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262

DYING OF LOVE.

CHAPTER I.

“ Is CAPTAIN BARTON at home?"

The propounder of this commonplace question was a young man of about five-and-twenty, well-made, well-looking, and well-dressed. Whether his eyes were blue or hazel, his nose Roman or Grecian, we leave to the imagination of our readers ; and his hair, like the tresses of Benedick's model woman, “shall be of what colour it please God." We are not preparing his passport, so the above description is amply sufficient. A well-looking, well-made, and well-dressed young man is independent of such petty details. Well-dressed, however, in one sense of the word, he was not, though his clothes were good clothes, and his tailor was evidently unexceptionable. The garments appeared to have been thrown on rather than put on. His waistcoat was buttoned irregularly; the buttons were not the right buttons in the right place. The topmost button and the lowest buttonhole had each been divorced from its legitimate partner, and the others followed suit “in a concatenation accordingly." His tie was anything but tied. It seemed to have got round his neck of its own accord, and to have failed in attempting the knot. And, finally, his hat was unbrushed ; a symptom, were the converse of Shakspere's rule to hold good, that the sweet youth was not in love. Whether the converse held good in this particular instance is a question he himself will decide.

Is Captain Barton at home ?"
At home, sir !” said John, in a tone of considerable surprise.
"Yes, at home. Is your master at home?"

“At home, sir!" Then more decidedly, “Oh, yes, sir, he is at home ; but he is in bed.”

“In bed, is he? Is he ill ?”
“Oh, no, sir, he is quite well, but he is not up yet."

Why, what o'clock is it?" asked the visitor, furnishing himself at the same time with the desired information by consulting his own watch. “By Jove, it is only ten o'clock !"

“Only ten, sir!" observed John, in a corroborative tone; "and master never rises till twelve."

“True. I know he never does. Is he awake ?”
“Don't know, sir, but I'll go and see."
“Never mind, I'll go myself.”

And, pushing past the servant, he ran up the stairs, and opened a bedroom door.

“What o'clock is it, John ?" growled a sleepy voice from the bed.

“Barton, my dear fellow, I beg your pardon for this intrusion, but you will excuse me when you know the reason."

The sleeper rubbed his eyes vigorously, and stared at his unex

pected visitor. He then raised his hand to the watch-pocket which was suspended over his head, drew the dial from that receptacle,

" And looking on it with lack-lustre eye,

Said, very wisely, . It is ten o'clock."

"I know that,” cried the other, “I know it is only ten o'clock. But I have not been able to sleep last night

“And you accordingly won't let me sleep this morning. I don't see the reason of that proceeding, Seymour. However, I am wide awake now, so let's hear what's in the wind. Anything wrong, eh ?” “Everything is wrong,” replied Seymour.

· Everything wrong! Well, that is comprehensive enough, at any rate. Has your banker broke?“ No, no, it has nothing to say to money."

“ Have you been goose enough to fight a duel, and unlucky enough to kill your man? Even with us that kind of thing has gone out, you know; so it is absurd you civilians keeping it up."

“Nothing of the sort I assure you. The only life I am likely to take is my own."

“My dear Seymour, what is the matter? I hope nothing serious has happened. Sit down here and tell me all about it.”

Barton stretched out his hand to the chair which stood beside the bed, and flung a pair of what second-class young ladies would probably denominate unmentionables, but which we will more delicately call trowsers, into the middle of the room. Seymour took the chair so unceremoniously cleared for his reception, and sat for some minutes in silence. When he did speak at length, it was in a semi-tragic tone which almost made his listener laugh.

"I am the most miserable man in existence."

Barton looked at the most miserable man in existence, as if the inspection would disclose the cause of the misery. He saw the ill-adjusted coat, the wrongly-buttoned waistcoat, the abortive attempt at a tie. He could draw no inference from the fact of the hat being brushed or not, for the hat had been placed out of his view ; but he saw that the hair it had covered was in the latter predicament, and that the chin was as yet innocent of the razor. Seymour had not lost his money. He had not fought a duel. Plutus and Mars had nothing to do with the difficulty ; the misery did not lie at their doors. Venus must be the deity who had made all the mischief, and the Captain was much relieved by the discovery. He at once saw, as he thought, how the land lay.

“ Pooh!" said he, “your cousin and you have had a lover's quarrel, that's all. Such accidents will happen, even in the best regulated families. Go back, man, and make it up with her, and don't waken me at cock-crow the next time you are sulky with your fiancee.

“We have had no quarrel,” said Seymour." I wish to Heaven we had.”

Barton stared.

“Yes,” repeated Seymour, “I wish we had had a quarrel. There would then be some excuse to give the world.”

“Excuse! Excuse for what?

“ Excuse for breaking off the match. But what must the world think of me now? What must all my friends, all her friends, think of me? There is no one who hears it but will despise me. I must despise myself. Oh, Richard, I am very, very unhappy!"

This is a bad business, indeed," said Barton, “ a very bad business. I had no idea such a thing could have happened. And the wedding fixed for next month, too! I never knew anything so scandalous, so contemptible."

I cannot contradict you,” said Seymour. “Even you perceive the contemptible position in which I am placed, and if you despise me, what must other people do ?”

“What do you mean, my poor fellow, by my despising you? I am sorry for you, devilish sorry, but I cannot see for what I am to despise you. It is your cousin I despise, and whom every one must despise. It is not your fault that she has jilted you.”

“ Jilted me!" exclaimed Seymour, "jilted me! Oh, if she had only but jilted me!"

And he jumped off his chair, and walked about the room in great agitation, tripping bimself in the trowsers which lay in the middle of the room.

“Oh, if she had only jilted me, I should be the happiest man in the world !"

The idea of the most miserable man in existence being suddenly converted into the happiest by his fianceè jilting him was a puzzler. Dogberry's lamentation that he had not been written down an ass was the only case like it on record.

• Barton,” said Seymour, solemnly, disentangling his feet from the trowsers, and returning to his place by the bedside, “ I would give every shilling I possess in the world to have been jilted by my cousin."

“ Well,” said Barton, in utter astonishment, “this is funny. I never before knew any man who wished to be jilted by a woman, and that the very woman he was in love with. Here is your cousin, as pretty a girl as any in London: you have been engaged to her for years; you are going to be married to her in a month; and you are now running about my bedroom, spoiling my best trowsers, and wishing that your cousin had jilted you !".

“I am not going to be married to her in a month."

“Well, in two months, in three months, what matter when. You will marry her some time or other."

“ Never!”
“ Never marry the woman you love, and who loves you !"
« She don't love me.”
“When did she tell you that, Seymour ?"

“ Any way, I don't love her,” said Seymour, doggedly, "and that's more to the purpose."

“ You don't love her!" “ No."

And you have been boring me about your love for her God knows how long, and making yourself

, if I must tell you the truth of the matter, a very considerable ass about it."

« But

“Ass, indeed! Donkey that I was ! I know it."

“So it was all a sham, a farce—was it? You never cared for the girl ?" asked Barton.

I did care for her," answered Seymour.
“But what ?"
“But I don't.
“ Whew!" whistled Barton. “ Then it is you are jilting her.”

Seymour was silent, and his countenance exhibited a combination of shame and annoyance; shame at the confession which was given by his silence, annoyance at the harsh word by which Barton had expressed the truth. Yet he had just heard without resentment the same word applied to his cousin, and had declared his earnest desire that she had merited the application of the term.

“And pray,” asked Captain Barton, "when did you make this grand discovery?" "Exactly two months last Thursday," was the prompt answer,

Upon my word," said the other, laughing, "you are wonderfully exact in your chronology. I am surprised you do not specify the hour as well as the day.”.

“ I could do so, if I chose,” said Seymour ; ay, and the very minute I first saw her.”

“ You must have a precious good memory then, for I imagine you first saw her when she was a baby. You were brought up togetherwere you not ?

" How stupid you are!” said Seymour, " I am not talking of my cousin at all.”

“ Whew!” again whistled the captain, as the truth flashed upon him. " I'm blest if you are not in love with some one else.”

“ Of course I am,” answered Seymour. “I thought you understood that already."

“ Seymour,” said Barton, gravely, " this is an ugly affair, and I wish I could see you safe out of it.”

Seymour took his hand and pressed it warmly.

“ You are my best friend, Dick,” said he, « it was for that purpose I came to you this morning. Yes, see me safe out of it ; go to iny uncle and appease him ; go to poor Emma and comfort her, and I shall never forget your kindness. Do this, Dick, and you will make me happy for life; and, what is more, you will make another happy, whose happiness is dearer to me than my own.”

This was not precisely the way in which Barton contemplated seeing his friend safe out of it. He tried to persuade him to act like a man of honor and sense. He pointed out to him the outrage on propriety he was about to commit ; the cruelty of acting towards his cousin in the manner he proposed; the well-merited contempt with which he would be received by his friends.

And even if I should succeed in appeasing your’uncle, which it is very problematical that I should, how on earth could I comfort your cousin - unless, indeed, I were to marry her myself? That would certainly smooth matters," added the Captain, complacently, as if there could be no doubt about the business. “ But no, I could not marry her. Quite out of the question, Seymour. There are some things

which even the most devoted friend is not called on to do, and this is one of them. I admire your cousin very much, and have a great regard for yourself, but I cannot marry her even to get you out of this scrape."

The gallant Captain spoke as if he had only to propose and be accepted. The coolness with which he assumed that it rested with himself alone to take the place in the lady's affections was not a little amusing. But he was perfectly sincere in the assumption. He really believed that he was irresistible to any woman whom he chose to address. He had nothing to do but go in and win. With many good qualities he combined the most egregious vanity, and his imaginary or possible conquests fully equalled those recorded in Leporello's celebrated chronicle. Of late, however, though continuing strong, he had suddenly learned to be merciful. Since he sold out of the army, about two years before, he seemed to have renounced his allegiance to Venus as well as to Mars. He withdrew himself almost completely from the society of ladies ; and if by chance he found himself in company with an attractive young woman, he kept aloof from her as if she had the plague. This he did on principle ; not for his own safety, he alleged, but for her's. He had no heart to give, and it was unfair to allow her’s to be engaged. Where and how he had lost his heart he never told, and no one knew, but of the fact he left no one in doubt. All were made aware that he was in truth a " blighted being," that the hopes of his life were crushed, the cup of his happiness embittered. But the details of the blight he never confided to any person, not even to his intimate friend Seymour.

“Anything but marry your cousin. That I cannot do. I will never marry anyone. But, seriously, you must think twice before this engagement of

say

the least of it, it is very selfish on your part. To gratify a whim

Seymour started to his feet in indignation. Barton took no notice of the impatient gesture, and quietly continued his observations.

“ To gratify a whim, a foolish fancy for another pretty face, you are about to inflict a very serious injury on Miss Collins! Your engagement is universally known, and has been known for several years. Only for that engagement, she might have been long ago adrantageously settled. You have kept away many a man who otherwise would probably have addressed her, and now, at the last moment, you are coolly turning round and deserting her ; and all, I repeat the word, all for a foolish whim about another woman's face. I did not believe you were so selfish. You think of your own selfish gratification of the monient, and do not care for the injury it may inflict upon another. You are really very selfish in this matter.''

“I am not selfish,” replied Seymour. “If I were, I would marry Emma. I am not thinking of myself; I am thinking of Mary. Emma will care comparatively little about it."

“About what? About being jilted ?" “Well, jilted if you like. She will not die if I refuse to marry her." “ I never said she would." “But if I marry Emma, Mary will " Will what ?"

you break

yours. To

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