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THE VICTORIA CROSS.
THE MAIMED HERO OF THE INDIAN REVOLT.
WOULD have told you if you had
The speaker was a tall girl, with
"Clare," he said, as they walked on towards the mere, you'll be quite grown up when I see you again."
Moreton Grey was rather provoked that this piece of intelligence received no answer but-"Here comes Diver, and he must not follow us to the nest; and there's the cuckoo; the first time I've heard it this year. How I do love it!"
"I believe you love all your four-legged things better than me," he said, as she turned to send back the Newfoundland dog.
"Not much is known about cuckoos, but I believe they have only two," she said, looking up mischievously into his face. "And pray why am I to be grown up, as you call it, before I see you again?"
Perhaps you, my reader, do not I admire red hair; neither do 1, with the usual accompaniments of light green eyes, yellow eyelashes and eyebrows; but what I have described is very pretty, and "Now Moreton, I won't look at a thing, nor speak a word, Clare was very pretty; and under till you tell me; not even if I saw a goldcrest's nest or the the circumstances it was not won-first lilies of the valley out. Tell me now, do tell me. But really you ought to have listened to the cuckoo; it's lucky, and you ought to wish something, and turn the money in your pocket."
"You would attend to Diver and then to that cuckoo just when I was telling you what I thought might interest you; but if you don't care to hear, never mind; my aunt will tell you when I am gone."
derful the tall soldier to whom she was speaking thought no one on earth to be compared with her.
Clare Seymour was one of a large party staying at Sir William Grey's for a week's gaieties at Nutsford. Sir William and Lady Grey were as fond of her as if she had really been their niece, which she was not; Lady Grey being the sister of the present Mrs. Seymour, and Clare the only child of Mr. Seymour's first marriage. Moreton Grey was no relation whatever, but a great deal fonder of her than there was any occasion to be of any cousin under the sun. He had only just returned from the Crimea, and this was in the year 1857, when all England was startled by the fearful news of the Indian mutiny.
"Wish something! Well, Clare, I wish that I may not be left on the battle-field for some of your two-legged feathered friends to pick at. I'm off to the Crimea."
She stopped suddenly. "Moreton, I'm so glad!" Then all the color rushed into her face, "I'm so sorry. But, Moreton, you'll be a hero! I don't know if I'm glad or sorry, indeed." She walked on as fast as she could in silence. She thought of Moreton distinguishing himself-doing more than any officer in her majesty's army-charging like Prince Rupert-killing the RusThis was not the first time they had met since the Crimean sian general with his own hand-winning a battle and receiving campaign, when Moreton Grey returned, after nearly three Lord Raglan's thanks on the occasion-promoted to be a colonel years' absence, with all the honor and glory of a soldier-and-knighted or made a baronet, also in consequence covered with a very tall handsome one, too, he was-to find Clare Seymour wounds, but none that would disable or disfigure him eventujust what he imagined she would be.
She was nearly sixteen when he went to Seaford to say goodbye before starting for the Crimea, and Mrs. Seymour told him Clare was at her music lesson and could not be disturbed. He must wait till luncheon, and then he would see her and after luncheon she wanted to show him the puppies and her new pony, and a wild duck's nest among the reeds by the water
VOL. X., No. 4-21
ally. No princesses to marry now as in olden times, and yet she was certain he deserved one. Marrying him herself had not occurred to her yet; so she walked on and on.
Her companion, quite unable to imagine where her thoughts had gone, suddenly recalled her by asking, "Where's the wild duck's nest, Clare?"
"Oh, we've passed it a long way!" she exclaimed, turning round; "we should have gone down by the willows."
"Will you tell me what you were thinking of, Clare?'' "That's a thing I can't bear being asked, Moreton, and you know it quite well. What is the use of thoughts, if one may not keep them to oneself? They would be no better than words."
"Well, only tell me what you were doing. You did not look as if you were killing me in the Crimea."
"Who said I was in the Crimea at all?”
"Your eyes, Clare; you were not at the wild duck's nest anyhow, or you would not have gone beyond it. What, down here? This must be the duck's own path! You don't go through this,
"Yes I do, and I hope you won't be too great a goose to follow me," she said, laughing, as she dived down through a brilliant carpet of Marsh marigold, lady-smock, willow herb and yellow flags.
"There it is," she whispered. "Now is it not lovely down here? No one ever comes but the keeper and me." "Have you read Mrs. Barrett Browning's poems, Clare?" “No;" and the hazel eyes opened wide at the question just
"Then I shall send them to you from London, for a keepsake; and when you read one about Ellie you'll know why I asked you, down here among the bulrushes; only don't read the end, Clare."
"The end of what?''.
"The end of Ellie; only the first part."
"Because I don't want your nest, whatever it may be, to end like her's, my pretty Clare. We have all our swan's nest, our castle in the air, you know."
"Have you one, Moreton? Tell me yours; I should so much like to know." "Not now. If I live to come home again, perhaps I may; so pray that the Russians may not make mincemeat of me."
"Oh, Moreton, don't speak in that way! I will pray for you if you like."
"Will you, Clare? You'll forget."
"Morning and night?"
"Morning and night."
"What will you pray for me, Clare ?' he said, gravely. She stopped short, looked up eagerly into his face, and clasped her hands; then bending her head, she said, "I will pray that as a soldier you may do your duty both to God and to your queen, and that He may cover your head in the day of
They walked on silently to the house. "I must go to my French reading now, Moreton," she said, as they entered the hall.
"Then good-bye, dear little Clare; don't forget me." She gave him both her hands. "Don't forget my book, Moreton."
"I won't forget it; and if I never come back, the swan's nest will be mine, not yours." He gave her one kiss and they parted; she to her schoolroom; he, Eastward ho-to the wars!
And the green volume came, and her name written in it. She knew most of it by heart before a month was over; and when at eighteen, soon after her exit from the schoolroom, Lord Meade, fascinated by her beauty, proposed for her, she made him in her own mind into "Lord Leigh, the churl ;" and the young soldier suffering far away, into "Sir Grey, of Linteyed." She heard many of his letters read, and invested him with a sort of halo of honor and glory. Her stepmother was a kind gentle creature, quite different from Clare, and quite unable to enter into any of Clare's romantic ideas, as she eagerly read all the accounts of the campaign, and gloried in all the gallant doings.
"How inconvenient the loss of an arm must be !" or, "I suppose he will always have to use a stick;" were the remarks that threw Clare back into herself, until she could be with Lady Grey, who, with a mother's pride, never tired of reading Moreton's letters over, with Clare sitting on the ground beside her.
She had one delight-that the wild duck had built her nest in the same place every year; and with a blush on her cheek
she would go down by the same willows, through the same bright flowers, and the words would rise in spite of herself:
And to him I will discover
My wild nest among the reeds.
The blush would come deeper and deeper to think she had discovered it in him, and he had sent her that book, and said he would tell her his swan's nest when he came back; and he had called her "Pretty Clare," which was a great gratification to her, only she was so afraid he would think her hair too red when he did come. She was really quite glad the days of princesses were among the things that had been!
And at last Moreton Grey returned home; and Clare found she was more shy with him by far than she had ever been with any one before. She could always speak to the poor "churl, Lord Meade," even after she had prevailed on her father to refuse him; but with Moreton Grey, she had always the recollection of the wild duck's nest, and her promise to pray for him, to make her heart beat so fast whenever he spoke to her, with fear lest he should ask if she had kept that promise; and if he
did?-she must confess she had!
Then came the Nutsford balls, and the Seymours went to Harden to them. Clare wore a forget-me-not wreath the first ball, on the Tuesday evening. Such a ball it was!-a ball that may come once perhaps in a life, but never more.
Moreton asked her for the first valse, and she had many more with him, she did not know how many; but she heard Mrs. Seymour ask Lady Grey if a girl ought to dance five times with the same partner, and Lady Grey laughed and said: "As often as she pleases, if they both like it." She heard it, and wondered if Moreton heard it too, and if She could not tell him she they had been speaking of her. would dance no more with him; he would ask her why. She supposed they both did like it, as Lady Grey said; and on they went again. He had asked her about the nest, and almost repented, she blushed so; and yet, at the risk of bringing on another blush as deep, he threatened to say two lines of Tennyson's Day Dream, if she would not look at him, and, as her eyes then only got as high as his waistcoat, say them he did, putting his arm round her for another valse-the two last in the "Arrival."
One shocking thing Moreton Grey did. He entirely forgot he was engaged to Miss Julia Chester for a quadrille, and took Clara to the refreshment-room instead-which omission the young lady and her mother resented the first opportunity. In the first place, Lady Chester asked to return early, as she never allowed her deat girls to remain to the last; and, as they were staying at Harden, of course the whole party left the ball-room at the same time; and then in the cloak-room Lady Chester said:
"Dear Lady Grey, Dora, poor child! is so nervous with a strange postboy, she thinks he may be tipsy. Would you kindly take her with you, and I shall be most bappy to give Captain Grey a seat in my carriage."
So Lady Grey of course said she should be very happy; and Captain Grey had to put Clara into the carriage beside the nervous Miss Dora, whom he wished considerably further than the place in Palestine to which disagreeable people are generally sent, and take his seat in Lady Chester's clarence; added to which the Seymours had gone up-stairs by the time he reached home.
Such a happy evening to be followed by such a morning! Bright and warm it was, and Clare, in a pale blue dress, came down to breakfast. She knew nothing of what had passed that morning. She did not know that the post had brought letters to Moreton Grey, which at once had made him go to his father's dressing-room; and that after he was gone Sir William called to Lady Grey, who, all unconscious, thought he had been to tell him he had proposed to Clare.
"My dear, I wish he had!" Sir William replied. "Very different news. His regiment is ordered immediately to India, on account of the mutiny."
Poor Lady Grey! Her one boy, her darling son, scarcely three months home from the Crimea, to be sent off again to danger and death in that horrid land!
"We had better wait til after breakfast, my dear, to tell it, and then our friends must be kind enough to leave us." So to breakfast they went. Clare saw something was amiss
with Lady Grey, and took her seat, as she often did, next her,
The party began to assemble, Lady Chester and her two daughters. Lady Chester, with her usual kindly thought, took her seat next Clare; she could not bear to see girls flirt as Miss Seymour did.
Moreton was one of the last to come in. Perhaps no one but Clare and his mother saw the cloud on his brow. He came round and kissed his mother, and Clare saw Lady Grey's hand tremble as she poured out the tea. He took the seat opposite Clare, supported by the two Miss Chesters.
"Where is Colonel Gilbert?" said Sir William. "I suppose he cannot eat his breakfast till he has read the Times. here he is. Don't bring that horrid paper with you, my dear fellow."
"You remember when I went to the Crimea you were my swan's nest, my castle in the air, darling."
He took one hand away and kissed it.
"Must you go again, Moreton ?"
"You would not love me if I disgraced myself."
She could not tell-she thought she must love him anyhow -and it was so hard to let him go!
My reader, you know Millais' picture of the Huguenot. They were standing much like that one arm round her, the other hand stroking the bright smooth hair; and she looked up into his face like that pretty Papist, with her eyes full of tears, and whispered:
'You have done enough-you might sell out."
There was the look "in her eyes he could not bear to see;" and, perhaps, had he trusted himself to look, the arm that was round her might not have relaxed its clasp, and the face that was as near hers as the poor Huguenot's might not have been drawn back-and then the lips would never have said what they ought to have said. But he did raise his head instead of bend"One too many, colonel. Don't talk of it till I've eaten ing it still lower, and his lip curled the least bit in the world, my breakfast.” and he did say, "Clare, I'd sooner die than do it!" And
"But I say, Sir William, there is something to see. Have you heard anything, Grey? Have you had any letters this morning?"
"You mean to say it's true? Your regiment's ordered to be Clare, like a true woman, felt the arm relax, and heard the tone ready to embark immediately?"
Moreton glanced across the table. She was very pale.
"Upon my word, it's sharp work, Grey. Why, when did you land from the Crimea? Only the other day. I'll just read you what it says. The Hecla, Seagull and Mermaid are ordered round to Southampton, to embark H. M.'s 16th and 20th Foot, 20th Lancers (here he looked at Moreton Grey), and 4th, 9th and 11th troops Horse Artillery. These troops will proceed at once to Southampton, where every effort will be made to provision the vessels, and to embark all by the 22d instant,' 'Pon my word! And this is the 13th, eh, Grey?''
Clare was bewildered. She knew every one was now talking, one louder than the other, and that Lady Grey's eyes were full of tears. It was a comfort to be his mother, for she might let them come!
She was roused from her dream by Lady Chester exclaiming, "My dear Miss Seymour, have you any particular interest in · the West Indian plantations? If not, might I venture to ask how much sugar you mean to put into the slop-basin? counted five pieces whilst Colonel Gilbert was reading."
in his voice, and saw the curl of his lip, and loved him the better for all. She felt
He could not love her half so much
Lifting up her beautiful face she said, "Love me, Moreton-it was only a moment-I would not keep you for the world."
She knew herself forgiven, for the arm folded round her closer than before; and, smoothing the bright hair back from her face once more, he bent down and kissed her, and as he did that I think he may be excused for saying, "My own, my beautiful!" for he could look into her face now, and it was a very pleasant thing to do; so he looked and said, "My own, my beautiful!" and watched the bright color rise as be said it; and then he said, more gravely, "You remember you prayed I might do my duty as a soldier long ago."
"And I can pray again," Clare said, with one long breath; "not for that; that you have done, and will do; but that you may be kept safe: kept safe; safe to come home again.. Ob, Moreton, how I shall pray for that! When must you go?"
If I had deceived myself, and you had said 'No,' after all, II should have gone off at once; but I must go by the night express."
Clare blushed till the tears stood in her eyes. Moreton Grey put hot milk into Miss Chester's tea, and cream into her sister's coffee, though she told him three times she preferred café noir ; he could have eaten up Lady Chester with pleasure at the moment!
As they left the breakfast-room Lady Grey said, "Clare, dear, I want you to help me this morning. Go to my boudoir, and wait till I come."
"Mother, give me half an hour first," Moreton said, drawing his mother's arm through his; "after that we can talk it quietly over."
"I thought of you when I sent her there," Lady Grey answered, almost too sad to smile. "Poor child, you must tell her before you go."
Night express? You don't mean this very night!" "This very night, darling. I was so glad to see that odious woman make you so uncomfortable at breakfast." "Glad! Oh Moreton !"
"You know I was not quite sure till you mixed that eau sucré! You looked so statue-like whilst Colonel Gilbert read the news, I almost thought you did not care; but when Lady Chester made her kind and feeling observation, and you blushed so, I felt almost grateful to her, and almost quite sure."
"I would have told you, if you had asked me," said Clare, "words which we have read before."
"Would you? You have not told me yet!"
She smiled a bright laughing smile, looking up higher than
"She knows. I nearly told her so last night. Don't let the waistcoat now. Lady Chester come too, mother!"
"You have never asked me; you took it for granted in the
"I shall come in half an hour. One kiss, Moreton. God most-" bless you!"
Clare pushed back her hair, and looked in the glass; she was scarcely cool yet. Then she looked at some of Lady Grey's treasures, Crimean photographs. One of Moreton in uniform standing outside his tent. There was a step up-stairs-then in the passage; not Lady Grey's most certainly; she never went up-stairs two steps at a time. It was coming nearer. The door opened. She looked round-she was going to say she was waiting for his mother, but she had no time to say anything. He was by her side; he might have heard the beating of her poor little heart, if his own had not beat louder. All he said was, "Clare, my own darling!" and as he spoke his arm was gently folded round her.
One instant she looked up, then hid her face in her hands. He could only see the thick plaits of hair coiled round and round the back of her head.
"Audacious way; I did. I thought I should have told you last night driving home. I knew my mother and aunt would be asleep all the time and not hear a word; and then Lady Chester spoiled all with her usual tact.”
The door opened; and of course Clare started away, as if to persuade the incomer, against the evidence of her own eyes, ho had not been standing with his arm round her.
"It is only my mother. I asked her to give me half an hour, and she has been too impatient at the end of ten minutes," "Slander, Moreton; slander. Forty minutes instead of thirty; and I came to console you in case the dear child had refused you," Lady Grey said, as Clare clung to her, kissing her. "Mother, it's not fair; she has not given me one, and you will have her when I am gone. Here's my father, too."
"Come to see if I am to have a daughter," said Sir Williara. "She will be dearer than ever when you are away now, my
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.-PAGE 326.
boy. I can't say more than that, can I, dear child? Lady Grey said you would have made your escape if you had not said yes;' and she also said the girl did not live that would refuse him; but that was only her mother's partiality-and you don't believe it, eh Clare? Our guests are giving orders for departure, I am glad to say, for I am quite upset with this. I am not what I was, Moreton, three years ago. I cannot think how I let you go into the army, my boy. The Crimea took a great deal out of me, and this seems a finishing stroke."
It was not a finishing stroke. Sir William, though much weakened, mentally as well as bodily, lived to see his son return. But how?
"MY DEAREST CLARE-He has arrived, and I ought to be, and hope I am, thankful; but oh, Clare, to see him as he is, and think what he was, is heartbreaking. He is in wretched spirits, too, and ill. But those horrid wounds! You and I would know him, Clare, but no one else; and to think what a face it was--my own handsome boy! Any mother might have envied me. It is terrible, quite; and he feels it so himself. They may say what they like, but honor and glory are sad, sad things, when they come like this. He is very low; his father was quite upset, not having prepared himself for such a change, and
Moreton has not seen him since the first meeting. I do not exactly know all he has written to you; but he tells me he wrote from Malta, entirely freeing you from any engagement to him, and that he told you he would not see you again. He says now that after his father's face of horror and my tears he will see no one. Sir William was quite unprepared, and it was unfortunate he showed it so much, as the poor fellow is painfully sensitive. I do not ask you to come, Clare; I leave it entirely to yourself, dear child. We shall stay here for advice for Moreton, and he seems to prefer it to going home. If vou do come, there is a room ready for you, and I need not say how fond a welcome from us. But if you feel you cannot face him yet, act as you think best. Always affectionately yours, "Albemarle street, May 15th.
There was no use remonstrating, though Mrs. Seymour did remonstrate. Mr. Seymour was in London, so there was no appealing to him. Clare had only one answer. "Mamma, if I had had the smallpox even, would he have deserted me?'' And
the next evening she and Mrs. Seymour reached town, and drove straight to Albemarle street.
"My child, I knew it; I knew you would come!"' exclaimed Lady Grey fondly, meeting them on the stairs; and the next moment Care, feeling very anxious, had kissed Sir William with as bright and happy a face as she could command. He shook his head. "Perhaps he will not see her after all," he said: "he would not see his father this morning."
"Not see me! not see me!" Clare said, with a quivering lip; "I will see him, uncle William."
"The doctor has just left him, Clare," Lady Grey said, as she entered the drawing-room.
"Then let me go now at once;" and she threw off her bonnet. "Do you remember this blue gown, aunty?" she said, with a sort of half smile.
"He is lying down in the back dining-room; he stays there entirely; he could not come up-stairs on account of his leg, and he has seen no one but me. Clare, it is very, very sad !"
She opened the door and went in. The difference in the step made him look round as she closed the door, and with his one band he covered his face with his handkerchief. The other sleeve was empty. She came across the room, stood by his side, and put her hand on his. He moved it away impatiently.
"For Heaven's sake, Clare, go; I begged you not to come. The one boon I ask now is, to die quietly and be forgotten." She knelt by his couch. "Moreton, say you don't love me, and I'll go."
"I cannot see you, Clare; I cannot be seen by any one, far less by you. I am cut to pieces, Clare. My own father cannot look at me. My mother does, because she is my mother; but she does it shuddering. I could not stand your look of horror. I wrote only what I meant. Leave me, I beseech you. Don't kneel."
She knelt on. She put her hand again on his; but he again rejected it. With the tears in her eyes, she bent over him and kissed it.
"Do you think I mind anything, Moreton ?"
"You do not know all. I could never ask you to be mine. I only wish I never had, and I could have borne my misery alone now."
"But you did ask me, Moreton; and until you say you don't love me, I am here, Moreton. I am not going away. Until you can say that, or until I don't love you myself, I'll never leave you, Moreton."
"Listen to me, Clare; I've lost my arm. I am lame; lame for life. The wound is not healed yet; pieces of bone are constantly coming away. Sometimes the agony is more than I can bear. And then, my face. Clare, I looked once. I have never looked again."
have that for nothing," she said gently. "That won you the Victoria Cross, Moreton; we could not
I am. It was of no use; the poor fellow died afterwards." "Victoria Cross! I would give it up to be as I was, not what
"But you haye saved him, Moreton. It was like you to try and you did. You saved him, and you are here yourself. Oh Moreton, if you could but tell how proud I felt when I read the order! I know it by heart. 'Captain and Brevet-Major Grey. For conspicuous bravery in the field, in retaking a gun, and turning it against the enemy. And afterwards, though severely wounded and almost alone, for a dashing attack to the rescue himself against a party of mounted sowars. of Cornet Howard, of his own regiment, who was defending In effecting this, Major Grey was desperately wounded in the arm and face. Arm since amputated.'. And when you get it, Moreton-get the Victoria Cross, given by the Queen herself, with all England to see, all England to feel proud of you, I shall be there and see you, Moreton. You may speak coldly to me, and not look at me, and push my hand away-I never thought you could have I shall be there and see no one but you, Moreton, you and the done it; you may hide your face from me now, but not then. Queen; I shall look at no other. Oh, Moreton, you told me, when I was such a child-I did not know all you meant by ityou told me to pray for you, and I did, Moreton-always, night and morning, I prayed for you. I was too young to know what you meant, though you told me afterwards you loved me even then: but I thought nothing could be too great and daring for you to do; and then as I got older it dawned upon me, and
Moreton, you never told me they had cut off all your hair," she said.
Weak and ill, wrought up by excitement, almost dreading au exclamation of horror at the reality, exceeding all she had pictured to herself, something in those few words made a some
when I went to those balls and Lord Clinton's coming-of-age before you came back, and everybody said foolish things to me, Moreton, I was all the time longing for you to come back, that I might just know what you thought of me, and I did not care for what they said one bit. And then you did come. Oh, Moreton, what a happy time that was! and that ball at Nutsford-thing rise in the throat of the soldier who had charged against and that terrible news at breakfast! And then, Moreton, your coming to Aunt Grey's boudoir, and I had this very gown on, and we were happy even though you were going away; and now you are come home-home again, and I am so thankful; and instead of standing with your arm round me, I am kneeling by you, asking to touch your hand and so proud of you, Moreton-so proud of your empty sleeve-so proud of the Victoria Cross! Oh, Moreton, why do you make me say so much?"'
odds-only those who saw and held their breath as they watched knew what odds-to save the boy fresh from his home, to meet a soldier's death in the next engagement. Moreton Grey never loved her as he did then, though he could not speak to tell her so.
When he could, he said, "Let me look at your face, my beautiful, and tell me I am very foolish for asking you, but tell me the truth; I don't mind now, Clare; you have looked at me and kissed me, darling, so you will not vex me either way; and I want to know if the last eighteen months could be recalled-if we could be standing in that boudoir over again— would you have me sell out and not go to India, or be as I am?" She was looking eagerly at him, following his words; then she put her little hand round his neck," And give up the honor and glory? and all my pride in you? and the saving that poor boy? and the Victoria Cross? Oh! Moreton, I only asked you just at the first moment-never again. And they would have pointed at you and said, "Poor fellow, she made him do it!" and you would have hated me long ere this, Moreton, and I should have hated you for doing it! Oh, Moreton, I'm so glad to see you smile at last!''
"Clare, you don't know all yet. Besides being cut to pieces, I am ill: dying they think. They never expected me to reach England. It was thinking of you and for you made me write as I did makes me speak as I do. Let alone being maimed-horribly disfigured-I am ill, Clare, dear, very ill; and I schooled myself to give you up. I thought I would die quietly-like a wounded animal, creep into a hole and hide myself from you, from every one, and die. And you I knew you would feel it less than if than if we had been together again. I knew you would 'weep your woman's tears' for awhile, and then forget me, and in a year or two be happy again. Why should I blight all your young life, Clare? It would be easier far for you to forget me now than if I had been selfish enough to keep you bound to me. You might smother your horror as my poor mother does; but you would have felt it; and so I wrote to tell you not to come-to forget me; and I ask you now, Clarenot because I have not loved you, but because I have loved you so well, so long-I ask you to leave me to my fate. A soldier's grave on the field had been better, far better; but that was not "I will be your wife first, Moreton, and then we can ask the mine. I am left as a scarecrow to frighten all lads from soldier-doctors what they think; whether you should stay here, or ing, what else? Leave me, Clare, forget me, and in a year or go home, or to the seaside. What they say shall guide us, two you will be happy again-happy again, Clare-not with Moreton; after that, when nothing can part us any more." me, but with another."
Her arm was thrown round his head and her face hidden on his shoulder: "Moreton, Moreton, how can you be so cruel?
'Clare, don't. I am unmanned enough already, I cannot bear to hear you. Bless you, my Clare, mine once, darling: bless you for your love. It would be worse to look into your face and feel you could not love such an object-such a disfigured wretch; or, if you concealed that, Clare, feel that only a short time, months or weeks, remained to me, and that we should be parted, when perhaps, in spite of all, you had learnt to love me."
"Learnt to love you, Moreton? learnt to love you? Oh, I learnt that long, long ago, when you loved me, Moreton, which you don't now.'
"Not love you, Clare? not love you?" The one arm was round her at last, folding her close to him. "My own, own darling!"
When he spoke again the voice was his own, the voice it used to be. "Clare, I so dreaded to see a look of pain or horror on your face; I schooled myself, tortured myself into writing and saying all I have. And you will not leave me,
"You knew I loved you, Clare. My heart was breaking all the time."
"I'm quite happy now, Moreton."
"And yet, Clare, ought I to ask you? I am so ill-only such a short time, perhaps, to call you mine."
"And one thing yet. I shall ask Benson to hold a consultation over me; and if they all agree that nothing can save meif they give me no hope-then Clare?''
The bright color rose into her face as she answered in a low calm voice,
"God bless you Clare!" he said, gravely, and a strange look came over his face as he said it; the wistful, earnest look, that strangers read and understand rightly, when the eye that idolizes is, for a time at least, in mercy blind to its meaning. The first shadow of the dark angel's wing. "God bless you, darling! Nothing but death shall part us now!''
He took her hand and kissed it as she rose and stood by him as if in a dream. Looking on, and on, and on-picturing years to come, all bright unclouded ones; he would get well-he must. It was very hard to let him go before; but now, she could not part with him, her king, her hero. A merciful Father could not require it of her-never; she could not live without him. She longed to kneel again, and bury her face by his and
tell him so.
'Moreton, would not that short time be worth whole years? And why should you not get better, Moreton? We will go to the sea and breathe the glorious fresh sea-breezes and watch the glorious waves come curling over the sand. We will go there-anywhere-you will get better. Are you not better" already? Look at me, Moreton, and tell me?"
He uncovered his face. And even he, in spite of all his fears, was content, more than content, though he saw her eyes fill with tears. Bending over him, she rested her face, so soft and fair, against the sightless eye, the seamed, scarred cheek, and kissed it.
"I didn't know you wanted any one but me to kiss it," she
That is how Moreton Grey came Westward ho from the wars.