Daisy’s astonishment, on receiving by post those documents that
restored him to the world from his vegetation in Roscommon, was no
less unbounded than his joy. When he opened the registered letter,
and bills for the whole amount of his liabilities fluttered out,
he could scarcely believe his eyes. Then he puzzled himself to no
purpose, in wild speculations as to the friend who had thus dropped
from the skies at his utmost need. He had an uncle prosperous enough
in worldly matters, but this uncle hated parting with his money,
and was, moreover, abroad, whereas the welcome letter bore a London
post-mark. He could think of no other relative nor friend rich enough,
even if willing, to assist him in so serious a difficulty. The more
he considered his good luck, the more inexplicable it appeared; nor,
taking his host into consultation, did that worthy’s suggestions tend
to elucidate the mystery.

In the first place, recalling many similar instances under his own
observation, Denis opined that the money must have been hidden up
for his guest, long ago, by his great grandmother, in a stocking,
and forgotten! Next, that the Prussian Government, having heard of
the mare’s performances at Punchestown, had bought her for breeding
purposes, at such a sum as they considered her marketable value. And,
lastly (standing the more stoutly by this theory, for the failure of
its predecessors), that the whole amount had been subscribed under
a general vote of the Kildare Street Club, in testimony of their
admiration for Daisy’s bold riding and straightforward conduct as a

Leaving him perfectly satisfied with this explanation, Daisy bade
his host an affectionate farewell, and started without delay for
London, previously telegraphing to his comrade at Kensington certain
information and instructions for his guidance. Warped in its
transmission by an imaginative clerk in a hurry, we have seen how this
message confused and distracted the honest perceptions of its recipient.

That young officer was sitting down to breakfast, with Venus under his
chair, while Benjamin, the badger, poked a cautious nose out of his
stronghold in the wardrobe, when the hasty retreat of one animal, and
formidable growlings of the other, announced a strange step on the
stairs. Immediately Daisy rushed into the room, vociferated for Barney
to look after his “traps” and pay the cab, seized a hot plate, wagged
his head at his host, and began breakfast without further ceremony.

“Seem peckish, young man,” observed Bill, contemplating his friend
with extreme satisfaction. “Sick as a fool last night, no doubt, and
sharp-set this morning in consequence. Go in for a cutlet, my boy.
Another kidney, then. That’s right. Have a suck of the lemon, and at
him again!”

Munching steadily, Daisy repudiated the imputation of sea-sickness,
with the scorn of a practised mariner. “It seems to me that I live
on that Channel,” said he, “like a ship’s-steward, Bill, or a
horse-marine! Well, I’ve done with it now, I hope, for some time. How
jolly it is to feel straight again! It’s like your horse getting up,
when he’s been on his head, without giving the crowner you deserve. It
was touch-and-go this time, old chap. I say, you got my telegram?”

Bill laughed. “I did, indeed!” he answered; “and a nice mull they made.
Read it for yourself.”

Thus speaking, he tossed across the breakfast-table that singular
communication which his unassisted ingenuity had so failed to

Daisy perused it with no little astonishment. “The fools!” he
exclaimed. “Why, Bill, you must have thought I’d gone mad.”

“We _did_,” replied Bill gravely. “Stark staring, my boy. We said we
always _had_ considered you ‘a hatter,’ but not so bad as this.”

“_We!_” repeated his friend. “What d’ye mean by _we_? You didn’t go
jawing about it in the regiment, Bill?”

“When I say we,” answered the other, with something of a blush, “I mean
me and Mrs. Lushington.”

“What had _she_ to do with it?” asked Daisy, pushing his plate away,
and lighting a cigar. “_She_ didn’t send the stuff, I’ll take my oath!”

“But she knows who did,” said Bill, filling a meerschaum pipe of
liberal dimensions, with profound gravity.

Then they smoked in silence for several minutes.

“It’s a very rum go,” observed Daisy, after a prolonged and thoughtful
puff. “I don’t know when I’ve been so completely at fault. Tell me what
you’ve heard, Bill, for you _have_ heard something, I’m sure. In the
first place, how came you to take counsel with Mrs. Lushington?”

“Because she is up to every move in the game,” was the answer. “Because
she’s the cleverest woman in London, and the nicest. Because I was
regularly beat, and could think of nobody else to help me at short
notice. The telegram said, ‘Do not lose a moment.'”

“And what did _she_ make of it?” asked Daisy.

“Tumbled to the whole plant in three minutes,” answered Bill. “Put the
telegram straight–bulls, honey, and all–as easy as wheeling into
line. I tell you, we know as much as you do now, and _more_. You’ve got
three ‘thou,’ Daisy, ready-money down, to do what you like with. Isn’t
that right?”

Daisy nodded assent.

“The Chief’s delighted, and I’ve sent the agent to Sharon. Luckily,
the little beggar’s not so unreasonable as we thought he’d be. That
reckons up the telegram, doesn’t it?”

Again Daisy nodded, smoking serenely.

“Then there’s nothing more for you to bother about,” continued his
host; “and I’m glad of it. Only, next time, Daisy, you won’t pull for
an old woman, I fancy, in a winning race.”

“Nor a young one either,” said his friend. “But you haven’t told me now
who the money came from.”

“Can’t you guess? Have you no idea?”

“Not the faintest.”

“What should you say to Miss Douglas?”

“Miss Douglas!”

By the tone in which Daisy repeated her name, that young lady was
obviously the last person in the world from whom he expected to receive
pecuniary assistance.

Though no longer peaceful, his meditations seemed deeper than ever. At
length he threw away the end of his cigar with a gesture of impatience
and vexation.

“This is a very disagreeable business,” said he. “Hang it, Bill, I
almost wish the money had never come. I can’t send it back, for a
thousand’s gone already to our kind old major, who promised to settle
my book at Tattersall’s. I wonder where she got such a sum. By Jove,
it’s the handsomest thing I ever heard of! What would you do, Bill, if
you were in my place?”

“Do,” repeated his friend; “I’ve no doubt what I should _do_. I should
order Catamount round at once; then I think I’d have a brandy-and-soda;
in ten minutes I’d be at Miss Douglas’s door, and in fifteen I’d
have–what d’ye call it?–proposed to her. Proposed to her, my boy, all
according to regulation. I’m not sure how you set about these things. I
fancy you go down on your knees; I know you ought to put your arm round
their waists; but lots of fellows could coach you for all that part,
and even if you did anything that’s not in the book, this is a case of
emergency, and, in my opinion, you might chance it!”

Having thus delivered himself, the speaker assumed a judicial air,
smoking severely.

“In plain English, a woman buys one for three thousand pounds!” said
Daisy, laughing rather bitterly. “_And only three thousand bid for him.
Going! Going!!_”

“_Gone!!!_” added Bill, bringing his fist down on the table with a bang
that startled the badger, and elicited an angry bark from Venus. “A
deuced good price, too; I only hope I shall fetch half as much when I’m
brought to the hammer. Why you ought to be delighted, my good fellow.
She’s as handsome as paint, and the best horse-woman that ever wore a

“I don’t deny her riding, nor her beauty, nor her merit in every way,”
said Daisy, somewhat ruefully. “In fact, she’s much too good for a
fellow like me. But do you mean, seriously, Bill, that I must marry her
because she has paid my debts?”

“I do, indeed,” answered his friend; “and Mrs. Lushington thinks so

Before Daisy’s eyes rose the vision of an Irish river glancing in the
sunshine, with banks of tender green and ripples of molten gold, and
a fishing-rod lying neglected on its margin, while a fair, fond face
looked loving and trustful in his own.

There are certain hopes akin to the child’s soap-bubble which we
cherish insensibly, admiring their airy grace and radiant colouring,
almost persuading ourselves of their reality, till we apply to them
some practical test–then behold! at a touch, the bubble bursts,
the dream vanishes, to leave us only a vague sense of injustice, an
uncomfortable consciousness of disappointment and disgust.

“I conclude Mrs. Lushington understands these things, and knows exactly
what a fellow ought to do,” said Daisy, after another pause that
denoted he was in no indiscreet hurry to act on that lady’s decision.

“Of course she does!” answered Bill. “She’s a regular authority, you
know, or I wouldn’t have gone to her. You couldn’t be in safer hands.”

Both young men seemed to look on the whole transaction in the light
of a duel, or some such affair of honour, requiring caution no less
than courage, and in the conduct of which the opinion of a celebrated
practitioner like Mrs. Lushington was invaluable and unimpeachable.

“But if I–if I don’t like her well enough,” said poor Daisy, looking
very uncomfortable. “Hang it, Bill, when one marries a woman, you
know, one’s obliged to be always with her. Early breakfast, home to
luncheon, family dinner, smoke out of doors, and in by ten o’clock. I
shouldn’t like it at all; and then perhaps she’d take me to morning
visits and croquet parties. Think of that, Bill! Like poor Martingale,
whose only holiday is when he gets the belt on, and can’t stir out of
barracks for four-and-twenty hours. To be sure, Miss Douglas is a good
many cuts above Mrs. Martingale!”

“To be sure she is!” echoed his adviser. “And I dare say, after all,
Daisy, it is not quite so bad as we think. Wet days and that you’d
have to yourself, you know, and she wouldn’t want you when she had a
headache. Mrs. Martingale often has headaches, and so should I if I
liquored up as freely!”

“But supposing,” argued Daisy, “I say only _supposing_, Bill, one liked
another girl better; oughtn’t that to make a difference?”

“I’m afraid _not_,” replied Bill, shaking his head. “I didn’t think of
putting the case in that way to Mrs. Lushington, but I don’t imagine
she’d admit the objection. No, no, my boy, it’s no use being shifty
about it. You’ve got to jump, and the longer you look, the less you’ll
like it! If it was a mere matter of business, I wouldn’t say a word,
but see how the case stands. There are no receipts, no vouchers; she
has kept everything dark, that you might feel under no obligation. Hang
it, old fellow, it’s a regular debt of honour; and there’s no way of
paying up, that I can see, but this.”

Such an argument was felt to be unanswerable.

“A debt of honour,” repeated Daisy. “I suppose it is. Very well; I’ll
set about it at once. I can’t begin to-day though.”

“Why not?” asked his friend.

“No time,” answered the other, who in many respects was a true
Englishman. “I’ve got lots of things to do. In the first place, I must
have my hair cut, of course!”

A letter, without date or signature, written in an upright, clerkly
hand, correctly spelt, sufficiently well-expressed, and stamped at the
General Post Office! St. Josephs had no clue to his correspondent,
and could but read the following production over and over again with
feelings of irritation and annoyance that increased at each perusal:–

“You have been grossly ill-treated and deceived. A sense of justice
compels the writer of these lines to warn you before it is too late.
You are the victim of a conspiracy to plunder and defraud. One cannot
bear to see a man of honour robbed by the grossest foul play. General
St. Josephs is not asked to believe a bare and unsupported statement.
Let him recapitulate certain facts, and judge for himself. He best
knows whether he did not lately borrow a large sum of money. He can
easily discover if that amount corresponds, to a fraction, with the
losses of a young officer celebrated for his horsemanship. Let him
ascertain why that person’s debts have stood over till now; also, how
and when they have been settled. Will he have courage to ask himself,
or _somebody_ he trusts as himself, whence came these funds that have
placed his rival in a position to return to England? Will he weigh
the answer in the balance of common-sense; or is he so infatuated by
a certain dark lady that he can be fooled with his eyes open, in full
light of day? There is no time to lose, or this caution would never
have been given. If neglected, the General will regret his incredulity
as long as he lives. Most women would appreciate his admiration; many
would be more than proud of his regard. There is but one, perhaps, in
the world who could thus repay it by injury and deceit. He is entreated
to act at once on this communication, and to believe that of all his
well-wishers it comes from the sincerest and the most reliable.”

Everybody affects to despise anonymous letters. No doubt it is a wise
maxim that such communications should be put in the fire at once,
and ignored as if they did not exist. Nevertheless, on the majority
of mankind they inflict unreasonable anxiety and distress. The sting
rankles, though the insect be infinitesimal and contemptible; the blow
falls none the less severely that it has been delivered in the dark.

On a nature like the General’s such an epistle as the above was
calculated to produce the utmost amount of impatience and discomfort.
To use a familiar expression, it _worried_ him beyond measure.
Straightforward in all his dealings, he felt utterly at a loss when
he came in contact with mystery or deceit. Nothing could furnish
plainer proof of the General’s sincere attachment to Miss Douglas than
the fortitude with which he confronted certain petty vexations and
annoyances inseparable from the love affairs of young and old.

“Ah me! what perils do environ,
The man who meddles with cold iron,”

quoth Hudibras, but surely his risk is yet greater, who elects to heat
the metal from hilt to point in the furnace of his own affections, and
burns his fingers every time he draws the sword, even in self-defence.
To St. Josephs who, after a manhood of hardship, excitement, and some
military renown, had arrived at a time of life when comfort and repose
are more appreciated, and more desirable every day, nothing could have
been so distasteful as the character he now chose to enact, but for
_her_ charms, who had cast the part for him, and with whom, by dint of
perseverance and fidelity, he hoped to play out the play.

Though he often sighed to remember how heavily he was weighted with his
extra burden of years, he never dreamed of retiring from the contest,
nor relaxed for one moment in his efforts to attain the goal.

Twenty times was he on the point of destroying a letter that so annoyed
him, and twenty times he checked himself, with the reflection, that
even the treacherous weapon might be wrested from the enemy, and turned
to his own advantage by sincerity and truth. After much cogitation,
he ordered his horse, dressed himself carefully, and rode to Miss
Douglas’s door.

That lady was at home. Luncheon, coming out of the dining-room
untouched, met him as he crossed the hall, and the tones of her
pianoforte rang in his ears, while he went upstairs. When the door
opened she rose from the instrument and turned to greet him with a pale
face, showing traces of recent tears.

All his self-command vanished at these tokens of her distress.

“You’ve been crying, my darling,” said he, and taking her hand in both
his own, he pressed it fondly to his lips.

It was not a bad beginning. Hitherto he had always been so formal, so
respectful, so unlike a lover; now, when he saw she was unhappy, the
man’s real nature broke out, and she liked him none the worse.

Withdrawing her hand, but looking very kindly, and speaking in a softer
tone than usual, she bade him take no notice of her agitation.

“I’m nervous,” said she. “I often am. You men can’t understand these
things, but it’s better than being cross at any rate.”

“Cross!” he repeated. “Be as cross and as nervous as you like, only
make _me_ the prop when you require support, and the scapegoat when you
want to scold.”

“You’re too good,” said she, her dark eyes filling again, whereat he
placed himself very close and took her hand once more. “Far too good
for _me_! I’ve told you so a hundred times. General, shall I confess
why I was–was making such a fool of myself, and what I was thinking of
when you came in?”

“If it’s painful to _you_, I’d rather not hear it,” was his answer. “I
want to be associated with the sunshine of your life, Blanche, not its

She shook her head.

“Whoever takes that part in _my_ life,” she replied, “must remain a
good deal in the dark. That’s what I was coming to. General, it is
time you and I should understand each other. I feel I could tell _you_
things I would not breathe to any other living being. You’re so safe,
so honourable, so punctiliously, so _ridiculously_ honourable, and I
_like_ you for it.”

He looked grateful.

“I want you to like me,” said he. “Better and better every day. I’ll
try to deserve it.”

“They say time works wonders,” she answered wistfully, “and I feel
I shall. I _know_ I shall. But there are some things I _must_ tell
you now, while I have the courage. Mind, I am prepared to take all
consequences. I have deceived you, General. Deceived you in a way you
could never imagine nor forgive.”

“So people seem to think,” he observed coolly, producing, at the
same time, the anonymous letter from his pocket. “I should not have
troubled you with such trash, but as you have chosen to make me your
father-confessor, perhaps I ought to say your _grand_-father confessor,
this morning, you may as well look through it, before we put that
precious production in the fire.”

He walked to the window, so as not to see her face while she read it,
nor was this little act of delicacy and forbearance lost on such a
woman as Blanche Douglas.

Her temper, nevertheless, became thoroughly roused before she got to
the end of the letter, causing her to place herself once more in the
position of an adversary. Her eyes shone, her brows lowered, and her
words came in the tight concentrated accents of bitter anger while she
bade him turn round, and look her in the face.

“This has only anticipated me,” said she, pale and quivering. “I stand
here, arraigned like any prisoner in the dock, but with no excuses to
offer, no defence to make. It is a fine position, truly; but having
been fool enough to accept it, I do not mean to shrink from its
disgrace. Ask me what questions you will, I am not afraid to answer

“Honestly?” said he, “without quibbles or after-thought, and once for

She looked very stern and haughty.

“I am not in the habit of shuffling,” she replied. “I never yet feared
results from word or action of mine. And what I say, you may depend
upon it, I mean.”

On the General’s face came an expression of confidence and resolution
she had never noticed before. Meeting his regard firmly, it occurred to
her that so he must have looked when he rode through that Sepoy column,
and charged those Russian guns. He was a gallant fellow, no doubt,
bold and kind-hearted too.

If he had only been twenty years younger, or even ten!

He spoke rather lower than usual; but every syllable rang clear and
true, while his eyes looked frankly and fearlessly into her own.

“Then answer my question once for all. Blanche, will you be my wife?
Without farther hesitation or delay?”

“Let me explain first.”

“I ask for no explanation, and will listen to none. Suppose me to
repose implicit confidence in the vague accusations of an anonymous
slander. Suppose me to believe you false and fickle, a shameless
coquette, and myself an infatuated old fool. Suppose anything and
everything you please; but first answer the question I ask you from the
bottom of my heart, with this anonymous statement, false or true, I
care not a jot which, in my hand.”

He held it as if about to tear it across and fling it in the grate. She
laid a gentle touch on his arm and whispered softly–

“Don’t destroy it till I’ve answered your question. Yes. There is
nobody like you in the world!”

We need not stop to repeat a proverb touching the irreverent
persistency of Folly in travelling hand-in-hand with Age; and of what
extravagances the General might have been guilty, in his exceeding joy,
it is impossible to guess, had she not stopped him at the outset.

“Sit down there,” she said, pointing to a corner of the sofa,
while establishing herself in an armchair on the other side of the
fire-place. “Now that you have had your say, perhaps you will let me
have _mine_! Hush! I know what you mean. I take all that for granted.
Stay where you are, hold your tongue, and listen to me.”

“The first duty of a soldier is obedience,” he answered in great glee.
“I’ll be as steady as I can.”

“It is my _right_ now to explain,” she continued gravely. “Believe
me. I most fully appreciate; I never can forget. Whatever happened
I never _could_ forget the confidence you have shown in me to-day.
Depend upon it, when you trust people so unreservedly, you make it
_impossible_ for them to deceive. I have always honoured and admired
you. During the last hour I have learned to–to–well–to think you
deserve more than honour and esteem. Any woman might be proud and
happy–yes–happy to belong to you. But now, if I am to be your
wife–don’t interrupt. Well, _as_ I am to be your wife, you must let me
tell you everything–everything–or I recall my promise.”

“Don’t do that,” he answered playfully. “But mind, I’m quite satisfied
with you as you are, and ask to know _nothing_.”

She hesitated, and the colour came to her brow while she completed
her confession. “You–you lent me some money, you know; _gave_ it me,
I ought to say, for I’m quite sure you never expected to see it back
again. It was a good deal. Don’t contradict. It _was_ a good deal, and
I wonder how I could have the face to ask for it. But I didn’t want it
for myself. It was to save from utter ruin a very old and dear friend.”

“I know all about it,” said he cheerfully. “At least, I can guess. Very
glad it should be so well employed. But all that was _your_ business,
not mine.”

“And you never even asked who got it!” she continued, while again there
gathered a mist to veil her large dark eyes.

“My dear Blanche,” he answered, “I was only too happy to be of service
to you. Surely it was your own, to employ as you liked. I don’t want to
know any more about it, even now.”

“But you _must_ know,” she urged. “I’ve been going to tell you ever so
often, but something always interrupted us; and once, when I had almost
got it out, the words seemed to die away on my lips. Listen. You know
I’m not very young.”

He bowed in silence. The reflection naturally presented itself that if
_she_ was not very young, _he_ must be very old.

Miss Douglas proceeded, with her eyes fixed on her listener, as if she
was looking at something a long way off.

“Of course I’ve seen and known lots of people in my life, and had
some great friends–I mean _real_ friends–that I would have made any
sacrifice to serve. Amongst these was Mr. Walters. I used to call him
Daisy. General, I–I liked him better than all the rest. Better than
anybody in the world–”

“And now?” asked the General anxiously, but carrying a bold front

“_Now_, I know I was mistaken,” she replied. “Though that’s not the
question. Well, after that horrid race–when my beautiful mare ought
to have won, and _didn’t_–I knew Daisy–Mr. Walters, I mean–had lost
more than he could afford to pay–in plain English, he was ruined; and
worse, wouldn’t be able to show, unless somebody came to the rescue.
I hadn’t got the money myself. Not a hundredth part of it! So I asked
_you_, and–and–sent it all to _him_. Now you know the whole business.”

“I knew it long ago,” said he gently. “At least, I might have known it,
had I ever allowed the subject to enter my head. Does _he_ know it too,
do you think, Blanche?”

“Good heavens! No!” she exclaimed. “That _would_ be a complication.
You don’t think there’s a chance of it! I took every care–every
precaution. What _should_ I do? General, what would you advise?”

He smiled to mark how she was beginning to depend on him, drawing
a good augury from this alteration in her character, and would no
doubt have replied in exceedingly affectionate terms, but that he was
interrupted by the opening of the drawing-room door, and entrance of
a servant, who, in a matter-of-fact voice, announced a visitor–“Mr.

Blanche turned white to her lips, and muttered rapidly, “Won’t you
stay, General? _Do!_”

But the General had already possessed himself of his hat, and, with
an air of good-humoured confidence, that she felt did honour both
to herself and him, took a courteous leave of his hostess, and gave
a hearty greeting to the newcomer as they passed each other on the

“I think I’ve won the battle,” muttered the old soldier, mounting his
horse briskly in the street; “though I’ve left the enemy in possession
of the ground!”

Daisy, with his hair cut exceedingly short, as denoting that he was
on the eve of some great crisis in life, entered the apartment in the
sheepish manner of a visitor who is not quite sure about his reception.
Though usually of cheerful and confident bearing, denoting no want of
a certain self-assertion, which the present generation call “cheek,”
all his audacity seemed to have deserted him, and he planted himself
in the centre of the carpet, with his hat in his hand like the poor,
spiritless bridegroom at Netherby, who stood “dangling his bonnet and
plume” while his affianced and her bridesmaids were making eyes at
young Lochinvar.

Miss Douglas, too, required a breathing-space to restore her
self-command. When they had shaken hands, it was at least a minute
before either could find anything to say.

The absurdity of the situation struck them both, but the lady was the
first to recover her presence of mind; and, with a laugh not the least
genuine, welcomed him back to England, demanding the latest news from

“You’ve been at Cormac’s-town, of course,” said she. “You can tell us
all about dear Lady Mary, and your pretty friend Norah. I hope she
asked to be remembered to _me_.”

He blushed up to his eyes, turning his hat in his hands, as if he would
fain creep into it bodily and hide himself from notice in the crown.

She saw her advantage, and gained courage every minute, so as to stifle
and keep down the gnawing pain that made her so sick at heart.

“I wonder Norah trusts you in London,” she continued, with another of
those forced smiles. “I suppose you’re only on short leave, as you call
it, and mean to go back directly. Will you have the black mare to ride
while you are in town? I’ve taken great care of her, and she’s looking

To her own ear, if not to his, there was a catch in her breath while
she spoke the last words, that warned her she would need all her
self-command before the play was played out.

He thanked her kindly enough, while he declined the offer; but his tone
was so grave, so sorrowful, that she could keep up the affectation of
levity no longer.

“What is it?” she asked, in an altered voice. “Daisy!–Mr. Walters!
What is the matter? Are you offended? I was only joking about Norah.”

“Offended!” he repeated. “How could I ever be offended with _you_? But
I didn’t come here to talk about Miss Macormac, nor even Satanella,
except in so far as the mare is connected with your generosity and

“What do you mean?” she asked, in considerable trepidation. “_You_
were the generous one, for you gave me the best hunter in your stable,
without being asked.”

“As if you had not bought her over and over again!” he exclaimed,
finding voice and words and courage now that he was approaching the
important topic. “Miss Douglas, it’s no use denying your good deeds,
nor pretending to ignore their magnificence. It was only yesterday I
learned the real name of my _unknown friend_! I tell you that money of
yours saved me from utter ruin–worse than ruin, from such disgrace as
if I had committed a felony, and been sent to prison!”

“I’m sure you look as if you had just come out of one,” she interposed,
“with that cropped head. Why do you let them cut your hair so short? It
makes you hideous!”

“Never mind my cropped head,” he continued, somewhat baffled by the
interruption. “I hurried here at once, to thank you with all my heart,
as the best friend I ever had in the world.”

“Well, you’ve done it,” said she. “That’s quite enough. Now let us talk
of something else.”

“But I _haven’t_ done it,” protested Daisy, gathering, from the
obstacles in his way, a certain inclination to his task or at least a
determination to go through with it. “I haven’t said half what I’ve got
to say, nor a quarter of what I feel. You have shown that you consider
me a near and dear friend. You have given me the plainest possible
proof of your confidence and esteem. All this instigates me–or rather
induces me, or, shall I say, encourages me–to hope, or perhaps
persuade myself of some probability. In short, Miss Douglas–can’t you
help a fellow out with what he’s got to say?”

Floundering about in search of the right expressions, she would have
liked him to go on for an hour. It was delightful to be even on the
brink of that paradise from which she must presently exclude herself
for ever with her own hands, and she forbore to interrupt him till he
came to a dead stop for want of words.

“Nonsense!” she said. “Any friend would have done as much who had the
power. It’s nothing to make a fuss about. I’m glad you’re out of the
scrape, and there’s an end to it.”

“You were always generous,” he exclaimed. “You ought to have been a
man; I’ve said so a hundred times–only it’s lucky you’re _not_, or I
couldn’t ask you a question that I don’t know how to put in the right

She turned pale as death. It was come, then, at last–that moment
to which she had once looked forward as a glimpse of happiness too
exquisite for mortal senses. Here was the enchanted cup pressed to
her very lip, and she must not taste it–must even withdraw her eyes
from the insidious drink. And yet even now she felt a certain sense
of disappointment in her empty triumph, a vague misgiving that the
proffered draught was flatter than it should be, as if the bottle had
been already opened to slake another’s thirst.

“Better not ask,” she said, “if the words don’t come naturally,–if the
answer is sure to be _no_.”

In his intense relief he never marked the piteous tone of her voice,
nor the tremble of agony passing over her face, like the flicker of a
fire on a marble bust, to leave its features more fixed and rigid than

Even in her keen suffering she wished to spare _him_. Already she was
beginning to long for the dull insensibility that must succeed this
hour of mental conflict, as bodily numbness is the merciful result of
pain. She dreaded the possibility that his disappointment should be
anything like her own, and would fain have modified the blow she had no
choice but to inflict.

Daisy, however, with good reason no doubt, was resolved to rush on his
fate the more obstinately, as it seemed, because of the endeavours to
spare both him and herself.

“I am a plain-spoken fellow,” said he, “and–and–tolerably
straightforward, as times go. I’m not much used to this kind of
thing–at least, I’ve never regularly asked such a question before.
You mustn’t be offended, Miss Douglas, if I don’t go the right way to
work. But–but–it seems so odd that you should have come in and paid
my debts for me! Don’t you think I ought–or don’t you think _you_
ought–in short, I’ve come here on purpose to ask you to marry me. I’m
not half good enough, I know, and lots of fellows would make you better
husbands, I’m afraid. But, really now–without joking–won’t you try?”

He had got into the spirit of the thing, and went on more swimmingly
than he could have hoped. There was almost a ring of truth in his
appeal, for Daisy’s was a temperament that flung itself keenly into
the excitement of the moment, gathering ardour from the very sense of
pursuit. As he said himself, “He never could help riding, if he got a

And Miss Douglas shook in every limb while she listened with a wan,
weary face and white lips, parted in a rigid smile. It was not that
she was unaccustomed to solicitations of a like nature; whatever might
be her previous experience, scarcely an hour had passed since she
sustained a similar attack–and surely to accept an offer of marriage
ought to be more subversive of the nervous system than to refuse; yet
she could hardly have betrayed deeper emotions had she been trembling
in the balance between life and death.

That was a brave heart of hers, or it must have failed to keep its own
rebellion down so firmly, and gather strength to answer in a calm,
collected voice–

“There are some things it is better not to think about, for they can
never be, and this is one of them.”

How little she knew what was passing in his mind! How little she
suspected that _her_ sentence was _his_ reprieve! And yet his self-love
was galled. He had made a narrow escape, and was thankful, no doubt,
but felt somewhat disappointed, too, that his danger had not been
greater still.

“Do you mean it?” said he. “Well, you’ll forgive my presumption,
and–and–you won’t forget I asked you.”


It was all she said; but a man must have been both blind and deaf not
to have marked the tone in which those syllables were uttered, the look
which accompanied them. Daisy brandished his hat, thinking it high time
to go, lest his sentence should be commuted, and his doom revoked.

She put her hand to her throat, as if she must choke; but mastered her
feelings with an effort, forcing herself to speak calmly and distinctly
now, on a subject that must never be approached again.

“Do not think I undervalue your offer,” she said, gathering fortitude
with every word; “do not think me hard, or changeable, or unfeeling. If
you must not make me happy, at least you have made me very proud; and
if everything had turned out differently, I do hope I might have proved
worthy to be your wife. You’re not angry with me, are you? And you
won’t hate me because it’s impossible?”

“Not the least!” exclaimed Daisy, eagerly. “Don’t think it for a
moment! Please not to make yourself unhappy about _me_.”

“I _am_ worthy to be your friend,” she continued saddened, and it may
be a little vexed, by this remarkable exhibition of self-denial; “and
_as_ a friend I feel I owe you some explanation, beyond a bare ‘No,
I won’t.’ It ought rather to be ‘No, I _can’t_;’ because–because, to
tell you the honest truth, I have promised somebody else!”

“I wish you joy with all my heart!” he exclaimed, gaily, and not the
least like an unsuccessful suitor. “I hope you’ll be as happy as the
day is long! When is it to be? You’ll send me an invitation to the
wedding, won’t you?”

Her heart was very sore. He did not even ask the name of his fortunate
rival, and he could hardly have looked more pleased, she thought, if he
had been going to marry her himself.

“I don’t know about that,” she answered, shaking her head sadly. “At
any rate, I shall not see you again for a long time. Good-bye, Daisy,”
and she held out a cold hand that trembled very much.

“Good-bye,” said he, pressing it cordially. “I shall never forget your
kindness. Good-bye.”

Then the door shut, and he was gone.

Blanche Douglas sank into a sofa, and sat there looking at the opposite
wall, without moving hand or foot, till the long summer’s day waned
into darkness and her servant came with lights. She neither wept,
nor moaned, nor muttered broken sentences, but remained perfectly
motionless, like a statue, and in all those hours she asked herself but
one question–“Do I love this man? and, if so, how can I ever bear to
marry the other?”

“I wish you’d come, Daisy. You’ve no idea what it is, facing all those
swells by oneself!”

“I have _not_ the cheek,” was Daisy’s reply. “They would chaff one so
awfully, if they knew. No, Bill, I’ll see you through anything but

“Then I must show the best front I can without a support,” said the
other ruefully. “Why can’t she let me off these tea-fights? They’re
cruelly slow. I don’t see the good of them.”

“_She_ does,” replied Daisy. “Not a woman in London knows what she is
about better than Mrs. Lushington.”

“How d’ye mean?” asked his less worldly-minded friend.

“Why, you see,” explained Daisy, “one great advantage of living in this
wicked town is, that you’ve no duty towards your neighbour. People
don’t care two straws what you do, or how you do it, so long as you
keep your own line, without crossing theirs. They’ll give you the best
of everything, and ask for no return, if only you’ll pretend to be glad
to see them when you meet, and not forget them when you go away. That’s
the secret of morning visits, card-leaving, wedding-presents, and the
whole of the sham. Now Mrs. Lushington goes everywhere, and never has
a ball, nor a drum, nor even a large dinner-party of her own, but she
says to her friends, ‘I love you dearly, I can’t exist without you.
Come and see me every Wednesday, except the Derby Day, all the London
season through, from five to seven P.M. I’ll swear to be at home, and
I’ll give you a cup of tea!’ So, for nine pen’orth of milk, and some
hot water, she repays the hospitalities of a nation. She’s pleased,
the world is gratified, and nobody’s bored but _you_. It’s all humbug,
that’s the truth, and I’m very glad I’m so soon to be out of it!”

“But you won’t leave the Regiment?” said his brother officer kindly.

“Not if I know it!” was the hearty response. “Norah likes soldiering,
and old Macormac doesn’t care what we do, if we only visit _him_ in the
hunting season. Besides, my uncle put that in the conditions when he
‘parted,’ which he did freely enough, I am bound to admit, considering
all things.”

“You’ve not been long about it,” observed Soldier Bill in a tone of
admiration. “It’s little more than a month since you pulled through
after that ‘facer’ at Punchestown; and now, here you are booked to
one lady, after proposing to another, provided with settlements,
_trousseau_, bridesmaids, and very likely a bishop to marry you. Hang
it, Daisy, I’ve got an uncle _smothered_ in lawn; I’ll give him the
straight tip, and ask him to tie you up fast.”

“You’ll have to leave the Park at once,” was Daisy’s reply, “or you’ll
be returned absent when the parade is formed. You know, Bill, you
_daren’t_ be late, for your life.”

The two young men were by this time at Albert Gate, having spent a
pleasant half-hour together on a couple of penny chairs, while the
strange medley passed before them that throngs Hyde Park on every
summer’s afternoon. Daisy was far happier than he either hoped or
deserved. After Satanella’s refusal, he had felt at liberty to follow
the dictates of his own heart, and lost no time in prosecuting his suit
with Norah Macormac. The objections that might have arisen from want of
means were anticipated by his uncle’s unlooked-for liberality, and he
was to be married as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made,
though, in consideration of his late doings, the engagement was at
present to be kept a profound secret.

Notwithstanding some worldly wisdom, Daisy could believe that such
secrets divided amongst half-a-dozen people, would not become the
property of half-a-hundred.

In mood like his, a man requires no companion but his own thoughts.
We will rather accompany Soldier Bill, as he picks his way into
Belgravia, stepping daintily over the muddy crossings, cursing the
water-carts, and trying to preserve the polish of his boots, up to
Mrs. Lushington’s door.

Yet into those shining boots his heart seemed almost sinking, when he
marked a long line of carriages in the streets, a crowd of footmen on
the steps and pavement. No man alive had better nerve than Bill, to
ride, or fight, or swim, or face any physical danger; but his hands
turned cold, and his face hot, when about to confront strange ladies,
either singly or in masses; and for him, the rustling of muslin was as
the shaking of a standard to the inexperienced charger, a signal of
unknown danger, a flutter of terror and dismay.

Nevertheless, he mastered his weakness, following his own name
resolutely upstairs, in a white heat, no doubt, yet supported by
the calmness of despair. Fortunately, he found his hostess at her
drawing-room door. The favourable greeting she accorded him would have
reassured the most diffident of men.

“You’re a good boy,” she whispered, with a squeeze of his hand. “I was
almost afraid you wouldn’t come. Stay near the door, while I do the
civil to the arch-duchess. I’ll be back directly. I’ve got something
very particular to ask you.”

So, while Mrs. Lushington did homage (in French) to the arch-duchess,
who was old, fat, good-humoured, and very sleepy, Bill took up a
position from which he could pass the inmates of the apartment in
review. Observing his welcome by their hostess, and knowing _who he
was_, two or three magnificent ladies thought it not derogatory
to afford him a gracious bow; and as they forbore to engage him in
discourse, a visitation of which Bill had fearful misgivings, he soon
felt sufficiently at ease to inspect unconcernedly, and in detail, the
several individuals who constituted the crush.

It was a regular London gathering, in the full-tide of the season,
consisting of the best-dressed, best-looking, and idlest people in
town. There seemed an excess of ladies, as usual; but who would
complain of a summer market that it was over stocked with flowers?
While of the uglier sex, the specimens were either very young or
very mature. There was scarcely a man to be seen between thirty and
forty, but a glut of young gentlemen, some too much and some too
little at their ease, with a liberal sprinkling of ancient dandies,
irreproachable in manners, and worthier members of society, we may
be permitted to hope, than society believed. A few notabilities were
thrown in, of course: the arch-duchess aforesaid; a missionary, who had
been tortured by the Chinese, dark, sallow, and of a physiognomy that
went far to extenuate the cruelty of the Celestials; a lady who had
spent two years at Thebes, and, perhaps for that reason, dressed almost
as low as the Egyptian Sphinx; a statesman out of office; a celebrated
preacher at issue with his bishop; a foreign minister; a London banker;
and a man everybody knew, who wrote books nobody read. Besides these,
there was the usual complement of ladies who gave, and ladies who went
to, balls; married women addicted to flirting; single ladies not
averse to it; stout mammas in gorgeous apparel; tall girls with baby
faces promising future beauty; a powdered footman winding, like an eel,
through the throng; Frank Lushington himself, looking at his watch to
see how soon it would be over; and Pretty Bessie Gordon, fresh and
smiling, superintending the tea.

All this Bill took in, wondering. It seemed such a strange way of
spending a bright summer’s afternoon, in weather that had come on
purpose for cricket, boating, yachting, all sorts of out-of-door
pursuits. Putting himself beside the question, for he felt as much on
duty as if he had the belt on in a barrack-yard, it puzzled him to
discover the spell that brought all these people together, in a hot
room, at six o’clock in the day. Was it sheer idleness, or the love
of talking, or only the follow-my-leader instinct of pigs and sheep?
Catching sight of General St. Josephs and Miss Douglas conversing apart
in a corner, he determined that it must be a motive stronger than any
of these, and looking down on her broad deep shoulders, marvelled how
such motive might affect his next neighbour, a lady of sixty years,
weighing some sixteen stone.

It is fair to suppose, therefore, that Bill was as yet himself
untouched. His intimacy with Mrs. Lushington, while sharpening his wits
and polishing his manners, served, no doubt, to dispel those illusions
of romance that all young men are prone to cherish, more or less; and
Soldier Bill, with his fresh cheeks and simple heart, believed he was
becoming a thorough philosopher, an experienced man-of-the-world,
rating human weaknesses at their real value, and walking about the
battle of life sheathed in armour-of-proof. Honest Bill! How little he
dreamt that his immunity was only a question of time. The hour had not
yet come–nor the woman.

Far different was St. Josephs. If ever man exulted in bondage and
seemed proud to rattle his chains, that man was the captive General. He
never missed an opportunity of attending his conqueror: riding in the
Park–“walking the Zoo”–waiting about at balls, drums, crush-rooms,
and play-houses,–he never left her side.

Miss Douglas, loathing her own ingratitude, was weary of her life. Even
Bill could not help remarking the pale cheeks, the heavy eyes, the dull
lassitude of gait and bearing, that denoted the feverish unrest of one
who is sick at heart.

He trod on a chaperone’s skirt, and omitted to beg pardon; he stumbled
against his uncle, the bishop, and forgot to ask after his aunt.
So taken up was he with the faded looks of Miss Douglas, that he
neither remembered where he was, nor why he came, and only recovered
consciousness with the rustle of Mrs. Lushington’s dress and her
pleasant voice in his ear.

“Give me your arm,” said she, pushing on through her guests, with many
winning smiles, “and take me into the little room for some tea.”

Though a short distance, it was a long passage. She had something
pleasant to say to everybody, as she threaded the crowd; but it could
be no difficult task for so experienced a campaigner, on her own
ground, to take up any position she required. And Bill found himself
established at last by her side, in a corner, where they were neither
overlooked nor overheard.

“Now I want to know if it’s true?” said she, dashing into the subject
at once. “_You_ can tell, if anybody can, and I’m sure you have no
secrets from _me_.”

“If _what’s_ true?” asked Bill, gulping tea that made him hotter than

“Don’t be stupid!” was her reply. “Why, about Daisy of course. Is he
going to marry that Irish girl? I want to find out at once.”

“Well, it’s no use denying it,” stammered Bill, somewhat unwillingly.
“But it’s a dead secret, Mrs. Lushington, and of course it goes no

“Oh, of course!” she repeated. “Don’t you know how safe I am? But
you’re quite sure of it? You have it from himself?”

“I’ve got to be his best man,” returned Bill, by no means triumphantly.
“You’ll coach me up a little, won’t you, before the day? I haven’t an
idea what to do.”

She laughed merrily.

“Make love to the bridesmaids, of course,” she answered. “Irish, no
doubt, every one of them. I’m not quite sure I shall give you leave.”

“I can’t get out of it!” exclaimed Bill. “He’s such a ‘pal,’ you know,
and a brother-officer, and all.”

She was amused at his simplicity.

“I don’t want you to get out of it,” she answered, still laughing. “I
can’t tell you what sort of a best man you’ll make, but you’re not
half a bad boy. You deserve something for coming to-day. Dine with us
to-morrow–nobody but the Gordon girls and a stray man. I must go and
see the great lady off. That’s the worst of royalty. Good-bye,” and she
sailed away, leaving Bill somewhat disconcerted by misgivings that he
had been guilty of a breach of trust.

The party was thinning visibly upstairs, while people transferred
themselves with one accord to the hall and staircase, many appearing
to consider this the pleasantest part of the entertainment. Mrs.
Lushington had scarcely yet found time to speak three words to Blanche
Douglas, but she caught her dear friend now, on the eve of departure,
and held her fast. The General had gone to look for his lady-love’s
carriage. They were alone in Mr. Lushington’s snuggery, converted
(though not innocent of tobacco-smoke) into a cloak-room for the

“So good of you to come, dear Blanche, and to bring _him_,” (with a
meaning smile). “I waited to pounce on you _here_. I’ve got _such_ a
piece of news for you!”

Miss Douglas looked as if nothing above, upon, or under the earth could
afford her the slightest interest, but she was obliged to profess a
polite curiosity.

“Who _do_ you think is going to be married? Immediately! next week, I
believe. Who but our friend Daisy!”

The shot told. Though Miss Douglas received it with the self-command of
a practised duellist, so keen an observer as her friend did not fail to
mark a quiver of the eye-lids, a tightening of the lips, and a grey hue
creeping gradually over the whole face.

“Our fickle friend Daisy, of all people in the world!” continued
Mrs. Lushington. “It only shows how we poor women can be deceived. I
sometimes fancied he admired _me_, and I never doubted but he cared
for _you_, whereas he has gone and fallen a victim to that wild Irish
girl of Lady Mary Macormac’s–the pretty one–that was such a friend of

“I always thought he admired her,” answered Miss Douglas in a very
feeble voice. “I ought to write and wish Norah joy. Are you quite sure
it’s true?”

“Quite!” was the reply. “My authority is his own best man.”

Fortunately the General appeared at this juncture, with tidings of the
carriage, while through a vista of footmen might be seen at the open
door a brougham-horse on his hind legs, impatient of delay.

“Good-bye, dear Blanche! You look so tired. I hope you haven’t done too

“Good-bye, dear Clara! I’ve had such a pleasant afternoon.”

Putting her into the carriage, the General’s kind heart melted within
him. She looked so pale and worn. She clung so confidingly, so
dejectedly to his arm. She pressed his hand so affectionately when he
bade her good-bye, and seemed so loth to let it go that, but for the
eyes of all England, which every man believes are fixed on himself
alone, he would have sprung in too, and driven off with her then and

But he consoled himself with the certainty of seeing her next day. That
comfort accompanied him to his bachelor lodgings, where he dressed, and
lasted all through a regimental dinner at the London Tavern.

While a distinguished leader proposed his health, alluding in
flattering terms to the services he had rendered, and the dangers he
had faced, General St. Josephs was thinking far less of his short
soldier-like reply than of the pale face and the dark eyes that would
so surely greet him on the morrow; of the future about to open before
him at last, that should make amends for a life of war and turmoil,
with its gentle solace of love, and confidence, and repose.