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‘It isn’t everyone who gets the chance to deserve them,’ said Mountcharles, rather sulkily. He had never seen a shot fired himself, and bore malice in his heart to all who had had better luck.


‘Or who would make the most of it if they had,’ Edith retorted sharply, adding

in a low voice, ‘Gaston, I quite hate you to-night: how disagreeable you can be.’

For the remainder of the evening she made him conscious of her high displeasure. Mountcharles and she had hitherto been the most excellent friends. An aide-de-camp may be, and Mountcharles certainly was, the very tamest of cats. He had other claims besides those of cousinship to be well received. With an only daughter, young, lively, and exceedingly attractive, both the general and Mrs. Prioleau had realised the inconvenience and possible danger of having a man continually about the house, unless he were in every way an eligible parti. Edith had plenty of time before her, no doubt, but at her age girls are[125] impressionable and very apt to succumb to the first comer if he has many opportunities of being at her side. Mountcharles had been specially

selected as A.D.C. by Mrs. Prioleau, who, in spite of her languid airs, was a shrewd, far-seeing woman, and she felt that if anything were to happen, at least they were safe with Gaston Mountcharles. His father was dead, and he had an excellent competence of his own. He was a man of good birth, thoroughly presentable in every way. Edith, if she could only like him, might do very much worse.

But this night it was clear Edith did not like him at all. Not that Mountcharles much cared. He had probably far too good an opinion of himself to be cast down by the snubbings of a girl still in her teens. Whether or no he took her treatment of him very much to heart does not, however,[126] concern my readers so much as her behaviour to the hero of my story.

To Herbert Larkins that evening she was gracious and engaging in the extreme. She made him talk to her on subjects he would probably know best. She listened to him with that close attention which is in itself a subtle compliment, particularly when coming from an attractive girl, and she smiled her approval in that frank, straightforward way which might be interpreted one way, but which in her, perhaps, meant nothing at 佛山桑拿洗浴中心 all.

The effect upon Herbert was marked and almost instantaneous. He was in truth little accustomed to the fascinations of the fair sex. He had never been brought up to flirt and philander, to roam from flower to flower, inhaling fragrance and passing gaily on, and he fell at once deeply and[127] desperately in love. His heart went out at once to the general’s daughter, without for a moment considering whether his passion was likely to be returned.

It was not, perhaps, exactly wise. A man more versed in the ways of the world would have been a little more cautious and circumspect. Edith Prioleau counted her swains by the score. Young ladies with the great gift of beauty, of good birth, and not without brains, pleasant talkers, good dancers, forward riders, are not too common in English society on the Rock. Among the few belles 佛山夜生活 of the place, Edith Prioleau easily carried off the palm, and she had always a crowd of admirers about her. She did not resent or reject their attentions; on the contrary, she honoured them all with her favour in turn, and enjoyed it amazingly, feeling, no doubt, that they meant nothing[128] any more than she did, and that, therefore, she did no particular harm. Young soldiers are reputed susceptible; but it is also true that, if knocked over and quite hopeless one day, they are generally quite heart-whole the next.

Herbert Larkins was not a man of this sort. He was in sober serious earnest from the first. He was like a slave, grovelling at her feet. She might trample on him and spurn him if she pleased, but he was hers always, whether she would have him or no. The worst of it was that he could not hide his feelings. He was 佛山桑拿蒲友论坛 too honest—he had not enough of what the world calls savoir faire. What did he care who knew? He was not ashamed of his weakness. It was not a passing fancy, but a strong attachment; a deep-seated affection which would last as long as he lived. Everybody[129] saw it: his brother-officers, like good comrades, realising how much his heart was in it, forebore to chaff him and take him to task; the garrison generally, and all smiled, or winked knowingly when he was observed dancing attendance on Edith, looking the picture of misery unless she threw him a word. Captain Mountcharles saw it, so at last did the general and his wife. Edith herself, least of all, could not be blind to devotion which had in it much of the unswerving unquestioning attachment of the dog that follows at one’s heels. In all probability she would have been 佛山桑拿论坛网 overcome by it. Already that pity which is proverbially akin to a much warmer sentiment, had taken possession of her, and she was in a fair way to be won had Herbert pricked up courage to speak.

Edith’s parents were growing a trifle[130] uneasy at Herbert’s attentions. The general did not take much notice, but—a woman is so much more worldly in these matters—Mrs. Prioleau did.

‘Do you see, Robert,’ she said at length, ‘what is going on right under our noses? Edith, I mean, and this Mr. Larkins?’

‘Well, I have had my suspicions. But what matter? Cannot things take their course?’

‘Agree to such a match for Edith? Robert, you must be demented.’

The general had seldom seen his wife so excited before.

‘He is a very rising young soldier.’

‘Who has already risen from the ranks. It will never do. I have no false pride about me, I 佛山夜生活qq群 think, but it is right to draw the line somewhere. But even if there were no other objections, that of means ought to[131] suffice. What are they to live upon? His pay? Ridiculous and absurd.’

‘He cannot be dependent on his pay. He lives well, keeps horses, and makes altogether too good a show. I have heard rumours of some rich old lady in the background, who has made him her protégé.’

‘That story might not quite bear investigation,’ said Mrs. Prioleau drily. ‘We know nothing about Mr. Larkins—where he comes from, or to whom he belongs.’

‘I had no idea you were so keen, Sophia, I confess I like the lad. However, speak to Edith if you feel that it is necessary. I leave it all to you.’

It was while Mrs. Prioleau waited her opportunity that chance gave Herbert an adverse rub.

Edith, with Captain Mountcharles as escort, was 佛山桑拿论坛888 returning from the Moorish[132] Castle, when she came suddenly upon Herbert Larkins. He was leaving a small cottage, which was evidently a soldier’s quarter. It was, in fact, the home of old Sergeant Larkins and his wife.

‘Good bye, mother,’ Herbert was saying, as the pair passed by.

‘Good bye, my boy; come again soon. You are an honest lad not to forget us, although you’ve come to be so great a man.’

And with that the old woman kissed him tenderly on the brow, although they stood at the cottage door, almost in the open street.

‘Whose quarter is that?’ the aide-de-camp asked of a passing orderly, pointing back, after they had ridden a little way on.

‘Sergeant Larkins’, sir. Principal barrack sergeant, sir.’


At which Mountcharles looked hard at Edith, and with a comical face.

‘Well, what do I care? What is it to me? 佛山桑拿按摩网 It is quite proper of him. It is his duty not to neglect his parents.’

‘Oh, of course. She’s a dear old thing, too, I can see that. How would you like her for a mother-in-law, Edith Prioleau, eh?’

‘How dare you suggest such a thing, Captain Mountcharles?’ cried Edith, blushing red.

But there was a cold chill on her heart, and Herbert’s chances seemed very small just then.
Herbert was all unconscious that he had been observed leaving the cottage near the Moorish Castle; still more that he had been overheard addressing Mrs. Larkins, as of old, by the affectionate title of mother. Had he heard what passed between Edith and Captain Mountcharles upon that occasion it might have modified his plans very considerably. For now at length, after much hesitation and delay, he had made up his mind to 佛山桑拿会所全套 speak to Edith on the first opportunity, and tell her of his love. Matters had long continued in this most unsatisfactory state with him. He had suffered[135] tortures; he had been continually in suspense, for ever torn by hopes and fears. One day he was in the seventh heaven, the next in the very depths of despair. He could do no work. Edith seemed to come between him and his duty. He thought of her always, everywhere. He was for ever sketching her face upon the official blotting pad in the orderly-room; he was all but giving Edith as the countersign when challenged by the sentries; he very nearly mixed up her name with the words of command upon parade.

Latterly, however, he had been in much better heart. She did not encourage him, perhaps, as much as he would have liked, but she favoured him more, he thought, than any of his 佛山桑拿按摩洗浴中心 fellows. Therefore it was that he had brought himself up to the terrible ordeal of staking his fate upon the throw;[136] and it was with this intention that he approached Miss Prioleau the very next time they met.

It was at a ball at the

Convent, at the well known palace or residence of the Governor of the Rock. Edith was seated upon a fauteuil in the patio, or central courtyard, between the dances. Her companion was Captain Mountcharles.

‘May I have the pleasure of a dance, Miss Prioleau?’ Herbert asked.

‘I’m afraid I have none left.’

‘You promised me the second valse—quite a week ago.’

‘Miss Prioleau is engaged for that to me,’ put in Captain Mountcharles, rather rudely.

‘The next, then?’ went on Herbert to Edith, without taking any notice of the A.D.C.