Page images

the last day, by the very same train as brought the secretary, an unexpected arrival took place.

The one interest of Rameses was the arrival of the trains-few and far between. Mr. Harewood used to go out to count and report on the pale faces going westward, and the rosy young ones going eastward, and to capture the mail-bags and parcels that connected this Egyptian desert with the outward world. So seldom did any one halt, that he was amazed, not only to see the secretary, but a slender, black-bearded personage, portmanteau in hand, Panama hat on head, looking not indeed Oriental, but so un-English that it was startling to be accosted with, 'Good morning, Mr. Harewood; I hope your son is still going on well.'

Then it flashed on the Librarian that this was the Life Guardsman who had once ridden over to Minsterham as Alda Underwood's betrothed.

Mr. Travis! This is unexpected! You don't bring any bad news for Miss Underwood, I trust,' he added, taking alarm.

'Oh no, far from it. I came to try to follow up this trail of poor Edgar. None of the family can,' he proceeded in a tone of apology; and as I have time, I can let no possibility go by.—But is it true, what they told me at Alexandria—that I am come just in time for a wedding?'

'Indeed it is, but for a very strange one. I am forced to go home when that train returns; and that sweet girl will not-nay, cannot leave my poor son. I hope it is not wrong in me to rejoice, turn out as it may. They will be delighted to see you.'

Ferdinand was made very welcome. He was a breath from home that made them feel how long they had been exiled. It appeared that he had been at Paris, vainly seeking as usual, when he had received a telegram from Miss Underwood, i.e. Marilda, and hurrying to England, had heard all that could be gathered from Wilmet's letter; and here he was, intending to pursue his inquiries in Egypt, and if needful extend his researches to Palestine or India, according to whatever clue he might gain.

Such exertions on the part of a stranger in blood were rather surprising; but Ferdinand seemed to think no explanation needful, and perhaps his American contempt for space rendered the wonder less. At any rate, his coming was a great pleasure. He




was almost a brother-in-law to Wilmet, and had belonged to old days in her life, and he was intermingled with John's time of courtship at Bexley, so that to both he was like a relation; and Mr. Harewood was much relieved by his promise to remain comparatively within reach so long as it was possible that he could be of use to Wilmet or her convalescent, as they durst not yet term the bridegroom.

So, as John declared, the wedding was graced by representatives of all quarters of the world. It was on African soil, between two Europeans, and one spectator came from Asia, another from America, to say nothing of the lesser distinctions of France, Germany, Greece, Egypt, and Arabia, nor of the mingling of Aztec, Spanish, American, and English blood in the veins of Ferdinand Travis.

Bizarre as were the conditions, the marriage scene was very solemn and touching. It had proved impossible to wait for Christmas Day, as had been wished; so the 21st of December had been chosen, and the time, the cool early morning, before the heat of the day, and when light could be let in without glare or scorching, such as the noontide even of mid-winter brought.

The room was arrayed as on Sundays, not without thought of the first Paschal Feast-kept at this very place and round about it -and Mr. Harewood had robed himself, and brought out the preparations he had made in case he should arrive in time for his son's last Communion Feast, but which now served for that of his marriage.

John had so far decorated himself that he had caused M. Spiridione to trim his hair, and shave all but his habitual red moustache. There was not much possibility of alteration in his spare, freckled, sunburnt face; and his condition was chiefly evident in the prone motionlessness of his figure on the water bed, covered by a bright striped silk quilt, outside which lay one wasted hand, still scarred and stiff. He was striving to be calm and passive; but every now and then his fingers twitched, and the muscles of his face quivered with strong emotion, so that the doctor, standing behind in military uniform, with moustaches waxed into standing out like a cat's, was anxiously watching him. Krishnu, resplendent in white, red, and gold, was on the other side, with an English Prayer-book, and over

a chair his master's uniform coat and medals, of which he would not be denied the display. There too was the Greek, in his unbecoming Frank courier dress, and a few spectators who had crept in at the unclosed door for the strange sight of the English wedding.

Wilmet's matter-of-fact nature and freedom from self-consciousness were great auxiliaries to her composure. Living always in the work at hand, severance from home did not come prominently before her, and still less the strangeness of giving herself, on her own responsiblity, in a foreign land, to one who could scarcely raise a finger to accept her, and whose life hung on a thread. Of the lookers-on she never thought; she could only recollect that she was qualifying herself for the entire charge of John, and the only eyes she thought of were that one pair of pale greenish-hazel ones, but for those she took as much pains as Alda had done to face a world of gazers.

The snowy soft flow and straight folds of the muslin, beneath the green wreath on her classical braids of light brown hair, far better became the straight outline than the glossy satin, lace flutter, and formal wreath, of the London bride. The eyelids cast down, the heightened carnation, and trembling lip, rendered her grand beauty as modestly tender as it was majestic, when Ferdinand Travis led her forward, followed by the sober-suited Deaconess, by Madame Spiridione in a Parisian cap, and her little boy in full Greek costume.

Poor Fernan! he had eagerly undertaken the service he was to render to Wilmet, but it must have been a sad reminder of his own vanished hopes; and as he led her forward, his slight but fine form, noble cast of features, and clear dark colouring, so fully equalled her in good looks, that he seemed a more fitting match for her than the feeble helpless bridegroom, never at his best extrêmement beau.

However, no such thought crossed the minds of the parties most closely concerned as Wilmet knelt by the bedside-knelt at times when she ought to have stood, or her hand would not have been within the reach of the poor weak one over which her long soft fingers seemed to exercise cherishing guidance, with that sense of power and protection she had been used to wield through life. But though her hand was the firmer, and less nervous, it was a much




stronger, clearer, steadier voice than could have been looked for, as if manly tenderness overcame all physical prostration, in which John Oglandby took Wilmet Ursula to be his wedded wife, rising into power and energy, as though even then the impulse of guarding, protecting, supporting, love were strengthening him; and Wilmet, on the other hand, quiet and steadfast though she was, had her eyes swimming in tears, which now and then stole down and dropped unawares on his coverlid, and the tone, though not broken or faltering, was low and choked with intensity of purpose and of prayer. Till death us do part,' which he had said so gravely and steadily, came from her with nearly failing breath, as though the words almost took away her resolution.

[ocr errors]

But the Psalm and the Blessing brought back her calmness, and there had never been any trembling in the hand that held her husband's; there was only thankful affection in the eyes that gazed at him while she still knelt on, and all left the chamber except the faithful friend and faithful servant, who were to share with the newly-married pair the holiest of feasts. And strangely enough, if Wilmet and her home were closely interwoven with Ferdinand Travis's first admission to Christian privileges, it had been Major Harewood's example and occasional words that had first brought the teaching imbibed in a Mission school to bear the fruit of true faith and confession thereof in Krishnu.

So it was a really happy and peaceful wedding-day in that strange far-away land; and John seemed rather the better than the worse for the exhilaration of spirits, and the sense of secure possession he had gained. He was so much delighted with Wilmet's bridal white, that he grumbled if she tried to put on her former dresses, and her first personal expense was the keeping up her stock-he loved so well to see her moving about or hovering over him in her clear pure white folds.

They were quite sufficient for one another; and Mr. Harewood left them by the next westward train. Ferdinand went to see him on board the Alexandrian steamer, and then continued to circulate in the haunts of travellers, for the chance of Edgar having joined a Nile boat, or being sketching among the tombs of the Thebaid. Every now and then he reappeared at Rameses to report how some barbe blonde he had been hunting down turned out fiery red,

and to communicate his hopes in some other direction. Suez was inquired through in vain; and he could not learn that any one of the name or description had gone to India. Indeed, that country seemed less likely to attract a man of Edgar's tastes than the picturesque and historical Levant; and his artist powers and charm of manner made it not unlikely that he might have been engaged to make sketches.

One hope they had, which died away. The gentleman from the Consulate mentioned that a party of vocalists had been giving concerts of national melodies to the European population at Cairo and Alexandria; and the description reminded Wilmet of last year's meteors. Indeed, it proved on inquiry that Stanislas and Zoraya Prebel were really among them, and that they had gone forward to the East, making a tour of the British dependencies; but when Ferdinand had with difficulty obtained a sight of an old programme, and a description of the performers, it was only to convince hinself that Edgar could not have been among them. There was no name like his, and the songs that might have been his were sung at the very time when his alibi could be proved at Rameses.





'It is called—I forget-à la something which sounded

Like alicampane, but in truth I'm confounded,

What with fillets of roses and fillets of veal,

Things garni with lace and things garni with eel,

One's hair and one's cutlets both en papillote,

And a thousand more things I shall ne'er have by rote.

I can scarce tell the diff'rence, at least as to phrase,

Between beef à la Psyche and curls à la braise;

But in short, dear, I'm tricked out quite à la Française.'


ONE forenoon, soon after the end of the Christmas vacation, Robina Underwood was seated at her desk, working deeply at the solution of a quadratic equation; when from the far-off end of the



« PreviousContinue »