Page images

to fear from publicity, why did he his carriage, “and withal is as not insist upon one being held upon guileless and simple as a child." him?"

“I have seen Kirke to-day," said " It was a grave error of judg- Falkland in the evening, as the ment, no doubt," observed Falkland, occupants of the Residency were slowly; "he should not have left the strolling in the garden, “and his decision in the matter to the Govern- Excellency gave him an interview, ment; but having once made the at which I was present. I am sorry to mistake, it was perhaps too late to say the result was not satisfactory. rectify it."

The former holds out no prospect of “Well,” said the Commissioner, reinstating him. Kirke returns torising from the table, “ I am very night to his own station." No more glad that Olivia should have some passed on the subject. grounds for taking a more chari- This was the beginning of Falktable view of the matter than I am land's brief and successful courtship. able to do, and I am quite will-When, shortly after Olivia's arrival, ing both you and she should think he came to pay a promised visit of I am unreasonably hard about it;" greeting to his godchild, his feelings and so saying he went to his own were merely those of kindly interroom, adding to himself — “but I est, and curiosity to see how far she believe I know a good deal more might have fulfilled the promise of about some points of the affair her young girlhood. She, for her than even you do, Falkland.” part, had merely an uncertain recol

“I am just going down to the section of a person associated in her cantonments," said Falkland to Oli- mind with middle age, whom she via, when they were left alone, “and knew to be kind and good, and on shall see your cousin this morning. whose friendship her father set a In fact I am going there on purpose high value. Middle-aged he was, to see him. Shall I give him any but the difference between them message from you if he asks after seemed no longer what it was when you ?"

the slight girl in the broad-brimmed “ Thank you," she replied, warm- straw hat had led the grave soldier ly; “ please say how heartily I grieve over the picture-galleries of Florabout this. But, no

she con

Falkland was still grave and tinued, correcting herself, “it would somewhat taciturn, although not hardly be proper to send him mes- without humour, but there was nosages while papa's house is closed thing of the old man about him. against him, would it?" and she Erect, active, and soldier-like in looked up in his face asking for a habit, spare in diet, a student of reply.

books, and yet a busy public man, “You are right, Olivia, in this as he had outlived the egotism of youth in everything; but I may at least without acquiring the hardness of say for you that he has your full age, while his unselfishness and sympathy in his troubles."

sympathy for others rendered his “Oh yes, please say all that, and society fascinating alike to old and my heartfelt wishes for happier days young.

With natives he was as for him, poor fellow !” The love popular as with Europeans. His that might have been had now turn- servants plundered him freely after ed all to pity.

the fashion of their kind, and would "She has grace and beauty enough have followed him to death. Young to furnish twenty women," said the men sought his advice in trouble. colonel to himself, as he stepped into Children found him out and took to


him at once wherever he went. And mother, but, seeing that her heart after a two months' courtship, Olivia was given elsewhere, had till now had accepted him for a husband. kept the secret of his love, so

The love was at first all on his that not even the object of it had side, and for some time he battled suspected its existence; and since with the feeling, asking himself now she could not be his had remained and again if a weather-beaten old unwedded, till now the daughter bachelor such as he, was fitted to seemed the mother of his youth make this beautiful and brilliant come back to life in almost more young creature happy; whether he than her own sweetness and grace ; would not be acting a wiser and less and then, so much disclosed, asked, selfish part to withdraw from all would that daughter intrust the competition for her hand, and leave keeping of her happiness to an old her to find a mate among younger fellow like himself, young in heart men. He had practised self-denial if old in face? — when Falkland of the kind before and outlived the spoke thus, the avowal took Olivia effort. Should he be less unselfish by surprise, although, had she annow that he was grown old ? Olivia, alysed her feelings, she must have for her part, made no secret of her known that their intimacy had liking for him, but her affection did gone beyond the bounds of mere not take the form of that young love friendship. But her answer was which comes at some time to most given without doubt or misgiving, women. There were no restless for it seemed called from her by misgivings, no anxious recallings of feelings of admiration and respect spoken words, no impatient waiting for him, mingled with the humility for the beloved one's return. In place which marked her character. Placof the tumultuous emotions that make ing her hand in his she turned on up the first days of ordinary court- him a glance of her sweet face, ship—the doubts and hopes chasing and with a trustful smile said she each other through the heart—there would endeavour to deserve and was merely a feeling of confidence return his love. and admiration. His society made The Commissioner, when the everything seem bright; whatever news was announced to him the he said and did seemed best and same evening, was equally surprised wisest; with him she felt always and delighted, and it at once determore at ease than even with her mined him to a resolve which he had father. Withal she could not but been thinking of making for some be affected by the unconscious flat- days past-namely, to take leave to tery implied in the footing of equal- Europe at once, instead of trying to ity on which so distinguished a man patch up his failing health by a visit placed her. Yet all this was not to the hills. Nor would he hear of love; and up to the time when Olivia Olivia returning with him, as she and her father paid their visit to proposed to do, indefinitely postFalkland, shortly after his return poning the time of her marriage. to his own station, she had at most “He was not so ill as to require but dimly discerned the coming nursing,” he said ; adding jocosely, prospect; and when Falkland, one " that his old friend had been a day when they were pacing his gar- bachelor so long he could not afford den together, revealed an episode in to be kept waiting any longer." his early life, telling her how in Truth to say, Cunningham rather years gone by he had nourished preferred the idea of travelling à passionate affection for her home comfortably alone, stopping and moving as he pleased, with no ing the needful transfer papers. one to consider but himself, to Towards sunset the wedding took being accompanied even by his place at the cantonment church, daughter, so that his determination after which the newly - married involved less sacrifice than she sup- couple and the guests invited to posed.

witness the ceremony, comprising all Official changes are soon arranged the residents of the station who had in India when brought about by not gone off for the summer to the sickness. The same post which hills, repaired to Brigadier Polcarried to Cunningham the sanction wheedle's house, the Residency beof Government for leave to Europe ing too far off for the purpose, and on medical certificate, conveyed also there partook of ices and champagne, the notification of Falkland's ap- according to approved custom. At pointment to officiate as Commis- dusk, Mr Cunningham set off on sioner of Mustaphabad during his his long journey, the Nawab's camelabsence—an announcement which, carriage being again put in requisiwhile shattering the hopes Cap- tion for the first part of it; while tain Sparrow had indulged in of Falkland and his bride drove home obtaining the preferment, was re- to the Residency. ceived with general satisfaction by Thus was our sweet Olivia mated, the official world, Falkland being and all her friends and acquaintuniversally recognised as the fittest ance pronounced it a happy marman to succeed to this important riage on both sides. And indeed and lucrative post. Cunningham with a husband gallant, clever, and and his daughter returned forthwith unselfish, gentle and kind in his to Mustaphabad to make the need- ways, and whose devotion and soliciful arrangements for their respective tude were evinced in every word changes in life-arrangements easily and action, how could the young accomplished, for Falkland took over wife help being happy? And must the Residency furniture, carriage, not she love dearly in return a husand horses in block, and Miss Cun- band so good and noble, a husband ningham's ample outfit, still in its of whom any woman might be first freshness, rendered the need proud ? And yet—had she asked but small for a special bridal trous- herself, is this really love? it would seau. The hot winds were now have been difficult to frame a true setting in apace, and it behoved reply. She was always happy in Cunningham to start as soon as his presence ; no doubts or regrets possible for Calcutta, if he would came up to disturb the first placid escape ill consequences from the days of wedded life; but the welljourney. Accordingly, one day known footstep sounding in the hall in April

, Falkland arrived at Mus- raised no responsive throb in Olivia's taphabad and took up his quar- gentle bosom, nor did the hours of ters for the night at the house of enforced absence pass with weary his old friend Mackenzie Maxwell, longings for return. Olivia had the civil surgeon. The following been accustomed to spend many morning he received charge of the hours of the day alone; and now Commissioner's office, and the day with Justine for company—Justine was passed by the two friends at who had returned to the Residency the court-house, in the matter-of- after a short visit to Mrs Polwheedle fact occupation of discussing the--she could still employ the long various business matters of the mornings happily till her husband duty to be taken over, and sign- returned from his duties at the



court - house. At times, indeed, he, an obscure penniless subaltern, would come up unbidden ques- to aspire to gain that peerless creationings whether another fate might ture for a wife? And for all his not have been hers, and a sorrowful being a few years older, he felt a regret that her cousin should be if he must always have looked up cast off and forsaken, undeserving to her, and she down to him. Now of affection though he might be; Falkland was one whom every but any gentle doubts of this sort woman as well as every man must

dismissed whenever they look up to; and her proper place arose, as unworthy tenants of her would be as mistress of a great thoughts.

household. Fool that he was, to To the 'residents of Mustaphabad dream that she could ever come to feeling a pleasurable interest in or in- share his lowly home! And yet, difference about Miss Cunningham's Falkland could never love her as he marriage, it needs hardly be said had loved her; she would never that there was one exception. And, know as his wife the passionate decrushed down by the sudden destruc- votion of which she deserved to be tion of the hopes which the foolish the object. young fellow had allowed himself But from one disaster, at least, he to build on utterly unsubstantial had been spared. He had never, foundation, poor Yorke had not even with all his folly, been fool enough the bitter consolation of feeling that to make his infatuation public. he had been the victim of heartless None of their acquaintance except coquetry. He could not carry his Spragge could have a suspicion of self-deception so far as to delude it; and Jerry, though a harebrained himself into the belief that Miss fellow, was a stanch friend who Cunningham had knowingly jilted would not peach. Even Olivia herhim. He now saw plainly enough self did not know his secret. But that her supposed encouragement of no ! surely, he thought, she must his love had existed only in his own have guessed his devotion, expressed imagination. Calling up over and in every way but speech. At least, over again each moment of the brief however, he had been spared the interviews which made up his ac- humiliation of a confession rejected. quaintance with Olivia, his sense of And yet, he thought, it would have truthfulness and natural humility been sweeter to have been refused now brought him to see clearly by her, than that she should never enough that her feelings towards know my love, my love now to rehim had been free throughout from main a secret for ever. the emotions they caused in him, But although the young man had that her kind manner was dictated strength of will to hide his grief, merely by a kind heart. There and unselfishness enough to feel no had been no eagerness, no shyness anger with the woman who had in Miss Cunningham's greetings. made such wild work with his heart, All the heart-flutterings had been life for the time seemed utterly inon one side only. So much the tolerable, especially while the comyoung man had learnt of the ing wedding was the universal topic language of love. And amid the of conversation throughout the stadespair he felt at the downfall of tion. To listen to this was more his hopes, he could not but admit than he could bear; and obtaining a to himself that the choice she had month's leave, Yorke set out with made was, after all, a more natural his tent to pass the time in wanderand proper one. What right had ing about the district. The shooting season and the time for camp- The occasional messenger who came life was over; the harvest had been out from cantonments with his gathered in, leaving the bare sandy letters brought a newspaper one fields a desert; the hot winds blew evening, and spelling through this clouds of stifling dust from morning after his frugal dinner, beginning to sunset, till his tent was like a fur- with the advertisements, as is the nace, and chairs, table, and bed, and wont of solitary travellers in the even his food, were covered with the East, he came upon the following loose grit that filled the air; and announcement :the antelope which he pursued over “April 15th, at Mustaphabad, the open plains were shy and wild; by the Rev. J. Wharton, M.A., but he could at any rate tire himself Colonel Robert Falkland, C.B., to out with walking;

the nights in the Olivia, daughter of Archibald Cunopen air were still cool, and sleep ningham, Esquire, Civil Service." could be courted by sheer force of So, then, even the last despairing fatigue. Thus passed the weary time. hope must be surrendered which Fain would he have taken leave had found a place in his foolish for the whole hot season, and spent heart during these solitary days, it wandering amid cool air and new that the whole story of the engagescenes in the Himalayas; but with ment might prove to be a horrid certain obligations already men- dream, or that something might tioned to be met shortly, he could happen at the last moment to break not afford to give up the allowance off the marriage. Life must now of the two companies which he be faced under its new conditions, commanded. Hill stations and and it would be mere cowardice to pleasant places, he thought bitterly, shirk it any longer. So determinwere not meant for such as he. ing, the young man returned to More fitting that he should nurse cantonments next morning without his sorrow in bodily discomfort. waiting for the expiration of his

But even in the solitude of his leave, and resumed his place in the little camp he could not altogether regiment. escape contact with the outer world.

« PreviousContinue »