Sword and Gown - A Novel

Sword and Gown - A Novel

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English
98 Pages
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Published 01 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Sword and Gown, by George A. Lawrence This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Sword and Gown A Novel Author: George A. Lawrence Release Date: August 25, 2006 [EBook #19121] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SWORD AND GOWN *** Produced by David Garcia, David Wilson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Kentuckiana Digital Library) SWORD AND GOWN. A Novel . BY THE AUTHOR OF “ G N F R U E A N Y Y L I N S L O Q U W K R A R K E . : 1859. CHAPTER I . “THERE is something in this climate, after all. I suppose there are not many places where one could lie on the shore in December, and enjoy the air as much as I have done for the last two hours.” Harry Molyneux turned his face seaward again as he spoke, and drank in the soft breeze eagerly; he could scarcely help thanking it aloud, as it stole freshly over his frame, and played gently with his hair, and left a delicate caress on his cheek—the cheek that was now always so pale, save in the one round scarlet spot where, months ago, Consumption had hung out her flag of “No surrender.” There is enough in the scene to justify an average amount of enthusiasm. Those steep broken hills in the background form the frontier fortress of the maritime Alps, the last outwork of which is the rocky spur on which Molyneux and his companion are lying. Fir woods feather the sky-line; and from among these, here and there, the tall stone pines stand up alone, like sentinels—steady, upright, and unwearied, though their guard has not been relieved for centuries. All around, wild myrtle, and heath, and eglantine curl and creep up the stems of the olives, trying, from the contact of their fresh youth, to infuse new life and sap into the gray, gnarled old trees, even as a fair Jewish maiden once strove to cherish her war-worn, decrepit king. There are other flowers too left, though December has begun, enough to give a faint fragrance to the air and gay colors to the ground. Just below their feet is a narrow strip of dark ribbed sand, and then the tangle of weed, scarcely stirred by the water, that all along this coast fringes like a beard the languid lip of the Mediterranean Sea. Molyneux appreciated and admired all this, after his simple fashion, and said so; his companion did not answer immediately; he only shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyebrows, as if he could have disputed the point if it had not been too much trouble. An optimist in nothing, least of all was Royston Keene grateful or indulgent to the beauties and bounties of inanimate creation. “Ah well!” Harry went on, resignedly, “I know it’s useless trying to get a compliment to Nature out of you. I ought to have given you up that night when we showed you the Alps from the terrace at Berne. You had never seen the Jungfrau before, and she had got her prettiest pink evening dress on, poor thing! and all you would say was, ‘There’s not much the matter with the view.’” “It was a concession to your wife’s enthusiasm,” Keene replied; “a sudden check might have been dangerous just then, or I should have spoken more bitterly, after being brought out to look at mountains, when I was dusty and travel-stained, wanting baths, and dinners, and other necessaries of life.” The voice was deep-toned and melodious enough that spoke these words, but too slow and deliberate to be quite a pleasant one, though there was nothing like a drawl in it. One could easily fancy such a voice ironical or sarcastic, but hardly raised much in anger; in the imperative mood it might be very successful, but it seemed as if it could never have pleaded or prayed. It matched the speaker’s exterior singularly well. Had you seen him for the first time—couchant, as he was then—you would have had only an impression of great length and laziness; but as you gazed on, the vast deep chest expanded under your eye; the knotted muscles, without an ounce of superfluous flesh to dull their outline, developed themselves one by one; so that gradually you began to realize the extent of his surpassing bodily powers, and wondered that you could have been deceived even for a moment. The face guarded its secret far more successfully. The features were bold and sharply cut, bronzed up to the roots of the crisp light-brown beard and hair, except where the upper brow retained its original fairness—presenting a startling contrast, like a wreath of snow lying late in spring-time high up on the side of a black fell. You would hardly say that they were devoid of expression, any more than that a perfectly drilled soldier is incapable of activity; but you got puzzled in making out what their natural expression was: it was not sternness, far less ferocity—the face was much too impassible for either; and yet its listlessness could never be mistaken for languor. The thin short lips might be very pitiless when compressed, very contemptuous and provocative when curling; but the enormous mustache, sweeping over them like a wave, and ending in a clean stiff upward curve, made even this a matter of mere conjecture. The cold, steady, dark eyes seldom flashed or glittered; but, when their pupils contracted, there came into them a sort of sullen, suppressed, inward light, like that of jet or cannel coal. One curious thing about them was, that they never seemed to care about following you, and yet you felt you could not escape from them. The first hand-gripe, however, settled the question with most people: few, after experiencing the involuntary pressure, when he did not in the least mean to be cordial, doubted that there were passions in Royston Keene—difficult perhaps to rouse, but yet more difficult to appease or subdue. His profession was evident. Indeed, it must be confessed that the dragoon is not easily dissembled. I know a very meritorious parishpriest, of fair repute too as a preacher, who has striven for years, hard but unavailingly, to divest himself of the martial air he brought with him out of the K.D.G. He strides down the village street with a certain swagger and roll,