A Bushman.

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them the pulse of life had that day ceased to beat. The rigidity of
Death - his impressive stillness was there - but he had not yet "swept the
lines where beauty lingers."

The Maltese stood with folded arms, closely regarding George Delmé.

George leant against a pillar, with one knee bent. Over it was stretched
the corpse of a girl, with the face horribly decomposed. The dull and
flagging winds of the vault moved her dank and matted hair.

"Acmé," said he, as he parted the dry hair from the blackened brow,
"_do_ but speak to your own George! Be not angry with me, dearest!" He
held the disgusting object to his lips, and lavished endearments on the
putrid corpse.

Delmé staggered - and Thompson supported him - as he gasped for breath
in the extremity of his agony. At this moment his eye caught the face of
the Maltese. He had advanced towards George - his arms were still
folded - his eyes were sparkling with joy - and his features wore the
malignant expression of gratified revenge. Sir Henry sprang to his feet
and rushed forward.

"George! my brother! my brother!"

The maniac raised his pallid brow - his eye flashed consciousness - the
blue veins in his forehead swelled almost to bursting - he tossed his
arms wildly - and sunk powerless on the corpses around - his convulsive
shrieks re-echoing in that lonely vault. Thompson seized the Maltese,
and making him unlock the door, bore the brothers into the open air; for
Henry, at the time, was as much overpowered as George himself.

A clear solution to that curious scene was never given, for George could
not give the clue to his train of mental aberration.

With regard to his companion's share in the transaction, the man was
closely questioned, and other means of information resorted to, but the
only facts elicited were these:

His son had been executed some years before for a desperate attempt to
assassinate a British soldier, with whom he had had an altercation
during the carnival.

The man himself said, that he had no recollection of ever having
seen George before, but that he certainly _did_ remember some
officers questioning him on two occasions somewhat minutely as to
his mode of life.

This part of his story was confirmed by another officer of the regiment,
who remembered George and Delancey being with him on one occasion, when
the latter had taken much interest in the questioning of this man. The
Maltese declared, that on the night in question he was taken entirely by
surprise - that George entered the room abruptly - offered him money to be
allowed to accompany him to the vault - and told him that he had just
placed a young lady there whom he wished to see.

Colonel Vavasour, who took some trouble in arriving at the truth, was
satisfied that the man was well aware of George's insanity, but that
he felt too happy in being able to wreak an ignoble revenge on a
British officer.

Chapter XVI.

The Marriage.

"The child of love, though born in bitterness,
And nurtured in convulsion."

For many days, George Delmé lay on his couch unconscious and
immoveable. If his eye looked calm, it was the tranquillity of
apathetic ignorance, the fixedness of idiotcy. He spoke if he was
addressed, but recognised no one, and his answers were not to the
purpose. He took his food, and would then turn on his side, and close
his eyes as if in sleep. In vain did Acmé watch over him - in vain did
her tears bedew his couch - in vain did Delmé take his hand, and
endeavour to draw his attention to passing objects.

George had never been so long without a lucid interval. The surgeon's
voice grew less cheering every day, as he saw the little amendment in
his patient, and remarked that the pulse was gradually sinking. Colonel
Vavasour never allowed a day to elapse without visiting the invalid; and
in the regiment, his illness excited great commiseration, and drew forth
many expressions of kindness.

"Oh God! oh God!" said Delmé, "he must not sink thus. Just as I am with
him - just as - oh, poor Emily! what will _she_ feel? Can nothing be done,
Mr. Graham?"

"Nothing! Sir: we must now put our whole trust in an all-seeing
Providence. _My_ skill can neither foresee nor hasten the result."

One soft summer's evening, when the wind blew in the scent of flowers
from the opposite gardens - and the ceaseless hum of the insects - those
twilight revellers - sounded happily on the ear, Acmé started from the
couch as a thought crossed her.

"We have never tried music," said she, "I have been too unhappy to
think of it."

Her tears fell fast on the guitar, as she tuned its strings. She sung a
plaintive Greek air. It was the first George ever heard her sing, and
was the favourite. He heard it, when watching; lover-like beneath her
balcony during the first vernal days of their attachment. The song was
gone through sadly, and without hope. George's face was from her, and
she laid down the guitar, weary of life.

George gently turned his head. His eyes wore a subdued melancholy
expression, bespeaking consciousness. Down his cheek one big drop was

"Acmé!" said he, "dearest Acmé!"

Delmé, who had left the room, was recalled by the hysterical sobs of the
poor girl, as she fell back on the chair, her hands clasped in joyful

The surgeon, who had immediately been sent for, ordered that George
should converse as little as possible.

What he did say was rational. What a solace was that to Henry and Acmé!
The invalid too appeared well aware of his previous illness, although he
alluded to it but seldom. To those about him, his manner was femininely
soft, as he whispered his thanks, and sense of their kindness.

Immediately after the horrible scene he had witnessed, Sir Henry's mind
had been made up, as to the line of conduct he ought to pursue. The
affectionate solicitude of the young Greek, during George's illness,
gave him no reason to regret his determination.

"Now," said Mr. Graham, one day as George was rapidly recovering,
"now, Sir Henry, I would recommend you to break all you have to say to
George. For God's sake, let them be married; and although, mark me! I
by no means assert that it will quite re-establish George's health,
yet I think such a measure _may_ effectually do so, and at all events
will calm him for the present; which, after all, is the great object
we have in view."

The same day, Delmé went to his brother's bed-side. "George," said he,
"let me take the present opportunity of Acmé's absence, to tell you what
I had only deferred till you were somewhat stronger. She is a good girl,
George, a very good girl. I wish she had been English - it would have
been better! - but this we cannot help. You must marry her, George! I
will be a kind brother-in-law, and Emily shall love her for your sake."

The invalid sat up in his bed - his eyes swam in tears. He twice essayed
to speak, ere he could express his gratitude.

"Thank you! a thousand times thank you! my kind brother! Even _you_
cannot tell the weight of suffering, you have this day taken from my
mind. My conduct towards Acmé has been bowing me to the earth; and yet
I feared your consent would never be obtained. I feared that coldness
from you and Emily would have met her; and that I should have had but
_her_ smile to comfort me for the loss of what I so value. God bless
you for this!"

Delmé was much affected.

To complete his good work, he waited till Acmé had returned from a visit
she had just made to her relations; and taking her aside, told her his
wishes, and detailed his late conversation with George.

"Never! never!" said the young Greek, "I am too happy as I am. I have
heard you all make better lovers than husbands. I cannot be happier!
No! no! I will never consent to it."

All remonstrances were fruitless - no arguments could affect her - no
entreaties persuade.

Delmé, quite perplexed at finding such a difficulty, where he had so
little expected to find one, - pitying her simplicity, but admiring her
disinterestedness, - went to George, and told him Acmé's objections.

"I feared it," said his brother, "but perhaps I may induce her to think
differently. Were I to take advantage of her unsophisticated feelings,
and want of knowledge of the world, I should indeed be a villain."

Acmé was sent for, and came weeping in - took Georg's hand - and gazed
earnestly in his face as he addressed her.

"You must change your mind, dearest," said he. And he told her of the
world's opinion - the contumely she might have to endure - the slights to
which she would be subjected. Still she heeded not.

"Why mention these things?" said she. "Who would insult me, were _you_
near? or if they did, should I regard them while _you_ were kind?"

And her lover's words took a loftier tone; and he spoke of religion, and
of the duties it imposes; of the feelings of his countrywomen; and the
all-seeing eye of their God. Still the fond girl wept bitterly, but
spoke not.

"My own Acmé! consider _my_ health too, dearest! Were you now to
consent, I might never again be ill. It would be cruelty to me to
refuse. Say you consent for _my_ sake, sweet!"

"For your sake, then!" said Acme, as she twined her snowy arms round his
neck, "for _your_ sake, Giorgio, I do so! But oh! when I am yours for
ever by that tie; when - if this be possible - our present raptures are
less fervent - our mutual affections less devoted - do not, dearest
George - do not, I implore you - treat me with coldness. It would break my
heart, indeed it would."

They were married according to the rites of both the Protestant and
Catholic Church. Few were present. George had been lifted to the sofa,
and sat up during the ceremony; and although his features were pale and
emaciated, they brightened with internal satisfaction, as he heard those
words pronounced, which made his love a legitimate one. Acmé was silent
and thoughtful; and tears quenched the fire of her usually sparkling
eye. George Delmé's recovery from this date became more rapid.

He was able to resume his wonted exercise - his step faltered
less - his eye became clearer. His convalescence was so decided, that
the surgeon recommended his at once travelling, and for the present
relinquishing the army.

"Perhaps the excessive heat may not be beneficial. I would, if possible,
get him to Switzerland for the summer months. I will enquire what
outward-bound vessels there are. If there is one for Leghorn, so much
the better. But the sooner he tries change of scene, the more
advantageous it is likely to be; and after all, the climate is but a
secondary consideration."

An American vessel bound to Palermo, happened to be the only one in the
harbour, whose destination would serve their purpose; and determined
not to postpone George's removal, Sir Henry at once engaged its cabin.
Colonel Vavasour obtained George leave for the present, and promised to
arrange as to his exchanging from full pay. He likewise enabled him,
which George felt as a great boon, to take his old and attached servant
with him; with the promise that he would use all his interest to have
the man's discharge forwarded him, before the expiration of his leave.

"He may be useful to you, my dear boy, if you get ill again, which God
forbid! He is an old soldier, and a good man - well deserving the
indulgence. And remember! if you should be better, and feel a returning
penchant for the red coat, write to me - we will do our best to work an
exchange for you."

Chapter XVII.

The Departure.

"Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been,
A sound that makes us linger, yet farewell."

The day of departure at length arrived. Thompson had been busy the
greater part of the night in getting every thing ready for the voyage.
It was a lovely morning, and the wind, although light, was propitious.

Acmé had parted with her relations and friends the day previous.

She was henceforward to share the destiny of one, who was to supply the
place of both to her. Attached to them as she was, and grateful as she
felt for their kindness in the hour of need, there was nothing in that
parting to throw a permanent gloom on the hopes of the youthful bride.

Her love, and the feelings it engendered, were of that confiding nature,
that she could have followed George anywhere, and been happy still. As
it was, her lot seemed cast "in pleasant places," and no foreboding of
evil, except indeed for George, ever marred the waking dreams of Acmé.
Her simple heart had already learnt, to look up with respect and
affection to Sir Henry, and yearned with fond longing for the period
when she should return a sister's love.

She had that lively talent too, which, miniatured as it was, allowed of
her fully appreciating the superiority of the English she had lately
met, to the general run of those with whom she had hitherto associated.
An English home had none but charms for her.

"Come Acmé," said George, as he assisted her in adjusting the first
bonnet that had ever confined her wavy curls, "wish good bye to your
ring-dove, dear! Mrs. Graham will take good care of it; and Thompson has
just finished the packing."

The boat which was to convey them to the vessel was so near, that they
had agreed to walk down to the place of embarkation.

As George left the room, a tall figure presented itself on the

"Ah, Clark!" said George, "my good fellow! I am very sorry to part with
you. I do not know what I shall do without my pay serjeant!" and he held
out his hand.

It was grasped gratefully.

"Thank you, your honour!"

The old soldier stood erect, and put his hand to his cap.

"God bless you! Mr. Delmé. I have served under many officers, but never
under a kinder. May the Almighty bless you, Sir, in all your

The soldier turned away - one large drop burst o'er the lid, and trickled
down his sun-burnt cheek.

With the back of his hand, he brushed it off indignantly.

His converse may be rough - his manner rude - his hand ever ready for
quarrel; - but, believe us! ye who deem the soldier beneath his
fellow-men, - that the life of change - of chance - of hardship - and of
danger - which is his, freezes not the kindlier emotions of the soul, if
it sweep away its sicklier refinements. Beneath the red vest, beat
hearts as warm and true, as ever throbbed beneath operative apron, or
swelled under softest robe of ermine.

George was moved by the man's evidently sincere grief. He reached the
bottom of the stairs. The company to which he belonged was drawn up in
the court yard.

In front of it, the four tallest men supported a chair, and almost
before George Delmé was aware of their purpose, bore him to it, and
lifted him on their shoulders, amidst the huzzas of their comrades. The
band, too, which had voluntarily attended, now struck up the march which
George delighted to hear; and, followed by his company, he was carried
triumphantly towards the mole.

George's heart was full.

Sir Henry felt deeply interested in the scene; and poor Acmé leant on
his arm, and wept with joy.

Yes! there are moments in life, and this was one, when the approval of
our inferiors awakens a degree of pride and mental satisfaction, that
no panegyric of our superiors, no expressions of esteem from our
equals, could have ever called forth. Such approval meets us, as the
spontaneous effusion of hearts that have looked up to ours, and have
_not_ been deceived.

This pride was it that flushed George's cheek, and illumed with
brightness his swimming eye. He was thus carried till he arrived at the
spot where his boat should have been. It was already, with Thompson and
their baggage, half way towards the vessel. In its place was the
regimental gig, manned by George's best friends. Its steersman was
Colonel Vavasour, drest in the fanciful aquatic costume his regiment
had adopted.

Trifling as this may appear, this act of his Colonel, seemed to George
the very highest compliment that had ever been paid him.

George Delmé turned to his company, and with choking voice thanked them
for this last mark of attention. We are very certain that a shake of
the hand from a prince, would not have delighted him as much, as did
the hearty farewell greeting of his rough comrades.

Even Acmé blushingly went up to the chair-supporters, and, with a
winning smile, extended her small hand. Vavasour assisted her into the
gig, and it was with a bounding elasticity of spirit, to which he had
long been a stranger, that George followed. As the boat cut through the
water, they were greeted with a last and deafening huzza.

In a short time they were alongside the vessel. The captain was pacing
the deck, and marking the signs of the wind, with the keen eye of the
sailor. A chair was lowered for Acmé. She shook hands with the rowers.
George parted from them as if they had been brothers, and from Colonel
Vavasour last of all.

"Take care of yourself, my dear boy," said the latter, "do not
forget to write us; we shall all be anxious to know how you have
stood the voyage."

As the gig once more shot its way homewards, and many a friendly
handkerchief waved its adieu, George felt, that sad as the parting was,
he should have felt it more _bitterly_ if they had loved him less.

To divert their minds from thoughts of a melancholy nature, Sir Henry,
as the boat made a turn of the land, and was no longer visible, proposed
exploring the cabin. This they found small, but cleanly. Some hampers of
fruit, and a quantity of ice, exhibited agreable proofs of the attention
of Acmé's relations. We may, by the way, observe, that rarely does the
sense of the palate assert its supremacy with greater force than on
board-ship. There will the _thought_ - much more the _reality_ - of a
mellow pine - or juicy pomegranate - cause the mouth to water for the best
part of a long summer's day. On their ascending the deck, the captain
approached Sir Henry.

"No offence! Sir; but I guess the wind is fair. If you want nothing
ashore, we will off, Sir, _now_! if you please."

Delmé acquiesced.

How disagreable is the act of leaving harbour in a merchant ship!

Even sailors dislike it, and growl between their teeth, like captive
bears. The chains of the anchor clank gratingly on the ear. The very
chorus of the seamen smacks of the land, and wants the rich and free
tone that characterises it in mid-sea. Hoarse are the mandates of the
boat-swain! his whistle painfully shrill! The captain walks the deck
thoughtfully, and frowningly ruminates on his bill of lading - or on some
over-charge in the dock duties - or, it may be, on his dispute on shore
with a part owner of the vessel.

And anon, he shakes off these thoughts, and looks on the
weather-side - then upwards at the the masts - and, as he notes the
proceedings, his orders are delivered fiercely, and his passions seem

The vessel, too, seems to share the general feeling - is loath to
leave the port.

She unsteadily answers the call of her canvas - her rigging creaks - and
her strong sides groan - as she begins lazily and slowly to make her way.

Glad to turn their attention to anything rather than the scene around,
George began conversing on the effect the attentions of his company and
brother officers had had on him.

"Their kindness," said George, "was wholly unexpected by me, and I felt
it very deeply. An hour before, I fancied that Acmé and my own family
monopolised every sympathy I possessed. But, thank God! the heart has
many hidden channels through which kindness may steal, and infuse its
genial balm."

"_I_ felt it, too, George!" said his brother, "and was anxious as to the
effect the scene might have on you. I am glad it _was_ unexpected. We
are sometimes better enabled to enact our parts improvising them, than
when we have schooled ourselves, and braced all our energies to the one
particular purpose.

"Acmé, how did you like the way George's men behaved?"

"It made me weep with joy," replied the young Greek, "for I love all who
love my Giorgio."

Chapter XVIII.

The Adieu.

"Adieu! the joys of La Valette."

* * * * *

"No more! no more! No! never more on me
The freshness of the heart shall fall like dew."

* * * * *

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder,
Isle of Beauty! fare thee well."

Malta! the snowy sail shivers in the wind - the waves, chafed by our
intruding keel, are proudly foaming - sea birds soar, screaming their
farewell aloft - as we wave our hand to thee for ever! What is our
feeling, as we see thee diminish hourly?

Regret! unfeigned regret!

Albeit we speed to our native land, on the wing of a bark as fleet as
ever - but it matters not - _thou_ hast seen the best of our days.

Visions conjured up by thee, have the unusual power, to banish
anticipations of Almack's glories, and of home flirtations.

We are recalling balls enjoyed in thee, loved island! the valse spun
round with the darling fleet-footed Maltese, who during its pauses leant
back on our arm, against which her spangled zone throbbed, from the
pulsations of her heart.

Dreams of turtle and of grand master - the _fish_, not the
_official_ - and of consecutive iced champagne, mock our sight! But
more - yes! far more than all, are we reminded of thy abode - thou
dispenser of cheering liquids! thou promoter of convivial happiness!
meek Saverio! How swiftly glided the mirth-loving nights as - the
enchanting strains of the prima donna hushed - we adjourned to thy ever
to be praised bottegua!

With what precision didst thou there mete out the many varied
ingredients - the exact relative proportions - which can alone embody our
conception of the nectar of the Gods, punch à la Romaine!

Whose cigars ever equalled thine, thou prince of Ganymedes? and when
were cigars more justly appreciated, than as our puffs kept time with
the trolling ditty, resounding through the walls of thy domain?

The luxury of those days!

Then would Sol come peeping in upon us; as unwelcome and unlooked-for
a visitant, as to the enamoured Juliet, when she sighing told her
lover that

"'Twas but a meteor that the sun exhaled,
To be to him that night a torch-bearer,
And light him on his way to Mantua."

Then, with head dizzy from its gladness, with heart unduly elate, has
the Strada Teatro seen us, imperiously calling for the submissive
calèche. Arrived in our chamber, how gravely did we close its shutters!
With what a feeling of satisfied enjoyment, did we court the downy
freshness of the snow-white sheet!

Sweet and deep were our slumbers - for youth's spell was upon us, and
our fifth lustre had not _yet_ heralded us to serious thoughts and
anxious cares.

Awoke by the officious valet, and remorseless friend, deemest though
our debauch was felt? No! an effervescent draught of soda calmed us; we
ate a blood orange, and smoked a cigar!

We often hear Malta abused. Byron is the stale authority; and every
snub-nosed cynic turns up his prominent organ, and talks of "sirocco,
sun, and sweat." Byron disliked it - he had cause. He was there at a bad
season, and was suffering from an attack of bile. _We_ know of no place
abroad, where the English eye will meet with so little to offend it, and
so much to please and impress.

There is such a blending together of European, Asiatic, and African
customs; there is such a variety in the costumes one meets; there is
such grandeur in their palaces - such glory in their annals; such novelty
in their manners and habits; such devotion in their religious
observances; such simplicity and yet such beauty, in the dress of the
women; and their wearers possess such fascinations; that we defy the
most fastidious of critics, who has really resided there, to deny to
Malta many of those attributes, with which he would invest that place,
on whose beauty and agrémens, he may prefer of all others to descant.

With the commonplace observer, its superb harbour, studded with gilded
boats; its powerful fortifications, where art towers over nature, and
where the eye looks up a rock, and catches a bristling battery; the
glare of its scenery, with no foliage to cover the white stone; - all
these, together with the different way in which the minutiae of life are
transacted, - will call forth his attention, and demand his notice.

Art thou a poet, or a fancied warrior? What scene has been more replete
with noble exploits? In whose breasts did the flame of chivalry burn
brighter, than in those of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem? Not a
name meets thee, that has not belonged to a hero! If thou grievest to

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Online LibraryA BushmanA Love Story → online text (page 9 of 21)