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manage alazan beha will be WOTE
sixth time, to try and find a dry corner. This damp has been making my very bones chatter; but I am better now."
“Poor boy! it is horrid for you. If only — Ah well! it can't be helped ; but I do wish you could have been laid up in our house."
“Thank you very much," laughed Dermot, “I don't want to be laid up anywhere. You will, though, if you don't look out. Your habit's dripping, and you have two separate watercourses down your face. How did you manage the ford ?”.
“It was pretty bad ; the alazan behaved beautifully though, and I didn't get very wet. But I suppose it will be worse now, and it is getting dark, so I had better go. You are really better ?" she asked again with a little quiver in her voice. It was so hard to treat him as an ordinary friend.
“Rather ; I shall be all right in a day or two if only this unpardonable weather will stop. Wait a jiffy and I'll come with you," he continued, and hastily saddling a horse he accompanied Alison out of the patio, and the two presently found themselves riding along at a hand-gallop over the sopping camp in the last glimmer of the watery twilight. Talking was not very easy, and any attention Alison could spare from her horse was fully occupied with her own thoughts—not very pleasant ones. She wanted to tell Dermot that she had resolved not to meet him again, and yet she dreaded the explosion of wrathful grief that was bound to follow, the dismal prophecies that he would go to the dogs without her, and then the entreaties that she would cast all her scruples to the winds and marry him out of hand. It was so hard to be firm and wise, and yet tender, for, no matter what she said, as long as she denied him he would be neither satisfied nor reasonable.
'THEY were nearing the river when she began her appeal. "Dermot”—he flatly refused to answer to Mr. O'Hara—“Dermot, don't you think you had better make up your mind to go home to your people? You will never get rid of your fever here.”
"Do you want me to go ?” he asked, turning sharply towards her.
“Yes," she said ; “but— " and then, strangling the mitigation she longed to utter, she repeated : “Yes, I do."
“It's that confounded - I beg your pardon—it's Stephen's doing, 111 lay any money.”
“What does it signify? I've made up my mind that I won't meet you any more after to-day. So, you see, there's no good in your staying on here. Don't make it harder for me, Dermot. You know I am right.”
“If it's right to help me on the road to destruction, you are behaving in a most praiseworthy manner. Why will you persist in blinding yourself to the fact that if you care for me as I do for you there is not one featherweight of reason why we should not marry ? Sometimes I wonder whether you do care for me after all. If you did you would give up these extravagant ideas about right and wrong.”
“I can't, Dermot. You know, dear, how gladly I would if I could. Did you doubt me when, not knowing what I knew later, I told you I loved you ?” They had reached the river, and Dermot was trying vainly to pierce the fast-gathering gloom and catch a glimpse of the farther bank.
“Right or wrong, you can't cross to-night,” he said.
" It simply isn't safe, and you can't do it. Do listen to me and be wise, my darling," he went on, dropping the authoritative tone. “ Trust yourself to me and I will take care of you. We will find some shelter now and be off in the morning to Buenos Ayres or anywhere you like, and you will be my wife before you see your brothers again. Won't that do? You can't go home, so it's no good thinking about it.”
“Don't ask me any more, Dermot ; I must get home to-night.”
“ Hang the ford! Will you answer me? Alison, think of what it means for me. Life or Death, Love or the Devil.”
" Very well, then, No, if you must have it. Oh, Dermot I do not trouble me now; help me to get home. I will see you once more. but, remember, it must be the last time. Look ! surely that is the wire fence that runs above the ford, and we generally cross about fifty yards below it. Come, Dermot, let us say good-bye now ; it is no use your coming any farther.”
“Great heavens! Do you suppose I am going to le: you cross that alone?”
Alison looked again at the water, and for a minute her heart sank within her. The river had so far overflowed its banks that it appeared nothing but one vast sheet of water, the farther bank of which she could not see, doubly black and dangerous under the lowering clouds of the stormy evening.
“Think again, Alison; it is not too late.” “Do you think you can persuade me by appealing to my cowardice P Oh, help me, Dermot ? Is that what you call your love? I say I must get back. It is cruel to hinder me because I am weak. I love you, and I always shall love you with my whole heart, but I cannot do this thing. Forgive me, dear. Give me your hand.” They clasped hands for a moment in token of mutual forgiveness, and then Dermot pressed on in front to lead the way. For some time the water was but little above their horses' knees, though at every step the current swept past them with greater force and the poor beasts laboured against it with greater distress. Suddenly Dermot's horse staggered forward and sank to above its shoulders, almost unseating its rider, and before the latter had recovered his balance the animal was fairly off its legs and swimming. Dermot slipped quickly off, and clutching its mane tried to turn it towards the ground they had just left, calling out frantically the while to Alison to stay where she was. But when Dermot's horse had stumbled into deep water Alison was no more than five or six yards behind. At first she reined back her horse, as the certainty flashed across her mind that they had missed the sord ; then, seeing her companion almost disappear before her eyes, she urged the alazan recklessly forward, thinking only of Dermot's danger. It was in vain that he cried out to her not to follow ; in another minute her horse also was swimming, but the weight of her habit and the violence of the stream dragged her slowly from the saddle, and an agonised cry of terror was the only answer to Dermot's warning shouts. Instantly he left his horse and struck out wildly towards her. “Alison Alison l’ he cried, as she rose once to the surface just before him only to sink again. A few more strokes and he had reached her side, but the river swept them on. Resistlessly the black waters carried them downwards under the blacker sky. Together, without another struggle, they were borne away into the darkness of the night. No years of weary waiting to dread now of living on apart till they should be old and full of years ; no more impetuous pleadings to be met by the refusals which cost Alison so dear to speak. Poor children —for they were little more—their fate was not altogether pitiable, since it solved the question which had distracted them both so sorely. Had they lived, it may be that Dermot, light-hearted and fond of change, would have contentedly mated himself with some woman perhaps better suited to him than Alison. And Alison? vol. CCLXXIII. NO, 1939. C
Alison would sooner or later have broken her heart, never dreaming that he was unworthy such a sacrifice.
All that night both brothers were out searching vainly for Alison, but when the morning broke, and they were snatching a mouthful of breakfast before starting forth again, a peon came to tell them that the alazan with twisted saddle and broken reins was with the other horses in the corral.
Half a mile below the paso, washed up against the wire fencing, they found what they were seeking—found her clasped in Dermot O'Hara's arms! Fate had been stronger than Alison's guardians.
IF life at the estancia had been distasteful to Stephen before Alison's death it was intolerable after. Peter maddened him by constantly discussing the event in all its bearings, beginning with the arrival of Dermot six months before. To a sensitive mind nothing is more painful—even disgusting—than this pawing over of what is, past ; past and done for, bitterly regretted, but past talking over. Stephen bore it as long as he could, and then suddenly decided that he would suffer no longer. Peter took the announcement of his intended departure with so much forțitude that his brother repented of having delayed it so long; the fact was that a coolness had sprung up between them dating from the moment of Stephen's return from England, and poor Alison's death, as the indirect result of Peter's carelessness, had not served to draw them together once more.
So Stephen Heriot started off again for Europe-by an Italian steamer this time—and found himself at Genoa in February, not caring whither he went next so long as the country in which he was chiefly interested was closed to him by the same hateful bar which had come between Alison and her happiness. It was '84, and Egypt offered some attraction to him as a soldier, so he went on to Alexandria by a Rubattino steamer, arriving on the 3rd of March, two days after the battle of El Teb and occupation of Tokar. Cairo was in a ferment of excitement. There were volunteers begging to be taken on anyhow; wives and mothers of officers at the front painfully anxious for news ; English officers in the Egyptian Army kicking their heels in enforced idleness and cursing their fate, the fate they had welcomed twelve months before (with its emoluments). And there were anxious faces on the verandah at Shepheard's, and at the “ Nev” and the “Nil,” on the Shubrah and in the Esbekieh. Everyone was on the qui vive, and among others Diana Morrison.
Her brother had gone down with his battery from Cairo to Suakim, and she and her father were hoping that the campaign would soon be at an end and he once more with them. She was sitting at the window of the reading-room when Stephen arrived at Shepheard's, and saw him before he had any idea she was in the same continent with himself. A smothered exclamation escaped her, causing her companion to look up. “Nothing, father dear. I thought I saw a face I knew,” she answered disingenuously, for she was not ready to stand fire, and sat on, holding “ L'Abbé Constantin” before her dazed eyes, her knees trembling under her in spite of the assurances she gave herself that there was no reason to be upset. She was ready in very good time for dinner, notwithstanding the custom which then prevailed of being not less than a quarter of an hour late for that meal, and was conscious of some of those tremors which accompany a visit to the dentist when she took her seat-a seat which commanded an excellent view of both doors.
The name-board in the hall had warned Stephen of Diana's neighbourhood, so that when they did meet the encounter was almost commonplace. Mr. Foster was full of good-natured scoldings for his failure to visit them before leaving England ; Diana rather silent, but neither ungracious nor unfriendly. She did not accompany them on to the verandah after dinner on the plea of a headache-the Khamseen had been blowing all day—and retreated to her own room.
But they met the next day, and the next, insensibly drifting into the habit of walking and driving together-all three, of coursewhich, though pleasant enough, was tantalising, and Stephen was now and then almost inclined to doubt whether he had ever really found Mr. Foster's conversation agreeable or entertaining. Therefore, when the old gentleman slipped on a piece of orange-peel in the Mooskee and was laid up with a strained back, Stephen was discreetly glad ; and though Diana would not leave her father for many hours at a time, she did not refuse the young man's escort on a ramble in the Arab streets or a visit to the Boolak Museum.
But it was in an absurd little grotto in the Esbekieh Gardens, where they were sheltering from a shower of rain, that the two came to what is generally called an understanding-a delightful if dangerous condition of things.
Diana was sympathetic, therefore Stephen was expansive, and the story of Alison and Dermot moved his hearer to an almost passionate indignation.
"You were wrong," she cried, “wrong and cruel. You had no positive proof that insanity was hereditary in your family, had you ?"