I have said before, that as men waxed tender to her, Kate waxed sick. The wild, fierce love of one man had been So unutterably much to her, that the weaker, thinner loves of all other men were less than nothing-were abominable to her. Then came the last straw that broke the camel's back, the trifle that exhausted the last drop of the not very deep well of Kate's patience with her mistaken cousin. One of the few people they knew in Queenstown, a gossiping, cackling sort of woman, asked Maggie one day, point blank, whether she might not be allowed to congratulate her sister. And when Maggie, guessing what was meant, vexed and angered (she herself best knew why) inquired with some asperity, what was supposed to be the subject of the proposed congratulations, she made answer, humming and hawing, with a meaning smile, that "she was sorry if she had been mistaken, but that people would talk, particularly in a place of this sort; and that every body in Queenstown was saying that there must be something in it, for that the younger Miss Chester and her cousin were never apart


Kate was furious when she heard this narrative; stamped and cried, and invoked the most unchristian and naughtiest of wishes upon the heads of all gossips and newsmongers in general, and upon those of that profession in the town of Queenstown, in particular. Well, their blatant mouths should be stopped, and no delay either. She would not have namby-pamby love stories regarding her, hawked about over Queenstown, if she could prevent it; so she declared vehemently, excitedly, and sat and stared into the fire all the rest of the evening, and had not a word to throw to a dog. Next day she tramped off to her district as usual, duties were not to be neglected, because silly busybody women trumped up false stories, for want of more profitable occupation; and at about the usual hour she made her appearance, after her day's work, in the Market-place, scarlet cloaked and basketed after her wont. One hurried travelling of the eyes to the usual spot; then an ominous clenching of white hands; a most unamiable drawing together of smooth

brows. If George could have seen that face then, I think that, though not over quick at physiognomy, he must have seen that a storm was brewing against him. 'Bother the fellow! Why cannot he leave me alone? What an ass he is!" Not another glance in the direction of the offender. A determination not to see that he was coming to meet her; a resolute bending of swift feet down the street homewards. Of course he would overtake her, for how should he know the cause of this sudden change of demeanour, and how to get rid of him she had not quite made up her mind, though to do it somehow or other she was fully determined; nothing would turn her from that. To have anything more to say to this fellow seemed to her now a sort of profanation of the one prime passion of her life, a sort of faithlessness to her darling, wicked, lost Dare. So she passed along very swiftly, with rather a beating heart, that she might have just a few seconds more to gather herself together; to frame some speech of dismissal to him, who was following so hard upon her tracks. Perhaps you do not know Queenstown, or you would understand what a little way she had got when I tell you, that opposite the big chemist's shop she heard the sharp ring of a man's quick, firm step on the pavement behind her, and a second after the obnoxious wide shoulders, pepper-and-salt clad, were alongside of her; the tanned face, that she had got so tired of, was looking down upon her, with a grin of amusement curving the wide, goodhumoured mouth. Poor George! he had no other idea but that this running away from him, was nothing else than a little flirting dodge, for the better display of a faultless figure and unapproachable ankles. He believed firmly that this bird only flew away in order to be pursued, and pursue he did accordingly.


Naughty child," he said, laughing, putting his hand on her arm familiarly; "what spirit of mischief induced you to cut away at such a rate to-day? I suppose it was only to make me cut after you, as I have done, you see. Ah Kate, Kate, you forget how old and stiff I am growing.

[ocr errors]

No, I don't," answered Kate,

[ocr errors]

rather morose, shaking off his hand sharply, and walking on very quick all the time; "only I did not exactly see what need there was for you to come posting after me at such a mailcoach rate; and what's more, I don't now." "Kate," cried George, in great surprise, half inclined to be amused still, what are you talking about? Don't I always walk home with you? Is not it the pleasantest half-hour in the day to me, by far?" he added sentimentally; and he tried to practise his old friend, the longing, despairing gaze, but, in this case, it was not efficacious, for the excellent reason that he could not get her to look at him and see it.

"That's just what I complain of," she replied, very gravely, looking straight before her.

"Complain of!" echoed George, in high astonishment, with rather a hoity-toity intonation of voice. "Well, my dear girl, if you never have anything worse than that to complain of, you won't be much to be pitied; hanged if you will. I wonder what earthly harm," he pursued, waxing eloquent, getting the steam up, "it can do to you, for me to walk along the street parallel to you, for a quarter of a mile? Now I come to think of it, you yourself gave me leave to do it. Why, Kate, there's no reckoning on your being the same for ten minutes together; you're a regular weather cock."

"I am a weather cock," owned Kate, contrite and thoughtful, all that was demure and proper in her penitence. "You say that you cannot count on me to be the same for ten minutes together. Why, I cannot count on myself. Not a bit. I have no stability."

George was not the sort of man to probe or examine much his own states of mind and conditions of feeling, nor did he understand anyone else doing it. "I don't know about stability," he responded, in a downright matter-of-fact sort of way. "You've got plenty to please me. I don't want to have you a bit different from what you have been lately. I think we've been very jolly together these last few days."

"No, we have not," answered Kate, candidly; her ingenuousness winning an easy victory over her civility: "at least I have not."

Now, candour is an excellent virtue-let no one dispute that axiom; but I think it is hardly regarded in that light sometimes, by the objects of it. Lieutenant Chester was now as much mortified and nonplussed as any other luckless youth, who, having been flattering himself that he had been tolerably successful in making himself agreeable, found that he had been labouring under a delusion.

"Well," he said, with a sort of snort of indignant anger, "anyhow, you counterfeited it better than I ever saw any girl do before in my life. I'd go on the stage, if I were you. You'd make your fortune to a dead certainty." And they walked on in silence for a few paces. George stalking along, gnawing the top of his stick, with his equanimity a good deal shaken.

"Would that do?" Kate pondered. "What must she say next? Must it come to a regular quarrel between them? (That would be a pity.) Or might she stop there, and trust that he would be sharp enough, and wise enough to understand her drift, and accept the portion she destined for him?"

She was not left long in uncertainty, for, all of a sudden, George stopped stock still, in the middle of the street, and again laid his hand on her arm (unforbidden this time), as he turned to her, and said very stiffly


"Let us understand each other, if you please, Kate, I don't want to go on fumbling in the dark, being made a fool of for your amusement. know girls generally mean the exact opposite of what they say; and, so do you, perhaps, for all I know. But will you be kind enough to tell me, once for all, what is the upshot of all these polite remarks you have been making; or, is there no upshot at all?"

Then Kate looked up straight at him, full in his face, for the first time, without any side-glances, or oblique arrows of fire, no false glitterings and flashings in her eyes, they shining with steady lustre, "Don't be cross, old fellow," she said kindly; "there is an upshot, of course, and this is it. I'll tell it you, without any mincing or hashing, though it does not sound very civil. It's this, that I want you to promise not to come and meet me

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"No, I shan't," he replied, not looking in the least inclined to laugh; "I must have a better one than that.' "But, what if I have not got a better to give you?" suggests Kate, rather irritated (very unjustly so) at his pertinacity.


Then I shall wait till you find one," answers George, coldly; looking as if he meant what he said.

"Then, I'm afraid you'll have to stay some time, cooling your heels," retorts Kate, impudently losing her temper, "and I think I'll wish you good evening," and she nods her head to him, and prepares to walk off and leave him.

"Stay, Kate," he exclaims, hastily detaining her; and a very unfeignedly hurt and wrathy look streams into his eyes. "Don't be nonsensical. You're not a child, that is not accountable for its actions. Woman, though you are, you must have some rag of a reason for the extraordinary alteration in your conduct.”

“I never said I had not," answers Kate, rebelling decidedly against this mode of procedure. "On the contrary, I confess that I have; but I had rather not tell what it is."


But I'd rather you would, you retorts George, impatiently; “and you must, and you shall," he adds more peremptorily than ever. Kate would not have stood being addressed in that tone for one second on any other occasion. She was not one of that numerous class of women who enjoy being snubbed and lorded over; but she let it pass now, because she was rather sorry for him, and rather compunctious on the score of her past dealings with him. So she stood silent, with folded hands, and lowered eyes, and answered not.

"What is it, Kate ?" urges George again, and he gives a little shake to the arm he still holds detainingly.

"Well, since you must know," answers Kate, with slow reluctance,

at last, bending her head down so low that her face was almost hidden, "It is just this, that the dolts and boobies with which this fortunate town is so largely peopled, have been busy spreading stupid, gossiping tales about you and me, and I will not stand it ;" though her face is hid by the brim of her hat, she blushes rosy red, and looks very bashful over this awkward explanation.

"Is that all ?" says George, much relieved at this mountain and mouse, and the clouds roll off his countenance as one sees clouds roll away from the sky, on some peevish April day." "What harm do the poor brutes do, chattering? Let them talk, if it amuses them. Why, Kate, I thought you were too spirited, plucky a sort of girl to mind what anybody said about you. Why I have heard you talk ever so big, about despising the world's opinion, and all that sort of thing, before now. But tell me, what is it they have been saying? I suppose it is nothing so dreadful, but that I may hear."

Then Kate began to think to herself what they had said, and a horrid idea struck her, that he might regard their remarks in quite a different light from what she did. She looks down still, and answers, not very readily

"Oh it's nothing very bad, I suppose; not much harm in it, of course, only they have been busy coupling your and my names together, stupid cockneys! I wonder they cannot be satisfied minding their own business."

That little ebullition relieved her feelings. George is silent for a second or two, and then he says, with lowered voice, bending down to catch a glimpse of her shy face in the dusk winter twilight

"And so that's all. Why should not they, I say again? I wish to heavens they had any good grounds for doing it. Is it so very revolting to you, Kate, to have even your name joined to mine?" and his eyes soften visibly, as he looks down at


"Yes," answered Kate, monosyllabically.

"I was afraid so," pursued George, trying hard that there should be no grain of crossness to mar the resignation of his tone; "but why must it be so, Kate?"

"Because," answered Kate resolutely, "it is unbearable to me to have my name coupled with any man's, whoever he may be. King or tinker, it's all one to me," and she closed her lips firm, and a hard look came into their curves, and quite altered them.

"Absurd!" exclaims George, unable to repress the expression of his scorn of so infantine a whim. I am sure if he had ever read Wordsworth's poem about the reason of his son's preference for Kilve he would have thought of it now, but as he had not he did not. "I never could have believed that I should have met with such overstrained old-maidish prudery in any human being, much less in you, of all people in the world. It's something in the style of the devil quoting scripture like a very learned clerk. I declare to goodness it is."

"It is not prudery," cries Kate, nettled.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

What is it then?" asks George, with a grin, "for I'm blessed if I know."

"It is pure, simple, unvarnished truth," answers Kate, eagerly, feeling herself humiliated by his ridicule; "and what's more, absurd and highly laughable as this fancy appears in your eyes, I can tell you that it is so firmly planted in my soul, that you will not succeed in rooting it up, if you try from now till midsummer."

"I should not think of trying," replies George, with a thin coat of dignity meagrely covering very real vexation. "I could not be so conceited as to flatter myself that I should succeed, but I have small doubt, that though I cannot do it, some one else will."

"I do not know what you mean," answers Kate, mendaciously, for she knew perfectly well, as well as you or I do.

"You are slow of understanding then, to-night," replies George, hitting the side of his boot with his stick, for something to do. "My meaning is pretty plain. Of course it is not to be supposed that you'll always be so hardhearted as you are now ; and when you are spoony about

some fellow or other some time hence, and engaged to him, and all that sort of thing, why you'll have to get over your aversion to having your name spoken of in the same breath as his."

"I shall never be engaged to any man under the sun, as long as I live," responded Kate, solemnly, emphasizing her statement with a little stamp on the pavement. "If I have told you that once, I have told it you a score of times."

"Oh, I dare say," interjects George, with a world of incredulity infused into that brief speech.

"Of course you do not believe me," exclaims Kate, flashing angry-eyed upon him. "You think, I do not doubt, that I'm to be had for the asking. That's the way men always think about women.'

"I wish to goodness you were," grumbles George, only half aloud, under the thick amber fringe of his lips.

"Don't wish for anything so silly. You told me not to be nonsensical, five minutes ago, and I return the compliment now. Come, don't be angry with me, my dear boy. Say goodby prettily, and go and look about for some more profitable occupation for your afternoons." She held out her hand to him, and he took it and held it in both his, for just a little minute (but a venial offence, I think), while he said—

"I'll go, Kate; but let me walk with you to the little white gate, just this once, for the last time. The gossips cannot say much against that. Come now, can they ?" and his brown eyes pleaded very earnestly, for this poor little boon. His eyes did not dominate and thrill her, like Dare's wicked blasé ones, in the least; but she was a little bit moved by them.

"Oh, I suppose you must. It is no use wrangling over a trifle," she said, yielding, half amused and half vexed; "but I warn you that I shall walk as quick as I can, to get it over, and it must never, never happen again. Mind that." So having made this pact, they walked off side by side; rather silent both of them. Dull company, any looker-on would have said. They had hardly made half a dozen remarks to each other, altogether, before they reached the parting place; the little gate, shining white in the new-risen moon.

"Well," said George, as they stood together, sheltered by the bushes, from the wind; drawing a deepbreathed sigh, "I suppose this is pretty much the last I shall ever see of you, Kate. I suppose I must never come to tea again; at least, I suppose I must never come to see you."


"You may come to see us," answers Kate, emphasizing the plural pronoun, as often as ever you like; at least, in moderation," she adds, qualifying the permission.

"Indeed," sighs George, melancholily, "I do not think I shall much care to do that. It would only be to listen to my sisters jawing; and I can do that any day at home. We shall never be the same again, as we have "been," he ends, disconsolately; "shall we, Kate?"

"We shall always be cousins and friends," says Kate, kindly (she can afford to be kind now). "Oh dear, oh dear, how cold it is. I really cannot stay out here, any longer, or I shall be frozen. Good night, good night," and she escapes, passing lightly through the gate, and letting it swing

behind her. After her comes a man's voice, calling, "Kate, Kate."


Well," she answers, standing still. "Come back, Kate," the man's voice sounds again, entreatingly. So Kate returns, shivering, and leans her arms on the top of the gate, and demands, impatiently

"What is it? Make haste." George comes up quite close to her, and treacherously clasps her in his arms, across the gate.

"Let me kiss you just this once do darling Kate. What harm is there?' he urges in a whisper; and he bends down his face to hers.

"Never," she almost screams, struggling in his embrace. "Not for worlds," and she shudders, as the remembrance of Dare's solemn charge flashes over her.

She tears herself out of her cousin's arms, flies up the drive, nor even stops to draw breath, till she is safely landed on the top of the white stone steps, and is making the house resound with a vigorous peal on the knocker. George, meanwhile, foiled, wisely takes himself off home, with a rather tail-between-the-legs sensation.



Ir is a remarkable fact in history that it was nothing but christianity that saved Rome from utter extinction. Had she not been the chosen home of this rising faith and new glory, the barbarian would scarcely have left one stone upon another: she would have been to us now what Nineveh, Babylon, Thebes, and many other cities are, a tradition grand, yet almost beyond conception. As over the great solitudes of the sites of those mighty cities, wild beasts wander and howl by night, so it would have been with Rome when her glory fell, had not another and brighter glory settled upon her ruins. In fact the remains of her ancient

social life were never completely dispersed, and when the first dawn of the new religion appeared, and the old luminaries of pagan night receded before the rays of a brighter day its votaries instinctively settled at Rome. Popes followed in the wake of Cæsars, the glory of the Flavian amphitheatre gave way before the new splendours of a Vatican; gladiators and games were supplanted by religious processions and masses; unable to destroy feudalism it created chivalry; in its convents persecuted innocence always found an asylum, and against the ambition of tyrants it opposed the power of its thunders. But it was at Rome that the vicarial head of the

Authorities-Wharton's Anglia Sacra; Acta Sanctorum; Bede, Eccl. Hist.; Saxon Chronicle; Gregory's Works; Stevens' 2 additional vols. to Dugdale's Monasticon; Cockerell's Iconography; Gulielm. Malms., de Gestis Regum Anglorum and Histor.; Glaston.

« 上一页继续 »