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fondly and so proudly, now seemed averse to hold communion together, while their appearance and style of dress, the black cap of the one and the black bandages of the other, denoted a sympathy in suffering if in nothing else. The picture would have been a most affecting and impressive one viewed under any circumstances, but was rendered doubly so by the contrast which everywhere presented itself.
The month was May, but the weather had all the warmth of summer with the freshness and sweetness of spring. The windows of the dining-room were open to admit the soft balmy air which “came and went like the warbling of music," but whose reviving influence seemed unfelt by the sufferers. The trees, and shrubs, and flowers were putting forth their tender leaves and fragrant blossoms as if to charm his senses, who used to watch their progress with almost paternal interest, and the little birds were singing in sweet chorus as if to cheer him who was wont to listen to their evening song with such placid delight. All around were the dear familiar objects which had hitherto ministered to his enjoyment, but now, alas ! miserable comforters were they all! It was impossible to look upon such a picture without beholding in it the realisation of those solemn and affecting passages of Holy Writ which speak to us of the ephemeral nature of all earthly pleasures and of the mournful insignificance of human life, even in its most palmy state, when its views and actions, its hopes and desires, are confined to this sublunary sphere : “Whence then cometh any wisdom, and where is the place of understanding ?” “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches : but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord.”
The Major's Mistake.
Dash it, I'll save her life!” said the Major, suddenly.
The Major had just laid a covering of snow-white lather on that tract of chin which was still sacred from the incursions of his luxuriant beard. As he gave vent to this remarkable resolution, he inadvertently wounded himself with his razor, so as to compel a resort to a towel and cold sponging, which put an end to his reflections for a time.
Major Marjoribanks was an active, cleanly-built man, rather below the average height. He had an eye like a hawk's, beautiful hair and whiskers, and no other striking feature. His hands and feet were small and finely-formed, and a front tooth, which Nature had taken from him, had been exquisitely supplied by the hand of Art.
The great feature of the Major's character was determination : when he said a thing he meant it. In the Crimea, if Major Marjoribanks had said that a post should be carried, its fall was looked upon as certain. Zerlina, the Major’s vicious little mare, knew it was useless to try and refuse if once her master put her head straight for an obstacle. Like the late Mr. Assheton Smith, he would quietly “ ride for a fall,” if the leap were impracticable without one; and no one knew how to fall deftly better than the Major.
But a life spent, as it were, in a succession of pitched battles, does not pass without leaving marks of wear and tear, and the Major after his third bottle of hair-dye, began to take very serious views of life. Short and decisive were his ruminations, and with characteristic promptness he determined on marriage as his next achievement. For this purpose he selected a young lady of remarkable wealth and considerable personal attractions, and devoted himself to the sacrifice like a second Iphigenia,- barring the sex.
Perhaps it was the very difficulty of the achievement that impelled the dauntless Major to the attack. Diana Harford had already refused two baronets, a banker, and four minor deities, before the Major's appearance in the field, and still continued to ride across country with as much enthusiasm as if her whole life was to be devoted to that occupation. People began to say that she would never marry: “The right man had not spoken,” was the general opinion; and the Major, as he gnawed his moustaches, resolved with an inward oath that he would prove bimself that man, or perish in the attempt.
Not that the Major was wholly devoid of that unpractical machine called a heart. Down in a little villa near a country village, lived a little lady of twenty, who could have told strange tales of the Major’s sentimentality. Oh, Major, Major ! were not all your flocks and herds sufficient, that you must needs make this innocent ewe lamb a captive to your bow and spear ?
But let us do the Major justice. In this matter he was not altogether a free agent. From the moment he met Patty Roseneath he had felt himself fascinated by her in spite of all his attempts to persuade himself of the contrary. That a quiet, almost timid, little provincial beauty, with a general unsophisticatedness of tone and manner, should have any power to enchant the Major of a thousand fights seemed to him too ridiculous an idea to be entertained for a moment. It did not occur to him that it was perhaps this very difference from the women he had been accustomed to flirt with that constituted her charm.
Reviewing the matter that morning in the solitude of his chamber, the Major looked back on this love-passage with a thankful sense of escape. "I was devilish near making a fool of myself that time,” said the Major to himself, as he tied his cravat.
But though the Major congratulated himself on being so safely off with the old love, he was far from feeling so comfortable with regard to his prospects with the new. He was too old a campaigner to advance his main body without throwing out skirmishers and outposts, or make a step in an affaire de coeur without feeling his way. It was this quality, backed by the Major’s real talents and prowess, that made him so invincible. Women never suspected bim of wishing to engage their affections, until they found it was too late. And when once the gates were opened, no one knew how to retain a position in the conquered city better than the Major.
But Miss Harford's heart seemed to be impregnable even to this experienced besieger. The Major, who never committed the error of overrating his advantages, confessed to himself that he had done all he knew. Had he not ridden as no man, not professionally accustomed to risk his neck, ever rode before ? Had he not got up private theatricals (the Major in. Used Up' was really worth seeing), and even written a sparkling comedietta, agreed by every one but the Major himself to be equal if not superior to Robertson ? Had he not sung those tenor songs of his that would have charmed the savageness out of a bear? And had he not thrown around all his achievements a halo of respectful sentiment, as who should say, “I care not for them except in so much as they are pleasing to you ?” The Major could find no fault with himself or with his exertions. He had attacked the fortress with all the paraphernalia of sapping and mining, zigzags and parallels, and still the flag of liberty floated
mockingly above the unconquered bastions. There was but one hope, —a forlorn hope, he confessed to himself—and it was with a serious though determined spirit that the Major resolved on an attack by storm. He pronounced this resolution in the memorable words which commence this story. “Dash it!” said the Major, “ I'll save her life.”
The Major had made up his mind.
Perhaps, had the Major known who it was that had arrived as a guest to Miss Harford on the previous evening, it might have disturbed his calculations. But there is no reason why we should not listen to the conversation of Diana and her guest as they sit by the bedroom fire in their elegant dishabille.
Miss Harford was a girl of considerable individuality of character. Without affecting any of the airs of a "blue" or an eccentric, she generally thought for herself on many subjects, and would state her opinions pretty strongly on occasion. This caused her to be regarded with suspicion and dislike by most of her own sex, and the weaker of ours.
She was unusually, prudes said improperly, well read in the drama of the last century, and actually preferred the school of Sheridan to the school of Schnieder.
“What have I been doing lately?” says she, in answer to a question from her companion. “What am I always doing? I have danced the usual proportion of dances, round and square ; I havo read the last new novel, and tried the last milk-and-water effusion they call a ballad ; and I have ridden over the usual number of ploughed fields. What more would you have of a woman in my position ?”
“What a queer girl you are, Di,” says the other lady, wistfully. "You never seemed the same as the other girls at school ; and you don't seem a bit altered. And so you haven't fallen in love yet? But I always said you would never find any man to suit you exactly.”
“That's just what I'm wanting, my dear,--a Man. I see plenty of amateur jockeys and polite letter writers. What I want is a manone that is not afraid to be natural, or ashamed to be in earnest. I really think our average dandy, with his cool self-sufficiency, and his insulting indifference, the most unpleasant production of the age. There's the Major now
“ Who is that?”
“ Major Marjoribanks, my dear; the glory of his regiment, and the idol of all the horse-dealers, amateur actors, and fast young men for a circle of twenty miles. Why, Patty, you're blushing! You don't mean to say you know the man!”
"I met him—that is—he is a friend of my brother’s," said the other lady, with some hesitation.
“And you've been foolish enough to believe all his nonsense, child, I dare say. Come now ? "
““ Well, he certainly is an extraordinary man,” pleaded Patty.
“Oh, yes, very. He can ride a kicker, or write a burlesque. But -as for heart—why, my dear child, he'd toss you aside, if it suited his purpose, with as much indifference as I toss that withered camellia. Now, don't you waste a thought on him. I don't intend to, though the wretched man has been making love to me in his quiet way ever since he came. I'm afraid every day he'll propose, and I shall have the trouble of refusing him without losing my temper.”
“But I can't help it,” said Patty, faintly.
“ Oh yes, you can. You thought you couldn't, down in that dull place, with nothing else to think about, but you'll be under a different treatment here, I can assure you. Plenty of exercise and excitement will soon cure you. I'll tell you what: as a great treat to-morrow you shall ride Crusader. We'll take a quiet canter along the lanes.”
Oh, but I can't ride strange horses,” said Patty.
Oh, you'll soon get acquainted. Mind, I consider this a great favour, and you mustn't hurt my feelings by refusing. One of my habits will fit you nicely, and when you return you'll feel spirit enough to defy twenty Majors."
“ You are a darling girl," said Patty, getting up and kissing her.
" I'm afraid you're in a minority, my dear,” said Diana. “Most people say I'm intensely disagreeable. Good night, and don't dream of the Major."
And the pair kissed again, and parted for the nighi.
The next day was one of those mild, hazy, November ones, which break out into a glimpse of sunshine towards noon, and then return to their former dullness. The two girls rode along between the hedgerows, chatting pleasantly.
“I'm sure I shall never be able to manage this animal,” said Patty, timidly. “See how he tosses his head about."
“ That's because you let him feel the curb, dear; I had it put up sharp on purpose. Have power of punishment, but seldom use it; that's the real secret of managing horses, dogs, and men.. There now, you see he goes quietly enough on the saffle. Now coax him a little, and give and take more; remember he isn't a phlegmatic donkey, with a mouth like a deal board.”
“Well, I must say I prefer quiet horses; one feels so much more at ease."
“Pshaw, my dear! I wouldn't give a guinea for a horse that anyone could ride, that took no more notice of a steam-engine than of a haystack. They have just the same dead-level of indifference that is