Being remiss,

Most generous and free from all contriving.

A heart unfortified,

An understanding simple and unschooled.

A violet in the youth of primy nature.

O'tis most sweet

When in one line two crafts directly meet.

Soft,—let me see:—

We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings.—Hamlet.

THE band of the gallant Bayonetteers was making the calm air of Government House gardens melodious with the strains of an entrancing German valse not more than a year old, which had convulsed society at Cape Town when introduced a few weeks previously; for society at Cape Town, like society everywhere else, professes to understand everything artistic, even to the delicacies of German dance music. The evening was soft and sunny, while the effect of a very warm day drawing near its close was to be seen everywhere around. The broad leaves of the feathery plants were hanging dry and languid across the walks, and the grass was becoming tawny as that on the Lion's Head—that strangely curved hill beside Table Mountain. The giant aloes and plantains were, however, defiant of the heat and spread their leaves out mightily as ever.

The gardens are always charming in the southern spring, but never so charming as when their avenues are crowded with coolly dressed girls of moderate degrees of prettiness whose voices are dancing to the melody of a German valse not more than a year old. How charming it is to discuss all the absorbing colonial questions—such as how the beautiful Van der Veldt is looking this evening; and if Miss Van Schmidt, whose papa belongs to the Legislative Council and is consequently a voice in the British Empire, has really carried out his threat of writing home to the War Office to demand the dismissal of that young Mr. Westbury from the corps of Royal Engineers on account of his conduct towards Miss Van Schmidt; or perhaps a question of art, such as how the general's daughters contrive to have Paris bonnets several days previous to the arrival of the mail with the patterns; or a question of diplomacy, such as whether His Excellency's private secretary will see his way to making that proposal to the second eldest daughter of one of the Supreme Court judges. There is no colony in the world so devoted to discussions of this nature as the Cape, and in no part of the colony may a discussion be carried out with more spirit than in the gardens around Government House.

But upon the afternoon of this garden party there was an unusual display of colonial beauty and colonial young men—the two are never found in conjunction—and English delicacy and Dutch gaucherie, for the spring had been unusually damp, and this was the first garden party day that was declared perfect. There were, of course, numbers of officers, the military with their wives—such as had wives, and the naval with other people's wives, each branch of the service grumbling at the other's luck in this respect. And then there were sundry civil servants of exalted rank—commissioners of newly founded districts, their wives and daughters, and a brace of good colonial bishops also, with their partners in their mission labours, none of whom objected to Waldteufel or Gung'l.

On the large lawn in front of the balcony at the Residence there was a good deal of tennis being played, and upon the tables laid out on the balcony there were a good many transactions in the way of brandy and soda carried on by special commissioners and field officers, whose prerogative it was to discuss the attitude of the belligerent Kafir chief who, it was supposed, intended to give as much trouble as he could without inconvenience to himself. And then from shady places all around the avenues came the sounds of girlish laughter and the glimmer of muslin. Behind this scene the great flat-faced, flat-roofed mountain stood dark and bold, and through it all the band of the Bayonetteers brayed out that inspiriting valse.

Major Crawford was, in consequence of the importance of his mission to the colony, pointed out to the semi-Dutch legislators, each of whom had much to tell him on the burning boot question; and Mr. Harwood was naturally enough, regarded with interest, for the sounds of the 'Dominant Trumpeter' go forth into all the ends of the earth. Mr. Glaston, too, as son of the Metropolitan of the Salamander Archipelago, was entitled to every token of respectful admiration, even if he had not in the fulness of his heart allowed a few of his pictures to be hung in one of the reception rooms. But perhaps Daireen Gerald had more eyes fixed upon her than anyone in the gardens.

Everyone knew that she was the daughter of Colonel Gerald who had just been gazetted Governor-General of the new colony of the Castaway Islands, but why she had come out to the Cape no one seemed to know exactly. Many romances were related to account for her appearance, the Cape Town people possessing almost unlimited resources in the way of romance making; but as no pains were taken to bring about a coincidence of stories, it was impossible to say who was in the right.

She was dressed so perfectly according to Mr. Glaston's theories of harmony that he could not refrain from congratulating her—or rather commending her—upon her good taste, though it struck Daireen that there was not much good taste in his commendation. He remained by her side for some time lamenting the degradation of the colony in being shut out from Art—the only world worth living in, as he said; then Daireen found herself with some other people to whom she had been presented, and who were anxious to present her to some relations.

The girl's dress was looked at by most of the colonial young ladies, and her figure was gazed at by all of the men, until it was generally understood that to have made the acquaintance of Miss Gerald was a happiness gained.

'My dear George,' said Mrs. Crawford to Colonel Gerald when she had contrived to draw him to her side at a secluded part of the gardens,—'My dear George, she is far more of a success than even I myself anticipated. Why, the darling child is the centre of all attraction.'

'Poor little Dolly! that is not a very dizzy point to reach at the Cape, is it, Kate?'

'Now don't be provoking, George. We all know well enough, of course, that it is here the same as at any place else: the latest arrival has the charm of novelty. But it is not so in Daireen's case. I can see at once—and I am sure you will give me credit for some power of perception in these things—that she has created a genuine impression. George, you may depend on her receiving particular attention on all sides.' The lady's voice lowered confidentially until her last sentence had in it something of the tone of a revelation.

'That will make the time pass in a rather lively way for Dolly,' said George, pulling his long iron-grey moustache as he smiled thoughtfully, looking into Mrs. Crawford's face.

'Now, George, you must fully recognise the great responsibility resting with you—I certainly feel how much devolves upon myself, being as I am, her father's oldest friend in the colony, and having had the dear child in my care during the voyage.'

'Nothing could be stronger than your claims.'

'Then is it not natural that I should feel anxious about her, George? This is not India, you must remember.'

'No, no,' said the colonel thoughtfully; 'it's not India.' He was trying to grasp the exact thread of reasoning his old friend was using in her argument. He could not at once see why the fact of Cape Town not being situated in the Empire of Hindustan should cause one's responsible duties to increase in severity.

'You know what I mean, George. In India marriage is marriage, and a certain good, no matter who is concerned in it. It is one's duty there to get a girl married, and there is no blame to be attached to one if everything doesn't turn out exactly as one could have wished.'

'Ah, yes, exactly,' said the colonel, beginning to comprehend. 'But I think you have not much to reproach yourself with, Kate; almost every mail brought you out an instalment of the youth and beauty of home, and I don't think that one ever missed fire—failed to go off, you know.'

'Well, yes, I may say I was fortunate, George,' she replied, with a smile of reflective satisfaction. 'But this is not India, George; we must be very careful. I observed Daireen carefully on the voyage, and I can safely say that the dear child has yet formed no attachment.'

'Formed an attachment? You mean—oh Kate, the idea is too absurd,' said Colonel Gerald. 'Why, she is a child—a baby.'

'Of course all fathers think such things about their girls,' said the lady with a pitying smile. 'They understand their boys well enough, and take good care to make them begin to work not a day too late, but their girls are all babies. Why, George, Daireen must be nearly twenty.'

Colonel Gerald was thoughtful for some moments. 'So she is,' he said; 'but she is still quite a baby.'

'Even so,' said the lady, 'a baby's tastes should be turned in the right direction. By the way, I have been asked frequently who is this young Mr. MacDermot who came out to you in such a peculiar fashion. People are beginning to talk curiously about him.'

'As people at the Cape do about everyone,' said the colonel. 'Poor Standish might at least have escaped criticism.'

'I scarcely think so, George, considering how he came out.'

'Well, it was rather what people who do not understand us call an Irish idea. Poor boy!'

'Who is he, George?' 'The son of one of our oldest friends. The friendship has existed between his family and mine for some hundreds of years.'

'Why did he come out to the Cape in that way?'

'My dear Kate, how can I tell you everything?' said the puzzled colonel. 'You would not understand if I were to try and explain to you how this Standish MacDermot's father is a genuine king, whose civil list unfortunately does not provide for the travelling expenses of the members of his family, so that the young man thought it well to set out as he did.' 'I hope you are not imposing on me, George. Well, I must be satisfied, I suppose. By the way, you have not yet been to the room where Mr. Glaston's pictures are hung; we must not neglect to see them. Mr. Glaston told me just now he thought Daireen's taste perfect.'

'That was very kind of Mr. Glaston.'

'If you knew him as I do, George—in fact as he is known in the most exclusive drawing-rooms in London—you would understand how much his commendation is worth,' said Mrs. Crawford.

'I have no doubt of it. He must come out to us some evening to dinner. For his father's sake I owe him some attention, if not for his remark to you just now.'

'I hope you may not forget to ask him,' said Mrs. Crawford. 'He is a most remarkable young man. Of course he is envied by the less accomplished, and you may hear contradictory reports about him. But, believe me, he is looked upon in London as the leader of the most fashionable—that is—the most—not most learned—no, the most artistic set in town. Very exclusive they are, but they have done ever so much good—designing dados, you know, and writing up the new pomegranate cottage wall-paper.'

'I am afraid that Mr. Glaston will find my Hutch cottage deficient in these elements of decoration,' remarked the colonel.

'I wanted to talk to you about him for a long time,' said Mrs. Crawford. 'Not knowing how you might regard the subject, I did not think it well to give him too much encouragement on the voyage, George, so that perhaps he may have thought me inclined to repel him, Daireen being in my care; but I am sure that all may yet be well. Hush! who is it that is laughing so loud? they are coming this way. Ah, Mr. Markham and that little Lottie Vincent. Good gracious, how long that girl is in the field, and how well she wears her age! Doesn't she look quite juvenile?'

Colonel Gerald could not venture an answer before the young lady, who was the eldest daughter of the deputy surgeon-general, tripped up to Mrs. Crawford, and cried, clasping her four-button strawberry-ice-coloured gloves over the elder lady's plump arm, 'Dear good Mrs. Crawford, I have come to you in despair to beg your assistance. Promise me that you will do all you can to help me.' 'If your case is so bad, Lottie, I suppose I must. But what am I to do?'

'You are to make Mr. Markham promise that he will take part in our theatricals next month. He can act—I know he can act like Irving or Salvini or Terry or Mr. Bancroft or some of the others, and yet he will not promise to take any part. Could anything be more cruel?'

'Nothing, unless I were to take some part,' said Mr. Markham, laughing.

'Hush, sir,' cried the young lady, stamping her Pinet shoe upon the ground, and taking care in the action to show what a remarkably well-formed foot she possessed.

'It is cruel of you to refuse a request so offered, Mr. Markham,' said Mrs. Crawford. 'Pray allow yourself to be made amenable to reason, and make Miss Vincent happy for one evening.'

'Since you put it as a matter of reason, Mrs. Crawford, there is, I fear, no escape for me,' said Mr. Markham.

'Didn't I talk to you about reason, sir?' cried the young lady in very pretty mock anger.

'You talked about it,' said Markham, 'just as we walked about that centre bed of cactus, we didn't once touch upon it, you know. You talk very well about a subject, Miss Vincent.'

'Was there ever such impertinence? Mrs. Crawford, isn't it dreadful? But we have secured him for our cast, and that is enough. You will take a dozen tickets of course, Colonel Gerald?'

'I can confidently say the object is most worthy,' said Markham.

'And he doesn't know what it is yet,' said Lottie.

'That's why I can confidently recommend it.'

'Now do give me five minutes with Colonel Gerald, like a good dear,' cried the young lady to Mrs. Crawford! 'I must persuade him.'

'We are going to see Mr. Glaston's pictures,' replied Mrs. Crawford.

'How delightful! That is what I have been so anxious to do all the afternoon: one feels so delightfully artistic, you know, talking about pictures; and people think one knows all about them. Do let us go with you, Mrs. Crawford. I can talk to Colonel Gerald while you go on with Mr. Markham.'

'You are a sad little puss,' said Mrs. Crawford, shaking her finger at the artless and ingenuous maiden; and as she walked on with Mr. Markham she could not help remembering how this little puss had caused herself to be pretty hardly spoken about some ten years before at the Arradambad station in the Himalayahs.

How well she was wearing her age to be sure, Mrs. Crawford thought. It is not many young ladies who, after ten years' campaigning, can be called sad little pusses; but Miss Vincent still looked quite juvenile—in fact, plus Arabe qu'en Arabie—more juvenile than a juvenile. Everyone knew her and talked of her in various degrees of familiarity; it was generally understood that an acquaintanceship of twenty-four hours' duration was sufficient to entitle any field officer to call her by the abbreviated form of her first name, while a week was the space allowed to subalterns.


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