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amused her. After that, of course, there was no more hesitation: down we sat, and young Heavystone with us. The evening before we had happened to mention him, said he was a fellow of no end of tin, though as stupid an owl as ever spelt his own name wrong when he passed a military examination, and the Marchioness, recalling the name, said she remembered his father, and asked us to bring him to see her; which we did, fearing no rival in “old Heavy.” So down we three sat, and had the evening before over again, with the cards, and the smiles, and wiles of our divinity, and Saint Jeu's stories and Fitzhervey's cognac and cigars; with this difference, that we found loo more exciting than vingt-et-un. They played it so fast, too, it was like a breathless heat for the Goodwood Cup, and the Marchioness watched it, leaning alternately over Grand's, and Heavy's, and my chair, and saying, with such naïve delight, “Oh, do take miss, Cosmo; I would risk it if I were you, Mr. Heavystone; pray don't let my daughty brother win everything," that I'd have defied the stiffest of the Stagyrites or the chilliest of Calvinists to keep their head cool with that syren voice in their ear. And Lucrezia da Guari sat, as she had sat the night before, by the open window, still and silent, the Cape jasmines and Southern creepers framing her in a soft moonlight picture, contrast enough to the brilliantly lighted room, echoing with laughter at Saint Jeu's stories, perfumed with Cubas and narghilés, and shrining the magnificent, full-blown, jewelled beauty of our Marchioness St. Julian, with which we were as rapidly, as madly, as unreasoningly, and as sentimentally in love as any boys of seventeen or eighteen ever could be. What greater latitude, you will exclaim, old fellows, recalling certain buried-away episodes of your hobbedehoyism, when you addressed Latin distichs to that hazel-eyed Hebe who presided over oyster patties and water ices at the pastrycook's in Eton; or ruined your gover. nor's young plantations cutting the name of Adeliza Mary, your cousin, at this day a portly person in velvet and point, whom you can now call, with a thanksgiving in the stead of the olden tremor, Mrs. Hector M‘Cutchin? Yes, we were in love in a couple of evenings, Little Grand vehemently and unpoetically, I shyly and sentimentally, according to our temperaments, and as the fair Emily stirred feud between the two Noble Kinsmen, so the Marchioness St. Julian began to sow seeds of jealousy and detestation between us, sworn chums as we were. But “ le véritable amant ne connaît point d'amis,” and as soon as we began to grow jealous of each other, Little Grand could have kicked me to the devil (wherever on earth or sky that worthy may hang out), and I could have kicked him with the greatest pleasure in life.
But I was shy, Little Grand was blessed with all the brass imaginable; the consequence was, that when our horses came round, and the Maltese who acted as cherub was going to close the gates of Paradise upon us, he managed to slip into the marchioness's boudoir to get a tête-à-tête farewell, while I strode up and down the verandah, not heeding Saint Jeu, who was telling me a tale, to which, in any other saper moments, I should have listened greedily, but longing to execute on Little Grand, when he should choose to come out of that confounded and yet thriceblessed boudoir, some fierce and terrible vengeance, to which the vendetta should be baby's play. Saint Jeu left me to put his arm over Heavy's shoulder, and tell him if ever he came to Paris he should be transported to receive him at the Hôtel de Millefleurs, and present him at the Tuileries ; and I stood swearing to myself, and breaking off sprays of the verandah creepers, when I heard somebody say, very softly and low,
« Mr. St. John, come here a moment."
It was Lucrezia da Guari, that sweetly pretty mute whom we had barely noticed, absorbed as we were in the worship of our maturer idol, leaning out of the window, her cheeks Alushed, her lips parted, her eyes sad and anxious. Of course I went to her, surprised at her waking up 80 suddenly to any interest in me. She put her hand on my coat-sleeve, and drew me down towards her.
“Listen to me a moment. I hardly know how to warn you, and yet I must. I cannot sit quietly by and see you and your young friends being deceived as so many have been before you. Do not come here againdo not "
“ Figlia mia ! are you not afraid of the night air?" said the Prince of Orangia Magnolia, just behind us.
His words were kind, but there was a nasty glitter in his eyes. Lucrezia answered him in passionate Italian, with such fire in her eyes, such haughty gesticulation, and such a torrent of words, that I really began to think, pretty, soft little dear as she looked, that she must positively be a trifle out of her mind, her' silence before, and her queer speech to me, seemed such odd behaviour for a young lady in such high society. She was turning to me again when Little Grand came out into the verandah, looking flushed, proud, and self-complaisant, as such a winner and slayer of women would do who had learnt the veni, vidi, vici art at an age when some great muffs have hardly grown out of jackets, and are sitting on forms plodding through the De Officiis, or construing the
dipus Tyrannus. My hand clenched on the jessamine, I thirsted to spring on him as he stood there with his provoking, self-contented smile, and his confounded coxcombical air, and his cursed fair curls—my hair was dust-coloured and as rebellious as porcupine-quills—and wash out in his blood or mine- A touch of a soft hand thrilled through my every nerve and fibre : the Marchioness was there, and signed me to her. Lucrezia da Guari, Little Grand, and all the rest of the universe vanished from my mind at the lightning of that angel smile and the rustle of that moire antique dress. She beckoned me to her into the empty drawingroom.
“ Augustus" (I never thought my name could sound so sweet before), “ tell me, what was my niece Lucrezia saying to you just now?"
Now I had a sad habit of telling the truth; it was an out-of-the-world custom taught me, among other old-fashioned things, at home, though I soon found how inconvenient a bêtise modern society considers it; and I blurted the truth out here, not distinctly or gracefully, though, as Little Grand would have done, for I was in that state of exaltation ordinarily expressed as not knowing whether one is standing in one's Wellingtons or not.
The Marchioness sighed.
“Ah, did she say that ? Poor dear girl! She dislikes me so much, it is quite an hallucination, and yet, 0 Augustus, I have been to her like an elder sister, like a mother. Imagine how it grieves me," and the Marchioness shed some tears-pearls of price, thought I, worthy to drop from angel eyes—“it is a bitter sorrow to me, but, poor darling! she is not responsible.”
She touched her veiny temple significantly as she spoke, and I under. stood, and felt tremendously shocked at it, that the young, fair Italian girl was a fierce and cruel maniac, who had the heart (oh! most extraordinary madness did it seem to me; if I had lost my senses I could never have harmed her !) to hate, absolutely hate, the noblest, tenderest, most beautiful of women!
“ I never alluded to it to any one,” continued the Marchioness. “Guatamara and Saint Jeu, though such intimate friends, are ignorant of it. I would rather have any one think ever so badly of me, than reveal to them the cruel misfortune of my sweet Lucrezia — "
How woble she looked as she spoke!
“But you, Augustus, you,” and she smiled upon me till I grew as dizzy as after my first taste of milk punch, “I have not the courage to let you go off with any bad impression of me. I have known you very little time, it is true—but a few hours, indeed—yet there are affinities of heart and soul which overstep the bounds of time, and, laughing at the chill ties of ordinary custom, make strangers dearer than old friends — "
The room revolved round me, the lights danced up and down, my heart beat like Thor's hammer, and my pulse went as fast as a favourite saving the distance. She speaking so to me! My senses whirled round and round like fifty thousand witches on a Walpurgis Night, and down I went on my knees before my magnificent idol, raving away I couldn't tell you what now—the essence of everything I'd ever read, from Ovid to Alexander Smith. It must have been something frightful to hear, for I am sure it was as mad a rhapsody as any of that insane fellow's in “Maud,” though Heaven knows I meant it earnestly enough. Suddenly I was pulled up with a jerk, as one throws an unbroken colt back on his haunches in the middle of his first start. I thought I heard a laugh. She started up too. “Hush! another time! We may be overheard." And drawing her dress from my hands, which grasped it as agonisingly as a cockney grasps his saddle-bow, holding on for dear life over the Burton or Tedworth country, she stooped kindly over me, and floated away before I was recovered from the exquisite delirium of my ecstatic trance.
She loved me! This superb creature loved me! There was not a doubt of it; and how I got back to the barracks that night in my heavenly state of mind I could never have told. All I know is, that Grand and I never spoke a word, by tacit consent, all the way back ; that I felt a fiendish delight when I saw his proud triumphant air, and thought how little he guessed, poor fellow !--And that Dream of One Fair Woman was as superior in rapture to the “Dream of Fair Women" as Tokay to the “ Fine Fruity Port" that results from damsons and a decoction of sloes!
The next day there was a grand affair in Malta to receive some foreign prince, whose name I do not remember now, who called on us en route to England. Of course all the troops turned out, and there was an inspection of us, and a grand luncheon and dinner, and ball, and all that sort of thing, which a month before I should have considered prime
fun, but which now, as it kept me out of my paradise, I thought the most miserable bore that could possibly bave chanced.
" I say,” said Heavy to me as I was getting into harness—“I say, don't you wonder Fitzhervey and the Marchioness ain't coming to the palace to-day? One would have thought old Stars and Garters would have been sure to ask them.”
“Ask them? I should say so," I returned, with immeasurable disdain. “Of course he asked them; but she told me she shouldn't come, last night. She is so tired of such things. She came yachting with Fitzhervey solely to try and have a little quiet. She says people never give her a moment's rest when she is in Paris or London. She was sorry to disappoint Stars and Garters, but I don't think she likes his wife much : she don't consider her good ton.”
On which information Heavy lapsed into a state of profoundest awe and wonderment, it having been one of his articles of faith, for the month we had been in Malta, that the palace people were exalted demigods, whom it was only permissible to worship from a distance, and a very respectful distance too. Heavy had lost some twenty odd pounds the night before -of course we lost, young hands unaccustomed to the society of that entertaining gentleman, Pam--and though he actually enjoyed a thousand a year while waiting for his majority, which would let him in for ten times that sum, had grumbled pot a little at the loss of his gold bobs. But now I could see that such a contemptibly pecuniary matter was clean gone from his memory, and that he would have thought the world well lost for the honour of playing cards with people who could afford to disappoint old Stars and Garters.
The inspection was over at last. What a miserable eternity it seemed to me; and if any other than Conran had been my senior officer, I should have come off badly, in all probability, for the abominable manner in which I went through my evolutions. The day came to an end somehow or other, though I began to think it never would (how short it would have seemed if one face had beamed in its divine radiation among all those pink and white, yellow and rubicund, snub-nosed and Romannosed, doll-featured and sharp-visaged women who set themselves up for bewitching belles!), the luncheon was ended, the bigwigs were taking their siestas, or otherwise occupied, and I, trusting to my absence not being noticed, tore off as hard as a man can who has Cupid for his Pegasus. With a bouquet as large as a drum-head, clasped round with a bracelet, about which I had many doubts as to the propriety of offering to the possessor of such jewellery as the marchioness must have, yet which I thought I might venture after the scene of last night, I was soon on the verandah of the Casa di Fiori, and my natural shyness being stimulated into a distant resemblance to Little Grand's enviable brass, seeing the windows of the drawing-room open, I pushed aside the green venetians and entered noiselessly. The room did not look a quarter so inviting as the night before, though it was left in precisely a similar state. But I do not know how it was, those cards lying about on the floor, those sconces with the wax run down and dripping over them, those emptied caraffes that had diffused an odour not yet dissipated, those tables and velvet couches all à tort et à travers, did not look so very inviting after all, and, even to my unsophisticated senses, scarcely seemed fit for a Peeress's salon. There was nobody in the room, and I walked through it towards the boudoir; from the open door I saw Fitzhervey, Guatamara, and my Marchioness—but oh! what horror unutterable ! doing—que pensezvous? Drinking bottled porter and drinking bottled porter in a peignoir not of the cleanliest, and with raven tresses not of the neatest !
Only fancy! she, that divine, spirituelle creature, who talked but a few hours before of the affinity of souls, to have come down, like any ordi, nary woman, to Guinness's stout, and a checked dressing-gown and un. brushed locks! To find your prophet without his silver veil, or your Leila dead, drowned in a sack, or your Guenevere Aown over with Sir Gawayne to Boulogne, or your long-esteemed Griselda gone off with your cockaded Jeames, is nothing to the torture, the unutterable anguish, of seeing your angel, your divinity, your bright particular star, your hallowed Arabian rose, come down to-Bottled Porter! Do not talk to me of Dante's Inferno, sir, or Mr. Martin's pictures; their horrors dwindle into insignificance compared with the horror of finding an intimate liaison between one's first love and Bottled Porter! In my first dim, unutterable anguish, I should have turned and fled; but my syren's voice had not lost all its power, despite the stout and dirty dressinggown, for she was a very handsome woman, and could stand such things as well as anybody. She came towards me, with her softest smile, glancing at the bracelet on the bouquet, apologising slightly for her négligé. "I am so indolent. I only dress for those I care to please and I never hoped to see you to-day.” In short, magnetising me over again, and smoothing down my outraged sensibilities, till I ended by becoming almost blind (quite I could not manage) to the checked robe de chambre and the unbrusbed bandeaux, by offering her my braceleted bouquet, which was very graciously accepted, and even by sharing the atrocious London porter, " that horrid stuff,” she called it, “how I hate it! but it is the only thing Sir Benjamin Brodie allows me, I am so very delicate, you know, my sensibilities so frightfully acute !" I had not twenty minutes to stay, having to be back at the barracks, or risk a reprimand, which, happily, the checked peignoir had cooled me sufficiently to enable me to recollect. So I took my farewell--one not unlike Medora's and Conrad'
s Fitzhervey and Guatamara having kindly withdrawn as soon as the bottled porter was finished, and I went out of the house in a very blissful state, despite Guinness and the unwelcome demitoilette, which did not accord with Eugène Sue's and the Parlour Library description of the general getting-up and stunning appearance of heroines and peeresses « reclining, in robes of cloud-like tissue and folds of the richest lace, on a cabriole couch of amber velvet, while the air was filled with the voluptuous perfume of the flower-children of the South, and music from unseen choristers lulled the senses with its divinest harmony."
Bottled porter and a checked dressing-gown! Say what you like, sirs, it takes a very strong passion to overcome those. I have heard men ascribe the waning of their affections after the honeymoon to the constant sight of their wives—whom before they had only seen making papa's coffee with an angelic air and a toilette tirée à quatre épingles everlastingly coming down too late for breakfast in a dressing-gown; and, upon my soul, if ever I marry, which Heaven in pitiful mercy forefend! and my wife make her appearance in one of those confounded peignoirs, I will give that much-run-after and deeply-to-be-pitied public charac..