Poor Daisy! Everybody was sorry for him, everybody except the owner and
a few friends who won largely on Shaneen, regretted his disappointment,
and shrugged their shoulders at the heavy losses it was known to have
entailed. His brother-officers looked grave, but bestirred themselves,
nevertheless, for the next race. His trainer shook his head, glancing
wistfully at the spur marks on the mare’s reeking sides. The very crowd
condoled with him, for he had ridden to admiration, and the accident
that discomfited him was patent to all. Even Mr. Sullivan, whose own
hopes had been blighted by the defeat of the chestnut, expressed an
opinion that “Av’ it could be run again, though there wasn’t a pound
between them, it was his belief the mare would win!”

Mr. Walters, however, true to his nature, kept a bold face over a
troubled heart, yet had a difficult task to control his feelings, when
he emerged from the enclosure after weighing, and found his hand seized
by the Roscommon farmer in a grip that inflicted no slight physical

“Ah! now, Captain,” exclaimed Denis, who had flung himself on a horse,
and galloped back from the Big Double, just too late to witness the
finish. “Sure ye rode it beautiful! An’ the mare, I seen her myself,
come out from them all in wan blaze, like a sky-rocket! Bate, says
they, by a neck? I’ll niver believe it! Annyways, ye’ll need to pay
the wagers. See, now, Captain, I parted a score o’ heifers, only last
Friday was it, by good luck, and I’ve got the money here–rale Dublin
notes–inside my coat-tail pocket. Take as much as ye’d be likely to
want, Captain. What’s a trifle like that betwixt you an’ me? Oh! the
mare would have wan, safe enough, av’ she had fair play. See to her
now, she’s got her wind back. Begorra! She’s ready to go again!”

Daisy was no creature of impulse,–the last man in the world to be
fooled by any sentiment of the moment,–yet tears filled his eyes,
and he could scarce find a voice to thank his humble friend, while
he declined an offer that came straight from the farmer’s warm and
generous heart.

Denis looked disappointed, wrung “the Captain’s” hand hard, and
vanished in a convenient booth to console himself with another “dandy”
of punch.

Patting the mare fondly, and even laying his cheek against her warm,
wet neck, the losing jockey retired to change silk and doeskin for his
usual dress, in which, with his usual easy manner, he swaggered up to
the stand. Here, as has been said, his defeat excited considerable
sympathy, and, indeed, in one quarter, positive consternation. Two
young ladies had accompanied him through the race, with their hearts
as with their eyes. When his efforts ended in defeat, both were deeply
affected, though in different ways. Norah Macormac could not refrain
from tears, but conscious that mamma was on the watch, hid her face in
a ridiculously small pocket-handkerchief, pretending to sneeze and blow
her nose, as if she had caught cold. Blanche Douglas, on the contrary,
looked round fierce, wistful, and defiant, like a wild creature at bay.
Even Daisy, approaching jauntily to receive his friends’ condolences
could not but observe how pale she was, yet how collected and composed.

“I’ve not punished her much,” said he, addressing himself, in the first
instance, to the real owner of the vanquished mare. “She’s as good as
I told you, Miss Douglas. It was no fault of hers. If I hadn’t been a
muff I’d have killed the old woman, and won in a canter! Never mind;
your favourite, at least, has not disgraced her name, and I’m very glad
I called her Satanella.”

She laid her hand softly on his arm, and looked straight into his eyes.
“Did you stand it all?” said she. “Is it as bad as you said? Tell me!
Quick! I cannot bear suspense.”

“Never laid off a shilling,” he answered lightly. “Never even backed
her for a place. I swore I’d be a man or a mouse, as you know, and it’s
come up–mouse!”

“In two words, Mr. Walters, you’re ruined!” She spoke almost angrily in
her effort at self-control.

“That’s the way to say it!” was his careless reply. “General break
up–horse, foot, and dragoons. No reason, though, you should call me
_Mr. Walters_.”

“Well, _Daisy_, then,” she murmured, with a loving, lingering
tenderness on those syllables she was resolved never to utter above her
breath again. “You know how I hoped you’d win. You know how vexed I am.
You know–or rather you don’t, and never _shall_ know–that it’s worse
for _me_ than for _you_!”

The last sentence she spoke so low he did not catch its purport, but
thinking she regretted the loss of her own wagers, he began to express
sorrow for having advised her so badly.

She stopped him angrily. “I would have backed her for thousands,” she
exclaimed. “I would have laid my life on her. I believe I _have_!”

“Then you don’t owe the mare a grudge!” he answered cheerily. “I
thought you wouldn’t. She’s not a pin the worse for training. You’ll
take her back, won’t you?–and–and–you’ll be kind to her for her own

She seemed to waver a moment, as if she weighed some doubtful matter
in her mind. Presently with cleared brow, and frank, open looks, she
caught his hand.

“And for _yours_!” said she. “I’ll never part with her. So long
as we three are above ground, Satanella–my namesake–will be
a–a–remembrance between you and me!”

Then she beckoned the General, who was talking to some ladies behind
her, and asked for information about the next race, with a kindness of
tone and manner that elevated the old soldier to the seventh heaven.

Meanwhile, Miss Macormac had found time to recover her composure.
Turning to Mr. Walters she showed him a bright and pretty face, with
just such traces of the vexation that had clouded it as are left by
passing showers on an April sky. Her eyes looked deeper and darker
for their late moisture, her little nose all the daintier that its
transparent nostrils were tinged with pink.

She gave him her hand frankly, as though to express silent sympathy
and friendship. Sinking into a seat by her side, Daisy embarked on a
long and detailed account of the race, the way he had ridden it, the
performances of St. George, Leprauchan, Shaneen, and his own black mare.

Though he seldom got excited, he could not but break into a glowing
description, as he warmed with his narrative. “When I came to the
wall,” he declared, “I was as sure of winning as I am of sitting by
you now. St. George had been disposed of, and he was the only horse
in the race whose form I did not know to a pound. Leprauchan, I felt
satisfied, could never live the pace, if I made it hot enough. And as
for little Shaneen, the mare’s stride would be safe to beat _him_,
if we finished with a set-to, in the run-in. Everything had come off
exactly to suit me, and when we rounded the last turn but one I caught
hold of Satanella, and set her going down the hill like an express

“Did ye now?” she murmured, her deep grey eyes looking earnestly into
his, her sweet lips parted as though with a breathless interest that
drank in every syllable he spoke.

“_Did ye now?_” Only three words, yet carrying with them a charm
to convince the most practical of men that the days of spells and
witchcraft are not yet gone by. An Englishwoman would have observed,
“Really!” “Oh, indeed!” “You don’t say so!” or made use of some
such cold conventional expression to denote languid attention, not
thoroughly aroused; but the Irish girl’s “_did ye now?_” identified
her at once with her companion and his doings, started them both
incontinently on that path of congenial partnership, which is so
seductive to the traveller, smooth, pleasant all down hill, and
leading–who knows where?

Perhaps neither deep liquid eyes, nor dark lashes, nor arched brows,
nor even smiles and blushes, and shapely graceful forms, would arm
these Irish ladies with such unequalled and irresistible powers, were
it not for their kindly womanly nature that adapts itself so graciously
to those with whom it comes in contact–their encouraging “Did ye now?”
that despises no trifle, is wearied with no details, and asks only for
his confidence whom they honour with their regard. Perhaps, also, it is
this faculty of sympathy and assimilation, predominant in both sexes,
that makes Irish society the pleasantest in the world.

Thus encouraged, Daisy went off again at score, described each fence
to his eager listener, dwelt on every stride, and explained the
catastrophe of the woman and child, observing, in conclusion, with a
philosophy all his own, that it was “hard lines to be done just at the
finish, and lose a hat-full of money, by three-quarters of a yard!”

She looked up anxiously. “Did ye make such heavy bets now?” she said in
a tone of tender reproach. “Ah! Captain Walters, ye told me ye never
meant to run these risks again!”

“It was for the last time,” he answered rather mournfully. “If the old
woman had been at home and in bed, I should have been my own master at
this moment, and then–never mind what _then_! It’s no use bothering
about that now!”

She blushed to the very roots of her hair–why she would have been at
a loss to explain,–crumpled her race-card into a hundred creases, and
observed innocently–

“Why should it make any difference now? Do ye think we’d like you
better for being a hundred times a winner? I wouldn’t then, for one!”

He was sitting very close, and nobody but herself heard the whisper, in
which he asked–

“Then you don’t despise a fellow for losing, Miss Macormac, do you?”

“Despise him?” she answered with flashing eyes. “Never say the word!
If I liked him before, d’ye think I wouldn’t like him ten times better
after he’d been vexed by such a disappointment as that! Ye’re not
understanding what I mean, and maybe I’m not putting it into right
words, but it seems to me—-Yes, dear mamma, I’m minding what you say!
Sure enough, it is raining in here fit to drown a fish! I’m obliged to
ye, Captain. Will ye kindly shift the cloak and cushions to that dry
place yonder by Lady Mary. How wet the poor riders will be in their
silk jackets! I’m pleased and thankful now–indeed I am–that ye’re
sheltered safe and dry in the stand.”

The last remark in a whisper, because of Lady Mary’s supervision, who
thinking the _tête-à-tête_ between Daisy and her daughter had lasted
long enough, took advantage of a driving shower and the state of the
roof to call pretty Miss Norah into a part of the stand which she
considered in every respect more secure.

The sky had again darkened, the afternoon promised to be wet.
Punchestown weather is not proverbial for sunshine, and Mrs.
Lushington, who had done less execution than she considered rightly
due to a new toilette of violet and swansdown, voted the whole thing a
failure and a bore. The last race was run off in a pelting shower, the
Lord Lieutenant’s carriages and escort had departed, people gathered
up their shawls and wrappings with little interest in anything but
the preservation of dry skins. Ladies yawned and began to look tired,
gentlemen picked their way through the course ankle-deep in mud, to
order up their several vehicles, horse and foot scattered themselves
over the country in every direction from a common centre, the canvas
booths flapped, wind blew, the rain fell, the great day’s racing was
over, and it was time to go home.

Norah Macormac’s ears were very sharp, but they listened in vain for
the expected invitation from Lady Mary, asking Daisy to spend a few
days with them at the castle. Papa, whose hospitality was unbounded and
uncontrollable, would have taken no denial, under any circumstances;
but papa was engaged with the race committee, and intended, moreover,
to gallop home across country by himself. There seemed nothing for it
but to put as much cordiality into her farewell as was compatible with
the presence of bystanders and the usages of society.

Miss Norah no doubt acquitted herself to Daisy’s satisfaction–and her

Mr. Sullivan, whose experience enabled him to recover his losses on the
great handicap by a judicious selection of winners in two succeeding
races, did not, therefore, depart without a final glass of comfort,
which he swallowed in company with the Roscommon farmer. To him he
expounded his views on steeple-chasing, and horses in general, at far
greater length than in the forenoon. It is a matter of regret that,
owing to excitement, vexation, and very strong punch, Denis should
have been much too drunk to understand a word he said. The only idea
this worthy seemed clearly to take in, he repeated over and over again
in varying tones of grief and astonishment, but always in the same

“The mare can do it, I tell ye! an’ the Captain rode her beau-tiful!
Isn’t it strange, now, to see little Shaneen comin’ in like that at the
finish, an’ givin’ her a batin’ by a neck!”

Dinner that day at the castle seemed less lively than usual. Macormac,
indeed, whose joviality was invincible, ate, drank, laughed, and talked
for a dozen; but Lady Mary’s spirits were obviously depressed; and the
guests, perhaps not without private vexation of their own, took their
cue rather from hostess than host. An unaccountable sense of gloom and
disappointment pervaded the whole party. The General having come down
early, in hopes of a few minutes with Miss Douglas in the drawing-room
before the others were dressed, had been disappointed by the protracted
toilette and tardy appearance of that provoking young lady, with whom
he parted an hour before on terms of mutual sympathy and tenderness,
but who now sat pale and silent, while the thunder clouds he knew and
dreaded gathered ominously on her brow. His preoccupation necessarily
affected his neighbour–a budding beauty fresh from the school-room,
full of fun and good humour, that her sense of propriety kept down,
unless judiciously encouraged and drawn out. Most of the gentlemen
had been wet to the skin, many had lost money, all were tired, and
Norah Macormac’s eyes filled every now and then with tears. These
discoveries Mrs. Lushington imparted in a whisper to Lord St. Abbs as
he sat between herself and her hostess, whom he had taken in to dinner,
pausing thereafter to mark the effect of her condescension on this
raw youth, lately launched into the great world. The young nobleman,
however, betrayed no symptoms of emotion beyond screwing his eye-glass
tighter in its place, and turning round to look straight in her face,
while it dropped out with a jump. Even Mrs. Lushington felt at a
disadvantage, and took counsel with her own heart whether she should
accost him again.

Why Lord St. Abbs went about at all, or what pleasure he derived
from the society of his fellow-creatures, was a puzzle nobody had
yet been able to find out. Pale, thin, and puny in person, freckled,
sandy-haired, bearing all outward characteristics of Scottish
extraction, except the Caledonian’s gaunt and stalwart frame, he
neither rowed, shot, fished, sang, made jokes, nor played whist. He
drank very little, conversed not at all, and was voted by nearly all
who had the advantage of his acquaintance “the dullest young man out!”

Yet was he to be seen everywhere, from Buckingham Palace or Holland
House to Hampton races and the fire-works at Cremorne; always alone,
always silent, with his glass in his eye, observant, imperturbable, and
thinking, no doubt, a great deal.

It was rumoured, indeed, that on one memorable occasion he got drunk
at Cambridge, and kept a supper-party in roars of laughter till four,
A.M. If so, he must have fired all his jokes off at once, so to speak,
and blown the magazine up afterwards; for he never blazed forth in such
lustre again. He came out a Wrangler of his year, notwithstanding,
and the best modern linguist, as well as classical scholar, in the
university. Though the world of ball-goers and diners-out ignores such
distinctions, a strong political party, hungering for office, had its
eye on him already. As his father voted for Government in the Upper
House, a provident director of the Opposition lost no time in sounding
him on his views, should he become a member of the Lower. How little,
to use his own words, the _whip_ “took by his motion” may be gathered
from the opinion he expressed in confidence to his chief, that “St.
Abbs was either as close as wax or the biggest fool (and it’s saying a
great deal) who ever came out of Cambridge with a degree!”

Gloomy as a dinner-party may appear at first, if the champagne
circulates freely, people begin to talk long before the repast is half
over. What must children think of their seniors when the dining-room
door opens for an instant, and trailing upstairs unwillingly to bed,
they linger to catch that discordant unintelligible gabble going on
within? During a lull Mrs. Lushington made one more effort to arouse
the attention of Lord St. Abbs.

“We’re all getting better by degrees,” said she, with a comic little
sigh. “But it has been a disastrous day, and I believe everybody feels
just as I do myself.”

“How?” demanded his lordship, while the eye-glass bounced into his

“Like the man who won a shilling and lost eighteen-pence,” she
answered, laughing.

“Why?” he asked, yet more austerely, screwing the instrument into
position the while with a defiant scowl.

She was out of patience–no wonder.

“Good gracious, Lord St. Abbs!” said she. “Haven’t we all been on the
wrong horse? Haven’t we all been backing Daisy?”

She spoke rather loud, and was amused to observe the effect of her
observation. It was like dropping a squib in a boy’s school during
lessons. Everybody must needs join in the excitement.

“A bad job indeed!” said one.

“A great race entirely!” added another. “Run fairly out from end to
end, and only a neck between first and second at the finish!”

“I wish I’d taken old Sullivan’s advice,” moaned a third; “or backed
the mare for a place, annyhow.”

“Ye might have been wrong even then, me boy,” interrupted a jolly,
red-faced gentleman, “unless ye squared the ould woman! I wonder would
she take three half-crowns a day to come with me twice a year to the

“I knew of the mare’s trial,” drawled one of the London dandies, “and
backed her to win me a monkey. Daisy put me on at once, like a trump.
It was a real good thing and it has boiled over. (Champagne, please.)
Such is life, Miss Douglas. We have no hope of getting home now till
Epsom Spring.”

Miss Douglas, not the least to his discomfiture, stared him scornfully
in the face without reply.

“I’m afraid it’s a severe blow to young Walters,” observed the General.
“They tell me he has lost a good deal more than he can afford.”

“Got it, I fancy, very hot!” said the dandy. “Gad, he rode as if he’d
backed his mount. I thought his finish one of the best I ever saw.”

Norah Macormac threw him the sweetest of glances, and wondered why she
had considered him so very uninteresting till now.

“They say he hasn’t a shilling left,” continued the General, but
stopped short when he caught the flash of Satanella’s eye, under its
dark, frowning brow.

“I dare say he’ll pull through,” said she bitterly, “and disappoint his
dearest friends, after all.”

“I’ll engage he will, Miss Douglas!” exclaimed Macormac’s hearty voice
from the end of the table. “It’s yourself wouldn’t turn your back on a
friend, lose or win. Take a glass of that claret, now. It’ll not hurt
ye. Here’s the boy’s health, and good luck to him! A pleasanter fellow,
to my mind, never emptied a bottle, and a better rider never sat in a
saddle, than he’s proved himself this day!”

Norah would have liked to jump up and hug papa’s handsome white head
in her embrace on the spot, but Lady Mary had been watching the girl
to-night with a mother’s anxiety, and fearful lest her daughter should
betray herself if subjected to further trial, gave the signal rather
prematurely for the ladies to withdraw.

While they trooped gracefully out, the gentlemen were still discussing
Daisy’s defeat, and the catastrophe of the Great United Service

Everybody knows what men talk about when left alone after dinner; but
none, at least of the rougher sex, can venture to guess the topics with
which ladies beguile their seclusion in the drawing-room. Whatever
these might be, it seems they had little interest for Mrs. Lushington,
whose habit it was to retire for ten minutes or so to her own chamber,
there, perhaps, to revise and refresh her charms ere she descended once
more upon a world of victims.

Her bedroom was gorgeously furnished, supplied with all the luxuries
to which she was accustomed; but the windows did not shut close, and
a draught beneath the door lifted the hearth-rug at her fire-place;
therefore she made but a short stay in her apartment, stealing softly
down-stairs again, so as to be well settled in the drawing-room before
the gentlemen came in.

Traversing the library, she heard Lady Mary’s voice carrying on, as
it seemed, a subdued, yet sustained conversation, in a little recess
adjoining, which could hardly be called a boudoir, but was so far
habitable, that in it there usually stood a lamp, a chess-board and
a card-table. Mrs. Lushington would not have _listened_, be sure, to
save her life, but the _Dublin Evening Mail_ lay close at hand on a
writing-table. She became suddenly interested in a Tipperary election,
and the price of pigs at Belfast.

Lady Mary’s accents were low, grave, even sorrowful. It was difficult
to catch more than a sentence here and there; but, judging by the
short, quick sobs that replied to these, they seemed to produce no
slight effect on the other party to the conversation.

Mrs. Lushington smiled behind her paper. What she heard only confirmed
what she suspected. Her eyes shone, her brow cleared. She felt like a
child that has put its puzzle together at last.

Lady Mary warmed with her subject; presently she declared, distinctly
enough, that something was “not like _you_, my dear. In any other girl
I’d have called it bold, forward, unwomanly!”

“Oh, mamma! mamma! don’t say that!” pleaded a voice that could only
belong to poor Norah. “If _you_ think so, what must _he_ have thought?
Oh dear! oh dear! what shall I do? What shall I do?”

“It’s never too late to remember your duty, my child,” answered Lady
Mary, “and I’m sure your father thinks as I do;” but though the words
sounded brave enough, there was a tremble in the mother’s voice that
vibrated from the mother’s heart.

“And I’ll never see him again now, I _know_!” murmured Norah so
piteously that Lady Mary could hardly keep back her tears.

“Well, it’s not come to that yet,” said she kindly. “Annyways, it’s
wise to make ready for the worst. Kiss me, dear, and mind what I’ve
been telling ye. See now, stay here a bit, till you’re more composed.
I’ll send in little Ella to keep ye company. The child won’t take
notice, and ye can both come back together into the drawing-room, and
no more said.”

But long ere Lady Mary could finish her caresses, and get her motherly
person under weigh, Mrs. Lushington had slipped into the billiard-room,
where she was found by the gentlemen practising winning hazards in
solitude, and where, challenging Lord St. Abbs to a game, she was left
discomfited by his very uncivil rejoinder–

“I don’t play billiards,” said his lordship, and turned on his heels
without further comment or excuse.

It was a new sensation for Mrs. Lushington to find herself thus thrown
on general society, without at least one particular admirer on whose
devotion she could rely. She didn’t like it. She longed to have a
finger in that mischief which is proverbially ready for “idle hands to
do.” On three people she now resolved to keep close and vigilant watch.
These were Norah, St. Josephs, and Satanella.

The conduct of this last seemed baffling in the extreme. She had
scarce vouchsafed a word to the General during dinner, had scowled at
him more than once with the blackest of her black looks, and comported
herself altogether like the handsome vixen she could be when she chose.
Now, under pretence of setting down her coffee-cup, she had brought
him to her side, and was whispering confidences in his ear, with a
tenderness of tone and bearing he accepted gratefully, and repaid a

“How tolerant are these _old_ men!” thought Mrs. Lushington, “and how
kind! What lovers they make, if only one can bring oneself not to mind
wrinkles, and rheumatism and grey hair! How gentle and how chivalrous!
What patience and consideration! They don’t expect a woman to be an
angel, because they _do_ know a little about us; and perhaps because it
_is_ only a little, they believe there is more than one degree between
absolute perfection and utter depravity. If jealous, they have the
grace to hide it; if snubbed, they do not sulk; if encouraged, they
do not presume. They know when and where to speak, and to hold their
tongues; to act, and to refrain. Besides, if one wants to make them
unhappy, they are so sensitive, yet so quiet. A word or a look stings
them to the quick, but they take their punishment with dignity; and
though the blow be sharp and unprovoked, they never strike again. Let
me see. I don’t think I’ve had an admirer above forty–not one who
owned to it, at least. It’s a new experience. I declare, I’ll try! This
romantic old General would suit the place exactly, and I couldn’t do
a kinder thing for both, than to detach him from Blanche. The man is
regularly wasted and thrown away. My gracious! isn’t it ridiculous? If
he could see us as we really are! If he only knew how much more willing
a woman is to be controlled than a violent horse; how much easier to
capture than a Sepoy column, or a Russian gun. And there he sits, a man
who has ridden fearlessly against both, shrinking, hesitating, before a
girl who might be his daughter–afraid, absolutely afraid, the gallant,
heroic coward, to look her in the face! Is she blind? Is she a fool,
not knowing what she throws away? or is she _really_ over head and ears
in love with somebody else? She can’t be breaking her heart for Daisy,
surely, or why has she taken the General up again, and put herself so
much _en evidence_ with him to-night? I’m puzzled, I own, but I’m not
going to be beat. I’ll watch her narrowly. I’ve nothing else to do. And
it’s an awful temptation, even when people are great friends. Wouldn’t
it be fun to cut her out with both?”

Thus reasoned Mrs. Lushington, according to her lights, scrutinising
the couple she had set herself to study, while languidly listening to
Lady Mary’s conversation, which consisted, indeed, of speculations on
the weather in the Channel, mingled with hospitable regrets for the
departure of her guest, and the breaking-up of the party, which was to
take place on the morrow.

“But ye’ll come again next year,” said this kind and courteous
lady, who, anywhere but in her own house, would have disliked Mrs.
Lushington from her heart. “And ye’ll bring Miss Douglas with ye–if
Miss Douglas she continues to be (with a significant glance at the
General, holding, clumsily enough, a skein of much tangled silk). But,
annyhow, I’ll be lookin’ for ye both Punchestown week, if not before,
to give us a good long visit, and we’ll teach ye to like Ireland, that
we will, if kind wishes and a warm welcome can do’t.”

But even while she spoke, Lady Mary looked anxiously towards the
door. Little Ella, a flaxen-haired romp of eleven, had jumped off
long ago with a message for sister Norah, but neither having yet
returned, the mother’s heart ached to think of her handsome darling,
smarting, perhaps, even under the mild reproof she had thought it
wise to administer, perhaps weeping bitterly, to her little sister’s
consternation, because of the pain that burns so fiercely in a young
unwearied heart–the longing for a happiness that can never be.

Presently, Lady Mary’s brow cleared, and she gave a little sigh of
relief, for Miss Ella’s voice was heard, as usual, chattering loudly
in the passage; and that young person, much elated at being still out
of bed, came dancing into the room, followed by Norah, from whose
countenance all traces of recent emotion had disappeared, and who
looked, in her mother’s eyes, only the prettier, that she was a shade
paler than usual. While the younger child laughed and romped with the
company, fighting shy of Lord St. Abbs, but hovering with great glee
about papa, and entreating not to be sent upstairs for five more
minutes, her sister stole quietly off to a lonely corner, where she
subsided into an unoccupied sofa, with the air of being thoroughly

Mrs. Lushington, covertly watching Satanella, wondered more and more.

Breaking away from her General, her silks, and her unfinished cup of
tea, Miss Douglas walked across the room like a queen, took Norah’s
head in both hands, kissed her exactly between her eyebrows, and sat
down composedly by her side.

In a comic opera, once much appreciated by soldiers of the French
nation, there occurs a quaint refrain, to the effect that the gathering
of strawberries in a certain wood at Malieux is a delightful pastime,

“Quand on est deux,
Quand on est deux–,”

and the sentiment, thus expressed, seems applicable to all solitudes,
suburban or otherwise, where winding paths and rustic seats admit of
two abreast. But however favoured by nature, the very smoothest of
lawns and leafiest of glades surely lose more than half their beauty,
if we must traverse them unaccompanied by somebody who makes all the
sunshine, and perhaps all the shade, of our daily life.

To wait for such a companion, is nevertheless an irritating ordeal,
even amidst the fairest scenery, trying both to temper and nerves. It
has been said that none realise the pace at which time gallops, till
they have a bill coming due. On the other hand none know how slow he
can crawl, who have not kept an uncertain tryst with over-punctuality
“under the greenwood tree!”

General St. Josephs was not a man to be late for any preconcerted
meeting, either with friend or foe. It is a long way from Mayfair to
Kensington Gardens; it seemed none the shorter for an impatient spirit
and a heart beating with anxiety and hope. Yet the old soldier arrived
at the appointed spot twenty minutes too soon, there to suffer torments
from a truly British malady called “the fidgets,” while diligently
consulting his watch and reconnoitering his ground.

How many turns he made, pacing to and fro, between the round pond and
the grove, through which he longed to behold his goddess advancing in a
halo of light and beauty, he would have been ashamed to calculate.

Some women never _can_ be in time for anything, even for a lover; and
after half an hour’s waiting, that seemed a week, he drew a little note
from his breast-pocket, kissed it reverently, and read it once more
from end to end.

It said twelve o’clock, no doubt, and certainly was a very short
epistle to be esteemed so sweet. This is what, through many perusals,
he had literally learned by heart–

“My dear General,

“I want a long talk. Shall I find you in Kensington Gardens, where you
say it’s so pretty, at twelve o’clock?

“Ever yours,


Now, in the composition, there appeared one or two peculiarities that
especially delighted its recipient.

She had hitherto signed herself B. Douglas, never so much as writing
her Christian name at length; and here she jumped boldly to “Blanche,”
the prettiest word, to his mind, in the English language, when standing
thus, like Falstaff’s sack, “simple of itself.” Also, he had not
forgotten the practice adopted by ladies in general of crossing a page
on which there is plenty of space, to enhance its value, as you cross
a cheque on your banker, that it may be honoured in the right quarter.
One line had Satanella scrawled transversely over her note to this
effect, “Don’t be late; there is nothing I hate so much as waiting.”

Altogether the General would not have parted with it for untold gold.

But _why_ didn’t she come? Looking round in every direction but the
right, she burst upon him, like a vision, before he was aware. If he
started, and turned a little pale, she marked it, we may be sure, and
not with displeasure.

It was but the middle of May, yet the sky smiled bright and clear,
the grass was growing, butterflies were already on the wing, birds
were singing, and the trees had dressed themselves in their fairest
garments of tender, early green. She too was in some light muslin robe,
appropriate to the weather, with a transparent bonnet on her head, and
a pink-tinted parasol in her hand. He thought, and she _knew_, she had
never looked more beautiful in her life.

She began with a very unnecessary question. “Did you get my note?” said
she. “Of course you did, or you wouldn’t be here. I don’t suppose you
come into Kensington Gardens so early to meet anybody else!”

“Never did such a thing in my life!” exclaimed the General, quite
frightened at the idea–but added, after a moment’s thought–“It was
very good of you to write, and better still to come.”

“Now what on earth do you suppose I wanted to speak to you about?” she
continued, in rather a hard voice. “Let us turn down here. I daresay
you’d like all London to see us together; but that wouldn’t suit me at

This was both unprovoked and unjust, for a more discreet person in such
matters than the accused never existed. He felt hurt, and answered
gravely, “I don’t think I deserve that. You cannot say I have ever
shown myself obtrusive or impatient with regard to _you_.”

“Don’t look vexed,” she replied; “and don’t scold me, though I deserve
it. I am in one of my worst tempers this morning; and who can I wreak
it on but _you_?–the kindest, the bravest, the most generous of men!”

His features quivered; the tears were not far from his eyes. A little
boy with a hoop stood still, and stared up in his face, marvelling to
see so tall a gentleman so greatly moved.

He took her hand. “You can always depend on _me_,” he said softly; and,
dropping it, walked on by her side in silence.

“I know I can,” she answered. “I’ve known it a long time, though you
don’t think so. What a hideous little boy! Now he’s gone on with his
hoop, I’ll tell you what I mean.–One of the things that first made me
like you, was this–you’re a gentleman down to the heels of your boots!”

“There’s not much in that,” he replied, looking pleased, nevertheless.
“So are most of the men amongst whom you live. A fellow ought to have
something more than a good coat and decent manners, to be worthy of
your regard; and you _do_ like me, Miss Douglas? Tell me so again. It
is almost too much happiness for me to believe.”

“That’s not the question. If I hated anybody very much, do you think
I would ask him to come and walk with me in Kensington Gardens at an
hour when all respectable people are broiling in the Park?” said she,
with one of her winning laughs. “You’re wrong, though, about the people
in good coats. What I call a gentleman is–well–I can’t think of
many–King Arthur, for instance, in ‘Guinevere.'”

“Not Launcelot?” he asked. “I thought you ladies liked Launcelot best.”

“There are plenty of Launcelots,” she answered dreamily, “and always
will be. _Not Launcelot, nor another_, except it be _my_ General!”

Could he do less than take her arm and press it fondly to his side?

They had loitered into the seclusion of a forest glade, that might
have been a hundred miles from London. The little boy had vanished
with his hoop, the nursery-maids and their charges were pervading the
broad gravel walks and more frequented lawns of this sylvan paradise;
not a soul was to be seen threading the stems of the tall trees but
themselves, and an enthusiastic thrush straining its throat in their
ears, seemed to ensure them from all observation less tolerant than its

“Now or never!” thought Satanella. “It _must_ be done; and it’s no use
thinking about it!”

Turning round on her companion, she crossed her slender hands over his
arm, looked caressingly in his face and murmured–

“General, will you do me a favour?”

Pages could not have conveyed the gratification expressed by his
monosyllable, “Try!”

She looked about, as if searching for some means of escape, then said

“I am in a difficulty. I want money. Will you help me?”

Watching his face, she saw it turn very grave. The most devoted of
lovers, even while rejoicing because of the confidence reposed in
him, cannot but feel that such a question must be approached with
caution–that to answer it satisfactorily will require prudence,
fore-thought, and self-sacrifice. To do the General justice, which
Satanella at the moment did _not_, his circumspection was far removed
from hesitation; he had no more idea of refusing, than the gallant
horse who shortens his stride, and draws himself together, for a larger
fence than common, that he may collect his energies, and cover it
without a mistake.

For one delightful moment Miss Douglas felt a weight lifted from her
heart, and was already beginning to unsay her words as gracefully as
she might when he stopped her, with a firm, deliberate acquiescence.

“Of course I will! And you ought to know by this time nothing can
make me so happy as to be of use to you in any way. Forgive me, Miss
Douglas–business is business–how much?”

Her face fell; she let go of his arm, and her lips were very dry, while
she whispered, “Three thousand!”

He was staggered, and showed it, though he tried hard not to look
surprised. Few men can lay their hands on three thousand pounds of
hard money, at a moment’s notice, without some personal inconvenience.
Now the General was no capitalist, though in easy circumstances,
and drawing the half-pay of his rank; to him such an outlay meant a
decreased income for the rest of his life.

She was quite right about his being a gentleman. In a few seconds he
had recovered his composure; in half a minute he said quietly–

“You shall have it at once. I am only so glad to be able to oblige you,
that I wish it was more difficult. And now, Miss Douglas, you always
say I’m a sad fidget, I’ll go about it directly: I’ll only ask you to
come with me to the end of the walk.”

She was crying beneath her veil; he saw the tears dropping on her
hands, and would have liked to kiss them away on any other occasion but

“To the end of the world!” she answered, with the sobs and smiles of
a child. “There’s nobody like you–nobody!–not even King Arthur! Ask
what you will, I’ll never refuse you–never–as long as I live!”

But it need hardly be said that the General would rather have cut
off his right hand, than presumed on the position in which her
confidence had placed him. Though she appreciated his consideration,
she hardly understood why his manner became so unusually respectful
and courteous, why his farewell under the supervision of a cabman and
a gate-keeper–should be almost distant; why he lifted his hat to her,
at parting, as he would to the queen–but, while he replaced it on his
bald and grizzled head, Blanche Douglas was nearer being in love than
she suspected with this true, unselfish admirer, who was old enough to
be her father.

In women, far more than in men, there can exist an affection that
springs from the head alone. It is the result of respect, admiration,
and gratitude. It is to be won by devotion, consistency, above all,
self-control; and, like a garden flower, so long as it is tended with
attention, prospers bravely till autumn cools the temperature, and
saddens all the sky. But this is a very different plant from the weed,
wild rose, nightshade–call it what you will–that is sown by the
winds of heaven, to strike root blindly and at haphazard in the heart;
sweeter for being trampled, stronger for being broken, proof against
the suns that scorch, the winds that shatter, the worm that eats away
its core, and, refusing to die, even in the frown of winter, under the
icy breath of scorn and unmerited neglect.

Which of these kindred sentiments the General had succeeded in
awakening, was a problem he shrank from setting himself honestly to
solve. He tried to hope it might be the one; he felt sadly convinced it
was only the other. Traversing the gardens with swift, unequal strides,
so as to leave them at the very farthest point from where his companion
made her exit, for he was always loyal to _les convenances_, he argued
the question with his own heart, till he dared not think about it
any longer, subsiding at last into composure, with the chivalrous
reflection, that, come what might, if he could but minister to the
happiness of Blanche Douglas, he would grudge no sacrifice, even the
loss of his money–shrink from no disappointment, even the destruction
of his hopes.

Satanella meanwhile had selected a Hansom cab, in which to make her
homeward journey, characteristically choosing the best-looking horse
on the stand. To be seen, however, spanking along, at the rate of
twelve miles an hour, in such a vehicle, she reflected, might be
considered _fast_ in a young unmarried lady, and originate, also,
surmises as to the nature of her expedition; for it is quite a mistake
to suppose that people in London are either blind or dumb, because
they have so much on hand of their own, that they cannot devote all
their attention to the business of their neighbours. With commendable
modesty, therefore, she kept her parasol well before her face, so as to
remain unrecognised by her friends, while she scanned everything about
her with the keen, bright glances of a hawk. Bowling past Kingston
House, then, and wondering whether it would not be possible, in time,
to raise a domestic pedestal for General St. Josephs, on which she
might worship him as a hero, if she could not love him as a Cupid, her
Hansom cab passed within six inches of another, moving rapidly in the
opposite direction; and who should be seated therein, smoking a cigar,
with a white hat and light-coloured gloves, but ruined, reckless,
never-to-be-forgotten Daisy!

She turned sick, and white even to the lips. In one glance, as women
will, she had taken in every detail of his face and person, had
marked that the one seemed devoid of care, the other well dressed
as usual. Like a stab came the conviction, that ruin to _him_ meant
only a certain amount of personal inconvenience, irrespective of any
extraneous sorrow or vexation; and in this she misjudged him, not quite
understanding a nature she had unwittingly chosen for the god of her

Though they passed each other so quickly, she stretched her arms out
and spoke his name, but Daisy’s whole attention was engrossed by a
pretty horse-breaker in difficulties on his other side. Satanella felt,
as she rolled on, that he had not recognised her, and that if she acted
up to her own standard of right, this miserable glimpse must be their
last meeting, for she ought never to see him again.

“He’ll be sure to call, poor fellow!” she murmured, when she reached
her own door. So it is fair to suppose she had been thinking of him for
a mile and a quarter. “I should like to wish him good-bye, _really_ for
the last time. But no, no! Honour, even among thieves. And I’m sure
_he_ deserves it, that kind, noble, generous old man. Oh! I wish I was
dead! I wish I was dead!” Then she paid the cabman (more than his fare)
told her servant, in a strange, hoarse voice, that “she was at home to
nobody this afternoon–nobody, not even Mrs. Lushington!” and so ran
fiercely upstairs, and locked herself into her room.

Daisy placidly smoking, pursued the even tenor of his way, thinking of
the pretty horse-breaker more than anything else; while disapproving,
in a calm, meditative mood, of her hat, her habit, her bridle, and the
leather tassels that danced at her horse’s nose.

The particular business Mr. Walters had at present on hand in London,
or rather Kensington must be explained.

Perhaps it may be remembered how, in a financial statement made by this
young officer during the progress of a farce, he affirmed that, should
he himself “burst up,” as he called it, a certain “Soldier Bill” would
become captain of that troop which it was his own ambition to command.
With the view of consulting this rising warrior in his present monetary
crisis, Daisy had travelled, night and day, from Ireland, nor could
he have chosen a better adviser in the whole Army-List, as regarded
kindness of heart, combined with that tenacious courage Englishmen call

“I’m not a clever chap, I know,” Bill used to acknowledge, in moments
of expansion after dinner. “But what I say is this: If you’ve got to do
a thing, catch hold, and do it! Keep square, run straight, and ride the
shortest way! You won’t beat _that_, my boy, with all the dodges that
ever put one of your nobblers in the hole!”

It is but justice to admit that, in every relation of life, sport or
earnest, this simple moralist acted strictly in accordance with his
creed. That he was a favourite in his regiment need hardly be said. The
younger son of a great nobleman, he had joined at seventeen, with a
frank childish face and the spirits of a boy fresh from school. Before
he was a week at drill, the very privates swore such a young dare-devil
had never ridden in their ranks since the corps was raised. Utterly
reckless, as it seemed, of life and limb, that fair-haired, half-grown
lad, would tackle the wildest horse, swim the swiftest steam, leap
the largest fence, and fight the strongest man, with such rollicking,
mirthful enjoyment, as could only spring from an excess of youthful
energy and light-heartedness. But, somehow, he was never beat, or
_didn’t know_ it when he _was_. Eventually, it always turned out that
the horse was mastered, the stream crossed, the fence cleared, and the
man obliged to give in. His war-like house had borne for centuries on
their shield the well-known motto, “Go on!” To never a scion of the
line could it have been more appropriate than to this light-footed,
light-headed, light-hearted light dragoon!

In his own family, of course, he was the pet and treasure of all. His
mother worshipped him, though he kept her in continual hot water with
his vagaries. His sisters thought (perhaps reasonably enough) that
there was nobody like him in the world. And his stately old father,
while he frowned and shook his head at an endless catalogue of larks,
steeple-chases, broken bones, etc., was more proud of Bill in his heart
than of all his ancestors and all his other sons put together.

They were a distinguished race. Each had made his mark in his own line.
It was “Soldier Bill’s” ambition to attain military fame; every step in
the ladder seemed to him, therefore, of priceless value. And promotion
was as the very breath of his nostrils.

But a man that delights in personal risk is rarely of a selfish nature.
In reply to Daisy’s statement, made with that terseness of expression,
that total absence of circumlocution, complimentary or otherwise,
which distinguishes the conversation of a mess-table, Bill ordered his
visitor a “brandy-and-soda” on the spot, and thus delivered himself.

“Troop be d—-d, Daisy! It’s no fun soldiering without your ‘pals.’
I’d rather be a ‘Serrafile’ for the rest of my life, or a ‘batman,’ or
a trumpeter, by Jove! than command the regiment, only because all the
good fellows in it had come to grief. Sit down. Never mind the bitch,
she’s always smelling about a strange pair of legs, but she won’t lay
hold, if you keep perfectly still. Have a weed, and let’s see what can
be done!”

The room in which their meeting took place was characteristic of its
occupant. Devoid of superfluous furniture, and with an uncarpeted
floor, it boasted many works of art, spirited enough, and even
elaborate, in their own particular line. The series of prints
representing a steeple-chase, in which yellow jacket cut out all
the work, and eventually won by a neck, could not be surpassed for
originality of treatment and fidelity of execution. Statuettes of
celebrated acrobats stood on brackets along the walls, alternating with
cavalry spurs, riding-whips, boxing-gloves, and basket-hilted sticks,
while the place of honour over the chimney-piece was filled by a
portrait of Mendoza in fighting attitude, at that halcyon period of the

“When Humphreys stood up to the Israelite’s thumps,
In kerseymere breeches, and ‘touch-me-not’ pumps.”

“It’s very pleasant this,” observed Daisy, with his legs on a chair,
to avoid the attentions of Venus, an ill-favoured lady of the “bull”
kind, beautiful to connoisseurs as her Olympian namesake, but for
the uninitiated an impersonation of hideous ferocity and anatomical
distortion combined.

“Jolly little crib, isn’t it?” replied Bill; “and though I’m not much
in ‘fashionable circles,’ suits me down to the ground. Wasn’t it luck,
though, the small-pox and the regimental steeple-chase putting so many
of our captains on the sick-list, that they detached a subaltern here
to command? We were so short of officers, my boy, I thought the Chief
would have made you ‘hark back’ from Ireland. Don’t you wish he had?
You’d better have been in bed on the 17th; though, by all accounts, you
rode the four miles truly through, and squeezed the old mare as dry as
an orange!”

“Gammon!” retorted Daisy. “She had five pounds in hand, only we got
jostled at the run-in. I’ll make a match to-morrow with Shaneen for
any sum they like, same course, same weights, and—- But I’m talking
nonsense! I couldn’t pay if I lost. I can’t pay up what I owe now.
I’m done, old boy; that’s all about it. When a fellow can’t swim any
farther, there’s nothing for it but to go under!”

His friend pulled a long face, whistled softly, took Venus on his lap,
and pondered with all his might.

“Look here, Daisy,” was the result of his cogitations; “when you’ve got
to fight a cove two stone above your weight, you don’t blunder in at
him, hammer-and-tongs, to get your jolly head knocked off in a couple
of rounds. No; if you have the condition (and that’s everything), you
keep dodging, and waiting, and out-fighting, till your man’s blown.
Then you tackle to, and finish him up before he gets his wind again.
Now this is just your case. Ask for leave; the Chief will stand it well
enough, if he knows you’re in a fix. _I’ll_ do your duty, and you must
get away somewhere, and keep dark, till we’ve all had time to turn
ourselves round.”

“Where can I go to?” said Daisy. “What a queer smell there is in this
room, Bill. Something between dead rats and a Stilton cheese.”

“Smell!” answered his host. “Pooh; nonsense. That’s the badger; he
lives in the bottom drawer of my wardrobe. We call him ‘Benjamin.’
Don’t you _like_ the smell of a badger, Daisy?”

Now “Benjamin” was a special favourite with his owner, in consideration
of the creature’s obstinate and tenacious courage. Bill loved it from
his heart, protesting it was the only living thing from which he “took
a licking;” because on one occasion, after a _very_ noisy supper, the
man had tried, and failed, to “draw” the beast from its lair with his
teeth! Therefore, “Benjamin” was now a free brother of the Guild, well
cared for, unmolested, living on terms of armed neutrality with the
redoubtable Venus herself.

Ignoring as deplorable prejudice Daisy’s protest that he did _not_ like
the smell of a badger, his friend returned with unabated interest to
the previous question.

“You mustn’t stay in London, that’s clear; though I’ve heard there’s
no covert like it to hang in for a fellow who’s robbed a church! But
it wouldn’t suit _you_. You’re not bad enough; besides it’s too near
Hounslow. The Continent’s no use. Travelling costs a hat-full of money,
and it’s very slow abroad now the fighting’s over. A quiet place, not
too far from home; that’s the ticket!”

“There’s Jersey,” observed Daisy doubtfully. “I don’t know where it is,
but I daresay it’s quiet enough.”

“Jersey be hanged!” exclaimed his energetic friend. “Why not Guernsey,
Alderney, or what do you say to Sark? No, we must hit on a happier
thought than that. You crossed last night, you say. Does any one know
you’re in town?”

“Only the waiter at Limmer’s. I had breakfast there, and left my
portmanteau, you know.”

“Limmer’s! I wish you hadn’t gone to Limmer’s! Never mind; the waiter
is easily squared. Now, look here, Daisy, you’re not supposed to be in
London. Is there no retired spot you could dodge back to in Ireland,
where you can get your health, and live cheap? Who’s to know you ever
left it?”

His friend Denis occurred to Daisy at once.

“There’s a farm up in Roscommon,” said he, “where they’d take me in and
welcome. The air’s good, and living _must_ be cheap, for you can’t get
anything to eat but potatoes! I shouldn’t wonder if they hunted all the
year round in those hills, and the farmer is a capital fellow, never
without a two-year-old that can jump!”

“That sounds like it,” responded the other, with certain inward
longings of his own for this favoured spot. “Now, Daisy, will you ride
to orders, and promise to be guided entirely by _me_?”

“All right,” said Daisy; “fire away.”

“Barney!” shouted his friend, in a voice that resounded over the
barracks, startling even the sergeant of the guard. “Barney! look
sharp. Tell them to put a saddle on Catamount, and turn him round ready
to go out; then come here.”

In two minutes a shock-headed batman, obviously Irish, entered the
apartment and stood at “attention,” motionless, but for the twinkling
of his light blue eyes.

“Go to Limmer’s at once,” said his master; “pay Mr. Walters’s bill.
Breakfast and B. and S., of course? Pack his things, and take them to
Euston Station. Wait there till he comes, and see him off by the Irish
mail. Do you understand?”

“I do, sur,” answered Barney, and vanished like a ghost.

“You’ve great administrative powers, Bill,” said his admiring friend.
“Hang it! you’re fit to command an army.”

“I could manage the Commissariat, I think,” answered the other
modestly; “but of course you’re only chaffing. I’m not a wise chap, I
know; never learnt anything at school, and had the devil’s own job to
pass for my cornetcy. But I’ll tell you what I _can_ do. When a course
is marked out, and the stewards have told me which side of the flags
I’m to go, I _do_ know my right hand from my left, and that’s more
than every fellow can say who gets up for a flutter in the pig-skin!
And now I’m off to head-quarters to see the Chief, and ask leave for
you till Muster, at any rate.”

“You won’t find him,” observed Daisy. “It must be two o’clock now.”

“Not find him!” repeated the other. “Don’t you know the Chief better
than that? He gets home-sick if he is a mile from the barrack-yard.
It’s my belief he was born in spurs, with the ‘state’ of the regiment
in his hand! Besides he’s ordered a parade for fitting on the new
nose-bags at three. He wouldn’t miss it to go to the Derby.”

“You _are_ a good chap,” said his friend. “It’s a long ride, and a
beastly hard road!”

Bill was by this time dressing with inconceivable rapidity, and an
utter disregard of his comrade’s presence.

“A long ride,” he repeated, in high scorn, while he dashed into a
remarkably well-made coat. “What do you call a long ride with a quad.
like Catamount? Five-and-forty minutes is what he allows me from gate
to gate; and it takes Captain Armstrong all his time, I can tell you,
to keep him back to _that_! The beggar ran away with me one night from
Ashbourne to the Royal barracks in Dublin; and though it was so dark
you couldn’t see your hand, he never made a wrong turn, nor let me get
a pull at him, till he laid his nose against his own stable door. Bless
his chestnut heart! he’s the worst mouth and the worst temper of any
horse in Europe. Look at him now. There’s a pair of iron legs, and a
wicked eye! It’s rather good fun to see him kick directly I’m up. But
I’ve never had such a hack, and I wouldn’t part with him to be made

Daisy could do no less than accompany his host to the door, and see him
mount this redoubtable animal, the gift of a trainer at the Curragh,
who could do nothing with it, and opined that even Soldier Bill’s
extraordinary nerve would be unequal to compete with so restive a
brute. He had miscalculated, however, the influence utter fearlessness
can establish over the beasts of the field.

Catamount’s first act of insubordination, indeed, was to run away
with his new master for four miles on end, across the Curragh, but
over excellent turf, smooth as a bowling-green: he discovered, to
his surprise, that Bill wished no better fun. He then repeated the
experiment in a stiffly-fenced part of Kildare; and here found himself
not only indulged, but instigated to continue, when he wanted to leave
off. He tried grinding his rider’s leg against the wall: Bill turned a
sharp spur inwards, and made it very uncomfortable. He lay down: Bill
kept him on the ground an hour or two by sitting on his head.

At last he confined himself to kicking unreasonably, at intervals,
galloping sullenly on, nevertheless, in the required direction, and
doing a vast amount of work in an incredibly short space of time. He
was never off his feed, and his legs never filled, so to Bill he was
invaluable, notwithstanding their disputes, and a certain soreness
about a Cup the horse ought to have won, had he not sulked at the
finish: they loved each other dearly, and would have been exceedingly
loth to part.

“My serjeant’s wife will get you some dinner,” said the rider, between
certain sundry preliminary kicks in getting under way. “She’s an
outside cook, and I’ve told her what you’d like. There’s a bottle of
brandy on the chimney-piece, and soda-water in the drawer next the
badger. I’ll be back before it’s time for you to start. Cut along,
Catamount! Hang it! don’t get me off the shop-board, before half the
troop. Forrard! my lad! Forrard! away!” and Bill galloped out of the
barracks at head-long speed, much to the gratification of the sentry
manipulating his carbine at the gate. This true friend proved as good
as his word. In less than three hours, he was back again, Catamount
having hardly turned a hair in their excursion. The colonel had been
kindness itself. The leave was all right. There was nothing more to be
done, but to pack Daisy off in a Hansom, for Euston Square.

“Take a pony, old man,” said Bill, urging his friend to share his
purse, while he wished him “good-bye.” “If I’d more, you should have
it. Nonsense! I don’t want it a bit. Keep your pecker up and fight
high. Write a line if anything turns up. I’ll go on working the job
here, never fear. We won’t let you out of the regiment. What is life,
after all, to a fellow who isn’t a light dragoon?”

In consoling his friend, _Xanthias Phoceus_, for the result of a little
flirtation, in which that Roman gentleman seems to have indulged
without regard to station, Horace quotes for us a triad of illustrious
persons whose brazen-plated armour, and bulls-hide targets were of
no avail to fence them from the shaft of love. If neither petulant
Achilles, nor Ajax, son of Telamon, nor the king of men himself,
could escape, it is not to be supposed that a young cavalry officer
in her Majesty’s service, however simple in his habits and frank in
his demeanour, should be without some weakness of the same nature,
unacknowledged perhaps, yet none the less a weakness on that account.

“Soldier Bill,” notwithstanding his kindly disposition and fresh comely
face, seemed the last man in the world to be susceptible of female
influence, yet “Soldier Bill” felt, to a certain extent, in the same
plight as Agamemnon. Though in dress, manners and appearance, anything
but what is usually termed a “ladies’ man;” he was nevertheless a
prime favourite with the sex, on such rare occasions as threw him in
their way. Women in general seem most to appreciate qualities not
possessed by themselves, and while they greatly admire all kinds of
courage, find that which is mingled with good-humoured haphazard
recklessness, perfectly irresistible. They worship their heroes too,
and believe in them, with ludicrous good faith. Observe a woman in a
pleasure boat. If there comes a puff of wind, she never takes her eyes
off the boatman, and trusts him implicitly. The more frightened she
feels, the more confidence she places in her guardian, and so long as
the fancied danger lasts, clings devotedly to the pilot, be he the
roughest, hairiest, tarriest son of Neptune that ever turned a quid.

Now the converse of this relation between the sexes holds equally good.
To live entirely with men and horses; to _rough_ it habitually; from
day to day enduring hardships, voluntary or otherwise, in the pursuit
of field-sports; to share his studies with a dog, and take his pastime
with a prize-fighter, does not necessarily unfit a man for the society
of gentler, softer, sweeter, craftier creatures. On the contrary, in
many natures, and those, perhaps, the strongest, such habits produce
a longing for female society deeper and keener, that it has to be
continually repudiated and repressed.

When he had started Daisy for the station, Bill renewed his toilet
with peculiar care, and in spite of a few scars on his face, some the
effects of falls, others, alas! of fights, a very good-looking young
gentleman he saw reflected in his glass. Smoothing a pair of early
moustaches, and sleeking a close-cropped head, he searched about in
vain for a scent-bottle, and actually drew on a pair of kid gloves.
Obviously, “Soldier Bill” was going to call on a lady. He could not
help laughing, while he thought how the cornets would chaff him, if
they knew. Nevertheless, with a farewell caress to the badger, fresh,
radiant, and undaunted, he sallied forth.

It was quite in accordance with the doctrine of opposites, propounded
above, that Bill should have experienced a sensation of refreshment
and repose, in the society of a charming married woman, very much his
senior, who made light of him no doubt, but amused, indulged, and
instructed him while she laughed. Her boudoir was indeed a pleasant
change from his barrack-room. He could not but admit that in her
society tea seemed a more grateful beverage than brandy and soda; the
tones of a pianoforte sweeter than any stable call; and the perfume
that pervaded every article about her, far more delightful, if less
pungent, than that which hung round his retiring friend “Benjamin,” in
the bottom drawer of the wardrobe.

In his wildest moments, however, Bill never dreamed of making love to
her; and it is not difficult to understand, that his goddess, being no
less experienced a person than Mrs. Lushington, was well able to take
care of herself.

“I like the boy,” she used to say to any one who would listen, even
to her husband, if nobody else could be found. “He is so fresh and
honest, and he looks so _clean_! It’s like having a nice child about
one, and then I can do him so much good. I form his manners, teach him
the ways of society, prevent his being imposed upon, and generally
make him fit for civilised life. If there were no good-natured people
like me, Frank, these poor young things would fall a prey to the
first designing girl who comes across them on the war-path, looking
out to catch a husband _coûte que coûte_. I’m sure his mother ought
to be infinitely obliged to me. She couldn’t take more pains with him
herself! When he began coming here, he didn’t know how to waltz or
to take off his hat, or to answer a note even; in short, he couldn’t
say Boo to a goose! And now I’ve made him learn all these things, and
he does them well, particularly the last. He’s still absurdly shy, I
grant you, but it’s wearing off day by day. When I’m grown old, Frank,
and wrinkled (though I’d sooner die first), he’ll be grateful, and
understand what care I’ve taken of him, and what a sad fate might have
befallen him, but for _me_! Isn’t there something in Dr. Watts, or

Regardless of their doom,
The little victims play.

Frank! I don’t believe you’re listening!”

“Oh yes, I am,” answers Frank, whose thoughts have wandered to
Skindle’s, Richmond, Newmarket–who knows where? “What you say is very
true, my dear–very true–and nobody understands these things better
than yourself. Good gracious! is that clock right! I had no idea it
was so late! I must be off at once, and–let me see–I’ll get back to
dinner if I _can_; but don’t wait.”

So _exit_ Mr. Lushington on his own devices, and enter a footman with
tea, closely followed by the butler ushering in “Soldier Bill.”

“Talk of somebody,” says the lady, graciously extending her hand, “and,
we are told, he is sure to appear. How odd, I was abusing you not five
minutes ago to Frank–you must have met him as you came in,–and,
behold, here you are–not having been near me for a month!”

“A week,” answered her visitor, who always stuck to facts. “You told me
yourself one ought never to call again at the same house till after a
decent interval. A week is decent surely! It seems a deuced long time,
I know.”

“You don’t suppose I’ve missed you?” said she, pouring out the tea.
“It’s all for your own good I have you here. You’d get back to savage
life again, if I neglected you for a fortnight; and it _is_ provoking
to see all one’s time and trouble thrown away! Now put your hat down,
have some tea, make yourself agreeable, and you may stay here for
exactly three-quarters of an hour!”

To “make himself agreeable” at short notice, and to order, is a
difficult task for any man. For Bill it was simply impossible. He
fidgeted, gulped hot tea, and began to feel shy. She had considerable
tact, however, and no little experience in the ways of young men.
She neither laughed at him nor took notice of the blush he tried to
keep down, but bade him throw the window open, and while he obeyed,
continued carelessly, though kindly–

“In the first place, tell me all about yourself. How’s Catamount?”

She knew every one of his horses by name, and even some of the men
in his troop, leading him to talk on such congenial topics with
considerable ingenuity. It was this tact of hers that rendered Mrs.
Lushington such a pleasant member of society, enabling her to keep
her head above water deep enough to have drowned a lady with less
_savoir-faire_, and consequently fewer friends.

His face brightened. “As fresh as paint!” he replied. “I beg your
pardon; I mean as well as can be expected. I rode him two-and-twenty
miles to-day in an hour and a half, and I give you my word, when I got
off him he looked as if he’d never been out of the stable.”

“I should pity _you_ more than your horse,” she replied, with a
commendable air of interest; “only I know you are never so happy as
when you are trying to break your neck. You’ve had the grace to dress
since, I see, and not badly, for once, only that handkerchief is too
light a shade of blue. Now, confess! Where does she live? and is she
worth riding eleven miles, there and back, to see?”

“I never know whether you’re chaffing or not!” responded Bill. “You
cannot believe I would gallop Catamount twenty-two miles on a hard road
for any lady in the world. I didn’t suppose he’d take me if I wanted
to go. _She_, indeed! There’s no _she_ in the matter!”

“You might have made _one_ exception in common politeness,” said Mrs.
Lushington, laughing. “But I’m not satisfied yet. You and Catamount are
a very flighty pair. I still think there’s a lady in the case.”

“A lady in boots and spurs, then,” he answered; “six foot high, with
grey moustaches and a lame leg from a sabre-cut–a lady who has been
thirty years soldiering, and never gave or questioned an unreasonable
order. Do you know _many_ ladies of that stamp, Mrs. Lushington? I only
know one, and she has made _my_ regiment the smartest in the service.”

“I _do_ know your colonel a little,” said she. “I met him once at
Aldershot, and though he is anything but an old woman, I consider him
an old _dear_! So I am not very far wrong, after all. Now what did he
want you for? Sent for you, of course, to have–what do you call it?–a
_wigging_. I’m afraid, Master Bill, you’re a sad bad boy, and always
getting into scrapes.”

“Wigging!” he repeated indignantly. “Not a bit of it; nothing could
have been kinder than the Chief. He’s the best old fellow in the world!
I wasn’t sent for. I didn’t go on my own account; I went down about

Then he stopped short, afraid of having committed himself, and
conscious that at the present crisis of his brother-officer’s affairs,
the less said about them the better.

But who, since the days of Samson, was ever able to keep a secret from
a woman resolved to worm it out? As the strong man in Delilah’s lap, so
was Bill in the boudoir of Mrs. Lushington.

“Daisy,” she repeated; “do you know anything of Daisy? Tell me all
about him. We’re so interested, you can’t think, and so sorry for his
difficulties. I wish I could help him. Is there nothing to be done?”

Touched by her concern for his friend’s welfare, he trusted her at once.

“You won’t mention it,” said he; “Daisy was with me at Kensington
to-day. He can’t show yet, you know; but still we hope to make it all
right in time. He’s got a month’s leave for the present; and I packed
him off, to start by the Irish mail to-night, just before I came to
see you. He’ll keep quiet over there, and people won’t know where he
is; so they can’t write, and then say he doesn’t answer their letters.
Anything to put off the smash as long as possible. One can never tell
what may turn up.”

“You’re a kind friend,” she replied approvingly, “and a good boy.
There! that’s a great deal for me to say. Now tell me _where_ the poor
fellow is gone.”

“You won’t breathe it to a soul,” said honest Bill–“not even to Mr.

“Not even to Mr. Lushington!” she protested, greatly amused.

He gave her the address with profound gravity, and an implicit reliance
on her secrecy.

“A hill-farmer in Roscommon!” she exclaimed. “I know the man. His name
is Denis; I saw him at Punchestown.”

“You know everything,” he said, in a tone of admiration. “It must be
very jolly to be clever, and that.”

“It’s much jollier to be ‘rich and that,'” was her answer. “Money is
what we all seem to want–especially poor Daisy. Now, how much do you
suppose it would take to set him straight?”

He was not the man to trust any one by halves. “Three thousand,” he
declared, frankly: “and where he is to get it beats me altogether. Of
course he can’t hide for ever. After a time he must come back to do
duty; then there’ll be a show up, and he’ll have to leave the regiment.”

“And you will get your troop,” said Mrs. Lushington. “You see I know
all about that too.”

His own promotion, however, as has been said, afforded this
kind-hearted young gentleman no sort of consolation.

“I hope it won’t come to that,” was his comment on the military
knowledge of his hostess. “I’ve great faith in luck. When things are at
their worst they mend. Never say die till you’re dead, Mrs. Lushington.
Take your ‘crowners’ good-humouredly. Stick to your horse; and don’t
let go of the bridle!”

“You’ve been here more than your three-quarters of an hour,” said
Mrs. Lushington, “and you’re beginning to talk slang, so you’d better
depart. But you’re improving, I _think_, and you may come again. Let me
see, the day after to-morrow, if the Colonel don’t object, and if you
can find another handkerchief with a deeper shade of blue.”

So Bill took his leave, and proceeded to “The Rag,” where he meant to
dine in company with other choice spirits, wondering whether it would
ever be his lot to marry a woman like Mrs. Lushington–younger, of
course, and perhaps, though he hardly ventured to tell himself so, with
a little less chaff–doubting the while if he could consent so entirely
to change his condition and his daily, or perhaps rather his _nightly_,
habits of life. He need not give up the regiment, he reflected, and
could keep Catamount, though the stud might have to be reduced. But
what would become of Benjamin? Was it possible any lady would permit
the badger to occupy a bottom drawer in her wardrobe? This seemed a
difficult question. Pending its solution, perhaps he had better remain
as he was!