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ourselves approaching the dancers. The vivacity of the scene was greatly heightened, as we drew near and could distinguish the appearance and even the voices of some of the party ; but I began at the same time to feel the awkwardness of intrusion, and wished I had been less ready in yielding to my flighty companion. Just in time to save us from embarrassment, we met my friend Major Eastlak who had himself come out so far from the tent in order to enjoy the scene at a little distance. He immediately invited us to join the party; and as we accompanied him thither, he mentioned that he had received directions to take the command of a detachment ordered to embark in a day or two for Ahmednuggur, and that some of his friends had come to bid him adieu on that occasion.
When we joined the company, each of us found several acquaintances; and Malloch was very soon engaged with the dancing and music, being himself an admirable performer on the flute. After some time, he began to look round for a partner; and passing by the ladies who were nearest, he went to address himself to one who sat by herself—with some appearance of being neglected—in a corner of the veranda. I observed that his first motion towards her was noticed by Major Eastlake with a kind of displeased surprise, and that he made a step, as if to arrest my companion's intention : he was, however, too late ; Malloch, with his usual impetuosity, having already approached and requested the honour of her hand. The lady only replied by a slight shake of her head, and a motion of dissent. At the same moment, Major Eastlake came up, and said to her, with a peculiar manner, which Malloch ought certainly to have felt as a rebuke: “This is my friend, Mr Malloch, madam: Mrs Bellarmine does not dance, Mr Malloch.' Malloch, who of course knew the history of the young lady, seemed hurt at his own forwardness, and answered by a respectful bow, begging pardon for his intrusion, but hoping that Mrs Bellarmine would not be offended. The lady only answered by a very slight inclination of her head, and a melancholy
smile, while Major Eastlake listened to every word with obvious impatience. Malloch was at length led away, and immediately came to the seat next mine.
• What a lovely creature!' he said : she is more beautiful than ever.'
• More beautiful than ever !' I replied : ‘you have seen Mrs Bellarmine before, then ?'
* Years ago,' answered he. 'I saw her before she had any thoughts of coming to India, or being left in this deserted state, by the fool whom she married. I wish you could be introduced to her.'
• Not if it were to drive me mad, as it appears to have done you, Malloch,' I said. “You should have respected her seclusion from the company; and I hope you will recollect how highly she is regarded by Major Eastlake and his lady'
Oh, she does not need their recommendation to me : but I am acquainted with Mrs Eastlake: the major is a stiff old boy, but he is going in a day or two, and I shall then have a better introduction than his.'
As he was speaking, I observed Major Eastlake's attention directed towards me, and a slight motion intimated his wish that I would make my way to him. I was soon by his side; and after a few words on indifferent matters, he said: 'I notice that your acquaintance is inclined to direct his attention towards our poor friend Mrs Bellarmine. I know that anything of that kind-particularly from a volatile person like Malloch—is disagreeable and inconvenient to her; and I therefore take the liberty of imposing on you the task of guardian, which no one else can undertake so well without the risk of offending your friend, or of being officious to Mrs Bellarmine. I bowed, as to one whose good opinion I highly valued, and he immediately turned and introduced me to the lady. She looked up, and I think I never beheld a face of more engaging loveliness : she was dark - haired and darkeyed, with something of the usual paleness of English ladies who have resided a few years in India; but her complexion had a purity and brightness which I have
seldom seen equalled ; and her fine regular features, though marked with settled melancholy, responded with quiet intelligence to everything she deigned to notice in conversation. I entered into discourse with her for a few minutes, and found her a remarkable exception to most of our Oriental dames, who are generally brimming over with all manner of gossip about matters of precedency at balls, scandal at private parties, the debts and embarrassments of acquaintances, and all the other knickknackeries of their limited society. She either did not know, or did not speak of these matters; and I was thrown upon literary conversation, in order to say something. She answered here with intelligence; and I soon found that she lived in a secluded land of poetry and imagination, which is but little trod by Oriental ladies. Her sorrow and retirement had blunted her relish for society, but had not destroyed her mind. All her tastes, however, seemed of a serious character: Cowper, Beattie, Graham, and Montgomery, supplied her with the richest, and most beautiful allusions; but of the fierce, mistrustful, and irregular Byron, she did not seem to recognise a line. The readiness with which she appreciated my remarks, and the overflowing yet delicately selected stores of her own memory, made me no longer wonder at the deference with which she was regarded by the few friends to whom she allowed herself to be known.
As we were departing, Major Eastlake said to me: "You will not now wonder at the interest we take in Mrs Bellarmine. Her situation is rendered more painful by he conflicting rumours which are continually brought concerning her husband, to whom she is sincerely and levotedly attached ; for, notwithstanding his follies, he knew and respected her value. Her distress, I really believe, arises chiefly from the imputations which have been cast on his honour. For myself, I give no credit to them. I know that poor Henry was rash and imprudent; but he was a soldier-like spirit, and could never have turned renegade. My new situation will soon give me the power of making effectual inquiries concerning
his fate. If he is alive, I shall certainly find means to reach him; and if he has fallen honourably, it shall be ascertained. In the meantime, I beg again to repeat my charge, for I have heard and seen enough of Mr Malloch to fear that he is capable of causing uneasiness.' He took leave of me with these words, and I did not see him again before he embarked.
His precautions, however, rather accelerated what he feared. Malloch was piqued at the notice bestowed upon me; and he had not boasted in vain of his acquaintance with Mrs Eastlake, who by no means took the same interest in the fate of Lieutenant Bellarmine as did her husband the major; and firmly believing him to be dead, she had even great pleasure in the prospect of managing a new match for his widow. Malloch had even the art to render my visits somewhat less acceptable to this lady than they were wont, so that I had but few opportunities of learning what was going on. Once or twice when I called, Mrs Bellarmine spoke to me with feelings of the deepest regard concerning her husband, without seeming once to have had her confidence in him shaken; and she mentioned, that if Major Eastlake ascertained anything concerning him, he would write first to me on the subject. I alluded once to the circumstance which Malloch had mentioned—that he had met her in England." • Captain Malloch is Mrs Eastlake's guest here,' she said, and I can do nothing that is rude to him ; but at no period, either in England or in India, have I seen reason to consider him a man of delicacy or honour. She said no more, and the subject was not again alluded to.
One day, when I had called at the house, something led me into the garden, and I was assisting the malee (native gardener) to train up some Oriental jessamine on the end wall of a back veranda. Mrs Bellarmine had entered this part of the house in the meanwhile, and Captain Malloch, who had also arrived, joined her there. All this I gathered from conjecture ; but being separated from them only by a slight partition, not in very good repair, I was apprised of their presence by the sound of
well-known voices. I could not escape from hearing the following fragments of their conversation :
My dear Mrs Bellarmine, how often have I repeated, that your image has never once been absent from my mind since I first saw you at Greenside!'
'I was then a governess in the family of your relation, Mr Malloch; and your attentions were at that time neither more agreeable nor more honourable to me than they are now. I beg you may desist from language to which I dare not, and will not listen.'
'Dare not! How often have I told you that Bellarmine will never return? He was a man I never esteemed, were it for nothing but his conduct to you; but I must say that he died as a soldier should.'
How have you obtained this information, Mr Malloch?'
• I know more about Bellarmine than you suppose. I was in the same district with him at the time of the skirmish where he fell; and it was a foolish joke of mine -though it was never known—that gave rise to the absurd rumour about his having joined the enemy?
• Good God!' exclaimed Mrs Bellarmine; and then, suddenly restraining herself, she said: 'perhaps your present story is a joke also ?'
• My dear Mrs Bellarmine, if you doubt my word, look at that letter which I have received from a sergeant who was on the field with him.'
There was silence for a few minutes, only that I heard a deep sigh from the female speaker, and, in a moment after, a shriek, and then a sound, as if some one had fallen down.
I hurried round to the front door, but before I could gain admission, there was a crowd of servants collected in the veranda, and Mrs Eastlake was busy chafing the temples of her friend, who lay in a swoon. Captain Malloch was standing at the opposite end of the veranda, leaning against one of its pillars, and gazing with a strange and gloomy earnestness at the scene before him. I saluted him with a manner in which, I fancy, he must