« PreviousContinue »
sure, Mr Cunningham relieved his morsels for Devotion, while Yorke mind by explaining that his duty looked on in an ecstasy of pride. had in fact ended with the delivery Thence they strolled into the garden, of the treasure at the Residency. and wandered about till it was dusk Strictly speaking, the Commissioner and time to dress for dinner. ought then and there to take over The house, flat-roofed, formed a the money from him, but it would great square block, one storey high, be simpler to have it made over di- the floors raised about four feet rect to the Nawab's people from the from the ground, the public rooms tumbrils, and so save a double trans- in the centre, the sleeping-rooms fer, the Commissioner meanwhile opening to the spacious veranda being responsible for its safe custody. which extended round the house. Thus Yorke could accept the in- Yorke's room, which seemed big vitation without any qualms of con- enough to take in the whole of his science. He would actually spend bungalow, was entered from the east a whole day and sleep under the veranda by two enormous doors, same roof with his beloved. It was which served also as windows : like a vision of paradise opening door on the opposite side communibefore him.
cated with the drawing-room. Miss “ And so here is the poor horse Cunningham's own rooms, no doubt, that fell with you," said Miss Cun- would be on the west side, and the ningham, turning towards Devotion, thought that she was occupying the which during the conversation had same house made the whole buildbeen standing peacefully a little ing seem sacred ; and the young man behind its master in charge of the dressed himself for dinner with a barelegged groom.
“None the sort of pious awe. worse, I see. How nice the poor
On entering the drawing-room, fellow looks!" she added, moving up now dimly illuminated—for it reand patting its neck. “ Will he quired a great wealth of lamps and eat bread, Mr Yorke? if so, we must candles to light up this great salon give him some presently, when the properly, an expenditure reserved man brings it for Selim.
I am so
for large parties-Yorke made out glad to see it has got off without that there was another person preharm as well as its master. You sent, who proved on closer acquaintmust have thought it so unkind of ance to be Captain Sparrow. That us," she added, turning to him, gentleman received him with lan“ never to have sent to inquire after guid affability, observing that he you; but Colonel Tartar was calling supposed there was a good deal of here, and said you had been dining duty in the way of treasure-escort with him the evening before, and and work of that sort, which must gave a very good account of you." be an agreeable relief from the And the pang of jealousy that monotony of cantonment life. Then Yorke felt at hearing of Colonel presently Miss Cunningham entered Tartar's visit was sufficiently allayed in a dinner dress of silk, for the by the reflection that Miss Cunning- evenings were still chilly. Surely, ham had been thinking and talking thought Yorke, each change of toiabout him. Stopping first to post let is more becoming than the last. his sentries, he then with elated Then came the Commissionerheart followed his hosts in their Colonel Falkland had returned to visit to the stables, where the young his own province-and dinner being lady fed her Arab with bread and lu- announced, they repaired to the cerne grass, reserving, however, some breakfast - room, always used for small parties or when the family sive sympathy with so much devowere alone, and which with its tion, which only awaits an appeal small round table, well lighted up, to be called forth : and in another looked bright and cheerful by con- moment Yorke might have fallen trast with the dim drawing - room, at her feet to pour out his tale of -Captain Sparrow conducting the love, his hopes, his fears, his senso lady, Yorke and the Commissioner of unworthiness to aspire to the following:
priceless reward he sought for, when The dinner was very quiet : the a voice was heard at the other end Commissioner was taciturn, accord- of the room, that of Mr Cunninging to his wont; while Yorke was ham, asking them to come and join almost too happy for conversation, in a four-game, repressing the ecnor did the brilliant epigrammatic stasy of passion which was on the turns of speech which would alone point of finding utterance. And the have been worthy of utterance in words which were rushing to his the presence of the beautiful host- lips remained unspoken. ess, come readily uppermost. Spar- The glare of the billiard-room, row, however, in his languid way with its unromantic accessories of was talkative enough, and Yorke settees and cigars, acted like a disobserved with secret complacency enchantment to recall our subaltern that Miss Cunningham was evi- to the prosaic realities of everyday dently amused at his harmless van- life ; but he found some compensaity and his affectation of refinement. tion for the descent on its being The same
sense of humour, he settled that he was to be Miss thought, was apparent in the earn- Cunningham's partner. In bilestness with which, after their re- liards, at any rate, he could be her turn to the drawing - room, she master (although he thought with pressed him to sing, going to the an introspective sneer that it was piano and beginning the accom- a contemptible thing to excel in paniment of one of his songs ; when such a matter), for he was much the the captain, nothing loath, stood best player of the four, while the up beside her and warbled forth a lady was only a beginner; and to ditty in his approved style. His give confidential advice about each song ended, the Commissioner led stroke, to be even allowed to him away to the adjoining billiard- touch her hand and adjust the taper room, and then followed for Yorke fingers so as to form a proper rest a blissful half - hour, while Miss for the cue, this was a new form of Cunningham sang to him, on his bliss. pressing her, one song after another; But the happiest hour must have and as the young man stood by her an end. The second game finished, side, watching her face, the one Miss Cunningham, placing her fair point of light in the great dim cham- arms on her father's shoulders, ber, they seemed so entirely alone, greeted him with a kiss on either and he was so borne along on the cheek, and holding out her hand tide of emotion aroused by the ten- graciously to each guest, retired der accents of her voice, and the from the room. Captain Sparrow nearness of her person, that his followed her example; and then humility and bashfulness for once the Commissioner, proposing an forsook him. Surely, he thought, all early ride in the morning, wished this hope cannot be born altogether his visitor good-night, and the genof delusion. In that gentle breast tlemen repaired to their respective there needs must be some respon- rooms.
Then Yorke, lighting a cigar, strolled across the park to high before they returned to the visit his guards, wandering after- Residency, when, as they entered wards about the lawn on his side the park, Yorke's quick eye disof the house. He would fain have covered Miss Cunningham sitting by carried his steps to the other side, a tea equipage under the shade of an when perchance some light might in- awning spread by some trees on the dicate at a distance the shrine which western side, whither directing their guarded his mistress ; but although horses they dismounted. Limited the watchman and some of the though was his visiting acquaintnumerous servants of the household ance, Yorke had often noticed that had passed that way on their various the Indian habit of a second toilet errands, and he knew therefore that tended somewhat to impair the early her chamber must be closed, a sense appearance of such of the fair sex of delicacy restrained him. But at as took exercise in the morning. last, tired out with walking, he Ladies who came out at mid-day or sought his room, stumbling over evening in elaborate costumes, and his bearer asleep in the veranda, with hair carefully dressed, would and fell asleep himself while recal- sometimes dispense with these femiling the minutes that had been nine graces when attiring themselves passed, the voice, the gestures, the for the early ride or drive, and words of his beloved.
would appear with careless, not to
say dishevelled locks, and appearance Next morning, his late hours of generally suggestive of repairs needthe previous night notwithstanding, ful to be effected afterwards. No Yorke was up with the first grey such remissness could be detected light of dawn, although not sooner in the young lady who now, after than the Commissioner, who was a morning greetings, began to pour regular old Indian as regards early out the tea. Her rich brown hair, rising; but it was with a pang of dis- though folded in simple braids, was appointment that he found only one fit, the young man thought, to grace riding-horse besides Devotion was a coronation; the light morning robe standing saddled under the portico. was crisp and fresh; in each aspect, Selim was not there. His daughter, he thought, she seemed more nobleMr Cunningham said, was not going looking, more delicate, and more reto ride that morning, but would fined. And, see, facing him across have some tea ready for them when the lawn as he sits down, is the they returned; and accordingly, shrine from which his goddess has they rode through the city, which issued. The wide doors in the west Yorke had never seen before, and veranda thrown open to catch the where he had the opportunity of morning air reveal some mysteries contrasting the deferential salaams of a chamber within the dressingaccorded to the great man on his glass trimmed with dainty muslin way through the streets, with the and ribbons, the wardrobe where air of insolent curiosity with which rest the garments which have the any unknown subaltern performing happy duty of enshrining their sweet the journey alone would be regarded. mistress. The
Commissioner had various duties Soon the little party was joined in the town—a new tank in course of by another horseman, Dr Mackenzie excavation to visit, the widening of Maxwell, the civil surgeon, who a new street in progress, the scene lived about half a mile from the of a late robbery to examine, and Residency, and had charge of the 50 forth—and the sun had mounted jail, the hospital, and the Residency establishments—a benevolent-look- Cunningham, with a little blush, ing, middle-aged man. Yorke had explained that they were thinking scarcely ever met him before, for Dr of paying Colonel Falkland a visit Maxwell lived very much by him- for three or four weeks before the self, and had almost forgotten his hot weather set in. Her father existence as a member of the Resi- had been out of sorts for some time, dency circle ; and for a moment, but they hoped this change and the on observing the warm greeting holiday might be sufficient to set accorded to the new-comer, he was him to rights again, and prevent disposed to feel jealous, when the necessity for taking leave to the he remembered having heard that hills. “Papa dreads the idea of Maxwell was a widower; but this spending a whole hot season away feeling was soon allayed on per- from his beloved cutchery. You ceiving the sort of fatherly way in know he has never been to the hills. which the doctor addressed his all his life.” hostess, and the absence of embar- “Yes," broke in her father, "and rassment between the two. Soon I hope I never shall go; a season of the doctor and the Commissioner Simla lounging would finish me off, rose and strolled into the gar- I believe, if I went up ill in the first. den, leaving Miss Cunningham and instance.” Yorke alone. But although the “And you ?" said Yorke, turning latter, fully impressed with the to his daughter,—"what are your importance of the occasion, was in feelings in the matter? But I need an agony of suspense as the brief not ask,” he added, with a shade of moments flew by, he could not bitterness in his voice. "Of course manage to rise in his conversation you must want to go. Simla is the beyond the level of commonplace; gayest place in India.” And the and when the others returned he subaltern's heart sank within him had only the consolation of there as he pictured to himself for the being still a long day before him, moment its beautiful mistress treadduring which the Commissioner ing the round of mountain dissipamust be absent in court, and then, tion, surrounded by all the male perhaps, a word or hint, or even butterflies who flutter about that. some glance exchanged, might tell favourite resort. him that his case was understood, “Of course I should like to see and not hopeless, and embolden him the hills," she replied ; "it is imto pour out his tale of love.
possible to watch the distant peaks “I have been telling the Com- lighted up of a morning from here missioner,” said the doctor, address- without longing to explore them ;. ing that gentleman's daughter, “that but I am a domestic creature," she I think your plan a very good one. added, smiling, “although you may What he wants just now is a little not suppose so, and I think I should rest and change. I daresay a month like to spend my first year at any at Patánpoor may do all that is rate quietly here. I have been wanneeded; at any rate it will be time to dering all my life, and it seems really think of a season in the hills if this wrong to begin moving about again little trip fails to set him up. On what just when I am settled in a home at: day do you think of going away?” last. But I hope," she added, look
“Going away!" exclaimed Yorke, ing anxiously towards her father, and in a tone of such unfeigned con- " that it may not be necessary.” cern that the other two gentlemen This little speech filled Yorke could not help smiling; and Miss with a transport of delight. This.
desire to remain here, knowing as is the only person I have met who she must his feelings, might he not does not smoke." fairly interpret it to mean encourage- “But then," said Yorke, “if smokment? Could she indeed have said ing is discomfort to other people, more, without departing from pro- surely it is better the sacrifice should per maidenly reserve? And as she be on the side of giving up what is threw that glance of filial anxiety after all an artificial want. Some towards her father he thought she ladies declare they can't bear the had never looked so beautiful before smell of tobacco even in the open
“Papa," said the young lady pre- air." sently, who was employed on some “Don't you think some ladies are embroidery work, “ you have given a little affected? Could anybody Dr Maxwell a cigar, but you have pretend to smell the cigars you gennot offered one to Mr Yorke." tlemen are smoking now? Even in
“I did not know that Mr Yorke the house the rooms are so big and smoked," replied her father, hasten- curtainless that no smell hangs about ing to supply the omission by hand- them. Besides, even in the open air, ing him his case; "he refused the gentlemen would never sit quietly offer of one last night in the billiard- in their chairs like this, if they room."
were not allowed to smoke. We Yorke said, looking a little sheep- women have our fancy-work to ish as he accepted the proffered che- keep us from the fidgets. root, that he thought perhaps Miss see," she added, looking at Yorke Cunningham might not like the archly, “selfishness is at the bottom smell of tobacco.
of one's amiability after all. But “If she does not,” said her father, gentlemen seem so much more do“then she must be in perpetual dis- mestic in this country, they deserve comfort, for I smoke all day long, to be spoilt a little.” and in every room in the house, I “Perhaps it is because they are think. But I offered to give up the petted at home that they are so practice when first she came, and to domestic," observed Yorke. Adorkeep my smoke to my own room- able creature, he thought, perfect in didn't İ, Olivia ?”
every aspect, if ever woman lived "You dear old papa ! You must who might insist on those about her have had your old bachelor ways dispensing with tobacco and the and comforts sufficiently broken in small vulgarities of life, surely it is upon by my invasion, without my you. Yet you make no terms for depriving you of your last remaining your beauty and your grace. Your solace. Besides,” she added, laugh- mind is as simple as a child's, deingly, “there was some real selfish- spite the lovely frame it is set in ! ness at the bottom of my request The doctor, his cheroot finished, after all, for I did not want you now rose to go, summoning his to banish me to solitude in empty groom and horse from the shelter rooms. You are at home little of a neighbouring tree; and a redenough as it is. It would be dread- coated messenger bringing the ful if you were to keep to your own Commissioner a bundle of official room in order to enjoy your cigars vernacular reports, he lighted anthere. Women should put up with other cigar and departed for his smoking nowadays when it has be- own room. Miss Cunningham recome such a regular habit. Gentle- tired into the recesses of the western men seem to smoke as much here as veranda; and Yorke repaired to his they do in Italy. Colonel Falkland own side of the building to receive