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Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Evan Harrington - Part 29

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Evan Harrington - Before Breakfast.png


Cold through the night the dark-fringed stream had whispered under Evan's eyes, and the night breeze voiced "Fool, fool!" to him, not without a distant echo in his heart. By symbols and sensations he knew that Rose was lost to him. There was no moon: the water seemed aimless, passing on carelessly to oblivion. Now and then the trees stirred and talked, or a noise was heard from the pastures. He had slain the life that lived in them, and the great glory they were to bring forth, and the end to which all things moved. Had less than the loss of Rose been involved, the young man might have found himself looking out on a world beneath notice, and have been sighing for one more worthy of his clouded excellence: but the immense misery present to him in the contemplation of Rose's sad restrained contempt, saved him from the silly elation which is the last, and generally successful, struggle of human nature in those who can so far master it to commit a sacrifice. The loss of that brave high young soul—Rose, who had lifted him out of the mire with her own white hands: Rose, the image of all that he worshipped: Rose, so closely wedded to him that to be cut away from her was to fall like pallid clay from the soaring spirit: surely he was stunned and senseless when he went to utter the words to her mother! Now that he was awake and could feel his self-inflicted pain, he marvelled at his rashness and foolishness, as perhaps numerous mangled warriors have done for a time, when the battle-field was cool, and they were weak, and the uproar of their jarred nerves has beset them, lying uncherished.

By degrees he grew aware of a little consolatory touch, like the point of a needle, in his consciousness. Laxley would certainly insult him! In that case he would not refuse to fight him. The darkness broke and revealed this happy prospect, and Evan held to it an hour, and could hardly reject it when better thoughts conquered. For would it not be sweet to make the strength of his arm respected? He took a stick, and ran his eye musingly along the length, trifling with it grimly. The great Mel had been his son's instructor in the chivalrous science of fence, and a maitre d'armes in Portugal had given him polish. In Mel's time duels with swords were occasionally fought, and Evan looked on the sword as the weapon of combat. Face to face with his adversary—what then was birth or position? Action!—action!—he sighed for it, as I have done since I came to know that his history must be morally developed. A glow of bitter pleasure exalted him when, after hot passages, and parryings and thrusts, he had disarmed Ferdinand Laxley, and bestowing on him his life, said: "Accept this worthy gift of the son of a tailor!" and he Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/234 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/235 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/236 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/237 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/238 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/239 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/240