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   Chapter 6 No.6

A Woman-Hater By Charles Reade Characters: 49593

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

AT the very commencement of the confabulation, so barbarously interrupted before it had lasted two hours and a half, the Misogyn rang the bell, and asked for Rosa, Zoe's maid.

She came, and he ordered her to have up a basket of wood, and light a roaring fire in her mistress's room, and put out garments to air. He also inquired the number of Zoe's bedroom. The girl said it was "No. 74."

The Misogyn waited half an hour, and then visited "No. 74." He found the fire burned down to one log, and some things airing at the fire, as domestics air their employers' things, but not their own, you may be sure. There was a chemise carefully folded into the smallest possible compass, and doubled over a horse at a good distance from the cold fire. There were other garments and supplementaries, all treated in the same way.

The Misogyn looked, and remarked as follows, "Idiots! at everything but taking in the men."

Having relieved his spleen with this courteous and comprehensive observation, he piled log upon log till the fire was half up the chimney. Then he got all the chairs and made a semi-circle, and spread out the various garments to the genial heat; and so close that, had a spark flown, they would have been warmed with a vengeance, and the superiority of the male intellect demonstrated. This done, he retired, with a guilty air; for he did not want to be caught meddling in such frivolities by Miss Dover or Miss Maitland. However, he was quite safe; those superior spirits were wholly occupied with the loftier things of the mind, especially the characters of their neighbors.

I must now go for these truants that are giving everybody so much trouble.

When Fanny fell lame and said she was very sorry, but she must go home and change her boots, Zoe was for going home too. But Fanny, doubting her sincerity, was peremptory, and said they had only to stroll slowly on, and then turn; she should meet them coming back. Zoe colored high, suspecting they had seen the last of this ingenious young lady.

"What a good girl!" cried Severne.

"I am afraid she is a very naughty girl," said Zoe, faintly; and the first effect of Fanny's retreat was to make her a great deal more reserved and less sprightly.

Severne observed, and understood, and saw he must give her time. He was so respectful, as well as tender, that, by degrees, she came out again, and beamed with youth and happiness.

They strolled very slowly by the fair river, and the pretty little nothings they said to each other began to be mere vehicles for those soft tones and looks, in which love is made, far more than by the words themselves.

When they started on this walk, Severne had no distinct nor serious views on Zoe. But he had been playing with fire for some time, and so now he got well burned.

Walking slowly by his side, and conscious of being wooed, whatever the words might be, Zoe was lovelier than ever. Those lowered lashes, that mantling cheek, those soft, tender murmurs, told him he was dear, and thrilled his heart, though a cold one compared with hers.

He was in love; as much as he could be, and more than he had ever been before. He never even asked himself whether permanent happiness was likely to spring from this love: he was self-indulgent, reckless, and in love.

He looked at her, wished he could recall his whole life, and sighed.

"Why do you sigh?" said she, gently.

"I don't know. Yes, I do. Because I am not happy."

"Not happy?" said she. "You ought to be; and I am sure you deserve to be."

"I don't know that. However, I think I shall be happier in a few minutes, or else very unhappy indeed. That depends on you."

"On me, Mr. Severne?" and she blushed crimson, and her bosom began to heave. His words led her to expect a declaration and a proposal of marriage.

He saw her mistake; and her emotion spoke so plainly and sweetly, and tried him so, that it cost him a great effort not to clasp her in his arms. But that was not his cue at present. He lowered his eyes, to give her time, and said, sadly, "I cannot help seeing that, somehow, there is suspicion in the air about me. Miss Maitland puts questions, and drops hints. Miss Dover watches me like a lynx. Even you gave me a hint the other day that I never talk to you about my relations, and my past life."

"Pray do not confound me with other people," said Zoe proudly. "If I am curious, it is because I know you must have done many good things and clever things; but you have too little vanity, or too much pride, to tell them even to one who-esteems you, and could appreciate."

"I know you are as generous and noble as most people are narrow-minded," said Severne, enthusiastically; "and I have determined to tell you all about myself."

Zoe's cheeks beamed with gratified pride and her eyes sparkled.

"Only, as I would not tell it to anybody but you, I must stipulate that you will receive it in sacred confidence, and not repeat it to a living soul."

"Not even to my brother, who loves you so?"

"Not even to him."

This alarmed the instinctive delicacy and modesty of a truly virgin soul.

"I am not experienced," said she. "But I feel I ought not to yield to curiosity and hear from you anything I am forbidden to tell my brother. You might as well say I must not tell my mother; for dear Harrington is all the mother I have; and I am sure he is a true friend to you" (this last a little reproachfully).

But for Severne's habitual self-command, he would have treated this delicacy as ridiculous prudery; but he was equal to greater difficulties.

"You are right, by instinct, in everything. Well, then, I shall tell you, and you shall see at once whether it ought to be repeated, or to remain a sacred deposit between me and the only creature I have the courage to tell it to."

Zoe lowered her eyes, and marked the sand with her parasol. She was a little puzzled now, and half conscious that, somehow, he was tying her to secrecy with silk instead of rope; but she never suspected the deliberate art and dexterity with which it was done.

Severne then made the revelation which he had been preparing for a day or two past; and, to avoid eternal comments by the author, I must once more call in the artful aid of the printers. The true part of Mr. Severne's revelation is in italics; the false in ordinary type.

"When my father died, I inherited an estate in Huntingdonshire. It was not so large as Vizard's, but it was clear. Not a mortgage nor incumbrance on it. I had a younger brother; a fellow with charming manners, and very accomplished. These were his ruin: he got into high society in London; but high society is not always good society. He became connected with a fast lot, some of the young nobility. Of course he could not vie with them. He got deeply in debt. Not but what they were in debt too, every one of them. He used to send to me for money oftener than I liked; but I never suspected the rate he was going at. I was anxious, too, about him; but I said to myself he was just sowing his wild oats, like other fellows. Well, it went on, until-to his misfortune and mine-he got entangled in some disgraceful transactions; the general features are known to all the world. I dare say you have heard of one or two young noblemen who committed forgeries on their relations and friends some years ago. One of them, the son of an earl, took his sister's whole fortune out of her bank, with a single forged check. I believe the sum total of his forgeries was over one hundred thousand pounds. His father could not find half the money. A number of the nobility had to combine to repurchase the documents; many of them were in the hands of the Jews; and I believe a composition was effected, with the help of a very powerful barrister, an M. P. He went out of his line on this occasion, and mediated between the parties. What will you think when I tell you that my brother, the son of my father and my mother, was one of these forgers-a criminal?"

"My poor friend!" cried Zoe, clasping her innocent hands.

"It was a thunder-clap. I had a great mind to wash my hands of it, and let him go to prison. But how could I? The struggle ended in my doing like the rest. Only poor, I had no noble kinsmen with long purses to help me, and no solicitor-general to mediate sub rosa. The total amount would have swamped my family acres. I got them down to sixty per cent, and that only crippled my estate forever. As for my brother, he fell on his knees to me. But I could not forgive him. He left the country with a hundred pounds I gave him. He is in Canada; and only known there as a most respectable farmer. He talks of paying me back. That I shall believe when I see it. All I know for certain is that his crime has mortgaged my estate, and left me poor-and suspected."

While Severne related this, there passed a somewhat notable thing in the world of mind. The inventor of this history did not understand it; the hearer did, and accompanied it with innocent sympathetic sighs. Her imagination, more powerful and precise than the inventor's, pictured the horror of the high-minded brother, his agony, his shame, his respect for law and honesty, his pity for his own flesh and blood, his struggle, and the final triumph of fraternal affection. Every line of the figment was alive to her, and she realized the tale. Severne only repeated it.

At the last touch of his cold art, the warm-hearted girl could contain no longer.

"Oh, poor Mr. Severne!" she cried; "poor Mr. Severne!" And the tears ran down her cheeks.

He looked at her first with a little astonishment-fancy taking his little narrative to heart like that-then with compunction, and then with a momentary horror at himself, and terror at the impassable gulf fixed between them, by her rare goodness and his depravity.

Then for a moment he felt, and felt all manner of things at once. "Oh, don't cry," he blurted out, and began to blubber himself at having made her cry at all, and so unfairly. It was his lucky hour; this hysterical effusion, undignified by a single grain of active contrition, or even penitent resolve, told in his favor. They mingled their tears; and hearts cannot hold aloof when tears come together. Yes, they mingled their tears, and the crocodile tears were the male's, if you please, and the woman's tears were pure holy drops, that angels might have gathered and carried them to God for pearls of the human soul.

After they had cried together over the cool figment, Zoe said: "I do not repent my curiosity now. You did well to tell me. Oh, no, you were right, and I will never tell anybody. People are narrow-minded. They shall never cast your brother's crime in your teeth, nor your own losses I esteem you for-oh, so much more than ever! I wonder you could tell me."

"You would not wonder if you knew how superior you are to all the world: how noble, how generous, and how I-"

"Oh, Mr. Severne, it is going to rain! We must get home as fast as ever we can."

They turned, and Zoe, with true virgin coyness, and elastic limbs, made the coming rain an excuse for such swift walking that Severne could not make tender love to her. To be sure, Apollo ran after Daphne, with his little proposals; but, I take it, he ran mute-till he found he couldn't catch her. Indeed, it was as much as Severne could do to keep up with her "fair heel and toe." But I ascribe this to her not wearing high heels ever since Fanny told her she was just a little too tall, and she was novice enough to believe her.

She would not stop for the drizzle; but at last it came down with such a vengeance that she was persuaded to leave the path and run for a cattle-shed at some distance. Here she and Severne were imprisoned. Luckily for them "the kye had not come hame," and the shed was empty. They got into the farthest corner of it; for it was all open toward the river; and the rain pattered on the roof as if it would break it.

Thus driven together, was it wonderful that soon her hand was in his, and that, as they purred together, and murmured soft nothings, more than once she was surprised into returning the soft pressure which he gave it so often?

The plump declaration she had fled from, and now seemed deliciously resigned to, did not actually come. But he did what she valued more, he resumed his confidences: told her he had vices; was fond of gambling. Excused it on the score of his loss by his brother; said he hoped soon to hear good news from Canada; didn't despair; was happy now, in spite of all; had been happy ever since he had met her. What declaration was needed? The understanding was complete. Neither doubted the other's love; and Zoe would have thought herself a faithless, wicked girl, if, after this, she had gone and accepted any other man.

But presently she had a misgiving, and looked at her watch. Yes, it wanted but one hour to dinner. Now, her brother was rather a Tartar about punctuality at dinner. She felt she was already in danger of censure for her long te'te-'a-te'te with Severne, though the rain was the culprit. She could not afford to draw every eye upon her by being late for dinner along with him.

She told Severne they must go home now, rain or no rain, and she walked resolutely out into the weather.

Severne did not like it at all, but he was wise enough to deplore it only on her account; and indeed her light alpaca was soon drenched, and began to cling to her. But the spirited girl only laughed at his condolences, as she hurried on. "Why, it is only warm water," said she; "this is no more than a bath in the summer sea. Bathing is getting wet through in blue flannel. Well, I am bathing in blue alpaca."

"But it will ruin your dress."

"My dress! Why, it is as old as the hills. When I get home I'll give it to Rosa, ready washed-ha-ha!"

The rain pelted and poured, and long before they reached the inn, Zoe's dress had become an external cuticle, an alpaca skin.

But innocence is sometimes very bold. She did not care a bit; and, to tell the truth, she had little need to care. Beauty so positive as hers is indomitable. The petty accidents that are the terrors of homely charms seem to enhance Queen Beauty. Disheveled hair adorns it: close bound hair adorns it. Simplicity adorns it. Diamonds adorn it. Everything seems to adorn it, because, the truth is, it adorns everything. And so Zoe, drenched with rain, and her dress a bathing-gown, was only a Greek goddess tinted blue, her bust and shoulders and her molded figure covered, yet revealed. What was she to an artist's eye? Just the Townly Venus with her sculptor's cunning draperies, and Juno's gait.

"Et vera incessa patuit Dea."

When she got to the hotel she held up her finger to Severne with a pretty peremptoriness. She had shown him so much tenderness, she felt she had a right to order him now: "I must beg of you," said she, "to go straight to your rooms and dress very quickly, and present yourself to Harrington five minutes before dinner at least."

"I will obey," said he, obsequiously.

That pleased her, and she kissed her hand to him and scudded to her own room.

At sight of the blazing fire and provident preparations, she started, and said, aloud, "Oh, how nice of them!" and, all dripping as she was, she stood there with her young heart in a double glow.

Such a nature as hers has too little egotism and low-bred vanity to undervalue worthy love. The infinite heart of a Zoe Vizard can love but one with passion, yet ever so many more with warm and tender affection.

She gave Aunt Maitland credit for this provident affection. It was out of the sprightly Fanny's line; and she said to herself, "Dear old thing! there, I thought she was bottling up a lecture for me, and all the time her real anxiety was lest I should be wet through." Thereupon she settled in her mind to begin loving Aunt Maitland from that hour. She did not ring for her maid till she was nearly dressed, and, when Rosa came and exclaimed at the condition of her cast-off robes, she laughed and told her it was nothing-the Rhine was nice and warm-pretending she had been in it. She ordered her to dry the dress, and iron it.

"Why, la, miss; you'll never wear it again, to be sure?" said Rosa, demurely.

"I don't know," said the young lady, archly; "but I mean to take great care of it," and burst out laughing like a peal of silver bells, because she was in high spirits, and saw what Rosa would be at.

Give away the gown she had been wooed and wet through in-no, thank you! Such gowns as these be landmarks, my masters.

Vizard, unconscious of her arrival, was walking up and down the room, fidgeting more and more, when in came Zoe, dressed high in black silk and white lace, looking ever so cozy, and blooming like a rose.

"What!" said he; "in, and dressed." He took her by the shoulders and gave her a great kiss. "You young monkey!" said he, "I was afraid you were washed away."

Zoe suggested that would only have been a woman obliterated.

"That is true," said he, with an air of hearty conviction. "I forgot that."

He then inquired if she had had a nice walk.

"Oh, beautiful! Imprisoned half the time in a cow-shed, and then drenched. But I'll have a nice walk with you, dear, up and down the room."

"Come on, then."

So she put her right hand on his left shoulder, and gave him her left hand, and they walked up and down the room, Zoe beaming with happiness and affection for everybody and walking at a graceful bend.

Severne came in, dressed as perfect as though just taken out of a bandbox. He sat down at a little table, and read a little journal unobtrusively. It was his cue to divest his late te'te-'a-te'te of public importance.

Then came dinner, and two of the party absent. Vizard heard their voices going like mill-clacks at this sacred hour, and summoned them rather roughly, as stated above. His back was to Zoe, and she rubbed her hands gayly to Severne, and sent him a flying whisper: "Oh, what fun! We are the culprits, and they are the ones scolded."

Dinner waited ten minutes, and then the defaulters appeared. Nothing was said, but Vizard looked rather glum; and Aunt Maitland cast a vicious look at Severne and Zoe: they had made a forced march, and outflanked her. She sat down, and bided her time, like a fowler waiting till the ducks come within shot.

But the conversation was commonplace, inconsecutive, shifty, and vague, and it was two hours before anything came within shot: all this time not a soul suspected the ambushed fowler.

At last, Vizard, having thrown out one of his hints that the fair sex are imperfect, Fanny, being under the influence of Miss Maitland's revelations, ventured to suggest that they had no more faults than men, and certainly were not more deceitful.

"Indeed?" said Vizard. "Not-more-deceitful! Do you speak from experience?"

"Oh, no, no," said Fanny, getting rather frightened. "I only think so, somehow."

"Well, but you must have a reason. May I respectfully inquire whether more men have jilted you than you have jilted?"

"You may inquire as respectfully as you like; but I shan't tell you."

"That is right, Miss Dover," said Severne; "don't you put up with his nonsense. He knows nothing about it: women are angels, compared with men. The wonder is, how they can waste so much truth and constancy and beauty upon the foul sex. To my mind, there is only one thing we beat you in; we do stick by each other rather better than you do. You are truer to us. We are a little truer to each other."

"Not a little," suggested Vizard, dryly.

"For my part," said Zoe, blushing pink at her boldness in advancing an opinion on so large a matter, "I think these comparisons are rather narrow-minded. What have we to do with bad people, male or female? A good man is good, and a good woman is good. Still, I do think that women have greater hearts to love, and men, perhaps, greater hearts for friendship:" then, blushing roseate, "even in the short time we have been here we have seen two gentlemen give up pleasure for self-denying friendship. Lord Uxmoor gave us all up for a sick friend. Mr. Severne did more, perhaps; for he lost that divine singer. You will never hear her now, Mr. Severne."

The Maitland gun went off: "A sick friend! Mr. Severne? Ha, ha, ha! You silly girl, he has got no sick friend. He was at the gaming-table. That was his sick friend."

It was an effective discharge. It winged a duck or two. It killed, as follows: the tranquillity-the good humor-and the content of the little party.

Severne started, and stared, and lost color, and then cast at Vizard a venomous look never seen on his face before; for he naturally concluded that Vizard had betrayed him.

Zoe was amazed, looked instantly at Severne, saw it was true, and turned pale at his evident discomfiture. Her lover had been guilty of deceit-mean and rather heartless deceit.

Even Fanny winced at the pointblank denunciation of a young man, who was himself polite to everybody. She would have done it in a very different way-insinuations, innuendo, etc.

"They have found you out, old fellow," said Vizard, merrily; "but you need not look as if you had robbed a church. Hang it all! a fellow has got a right to gamble, if he chooses. Anyway, he paid for his whistle; for he lost three hundred pounds."

"Three hundred pounds!" cried the terrible old maid. "Where ever did he get them to lose?"

Severne divined that he had nothing to gain by fiction here; so he said, sullenly, "I got them from Vizard; but I gave him value for them."

"You need not publish our private transactions, Ned," said Vizard. "Miss Maitland, this is really not in your department."

"Oh, yes, it is," said she; "and so you'll find."

This pertinacity looked like defiance. Vizard rose from his chair, bowed ironically, with the air of a man not disposed for a hot argument.

"In that case-with permission-I'll withdraw to my veranda and, in that [he struck a light] peaceful-[here he took a suck] shade-"

"You will meditate on the charms of Ina Klosking."

Vizard received this poisoned arrow in the small of the back, as he was sauntering out. He turned like a shot, as if a man had struck him, and, for a single moment, he looked downright terrible and wonderfully unlike the easy-going Harrington Vizard. But he soon recovered himself. "What! you listen, do you?" said he; and turned contemptuously on his heel without another word.

There was an uneasy, chilling pause. Miss Maitland would have given something to withdraw her last shot. Fanny was very uncomfortable and fixed her eyes on the table. Zoe, deeply shocked at Severne's deceit, was now amazed and puzzled about her brother. "Ina Klosking!" inquired she; "who is that?"

"Ask Mr. Severne," said Miss Maitland, sturdily.

Now Mr. Severne was sitting silent, but with restless eyes, meditating how he should get over that figment of his about the sick friend.

Zoe turned round on him, fixed her glorious eyes full upon his face, and said, rather imperiously, "Mr. Severne, who is Ina Klosking?"

Mr. Severne looked up blankly in her face, and said nothing.

She colored at not being answered, and repeated her question (all this time Fanny's eyes were fixed on the young man even more keenly than Zoe's), "Who-and what-is Ina Klosking?"

"She is a public singer."

"Do you know her?"

"Yes; I heard her sing at Vienna."

"Yes, yes; but do you know her to speak to?"

He considered half a moment, and then said he had not that honor. "But," said he, rather hurriedly, "somebody or other told me she had come out at the opera here and made a hit."

"What in-Siebel?"

"I don't know. But I saw large bills out with her name. She made her de'but in Gounod's 'Faust.'"

"It is my Siebel!" cried Zoe, rapturously. "Why, aunt, no wonder Harrington admires her. For my part, I adore her."

"You, child! That is quite a different matter."

"No, it is not. He is like me; he has only seen her once, as I have, and on the stage."

"Fiddle-dee-dee. I tell you he is in love with her, over head and ears. He is wonderfully inflammable for a woman-hater. Ask Mr. Severne: he knows."

"Mr. Severne, is my brother in love with that lady?"

Severne's turn had come; that able young man saw his chance, and did as good a bit of acting as ever was extemporized even by an Italian mime.

"Miss Vizard," said he, fixing his hazel eyes on her for the first time, in a way that made her feel his power, "what passed in confidence between two friends ought to be sacred. Don't-you-think so?" (The girl quivered, remembering the secret he had confessed to her.) "Miss Maitland has done your brother and me

the honor to listen to our secrets. She shall repeat them, if she thinks it delicate; but I shall not, without Vizard's consent; and, more than that, the conversation seems to me to be taking the turn of casting blame and ridicule and I don't know what on the best-hearted, kindest-hearted, truest-hearted, noblest, and manliest man I know. I decline to take any further share in it."

With these last words in his mouth, he stuck his hands defiantly into his pockets and stalked out into the veranda, looking every inch a man.

Zoe folded her arms and gazed after him with undisguised admiration. How well everything he did became him; his firing up-his brusquerie-the very movements of his body, all so piquant, charming, and unwomanly! As he vanished from her admiring eyes, she turned, with flaming cheeks, on Miss Maitland, and said, "Well, aunt, you have driven them both out at the window; now, say something pretty to Fanny and me, and drive us out at the door."

Miss Maitland hung her head; she saw she had them all against her but Fanny, and Fanny was a trimmer. She said, sorrowfully, "No, Zoe. I feel how unattractive I have made the room. I have driven away the gods of your idolatry-they are only idols of clay; but that you can't believe. I will banish nobody else, except a cross-grained, but respectable old woman, who is too experienced, and too much soured by it, to please young people when things are going wrong."

With this she took her bed-candle, and retired.

Zoe had an inward struggle. As Miss Maitland opened her bedroom door, she called to her: "Aunt! one word. Was it you that ordered the fire in my bedroom?"

Now, if she had received the answer she expected, she meant to say, "Then please let me forget everything else you have said or done to-day." But Miss Maitland stared a little, and said, "Fire in your bedroom? no."

"Oh! Then I have nothing to thank you for this day," said Zoe, with all the hardness of youth; though, as a general rule, she had not her share of it.

The old lady winced visibly, but she made a creditable answer. "Then, my dear, you shall have my prayers this night; and it does not matter much whether you thank me for them or not."

As she disappeared, Zoe flung herself wearily on a couch, and very soon began to cry. Fanny ran to her and nestled close to her, and the two had a rock together, Zoe crying, and Fanny coaxing and comforting.

"Ah!" sighed Zoe, "this was the happiest day of my life; and see how it ends. Quarreling; and deceit! the one I hate, the other I despise. No, never again, until I have said my prayers, and am just going to sleep, will I cry 'O giorno felice!' as I did this afternoon, when the rain was pouring on me, but my heart was all in a glow."

These pretty little lamentations of youth were interrupted by Mr. Severne slipping away from his friend, to try and recover lost ground.

He was coolly received by Zoe; then he looked dismayed, but affected not to understand; then Zoe pinched Fanny, which meant "I don't choose to put him on his defense; but I am dying to hear if he has anything to say." Thereupon Fanny obeyed that significant pinch, and said, "Mr. Severne, my cousin is not a woman of the world; she is a country girl, with old-fashioned romantic notions that a man should be above telling fibs. I have known her longer than you, and I see she can't understand your passing off the gambling-table for a sick friend."

"Why, I never did," said he, as bold as brass.

"Mr. Severne!"

"Miss Dover, my sick friend was at 'The Golden Star.' That's a small hotel in a different direction from the Kursaal. I was there from seven o'clock till nine. You ask the waiter, if you don't believe me."

Fanny giggled at this inadvertent speech; but Zoe's feelings were too deeply engaged to shoot fun flying. "Fanny" cried she, eagerly, "I heard him tell the coachman to drive him to that very place, 'The Golden Star.'"

"Really?" said Fanny, mystified.

"Indeed I did, dear. I remember 'The Golden Star' distinctly.

"Ladies, I was there till nine o'clock. Then I started for the theater. Unfortunately the theater is attached to the Kursaal. I thought I would just look in for a few minutes. In fact, I don't think I was there half an hour. But Miss Maitland is quite right in one thing. I lost more than two hundred pounds, all through playing on a false system. Of course, I know I had no business to go there at all, when I might have been by your side."

"And heard La Klosking."

"It was devilish bad taste, and you may well be surprised and offended."

"No, no; not at that," said Zoe.

"But hang it all, don't make a fellow worse than he is! Why should I invent a sick friend? I suppose I have a right to go to the Kursaal if I choose. At any rate, I mean to go to-morrow afternoon, and win a pot of money. Hinder me who can."

Zoe beamed with pleasure. "That spiteful old woman! I am ashamed of myself. Of course you have. It becomes a man to say je veux; and it becomes a woman to yield. Forgive our unworthy doubts. We will all go to the Kursaal to-morrow."

The reconciliation was complete; and, to add to Zoe's happiness, she made a little discovery. Rosa came in to see if she wanted anything. That, you must know, was Rosa's way of saying, "It is very late. I'm tired; so the sooner you go to bed, the better." And Zoe was by nature so considerate that she often went to bed more for Rosa's convenience than her own inclination.

But this time she said, sharply, "Yes, I do. I want to know who had my fire lighted for me in the middle of summer."

"Why, squire, to be sure," said Rosa.

"What-my brother!"

"Yes, miss; and seen to it all hisself: leastways, I found the things properly muddled. 'Twas to be seen a man had been at 'em."

Rosa retired, leaving Zoe's face a picture.

Just then Vizard put his head cautiously in at the window, and said, in a comic whisper, "Is she gone?"

"Yes, she is gone," cried Zoe, "and you are wanted in her place." She ran to meet him. "Who ordered a fire in my room, and muddled all my things?" said she, severely.

"I did. What of that?"

"Oh, nothing. Only now I know who is my friend. Young people, here's a lesson for you. When a lady is out in the rain, don't prepare a lecture for her, like Aunt Maitland, but light her fire, like this dear old duck of a woman-hating impostor. Kiss me!" (violently).


"That is not enough, nor half. There, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there."

"Now look here, my young friend," said Vizard, holding her lovely head by both ears, "you are exciting yourself about nothing, and that will end in one of your headaches. So, just take your candle, and go to bed, like a good little girl."

"Must I? Well, then, I will. Goodby, tyrant dear. Oh, how I love you! Come, Fanny."

She gave her hand shyly to Severne, and soon they were both in Zoe's room.

Rosa was dismissed, and they had their chat; but it was nearly all on one side. Fanny had plenty to say, but did not say it. She had not the heart to cloud that beaming face again so soon; she temporized: Zoe pressed her with questions too; but she slurred things, Zoe asked her why Miss Maitland was so bitter against Mr. Severne. Fanny said, in an off-hand way, "Oh, it is only on your account she objects to him."

"And what are her objections?"

"Oh, only grammatical ones, dear. She says his antecedents are obscure, and his relatives unknown, ha! ha! ha!" Fanny laughed, but Zoe did not see the fun. Then Fanny stroked her down.

"Never mind that old woman. I shall interfere properly, if I see you in danger. It was monstrous her making an esclandre at the very dinner-table, and spoiling your happy day."

"But she hasn't!" cried Zoe, eagerly. "'All's well that ends well.' I am happy-oh, so happy! You love me. Harrington loves me. He loves me. What more can any woman ask for than to be ambata bene?"

This was the last word between Zoe and Fanny upon St. Brooch's day.

As Fanny went to her own room, the vigilant Maitland opened her door that looked upon the corridor and beckoned her in. "Well," said she, "did you speak to Zoe?"

"Just a word before dinner. Aunt, she came in wet, to the skin, and in higher spirits than Rosa ever knew her."

Aunt groaned.

"And what do you think? Her spoiled dress, she ordered it to be ironed and put by. It is a case."

Next day they all met at a late breakfast, and good humor was the order of the day. This encouraged Zoe to throw out a feeler about the gambling-tables. Then Fanny said it must be nice to gamble, because it was so naughty. "In a long experience," said Miss Dover, with a sigh, "I have found that whatever is nice is naughty, and whatever is naughty is nice."

"There's a short code of morals," observed Vizard, "for the use of seminaries. Now let us hear Severne; he knows all the defenses of gambling lunacy has discovered."

Severne, thus appealed to, said play was like other things, bad only when carried to excess. "At Homburg, where the play is fair, what harm can there be in devoting two or three hours of a long day to trente et quarante? The play exercises memory, judgment, sangfroid, and other good qualities of the mind. Above all, it is on the square. Now, buying and selling shares without delivery, bulling, and bearing, and rigging, and Stock Exchange speculations in general, are just as much gambling; but with cards all marked, and dice loaded, and the fair player has no chance. The world," said this youthful philosopher, "is taken in by words. The truth is, that gambling with cards is fair, and gambling without cards a swindle."

"He is hard upon the City," said the Vizard; "but no matter. Proceed, young man. Develop your code of morals for the amusement of mankind, while duller spirits inflict instruction."

"You have got my opinion," said Severne. "Oblige us with yours."

"No; mine would not be popular just now: I reserve it till we are there, and can see the lunatics at work."

"Oh, then we are to go," cried Fanny. "Oh, be joyful!"

"That depends on Miss Maitland. It is not in my department."

Instantly four bright eyes were turned piteously on the awful Maitland.

"Oh, aunt," said Zoe, pleadingly, "do you think there would be any great harm in our-just for once in a way?"

"My dear," said Miss Maitland, solemnly, "I cannot say that I approve of public gambling in general. But at Homburg the company is select. I have seen a German prince, a Russian prince, and two English countesses, the very e'lite of London society, seated at the same table in the Kursaal. I think, therefore, there can be no harm in your going, under the conduct of older persons-myself, for example, and your brother."

"Code three," suggested Vizard-"the chaperonian code."

"And a very good one, too," said Zoe. "But, aunt, must we look on, or may we play just a little, little?"

"My dear, there can be no great harm in playing a little, in good company-if you play with your own money." She must have one dig at Severne.

"I shan't play very deep, then," said Fanny; "for I have got no money hardly."

Vizard came to the front, like a man. "No more should I," said he, "but for Herries & Co. As it is, I am a Croesus, and I shall stand one hundred pounds, which you three ladies must divide; and between you, no doubt, you will break the bank."

Acclamations greeted this piece of misogyny. When they had subsided, Severne was called on to explain the game, and show the young ladies how to win a fortune with thirty-three pounds six shillings and eight pence.

The table was partly cleared, two packs of cards sent for, and the professor lectured.

"This," said he, "is the cream of the game. Six packs are properly shuffled, and properly cut; the players put their money on black or red, which is the main event, and is settled thus: The dealer deals the cards in two rows. He deals the first row for black, and stops the moment the cards pass thirty. That deal determines how near noir can get to thirty-one."

Severne then dealt for noir, and the cards came as follows:

"Queen of hearts-four of clubs-ten of spades-nine of diamonds: total, thirty-three."

He then dealt for red:

Knave of clubs-ace of diamonds-two of spades-king of spades-nine of hearts: total, thirty-two.

"Red wins, because the cards dealt for red come nearer thirty-one. Besides that," said he, "you can bet on the color, or against it. The actual color of the first card the player turns up on the black line must be black or red. Whichever happens to be it is called 'the color.' Say it is red; then, if the black line of cards wins, color loses. Now, I will deal again for both events.

"I deal for noir."

"Nine of diamonds. Red, then, is the actual color turned up on the black line. Do you bet for it, or against it?"

"I bet for it," cried Zoe. "It's my favorite color."

"And what do you say on the main event?"

"Oh, red on that too."

"Very good. I go on dealing for noir. Queen of diamonds, three of spades, knave of hearts-nine of spades: thirty-two. That looks ugly for your two events, black coming so near as thirty-two. Now for red. Four of hearts, knave of spades, seven of diamonds, queen of clubs-thirty-one, by Jove! Rouge gagne, et couleur. There is nothing like courage. You have won both events."

"Oh, what a nice game!" cried Zoe.

He then continued to deal, and they all bet on the main event and the color, staking fabulous sums, till at last both numbers came up thirty-one.

Thereupon Severne informed them that half the stakes belonged to him. That was the trifling advantage accorded to the bank.

"Which trifling advantage," said Vizard, "has enriched the man-eating company, and their prince, and built the Kursaal, and will clean you all out, if you play long enough."

"That," said Severne, "I deny. It is more than balanced by the right the players have of doubling, till they gain, and by the maturity of the chances: I will explain this to the ladies. You see experience proves that neither red nor black can come up more than nine times running. When, therefore, either color has come up four times, you can put a moderate stake on the other color, and double on it till it must come, by the laws of nature. Say red has turned four times. You put a napoleon on black; red gains. You lose a napoleon. You don't remove it, but double on it. The chances are now five to one you gain: but if you lose, you double on the same, and, when you have got to sixteen napoleons, the color must change; uniformity has reached its physical limit. That is called the maturity of the chances. Begin as unluckily as possible with five francs, and lose. If you have to double eight times before you win, it only comes to twelve hundred and eighty francs. Given, therefore, a man to whom fifty napoleons are no more than five francs to us, he can never lose if he doubles, like a Trojan, till the chances are mature. This is called 'the Martingale:' but, observe, it only secures against loss. Heavy gains are made by doubling judiciously on the winning color, or by simply betting on short runs of it. When red comes up, back red, and double twice on it. Thus you profit by the remarkable and observed fact that colors do not, as a rule, alternate, but reach ultimate equality by avoiding alternation, and making short runs, with occasional long runs; the latter are rare, and must be watched with a view to the balancing run of the other color. This is my system."

"And you really think you have invented it?" asked Vizard.

"I am not so conceited. My system was communicated to me, in the Kursaal itself-by an old gentleman."

"An old gentleman, or the-?"

"Oh, Harrington," cried Zoe, "fie!"

"My wit is appreciated at its value. Proceed, Ned."

Severne told him, a little defiantly, it was an old gentleman, with a noble head, a silvery beard, and the most benevolent countenance he ever saw.

"Curious place for his reverence to be in," hazarded Vizard.

"He saw me betting, first on the black, then on the red, till I was cleaned out, and then he beckoned me."

"Not a man of premature advice anyway."

"He told me he had observed my play. I had been relying on the alternations of the colors, which alternation chance persistently avoids, and arrives at equality by runs. He then gave me a better system."

"And, having expounded his system, he illustrated it? Tell the truth now; he sat down and lost the coat off his back? It followed his family acres."

"You are quite wrong again. He never plays. He has heart-disease, and his physician has forbidden him all excitement."

"His nation?"

"Humph! French."

"Ah! the nation that produced 'Le philosophe sans le savoir.' And now it has added, 'Le philosophe sans le vouloir,'' and you have stumbled on him. What a life for an aged man! Fortunatus ille senex qui ludicola vivit. Tantalus handcuffed and glowering over a gambling-table; a hell in a hell."

"Oh, Harrington!-"

"Exclamations not allowed in sober argument, Zoe."

"Come, Ned, it is not heart-disease, it is purse disease. Just do me a favor. Here are five sovereigns; give those to the old beggar, and let him risk them."

"I could hardly take such a liberty with an old gentleman of his age and appearance-a man of honor too, and high sentiments. Why, I'd bet seven to four he is one of Napoleon's old soldiers."

The ladies sided unanimously with Severne. "What! offer a vieux de l'Empire five pounds? Oh, fie!"

"Fiddle-dee-dee!" said the indomitable Vizard. "Besides, he will do it with his usual grace. He will approach the son of Mars with that feigned humility which sits so well on youth, and ask him, as a personal favor, to invest five pounds for him at rouge-et-noir. The old soldier will stiffen into double dignity at first, then give him a low wink, and end by sitting down and gambling. He will be cautious at starting, as one who opens trenches for the siege of Mammon; but soon the veteran will get heated, and give battle; he will fancy himself at Jena, since the croupiers are Prussians. If he loses, you cut him dead, being a humdrum Englishman; and if he wins, he cuts you, and pockets the cash, being a Frenchman that talks sentiment."

This sally provoked a laugh, in which Severne joined, and said, "Really, for a landed proprietor, you know a thing or two." He consented at last, with some reluctance, to take the money; and none of the persons present doubted that he would execute the commission with a grace and delicacy all his own. Nevertheless, to run forward a little with the narrative, I must tell you that he never did hand that five pound to the venerable sire; a little thing prevented him-the old man wasn't born yet.

"And now," said Vizard, "it is our last day in Homburg. You are all going to gratify your mania-lunacy is contagious. Suppose I gratify mine."

"Do dear," said Zoe; "and what is it?"

"I like your asking that; when it was publicly announced last night, and I fled discomfited to my balcony, and, in my confusion, lighted a cigar. My mania is-the Klosking."

"That is not a mania; it is good taste. She is admirable."

"Yes, in an opera; but I want to know how she looks and talks in a room;

and that is insane of me."

"Then so you shall, insane or not. I will call on her this morning, and take you in my hand."

"What an ample palm! and what juvenile audacity! Zoe, you take my breath away."

"No audacity at all. I am sure of my welcome. How often must I tell you that we have mesmerized each other, that lady and I, and only waiting an opportunity to rush into each other's arms. It began with her singling me out at the opera. But I dare say that was owing, at first, only to my being in full dress.

"No, no; to your being, like Agamemnon, a head taller than all the other Greeks."

"Harrington! I am not a Greek. I am a thorough English girl at heart, though I am as black as a coal."

"No apology needed in our present frame. You are all the more like the ace of spades."

"Do you want me to take you to the Klosking, sir? Then you had better not make fun of me. I tell you she sung to me, and smiled on me, and courtesied to me; and, now you have put it into my head, I mean to call upon her, and I will take you with me. What I shall do, I shall send in my card. I shall be admitted, and you will wait outside. As soon as she sees me, she will run to me with both hands out, and say, in excellent French, I hope, 'How, mademoiselle! you have deigned to remember me, and to honor me with a visit.' Then I shall say, in school-French, 'Yes, madame; excuse the intrusion, but I was so charmed with your performance. We leave Homburg to-morrow, and as, unfortunately for myself, I cannot have the pleasure of seeing you again upon the stage-' then I shall stop, for her to interrupt me. Then she will interrupt me, and say charming things, as only foreigners can; and then I shall say, still in school-French, 'Madame, I am not alone. I have my brother with me. He adores music, and was as fascinated with your Siebel as myself. May I present him?' Then she will say, 'Oh, yes, by all means;' and I shall introduce you. Then you can make love to her. That will be droll. Fanny, I'll tell you every word he says."

"Make love to her!" cried Vizard. "Is this your estimate of a brother's motives. My object in visiting this lady is, not to feed my mania, but to cure it. I have seen her on the stage, looking like the incarnation of a poet's dream. I am extasie'' with her. Now let me catch her en de'shabille, with her porter on one side, and her lover on the other: and so to Devonshire, relieved of a fatal illusion."

"If that is your view, I'll go by myself; for I know she is a noble woman, and as much a lady off the stage as on it. My only fear is she will talk that dreadful guttural German, with its 'oches' and its 'aches,' and then where shall we all be? We must ask Mr. Severne to go with us."

"A good idea. No-a vile one. He is abominably handsome, and has the gift of the gab-in German, and other languages. He is sure to cut me out, the villain! Look him up, somebody, till we come back."

"Now, Harrington, don't be absurd. He must, and shall, be of the party. I have my reasons. Mr. Severne," said she, turning on him with a blush and a divine smile, "you will oblige me, I am sure."

Severne's face turned as blank as a doll's, and he said nothing, one way or other.

It was settled that they should all meet at the Kursaal at four, to dine and play. But Zoe and her party would go on ahead by the one-o'clock train; and so she retired to put on her bonnet-a technical expression, which implies a good deal.

Fanny went with her, and, as events more exciting than the usual routine of their young lives were ahead, their tongues went a rare pace. But the only thing worth presenting to the reader came at the end, after the said business of the toilet had been dispatched.

Zoe said, "I must go now, or I shall keep them waiting."

"Only one, dear," said Fanny dryly.

"Why only one?"

"Mr. Severne will not go."

"That he will: I made a point of it."

"You did, dear? but still he will not go."

There was something in this, and in Fanny's tone, that startled Zoe, and puzzled her sorely. She turned round upon her with flashing eye, and said, "No mysteries, please, dear. Why won't he go with me wherever I ask him to go? or, rather, what makes you think he won't?"

Said Fanny, thoughtfully: "I could not tell you, all in a moment, why I feel so positive. One puts little things together that are nothing apart: one observes faces; I do, at least. You don't seem, to me, to be so quick at that as most girls. But, Zoe dear, you know very well one often knows a thing for certain, yet one doesn't know exactly what makes one know it."

Now Zoe's amour propre was wounded by Fanny's suggestion that Severne would not go to Homburg, or, indeed, to the world's end with her; so she drew herself up in her grand way, and folded her arms and said, a little haughtily, "Then tell me what is it you know about him and me, without knowing how on earth you know it."

The supercilious tone and grand manner nettled Fanny, and it wasn't "brooch day;" she stood up to her lofty cousin like a little game-cock. "I know this," said she, with heightened cheek, and flashing eyes and a voice of steel, "you will never get Mr. Edward Severne into one room with Zoe Vizard and Ina Klosking."

Zoe Vizard turned very pale, but her eyes flashed defiance on her friend.

"That I'll know!" said she, in a deep voice, with a little gasp, but a world of pride and resolution.

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