Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits... remembrance.

... Thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out.

More matter with less art.—Hamlet.

THE thin white silk thread of a moon was hanging in the blue twilight over the darkened western slope of the island, and almost within the horns of its crescent a planet was burning without the least tremulous motion. The lights of the town were glimmering over the waters, and the strange, wildly musical cries of the bullock-drivers were borne faintly out to the steamer, mingling with the sound of the bell of St. Mary's on the Mount.

The vessel had just begun to move away from its anchorage, and Daireen Gerald was standing on the deck far astern leaning over the bulwarks looking back upon the island slope whose bright green had changed to twilight purple. Not of the enjoyment of the day she had spent up among the vines was the girl thinking; her memory fled back to the past days spent beneath the shadow of a slope that was always purple, with a robe of heather clinging to it from base to summit.

“I hope you don't regret having taken my advice about going on shore, Miss Gerald,” said Mr. Harwood, who had come beside her.

“Oh, no,” she said; “it was all so lovely—so unlike what I ever saw or imagined.”

“It has always seemed lovely to me,” he said, “but to-day it was very lovely. I had got some pleasant recollections of the island before, but now the memories I shall retain will be the happiest of my life.”

“Was to-day really so much pleasanter?” asked the girl quickly. “Then I am indeed fortunate in my first visit. But you were not at any part of the island that you had not seen before,” she added, after a moment's pause.

“No,” he said quietly. “But I saw all to-day under a new aspect.”

“You had not visited it in September? Ah, I recollect now having heard that this was the best month for Madeira. You see I am fortunate.”

“Yes, you are—fortunate,” he said slowly. “You are fortunate; you are a child; I am—a man.”

Daireen was quite puzzled by his tone; it was one of sadness, and she knew that he was not accustomed to be sad. He had not been so at any time through the day when they were up among the vineyards looking down upon the tiny ships in the harbour beneath them, or wandering through the gardens surrounding the villa at which they had lunched after being presented by their guide—no, he had certainly not displayed any sign of sadness then. But here he was now beside her watching the lights of the shore twinkling into dimness, and speaking in this way that puzzled her.

“I don't know why, if you say you will have only pleasant recollections of to-day, you should speak in a tone like that,” she said.

“No, no, you would not understand it,” he replied. If she had kept silence after he had spoken his previous sentence, he would have been tempted to say to her what he had on his heart, but her question made him hold back his words, for it proved to him what he told her—she would not understand him.

It is probable, however, that Mrs. Crawford, who by the merest accident, of course, chanced to come from the cabin at this moment, would have understood even the most enigmatical utterance that might pass from his lips on the subject of his future memories of the day they had spent on the island; she felt quite equal to the solution of any question of psychological analysis that might arise. But she contented herself now by calling Daireen's attention to the flashing of the phosphorescent water at the base of the cliffs round which the vessel was moving, and the observance of this phenomenon drew the girl's thoughts away from the possibility of discovering the meaning of the man's words. The major and his old comrade Doctor Campion then came near and expressed the greatest anxiety to learn how their friends had passed the day. Both major and doctor were in the happiest of moods. They had visited the hotel they agreed in stating, and no one on the deck undertook to prove anything to the contrary—no one, in fact, seemed to doubt in the least the truth of what they said.

In a short time Mrs. Crawford and Daireen were left alone; not for long, however, for Mr. Glaston strolled languidly up.

“I cannot say I hope you enjoyed yourself,” he said. “I know very well you did not. I hope you could not.”

Daireen laughed. “Your hopes are misplaced, I fear, Mr. Glaston,” she answered. “We had a very happy day—had we not, Mrs. Crawford?”

“I am afraid we had, dear.”

“Why, Mr. Harwood said distinctly to me just now,” continued Daireen, “that it was the pleasantest day he had ever passed upon the island.”

“Ah, he said so? well, you see, he is a newspaper man, and they all look at things from a popular standpoint; whatever is popular is right, is their motto; while ours is, whatever is popular is wrong.”

He felt himself speaking as the representative of a class, no doubt, when he made use of the plural.

“Yes; Mr. Harwood seemed even more pleased than we were,” continued the girl. “He told me that the recollection of our exploration to-day would be the—the—yes, the happiest of his life. He did indeed,” she added almost triumphantly.

“Did he?” said Mr. Glaston slowly.

“My dear child,” cried Mrs. Crawford, quickly interposing, “he has got that way of talking. He has, no doubt, said those very words to every person he took ashore on his previous visits. He has, I know, said them every evening for a fortnight in the Mediterranean.”

“Then you don't think he means anything beyond a stupid compliment to us? What a wretched thing it is to be a girl, after all. Never mind, I enjoyed myself beyond any doubt.”

“It is impossible—quite impossible, child,” said the young man. “Enjoyment with a refined organisation such as yours can never be anything that is not reflective—it is something that cannot be shared with a number of persons. It is quite impossible that you could have any feeling in common with such a mind as this Mr. Harwood's or with the other people who went ashore. I heard nothing but expressions of enjoyment, and I felt really sad to think that there was not a refined soul among them all. They enjoyed themselves, therefore you did not.”

“I think I can understand you,” said Mrs. Crawford at once, for she feared that Daireen might attempt to question the point he insisted on. Of course when the superior intellect of Mr. Glaston demonstrated that they could not have enjoyed themselves, it was evident that it was their own sensations which were deceiving them. Mrs. Crawford trusted to the decision of the young man's intellect more implicitly than she did her own senses: just as Christopher Sly, old Sly's son of Burton Heath, came to believe the practical jesters.

“Should you enjoy the society and scenery of a desert island better than an inhabited one?” asked the girl, somewhat rebellious at the concessions of Mrs. Crawford.

“Undoubtedly, if everything was in good taste,” he answered quietly.

“That is, if everything was in accordance with your own taste,” came the voice of Mr. Harwood, who, unseen, had rejoined the party.

Mr. Glaston made no reply. He had previously become aware of the unsatisfactory results of making any answers to such men as wrote for newspapers. As he had always considered such men outside the world of art in which he lived and to the inhabitants of which he addressed himself, it was hardly to be expected that he would put himself on a level of argument with them. In fact, Mr. Glaston rarely consented to hold an argument with any one. If people maintained opinions different from his own, it was so much the worse for those people—that was all he felt. It was to a certain circle of young women in good society that he preferred addressing himself, for he knew that to each individual in that circle he appeared as the prophet and high priest of art. His tone-poems in the college magazine, his impromptus—musical aquarellen he called them—performed in secret and out of hearing of any earthly audience, his colour-harmonies, his statuesque idealisms—all these were his priestly ministrations; while the interpretation, not of his own works—this he never attempted—but of the works of three poets belonging to what he called his school, of one painter, and of one musical composer, was his prophetical service.

It was obviously impossible that such a man could put himself on that mental level which would be implied by his action should he consent to make any answer to a person like Mr. Harwood. But apart from these general grounds, Mr. Glaston had got concrete reasons for declining to discuss any subject with this newspaper man. He knew that it was Mr. Harwood who had called the tone-poems of the college magazine alliterative conundrums for young ladies; that it was Mr. Harwood who had termed one of the colour-harmonies a study in virulent jaundice; that it was Mr. Harwood who had, after smiling on being told of the aquarellen impromptus, expressed a desire to hear one of these compositions—all this Mr. Glaston knew well, and so when Mr. Harwood made that remark about taste Mr. Glaston did not reply.

Daireen, however, did not feel the silence oppressive. She kept her eyes fixed upon that thin thread of moon that was now almost touching the dark ridge of the island.

Harwood looked at her for a few moments, and then he too leaned over the side of the ship and gazed at that lovely moon and its burning star.

“How curious,” he said gently—“how very curious, is it not, that the sight of that hill and that moon should bring back to me memories of Lough Suangorm and Slieve Docas?”

The girl gave a start. “You are thinking of them too? I am so glad. It makes me so happy to know that I am not the only one here who knows all about Suangorm.” Suddenly another thought seemed to come to her. She turned her eyes away from the island and glanced down the deck anxiously.

“No,” said Mr. Harwood very gently indeed; “you are not alone in your memories of the loveliest spot of the world.”

Mrs. Crawford thought it well to interpose. “My dear Daireen, you must be careful not to take a chill now after all the unusual exercise you have had during the day. Don't you think you had better go below?”

“Yes, I had much better,” said the girl quickly and in a startled tone; and she had actually gone to the door of the companion before she recollected that she had not said good-night either to Glaston or Harwood. She turned back and redeemed her negligence, and then went down with her good guardian.

“Poor child,” thought Mr. Glaston, “she fears that I am hurt by her disregard of my advice about going ashore with those people. Poor child! perhaps I was hard upon her!”

“Poor little thing,” thought Mr. Harwood. “She begins to understand.”

“It would never do to let that sort or thing go on,” thought Mrs. Crawford, as she saw that Daireen got a cup of tea before retiring. Mrs. Crawford fully appreciated Mr. Harwood's cleverness in reading the girl's thought and so quickly adapting his speech to the requirements of the moment; but she felt her own superiority of cleverness.

Each of the three was a careful and experienced observer, but there are certain conditional influences to be taken into account in arriving at a correct conclusion as to the motives of speech or action of every human subject under observation; and the reason that these careful analysts of motives were so utterly astray in tracing to its source the remissness of Miss Gerald, was probably because none of the three was aware of the existence of an important factor necessary for the solution of the interesting problem they had worked out so airily; this factor being the sudden appearance of Standish Macnamara beside the girl in the morning, and her consequent reflections upon the circumstance in the evening.

But as she sat alone in her cabin, seeing through the port the effect of the silver moonlight upon the ridge of the hill behind which the moon itself had now sunk, she was wondering, as she had often wondered during the day, if indeed it was Standish whom she had seen and whose voice she had heard. All had been so sudden—so impossible, she thought, that the sight of him and the hearing of his voice seemed to her but as the memories of a dream of her home.

But now that she was alone and capable of reflecting upon the matter, she felt that she had not been deceived. By some means the young man to whom she had written her last letter in Ireland was aboard the steamer. It was very wonderful to the girl to reflect upon this; but then she thought if he was aboard, why should she not be able to find him and ask him all about himself?

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook