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A the white waves leaping, lashing,
WILD wet night in the Channel,
while he hums the chorus of a comic opera, driving his thoughts by force of contrast to the lustrous glow of the wine-shop, the sparkling eyes and gold ear-rings of Mademoiselle Thérèse, who presides over Love and Bacchus therein. Such a night as gives the travel"lers in the mail-packet some notion of those ups and downs in life which landsmen may bless themselves to ignore, as hints to the Queen's Messenger, seasoned though he be, that ten minutes more of that heaving, pitching, tremulous motion would lay him alongside those poor sick neophytes whom he pities and condemns; reminding him how even he has cause to be thankful when he reflects that, save for an occasional Levanter, the Mediterranean is a mill-pond compared to La Manche. Such a night as makes the hardy fisherman running for the Havre or St. Valérie growl his 'Babord' and 'Tribord' in harsher tones than usual to his mate, because he cannot keep his thoughts off Marie and the little ones ashore; his dark-eyed Marie, praying her heart out to the Virgin on her knees, feeling, as the fierce wind howls and blusters round their hut, that not on her weddingmorning, not on that summer eve when he won her down by the sea, did she love her Pierre so dearly, as now in this dark boisterous weather, that causes her very flesh to creep while she listens to its roar. body who could help it would be abroad on Calais sands. Pas même un Anglais!' mutters the sentry, ordering his firelock with a ring, and wishing it was time for the Relief. But an Englishman is out nevertheless, wardering aimlessly to and fro on the beach; turning his face to windward against the driving rain; trying to think the wet on his cheek is all from without; vainly hoping to stifle grief, remorse, anxiety, by exposure, and active bodily exercise.
'How could I stay in that cursed room?' he mutters, striding wildly among the sandhills. 'The very tick of the clock was enough to drive one mad in those long fearful pauses-solemn and silent as death! Can't the fools do anything for her?
What is the use of nurses and doctors, and all the humbug of medicine and science? My darling! my darling! It was too cruel to hear you wailing and crying, and to know I could do you no good! What a coward I am! to have fled into the wilderness like a murderer! I couldn't have stayed there, I feel I couldn't! I wish I hadn't listened at the door! Only yesterday you seemed so well and in such good spirits, with your dark eyes looking so patiently and fondly into mine! And now, if she should die!-if she should die!'
Then he stands stock-still, turning instinctively from the wind like one of the brutes, while the past comes back in a waking dream so akin to reality, that even in his preoccupation he seems to live the last year of his life over again. Once more he is at the old place in Cheshire, whither he has gone like any other young dandy, an agreeable addition to a country shootingparty because of his chestnut locks, his blue eyes, his handsome person, and general recklessness of character: agreeable, he reflects, to elderly roués and established married women, but a scarecrow to mothers, and a stumblingblock to daughters, as being utterly penniless and rather good-for-nothing. Once more he
comes down late for dinner, to find a vacant place by that beautiful girl, with her delicate features, her wealth of raven hair, above all, with the soft, sad, dreamy eyes, that look so loving, so trustful, and so good. In such characters as theirs these things are soon accomplished. A walk or two, a waltz, a skein of silk to wind, a drive in a pony carriage, an afternoon church, and behold them in the memorable summerhouse, where he won her heartcompletely and unreservedly, while flinging down his own! Then came all the sweet excitement, all the fascinating mystery of mutual understanding, of stolen glances, of hidden meanings in the common phrases and daily courtesies of social life. It was so delightful for each to feel that other existence bound up in its own, to look down from their enchanted mountain,
with pity not devoid of contempt on the commonplace dwellers on the plain, undeterred by proofs more numerous perhaps on the hills of Paphos than in any other airy region, that
'Great clymbers fall unsoft ;'
to know that come sorrow, suffering, disgrace, or misfortune, there was refuge and safety for the poor broken winged bird, though its plumage were torn by the fowler's cruelty or even soiled in the storm of shame. Alas! that the latter should arrive too soon!
Perhaps of this young couple, the girl, in her perfect faith and entire self-sacrifice, may have been less aghast than her lover at the imminence of discovery, reprobation, and scorn. When no other course was left open, she eloped willingly enough with the man she had trusted-shutting her eyes to consequences, in that recklessness of devotion which, lead though it may to much unhappiness in life, constitutes not the least lovable trait of the female character, so ready to burst into extremes of right and wrong.
Besides, who cares for consequences at nineteen, with the sun glinting on the waves of the Channel, the sea-air freshening cheek and brow, the coast of Picardy rising bright and glistening, in smiles of welcome, and the dear fond face looking down so proudly and wistfully on its treasure? Consequences indeed! They have been left with the heavy baggage at London Bridge, to reach their proper owner possibly hereafter in Paris; but meantime, with this fresh breeze blowing-on the blue sea-under the blue sky-they do not exist-thero are no such things!
These young people were very foolish, very wicked, but they loved each other very dearly. Mr. Bruce was none of those heartless, unscrupulous Lovelaces, oftener met with in fiction than in real life, who can forget they are men as well as gentlemen; and when he crossed tho Channel with Miss Algernon, it was from sheer want of forethought, from mismanagement, no doubt, but still
more from misfortune, that she was Miss Algernon still.
To marry, was to be disinherited, that he knew well enough; but neither he nor his Nina, as he called her, would have paused for this consideration. There were other difficulties, trivial in appearance, harassing, vexatious, insurmountable in reality, that yet seemed from day to day about to vanish; so they waited, and temporized, and hesitated, till the opportunity came of escaping together, and they availed themselves of it without delay.
Now they had reached French ground and were free, but it was too late! That was why Mr. Bruce roamed so wildly to-night over the Calais sands, tortured by a cruel fear that he might lose the treasuro of his heart for ever, exaggerating, in that supreme moment of anxiety, her sufferings, her danger, perhaps even her priceless value to himself.
To do him justice he did not think for an instant of the many galling annoyances to which both must be subjected hereafter in the event of her coming safely through her trial. He found no time to reflect on a censorious world, an outraged circle of friends, an infuriate family; on the cold shoulder Mrs. Grundy would turn upon his darling, and the fair mark he would himself bo bound to offer that grim old father who had served under Wellington, or that soft-spoken dandy brother in the Guards, unerring at rocketers,' and deadly for all ground game, neither of whom would probably shoot the wider, under the circumstances that he, the offender, felt in honour he must stand at least one discharge without retaliation, an arrangement which makes twelve paces uncomfortably close quarters for the passive and immovable target. He scarcely dwelt a moment on the bitter scorn with which his own great-uncle, whose natural heir he was, would calmly and deliberately curse this piece of childish folly, while he disinherited its perpetrator without scruple or remorse. He never even considered the disadvantage under which a life that ought to be very dear to him was now opening on the world: a life
that might be blighted through its whole course by his own folly, punished, a score of years hence, for unwittingly arriving a few weeks too soon. No! He could think of nothing but Nina's anguish and Nina's danger; could only wander helplessly backwards and forwards, stupefied by the continuous gusts of that boisterous sea-wind, stunned by the dull wash of the incoming tide, feeling for minutes at a time, a numbed, apathetic impotency; till, roused and stung by a rush of recurring apprehensions, he hastened back to his hotel, white, agitated, dripping wet, moving with wavering gestures and swift irregular strides, like a man in a trance.
At the foot of the staircase he ran into the arms of a dapper French doctor, young, yet experienced, a man of science, a man of pleasure, an anatomist, a dancer, a philosopher, and a dandy-who put both hands on his shoulders, and looked in his face with so comical an expression of congratulation, sympathy, pity, and amusement, that Mr. Bruce's fears vanished on the instant, and he found voice to ask in husky accents 'If it was over?'
'Over!' repeated the doctor. 'Pardon, my good sir. For our interesting young friend it is only just begun. A young lady, monsieur, a veritable little aristocrat, with a delicate nose, and, my faith, sound and powerful lungs! I make you my compliment, monsieur. I am happy to be the first to advertise you of good news. It is late. Let madame be kept tranquil. You will permit me to wish you good-night. I will return again in the morning.'
'And she is safe?' exclaimed Bruce, crushing the doctor's hand in a grasp like a vice.
'Safe!' answered the little man. 'Parbleu-yes-for the present, safe as the mole in the harbour, and likely to remain so if you will only keep out of the room. Come, you shall see her for one quite little moment. She desires it so much. And when I scratch at the door thus, you will come out. Agreed? Enter then. You shall embrace your child.'
So the good-natured man turned
into the hotel again, to conduct Mr. Bruce back to the door from which he had fled in anguish an hour or two ago, and was thus five minutes too late for another professional engagement, which could not be postponed but went on indeed very well without him, the expectant lady being a person of experience, the wife of a Calais fisherman, and now employed for the thirteenth time in her yearly occupation. But this has nothing to do with Mr. Bruce.
That gentleman stole on tiptoe through the darkened room, catching a glimpse as he passed the tawdry mirror on the chimney-piece, of a very pale and anxious face strangely unlike his own, while from behind the half-drawa bedcurtains he heard a quiet placid breathing, and a weak faint voice with its tender whisper, Charlie, are you there? My darling, I begged so hard to see you for one minute, and-Charlie, dear, to-to show you this,'
This was a morsel of something swathed up in wrappings, round which the young mother's arm was folded with proud, protecting love; but I think he had been too anxious about the woman to feel a proper elation in his new position as father to the child. The tears came thick to his eyes once more, while he caught the pale fragile hand that lay so weary and listless on the counterpane, to press it against his lips, his cheeks, his forehead, murmuring broken words of endearment and gratitude and joy.
She would have kept him there all night she would have talked to him for an hour, feeble as she was, of that little being, in so short a time promoted to its sovereignty of Baby (with a capital B), in which she had already discovered instincts, qualities, high reasoning powers, noble moral characteristics: but the doctor's tap was heard, 'scratching' as he called it, at the door, and Bruce, too happy not to be docile, had the good sense to obey his summons without delay.
'Let them sleep, monsieur,' said the Frenchman, struggling into his great-coat, and hurrying down