“True, I’d forgotten. It’s a strange life Patrick’s had, and a sad one. He’s of my own college in Dublin, but a good dozen years older than I. ’Twas in India I knew him first. He’s one of the Black Dulanys of the North, and we fought side by side at Ramazan. What a time! What a time! In the famous charge up the river, when we turned, I lost my horse, and in that backward plunge my life was not worth taking. While I was lying there half dead and helpless, this Dulany got from his old gray, flung me across his saddle, and carried me nine miles back to the camp. Judge if I love him!”
Mr. McDermott looked from the window with the fixed gaze of one struggling with unshed tears.
“The next month he was ordered home, and soon after fell the bitter business of the marriage in Italy. I stood up with him. She was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen—save one; and a voice—God! I heard her sing in Milan once. The king was there; the opera ‘La Favorita.’ She was sent for to the royal box. We had the horses out of her carriage and dragged it home ourselves. What a night it was! What a night it was!”
McDermott paused as in an ecstasy of remembrance.
“What was her name?” Francis asked.
“Ah, that”—he threw out his hand with a dramatic gesture—“’tis a thing I swore never to mention. ’Tis a fancy of Dulany’s to let it die in silence.”
“And she left him?” Mrs. Ravenel’s voice was full of sympathy as she spoke.
“For another!” Dermott made a dramatic pause, relishing his climaxes. “And then she died.”
“So, for his daughter’s sake”—there was a curious hesitancy in his speech just here, but he carried it off jauntily—“his daughter, a primrose girl and the love of my life, I’ve come to ask that you be a bit lenient with him, Mr. Ravenel, at the times he has taken a drop too much, as your lady mother has been in the year past. I think you’ll find him able to manage, for, in spite of his infirmity, black and white fall under his spell alike.”
“If Frank has a fault, Mr. McDermott, which I do not think he has, it’s over-generosity. You need have no fear for your friend,” Mrs. Ravenel said, proudly, putting her hand on Frank’s shoulder.
As her son turned to kiss the slender fingers, Dermott McDermott regarded the two curiously.
“You’re fortunate in having a son of twenty—” He hesitated.
“Of twenty-five,” Francis finished for him.
“—so devoted to you, madam. Ye’re twenty-five—coming or going?” he inquired, with a laugh.
“On my last birthday—April.”
An odd light shone in McDermott’s eyes for a second before he said, with a bow:
“Neither of ye look it; I can assure you of that. Well,” he continued, reaching for his cap and whip, “I must be going. Ye’ve found already, haven’t ye, Ravenel, that the sound of my own voice is the music of heaven to my ears?” And then, as though trying to recollect: “I think I said it was at Ramazan Dulany and I fought together?”