VIII.

HALF-LIGHTS.

OLIPHANT could not at once muster his courage to call upon Octavia, in reply to her note ; and it was with no little trepidation that he prepared to go to Mrs. Ware’s party, although he had a trembling pleasure in the prospect, also. This was to be their first interview since the critical one at her house. How, then, would she treat him? Was she angry; did she suspect his judgment or sincerity, because of his appearing on the drive with Mrs. Blazer? Or would she prove lenient ?

With such queries he tortured himself as diligently as if he had been a boy of twenty, and she a capricious maiden of the same age. When at last, after floating about some time in the perfumed crush of the large villa drawing-rooms, he saw her at a distance, it seemed to him that there was a shadow of forbidding, at least a lack of cordiality, in her mute greeting. But how could so lovely a form of womanhood be cruel or unkind ? Oliphant would not believe it, and hastened to make his way towards her. At that instant Roland De Peyster, by the piano, was sending out a volume of baritone voice from under his waving red mustache, singing, —

“ I know not when the day shall be,
I know not where our eyes may meet,
What welcome you may give to me,
Or will your words be sad or sweet ;
It may not be till years have passed,
Till eyes are dim. and tresses gray :
The world is wide, but, love, at last,
Our hands, our hearts, must meet some day.”
(L’istesso tempo.) “Some day, some day ” —

and so on. It was nothing less than sardonic in De Peyster to regale the company with this sentiment, considering the number of young ladies who were ready to meet him, not “some day,” but any day ; yet the performance stirred Oliphant deeply. It was with a resonance of feeling in his tone that he began to speak to Octavia.

“ I must apologize,” he said, “ for not responding immediately to your kind note. I was really planning to call today, but ” —

“ Oh, it does n’t matter, Mr. Oliphant.” She appeared much more gracious, now that he was near her. “ I ‘m afraid,” she added, “ I was rather hasty in sending that note. At the time, I thought we’d better meet soon ; but, to tell you the truth, I changed my mind, afterwards.”

A light gust of air from some open window blew in upon Oliphant’s face, while she was replying, and brought a faint tang of the sea to mingle with the odor of the flowers around them. He could not tell whether it was this breath of the lonely waters, or a lurking chillness in her manner, that touched him with momentary foreboding. “ I hope no oversight or any act of mine was the cause of your change,” he returned.

Octavia raised her face and smiled, looking off towards the chandelier ; then said, gently, “ I have no fault to find.”

“ Because you have found one already ? ” he inquired. “ I know what you must be thinking of ; but I can explain it. I have found out who told you of the matter we were speaking about, the other day ; and I must assure you, if I had known before, I never should have appeared publicly with ” —

“ Hsh ! ” said Octavia, lifting her gloved hand a little, in warning; and Oliphant discovered that Mrs. Blazer was in the act of gliding by them, on the arm of Baron Huyneck. She barely inclined her head, as she passed, and Oliphant gave the slightest possible salutation in return.

“ Would you mind going out on the terrace?” Octavia asked. “It is stifling here.” While they moved away together, she said half archly, “ Have you been taking Mrs. Blazer to task for telling tales ? She has put you on her black list, evidently.”

“ It was n’t my fault,” he answered, “ that we did n’t quarrel outright.”

Octavia made no concealment of her pleasure, though “ It was wrong for you to risk that,” she said. “ Why should you quarrel on my account ? ”

“ Why ? " echoed he. “ Merely because I value your regard — or the chance of it — too much to risk losing it even for something much better than Mrs. Blazer’s good will.”

There was a sweet, lulled look upon Octavia’s face, as she listened; a look which to Oliphant, albeit he hardly dared to think he was right, seemed like one of trustful surrender. “Thank you,” she murmured, not too seriously. “ You are chivalrous, I see. But tell me how it was that that woman came to hear of the circumstances.”

“ I have n’t the faintest idea,” Oliphant said ; and he frankly detailed the whole history of the letter, including even his half-formed suspicion of Raish. “ I questioned Porter, this afternoon, without telling him what the letter was; and he did n’t seem to know a thing. He faced me squarely, and said, ‘It’s very puzzling, and I can’t help you out at all. Don’t ask me to investigate, because I make it a rule never to inquire into such things; they lead to so much trouble.’ ”

“ I can’t fully trust your friend,” said Octavia; “but I believe I trust you. At any rate, it is all over, now. At first I was bewildered and thought something must be done ; so I was anxious to see you. Besides, I felt so alone, don’t you know. It was a strange moment. I wanted some one to — to” —

“ Advise with ? ” he suggested.

“ Yes.” Octavia’s voice sank to an enticing whisper.

“ I wish I could have done anything for you,” Oliphant rejoined. “ I’m bitterly sorry for the whole affair, so far as my share in it goes, if it caused you pain.”

Octavia gave him a glance of gratitude for his sympathy. They were standing on the terrace, now, in the subdued light from one of the drawing-room windows. “ I’m sorry, too,” she said, very softly, “ for you. It is a very hard position that you’ve been placed in.”

“ So you acquit me, and forgive me ? ”

“Why shouldn’t I, Mr. Oliphant? You could hardly have done otherwise than you did.”

“Still,” he said, “I was afraid. But if it is all right, won’t you give me a little token, — one of those roses ? ”

A few Marshal Niel buds hung richly upon the black of her low-cut dress.

“ You don’t need it,” Octavia lightly assured him. “ I ’ll give you my hand; I mean I ’ll shake hands, if you like. But the rose would be sentimental, and sentiment, you know, is hardly for us, at our time.”

She looked away from him into the night, a little sadly. Out beyond the terrace were the many-colored glow of lanterns, the thick dusk of waving treetops, and the forms of guests wandering about the grounds, as indistinct in the dim light of lanterns and stars as the shapes in an old tapestry. Involved in a web of radiance from the window, which was crossed by dark lines from the curtains and a spray of palm inside, she was more beautiful than ever, with her pale brown hair, her dark dress, and the gleams of white “ illusion ” at the bosom.

“ Nonsense ! ” said Oliphant. “ For you, at least, it ’s an anachronism to take that tone; and there’s some hope even for me, so long as Dana Sweetser keeps up his youth. Have n’t you observed him talking devotedly to Miss Loyall, this evening? ”

“ No, I did n’t see him. But there go two young people who are better worth noticing.” She nodded towards the terrace steps, where Perry Thorburn and Josephine, who had come out of the house, were moving down into the shadowy region of the lawn.

“Oh, that reminds me. How strange about the false report of Lord Hawkstane being engaged ! ” Octavia began to laugh, but she ceased on his asking immediately, “ Is it really young Mr. Thorburn who ought to have been rumored about, instead ? ”

She divined his motive. With a downcast face, as if making confession on her own behalf, she answered, " Mr. Thorburu is greatly interested in Josephine. But you ’re not to mention it; he confides in me.”

It was indeed a confession, for it explained everything to Oliphant; it showed him that Perry’s attentions to Octavia were simply in the interest of his attachment for Josephine, and it set him free to think of Octavia as his fancy, in its most sanguine mood, might urge. Did she know the full force of this admission ? Did she guess what unpremeditated scheme and infatuated longing it aroused in Oliphant? He could not tell, nor did he wish to inquire, but was content to yield himself to the fascination of that which he imagined might be possible. And so he paced around, and smiled and chatted and sighed, and allowed various expressions to master his countenance, like other men who were present that evening; never suspecting that the women with whom he conversed — among them this charming lady, who had suddenly become for him the one apart from all the rest — were so many packages of emotional dynamite, artfully encased in silk, and set by invisible clock-work of the heart to explode at a given time.

Justin, meanwhile, had been fairly well received. He brought for Vivian a bunch of grasses and flower-de-luce and late June roses, gathered specially for her, which was so unlike everything else in the rooms that it gained a distinction and charm of its own ; and she took it with a candid little burst of thanks and friendliness. Mrs. Ware met him with haughty benevolence, and Stillman yielded him a reluctant courtesy. All had gone well, yet Justin was not happy ; for Count Fitz-Stuart had appropriated Vivian, and her younger lover grudged the moments which she was now squandering on that fragment of misdirected royalty in the lamp-lit walk.

“ Have you succeeded in entertaining yourself, count ? ” Vivian asked, as they strolled together.

“ No, mademoiselle. I find your assembly charming, but when not until now have I had two words with you, sail you expect me to be content ? ”

“ Why not ? There are surely a great many pleasant people for you to talk to here. Still, no; I should think you would be tired of this country.”

“ Not of at all. How often, mademoiselle, must I persuade you ? I find Newport very agreeable — quite at the manner of Europe; seulement un peu plus simple, savez-vous ? more — more rustique

“Then really, count, are you .not longing to return home ? ”

Mais— why do you think ? ”

“ Because, as you ’re the last of your family, you must be lonesome without relatives, and I should imagine you would feel it all the more among strangers.”

“ No, not that,” said Fitz-Stuart, with gravity. “ Even if I were prince, I think I would become republican, to be near where you are.”

“ It would be a great pity, though,” said Vivian. “We shouldn’t care half as much about you, then. We Americans just adore the nobility. I ’m sure I do. There ! ”

The count displayed his peachy little smile. “ To be adored is ravishing,” he remarked, complacently.

“ Ah, but I don’t say,” laughed Vivian, impelled by a sense that she was engaged in one of those international encounters which have assumed such importance of late,— “I don’t say that I adore you, you know. It’s only the nobility as an institution, a class. I adore them all at once, don’t you see ? ”

“ That is too many,” he said, methodically. “ I prefer if you like only me.”

“ Oh, yes, I know. You have told me so several times.”

“Ah, Mademoiselle Ware,” Fitz-Stuart began with pathos, “ why can you not reconsider?” As they were constantly passing other pairs, he thought it prudent to speak in French. “ I have your brother s consent; I still place myself at your feet — my title, my illustrious race, everything but fortune.”

Vivian assumed alarm, and stopped him. “Don’t, don’t speak French!” she exclaimed. “ Everyone here knows French. Talk in English, and they will never understand you.”

“ Ah, these young girls of America! ” murmured the count, shrugging his shoulders. " You tell me this, when my race should be upon the English throne ? ”

“ They would have been there, too,” Vivian hastened to say, “ if James the Third, or somebody, had n’t refused to give up Catholicism, and preferred the French language. He was an ancestor of yours, was n’t he ? ”

The count put on the most regal manner at his disposal. “Yes, my friend,” was his reply. “ His majesty would not surrender his belief of religion. Does it not prove he was good man ? ”

“ I’m not certain,” she returned. “ It proves that he thought he was good. Perhaps you think you ’re good, too, Monsieur le Comte ; but I never will marry a Catholic.”

“ Mademoiselle,” said he impressively, “ what my ancestor has refused to abandon for the sake of a kingdom, I will sacrifice if I can win your hand.”

The speech was so magnificent that Vivian blushed with pride in spite of herself ; but she answered gayly, “You’d better not forsake your religion to-night. Wait just a few days. I am sure I can’t agree to what you ask — certainly not now. But I ’ll tell you what I will do. If I can’t consent to marry, I ’ll promise to ride with you to the polo-match tomorrow, as you proposed this morning.”

Fitz-Stuart contemplated her mournfully. “ Mees Ware,” he said, “ you have no sentiment. But I submit myself. ”

As they regained the terrace, Vivian paused, and with a deep breath, looking up to the sky, she murmured, “ How beautiful the stars are to-night ! ”

Again the count regarded her, thoughtfully, as if he could not make out what was passing in her mind. At length he said wearily, himself glancing at the firmament, “ Yes, yes ; the stars. But they are so old!

“ Monsieur le Comte,” said Vivian, soberly, “you have no sentiment! ”

It was after this that Justin had his chance for a short interview with her. Stillman, patrolling the house and the illuminated portion of the grounds, was especially pleased with the lighted arbor, which was to prevent any conference between his sister and Craig; but while he was sauntering along by it, with his uncovered bald head showing in the radiance like a very large pink wafer, Vivian innocently wandered away with Craig into the dark and deserted space lying on the other side of the house, along the sea-front.

“It’s pleasanter here,” she said. “ I want to get rid of that babble of voices for a little while, and listen to the waves instead.”

“ I don’t care so much for the waves,” Justin answered, significantly; “but one voice is better than many. The last time I saw you, I began to think I should n’t hear much more of it.”

“ When ? And what do you mean ? ”

“ Why, yesterday, on the avenue. You rode by without noticing my existence.”

“ You foolish boy ! You can’t expect that I should be recognizing people all the time. If I were, I shouldn’t be able to do anything else.”

Vivian treated him to a glance of pretty disdain, which was lost in the darkness.

“ There are some of the other things which I’d just as soon not have you do,” said Justin.

“ What, are you going to criticise me ? ”

“ No, not you ; but I might criticise the life you ’re leading. I don’t like it. You’re throwing yourself away, and it makes me very uncomfortable, besides.”

“Ah, I see; there’s the trouble. Men never can bear to be uncomfortable.”

“ You know you ’re not in earnest, Miss Ware, when you say that about me. But are you always going to plague me so ? ”

“ ’ Always’ is a long time. Perhaps we shan’t know each other always.”

“ Perhaps not,” said Craig, in a tone that blended with the sombreness of the night around them. “ We hardly know each other now ; I see you so seldom. I have to creep about in my obscure little world, and even when we meet you are surrounded by people who look down upon me. There’s that count, with whom you spend so much time.”

“ Oh, he makes you uncomfortable, too, I suppose. But what do you imagine he would say. if he knew of my being out here with you ? The count insists upon it that 1 ought to marry him.”

“ I was sure of it! ” Craig exclaimed, bitterly.

“Just fancy,” Vivian pursued, “how wonderful it would be to marry into a royal line— or on to the end of it, rather ! We should n’t have any court or any kingdom, but I ’ve no doubt he would give me a real throne — it I paid for it.”

“ Well, with such an inducement as that, you ’ll probably accept him,” said Justin, scornfully, but without the least conviction.

“ Oh,” she retorted, “ you have formed a high opinion of me ! ”

“ Vivian ! ” he groaned, most unexpectedly. “ Don’t you know ? Why do I come here ? Why do I wait around in places, trying to see you ? Why am I miserable ? Don’t you know I m in love with you ? ”

She held her breath for an instant. “ Well,” she observed, “ that’s a nice effect for love to have — to make you miserable! ”

“ Pshaw ! ” muttered Justin. “ You understand well enough. I should n’t be miserable at all, if you only told me that you loved me, too.”

“ Really ? ” Vivian uttered a peal of laughter, that seemed to Justin like the beginning of a new composition. “ Do you think, then, that you’d be able to endure it? ”

“ I don’t dare to think of it,” said Justin, “except when I am alone. That is, I have n’t dared to, until now. But — do you love me ? ”

“Justin, you’re not in earnest. How can I fall in love with a poor young musician, when I have counts and all sorts of rich men dancing about me ? Do you think it possible ? ”

The poor boy was shaken with the strength of his passion, and aghast at his own temerity in declaring it so abruptly. “ Oh, I don’t suppose it ’s possible,” he answered. “ You know nothing of what it is to really feel : you can’t be serious.”

“ Well, let’s see if I can’t,” he heard her saying, without being able clearly to see her face through the night. “ Why do you insist upon asking me whether I love you? ”

“ Because,” he replied, innocently enough, “ it’s the Only way to find out. I can’t go on, without settling this question.”

“ Oh, that makes a difference,” said Vivian, who must have had a microscopic eye for distinctions imperceptible to men. “ Well, then, will you listen if I tell you a great secret ? ” Craig said nothing, but groped for her hand and found that she allowed him to take it in his, unguarded. “ Do you know,” she continued, “ I think — if I were to try— I might like you a great deal.”

Thank Heaven ! ” he breathed; and the spirit of a man awoke within him. He drew her close to him.

Hie cool dark, the sweet odors of earth and grass, and the soothing rustle of wind and sea enveloped them with sympathy. The delicate perfume of her hair floated round him, as if she had indeed been a flower.

“ How wonderful it is! ” he murmured. “ I can scarcely believe it; and yet it is just what I have believed, for a long time, ought to happen. But why do you think you can love me, Vivian ?”

“ Because you are the only true and simple man in the world,” said Vivian. The reason appeared to be conclusive. “ And what can you find in me ? ” she asked, in her turn, looking fondly up through the dusk, over his shoulder.

“ It will take me all my life to explain,” he said, touching his lips to her forehead. “ But I must tell you,” he added, “ I did n’t mean to speak so soon. I’m only a beginner, you know. I have nothing, and I must make my way, still.”

“What does that matter?” Vivian answered. “ I am well off in my own right : I shall be rich enough for both.”

Both ! IIow delicious the word sounded ! But Justin felt it incumbent upon him to be austerely firm. “ No,” he said ; “ it can’t be left so. I will claim nothing until I can do so fairly. Now that we are united in spirit, I won’t ask you to promise: I simply trust to you. Only, see how much you can separate yourself, for me, from this gay and frivolous life in which you are placed. That’s all I ask.”

“ Oh, you are very generous,” Vivian exclaimed, moving away haughtily ; “ very generous, indeed ! But I think I should like you all the better if you were a little —well, a little meaner.”

“ I shall never be mean enough,” he hotly rejoined, “to take an unjust advantage. If I let you engage yourself to me now, it would make you lots of trouble. Besides, think what your people would say of me ! ”

“ Yes, that’s it,” Vivian was quick to say. “ You care more for your pride than for me. It’s very fine, this talking about love ; but I’ve always noticed that there is n’t much in it, compared with other considerations ; and now I find that you ’re like all the rest. Yes, I was a goose ; it’s a humbug.”

“ I quite agree with you,” Justin declared, becoming superbly frigid. “ Women can’t appreciate a manly motive. They are all self-willed and hasty, and I bitterly deceived myself in thinking you were different.”

“Very well,” she continued; “you wish me to be free, and I am free. 1 was going to make a great, great sacrifice for you, Mr. Craig; but now I shan’t. I will keep my promise to the count, to ride with him to polo, to-morrow.”

“Just as you please,” Justin said. And they were able to return to the house in a state of polite ferocity that completely allayed Stillman’s rising suspicions.

It is true, Justin played for the company, at Mrs. Ware’s request, though it was not seconded by Vivian; and he had never played better, with greater fire or with profounder depth, mystery, and sentiment. “ But if they only knew,” he reflected, amid the ensuing applause, “ how ragged my coat-linings are, and’ that my heart is all in tatters !

And for a number of days afterwards it was noticed by their particular friends that both Craig and Vivian took every opportunity to point out, with convincing cynicism, the uselessness of building hopes upon the loves of men and women.

Before Oliphant went away that night, Octavia, lightly draped with a wrap that encircled her head like a hood, met him again in the hall, and, discovering that he would like to witness the polo games, invited him to lunch with Josephine and herself at High Lawn and drive to the grounds. He was exceedingly grateful for her courtesy ; but the mutual relation that had sprung up between them was not yet quite clear to him. He had expected that some constraint would trammel them, after the disclosure of the letter ; but, to his astonishment, there had resulted an increased freedom and intimacy, notwithstanding which, he suspected that they actually stood farther apart than before. She now treated him, he was aware, with more art. “ Still,” he assured himself, “ that is only because she feels the difficulty of putting me at my ease. Yes, yes ; she ’s a generous woman.”

IX.

POLO, AND CERTAIN POSSIBILITIES.

Half an hour before the time for polo, the next afternoon, Perry Thorburn issued from a street near the Cliffs, driving his trap solemnly down Narragansett Avenue, accompanied by a groom with arms discreetly folded. Perry had already indued his tight-fitting riding costume, but it was entirely concealed by his long Newmarket overcoat, which allowed only the yellowbordered boots, that projected below, to betray his errand. He held the reins, however, with peculiar gravity ; he was conscious of his exalted mission; you might easily have supposed him a volunteer victim going to some heathen sacrifice, for the good of the community at large. Roland De Peyster, who was captain of the opposing side, the reds, made his entry upon the polo field from another quarter, with equal state. People in carriages, on horseback, and on foot kept assembling, until the immense inclosure within the high board fence was thickly fringed with a brilliant concourse. Bannerets fluttered from the marquees in one corner, and a band dispersed brazen melodies through the wide, warm air ; there was a great array of pretty costumes, and waving ribbons, and lovely, expectant faces: the scene was festal, yet the fashionable crowd was under the spell of a subdued propriety which threw a tinge of solemnity over the scene. Solemnly, too, the eight players came out from the tents, and the blues rode down to the lower end of the field. Then, at a given signal, Thorburn and De Peyster charged for the centre crease, where the ball lay awaiting them.

For a few seconds nothing was heard except the dull, rapid pounding of the ponies’ hoofs on the thin sward. Thud, thud, thud, they went : every one was breathless, waiting to see who should get the first stroke ; but De Peyster s pony was the swiftest, and with a sharp, nervous click he sent the ball flying, before Thorburn could reach it, a good half-way toward the enemy’s goal. Instantly Thorburn wheeled, and all the other players closed in. They made a queer sight, dressed in tight flannel shirts, with fantastically patterned ornament of stripes, bars, and spots, and wearing round, flat-topped caps. They appeared like so many imps starting into sudden action, flying hither and thither, wheeling abruptly, bending forward, and skimming the ground with their long, unwieldy mallets that scurried after the ball with the agile inconsequence of kittens, yet in deadly earnest; and never uttering a sound except a few short, sharp cries now and then, which came to the spectators as inarticulate bursts. The silence of the whole proceeding was what struck Oliphant : the punctilious, much-dressed assembly was silent, and so were the gentlemen on horseback, erratically careering about in the centre. The blues gained a temporary advantage, but not enough to save them; and with a few more judicious plays the reds drove the ball between the enemy’s pennants, in little more than three minutes.

There was a very slight applause from a few gloved hands; the brass instruments blared again ; and after a six minutes’ interval the second game opened. Both this and the third went, like the first, against Thorburn, although his men performed some excellent feats. Once, the ball was driven out of bounds, and a remarkably correct young man, who had Miss Loyall on the box with him, ordered his groom to throw the small object of contention back; whereupon the players began to whack at it liercely, until Colonel Clancy, who was acting as umpire, stopped them, and riding down to the boundary rope called out to the correct young man : “ Don’t you know any better than to throw the ball in like that ? ”

“Oh—aw, beg pahdon,” said the culprit; and his accent was received as making entire amends.

“ It strikes me,” said Oliphant to the ladies, “ that that’s rather rough — addressing a gentleman in that style.”

“ Oh, no,” Josephine assured him. “ They have to be very strict. Why, they won’t let anybody go inside the ropes, whatever happens.”

Oliphant had dismounted, and stood beside the carriage, so as to get a nearer view. He also had a better view of Octavia and Josephine, who were remarkably effective that day ; the former sitting beneath a small gold and violet dome of parasol, through which the light streamed softly, and Josephine receiving a peculiar glory from her crimson shelter.

In the fourth game a prolonged struggle began. It would have decided the day, if it had gone for the reds ; but fortunately Thorburn had reserved his best pony until now, and in his desperate efforts to turn the tide, his blue and white shirt, his sunburned face and amber hair, seemed to be in all parts of the field at once. The crisis came when Richards, of the reds, delivered a clever blow from under his pony, and sent the ball rattling towards the blue flags, amid a good deal of applause. Thorburn darted after it like lightning, with both sides in full chase ; then, with a neat back stroke, he reversed its direction. whirled around, and carried the crowd with him. Young Chiseling, however, of De Peyster’s party, had hung back to keep the red goal; and seeing the ball go free, a little on one side, he bore down to strike it. Thorburn quickly noticed this move, and had already urged his pony with nervous leaps towards the same spot. He came shooting by, only a few yards from where Oliphant stood; and the next instant the two riders had clashed together and were thrown. They lay upon the grass slightly stunned, but the astonishing thing about the accident was that the two ponies had straddled: Thorburn’s, his fore feet forced up into the air by the shock, had attempted to leap over Chiseling’s, but had been unable to carry his hind legs clear, and so remained caught, with two hoofs on the ground.

There were ineffectual little shrieks from some of the ladies, and Clancy shouted, “ Pull them apart, before they get to kicking ! ”

But he himself reined in at a safe distance, and the players were gyrating in a knot, close to the red goal, wholly absorbed. Chiseling rose and walked off with a false and dazed attempt at selfpossession, but Thorburn could do no more than sit up. The ponies were restive. Without stopping to reflect, Oliphant bent under the rope and rushed out to the point of danger.

“ Get off the field ! ” thundered the umpire. The onlookers echoed him with warning shouts and murmurs. But Oliphant paid no attention : his blood was up. He grasped Thorburn’s pony by the bridle, pulled with all his force, and compelled him to spring. This freed the animal ; the other, turning sharply, trotted away and was caught by Clancy. The next thing was to lift Thorburn, who was soon able to move towards the tent: at the same moment, luckily, the ball was driven through by the blues, who thus retrieved their honor.

A double demonstration of approval greeted these performances ; for, although Oliphant promptly retired to his previous obscurity, he was received with the warmest acknowledgments. There was quite a general clapping of hands in the neighborhood of Mrs. Gifford’s carriage; and even Clancy came cantering in pursuit, to thank Oliphant for his service, while warning him that the interference was against all rules of the game. Atlee and Roger Deering, who were not far away, hastened up, to congratulate the hero of the hour. “ By Jove, you know,” said Atlee, glassing him all over, “ it was— er — ‘m — really fine, you know.”

“Atlee means you’re A 1,” Roger remarked, grinning, and shaking his cousin’s hand.

All this was nothing to Oliphant, compared with the homage that Octavia bestowed upon him. She gave him the full depth of her eyes, and smiled entrancingly as she said, “ Bravo, Mr. Oliphant! I’m really proud of you; and I’m so glad you came with us, because we can share in your glory.”

Josephine said nothing, but she, too, smiled ; and there was a quality in her long, slow, fascinating look that penetrated Oliphant,—stirred him in fact so profoundly that he experienced something like alarm. Was it involuntary with her, or did it have a meaning ?

Thorburn was not seriously hurt, but he found himself unable to sit his horse firmly, and had suffered a sprain in one wrist; accordingly, it was impossible to go on with the games. Octavia and Josephine took pains to drive over to the tent and inquire about his injuries, with a captivating appearance of being agitated; and yet Oliphant could see that he himself, although he had not undergone the slightest damage, was an object of far more interest to them. The flattery was like a bath of perfumes to him; no sort of discontent could trouble him now; he wished that he might go on living, for the rest of his term, in Newport and in the sight of Octavia. He drove with the ladies, and then stopped at High Lawn a few minutes, before leaving them. Josephine at first disappeared, giving him an opportunity to speak with Oetavia alone ; and he improved it by telling her the singular episode with Vivian Ware, which it seems that Justin had recounted to him.

“ You observed her at the grounds, did n’t you,” he asked, “ riding with the count ? She means to discipline our young friend, I judge.”

“ That is, torture him,” said Oetavia, with compassionate warmth. “ It ’s too bad — too bad! Mr. Oliphant,” she added, utilizing all the charm of her most confiding manner, “ we must bring those two young people together — you and I ! ”

“ With all my heart,” he said, stumbling over the word, and wondered why she did not think that they themselves might also be brought together.

Josephine then came back; to whom, since she was about departing for Jamestown, he made his farewell. “ Goodby,” she responded, as she let her hand sink into his. “ If you have n’t been to Conanicut, you must come over and see us. My father, I’m sure, would be glad to meet you.”

Again he felt the power of her steady and controlling gaze, to which Oetavia was not blind, either; for Oliphant, who had the temerity to possess intuitions as quick as a woman’s, saw that Octavia did not approve of the fascination her friend was deploying for his benefit. Well, he rather liked this: it was one more drop of flattery.

The days that followed gave him many meetings with Oetavia — at dinners, at dances, at picnics of a stately, champagne-flavored kind near Paradise, or among the beeches and box-hedges and bay-bushes of the Glen, with its idle, mossy old grist-mill. He also came once or twice to High Lawn. Having made acquaintance with some delightful people who lived in a great house on Ocean Avenue, out of the Newport whirl, he found himself one of a party invited to spend a day there; and, Oetavia being present, he strayed with her down a path in the rock, which stopped at the sheer edge of an undermined point, called by a picturesque terrorism The Pirate’s Cave. Here they were invisible to the rest of the company. There had been a mirage all the morning, which threw Block Island up on the horizon as an inverted shape of towering sandy-tinted cliffs, in which the sails of becalmed ships made vertical white rifts; and this dim vision had haunted Oliphant with a hint of expectancy. But now it had vanished ; and the sea, from being green compared with the sky, or pale blue beside the grass, was a deep blue everywhere.

“ A change of color is an event here,” said Oliphant. “ It seems almost to change one ’s own mood.”

“ What is your mood, then ? ” asked Oetavia.

“ I could hardly tell you,” he answered. " A while ago I was looking forward ; and now I ’m retrospective.”

“ Ah,” said she, with a little frown, “ it is n’t good to be thinking of your past.”

“ I’m not: I’m thinking of yours ! ”

“ Why ? ”

“ Because that is where you seem to keep yourself. I continually catch a look in your eye which shows that you are wandering there. Why don’t you live in the present?”

“ But what is the present?” she replied. “ Does n’t it dissolve at the touch of a memory or a hope — the past or the future ? ”

“ I wish it could,” he exclaimed fervently, “ at the touch of a hope ! ”

A huge wave rolled into the cavern, as he spoke, and exploded there with a muffled sound like a knell.

“ You ’re dissatisfied, then, with things as they are ? ”

“ In one sense, very much so ; in another, not at all. But I can imagine something better.”

“ There ’s where we differ,” Octavia rejoined. “I’m very well content now; but my past was so complete and so sunny that there could hardly be anything better.”

“Well, you’ve heard me hint often enough that mine was a dreary failure. I gave my life up to one woman, and”— He checked himself, promptly.

“ Yes,” said Octavia ; “ it seems as if one had to be punished for too absolute a surrender. I gave myself up, too : I was happy, as I ‘ve said, but — that letter, Mr. Oliphant, that letter ! That has been my punishment.” It was the first time she had openly referred to it since the evening at Mrs. Ware’s. “ I should not say this to you,” she added, “ except that you have spoken frankly to me.”

“ I understand,” he answered, appreciatively, more and more drawn on to speak from his heart. “ But if it is possible for even the happiest career to be shadowed by a little thing, why should people let one experience settle the problem? Isn’t it permitted to try again ? ”

“No, no!” she cried, in strange, unforeseen excitement. “You must n’t say that, Mr. Oliphant. It ’s sacrilege!”

And as she turned upon him, he felt the flame of her resentment; but he answered quietly : “ You ought to be more indulgent to poor, irrepressible human nature. It has been ascertained that hope, like truth, when crushed, granulated, or powdered, will rise again.”

She laughed faintly, and for a brief space they sat gazing out upon the waters, which passing clouds had suddenly softened to gray, seamed with many creeping wave-lines; a blind-looking ocean, yet watchful, as if waiting and preparing for some particular event. Then Octavia’s glance came back to Oliphant, who in his gray suit appeared like a part of the lichened rock against which he was propped ; his face, too, like the sea’s, patient, prepared, but stronger.

There was a complete transformation in her when she resumed the talk. “ Do you believe,” she dreamily inquired, “that if a true love has once been given, it can ever be given again, — the same kind, I mean.”

The hollow echo of an inrolling wave once more resounded upon their ears. “ Perhaps not the same,” Oliphant returned; “but there’s always a question as to which is the best kind. It’s a hard lesson to learn that the first conception, however exalted, may not be the wisest.”

Octavia had a secret sense that there had been a lack in her first love ; it had not welded into itself the substance of sorrow. Perhaps the love which should exist in spite of disappointment or doubt was the better developed sort — as shadows prove an object to be rounded. Fortifying herself against this suspicion, she said, “ Love is a mistake, and marriage is a mistake, I fear. Looking back upon it, from our point of view, as something which is over for us, does n’t it strike you as strange that we should all be brought up to expect success in a matter so difficult ? People ought to look to friendship, instead, which is the most unselfish affection.”

“ I doubt that. But as for friendship, I thought it was exhausted, too, until I met you, Mrs. Gifford. I fancied my life was a desert, and that my heart was turned to stone ; but all at once, here’s a fresh fountain springing out of the rock.”

“Be careful!” Octavia interposed. “You ’re growing poetic, and you must remember we ‘ve reached the age of prose.”

“ Well, even prose will do for expressing belief. I wish you would believe, Mrs. Gifford.”

“ In what ? ”

“ In the possibilities of the future.”

She let her parasol droop, saying with dejection, “ I should be glad if there were any such buoyancy in me. But hope and happiness have gone, Mr. Oliphant. See how Justin and Vivian, who really have any quantity of faith, assume to be skeptical; while I, who am a skeptic, do my best to believe, and can’t.”

“ Did n’t you say, though, a few minutes since, that you were content ?”

“ That was a conventional statement, a comparative one : I ’m giving you the ^conventional truth, now. Indeed, I shall never be contented again.”

Oliphant rose to his feet, and stood before her on the narrow ledge. Behind him was the slowly chafing sea; a light wind brought up the scent of shell and weed ; the tide boomed sullenly in the deep recesses. There was Octavia, crouched against the granite wall, like another Andromeda, and Oliphant wished that he were Perseus.

“ I shall never be content, myself,” he said, with his hand on the iron rail along the verge, “ except in one event.”

A sparkle came from her eyes, rapid and keen as the light from her diamonds. “What one thing could have so much power?” she asked, with a half-tremulous smile that disintegrated his calmness.

“ To see you happy,” he exclaimed, “ and to have some share in making you so ! ”

For an instant, Octavia was dismayed. Her hand, with jeweled rings upon it, sought the rough stone surface, for aid in rising; but Oliphant was quick to lend her his help, and she accepted it.

“ You are very kind, to care so much about it, she said. “ But are you not caring too much ? Let me warn you in time.” She spoke in haste, uneasily; yet all the while a subtle pleasure played around her lips, intoxicating Oliphant with the conviction that she did not really wish to repel him.

“ No, no, Mrs. Gifford ; I can’t heed any warning; I can’t take one. We have been thrown together strangely, by a fate that we could n’t control. Do you suppose I can control my interest in you, either ? And would you be willing to take from me the one thing that makes life valuable to me now? ”

“How can I take that away?” she asked, in a whisper ; but he could hear it through the beating of the breeze.

“ By denying me your companionship,” he returned earnestly. “ I want to be near you constantly, to do something for you ; to be your reliance.”

“ Oh, it’s impossible,” murmured Octavia, shrinking slightly towards the high rock. “ How can you expect that, Mr. Oliphant? What are you dreaming of ? ”

“Ah, if that’s the way it strikes you,” said Oliphant, “it is all useless; yes, it’s only a dream! You need nothing ; you are really happy enough, and my wish is a selfish one.”

She made the slightest perceptible gesture of remonstrance, and seemed impelled to start towards him. “ It is not selfish,” said she, in melting tones. “ I thank you for your generous feeling ; indeed, I do. But you know people can’t form such companionships : there is no room in this world for the finest impulses.”

Scintillant reflections from the water chased each other over the granite surface behind Octavia, and dazzled Oliphant; but the conflicting moods that flitted across her face dazzled and bewildered him still more. She seemed alternately a coy girl unwilling to be won ; a woman recognizing with devout joy the dawn of love ; a shape of distant perfection, wholly unattainable. Through it all, he held to the one thought that he desired her more than anything on earth, and, however mad the scheme, was determined to win her.

“ You told me,” he said, growing bold as he grew agitated, “ that friendship is the best affection. But if there’s no place for our friendship, there may be for something else.”

Octavia started, but she made no sharp protest. Instead, she gazed at him meditatively for a moment, and he discerned in her large inquiring eyes a womanly sense of the devotion which he offered — a tenderness blended with pity and pride. She, however, raised one finger to her lips in admonition.

“ It’s time for us to be interrupted, Mr. Oliphant, if you have come to that. Shall we interrupt ourselves ? ”

“ Are you going to joke me? ” he asked, with pain. “ Surely you see how much in earnest I am. You will listen and consider ? ”

She detected the transfiguring light upon his features, as he leaned nearer towards her. “I — I did n’t mean to joke,” she said, with seductive contrition. Oliphant believed then that she would yield to his entreaty that she should hear him. Suddenly there came a shock of change ; apprehension seemed to have assailed her ; she clasped her hands, and cried out, “ No, I cannot listen ! Don’t ask me to, —don’t ask me.”

An undertone as of sobbing rang in that cry, and Oliphant’s forehead grew white and wrinkled with anxiety. “ Why do you look at me so, Mrs. Gifford ? What have I done ? ”

“ Look ? How am I looking? ”

“ You seem angry, as well as pained. I should think that you hated and despised me for this.”

At that instant a gull came wheeling through the air above them, with a weird, vibrating scream ; and the hollow rock was filled again with the baffled roar of a retreating billow.

Octavia’s eyes fell, and she said very slowly, “ No, I do not hate you.”

He recovered hope at once. “Then you forgive me,” he concluded buoyantly ; “and you will let me speak, some time. Will you think of what I have said ? ”

The wildness of her outburst had died away, and the indescribable smile mingled of coquetry and undisguised emotion, which Oliphant had already noticed, resumed its sway, as she answered, “At least, I shan’t be likely to forget it.”

George Parsons Lathrop.