That brow which rose before my sight, As on the palmers' holy shrine; Those eyes - my life was in their light; Those lips - my sacramental wine; That voice whose flow was wont to seem The music of an exile's dream.
So he still cared. Her heart was flooded again with hope and happiness.
On May 22 she happened to call upon a friend. The mistress of the house was not at home, but, said the maid, was expected to be in to tea; would Miss Arundell wait ? " Yes," she replied. And was shown into the drawing-room.
A few minutes later the door-bell rang again. Another visitor - a man. He, too, was asked to wait. Isabel seemed to recognise his voice. "I want Miss Arundell's address," it said. Isabel's mind reeled, and she stood in the middle of the room, dumb and motionless. Then the door opened, and Richard entered.
" For an instant we both stood dazed," she wrote. " I felt so intensely that I fancied he must hear my heart beat, and see how every nerve was overtaxed. We rushed into each other's arms. I cannot attempt to describe the joy of that moment. He had landed the day before, and had come to London, and had called here to know where I was living, where to find me. . . . We forgot all about my hostess and her tea. We went downstairs, and Richard called a cab, and he put me in and told the man to drive about - anywhere."
But he was a very different-looking man, this Richard, from the Burton whom Isabel had known of old. " He had had twenty-one attacks of fever, had been partially paralysed and partially blind. He was a mere skeleton, with brown-yellow skin hanging in bags, his eyes protruding, and his lips drawn away from his teeth. . . . He was sadly altered; his youth, health, spirits, and beauty were all gone for the time."
But one thing he had not lost - a woman's loyalty, which nothing could shake. " Never did I feel the strength of my love." she wrote, " as then. He returned poorer, and dispirited by official rows and every species of annoyance; but he was still - had he been ever so unsuccessful, and had every man's hand against him - my earthly god and king, and 1 could have knelt at his feet and worshipped him. ... I used to like to sit and look at him, and think, ' You are mine, and there is no man on earth the least like you.' "
Burton now proceeded formally to seek her hand in marriage. And it was a mere form; he knew what the result would be. Nor was he wrong in his surmise. Mrs. Arundell opposed his suit determinedly. This was inevitable. And in after years even Isabel admitted that her hostility was justified.
In the first place, she belonged to a staunchly Roman Catholic family. It was only natural, therefore, that her mother should wish her to marry a man who shared that faith. But Mrs. Arundell was not so bigoted as to make religion an obstacle to happiness. Had Burton been a Protestant, had he even conformed to any Church, she would have welcomed him as a son-in-law. She liked him; he interested her. But, she maintained, to allow Isabel to marry a man who had no religion, who was frankly an agnostic, would not merely be wrong but criminal. There could be but one result from such a union - tragedy. And that at all cost must be prevented. Besides, she, too, had heard vague rumours; they troubled her. Burton might be a fascinating man and! clever - he was; she did not attempt to deny it - but would he make a good husband ? She was far from being certain.
Isabel, moreover, had lived all her life in comfort, if not in luxury. What could Burton offer her ? He had no private means, and neither the War Office nor the Government regarded him with favour. Apparently he had no prospects for the future. This was a serious consideration.
In opposing the marriage, therefore, surely she was acting merely as a good mother should. But she failed to see how truly, during those years of waiting, Richard and Isabel had proved their love. She failed to see that their two minds were in perfect harmony. Besides, neither of them were children. Indeed, Richard was more than forty, Isabel nearly thirty years of age. Surely they were old enough to choose for themselves.
This was Burton's contention. But Isabel did not know what to say. She adored her mother, and hated the idea of acting contrary to her wishes. And thus, while she wavered between love and duty, another lingering year elapsed.
To Burton this state of affairs proved intolerable. His was not a sympathetic nature. And, as for delay or interference, he could brook neither. Isabel must make up her mind one way or the other. Accordingly, in April, 1860, he wrote to her. He was going away, he said, on a visit to Salt Lake City. He would be absent for nine months, and on his return she must decide immediately between her mother and himself.
He did not wait, or even ask, for an answer. Without another word, he sailed. But Isabel - this was more than she could bear. Her nerves had long been overtaxed, and now, for the first time in her life, she broke down beneath the weight of her sorrows. For several weeks she lay ill, very ill. But then she rallied bravely. No woman ever possessed more indomitable pluck. And with convalescence came resolve.
Yes - Richard was her destiny. She would marry him as soon as he returned; she would hesitate no longer.
But she was to be a poor man's wife. The husband of her choice was a true adventurer. His castle was a tent, his park an illimitable desert. His wife, therefore, must not allow herself to be a hindrance to him. She must be a true help-mate; she must fit herself to live his life. This Isabel saw very clearly. And she was glad. At last she had found a purpose to achieve. Accordingly, on the plea that she needed a change of air, she retired quietly to the country, there to learn the rudiments of farming, and how to manage a house without the aid of servants. Then she returned to London, and took fencing lessons. "Why ? " a friend asked her. "To defend Richard when he and I are attacked in the wilderness together," she replied.