Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 127.djvu/767

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THE DILEMMA.

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were fresh enough. The young man's passion was as strong as ever, and his success was valued mostly because it seemed to give him reason for his hopes. He had been in correspondence with Olivia ever since they parted, although from exigencies of duty and interruptions to posts the letters which passed had not been numerous; but Yorke thought he could trace in hers, as he read them again and again, the course of change from despair to resignation, and then to a revival of interest in life and the future, while through them ran a vein of sympathy and tenderness which the young man recognized with ecstasy, as indicating some approach towards his own state of feeling. And yet, he could see that any reciprocation of his passion was as yet altogether foreign to her thoughts; and although he felt a constant impulse to declare his devotion, an instinctive feeling that she was not yet prepared for such a declaration restrained him from committing himself. It would sound cold on paper, too, he thought, and I should not be there to reply to the objections she might plead of disloyalty to her first husband, and to press all that could be urged in reply of our exceptional circumstances. No: I will wait till I can reveal my love in person, and have her sweet face before me to inspire me with fitting words.

And now the time seemed coming, for the hot season was nearly over, and the rains were at hand in which marching would be hardly practicable, and the enemy being almost everywhere put down, the army was now to be distributed in cantonments. And Kirke's Horse, after a twelvemonth spent under canvas, which had converted the raw levy into seasoned veterans, was established at an out-station, in a district which had lately been recovered from the rebels, where the officers set about repairing the roofless bungalows of the former occupants, while the old sepoys' lines were restored for the men. It was just on arriving at this place that Yorke got the news of his promotion. The army would be in quarters for three months before taking the field again, and Yorke thought his chances good of getting leave for a part of this time. And a few weeks in a hill-station, with the opportunity of seeing Olivia daily, almost hourly, as her trusted friend, would be worth years of ordinary cantonment life. For Olivia was still in the hills. Her intention had been to return to Europe and join her father; but the road had not been safe for travellers, and now her journey was deferred till the next cold season — a journey I hope she will never make, thought the young man with bounding heart.

But a disappointment awaited him. The regiment had hardly encamped in their cantonments when Kirke was attacked with fever, and Maxwell ordered him off to the hills. The commandant and second in command could not both be absent at one time, and Yorke was fain to stay behind in charge of the regiment. And whether it was that in writing to Olivia he expressed his disappointment somewhat too pointedly, but in her reply there seemed to be an unusual reserve, and a pang of fear came over him lest he should have built too solid hopes on the anxious wishes for his safety, the almost affectionate solicitude for his welfare, which her letters had expressed while the campaign lasted. Ah! thought he, will the day ever come when I shall be able to pour out my passionate love without fear of repulse, and she in return may declare her desire for my presence without shame, and, putting aside the short episode of her first marriage, be ready to centre her hopes and affections on me?

Spragge, who had been serving during the latter part of the campaign with the Mustaphabad Levy, after recovering from his wound, had now got his leave; and the happy fellow wrote from the hills that he was to be married immediately, and then to leave his bride after a two months' honeymoon, while he returned in the cold season for the next campaign. "It will be terrible work parting from the dear girl," he wrote to his friend; "but what is to be done? I object on principle to long engagements, and it would not do to bring her down to the plains until Pandy is completely disposed of. By the way, the charming widow is looking as beautiful as ever, and her mourning becomes her exceedingly" — does she wear regular weeds I wonder? thought Yorke as he read this — "but how she manages to live with old mother Polwheedle is a wonder. You must look out for your chances, my boy, for her son is up here, and staying in the house — her son by the late Captain Jones, you know — and the old lady is making tremendous play on behalf of young hopeful, who is a rum-looking fish. By the way, I haven't congratulated you yet on your brevet majority and V.C, which I do now heartily, my dear fellow. What luck you have had, to be sure! Here am I, only three months your junior, and not even a captain yet.