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Next day there was a fresh breeze, and they scudded before it on to Naples.
Here Paul seemed well enough to take train, and so arrive in England in
time for his birthday. He owed this to his mother, he and his father both
felt. She had been looking forward to it for so long, as at the time of his
coming of age the festivities had been interrupted by the sudden death of
his maternal grandfather, and the people had all been promised a
continuance of them on this, his twenty-third birthday. So, taking the
journey by sufficiently easy stages, sleeping three nights on the way, they
calculated to arrive on the eve of the event.
The Lady Henrietta would have everything in readiness for them, and her
darling Paul was not to be over-hurried. Only guests of the most congenial
kind had been invited, and such a number of nice girls!
The prospect was perfectly delightful, and ought to cause any young man
It was with a heart as heavy as lead Paul mounted the broad steps of his
ancestral home that summer evening, and was folded in his mother's
arms. (The guests were all fortunately dressing for dinner.)
Captain Grigsby had been persuaded to abandon his yacht and accompany them
"Yes, I'll come, Charles," he said. "Getting too confoundedly hot in these
seas; besides, the boy will want more than one to see him through among
those cackling women."
So the three had travelled together through Italy and France--Switzerland
had been strictly avoided.
"Paul! darling!" his mother exclaimed, in a voice of pained surprise as she
stood back and looked at him. "But surely you have been very ill. My
darling, darling son--"
"I told you he had had a sharp attack of fever, Henrietta," interrupted Sir
Charles quickly, "and no one looks their best after travelling in this
grilling weather. Let the boy get to his bath, and you will see a different
But his mother's loving eyes were not to be deceived. So with infinite
fuss, and terms of endearment, she insisted upon accompanying her offspring
to his room, where the dignified housekeeper was summoned, and his every
imaginable and unimaginable want arranged to be supplied.
Once all this would have irritated Paul to the verge of bearish rudeness,
but now he only kissed his mother's white jewelled hand. He remembered his
lady's tender counsel to him, given in one of their many talks: "You must
always reverence your mother, Paul, and accept her worship with love." So
now he said:
"Dear mother, it is so good of you, but I'm all right--fever does knock one
over a bit, you know. You'll see, though, being at home again will make me
perfectly well in no time--and I'll be as good as you like, and eat and
drink all Mrs. Elwyn's beef-teas and jellies, and other beastly stuff, if
you will just let me dress now, like a darling."
However, his mother was obliged to examine and assure herself that his
beautiful hair was still thick and waving--and she had to pause and sigh
over every sharpened line of his face and figure--though the thought of
being permitted to lavish continuous care for long days to come held a
certain consolation for her.
At last Paul was left alone, and there came a moment he had been longing
for. He had sent written orders that Tremlett should bring Pike, and leave
him in his dressing-room beyond--and all the while his mother had talked he
had heard suppressed whines and scratchings. Somehow he had not wanted to
see his dog before any of the people; the greeting between himself and his
little friend must be in solitude, for was there not a secret link between
them in that golden collar given by his Queen?
And Pike would understand--he certainly would understand!
If short, passionate barks, and a madness of wagging tail-stump,
accompanied by jumps of crazy joy, could comfort any one--then Paul had his
full measure when the door was opened, and this rough white terrier bounded
in upon him, and, frantic with welcome and ecstasy, was with difficulty
quieted at last in his master's fond arms.
"Oh! Pike, Pike!" Paul said, while tears of weakness flowed down his
cheeks. "I can talk to you--and when you wear her collar you will know my
And Pike said everything of sympathy a dog could say. But it was not until
late at night, when the interminable evening had been got through, that his
master had the pleasure of trying his darling's present on.
That first evening of his homecoming was an ordeal for Paul. He was still
feeble, and dead tired from travelling, to begin with--and to have to
listen and reply to the endless banalities of his mother's guests was
almost more than he could bear.
They were a nice cheery company of mostly young friends. Pretty girls and
his own boon companions abounded, and they chaffed and played silly games
after dinner--until Paul could have groaned.
Captain Grigsby had eventually caught Sir Charles' eye:
"You will have the boy fainting if you don't get him off alone soon," he
said. "These girls would tire a man in strong health!"
And at last Paul had escaped to his own room.
He leant out of his window, and looked at the gibbous moon. Pike was there
on the broad sill beside him, under his arm, and he could feel the golden
collar on the soft fur neck--a wave of perhaps the most hopeless anguish he
had yet felt was upon his spirit now. The unutterable blankness--the
impossible vista of the endless days to come, with no prospect of
meeting--no aim--no hope. Yes, she had said there was one hope--one hope
which could bring peace to their crud unrest. But how and when should he
ever know? And if it were so--then more than ever he should be by her
side. The number of beautiful things he would want to say to her about it
all--the oceans of love he would desire to pour upon her--the tender care
which should be his hourly joy. To honour and worship her, and chase all
pain away. And he did not even know her name, or the country where one day
this hope should reign. That was incredible--and it would be so easy to
find out. But he had promised her never to make inquiries, and he would
keep his word. He saw her reason now; it had arisen in an instinct of
tender protection for himself. She had known if he knew her place of abode
no fear of death would keep him from trying to see her. Ah! he had had the
tears--and why not the cold steel and blood? It was no price to pay could
he but hear once more her golden voice, and feel her loving, twining arms.
He was only held back by the fear of the danger for her. And instead of
being with her, and waiting on her footsteps, he should have to spend his
next hours with those ridiculous Englishwomen! Those foolish, flippant
girls! One had quoted poetry to him at dinner, the very scrap his lady had
spoken a line of--this new poet's, who was taking the world of London by
storm that year: "Loved with a love beyond all words or sense!" And it had
sounded like bathos or sacrilege. What did these dolls know of love, or
life? Chattering parrots to weary a man's brain! Yes, the Greeks were
right, it would be better to keep them spinning flax, and uneducated.
And so in his young intolerance, maddened by pain, he saw all things
gibbous like the mocking moon. Pike stirred under his arm and licked his
hand, a faint whine of love making itself heard in the night.
"O God!" said Paul, as he buried his face in his hands, "let me get through
this time as she would have me do; let me not show the anguish in my heart,
but be at least a man and gentleman."
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