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[-109-]

CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE DREAM.

THREE weeks passed away in a most agreeable manner, and Richard frequently expressed his gratitude to Armstrong for the pleasure he had procured him by this visit.
    The more he saw of Count Alteroni's daughter, the more he was compelled to admire her personal and mental qualifications. But he felt somewhat annoyed when he discovered that Captain Smilax Dapper was paying his addresses to her: for he was interested in so charming a young lady, and would have regretted to see her throw herself away on such a coxcomb. He did not however find that Isabella gave the captain any encouragement: on the contrary he had frequently seen an erratic smile of contempt upon her lips when the military aspirant to her hand uttered an absurdity or indulged in an air of affectation.
    By the constant and unvaried respect, and the absence of all familiarity on the part of Dapper towards the lovely Italian, Markham also argued that he had not as yet declared his sentiments, because had he been a favoured suitor, the truth would have betrayed itself in some trifling manner or another. Moreover, as Isabella conducted herself in only just the same friendly way towards Captain Dapper as she manifested towards her lather's other guests, Richard saw no reason to believe that this passion was reciprocal.
    Markham was thrown much in the signora's society during his visit at her father's house. He soon perceived that she preferred a conversation upon edifying and intellectual subjects to the frivolous chit-chat of Sir Cherry Bounce and Captain Dapper; and he frequently found himself carrying an a lengthened discourse upon music, poetry, painting and Italian literature, while the others were amusing themselves in the billiard or smoking. rooms. But Isabel was no blue-stocking; she was full of vivacity and life, and her conversation was sprightly and agreeable, even when turning upon those serious subjects.
    In a few days after Richard's arrival, it was always [-110-] he who turned the leaves of Isabella's music-book, "because Captain Dapper didn't know when ;" she always took his arm when they walked round the shrubbery and garden after breakfast, "because Captain Dapper was constantly leaving her to play Sir Cherry some trick ;" and somehow or another at meal-times, Richard and Isabella were invariably seated next to each other.
    Such was the state of things at the expiration of three weeks, to which extent, although contrary to the original proposal of Armstrong, the visit had already extended; and Captain Smilax Dapper more than once fancied that he saw a rival in Richard Markham. At length he determined to communicate his suspicions to his friend Sir Cherry Bounce - a resolution which he carried into effect in the following manner.
    "Cherry, my dear fellow," said he, one morning, taking the effeminate young baronet with him into the garden, up the gravel walks of which he walked in a very excited state; " Cherry, my dear fellow, I have something upon my mind, strike me! and I wish to unburden myself to you."
    "Do you, Thmilackth? What can pothibly be the matter? " demanded the youth, turning very pale. "Ith it veway terwible? becauth if it ith, I had better call the count, and he will bwing hith blunderbuth."
    "Strike me an idiot, Cherry, if you ain't a fool with your counts and blunderbusses. Now listen to me! I love Isabella, and have been doing the agreeable to her —"
    " On my thoul  I never could thee it!"
    "I dare say not! strike me, if I didn't keep it so precious snug and quiet! However I love the girl ; and curse me if I don't have her too - that's more ! She shall be Mrs. Smilax Dapper, as sure as she a born, and I hope the mother of a whole regiment of little Smilaxes. And then Cherry, you shall stay a month or six weeks with us at a time, and fondle the little ones on your knees, you shall, and everything will go on comfortable and smooth."
    "Oh! veway thmooth!" cried Sir Cherry Bounce, making a slight grimace at the pleasing prospect of fondling the little Dappers upon his knees.
    "And I suppose I am not presumptuous in aspiring to the hand of Isabella? My father is a peer  - and my uncle is a peer - and I have three thousand a-year of my own, beside expectations. Strike me, if I'm a man to be sneezed at!"
    "Who thinkth of thneething at you?"
    I don't know exactly. And then I am not such a very bad looking fellow either. You are not ugly, Cherry, you are not - that is, not particularly ugly, although you have got pink eyes and white lashes, and a pug nose ;- but I'm more athletic, strike me!"
    "I'm thure I don't dithpute what you thay."
    "Well then - acknowledging all this, proceeded the captain, " how should I treat a fellow who endeavours to cut me out?"
    "Thallenge him to fight with thword and pithtol," answered Sir Cherry. " But who ith he?"
    "That upstart fellow, Markham, who was brought here by that odious, republican, seditious, disloyal scoundrel Armstrong, and who talks all day about poetry and music, and God knows what. However, can't say I admire that plan of yours," continued the hussar; "swords and pistols, you know are so very dangerous; and - and —"
    "And what elth?"
    "Why, you re a fool, Cherry. I thought you would have hit upon some plan to enable me to secure the prize."
    "Well then - thuppothing we carwy the girl off to Wochethter for inthanth."
    "Deuce take Rochester! my regiment is quartered at Chatham."
    "Well - to Canterbuwy then? "
    "Yes - that will do - strike me blind if it won't! " ejaculated the captain. "But if I could only get rid of this Markham somehow or another, I should prefer it. The fellow —"
    Captain Smilax Dapper stopped short: for at that moment, as he and his companion were turning the angle of a summer-house, they ran against Richard Markham.
    "It wath'nt me - it wath'nt me who thpoke!" ejaculated Sir Cherry Bounce ; and having uttered these words, he very fairly took to his heels, leaving his friend the captain to settle matters as beat he might.
    " Who was taking a most unwarrantable liberty with my name ?" demanded Richard, walking straight up to Captain Smilax Dapper.
    "I certainly made an observation," answered the captain, turning mighty pale, "and I do not hesitate to say, sir —"
    "What, sir?"
    "Why, sir - that - I feel, sir - that strike me, sir!"
    "Yes, sir - I shall strike you," very coolly answered Markham; "and that will teach you not to speak lightly of one, who is a comparative stranger to you, on another occasion."
    As he uttered these words, he seized the captain by the collar, and gave him a couple of boxes on the ears. Dapper endeavoured to pluck up a spirit and resist; but the ceremony was performed before he could release himself from his assailant's clutches and he then returned to the house, muttering threats of vengeance.
    That same afternoon Markham took leave of his new friends.
    On his return home, he found his dwelling more lonely and cheerless than ever. He felt that he was isolated in the world ; and his heart seemed to be pierced with a red-hot iron when the remembrance of all his wrongs returned to his imagination.
    Oh! if we would but study the alphabet of fate, and remember that each leaf which falls, each flower that dies, is but the emblem of man's kindred doom, how much of the coldness, the selfishness, the viciousness of life would be swept away, and earth would be but a proof-sheet of heaven's fairer volume - with errors and imperfections, it it true, but still susceptible of correction and amendment, ere its pages be unfolded before the High Chancery of heaven!
    Spring now asserted its tranquil reign once more; and May strewed the earth with flowers, and covered the trees with foliage.
    One evening Richard sate in his library reading until a very late hour. Night came, and found him at his studies; and the morning dawned ere he thought of retiring to slumber.
    He hastened to his bed-room, with the intention of seeking his couch ; but he felt no inclination to sleep. He walked up to the window, drew aside the curtain, and gazed forth into the open air. The partial obscurity seemed to hang like a dusky veil against the windows: but by degrees the darkness yielded to the grey light of the dawn.
    He glanced in the direction of the hill upon the summit of which stood the two trees; and he thought of his brother. He wondered, for the thousandth time whether the appointment would be eventually [-111-] kept, and why Eugene came not to revisit the home at his birth.
    He was in the midst of cogitations like these, when his eyes were suddenly struck by an object which seemed to be moving between the trees upon the top of the hill. A superstitious fear seized upon Richard's mind. In the first moment of his surprise he imagined that the apparition of his brother had been led back to the trysting-place by those leafy banners that proclaimed the covenant of the heart. But he speedily divested himself of that momentary alarm, and smiled at his folly in believing it to be extraordinary that any one should visit the hill at that early hour.
    The object was still there - it was a human being - and, as the morning gradually grew brighter, he was enabled to distinguish that it was a man.
    But that was the hour at which labourers went to their daily toils:- still, why should one of those peasants linger upon the top of the hill, to reach which he must have gone out of his way?
    Markham felt an indescribable curiosity to repair to the hill ;-but he was ashamed to yield to the superstitious impulse under the influence of which he still more or less laboured ;- and the sudden disappearance of the object of his anxiety from tine hill confirmed him in his resolution to remain in his chamber. He accordingly closed the blind, and retired to his couch, where he shortly sank into a deep slumber.
    Markham was now plunged into the aerial world of dreams. First he saw himself walking by the side of Isabella in a cool and shady grove, where the birds were singing cheerily in the trees; and it seemed to him that there reigned a certain understanding between himself and his fair companion which allowed him to indulge in the most delightful and tender hopes. He pressed her hand - she returned the token of affection and love. Suddenly this scene was rudely interrupted. From a deep recess in the grove appeared a wretch, covered with rags, dirty and revolting in appearance, with matted hair, parched and cracked lips, wild and ferocious eyes, and a demoniac expression of countenance. Isabella screamed: the wretch advanced, grasped Richard's hand, gave utterance to a horrible laugh, and claimed his friendship - the friendship of Newgate! It seemed to Richard that he made a desperate effort to withdraw his band from that rude grasp ;- and the attempt instantly awoke him.
    He opened his eyes ;- but the horror experienced In his dream was now prolonged, for a human countenance was bending over him!
    It was not, however, the distorted, hideous, and fearful one which he had seen in his vision - but a countenance handsome,  though very pale, and whose features were instantly familiar to him.
    "Eugene, my brother - Eugene, dearest Eugene!" ejaculated Richard; and he stretched out his arms to embrace him whom he thus adjured.
    But scarcely had his eyes opened upon that countenance, when it was instantly withdrawn; and Richard remained for a few moments in his bed, deprived of all power of motion, and endeavouring to assure himself whether he was awake or in a vision.
    A sudden impulse roused him from his lethargy;- he sprang from his couch, rushed towards the door, and called aloud for his brother.
    The door was closed when he reached it; and no trace seemed to denote that any visitor had been in that chamber.
    He threw on a dreesing-gown, hurried down stairs, and found all the doors fast closed and 1ocked as usual at that hour. He opened the front-door and looked forth, - but no one was to be seen. Bewildered and alarmed, he returned to his bed-chamber, and once more sought his couch. He again fell asleep, in the midst of numerous and conflicting conjectures relative to the incident which had just occurred; and when he awoke two hours afterwards, be was fain to persuade himself that it was all a dream.
    He dressed himself, and walked towards the hill. On his arrival at the top, he instinctively cast his eyes upon the name and date carved in the bark of his brother's tree. But how great was his surprise - how ineffable his joy, when he beheld fresh traces of the same hand imprinted on that tree. Beneath the former memento - and still fresh and green, as if they bad only been engraved a few hours - were the words - 

EUGENE.

May 17th, 1838.

    "My God!" exclaimed Richard, " it was then no dream!"
    He threw himself upon the seat between the two trees and wept abundantly.

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