MoboReader> Literature > When Knighthood Was in Flower

   Chapter 7 VIIToC

When Knighthood Was in Flower By Charles Major Characters: 34446

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Love's Fierce Sweetness

After we had all returned to Greenwich the princess and Brandon were together frequently. Upon several occasions he was invited, with others, to her parlor for card playing. But we spent two evenings, with only four of us present, prior to the disastrous events which changed everything, and of which I am soon to tell you. During these two evenings the "Sailor Lass" was in constant demand.

This pair, who should have remained apart, met constantly in and about the palace, and every glance added fuel to the flame. Part of the time it was the princess with her troublesome dignity, and part of the time it was Mary-simply girl. Notwithstanding these haughty moods, anyone with half an eye could see that the princess was gradually succumbing to the budding woman; that Brandon's stronger nature had dominated her with that half fear which every woman feels who loves a strong man-stronger than herself.

One day the rumor spread through the court that the old French king, Louis XII, whose wife, Anne of Brittany, had just died, had asked Mary's hand in marriage. It was this, probably, which opened Brandon's eyes to the fact that he had been playing with the very worst sort of fire; and first made him see that in spite of himself, and almost without his knowledge, the girl had grown wonderfully sweet and dear to him. He now saw his danger, and struggled to keep himself beyond the spell of her perilous glances and siren song. This modern Ulysses made a masterful effort, but alas! had no ships to carry him away, and no wax with which to fill his ears. Wax is a good thing, and no one should enter the Siren country without it. Ships, too, are good, with masts to tie one's self to, and sails and rudder, and a gust of wind to waft one quickly past the island. In fact, one cannot take too many precautions when in those enchanted waters.

Matters began to look dark to me. Love had dawned in Mary's breast, that was sure, and for the first time, with all its fierce sweetness. Not that it had reached its noon, or anything like it. In truth, it might, I hoped, die in the dawning, for my lady was as capricious as a May day; but it was love-love as plain as the sun at rising. She sought Brandon upon all occasions, and made opportunities to meet him; not openly-at any rate, not with Brandon's knowledge, nor with any connivance on his part, but apparently caring little what he or any one else might see. Love lying in her heart had made her a little more shy than formerly in seeking him, but her straightforward way of taking whatever she wanted made her transparent little attempts at concealment very pathetic.

As for Brandon, the shaft had entered his heart, too, poor fellow, as surely as love had dawned in Mary's, but there was this difference: With our princess-at least I so thought at the time-the sun of love might dawn and lift itself to mid-heaven and glow with the fervent ardor of high noon-for her blood was warm with the spark of her grandfather's fire-and then sink into the west and make room for another sun to-morrow. But with Brandon's stronger nature the sun would go till noon and there would burn for life. The sun, however, had not reached its noon with Brandon, either; since he had set his brain against his heart, and had done what he could to stay the all-consuming orb at its dawning. He knew the hopeless misery such a passion would bring him, and helped the good Lord, in so far as he could, to answer his prayer, and lead him not into temptation. As soon as he saw the truth, he avoided Mary as much as possible.

As I said, we had spent several evenings with Mary after we came home from Windsor, at all of which her preference was shown in every movement. Some women are so expressive under strong emotion that every gesture, a turn of the head, a glance of the eyes, the lifting of a hand or the poise of the body, speaks with a tongue of eloquence, and such was Mary. Her eyes would glow with a soft fire when they rested upon him, and her whole person told all too plainly what, in truth, it seemed she did not care to hide. When others were present she would restrain herself somewhat, but with only Jane and myself, she could hardly maintain a seemly reserve. During all this time Brandon remained cool and really seemed unconscious of his wonderful attraction for her. It is hard to understand why he did not see it, but I really believe he did not. Although he was quite at ease in her presence, too much so, Mary sometimes thought, and strangely enough sometimes told him in a fit of short-lived, quickly repented anger that always set him laughing, yet there was never a word or gesture that could hint of undue familiarity. It would probably have met a rebuff from the princess part of her; for what a perversity, both royal and feminine, she wanted all the freedom for herself. In short, like any other woman, she would rather love than be loved, that is, until surrender day should come; then of course....

After these last two meetings, although the invitations came frequently, none was accepted. Brandon had contrived to have his duties, ostensibly at least, occupy his evenings, and did honestly what his judgment told him was the one thing to do; that is, remain away from a fire that could give no genial warmth, but was sure to burn him to the quick. I saw this only too plainly, but never a word of it was spoken between us.

The more I saw of this man, the more I respected him, and this curbing of his affections added to my already high esteem. The effort was doubly wise in Brandon's case. Should love with his intense nature reach its height, his recklessness would in turn assert itself, and these two would inevitably try to span the impassable gulf between them, when Brandon, at least, would go down in the attempt. His trouble, however, did not make a mope of him, and he retained a great deal of his brightness and sparkle undimmed by what must have been an ache in his heart. Though he tried, without making it too marked, to see as little of Mary as possible, their meeting once in a while could not be avoided, especially when one of them was always seeking to bring it about. After a time, Mary began to suspect his attempts to avoid her, and she grew cold and distant through pique. Her manner, however, had no effect upon Brandon, who did not, or at least appeared not to notice it. This the girl could not endure, and lacking strength to resist her heart, soon returned to the attack.

Mary had not seen Brandon for nearly two weeks, and was growing anxious, when one day she and Jane met him in a forest walk near the river. Brandon was sauntering along reading when they overtook him. Jane told me afterwards that Mary's conduct upon coming up to him was pretty and curious beyond the naming. At first she was inclined to be distant, and say cutting things, but when Brandon began to grow restive under them and showed signs of turning back, she changed front in the twinkling of an eye and was all sweetness. She laughed and smiled and dimpled, as only she could, and was full of bright glances and gracious words.

She tried a hundred little schemes to get him to herself for a moment-the hunting of a wild flower or a four-leaved clover, or the exploration of some little nook in the forest toward which she would lead him-but Jane did not at first take the hint and kept close at her heels. Mary's impulsive nature was not much given to hinting-she usually nodded and most emphatically at that-so after a few failures to rid herself of her waiting lady she said impatiently: "Jane, in the name of heaven don't keep so close to us. You won't move out of reach of my hand, and you know how often it inclines to box your ears."

Jane did know, I am sorry for Mary's sake to say, how often the fair hand was given to such spasms; so with this emphasized hint she walked on ahead, half sulky at the indignity put upon her, and half amused at her whimsical mistress.

Mary lost no time, but began the attack at once.

"Now, sir, I want you to tell me the truth; why do you refuse my invitations and so persistently keep away from me? I thought at first I would simply let you go your way, and then I thought I-would not. Don't deny it. I know you won't. With all your faults, you don't tell even little lies; not even to a woman-I believe. Now there is a fine compliment-is it not?-when I intended to scold you!" She gave a fluttering little laugh, and, with hanging head, continued: "Tell me, is not the king's sister of quality sufficient to suit you? Perhaps you must have the queen or the Blessed Virgin? Tell me now?" And she looked up at him, half in banter, half in doubt.

"My duties-," began Brandon.

"Oh! bother your duties. Tell me the truth."

"I will, if you let me," returned Brandon, who had no intention whatever of doing anything of the sort. "My duties now occupy my time in the evening--"

"That will not do," interrupted Mary, who knew enough of a guardsman's duty to be sure it was not onerous. "You might as well come to it and tell the truth; that you do not like our society." And she gave him a vicious little glance without a shadow of a smile.

"In God's name, Lady Mary, that is not it," answered Brandon, who was on the rack. "Please do not think it. I cannot bear to have you say such a thing when it is so far from the real truth."

"Then tell me the real truth."

"I cannot; I cannot. I beg of you not to ask. Leave me! or let me leave you. I refuse to answer further." The latter half of this sentence was uttered doggedly and sounded sullen and ill-humored, although, of course, it was not so intended. He had been so perilously near speaking words which would probably have lighted, to their destruction-to his, certainly-the smoldering flames within their breast that it frightened him, and the manner in which he spoke was but a tone giving utterance to the pain in his heart.

Mary took it as it sounded, and, in unfeigned surprise, exclaimed angrily: "Leave you? Do I hear aright? I never thought that I, the daughter and sister of a king, would live to be dismissed by a-by a-any one."

"Your highness-" began Brandon; but she was gone before he could speak.

He did not follow her to explain, knowing how dangerous such an explanation would be, but felt that it was best for them both that she should remain offended, painful as the thought was to him.

Of course, Mary's womanly self-esteem, to say nothing of her royal pride, was wounded to the quick, and no wonder.

Poor Brandon sat down upon a stone, and, as he longingly watched her retiring form, wished in his heart he were dead. This was the first time he really knew how much he loved the girl, and he saw that, with him at least, it was a matter of bad to worse; and at that rate would soon be-worst.

Now that he had unintentionally offended her, and had permitted her to go without an explanation, she was dearer to him than ever, and, as he sat there with his face in his hands, he knew that if matters went on as they were going, the time would soon come when he would throw caution to the dogs and would try the impossible-to win her for his own. Caution and judgment still sat enthroned, and they told him now what he knew full well they would not tell him after a short time-that failure was certain to follow the attempt, and disaster sure to follow failure. First, the king would, in all probability, cut off his head upon an intimation of Mary's possible fondness for him; and, second, if he should be so fortunate as to keep his head, Mary could not, and certainly would not, marry him, even if she loved him with all her heart. The distance between them was too great, and she knew too well what she owed to her position. There was but one thing left-New Spain; and he determined while sitting there to sail with the next ship.

The real cause of Brandon's manner had never occurred to Mary. Although she knew her beauty and power, as she could not help but know it-not as a matter of vanity, but as a matter of fact-yet love had blinded her where Brandon was concerned, and that knowledge failed to give her light as to his motives, however brightly it might illumine the conduct of other men toward whom she was indifferent.

So Mary was angry this time; angry in earnest, and Jane felt the irritable palm more than once. I, too, came in for my share of her ill temper, as most certainly would Brandon, had he allowed himself to come within reach of her tongue, which he was careful not to do. An angry porcupine would have been pleasant company compared with Mary during this time. There was no living with her in peace. Even the king fought shy of her, and the queen was almost afraid to speak. Probably so much general disturbance was never before or since collected within one small body as in that young Tartar-Venus, Mary. She did not tell Jane the cause of her vexation, but only said she "verily hated Brandon," and that, of course, was the key to the whole situation.

After a fortnight, this ill-humor began to soften in the glowing warmth of her heart, which was striving to reassert itself, and the desire to see Brandon began to get the better of her sense of injury.

Brandon, tired of this everlasting watchfulness to keep himself out of temptation, and, dreading at any moment that lapse from strength which is apt to come to the strongest of us, had resolved to quit his place at court and go to New Spain at once. He had learned, upon inquiry, that a ship would sail from Bristol in about twenty days, and another six weeks later. So he chose the former and was making his arrangements to leave as soon as possible.

He told me of his plans and spoke of his situation: "You know the reason for my going," he said, "even if I have never spoken of it. I am not much of a Joseph, and am very little given to running away from a beautiful woman, but in this case I am fleeing from death itself. And to think what a heaven it would be. You are right, Caskoden; no man can withstand the light of that girl's smile. I am unable to tell how I feel toward her. It sometimes seems that I can not live another hour without seeing her; yet, thank God, I have reason enough left to know that every sight of her only adds to an already incurable malady. What will it be when she is the wife of the king of France? Does it not look as if wild life in New Spain is my only chance?"

I assented as we joined hands, and our eyes were moist as I told him how I should miss him more than anyone else in all the earth-excepting Jane, in mental reservation.

I told Jane what Brandon was about to do, knowing full well she would tell Mary; which she did at once.

Poor Mary! The sighs began to come now, and such small vestiges of her ill-humor toward Brandon as still remained were frightened off in a hurry by the fear that she had seen the last of him.

She had not before fully known that she loved him. She knew he was the most delightful companion she had ever met, and that there was an exhilaration about his presence which almost intoxicated her and made life an ecstasy, yet she did not know it was love. It needed but the thought that she was about to lose him to make her know her malady, and meet it face to face.

Upon the evening when Mary learned all this, she went into her chamber very early and closed the door. No one interrupted her until Jane went in to robe her for the night, and to retire. She then found that Mary had robed herself and was lying in bed with her head covered, apparently asleep. Jane quietly prepared to retire, and lay down in her own bed. The girls usually shared one couch, but during Mary's ill-temper she had forced Jane to sleep alone.

After a short silence Jane heard a sob from the other bed, then another, and another.

"Mary, are you weeping?" she asked.


"What is the matter, dear?"

"Nothing," with a sigh.

"Do you wish me to come to your bed?"

"Yes, I do." So Jane went over and lay beside Mary, who gently put her arms about her neck.

"When will he leave?" whispered Mary, shyly confessing all by her question.

"I do not know," responded Jane, "but he will see you before he goes."

"Do you believe he will?"

"I know it;" and with this consolation Mary softly wept herself to sleep.

After this, for a few days, Mary was quiet enough. Her irritable mood had vanished, but Jane could see that she was on the lookout for some one all the time, although she made the most pathetic little efforts to conceal her watchfulness.

At last a meeting came about in this way: Next to the king's bed-chamber was a luxuriously furnished little apartment with a well-selected library. Here Brandon and I often went, afternoons, to read, as we were sure to be undisturbed.

Late one day Brandon had gone over to this quiet retreat, and having selected a volume, took his place in a secluded little alcove half hidden in arras draperies. There was a cushioned seat along the wall and a small diamond-shaped window to furnish light.

He had not been there long when in came Mary. I can not say whether she knew Brandon was there or not, but

she was there and he was there, which is the only thing to the point, and finding him, she stepped into the alcove before he was aware of her presence.

Brandon was on his feet in an instant, and with a low bow was backing himself out most deferentially, to leave her in sole possession if she wished to rest.

"Master Brandon, you need not go. I will not hurt you. Besides, if this place is not large enough for us both, I will go. I would not disturb you." She spoke with a tremulous voice and a quick, uneasy glance, and started to move backward out of the alcove.

"Lady Mary, how can you speak so? You know-you must know-oh! I beg you-" But she interrupted him by taking his arm and drawing him to a seat beside her on the cushion. She could have drawn down the Colossus of Rhodes with the look she gave Brandon, so full was it of command, entreaty and promise.

"That's it; I don't know, but I want to know; and I want you to sit here beside me and tell me. I am going to be reconciled with you, despite the way you treated me when last we met. I am going to be friends with you whether you will or not. Now what do you say to that, sir?" She spoke with a fluttering little laugh of uneasy non-assurance, which showed that her heart was not nearly so confident nor so bold as her words would make believe. Poor Brandon, usually so ready, had nothing "to say to that," but sat in helpless silence.

Was this the sum total of all his wise determinations made at the cost of so much pain and effort? Was this the answer to all his prayers, "Lead me not into temptation"? He had done his part, for he had done all he could. Heaven had not helped him, since here was temptation thrust upon him when least expected, and when the way was so narrow he could not escape, but must meet it face to face.

Mary soon recovered her self-possession-women are better skilled in this art than men-and continued:

"I am not intending to say one word about your treatment of me that day over in the forest, although it was very bad, and you have acted abominably ever since. Now is not that kind in me?" And she softly laughed as she peeped up at the poor fellow from beneath those sweeping lashes, with the premeditated purpose of tantalizing him, I suppose. She was beginning to know her power over him, and it was never greater than at this moment. Her beauty had its sweetest quality, for the princess was sunk and the woman was dominant, with flushed face and flashing eyes that caught a double luster from the glowing love that made her heart beat so fast. Her gown, too, was the best she could have worn to show her charms. She must have known Brandon was there, and must have dressed especially to go to him. She wore her favorite long flowing outer sleeve, without the close fitting inner one. It was slit to the shoulder, and gave entrancing glimpses of her arms with every movement, leaving them almost bare when she lifted her hands, which was often, for she was as full of gestures as a Frenchwoman. Her bodice was cut low, both back and front, showing her large perfectly molded throat and neck, like an alabaster pillar of beauty and strength, and disclosing her bosom just to its shadowy incurving, white and billowy as drifted snow. Her hair was thrown back in an attempt at a coil, though, like her own rebellious nature, it could not brook restraint, and persistently escaped in a hundred little curls that fringed her face and lay upon the soft white nape of her neck like fluffy shreds of sun-lit floss on new cut ivory.

With the mood that was upon her, I wonder Brandon maintained his self-restraint even for a moment. He felt that his only hope lay in silence, so he sat beside her and said nothing. He told me long afterwards that while sitting there in the intervals between her speech, the oddest, wildest thoughts ran through his brain. He wondered how he could escape. He thought of the window, and that possibly he might break away through it, and then he thought of feigning illness, and a hundred other absurd schemes, but they all came to nothing, and he sat there to let events take their own course as they seemed determined to do in spite of him.

After a short silence, Mary continued, half banteringly: "Answer me, sir! I will have no more of this. You shall treat me at least with the courtesy you would show a bourgeoise girl."

"Oh, that you were only a burgher's daughter."

"Yes, I know all that; but I am not. It can't be helped, and you shall answer me."

"There is no answer, dear lady-I beg you-oh, do you not see-"

"Yes, yes; but answer my question; am I not kind-more than you deserve?"

"Indeed, yes; a thousand times. You have always been so kind, so gracious and so condescending to me that I can only thank you, thank you, thank you," answered Brandon, almost shyly; not daring to lift his eyes to hers.

Mary saw the manner quickly enough-what woman ever missed it, much less so keen-eyed a girl as she-and it gave her confidence, and brought back the easy banter of her old time manner.

"How modest we have become! Where is the boldness of which we used to have so much? Kind? Have I always been so? How about the first time I met you? Was I kind then? And as to condescension, don't-don't use that word between us."

"No," returned Brandon, who, in his turn, was recovering himself, "no, I can't say that you were very kind at first. How you did fly out at me and surprise me. It was so unexpected it almost took me off my feet," and they both laughed in remembering the scene of their first meeting. "No, I can't say your kindness showed itself very strongly in that first interview, but it was there nevertheless, and when Lady Jane led me back, your real nature asserted itself, as it always does, and you were kind to me; kind as only you can be."

That was getting very near to the sentimental; dangerously near, he thought; and he said to himself: "If this does not end quickly I shall have to escape."

"You are easily satisfied if you call that good," laughingly returned Mary. "I can be ever so much better than that if I try."

"Let me see you try," said Brandon.

"Why, I'm trying now," answered Mary with a distracting little pout. "Don't you know genuine out-and-out goodness when you see it? I'm doing my very best now. Can't you tell?"

"Yes, I think I recognize it; but-but-be bad again."

"No, I won't! I will not be bad even to please you; I have determined not to be bad and I will not-not even to be good. This," placing her hand over her heart, "is just full of 'good' to-day," and her lips parted as she laughed at her own pleasantry.

"I am afraid you had better be bad-I give you fair warning," said Brandon huskily. He felt her eyes upon him all the time, and his strength and good resolves were oozing out like wine from an ill-coppered cask. After a short silence Mary continued, regardless of the warning:

"But the position is reversed with us; at first I was unkind to you, and you were kind to me, but now I am kind to you and you are unkind to me."

"I can come back at you with your own words," responded Brandon. "You don't know when I am kind to you. I should be kinder to myself, at least, were I to leave you and take myself to the other side of the world."

"Oh! that is one thing I wanted to ask you about. Jane tells me you are going to New Spain?"

She was anxious to know, but asked the question partly to turn the conversation which was fast becoming perilous. As a girl, she loved Brandon, and knew it only too well, but she knew also that she was a princess, standing next to the throne of the greatest kingdom on earth; in fact, at that time, the heir apparent-Henry having no children-for the people would not have the Scotch king's imp-and the possibility of such a thing as a union with Brandon had never entered her head, however passionate her feelings toward him. She also knew that speaking a thought vitalizes it and gives it force; so, although she could not deny herself the pleasure of being near him, of seeing him, and hearing the tones of his voice, and now and then feeling the thrill of an accidental touch, she had enough good sense to know that a mutual confession, that is, taking it for granted Brandon loved her, as she felt almost sure he did, must be avoided at all hazards. It was not to be thought of between people so far apart as they. The brink was a delightful place, full of all the sweet ecstasies and thrilling joys of a seventh heaven, but over the brink-well! there should be no "over," for who was she? And who was he? Those two dreadfully stubborn facts could not be forgotten, and the gulf between them could not be spanned; she knew that only too well. No one better.

Brandon answered her question: "I do not know about going; I think I shall. I have volunteered with a ship that sails in two or three weeks from Bristol, and I suppose I shall go."

"Oh, no! do you really mean it?" It gave her a pang to hear that he was actually going, and her love pulsed higher; but she also felt a sense of relief, somewhat as a conscientious house-breaker might feel upon finding the door securely locked against him. It would take away a temptation which she could not resist, and yet dared not yield to much longer.

"I think there is no doubt that I mean it," replied Brandon. "I should like to remain in England until I can save enough money out of the king's allowance to pay the debt against my father's estate, so that I may be able to go away and feel that my brother and sisters are secure in their home-my brother is not strong-but I know it is better for me to go now, and I hope to find the money out there. I could have paid it with what I lost to Judson before I discovered him cheating." This was the first time he had ever alluded to the duel, and the thought of it, in Mary's mind, added a faint touch of fear to her feeling toward him.

She looked up with a light in her eyes and asked: "What is the debt? How much? Let me give you the money. I have so much more than I need. Let me pay it. Please tell me how much it is and I will hand it to you. You can come to my rooms and get it or I will send it to you. Now tell me that I may. Quickly." And she was alive with enthusiastic interest.

"There now! you are kind again; as kind as even you can be. Be sure, I thank you, though I say it only once," and he looked into her eyes with a gaze she could not stand even for an instant. This was growing dangerous again, so, catching himself, he turned the conversation back into the bantering vein.

"Ah! you want to pay the debt that I may have no excuse to remain? Is that it? Perhaps you are not so kind after all."

"No! no! you know better. But let me pay the debt. How much is it and to whom is it owing? Tell me at once, I command you."

"No! no! Lady Mary, I cannot."

"Please do. I beg-if I cannot command. Now I know you will; you would not make me beg twice for anything?" She drew closer to him as she spoke and put her hand coaxingly upon his arm. With an irresistible impulse he took the hand in his and lifted it to his lips in a lingering caress that could not be mistaken. It was all so quick and so full of fire and meaning that Mary took fright, and the princess, for the moment, came uppermost.

"Master Brandon!" she exclaimed sharply, and drew away her hand. Brandon dropped the hand and moved over on the seat. He did not speak, but turned his face from her and looked out of the window toward the river. Thus they sat in silence, Brandon's hand resting listlessly upon the cushion between them. Mary saw the eloquent movement away from her and his speaking attitude, with averted face; then the princess went into eclipse, and the imperial woman was ascendant once more. She looked at him for a brief space with softening eyes, and, lifting her hand, put it back in his, saying:

"There it is again-if you want it."

Want it? Ah! this was too much! The hand would not satisfy now; it must be all, all! And he caught her to his arms with a violence that frightened her.

"Please don't, please! Not this time. Ah! have mercy, Charl-Well! There!... There!... Mary mother, forgive me." Then her woman spirit fell before the whirlwind of his passion, and she was on his breast with her white arms around his neck, paying the same tribute to the little blind god that he would have exacted from the lowliest maiden of the land. Just as though it were not the blood of fifty kings and queens that made so red and sweet, aye, sweet as nectar thrice distilled, those lips which now so freely paid their dues in coined bliss.

Brandon held the girl for a moment or two, then fell upon his knees and buried his face in her lap.

"Heaven help me!" he cried.

She pushed the hair back from his forehead with her hand and as she fondled the curls, leaned over him and softly whispered:

"Heaven help us both; for I love you!"

He sprang to his feet. "Don't! don't! I pray you," he said wildly, and almost ran from her.

Mary followed him nearly to the door of the room, but when he turned he saw that she had stopped, and was standing with her hands over her face, as if in tears.

He went back to her and said: "I tried to avoid this, and if you had helped me, it would never-" But he remembered how he had always despised Adam for throwing the blame upon Eve, no matter how much she may have deserved it, and continued: "No; I do not mean that. It is all my fault. I should have gone away long ago. I could not help it; I tried. Oh! I tried."

Mary's eyes were bent upon the floor, and tears were falling over her flushed cheeks, unheeded and unchecked.

"There is no fault in any one; neither could I help it," she murmured.

"No, no; it is not that there is any fault in the ordinary sense; it is like suicide or any other great, self-inflicted injury with me. I am different from other men. I shall never recover."

"I know only too well that you are different from other men, and-and I, too, am different from other women-am I not?"

"Ah, different! There is no other woman in all this wide, long world," and they were in each other's arms again. She turned her shoulder to him and rested with the support of his arms about her. Her eyes were cast down in silence, and she was evidently thinking as she toyed with the lace of his doublet. Brandon knew her varying expressions so well that he saw there was something wanting, so he asked:

"Is there something you wish to say?"

"Not I," she responded with emphasis on the pronoun.

"Then is it something you wish me to say?"

She nodded her head slowly: "Yes."

"What is it? Tell me and I will say it."

She shook her head slowly: "No."

"What is it? I cannot guess."

"Did you not like to hear me say that-that I-loved you?"

"Ah, yes; you know it. But-oh!-do you wish to hear me say it?"

The head nodded rapidly two or three times: "Yes." And the black curving lashes were lifted for a fleeting, luminous instant.

"It is surely not necessary; you have known it so long already, but I am only too glad to say it. I love you."

She nestled closer to him and hid her face on his breast.

"Now that I have said it, what is my reward?" he asked-and the fair face came up, red and rosy, with "rewards," any one of which was worth a king's ransom.

"But this is worse than insanity," cried Brandon, as he almost pushed her from him. "We can never belong to each other; never."

"No," said Mary, with a despairing shake of the head, as the tears began to flow again; "no! never." And falling upon his knees, he caught both her hands in his, sprang to his feet and ran from the room.

Her words showed him the chasm anew. She saw the distance between them even better than he. Evidently it seemed farther looking down than looking up. There was nothing left now but flight.

He sought refuge in his own apartments and wildly walked the floor, exclaiming, "Fool! fool that I am to lay up this store of agony to last me all my days. Why did I ever come to this court? God pity me-pity me!" And he fell upon his knees at the bed, burying his face in his arms, his mighty man's frame shaking as with a palsy.

That same night Brandon told me how he had committed suicide, as he put it, and of his intention to go to Bristol and there await the sailing of the ship, and perhaps find a partial resurrection in New Spain.

Unfortunately, he could not start for Bristol at once, as he had given some challenges for a tournament at Richmond, and could furnish no good excuse to withdraw them; but he would not leave his room, nor again see "that girl who was driving him mad."

It was better, he thought, and wisely too, that there be no leave-taking, but that he should go without meeting her.

"If I see her again," he said, "I shall have to kill some one, even if it is only myself."

I heard him tossing in his bed all night, and when morning came he arose looking haggard enough, but with his determination to run away and see Mary no more, stronger than ever upon him.

But providence, or fate, or some one, ordered it differently, and there was plenty of trouble ahead.

* * *

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