In the following June, however, among the crowd at Ascot Races, she saw Hagar Burton. Perhaps this was an omen. The gipsy recognised her immediately.
"Are you Daisy Burton yet ? " was her first question.
"Would to God I were ! " replied Isabel. "Patience : it is just coming," said the gipsy; and then she was thrust from the carriage.
And two months later it came.
" One fine day in August I was walking in the Botanical "Gardens with my sister." The words are Lady Burton's own. "Richard was there. We immediately stopped and shook hands. ... He asked me if I came to the Gardens often. I said, Oh, yes; we come and read and study here from eleven till one, because it is so much nicer than studying in the hot room at this season.' ' That is quite right ! ' he said. . . . We were in the Gardens about an hour; and when I had to leave he gave me a peculiar look, as he did at Boulogne. 1 hardly looked at him, yet I felt it, and had to turn away. "Next morning we went to the Botanical Gardens again. When we got there he was there, too, alone, composing some poetry. . . . About the third day his manner gradually altered towards me; we had begun to know each other, and what might have been an ideal love before was now a reality. This went on for a fortnight. I trod on air.
"At the end of a fortnight he stole his arm round my waist, and laid his cheek against mine, and asked me, ' Could you do anything so sickly as to give up civilisation ? And if I can get the Consulate of Damascus, will you marry me, and go and live there ? . . . Do not give me an answer now . you must think it over.' I was long silent with emotion. ... At last I found my voice, and said, ' I do not want to think it over - I have been thinking it for six years, ever since I first saw you at Boulogne. I have prayed for you every morning and night; I have followed your career minutely; I have read every word you ever wrote, and I would rather have a crust and a tent with you than be queen of all the world; and so I say now, Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! '
" ' Your people" will not give you to me,' " Burton said at length.
"'i know that,' replied Isabel; ' but I belong to myself - I give myself away ! '
" ' That is right,' he answered; ' be firm, and so shall I ! '"
Burton was merely an interesting genius whom everybody liked, but whom nobody understood. He had neither means nor position; his sole asset was a tremendous and fascinating personality. Would any mother dare to entrust her daughter to the care of such a man ?
Nothing, therefore, was to be gained by announcing the engagement until Burton should return from his expedition to Central Africa, three, possibly four, years hence. Indeed, by doing so, they would only mar the few weeks of happiness still before them, and would make life still more difficult for Isabel during her lover's absence.
Burton was to leave England on October 5, and he arranged to meet Isabel secretly on the 4th, to say "good-bye " to her. On the afternoon of the 3rd he called formally to bid the Arundells adieu. They asked him to join their party at the theatre that evening. He thanked them, and said that he would try, but that he was very busy, and might possibly be detained. Then he left. And Isabel did not see him again for three long years.
She had said "good-bye " to him that afternoon quite casually, even gaily, and had waved to him from the balcony as he passed down the street. On the morrow she would see him, at any rate. A secret place of meeting had been arranged already, and until then she would banish from her mind the awful thought of separation. The present was sweet. She tried not to think of the future. Besides, she would meet him again that evening. She was convinced that she would. When talking to her mother, Burton had been merely playing his part, striving to conceal his eagerness.
" I went to the theatre that evening," she wrote, "quite happy, and expected him. At 10.30 I thought I saw him at the other side of the house, looking into our box. I smiled, and made a sign for him to come. then ceased to see him; the minutes passed, and he did not come. Something cold struck my heart, I felt I should not see him again. . . . I passed a feverish, restless night. I could not sleep, I felt that I could not wait till morning - I must see him. At last 1 dozed, and started up, but I touched nothing, yet dreamt that I could feel his arms around me. I understood him, and he said. ' I am going now, my poor girl. My time is up, and I have gone, but I will come again - I shall be back in less than three years. I am your Destiny.'
' He pointed to the clock, and it was two. He held up a letter, looked at me long with those gipsy eyes of his, put the letter down on the table, and said in the same way, ' That is for your sister - not for you.' . . . I saw him no more.
More Than a Coincidence
"I sprang out of bed to the door into the passage (there was nothing), and thence I went to the room of one of my brothers, in whom I confided. . . . Richard is gone to Africa,' I said, ' and I shall not see him for three years.' ' Nonsense,' he replied, ' you have only a nightmare. . . .
" I sat all night in my brother's armchair; and at eight o'clock in the morning when the post came in there was a letter for my sister Blanche, enclosing one for me. Richard had found it too painful to part from me, and thought we should suffer less that way; he begged her to break it to me gently."
Burton had left his lodgings in London at 10.30 on the previous evening. At 2 a.m. he had sailed from Southampton!
Surely this was more than a coincidence. Indeed, "there are more things in heaven and earth ..." But this no man's philosophy could understand, much less Horatio's. To be continued.