'Tis told me he hath very oft of late
Given private time to you: and you yourself
Have of your audience been most free and bounteous.

Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?—Hamlet.

MRS. Crawford felt that she was being unkindly dealt with by Fate in many matters. She had formed certain plans on coming aboard the steamer and on taking in at a glance the position of every one about her—it was her habit to do so on the occasion of her arrival at any new station in the Indian Empire—and hitherto she had generally had the satisfaction of witnessing the success of her plans; but now she began to fear that if things continued to diverge so widely from the paths which it was natural to expect them to have kept, her skilful devices would be completely overthrown.

Mrs. Crawford had within the first few hours of the voyage communicated to her husband her intention of surprising Colonel Gerald on the arrival of his daughter at the Cape; for he could scarcely fail to be surprised and, of course, gratified, if he were made aware of the fact that his daughter had conceived an attachment for a young man so distinguished in many ways as the son of the Bishop of the Calapash Islands and Metropolitan of the Salamander Archipelago—the style and titles of the father of Mr. Glaston.

But Daireen, instead of showing herself a docile subject and ready to act according to the least suggestion of one who was so much wiser and more experienced than herself, had begun to think and to act most waywardly. Though she had gone ashore at Madeira contrary to Mr. Glaston's advice, and had even ventured to assert, in the face of Mr. Glaston's demonstration to the contrary, that she had spent a pleasant day, yet Mrs. Crawford saw that it would be quite possible, by care and thoughtfulness in the future, to overcome all the unhappy influences her childishness would have upon the mind of Mr. Glaston.

Being well aware of this, she had for some days great hope of her protégée; but then Daireen had apparently cast to the winds all her sense of duty to those who were qualified to instruct her, for she had not only disagreed from Mr. Glaston upon a theory he had expressed regarding the symbolism of a certain design having for its chief elements sections of pomegranates and conventionalised daisies—Innocence allured by Ungovernable Passion was the parable preached through the union of some tones of sage green and saffron, Mr. Glaston assured the circle whom he had favoured with his views on this subject—but she had also laughed when Mr. Harwood made some whispered remark about the distressing diffusion of jaundice through the floral creation.

This was very sad to Mrs. Crawford. She was nearly angry with Daireen, and if she could have afforded it, she would have been angry with Mr. Harwood; she was, however, mindful of the influence of the letters she hoped the special correspondent of the Dominant Trumpeter would be writing regarding the general satisfaction that was felt throughout the colonies of South Africa that the Home Government had selected so efficient and trustworthy an officer to discharge the duties in connection with the Army Boot Commission, so she could not be anything but most friendly towards Mr. Harwood.

Then it was a great grief to Mrs. Crawford to see the man who, though undoubtedly well educated and even cultured, was still a sort of adventurer, seating himself more than once by the side of Daireen on the deck, and to notice that the girl talked with him even when Mr. Glaston was near—Mr. Glaston, who had referred to his sudden arrival aboard the ship as being melodramatic. But on the day preceding the expected arrival of the steamer at St. Helena, the well-meaning lady began to feel almost happy once more, for she recollected how fixed had been Mr. Markham's determination to leave the steamer at the island. Being almost happy, she thought she might go so far as to express to the man the grief which reflecting upon his departure excited.

“We shall miss you from our little circle, I can assure you, Mr. Markham,” she said. “Your coming was so—so”—she thought of a substitute for melodramatic—“so unexpected, and so—well, almost romantic, that indeed it has left an impression upon all of us. Try and get into a room in the hotel at James Town that the white ants haven't devoured; I really envy you the delicious water-cress you will have every day.”

“You will be spared the chance of committing that sin, Mrs. Crawford, though I fear the penance which will be imposed upon you for having even imagined it will be unjustly great. The fact is, I have been so weak as to allow myself to be persuaded by Doctor Campion and Harwood to go on to the Cape.”

“To go on to the Cape!” exclaimed the lady.

“To go on to the Cape, Mrs. Crawford; so you see you will be bored with me for another week.”

Mrs. Crawford looked utterly bewildered, as, indeed, she was. Her smile was very faint as she said:

“Ah, how nice; you have been persuaded. Ah, very pleasant it will be; but how one may be deceived in judging of another's character! I really formed the impression that you were firmness itself, Mr. Markham!”

“So I am, Mrs. Crawford, except when my inclination tends in the opposite direction to my resolution; then, I assure you, I can be led with a strand of floss.”

This was, of course, very pleasant chat, and with the clink of compliment about it, but it was anything but satisfactory to the lady to whom it was addressed. She by no means felt in the mood for listening to mere colloquialisms, even though they might be of the most brilliant nature, which Mr. Markham's certainly were not.

“Yes, I fancied that you were firmness itself,” she repeated. “But you allowed your mind to be changed by—by the doctor and Mr. Harwood.”

“Well, not wholly, to say the truth, Mrs. Crawford,” he interposed. “It is pitiful to have to confess that I am capable of being influenced by a monetary matter; but so it is: the fact is, if I were to land now at St. Helena, I should be not only penniless myself, but I should be obliged also to run in debt for these garments that my friend Phineas F. Fulton of Denver City supplied me with, not to speak of what I feel I owe to the steamer itself; so I think it is better for me to get my paper money turned into cash at the Cape, and then hurry homewards.”

“No doubt you understand your own business,” said the lady, smiling faintly as she walked away.

Mr. Oswin Markham watched her for some moments in a thoughtful way. He had known for a considerable time that the major's wife understood her business, at any rate, and that she was also quite capable of comprehending—nay, of directing as well—the business of every member of her social circle. But how was it possible, he asked himself, that she should have come to look upon his remaining for another week aboard the steamer as a matter of concern? He was a close enough observer to be able to see from her manner that she did so; but he could not understand how she should regard him as of any importance in the arrangement of her plans for the next week, whatever they might be.

But Mrs. Crawford, so soon as she found herself by the side of Daireen in the evening, resolved to satisfy herself upon the subject of the influences which had been brought to bear upon Mr. Oswin Markham, causing his character for determination to be lost for ever.

Daireen was sitting alone far astern, and had just finished directing some envelopes for letters to be sent home the next day from St. Helena.

“What a capital habit to get into of writing on that little case on your knee!” said Mrs. Crawford. “You have been on deck all day, you see, while the other correspondents are shut down in the saloon. You have had a good deal to tell the old people at that wonderful Irish lake of yours since you wrote at Madeira.”

Daireen thought of all she had written regarding Standish, to prevent his father becoming uneasy about him.

“Oh, yes, I have had a good deal of news that will interest them,” she said. “I have told them that the Atlantic is not such a terrible place after all. Why, we have not had even a breeze yet.”

“No, we have not, but you should not forget, Daireen, the tornado that at least one ship perished in.” She looked gravely at the girl, though she felt very pleased indeed to know that her protégée had not remembered this particular storm. “You have mentioned in your letters, I hope, how Mr. Markham was saved?”

“I believe I devoted an entire page to Mr. Markham,” Daireen replied with a smile.

“That is right, my dear. You have also said, I am sure, how we all hope he is—a—a gentleman.”

Hope?” said Daireen quickly. Then she added after a pause, “No, Mrs. Crawford, I don't think I said that. I only said that he would be leaving us to-morrow.”

Mrs. Crawford's nicely sensitive ear detected, she fancied, a tinge of regret in the girl's last tone.

“Ah, he told you that he had made up his mind to leave the ship at St. Helena, did he not?” she asked.

“Of course he is to leave us there, Mrs. Crawford. Did you not understand so?”

“I did indeed; but I am disappointed in Mr. Markham. I thought that he was everything that is firm. Yes, I am disappointed in him.”

“How?” said Daireen, with a little flush and an anxious movement of her eyes. “How do you mean he has disappointed you?”

“He is not going to leave us at St. Helena, Daireen; he is coming on with us to the Cape.”

With sorrow and dismay Mrs. Crawford noticed Daireen's face undergo a change from anxiety to pleasure; nor did she allow the little flush that came to the girl's forehead to escape her observation. These changes of countenance were almost terrifying to the lady. “It is the first time I have had my confidence in him shaken,” she added. “In spite of what Mr. Harwood said of him I had not the least suspicion of this Mr. Markham, but now——”

“What did! Mr. Harwood say of him?” asked Daireen, with a touch of scorn in her voice.

“You need not get angry, Daireen, my child,” replied Mrs. Crawford.

“Angry, Mrs. Crawford? How could you fancy I was angry? Only what right had this Mr. Harwood to say anything about Mr. Markham? Perhaps Mr. Glaston was saying something too. I thought that as Mr. Markham was a stranger every one here would treat him with consideration, and yet, you see——”

“Good gracious, Daireen, what can you possibly mean?” cried Mrs. Crawford. “Not a soul has ever treated Mr. Markham except in good taste from the day he came aboard this vessel. Of course young men will talk, especially young newspaper men, and more especially young Dominant. Trumpeter men. For myself, you saw how readily I admitted Mr. Markham into our set, though you will allow that, all things considered, I need not have done so at all.”

“He was a stranger,” said Daireen.

“But he is not therefore an angel unawares, my dear,” said Mrs. Crawford, smiling as she patted the girl's hand in token of amity. “So long as he meant, to be a stranger of course we were justified in making him as pleasant as possible; but now, you see, he is not going to be a stranger. But why should we talk upon so unprofitable a subject? Tell me all the rest that you have been writing about.”

Daireen made an attempt to recollect what were the topics of her letters, but she was not very successful in recalling them.

“I told them about the—the albatross, how it has followed us so faithfully,” she said; “and how the Cape pigeons came to us yesterday.”

“Ah, indeed. Very nice it will be for the dear old people at home. Ah, Daireen, how happy you are to have some place you can look back upon and think of as your home. Here am I in my old age still a vagabond upon the face of the earth. I have no home, dear.” The lady felt that this piece of pathos should touch the girl deeply.

“No, no, don't say that, my dear Mrs. Crawford,” Daireen said gently. “Say that your dear kind goodnature makes you feel at home in every part of the world.”

This was very nice Mrs. Crawford felt, as she kissed the face beside her, but she did not therefore come to the conclusion that it would be well to forget that little expression of pleasure which had flashed over this same face a few minutes before.

At this very hour upon the evening following the anchors were being weighed, and the good steamer was already backing slowly out from the place it had occupied in the midst of the little fleet of whale-ships and East Indiamen beneath the grim shadow of that black ocean rock, St. Helena. The church spire of James Town was just coming into view as the motion of the ship disclosed a larger space of the gorge where the little town is built. The flag was being hauled down from the spar at the top of Ladder Hill, and the man was standing by the sunset gun aboard H.M.S. Cobra. The last of the shore-boats was cast off from the rail, and then, the anchor being reported in sight, the steamer put on full speed ahead, the helm was made hard-a-starboard, and the vessel swept round out of the harbour.

Mr. Harwood and Major Crawford were in anxious conversation with an engineer officer who had been summoned to the Cape to assist in a certain council which was to be held regarding the attitude of a Kafir chief who was inclined to be defiant of the lawful possessors of the country. But Daireen was standing at the ship's side looking at that wonderful line of mountain-wall connecting the batteries round the island. Her thoughts were not, however, wholly of the days when there was a reason why this little island should be the most strongly fortified in the ocean. As the steamer moved gently round the dark cliffs she was not reflecting upon what must have been the feelings of the great emperor-general who had been accustomed to stand upon these cliffs and to look seaward. Her thoughts were indeed undefined in their course, and she knew this when she heard the voice of Oswin Markham beside her.

“Can you fancy what would be my thoughts at this time if I had kept to my resolution—and if I were now up there among those big rocks?” he asked.

She shook her head, but did not utter a word in answer.

“I wonder what would yours have been now if I had kept to my resolution,” he then said.

“I cannot tell you, indeed,” she answered. “I cannot fancy what I should be thinking.”

“Nor can I tell you what my thought would be,” he said after a pause. He was leaning with one arm upon the moulding of the bulwarks, and she had her eyes still fixed upon the ridges of the island. He touched her and pointed out over the water. The sun like a shield of sparkling gold had already buried half its disc beneath the horizon. They watched the remainder become gradually less and less until only a thread of gold was on the water; in another instant this had dwindled away. “I know now how I should have felt,” he said, with his eyes fixed upon the blank horizon.

The girl looked out to that blank horizon also.

Then from each fort on the cliffs there leaped a little flash of light, and the roar of the sunset guns made thunder all along the hollow shore; before the echoes had given back the sound, faint bugle-calls were borne out to the ocean as fort answered fort all along that line of mountain-wall. The girl listened until the faintest farthest thin sound dwindled away just as the last touch of sunlight had waned into blankness upon the horizon.

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