Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

His ex

you feel about these things now, adorned, or whether her native but there was a time that you gracefulness would not be far more never thought much what hour of attractive when her life became the day or night it was when you ennobled by duties. A continual went there."

comparison of Alice and Dolly “It used to be so !” said he would rise to his mind; nothing thoughtfully; and then added, “but could be less alike, and yet there I'll go, at all events, mother ; but they were, in incessant juxtaposiI'll not be long away, for I must tion; and while he pictured Alice in have a talk with you before bed- the humble manse of the minister, time.”

beautiful as he had ever seen her, “I have a note written to Sir he wondered whether she would be Arthur here ; will you just give it able to subdue her proud spirit to to him, Tony, or leave it for him such lowly ways, and make of that when you're coming away, for it thatched cabin the happy home wants no answer ?

that Dolly had made it. “All right, mother; don't take periences of life were not very large, tea till I come back, and I'll do my but one lesson they had certainly best to come soon.

taught him—it was, to recognise in It was a well-worn path that led persons of condition, when well from the cottage to Lyle Abbey. brought up, a great spirit of accomThere was not an hour of day or modation. In the varied company night Tony had not travelled it ; of Sir Arthur's house he had conand as he went now, thoughts of stantly found that no one submitted all these long-agos would crowd on with a better grace to accidental his memory, making him ask him- hardships than he whose station self, Was there ever any one had had usually elevated him above so much happiness as I had in those the risks of their occurrence, and days? Is it possible that my life that in the chance roughings of a to come will ever replace to me sportsman life it was the born such enjoyment as that?

gentleman-Sybarite it might be He was not a very imaginative at times—whose temper best susyouth, but he had that amount of the tained him in all difficulties, and quality that suffices for small castle- whose gallant spirit bore him most building; and he went on, as he triumphantly over the crosses and walked, picturing to himself what cares that beset him. It might not would be the boon he would ask be a very logical induction that led from Fortune if some benevolent him to apply this reasoning to fairy were to start out from the Alice, but he did so, and in so tall ferns and grant him his wish. doing he felt very little how the Would it be to be rich and titled time went over, till he found himand great, so that he might propose self on the terrace at Lyle Abbey. to make Alice his wife without any Led on by old habit, he passed semblance of inordinate pretension? in without ringing the bell, and or would it not be to remain as he was already on his way to the drawwas, poor and humble in condition, ing-room when he met Hailes the and that Alice should be in a rank butler. like his own, living in a cottage like In the midst of a shower of reDolly Stewart, with little household joicings at seeing him again-for cares to look after?

he was a great favourite with the It was a strange labyrinth these household Hailes hastened to thoughts led him into, and he soon show him into the dining-room, lost his way completely, unable to where, dinner over, Sir Arthur sat satisfy himself whether Alice might in an easy-chair at the fire, alone, not lose in fascination when no long- and sound asleep. Roused by the er surrounded by all the splendid noise of the opening door, Sir appliances of that high station she Arthur started and looked up; nor

[ocr errors]

with us.

was he indeed very full awake Dear me, dear me! it seems like while Tony blundered out his ex- yesterday;" and he closed his eyes, cuses for disturbing him.

and seemed lost in reverie; but if “My dear Tony, not a word of he really felt it like yesterday, he this. It is a real pleasure to see would have remembered how insoyou. I was taking a nap, just be- lently the superb aide-de-camp cause I had nothing better to do. treated the meek civilian of the We are all alone here now, and the period, and how immeasurably place feels strange enough in the above Mr Lyle of those days stood solitude. Mark gone – the girls the haughty Captain Butler of the away—and no one left but Lady Governor-General's staff. Lyle and myself. There's your old The soldiers used to fancy they friend ; that's some of the '32 cla- had the best of it, Tony; but, I take ret; fill your glass, and tell me that it, we civilians won the race at last;" you are come to pass some days and his eyes ranged over the vast

room, with the walls covered by I wish I was, sir; but I have pictures, and the sideboard loaded come to say good-bye. I'm off to- with massive plate, while the array morrow for London.”

of decanters on the small spider“For London! What ! another table beside him suggested largely freak, Tony?"

of good living “Scarcely a freak, sir,” said he, A

very old friend of mine, Jos. smiling “They've telegraphed to Hughes—he was salt assessor at me to come up and report myself Bussorabad-once remarked to me, for service at the Foreign Office.” ' Lyle,' said he, 'a man must make “ As a Minister, eh ?”

his choice in life, whether he pre“No, sir; a Messenger.”

fers a brilliant start or a good finish, “An excellent thing, too; a capi- for he cannot have both.' Take tal thing. A man must begin some your pleasure when young, and you where, you know. Every one is must consent to work when old; not as lucky as I was, to start with but if you set out vigorously, deterclose on twelve hundred a-year. I mined to labour hard in early life, wasn't twenty when I landed at when you come to my age, Tony, Calcutta, Tony - a mere boy !” you may be able to enjoy your rest”. Here the baronet filled his glass, and and here he waved his hand round, drank it off with a solemnity that as though to show the room in seemed as if it were a silent toast which they sat“ to enjoy your to his own health, for in his own rest, not without dignity. estimation he merited that honour, Tony was an attentive listener, very few men having done more and Sir Arthur was flattered, and for themselves than he had; not went on. “I am sincerely glad to that he had not been over-grateful, have the opportunity of these few however, to the fortune of his early moments with you. I am an old days in this boastful acknowledg- pilot, so to say, on the sea you are ment, since it was in the humble about to adventure upon; and really, capacity of an admiral's secretary, the great difficulty young fellows they called them clerks in those have in life is, that the men who days—he had first found himself in know the whole thing from end to the Indian Ocean, a mere accident end will not be honest in giving leading to his appointment on shore their experiences. There is a cerand all his subsequent good fortune. tainsnobbery'-I have no other “Yes, Tony," continued he, “I word for it—that prevents their started at what one calls a high confessing to small beginnings. rung of the ladder. It was then They don't like telling how humble I first saw your father; he was they were at the start; and what is about the same age you are now. the consequence? The value of the He was on Lord Dollington's staff. whole lesson is lost! Now, I have

no such scruples, Tony. Good you to take this step ; but if you family connections and relatives of had a friend—a man of rank and influence I had; I cannot deny it. station-one whose position your I suppose there are scores of men uncle could not but acknowledge as would have coolly sat down and at least the equal of his own" said to their right honourable cou “He could be no friend of mine sin or their noble uncle, `Help me who should open any negotiations to this-get me that ;' but such on my part with a relation who has was not my mode of procedure. treated my mother so uncourteousNo, sir; I resolved to be my own ly, sir.” patron, and I went to India."

I think you are under a misWhen Sir Arthur said this, he take, Tony. Mrs Butler told me looked as though his words were : that it was rather her own fault “I volunteered to lead the assault. than Sir Omerod's that some sort It was I that was first up the of reconciliation was not effected. breach. But, after all, Tony, I can't Indeed, she once showed me a letget the boys to believe this. Now ter from your uncle when she was these boys were his three sons, two in trouble about those Canadian of them middle-aged, white-headed, bonds.” liverless men in Upper India, and “ Yes, yes, I know it all,” said the third that gay dragoon with Tony, rising, as if all his patience whom we have had some slight was at last exhausted. “I have read acquaintance.

the letter you speak of; he offered to “I have always said to the boys, lend her five or six hundred pounds, · Don't lie down on your high re or to give it, I forget which ; and lations." Had he added that they he was to take me”-here he burst would have found them a most un into a fit of laughter that was alcomfortable bed, he would not have most hysterical in its harsh mockbeen beyond the truth. Do as I ery—“to take me. I don't know did, and see how gladly, ay, and what he was to do with me, for how proudly, they will recognise I believe he has turned Papist, you. I say the same to you, Tony. Jesuit, or what not; perhaps I You have, I am told, some family was to have been made a priest, or connections that might be turned a friar; at all events, I was to have to account?

been brought up dependent on his None, sir; not one," broke in bounty—a bad scheme for each of Tony, boldly.

He would not have been very Well, there is that Sir Omerod proud of his protege ; and, if I Butler. I don't suspect he is a know myself, I don't think I'd man of much actual influence. He have been very grateful to my prois, I take it, a bygone."

tector. My dear mother, however, “I know nothing of him; nor had too much of the mother in do I want to know anything of her to listen to it, and she told him," said Tony, pushing his glass him so, perhaps too plainly for from him, and looking as though his refined notions in matters of the conversation were one he would phraseology ; for he frumped and gladly change for any other topic; wrote no more to us." but it was not so easy to tear Sir “Which is exactly the reason why Arthur from such a theme, and he afriend, speaking from the eminence went on.

which a certain station confers, might “ It would not do for you, per- be able to place matters on a better haps, to make any advances to- and more profitable footing.” wards him.”

“Not with my consent, sir, de“I should like to see myself !” pend upon it,” said Tony, fiercely. said Tony, half choking with angry My dear Tony, there is a vulgar impatience.

adage about the impolicy of quar“I repeat, it would not do for relling with one's bread-and-butter;

us.

[ocr errors]

senger ?

but how far more reprehensible something towards his mother's would it be to quarrel with the face comfort." of tbe man who cuts it?"

“I think you never take sugar, It is just possible that Sir Arthur said she, smiling faintly; and was as much mystified by his own for a while you made a convert of illustration as was Tony, for each Alice.” continued for some minutes to look Was there ever a more commonat the other in a state of hopeless place remark? and yet it sent the bewilderment. The thought of one blood to poor Tony's face and temmystery, however, recalled another, ples, and overwhelmed him with and Tony remembered his mother's confusion. “ You know that the note.

girls are both away?* By the way, sir, I have a letter "It's a capital thing they've given here for you from my mother," said him," said Sir Arthur, trying to he, producing it.

extract from his wife even the semSir Arthur put on his spectacles blance of an interest in the young leisurely, and began to peruse it. fellow's career. It seemed very brief, for in an in What is it ?” asked she. stant he had returned it to his poc “ How do they call you ? are you ket. “I conclude you know nothing a Queen's messenger, or a Queen's of the contents of this ?” said he, courier, or a Foreign Office mesquietly. Nothing whatever.

“I'm not quite sure. I believe “ It is of no consequence. You we are messengers, but whose I may simply tell Mrs Butler from me don't remember." that I will call on her by an early “They have the charge of all the day; and now, won't you come despatches to the various embassies and have a cup of tea ? Lady Lyle and legations in every part of the will expect to see you in the draw- world,” said Sir Arthur, pompously. ing-room.”

“How addling it must be—how Tony would have refused, if he confusing.' knew how; even in his old days he “Why so? You don't imagine had been less on terms of intimacy that they have to retain them, and with Lady Lyle than any others of report them orally, do you ?” the family, and she had at times a Well, I'm afraid I did," said sort of dignified stateliness in her she, with a little simper that seemed manner that checked him greatly. to say, What did it signify either Here's Tony Butler come to way?

of tea with you, and say • They'd have made a most ungood-bye,” said Sir Arthur, as he lucky selection in my case," said led him into the drawing-room. Tony, laughing, "if such had been

“Oh, indeed! I am too happy to the duty. see him," said she, laying down her “Do you think you shall like book; while, with a very chilly it ?” smile, she added, “And where is Mr “I suppose I shall. There is so Butler bound for this time?' And very little I'm really fit for, that simple as the words were, she con I look on this appointment as a trived to impart to them a meaning piece of, rare luck. I fancy I'd as though she had said, “What new rather have gone into the armyscheme or project has he now? a cavalry regiment, for instance." What wild-goose chase

"The most wasteful and extrasent engaged in ?'

vagant career a young fellow could Sir Arthur came quickly to the select," said Sir Arthur, smarting rescue, as he said, “He's going to under some recent and not overtake up an appointment under the pleasant experiences. Crown; and, like a good and pru

“The uniform is so becoming, dent lad, to earn his bread, and do too,” said she, languidly.

take a cup,

he at pre

[ocr errors]

“It is far and away beyond any As she did so, his colour, at first crimpretension of my humble fortune, son, gave way to an ashy paleness, madam,” said Tony, proudly, for and he seemed like one about to there was an impertinent careless- faint. After all,” said she, “perness in her manner that stung him haps it was a mere flirtation that to the quick.

people magnified into marriage." Ah, yes,” sighed she; “ and the “ It was not even that,” gasped army, too, is not the profession for he out, hoarsely. “I am overstayone who wants to marry.”

ing my time, and my mother will Tony again felt his cheek on fire, be waiting tea for me,” muttered but he did not utter a word as she he; and with some scarcely intelwent on,

“And report says some- ligible attempts at begging to be thing like this of you, Mr Butler.” remembered to Alice and Bella, he

“What, Tony! how is this? I took his leave, and hurried away. never heard of it before,” cried Sir While Tony, with a heart almost Arthur.

bursting with agony, wended his “Nor I, sir.”

way towards home, Lady Lyle reCome, come. It is very indis- sumed her novel, and Sir Arthur creet of me, I know,” said Lady took up the “ Times.' After about Lyle; “but as we are in such a half an hour's reading he laid secret committee here at this mo down the paper, and said, “I hope ment, I fancied I might venture to there is no truth in that story about offer my congratulations."

young Butler.” “Congratulations! on what would “Not a word of it,” said she, be the lad's ruin! Why, it would dryly. be downright insanity. I trust “Not a word of it! but I thought there is not a word of truth in it.” you believed it.”

“I repeat, sir, that I hear it all 'Nothing of the kind. It was for the first time.”

a lesson the young gentleman has “I conclude, then, I must have long needed, and I was only waitbeen misinformed.”

ing for a good opportunity to give Might I be bold enough to it.” ask from what quarter the rumour

“I don't understand you. What reached you, or with whom they do you mean by a lesson ?” mated me?

I have very long suspected that “Oh, as to your choice, I hear it was a great piece of imprudence she is a very nice girl indeed, on our part to encourage the intiadmirably brought up and well edu- macy of this young man here, and cated—everything but rich; but of to give him that position of familicourse that fact was well known to arity which he obtained amongst you. Men in her father's position us; but I trusted implicitly to the are seldom affluent."

immeasurable distance that sepaAnd who could possibly have rated him from our girls, to secure taken the trouble to weave all this us against danger. That clever man romance about me ?!" said Tony, of the world, Mr Maitland, howflushing not the less deeply that ever, showed me I was wrong. he suspected it was Dolly Stewart He was not a week here till he saw who was indicated by the descrip- enough to induce him to give me tion.

a warning; and though at first he “One of the girls, I forget which, thought it was Bella's favour he

Where she learned it, I aspired to, he afterwards perceived forget, if I ever knew ; but I re it was to Alice he directed his atmember that the story had a sort tentions.” of completeness about it that looked “I can't believe this possible. like truth.” Was it accident or in- Tony would never dare such a piece tention that made Lady Lyle fix her of presumption.” eyes steadily on Tony as she spoke? "You forget two things, Sir

66

told me.

« ElőzőTovább »