Part 2 out of 7
"Of my affair."
"That's right," said Dacres, dolefully. "I should like of all things
to hear it."
"You see I wouldn't tell you, only you yourself turn out to be in a
similar situation, and so what I have to say may prove of use to you.
At any rate, you may give me some useful suggestion.
"Very well, then," continued Hawbury--"to begin. You may remember that
I told you when we met here where I had been passing the time since I
saw you last."
Dacres nodded assent.
"Well, about two years ago I was in Canada. I went there for sport,
and plunged at once into the wilderness. And let me tell you it's a
very pretty country for hunting. Lots of game--fish, flesh, and
fowl--from the cariboo down to the smallest trout that you would care
to hook. Glorious country; magnificent forests waiting for the
lumberman; air that acts on you like wine, or even better; rivers and
lakes in all directions; no end of sport and all that sort of thing,
you know. Have you ever been in Canada?"
"Only traveled through."
"Well, the next time you feel inclined for high art sport we'll go
together, and have no end of fun--that is, if you're not married and
done for, which, of course, you will be. No matter. I was saying that
I was in a fine country. I spent a couple of months there with two or
three Indians, and at length started for Ottawa on my way home. The
Indians put me on the right path, after which I dismissed them, and
set out alone with my gun and fishing-rod.
"The first day was all very well, and I slept well enough the first
night; but on the morning of the second day I found the air full of
smoke. However, I did not give much thought to that, for there had
been a smoky look about the sky for a week, and the woods are always
burning there, I believe, in one place or another. I kept on, and shot
enough for food, and thus the second day passed. That evening the air
was quite suffocating, and it was as hot as an oven. I struggled
through the night, I don't know how; and then on the third day made
another start. This third day was abominable. The atmosphere was
beastly hot; the sky was a dull yellow, and the birds seemed to have
all disappeared. As I went on it grew worse, but I found it was not
because the fires were in front of me. On the contrary, they were
behind me, and were driving on so that they were gradually approaching
nearer. I could do my thirty miles a day even in that rough country,
but the fires could do more. At last I came into a track that was a
little wider than the first one. As I went on I met cattle which
appeared stupefied. Showers of dust were in the air; the atmosphere
was worse than ever, and I never had such difficulty in my life in
walking along. I had to throw away my rifle and fishing-rod, and was
just thinking of pitching my clothes after them, when suddenly I
turned a bend in the path, and met a young girl full in the face.
"By Jove! I swear I never was so astounded in my life. I hurried up to
her, and just began to ask where I was, when she interrupted me with a
question of the same kind. By-the-way, I forgot to say that she was on
horseback. The poor devil of a horse seemed to have had a deuced hard
time of it too, for he was trembling from head to foot, though whether
that arose from fatigue or fright I don't know. Perhaps it was both.
"Well, the girl was evidently very much alarmed. She was awfully pale;
she was a monstrous pretty girl too--the prettiest by all odds I ever
saw, and that's saying a good deal. By Jove! Well, it turned out that
she had been stopping in the back country for a month, at a house
somewhere up the river, with her father. Her father had gone down to
Ottawa a week before, and was expected back on this day. She had come
out to meet him, and had lost her way. She had been out for hours, and
was completely bewildered. She was also frightened at the fires, which
now seemed to be all around us. This she told me in a few words, and
asked if I knew where the river was.
"Of course I knew no more than she did, and it needed only a few words
from me to show her that I was as much in the dark as she was. I began
to question her, however, as to this river, for it struck me that in
the present state of affairs a river would not be a bad thing to have
near one. In answer to my question she said that she had come upon
this road from the woods on the left, and therefore it was evident
that the river lay in that direction.
"I assured her that I would do whatever lay in my power; and with that
I walked on in the direction in which I had been going, while she rode
by my side. Some further questions as to the situation of the house
where she had been staying showed me that it was on the banks of the
river about fifty miles above Ottawa. By my own calculations I was
about that distance away. It seemed to me, then, that she had got lost
in the woods, and had wandered thus over some trail to the path where
she had met me. Every thing served to show me that the river lay to
the left, and so I resolved to turn in at the first path which I
"At length, after about two miles, we came to a path which went into
the woods. My companion was sure that this was the very one by which
she had come out, and this confirmed the impression which the sight of
it had given me. I thought it certainly must lead toward the river. So
we turned into this path. I went first, and she followed, and so we
went for about a couple of miles further.
"All this time the heat had been getting worse and worse. The air was
more smoky than ever; my mouth was parched and dry. I breathed with
difficulty, and could scarcely drag one leg after another. The lady
was almost as much exhausted as I was, and suffered acutely, as I
could easily see, though she uttered not a word of complaint. Her
horse also suffered terribly, and did not seem able to bear her weight
much longer. The poor brute trembled and staggered, and once or twice
stopped, so that it was difficult to start him again. The road had
gone in a winding way, but was not so crooked as I expected. I
afterward found that she had gone by other paths until she had found
herself in thick woods, and then on trying to retrace her way she had
strayed into this path. If she had turned to the left on first
reaching it, instead of to the right, the fate of each of us would
have been different. Our meeting was no doubt the salvation of both.
"There was a wooded eminence in front, which we had been steadily
approaching for some time. At last we reached the top, and here a
scene burst upon us which was rather startling. The hill was high
enough to command an extensive view, and the first thing that we saw
was a vast extent of woods and water and smoke, By-and-by we were able
to distinguish each. The water was the river, which could be seen for
miles. Up the river toward the left the smoke arose in great volumes,
covering every thing; while in front of us, and immediately between us
and the river, there was a line of smoke which showed that the fires
had penetrated there and had intercepted us.
"We stood still in bewilderment. I looked all around. To go back was
as bad as to go forward, for there, also, a line of smoke arose which
showed the progress of the flames. To the right there was less smoke;
but in that direction there was only a wilderness, through which we
could not hope to pass for any distance. The only hope was the river.
If we could traverse the flames in that direction, so as to reach the
water, we would be safe. In a few words I communicated my decision to
my companion. She said nothing, but bowed her head in acquiescence.
"Without delaying any longer we resumed our walk. After about a mile
we found ourselves compelled once more to halt. The view here was
worse than ever. The path was now as wide as an ordinary road, and
grew wider still as it went on. It was evidently used to haul logs
down to the river, and as it approached the bank it grew steadily
wider; but between us and the river the woods were all burning. The
first rush of the fire was over, and now we looked forward and saw a
vast array of columns--the trunks of burned trees--some blackened and
charred, others glowing red. The ground below was also glowing red,
with blackened spaces here and there.
"Still the burned tract was but a strip, and there lay our hope. The
fire, by some strange means, had passed on a track not wider than a
hundred yards, and this was what had to be traversed by us. The
question was, whether we could pass through that or not. The same
question came to both of us, and neither of us said a word. But before
I could ask the lady about it, her horse became frightened at the
flames. I advised her to dismount, for I knew that the poor brute
could never be forced through those fires. She did so, and the horse,
with a horrible snort, turned and galloped wildly away.
"I now looked around once more, and saw that there was no escape
except in front. The flames were encircling us, and a vast cloud of
smoke surrounded us every where, rising far up and rolling overhead.
Cinders fell in immense showers, and the fine ashes, with which the
air was filled, choked us and got into our eyes.
"'There is only one chance,' said I; 'and that is to make a dash for
the river. Can you do it?'
"'I'll try,' she said.
"'We'll have to go through the fires.'
"'Well, then,' I said, 'do as I say. Take off your sacque and wrap it
around your head and shoulders.'
"She took off her sacque at this. It was a loose robe of merino or
alpaca, or something of that sort, and very well suited for what I
wanted. I wrapped it round her so as to protect her face, head, and
shoulders; and taking off my coat I did the same.
"'Now,' said I, 'hold your breath as well as you can. You may keep
your eyes shut. Give me your hand--I'll lead you.'
"Taking her hand I led her forward at a rapid pace. Once she fell, but
she quickly recovered herself, and soon we reached the edge of the
"I tell you what it is, my boy, the heat was terrific, and the sight
was more so. The river was not more than a hundred yards away, but
between us and it there lay what seemed as bad as the burning fiery
furnace of Messrs. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If I were now
standing there, I don't think I could face it. But then I was with the
girl; I had to save her. Fire was behind us, racing after us; water
lay in front. Once there and we were safe. It was not a time to dawdle
or hesitate, I can assure you.
"'Now,' said I, 'run for your life!'
"Grasping her hand more firmly, I started off with her at the full
run. The place was terrible, and grew worse at every step. The road
here was about fifty feet wide. On each side was the burning forest,
with a row of burned trees like fiery columns, and the moss and
underbrush still glowing beneath. To pass through that was a thing
that it don't do to look back upon. The air was intolerable. I wrapped
my coat tighter over my head; my arms were thus exposed, and I felt
the heat on my hands. But that was nothing to the torments that I
endured from trying to breathe. Besides this, the enormous effort of
keeping up a run made breathing all the more difficult. A feeling of
despair came over me. Already we had gone half the distance, but at
that moment the space seemed lengthened out interminably, and I looked
in horror at the rest of the way, with a feeling of the utter
impossibility of traversing it."
[Illustration: THE FIERY TRIAL.]
"Suddenly the lady fell headlong. I stopped and raised her up. My coat
fell off; I felt the fiery air all round my face and head. I called
and screamed to the lady as I tried to raise her up; but she said
nothing. She was as lifeless as a stone.
"Well, my boy, I thought it was all up with me; but I, at least, could
stand, though I did not think that I could take another breath. As for
the lady, there was no help for it; so I grasped her with all my
strength, still keeping her head covered as well as I could, and slung
her over my shoulders. Then away I ran. I don't remember much after
that. I must have lost my senses then, and, what is more, I must have
accomplished the rest of the journey in that semi-unconscious state.
"What I do remember is this--a wild plunge into the water; and the
delicious coolness that I felt all around restored me, and I at once
comprehended all. The lady was by my side; the shock and the cool
water had restored her also. She was standing up to her shoulders just
where she had fallen, and was panting and sobbing. I spoke a few words
of good cheer, and then looked around for some place of refuge. Just
where we stood there was nothing but fire and desolation, and it was
necessary to go further away. Well, some distance out, about half-way
across the river, I saw a little island, with rocky sides, and trees
on the top. It looked safe and cool and inviting. I determined to try
to get there. Some deals were in the water by the bank, which had
probably floated down from some saw-mill. I took half a dozen of
these, flung two or three more on top of them, and then told the lady
my plan. It was to float out to the island by means of this raft. I
offered to put her on it and let her float; but she refused,
preferring to be in the water.
"The river was pretty wide here, and the water was shallow, so that we
were able to wade for a long distance, pushing the raft before us. At
length it became deep, and then the lady held on while I floated and
tried to direct the raft toward the island. I had managed while wading
to guide the raft up the stream, so that when we got into deep water
the current carried us toward the island. At length we reached it
without much difficulty, and then, utterly worn out, I fell down on
the grass, and either fainted away or fell asleep.
"When I revived I had several very queer sensations. The first thing
that I noticed was that I hadn't any whiskers."
"What! no whiskers?"
"No--all gone; and my eyebrows and mustache, and every wisp of hair
from my head."
"See here, old fellow, do you mean to say that you've only taken one
year to grow those infernally long whiskers that you have now?"
"It's a fact, my boy!"
"I wouldn't have believed it; but some fellows can do such
extraordinary things. But drive on."
"Well, the next thing I noticed was that it was as smoky as ever. Then
I jumped up and looked around. I felt quite dry, though it seemed as
if I had just come from the river. As I jumped up and turned I saw my
friend. She looked much better than she had. Her clothes also were
quite dry. She greeted me with a mournful smile, and rose up from the
trunk of a tree where she had been sitting, and made inquiries after
my health with the most earnest and tender sympathy.
"I told her I was all right, laughed about my hair, and inquired very
anxiously how she was. She assured me that she was as well as ever.
Some conversation followed; and then, to my amazement, I found that I
had slept for an immense time, or had been unconscious, whichever it
was, and that the adventure had taken place on the preceding day. It
was now about the middle of the next day. You may imagine how
confounded I was at that."
[Illustration: "ALL GONE; MY EYEBROWS, AND MUSTACHE, AND EVERY WISP OF
HAIR FROM MY HEAD."]
"The air was still abominably close and smoky; so I looked about the
island, and found a huge crevice in the rocks, which was almost a
cave. It was close by the water, and was far cooler than outside. In
fact, it was rather comfortable than otherwise. Here we took refuge,
and talked over our situation. As far as we could see, the whole
country was burned up. A vast cloud of smoke hung over all. One
comfort was that the glow had ceased on the river-bank, and only a
blackened forest now remained, with giant trees arising, all blasted.
We found that our stay would be a protracted one.
"The first thing that I thought of was food. Fortunately I had my
hooks and lines; so I cut a pole, and fastening my line to it, I
succeeded in catching a few fish.
"We lived there for two days on fish in that manner. The lady was sad
and anxious. I tried to cheer her up. Her chief trouble was the fear
that her father was lost. In the course of our conversations I found
out that her name was Ethel Orne."
"Don't think I ever heard the name before. Orne? No, I'm sure I
haven't. It isn't Horn?"
"No; Orne--O R N E. Oh, there's no trouble about that.
"Well, I rather enjoyed this island life, but she was awfully
melancholy; so I hit upon a plan for getting away. I went to the shore
and collected a lot of the deals that I mentioned, and made a very
decent sort of raft. I found a pole to guide it with, cut a lot of
brush for Ethel, and then we started, and floated down the river. We
didn't have any accidents. The only bother was that she was too
confoundedly anxious about me, and wouldn't let me work. We went
ashore every evening. We caught fish enough to eat. We were afloat
three days, and, naturally enough, became very well acquainted."
Hawbury stopped, and sighed.
"I tell you what it is, Dacres," said he, "there never lived a nobler,
more generous, and at the same time a braver soul than Ethel Orne. She
never said a word about gratitude and all that, but there was a
certain quiet look of devotion about her that gives me a deuced queer
feeling now when I think of it all."
"And I dare say--But no matter."
"Well, I was only going to remark that, under the circumstances, there
might have been a good deal of quiet devotion about you."
Hawbury made no reply, but sat silent for a time.
"Well, go on, man; don't keep me in suspense."
"Let me see--where was I? Oh! floating on the raft. Well, we floated
that way, as I said, for three days, and at the end of that time we
reached a settlement. Here we found a steamer, and went on further,
and finally reached Ottawa. Here she went to the house of a friend. I
called on her as soon as possible, and found her in fearful anxiety.
She had learned that her father had gone up with a Mr. Willoughby, and
neither had been heard from.
"Startled at this intelligence, I instituted a search myself. I could
not find out any thing, but only that there was good reason to believe
that both of the unhappy gentlemen had perished. On returning to the
house to call on Ethel, about a week after, I found that she had
received full confirmation of this dreadful intelligence, and had gone
to Montreal. It seems that Willoughby's wife was a relative of
Ethel's, and she had gone to stay with her. I longed to see her, but
of course I could not intrude upon her in her grief; and so I wrote to
her, expressing all the condolence I could. I told her that I was
going to Europe, but would return in the following year. I couldn't
say any more than that, you know. It wasn't a time for sentiment, of
"Well, I received a short note in reply. She said she would look
forward to seeing me again with pleasure, and all that; and that she
could never forget the days we had spent together.
"So off I went, and in the following year I returned. But on reaching
Montreal, what was my disgust, on calling at Mrs. Willoughby's, to
find that she had given up her house, sold her furniture, and left the
city. No one knew any thing about her, and they said that she had only
come to the city a few months before her bereavement, and after that
had never made any acquaintances. Some said she had gone to the United
States; others thought she had gone to Quebec; others to England; but
no one knew any thing more."
A STARTLING REVELATION.
"It seems to me, Hawbury," said Dacres, after a period of thoughtful
silence--"it seems to me that when you talk of people having their
heads turned, you yourself comprehend the full meaning of that
"You knocked under at once, of course, to your Ethel?"
"And feel the same way toward her yet?"
"Yes; and that's what I'm coming to. The fact is, my whole business in
life for the last year has been to find her out."
"You haven't dawdled so much, then, as people suppose?"
"No; that's all very well to throw people off a fellow's scent; but
you know me well enough, Dacres; and we didn't dawdle much in South
America, did we?"
"That's true, my boy; but as to this lady, what is it that makes it so
hard for you to find her? In the first place, is she an American?"
"Oh, accent, manner, tone, idiom, and a hundred other things. Why, of
course, you know as well as I that an American lady is as different
from an English as a French or a German lady is. They may be all
equally ladies, but each nation has its own peculiarities."
"Is she Canadian?"
"Possibly. It is not always easy to tell a Canadian lady from an
English. They imitate us out there a good deal. I could tell in the
majority of cases, but there are many who can not be distinguished
from us very easily. And Ethel may be one."
"Why mayn't she be English?"
"She may be. It's impossible to perceive any difference."
"Have you ever made any inquiries about her in England?"
"No; I've not been in England much, and from the way she talked to me
I concluded that her home was in Canada."
"Was her father an Englishman?"
"I really don't know."
"Couldn't you find out?"
"No. You see he had but recently moved to Montreal, like Willoughby;
and I could not find any people who were acquainted with him."
"He may have been English all the time."
"And she too."
"And she may be in England now."
Hawbury started to his feet, and stared in silence at his friend for
"By Jove!" he cried; "if I thought that, I swear I'd start for home
this evening, and hunt about every where for the representatives of
the Orne family. But no--surely it can't be possible."
"Were you in London last season?"
"Well, how do you know but that she was there?"
"And the belle of the season, too?"
"She would be if she were there, by Jove!"
"Yes, if there wasn't another present that I wot of."
"Well, we won't argue about that; besides, I haven't come to the point
"Yes, the real reason why I'm here, when I'm wanted home."
"The real reason? Why, haven't you been telling it to me all along?"
"Well, no; I haven't got to the point yet."
"Drive on, then, old man."
"Well, you know," continued Hawbury, "after hunting all through Canada
I gave up in despair, and concluded that Ethel was lost to me, at
least for the present. That was only about six or seven months ago. So
I went home, and spent a month in a shooting-box on the Highlands;
then I went to Ireland to visit a friend; and then to London. While
there I got a long letter from my mother. The good soul was convinced
that I was wasting my life; she urged me to settle down, and finally
informed me that she had selected a wife for me. Now I want you to
understand, old boy, that I fully appreciated my mother's motives. She
was quite right, I dare say, about my wasting my life; quite right,
too, about the benefit of settling down; and she was also very kind to
take all the trouble of selecting a wife off my hands. Under other
circumstances I dare say I should have thought the matter over, and
perhaps I should have been induced even to go so far as to survey the
lady from a distance, and argue the point with my mother pro and con.
But the fact is, the thing was distasteful, and wouldn't bear thinking
about, much less arguing. I was too lazy to go and explain the matter,
and writing was not my forte. Besides, I didn't want to thwart my
mother in her plans, or hurt her feelings; and so the long and the
short of it is, I solved the difficulty and cut the knot by crossing
quietly over to Norway. I wrote a short note to my mother, making no
allusion to her project, and since then I've been gradually working my
way down to the bottom of the map of Europe, and here I am."
"You didn't see the lady, then?"
"Who was she?"
"I don't know."
"Don't know the lady?"
"Odd, too! Haven't you any idea? Surely her name was mentioned?"
"No; my mother wrote in a roundabout style, so as to feel her way. She
knew me, and feared that I might take a prejudice against the lady. No
doubt I should have done so. She only alluded to her in a general
"A general way?"
"Yes; that is, you know, she mentioned the fact that the lady was a
niece of Sir Gilbert Biggs."
"What!" cried Dacres, with a start.
"A niece of Sir Gilbert Biggs," repeated Hawbury.
"A niece--of--Sir Gilbert Biggs?" said Dacres, slowly. "Good Lord!"
"Yes; and what of that?"
"Very much. Don't you know that Minnie Fay is a niece of Sir Gilbert
"By Jove! So she is. I remember being startled when you told me that,
and for a moment an odd fancy came to me. I wondered whether your
child-angel might not be the identical being about whom my poor dear
mother went into such raptures. Good Lord! what a joke! By Jove!"
"A joke!" growled Dacres. "I don't see any joke in it. I remember when
you said that Biggs's nieces were at the bottom of your troubles, I
asked whether it might be this one."
"So you did, old chap; and I replied that I hoped not. So you need not
shake your gory locks at me, my boy."
"But I don't like the looks of it."
"Neither do I."
"Yes, but you see it looks as though she had been already set apart
for you especially."
"And pray, old man, what difference can that make, when I don't set
myself apart for any thing of the kind?"
Dacres sat in silence with a gloomy frown over his brow.
"Besides, are you aware, my boy, of the solemn fact that Biggs's
nieces are legion?" said Hawbury. "The man himself is an infernal old
bloke; and as to his nieces--heavens and earth!--old! old as
Methuselah; and as to this one, she must be a grandniece--a second
generation. She's not a true, full-blooded niece. Now the lady I refer
to was one of the original Biggs's nieces. There's no mistake whatever
about that, for I have it in black and white, under my mother's own
"Oh, she would select the best of them for you."
"No, she wouldn't. How do you know that?"
"There's no doubt about that."
"It depends upon what you mean by the best. The one _you_ call the
best might not seem so to _her_, and so on. Now I dare say she's
picked out for me a great, raw-boned, redheaded niece, with a nose
like a horse. And she expects me to marry a woman like that! with a
pace like a horse! Good Lord!"
And Hawbury leaned back, lost in the immensity of that one
"Besides," said he, standing up, "I don't care if she was the angel
Gabriel. I don't want any of Biggs's nieces. I won't have them. By
Jove! And am I to be entrapped into a plan like that? I want Ethel.
And what's more, I will have her, or go without. The child-angel may
be the very identical one that my mother selected, and if you assert
that she is, I'll be hanged if I'll argue the point. I only say this,
that it doesn't alter my position in the slightest degree. I don't
want her. I won't have her. I don't want to see her. I don't care if
the whole of Biggs's nieces, in solemn conclave, with old Biggs at
their head, had formally discussed the whole matter, and finally
resolved unanimously that she should be mine. Good Lord, man! don't
you understand how it is? What the mischief do I care about any body?
Do you think I went through that fiery furnace for nothing? And what
do you suppose that life on the island meant? Is all that nothing? Did
you ever live on an island with the child-angel? Did you ever make a
raft for her and fly? Did you ever float down a river current between
banks burned black by raging fires, feeding her, soothing her,
comforting her, and all the while feeling in a general fever about
her? You hauled her out of a crater, did you? By Jove! And what of
that? Why, that furnace that I pulled Ethel out of was worse than a
hundred of your craters. And yet, after all that, you think that I
could be swayed by the miserable schemes of a lot of Biggs's nieces!
And you scowl at a fellow, and get huffy and jealous. By Jove!"
After this speech, which was delivered with unusual animation, Hawbury
lighted a cigar, which he puffed at most energetically.
"All right, old boy," said Dacres. "A fellow's apt to judge others by
himself, you know. Don't make any more set speeches, though. I begin
to understand your position. Besides, after all--"
Dacres paused, and the dark frown that was on his brow grew still
"After all what?" asked Hawbury, who now began to perceive that
another feeling besides jealousy was the cause of his friend's gloomy
"Well, after all, you know, old fellow, I fear I'll have to give her
"Give her up?"
"That's what you said before, and you mentioned Australia, and that
"The more I think of it," said Dacres, dismally, and regarding the
opposite wall with a steady yet mournful stare--"the more I think of
it, the more I see that there's no such happiness in store for me."
"Pooh, man! what is it all about? This is the secret that you spoke
about, I suppose?"
"Yes; and it's enough to put a barrier between me and her. Was I
jealous? Did I seem huffy? What an idiot I must have been! Why, old
man, I can't do any thing or say any thing."
"The man's mad," said Hawbury, addressing himself to a carved
tobacco-box on the table.
"Mad? Yes, I was mad enough in ever letting myself be overpowered by
this bright dream. Here have I been giving myself up to a phantom--an
empty illusion--and now it's all over. My eyes are open."
"You may as well open my eyes too; for I'll be hanged if I can see my
way through this!"
"Strange! strange! strange!" continued Dacres, in a kind of soliloquy,
not noticing Hawbury's words. "How a man will sometimes forget
realities, and give himself up to dreams! It was my dream of the
child-angel that so turned my brain. I must see her no more."
"Very well, old boy," said Hawbury. "Now speak Chinese a little for
variety. I'll understand you quite as well. I will, by Jove!"
"And then, for a fellow that's had an experience like mine--before and
since," continued Dacres, still speaking in the tone of one who was
meditating aloud--"to allow such an idea even for a moment to take
shape in his brain! What an utter, unmitigated, unmanageable, and
unimprovable idiot, ass, dolt, and blockhead! Confound such a man! I
say; confound him!"
[Illustration: "CONFOUND SUCH A MAN! I SAY."]
And as Dacres said this he brought his fist down upon the table near
him with such an energetic crash that a wine-flask was sent spinning
on the floor, where its ruby contents splashed out in a pool,
intermingled with fragments of glass.
Dacres was startled by the crash, and looked at it for a while in
silence. Then he raised his head and looked at his friend. Hawbury
encountered his glance without any expression. He merely sat and
smoked and passed his fingers through his pendent whiskers.
"Excuse me," said Dacres, abruptly.
"Certainly, my dear boy, a thousand times; only I hope you will allow
me to remark that your style is altogether a new one, and during the
whole course of our acquaintance I do not remember seeing it before.
You have a melodramatic way that is overpowering. Still I don't see
why you should swear at yourself in a place like Naples, where there
are so many other things to swear at. It's a waste of human energy,
and I don't understand it. We usedn't to indulge in soliloquies in
South America, used we?"
[ILLUSTRATION: "HAWBURY SANK BACK IN HIS SEAT, OVERWHELMED."]
"No, by Jove! And look here, old chap, you'll overlook this little
outburst, won't you? In South America I was always cool, and you did
the hard swearing, my boy. I'll be cool again; and what's more, I'll
get back to South America again as soon as I can. Once on the pampas,
and I'll be a man again. I tell you what it is, I'll start to-morrow.
What do you say? Come."
"Oh no," said Hawbury, coolly; "I can't do that. I have business, you
"Oh yes, you know--Ethel, you know."
"By Jove! so you have. That alters the matter."
"But in any case I wouldn't go, nor would you. I still am quite unable
to understand you. Why you should grow desperate, and swear at
yourself, and then propose South America, is quite beyond me. Above
all, I don't yet see any reason why you should give up your
child-angel. You were all raptures but a short time since. Why are you
so cold now?"
"I'll tell you," said Dacres.
"So you said ever so long ago."
"It's a sore subject, and difficult to speak about."
"Well, old man, I'm sorry for you; and don't speak about it at all if
it gives you pain."
"Oh, I'll make a clean breast of it. You've told your affair, and I'll
tell mine. I dare say I'll feel all the better for it."
"Drive on, then, old man."
Dacres rose, took a couple of glasses of beer in quick succession,
then resumed his seat, then picked out a cigar from the box with
unusual fastidiousness, then drew a match, then lighted the cigar,
then sent out a dozen heavy volumes of smoke, which encircled him so
completely that he became quite concealed from Hawbury's view. But
even this cloud did not seem sufficient to correspond with the gloom
of his soul. Other clouds rolled forth, and still others, until all
their congregated folds encircled him, and in the midst there was a
dim vision of a big head, whose stiff, high, curling, crisp hair, and
massive brow, and dense beard, seemed like some living manifestation
of cloud-compelling Jove.
For some time there was silence, and Hawbury said nothing, but waited
for his friend to speak.
At last a voice was heard--deep, solemn, awful, portentous, ominous,
sorrow-laden, weird, mysterious, prophetic, obscure, gloomy, doleful,
dismal, and apocalyptic.
"Well, old man?"
"Are you listening?"
Hawbury sprang to his feet as though he had been shot.
"What!" he cried.
"You're what? Married? _You! married!_ Scone Dacres! not you--not
Hawbury sank back in his seat, overwhelmed by the force of this sudden
and tremendous revelation. For some time there was a deep silence.
Both were smoking. The clouds rolled forth from the lips of each, and
curled over their heads, and twined in voluminous folds, and gathered
over them in dark, impenetrable masses. Even so rested the clouds of
doubt, of darkness, and of gloom over the soul of each, and those
which were visible to the eye seemed to typify, symbolize,
characterize, and body forth the darker clouds that overshadowed the
"_I'm married_!" repeated Dacres, who now seemed to have become like
Poe's raven, and all his words one melancholy burden bore.
"You were not married when I was last with you?" said Hawbury at last,
in the tone of one who was recovering from a fainting fit.
"Yes, I was."
"Not in South America?"
"Yes, in South America."
"Yes; and what's more, I've been married for ten years."
"Ten years! Good Lord!"
"Why, how old could you have been when you got married?"
"A miserable, ignorant, inexperienced dolt, idiot, and brat of a boy."
"Well, the secret's out; and now, if you care to hear, I will tell you
all about it."
"I'm dying to hear, dear boy; so go on."
And at this Scone Dacres began his story.
A MAD WIFE.
"I'll tell you all about it," said Scone Dacres; "but don't laugh, for
matters like these are not to be trifled with, and I may take
"Oh, bother, as if I ever laugh at any thing serious! By Jove! no. You
don't know me, old chap."
"All right, then. Well, to begin. This wife that I speak of happened
to me very suddenly. I was only a boy, just out of Oxford, and just
into my fortune. I was on my way to Paris--my first visit--and was
full of no end of projects for enjoyment. I went from Dover, and in
the steamer there was the most infernally pretty girl. Black,
mischievous eyes, with the devil's light in them; hair curly, crispy,
frisky, luxuriant, all tossing over her head and shoulders, and an
awfully enticing manner. A portly old bloke was with her--her father,
I afterward learned. Somehow my hat blew off. She laughed. I laughed.
Our eyes met. I made a merry remark. She laughed again; and there we
were, introduced. She gave me a little felt hat of her own. I fastened
it on in triumph with a bit of string, and wore it all the rest of the
"Well, you understand it all. Of course, by the time we got to Calais,
I was head over heels in love, and so was she, for that matter. The
old man was a jolly old John Bull of a man. I don't believe he had the
slightest approach to any designs on me. He didn't know any thing
about me, so how could he? He was jolly, and when we got to Calais he
was convivial. I attached myself to the two, and had a glorious time.
Before three days I had exchanged vows of eternal fidelity with the
lady, and all that, and had gained her consent to marry me on reaching
England. As to the old man there was no trouble at all. He made no
inquiries about my means, but wrung my hand heartily, and said God
bless me. Besides, there were no friends of my own to consider. My
parents were dead, and I had no relations nearer than cousins, for
whom I didn't care a pin.
"My wife lived at Exeter, and belonged to rather common people; but,
of course, I didn't care for that. Her own manners and style were
refined enough. She had been sent by her father to a very fashionable
boarding-school, where she had been run through the same mould as that
in which her superiors had been formed, and so she might have passed
muster any where. Her father was awfully fond of her, and proud of
her. She tyrannized over him completely. I soon found out that she had
been utterly spoiled by his excessive indulgence, and that she was the
most whimsical, nonsensical, headstrong, little spoiled beauty that
ever lived. But, of course, all that, instead of deterring me, only
increased the fascination which she exercised, and made me more madly
in love than ever.
"Her name was not a particularly attractive one; but what are names!
It was Arethusa Wiggins. Now the old man always called her 'Arry,'
which sounded like the vulgar pronunciation of 'Harry.' Of course I
couldn't call her that, and Arethusa was too infernally long, for a
fellow doesn't want to be all day in pronouncing his wife's name.
Besides, it isn't a bad name in itself, of course; it's poetic,
classic, and does to name a ship of war, but isn't quite the thing for
one's home and hearth.
"After our marriage we spent the honeymoon in Switzerland, and then
came home. I had a very nice estate, and have it yet. You've never
heard of Dacres Grange, perhaps--well, there's where we began life,
and a devil of a life she began to lead me. It was all very well at
first. During the honey-moon there were only a few outbursts, and
after we came to the Grange she repressed herself for about a
fortnight; but finally she broke out in the most furious fashion; and
I began to find that she had a devil of a temper, and in her fits she
was but a small remove from a mad woman. You see she had been humored
and indulged and petted and coddled by her old fool of a father, until
at last she had grown to be the most whimsical, conceited, tetchy,
suspicious, imperious, domineering, selfish, cruel, hard-hearted, and
malignant young vixen that ever lived; yet this evil nature dwelt in a
form as beautiful as ever lived. She was a beautiful demon, and I soon
found it out.
"It began out of nothing at all. I had been her adoring slave for
three weeks, until I began to be conscious of the most abominable
tyranny on her part. I began to resist this, and we were on the verge
of an outbreak when we arrived at the Grange. The sight of the old
hall appeased her for a time, but finally the novelty wore off, and
her evil passions burst out. Naturally enough, my first blind
adoration passed away, and I began to take my proper position toward
her; that is to say, I undertook to give her some advice, which she
very sorely needed. This was the signal for a most furious outbreak.
What was worse, her outbreak took place before the servants. Of course
I could do nothing under such circumstances, so I left the room. When
I saw her again she was sullen and vicious. I attempted a
reconciliation, and kneeling down I passed my arms caressingly around
her. 'Look here,' said I, 'my own poor little darling, if I've done
wrong, I'm sorry, and--'
"Well, what do you think my lady did?"
"I don't know."
"She _kicked me_! that's all; she kicked me, just as I was apologizing
to her--just as I was trying to make it up. She kicked me! when I had
done nothing, and she alone had been to blame. What's more, her boots
were rather heavy, and that kick made itself felt unmistakably.
"I at once arose, and left her without a word. I did not speak to her
then for some time. I used to pass her in the house without looking at
her. This galled her terribly. She made the house too hot for the
servants, and I used to hear her all day long scolding them in a loud
shrill voice, till the sound of that voice became horrible to me.
"You must not suppose, however, that I became alienated all at once.
That was impossible. I loved her very dearly. After she had kicked me
away my love still lasted. It was a galling thought to a man like me
that she, a common girl, the daughter of a small tradesman, should
have kicked me; me, the descendant of Crusaders, by Jove! and of the
best blood in England; but after a while pride gave way to love, and I
tried to open the way for a reconciliation once or twice. I attempted
to address her in her calmer moods, but it was without any success.
She would not answer me at all. If servants were in the room she would
at once proceed to give orders to them, just as though I had not
spoken. She showed a horrible malignancy in trying to dismiss the
older servants, whom she knew to be favorites of mine. Of course I
would not let her do it.
"Well, one day I found that this sort of life was intolerable, and I
made an effort to put an end to it all. My love was not all gone yet,
and I began to think that I had been to blame. She had always been
indulged, and I ought to have kept up the system a little longer, and
let her down more gradually. I thought of her as I first saw her in
the glory of her youthful beauty on the Calais boat, and softened my
heart till I began to long for a reconciliation. Really I could not
see where I had done any thing out of the way. I was awfully fond of
her at first, and would have remained so if she had let me; but, you
perceive, her style was not exactly the kind which is best adapted to
keep a man at a woman's feet. If she had shown the slightest particle
of tenderness, I would have gladly forgiven her all--yes, even the
kick, by Jove!
"We had been married about six months or so, and had not spoken for
over four months; so on the day I refer to I went to her room. She
received me with a sulky expression, and a hard stare full of insult.
"'My dear,' said I, 'I have come to talk seriously with you.'
"'Kate,' said she,' show this gentleman out.'
"It was her maid to whom she spoke. The maid colored. I turned to her
and pointed to the door, and she went out herself. My wife stood
trembling with rage--a beautiful fury.
"'I have determined,' said I, quietly, 'to make one last effort for
reconciliation, and I want to be heard. Hear me now, dear, dear wife.
I want your love again; I can not live this way. Can nothing be done?
Must I, must you, always live this way? Have I done any wrong? If I
have, I repent. But come, let us forget our quarrel; let us remember
the first days of our acquaintance. We loved one another, darling. And
how beautiful you were! You are still as beautiful; won't you be as
loving? Don't be hard on a fellow, dear. If I've done any wrong, tell
me, and I'll make it right. See, we are joined together for life.
Can't we make life sweeter for one another than it is now? Come, my
wife, be mine again.'
"I went on in this strain for some time, and my own words actually
softened me more as I spoke. I felt sorry, too, for my wife, she
seemed so wretched. Besides, it was a last chance, and I determined to
humble myself. Any thing was better than perpetual hate and misery. So
at last I got so affected by my own eloquence that I became quite
spooney. Her back was turned to me; I could not see her face. I
thought by her silence that she was affected, and, in a gush of
tenderness, I put my arm around her.
"In an instant she flung it off, and stepped back, confronting me with
a face as hard and an eye as malevolent as a demon.
"She reached out her hand toward the bell.
"'What are you going to do?' I asked.
"'Ring for my maid,' said she."
[Illustration: "VERY WELL. HERE IT IS" ]
"'Don't,' said I, getting between her and the bell. 'Think; stop, I
implore you. This is our last chance for a reconciliation.'
"She stepped back with a cruel smile. She had a small penknife in her
hand. Her eyes glittered venomously.
"'Reconciliation,' she said, with a sneer. '_I_ don't want it; _I_
don't want _you. You_ came and forced yourself here. Ring for my maid,
and I will let her show you the door.'
"'You can't mean it?' I said.
"'I do mean it,' she replied. 'Ring the bell,' she added, imperiously.
"I stood looking at her.
"'Leave the room, then,' she said.
"'I must have a satisfactory answer,' said I.
"'Very well,' said she. 'Here it is.'
"And saying this she took the penknife by the blade, between her thumb
and finger, and slung it at me. It struck me on the arm, and buried
itself deep in the flesh till it touched the bone. I drew it out, and
without another word left the room. As I went out I heard her
summoning the maid in a loud, stern voice.
"Well, after that I went to the Continent, and spent about six months.
Then I returned.
"On my return I found every thing changed. She had sent off all the
servants, and brought there a lot of ruffians whom she was unable to
manage, and who threw every thing into confusion. All the gentry
talked of her, and avoided the place. My friends greeted me with
strange, pitying looks. She had cut down most of the woods, and sold
the timber; she had sent off a number of valuable pictures and sold
them. This was to get money, for I afterward found out that avarice
was one of her strongest vices.
"The sight of all this filled me with indignation, and I at once
turned out the whole lot of servants, leaving only two or three maids.
I obtained some of the old servants, and reinstated them. All this
made my wife quite wild. She came up to me once and began to storm,
but I said something to her which shut her up at once.
"One day I came home and found her on the portico, in her
riding-habit. She was whipping one of the maids with the butt end of
her riding-whip. I rushed up and released the poor creature, whose
cries were really heart-rending, when my wife turned on me, like a
fury, and struck two blows over my head. One of the scars is on my
forehead still. See."
And Dacres put aside his hair on the top of his head, just over his
right eye, and showed a long red mark, which seemed like the scar of a
"It was an ugly blow," he continued. "I at once tore the whip from
her, and, grasping her hand, led her into the drawing-room. There I
confronted her, holding her tight. I dare say I was rather a queer
sight, for the blood was rushing down over my face, and dripping from
"'Look here, now,' I said; 'do you know any reason why I shouldn't lay
this whip over your shoulders? The English law allows it. Don't you
feel that you deserve it?'" She shrank down, pale and trembling. She
was a coward, evidently, and accessible to physical terror.
"'If I belonged to your class,' said I, 'I would do it. But I am of a
different order. I am a gentleman. Go. After all, I'm not sorry that
you gave me this blow.'
"I stalked out of the room, had a doctor, who bound up the wound, and
then meditated over my situation. I made up my mind at once to a
separation. Thus far she had done nothing to warrant a divorce, and
separation was the only thing. I was laid up and feverish for about a
month, but at the end of that time I had an interview with my wife. I
proposed a separation, and suggested that she should go home to her
father. This she refused. She declared herself quite willing to have a
separation, but insisted on living at Dacres Grange.
"'And what am I to do?' I asked.
"'Whatever you please,' she replied, calmly.
"'Do you really propose,' said I, 'to drive me out of the home of my
ancestors, and live here yourself? Do you think I will allow this
place to be under your control after the frightful havoc that you have
"'I shall remain here,' said she, firmly.
"I said nothing more. I saw that she was immovable. At the same time I
could not consent. I could not live with her, and I could not go away
leaving her there. I could not give up the ancestral home to her, to
mar and mangle and destroy. Well, I waited for about two months, and
"Well?" asked Hawbury, as Dacres hesitated.
"Dacres Grange was burned down," said the other, in a low voice.
"It caught fire in the daytime. There were but few servants. No
fire-engines were near, for the Grange was in a remote place, and so
the fire soon gained headway and swept over all. My wife was frantic.
She came to me as I stood looking at the spectacle, and charged me
with setting fire to it. I smiled at her, but made no reply.
"So you see she was burned out, and that question was settled. It was
a terrible thing, but desperate diseases require desperate remedies;
and I felt it more tolerable to have the house in ruins than to have
her living there while I had to be a wanderer.
"She was now at my mercy. We went to Exeter. She went to her father,
and I finally succeeded in effecting an arrangement which was
satisfactory on all sides.
"First of all, the separation should be absolute, and neither of us
should ever hold communication with the other in any shape or way.
"Secondly, she should take another name, so as to conceal the fact
that she was my wife, and not do any further dishonor to the name.
"In return for this I was to give her outright twenty thousand pounds
as her own absolutely, to invest or spend just as she chose. She
insisted on this, so that she need not be dependent on any annual
allowance. In consideration of this she forfeited every other claim,
all dower right in the event of my death, and every thing else. This
was all drawn up in a formal document, and worded as carefully as
possible. I don't believe that the document would be of much use in a
court of law in case she wished to claim any of her rights, but it
served to satisfy her, and she thought it was legally sound and
"Here we separated. I left England, and have never been there since."
Dacres stopped, and sat silent for a long time.
"Could she have been mad?" asked Hawbury.
"I used to think so, but I believe not. She showed too much sense in
every thing relating to herself. She sold pictures and timber, and
kept every penny. She was acute enough in grasping all she could.
During our last interviews while making these arrangements she was
perfectly cool and lady-like.
"Have you ever heard about her since?"
"Is she alive yet?"
"That's the bother."
"What! don't you know?"
"Haven't you ever tried to find out?"
"Yes. Two years ago I went and had inquiries made at Exeter. Nothing
could be found out. She and her father had left the place immediately
after my departure, and nothing was known about them."
"I wonder that you didn't go yourself?"
"What for? I didn't care about seeing her or finding her."
"Do you think she's alive yet?"
"I'm afraid she is. You see she always had excellent health, and
there's no reason why she should not live to be an octogenarian."
"Yet she may be dead."
"_May_ be! And what sort of comfort is that to me in my present
position, I should like to know? _May_ be? Is that a sufficient
foundation for me to build on? No. In a moment of thoughtlessness I
have allowed myself to forget the horrible position in which I am. But
now I recall it. I'll crush down my feelings, and be a man again. I'll
see the child-angel once more; once more feast my soul over her sweet
and exquisite loveliness; once more get a glance from her tender,
innocent, and guileless eyes, and then away to South America."
"You said your wife took another name."
"What was it? Do you know it?"
"Oh yes; it was _Willoughby_"
"_Willoughby_!" cried Hawbury, with a start; "why, that's the name of
my Ethel's friend, at Montreal. Could it have been the same?"
"Pooh, man! How is that possible? Willoughby is not an uncommon name.
It's not more likely that your Willoughby and mine are the same than
it is that your Ethel is the one I met at Vesuvius. It's only a
coincidence, and not a very wonderful one, either."
"It seems con-foundedly odd, too," said Hawbury, thoughtfully.
"Willoughby? Ethel? Good Lord! But pooh! What rot? As though they
_could_ be the same. Preposterous! By Jove!"
And Hawbury stroked away the preposterous idea through his long,
[Illustration: "SHE CAUGHT MINNIE IN HER ARMS."]
Mrs. Willoughby had been spending a few days with a friend whom she
had found in Naples, and on her return was greatly shocked to hear of
Minnie's adventure on Vesuvius. Lady Dalrymple and Ethel had a story
to tell which needed no exaggerations and amplifications to agitate
her strongly. Minnie was not present during the recital; so, after
hearing it, Mrs. Willoughby went to her room.
Here she caught Minnie in her arms, and kissed her in a very effusive
"Oh, Minnie, my poor darling, what is all this about Vesuvius? Is it
true? It is terrible. And now I will never dare to leave you again.
How could I think that you would be in any danger with Lady Dalrymple
and Ethel? As to Ethel, I am astonished. She is always so grave and so
sad that she is the very last person I would have supposed capable of
leading you into danger."
"Now, Kitty dearest, that's not true," said Minnie; "she didn't lead
me at all. I led her. And how did I know there was any danger? I
remember now that dear, darling Ethel said there was, and I didn't
believe her. But it's always the way." And Minnie threw her little
head on one side, and gave a resigned sigh.
"And did you really get into the crater?" asked Mrs. Willoughby, with
"Oh, I suppose so. They all said so," said Minnie, folding her little
hands in front of her. "I only remember some smoke, and then jolting
about dreadfully on the shoulder of some great--big--awful--man."
"Oh dear!" sighed Mrs. Willoughby.
"What's the matter, Kitty dearest?"
"Another man!" groaned her sister.
"Well, and how _could_ I help it?" said Minnie. "I'm _sure_ I didn't
want him. I'm _sure_ I think he might have let me alone. I don't see
_why_ they all act so. I _wish_ they wouldn't be all the time coming
and saving my life. If people _will_ go and save my life, I can't help
it. I think it's very, very horrid of them."
"Oh dear! oh dear!" sighed her sister again.
"Now, Kitty, stop."
"Another man!" sighed Mrs. Willoughby.
"Now, Kitty, if you are so unkind, I'll cry. You're _always_ teasing
me. You _never_ do any thing to comfort me. You _know_ I want comfort,
and I'm not strong, and people all come and save my life and worry me;
and I really sometimes think I'd rather not live at all if my life
_has_ to be saved so often. I'm sure _I_ don't know why they go and do
it. I'm sure _I_ never heard of any person who is always going and
getting her life saved, and bothered, and proposed to, and written to,
and chased, and frightened to death. And I've a _great_ mind to go and
get married, just to stop it all. And I'd _just_ as soon marry this
last man as not, and make him drive all the others away from me. He's
Minnie ended all this with a little sob; and her sister, as usual, did
her best to soothe and quiet her.
"Well, but, darling, how did it all happen?"
"Oh, don't, don't."
"But you might tell _me_"
"Oh, I can't bear to think of it. It's too horrible."
"Poor darling--the crater?"
"No, the great, big man. I didn't see any crater."
"Weren't you in the crater?"
"No, I wasn't."
"They said you were."
"I wasn't. I was on the back of a big, horrid man, who gave great
jumps down the side of an awful mountain, all sand and things, and
threw me down at the bottom of it, and--and--disarranged all my hair.
And I was so frightened that I couldn't even cur--cur--cry."
Here Minnie sobbed afresh, and Mrs. Willoughby petted her again.
"And you shouldn't tease me so; and it's very unkind in you; and you
know I'm not well; and I can't bear to think about it all; and I know
you're going to scold me; and you're _always_ scolding me; and you
_never_ do what I want you to. And then people are _always_ coming and
saving my life, and I can't bear it any more."
"No-o-o-o-o-o, n-n-no-o-o-o, darling!" said Mrs. Willoughby,
soothingly, in the tone of a nurse appeasing a fretful child. "You
sha'n't bear it any more."
"I don't _want_ them to save me any more."
"Well, they sha'n't _do_ it, then," said Mrs. Willoughby,
affectionately, in a somewhat maudlin tone.
"And the next time I lose my life, I don't want to be saved. I want
them to let me alone, and I'll come home myself."
"And so you shall, darling; you shall do just as you please. So, now,
cheer up; don't cry;" and Mrs. Willoughby tried to wipe Minnie's eyes.
"But you're treating me just like a baby, and I don't want to be
talked to so," said Minnie, fretfully.
Mrs. Willoughby retreated with a look of despair.
"Well, then, dear, I'll do just whatever you want me to do."
"Well, then, I want you to tell me what I am to do."
"Why, about this great, big, horrid man."
"I thought you didn't want me to talk about this any more."
"But I _do_ want you to talk about it. You're the only person that
I've got to talk to about it; nobody else knows how peculiarly I'm
situated; and I didn't think that you'd give me up because I had fresh
"Give you up, darling!" echoed her sister, in surprise.
"You said you wouldn't talk about it any more."
"But I thought you didn't want me to talk about it."
"But I _do_ want you to."
"Very well, then; and now I want you first of all, darling, to tell me
how you happened to get into such danger."
"Well, you know," began Minnie, who now seemed calmer--"you know we
all went out for a drive. And we drove along for miles. Such a drive!
There were lazaroni, and donkeys, and caleches with as many as twenty
in each, all pulled by one poor horse, and it's a great shame; and
pigs--oh, _such_ pigs! Not a particle of hair on them, you know, and
looking like young elephants, you know; and we saw great droves of
oxen, and long lines of booths, no end; and people selling macaroni,
and other people eating it right in the open street, you know--such
fun!--and fishermen and fish-wives. Oh, how they _were_ screaming, and
oh, _such_ a hubbub as there was! and we couldn't go on fast, and
Dowdy seemed really frightened."
"Dowdy?" repeated Mrs. Willoughby, in an interrogative tone.
"Oh, that's a name I've just invented for Lady Dalrymple. It's better
than Rymple. She said so. It's Dowager shortened. She's a dowager, you
know. And so, you know, I was on the front seat all the time, when all
at once I saw a gentleman on horseback. He was a great big man--oh,
_so_ handsome!--and he was looking at poor little me as though he
would eat me up. And the moment I saw him I was frightened out of my
poor little wits, for I knew he was coming to save my life."
"You poor little puss! what put such an idea as that into your
ridiculous little head?"
"Oh, I knew it--second-sight, you know. We've got Scotch blood, Kitty
darling, you know. So, you know, I sat, and I saw that he was
pretending not to see me, and not to be following us; but all the time
he was taking good care to keep behind us, when he could easily have
passed us, and all to get a good look at poor me, you know.
"Well," continued Minnie, drawing a long breath, "you know I was
awfully frightened; and so I sat looking at him, and I whispered all
the time to myself: 'Oh, please don't!--ple-e-e-e-e-ease don't! Don't
come and save my life! Ple-e-e-e-e-ease let me alone! I don't want to
be saved at all.' I said this, you know, all to myself, and the more I
said it the more he seemed to fix his eyes on me."
"It was very, very rude in him, _I_ think," said Mrs. Willoughby, with
"No, it wasn't," said Minnie, sharply. "He wasn't rude at all. He
tried not to look at me. He pretended to be looking at the sea, and at
the pigs, and all that sort of thing, you know; but all the time, you
know, I knew very well that he saw me out of the corner of his
And Minnie half turned her head, and threw upon her sister, out of the
corner of her eyes, a glance so languishing that the other laughed.
"He didn't look at you that way. I hope?"
"There was nothing to laugh at in it at all," said Minnie. "He had an
awfully solemn look--it was so earnest, so sad, and so dreadful, that
I really began to feel quite frightened. And so would _you_; wouldn't
_you_, now, Kitty darling; now _wouldn't_ you? Please say so."
"Of course you would. Well, this person followed us. I could see him
very easily, though he tried to avoid notice; and so at last we got to
the Hermitage, and he came too. Well, you know, I think I was very
much excited, and I asked Dowdy to let us go and see the cone; so she
let us go. She gave no end of warnings, and we promised to do all that
she said. So Ethel and I went out, and there was the stranger. Well, I
felt more excited than ever, and a little bit frightened--just a very,
very, tiny, little bit, you know, and I teased Ethel to go to the
cone. Well, the stranger kept in sight all the time, you know, and I
_felt_ his eyes on me--I really _felt_ them. So, you know, when we got
at the foot of the cone, I was so excited that I was really quite
beside myself, and I teased and teased, till at last Ethel consented
to go up. So the men took us up on chairs, and all the time the
stranger was in sight. He walked up by himself with great, big, long,
strong strides. So we went on till we got at the top, and then I was
wilder than ever. I didn't know that there was a particle of danger. I
was dying with curiosity to look down, and see where the smoke came
from. The stranger was standing there too, and that's what made me so
excited. I wanted to show him--I don't know what. I think my idea was
to show him that I could take care of myself. So then I teased and
teased, and Ethel begged and prayed, and she cried, and I laughed; and
there stood the stranger, seeing it all, until at last I started off,
and ran up to the top, you know."
Mrs. Willoughby shuddered, and took her sister's hand.
"There was no end of smoke, you know, and it was awfully unpleasant,
and I got to the top I don't know how, when suddenly I fainted."
Minnie paused for a moment, and looked at her sister with a rueful
"Well, now, dear, darling, the very--next--thing--that I remember is
this, and it's horrid: I felt awful jolts, and found myself in the
arms of a great, big, horrid man, who was running down the side of the
mountain with dreadfully long jumps, and I felt as though he was some
horrid ogre carrying poor me away to his den to eat me up. But I
didn't say one word. I wasn't much frightened. I felt provoked. I knew
it was that horrid man. And then I wondered what you'd say; and I
thought, oh, how you _would_ scold! And then I knew that this horrid
man would chase me away from Italy; and then I would have to go to
Turkey, and have my life saved by a Mohammedan. And that was horrid.
"Well, at last he stopped and laid me down. He was very gentle, though
he was so big. I kept my eyes shut, and lay as still as a mouse,
hoping that Ethel would come. But Ethel didn't. She was coming down
with the chair, you know, and her men couldn't run like mine. And oh,
Kitty darling, you have no _idea_ what I suffered. This horrid man was
rubbing and pounding at my hands, and sighing and groaning. I stole a
little bit of a look at him--just a little bit of a bit--and saw tears
in his eyes, and a wild look of fear in his face. Then I knew that he
was going to propose to me on the spot, and kept my eyes shut tighter
"Well, at last he hurt my hands so that I thought I'd try to make him
stop. So I spoke as low as I could, and asked if I was home, and he
"Well?" asked her sister.
"Well," said Minnie, in a doleful tone, "I then asked, 'Is that you,
Minnie stopped again.
"Well?" asked Mrs. Willoughby once more.
"Well, go on."
"Well, he said--he said, Yes, darling'--and--"
"And he kissed me," said Minnie, in a doleful voice.
"Kissed you!" exclaimed her sister, with flashing eyes.
"Ye-yes," stammered Minnie, with a sob; "and I think it's a shame; and
none of them ever did so before; and I don't want you ever to go away
again, Kitty darling."
"The miserable wretch!" cried Mrs. Willoughby, indignantly.
"No, he isn't--he isn't that," said Minnie. "He isn't a miserable
wretch at all."
"How could any one be so base who pretends to the name of gentleman!"
cried Mrs. Willoughby.
"He wasn't base--and it's very wicked of you, Kitty. He only
pretended, you know."
"Why, that he was my---my father, you know."
"Does Ethel know this?" asked Mrs. Willoughby, after a curious look at
"No, of course not, nor Dowdy either; and you mustn't go and make any
"Disturbance? no; but if I ever see him, I'll let him know what I
think of him," said Mrs. Willoughby, severely.
"But he saved my life, and so you know you can't be _very_ harsh with
him. Please don't--ple-e-e-ease now, Kitty darling."
"Oh, you little goose, what whimsical idea have you got now?"
"Please don't, ple-e-e-ease don't," repeated Minnie.
"Oh, never mind; go on now, darling, and tell me about the rest of
"Well, there isn't any more. I lay still, you know, and at last Ethel
came; and then we went back to Dowdy, and then we came home, you
"Well, I hope you've lost him."
"Lost him? Oh no; I never do. They always _will_ come. Besides, this
one will, I know."
"Because he said so."
"Said so? when?"
"Yes; we met him."
"Dowdy and I. We were out driving. We stopped and spoke to him. He was
dreadfully earnest and awfully embarrassed; and I knew he was going to
propose; so I kept whispering to myself all the time, 'Oh, please
don't--please don't;' but I know he will; and he'll be here soon too."
"He sha'n't. I won't let him. I'll never give him the chance."
"I think you needn't be so cruel."
"Yes; to the poor man."
"Why, you don't want another man, I hope?"
"N-no; but then I don't want to hurt his feelings. It was awfully good
of him, you know, and _aw_fully plucky."
[Illustration: "IF I EVER SEE HIM, I'LL LET HIM KNOW WHAT I THINK OF
"Well, I should think that you would prefer avoiding him, in your
"Yes, but he may feel hurt."
"Oh, he may see you once or twice with me."
"But he may want to see me alone, and what _can_ I do?"
"Really now, Minnie, you must remember that you are in a serious
position. There is that wretched Captain Kirby."
"I know," said Minnie, with a sigh.
"And that dreadful American. By-the-way, darling, you have never told
me his name. It isn't of any consequence, but I should like to know
the American's name."
"It's--Rufus K. Gunn."
"Rufus K. Gunn; what a funny name! and what in the world is 'K' for?"
"Oh, nothing. He says it is the fashion in his country to have some
letter of the alphabet between one's names, and he chose 'K,' because
it was so awfully uncommon. Isn't it funny, Kitty darling?"
"Oh dear!" sighed her sister; "and then there is that pertinacious
Count Girasole. Think what trouble we had in getting quietly rid of
him. I'm afraid all the time that he will not stay at Florence, as he
said, for he seems to have no fixed abode. First he was going to Rome,
and then Venice, and at last he committed himself to a statement that
he had to remain at Florence, and so enabled us to get rid of him. But
I know he'll come upon us again somewhere, and then we'll have all the
trouble over again. Oh dear! Well, Minnie darling, do you know the
name of this last one?"
"What is it?"
"It's a funny name," said Minnie; "a very funny name."
"Tell it to me."
"It's Scone Dacres; and isn't that a funny name?"
Mrs. Willoughby started at the mention of that name. Then she turned
away her head, and did not say a word for a long time.
"Kitty darling, what's the matter?"
Mrs. Willoughby turned her head once more. Her face was quite calm,
and her voice had its usual tone, as she asked,
"Say that name again."
"Scone Dacres," said Minnie.
"Scone Dacres!" repeated Mrs. Willoughby; "and what sort of a man is
"Big--very big--awfully big!" said Minnie. "Great, big head and broad
shoulders. Great, big arms, that carried me as if I were a feather;
big beard too; and it tickled me so when he--he pretended that he was
my father; and very sad. And, oh! I know I should be so _aw_fully fond
of him. And, oh! Kitty darling, what do you think?"
"Why, I'm--I'm afraid--I'm really beginning to--to--like him--just a
little tiny bit, you know."
"Scone Dacres!" repeated Mrs. Willoughby, who didn't seem to have
heard this last effusion. "Scone Dacres! Well, darling, don't trouble
yourself; he sha'n't trouble you."
"But I _want_ him to," said Minnie.
"Oh, nonsense, child!"
[Illustration: "HALLO, OLD MAN, WHAT'S UP NOW?"]
A FEARFUL DISCOVERY.
A few days after this Hawbury was in his room, when Dacres entered.
"Hallo, old man, what's up now? How goes the war?" said Hawbury. "But
what the mischief's the matter? You look cut up. Your brow is sad;
your eyes beneath flash like a falchion from its sheath. What's
happened? You look half snubbed, and half desperate."
Dacres said not a word, but flung himself into a chair with a look
that suited Hawbury's description of him quite accurately. His brows
lowered into a heavy frown, his lips were compressed, and his breath
came quick and hard through his inflated nostrils. He sat thus for
some time without taking any notice whatever of his friend, and at
length lighted a cigar, which he smoked, as he often did when excited,
in great voluminous puffs. Hawbury said nothing, but after one or two
quick glances at his friend, rang a bell and ordered some "Bass."
"Here, old fellow," said he, drawing the attention of Dacres to the
refreshing draught. "Take some--'Quaff, oh, quaff this kind nepenthe,
and forget thy lost Lenore.'"
Dacres at this gave a heavy sigh that sounded like a groan, and
swallowed several tumblers in quick succession.
"Hawbury!" said he at length, in a half-stifled voice.
"Well, old man?"
"I've had a blow to-day full on the breast that fairly staggered me."
"Fact. I've just come from a mad ride along the shore. I've been mad,
I think, for two or three hours. Of all the monstrous, abominable,
infernal, and unheard-of catastrophes this is the worst."
He stopped, and puffed away desperately at his cigar.
"Don't keep a fellow in suspense this way," said Hawbury at last.
"What's up? Out with it, man."
"Well, you know, yesterday I called there."
"She was not at home."
"So you said."
"You know she really wasn't, for I told you that I met their carriage.
The whole party were in it, and on the front seat beside Minnie there
was another lady. This is the one that I had not seen before. She
makes the fourth in that party. She and Minnie had their backs turned
as they came up. The other ladies bowed as they passed, and as I held
off my hat I half turned to catch Minnie's eyes, when I caught sight
of the face of the lady. It startled me so much that I was
thunder-struck, and stood there with my hat off after they had passed
me for some time."
"You said nothing about that, old chap. Who the deuce could she have
"No, I said nothing about it. As I cantered off I began to think that
it was only a fancy of mine, and finally I was sure of it, and laughed
it off. For, you must know, the lady's face looked astonishingly like
a certain face that I don't particularly care to see--certainly not in
such close connection with Minnie. But, you see, I thought it might
have been my fancy, so that I finally shook off the feeling, and said
nothing to you about it."
Dacres paused here, rubbed his hand violently over his hair at the
place where the scar was, and then, frowning heavily, resumed:
"Well, this afternoon I called again. They were at home. On entering I
found three ladies there. One was Lady Dalrymple, and the others were
Minnie and her friend Ethel--either her friend or her sister. I think
she's her sister. Well, I sat for about five minutes, and was just
beginning to feel the full sense of my happiness, when the door opened
and another lady entered. Hawbury"--and Dacres's tones deepened into
an awful solemnity--"Hawbury, it was the lady that I saw in the
carriage yesterday. One look at her was enough. I was assured then
that my impressions yesterday were not dreams, but the damnable and
"What impressions--you haven't told me yet, you know?"
[Illustration: "I STOOD TRANSFIXED."]
"Wait a minute. I rose as she entered, and confronted her. She looked
at me calmly, and then stood as though expecting to be introduced.
There was no emotion visible whatever. She was prepared for it: I was
not: and so she was as cool as when I saw her last, and, what is more,
just as young and beautiful."
"The devil!" cried Hawbury.
Dacres poured out another glass of ale and drank it. His hand trembled
slightly as he put down the glass, and he sat for some time in thought
before he went on.
"Well, Lady Dalrymple introduced us. It was Mrs. Willoughby!"
"By Jove!" cried Hawbury. "I saw you were coming to that."
"Well, you know, the whole thing was so sudden, so unexpected, and so
perfectly overwhelming, that I stood transfixed. I said nothing. I
believe I bowed, and then somehow or other, I really don't know how, I
got away, and, mounting my horse, rode off like a madman. Then I came
home, and here you see me."
There was a silence now for some time.
"Are you sure that it was your wife?"
"Of course I am. How could I be mistaken?"
"Are you sure the name was Willoughby?"
"And that is the name your wife took?"
"Yes; I told you so before, didn't I?"
"Yes. But think now. Mightn't there be some mistake?"
"Pooh! how could there be any mistake?"
"Didn't you see any change in her?"
"No, only that she looked much more quiet than she used to. Not so
active, you know. In her best days she was always excitable, and a
little demonstrative; but now she seems to have sobered down, and is
as quiet and well-bred as any of the others."
"Was there not any change in her at all?"
"Not so much as I would have supposed; certainly not so much as there
is in me. But then I've been knocking about all over the world, and
she's been living a life of peace and calm, with the sweet
consciousness of having triumphed over a hated husband, and possessing
a handsome competency. Now she mingles in the best society. She
associates with lords and ladies. She enjoys life in England, while I
am an exile. No doubt she passes for a fine young widow. No doubt,
too, she has lots of admirers. They aspire to her hand. They write
poetry to her. They make love to her. Confound her!"
Dacres's voice grew more and more agitated and excited as he spoke,
and at length his tirade against his wife ended in something that was
almost a roar.
Hawbury said nothing, but listened, with his face full of sympathy. At
last his pent-up feeling found expression in his favorite exclamation,
"Wouldn't I be justified in wringing her neck?" asked Dacres, after a
pause. "And what's worse," he continued, without waiting for an answer
to his question--"what's worse, her presence here in this unexpected
way has given me, _me_, mind you, a sense of guilt, while she is, of
course, immaculate. _I_, mind you--_I_, the injured husband, with the
scar on my head from a wound made by _her_ hand, and all the ghosts of
my ancestors howling curses over me at night for my desolated and
ruined home--_I_ am to be conscience-stricken in her presence, as if I
were a felon, while _she_, the really guilty one--the blight and
bitter destruction of my life--_she_ is to appear before me now as
injured, and must make her appearance here, standing by the side of
that sweet child-angel, and warning me away. Confound it all, man! Do
you mean to say that such a thing is to be borne?"
Dacres was now quite frantic; so Hawbury, with a sigh of perplexity,
lighted a fresh cigar, and thus took refuge from the helplessness of
his position. It was clearly a state of things in which advice was
utterly useless, and consolation impossible. What could he advise, or
what consolation could he offer? The child-angel was now out of his
friend's reach, and the worst fears of the lover were more than
"I told you I was afraid of this," continued Dacres. "I had a
suspicion that she was alive, and I firmly believe she'll outlive me
forty years; but I must say I never expected to see her in this way,
under such circumstances. And then to find her so infernally
beautiful! Confound her! she don't look over twenty-five. How the
mischief does she manage it? Oh, she's a deep one! But perhaps she's
changed. She seems so calm, and came into the room so gently, and
looked at me so steadily. Not a tremor, not a shake, as I live. Calm,
Sir; cool as steel, and hard too. She looked away, and then looked
back. They were searching glances, too, as though they read me through
and through. Well, there was no occasion for that. She ought to know
Scone Dacres well enough, I swear. Cool! And there stood I, with the
blood flashing to my head, and throbbing fire underneath the scar of
her wound--hers--her own property, for she made it! That was the woman
that kicked me, that struck at me, that caused the destruction of my
ancestral house, that drove me to exile, and that now drives me back
from my love. But, by Heaven! it'll take more than her to do it; and
I'll show her again, as I showed her once before, that Scone Dacres is
her master. And, by Jove! she'll find that it'll take more than
herself to keep me away from Minnie Fay."
"See here, old boy," said Hawbury, "you may as well throw up the
"I won't," said Dacres, gruffly.
"You see it isn't your wife that you have to consider, but the girl;
and do you think the girl or her friends would have a married man
paying his attentions in that quarter? Would you have the face to do
it under your own wife's eye? By Jove!"
The undeniable truth of this assertion was felt by Dacres even in his
rage. But the very fact that it was unanswerable, and that he was
helpless, only served to deepen and intensify his rage. Yet he said
nothing; it was only in his face and manner that his rage was
manifested. He appeared almost to suffocate under the rush of fierce,
contending passions; big distended veins swelled out in his forehead,
which was also drawn far down in a gloomy frown; his breath came thick
and fast, and his hands were clenched tight together. Hawbury watched
him in silence as before, feeling all the time the impossibility of
saying any thing that could be of any use whatever.
"Well, old fellow," said Dacres at last, giving a long breath, in
which he seemed to throw off some of his excitement, "you're right, of
course, and, I am helpless. There's no chance for me. Paying
attentions is out of the question, and the only thing for me to do is
to give up the whole thing. But that isn't to be done at once. It's
been long since I've seen any one for whom I felt any tenderness, and
this little thing, I know, is fond of me. I can't quit her at once. I
must stay on for a time, at least, and have occasional glimpses at
her. It gives me a fresh sense of almost heavenly sweetness to look at
her fair young face. Besides, I feel that I am far more to her than
any other man. No other man has stood to her in the relation in which
I have stood. Recollect how I saved her from death. That is no light
thing. She must feel toward me as she has never felt to any other. She
is not one who can forget how I snatched her from a fearful death, and
brought her back to life. Every time she looks at me she seems to
convey all that to me in her glance."
"Oh, well, my dear fellow, really now," said Hawbury, "just think. You
can't do any thing."
"But I don't want to do any thing."
"It never can end in any thing, you know."
"But I don't want it to end in any thing."
"You'll only bother her by entangling her affections."
"But I don't want to entangle her affections."
"Then what the mischief _do_ you want to do?"
"Why, very little. I'll start off soon for the uttermost ends of the
earth, but I wish to stay a little longer and see her sweet face. It's
not much, is it? It won't compromise her, will it? She need not run
any risk, need she? And I'm a man of honor, am I not? You don't
suppose me to be capable of any baseness, do you?"
"My dear fellow, how absurd! Of course not. Only I was afraid by
giving way to this you might drift on into a worse state of mind.
She's all safe, I fancy, surrounded as she is by so many guardians. It
is you that I'm anxious about."
"Don't be alarmed, old chap, about me. I feel calmer already. I can
face my situation firmly, and prepare for the worst. While I have been
sitting here I have thought out the future. I will stay here four or
five weeks. I will only seek solace for myself by riding about where I
may meet her. I do not intend to go to the house at all. My demon of a
wife may have the whole house to herself. I won't even give her the
pleasure of supposing that she has thwarted me. She shall never even
suspect the state of my heart. That would be bliss indeed to one like
her, for then she would find herself able to put me on the rack. No,
my boy; I've thought it all over. Scone Dacres is himself again. No
more nonsense now. Do you understand now what I mean?"
"Yes," said Hawbury, slowly, and in his worst drawl; "but ah, really,
don't you think it's all nonsense?"
"Why, this ducking and diving about to get a glimpse of her face."
"I don't intend to duck and dive about. I merely intend to ride like
any other gentleman. What put that into your head, man?"