this correspondence first, and then
deal with them as they come."
"You'll never do it, never!" cried Minnie; "I know you won't. You
don't know them."
IN THE CRATER OF VESUVIUS.
Lord Harry Hawbury had been wandering for three months on the
Continent, and had finally found himself in Naples. It was always a
favorite place of his, and he had established himself in comfortable
quarters on the Strada Nuova, from the windows of which there was a
magnificent view of the whole bay, with Vesuvius, Capri, Baiae, and all
the regions round about. Here an old friend had unexpectedly turned up
in the person of Scone Dacres. Their friendship had been formed some
five or six years before in South America, where they had made a
hazardous journey in company across the continent, and had thus
acquired a familiarity with one another which years of ordinary
association would have failed to give. Scone Dacres was several years
older than Lord Hawbury.
One evening Lord Hawbury had just finished his dinner, and was
dawdling about in a listless way, when Dacres entered, quite
unceremoniously, and flung himself into a chair by one of the windows.
"Any Bass, Hawbury?" was his only greeting, as he bent his head down,
and ran his hand through his bushy hair.
"Lachryma Christi?" asked Hawbury, in an interrogative tone.
"No, thanks. That wine is a humbug. I'm beastly thirsty, and as dry as
Hawbury ordered the Bass, and Dacres soon was refreshing himself with
The two friends presented a singular contrast. Lord Hawbury was tall
and slim, with straight flaxen hair and flaxen whiskers, whose long,
pendent points hung down to his shoulders. His thin face, somewhat
pale, had an air of high refinement; and an ineradicable habit of
lounging, together with a drawling intonation, gave him the appearance
of being the laziest mortal alive. Dacres, on the other hand, was the
very opposite of all this. He was as tall as Lord Hawbury, but was
broad-shouldered and massive. He had a big head, a big mustache, and a
thick beard. His hair was dark, and covered his head in dense, bushy
curls. His voice was loud, his manner abrupt, and he always sat bolt
"Any thing up, Sconey?" asked Lord Hawbury, after a pause, during
which he had been languidly gazing at his friend.
"Well, no, nothing, except that I've been up Vesuvius."
Lord Hawbury gave a long whistle.
"And how did you find the mountain?" he asked; "lively?"
"Rather so. In fact, infernally so," added Dacres, thoughtfully. "Look
here, Hawbury, do you detect any smell of sulphur about me?"
"Sulphur! What in the name of--sulphur! Why, now that you mention it,
I _do_ notice something of a brimstone smell. Sulphur! Why, man,
you're as strong as a lighted match. What have you been doing with
yourself? Down inside, eh?"
Dacres made no answer for some time, but sat stroking his beard with
his left hand, while his right held a cigar which he had just taken
out of a box at his elbow. His eyes were fixed upon a point in the sky
exactly half-way between Capri and Baiae, and about ten degrees above
"Hawbury," said he, solemnly, after about two minutes of portentous
"Well, old man?"
"I've had an adventure."
"An adventure! Well, don't be bashful. Breathe forth the tale in this
"You see," said Dacres, "I started off this morning for a ride, and
had no more intention of going to Vesuvius than to Jericho."
"I should hope not. What business has a fellow like you with
Vesuvius--a fellow that has scaled Cotopaxi, and all that sort of
thing? Not you."
Dacres put the cigar thoughtfully in his mouth, struck a light, and
tried to light it, but couldn't. Then he bit the end off, which he had
forgotten to do before. Then he gave three long, solemn, and
portentous puffs. Then he took the cigar between his first and second
fingers, and stretched his hand out toward Hawbury.
"Hawbury, my boy," said he again.
"You remember the time when I got that bullet in Uruguay?"
"Well, I had a shot to-day."
"A shot! The deuce you had. Cool, too. Any of those confounded bandits
about? I thought that was all rot."
"It wasn't a real shot; only figurative."
"Yes; it was a--a girl."
"By Jove!" cried Hawbury, starting up from an easy posture which he
had secured for himself after fifteen minutes shifting and changing.
"A girl! You, Dacres, spooney! A fellow like you, and a girl! By
Hawbury fell back again, and appeared to be vainly trying to grapple
with the thought.
Dacres put his cigar between his lips again, and gave one or two puffs
at it, but it had gone out. He pitched it out of the window, and
struck his hand heavily on the arm of his chair.
"Yes, Hawbury, a girl; and spooney, too--as spooney as blazes; but
I'll swear there isn't such another girl upon the whole face of the
earth; and when you bear in mind the fact that my observation, with
extended view, has surveyed mankind from China to Peru, you'll be able
to appreciate the value of my statement."
"All right, old man; and now for the adventure."
"The adventure? Well, you see, I started for a ride. Had a misty idea
of going to Sorrento, and was jogging along among a million pigs or so
at Portici, when I overtook a carriage that was going slowly along.
There were three ladies in it. The backs of two of them were turned
toward me, and I afterward saw that one was old--no doubt the
chaperon--and the other was young. But the third lady, Hawbury--Well,
it's enough to say that I, who have seen all women in all lands, have
never seen any thing like her. She was on the front seat, with her
face turned toward me. She was small, a perfect blonde; hair short and
curling; a round, girlish face; dimpled cheeks, and little mouth. Her
eyes were large and blue; and, as she looked at me, I saw such a
bewitching innocence, such plaintive entreaty, such pathetic trust,
such helpless, childlike--I'll be hanged if I can find words to
express what I want to say. The English language doesn't contain
"Do it in Latin, then, or else skip the whole description. All the
same. I know the whole story by heart. Love's young dream, and all
that sort of thing, you know."
"Well," continued Dacres, "there was something so confoundedly
bewitching in the little girl's face that I found myself keeping on at
a slow pace in the rear of the carriage, and feasting on her looks. Of
course I wasn't rude about it or demonstrative."
"Oh, of course. No demonstration. It's nothing to ride behind a
carriage for several hours, and 'feast' one's self on a pretty girl's
looks! But go on, old man."
"Oh, I managed it without giving offense. You see, there was such a
beastly lot of pigs, peasants, cows, dirty children, lazaroni, and all
that sort of thing, that it was simply impossible to go any faster; so
you see I was compelled to ride behind. Sometimes, indeed, I fell a
good distance back."
"And then caught up again to resume the 'feast?'"
"But I don't see what this has to do with your going to Vesuvius."
"It has every thing to do. You see, I started without any fixed
purpose, and after I saw this carriage, I kept on insensibly after
"Oh, I see--yes. By Jove!"
"And they drove up as far as they could."
"And I followed. You see, I had nothing else to do--and that little
girl! Besides, it was the most natural thing in the world for me to be
going up; and the fact that I was bent on the same errand as
themselves was sufficient to account for my being near the carriage,
and would prevent them from supposing that I was following them. So,
you see, I followed, and at length they stopped at the Hermitage. I
left my horse there, and strolled forward, without going very far
away; my only idea was to keep the girl in sight. I had no idea that
they would go any further. To ascend the cone seemed quite out of the
question. I thought they would rest at the Hermitage, drink some
Lachryma Christi, and go back. But to my surprise, as I was walking
about, I saw the two young ladies come out and go toward the cone.
"I kept out of the way, as you may suppose, and watched them,
wondering what idea they had. As they passed I heard the younger one--
the child-angel, you know, _my_ girl--teasing the other to make the
ascent of the cone, and the other seemed to be quite ready to agree to
"Now, as far as the mere ascent is concerned, of course you know
_that_ is not much. The guides were there with straps and chairs, and
that sort of thing, all ready, so that there was no difficulty about
that. The real difficulty was in these girls going off unattended; and
I could only account for it by supposing that the chaperon knew
nothing whatever about their proposal. No doubt the old lady was
tired, and the young ones went out, as _she_ supposed, for a stroll;
and now, as _they_ proposed, this stroll meant nothing less than an
ascent of the cone. After all, there is nothing surprising in the fact
that a couple of active and spirited girls should attempt this. From
the Hermitage it does not seem to be at all difficult, and they had no
idea of the actual nature of the task.
"What made it worse, however, was the state of the mountain at this
particular time. I don't know whether you have taken the trouble to
raise your eyes so high as the top of Vesuvius--"
Hawbury languidly shook his head.
"Well, I supposed not; but if you had taken the trouble, you would
have noticed an ugly cloud which is generally regarded here as
ominous. This morning, you know, there was an unusually large canopy
of very dirty smoke overhead. I knew by the look of things that it was
not a very pleasant place to go to. But of course they could not be
supposed to know any thing of the kind, and their very ignorance made
"Well, I walked along after them, not knowing what might turn up, but
determined to keep them in sight. Those beggars with chairs were not
to be trusted, and the ladies had gold enough about them to tempt
violence. What a reckless old devil of a chaperon she was, to let
those young girls go! So I walked on, cursing all the time the
conventionalities of civilization that prevented me from giving them
warning. They were rushing straight on into danger, and I had to keep
"On reaching the foot of the cone a lot of fellows came up to them,
with chairs and straps, and that sort of thing. They employed some of
them, and, mounting the chairs, they were carried up, while I walked
up by myself at a distance from which I could observe all that was
going on. The girls were quite merry, appeared to be enchanted with
their ride up the cone, enjoyed the novelty of the sensation, and I
heard their lively chatter and their loud peals of ringing laughter,
and longed more than ever to be able to speak to them.
"Now the little girl that I had first seen--the child-angel, you
know--seemed, to my amazement, to be more adventurous than the other.
By her face you would suppose her to be as timid as a dove, and yet on
this occasion she was the one who proposed the ascent, urged on her
companion, and answered all her objections. Of course she could not
have really been so plucky as she seemed. For my part, I believe the
other one had more real pluck of the two, but it was the child-angel's
ignorance that made her so bold. She went up the cone as she would
have gone up stairs, and looked at the smoke as she would have looked
at a rolling cloud.
"At length the bearers stopped, and signified to the girls that they
could not go any further. The girls could not speak Italian, or any
other language apparently than English, and therefore could not very
well make out what the bearers were trying to say, but by their
gestures they might have known that they were warning them against
going any further. One might have supposed that no warning would have
been needed, and that one look upward would have been enough. The top
of the cone rose for upward of a hundred feet above them, its soil
composed of lava blocks and ashes intermingled with sulphur. In this
soil there were a million cracks and crevices, from which sulphurous
smoke was issuing; and the smoke, which was but faint and thin near
where they stood, grew denser farther up, till it intermingled with
the larger volumes that rolled up from the crater.
"Now, as I stood there, I suddenly heard a wild proposal from the
"'Oh, Ethel,' she said, 'I've a great mind to go up--'"
Here Hawbury interrupted his friend:
"What's that? Was that her friend's name?" he asked, with some
animation. "Ethel?--odd, too. Ethel? H'm. Ethel? Brunette, was she?"
"Odd, too; infernally odd. But, pooh! what rot! Just as though there
weren't a thousand Ethels!"
"What's that you're saying about Ethel?" asked Dacres.
"Oh, nothing, old man. Excuse my interrupting you. Go ahead. How did
"Well, the child-angel said, 'Ethel, I've a great mind to go up.'
"This proposal Ethel scouted in horror and consternation.
"'You must not--you shall not!' she cried.
"'Oh, it's nothing, it's nothing,' said the child-angel. 'I'm dying to
take a peep into the crater. It must be awfully funny. Do come; do, do
come, Ethel darling.'
"'Oh, Minnie, don't,' cried the other, in great alarm. And I now
learned that the child-angel's name was Minnie. 'Minnie,' she cried,
clinging to the child-angel, 'you must not go. I would not have come
up if I had thought you would be so unreasonable.'
"'Ethel," said the other, 'you are really getting to be quite a scold.
How ridiculous it is in you to set yourself up in this place as a
duenna! How can I help going up? and only one peep. And I never saw a
crater in my life, and I'm dying to know what it looks like. I know
it's awfully funny; and it's horrid in you to be so unkind about it.
And I really must go. Won't you come? Do, do, dear--dearest darling,
"Ethel was firm, however, and tried to dissuade the other, but to no
purpose; for at length, with a laugh, the child-angel burst away, and
skipped lightly up the slope toward the crater.
"'Just one peep,' she said. 'Come, Ethel, I must, I really must, you
"She turned for an instant as she said this, and I saw the glory of
her child-face as it was irradiated by a smile of exquisite sweetness.
The play of feature, the light of her eyes, and the expression of
innocence and ignorance unconscious of danger, filled me with profound
sadness. And there was I, standing alone, seeing that sweet child
flinging herself to ruin, and yet unable to prevent her, simply
because I was bound hand and foot by the infernal restrictions of a
miserable and a senseless conventionality. Dash it, I say!"
As Dacres growled out this Hawbury elevated his eyebrows, and stroked
his long, pendent whiskers lazily with his left hand, while with his
right he drummed on the table near him.
"Well," resumed Dacres, "the child-angel ran up for some distance,
leaving Ethel behind. Ethel called after her for some time, and then
began to follow her up. Meanwhile the guides, who had thus far stood
apart, suddenly caught sight of the child-angel's figure, and, with a
loud warning cry, they ran after her. They seemed to me, however, to
be a lazy lot, for they scarce got up as far as the place where Ethel
was. Now, you know, all this time I was doomed to inaction. But at
this juncture I strolled carelessly along, pretending not to see any
thing in particular; and so, taking up an easy attitude, I waited for
the denouement. It was a terrible position too. That child-angel! I
would have laid down my life for her, but I had to stand idle, and see
her rush to fling her life away. And all because I had not happened to
have the mere formality of an introduction."
[Illustration: "I SAW HER TURN AND WAVE HER HAND IN TRIUMPH."]
"Well, you know, I stood there waiting for the denouement. Now it
happened that, as the child-angel went up, a brisk breeze had started,
which blew away all the smoke, so that she went along for some
distance without any apparent inconvenience. I saw her reach the top;
I saw her turn and wave her hand in triumph. Then I saw her rush
forward quickly and nimbly straight toward the crater. She seemed to
go down into it. And then the wind changed or died away, or both, for
there came a vast cloud of rolling smoke, black, cruel, suffocating;
and the mountain crest and the child-angel were snatched from my
"I was roused by a shriek from Ethel. I saw her rush up the slope, and
struggle in a vain endeavor to save her friend. But before she had
taken a dozen steps down came the rolling smoke, black, wrathful, and
sulphurous; and I saw her crouch down and stagger back, and finally
emerge pale as death, and gasping for breath. She saw me as I stood
there; in fact, I had moved a little nearer.
"'Oh, Sir,' she cried, 'save her! Oh, my God, she's lost!'
"This was very informal, you know, and all that sort of thing; but
_she_ had broken the ice, and had accosted _me_; so I waived all
ceremony, and considered the introduction sufficient. I took off my
hat, and told her to calm herself.
"But she only wrung her hands, and implored me to save her friend.
"And now, my boy, lucky was it for me that my experience at Cotopaxi
and Popocatepetl had been so thorough and so peculiar. My knowledge
came into play at this time. I took my felt hat and put it over my
mouth, and then tied it around my neck so that the felt rim came over
my cheeks and throat. Thus I secured a plentiful supply of air, and
the felt acted as a kind of ventilator to prevent the access to my
lungs of too much of the sulphurous vapor. Of course such a
contrivance would not be good for more than five minutes; but then,
you know, five minutes were all that I wanted.
"So up I rushed, and, as the slope was only about a hundred feet, I
soon reached the top. Here I could see nothing whatever. The
tremendous smoke-clouds rolled all about on every side, enveloping me
in their dense folds, and shutting every thing from view. I heard the
cry of the asses of guides, who were howling where I left them below,
and were crying to me to come back--the infernal idiots! The smoke was
impenetrable; so I got down on my hands and knees and groped about. I
was on her track, and knew she could not be far away. I could not
spend more than five minutes there, for my felt hat would not assist
me any longer. About two minutes had already passed. Another minute
was taken up in creeping about on my hands and knees. A half minute
more followed. I was in despair. The child-angel I saw must have run
in much further than I had supposed, and perhaps I could not find her
at all. A sickening fear came to me that she had grown dizzy, or had
slid down over the loose sand into the terrific abyss of the crater
itself. So another half minute passed; and now only one minute was
"I don't see how you managed to be so confoundedly accurate in your
reckoning. How was it? You didn't carry your watch in one hand, and
feel about with the other, I suppose?"
"No; but I looked at my watch at intervals. But never mind that. Four
minutes, as I said, were up, and only one minute remained, and that
was not enough to take me back. I was at the last gasp already, and on
the verge of despair, when suddenly, as I crawled on, there lay the
child-angel full before me, within my reach.
"Yes," continued Dacres, after a pause, "there she lay, just in my
grasp, just at my own last gasp. One second more and it must have been
all up. She was senseless, of course. I caught her up; I rose and ran
back as quick as I could, bearing my precious burden. She was as light
as a feather--no weight at all. I carried her as tenderly as if she
was a little baby. As I emerged from the smoke Ethel rushed up to me
and set up a cry, but I told her to keep quiet and it would be all
right. Then I directed the guides to carry her down, and I myself then
carried down the child-angel.
"You see I wasn't going to give her up. I had had hard work enough
getting her. Besides, the atmosphere up there was horrible. It was
necessary, first of all, to get her down to the foot of the cone,
where she could have pure air, and then resuscitate her. Therefore I
directed the guides to take down Ethel in a chair, while I carried
down the child-angel. They had to carry her down over the lava blocks,
but I went to a part of the cone where it was all loose sand, and went
down flying. I was at the bottom a full half hour before the others.
"Then I laid her upon the loose sand; and I swear to you, Hawbury,
never in all my life have I seen such a sight. She lay there before my
eyes a picture of loveliness beyond imagination--as beautiful as a
dream--more like a child-angel than ever. Her hair clustered in golden
curls over her white brow, her little hands were folded meekly over
her breast, her lips were parted into a sweet smile, the gentle eyes
no longer looked at me with the piteous, pleading, trustful, innocent
expression which I had noticed in them before, and her hearing was
deaf to the words of love and tenderness that I lavished upon her."
"Good!" muttered Hawbury; "you talk like a novel. Drive on, old man.
I'm really beginning to feel excited."
"'The fact is," said Dacres, "I have a certain set of expressions
about the child-angel that will come whenever I begin to describe
"It strikes me, though, that you are getting on pretty well. You were
speaking of 'love and tenderness.' Well?"
"Well, she lay there senseless, you know, and I gently unclasped her
hands and began to rub them. I think the motion of carrying her, and
the fresh air, had both produced a favorable effect; for I had not
rubbed her hands ten minutes when she gave a low sigh. Then I rubbed
on, and her lips moved. I bent down close so as to listen, and I heard
her say, in a low voice,
"'Am I at home?'"
[Illustration: "I BENT DOWN CLOSE."]
"'Yes,' said I, gently, for I thought it was best to humor her
"Then she spoke again:
"'Is that you, papa dear?'
"'Yes, darling,' said I, in a low voice; and I kissed her in a kind of
paternal way, so as to reassure her, and comfort her, and soothe her,
and all that sort of thing, you know."
At this Hawbury burst into a shout of laughter.
"What the mischief are you making that beastly row about?" growled
"Excuse me, old boy. I couldn't help it. It was at the idea of your
doing the father so gravely."
"Well, am I not old enough to be her father? What else could I do? She
had such a pleading, piteous way. By Jove! Besides, how did she know
any thing about it? It wasn't as if she was in her senses. She really
thought I _was_ her father, you know. And I'm sure I almost felt as if
I was, too."
"All right, old man, don't get huffy. Drive on."
"Well, you know, she kept her eyes closed, and didn't say another word
till she heard the voice of Ethel at a distance. Then she opened her
eyes, and got up on her feet. Then there was no end of a row--kissing,
crying, congratulating, reproaching, and all that sort of thing. I
withdrew to a respectful distance and waited. After a time they both
came to me, and the child-angel gave me a look that made me long to be
a father to her again. She held out her little hand, and I took it and
pressed it, with my heart beating awfully. I was horribly embarrassed.
"'I'm awfully grateful to you,' she said; 'I'm sure I'd do any thing
in the world to repay you. I'm sure I don't know what would have
become of me if it hadn't been for you. And I hope you'll excuse me
for putting you to so much trouble. And, oh!' she concluded, half to
herself, 'what _will_ Kitty say now?'"
"Kitty! Who's Kitty?"
"I don't know."
"All right. Never mind. Drive on, old chap."
"Well, I mumbled something or other, and then offered to go and get
their carriage. But they would not hear of it. The child-angel said
she could walk. This I strongly dissuaded her from doing, and Ethel
insisted that the men should carry her. This was done, and in a short
time we got back to the Hermitage, where the old lady was in no end of
a worry. In the midst of the row I slipped away, and waited till the
carriage drove off. Then I followed at a sufficient distance not to be
observed, and saw where their house was."
[Illustration: THE MEETING.]
THE BEGINNING OF BLUNDERS.
Dacres paused now, and lighting a fresh cigar, smoked away at it in
silence, with long and solemn and regular puffs. Hawbury watched him
for some time, with a look of dreamy curiosity and lazy interest. Then
he rose, and dawdled about the room for a few minutes. Then he lighted
a cigar, and finally, resuming his seat, he said:
Dacres puffed on.
"I'm beginning to think," said Hawbury, "that your first statement is
correct. You are shot, my boy--hit hard--and all that; and now I
should like to ask you one question."
"What are you going to do about it? Do you intend to pursue the
"Of course. Why not?"
"What do you intend to do next?"
"Next? Why, call on her, and inquire after her health."
"Well, have you any thing to say against that?"
"Certainly not. Only it surprises me a little."
"Because I never thought of Scone Dacres as a marrying man, and can't
altogether grapple with the idea."
"I don't see why a fellow shouldn't marry if he wants to," said
Dacres. "What's the matter with me that I shouldn't get married as
well as lots of fellows?"
"No reason in the world, my dear boy. Marry as many wives as you
choose. My remark referred merely to my own idea of you, and not to
any thing actually innate in your character. So don't get huffy at a
Some further conversation followed, and Dacres finally took his
departure, full of thoughts about his new acquaintance, and racking
his brains to devise some way of securing access to her.
On the following evening he made his appearance once more at Hawbury's
"Well, old man, what's up? Any thing more about the child-angel?"
"Well, a little. I've found out her name."
"Ah! What is it?"
"Fay. Her name is Minnie Fay."
"Minnie Fay. I never heard of the name before. Who are her people?"
"She is traveling with Lady Dalrymple."
"The Dowager, I suppose?"
"Who are the other ladies?"
"Well, I don't exactly remember."
"Didn't you find out?"
"Yes; I heard all their names, but I've forgotten. I know one of them
is the child-angel's sister, and the other is her cousin. The one I
saw with her was probably the sister."
"What, the one named Ethel?"
"Ethel--Ethel Fay. H'm," said Hawbury, in a tone of disappointment. "I
knew it would be so. There are so many Ethels about."
"Oh, nothing. I once knew a girl named Ethel, and--Well, I had a faint
idea that it would be odd if this should be the one. But there's no
"Oh, the name Ethel is common enough."
"Well, and didn't you find out any thing about her people?"
"Your child-angel's people."
"No. What do I care about her people? They might be Jews or
Patagonians for all I care."
"Still I should think your interest in her would make you ask."
"Oh no; my interest refers to herself, not to her relatives. Her
sister Ethel is certainly a deuced pretty girl, though."
"Sconey, my boy, I'm afraid you're getting demoralized. Why, I
remember the time when you regarded the whole female race with a lofty
scorn and a profound indifference that was a perpetual rebuke to more
inflammable natures. But now what a change! Here you are, with a
finely developed eye for female beauty, actually reveling in dreams of
child-angels and their sisters. By Jove!"
"Nonsense," said Dacres.
"Well, drive on, and tell all about it. You've seen her, of course?"
"Did you call?"
"Yes; she was not at home. I went away with a snubbed and subdued
feeling, and rode along near the Villa Reale, when suddenly I met the
carriage with Lady Dalrymple and the child-angel. She knew me at once,
and gave a little start. Then she looked awfully embarrassed. Then she
turned to Lady Dalrymple; and by the time I had got up the carriage
had stopped, and the ladies both looked at me and bowed. I went up,
and they both held out their hands. Lady Dalrymple then made some
remarks expressive of gratitude, while the child-angel sat and
fastened her wonderful eyes on me, and threw at me such a pleading,
touching, entreating, piteous, grateful, beseeching look, that I
"When Lady Dalrymple stopped, she turned to her and said:
"'And oh, aunty darling, did you _ever_ hear of any thing like it? It
was _so_ brave. Wasn't it an awfully plucky thing to do, now? And I
was really inside the crater! I'm sure _I_ never could have done such
a thing--no, not even for my _own papa_! Oh, how I do _wish_ I could
do something to show how _awfully_ grateful I am! And, aunty darling,
I do _wish_ you'd tell me what to do.'
"All this quite turned my head, and I couldn't say any thing; but sat
on my saddle, devouring the little thing with my eyes, and drinking in
the wonderful look which she threw at me. At last the carriage
started, and the ladies, with a pleasant smile, drove on. I think I
stood still there for about five minutes, until I was nearly run down
by one of those beastly Neapolitan caleches loaded with twenty or
"See here, old man, what a confoundedly good memory you have! You
remember no end of a lot of things, and give all her speeches
verbatim. What a capital newspaper reporter you'd make!"
"Oh, it's only _her_ words, you know. She quickens my memory, and
makes a different man of me."
"Yes, old chap, a different man altogether."
"So I say, by Jove! Head turned, eyes distorted, heart generally
upset, circulation brought up to fever point, peace of mind gone, and
a general mania in the place of the old self-reliance and content."
"Not content, old boy; I never had much of that."
"Well, we won't argue, will we? But as to the child-angel--what next?
You'll call again?"
"Strike while the iron is hot, hey? Well, old man, I'll stand by you.
Still I wish you could find out who her people are, just to satisfy a
"Well, I don't know the Fays, but Lady Dalrymple is her aunt; and I
know, too, that she is a niece of Sir Gilbert Biggs."
"What!" cried Hawbury, starting. "Who? Sir what?"
"Sir Gilbert Biggs."
"Sir Gilbert Biggs?"
"Sir Gilbert Biggs! By Jove! Are you sure you are right? Come, now.
Isn't there some mistake?"
"Not a bit of a mistake; she's a niece of Sir Gilbert. I remember
that, because the name is a familiar one."
"Familiar!" repeated Hawbury; "I should think so. By Jove!"
Hawbury here relapsed into silence, and sat with a frown on his face,
and a puzzled expression. At times he would mutter such words as,
"Deuced odd!" "Confounded queer!" "What a lot!" "By Jove!" while
Dacres looked at him in some surprise.
"Look here, old fellow!" said he at last. "Will you have the kindness
to inform me what there is in the little fact I just mentioned to
upset a man of your size, age, fighting weight, and general coolness
"Well, there is a deuced odd coincidence about it, that's all."
"Coincidence with what?"
"Well, I'll tell some other time. It's a sore subject, old fellow.
Another time, my boy. I'll only mention now that it's the cause of my
present absence from England. There's a bother that I don't care to
encounter, and Sir Gilbert Biggs's nieces are at the bottom of it."
"You don't mean this one, I hope?" cried Dacres, in some alarm.
"Heaven forbid! By Jove! No. I hope not."
"No, I hope not, by Jove!" echoed the other.
"Well, old man," said Hawbury, after a fit of silence, "I suppose
you'll push matters on now, hard and fast, and launch yourself into
"Well--I--suppose--so," said Dacres, hesitatingly.
"You _suppose_ so. Of course you will. Don't I know you, old chap?
Impetuous, tenacious of purpose, iron will, one idea, and all that
sort of thing. Of course you will; and you'll be married in a month."
"Well," said Dacres, in the same hesitating way, "not so soon as that,
"Why, I have to get the lady first."
"The lady; oh, she seems to be willing enough, judging from your
description. Her pleading look at you. Why, man, there was love at
first sight. Then tumbling down the crater of a volcano, and getting
fished out. Why, man, what woman could resist a claim like that,
especially when it is enforced by a man like Scone Dacres? And, by
Jove! Sconey, allow me to inform you that I've always considered you a
most infernally handsome man; and what's more, my opinion is worth
something, by Jove!"
Hereupon Hawbury stretched his head and shoulders back, and pulled
away with each hand at his long yellow pendent whiskers. Then he
yawned. And then he slowly ejaculated,
"Well," said Dacres, thoughtfully, "there is something in what you
say; and, to tell the truth, I think there's not a bad chance for me,
so far as the lady herself is concerned; but the difficulty is not in
"Not in that quarter! Why, where the mischief else could there be any
Dacres was silent.
"You're eager enough?"
Dacres nodded his head sadly.
"Eager! why, eager isn't the word. You're mad, man--mad as a March
hare! So go in and win."
Dacres said nothing.
"You're rich, not over old, handsome, well born, well bred, and have
saved the lady's life by extricating her from the crater of a volcano.
She seems too young and childlike to have had any other affairs. She's
probably just out of school; not been into society; not come out; just
the girl. Confound these girls, I say, that have gone through
engagements with other fellows!"
"Oh, as to that," said Dacres, "this little thing is just like a
child, and in her very simplicity does not know what love is.
Engagement! By Jove, I don't believe she knows the meaning of the
word! She's perfectly fresh, artless, simple, and guileless. I don't
believe she ever heard a word of sentiment or tenderness from any man
in her life."
"Very likely; so where's the difficulty?"
"Well, to tell the truth, the difficulty is in my own affairs."
"Your affairs! Odd, too. What's up? I didn't know any thing had
happened. That's too infernal bad, too."
"Oh, it's nothing of that sort; money's all right; no swindle. It's an
affair of another character altogether."
"And one, too, that makes me think that--"
"That I'd better start for Australia."
"What's the meaning of that?"
"Why," said Dacres, gloomily, "it means giving up the child-angel, and
trying to forget her--if I ever can."
"Forget her! What's the meaning of all this? Why, man, five minutes
ago you were all on fire about her, and now you talk quietly about
giving her up! I'm all adrift."
"Well, it's a mixed up matter."
"Your affair; something that has happened?"
"Yes. It's a sore matter, and I don't care to speak about it just
"And it's the real cause why I don't go back to England."
"The mischief it is! Why, Dacres, I'll be hanged if you're not using
the very words I myself used a few minutes ago."
"Am I?" said Dacres, gloomily.
"You certainly are; and that makes me think that our affairs are in a
"Oh no; mine is very peculiar."
"Well, there's one thing I should like to ask, and you needn't answer
unless you like."
"Doesn't your difficulty arise from some confounded woman or other?"
"By Jove, I knew it! And, old fellow, I'm in the same situation."
[Illustration: "BY JOVE, I KNEW IT!"]
"Oh ho! So you're driven away from England by a woman?"
Dacres sighed heavily.
"Yours can't be as bad as mine," said he, with a dismal look. "Mine is
the worst scrape that ever you heard of. And look at me now, with the
child-angel all ready to take me, and me not able to be taken.
Confound the abominable complications of an accursed civilization, I
"And I say, Amen!" said Hawbury.
THE FIERY TRIAL.
"See here, old chap," said Hawbury, "I'm going to make a clean breast