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The Midnight Queen by May Agnes Fleming

Part 2 out of 6

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other half with the landlord at their head, lifted the sufferer
whose groans and cries were heart-rendering, and carried him out
of the house. Sir Norman, rather dismayed himself, had risen to
his feet, fully aroused from his reverie, and found himself and
another individual sole possessors of the premises. His
companion he could not very well make out; for he was sitting, or
rather crouching, in a remote and shadowy corner, where nothing
was clearly visible but the glare of a pair of fiery eyes. There
was a great redundancy of hair, too, about his head and face,
indeed considerable more about the latter than there seemed any
real necessity for, and even with the imperfect glimpse he caught
of him the young man set him down in his own mind as about as
hard-looking a customer as he had ever seen. The fiery eyes were
glaring upon him like those of a tiger, through a jungle of bushy
hair, but their owner spoke never a word, though the other stared
back with compound interest. There they sat, beaming upon each
other - one fiercely, the other curiously, until the
re-appearance of the landlord with a very lugubrious and
woebegone countenance. It struck Sir Norman that it was about
time to start for the ruin; and, with an eye to business, he
turned to cross-examine mine host a trifle.

"What have they done with that man?" he asked by way of preface.

"Sent him to the pest-house," replied the landlord, resting his
elbows on the counter and his chin in his hands, and staring
dismally at the opposite wall. "Ah! Lord 'a' mercy on us I
these be dreadful times!"

"Dreadful enough!" said Sir Norman, sighing deeply, as he thought
of his beautiful Leoline, a victim of the merciless pestilence.
"Have there been many deaths here of the distemper?"

"Twenty-five to-day!" groaned the man. "Lord! what will become of

"You seem rather disheartened," said Sir Norman, pouring out a
glass of wine and handing it to him. "Just drink this, and don't
borrow trouble. They say sack is a sure specific against the

Mine host drained the bumper, and wiped his mouth, with another
hollow groan.

"If I thought that, sir, I'd not be sober from one week's end to
t'other; but I know well enough I will be in a plague-pit in less
than a week. O Lord! have mercy on us!"

"Amen!" said Sir Norman, impatiently. "If fear has not taken
away your wits, my good sir, will you tell me what old ruin that
is I saw a little above here as I rode up?"

The man started from his trance of terror, and glanced, first at
the fiery eyes in the corner, and then at Sir Norman, in evident
trepidation of the question.

"That ruin, sir? You must be a stranger in this place, surely,
or you would not need to ask that question."

"Well, suppose I am a stranger? What then?"

"Nothing, sir; only I thought everybody knew everything about
that ruin."

"But I do not, you see? So fill your glass again, and while you
are drinking it, just tell me what that everything comprises."

Again the landlord glanced fearfully st the fiery eyes in the
corner, and again hesitated.

"Well!" exclaimed Sir Norman, at once surprised and impatient at
his taciturnity, "Can't you speak man? I want you to tell me all
about it."

"There is nothing to tell, sir," replied the host, goaded to
desperation. "It is an old, deserted ruin that's been here ever
since I remember; and that's all I know about it."

While, he spoke, the crouching shape in the corner reared itself
upright, and keeping his fiery eyes still glaring upon Sir
Norman, advanced into the light. Our young knight was in the act
of raising his glass to his lips; but as the apparition
approached, he laid it down again, untasted, and stared at it in
the wildest surprise and intensest curiosity. Truly, it was a
singular-looking creature, not to say a rather startling one. A
dwarf of some four feet high, and at least five feet broad
across the shoulders, with immense arms and head - a giant in
everything but height. His immense skull was set on such a
trifle of a neck as to be scarcely worth mentioning, and was
garnished by a violent mat of coarse, black hair, which also
overran the territory of his cheeks and chin, leaving no neutral
ground but his two fiery eyes and a broken nose all twisted awry.
On a pair of short, stout legs he wore immense jack-boots, his
Herculean shoulders and chest were adorned with a leathern
doublet, and in the belt round his waist were conspicuously stuck
a pair of pistols and a dagger. Altogether, a more ugly or
sinister gentleman of his inches it would have been hard to find
in all broad England. Stopping deliberately before Sir Norman,
he placed a hand on each hip, and in a deep, guttural voice,
addressed him:

"So, sir knight - for such I perceive you are - you are anxious
to know something of that old ruin yonder?"

"Well," said Sir Norman, so far recovering from his surprise as
to be able to speak, "suppose I am? Have you anything to say
against it, my little friend?"

"Oh, not in the least!" said the dwarf, with a hoarse chuckle.
"Only, instead of wasting your breath asking this good man, who
professes such utter ignorance, you had better apply to me for

Again Sir Norman surveyed the little Hercules from head to foot
for a moment, in silence, as one, nowadays, would an intelligent

"You think so - do you? And what may you happen to know about
it, my pretty little friend?"

"O Lord!" exclaimed the landlord, to himself, with a frightened
face, while the dwarf "grinned horribly a ghastly smile" from ear
to ear.

"So much, my good sir, that I would strongly advise you not to go
near it, unless you wish to catch something worse than the
plague. There have been others - our worthy host, there, whose
teeth, you may perceive, are chattering in his head, can tell you
about those that have tried the trick, and - "

"Well?" said Sir Norman, curiously.

"And have never returned to tell what they found!" concluded the
little monster, with a diabolical leer. And as the landlord
fell, gray and gasping, back in his seat, he broke out into a
loud and hyena-like laugh.

"My dear little friend," said Sir Norman, staring at him in
displeased wonder, "don't laugh, if you can help it. You are
unprepossessing enough at best, but when you laugh, you look like
the very (a downward gesture) himself!"

Unheeding this advice, the dwarf broke again into an unearthly
cachinnation, that frightened the landlord nearly into fits, and
seriously discomposed the nervous system even of Sir Norman
himself. Then, grinning like a baboon, and still transfixing our
puissant young knight with the same tiger-like and unpleasant
glare, he nodded a farewell; and in this fashion, grinning, and
nodding, and backing, he got to the door, and concluding the
interesting performance with a third hoarse and hideous laugh,
disappeared in the darkness.

For fully ten minutes after he was gone, the young man kept his
eyes blankly fixed on the door, with a vague impression that he
was suffering from an attack of nightmare; for it seemed
impossible that anything so preposterously ugly as that dwarf
could exist out of one. A deep groan from the landlord, however,
convinced him that it was no disagreeable midnight vision, but a
brawny reality; and turning to that individual, he found him
gasping, in the last degree of terror, behind the counter.

"Now, who in the name of all the demons oat of Hades may that
ugly abortion be?" inquired Sir Norman.

"O Lord I be merciful! sir, it's Caliban; and the only wonder is,
he did not leave you a bleeding corpse at his feet!"

"I should like to see him try it. Perhaps he would have found
that is a game two can play at! Where does he come from and who
is he!"

The landlord leaned over the counter, and placed a very pale and
startled face close to Sir Norman's.

"That's just what I wanted to tell you, sir, but I was afraid to
speak before him. I think he lives up in that same old ruin you
were inquiring about - at least, he is often seen hanging around
there; but people are too much afraid of him to ask him any
questions. Ah, sir, it's a strange place, that ruin, and there
be strange stories afloat about it," said the man, with a
portentious shake of the head.

"What are they?" inquired Sir Norman. "I should particularly
like to know."

"Well, sir, for one thing, some folks say it is haunted, on
account of the queer lights and noises abort it, sometimes; but,
again, there be other folks, sir, that say the ghosts are alive,
and that he" - nodding toward the door - "is a sort of ringleader
among them."

"And who are they that out up such cantrips in the old place,

"Lord only knows, sir. I'm sure I don't. I never go near it
myself; but there are others who have, and some of them tell of
the most beautiful lady, all in white, with long, black hair, who
walks on the battlements moonlight nights."

"A beautiful lady, all in white, with long, black hair! Why,
that description applies to Leoline exactly."

And Sir Norman gave a violent start, and arose to proceed to the
place directly.

"Don't you go near it, sir!" said the host, warningly. "Others
have gone, as he told you, and never come back; for these be
dreadful times, and men do as they please. Between the plague
and their wickedness, the Lord only known what will become of

"If I should return here for my horse in an hour or two, I
suppose I can get him?" sad Sir Norman, as he turned toward the

"It's likely you can, sir, if I'm not dead by that time," said
the landlord, as he sank down again, groaning dismally, with his
chin between his hands.

The night was now profoundly dark; but Sir Norman knew the road
and ruin well, and, drawing his sword, walked resolutely on. The
distance between it and the ruin was trifling, and in less than
ten minutes it loomed up before him, a mass of deeper black in
the blackness. No white vision floated on the broken battlements
this night, as Sir Norman looked wistfully up at them; but
neither was there any ungainly dwarf, with two-edged sword,
guarding the ruined entrance; and Sir Norman passed unmolested
in. He sought the spiral staircase which La Masque had spoken
of, and, passing carefully from one ancient chamber to another,
stumbling over piles of rubbish and stones as he went, he reached
it at last. Descending gingerly its tortuous steepness, he found
himself in the mouldering vaults, and, as he trod them, his ear
was greeted by the sound of faint and far-off music. Proceeding
farther, he heard distinctly, mingled with it, a murmur of voices
and laughter, and, through the chinks in the broken flags, he
perceived a few faint rays of light. Remembering the directions
of La Masque, and feeling intensely curious, he cautiously knelt
down, and examined the loose flagstones until he found one he
could raise; he pushed it partly aside, and, lying flat on the
stones, with his face to the aperture, Sir Norman beheld a most
wonderful sight.


"Love is like a dizziness," says the old song. Love is something
else - it is the most selfish feeling in existence. Of course, I
don't allude to the fraternal or the friendly, or any other such
nonsensical old-fashioned trash that artless people still believe
in, but to the real genuine article that Adam felt for Eve when
he first saw her, and which all who read this - above the
innocent and unsusceptible age of twelve - have experienced. And
the fancy and the reality are so much alike, that they amount to
about the same thing. The former perhaps, may be a little
short-lived; but it is just as disagreeable a sensation while it
lasts as its more enduring sister. Love is said to be blind, and
it also has a very injurious effect on the eyesight of its
victims - an effect that neither spectacles nor oculists can aid
in the slightest degree, making them see whether sleeping or
waking, but one object, and that alone.

I don't know whether these were Mr. Malcolm or Ormiston's
thoughts, as he leaned against the door-way, and folded his arms
across his chest to await the shining of his day-star. In fact,
I am pretty sure they were not: young gentlemen, as a general
thing, not being any more given to profound moralizing in the
reign of His Most Gracious Majesty, Charles II., than they are at
the present day; but I do know, that no sooner was his bosom
friend and crony, Sir Norman Kingsley, out of eight, than he
forgot him as teetotally an if he had never known that
distinguished individual. His many and deep afflictions, his
love, his anguish, and his provocations; his beautiful,
tantalizing, and mysterious lady-love; his errand and its
probable consequences, all were forgotten; and Ormiston thought
of nothing or nobody in the world but himself and La Masque. La
Masque! La Masque! that was the theme on which his thoughts
rang, with wild variations of alternate hope and fear, like every
other lover since the world began, and love was first an
institution. "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be," truly, truly it is an odd and wonderful thing. And you and
I may thank our stars, dear readers, that we are a great deal too
sensible to wear our hearts in our sleeves for such a
bloodthirsty dew to peck at. Ormiston's flame was longer-lived
than Sir Norman's; he had been in love a whole month, and had it
badly, and was now at the very crisis of a malady. Why did she
conceal her face - would she ever disclose it - would she listen
to him - would she ever love him? feverishly asked Passion; and
Common Sense (or what little of that useful commodity he had
left) answered - probably because she was eccentric - possibly
she would disclose it for the same reason; that he had only to
try and make her listen; and as to her loving him, why, Common
Sense owned he had her there.

I can't say whether the adage! "Faint heart never won fair lady!"
was extant in his time; but the spirit of it certainly was, and
Ormiston determined to prove it. He wanted to see La Masque, and
try his fate once again; and see her he would, if he had to stay
there as a sort of ornamental prop to the house for a week. He
knew he might as well look for a needle in a haystack as his
whimsical beloved through the streets of London - dismal and dark
now as the streets of Luxor and Tadmor in Egypt; and he wisely
resolved to spare himself and his Spanish leathers boots the
trial of a one-handed game of "hide-and-go-to-seek." Wisdom,
like Virtue, is its own reward; and scarcely had he come to this
laudable conclusion, when, by the feeble glimmer of the
house-lamps, he saw a figure that made his heart bound, flitting
through the night-gloom toward him. He would have known that
figure on the sands of Sahara, in an Indian jungle, or an
American forest - a tall, slight, supple figure, bending and
springing like a bow of steel, queenly and regal as that of a
young empress. It was draped in a long cloak reaching to the
ground, in color as black as the night, and clasped by a jewel
whose glittering flash, he saw even there; a velvet hood of the
same color covered the stately head; and the mask - the tiresome,
inevitable mask covered the beautiful - he was positive it was
beautiful - face. He had seen her a score of times in that very
dress, flitting like a dark, graceful ghost through the city
streets, and the sight sent his heart plunging against his side
like an inward sledge-hammer. Would one pulse in her heart stir
ever so faintly at sight of him? Just as he asked himself the
question, and was stepping forward to moot her, feeling very like
the country swain in love - "hot and dry like, with a pain in his
side like" - he suddenly stopped. Another figure came forth from
the shadow of an opposite house, and softly pronounced her name.
It was a short figure - a woman's figure. He could not see the
face, and that was an immense relief to him, and prevented his
having jealousy added to his other pains sad tribulations. La
Masque paused as well as he, and her soft voice softly asked:

"Who calls?"

"It is I, madame - Prudence."

"Ah! I am glad to meet you. I have been searching the city
through for you. Where have you been?"

"Madame, I was so frightened that I don't know where I fled to,
and I could scarcely make up my mind to come back at all. I did
feel dreadfully sorry for her, poor thing! but you know, Madame
Masque, I could do nothing for her, and I should not have come
back, only I was afraid of you."

"You did wrong, Prudence," said La Masque, sternly, or at least
as sternly as so sweet a voice could speak; "you did very wrong
to leave her in such a way. You should have come to me at once,
and told me all."

"But, madame, I was so frightened!"

"Bah! You are nothing but a coward. Come into this doorway, and
tell me all about it."

Ormiston drew back as the twain approached, and entered the deep
portals of La Masque's own doorway. He could see them both by
the aforesaid faint lamplight, and he noticed that La Masque's
companion was a wrinkled old woman, that would not trouble the
peace of mind of the most jealous lover in Christendom. Perhaps
it was not just the thing to hover aloof and listen; but he could
not for the life of him help it; and stand and listen he
accordingly did. Who knew but this nocturnal conversation might
throw some light on the dark mystery he was anxious to see
through, and, could his ears have run into needle-points to hear
the better, he would have had the operation then and there
performed. There was a moment's silence after the two entered
the portal, during which La Masque stood, tall, dark, and
commanding, motionless as a marble column; and the little
withered old specimen of humanity beside her stood gazing up at
her with something between fear and fascination.

"Do you know what has become of your charge, Prudence?" asked the
low, vibrating voice of La Masque, at last.

"How could I, madame? You know I fled from the house, and I
dared not go back. Perhaps she is there still."

"Perhaps she is not? Do you suppose that sharp shriek of yours
was unheard? No; she was found; and what do you suppose has
become of her?"

The old woman looked up, and seemed to read in the dark, stern
figure, and the deep solemn voice, the fatal truth. She wrong
her hands with a sort of cry.

"Oh! I know, I know; they have put her in the dead-cart, and
buried her in the plague-pit. O my dear, sweet young mistress."

"If you had stayed by your dear, sweet young mistress, instead of
running screaming away as you did, it might not have happened,"
said La Masque, in a tone between derision and contempt.

"Madame," sobbed the old woman, who was crying, "she was dying of
the plague, and how could I help it? They would have buried her
in spite of me."

"She was not dead; there was your mistake. She was as much alive
as you or I at this moment."

"Madame, I left her dead!" said the old woman positively.

"Prudence, you did no such thing; you left her fainting, and in
that state she was found and carried to the plague-pit."

The old woman stood silent for a moment, with a face of intense
horror, and then she clasped both hands with a wild cry.

"O my God! And they buried her alive - buried her alive in that
dreadful plague-pit!"

La Masque, leaning against a pillar, stood unmoved; and her
voice, when she spoke, was as coldly sweet as modern ice-cream.

"Not exactly. She was not buried at all, as I happen to know.
But when did you discover that she had the plague, and how could
she possibly have caught it?"

"That I do not know, madam. She seemed well enough all day,
though not in such high spirits as a bride should be. Toward
evening die complained of a headache and a feeling of faintness;
but I thought nothing of it, and helped her to dress for the
bridal. Before it was over, the headache and faintness grew
worse, and I gave her wine, and still suspected nothing. The
last time I came in, she had grown so much worse, that
notwithstanding her wedding dress, she had lain down on her bed,
looking for all the world like a ghost, and told me she had the
most dreadful burning pain in her chest. Then, madame, the
horrid truth struck me - I tore down her dress, and there, sure
enough, was the awful mark of the distemper. `You have the
plague!' I shrieked; and then I fled down stairs and out of the
house, like one crazy. O madame, madame! I shall never forget
it - it was terrible! I shall never forget it! Poor, poor child;
and the count does not know a word of it!"

La Masque laughed - a sweet, clear, deriding laugh, "So the count
does not know it, Prudence? Poor man! he will be in despair when
he finds it out, won't he? Such an ardent and devoted lover as
he was you know!"

Prudence looked up a little puzzled.

"Yes, madame, I think so. He seemed very fond of her; a great
deal fonder than she ever was of him. The fact is, madame," said
Prudence, lowering her voice to a confidential stage whisper,
"she never seemed fond of him at all, and wouldn't have been
married, I think, if she could have helped it."

"Could have helped it? What do you mean, Prudence? Nobody made
her, did they?"

Prudence fidgeted, and looked rather uneasy.

"Why, madame, she was not exactly forced, perhaps; but you know -
you know you told me - "

"Well?" said La Masque, coldly.

"To do what I could," cried Prudence, in a sort of desperation;
"and I did it, madame, and harassed her about it night and day.
And then the count was there, too, coaxing and entreating; and he
was handsome and had such ways with him that no woman could
resist, much less one so little used to gentlemen as Leoline.
And so, Madame Masque, we kept at her till we got her to consent
to it at last; but in her secret heart, I know she did not want
to be married - at least to the count," said Prudence, on serious

"Well, well; that has nothing to do with it. The question is,
where it she to be found?"

"Found!" echoed Prudence; "has she then been lost?"

"Of coarse she has, you old simpleton! How could she help it,
and she dead, with no one to look after her?" said La Masque,
with something like a half laugh. "She was carried to the
plague-pit in her bridal-robes, jewels and lace; and, when about
to be thrown in, was discovered, like Moses is the bulrushes, to
be all alive."

"Well," whispered Prudence, breathlessly.

"Well, O most courageous of guardians! she was carried to a
certain house, and left to her own devices, while her gallant
rescuer went for a doctor; and when they returned she was
missing. Our pretty Leoline seems to have a strong fancy for
getting lost!"

There was a pause, during which Prudence looked at her with a
face fall of mingled fear and curiosity. At last:

"Madame, how do you know all this? Were you there?"

"No. Not I, indeed! What would take me there?"

"Then how do you happen to know everything about it?"

La Masque laughed.

"A little bird told me, Prudence! Have you returned to resume
your old duties?"

"Madame, I dare not go into that house again. I am afraid of
taking the plague."

"Prudence, you are a perfect idiot! Are you not liable to take
the plague in the remotest quarter of this plague-infested city?
And even if you do take it, what odds? You have only a few years
to live, at the most, and what matter whether you die now or at
the end of a year or two?"

"What matter?" repeated Prudence, in a high key of indignant
amazement. "It may make no matter to you, Madame Masque, but it
makes a great deal to me; I can tell you; and into that infected
house I'll not put one foot."

"Just as you please, only in that case there is no need for
further talk, so allow me to bid you good-night!"

"But, madame, what of Leoline? Do stop one moment and tell me of

"What have I to tell? I have told you all I know. If you want
to find her, you must search in the city or in the pest-house!"

Prudence shuddered, and covered her face with her hands.

"O, my poor darling! so good and so beautiful. Heaven might
surely have spared her! Are you going to do nothing farther
about it?"

"What can I do? I have searched for her and have not found her,
and what else remains?"

"Madame, you know everything - surely, surely you know where my
poor little nursling is, among the rest."

Again La Masque laughed - another of her low, sweet, derisive

"No such thing, Prudence. If I did, I should have her here in a
twinkling, depend upon - it. However, it all comes to the same
thing in the end. She is probably dead by this time, and would
have to be buried in the plague-pit, anyhow. If you have nothing
further to say, Prudence, you had better bid me good-night, and
let me go."

"Good-night, madame!" said Prudence, with a sort of groan, as she
wrapped her cloak closely around her, and turned to go.

La Masque stood for a moment looking after her, and then placed a
key in the lock of the door. But there is many a slip - she was
not fated to enter as soon as she thought; for just at that
moment a new step sounded beside her, a new voice pronounced her
name, and looking around, she beheld Ormiston. With what
feelings that young person had listened to the neat and
appropriate dialogue I have just had the pleasure of
immortalizing, may be - to use a phrase you may have heard
before, once or twice - better imagined than described. He knew
very well who Leoline was, and how she had been saved from the
plague-pit; but where in the world had La Masque found it out.
Lost in a maze of wonder, and inclined to doubt the evidence of
his own ears, he had stood perfectly still, until his ladylove
had so coolly dismissed her company, and then rousing himself
just in time, he had come forward and accosted her. La Masque
turned round, regarded him in silence for a moment, and when she
spoke, her voice had an accent of mingled surprise and

"You, Mr. Ormiston! How many more times am I to have the
pleasure of seeing you again to-night?"

"Pardon, madame; it is the last time. But you must hear me now."

"Must I? Very well, then; if I must, you had better begin at
once, for the night-air is said to be unhealthy, and as good
people are scarce, I want to take care of myself."

"In that case, perhaps you had better let me enter, too. I hate
to talk on the street, for every wall has ears."

"I am aware of that. When I was talking to my old friend,
Prudence, two minutes ago, I saw a tall shape that I have reason
to know, since it haunts me, like my own shadow, standing there
and paying deed attention. I hope you found our conversation
improving, Mr. Ormiston!"

"Madame!" began Ormiston, turning crimson.

"Oh, don't blush; there is quite light enough from yonder lamp to
show that. Besides," added the lady, easily, "I don't know as I
had any objection; you are interested in Leoline, and must feel
curious to know something about her."

"Madame, what must you think of me? I have acted unpardonably."

"Oh, I know all that. There is no need to apologize, and I don't
think any the worse of you for it. Will you come to business,
Mr. Ormiston? I think I told you I wanted to go in. What may
you want of me at this dismal hour?"

"O madame, need you ask! Does not your own heart tell you?"

"I am not aware that it does! And to tell you the truth, Mr.
Ormiston, I don't know that I even have a heart! I am afraid I
mast trouble you to put it in words."

"Then, madame, I love you!"

"Is that all? If my memory serves me, you have told me that
little fact several times before. Is there anything else
tormenting you, or may I go in?"

Ormiston groaned out an oath between his teeth, and La Masque
raised one jeweled, snowy taper finger, reprovingly.

"Don't Mr. Ormiston - it's naughty, you know! May I go in?"

"Madame, you are enough to drive a man mad. Is the love I bear
you worthy of nothing but mockery!"

"No, Mr. Ormiston, it is not; that is, supposing you really love
me, which you don't."


"Oh, you needn't flash and look indignant; it is quite true!
Don't be absurd, Mr. Ormiston. How is it possible for you to
love one you have never seen?"

"I have seen you. Do you think I am blind?" he demanded,

"My face, I mean. I don't consider that you can see a person
without looking in her face. Now you have never looked in mine,
and how do you know I have any face at all?"

"Madame, you mock me."

"Not at all. How are you to know what is behind this mask?"

"I feel it, and that is better; and I love you all the same."

"Mr. Ormiston, how do you know but I am ugly."

"Madame, I do not believe you are; you are all too perfect not to
have a perfect face; and even were it otherwise, I still love

She broke into a laugh -one of her low, short, deriding laughs.

"You do! O man, how wise thou art! I tell you, if I took off
this mask, the sight would curdle the very blood in your veins
with horror - would freeze the lifeblood in your heart. I tell
you!" she passionately cried, "there are sights too horrible for
human beings to look on and live, and this -this is one of

He started back, and stared at her aghast.

"You think me mad," she said, in a less fierce tone, "but I am
not; and I repeat it, Mr. Ormiston, the sight of what this mask
conceals would blast you. Go now, for Heaven's sake, and leave
me in peace, to drag out the rest of my miserable life; and if
ever you think of me, let it be to pray that it might speedily
end. You have forced me to say this: so now be content. Be
merciful, and go!"

She made a desperate gesture, and turned to leave him, but he
caught her hand and held her fast.

"Never!" he cried, fiercely. "Say what you will! let that mask
hide what it may! I will never leave you till life leaves me!"

"Man, you are mad! Release my hand and let me go!"

"Madame, hear me. There is but one way to prove my love, and my
sanity, and that is - "

"Well?" she said, almost touched by his earnestness.

"Raise your mask and try me! Show me your face and see if I do
not love you still!"

"Truly I know how much love you will have for me when it is
revealed. Do you know that no one has looked in my face for the
last eight years."

He stood and gazed at her in wonder.

"It is so, Mr. Ormiston; and in my heart I have vowed a vow to
plunge headlong into the most loathsome plague-pit in London,
rather than ever raise it again. My friend, be satisfied. Go
and leave me; go and forget me."

"I can do neither until I have ceased to forget every thing
earthly. Madame, I implore you, hear me!"

"Mr. Ormiston, I tell you, you but court your own doom. No one
can look on me and live!"

"I will risk it," he said with an incredulous smile. "Only
promise to show me your face."

"Be it so then!" she cried almost fiercely. "I promise, and be
the consequences on your own head."

His whole face flushed with joy.

"I accept them. And when is that happy time to come?"

"Who knows! What must be done, had best be done quickly; but I
tell thee it were safer to play with the lightning's chain than
tamper with what thou art about to do."

"I take the risk! Will you raise your mask now?"

"No, no - I cannot! But yet, I may before the sun rises. My
face" - with bitter scorn - "shows better by darkness than by
daylight. Will you be out to see, the grand illumination."

"Most certainly."

"Then meet me here an hour after midnight, and the face so long
hidden shall be revealed. But, once again, on the threshold of
doom, I entreat you to pause."

"There is no such word for me!" he fiercely and exultingly cried.
"I have your promise, and I shall hold you to it! And, madame,
if, at last, you discover my love is changeless as fate itself,
then - then may I not dare to hope for a return?"

"Yes; then you may hope," she said, with cold mockery. "If your
love survives the sight, it will be mighty, indeed, and well
worthy a return,"

"And you will return it?"

"I will."

"You will be my wife?"

"With all my heart!"

"My darling!" he cried, rapturously - "for you are mine already -
how can I ever thank you for this? If a whole lifetime devoted
and consecrated to your happiness can repay you, it shall be

During this rhapsody, her hand had been on the handle of the
door. Now she turned it.

"Good-night, Mr. Ormiston," she said, and vanished.



Shocks of joy, they tell me, seldom kill. Of my own knowledge I
cannot say, for I have had precious little experience of such
shocks in my lifetime, Heaven knows; but in the present instance,
I can safely aver, they had no such dismal effect on Ormiston.
Nothing earthly could have given that young gentleman a greater
shock of joy than the knowledge he was to behold the long hidden
face of his idol. That that face was ugly, he did not for an
instant believe, or, at least, it never world be ugly to him.
With a form so perfect - a form a sylph might have envied - a
voice sweeter than the Singing Fountain of Arabia, hands and feet
the most perfectly beautiful the sun ever shone on, it was simply
a moral and physical impossibility, then, they could be joined to
a repulsive face. There was a remote possibility that it was a
little less exquisite than those ravishing items, and that her
morbid fancy made her imagine it homely, compared with them, but
he knew he never would share in that opinion. It was the
reasoning of lover, rather, the logic; for when love glides
smiling in at the door, reason stalks gravely, not to say
sulkily, out of the window, and, standing afar off, eyes
disdainfully the didos and antics of her late tenement. There
was very little reason, therefore, in Ormiston's head and heart,
but a great deal of something sweeter, joy - joy that thrilled
and vibrated through every nerve within him. Leaning against the
portal, in an absurd delirium of delight - for it takes but a
trifle to jerk those lovers from the slimiest depths of the
Slough of Despond to the topmost peak of the mountain of ecstasy
- he uncovered his head that the night-air might cool its
feverish throbbings. But the night-air was as hot as his heart;
and, almost suffocated by the sultry closeness, he was about to
start for a plunge in the river, when the sound of coming
footsteps and voices arrested him. He had met with so many odd
ad ventures to-night that he stopped now to see who was coming;
for on every hand all was silent and forsaken,

Footsteps and voices came closer; two figures took shape in the
gloom, and emerged from the darkness into the glimmering lamp
light. He recognised them both. One was the Earl of Rochester;
the other, his dark-eyed, handsome page - that strange page with
the face of the lost lady! The earl was chatting familiarly, and
laughing obstreperously at something or other, while the boy
merely wore a languid smile, as if anything further in that line
were quite beneath his dignity.

"Silence and solitude," said the earl, with a careless glance
around, "I protest, Hubert, this night seems endless. How long
is it till midnight?"

"An hour and a half at least, I should fancy," answered the boy,
with a strong foreign accent. "I know it struck ten as we passed
St. Paul's."

"This grand bonfire of our most worshipful Lord Mayor will be a
sight worth seeing," remarked the earl. "When all these piles
are lighted, the city will be one sea of fire."

"A slight foretaste of what most of its inhabitants will behold
in another world," said the page, with a French shrug. "I have
heard Lilly's prediction that London is to be purified by fire,
like a second Sodom; perhaps it is to be verified to-night."

"Not unlikely; the dome of St. Paul's would be an excellent place
to view the conflagration."

"The river will do almost as well, my lord."

"We will have a chance of knowing that presently," said the earl,
as he and his page descended to the river, where the little
gilded barge lay moored, and the boatman waiting.

As they passed from sight Ormiston came forth, and watched
thoughtfully after them. The face and figure were that of the
lady, but the voice was different; both were clear and musical
enough, but she spoke English with the purest accent, while his
was the voice of a foreigner. It most have been one of those
strange, unaccountable likenesses we sometimes see among perfect
strangers, but the resemblance in this ease was something
wonderful. It brought his thoughts back from himself sad his own
fortunate love, to his violently-smitten friend, Sir Norman, and
his plague-stricken beloved; and he began speculating what he
could possibly be about just then, or what he had discovered in
the old ruin. Suddenly he was aroused; a moment before, the
silence had been almost oppressive but now on the wings of the
night, there came a shout. A tumult of voices and footsteps were

"Stop her! Stop her!" was cried by many voices; and the next
instant a fleet figure went flying past him with a rush, and
plunged head foremost into she river.

A slight female figure, with floating robes of white, waving hair
of deepest, blackness, with a sparkle of jewels on neck and arms.
Only for an instant did he see it; but he knew it well, and his
very heart stood still. "Stop her! stop her! she is ill of the
plague!" shouted the crowd, preying panting on; but they came too
late; the white vision had gone down into the black, sluggish
river, and disappeared.

"Who is it? What is it? Where is it?" cried two or three
watchmen, brandishing their halberds, and rushing up; and the
crowd-a small mob of a dozen or so-answered all at once: "She is
delirious with the plague; she was running through the streets;
we gave chase, but she out-stepped us, and is now at the bottom
of the Thames."

Ormiston, waited to hear no more, but rushed precipitately down
to the waters edge. The alarm has now reached the boats on the
river, and many eyes within them were turned in the direction
whence she had gone down. Soon she reappeared on the dark
surface - something whiter than snow, whiter than death; shining
like silver, shone the glittering dress and marble face of the
bride. A small batteau lay close to where Ormiston stood; in two
seconds he had sprang in, shoved it off, and was rowing
vigorously toward that snow wreath in the inky river. But he was
forestalled, two hands white and jeweled as her own, reached over
the edge of a gilded barge, and, with the help of the boatmen,
lifted her in. Before she could be properly established on the
cushioned seats, the batteau was alongside, and Ormiston turned a
very white and excited face toward the Earl of Rochester.

"I know that lady, my lord! She is a friend of mine, and you
must give her to me!"

"Is it you, Ormiston? Why what brings you here alone on the
river, at this hour?"

"I have come for her," said Ormiston, pressing over to lift the
lady. "May I beg you to assist me, my lord, in transferring her
to my boat?"

"You must wait till I see her first," said Rochester, partly
raising her head, and holding a lamp close to her face, "as I
have picked her out, I think I deserve it. Heavens! what an
extraordinary likeness!"

The earl had glanced at the lady, then at his page, again at the
lady, and lastly at Ormiston, his handsome countenance fall of
the most unmitigated wonder. "To whom?" asked Ormiston, who had
very little need to inquire.

"To Hubert, yonder. Why, don't you see it yourself? She might
be his twin-sister!"

"She might be, but as she is not, you will have the goodness to
let me take charge of her. She has escaped from her friends, and
I meet bring her back to them."

He half lifted her as he spoke; and the boatman, glad enough to
get rid of one sick of the plague, helped her into the batteau.
The lady was not insensible, as might be supposed, after her cold
bath, but extremely wide-awake, and gazing around her with her great,
black, shining eyes. But she made no resistance; either she was
too faint or frightened for that, and suffered herself to be
hoisted about, "passive to all changes." Ormiston spread his
cloak in the stern of the boat, and laid her tenderly upon it,
and though the beautiful, wistful eyes were solemnly and
unwinkingly fixed on his face, the pale, sweet lips parted not -
uttered never a word. The wet bridal robes were drenched and
dripping about her, the long dark hair hung in saturated masses
over her neck and arms, and contrasted vividly with a face,
Ormiston thought at once, the whitest, most beautiful, and most
stonelike he had ever seen.

"Thank you, my man; thank you, my lord," said Ormiston, preparing
to push off.

Rochester, who had been leaning from the barge, gazing in mingled
curiosity, wonder, and admiration at the lovely face, turned now
to her champion.

"Who is she, Ormiston?" he said, persuasively.

But Ormiston only laughed, and rowed energetically for the shore.
The crowd was still lingering; and half a dozen hands were
extended to draw the boat up to the landing. He lifted the light
form in his arms and bore it from the boat; but before he could
proceed farther with his armful of beauty, a faint but imperious
voice spoke: "Please put me down. I am not a baby, and can walk

Ormiston was so surprised, or rather dismayed, by this unexpected
address, that he complied at once, and placed her on her own
pretty feet. But the young lady's sense of propriety was a good
deal stronger than her physical powers; and she swayed and
tottered, and had to cling to her unknown friend for support.

"You are scarcely strong enough, I am afraid, dear lady," he
said, kindly. "You had better let me carry you. I assure you I
am quite equal to it, or even a more weighty burden, if necessity

"Thank you, sir," said the faint voice, faintly; "but I would
rather walk. Where are you taking me to?"

"To your own house, if you wish - it is quite close at hand,"

"Yes. Yes. Let us go there! Prudence in there, and she will
take care of me.".

"Will she?" said Ormiston, doubtfully. "I hope you do not suffer
much pain!"

"I do not suffer at all," she said, wearily; "only I am so tired.
Oh, I wish I were home!"

Ormiston half led, half lifted her up the stairs.

"You are almost there, dear lady - see, it is close st hand!"

She half lifted her languid eyes, but did not speak. Leaning
panting on his arm, he drew her gently on until they reached her
door. It was still unfastened. Prudence had kept her word, and
not gone near it; and he opened it, and helped her in.

"Where now?" he asked.

"Up stairs," she said, feebly. "I want to go to my own room."

Ormiston knew where that was, and assisted her there as tenderly
as he could have done La Masque herself. He paused on the
threshold; for the room was dark.

"There is a lamp and a tinder-box on the mantel," said the faint,
sweet voice, "if you will only please to find them."

Ormiston crowed the room - fortunately he knew the latitude of
the place -and moving his hand with gingerly precaution along
the mantel-shelf, lest he should upset any of the gimcracks
thereon, soon obtained the articles named, and struck a light.
The lady was leaning wearily against the door-post, but now she
came forward, and dropped exhausted into the downy pillows of a

"Is there anything I can do for you, madame?" began Ormiston,
with as solicitous an air as though he had been her father. "A
glass of wine would be of use to you, I think, and then, if you
wish, I will go for a doctor."

"You are very kind. You will find wine and glasses in the room
opposite this, and I feel so faint that I think you had better
bring me some."

Ormiston moved across the passage, like the good, obedient young
man that he was, filled a glass of Burgundy, and as he was
returning with it, was startled by a cry from the lady that
nearly made him drop and shiver it on the floor.

"What under heaven has come to her now?" he thought, hastening
in, wondering how she could possibly have come to grief since he
left her.

She was sitting upright on the sofa, her dress palled down off
her shoulder where the plague-spot had been, and which, to his
amazement, he saw now pure and stainless, and free from every
loathsome trace.

"You are cured of the plague!" was all he could say.

"Thank God!" she exclaimed, fervently clasping her hands. "But
oh! how can it have happened? It mast be a miracle!"

"No, it was your plunge into the river; I have heard of one or
two such cases before, and if ever I take it," said Ormiston,
half laughing, half shuddering, "my first rush shall be for old
Father Thames. Here, drink this, I am certain it will complete
the cure."

The girl - she was nothing but a girl - drank it off and sat
upright like one inspired with new life. As she set down the
glass, she lifted her dark, solemn, beautiful eyes to his face
with a long, searching gaze.

"What is your name?" she simply asked.

"Ormiston, madame," he said, bowing low.

"You have saved my life, have you not?"

"It was the Earl of Rochester who reserved you from the river;
but I would have done it a moment later."

"I do not mean that. I mean" - with a slight shudder - "are you
not one of those I saw at the plague-pit? Oh! that dreadful,
dreadful plague-pit!" she cried, covering her face with her

"Yes. I am one of those."

"And who was the other?"

"My friend, Sir Norman Kingsley.

"Sir Norman Kingsley?" she softly repeated, with a sort of
recognition in her voice and eyes, while a faint roseate glow
rose softly over her face and neck. Ah! I thought - was it to
his house or yours I was brought?"

"To his," replied Ormiston, looking at her curiously; for he had
seen that rosy glow, and was extremely puzzled thereby; "from
whence, allow me to add, you took your departure rather

"Did I?" she said, in a bewildered sort of way. "It is all like
a dream to me. I remember Prudence screaming, and telling me I
had the plague, and the unutterable horror that filled me when I
heard it; and then the next thing I recollect is, being at the
plague-pit, and seeing your face and his bending over me. All
the horror came back with that awakening, and between it and
anguish of the plague-sore I think I fainted again." (Ormiston
nodded sagaciously), "and when I next recovered I was alone in a
strange room, and in bed. I noticed that, though I think I must
have been delirious. And then, half-mad with agony, I got out to
the street, somehow and ran, and ran, and ran, until the people
saw and followed me here. I suppose I had some idea of reaching
home when I came here; but the crowd pressed so close behind, and
I felt though all my delirium, that they would bring me to the
pest-house if they caught me, and drowning seemed to me
preferable to that. So I was in the river before I knew it - and
you know the rest as well as I do. But I owe you my life, Mr.
Ormiston - owe it to you and another; and I thank you both with
all my heart."

"Madame, you are too grateful; and I don't know as we have done
anything much to deserve it."

"You have saved my life; and though you may think that a
valueless trifle, not worth speaking of, I assure you I view it
in a very different light," she said, with a half smile.

"Lady, your life is invaluable; but as to our saving it, why, you
would not have us throw you alive into the plague-pit, would

"It would have been rather barbarous, I confess, but there are
few who would risk infection for the sake of a mere stranger.
Instead of doing as you did, you might have sent me to the pest-
house, you know."

"Oh, as to that, all your gratitude is due to Sir Norman. He
managed the whole affair, and what is more, fell - but I will
leave that for himself to disclose. Meantime, may I ask the name
of the lady I have been so fortunate as to serve!"

"Undoubtedly, sir - my name is Leoline."

"Leoline is only half a name."

"Then I am so unfortunate an only to possess half a name, for I
never had any other."

Ormiston opened his eyes very wide indeed.

"No other! you must have had a father some time in your life;
most people have," said the young gentleman, reflectively.

She shook her head a little sadly.

"I never had, that I know of, either father or mother, or any one
but Prudence. And by the way," she said, half starting up, "the
first thing to be done is, to see about this same Prudence. She
must be somewhere in the house."

"Prudence is nowhere in the house," said Ormiston, quietly; "and
will not be, she says, far a month to come. She is afraid of the

"Is she?" said Leoline, fixing her eyes on him with a powerful
glance. "How do you know that?"

"I heard her say so not half an hour ago, to a lady a few doors
distant. Perhaps you know her - La Masque."

"That singular being! I don't know her; but I have seen her
often. Why was Prudence talking of me to her, I wonder?"

"That I do not know; but talking of you the was, and she said she
was coming back here no more. Perhaps you will be afraid to stay
here alone?"

"Oh no, I am used to being alone," she said, with a little sigh,
"but where" - hesitating and blushing vividly, "where is - I
mean, I should like to thank sir Norman Kingsley."

Ormiston saw the blush and the eyes that dropped, and it puzzled
him again beyond measure.

"Do you know Sir Norman Kingsley?" he suspiciously asked.

"By sight I know many of the nobles of the court," she answered
evasively, and without looking up: "they pass here often, and
Prudence knows them all; and so I have learned to distinguish
them by name and sight, your friend among the rest."

"And you would like to see my friend?" he said, with malicious

"I would like to thank him," retorted the lady, with some
asperity: "you have told me how much I owe him, and it strikes me
the desire is somewhat natural."

"Without doubt it is, and it will save Sir Norman much fruitless
labor; for even now he is in search at you, and will neither rest
nor sleep until he finds you."

"In search of me!" she said softly, and with that rosy glow again
illumining her beautiful face; "he is indeed kind, and I am most
anxious to thank him."

"I will bring him here in two hours, then," said Ormiston, with
energy; "and though the hour may be a little unseasonable, I hope
you will not object to it; for if you do, he will certainly not
survive until morning."

She gayly laughed, but her cheek was scarlet.

"Rather than that, Mr. Ormiston, I will even see him tonight.
You will find me here when you come."

"You will not run away again, will you?" said Ormiston, looking
at her doubtfully. "Excuse me; but you have a trick of doing
that, you know."

Again she laughed merrily.

"I think you may safely trust me this time. Are you going?"

By way of reply, Ormiston took his hat and started for the door.
There he paused, with his hand upon it.

"How long have you known Sir Norman Kingsley?" was his careless,
artful question.

But Leoline, tapping one little foot on the floor, and looking
down at it with hot cheeks and humid ayes, answered not a word.



When Sir Norman Kingsley entered the ancient ruin, his head was
fall of Leoline - when he knelt down to look through the aperture
in the flagged floor, head and heart were full of her still. But
the moment his eyes fell on the scene beneath, everything fled
far from his thoughts, Leoline among the rest; and nothing
remained but a profound and absorbing feeling of intensest amaze.

Right below him he beheld an immense room, of which the flag he
had raised seemed to form part of the ceiling, in a remote
corner. Evidently it was one of a range of lower vaults, and as
he was at least fourteen feet above it, and his corner somewhat
in shadow, there was little danger of his being seen. So,
leaning far down to look at his leisure, he took the goods the
gods provided him, and stared to his heart's content.

Sir Norman had seen some queer sights daring the four-and-twenty
years he had spent in this queer world, but never anything quite
equal to this. The apartment below, though so exceedingly large,
was lighted with the brilliance of noon-day; and every object it
contained; from one end to the other, was distinctly revealed.
The floor, from glimpses he had of it in obscure corners, was of
stone; but from end to end it was covered with richest rugs and
mats, and squares of velvet of as many colors as Joseph's coat.
The walls were hung with splendid tapestry, gorgeous in silk and
coloring, representing the wars of Troy, the exploits of Coeur de
Lion among the Saracens, the death of Hercules, all on one side;
and on the other, a more modern representation, the Field of the
Cloth of Gold. The illumination proceeded from a range of wax
tapers in silver candelabra, that encircled the whole room. The
air was redolent of perfumes, and filled with strains of softest
and sweetest music from unseen hands. At one extremity of the
room was a huge door of glass and gilding; and opposite it, at
the other extremity, was a glittering throne. It stood on a
raised dais, covered with crimson velvet, reached by two or three
steps carpeted with the same; the throne was as magnificent as
gold, and satin, and ornamentation could make it. A great velvet
canopy of the same deep, rich color, cut in antique points, and
heavily hang with gold fringe, was above the seat of honor.
Beside it, to the right, but a little lower down, was a similar
throne, somewhat lees superb, and minus a canopy. From the door
to the throne was a long strip of crimson velvet, edged and
embroidered with gold, and arranged in a sweeping semi-circle, on
either side, were a row of great carved, gilded, and cushioned
chairs, brilliant, too, with crimson and gold, and each for
every-day Christians, a throne in itself. Between the blaze of
illumination, the flashing of gilding and gold, the tropical
flush of crimson velvet, the rainbow dyes on floor and walls, the
intoxicating gushes of perfume, and the delicious strains of
unseen music, it is no wonder Sir Norman Kingsley's head was
spinning like a bewildered teetotum.

Was he sane - was he sleeping? Had he drank too much wine at the
Golden Crown, and had it all gone to his head? Was it a scene of
earnest enchantment, or were fairy-tales true? Like Abou Hasson
when he awoke in the palace of the facetious Caliph of Bagdad, he
had no notion of believing his own eyes and ears, and quietly
concluded it was all an optical illusion, as ghosts are said to
be; but he quietly resolved to stay there, nevertheless, and see
how the dazzling phantasmagoria would end. The music was
certainly ravishing, and it seemed to him, as he listened with
enchanted ears, that he never wanted to wake up from so heavenly
a dream.

One thing struck him as rather odd; strange and bewildered as
everything was, it did not seem at all strange to him, on the
contrary, a vague idea was floating mistily through his mind that
he had beheld precisely the same thing somewhere before.
Probably at some past period of his life he had beheld a similar
vision, or had seen a picture somewhere like it in a tale of
magic, and satisfying himself with this conclusion, he began
wondering if the genii of the place were going to make their
appearance at all, or if the knowledge that human eyes were upon
them had scared them back to Erebus.

While still ruminating on this important question, a portion of
the tapestry, almost beneath him, shriveled up and up, and out
flocked a glittering throng, with a musical mingling of laughter
and voices. Still they came, more and more, until the great room
was almost filled, and a dazzling throng they were. Sir Norman
had mingled in many a brilliant scene at Whitehall, where the
gorgeous court of Charles shown in all its splendor, with the
"merry monarch" at their head, but all he had ever witnessed at
the king's court fell far short of this pageant. Half the
brilliant flock were ladies, superb in satins, silks, velvets and
jewels. And such jewels! every gem that ever flashed back the
sunlight sparkled and blazed in blending array on those beautiful
bosoms and arms - diamonds, pearls, opals, emeralds, rubies,
garnets, sapphires, amethysts - every jewel that ever shone. But
neither dresses nor gems were half so superb as the peerless
forms they adorned; and such an army of perfectly beautiful
faces, from purest blonde to brightest brunette, had never met
and mingled together before.

Each lovely face was unmasked, but Sir Norman's dazzled eyes in
vain sought among them for one he knew. All that "rosebud garden
of girls" were perfect strangers to him, but not so the gallants,
who fluttered among them like moths around meteors. They, too,
were in gorgeous array, in purple and fine linen, which being
interpreted, signifieth in silken hose of every color under the
sun, spangled and embroidered slippers radiant with diamond
buckles, doublets of as many different shades as their tights,
slashed with satin and embroidered with gold. Most of them wore
huge powdered wigs, according to the hideous fashion then in
vogue, and under those same ugly scalps, laughed many a handsome
face Sir Norman well knew. The majority of those richly-robed
gallants were strangers to him as well as the ladies, but whoever
they were, whether mortal men or "spirits from the vasty deep,"
they were in the tallest sort of clover just then. Evidently
they knew it, too, and seemed to be on the best of terms with
themselves and all the world, and laughed, and flirted, and
flattered, with as mach perfection as so many ball-room Apollos
of the present day.

Still no one ascended the golden and crimson throne, though many
of the ladies and gentlemen fluttering about it were arrayed as
royally as any common king or queen need wish to be. They
promenaded up and down, arm in arm; they seated themselves in the
carved and gilded chairs; they gathered in little groups to talk
and laugh, did everything, in short, but ascend the throne; and
the solitary spectator up above began to grow intensely curious
to know who it was for. Their conversation he could plainly
hear, and to say that it amazed him, would be to use a feeble
expression, altogether inadequate to his feelings. Not that it
was the remarks they made that gave his system each a shook, but
the names by which they addressed each other. One answered to
the aspiring cognomen of the Duke of Northumberland; another was
the Earl of Leicester; another, the Duke of Devonshire; another,
the Earl of Clarendon; another, the Duke of Buckingham; and so
on, ad infinitum, dukes and earls alternately, like bricks and
mortar in the wall of a house. There were other dignitaries
besides, some that Sir Norman had a faint recollection of hearing
were dead for some years - Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, the
Earl of Bothwell, King Henry Darnley, Sir Walter Raleigh, the
Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Southampton, the Duke of York, and
no end of others with equally sonorous titles. As for mere lords
and baronets, and such small deer, there was nothing so plebeian
present, and they were evidently looked upon by the distinguished
assembly, like small beer in thunder, with pity and contempt.
The ladies, too, were all duchesses, marchionesses, countesses,
and looked fit for princesses, Sir Norman thought, though he
heard none of them styled quite so high as that. The tone of
conversation was light and easy, but at the same time extremely
ceremonious and courtly, and all seemed to be enjoying themselves
in the moat delightful sort of a way, which people of, such
distinguished rank, I am told, seldom do. All went merry as a
marriage-bell, and sweetly over the gay jingle of voices rose the
sweet, faint strains of the unseen music.

Suddenly all was changed. The great door of glass and gilding
opposite the throne was flung wide, and a grand usher in a grand
court livery flourished a mighty grand wand, and shouted, in a
stentorian voice

"Back: back, ye lieges, and make way for Her Majesty, Queen

Instantly the unseen band thundered forth the national anthem.
The splendid throng fell back on either hand in profoundest
silence and expectation. The grand usher mysteriously
disappeared, and in his place there stalked forward a score of
soldiers, with clanking swords and fierce moustaches, in the
gorgeous uniform of the king's body-guard. These showy warriors
arranged themselves silently on either side of the crimson
throne, and were followed by half a dozen dazzling personages,
the foremost crowned with mitre, armed with crozier, and robed in
the ecclesiastical glory of an archbishop, but the face
underneath, to the deep surprise and scandal of Sir Norman, was
that of the fastest young roue of Charles court, after him came
another pompous dignitary, in such unheard of magnificence that
the unseen looker-on set him down for a prime minister, or a lord
high chancellor, at the very least. The somewhat gaudy-looking
gentlemen who stepped after the pious prelate and peer wore the
stars and garters of foreign courts, and were evidently
embassadors extraordinary to that of her midnight majesty. After
them came a snowy flock of fair young girls, angels all but the
wings, slender as sylphs, and robed in purest white. Each bore
on her arm a basket of flowers, roses and rosebuds of every tint,
from snowy white to darkest crimson, and as they floated in they
scattered them lightly as they went. And then after all came
another vision, "the last, the brightest, the best - the
Midnight Queen" herself. One other figure followed her, and as
they entered, a shout arose from the whole assemblage, "Long live
Queen Miranda!" And bowing gracefully and easily to the right
end left, the queen with a queenly step, trod the long crimson
carpet and mounted the regal throne.

From the first moment of his looking down, Sir Norman had been
staring with all the eyes in his head, undergoing one shock of
surprise after another with the equanimity of a man quite need to
it; but now a cry arose to his lips, and died there in voiceless
consternation. For he recognized the queen - well he might! - he
had seen her before, and her face was the face of Leoline!

As she mounted the stairs, she stood there for a moment crowned
and sceptred, before sitting down, and in that moment he
recognized the whole scene. That gorgeous room and its gorgeous
inmates; that regal throne and its regal owner, all became
palpable as the sun at noonday; that slender, exquisite figure,
robed in royal purple and ermine; the uncovered neck and arms,
snowy and perfect, ablaze with jewels; that lovely face, like
snow, like marble, in its whiteness end calm, with the great,
dark, earnest eyes looking out, and the waving wealth of hair
falling around it. It was the very scene, and room, and vision,
that La Masque had shown him in the caldron, and that face was
the face of Leoline, and the earl's page.

Could he be dreaming? Was he sane or mad, or were the three
really one?

While he looked, the beautiful queen bowed low, and amid the
profoundest and most respectful silence, took her seat. In her
robes of purple, wearing the glittering crown, sceptre in hand,
throned and canopied, royally beautiful she looked indeed, and a
most vivid contrast to the gentleman near her, seated very much
at his ease, on the lower throne. The contrast was not of dress
- for his outward man was resplendent to look at; but in figure
and face, or grace and dignity, he was a very mean specimen of
the lords of creation, indeed. In stature, he scarcely reached
to the queen's royal shoulder, but made up sideways what he
wanted in length - being the breadth of two common men; his head
was in proportion to his width, and was decorated with a wig of
long, flowing, flaxen hair, that scarcely harmonized with a
profusion of the article whiskers, in hue most unmitigated black;
his eyes were small, keen, bright, and piercing, and glared on
the assembled company as they had done half an hour before on Sir
Norman Kingsley, in the bar-room of the Golden Crown; for the
royal little man was no other than Caliban, the dwarf. Behind
the thrones the flock of floral angels grouped themselves;
archbishop, prime minister, and embassadors, took their stand
within the lines of the soldiery, and the music softly and
impressively died sway in the distance; dead silence reigned.

"My lord Duke," began the queen, in the very voice he had heard
at the plague-pit, as she turned to the stylish individual next
the archbishop, "come forward and read us the roll of mortality
since our last meeting."

His grace, the duke, instantly stepped forward, bowing so low
that nothing was seen of him for a brief space, but the small of
his back, and when he reared himself up, after this convulsion of
nature, Sir Norman beheld a face not entirely new to him. At
first, he could not imagine where he had seen it, but speedily
she recollected it was the identical face of the highwayman who
had beaten an inglorious retreat from him and Count L'Estrange,
that very night. This ducat robber drew forth a roll of
parchment, and began reading, in lachrymose tones, a select
litany of defunct gentlemen, with hifalutin titles who had
departed this life during the present week. Most of them had
gone with the plague, but a few had died from natural causes, and
among these were the Earls of Craven and Ashley.

"My lords Craven and Ashley dead!" exclaimed the queen, in tones
of some surprise, but very little anguish; "that is singular, for
we saw them not two hours ago, in excellent health and spirits."

"True, poor majesty," said the duke, dolefully, "and it is not an
hour since they quitted this vale of tears. They and myself rode
forth at nightfall, according to Custom, to lay your majesty's
tax on all travelers, and soon chanced to encounter one who gave
vigorous battle; still, it would have done him little service,
had not another person come suddenly to his aid, and between them
they clove the skulls of Ashley and Craven; and I," said the
duke, modestly, "I left."

"Were either of the travelers young, and tall, and of courtly
bearing?" exclaimed the dwarf with sharp rudeness.

"Both were, your highness," replied the duke, bowing to the small
speaker, "and uncommonly handy with their weapons."

"I saw one of them down at the Golden Crown, not long ago," said
the dwarf; "a forward young popinjay, and mighty inquisitive
about this, our royal palace. I promised him, if he came here, a
warm reception - a promise I will have the greatest pleasure in

"You may stand aside, my lord duke," said the queen, with a
graceful wave of her hand, "and if any new subjects have been
added to our court since our last weekly meeting, let them come
forward, and be sworn."

A dozen or mare courtiers immediately stepped forward, and
kneeling before the queen, announced their name and rank, which
were both ambitiously high. A few silvery-toned questions were
put by that royal lady and satisfactorily answered, and then the
archbishop, armed with a huge tome, administered a severe and
searching oath, which the candidates took with a great deal of
sang frond, and were then permitted to kiss the hand of the queen
- a privilege worth any amount of swearing - and retire.

"Let any one who has any reports to make, make them immediately,"
again commanded her majesty.

A number of gentlemen of high rank, presented themselves at this
summons, and began relating, as a certain sect of Christians do
in church, their experience! Many of these consisted, to the
deep disapproval of Sir Norman, of accounts of daring highway
robberies, one of them perpetrated on the king himself, which
distinguished personage the duplicate of Leoline styled "our
brother Charles," and of the sums thereby attained. The
treasurer of state was then ordered to show himself, and give an
account of the said moneys, which he promptly did; and after him
came a number of petitioners, praying for one thing and another,
some of which the queen promised to grant, and some she didn't.
These little affairs of state being over, Miranda turned to the
little gentleman beside her, with the observation

"I believe, your highness, it a on this night the Earl of
Gloucester is to be tried on a charge of high treason, in it

His highness growled a respectful assent.

"Then let him be brought before us," said the queen. "Go,
guards, and fetch him."

Two of the soldiers bowed low, and backed from the royal
presence, amid dead and ominous silence. At this interesting
stage of the proceedings, as Sir Norman was leaning forward,
breathless and excited, a footstep sounded on the flagged floor
beside him, and some one suddenly grasped his shoulder with no
gentle hand.



In one instant Sir Norman was on his feet and his hand on his
sword. In the tarry darkness, neither the face nor figure of the
intruder could be made out, but he merely saw a darker shadow
beside him standing in the sea of darkness. Perhaps he might
have thought it a ghost, but that the hand which grasped his
shoulder was unmistakably of flesh, and blood, and muscle, and
the breathing of its owner was distinctly audible by his ads.

"Who are you?" demanded Sir Norman, drawing out his sword, and
wrenching himself free from his unseen companion.

"Ah! it is you, is it? I thought so," said a not unknown voice.
"I have been calling you till I am hoarse, and at last gave it
up, and started after you in despair. What are you doing here?"

"You, Ormiston!" exclaimed Sir Norman, in the last degree
astonished. "How - when - what are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here? that's more to the purpose. Down flat
on your face, with your head stuck through that hole. What is
below there, anyway?"

"Never mind," said Sir Norman, hastily, who, for some reason
quite unaccountable to himself, did not wish Ormiston to see.
"There's nothing therein particular, but a lower range of vaults.
Do you intend telling me what has brought you here?"

"Certainly; the very fleetest horse I could find in the city."

"Pshaw! You don't say so?" exclaimed Sir Norman, incredulously.
"But I presume you had some object in taking such a gallop? May
I ask what? Your anxious solicitude on my account, very likely?"

"Not precisely. But, I say, Kingsley, what light is that shining
through there? I mean to see."

"No, you won't," said Sir Norman, rapidly and noiselessly
replacing the flag. "It's nothing, I tell you, but a number of
will-o-'wisps having a ball. Finally, and for the last time, Mr.
Ormiston, will you have the goodness to tell me what has sent you

"Come out to the air, then. I have no fancy for talking in this
place; it smells like a tomb."

"There is nothing wrong, I hope?" inquired Sir Norman, following
his friend, and threading his way gingerly through the piles of
rubbish in the profound darkness.

"Nothing wrong, but everything extremely right. Confound this
place! It would be easier walking on live eels than through
these winding and lumbered passages. Thank the fates, we are
through them, at last! for there is the daylight, or, rather the
nightlight, and we have escaped without any bones broken."

They had reached the mouldering and crumbling doorway, shown by a
square of lighter darkness, and exchanged the damp, chill
atmosphere of the vaults for the stagnant, sultry open air. Sir
Norman, with a notion in his head that his dwarfish highness
might have placed sentinels around his royal residence,
endeavored to pierce the gloom in search of them. Though he
could discover none, he still thought discretion the better part
of valor, and stepped out into the road.

"Now, then, where are you going?" inquired Ormiston for,
following him.

"I don't wish to talk here; there is no telling who may be
listening. Come along."

Ormiston glanced back at the gloomy rain looming up like a black
spectre in the blackness.

"Well, they most have a strong fancy for eavesdropping, I must
say, who world go to that haunted heap to listen. What have you
seen there, and where have you left your horse?"

"I told you before," said Sir Norman, rather impatiently, "I that
I have seen nothing - at least, nothing you would care about; and
my horse is waiting me at the Golden Crown."

"Very well, we have no time to lose; so get there as fast as you
can, and mount him and ride as if the demon were after you back
to London."

"Back to London? Is the man crazy? I shall do no such thing,
let me tell you, to-night."

"Oh, just as you please," said Ormiston, with a great deal of
indifference, considering the urgent nature of his former
request. "You can do as you like, you know, and so can I - which
translated, means, I will go and tell her you have declined to

"Tell her? Tell whom? What are you talking about? Hang it,
man!" exclaimed Sir Norman, getting somewhat excited and profane,
"what are you driving at? Can't you speak out and tell me at

"I have told you!" said Ormiston, testily: "and I tell you again,
she sent me in search of you, and if you don't choose to come,
that's your own affair, and not mine."

This was a little too mach for Sir Norman's overwrought feelings,
and in the last degree of exasperation, he laid violent hands on
the collar of Ormiston's doublet let, and shook him as if be
would have shaken the name out with a jerk.

"I tell you what it is, Ormiston, you had better not aggravate
me! I can stand a good deal, but I'm not exactly Moses or Job,
and you had better mind what you're at. If you don't come to the
point at once, and tell me who I she is, I'll throttle you where
you stand; and so give you warning."

Half-indignant, and wholly laughing, Ormiston stepped back out of
the way of his excited friend.

"I cry you mercy! In one word, then, I have been dispatched by a
lady in search of you, and that lady is - Leoline."

It has always been one of the inscrutable mysteries in natural
philosophy that I never could fathom, why men do not faint.
Certain it is, I never yet heard of a man swooning from excess of
surprise or joy, and perhaps that may account for Sir Norman's
not doing so on the present occasion. But he came to an abrupt
stand-still in their rapid career; and if it had not been quite
so excessively dark, his friend would have beheld a countenance
wonderful to look on, in its mixture of utter astonishment and
sublime consternation.

"Leoline!" he faintly gasped. "Just atop a moment, Ormiston, and
say that again - will you?"

"No," said Ormiston, hurrying unconcernedly on; "I shall do no
such thing, for there is no time to lose, and if there were I
have no fancy for standing in this dismal road. Come on, man,
and I'll tell you as we go."

Thus abjured, and seeing there was no help for it, Sir Norman, in
a dazed and bewildered state, complied; and Ormiston promptly and
briskly relaxed into business.

"You see, my dear fellow, to begin at the beginning, after you
left, I stood at ease at La Masque's door, awaiting that lady's
return, and was presently rewarded by seeing her come up with an
old woman called Prudence. Do you recollect the woman who rushed
screaming out of the home of the dead bride?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Well, that was Prudence. She and La Masque were talking so
earnestly they did not perceive me, and I - well, the fast is,
Kingsley, I stayed and listened. Not a very handsome thing,
perhaps, but I couldn't resist it. They were talking of some one
they called Leoline, and I, in a moment, knew that it was your
flame, and that neither of them knew any more of her whereabouts
than we did."

"And yet La Masque told me to come here in search of her,"
interrupted Sir Norman.

"Very true! That was odd - wasn't it? This Prudence, it
appears, was Leoline's nurse, and La Masque, too, seemed to have
a certain authority over her; and between them, I learned she was
to have been married this very night, and died - or, at least,
Prudence thought so - an hour or two before the time."

"Then she was not married?" cried Sir Norman, in an ecstasy of

"Not a bit of it; and what is more, didn't want to be; and
judging from the remarks of Prudence, I should say, of the two,
rather preferred the plague."

"Then why was she going to do it? You don't mean to say she was

"Ah, but I do, though! Prudence owned it with the most charming
candor in the world."

"Did you hear the name of the person she was to have married?"
asked Sir Norman, with kindling eyes.

"I think not; they called him the count, if my memory serves me,
and Prudence intimated that he knew nothing of the melancholy
fate of Mistress Leoline. Moat likely it was the person in the
cloak and slouched hat we caw talking to the watchman."

Sir Norman said nothing, but he thought a good deal, and the
burden of his thoughts was an ardent and heartfelt wish that the
Court L'Estrange was once more under the swords of the three
robbers, and waiting for him to ride to the rescue - that was

"La Masque urged Prudence to go back," continued Ormiston; "but
Prudence respectfully declined, and went her way bemoaning the
fate of her darling. When she was gone, I stepped up to Madame
Masque, and that lady's first words of greeting were an earnest
hope that I had been edified and improved by what I had

"She saw you, then?" said Sir Norman.

"See me? I believe you! She has more eyes than ever Argus had,
and each one is as sharp as a cambric needle. Of course I
apologized, and so on, and she forgave me handsomely, and then we
fell to discoursing - need I tell you on what subject?"

"Love, of course," said Sir Norman.

"Yes, mingled with entreaties to take off her mask that would
have moved a heart of atone. It moved what was better - the
heart of La Masque; and, Kingsley, she has consented to do it;
and she says that if, after seeing her face, I still love her,
she will be my wife."

"Is it possible? My dear Ormiston, I congratulate you with all
my heart!"

"Thank you! After that she left me, and I walked away in such a
frenzy of delight that I couldn't have told whether I was
treading this earth or the shining shares of the seventh heaven,
when suddenly there flew past me a figure all in white - the
figure of a bride, Kingsley, pursued by an excited mob. We were
both near the river, and the first thing I knew, she was plump
into it, with the crowd behind, yelling to stop her, that she was
ill of the plague."

"Great Heaven! and was she drowned?"

"No, though it was not her fault. The Earl of Rochester and his
page - you remember that page, I fancy - were out in their barge,
and the earl picked her up. Then I got a boat, set out after
her, claimed her - for I recognized her, of course - brought her
ashore, and deposited her safe and sound in her own house. What
do you think of that?"

"Ormiston," said Norman, catching him by the shoulder, with a
very excited face, "is this true?"

"True as preaching, Kingsley, every word of it! And the most
extraordinary part of the business is, that her dip in cold water
has effectually cured her of the plague; not a trace of it

Sir Norman dropped his hand, and walked on, staring straight
before him, perfectly speechless. In fact, no known language in
the world could have done justice to his feelings at that precise
period; for three times that night, in three different shapes,
had he seen this same Leoline, and at the same moment he was
watching her decked out in royal state in the rain, Ormiston had
probably been assisting her from her cold bath in the river

Astonishment and consternation are words altogether too feeble to
express his state of mind; but one idea remained clear and bright
amid all his mental chaos, and that was, that the Leoline he had
fallen in love with dead, was awaiting him, alive and well, in

"Well," said Ormiston, "you don't speak! What do you think of
all this?"

"Think! I can't think - I've got past that long ago!" replied
his friend, hopelessly. "Did you really say Leoline was alive
and well?"

"And waiting for you - yes, I did, and I repeat it; and the
sooner you get back to town, the sooner you will see her; so
don't loiter - "

"Ormiston, what do you mean! Is it possible I can see her

"Yes, it is; the dear creature is waiting for you even now. You
see, after we got to the house, and she had consented to become a
little rational, mutual explanations ensued, by which it appeared
she had ran away from Sir Norman Kingsley's in a state of frenzy,
had jumped into the river in a similarly excited state of mind,
and was most anxious to go down on her pretty knees and thank the
aforesaid Sir Norman for saving her life. What could any one as
gallant as myself do under these circumstances, but offer to set
forth in quest of that gentleman? And she promptly consented to
sit up and wait his coming, and dismissed me with her blessing.
And, Kingsley, I've a private notion she is as deeply affected by
you as you are by her; for, when I mentioned your name, she
blushed, yea, verily to the roots of her hair; and when she spoke
of you, couldn't so much as look me in the face - which is, yea
must own, a very bad symptom."

"Nonsense!" said Sir Norman, energetically. And had it been
daylight, his friend would have seen that he blushed almost as
extensively as the lady. "She doesn't know me."

"Ah, doesn't she, though? That shows all you know about it! She
has seen you go past the window many and many a time; and to see
you," said Ormiston, making a grimace undercover of the darkness,
"is to love! She told me so herself."

"What! That she loved me!" exclaimed Sir Norman, his notions of
propriety to the last degree shocked by such a revelation.

"Not altogether, she only looked that; but she said she knew you
well by sight, and by heart, too, as I inferred from her
countenance when she said it. There now, don't make me talk any
more, for I have told you everything I know, and am about hoarse
with my exertions."

"One thing only - did she tell you who she was?"

"No, except that her name was Leoline, and nothing else - which
struck me as being slightly improbable. Doubtless, she will tell
you everything, and one piece of advice I may venture to give
you, which is, you may propose as soon as you like without fear
of rejection. Here we are at the Golden Crown, so go in and get
your horse, and let us be off."

All this time Ormiston had been leading his own horse by the
bridle, and as Sir Norman silently complied with this suggestion,
in five minutes more they were in their saddles, and galloping at
breakneck speed toward the city. To tell the truth, one was not
more inclined for silence than the other, and the profoundest and
thoughtfulest silence was maintained till they reached it. One
was thinking of Leoline, the other of La Masque, and both were
badly in love, and just at that particular moment very happy. Of
course the happiness of people in that state never lasts longer
than half an hour at a stretch, and then they are plunged back
again into misery and distraction; but while it does last, it in,
very intense and delightful indeed.

Our two friends having drained the bitten, had got to the bottom
of the cup, and neither knew that no sooner were the sweets
swallowed, than it was to be replenished with a doubly-bitter
dose. Neither of them dismounted till they reached the house of
Leoline, and there Sir Norman secured his horse, and looked up at
it with a beating heart. Not that it was very unusual for his
heart to beat, seeing it never did anything else; but on that
occasion its motion was so mush accelerated, that any doctor
feeling his pulse might have justly set him down as a bad case of
heart-disease. A small, bright ray of light streamed like a
beacon of hope from an upper window, and the lover looked at it
as a clouded mariner might at the shining of the North Star.

"Are you coming in, Ormiston?" he inquired, feeling, for the
first time in his life, almost bashful. "It seems to me it would
only be right, you know."

"I don't mind going in and introducing` you," said Ormiston; "but
after you have been delivered over, you may fight poor own
battles, and take care of yourself. Come on."

The door was unfastened, and Ormiston sprang upstairs with the
air of a man-quite at home, followed more decorously by Sir
Norman. The door of the lady's room stood ajar, as he had left
it, and in answer to his "tapping at the chamber-door," a sweet
feminine voice called "come in."

Ormiston promptly obeyed, and the next instant they were in the
room, and in the presence of the dead bride. Certainly she did
not look dead, but very much alive, just then, as she sat in an
easy-chair, drawn up before the dressing-table, on which stood
the solitary lamp that illumed the chamber. In one hand she held
a small mirror, or, as it was then called, a "sprunking-glass,"
in which she was contemplating her own beauty, with as much
satisfaction as any other pretty girl might justly do. She had
changed her drenched dress during Ormiston's absence, and now sat
arrayed in a swelling amplitude of rose-colored satin, her dark
hair clasped and bound by a circle of milk-white pearls, and her
pale, beautiful face looking ten degrees more beautiful than
ever, in contrast with the bright rose-silk, shining dark hair,
and rich white jewels. She rose up as they entered, and came
forward with the same glow on her face and the same light in her
eyes that one of them had seen before, and stood with drooping
eyelashes, lovely as a vision in the centre of the room.

"You see I have lost no time in obeying your ladyship's
commands," began Ormiston, bowing low. "Mistress Leoline, allow
me to present Sir Norman Kingsley."

Sir Norman Kingsley bent almost as profoundly before the lady as
the lord high chancellor had done before Queen Miranda; and the
lady courtesied, in return, until her pink-satin skirt ballooned
out all over the floor. It was quite an affecting tableau. And
so Ormiston felt, as he stood eyeing it with preternatural

"I owe my life to Sir Norman Kingsley," murmured the faint, sweet
voice of the lady, "and could not rest until I had thanked him.
I have no words to say how deeply thankful and grateful I am."

"Fairest Leoline! one word from such lips would be enough to
repay me, had I done a thousandfold more," responded Norman,
laying his hand on his heart, with another deep genuflection.

"Very pretty indeed!" remarked Ormiston to himself, with a little
approving nod; "but I'm afraid they won't be able to keep it up,
and go on talking on stilts like that, till they have finished.
Perhaps they may get on all the better if I take myself off,
there being always one too many in a case like this." Then
aloud: "Madame, I regret that I am obliged to depart, having a
most particular appointment; but, doubtless, my friend will be
able to express himself without my assistance. I have the honor
to wish you both good-night."

With which neat and appropriate speech, Ormiston bowed himself
out, and was gone before Leoline could detain him, even if she
wished to do so. Probably, however, she thought the care of one
gentleman sufficient responsibility at once; and she did not look
very seriously distressed by his departure; and, the moment he
disappeared, Sir Norman brightened up wonderfully.

It is very discomposing to the feelings to make love in the
presence of a third party; and Sir Norman had no intention of
wasting his time on anything, and went at it immediately. Taking
her hand, with a grace that would have beaten Sir Charles
Grandison or Lord Chesterfield all to nothing, he led her to a
couch, and took a seat as near her as was at all polite or
proper, considering the brief nature of their acquaintance. The
curtains were drawn; the lamp shed a faint light; the house was
still, and there was no intrusive papa to pounce down upon them;
the lady was looking down, and seemed in no way haughty or
discouraging, and Sir Norman's spirits went up with a jump to

Yet the lady, with all her pretty bashfulness, was the first to

"I'm afraid, Sir Norman, you must think this a singular hour to
come here; but, in these dreadful times, we cannot tell if we may
live from one moment to another; and I should not like to die, or
have you die, without my telling, and you hearing, all my
gratitude. For I do assure you, Sir Norman," said the lady,
lifting her dark eyes with the prettiest and moat bewitching
earnestness, "that I am grateful, though I cannot find words to
express it."

"Madame, I would not listen to you it you would; for I have done
nothing to deserve thanks. I wish I could tell you what I felt
when Ormiston told me you were alive and safe."

"You are very kind, but pray do not call me madame. Say

"A thousand thanks, dear Leoline!" exclaimed Sir Norman, raising
her hand to his lips, and quite beside himself with ecstasy.

"Ah, I did not tell you to say that!" she cried, with a gay laugh
and vivid blush. "I never said you were to call me dear."

"It arose from my heart to my lips," said Sir Norman, with
thrilling earnestness and fervid glance; "for you are dear to me
- dearer than all the world beside!"

The flush grew a deeper glow on the lady's face; but, singular to
relate, she did not look the least surprised or displeased; and
the hand he had feloniously purloined lay passive and quite
contented in his.

"Sir Norman Kingsley is pleased to jest," said the lady, in a
subdued tone, and with her eyes fixed pertinaciously on her
shining dress; "for he has never spoken to me before in his

"That has nothing to do with it, Leoline. I love you as
devotedly as if I had known you from your birthday; and, strange
to say, I feel as if we had been friends for years instead of

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