Daisy was sick of the Channel. He had crossed and recrossed it so often
of late as to loathe its dancing waters, yawning in the face of Welsh
and Wicklow mountains alike, wearied even of the lovely scenery that
adorns the coast on either side.

He voted himself so tired in body and mind that he must stay a day or
two in Dublin to refresh.

A man who balances on the verge of ruin always has plenty of money in
his pocket for immediate necessities. The expiring flame leaps up with
a flash; the end of the bottle bubbles out with a gush; and the ebbing
tide of wealth leaves, here and there, a handful of loose cash on the
deserted shore.

Daisy drove to the most expensive hotel in Dublin, where he ordered
a capital breakfast and a comfortable room. The future seemed very
uncertain. In obedience to an instinct of humanity that bids men pause
and dally with any crisis of their fate, he determined to enjoy
to-day, and let to-morrow take care of itself.

Nobody could be more unlikely to analyse his own sensations. It
was not the practice of the Regiment; but had Daisy been given to
self-examination it would have puzzled him to explain why he felt in
such good humour, and so well satisfied–buoyed up with hope, when he
ought to have been sunk and overwhelmed in despair.

“Waiter,” said the fugitive, while he finished his tea and ordered a
glass of curaçao, “has Mr. Sullivan been here this morning?”

“He _did_, sur,” answered the waiter, with a pleasant grin. “Sure he
brought a harse for the master to see. Five years old, Captain. A
clane-bred one, like what ye ride yerself. There’s not the aqual of
him, they do be braggin’, for leppin’, in Westmeath an’ thim parts
where he was trained.”

Now Daisy wanted a horse no more than he wanted an alligator. He could
neither afford to buy nor keep one, and had two or three of his own
that it was indispensable to sell, yet his eye brightened, his spirits
rose, with the bare possibility of a deal. He might see the animal, at
any rate, he thought, perhaps ride it–there would be others probably
to show; he could spend a few pleasant hours in examining their points,
discussing their merits, and interchanging with Mr. Sullivan those
brief and pithy remarks, intelligible only to the initiated, which
he esteemed the essence of pleasant conversation. Like many other
young men, Daisy was bitten with hippomania. He thoroughly enjoyed the
humours of a dealer’s yard. The horses interested, the owners amused
him. He liked the selection, the bargaining, the running up and down,
the speculation, and the slang. To use his own words–“He never could
resist the _rattle of a hat_!”

It is no wonder then that “the Captain,” as Mr. Sullivan called him,
spent his whole afternoon at a snug little place within an easy drive
of Dublin, where that worthy, though not by way of being in the
profession, inhabited a clean whitewashed house, with a few acres of
marvellously green paddock, and three or four loose boxes, containing
horses of various qualities, good, bad, and indifferent. Here, after
flying for an hour or two over the adjoining fields and fences, Daisy,
with considerable difficulty, resisted the purchase (on credit) of
a worn-out black, a roan with heavy shoulders, and a three-year-old
engaged in the following autumn at the Curragh, but afforded their
owner perfect satisfaction by the encomiums he passed on their merits,
no less than by the masterly manner in which he handled them, at the
formidable fences that bordered Mr. Sullivan’s domain.

“An’ ye’ll take nothing away with ye but a fishing-rod,” said the
latter, pressing on his visitor the refreshment of whiskey, with or
without water. “Ye’re welcome to’t, anny how–more by token that ye’ll
bring it back again when ye done with it, Captain, and proud I’ll be to
get another visit from ye, when ye’re travelling the country, to or
from Dublin, at anny time. May be in the back end of the year I’ll have
wan to show ye in thim boxes that ye niver seen the likes of him for
lep-racin’. Whisper now. He’s bet the Black Baron in a trial; and for
Shaneen, him that wan the race off _your_ mare at Punchestown,–wait
till I tell ye,–at even weights, he’d go and _lose_ little Shaneen in
two miles!”

Promising to return at a future time for inspection of this paragon,
and disposing the borrowed fishing-rod carefully on an outside car
he had chartered for his expedition, Daisy returned to Dublin, ate a
good dinner, drank a bottle of dry champagne, and went to sleep in the
comfortable bedroom of his comfortable hotel, as if he had not a care
nor a debt in the world.

Towards morning his lighter slumbers may have been visited by dreams,
and if so it is probable that fancy clothed her visions in a similitude
of Norah Macormac. Certainly his first thought on waking was for that
young lady, as his opening eyes rested on the fishing-rod, which he had
borrowed chiefly on her account.

In truth, Daisy felt inclined to put off as long as possible the
exile–for he could think of it in no more favourable light–that he
had brought on himself in the Roscommon mountains.

Mr. Sullivan, when the sport of fly-fishing came in his way, was
no mean disciple of the gentle art. Observing a salmon-rod in that
worthy’s sitting-room, of which apartment, indeed, with two foxes’
brushes and a barometer it constituted the principal furniture, Daisy
bethought him that on one of his visits to Cormac’s-town its hospitable
owner had given him leave and licence to fish the Dabble whenever
he pleased, whether staying at the Castle or not. The skies were
cloudy–as usual in Ireland, there was no lack of rain–surely this
would be a proper occasion to take advantage of Macormac’s kindness,
protract his stay in Dublin, and run down daily by the train to fish,
so long as favourable weather lasted and his own funds held out.

We are mostly self-deceivers though there exists something _within_
each of us that is not to be hoodwinked nor imposed upon by the most
specious of fallacies.

It is probable Daisy never confessed to himself how the fish he
_really_ wanted to angle for was already more than half-hooked: how it
was less the attraction of a salmon than a mermaid that drew him to
the margin of the Dabble; and how he cared very little that the sun
shone bright or the river waned so as he might but hear the light step
of Norah Macormac on the shingle, look in the fair face that turned so
pale and sad when he went away, that would smile and blush its welcome
so kindly when he came again.

He must have loved her without knowing it; and perhaps such insensible
attachments, waxing stronger day by day, strike the deepest root,
and boast the longest existence: hardy plants that live and flourish
through the frowns of many winters, contrasting nobly with more
brilliant and ephemeral posies, forced by circumstances to sudden
maturity and rapid decay–

“As flowers that first in spring-time burst,
The earliest wither too.”

Nevertheless, for both sexes,

“‘Tis all but a dream at the best:”

and Norah Macormac’s vision, scarcely acknowledged while everything
went smoothly, assumed very glowing colours when the impossibility of
its realisation dawned on her; when Lady Mary pointed out the folly
of an attachment to a penniless subaltern unsteady in habits, while
addicted overmuch to sports of the field.

With average experience and plenty of common-sense, the mother had been
sorely puzzled how to act. She was well aware, that advice in such
cases, however judiciously administered, often irritates the wound
it is intended to heal; that “warnings”–to use her own words–“only
put things in people’s heads;” and that a fancy, like a heresy,
sometimes dies out unnoticed when it is not to be stifled by argument
nor extirpated with the strong hand. Yet how might she suffer this
pernicious superstition to grow, under her very eyes? Was she not a
woman? and must she not speak her mind? Besides, she blamed her own
blindness, that her daughter’s intimacy with the scape-grace had been
unchecked in its commencement, and, smarting with self-reproach, could
not forbear crying aloud, when she had better have held her tongue!

So Miss Norah discovered she was in love, after all. Mamma said so! no
doubt mamma was right. The young lady had herself suspected something
of the kind long ago, but Lady Mary’s authority and remonstrances
placed the matter beyond question. She was very fond of her mother,
and, to do her justice, tried hard to follow her ladyship’s advice.
So she thought the subject over, day by day, argued it on every side,
in accordance with, in opposition to, and independent of, her own
inclinations, to find as a result, that during waking and sleeping
hours alike, the image of Daisy was never absent from her mind.

Then a new beauty seemed to dawn in the sweet young face. The very
peasants about the place noticed a change; little Ella, playing at
being grown-up, pretended she was “Sister Norah going to be married;”
and papa, when she retired with her candle at night, turning fondly to
his wife, would declare–

“She’ll be the pick of the family now, mamma, when all’s said and done!
They’re a fair-looking lot, even the boys. Divil thank them, then, on
the mother’s side! But it’s Norah that’s likest yourself, my dear,
when we were young, only not quite so stout, maybe, and a thought less
colour in her cheek.”

Disturbed at the suggestion, while gratified by the compliment, Lady
Mary, in a fuss of increased anxiety, felt fonder than ever of her
child. In Norah’s habits also there came an alteration, as in her
countenance. She sat much in the library, with a book on her knee, of
which she seldom turned a page; played long _solos_ on the pianoforte,
usually while the others were out; went to bed early, but lay awake for
hours; rode very little, and walked a great deal, though the walks were
often solitary, and almost invariably in the direction of a certain
waterfall, to which she had formerly conducted Miss Douglas, while
showing off to her new friend the romantic beauties of the Dabble.

The first day Mr. Walters put his borrowed rod together on the banks of
this pretty stream, it rained persistently in a misty drizzle, borne
on the soft south wind. He killed an eight pound fish, yet returned to
Dublin in an unaccountable state of disappointment, not to say disgust.
He got better after dinner, and, with another bottle of dry champagne,
determined to try again.

The following morning rose in unclouded splendour–clear blue sky,
blazing sun, and not a breath of wind. A more propitious day could
scarcely be imagined for a cricket-match, an archery-meeting, or a
picnic; but in such weather the crafty angler leaves rod and basket
at home. Daisy felt a little ashamed of these _paraphernalia_ in the
train, but proceeded to the waterside, nevertheless, and prepared
deliberately for his task, looking up and down the stream meanwhile
with considerable anxiety.

All at once he felt his heart beating fast, and began to flog the
waters with ludicrous assiduity.

It is difficult to explain the gentleman’s perturbation (for why was he
there at all?), though the lady’s astonishment can easily be accounted
for, when Norah, thinking of him every moment, and visiting this
particular spot only because it reminded her of his presence, found
herself, at a turn in the river, not ten paces from the man whom, a
moment before, she feared she was never to see again!

Yet did she remain outwardly the more composed of the two, and was
first to speak.

“Daisy!” she exclaimed–“Captain Walters–I never thought you were
still in Ireland. You’ll be coming to the Castle to dinner, anyhow.”

He blushed, he stammered, he looked like a fool (though Norah didn’t
think so), he got out with difficulty certain incoherent sentences
about “fishing,” and “flies,” and “liberty from your father,” and
lastly, recovering a little, “the ten-pounder _I_ rose and _you_
landed, by the black stump there, under the willow.”

As he regained his confidence, she lost hers–almost wishing she hadn’t
come, or had put her veil down, or, she didn’t exactly know what. In
a trembling voice, and twining her fingers nervously together, she
propounded the pertinent question:–

“How–how did you find your brother-officers when you got back to the

Its absurdity struck them both. Simultaneously, they burst out
laughing: their reserve vanished from that moment. He took both her
hands in his, and the rod lay neglected on the shingle, while he

“I _am_ so pleased to see you again! Miss Macormac–Norah! I fished
here all yesterday, hoping you’d come. I’m glad though you didn’t;
you’d have got such a wetting.”

“Did you, now?” was her answer, while the beautiful grey eyes deepened,
and the blood mantled in her cheek. “Indeed, then, it’s for little I’d
have counted the wetting, if I’d only known. But how _was_ I to know,
Captain Walters–well, Daisy, then–that you’d be shooting up the
river, like a young salmon, only to see _me_? And supposing I _had_
known it, or thought it, or wished it even, I’m afraid I ought never to
have come.”

“But now you _are_ here,” argued Daisy, with some show of reason,
“you’ll speak to me, won’t you? and help me to fish, and let me walk
back with you part of the way home?”

It seemed an impotent conclusion, but she was in no mood to be

“I’m very pleased to see you, and that’s the truth,” she answered; “but
as for fishing, I’ll engage ye’ll never rise a fish in the Dabble with
a sky like that. I’ll stay just five minutes, though, while ye wet your
line, anyhow. Oh! Daisy, don’t you remember what a trouble we had with
the big fish down yonder, the time I ran to fetch the gaff?”

“Remember!” said Daisy, “I should think I _do_! How quick you were
about it. I didn’t think any girl in the world could run so fast. I can
remember everything you’ve said and done since I’ve known you. That’s
the worst of it, Norah. It’s got to be different after to-day.”

She had been laughing and blushing at his recollections of her
activity; but she glanced quickly in his face now, while her own turned
very grave and pale.

“Ye’re coming to the Castle, of course,” said she. “I’ll run home this
minute, and tell mamma to order a room, and we’ll send the car round to
the station for your things.”

She spoke in hurried nervous accents, dreading to hear what was coming,
yet conscious she had never felt so happy in her life.

Formerly she considered Daisy the lightest-hearted of men. Hitherto she
scarcely remembered to have seen a cloud on his face. She liked it none
the worse for its gravity now.

“I’ve been very unlucky, Norah,” said he, holding her hand, and looking
thoughtfully on the river as it flowed by. “Perhaps it’s my own fault.
I shall never visit at Cormacs’-town, nor go into any society where
I’ve a chance of meeting _you_ again. And yet I’ve done nothing wrong
nor disgraceful as yet.”

“I knew it!” she exclaimed; “I’d have sworn it on the Book! I told
mamma so. He’s a _gentleman_, I said, and that’s enough for _me_!”

“Thank you, dear,” answered Daisy, in a failing voice. “I’m glad _you_
didn’t turn against me. It’s bad enough without that.”

“But what _has_ happened,” she asked, drawing closer to his side.
“Couldn’t any of us help you? Couldn’t papa advise you what to do?”

“_This_ has happened, Norah,” he answered gravely; “I am completely
ruined. I have got nothing left in the world. Worse still, I am afraid
I can scarce pay up all I’ve lost.”

The spirit of her ancestors came into her eyes and bearing. Ruin to
these, like personal danger, had never seemed a matter of great moment,
so long as, at any sacrifice, honour might be preserved. She raised her
head proudly, and looked straight in his face.

“The last _must_ be done,” said she. “_Must_ be done, I’m telling you,
Daisy, and _shall_ be, if we sell the boots, you and me, off our very
feet! How near can you get to what you owe for wages and things? Of
course they’ll have to be paid the first.”

“If _everything_ goes, I don’t see my way to pay up all,” he answered.
“However, they _must_ give me a little time. Where I’m to go, though,
or what to do, is more than I can tell. But Norah, dear Norah! what I
mind most is, that I mustn’t hope to see _you_ again!”

Her tears were falling fast. Her hands were busy with a locket she
wore round her neck, the only article of value Norah possessed in the
world. But the poor fingers trembled so they failed to undo the strip
of velvet on which it hung. At last she got it loose, and pressed it
into his hand. “Take it, Daisy,” said she, smiling with her wet eyes;
“I don’t value it a morsel. It was old Aunt Macormac gave it me on my
birth-day. There’s diamonds in it–not Irish, dear–and it’s worth
something, anyway, though not much. Ah, Daisy! now, if ye won’t take
it, I’ll think ye never cared for me one bit!”

But Daisy stoutly refused to despoil her of the keepsake, though he
begged hard, of course, for the velvet ribbon to which it was attached;
and those who have ever found themselves in a like situation will
understand that he did not ask in vain.

So Miss Macormac returned to the Castle, and the maternal wing, too
late for luncheon; but thus far engaged to her ruined admirer that,
while he vowed to come back the very moment his prospects brightened,
and the “something” turned up–which we all expect, but so few of us
experience, she promised, on her part, “never to marry (how could you
think it now, Daisy!) nor so much as look at anybody else till she saw
him again, if it wasn’t for a hundred years!”

I am concerned to add that Mr. Sullivan’s rod remained forgotten on the
shingle, where it was eventually picked up by one of Mr. Macormac’s
keepers, but handled by its rightful owner no more. There was nothing
to keep Daisy in Dublin now, and his funds were getting low. In less
than twenty-four hours from his parting with Norah Macormac he found
himself crossing that wild district of Roscommon where he had bought
the famous black mare that had so influenced his fortunes. Toiling on
an outside car, up the long ascent that led to the farmer’s house, he
could scarcely believe so short a time had elapsed since he visited
the same place in the flush of youth and hope. He felt quite old
and broken by comparison. Years count for little compared to events;
and age is more a question of experience than of time. He had one
consolation, however, and it lay in the shape of a narrow velvet ribbon
next his heart.

Ere he had clasped the farmer’s hand, at his own gate, and heard his
cheery hospitable greeting, he wondered how he could feel so happy.

“I’m proud to see ye, Captain!” said Denis, flourishing his hat round
his head, as if it was a slip of blackthorn. “Proud am I an’ pleased
to see ye back again–an’ that’s the truth! Ye’re welcome, I tell
ye! Step in, now, an’ take something at wanst. See, Captain, there’s
a two-year-old in that stable; the very moral of your black mare.
Ye never seen her likes for leppin’! Ye’ll try the baste this very
afternoon, with the blessin’. I’ve had th’ ould saddle mended, an’ the
stirrups altered to your length.”

The General thought he had never been so happy in his life. His voice,
his bearing, his very dress seemed to partake of the delusion that
gilded existence. Springing down the steps of his club, with more waist
in his coat, more pretension in his hat, more agility in his gait, than
was considered usual, or even decorous, amongst its frequenters, no
wonder they passed their comments freely enough on their old comrade,
ridiculing or deploring his fate, according to the various opinions and
temper of the conclave.

“What’s up with St. Josephs now?” asked a white-whiskered veteran of
his neighbour, whose bluff, weather-beaten face proclaimed him an
Admiral of the Red. “He’s turned quite flighty and queer of late.
Nothing wrong _here_, is there?” and the speaker pointed a shaking
finger to the apex of his own bald head.

“Not _there_, but _here_,” answered the sailor, laying his remaining
arm across his breast. “Going to be spliced, they tell me. Sorry for
it. He’s not a bad sort; and a smartish officer, as I’ve heard, in
_your_ service.”

“Pretty well–so, so. Nothing extraordinary for _that_,” answered the
first speaker, commonly called by irreverent juniors “Old Straps.” “He
hadn’t much to do in India, I fancy; but he’s been lucky, sir, lucky,
and luck’s the thing! Luck against the world, Admiral, by sea or land!”

“Well, his luck’s over now, it seems,” grunted the Admiral, whose
views on matrimony appeared to differ from those of his profession
in general. “I’m told he’s been fairly hooked by that Miss Douglas.
Black-eyed girl, with black hair–black, and all black, d– me!–and
rides a black mare in the park. Hey! Why she might be his daughter. How
d’ye mean?”

“More fool he,” replied Straps, with a leer and a grin that disclosed
his yellow tusks. “A fellow like St. Josephs ought to know better.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” growled the Admiral. “Gad, sir, if I was
idiot enough to do the same thing, d’ye think I’d take a d–d old
catamaran, that knew every move in the game? No, no, sir; youth and
innocence, hey? A clean bill of health, a fair wind, and a pleasant
voyage, you know!”

“In my opinion, there’s devilish little youth left, and no innocence,”
answered “Straps.” “If that’s the girl, she’s been hawked about, to my
certain knowledge, for the last three seasons; and I suppose our friend
is the only chance left–what we used to call a ‘forlorn hope’ when
I was an ensign. He’s got a little money, and they might give him a
command. You never know what this Government will do. It’s my belief
they’d give that crossing-sweeper a command if they were only sure he
was quite unfit for it.”

“Command be d–d!” swore the Admiral. “He’ll have enough to do to
command his young wife. What? She’s a lively craft, I’ll be bound,
with her black eyes. Carries a weather-helm, and steers as wild as you
please in a sea-way. I’ll tell you what it is–Here, waiter! bring me
the _Globe_. Why the — are the evening papers so late?”

In the rush for those welcome journals, so long expected, so eagerly
seized, all other topics were instantaneously submerged. Long before
he could reach the end of the street, General St. Josephs was utterly
forgotten by his brother officers and friends.

Still he _thought_ he had never been so happy in his life. The
word is used advisedly, for surely experience teaches us that real
happiness consists in tranquillity and repose, in the slumber rather
than the dream, in the lassitude that soothes the patient, not the
fever-fit of which it is the result. Can a man be considered happy
who is not comfortable? and how is comfort compatible with anxiety,
loss of appetite, nervous tremors, giddiness, involuntary blushing,
and the many symptoms of disorder, who could be cured heretofore by
advertisement, and which are the invariable accompaniments of an
epidemic, invincible by pill or potion, and yielding only to the
homoeopathic treatment of marriage.

In this desperate remedy St. Josephs was anxious to experimentalise,
and without delay. Yet his tact was supreme. Since the memorable walk
in Kensington Gardens, when he laid her under such heavy obligations,
his demeanour had been more that of a friend than a lover–more,
perhaps, that of a loyal and devoted subject to his sovereign mistress,
than either. She wondered why he never asked her, what she had done
with all that money? Why, when she alluded to the subject, he winced
and started, as from a touch on a raw wound. Once she very nearly
told him all. They were in a box at the Opera, so far unobserved that
the couple who had accompanied them seemed wholly engrossed with each
other. Satanella longed to make her confession–ease her conscience of
its burden, perhaps, though such a thought was cruel and unjust–shake
the yoke from off his neck. She had even got as far as, “I’ve never
half thanked you, General–” when there came a tap at the box-door.
Enter an irreproachable dandy, then a confusion of tongues, a laugh, a
solo, injunctions to silence, and the opportunity was gone. Could she
ever find courage to seek for it again?

Nevertheless, day by day she dwelt more on her admirer’s forbearance,
his care, his tenderness, his chivalrous devotion. Though he never
pressed the point, it seemed an understood thing that they were
engaged. She had forbidden him to visit her before luncheon, but he
spent his afternoons in her drawing-room; and, on rare occasions, was
admitted in the evening, when an elderly lady, supposed to be Blanche’s
cousin, came to act chaperone. The walks in Kensington Gardens had been
discontinued. Her heart could not but smite her sometimes, to think
that she never gave him but one, when she wanted him to do her a favour.

Had he been more exacting, she would have felt less self-reproach, but
his patience and good humour cut her to the quick.

“You brute!” she would say, pushing her hair back, and frowning at her
own handsome face in the glass. “You _worse_ than brute! Unfeeling,
unfeminine, I wish you were dead!–I wish you were dead!”

She had lost her rich colour now, and the hollow eyes were beginning to
look very large and sad, under their black arching brows.

Perhaps it was the General’s greatest delight to hear her sing. This
indulgence she accorded him only of an evening, when the cousin
invariably went to sleep, and her admirer sat in an armchair with the
daily paper before his face. She insisted on this screen, and this
attitude, never permitting him to stand by the pianoforte, nor turn
over the leaves, nor undergo any exertion of mind or body that should
break the charm. Who knows what golden visions gladdened the war-worn
soldier’s heart while he leaned back and listened, spellbound by the
tones he loved? Dreams of domestic happiness and peaceful joys, and a
calm untroubled future, when doubts and fears should be over, and he
could make this glorious creature wholly and exclusively his own.

[Illustration: “Perhaps it was the General’s greatest delight to hear
her sing.”

_Satanella._ _Page 208_]

Did he ever wonder why in certain songs the dear voice thrilled with
a sweetness almost akin to pain ere it was drowned in a loud and
brilliant accompaniment, that foiled the possibility of remonstrance,
while the ditty was thrown aside to be replaced by another, less
fraught, perhaps, with painful memories and associations? If so, he
hazarded no remark nor conjecture, satisfied, as it seemed, to wait
her pleasure, and in all things bow his will to hers, sacrificing his
desires, his pride, his very self-respect to the woman he adored.

For a time nothing occurred to disturb the General’s enforced
tranquillity, and he pursued the course he seemed to have marked out
for himself with a calm perseverance that deserved success. In public,
people glanced and whispered when they saw Miss Douglas on his arm;
in private, he called daily at her house, talked much small-talk and
drank a great deal of weak tea; while in solitude he asked himself how
long this probation was to last, resolving nevertheless to curb his
impatience, control his temper, and if the prize was only to be won by
waiting, wait for it to the end!

Leaving his club, then, unconscious of the Admiral’s pity and the
sarcasms of “Old Straps,” St. Josephs walked jauntily through Mayfair,
till he came to the well-known street, which seemed to him now
even as a glade in Paradise. The crossing-sweeper blessed him with
considerable emphasis, brushing energetically in his path; for when
going the General was invariably good for sixpence, and on propitious
days would add thereto a shilling as he returned.

On the present occasion, though his hand was in his pocket, it remained
there with the coin in its finger and thumb; for the wayfarer stopped
petrified in the middle of the street; the sweeper held his tattered
hat at arm’s-length, motionless as a statue; and a bare-headed
butcher’s-boy, standing erect in a light cart, pulled his horse on its
haunches, and called out–

“Now then, stoopid! D’ye want all the road to yerself?” grazing the old
officer’s coat-tails as he drove by with a brutal laugh.

But neither irreverence nor outrage served to divert the General’s
attention from the sight that so disturbed his equanimity.

“There’s that d–d black mare again!” he muttered, while he clenched
his teeth, and his cheek turned pale. “I’ll put a stop to this one way
or the other. Steady, steady! No; my game is to be won by pluck and
patience. It’s very near the end now. Shall I lose it by failing in

The black mare, looking but little the worse for training, was indeed
in the act of leaving Blanche’s door. Miss Douglas had evidently
ridden her that morning in the Park. She might have told the General,
he thought. She might have asked him to accompany her as he used.
She ought to have no secrets from him now; but was he in truth any
nearer her inner life, any more familiar with her dearest thoughts
and wishes than he had been months ago? Surely she was not treating
him well! Surely he deserved more confidence than this. The General
felt very sore and angry; but summoning all his self-command, walked
upstairs,–and for this he deserves no little credit,–with an assured
step, and a calm, unruffled brow.

“Miss Douglas was dressing,” the servant said. “Miss Douglas had been
out for a ride. Would the General take a seat, and look at to-day’s
paper? Miss Douglas had said ‘_partic’lar_’ she would be at home.”

It was irritating to wait, but it was soothing to know she was at home
“_partic’lar_” when _he_ called. The General sat down to peruse the
advertisement sheet of the paper, reading absently a long and laudatory
description of the trousseaux and other articles for family use
supplied by a certain house in the city at less than cost price!

His studies were soon interrupted by the rustle of a dress on the
staircase. With difficulty he forbore rushing out to meet its wearer,
but managed to preserve the composure of an ordinary morning visitor,
when the door opened, and–enter Mrs. Lushington! She must have
read his disappointment in his face; for she looked half-amused,
half-provoked, and there was no less malice than mirth in her eyes
while she observed–

“Blanche will be down directly, General, and don’t be afraid I shall
interrupt your _tête-à-tête_, for I am going away as soon as I’ve
written a note. You can rehearse all the charming things you have got
to say in the meantime.”

He had recovered his _savoir-faire_.

“Rehearse them to _you_?” he asked, laughing. “It would be pretty
practice, no doubt. Shall I begin?”

“Not now,” she answered, in the same tone. “There is hardly time;
though Blanche wouldn’t be very cross about it, I dare say. She is
liberal enough, and knows she can trust _me_.”

“I am sure you are a true friend,” he returned gravely. “Miss
Douglas–Blanche–has not too many. I hope you will always remain one
of her staunchest and best.”

She smiled sadly.

“Do you _really_ mean it?” said she, taking his hand. “You can’t
imagine how happy it makes me to hear you say so. I thought you
considered me a vain, ignorant, frivolous little woman, like the rest.”

Perhaps he did, but this was not the moment to confess it.

“What a strange world it would be,” he answered, “if we knew the real
opinions of our friends. In this case, Mrs. Lushington, you see how
wrong you were about mine.”

“I believe you, General!” she exclaimed. “I feel that you are truth
itself. I am sure you never deceived a woman in your life, and I
_cannot_ understand how any woman could find it in her heart to deceive
_you_. One ought never to forgive such an offence, and I can believe
that _you_ never would.”

He thought her earnestness unaccountable, and wholly uncalled for; but
his senses were on the alert to catch the first symptoms of Blanche’s
approach, and he answered rather absently–

“Quite right! Of course not. Double-dealing is _the_ thing I hate. You
may cheat me once; that is _your_ fault. It is my own if you ever take
me in again.”

“No wonder Blanche values your good opinion,” said Mrs. Lushington
meaningly. “She has not spent her life amongst people whose standard
is so high. Hush! here she comes. Ah! General, you won’t care about
talking to _me_ now!”

She gave him one reproachful glance in which there was a little
merriment, a little pique, and a great deal of tender interest, ere she
departed to write her note in the back drawing-room.

It was impossible not to contrast her kind and deferential manner with
the cold, collected bearing of Miss Douglas, who entered the room, like
a queen about to hold her court, rather than a loving maiden, hurrying
to meet her lord.

She had always been remarkable for quiet dignity in motion or repose.

It was one of the many charms on which the General lavished his
admiration, but he could have dispensed with this royal composure now.
It seemed a little out of place in their relative positions. Also he
would have liked to see the colour deepen in her proud impassive face,
though his honest heart ached while he reflected how the bright tints
had faded of late, how the glory of her beauty had departed, leaving
her always pale and saddened now.

He would have asked a leading question, hazarded a gentle reproach, or
in some way made allusion to the arrival of his _bête noir_, but her
altered looks disarmed him; and it was Satanella herself who broached
the subject, by quietly informing her visitor she had just returned
from riding the black mare in the Park. “Do you _mind_?” she added,
rising in some confusion to pull a blind down, while she spoke.

Here would have been an opportunity for a confession of jealousy, an
appeal to her feelings, pleadings, promises, protestations,–to use
the General’s own metaphor,–“an attack along the whole line;” but
how was he thus to offer decisive battle, with his flank exposed and
threatened, with Mrs. Lushington’s ears wide open and attentive, while
her pen went scribble, scribble, almost in the same room?

“I _mind_ everything you do,” said he gallantly, “and object to
nothing! If I _did_ want to get up a grievance, I should quarrel with
you for not ordering me to parade in attendance on you in the Park. My
time, as you know, is always yours, and I am never so happy as with
you. Blanche (dropping his voice), I am never _really_ happy when you
are out of my sight.”

She glanced towards the writing-table, and though the folding-doors,
half-shut, concealed that lady’s person, seemed glad to observe, by
the continual scratching of a pen, that Mrs. Lushington had not yet
finished her note.

“You are always good and kind,” said Blanche, forcing a smile. “Far
more than I deserve. Will you ride another day, early? Thanks; I knew
you would. I should have asked you this morning but I had a headache,
and thought I should only be a bore. Besides, I expected you in the
afternoon. Then Clara came to luncheon, and we went upstairs, and now
the carriage will be round in five minutes. That is the way the day
goes by; yet it seems very long too, only not so bad as the night.”

Again his face fell. It was uphill work, he thought. Surely women
were not usually so difficult to woo, or his own memory played him
false, and his friends romanced unpardonably in their narratives. But,
nevertheless, in all the prizes of life that which seemed fairest and
best hung highest out of reach, and he would persevere to the end. Aye!
even if he should fail at last!

Miss Douglas seemed to possess some intuitive knowledge of his
intention; and conscious of his determination to overcome them, was
perhaps the more disposed to throw difficulties in his path. He
should have remembered that in love as in war, a rapid flank movement
and complete change of tactics will often prevail, when vigilance,
endurance, and honest courage have been tried in vain.

Satanella could not but appreciate a delicacy that forbade further
inquiry about the black mare. No sooner had she given vent to her
feelings, in the little explosion recorded above, than she bitterly
regretted their expression, comparing her wayward petulant disposition
with the temper and constancy displayed by her admirer. Sorrowful,
softened, filled with self-reproach, she gave him one of her winning
smiles, and bade him forgive her display of ill-humour, or bear with
it, as one of many evil qualities, the result of her morbid temperament
and isolated lot.

“Then I slept badly, and went out tired. The Ride was crowded, the sun
broiling, the mare disagreeable. Altogether, I came back as cross as
two sticks. General, are _you_ never out of humour? And how do you get
rid of your ill-tempers? You certainly don’t visit them on _me_!”

“How _could_ I?” he asked in return. “How can I ever be anything but
your servant, your slave? Oh! Blanche, you must believe me _now_. How
much longer is my probation to last? Is the time to be always put off
from day to day, and must I—-”

“Clara! Clara!” exclaimed Miss Douglas to her friend in the back
drawing-room, “shall you never have done with those tiresome letters?
Have you any idea what o’clock it is? And the carriage was ordered at

The General smothered a curse. It was invariably so. No sooner did he
think he had gained a secure footing, wrested a position of advantage,
than she cut the ground from under him, pushed him down the hill, and
his labour was lost, his task all to begin again! It seemed as if she
could not bear to face her real position, glancing off at a tangent,
without the slightest compunction, from the one important topic he was
constantly watching an opportunity to broach.

“Just done! and a good day’s work too!” replied Mrs. Lushington’s
silver tones from the writing-table, and it must have been a quicker
ear than either Satanella’s or the General’s to detect in that playful
sentence the spirit of mischievous triumph it conveyed.

Mrs. Lushington was delighted. She felt sure she had fathomed a secret,
discovered the clue to an intrigue, and by such means as seemed
perfectly fair and justifiable to her warped sense of right and wrong.

Finding herself a third person in a small party that should have
been limited to two, she made urgent correspondence her excuse for
withdrawing to such a distance as might admit of overhearing their
conversation, while the lovers, if lovers indeed they were, should
think themselves unobserved.

So she opened Satanella’s blotting-book, and spread a sheet of
note-paper on its folds.

Mrs. Lushington had a quick eye, no less than a ready wit. Blanche’s
blotting-paper was of the best quality, soft, thin, and absorbent.
Where the writing-book opened, so shrewd an observer did not fail to
detect the words “Roscommon, Ireland,” traced clear and distinct as
a lithograph, though reversed. Looking through the page, against the
light, she read Daisy’s address in his hiding-place with his humble
friend Denis plainly enough, and the one word “Registered” underlined
at the corner.

“_Enfin je te pince!_” she muttered below her breath. It was evident
Satanella was in Daisy’s confidence, that she knew his address,–which
had been extorted indeed with infinite trouble from a lad whom he had
sent to England in charge of the precious mare,–and had written to
him within the last day or two. It was a great discovery! Her hand
shook from sheer excitement, while she considered how best it could
be turned to account, how it might serve to wean the General of his
infatuation, to detach him from her friend, perhaps at last to secure
him for herself. But she must proceed cautiously; make every step good,
as she went on; prove each link of the chain, while she forged it; and
when Blanche was fairly in the toils, show her the usual mercy extended
by one woman to another.

Of course, she wrote her notes on a fresh page of the blotting-book.
Of course, she rose from her employment frank, smiling, unsuspicious.
Of course, she was more than usually affectionate to Blanche, and that
young lady, well-skilled in the wiles of her own sex, wondering what
had happened, watched her friend’s conduct with some anxiety and yet
more contempt.

“Good-bye, Blanche.”

“Good-bye, Clara.”

“Come again soon, dear!”

“You may depend upon me, love!”

And they kissed each other with a warmth of affection in no way damped
or modified because Blanche suspected, and Clara resolved, henceforth
it must be war to the knife!

In taking her leave of the General, however, Mrs. Lushington could not
resist an allusion to their previous conversation, putting into her
manner so much of tender regard and respectful interest as was pleasing
enough to him and inexpressibly galling to her friend.

“Have you said your say?” she asked, looking very pretty and
good-humoured as she gave him both hands. “I’m sure you had lots
of time, and the best of opportunities. Don’t you think I’m very

“More–very generous!”

“Come and see me soon. Whenever you like. With or without dear Blanche.
She won’t mind; I’m always at home, to either of you–or both.”

Then she made a funny little curtsey, gave him one more smile, one
sidelong sorrowful glance, with her hand on the door, and was gone.

Blanche’s spirit rose to arms; every instinct of her sex urged her
to resist this unconscionable freebooter, this lawless professor of
piracy and annexation. After all, whether she cared for him or not,
the General was her own property. And what right had this woman to
come between mistress and servant, with her becks and leers, her
smiles and wiles, and meretricious ways? She had never valued her
lover higher than at the moment Mrs. Lushington left the room; but he
destroyed his advantage, kicked down all his good fortune, by looking
in Miss Douglas’s face with an expression of slavish devotion, while he

“How different that woman is from you, Blanche. Surely, my queen, there
is nobody like you in the world!”

Returning from morning stables to his barrack-room, Soldier Bill
found on his table a document that puzzled him exceedingly. He read
it a dozen times, turned it up-side down, smoothed it out with his
riding-whip, all in vain. He could make nothing of it; then he summoned

“When did this thing come, and who brought it?”

“Five minutes back,” answered the batman. “Left by a young man on
fatigue duty.”

So Barney, with military exactitude, described a government official,
in the costume of its telegraphic department.

“Did the man leave no message?” continued Bill.

“Said as there was nothing to pay,” answered Barney, standing at
“attention” and obviously considering this part of his communication
satisfactory in the extreme.

“Said there was nothing to pay!” mused his master, “and I would have
given him a guinea to explain any two words of it.” Then he took his
coat off, and sat doggedly down to read the mysterious sentences again
and again.

The soldier, as he expressed it, was “up a tree!” That the message
must be of importance, he argued from its mode of transmission. The
sender’s name was legible enough, and his own address perfectly
correct. He felt sure Daisy would not have telegraphed from the wilds
of Roscommon but on a matter of urgency; and it did seem provoking
that the only sense to be got out of the whole composition, was in
the sentence with which it concluded–“Do not lose a moment.” In his
perplexity, he could think of no one so likely to help him as Mrs.

“She has more ‘nous’ in that pretty little head of hers,” thought Bill,
as he plunged into a suit of plain clothes, “than the Horse Guards and
the War Office put together. _She’ll_ knock the marrow out of this, if
anybody can! I’ve heard her guess riddles right off, the first time she
heard them; and there isn’t her equal in London for acting charades
and games of that kind, where you must be down to it, before they can
say ‘knife.’ By Jove, I shouldn’t wonder if this was a double acrostic
after all? Only Daisy wouldn’t be such a flat as to telegraph it all
the way from Ireland to _me_. I hope she’ll see me. It’s awfully early.
I wonder if she’ll blow me up for coming so soon.”

These reflections, and Catamount’s thorough-bred canter, soon brought
him to Mrs. Lushington’s door. She was at home, and sufficiently
well prepared for exercises of ingenuity, having been engaged, after
breakfast,–though it is but fair to say, such skirmishes were of
unusual occurrence,–in a passage-of-arms with Frank.

The latter was a good-_natured_ man, with a bad _temper_. His wife’s
temper was excellent; but her enemies, and indeed her friends, said she
was ill-_natured_. Though scarcely to be called an attached couple,
these two seldom found it worth while to quarrel, and so long as the
selfishness of each did not clash with the other, they jogged on
quietly enough. It was only when domestic affairs threw them together
more than common, that the contact elicited certain sparks, such
as crackled on occasion into what observers below-stairs called a

To-day they happened to breakfast together. After a few “backhanders,”
and some rapid exchanges, in which the husband came by the worst, their
conversation turned on money-matters–always a sore subject, as each
considered that the other spent more than a due share of their joint
income. Complaints led to recriminations, until at length, goaded
by the sharpness of his wife’s tongue, Mr. Lushington exclaimed:
“Narrow-minded, indeed! Paltry economy! I can tell you, if I didn’t
keep a precious tight hand, and deny myself–well–lots of things.
I say if I didn’t deny myself _lots_ of things, I should be in the
Bench–that’s all.”

“Then you are a very bad financier,” she retorted, “worse than the
Chancellor of the Exchequer even. But I don’t believe it. I believe
you’re saving money every day.”

He rose from his chair in a transport of irritation, the skirts of his
dressing-gown floating round him, like the rags of a whirling dervish.

“Saving money!” he repeated, in a sort of suppressed scream. “I can
only tell you I had to borrow five hundred last week, and from little
Sharon too. That doesn’t mean getting it at three per cent.!”

“Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” said she. “No gentleman
borrows money from Sharon.”

“No gentleman!” he vociferated. “Upon my life, Mrs. Lushington, I wish
you would try to be more temperate in your language. No Gentleman,
indeed! I should like to know what you call General St. Josephs? I
fancy he is rather a favourite of yours. All I can tell you is, _he_
borrows money of Sharon. Lumps of money, at exorbitant interest.”

“It’s very easy to _say_ these things,” she replied. “But you can’t
prove them!”

“Can’t I?” was his rejoinder. “Well, I suppose you won’t doubt my
word, when I give you my honour, that he consulted me himself about a
loan from this very man. Three thousand pounds, Mrs. Lushington–three
thousand pounds sterling, and at two days’ notice. Didn’t care what he
paid for it, and wanted it; well, _I_ didn’t ask him why he wanted it;
_I_ don’t pry into other people’s money-matters. _I_ don’t always think
the worst of my neighbours. But you’ll allow I’m right, I hope! You’ll
admit so much at any rate!”

“That has nothing to do with it,” replied his wife; and in this highly
satisfactory manner their matrimonial bicker terminated.

Mrs. Lushington, while remaining, in a modified sense, mistress of the
position–for Frank retired to his own den, when the servants came
to take away breakfast–found her curiosity keenly stimulated by the
little piece of gossip thus let fall under the excitement of a conjugal
wrangle. What on earth could St. Josephs want with three thousand
pounds? She had never heard he was a gambler. On a race-course, she
knew, from personal observation, that beyond a few half-crowns with the
ladies, he would not venture a shilling. He had told her repeatedly how
he abhorred foreign loans, joint-stock companies, lucrative investments
of all sorts, and money speculations of any kind whatever; yet here, if
she believed her husband, was this wise and cautious veteran plunging
overhead in a transaction wholly out of keeping with his character and
habits. “There _must_ be a woman at the bottom of it!” thought Mrs.
Lushington, not unreasonably, resolving at the same time never to rest
till she had sifted the whole mystery from beginning to end.

She felt so keen on her quest, that she could even have found it
in her heart to seek Frank in his own snuggery, and, sinking her
dignity, there endeavoured to worm out of him further particulars,
when Catamount was pulled up with some difficulty at her door, and
his master’s card sent in, accompanied by a humble petition that the
early visitor might be admitted. Having darkened her eyelashes just
before breakfast, and being, moreover, dressed in an unusually becoming
morning toilet, she returned a favourable answer, so that Soldier
Bill, glowing from his ride, was ushered into her boudoir without delay.

Her womanly tact observed his fussed and anxious looks. She assumed,
therefore, an air of interest and gravity in her own.

“There’s some bother,” said she kindly; “I see it in your face. How can
I help you, and what can I do?”

“You’re a conjuror, by Jove!” gasped Bill, in a paroxysm of admiration
at her omniscience.

“_You’re_ not, at any rate!” she replied, smiling. “But, come, tell me
all about it. You’re in a scrape? You’ve been a naughty boy. What have
you been doing? Out with it!”

“It’s nothing of my own; I give you my honour,” replied Bill.
“It’s Daisy’s turn now. Look here, Mrs. Lushington. I’m completely
puzzled–regularly knocked out of time. Read that. I can’t make head or
tail of it.”

He handed her the telegram, which she perused in silence, then burst
out laughing, and read it again aloud for his edification:–

“_Very strong Honey just arrived–bulls a-light on Bank of
Ireland–Sent by an unknown Fiend–fail immediately–Sell
Chief–consult a Gent, and strip Aaron at once–Do not lose a moment._”

“Mr. Walters must be gone raving mad, or is this a practical joke, and
why do you bring it here?”

“I don’t think it’s a joke,” answered Bill ruefully. “I brought it
because you know everything. If _you_ can’t help me, I’m done!”

“Quite right,” said she. “Always consult a woman in a tangle. Now this
thing is just like a skein of silk. If we can’t unravel it at one end,
we begin at the other. In the first place, who is Aaron? and how would
you proceed to strip him?”

“Aaron,” repeated Bill thoughtfully. “Aaron–I never heard of such a
person. There’s Sharon, you know; but stripping _him_ would be out of
the question. It’s generally the other way!”

“Sharon’s a money-lender, isn’t he?” she asked. “What business have
_you_ to know anything about him, you wicked young man?”

“Never borrowed a sixpence in my life,” protested Bill, which was
perfectly true. “But I’ve been to him often enough lately about this
business of Daisy’s. We’ve arranged to get fifteen hundred from _him_
alone. Perhaps that is what is meant by stripping him. But it was all
to be in hard money; and though I know Sharon sometimes makes you take
goods, I never heard of his sending a fellow bulls, or strong honey, or
indeed, anything but dry sherry and cigars.”

She knit her brows and read the message again. “I think I have it,”
said she. “‘_Strip Aaron._’ That must mean ‘Stop Sharon.’ ‘_Sell
the Chief_’,–that’s ‘Tell the Colonel.’ Then ‘_fail immediately_’
signifies that the writer means to cross by the first boat. Where does
it come from–Dublin or Roscommon?”

“Roscommon,” answered Bill. “They’re not much in the habit of
telegraphing up there.”

“Depend upon it Daisy has dropped into a good thing. Somebody must
have left, or lent, or _given_ him a lot of money. I have it! I have
it! This is how you must read it,” she exclaimed, and following the
lines with her taper finger, she put them into sense with no little
exultation, for the benefit of her admiring listener. “‘_Very strange!
Money just arrived. Bill at sight, on Bank of Ireland. Sent by an
unknown Friend. Sail immediately. Tell Chief. Consult Agent, and stop
Sharon at once._ Do not lose a moment.’ There, sir, should I, or should
I not, make a good expert at the Bank.”

“You’re a witch–simply a witch,” returned the delighted Bill. “It’s
regular, downright magic. Of course, that’s what he means. Of course,
he’s come into a fortune. Hurrah! hurrah! Mrs. Lushington, have you any
objection? I should like to throw my hat in the street, please, and put
my head out of window to shout!”

“I beg you’ll put out nothing of the kind!” she answered, laughing. “If
you must be a boy, at least be a good boy, and do what I tell you.”

“I should think I _would_ just!” he protested, still in his paroxysm of
admiration. “You know more than the examiners at Sandhurst! You could
give _pounds_ to the senior department! If you weren’t so–I mean if
you were old and ugly–I should really believe what I said at first,
that you’re a witch!”

She smiled on him in a very bewitching manner; but her brains were
hard at work the while recapitulating all she had learned in the last
twenty-four hours, with a pleasant conviction that she had put her
puzzle together at last. Yes, she saw it clearly now. The registered
envelope of which she found the address, in reverse, on Blanche’s
blotting-paper, must have contained those very bills, mentioned in
Daisy’s telegram. It had struck her at the time that the handwriting
was stiff and formal, as if disguised; but this served to account for
the mysterious announcement of an “unknown fiend!” She was satisfied
that Miss Douglas had sent anonymously the sum he wanted to the man
she loved. And that sum Bill had already told her was three thousand
pounds–exactly the amount, according to her husband’s version, lately
borrowed by the General from a notorious money-lender. Was it possible
Satanella could thus have stripped one admirer to benefit another?
It must be so. Such treachery deserved no mercy, and Mrs. Lushington
determined to show none.

She considered how far her visitor might be trusted with this startling
discovery. It was as well, she thought, that he should be at least
partially enlightened, particularly as the transaction was but little
to the credit of any one concerned, and could not, therefore, be made
public too soon. So she laid her hand on Bill’s coat-sleeve, and
observed impressively–

“Never mind about my being old and ugly, but attend to what I say.
Daisy, as you call him, has evidently found a good friend. Now I know
who that friend is. Don’t ask me how I found it out. I never speak
without being sure. That money came from Miss Douglas.”

Bill opened his eyes and mouth. “Miss Douglas!” he repeated. “Not the
black girl with the black mare?”

“The black girl with the black mare, and no other,” she answered. “Miss
Douglas has paid his debts, and saved him from ruin. What return can a
man make for such generosity as that?”

“She’s a trump, and he ought to marry her!” exclaimed the young
officer. “No great sacrifice either. Only,” he added, on reflection,
“she looks a bit of a Tartar–wants her head let quite alone at her
fences, I should think. She’d be rather a handful; but Daisy wouldn’t
mind that. Yes; he’s bound to marry her no doubt; and I’ll see him
through it.”

“I quite agree with you,” responded Mrs. Lushington, “but I won’t have
you talk about ladies as if they were hunters. It’s bad style, young
gentleman, so don’t do it again. Now, attend to what I tell you. Jump
on that poor horse of yours; it must be very tired of staring into
my dining-room windows. Go to your agent, and send _him_ to Sharon.
Let your Colonel know at once. When Daisy arrives, impress on him all
that he is bound in honour to do, and you may come and see me again,
whenever you like, to report progress.”

So Bill leapt into the saddle in exceedingly good spirits, while Mrs.
Lushington sat down to her writing-table, with the self-satisfied
sensations of one who has performed an action of provident kindness and