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that on his hip was swung a sword, which would have made short work me, had he been so desirous. Instead of entering the passage of grey flint which led to the households of the colony, the man I was following turned to the right, where the wall curved in towards the upper door. Kuban and Orla, who dwelled for the best of their time in this part of the premises, came forth and looked at him without a single sniff; and then lowered their tails, and crawled away. "What a villain he must be !" thought I; "they know him, but would rather not even speak to him."
But the impression he had made upon them was far beyond this. To my surprise, they condemned the entire human race for the moment, reasoning (as we must have taught them to do) from the particular to the universal. For when I passed and held out my hand, not a word would they have to say to me, which perhaps was the better for my safety. Then as I followed with my temper rising, and resolved to bring the man to book as he unbarred the door, what did he do but with one great vault gain that coign of reconnaissance where the watch-dog loved to sit, and plunge from it into the world beyond, with some strange headgear shown between the battlements, and then a clank of hard metal, and a heavy flap of ivy.
I have often been surprised, as every man must be, who lives to full growth upon this wondrous earth; but this time my astonishment went quite beyond its powers. Every one had always taken me for a great jumper, but, to save my life, I could never have done that. I stood, and looked up into the darkness of the sky, as if for some witness to confirm my doubtful eyes; and then a deep conviction of the existence of the Devil
which philosophers in mutinous ingratitude deny-came to my aid, and calmed me with the sense of duty which his name inspires. And now the two dogs, breathing calmly again, and with their tails high-masted, came to apologise for that trimming which even they had learned towards their dearest friend. Here was something genial; and I forgave them, because I might have done the same, if touched with equal insight.
"I will get to the bottom of this," thought I, "though the scoundrel has put the wall between us.' For I knew not at all how to open that door, even if it seemed desirable. With a quick step, therefore, I retraced my course, while Kuban and Orla came after me, sniffing my track with happy puffs, to be sure of something wholesome. Keeping clear of the dwellings, I went back along the wall, to investigate the corner, from which that demon of mystery had emerged. What superstition can there be in a Winchester and New College man, who has eaten for the Bar, and knows something of Stockbrokers, and as much as is good of Solicitors? But it is better to avoid such subjects now.
Both dogs lay down at a certain spot, where a narrow track just visible across the grass began ; perhaps they were forbidden to come further down that way. But I went on, treading gingerly, until I was stopped by a pair of wiredoors. It was rather dark still, but not so murky as it had been, for the moon began to lift herself a little through the mist. As her faint light came glimmering over the black wall, I began to see what the little structure was, and how it was sheltered and protected overhead. Dariel had told me that she was very fond of birds, and had some beauties of her own; and no
doubt this was where she kept them. Now if that hateful fellow with the strange headgear came out of this enclosure, as appeared too manifest, it was equally plain that he must have been inside it; and what could he be doing in this aviary so late, unless the fair owner herself were there?
My wrath and indignation knew no bounds. If I were being treated in this perfidious way, what steps could be too strong or too insidious, if they led to the confusion of the traitors? Though the dogs were as silent as if they were carved in stone, I went back to them and threatened them with quick and painful death, if they dared to enquire into my proceedings. Then by a little reconnoitreing I found a corner of the netting which formed the outer fence, from which I could see into the inner room, which had been impossible from the gate. I could have opened that gate perhaps, but not without noise enough to attract attention; and now I could see as well as if I were inside, for the wire-mesh made no difference.
At the end of the room which was nearest to me, and only a few yards from the corner I had found, sat Dariel herself, with a purple cloak on, or a mantle, or jacket -I never know the proper words, and it makes no difference, except to women. Of the colour, I could not be sure by that light; except that it was deep, and rich, and grand, and her white neck shone forth it, like a hyacinth from dark tulips. There were two candles burning on a rustic round table, and she, with her forehead gleam ing softly, kept her left hand partly closed, while the other hand went round and round as if it were winding something slowly upon some little object which I could not see; for around it fell the shadowy tresses which had so often
baffled me in quest of a sweet glance from her eyes. Every now and then, I caught a glimpse of a very delicate and straight nose (the beauty of which has never been surpassed), and once or twice there came into view the perfection of a chin, a soft harmony conducting from the roses of the lips to the lilies of the neck. All this was very lovely, and my heart was wild about it; though my mind was fierce the other way, that none was ever to be mine. For whom had she arrayed herself in that homicidal beauty?
But while I was grinding my teeth and wrinkling my forehead into wirework, she softly turned her gentle face, and my rage was gone as darkness flies when the quiet moon arises. There were great tears rolling, and wet eyes beaming, and the pity of a world of sadness speaking in the eloquence of a silent mouth. Also with love's vaticination I seemed to discover terror there, and the call for some strong form to shield her from troubles and dangers menacing. "There has been no flirtation here," thought I. "What a jealous fool I am! In this there must be some dark distress. How could I think so of my Dariel!" And when I beheld the next thing she did, my self-reproach grew deeper.
For she opened the curve of her left palm, slowly and softly in fear of rash release, keeping the fingers of the other hand in readiness for repression; and there I saw, with his green fluff panting in a velvet cradle, a small bird of bright plumage, with enquiring eyes regarding her. He seemed to know her for his best friend, and though taken aback by misfortune, to trust this member of the human race to do all that mankind could do for him.
Made of hard stuff as I am, I do not feel ashamed to say, that the pity which is in all of us, drew straws from the candle and made bars along the mist, when I saw what the girl I loved had done. That poor little bird had a broken leg, newly broken by violence, and Dariel had been gently binding the splintered shank together, with cotton wool and a reel of silk, as I could see on the table, and a strip of cane from a chair hard by; and now she was shaking one finger at him, to let him know that fluttering is no remedy for affliction.
But why did she cry so? She ought to be smiling and looking glad, when the little chap's mate flew down so kindly, and perched on the reel of silk to comfort him, and then fluttered round and round him with her wings drooped down, and a tenderness of cooing which almost set him on his legs again; for they were a pair of what are called "lovebirds," of whom, if one hops the final twig, the other pines into the darkness and dies. So at least the story of the bird-men goes, although that excess of fidelity may be beyond the faith of other
Tell me not that love is blind. It has the swiftest of all sight. It flies to its conclusion straighter than the truest lovebird. I saw why Dariel could not smile at the success of her own skill: the tears on her cheeks were not of pity only, but of anger at human brutal
ity. That fellow had done it, that miscreant whom even the dogs of his native land abhorred-Prince Hafer had broken the pretty lovebird's leg! A rapid conclusion of mine, but the right one; as became manifest, before many days had passed.
The manners and customs of that little colony, or settlement, or camp, or whatever it should be called for I never found out the right name for it- differed from ours very widely, some better no doubt, and some worse perhaps. For in
Blessedness and bitterness at once possessed me. Would she ever accept such a wicked beast as that? And when should I have the delight of breaking-not his leg, that would not be half enough, but the haughty head that he was carrying so high? I felt the black fury of the Caucasus itself rising in a breast of the quiet Surrey stock. Cruelty to anything that lives is loathsome; but cruelty to a little trusting pet, lent us by the Father to teach us loving-kindness, and that pet the darling of a sweet and gentle maiden! One more look at hershe has put him to his roost in a soft warm corner where he can make no pretence to hop, but the partner of his pain can feed him.
But I must be off, for I dare not intrude upon her quiet sorrow, and perhaps I had no right to watch her as I did; but I meant no harm, and the pretty sight has been a lesson of goodwill to me. Now for her noble father's room! I ought to have been there long ago. What will he say to me? But whatever it may be, what I say of his beautiful child is this-"She is more than any angel; she is a tenderhearted woman."
CHAPTER XIX.-TO CLEAR THE WAY.
stance, who could blame them for their rational practice of leaving hard work to Occidental races ? They did a stroke or two when they could not help it, just to keep their bodies sound; but the chief and commander, as we too expect,
had to carry through with his own hands the hardest part of everything. But another custom of theirs appeared to be of more doubtful wisdom; for instead of having set hours for meals and accomplishing them sociably, as well as with some regularity and sense of responsibility, every man was allowed to eat what he liked, when he liked, and where he liked. The natural result was this—you could never be certain of finding a man with his mouth in condition to answer you. How they got food enough to be at it so perpetually, was for a long time a mystery to me, especially as they dealt so little with any of the farms or shops around. Not a man of them was ever seen in our village, and as for the very few women in the camp-Baboushka, and Mrs Stepan, and some who did the washing not one of them came out of her white cocoon, though brought up very largely as Christians.
This statement is in its place, to show why the man, whom I revered, was still in a position to command my reverence. If he had been subject to feminine irruptions, to which even the greatest men are liable, all his devotion to the highest enterprise might have failed to secure his equanimity. But he had contracted upon reasonable terms with a vast Universal Provider, and he only had to pay the weekly totals in advance, and send to the place of delivery, once or twice a week, according to the temperature. Thus every body found himself fed to the utmost of his nature, and most of them preferred canned victuals; though something more British had been required for our Police.
That evening, when I entered Sûr Imar's room, after leaving his daughter among her birds, the first thing I did was to watch him very
keenly for any sign of anxiety or excitement, such as he might be expected to show if he had been just visited by that abominable Prince Hafer. What right had I to identify the man I had seen with the one of whom I had only heard? And even if that conclusion should prove right, by what process could I tell that there was nothing good about him? Yet in my mind there was no shadow of a doubt about either of those points, and I looked at Sûr Imar as if he must acquit himself of some contagion before I could enjoy his society. But he met me quite as usual, without even complaining of my unpunctuality; for he was a man of such dignity that he suspected nobody of slighting him.
Whatever he might be doing, or of whatever he might be speaking, there was such simplicity, and largeness, and straightforwardness pervading it, that one seemed to fall into it and follow, instead of doubting, and querying, and perpending. And his gentle and friendly and kind steady gaze, brought all that was good in one to meet him, and drove away the dirty streaks of our nature, to hide themselves under their own mud.
"I have been considering, my dear young friend," he said, as he took and held my hand, and I felt ashamed to leave it in so warm a place, after all my cold suspicions, "about my behaviour to you the other day. Nothing unkind was intended, but unkindness is often done without that. You told me that you loved my dear, and now my only child. I should have received that with more goodwill, whether it suited my own views or not. For my manner then, I beg your pardon."
I answered that nothing in his manner then, or at any time since I had known him, could be taken
by any gentleman as uncourteous or inconsiderate. I had told him what was the main object of my life, and I felt that I was right in doing so; and although I could scarcely hope for his approval, being a poor man and of no high rank, I had done what seemed to me to be the proper thing, instead of coming as his guest upon false pretences. I spoke plainly, and he answered nobly.
"Of rank I have not so much regard, as of the man who bears it. Neither do I think that wealth confers any high condition on its owner. In too many cases it lowers him. You will believe me when I say that neither of those questions causes my regret at what you told me. I live for only two things now the happiness of my darling child, and the improvement of the noble race to which I happen to belong. I have also bitter wrongs, and the happiness of my life snatched from me. The love of revenge is in my blood, and a very hard force it is to overcome. You of English race cannot enter into that, because it is not born in you. But I know what the anguish is, when the sense of justice rises."
His quiet eyes flashed as if his heart was roused by the words it had given way to. And glad was I, not to be the man presented by it in the portraiture of memory.
"Why do I admire the British race?" he continued, with his better tone recovered; "not for their energy and manliness alone, not even for their love of freedom, and great spirit of truth and justice, but most of all because they alone of all the nations I have mingled with are born without this cursed taint of savage and vile vindictiveness. If a man wrongs you, you have it out with him. You thrash him, if nature has enabled you. You vent your wrath upon him, and
you go your way. The world is large enough for both of you. If you hear of his misery, and woe, and death, you only say, 'Poor fellow, there may have been more good in him than I thought.' But with us of the Eastern and the Southern blood, that blood is turned to poison by a deep and bitter wrong. By the grace of God, and the grandeur of our Christ, I have struggled long against this birth of Satan in me; but even now I have not overcome it, utterly and for ever, as a larger mind would crush it. But what has this to do with you? A great deal, if you have really set your heart upon my daughter. Are you sure that you have done that with true English strength and thoroughness? and thoroughness? No passing whim, no delight of the eyes, as a flower or a picture catches them; but a power that will last as long as you do, and longer than the earthly part of you?"
No fellow likes to be cross-examined thus; and to tell the plain truth, I had scarcely gone into myself in this awful manner. But I soon perceived that he was speaking rather at the prompting of his own remembrance, than of set form and purpose for probing me. So as the picture arose before me of Dariel and her little bird, I spared no word that I could think of; though none were half strong enough, none half staunch enough; nothing that came to my lips had any right to go out as if it spoke for me. Truly I had not been so touched by the piety, mystery, exalted beauty, and lovely maidenhood of my love, as I was by the sight of her tender self indulging her loving nature.
"I am satisfied about that, my friend," her father said, when I began to be ashamed, as we ought to be, of all our higher feelings; "and I know enough of you to be