Page images
PDF
EPUB

late. His little boat had dropped into mid stream, and refused to answer to the sculls. The position was a critical one even for a trained athlete, if ignorant of the water; for Philip it was almost certain death. Again the loud voice rang in his

ears.

“ Too late, you will never turn her; you must swim for it."

Though no oarsman, Philip was an expert swimmer ; but in his endeavours to save the boat he delayed too long, and only leapt into the water in time to see the fragile craft cracked up like a match box and carried over the roaring torrent.

The next instant he was dashed against a high pile in the water. A chain was attached, and fortunately he succeeded in grasping it. A moment he breathed, and thought himself safe. But the torrent crashed him fiercer and fiercer against the pile, as though it would tear his limbs from their sockets. Love is stronger than death. Feeling that his end was near he turned his head that his last look might rest on Emily Aldair.

But what was this drifting swiftly towards him, some dark object bobbing up and down in the torrent ? It reached him, dashing with fearful violence against the wooden pile. Then a great arm was thrown around his waist, and he felt himself lifted bodily out of the water.

“Keep your head, young ’un, and it will be all right. Philip looked up; it was the Captain of the pleasure fleet, Emily's gigantic companion Alaric. Alaric, the man whose handsome horror-stricken face had haunted him ever since he first beheld it a few nights ago, under the eves of the Crown and Candle, with whose dark history he had unwillingly become a little conversant through that interview he had witnessed in the garden of Hammersmith, on whose head lay the ruin, and but for Philip might have lain the death, of dear beautiful Pearl.

[blocks in formation]

PHILIP FINDS HIMSELF IN HIS ELEMENT. HELP was soon at hand, ropes were thrown them, and, thanks to the coolness and strength of Philip's companion, they were dragged through the hurrying water, and found themselves, half-choked and panting, in one of the pleasure boats. The others crowded round, the ladies so far forgot good manners as to be loud and collective in praise of the heroism of their companion; the gentlemen were so rude as to be noisily vituperative of the muff who had spoiled the fun of the party, and imperilled the life of their captain. And, above it all, there rose a little scream of mingled joy and terror, at which sound every voice was hushed, and peering through the night, Philip beheld Emily Aldair's beautiful little face, lying white and still across the prow of the nearest boat. The next instant she was hidden by her companions.

Philip sprang up, in his madness he would have plunged through the river to her aid. But the strong hand of his preserver was on him.

“Stay,” he said, in a low suppressed voice. His great dark eyes burned with a new fire as they bent in their eagerness close to Philip's face, so close that the latter saw the trembling of his white lips and the fierce contraction of his brow, “Stay, sir, the young lady is with friends and has no need of us."

Philip sat silent the while the boat impelled by the skilful sculls of his companion drifted alongside that of Emily Aldair.

Then he heard her voice saying, timidly, "It's Signor Celini, an old friend of mine." Philip strained his eyes, but it was fast growing darker, and the boat whence the voice proceeded was thronged with

curious faces.

“What, you don't say so ? that's a double reason for being thankful," returned a man's voice, which Philip recognised as that of a stout old gentleman who had been rowing in the

"Alaric Fane. Alaric Fane!” called the same voice," here: is Miss Aldair proclaiming herself an acquaintance of your fellow water-rat. Why, it's quite a night of adventure. Bring

same boat with Emily.

him home to the Lodge, Bring him home, Fane! ready,

row !”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

“ Hold hard a minute, sir,” cried Philip's companion, leaning on his sculls.

Can't ” replied the other, “ Do you think I am going to have my Gondola invaded by you water-rats? Come home and dry yourselves, and don't get playing any more tricks to make ladies faint."

Philip and his rescuer were now alone in their boat, for the other young fellows had migrated to their respective crews, and were pulling slowly up the stream. Alaric Fane gave his great shaggy head a shake like some Newfoundland dog, then dipped his blades in the water and followed.

"Hold,” he exclaimed, suddenly resting, "you had better take an oar or you will catch cold. By the way, how came you to venture down an unknown river?'

Philip stammered some guilty excuse, and took the oar, not so much out of fear of catching cold, as to avoid the great dark eyes that were scrutinizing him.

“So you know Miss Aldair ?” asked his companion, with a curious earnestness.

"Yes, that is I have had'the pleasure of meeting the lady.”

“Well, you will have the pleasure of meeting her again directly, if you will have the goodness not to try to touch the bottom of the river at every stroke."

Philip endeavoured to imitate his companion's feather, and caught a bad crab for his pains, at which Alaric laughingly remarked that his feet were too small to serve for sails, and advised him to keep them on the footboard till such time as. he found himself on terra firma.

Philip silently resumed his windmilling. After a while he asked,

"What did you mean just now by saying I shall soon meet Miss Aldair again ?”

Why, Cotton has invited you to supper. “Invited me to supper ?” queried Philip.

“Of course, did'nt you hear him ? Miss Aldair has. claimed you for a friend. How could Cotton do less ? "

Awhile they proceeded in silence except for the splashing. of Philip's unskilful oar, then he said hesitatingly,

[ocr errors]

“May I ask the name of the gentleman to whose heroism I owe my life.”

"Humph ! a pretty sort of hero certainly. My name is Fane, Alaric Fane, very much at your service and—the Devil's. Here we are, ship your oar, t'other end forward, so. Lord, won't I be just glad to temper some of the Thames water in my stomach with a bottle of Cotton's Cognac!”

They entered the house where they were at once surrounded by a congratulatory crowd, foremost of which was Emily Aldair. She extended her hand timidly to Philip, but she failed to conceal her blushes, as did Philip his equally evident emotion. But these, owing to the exciting circumstances under which they met, passed nearly unobserved by all save Alaric, whese keen eyes seemed to take in the exact situation

at a glance.

In a few minutes the two reeking young fellows found themselves in Mr.Cotton's dressing-room, busily appropriating such masculine habiliments as the house afforded. Alaric was easily accoutred, for Mr.Cotton's garments were

, ample in girth, if deficient by a few inches in length, which shortcomings were effectually concealed by an antique dressing gown and top boots.

But Philip, the fastidious, proved a much more difficult subject, Fortunately Alaric called to mind a costume of Miss Cotton's that had been constructed for some private theatricals in which that young lady was wont to assume the role of a dashing young troubadour.

Miss Cotton gladly conceded this lovely garnish of a boy, and Philip seemed not at all displeased with the theatrical

Alaric laughed and jested so heartily during these rehabilitary arrangements that Philip soon found himself quite at his All the bitterness and jealousy he had felt at the thought

suit.

Possible rival vanished before the real one. that brief interview he had just had with Emily, behind all her assumed coolness he had read in voice and eye the old confiding unchangeable love. As he stood by the piano in his romantic costume, with his beautiful face flushed with passion and pride, every eye in the room turned on him admiringly. But

ease.

of a

For, in

when the clear marvellous voice burst with its torrent of melody on the listening audience, thrilling and ringing through them, Emily buried her little blushing face in Mary Cotton's bosom, and secretly wept with delight and love. But Alaric Fane growled a great oath between his clenched teeth, and, unperceived, drank off half a decanter of wine before the song was finished, could it be he too was in love with this pretty, simple, rosy girl ? One would think not, for when the song ended no applause was more sincere than his. And when the happy company separated, as the happiest company must, Alaric and Philip walked home through the lonely roads together. When they reached Hammersmith, Alaric halted. We must part here, this is my home at present,” he said. “But,” he added, “I hope to meet you again some day Mr. Celini. Where do you live ?”

“I am living at the Crown and Candle at Kensington," replied Philip, watching his companion's face.

It was Alaric's turn to start now, but he only said " Good bye,” and hastened away.

CHAPTER XIX.

CONCERNING EMILY'S FRIENDS.

IT WAS natural that a person who was fortunate enough to be introduced to Mr. Cotton and his daughter by so respectable an acquaintance as the daughter of the great Aldair should be invited to repeat his visit. It was very natural that a young man, adorned with the beauty, the grace, of an Adonis, who sang like Orpheus or Rubini, should repeat his visit again and again. It was most natural that the friend of Emily Aldair should time his visits as near as possible with hers, that he should prefer to sit a little nearer to her, that he should talk a little more to her, sing a little more to her, gaze a little longer and a little more kindly at her, take her hand just a little more tenderly, and hold it just a little longer.

All this we repeat was very natural and passed unobserved

a

« PreviousContinue »