A Bushman.

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the occasion. As he nears too the favoured inamorato, for whom he well
knows his mistress' sweetest smile is reserved - who already with his
right hand grasping the sugared favours, is prepared to lavish his whole
store on this one venture - how arch his look - how roguish his eye - as he
turns towards his donna, and speaks as plainly as words could do, "See!
there he is, he whom you love best!"

Ah! well may we delight to recal once more those minute details! ah!
well may we remember how - when our brow was smoothed with youth, as it
is now furrowed with care - when our eye sparkled from pleasure, as it is
now dimmed from time, or mayhap, tears - well may we love to remember,
how our whole hearts were engrossed in that mimic warfare. How
impatiently did we watch for _one_, amidst that crowded throng, for
one - whose beauty haunted us by day, and whose smile we dreamt over by
night. Well do we recal with what unexampled ingenuity, we laboured to
befit the snow white egg for a rare tenant - attar-gul. Well do we
remember how that face, usually so cloudless, became darkened almost to
a frown, as our heart's mistress saw the missile approach her. What a
radiant smile bewitched us, as it burst on her lap, and filled the air
with its fragrance! Truly we had our reward!

Delmé and George took a quiet drive, and enjoyed that sweet interchange
of ideas, that characterises the meeting of two brothers long absent
from each other.

They went in the direction of St. Julian's, a drive all our Maltese
friends will be familiar with. The road lay almost wholly by the sea
side. A gentle breeze was crisping the waters, and served to allay the
heat, which, at a more advanced period of the season, is by no means an
enviable one. Sun-shine seemed to beam on George's mind, as he once more
spoke of home ties, to one to whom those home ties were equally dear.
And gratefully did he bask in its rays! Long used to the verdant but
tame, beautiful but romantic landscapes, which the part of England he
resided in presented; the scenery around him, novel and picturesque,
struck Sir Henry forcibly. To one who has resided long in Malta, its
scenes may wear an aspect somewhat different. The limited country - the
ceaseless glare - the dust, or rather the pulverised rock - the
ever-present lizard, wary and quick, peeping out at each crevice - the
buzzing mosquito, inviting the moody philosopher to smite his own
cheek, - these things may come to be regarded as real grievances.

But Delmé, as a visitor, was pleased with what he saw. The promising
vineyards - the orange groves, with their glowing fruit and ample
foliage, "looking like golden lamps" in a dark night of leaves - the
thick leaves of the prickly pear - the purple sky above him, lending its
rich hue to the sea beside - the architectural beauties of the
cottages - the wide portico of the mansions - the flat terrace with its
balustrade, over which might be seen a fair face, half concealed by the
faldette, smilingly peering, and through whose pillars might be noted a
pretty ancle, and siesta-looking slipper - these were novelties, and
pleasing ones! Their drive over, Delmé felt more tranquil as to George's
state of mind, and more inclined to look on the bright side, as to his
future fortunes.

Acmé was waiting to receive them, and as she scanned George's features,
Delmé could not but observe the affectionate solicitude that marked her
glance and manner.

Let it not be thought we would make vice seductive!

Fair above all things is the pure affection of woman! happy he who may
regard it his! he may bask without a shade of distrust in its glorious
splendour, and permanently adore its holy beauty.

While, fascinating though be the concentred love of woman, whether
struggling in its passion - enraptured in its madness - or clinging and
loving on in its guilt: Man - that more selfish wanderer from virtue's
pale, that destroyer of his own best sympathies - will find too late that
a day of bitterest regret must arrive: a day when love shall exist no
more, or, linked with remorse, shall tear - a fierce vulture - at his very
heart strings.

Chapter XI.

The Colonel.

"Not such as prate of war, but skulk in peace."

Delmé strolled out half an hour before his brother's dinner hour, with
the intention of paying a visit of ceremony to the Colonel of George's
regiment. His house was not far distant. It had been the palazzo of one
of the redoubted Knights of St. John; and the massive gate at which Sir
Henry knocked for admittance, seemed an earnest, that the family, who
had owned the mansion, had been a powerful and important one. The door
was opened, and the servant informed Delmé, that Colonel Vavasour was on
the terrace.

The court yard through which they passed was extensive; and a spring

"Of living water from its centre rose,
Whose bubbling did a genial softness fling."

Ascending a lofty marble staircase, along which were placed a few
bronzed urns, Delmé crossed a suite of apartments - thrown open in the
Italian mode - and passing through a glass door, found himself on a wide
stone terrace, edged by pillars.

Immediately beneath this, was an orange grove, whose odours perfumed the
air. Colonel Vavasour was employed in reading a German treatise on light
infantry tactics. He received Sir Henry with great cordiality, and
proposed adjourning to the library. Delmé was pleased to observe, for it
corresponded with what he had heard of the man; that, with the exception
of the chef d'oeuvres of the English and German poets, the Colonel's
library, which was an extensive one, almost wholly consisted of such
books as immediately related to military subjects, or might be able to
bear on some branch of science connected with military warfare. Pagan,
and his follower Vauban, and the more matured treatises of Cormontaigne,
were backed by the works of that boast of the Low Countries, Coehorn;
and by the ingenious theories, as yet _but_ theories, of Napoleon's
minister of war, Carnot.

Military historians, too, crowded the shelves. _There_ might be noted
the veracious Polybius - the classic Xenophon - the scientific
Cæsar - the amusing Froissart, with his quaint designs, and quainter
discourses - and many an author unknown to fame, who in lengthy quarto,
luxuriated on the lengthy campaigns of Marlborough or Eugene; those wise
commanders, who flourished in an era, when war was a well debated
scientific game of chess; when the rival opponents took their time,
before making their moves; and the loss of a pawn was followed by the
loss of a kingdom. _There_ might you be enamoured with even a soldier's
hardships, as your eye glanced on the glowing circumstantial details of
Kincaid; - or you might glory in your country's Thucydides, as you read
the nervous impassioned language of a Napier. _Thou_, too, Trant! our
friend! wert there! Ah, why cut off in thy prime? Did not thy spirit
glow with martial fire? Did not thy conduct give promise, that not in
vain were those talents accorded thee? What hadst _thou_ done, to sink
thus early to a premature inglorious grave? Nor were our friends Folard
and Jomini absent; nor eke the minute essays of a Jarry, who taught the
aspiring youths of Great Britain all the arts of castrametation. With
what gusto does he show how to attack Reading; or how, with the greatest
chance of success, to defend the tranquil town of Egham. _Here_ would he
sink trous de loup on the ancient Runnimede, whereby the advance of the
enemy's cavalry would be frustrated; _there_ would he cut down an
abattis, or plant chevaux de frise. At _this_ winding of England's
noblest river, would he establish a pontoon bridge; the approaches to
which he would enfilade, by a battery placed on yonder height.

Before relating the conversation between Delmé and Colonel Vavasour, it
may not be improper to say a few words as to the character of the
latter. When we say that he was looked up to as an officer, and adored
as a man, by the regiment he had commanded for years; we are not
according light praise.

Those who have worn a coat of red, or been much conversant with
military affairs, will appreciate the difficult, the ungrateful task,
devolving on a commanding officer.

How few, how very few are those, who can command respect, and ensure
love. How many, beloved as men, are imposed on, and disregarded as
officers. How many are there, whose presence on the parade ground awes
the most daring hearts, who are passed by in private life, with
something like contumely, and of whom, in their private relations, few
speak, and yet fewer are those who wish kindly. When deserving in each
relation, how frequently do we see those who want the manner, the tact,
to show themselves in their true colours. An ungracious refusal - ay! or
an ungraciously accorded favour! may raise a foe who will be a bar to a
man's popularity for years: - whilst how many a free and independent
spirit is there, who criticises with a keener eye than is his wont, the
sayings and doings of his commanding officer, solely because he _is_
such. How apt is such an one to misrepresent a word, or create a wrong
motive for an action! how slow in giving praise, lest _he_ should be
deemed one of the servile train! Pass we over the host of petty
intrigues - the myriads of conflicting interests: - show not how the
partial report of a favourite, may make the one in authority unjust to
him below him; or how the false tale-bearer may induce the one below to
be unjust to his superior. Colonel Vavasour was not only considered in
the field, as one of England's bravest soldiers; but was yet more
remarkable for his gentlemanly deportment, and for the attention he ever
paid to the interior economy of his corps. This gave a tone to the - -
mess, almost incredible to one, who has not witnessed, what the constant
presence of a commanding officer, if he be a real gentleman, is enabled
to effect. Colonel Vavasour had ideas on the duties of a soldier, which
to many appeared original. We cannot but think, that the Colonel's
ideas, in the main, were right. He disliked his officers marrying; often
stating that he considered a sword and a wife as totally incompatible.

"Where," would he say, "is _then_ that boasted readiness of purpose,
that spirit of enterprise? Can an officer _then_, with half a dozen
shirts in his portmanteau, and a moderate quantity of cigars, if he be a
smoker, declare himself ready to sail over half the world?"

The Colonel would smile as he said this, but would continue with a
graver tone.

"No, there is a choice, and I blame no one for making his election: - a
soldier's hardships and a soldier's joys; - or domestic happiness, and an
inglorious life: - but to attempt to blend the two, is, I think,

On regimental subjects, he was what is technically called, a regulation
man. No innovations ever crept into his regiment, wanting the sanction
of the Horse Guards; whilst every order emanating from thence, was as
scrupulously adopted and adhered to, as if his own taste had prompted
the change. On parade, Colonel Vavasour was a strict disciplinarian; - but
his sword in the scabbard, he dropped the officer in his manner, - it
was impossible to do so in his appearance, - and no one ever heard him
discuss military points in a place inappropriate. He knew well how to
make the distinction between his public and his private duties. On an
officer under his command, being guilty of any dereliction of duty, he
would send for him, and reprimand him before the assembled corps, if he
deemed that such reprimand would be productive of good effect to others;
but - the parade dismissed - he would probably take this very officer's
arm, or ask to accompany him in his country ride.

Colonel Vavasour had once a young and an only brother under his command.
In no way did he relax discipline in his favour. Young Vavasour had
committed a breach of military etiquette. He was immediately ordered by
his brother to be placed in arrest, and would inevitably have been
brought to a court martial, had not the commanding officer of the
station interfered. During the whole of this time, the Colonel's manner
towards him continued precisely the same. They lived together as usual;
and no man, without a knowledge of the circumstance, could have been
aware that any other but a fraternal tie bound them together. What was
more extraordinary, the younger brother saw all this in its proper
light; and whilst he clung to and loved his brother, looked up with awe
and respect to his commanding officer.

As for Colonel Vavasour, no one who saw his convulsed features, as his
brother fell heading a gallant charge of his company at Waterloo, could
have doubted for a moment his deep-rooted affection. From that period, a
gloomy melancholy hung about him, which, though shaken off in public,
gave a shade to his brow, which was very perceptible.

In person, he was particularly neat; being always the best dressed
officer in his regiment, "How can we expect the men to pay attention to
_their_ dress, when we give them reason to suppose we pay but little
attention to our own?" was a constant remark of his. And here we may
observe, that no class of men have a stricter idea of the propriety of
dress, than private soldiers. To dress well is half a passport to a
soldier's respect; whilst on the other hand, it requires many excellent
qualities, to counterbalance in his mind a careless and slovenly
exterior. Colonel Vavasour had an independent fortune, which he spent at
the head of his regiment. Many a dinner party was given by him, for
which the corps he commanded obtained the credit; many a young officer
owed relief from pecuniary embarrassments, which might otherwise have
overwhelmed him, to the generosity of his Colonel. He appeared not to
have a wish, beyond the military circle around him, although those who
knew him best, said he had greater talent, and possessed the art of
fascinating in general society, more than most men.

"I am glad to see you here, Sir Henry," said he to Delmé, "although I
cannot but wish that happier circumstances had brought you to us. I have
a very great esteem for your brother, and am one of his warmest well
wishers. But I must not neglect the duties of hospitality. You must
allow me to present you to my officers at mess this evening. Our dinner
hour is late; but were it otherwise, we should miss that delightful hour
for our ride, when the sun's rays have no longer power to harm us, and
the sea breezes waft us a freshness, which almost compensates for the
languor attending the summer's heat."

Delmé declined his invitation, stating his wish to dine with his brother
on that day; but expressed himself ready to accept his kind offer on the
ensuing one.

"Thank you!" said Colonel Vavasour, "it is natural you should wish to
see your brother; and it pains me to think that poor George cannot yet
dine with his old friends. Have you seen Mr. Graham?"

Delmé replied in the affirmative; adding, that he could not but feel
obliged to him for his frankness.

"I am glad you feel thus," said Vavasour, "it emboldens me to address
you with equal candour; and, painful as our advice must be, I confess I
am inclined to side with George's medical attendant. I have myself been
witness to such lamentable proofs of George's state of mind - he has so
often, with the tears in his eyes, spoken to me of his feelings with
regard to Acmé Frascati, that I certainly consider these as in a great
measure the cause, and his state of mind the effect. I speak to you,
Sir Henry, without disguise. I had once a brother - the apple of my
eye - I loved him as I shall never love human being more; and, as God is
my witness, under similar circumstances, frankness is what I should have
prayed for, - my first wish would have been at once to know the worst.
Mr. Graham has told you of his long illness - his delirium - and has, I
conclude, touched upon the present state of his patient. Shall I shock
you, when I add that his lucid intervals are not to be depended upon;
that occasionally the wildest ideas, the most extraordinary projects,
are conceived by him? I wish you not, to act on any thing that Mr.
Graham, or that I may tell you, but to judge for yourself. Without this,
indeed, you would hardly understand the danger of these mental
paroxysms. So fearful are they, that I confess I should be inclined to
adopt any remedy, make any sacrifices which promised the remotest
possibility of success."

"I trust," said Sir Henry, "there are no sacrifices I would not
personally make for my only brother, were I once convinced these were
for his real benefit."

"I frankly mean," said Vavasour, "that I think almost the only chance of
restoring him, is by allowing him to marry Acmé Frascati."

Delmé's brow clouded.

"Think not," continued he, "that I am ignorant of what such a
determination must cost you. _I_, too, Sir Henry," - and the old man drew
his commanding form to its utmost height, - "_I_ too, know what must be
the feelings of a descendant of noble ancestors. I know them well; and
in more youthful days, the blood boiled in my veins as I thought of the
name they had left me. Thank heaven! I have never disgraced it. But were
_I_ situated as _you_ are, and the dead Augustus Vavasour in the place
of the living George Delmé, I would act as I am now advising you to do.
I speak solely as to the expediency of the measure. From what I have
stated - from my situation in life - from my character - you may easily
imagine that all my prejudices are enlisted on the other side of the
question. But I must here confess that I see something inexpressibly
touching in the devotion which that young Greek girl displayed, during
the whole of George's illness. But putting this on one side, and
considering the affair as one of mere expediency, I think you will
finally agree with me, that however desperate the remedy, some such must
be applied. And now, let me assure you, that nothing could have induced
me to obtrude thus, my feelings and opinions on a comparative stranger,
were it not that that stranger is the brother of one in whose welfare I
feel the liveliest interest."

Sir Henry Delmé expressed his thanks, and inwardly determined that he
would form no opinion till he had himself been witness to some act of
mental aberration. It is true, he had heard the medical attendant give a
decided opinion, - from George's own lips he had an avowal of much that
had been stated, - and now he had heard one, for whom he could not but
feel great respect - one who had evidently no interest in the
question - declare his sentiments as strongly. We are all sanguine as to
what we wish. It may be, that a hope yet lurked in Delmé's breast, that
these accounts might be unconsciously exaggerated, or that his brother's
state of health was now more established than heretofore.

On returning to Floriana, Delmé found George and the blushing Acmé
awaiting him. A delightful feeling is that, of again finding ourselves
with those from whom we have long been parted, once more engaged in the
same round of familiar avocations, once more re-acting the thousand
little trifles of life which we have so often acted before, and that,
too, in company with those who now sit beside us, as if to mock the
lapse of intervening years. These meetings seem to steal a pinion from
time's wing, and hard indeed were it if the sensations they called forth
were not pleasurable ones; for oh! how rudely and frequently, on the
other hand, are we reminded of the changes which the progress of years
brings with it: the bereavement of loved ones - the prostration of what
we revered - our buoyant elasticity of body and mind departed - all things
changing and changed.

We sigh, and gaze back. How few are the scenes, which memory's
kaleidoscope presents in their pristine bright colours, of that
journey, performed so slowly, as it once appeared, but which, to the
eye of retrospection, seems to have hurried to its end with the rapid
wings of the wind!

Imbued with an association, what a trivial circumstance will please! As
the brothers touched each other's glass; and drank to mutual happiness,
what grateful recollections were called up by that act! How did these
manifest their power, as they lighted up the wan features of George
Delmé. Acmé looked on smilingly; her hair flowing about her neck - her
dark eyes flashing with unusual brilliancy. Delmé felt it would be
unsocial were he alone to look grave; and although many foreboding
thoughts crowded on him, _he_ too seemed to be happy. It was twilight
when the dinner was over. The windows were open, and the party placed
themselves near the jalousies. They here commanded a view of the public
gardens, where groups of Maltese were enjoying the coolness of the hour,
and the fragrance of the flowers. The walk had a roof of lattice work
supported by wooden pillars; round which, an image of woman's love, the
honeysuckle clingingly twined, diffusing sweets.

Immediately before them, the principal outlet of the town presented
itself. Laughing parties of English sailors were passing, mounted on
steeds of every size, which they were urging forward, in spite of the
piteous remonstrances of the menials of their owners. The latter, for
the most part, held by the tails of their animals, and uttered a
jargon composed of English, Italian, and Maltese. The only words
however, that met the unregarding ears of the sailors, were some such
exclamations as these.

"Not you go so fast, Signore; he good horse, but much tire."

The riders sat in their saddles swinging from side to side, evidently
thinking their tenure more precarious than that on the giddy mast; and
wholly unmindful of the expressive gestures, and mournful ejaculations
of the bare-legged pursuers. At another time, their antics and
buffoonery, as they made unmerciful use of the short sticks with which
they were armed, would have provoked a smile. _Now_ our party gazed on
these things as they move the wise. They felt calm and happy; and
deceptive hope whispered they might yet remain so. Acmé took up her
guitar, and throwing her fingers over it, as she gave a soft prelude,
warbled that sweet although common song, "Buona notte, amato bene." She
sung with great feeling, and feeling is the soul of music.

How plaintively! how tenderly did her lips breathe the

"ricordati! ricordati di me!"

There was something extremely witching in her precocious charms. She
resembled some beauteous bud, just ready to burst into light and bloom.
It is not yet the rose, - but a moment more may make it such. Her
beauties were thus ripe for maturity. It seemed as if the sunshine of
love were already upon them - they were basking in its rays. A brief
space - and the girl shall no longer be such. What was promise shall be
beauty. She shall meet the charmed eye a woman; rich in grace and
loveliness. As Delmé marked her sympathising glance at George - her
beaming features - her innocent simplicity; - as he thought of all she had
lost, all she had suffered for his brother's sake, - as he thought of the
scorn of the many - the pity of the few - the unwearied watching - the
sleepless nights - the day of sorrow passed by the bed of sickness - all
so cheerfully encountered for _him_ - he could not reproach her. No! he
took her hand, and the brothers whispered consolation to her, and to
each other.

Late that evening, they were joined by Colonel Vavasour, and Mr. Graham.
George's spirits rose hourly. Never had his Colonel appeared to such
advantage - Acmé so lovely - or Henry so kind - as they did to George Delmé
that night.

It was with a sigh at the past pleasures that George retired to
his chamber.

Chapter XII.

The Mess.

"Red coats and redder faces."

The following day, a room having been given up to Delmé, he discharged
his bill at Beverley's; and moved to Floriana. He again accompanied
George in his drive; and they had on this occasion, the advantage of
Acmé's society, who amused them with her artless description of the
manners of the lower orders of Maltese.

Pursuant to his promise, at the bugle's signal Delmé entered the mess
room; and the Colonel immediately introduced him to the assembled
officers. To his disappointment, for he felt curious to see one, who had
exercised such an influence over his brother, Delancey was not amongst
them. Sir Henry was much pleased with the feeling that appeared to
exist, between Colonel Vavasour and his corps of officers: - respect on
one side - and the utmost confidence on both. We think it is the talented
author of Pelham, who describes a mess table as comprising "cold dishes

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Online LibraryA BushmanA Love Story → online text (page 6 of 21)