Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

company; sober, attentive, with a particular courage with which he led on his company turn for musketry-practice, which caused me struck me with no admiration ; the probato become the best shot in the regiment. bility of my being myself hit never occurred

I might often have killed him; I might to me. Vengeance for my sister, vengeance have sent my ramrod through him at a re- for myself; to that eager yearning the desview, or even have stepped out of the ranks tinies of nations, the lives of thousands, the and bayoneted him on parade; but then I fate of my comrades, were but accessory and should have been punished for the act, which immaterial. I was glad when the shells, would have given him the last blow, and į bursting over our regiment as it waded made my revenge very imperfect: so, with through the brook, threw it into confusion ; the aid of temperance, I resisted a thousand for confusion was what I wanted. I cheered temptations, and bided my time. It was for joy when the line, broken into a mob by long in coming, and I began to grow moody grape, surged back from the Russian batand uncompanionable, when an event oc- teries; for then I found my opportunity. curred which acted on my spirits like rum. Through all the fire, smoke, blood, and conThe Russian war broke out!

fusion, I had never lost sight of him, and I For the next few months I led the life of rejoiced to see that he was still uninjured, as a gambler watching the chances; I feared I raised my musket, and carefully sighted lest my enemy should show the white feather, him between the shoulders. I pressed the and leave the army, or get a staff-appoint- trigger : he threw up his arms, and fell on ment, and quit the regiment. Then reports his face-dead. were rife that peace would be established I ought to have felt remorse when the deed without a battle being fought, or that the was done, I suppose, but I did not. That war would be settled by the navy. But all day and afterwards I shot many an inoffenthese fears were unfounded ; Captain Ash- sive Russian in the public quarrel, and one ley remained within my reach, and we landed life seemed a small matter on my own priin the Crimea.

vate account. Even now that I wish to reThe morning of Alma broke, and now I pent and forgive, I do not feel remorse. No had only one fear left: I dreaded lest a Rus- one suspected me; on the contrary, I gained sian bullet should rob me of my prey ; his great credit for my behavior that day, and at death was nothing if he did not meet it at Inkermann, where I was wounded. The cloud my hands. I have often thought since, that of my life seemed to have passed away now it was strange that I did not relent when I that my enemy was dead, and I once more found myself fighting on the same side as rose to be sergeant. When the war was himself against a common enemy; strange over, we went to India, and there I got a ball that I, who had been piously brought up, felt through the lungs, was invalided, pensioned, no fear at meeting death face to face with my and here I am, dying in my bed, not at the heart full of revenge: but so it was—the end of a rope.

а

Through Life and for Life; a Story of Discipline. (of feminine duplicity, that the poor girl should

By D. Richmond. Routledge and Co. be continually preached at, then lose her lover However willing we may be to find sermons Volunteer ball, and finally burst a bloodressel

because she accompanied her godmother to a in stones and good in everything, we protest and die penitent-and all this because she once against being beguiled into the acceptance of a volume of tracts under the guise of an imagina- went to a review with a few rosebuds in her tive story. If it be really necessary to “tinge had an unreasoning dislike to ornaments of any

bonnet, though aware that her puritanical aunt the vessel's brim with juices sweet,” in order to deceive the rebellious palate of a'sick and fret- kind.. Nor do we object to the physic alone ful child, it would still be as well to be certain the "juices sweet” positively set one's teeth on that neither the medicine nor its mask was inap- edge. Let a sermon be a sermon, and a fiction propriate to the disease. It is certainly a vio- a fiction, but a confused medley of things sacred lent remedy for an ordinary degree of female and profane is unseemly and irreveren i. -Specvanity, combined with no extraordinary amount

tator,

was

From The Cornhill Magazine. what stern exterior ; and so, I repeat, I
TO ESTHER.

liked you, and, making a bow, I said I was THE first time that I ever knew you, was afraid I before my

time. at Rome one winter's evening. I had walked “I'm afraid it is my father who is after through the silent streets I see them now his,” you said. “Mr. Halbert is coming, -dark with black shadows, lighted by the and he, too, is often late;” and so we went blazing stars overhead and by the lamps on talking for about ten minutes. dimly flickering before the shrines at street

Yours is a kindly manner, a sad-toned corners. After crossing the Spanish-place voice; I know not if your life has been a I remember turning into a narrow alley and happy one ; you are well-disposed towards coming presently to a great black archway, every soul you come across; you love to be which led to a glimmering court. A figure loved, and try with a sweet artless art to of the Virgin stood with outstretched arms win and charm over each man or woman above the door of your house, and the light that you meet. I saw that you liked me, burning at her feet dimly played upon the that you felt at your ease with me, that you stone, worn and stained, of which the walls held me not quite your equal, and might were built. Through the archway came a perhaps laugh at, as well as with, me. But glimpse of the night sky above the court- I did not care. My aim in life, Heaven yard, shining wonderfully with splendid knows, has not been to domineer, to lay stars ; and I also caught the plashing sound down the law, and triumph over others, least of a fountain flowing in the darkness. I of all over those I like. groped my way up the broad stone stair- The colonel arrived presently, with his case, only lighted by the friendly star-shine, white hair trimly brushed and his white neckstumbling and knocking my shins against cloth neatly tied. He greeted me with great those ancient steps, up which two centuries friendliness and cordiality. You have got of men and women had clambered; and at his charm of manner; but with you, my dear, last, ringing at a curtained door, I found it is not manner only, for there is loyalty myself in a hall, and presently ushered and heartiness shining in your face, and sinthrough a dining-room, where the cloth was cerity ringing in every tone of your voice. laid, and announced at the drawing-room All this you must have inherited from your door as Smith.

mother, if such things are an inheritance. It was a long room with many windows, As for the colonel, your father, if I mistake and cabinets and tables along the wall, with not, he is a little shrivelled-up old gentlea tall carved mantel-piece, at which you were man, with a machine inside to keep him gostanding, and a Pompeian lamp burning on ing, and outside a well-cut coat and a wella table near you. Would you care to hear bred air and knowledge of the world to get what manner of woman I saw; what impres-on through life with. Not a very large capsion I got from you as we met for the first ital to go upon. However, this is not the time together? In after days, light, mood, way to speak to a young lady about her circumstance, may modify this first image father; and besides it is you, and not he, in more or less, but the germ of life is in it— whom I take the interest which prompts the identical presence--and I fancy it is these maudlin pages. rarely improved by keeping, by painting up, Mr. Halbert and little Latham, the artist, with love, or dislike, or long use, or weari- were the only other guests. You did not ness, as the case may be. Be this as it may, look round when Halbert was announced, I think I knew you as well after the first five but went on speaking to Latham, with a minutes' acquaintance as I do now. I saw strange flush in your face ; until Halbert an ugly woman, whose looks I liked some- had, with great empressement, made his way how ; thick brows, sallow face, a tall and through the chairs and tables, and had straight-made figure, honest eyes that had greeted, rather than been greeted by, you, no particular merit besides, dark hair, and a as I and Latham were. pleasant, cordial smile. And somehow, as I So thinks I to myself, concerning certain looked at you and heard you talk, I seemed vague notions I had already begun to enterto be aware of a frank spirit, uncertain, tain, I am rather late in the field, and the blind, wayward, tender, under this some-city is taken and has already hoisted the

a

a

[ocr errors]

conqueror's colors. Perhaps those red flags I looked at you now and then, and could not • might have been mine had I come a little help surprising your thoughts somehow, and sooner; who knows ? De tout laurier un knowing that I had not been mistaken after poison est l'essence," says the Frenchman; all. There you sat, making simple schemes and my brows may be as well unwreathed. of future happiness; you could not, would

"I came up-stairs with the dinner,” Mr. not, look beyond the present. You were Halbert was saying. “ It re-assured me as very calm, happy, full of peaceful reliance. to my punctuality. I rather pique myself Your world was alight with shining stars, on my punctuality, colonel.”

great big shining meteors, all flaring up as “And I'm afraid I have been accusing you they usually do before going out with a of being always late," you said, as if it were splutter at the end of the entertainment. a confession.

People who are in love I have always found “ Have you thought so, Miss Olliver very much alike ; and now, having settled cried Halbert.

that you belonged to that crack-brained “ Dinner, sir,” said Baker, opening the community, it was not difficult to guess at door.

what was going on in your mind. All dinner-time Halbert, who has very I, too, as I have said, had been favored high spirits, talked and laughed without with a card for Lady Parker's rout; and as ceasing. You, too, laughed, listened, looked you were so absent and ill-inclined to talk, very happy, and got up with a smile at last, and the colonel was anxious to go off and leaving us to drink our wine. The colonel play whist at his club, I thought I might as presently proposed cigars.

well follow in Halbert's traces, and gratify “In that case I shall go and talk to your any little curiosity I might feel as to his bedaughter in the drawing-room,” Halbert havior and way of going on in your absence. said. “I'm promised to Lady Parker's to- I found that Latham was also going to her night; it would never do to go there smell- ladyship’s. As we went down-stairs together ing all over of smoke. I must be off in half Latham said, “ It was too bad of Halbert to an hour,” he added, looking at his watch. break up the party and go off at that absurd

I, too, had been asked, and was rather hour. I didn't say I was going, because I surprised that he should be in such a des- thought his rudeness might strike them.” perate hurry to get there. Talking to Miss “But surely,” said I, “ Mr. Halbert seems Olliver in the next room, I could very well at home there, and may come and go as he understand ; but leaving her to rush off to likes.” Latham shrugged his shoulders. “I Lady Parker's immediately, did not accord like the girl ; I hope she is not taken in by with the little theories I had been laying him. He has been very thick all the winter down. Could I have been mistaken ? In in other quarters. Lady Parker's niece, this case it seemed to me this would be the Lady Fanny Fareham, was going to marry very woman to suit me—(you see I am speak- him, they said; but I know very little of ing without any reserve, and simply describ- him. He is much too great a swell to be on ing the abrupt little events as they occurred) intimate terms with a disreputable little -and I thought, who knows that there may painter like myself. What a night it is !” not be a chance for me yet? But, by the As he spoke we came out into the street time my cigar had crumbled into smoke and again, our shadows falling on the stones; ashes, it struck me that my little castle had the Virgin overhead still watching, the lamp also wreathed away and vanished. Going burning faithfully, the solemn night waning into the drawing-room, where the lamps on. Lady Parker had lodgings in the Corso. were swinging in the dimness, and the night I felt almost ashamed of stepping from the without streaming in through the uncur- great entertainment without into the close tained windows, we found you in your white racketing little tea-party that was clattering dress, sitting alone at one of them. Mr. on within. We came in, in the middle of a Halbert was gone, you said ; he went out by jangling tune, the company spinning round the other door. And then you were silent and round. Halbert, twirling like a Dervish, again, staring out at the stars with dreamy was almost the first person I saw ; he was eyes. The colonel rang for tea, and chirped flushed, and looked exceedingly hauidsome, away very pleasantly to Latham by the fire. Iand his tall shoulders overtopped most of

a

the other heads. As I watched him I luxuriance ; roses flowering and fading and thought with great complacency that if any falling in showers on the pathways; and woman cared for me, it would not be for my terraces and marble steps yellow with age. looks. No! no ! what are mere good looks Lonely fountains plash in their basins, statcompared to those mental qualities which, ues of fawns and slender nymphs stand out etc., etc. Presently, not feeling quite easy against the solemn horizon of blue hills and in my mind about these said mental quali- crimson-streaked sky; of cypress-trees and ties, I again observed that it was still better cedars, with the sunset showing through to be liked for one's self than for one's men- their stems. At home, I lead a very busy, tal qualities ; by which time I turned my anxious life: the beauty and peace of these attention once more to Mr. Halbert. The Italian villas fill me with inexpressible satisyouth was devoting himself most assiduously faction and gratitude towards those mouldto a very beautiful, oldish young lady, in a ering pontiffs, whose magnificent liberality green gauzy dress; and I now, with a mix- has secured such placid resting-places for ture of satisfaction and vexation, recognized generations of weary men. Taking a long the very same looks and tones which had walk out of Rome one day, I came to the misled me at dinner.

gates of one of

se gardens. I remember I left him still at it and walked home, seeing a carriage waiting in the shade of wondering at the great law of natural equal. some cedar-trees ; hard by, horses with ity which seems to level all mankind to one drooping heads, and servants smoking as standard, notwithstanding all those artificial they waited. This was no uncommon sight; ones which we ourselves have raised. Here the English are forever on their rounds; was a successful youth, with good looks and but somehow, on this occasion, I thought I good wits and position and fortune ; and recognized one of the men, and instead of here was I, certainly no wonder, insignifi- passing by, as had been my intention, I cant and plain and poor, and of common- turned in at the half-opened gate, which the place intelligence, and as well satisfied with angels with the flaming swords had left un. my own possessions, such as they were, as guarded and unlocked for once, and, after a he, Halbert, could be with the treasures a few minutes' walk, I came upon the Eve I prodigal fortune had showered upon him. looked for. Here was I, judging him, and taking his You were sitting on some time-worn steps; measure as accurately as he could take mine, you wore a green silk dress, and your brown were it worth his while to do so. Here was hair, with the red tints in it, was all ablaze I, walking home under the stars, while he with the light. You looked very unhappy, I was flirting and whispering with Lady Fanny, thought: got up with an effort, and smiled a and both our nights sped on. Constellations pitiful smile. sinking slowly, the day approaching through " Are you come here for a little quiet ? » the awful realms of space, hours waning, life I asked. “I am not going to disturb you.” going by for us both alike: both of us men “I came here for pleasure, not quiet,” you waiting together amidst these awful sur- said, “ with papa and some friends. I was roundings.

tired, so they walked on and left me.”

“ That is the way with one's friends,” said You and I met often after this first meet- I. “Who are the culprits, Miss Olliver ? " ing-in churches where tapers were lighting “ I am the only culprit," you said, grimly. and heavy censers swinging-on the Pincio, “ Lady Fanny and Mr. Halbert came with us in the narrow, deep-colored streets : it was to-day. Look, there they are at the end of not always chance only which brought me that alley." so constantly into your presence. You your- And as you spoke, you raised one hand self were the chance, at least, and I, the and pointed, and I made up my mind. It blind follower of fortune.

was a very long alley. The figures in the All round about Rome there are ancient distance were advancing very slowly. When gardens lying basking in the sun. Gardens they reach that little temple, thought I, I will and villas built long since by dead cardinals tell her what I think. and popes; terraces, with glinting shadows, This was by no means so sudden a deterwith honeysuckle clambering in desolate mination as it may appear to you, reading

over these pages. It seems a singular rea- | Those were very pleasant times. I rememson to give; but I really think it was your ber now, one afternoon in early spring, open hopeless fancy for that rosy youth which windows, sounds coming in from the city, touched me and interested me so. I know I the drone of the pfifferari buzzing drowsily used to carry home sad words, spoken not to in the sultry streets. You sat at your winme, and glances that thrilled me with love, dow in some light-colored dress, laughing pity, and sympathy. What I said was, as now and then, and talking your tender little you know, very simple and to the purpose. talk. The colonel, from behind The Times, Í knew quite well your fancy was elsewhere ; joined in now and again : the pleasant halfmine was with you, perhaps as hopelessly hours slid by. We were still basking there, placed. I didn't exactly see what good this when Halbert was announced, and came in, confession was to do either of us, only, there looking very tall and handsome. The bagI was, ready to spend my life at your service. pipes droned on, the flies sailed in and out

When I had spoken there was a silent mo- on the sunshine ; you still sat tranquilly at ment, and then you glowed up your eyes the open casement; but somehow the golden melted, your mouth quivered. “Oh, what atmosphere of the hour was gone. Your can I say? Oh, I am so lonely. Oh, I have smiles were gone; your words were sinot one friend in the world; and now, sud- lenced ; and that happy little hour was over denly, a helping hand is held out, and I can't forever. - I can't push it away. Oh, don't despise. When I got up to come away Halbert rose Oh, forgive me.”

too: he came down-stairs with me, and sudDespise ! scorn! ... Poor child! I denly, looking me full in the face, said, only liked you the more for your plaintive “ When is it to be ?" appeal; though I wondered at it.

“You know much more about it than I “ Take your time,” I said ; "I can wait, do," I answered. and I shall not fly away. Call me when you “ You don't mean to say that you are not want me; send me away when I weary you. very much smitten with Miss Esther P” said Here is your father ; shall I speak to him ? he. But no. Remember there is no single link “ Certainly I am," said I ; “I should be between us, except what you yourself hold in ready enough to marry her, if that is what your own hands."

you mean. I dare say I sha'n't get her. Here your father and Halbert and Lady She is to me the most sympathetic woman I Fanny came up. “Well, Esther, are you have ever known. You are too young, Mr. rested ? ” says the colonel cheerfully. “Why, Halbert, to understand and feel her worth. how do you do (to me)? What have you Don't be offended,” I added, seeing him been talking about so busily?

“You young fellows can't be exYou did not answer, but fixed your eyes pected to see with the same eyes as we old on your father's face. I said something; I ones. You will think as I do in another ten forget what. Halbert, looking interested, years." turned from one to the other. Lady Fanny, “How do you mean ?" he asked. who held a fragrant heap of roses, shook a “ Isn't it the way with all of us,” said I; few petals to the ground, where they lay " we begin by liking universally; as we go glowing after we had all walked

away. on we pick and choose, and weary of things If you remember, I did not go near you which had only the charm of novelty to recfor a day or two after this. But I wrote you ommend them; only as our life narrows we a letter, in which I repeated that you were cling more and more to the good things entirely free to use me as you liked : marry which remain, and feel their value ten times me—make a friend of me I was in your more keenly P And surely, a sweet, honhands. One day, at last, I called ; and I est-hearted young woman like Esther Ollishall never forget the sweetness and friendly ver is a good thing." gratefulness witk which you received me. A “She is very nice," Halbert said. “She solitary man, dying of lonely thirst, you has such good manners. I have had more meet me with a cup of sparkling water: a experience than you give me credit for, and weary watcher through the night-suddenly I am very much of your way of thinking. I see the dawn streaking the bright horizon. They say that old courtly colonel is dread

flush up

[ocr errors]

9

« ElőzőTovább »