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at me. But still I gazed at it in spite of myself. I was wounded in a little war that broke out on the frontier, and was sent for six weeks to the sanatorium on the hills. There it was that I formed a resolution to live and die a soldier in India. My wound healed quickly, and I was ordered to return to the regiment; and the morning after I reported myself the colonel told me that he had recommended me for a commission as sub-lieutenant, and that I should probably be appointed to a Hussar regiment at home. In a week from that day I was upon the Indian Ocean; and I found that there were hopes within me which I thought had long been buried.
Four years, almost to a day, have passed by, and I am once more at Varnestone. I joined my new regiment at Brighton in January; and three days ago I marched through Varnestone with two troops, which have been sent on detachment to the camp outside the town. Little did I think when I stood at the gate, in all the agony of disappointment after reading the telegram, that I should be in command of a troop of Hussars the next time I passed it; for Powys, whose subaltern. I am, was taken ill just as we were leaving Brighton, and had to give over C troop to me. At the corner, where Aline had taken the flower from Jack, a pony-carriage was waiting until we had passed; and I caught sight of a lady in it bowing to me, and then turning round to speak to a staid-looking clergyman by her side. It was the Mocking Bird, transformed into a country parson's wife! A little further on I saw a boy who seemed to be a four-years-older Jack; but he did not recognise I wondered whether Aline
was in Varnestone; I longed and yet dreaded to see her again. But I was not left many hours in doubt. The three officers who came with the detachment were made honorary members of the Artillery mess; and we found that the gunners were giving a dance on the night of our arrival.
I was escorting the ancient and ugly wife of a colonel on the staff to the supper-room, when I saw Aline and the Mocking Bird coming down the corridor.
That colonel's wife disappeared somehow; I suppose I left her abruptly; but the sight of Aline's sweet face made me forget all about my duties to her.
'I don't suppose you will remember me,' said the Mocking Bird; but you see I remember you, though it is hard to recognise any one under that mass of gold. What a handsome uniform yours is! We heard that you were coming here. You remember him, don't you, Aline?'
I shook hands with them and muttered something that was neither sense nor grammar, and then she went on,
'I will answer all the questions which I know you are dying to ask. I have been married two years, and I have become quiet and nice. Aline is not married, which I am surprised at, because she is as charming as ever, aren't you, dear? She and Jack are staying with me now, and we are great friends. And I daresay that you and she would like to talk over old times together; so I will go and try to make your peace with that old lady whom you so naturally deserted when you saw Aline-I mean when you saw me
for she is the wife of the officer who is going to inspect your detachment to-morrow.'
She went away with a mischievous glance at me; and after the
long absence I was again by Aline's side, and her dear hand was on my arm. We went out into the garden in front of the officers' quarters, and sat down on a bench that fitted into a little alcove in the wall. I do not remember what we talked about at first; I believe we tried for a little while the usual ballroom conversation; but that broke down soon, and for some minutes neither of us said a word. Then I found that I could not suffer another day to be added to the four long years that had passed away; and with the impatience of deferred hope the few hours or days that might elapse before I saw Aline again seemed too long a time to wait. I could not let another interval of formal friendship stand between me and my hopes and fears; and nothing could come that would be much harder to bear than the dreary solitude of the past had been.
Aline, a few months ago I thought that I should never again see you; and I used to think of you as a child does of a star, as a beautiful thing far out of my reach. And when by good fortune I was raised from a position into which my own idleness had degraded me, I valued it most of all because it gave me a chance of seeing you. Since I have been in England I have been longing more and more every day for the time to come when I could hear your dear voice again. I have made a great many resolutions not to say
She paused, and after a little while said,
'Why did you go away like that? We were all so sorry for you. I did not hear for some months afterwards what you had done.'
'I could not stay after I had lost what I thought was the only chance I had of winning you. Aline, is there no hope for me?'
'I thought that you would have forgotten all about me by this time.' I saw the kind tears glisten in her eyes, and she said, in a voice of divine sweetness, 'If you still like me when you have seen more of me I will be what you wish; and I will try to make up for all you have suffered.'
Then the music began, and she went on, in a lighter tone,
'I am engaged for this dance, and there is my partner looking for me. Would you like this rose, or shall I give it to him?'
She took the flower from her bouquet, and, after hesitating a moment, touched it gently with her lips and gave it to me.
W. F. T.
THE VIOLIN-PLAYER. BY BERTHA THOMAS, AUTHOR OF 'PROUD MAISIE.'
Ir was early morning when Laurence left Rome. No escaped prisoner could more carefully have shunned observation. But the travellers of the day were all too busy with themselves and their luggage to recognise, under its veil, the face they had studied admiringly in more than one Roman drawing-room. It It was hardly the same face either-the eyes sunk with sleeplessness; the lips pale, but determined; not today the inspiring vision committed to marble by Val Romer, but a daughter of man, passing through one of those silent crises that decide a woman's life.
For her the thirty-six hours that followed were like a dull strange dream; she was conscious of the incidents, but too faintly to remember anything afterwards, of that weary day of travelling, that brief stay at Florence, where common sense warned her to break the journey for rest. If, as she surmised, she was badly wanted at Milan, it was imperative she should arrive there fit for action.
A dream, from which she awoke, recruited by sleep, when she resumed her journey the next evening.
So far she had preserved her incognito. But on the station platform at Florence she was not to escape. A lady-passenger in the express from Rome, who, with the other travellers, had alighted
VOL. XXXVIII. NO. CCXXIII.
to dine, was about to reënter her carriage, when her eye was attracted by the tell-tale conjunction of a violin-case and a lady. Instantly recognising the latter, she gave a little cry of delight, and came fluttering up.
'Laurence, Laurence Therval, I declare!
'Linda-no other,' returned the cantatrice, with a stage nod and pleased smile. The pleasure was genuine, but there was now always a theatrical touch about her most spontaneous proceedings. see your luggage labelled Milan, like mine. Come, I have a reserved compartment for myselfand my maid. It will be delightful to travel together. What a lucky chance!'
Five minutes more, and the engine sounded, and the train sped away across the open country in the pitchy darkness of a moonless night. Linda Visconti and Laurence Therval, vis-à-vis in the dim flickering light of the railway-carriage lamp, were peering at each other with a certain natural curiosity, verging, in Linda's case, on effrontery. Ten years since they two crossed the Alps together-a pair of young and inexperienced pilgrims. And from that parting night at Bleiburg to this, tossed to and fro though they both had been, once only had they met face to face-for a brief instant at the Fenice at Venice.
Virginie, after staring inquisitively for a while at her mistress's
unknown friend, whom she found some difficulty in classifying, gave her up as inscrutable, and dozed off in the farthest corner of the compartment. Linda had pulled out a pocket looking glass, and was arranging her coiffure and lace wrapper, talking volubly all the time.
'You have been playing at Florence, I suppose? No? So much the better. It is a horrible place -the most unmusical town in Italy. You won't believe it, but I was hissed there! A paid clique, got up against me. Jealousy was at the bottom of the affair. Ah,' and she sighed, 'in our profession we make enemies, bitter enemies. What are you going to do with yourself at Milan ?
'First, to see Señor Araciel, and consult with him,' Laurence replied, about many things. I have just received an offer for a concert-tour through Italy and Germany, from a Herr Cus
'Cuscus interrupted Linda. Why, he is the impresario par excellence, and I am in treaty with him myself at this moment for, I suppose, the same concerts. course you will go?
'I cannot tell. My friends want me to be idle for a while longer; but I think I shall have to take the law into my own hands.'
Linda heard without heeding. With the ingenuous egotism to which artists of her class are prone, she had little mind to spare for, and could never concentrate her attention for two minutes on, any subject but herself.
I am from Naples,' she resumed, where I have just been singing with most brilliant success. I am an old favourite in those parts. I made my début in Italy there, six years ago, at the San Carlo; and the Crown Prince,
who was present, sent for me into his box to congratulate me.'
It was not at the San Carlo, however, that she had been singing now. But so long as she could get hands to clap and hearts to court her, she could flatter herself her voice and charms were intact, and did not inquire too closely whose hearts and whose hands she won. That the connoisseurs who had encouraged her as a promising candidate now shook their heads over her as a signal disappointment, was a fact patent to all but herself.
Virginie was snoring now. The night was long, and, as the small hours drew near, Linda inclined to become confidential.
'So you are Laurence Therval still not married? she began presently, regarding her friend opposite smilingly, as if inviting to friendly outpourings of spirit. 'Ah, you are wise, if you care about getting on in the musical profession. La Zagarola tried it, and it failed. I warned her; but the girl was obstinate. Only a twelvemonth ago; and she has had to separate from her husband already! He spent in a week all she earned in a year.'
And yourself, Linda ? she asked evasively.
Linda shrugged her shoulders. 'Poor Count Janowski! you've heard of him, I daresay, and how ridiculous he has made himself by his infatuation. A cantatrice's love-affairs, alas, are the talk of the world. The man tells me I have driven him to despair; yet there is no persuading him I shall never consent to marry him.' (In plain words, Linda would never let the poor Count drop. He was long-suffering, and she was keeping him in reserve.) He followed me to Cairo,' she continued, 'to pester me again; but it is always
the same. Whenever it comes to marriage, I cannot make up my mind to the sacrifice.'
The Count apart, she had only two chances. Cuscus, the enterprising impresario, immediately after her début, had offered her his hand, which she had immediately accepted. A musical speculation on both sides; but, luckily for both parties perhaps, before the contract could be drawn up, they had quarrelled so violently that all had to be broken off. They were now the best friends in the world, having come to a perfectly good understanding founded on a mutual dislike. Her second suitor was the opera tenor Tebaldo, who, from playing primo amoroso extremely well, had proceeded to let go the distinction between real and enacted emotion, and discovered one day that he was seriously enamoured of her. advances, encouraged at first, had been very suddenly disregarded, for no fault of his own, that Signor Tebaldo could discover. But as soon as he knew he had been supplanted, and how and by whom, wounded vanity had effectually and summarily cured him of all tender feeling in that quarter.
'Artists would do well never to marry,' Linda affirmed philosophi cally. They must be free. If they do bind themselves, they generally rue it somehow.'
'Araciel and his wife are as happy as any two people you ever saw,' objected Laurence, musing.
"Are they?' said Linda incredulously.
I ought to know,' returned Laurence promptly, provoked by her tone.
Bah she laughed. 'Laurence, you're not altered a bit. You might live to be a hundred, you'd never know the world.' Laurence made no reply. It might
be true; but was there not a world beside, of which Linda, on her part, had no intelligence? 'It is strange about myself,' resumed Linda, reverting to her pet subject, first opportunity, as surely as a stretched bit of india-rubber to its original form. For Janowski is a good parti, and I should not be obliged to sing any more. Ah, if I married him, how I should désespérer somebody else who loved me very well!
'Some one else to whom you were indifferent?'
Linda flared up.
'Indifferent, I? Do you know what you're saying?' she exclaimed unguardedly.
What should have parted you, then?' said Laurence, in a low voice, but with vehemence. you had loved, really, would you not have let your freedom go? Loss or gain, it would have been too strong for you.'
Linda hesitated, coloured slightly, and played with her rings.
'Ah, that was not the question exactly, my child,' she said. 'And I must tell you so much— that he was not of our sphere, of our class.'
Laurence was silenced. Had there, then, been a likeness in their destinies? Linda continued, as it were frankly, meditating aloud:
'It began-I don't know how, or why. I never thought. How could I tell at first I should ever care so much as this? I never had anything like it in my life before. Cuscus praised my singing and acting to the skies; and I liked it, and thought if I married him I should make my fortune on the stage. Tebaldo would have gone to the other end of the world to serve me; and I liked him for that. But I would let go all my advantage for the man I -'She broke off short in her confidences with a smile of mystery,