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Sword and Gown A Novel   By: (1827-1876)

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A Novel.



[Transcriber's note: the author was George Alfred Lawrence]


"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... Continue reading book >>

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