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busy-body in the corps— just come with me into the next room—there now-we are alone here," for poor Doleton had followed the major, passive as a lamb, into the billiard-room—" we are alone here; and, being so, I must tell you that this sort of thing will never do—you must not use knives at the messtable, or think of stabbing your brother-officers."
“ I n-e-ever thought of it"-stammered Doleton “never-I don't know how I came by the knifebut it has cut my fingers very much-I wish you would speak to Mr. Hardyman-he has no right to insult my mother."
" He has not,” returned the major, “ but that must be settled by you now, or by your father, when he returns; I don't know what he will say when he hears this; I should have put you both under arrest had you done so, but you ought to have knocked him off his chair."
“1-1-1-perhaps I ought," faltered Doleton; " but I was so—it is—that is I mean soms0—dreadful to hear such things said of one's mother—so horrible isn't is horrible? Cannot you do something to prevent his saying those dreadful things about my mother?”
“ Dreadful enough, certainly," returned the major, “and all the more reason for your knocking him off his chair; but go home—you had better go home I will speak to your father, when he returns; and we shall see what he says about the matter."
The poor youth staggered out of the mess-bungalow, scarcely knowing what he was doing. Bareheaded he tottered through the darkness, directed by instinct to his own home, for he hardly thought whither he was going. There was a rushing noise in his brain and his heart throbbed, like a giant's heart, in his frail body, as he entered the compound of his father's house and saw the lights in the drawing-room window. This must in some measure have recalled his wandering senses, for he stood still, passed his hand across his face, and bethought himself of what he should do. He would go straight to his own chamber, he determined; he dare not face his mother just then, for the smile and the kind word and the kiss, after his cowardly conduct, would have been too much for him, too full of reproach ; the kiss !—and at that moment a brief thought of overwhelming bitterness entered his soul. Could it be possible that what he had heard was true? This thought turned him to stone and he stood statue-like upon the garden-walk-all wretchedness ; but it was only for a minute, and he fung aside the unworthy thought, cursing his deep ingratitude for harbouring it.
He moved onward, and when within a few yards of the house, he saw a dark figure emerging from it
-not a servant-it was no one in the Asiatic costume—the tight fitting dress of the European was upon him ; and as the man passed hurriedly by, he started at seeing Doleton in his path, and as he
turned aside, the light from the moon, which had just risen from behind a cloud, streamed full upon the face of Harcourt.
Here was confirmation strong-stronger than Holy Writ. It was all true then-all true—the damned spot was upon his mother's brow—and desolation was his lot for ever.
Pale, wild, staring like a drunken man, poor Doleton reeled into the drawing-room; and met his mother just entering from her bed-chamber. She started, as well she might, at seeing the ghastly aspect of her son. “ What is the matter with you, Charles, what ails you?" she asked in her own sweet, honied voice of kindness.
“ Nothing, nothing—I only thought I saw-oh! God how dreadful!"
“What have you seen !-speak, my boy-you frighten me—there, never mind-sit down, it was only your fancy."
“No-no-no-I'm sure I saw him-Mr. Harcourt passed me in the garden-I saw the moon upon his face,"
Mrs. Doleton turned away her head in evident agitation; and her unhappy son continued, in a broken voice, whilst the big tears dropped down his cheeks. " Good night-good night—God bless you—I say God bless you, as usual,- I will pray for you-good night.”
He saw that his mother was agitated-confused. She looked at him in wonderment and sorrow. Paler than usual and altered as to the expression of her countenance she appeared to him, when he looked into her face; and when she assured him that he must have been mistaken about seeing Mr. Harcourt in the compound, he shook his head sorrowfully, hurried into his bed-room, dismissed his bearer, and bolted the door.
All alone, he threw himself upon his bed and wept bitterly for some time; but the plentiful tears afforded him no relief, and he rose from the couch in agony of spirit; what was to be done, what escape was there from the phalanx of sorrows that hemmed him on every side? What had he now to lean upon? not so much as a broken reed. A savage father, a fallen mother, and a crowd of enemies of persecutors. Something must be done, he knew; and yet he felt himself powerless in his extremity. He knew that he ought to fight; at all events to call Harcourt to account, and if Harcourt cleared himself by his explanation, why, it behoved him to call out Hardyman for insolently maligning his mother. There was a duel to be fought, either way; and if not fought, there was the anger, the scorn, the execrations of Colonel Gregory Doleton to be braved. Major Blab was sure to inform him of what his wretched son had left undone—of his dastardly, miserable quiescence, beneath the attacks of that whipper-snapper Hardyman; what then was to be done? Death and worse than death seemed to glare at him from every corner of the room.
Again he threw himself upon his bed and hid his face upon the pillow, again he wept bitterly; and this time over the fall of his poor mother, whom he had looked upon as an angel of light. Was it really thus, had she in truth become a mark for the obscene jests of young officers at a mess-table-oh! wretched-wretched !—and he to sanction the ribald jest by sitting quietly beside the insolent jester, instead of dashing a bottle in his face; whether true or false he ought to have done it, and oh! how he wished that he had; it would have caused him to be put under arrest, both him and his opponent; and no duel could have been the consequence. Besides the satisfaction of the thing — there was not another son in the world, who would have heard such terrible insinuations as those put forth by Ensign Hardyman without dragging the insolent scoundrel from his seat and stamping upon his face and eyes. But he-coward, mean, pitiful poltroon that he was—had heard it all without striking a blow.
He asked himself again and again, whether he was fit for such a life as ours, and earnestly did he long for death—death, tranquil, beautiful, and in repose, as he had seen it on monuments of marble. But would not death in any shape be preferable to such a life as he was destined to lead—better death than the prospect of death—the terrible dread of an impending tragedy. Horrors were there on every side of him, and by one way only could he escape