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was not proof against. He turned to Mr. Escourt, who was standing near him, and whose very disagreeable eyes had been fixed upon me for the last few minutes, and proposed to him a game at billiards. They walked away, and Rosa, turning suddenly round and observing probably that I looked vexed and discomposed, asked me if I should like to see my
I jumped up and followed her to the house; she led the way upstairs and established me in a charming room, where, as soon as the door was closed upon her, I threw myself down on the couch with a feeling of utter wretchedness and discouragement, differing from anything I had yet experienced.
The window was open; there were green trees close to it, the waving of whose branches I could see from where I was. Large nosegays of flowers were placed upon the table, and now and then the air from the garden dispensed the delicious perfume which it had stolen from a bed of mignonette. There was also that drowsy hum of insects,—the very song of summer, which we love, not for its beauty (though there is beauty in its sleepy busy monotony), but for all it recalls—for all the associations it brings to our minds. I was very tired, and I remained some time on the sofa in a state of abstraction bordering on sleep. I was roused from it in about half an hour by some snatches of an old song, which sounded almost like the chirpings of a bird, so sweet and wild and unconnected was their melody. I jumped up from the couch and went to the window; it looked on a small garden closed in by a slight green railing. It was one mass of flowers, perfectly dazzling in their profusion, variety, and beauty. In the centre was a large cage made of trellis-work, within which creepers grew, and marble vases filled with fresh water stood. Dozens of birds,
Whose starry wings
were flying about it in giddy enjoyment. The love birds sitting quietly and lovingly together on a corner of the same perch, the weavers with their endless tails, the miniature dove, the cordon bleu, with his turquoise breast, and the little cardinal, with his self-sufficient pomp, were all there, and seemed to bathe and to fly, to eat and to drink, to love and to quarrel, as freely as if they still ranged through the boundless depths of their native woods.
And near them stood the singer of that wild melody which had woke me from my short sleep. There she was like a little queen in the midst of her own fairy kingdom. She was dressed in a silk gown whose train swept over the gravel walks as she moved slowly along. A berthe of the richest Guipure old lace was clasped on her breast by one single pearl pin; some sprigs of the deep red salvia were fastened in her hair. She held a large pair of garden scissors in her hand, and as she walked along she cut the dead flowers from the bushes as she passed and flung them aside; every now and then a fresh burst of song springing from lips which seemed only made to smile. She came nearer to the house, and while cutting off a drooping moss-rose from its stem, she stood where the slanting rays of the evening sun threw a rich glow over her auburn hair and her blooming cheek.
I could hear now the words of her song, and recognised those lines of Montrose, the “Hero and the Bard":
The dead rose, the song, those images of beauty and of joy, the connection of ideas which they suggested, were all too much for me. I turned back into the room, and as I did so I caught sight of myself in the standing looking-glass opposite. My pale face, my heavy dark eyes, my black un
curled hair, were before me; they seemed to tell my
life's history; all, all its sad secrets were there; its love, its hate, its pride, its remorse, its anguish, and its despair.
I remarked that day at dinner that Mr. Escourt seemed particularly anxious to ingratiate himself with me, perhaps because I had seemed reluctant to allow him to do so, which with some men is apt to make them strain every nerve to succeed; but as I decidedly repulsed all his attempts to make himself agreeable, he devoted his attentions to Mrs. Middleton, who seemed amused and interested by his conversation, and I was obliged to admit that he was clever in spite of my antipathy to him.
It is unpleasant to meet in society a man who, we have secret reasons to know, would be shunned by all those who value truth and honour, if certain facts were revealed, and the veil drawn aside which hides from the world his real character and conduct. And when those we love and respect speak of their regard for such a person, and call him their friend, it is difficult to repress the accusing words which tremble on our lips. Such thoughts passed through my mind as I sat at dinner that day watching Mr. Escourt while he poured into Mrs. Middleton's ear his amusing anecdotes, and saw her look of interest as she listened to him. I felt it yet more when, after dinner, I heard my
uncle invite him in the most cordial manner to Elmsley; and above all, when Edward addressed him as 'My dear fellow,' I gave a start of impatience which must have seemed unaccountable to Edward, who looked at me with unaffected surprise.
After dinner we all sat on the stone terrace before the house, and while I strove in vain to shake off the gloom which gathered over my spirits more darkly every hour, I could not disguise from myself that Rosa had never looked more lovely—had never appeared to greater advantage.
Whether with perfect gravity and a genuine brogue she related, at Edward's request, the wonderful history of Daniel O'Rourke, who held on to the moon by its horns; or whether, on some remark of Mr. Escourt's on the subject to which all her feelings were alive, in a few words of rapid and fervent eloquence, she spoke of the sufferings and the wrongs of Ireland, of its injured honour, its misrepresented creed; whether, with the joyousness of a child, she showed off the tricks of her little dog by the side of the garden lake, or, stepping into the boat which was made expressly for her use, she seized her oars and rowed us across like the Lady of Loch Katrine,-in each movement there was grace; in each mischievous glance there was playfulness; in each word there was animation; and Edward laughed gaily or listened with interest, while even Mr. Middleton seemed excited and amused.
When we returned into the house Mr. Manby asked Rosa to sing; and as we all pressed her to do so, she sat down at the pianoforte, and sang in succession English ballads, Irish melodies, and Jacobite songs, which last she seemed to take particular pleasure in. During a pause, Mr. Escourt said :
'Pray, Miss Moore, what was it you were singing to-day before dinner, in your own garden? Something very wild and pretty.' Did
you detect me making a noise ?' she asked, with a smile; "a shocking noise my little brother calls it. He did not wish to find fault with me himself the other day, so he whispered to me, while he was playing with some wooden animals, “Rosa, these deer say to me that you make a shocking noise." But this is what you mean, I suppose,' and she began Montrose's love-song.
“This may be all very well,' exclaimed Mr. Escourt, when she had sung it, 'for a man who fights and writes verses—who carries, as he says, a sword and a pen—as, should his mistress discard him, he would no doubt console himself
with that same sword and pen; but I should think, with nine women out of ten, a dismissal would be the result of so very dictatorial a declaration. With, only listen to him ;' and he repeated the following lines :
· Like Alexander I would reign,
And I would reign alone;
A rival in my throne.
Or his deserts are small,
To win or lose it all.'
Would you stand this, Miss Moore ?'
Why,' she said, as her fingers ran carelessly over the keys, 'I should not feel much inclined to let Alexander reign at all, but I should not quarrel with him for choosing to reign alone. Would you, Ellen ?'
“No, I answered ; ‘only for believing it possible that he did not reign alone.'
I involuntarily turned my eyes towards Edward's as I said this. They met his, and their expression was so earnest and affectionate that a thrill of pleasure ran through me.
Mr. Escourt laughed and said:
"Why, you would have your hero still more convicted than he is. To my mind,
I'll never love thee more,'
is, under any circumstances, the most impertinent speech a lover can make, and one which no woman ought to forgive.'
"Oh, indeed,' exclaimed Mr. Manby, ' I am quite like Montrose. I would never care for a woman who did not love me above all things.'
Nor make her famous by your pen, nor glorious by your sword ?' murmured Rosa, as she bent over the music-books.
Edward smiled, but this time it was my eyes he sought,