IT was on a dismal November evening, full to the throat of smoke and fog, that Captain George Farquhar, having nothing better to do with himself, strolled into the green-room of Drury Lane Theatre. He was plainly in an unhappy mood, and his face, handsome enough even in gloom to strike any woman, or any man, with interest, if with no more ardent feeling, was clouded over with so deep a melancholy that it resembled nothing so much as the weather from which he had just taken shelter.
There was such a confusion of voices, as he came in, that for a minute or two his entrance passed unnoticed. All the company were dressed for their parts in the new comedy; in five minutes the curtain was to ring up ; the premonitory whistles and cat-calls from the impatient gallery penetrated even to the green-room; yet, in spite of the fact that the performance was so close at hand, the entire company surrounded Mr. Rich, the manager, everybody talking at the top of his voice, each one evidently making a different suggestion to the anxious manager. Wilks, dressed as a gallant of the seventeenth century, — elegant, dashing, irresistible, — had not yet put on the fine airs of his part, and was talking as earnestly as if he had never forgotten to be anybody but Robert Wilks ; Colley Cibber, never quite so much himself as the character he personated, was as earnest as Wilks ; Mistress Oldfield — bewitching Anne Oldfield — was gesticulating with her shut fan, that very fan which she was soon to unfurl with such effect before the footlights ; Dogget, laying aside his stolid air, had for once become animated ; the other members of the company, grouped at greater or less distance, were all joining in the hubbub, till Babel itself was outdone and confounded. Mr. Rich put his fingers in his ears.
“ Great heaven ! ” exclaimed Farquhar, pausing on the threshold, “ what is all this din about ? Has Rich decided that he will not give any one a benefit, and are you all refusing to go on till he comes to terms ? ”
“ Here’s George,” cried Wilks, seizing him by the arm and dragging him into the group. " He comes in the very nick of time. He has forsworn the stage, but he will dance in the minuet.”
“ To be sure he will, to oblige me,” said Mrs. Oldfield, turning upon him her whole battery of smiles.
“ We end the second act of the comedy with a minuet, danced by all the characters,” said Mr. Rich, in answer to Farquhar’s look of inquiry. “ Mr. Hartley is suddenly taken ill, and can’t appear. Porter can speak his lines, but he can’t dance, and we want somebody to go on just for the dance.”
“ Do it, George,” said Wilks, anticipating Farquhar’s doubtful reply. “ No man in England can dance better. You shall dance with Nan,” he whispered in his friend’s ear. “ You can press her hand for at least as many minutes as the dance goes on. Colonel Mainwaring, though he sit directly in front of you both, can’t gainsay you that privilege.”
“ What, go on in a part thus,” said Farquhar, pointing to his black clothes, — “in a comedy of Charles the Second ? ”
“ Not so,” answered Wilks. “ There’s my dress for Sir Harry Wildair in my tiring-room. My man will give it to you. We can wear the same clothes, George. We have done it often enough, Lord knows, when we were both poor players in Dublin. Put on Sir Harry’s dress. It will become you mightily, and quite proper you should wear the costume of one of your own puppets. Say yes. There’s the curtain ! I’m called ! ” and a moment after a roar of applause came through the half-opened door of the green-room, proving that Wilks had appeared before his adoring audience.
“ I know you won’t let me lose my dance,” said Mrs. Oldfield. “ I expect to make a mighty hit in it.” And she swept him a low curtsy as she went out to the wings to wait her entrance, and to share Wilks’s triumphs.
“You will oblige us, Captain Farquhar ? ” asked Rich.
“Faith, I suppose I must; there’s no help for it,” said Farquhar. “ I can refuse Bob nothing. And as for you, Rich, you ’ll treat my next comedy the better for this. So here ’s for Bob’s dressing-room.”
There was a little murmur of admiration even among the blasé occupants of the green-room when Captain Farquhar reappeared, divested of the sober suit he usually wore, and arrayed in the white satin and red velvet, fleecy laces and diamond buckles, of Sir Harry Wildair. It is not often that handsome habiliments set off so handsome a person; and George Farquhar, then in his twenty-fifth year and in the fullest grace of manhood, was a sight to please the eye and stir the heart even of the coldest looker-on.
“ Begad, George, you belong to us,” said Cibber, who had just come in from his last scene in the first act; “ it’s a pity you ever left the stage.”
“ It would have kept you in better pocket than your comedies or your commission,” said Rich, jestingly.
Farquhar smiled a little sadly. “ You are right about the profit of it, Rich. My pen and sword together would n’t pay for my own Sir Harry’s shoe buckles. But it won’t always be so. Mark that, Rich; mark that, Cibber. The star of the poor devil of an author is rising. The time will come, though you and I may not see it, when he will command a price for his work like any other man. He will ride in his coach yet, as decently as any man who sells cheese or candles in Cheapside, or turns his guineas at double interest in Lombard Street.”
“ He will never make the profit we make out of him,” said Cibber, flicking off the particles of his last pinch of snuff from his lace ruffles. “ Look at Wilks, now, with his ten guineas a week and a benefit. You made a mistake, George.”
Farquhar turned on his heel to meet Wilks, who was just entering. Everybody there knew why Farquhar had left the boards. He went on the stage a mere boy. He was one of the best readers of his day, — perhaps that was one reason he wrote so naturally, — and he had the face and figure for his profession. But when barely eighteen he had accidentally wounded an antagonist in a scenic duel. The poor fellow came near dying of the wound, and Farquhar, struck by remorse, left the stage forever. It was after he got his commission in the army that Wilks had persuaded him of his talent for comedy-writing, and had helped to bring out his plays at Drury Lane.
A hurried rehearsal of the stage dance in the green-room preceded the second act, to prepare Farquhar to lead Mistress Oldfield out in the minuet. Everybody in the theatre knew how madly he had been in love with her, and liow she had turned her back on him for a lover higher in rank and richer in purse than he. Farquhar had not yet sufficiently recovered from this mood to resist the temptation which Wilks had suggested, of holding her pretty dimpled hand in his for a dance. There were few in the audience who were likely to recognize him in his dress of Sir Harry. He was about the same height as Porter, who should have had the place he took in the dance. At least he would risk being recognized, and oblige his friends.
It would take the finest touch of poet and fiction-writer at once to describe a minuet as George Farquhar and Mistress Anne Oldfield danced it. No others on the scene held the eye for one moment while they were upon it. Even Wilks was for a brief time forgotten, and lavished his usually incomparable graces upon careless observers. The pen fails in attempting to represent this pair. She, with her perfect figure swayed by every motion of the music ; now sinking, now rising, on the waves of sound; her dazzling neck turning this way and that with swan-like gesture; her eyes, now half shut, now pouring all their power of charm into the eyes of the beholder; her pretty foot, now slowly advanced with such exquisite yet coy grace, then slowly withdrawn under the folds of her sweeping petticoats ; one arm wreathed above her head in alluring curves, the other held by the yielding finger-tips in the hand of her partner: he, no less graceful, and hardly less enchanting than she; his elegant figure, now approaching, now receding from her, in languishing yet reverent movement; the half - tender, half - nonchalant air with which he led her through the mazes of the dance ; the perfect grace with which foot and leg answered every note of the music ; the captivating bend of his figure, as he bowed low before her at the close of each measure, — all this was for the eye only; no words can describe it. Again and again the curtain fell on this revelation of tlie entrancing graces of motion. Again and again the fascinated audience demanded its repetition.
Meanwhile, poor Farquhar had discovered, to his chagrin, that neither look nor touch of his met any response from his charming partner. Every wreathed smile, every tender beam from her sparkling eyes, fell, not upon him, but on his fortunate rival, who sat in a box on the right, in complacent consciousness of being the chosen and acknowledged suitor of pretty Mistress Oldfield. Farquhar had been deeply in love with her, but even the most ardent flame will burn low if one pours upon it a sufficient quantity of cold water, and Farquhar, handsome, used to success in affairs of the heart, and only twenty-five years old, was not capable of sighing eternally without encouragement. He was beginning to flag in the ardor of the dance, when, just as he relaxed his grasp a little on the unanswering finger-tips of his chilling companion, a pair of soft eyes from a box on the left met his own, and revived his waning enthusiasm. At least there was more than one pair of woman’s eyes in the world. If Nan Oldfield looked one way, he could turn the other. And he danced on, with finer and more fascinating grace than before, only instead of fixing on Mrs. Oldfield the glance of respectful adoration which he at first had bent upon her alone, he turned all its force upon the eyes which he was suddenly conscious followed absorbingly his every movement.
The box was provokingly dark. He could see neither the figure nor the face, which was obscured in the dim light reflected into the box from the candles of the footlights ; only a pair of soft, gleaming eyes, that never ceased their gaze while the dance lasted. Farquhar thought that he caught vaguely the outline of a rounded chin, and a brow with hair falling over it; but players and playwrights are habitually imaginative, and although he conjured up a whole face to fit the eyes, he could not be certain that any trait was really true to his own fancy.
It happened that night after night for a week Hartley remained ill, and Farquhar went on in the dance-scene. Half a dozen others might in this time have been trained to fill the place, but somehow Farquhar did not speak of relinquishing it, and Rich found the minuet too decided a hit to suggest any change. Meantime, the denizens of the greenroom shook their heads every evening over Farquhar’s madness, which led him to pursue his hopeless passion for the queen of comedy; and every night the same pair of eyes gleamed duskily on him from the box on the left, with the same fascinated attention. He could perceive no coquetry in the gaze, only an all-absorbing interest, which seemed to make the owner unconscious that her glances were answered, or even that they attracted the notice of the object on whom they were so constantly fixed. Every night, as the dance ended, and he bent low before his partner, he cast the gaze of reverent admiration which accompanied the obeisance into the box on the left. He saw the figure sink into the deeper shadows of the background, as if all interest ceased with his last movement. On leaving the stage he rushed to his dressing-room, resumed his ordinary dress, and ran to haunt the door of the box, the passages, and the entrances of the theatre; he walked up and down the street in front of the play-house, even stared into the passing carriages, till the play was over, and the last play-goer had left Drury Lane. It was in vain. The occupant of the box must have left the theatre as soon as he had left the stage. He could find not the slightest trace of her.
At length, — it was on the sixth and last evening of the comedy, — Farquhar took a sudden resolve. He left his long military cloak in the wings, as he went on the scene. When the dance ended he made his exit. Enveloping himself in his cloak, he ran to the front entrance of the theatre. A solitary coach stood at the doorway. A lady was just entering it as Farquhar hastily bounded upon the pavement. As she was seating herself she turned toward him. He was sure he saw the gleam of her eyes in the faint reflection of the wretched oil-lamps which vaguely lit up the muddy sidewalk.
What transports he felt, when a voice, soft as the glance which had allured him, said half inquiringly, “ Captain Farquhar ? ”
“ Faith, she has my name already,” said he to himself, and his foot was on the step and his hand on the fastening of the coach door before it had time to close. " I beg your ladyship’s pardon, but you spoke to me ? ”
The lady had sunk back among the cushions. Perhaps she was frightened at her temerity ; perhaps she was an acquaintance, whom he had failed to recognize ; perhaps — No matter what doubts assailed him; this was the beginning of the eighteenth century, when a brave man did not wait to be resolved in the outset of an adventure either of love or of war. Farquhar was a gallant man, a military officer, and an Irishman, — a triple-headed reason for being rapid in his action on such an occasion. He did not wait further, but stepped into the carriage and shut the door.
“ I am sure your ladyship has something to say to me, and since we can talk much more at our ease driving than standing still, may I bid your coachman drive home ? ”
There was a low murmur, which Farquhar readily took for consent. He gave the order to the coachman, and took his seat by his companion.
“You called me by name, madam,” he said, in his tenderest modulations. “ May I ask if I have the honor of a previous acquaintance ? ”
“ You have never seen me before,” answered the lady, a little tremulously.
(“ Hanged if I can see you now,” said Farquhar to himself. “ Delicious voice, though, melting and sweet as honey just dropped from the comb.”)
“ But I have seen you, six times in all,” she continued, “ from my box, on the left of the stage.”
“ ’T is the eyes, sure enough,” said Farquhar internally. Then aloud, “ Madam, you mistake when yon declare I have not seen you. I swear to you I’ve seen nothing but your eyes, waking or asleep, for a week past. But I can’t for the life of me imagine how you know my name, for even in my dreams I have not been able to guess at yours.”
“ Oh, that was not so difficult. I found that Mr. Rich was the manager, and I wrote him three days ago to ask who you might be. I described you so well there was no fear of his mistaking.”
“ Confound the fellow,” muttered Farquhar to himself, “ he gave me no hint of this.” Then audibly, “And Mr. Rich answered you ? ”
“ Most immediately, and gave me a whole history about you.”
“Ah-ah!” said Farquhar. “But permit me to say, dearest madam, that it would have been a more direct way if you had conveyed a billet to me, in person. In that case I might have tasted the bliss of knowing you at least three days earlier.”
“ Indeed, I had thought of that, too,” returned the lady ; “ but besides the fear that my note might fall into other hands than yours, I was not sure, if I used no more ceremony, but you might think it strange of me.”
“ My dear madam,” said Farquhar, more ardently than he had yet ventured, “ you may be sure no man of sense will think anything she does not wish, of a charming woman who commits so very slight an indiscretion on his account; and in that respect I am the most discreet as well as the most gallant of my sex.” And here his hand found in some way the hand he had been cautiously seeking in the darkness, and he gave the soft fingers a reassuring pressure. The hand was quickly withdrawn, and the lady shrank further back into the corner. Farquhar, a little rebuffed, began to consider the situation rather more deeply.
The coach, driving on rapidly all this time, was already a good distance from Drury Lane. It had passed, by several tortuous and narrow streets, into Leicester Square, then a lonely and deserted-looking place enough, past the stately mansions in its vicinity, and was now in the open road, leading westward, where the houses grew more isolated and infrequent. Farquhar, left to a moment of sober reflection, began to inquire whither he might be going.
“ A plague upon my cursed rashness,” he thought, as the lady remained silent, nestling away from him in the corner of the coach. “ Here am I, engaged to a woman of whom I know nothing but that she has a pair of fine eyes. She may be as old and as ugly as sin. A little paint and powder would conceal the deepest wrinkles, in all the light I’ve yet seen her in. True, the hand I just pressed was soft and small enough, but everybody knows that a woman’s hand and arm may be young and fair till she’s near sixty. I may be following some old coquette, who laughs now in her sleeve at having caught a young fellow like me. Or — Gads my life ! — she may be some cut-throat in petticoats, who does not know how empty ray pockets are, or fancies that the diamonds in Sir Harry’s shoe-buckles are more valuable than I know them to be. I have no mind to turn from a comedy-writer into a theme for a tragedy.” And here the adventure of the Chevalier de Chastillon in France, which he had just made the catastrophe of the last act of his new comedy The Inconstant, came into his head all of a sudden ; and in spite of the fact that he was a brave man, and by no means a tyro in affairs of gallantry, the cold chills ran over him. His blood, warmed hitherto by the dance, and the excitement of the adventure, seemed to congeal and stop in its course through his veins.
At this moment the carriage stopped. The prospect, what little there was of it in the gloom of a November midnight, on which a thin moon was struggling to shed a gleam through a bank of dense clouds that surrounded her, was not reassuring. They had driven up through a thick avenue of trees to reach the portal of a great, dreary-looking house, from whose windows not a ray of light was emitted. The place was frightfully lonely, remote from other dwellings, and as silent as the grave. The coach had driven close to the door ; the lady leaped lightly from the carriage, turned and extended her hand. The outer door of entrance yielded to her touch, and they went in, Farquhar still holding fast by the hand which she had held out to him.
“ Step softly, and make no noise,” she whispered. “ It would be a sad affair for us both if we waked anybody.”
Whatever might be his misgivings, Farquhar felt that it was no time to turn back He pressed the hand for answer, and followed fast on her footsteps. Through a long hall, then up a flight of steps to a winding corridor, then on through a denser darkness, till some gleams of light from under a door at the end of the passage warned him he was nearing the light. The lady pushed open this door ; they entered, and she closed it softly and bolted it after them.
It was a delicious change from the cold and darkness outside. They were in a lady’s boudoir, elegantly and a little fantastically fitted up. There were hangings of Spanish stuff on the walls, an Eastern carpet underfoot, some strange bits of decoration on the chimney-piece, which looked like Moorish, and one or two luxurious couches and chairs from Italy. These, mingled with the hideous china ornaments and the stiff furniture of Queen Anne’s time, made an effect which was then unusual. Best of all, a brilliant fire burned on the hearth, soft light from a dozen candles gleamed from the chimney-piece. The whole room had the appearance of awaiting some expected guests. Farquhar threw off his cloak on entering, and instinctively approached the blaze. The chill of the evening was penetrating, and his white satin breeches and silk stockings were but a light costume for his long ride. He reached the chimneypiece, and then turned to look at his companion.
She too had dropped the heavy mantle which had enveloped her from head to foot, and remained in the middle of the room as her companion advanced to the fire.
Neither the biting cold, which he felt more sharply on entering to the warmth, nor the chill of distrust which had been creeping over him as he reflected on what might be the issue of his night’s adventure, could keep every drop of blood in George Farquhar’s body from mounting hotly to his heart, and then rushing tingling to his finger-tips as he looked at her. Never in his life had he seen so lovely a creature. The beautiful brown eyes he already knew by heart. He could see now that the hair, soft and wavy, fell in golden masses over the brow, almost to the delicate line of the eyebrows. The chin was rounded and dimpled, as his fancy had drawn it; the complexion, rose-tinted and lustrous. No inventory of her charms could even suggest them. She was so perfect a piece of nature’s handiwork that to have changed anywhere the curve of a line or the position of a dimple would have been to spoil the whole piece.
Her dress was suited to her eyes and hair. It was made of a brocaded stuff of pale gold, with low square-cut bodice and short sleeves, over a white satin petticoat, stiff with embroideries of silver. Pearls were round the fair throat, and on the exquisite arms, and in the tiny ears, each themselves a pearl. Is it any wonder that Farquhar’s blood leaped to his heart at the first sight of her?
She could not have been more than eighteen years old at the most; doubtless she was a year or two younger, although she had all the perfections and none of the crudities of sixteen. But neither her youth nor her lovely face constituted her charm. She stood there, smiling a little shyly at Farquhar, the very embodiment of virginal purity, of childlike candor, of a serene and unconscious innocence, that was as palpable an atmosphere about her as the light of the candles or the blaze on the hearth. Farquhar had made one involuntary movement toward her, with arms outstretched; he fell back as involuntarily as he had advanced, and remained motionless, gazing on her almost awestruck, as a young Greek might have stood in the presence of the Uranian Venus, if she had chosen to reveal herself to him.
And Farquhar himself, although he described the scene afterwards with no vanity as to his share in it, must be remembered as no unbecoming figure in the picture. As he stood half leaning against the chimney-piece, the light of the fire falling on his elegant person, attired in the brilliant dress he had assumed for the stage, his mobile face lighted up by a glow of rapturous admiration, he was perhaps — at any rate we shall believe so — as attractive a figure in her eyes as she was in his.
Meantime she stood looking at him with an air of candid and smiling interest, as if she had entirely forgotten the oddity of the position, or rather as if she had never been conscious of it.
“ Let us sit, Captain Farquhar,” she said, motioning him graciously to a seat, and drawing a cushioned chair toward the hearth. Farquhar hastened to help her, and as she seated herself at her ease, and stretched out her little feet, clad in slippers of white fur, toward the blaze, he drew a chair, and placed himself at her side.
The most natural thing for Captain Farquhar, on any previous occasion in his life on which he had found himself alone with a woman, even passably goodlooking, would have been to open the conversation with a compliment. But now the words that rose to his lips stuck there unuttered. He sat waiting for her to begin the conversation.
She met his eyes frankly, but gravely. " I should like to know, first of all, what you think of this adventure,” she asked.
“ Before Heaven, madam, I can think nothing, except that you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen,” answered Farquhar, recovering himself.
“ I did n’t mean that,” she said, flushing slightly. " I doubt if you ought to begin with that sort of compliment. I mean, what do you think of my bringing you here in this way ? ”
“ Faith, on that point,” he answered, speaking with perfect sincerity, " I am more puzzled than about anything that ever has happened to me before in all my life.”
“ My story, which I am about to relate to you, will explain all,” she said seriously ; " but before I begin, you will take your oath, as a true knight of chivalry, to serve and help me to your utmost in my need. Kneel, and make your oath of allegiance.”
Farquhar looked at her to see if her senses were wandering, but her face was so earnest and so calm that he did not hesitate. He dropped on one knee, took the hand she graciously extended, and lifted it to his lips with an air that one of the knights of Arcadia might have patterned after.
“ I swear, madam, as your humblest and most abject servitor, to defend, counsel, and serve you in all things, in accordance with your honor and mine own, only trusting in the end for such reward as may befit my devotion and your gracious clemency.”
“ Rise, sir,” said the lady. " I see I am not mistaken in you, and I will tell you enough of my history and the danger which threatens me to enable you to act in my defense. You must know, then,” she continued, settling herself at ease in her chair, that she might turn her eyes full upon Farquhar as she spoke, “ that I am not by birth native to this cold and wet England of yours, although my father is an Englishman. I was born in Algeria, where my father married a Spanish lady, and where for many years he lived. I was only a babe when my mother died, and I have known scarcely any woman except my nurse, Antonetta, who has had charge of me since my birth ; nor any man except my father, who is much of the time occupied with affairs which call him away from home. Thus I should, as you see, have grown up without knowledge of the world, or of the people in it, if it had not been for a great love for reading, which led me to study men and women in books, especially in those romances, written both in English and Spanish, which have taught me how chivalric gentlemen and noble ladies comport themselves, and how one is able to detect them from the rest of the world.”
Farquhar’s eyes, which had been fixed upon her, partly in admiration, partly in curious interest, here widened visibly.
“ It is in the reading of such books, among which are the beautiful accounts in English of the chivalrous deeds of Sir Launcelot and of the knights Sir Pyrocles and Musidorus, as related by Sir Philip Sidney, that most noble of gentlemen and of writers, that I have principally passed my time from childhood, and it is through these examples that I have learned to know and to admire the English people and the English character. Six months since, my father sent me here under the escort of Antonetta and other trusted servants, to await his coming hither, where he intends to take up his abode. I must say, however, that in spite of the nobility of the people this is a most detestable land of rain and bad weather, where the sun shines less, I believe, than in any other land in the world.”
“ The sun, no doubt, has shone less than usual since your arrival in this poor island,” said Farquhar, “ since he must know the radiance of your beauty would put him quite out of countenance.”
She bowed in grave acknowledgment of the compliment, and continued : “ Here I have lived in the solitude and foggy weather, content enough with my books, till a month ago there comes from my father, traveling then in Italy, a long letter, in which he informs me he will arrive in London on a day now near at hand, and bring with him — I shudder to reveal his dreadful design — a man whom he intends for my husband, and to whom he will marry me directly on his arrival.”
Here the tender eyes turned upon Farquhar a look so made up of dread at the fate preparing for her and of confidence in his ability to protect her, that he scarcely knew whether he was in the real world or in a land of dreams.
“ You can fancy,” she went on, “ the despair into which I was plunged. So far as I can compare it, no lady in any romance was ever in deeper anguish than I. In my wretchedness I called upon Heaven to send me a knight, such as he who owed service to the peerless Oriana, or like him whom the Princess Philoclea found in her misfortunes. Antonetta, seeing the misery which I could not hide, and wishing to beguile me out of it, took me to the playhouse, and there, a week ago, I saw you, and recognized you at once, by your bearing and appearance, as the knight whom Heaven was to send me. Every night during this week I have been to see you. My coachman, who is a faithful servant, I have persuaded, by means of a jewel of some value, to take me nightly to the play, and bring me home, keeping my visits there a secret. I have stolen away as soon as Antonetta, who retires early and sleeps soundly, has sunk into her first slumbers. Alone, and with no confidant but my own heart, I have sought out your name, have found you, and now have related to you my sad history. I implore you to help me in my hour of utmost need.”
Here the unfortunate damsel, whose soft eyes were now brimming over with tears, extended her clasped hands, with an appealing gesture, towards Farquhar. He felt himself divided between an almost overwhelming desire to take the hands in his and cover them with passionate kisses, and an honorable impulse to behave with the chivalric reserve maintained by the heroes of those romances out of which she had fashioned him.
Farquhar was a man of gallantry, a man of the eighteenth century, at a time when the estimate of women was by no means at its highest, and he would have laughed as heartily as any of the heroes of his own comedies at a man who would hesitate to press the hands or even the lips of a beautiful woman, when they were so nearly offered him. He said afterward, in telling the story, that he could never quite resolve himself what spell he was under: whether the audacity of innocence in the young girl, educated only in romances and knowing nothing of the world either for good or evil, forced him into respect of her; whether a lurking memory of Mistress Oldfield, and the slight difficulty of taking on a new love before his heart was fairly off from the old, restrained him; whether (and this is what we would most like to believe) a remnant of the chivalrous reverence for all womanhood which prevailed in the sixteenth century for once animated the breast of a man of the world in the reign of Queen Anne, — whether it was any of these reasons or all three together, he himself could not have told. It is certain that he did not even touch the rosy finger-tips she extended toward him so imploringly; that he did not even incline his head toward the trembling lips that curved themselves, ready for kisses, in a direct line with his left shoulder.
“ Madam,” he said gravely, when she had finished her story, “ what do you expect me to do in your behalf ? What service can I render you ? ”
“ What service ? Can you not take me away from this loathsome marriage, and hide me from my father’s persecutions till the danger be averted ? ”
“ Great heaven, what a child ! ” cried Farquhar, rising from his seat, and pacing up and down the room in his excitement. “ Madam,” he said, pausing before her, “ I find it difficult to talk to a lady who knows so much of the world from books as you do, but I beg to assure you that the manners of London at the present are not those of Arcadia, and that if I should accept your method of serving you I should be the most despicable knight who ever professed honorable service to an unhappy lady. If, as you seem to propose, I should run away with you, I should lead you into a misery which your present imagination cannot compass. But let me beg you, if you have a father who loves you, to confide in his affection. If you implore him to listen to you, he will not, I trust, force you to a marriage so dreadful. It is not possible,”he added, with a return of his native gallantry,
“ that even a father could be quite unmoved by the tears in such a pair of eyes. Try them on him, at all events. As for the lover, you know nothing of him ? ”
“ No,” she answered, bursting into tears.
“ Has your father written nothing of him ? ”
“ Nothing,” she sobbed, “ but that he is young, — twenty - two years, — endowed with all honorable virtues, and the heir to a good estate in England.”
“ Young, rich, and no doubt a handsome fellow to boot,” muttered Farquhar under his breath, with a smart twinge of something which resembled jealousy. “ In your place,” he added aloud, “ I should wait to see if the affair were so bad on a nearer view as you have painted it in your fancy.”
She made no answer, but, crouched among the cushions of her chair, in complete abandonment to grief, continued to sob audibly.
What extremity her passionate grief might have driven Farquhar into, who found his heart fast melting in her tears, was here averted by the sound of some confusion below, and a sudden knocking at the door of the apartment. A voice outside cried in Spanish, —
“ Señorita ! Señorita ! Your father has come ! Open the door ! Your father is below ! Open to me, — to Antonetta.”
The girl lifted a pale and scared face to Farquhar, who felt that the situation was becoming perilous. With the instinct of a brave man, who turns to meet danger in the face, he snatched up his hat and cloak, and advanced to the door by which he had entered.
“ Not that way! ” she cried, seizing his arm. “ I had provided for an escape, if we were interrupted. Here is another door.” And putting aside the hangings she disclosed a door at the side, which he had not before seen. Grasping his hand, she led him more rapidly than they had entered, through passages, down flights of steps, and by many windings and turnings, till they reached an entrance, evidently on a different side of the house from that by which they had come in. She drew the bolts quickly and opened the door. The door fronted a high wall inclosing the grounds. Farquhar could see clearly by the light of the moon, now emerged from clouds and shining brightly in a cold, clear sky, a gate opening out upon the highway. He crossed the threshold hastily, then turned to look once more on the heroine of his nocturnal adventure. Her tearstained face, lovelier than ever in grief, was upturned to him in the moonlight, with a yearning sadness like that of a grieved child in its gaze.
Farquhar controlled a last passionate longing to catch her in his arms and hold her to his breast for one instant. Taking her hand, he bent over it, kissed it respectfully, whispered “ Farewell, " and a minute later he stood in the empty street, shivering in the sharp air of a November morning.
“ If I have to walk to town in this cursed cold, with my teeth shaking in my head like the bones of a skeleton, I shall believe I am rightly served for the confounded fool that I am,” he said to himself bitterly, as he stood there.
Fortunately, at this moment a hackney chaise without an occupant drove down the deserted highway. He hailed it, and was soon driving, at the best pace the wretched hack could muster, to his lodgings in Fleet Street, where he arrived with the first rays of dawn, dead tired, chilled to the marrow of his bones, and, as his valet afterwards described him to one of his confidants, “ in the very old Nick’s own temper.”
The story of Farquhar’s marriage is well known. It could not, one is sure, have been a very happy marriage. When he was in the last stage of that decline of which he died, then only twenty-nine years old, a carriage stopped one day at his shabby-genteel lodgings, and a lady, alighting, asked to see him alone.
His wife, whose native jealousy had abated at the near approach of death, herself ushered the lady into his room, and withdrew at once. Farquhar, half reclining on a couch, wasted and enfeebled by disease, still retained some of his old vivacity in his looks, and his eyes were more brilliant than ever.
The lady threw aside her veil. He saw again the woman of his night’s adventure. Four years had added much to her face, without taking away any of its charm. There was a womanliness, a dignity in it now, which had been born of a broader experience. Farquhar, who had a keen eye for faces, saw at once that he was looking into the face of a happy woman.
“ Captain Farquhar,” she asked, a little timidly, “ you have not forgotten me ? ”
“ You may be sure I should remember you, madam, if I had so turned to earth that there was nothing left of me but a clod.”
“ I heard recently that you were ill. I have tried all these years to keep trace of you, and I could not, hearing you were so ill, do other than come to tell you that I had not forgotten you, and that I never realized, till I was a happy wife and a happy mother, how much reason I had to be grateful to you.”
“ Then your father’s choice was not so bad, after all ? ”
She flushed scarlet over neck and face. " My father’s choice has given me the best of husbands. He adores me, and I love him with all my heart. But I have never forgotten you, — I never say my prayers without putting your name in them, — and I could not resist the wish I had to see you once more, and to tell you that nobody but yourself knows the madness from which you saved me ; and no one but myself knows how deeply I am in debt to you for giving me the first hint of a folly that might have led me to my ruin.” Here, approaching the couch, she lifted his thin hand to her lips, and left a kiss and a tear there together.
“ Faith, madam,” said Farquhar, with all his old grace and a touch of his old gallantry, “ I hope I am just going to heaven on the strength of that one action, for when I resisted the temptation of taking you at your word and running away with you, I did the most difficult good deed that ever I did in my whole life, before or afterwards.”
Abby Sage Richardson.