But she found him sooner than she could have dared even to hope, and in appearance he tallied exactly with the hero of her visions. It was at Boulogne. The Arundclls repaired thither at the close of the London season to economise. She saw him walking on the sea front.

" He looked at me," she wrote afterwards, "as though he read me through and through in a moment, and started a little. I was completely magnetised; and when we got a little distance away I turned to my sister, and whispered to her, ' That man will marry me.' The next day he was there again, and followed us, and chalked up, ' May I speak to you ? ' leaving the chalk on the wall. So I took it up and wrote back, ' No; mother will be angry.' And mother found it, and was angry."

The Real

A few days later they were formally introduced. The man's name was Burton. And then Isabel remembered the words of Hagar, "You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it."

Richard Burton was ten years older than Isabel, and already had served, and served with distinction, for several years in India, first in a regiment of native infantry, and later on Sir Charles Napier's staff. During this time he had devoted his energies unceasingly to the study of Oriental languages and Oriental customs, and in consequence was known throughout India as ' the white nigger." In 1850 he returned to Europe on furlough, and, at the time when Isabel met him, was staying with his parents, who were then living at Boulogne for the very same reason as were the Arundells. In those days to sojourn abroad was a popular mode of retrenchment among impecunious gentlefolk.

Richard and Isabel, therefore, saw each other frequently. But - at any rate, outwardly - their acquaintanceship ripened slowly, and when, in 1852, the Arundells returned to England, they parted merely as friends.

But it was a sorry day for Isabel, this day of parting. Her ideal, the man of her dreams, had taken shape. She had seen him, she had spoken to him, and now, without one word of hope or consolation, she was to leave him. It was very hard. She would have sacrificed anything to Burton. She recognised him as her affinity. And she could no more suppress her love for him than she could suppress her nature.

As the ship ploughed its way across the Channel, therefore, she saw her happiness fading into the horizon behind her. She might never meet Burton again. It was a terrible thought. How could she hope now to find pleasure in London and idle gaiety ? And into her diary she poured forth all the anguish of her heart.

" Richard may be a delusion of my brain," she wrote. "But how dull is reality ! What a curse is a heart! With all to make me happy, I pine and hanker for him, my other half, to fill this void, for I feel as if I were not complete. Is it wrong to want someone to love more than one's father and mother - one on whom to lavish one's best feelings ? . . . I cannot marry any of the insignificant beings around me. Where are those men who inspired the grandes passions of bygone days ? Is Richard the last of them ? Even so, is he for me ? . . . I could not live like a vegetable in the country . . . nor . marry a country squire, nor a doctor, nor a lawyer (I hear the parchment crackle now), nor a parson, nor a clerk in a London office. God help me ! A dry crust, privations, pain, danger for him I love would be better. Let me go with the husband of my choice to battle, nurse him in his tent, follow him under the fire of ten thousand muskets. . . ."

But, poor girl, for the present she was forced to stifle these the hopes of her life, and, instead, to receive graciously the attentions of London dandies, to dance with them, to drink tea with their mothers, to talk scandal with their sisters. Oh, how she hated it ! And for four long years she endured this life.

Burton, meanwhile, apparently ignorant of her devotion, was making his immortal pilgrimage to Mecca. Isabel sought eagerly for news of him, and chronicled his every movement in her diary. She was very proud of him. His name was on everybody's lips. She longed to welcome him on his return.

Sir Richard Burton, the famous soldier, explorer, and student of Eastern lore, whose romantic love story recalls the vivid days of the Middle Ages

Sir Richard Burton, the famous soldier, explorer, and student of Eastern lore, whose romantic love story recalls the vivid days of the Middle Ages

From the painting by Sir P. Leighton in the National Portrait Gallery

But he did not return. From Egypt he went to India, and from India to Somaliland. " A deadly expedition or a most dangerous one," wrote Isabel; "and I am full of sad forebodings."

And her forebodings were fulfilled. Burton was badly wounded and forced to return to England. But he did not stay long. Isabel did not even see him. In 1854, as soon as he had recovered, he set out for the Crimea. There he joined General Beat-son's staff, and organised the irregular cavalry, the famous Bashi-bazouks.

Isabel, too, longed to be at the seat of war.

"It has been a terrible winter in the Crimea," she wrote in her diary. "I have given up reading the 'times,' it makes me so miserable, and one is so impotent. I have made three struggles to be allowed to join Florence Nightingale ... I have written again and again . . . but the superintendent has answered me that I am too young and inexperienced, and will not do."

In 1855 Sebas-topol fell. Then Burton returned to England. Isabel was wild with ex-citement. But days passed into weeks, and weeks into months, and still she did not see or hear from him. Had he forgotten her ? Fear was added to her other sorrows. She knew that he was busy organising an expedition to Central Africa. But did this explain his silence ? Had he no thoughts for her ? Was her love in vain ?