It passed—and never marble looked more pale Than Lucy, while she listened to his tale. He marked her not; his eye was cold and clear, Fixed on a bed of withering roses there; He marked her not, for different thoughts possessed His anxious mind, and laboured in his breast. ELLIS.

Notwithstanding all that had passed, and that we had been carried so far
in the wrong direction, we were not long behind the rest of our party in
reaching Calderwood, where the history of our disaster fully eclipsed
for the evening all the exciting details of the fox-hunters, though many
gentlemen in scarlet, with spattered tops and tights, whom Sir Nigel had
brought, made the drawing-room look unusually gay.

Lady Louisa remained long in her own apartment; the time seemed an age
to me; yet I was happy—supremely happy. I had a vague idea of the new
emotions that served, perhaps, to detain her there; but an air of cold
reserve and unmistakable displeasure hovered on the forehead of her
haughty mother.

When Louisa joined us, she had perfectly recovered her usual equanimity
and presence of mind—her calm, pale, and placid aspect. She was
somewhat silent and reserved; this passed for her natural terror of the
late accident, and though we remained some distance apart, her fine dark
eyes sought mine, ever and anon, and were full of intelligent glances,
that made my heart leap with joy.

Cora, who shrewdly suspected that there had been more in the affair than
what Berkeley called “a doocid spill,” regarded us with interest, and
with a tearful earnestness that surprised us, after our return, and
during the explanation which we were pleased to make. But whatever
tales my face told, Louisa’s was unfathomable, so from its expression
suspicious little Cora could gather nothing; though, had she carried her
scrutiny a little further, she might have detected my famous Rangoon
diamond sparkling on the engaged finger of her friend’s left hand.

Cora was on this night, to me, an enigma!

What had gone wrong with her? When she smiled, it seemed to several—to
me especially—that the kind little heart from whence these smiles were
wrung was sick. Why was this, and what or who was the source of her
taciturnity and secret sorrow?—not Berkeley, surely—they had come home
in the drag together—she could never love such an ass as Berkeley; and
if the fellow dared to trifle with her—but I thrust the thought aside,
and resolved to trust the affair to her friend and gossip, the Lady
Loftus.

A few more days glided swiftly and joyously past at Calderwood Glen; we
had no more riding and driving; but, as the weather was singularly open
and balmy for the season, we actually had more than one picnic in the
leafless woods, and I betook me to the study of botany and arboriculture
with the ladies.

I enjoyed all the delicious charm of a successful first love! The last
thought on going to repose; the first on waking in the morning; and the
source of many a soft and happy dream between.

The peculiarity, or partial disparity, of our positions in life caused
secrecy. Denied, by the presence of others, the pleasure of openly
conversing of our love, at times we had recourse to furtive glances, or
a secret and thrilling pressure of the hand or arm was all we could
achieve.

Then there were sighs the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances sweeter for the theft;
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left.

Small and trivial though these may seem, they proved the sum of our
existence, and even of mighty interest, lighting up the eye and causing
the pulses of the heart to quicken.

We became full of petty and lover-like stratagems, and of enigmatical
phrases, all the result of the difficulties that surrounded our
intercourse when others were present—especially Lady Chillingham, who
was by nature cold, haughty, and suspicious, with, I think, a natural
born antipathy to subalterns of cavalry in particular. Cora saw through
our little artifices, and Berkeley, that Anglo-Scotch snob of the
nineteenth century, had ever his eyes remarkably wide open to all that
was going on around him, and thus the perils of discovery and instant
separation were great, while our happy love was in the flush.

This danger gave us a common sympathy, a united object, a delicious
union of thought and impulse. Nor was romance wanting to add zest to
the secrecy of our passion. Ah, were I to live a thousand years, never
should I forget the days of happiness I spent in Calderwood Glen with
Louisa Loftus.

Our interviews had all the mystery of a conspiracy, though, save Cora,
none as yet suspected our love; and there was a part of the garden,
between two old yew hedges—so old that they had seen the Calderwoods of
past ages cooing and billing, in powdered wigs and coats of mail, with
dames in Scottish farthingales and red-heeled shoes—where, at certain
hours, by a tacit understanding, we were sure of meeting; but with all
the appearance of chance, though occasionally for a time so brief, that
we could but exchange a pressure of the hand, or snatch a caress,
perhaps a kiss, and then separate in opposite directions.

Those were blessed and joyous interviews; memories to treasure and brood
over with delight when alone. In the society of our friends, my heart
throbbed wildly, when by a glance, a smile, a stolen touch of the hand,
Louisa reminded me of what none else could perceive, the secret
understanding that existed between us.

And yet all this happiness was clouded by a sense of its brevity, and by
our fears for the future; the obstacles that rank and great fortune on
her side, the lack of both on mine, raised between us; and then there
was the certain prospect of a long and dangerous—alas! it might prove, a
final separation.

“They who love,” writes an anonymous author, “must ever drink deeply of
the cup of trembling; but, at times, there will arise in their hearts a
nameless terror, a sickening anxiety for the future, whose brightness
all depends upon this one cherished treasure, which often proves a
foreboding of some real anguish looming in the distant hours.”

“Where is all this to end?” I asked of myself, as the conviction that
something must be done forced itself upon me, for the happy days were
passing, and my short leave of absence was drawing to a close.

One day, by the absence of some of our friends, and by the occupation of
others, we found ourselves alone, and permitted to have a longer
interview than usual, in our yew-hedge walk, and we were conversing of
the future.

“I have two hundred a year besides my pay, Louisa.” (She smiled sadly
at this, and the smile went doubly to my heart.) “The money has been
lodged for my troop with Cox and Co., and my good uncle means well
concerning me; yet, I feel all these as being so small, that were I to
address the Earl of Chillingham on the subject of our engagement, it
would seem that I had little to offer, and little to urge, save that
which is, perhaps, valueless in his aristocratic eyes——”

“And that is?”

“My love for you.”

“Don’t think of addressing him,” said she, weeping on my shoulder; “he
has already views for me in another quarter.”

“Views, Louisa!”

“Yes; pardon me for paining you, dearest, by saying so; but it is
nevertheless true.”

“And these views?” I asked, impetuously.

“Are an offer made for my hand by Lord Slubber de Gullion.”

My heart died within me on hearing this name, which, as I once before
stated, comes as near the original as possible.

“Hence you see, dearest Newton,” she resumed, in a mournful and
sweetly-modulated voice, “were you to address my father, it would only
rouse mamma, and have the effect of interrupting our correspondence for
ever.”

“Good heavens! what then are we to do?’

“Wait in hope.”

“How long?”

“Alas! I know not; but for the present at least our engagement, like
our meetings and our letters, if we can correspond, must be
secret—secret all. Were the earl, my father, to know that I loved you,
Newton (how sweetly those words sounded), he and mamma would urge on
Lord Slubber’s suit, and, on finding that I refused, there would be no
bounds to mamma’s wrath. You remember Cora’s story of the ’Clenched
Hand;’ you remember the ’Bride of Lammermoor,’ and must see what a
determined mother and long domestic tyranny may do.”

I clasped my hands, for my heart was wrung; but she regarded me kindly
and lovingly.

“On your return home, as colonel of your regiment, perhaps, we shall
then, at all hazards, bring the matter before him, and treat Slubber’s
offer with contempt, as the senile folly of an old man in his dotage.
You, at least, shall propose for me in form——”

“And if Lord Chillingham refuse?”

“Though we English people can’t make Scotch marriages now, I shall be
yours, dearest Newton, as I am now, only that it shall be irrevocably
and for ever.”

A close and mute embrace followed, and then I left her in a paroxysm of
grief, while my head whirled with the combined effects of love and joy,
and of sorrow, not unmixed with anger.

“I wonder what the subjects are that lovers talk of in their
tête-à-têtes,” says my brother of the pen and sword, W. H. Maxwell, and
the same surmise frequently occurred to myself, before I met or knew
Louisa Loftus.

We never lacked a subject now. The peculiarities of our relative
positions, our caution for the present, and our natural anxieties for
the future, afforded us full topics for conversation or surmise; but the
few remaining days of my leave “between returns” glided away at
Calderwood Glen; the time for my departure drew nigh; already had
Pitblado divided a sixpence with my lady’s soubrette, and packed up all
my superfluous traps, and within six and thirty hours Berkeley and I
would have to report ourselves in uniform at head-quarters, or be
returned absent without leave.

It was in the evening, when I had gone as usual to meet Louisa at the
seat where the close-clipped yew hedges formed a pleasant screen, that,
to my surprise, and by the merest chance, I found it occupied by my
cousin Cora.

The January sunset was beautiful; the purple flush of evening covered
all the western sky, and bathed in warm tints the slopes of the Lomond
hills. The air was still, and we heard only the cawing of the venerable
rooks that perched among the woods of the old manor, or swung to and fro
on its many gilt vanes.

Cora was somewhat silent, and I, being thoroughly disappointed by
finding her there in lieu of Louisa Loftus, was somewhat taciturn, if
not almost sulky.

Somehow—but how, I know not—Cora led me to talk insensibly of our early
days, and as we did so, I could perceive that she regarded me earnestly
from time to time, after I simply remarked that ere long I should be
far, far away from her, and among other scenes. Her dovelike, dark eye
became suffused, and the tinge on her rounded cheek died away when I
laughingly referred to the days when we had been little lovers, and when
Fred Wilford and I—he was now a captain of ours—used to punch each
other’s heads in pure spite and jealousy about her; but this youthful
jealousy once took a more dangerous turn.

Among the rocks in the glen an adder of vast size took up its residence,
and had bitten several persons. It had been seen by some to leap more
than seven yards high, and was a source of such terror to the whole
parish, that my uncle, and even the provost of Dunfermline, had offered
rewards for its destruction.

On this I boldly dared my boy-rival to face it; but Fred Wilford, who
was on a visit to us from Rugby, had more prudence, or less love for
little Cora, and so declined the attempt.

Flushed with boyish pride and recklessness, I climbed the steep face of
the rock, stirred up the adder with a long stick, flung it to the
ground, and killed it by repeated blows of an axe, a feat of which my
uncle never grew tired of telling, and the reptile was now in the
library, sealed up in a glass case, being deemed a family trophy, and,
as Binns said, always kept in the best of spirits.

I sat with Cora’s white and slender hand in mine, gazing at her soft and
piquant features, her pouting lips and dimpled chin, and the dark hair
so smoothly braided under her little hat, and over each pretty and
delicate ear. Cora was very gentle and very charming; she had ever been
to me a kind little playmate, a loving sister, and she sighed deeply
when I spoke of my approaching departure.

“You go by sea?” she asked.

“If we go to Turkey—of course.”

“Embarking at Southampton?”

“Embarking at Southampton—exactly, and sailing directly for the East, I
suppose,” said I, while leisurely lighting a cigar; “I shall soon learn
all the details and probabilities at head-quarters; but the route may
not come for two months yet, as red-tape goes.”

“You will think of us sometimes, Newton, in those strange and dangerous
lands? Of your poor uncle, who loves you so well, and—and of me?”

“Of course, and of Louisa Loftus. Don’t you think her very handsome?”

“I think her lovely.”

“My cigar annoys you?”

“Not at all, Newton.”

“But it makes you turn your face away.”

“You met often, I believe, before you came here?”

“Oh, very often. I used to see her at the cathedral every Sunday in
Canterbury; at the balls at Rochester and Maidstone——”

“And in London?”

“Repeatedly! I saw her at her first presentation at Court, when the
colonel presented me, on obtaining my lieutenancy, and returning from
foreign service. She created quite a sensation!”

I spoke in such glowing terms of my admiration for Louisa Loftus, that
some time elapsed before I detected the extreme pallor of Cora’s cheek,
and a peculiar quivering of her under lip.

“Good heavens, my dear girl, you are ill! It is this confounded
cigar—one of a box that Willie got me in Dunfermline,” I exclaimed,
throwing it away. “Your hand is trembling, too.”

“Is it? Oh, no! Stay! I am only a little faint,” she murmured.

“Faint! Why the deuce should you be faint, Cora?”

“This bower of yew hedges is close; the atmosphere is still, or chill,
or something,” she said, in a low voice, while pressing a lovely little
hand on her bosom; “and it seems to me that I felt a pang here.”

“A pang, Cora?”

“Yes, I feel it sometimes.”

“You, one of the best waltzers in the county! You have no affection of
the heart, or any of that sort of thing?”

She smiled sadly, even bitterly, and rose, saying—

“Here comes Lady Louisa. Say nothing of this.”

Her dark eyes were swimming; but not a tear fell from their long, black,
silky lashes, that lent such softness to her sweet and feminine face.
She abruptly withdrew her tremulous hands from mine, and just as Louisa
approached, hurriedly left me.

What did all this emotion mean? What did it display or conceal? I was
thoroughly bewildered.

A sudden light began to break upon me.

“What is this?” thought I. “Can Cora be in love with me herself? Oh,
nonsense! she has known me from boyhood. The idea is absurd! Yet her
manner——. This will never do. I must avoid her, and to-morrow I leave
for England!”

Louisa sat beside me, and, save her, Cora and all the world were alike
forgotten.

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