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and hot wines, where the conversation is of Johnson of ours and Thomson
of jours."

This, though severe, is near the truth; and if, to this description, be
added _lots_ of plate of that pattern called the Queen's - ungainly
servants in stiff mess liveries - and a perpetual recurrence to Mr. Vice;
we have certainly caught the most glaring features of a commonplace
regimental dinner. Vavasour was well aware of this, and had directed
unremitting attention, to give a tone to the conversation at the mess
table, more nearly approaching to that of private life; one which should
embrace topics of general interest, and convey some general information.
Even in _his_ well ordered regiment, there were some, whose nature would
have led them, to confine their attention to thoughts of the daily
military routine. This inclination was repressed by the example of
their Colonel; and these, if not debaters, were at least patient
listeners, as the conversation dealt of matters, to them uncongenial,
and the value of the discussion of which they could not themselves
perceive. Not that military subjects were interdicted; the contrary was
the case. But these subjects took a somewhat loftier tone, than the
contemplation of an exchange of orderly duty, or an overslaugh of guard.

When dinner was announced, Colonel Vavasour placed his hand on the
shoulder of a boy near him.

"Come, Cholmondeley!" said he, "sit near me, and give me an account of
your match. You must not fail to write your Yorkshire friends every
particular. Major Clifford, will you sit on the other side of Sir Henry?
You are both Peninsula men, and will find, I doubt not, that you have
many friends in common.

"There is something," said he to Delmé, as he took his seat,
"revivifying to an old soldier, in noting the exhilaration of spirit of
these boys. It reminds us of the zeal with which _we_ too buckled on
our coat of red. It is a great misfortune these youngsters labour under,
that they have no outlet for their ambition, no scene on which they can
display their talents. Never were youthful aspirants for service more
worthy, or more zealous, and yet it is probable their country will not
need them, until they arrive at an age, when neither body nor mind are
attuned for _commencing_ a life of hardship, however well adapted to
_continue_ in it. _We_ have had the advantage there - _we_ trod the
soldier's proudest stage when our hopes and buoyancy of heart were at
their highest; and for myself, I am satisfied that much of my present
happiness, arises from the very different life of my earlier years."

The conversation took a military turn; and Delmé could not help
observing the attention, with which the younger members of the corps
heard the anecdotes, related by those who had been actually engaged.
Occasionally, the superior reading of the juniors would peep out, and
give them the advantage of knowledge, even with regard to
circumstances, over those who had been personal actors in the affairs
they spoke of. The most zealous of these detail narrators, were the
quarter-master of the regiment, and Delmé's right-hand neighbour, Major
Clifford. The former owed his appointment to his gallantry, in saving
the colours of his regiment, when the ensign who bore them was killed,
and the enemy's cavalry were making a sudden charge, before the
regiment could form its square.

His was a bluff purple face, denoting the bon vivant. Indeed, it was
with uncommon celerity, that his previous reputation of being the best
maker of rum punch in the serjeants' mess, had changed into his present
one of being the first concoctor of sangaree at the officers'.

Major Clifford merits more especial notice. He was a man hardly
appreciated in his own profession; out of it, he was misrepresented, and
voted a bore. He had spent all the years of his life, since the down
mantled his upper lip, in the service of his country; and for _its_
good, as he conceived it, he had sacrificed all his little fortune. It
is true his liberality had not had a very comprehensive range: he had
sunk his money in the improvement of the personal appearance of his
company - in purchasing pompons - or new feathers - or whistles, when he
was a voltigeur - in establishing his serjeants' mess on a more
respectable footing - in giving his poor comrade a better coffin, or a
richer pall: - these had been his foibles; and in indulging them, he had
expended the wealth, that might have purchased him on to rank and
honours. His eagle glance, his aquiline nose, and noble person, showed
what he must have been in youth. His hair was now silvered, but his coat
was as glossy as formerly - his zeal was unabated - his pride in his
profession the same - and what he could spare, still went, to adorn the
persons of the soldiers he still loved. He remained a captain, although
his long standing in the army had brought him in for the last brevet. It
is true every one had a word for poor Clifford. "Such a fine fellow!
what a shame!" But _this_ did not help him on. At the Horse Guards, too,
his services were freely acknowledged. The Military Secretary had always
a smile for him at his levee, and an assurance that "he had his eye on
him" The Commander in Chief, too, the last time he had inspected the
regiment, attracted by his Waterloo badge, and Portuguese cross, had
stopped as he passed in front of the ranks, and conversed with him most
affably, for nearly two minutes and a half; as his colour serjeant with
some degree of pride used to tell the story. But yet, somehow or other,
although Major Clifford was an universal favourite, they always forgot
to reward him. A man of the world, would have deemed the Major's ideas
to be rather contracted; and to confess the truth, there were two
halcyon periods of his life, to which he was fond of recurring. The one
was, when he commanded a light company, attached to General Crauford's
light brigade; - the other, when he had the temporary command of the
regimental depot, and at his own expense, had dressed out its little
band, as it had never been dressed out before.

Do you sneer at the old soldier, courtly reader?

There breathes not a man who dare arraign that man's courage; - there is
not one who knows him, who would not cheerfully stake his life as a gage
for his stainless honour.

The soup and fish had been removed, when Delmé observed a young officer
glide in, with that inexpressible air of fashion, which appears to shun
notice, whilst it attracts it. His arm was in a sling, and his
attenuated face seemed to bespeak ill health. Sir Henry addressed
Colonel Vavasour, and begged to know if the person who had just entered
the room was Delancey. He was answered in the affirmative; and he again
turned to scrutinise his features. These rivetted attention; and were
such as could not be seen once, without being gazed at again. His eyes
were dark and large, and rested for minutes on one object, with an
almost mournful expression; nor was it until they turned from its
contemplation, that the discriminating observer might read in their
momentary flash, that their possessor had passions deep and
uncontrollable. His dark hair hung in profusion over his forehead, which
it almost hid; though from the slight separation of a curl, the form of
brow became visible; which was remarkable for its projection, and for
its pallid hue, which offered a strong contrast to the swart and
sunburnt face.

"Are you aware of his history?" said the Colonel.

"Not in the slightest," replied Delmé. "I felt curious to see him, on
account of the way in which he has been mixed up with George's affair;
and think his features extraordinary - very extraordinary ones."

"He is son," said Vavasour, "to the once celebrated Lady Harriet D - - ,
who made a marriage so disgracefully low. He is the only child by that
union. His parents lived for many years on the continent, in obscurity,
and under an assumed name. They are both dead. It is possible Delancey
may play a lofty role in the world, as he has only a stripling between
him and the earldom of D - - , which descends in the female line. I am
sure he will not be a common character; but I have great fears about
him. In the regiment he is considered proud and unsocial; and indeed it
was your brother's friendship that appeared to retain him in our circle.
He has great talents, and some good qualities; but from his uncommon
impetuosity of temper, and his impatience of being thwarted, I should be
inclined to predict, that the first check he receives in life, will
either make him a misanthrope, or a pest to society."

At a later period of his life, Delmé again encountered Delancey; and
this prophecy of the Colonel's was vividly recalled.

In the ensuing chapter, we purpose giving Oliver Delancey's history, as
a not uninstructive episode; although we are aware that episodes are
impatiently tolerated, and it is in nowise allied to the purpose of our
story. But before doing so, we must detail a conversation which occurred
between Delancey and Delmé, at the table of the - - mess. The latter was
scanning the features of the former, when their eyes met. A conviction
seemed to flash on Delancey, that Delmé was George's brother; for the
blood rushed to his cheek - his colour went and came - and as he turned
away his head, he made a half involuntary bow. Delmé was struck with his
manner, and apparent emotion; and in returning the salute, ventured "to
hope he was somewhat recovered."

When Major Clifford left the table, Delancey took his vacant seat.

"Sir Henry Delmé," said he, "I have before this wished to see you, to
implore the forgiveness of your family for the misery I have
occasioned. How often have I cursed my folly! I acted on an impulse,
which at the time I could not withstand. I had never serious views
with regard to Acmé Frascati. Indeed, I may here tell you, - to no
other man have I ever named it, - that I have ties in my own country
far dearer, and more imperatively binding. I knew I had erred. The
laws of society could alone have made me meet George Belmé as a foe;
but even then - on the ground - God and my second know that my weapon
was never directed at my friend. I am an unsocial being, Sir Henry,
and, from my habits, not likely to be popular. Your brother knew this,
and saved me from petty contentions and invidious calumnies. He was
the best and only friend I possessed. I purpose soon to leave Malta
and the army. The former is become painful to me, - for the latter I
have a distaste, A feeling of delicacy to Acmé Frascati would prevent
my seeing your brother, even if Mr. Graham had not forbidden the
interview, as likely to harass his mind. Will you, then, assure him of
my unabated attachment, and tell me that _you_ forgive me for the
part I have taken in this unhappy affair."

Delmé was much moved as he assured him he would do all he wished; that
he could see little to blame him for - that George's excited feelings had
brought on the present crisis, and that _he_ had amply atoned for any
share he might have had in the transaction. Delancey pressed his hand

It was at a somewhat late hour that Delmé joined Acmé and his brother;
declining the hearty invitation of the Quartermaster to come down to
his quarters.

"He could give him a devilled turkey and a capital cigar."

Chapter XIII.

Oliver Delancey.

"Then the few, whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness,
Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt, or ocean of excess;
The magnet of their course is gone, or only points in vain
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never reach again."

We have said that Delmé saw Delancey once more. It was at a later period
of our story, when business had taken Sir Henry to Bath. He had been
dining with Mr. Belliston Græme, who possessed a villa in the
neighbourhood. Tempted by the beauty of the night, he dismissed his
carriage, and, turning from the high road, took a by-path which led to
the city. The air was serene and mild. The moon-light was sufficiently
clear to chase away night's dank vapours. The ground had imperceptibly
risen, until having ascended a grassy eminence, over which the path
stretched, the well-lighted city burst upon the eye.

Immediately in front of the view, a principal street presented itself,
the lamps on either side stretching in regular succession, until they
gradually narrowed and joined in the perspective. Nearer to the
spectator, the flickering lights of the detached villas, and the moving
ones of the carriages in the public road, relieved the stillness of the
scene. Delmé paused to regard it, with that subdued feeling with which
men, arrived at a certain period of life, scan the aspect of nature. The
moon at the moment was enveloped in light clouds. As it broke through
them, its shimmering light revealed a face and form that Delmé at once
recognised as Delancey's. It was with a consciousness of pain he did so,
for it brought before him recollections of scenes, whose impressions had
still power to subdue him. All emotions, however, soon became absorbed
in that of curiosity, as he noted the still figure and agitated
features before him. A block of granite lay near the path. Delancey
leant back over it - his right hand nearly touched the ground - his hat
lay beside him. The dark hair, wet with the dews of night, was blown
back by the breeze. His high forehead was fully shewn. His vest and
shirt were open, as he gazed with an air of fixedness on the city, and
conversed to himself. His teeth were firmly clenched, and it seemed that
the lips moved not, but the words were fearfully distinct. We often hear
of these soliloquies, - they afford scope to the dramatist, food for the
poet, a chapter for the narrator of fiction, - but we rarely witness
them. When we do, they are eminently calculated to thrill and alarm. It
was evident that Delancey saw him not; but had it been otherwise,
Delmé's interest was so aroused that he could not have left the spot.

"Hail! sympathising night!" thus spoke the young man, "the calm of thy
silent hour seems in unison with my lone heart - thy dewy breeze imparts
a freshness to this languid and darkened spirit, Sweet night! how I
love thee! And moon, too! fair moon! how abruptly! - how chastely! - how
gloriously! - dost thou break through the variegated and fleecy clouds,
which would impede thy progress, and deny me to gaze on thy white orb
unshrouded. And thou, too! radiant star of eve! oh that woman's love but
resembled thee! that it were gentle, constant, and pure as thy holy
gleam. That _that_ should dazzle to bring in its train - oh God! what
misery." He raised his hand to his brow, as if a poignant thought had
stung him.

Sir Henry Delmé stole away, and ruminated long that night, on the
distress that could thus convulse those fine features. Afterwards, when
Delancey's name was no longer the humble one he had first known it, but
became bruited in loftier circles, - for Vavasour's prediction became
realised, - Delmé heard it whispered, that his affections had suffered
an early blight, from the infidelity of one to whom he had been
affianced. We may relate the circumstances as they occurred. Blanche
Allen was the daughter of a country gentleman of some wealth, whose
estate joined that of the Earl of D - - 's, where Delancey's boyhood
had been spent. For years Blanche and Oliver considered themselves as
more than friends. Each selected the other as the companion in the
solitary walk, or partner in the joyous dance. Not a country girl but
had her significant smile, as young Delancey's horse's head was turned
towards Hatton Grange.

Delancey joined the army at an early age. Blanche was some eighteen
months his junior. They parted with tears, and thus they continued to do
for the two following years, during which Oliver frequently got leave to
run down to his uncle's. This was while he was serving with part of the
regiment at home. When it came to his turn to embark for foreign
service, it was natural from this circumstance, as well as from their
riper age, that their farewell should be of a more solemn nature. They
bade adieu by the side of the streamlet that divided the two properties.
It was where this made a small fall, down which it gushed in crystal
brightness, and then meandered with gentle murmur through a succession
of rich meadows. A narrow bridge was below the fall, while beside it, a
rustic seat had been placed, on which the sobbing Blanche sat, with her
lover's arm round her waist. For the first time he had talked seriously
of their attachment, and it was with youthful earnestness, that they
mutually plighted their troth. Nor did Blanche hesitate, though blushing
deeply as she did so, to place in his hand a trivial gage d'amour, and
that which has so long solaced absent lovers, a lock of her sunny hair.
Blanche was very beautiful, but she had a character common to many
English women - more so, we think, than to foreign ones.

As a girl, Blanche was nature's self, warm, gentle, confiding, - as an
unmarried woman, she was a heartless coquette, - as a matron, an
exemplary mother and an affectionate wife. During the time Delancey was
abroad, he heard of Blanche but seldom, for the lovers were not of that
age in which a correspondence would be tolerated by Blanche's family.
She once managed to send him, by the hands of a young cousin, some
trifling present, with a few lines accompanying it, informing him that
she had not forgotten him. His uncle - his only correspondent in
England - was not exactly the person to make a confidant of; but he
would, in an occasional postscript, let him know that he had seen
Blanche Allen lately - that "she was very gay, prettier than ever, and
always blushing when spoken to of a certain person."

To do Oliver justice, he at all times thought of Blanche. We have seen
him, with regard to Acme, apparently disregarding her, but in that
affair he had been actuated by a mere spirit of adventure. His heart was
but slightly enlisted, and his feelings partook of any thing but those
of a serious attachment.

Oliver Delancey left Malta soon after his conversation with
Delmé. Previous to doing so, he had forwarded his resignation to
Colonel Vavasour.

He passed some time in Italy, and, as the season arrived, found himself
a denizen in that gayest of cities, Vienna. Pleasure is truly there
enshrouded in her liveliest robes. As regards Delancey, not in vain was
she thus clothed. Just relieved from the dull monotony of a military
life - dull as it ever must be without war's excitement, and peculiarly
distasteful to one constituted like Delancey, who refused to make
allowance for the commonplace uncongenial spirits with whom he found
himself obliged to herd - he was quite prepared to embrace with avidity
any life that promised an agreeable change. Austria's capital holds out
many inducements to dissipation, and to none are these more freely
tendered, than to young and handsome Englishmen. The women, over the
dangerous sentimentality of their nation, throw such an air of ease and
frankness, that their victims resemble the finny tribe in the famous
tunny fishery. While they conceive the whole ocean is at their
command - disport here and there in imagined freedom - they are already
encased by the insidious nets; the harpoon is already pointed, which
shall surely pierce them. Delancey plunged headlong into pleasure's
vortex - touched each link between gaiety and crime. He wandered from the
paths of virtue from the infatuation of folly, and continued to err from
the fascinations of sin. He was suddenly recalled to himself, by one of
those catastrophes often sent by Providence, to awaken us from
intoxicating dreams. His companion, with whom he had resided during his
stay in Vienna, lost his all at a gaming table. Although he had not the
firmness of mind to face his misfortunes, yet had he the rashness to
meet his God unbidden. Sobered and appalled, Oliver left Germany for
England. There was a thought, which even in the height of his follies
obtruded, and which now came on him with a force that surprised himself.
That thought was of Blanche Allen. He turned from the image of his
expiring friend to dwell unsated on hers. A new vista of life seemed to
open - thoughts which had long slept came thronging on his mind - he was
once more the love-sick boy. The more, too, he brooded over his late
unworthiness, the more did his imagination ennoble the one he loved. He
now looked to the moment of meeting her, as that whence he would date
his moral regeneration. "Thank God!" thought he, "a sure haven is yet
mine. There will I - my feelings steadied, my affections
concentrated - enjoy a purified and unruffled peace. What a consolation
to be loved by one so good and gentle!"

He hurried towards England, travelled day and night, and only wondered
that he could have rested any where, while he had the power of flying to
her he had loved from childhood. Occasionally a feeling of apprehension
would cross him. It was many months since he had heard of her - she might
be ill. His love was of that confiding nature, that he could not
conceive her changed. As he came near his home, happier thoughts
succeeded. In fancy, he again saw her enjoying the innocent pleasures in
which he had been her constant companion, - health on her
cheek - affection in her glance. He had to pass that well known lodge.
His voice shook, as he told the driver to stop at its gate. As he drove
through the avenue of elms, he threw himself back in the carriage, and
every limb quivered from his agitation. He could hardly make himself
understood to the domestic - he waited not an answer to his enquiry - but
bounded up the stairs, and with faltering step entered the room.
Blanche was there, and not alone but oh! how passing fair! Even Delancey
had not dared to think, that the beauty of the girl could have been so
eclipsed by the ripe graces of the woman. She recognised him, and rose
to meet him with a burst of unfeigned surprise. She held out her hand
with an air of winning frankness; and yet for an instant, - and his hand
as it pressed hers, trembled with that thought, - he deemed there was a
hesitating blush on her cheek, which should not have been there. But it
passed away, and radiant with smiles, she turned to the one beside her.

"My dear," said she, as she gave him a confiding look, which haunts
Delancey yet, "this is a great friend of Papa's, and an old playmate of
mine - Mr. Delancey;" and as the stranger stepped forward to shake his
hand, Blanche looked at her old lover, with a glance that seemed to say,
"How foolish were we, to deem we were ever more than friends." Oliver
Delancey turned deadly pale; but pride bade him scorn her, and his hand
shook not, as it touched that of him, who had robbed him of a treasure,
he would have died to have called his.

"And you have been to D - - Castle, I suppose, and found your uncle had
left it for Bath. Indeed, _we_ only arrived the day before yesterday;
but Papa wrote us, saying he had got one of his attacks of rheumatism,
from the late fishing, and begged us to take this on our way to
Habberton, Did you see my marriage in the papers, or did your uncle
write you, Oliver?"

Delancey's lips quivered, but his countenance did not change, as he
looked her in the face, and told her he had not known it until now.

And now her husband spoke: "It was very late, and he must want
refreshment; and Mr. Allen intended to be wheeled to the dinner table;
and they could so easily send up to D - - Castle to tell them to get a
bed aired; and he could dismiss the chaise now, and their carriage could
take him there at night."

And Delancey _did_ stay, although unable to analyse the feeling that
made him do so.

And during dinner, _he_ was the life of that little party. He spoke of
foreign lands - related strange incidents of travel - dwelt with animation
on his schoolboy exploits. The old man was delighted - the husband forgot
his wife; - and she, the false one, sat silent, and for the moment
disregarded. She gazed and gazed again on that familiar face - drank in
the tones of that accustomed voice - and the chill of compunction crept
over her frame.

But Delancey's brain was on fire; and in the solitude of his
chamber - no! he was not calm there. He paced hurriedly across the oaken
floor; and he opened wide his window, and looked out on the bright
stars, spangling heaven's blue vault; and then beneath him, where the
cypress trees bowed their heads to the wind, and the moon's light fell
on the marble statues on the terrace.

And he turned to his bed-side, and hid his tearless face in his hands;

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