“And indeed, Stuart,” said he, rising as if to shake off some weight of gloomy feeling, “I scarcely know what is the matter with me. I ought to be the happiest man in the world; and sometimes this very happiness seems so great that it is like to suffocate me—I cannot breathe fast enough; and then, again, I get into such unreasoning fears and troubles—Well, let us get out into the fresh air.”
The major carefully smoothed his hat once more, and took up his cane. He followed Macleod down stairs—like Sancho Panza waiting on Don Quixote, as he himself expressed it; and then the two friends slowly sauntered away northward on this fairly clear and pleasant December morning.
“Your nerves are not in a healthy state, that’s the fact, Macleod,” said the major, as they walked along. “The climate of London is too exciting for you; a good, long, dull winter in Mull will restore your tone. But in the meantime don’t cut my throat, or your own, or anybody else’s.”
“Am I likely to do that?” Macleod said, laughing.
“There was young Bouverie,” the major continued, not heeding the question—“what a handsome young fellow he was when he joined us at Gawulpoor!—and he hadn’t been in the place a week but he must needs go regular head over heels about our colonel’s sister-in-law. An uncommon pretty woman she was, too—an Irish girl, and fond of riding; and dash me if that fellow didn’t fairly try to break his neck again and again just that she should admire his pluck! He was as mad as a hatter about her. Well, one day two or three of us had been riding for two or three hours on a blazing hot morning, and we came to one of the irrigation reservoirs—big wells, you know—and what does he do but offer to bet twenty pounds he would dive into the well and swim about for ten minutes, till we hoisted him out at the end of the rope. I forget who took the bet, for none of us thought he would do it: but I believe he would have done anything so that the story of his pluck would be carried to the girl, don’t you know. Well, off went his clothes, and in he jumped into the ice-cold water. Nothing would stop him. But at the end of the ten minutes, when we hoisted up the rope, there was no Bouverie there. It appeared that on clinging on to the rope he had twisted it somehow, and suddenly found himself about to have his neck broken, so he had to shake himself free and plunge into the water again. When at last we got him out, he had had a longer bath than he had bargained for; but there was apparently nothing the matter with him—and he had won the money, and there would be a talk about him. However, two days afterward, when he was at dinner, he suddenly felt as though he had got a blow on the back of his head—so he told us afterward—and fell back insensible. That was the beginning of it. It took him five or six years to shake off the effects of that dip—”
“And did she marry him, after all?” Macleod said, eagerly.