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twelve o'clock train. However, I have no doubt you will find Captain Temple a very willing substitute. Before we part, there is one question that I should like, just for curiosity, to ask you. What was your object in giving me the answer you did, four evenings ago, here, in your own lodgings ?”
“ The answer !" she stammers. “I don't know what answer you mean. Oh, Mr. Jones, do forgive me if I have offended you !"
" What was your object, I ask ?” he persists savagely. "Is it so perfectly impossible to you to speak the truth ?” “I answered you more in jest than earnest. You know it.
You know it. I said that we might try being engaged. We have tried it, and—the thing is impossible. Forgive me, Mr. Jones. I have acted very foolishly, very badly, I know, but I ask you to forgive me. I am wiser now.”
“ No doubt of it,” says Augustus, with one of his odious smiles. “ It would be impertinent, I suppose, to inquire under whose influence your wisdom has been gained?"
She stands for several seconds, dumb, as though she had not understood his question ; then from throat to temple, the poor little girl turns white. Her secret a secret hitherto to her own inmost consciencelies bared before her, like a committed sin, in this moment's piercing light. She changes from pale to red, and then to pale again. Her whole childish face works piteously. “I-I am wiser now,” is all she can repeat; oh, with what trembling lips, with what scorching irrepressible shame!
“ Wiser, in one sense of the word, no doubt you are,” says Augustus, watching her with contemptuous coolness. There
be two opinions, perhaps, as to the worldly wisdom of these little changes of fancy. Is it your stepmamma, I wonder, or Captain Temple, who is acting as your adviser ? Not your stepmamma, surely?"
At the insolence of his tone, his look, Belinda's self-possession returns to her. My own heart is my adviser, sir,” she cries. “My own heart tells me I could never endure to live a day with you as your wifo, let alone a lifetime.”
“ And have you made up your mind—although you do treat me so cruelly I must always take the warmest interest in your welfarehave you made up your mind, Belinda to live under Captain Temple's roof for the future?"
“ I shall do whatever he thinks best for me, sir.” The words stab her; but she utters them with a kind of despairing resolution. “ It would be impossible for me to live under the roof of any one I like and honour more than I do Roger Temple."
“Oh! What very delightful sentiments, what charming filial submission! And you were so desperately prejudiced, if you remember. Only four days ago you were ready to quarrel with me for assuming the possibility of Mrs. O'Shea's marriage.”
“ I did not know Roger Temple then,” says Belinda, bravely and simply. “I can excuse Rose now. I think she, or any woman, would be honoured by becoming Roger Temple's wife.”
And having got back to the familiar region of truth, the girl's stout spirit rallies. No further blush of shame rises to her cheek, no further tremble of the lip betrays her. Shame was for the first discovery of her weakness. For her love, itself, misplaced, hopeless though it may be, she can feel none. Sure test, oh reader ! by which to discover when love is of true metal, and when counterfeit.
Mr. Jones makes his exit; not again to cross the stage of this little drama ; and Belinda stands blankly gazing at a world whence all fair perspectives, all gracious harmonies of colour, seem abruptly blotted out. The cheerful streets—’tis a high Basque festival, and the town is thronged with peasants from the neighbouring villagesthe balconies with their gaily painted awnings, the flush of purple hills across the river, every familiar object upon which she looks, seem changed; vivid, intensified, as external objects become in moments of sharp bodily pain, and still distorted to Belinda's untuned jarring
Her life is distorted. The gamin life, with its April joys and tears, is over. Over! why she feels old already; those children playing yonder under the trees, seem separated from her by a score of painful years! The past has died by sudden harshest blow, and she has no future. That is for Rose; for all happy women whose love has been sought for and returned. And then
-Then across the girl's heart sweep thoughts that are intoxication, memories of words spoken by Roger Temple to “ Lagrimas " when there were only the night and solitude to hear, words carrying with them the ring of truth, of earnestness, all unlike the tawdry compliments be lavishes on Rose. Ah, if he care for her ever so slightly, if she may see him sometimes, feel the pressure of his hand, meet the kindness of his eyes, can she not be contented ?
Love, in a girl of seventeen, asks so little, expects so little; craves passionately for-it knows not what, yet can live content upon a word, a look, a hand-pressure. Loveliest of human love !—in an honest untutored breast like Belinda's. I say nothing about young ladies reared in a fashionable boarding school, nurtured on novels, and cherishing mysterious yearnings of the soul towards the dancingmaster.
THE MEMORY OF A KISS.
On reaching the Hotel Isabella, Belinda finds her stepmother alone; dressed in the sprightliest, most juvenile white muslin wrapper, and wearing on the summit of her blonde locks what the Parisian milliners neatly term "a ravishing futility,” in the way of cap or badge of widowhood.
“ Belinda ! and no Mr. Jones? Well, it is positively a reprieve. I am too upset, too miserable, to bear the presence of a man.
a man. Oh, my dear girl! think what tortures of suspense I am going through ! Colonel Drewe has arrived—is staying in this very hotel.”
There is not one of her little poses in which Rose is more successful than that of bashful girlish perturbation. In her youthful white dress, and holding a microscopic patch of cambric and valenciennes to her lips, she really at this moment does not look a day over two and twenty—in a half-light, of course, and viewed, as every work of genuine art deserves to be viewed, from a proper focus.
“ It appears he came by a late train yesterday, but I knew nothing about his arrival till this morning. The poor fellow picked up Spencer's acquaintance in the courtyard, and questioned her; and oh Belinda, I fear things are worse even than I anticipated ! Spencer says the fiery look that came into his eyes when she told him Captain *Temple was here was something fearful.”
Lucky that you can keep out of his way for the day, Rose. There was a beautiful Spanish duchess in this hotel last summer, and six duels were fought about her before the season was over. We must hope Colonel Drewe will have had time to get his fiery feelings under control by the time you come back to-night.”
Mrs. O'Shea for a minute or more examines the pattern of her laced handkerchief in silence. “The duty that lies before me is a most cruel one,” she sighs at last, looking up with soft remorseful eyes at the ceiling. “I hope, in consenting to marry my poor Roger, I have acted conscientiously. I hope it, and I believe it. My rejection of him would have cut Roger Temple adrift from his last moral stay in life. But I cannot forget that there are other, it may be prior claims. ... You talk of duels jestingly, Belinda! You little know how necessary it is for me to see Colonel Drewe without delay, and alone. For want of women displaying discretion,” says Rose solemnly, "some men's lives have been sacrificed in positions like this."
“But where is he all this time, Rose? Where is this fiery-eyed Colonel Drewe? If you mean to see him before we start you must make haste about it. It is time for you to dress already."
“Ah, my dear child! there is the difficulty. Is it my duty to start at all ?” And then, beckoning Belinda to her side and speaking in whispers, Rose unfolds a series of little Machiavelian plans by means of which she hopes to mystify everybody throughout the remainder of the day. Roger, in the first place, is to be told that she is suffering from headache, and the party must start for Spain without her. Then Colonel Drewe is to be admitted. Not at first admitted; the wily Spencer must hold him at arm's length with accounts of her mistress's suffering condition until his feelings be sufficiently worked upon. “And then," says Rosie, “I shall take care, you may be sure, to put everything before him in a light as little wounding to his own vanity as possible. My engagement, fortunately, has never been actually given out; and I know, when I have him alone, I can say many things that will soften the blow to him. Poor, poor Stanley! Ah! if I could only persuade him to return quietly to England by this evening's express! Roger need never know more about the visit than I choose to let him know; and”
“And altogether you will have told one, two, three falsehoods,” interrupts Belinda, checking off Rose's “mystifications” on her finger tips. “Three leading falsehoods, and about a dozen small ones. Why have a headache? Why deceive either of them? Why not go on straight, and let everything take its chance ? ”
“When you are a few years older, child—when you have seen as much of the jealousies of the human heart as I have, you will know that' going on straight,' as you call it, does not answer. Gentlemen like being deceived, if the deceit saves them from undergoing anything disagreeable; and those women who know how to deceive gracefully-gracefully, mind—are always the most popular.”
Thus Rose, according to her lights. Looking round amongst your acquaintance, in cynical moments, you could almost say that from those supremely unwise lips of hers has fallen, for once, a remark not without its little grain of worldly wisdom.
At the door of the hotel Belinda finds Roger, trying, with rather poor success, to look sympathetic while Spencer holds forth to him respecting her mistress's headache. Spencer is characteristic; a blonde faded young woman, largely restored by cheap art; as affected as many a really fashionable lady, and with the finest natural ogle in the world. A vile copy-and still a copy, with what a likeness !-of her mistress. Women might look at their lady's maids, as in a mirror, oftener than they think, if they had but common sense sufficient.
She manoeuvres her eyes under their painted lids at Roger; twists her out of the form in which God made them; fabricates falsities by the dozen ; unnecessary, gross falsities, where Rose had only stipulated for an innocent white lie or two. As the comedy proceeds, an Englishman, tall, of military cut, but with the unmistakable air about him of a man at odds with fortune (Colonel Drewe must surely have fallen in the world of late), peeps through the trellis of vine and jessamine that overshadows the salle-à-manger window close at hand, and listens. He shifts about a little; he turns red; gets one good stare at the handsome, unconscious face of his rival, then draws back; draws back, but—alas, for military honour that I must confess itlistens still.
“And so Rosie cannot go with us?” says Roger.
“Rosie! He calls her Rosie!" The Unseen takes out his pockethandkerchief, and wipes his forehead.
Belinda, what must we do? Put off the excursion till another day?" “Mrs. O'Shea begs you would not on no account do that, Captain Temple," says Spencer. “It is one of her little headaches, you know, sir."
“Oh! he knows, does he ?" thinks the gentleman behind the vines and jessamine.
" I'm afraid Mrs. O'Shea and you was out too late last night, Captain Temple. Mrs. O'Shea complained of her 'ead before retiring."
Roger again does his best to look contrite, and again fails signally. “If Rosie really wishes us to go, Belinda ? Rosie is so unselfishnever likes other people to be disappointed. Perhaps we had better be guided by her. We shall be a nice little party of three ; you, and Miss Burke, and myself”
“And Mr. Jones,” adds Belinda. What on earth should make Colonel Drewe start so oddly at the sound of the girl's voice? “Don't forget that Mr. Jones has come back from the mountains.”
“Jones ? Ah! to be sure-Jones," says Roger, in an altered tone. “On second thoughts, I don't know that I have courage enough for the expedition. If Miss Burke were to get me alone among the ruins and begin to argue about the suffrage, I might become a convert to the Woman of the Future before I knew where I was. It will be safer for me to remain behind.”
Belinda turns away abruptly. “Amuse yourself well, Captain Temple,” she cries, looking back at him across her shoulder. “Mr. Jones is not going to Spain at all; in another hour Mr. Jones will be on his road to England. But never mind! Burke and I will have an improving day by ourselves. Good-bye! I have not a moment to lose."
Her slip of a figure trips away out of the courtyard, and before she has progressed a dozen steps, Roger Temple has joined her—is on his way to Spain; his terror of Miss Burke, and of her doctrines, it would appear, suddenly overcome. Spencer watches them curiously. Whatever other personage in a love plot remains blind to the truth, be sure that the lady's maid is never long unenlightened. Spencer watches them; drawing inferences of her own as to the future happiness of Captain Temple and her mistress. The stranger, from behind his cover of vines and jessamine, watches them also.
I have said that to-day is a high Basque festival. The country people have assembled from far and near, in St.-Jean de Luz, and it is with difficulty that Belinda and Roger can edge their way along the narrow streets. In an opening beside the principal thoroughfare of the town, one of the great national matches of paume is at its height. The performers are picked men, champions from either side the