It is hard for a man to be at once tender and pugnacious--to be sentimental, while he is putting forth his physical strength with all the violence in his power. It is difficult, also, for him to be gentle instantly after having been in a rage. So he changed his tactics at the moment, and came to the point at once in a manner befitting his present state of mind.
"Those vile wretches have put me in such a heat," he said, "that I hardly know what I am saying. But the fact is this, Miss Damer, I cannot leave Cairo without knowing--. You understand what I mean, Miss Damer."
"Indeed I do not, Mr. Ingram; except that I am afraid you mean nonsense."
"Yes, you do; you know that I love you. I am sure you must know it. At any rate you know it now."
"Mr. Ingram, you should not talk in such a way."
"Why should I not? But the truth is, Fanny, I can talk in no other way. I do love you dearly. Can you love me well enough to go and be my wife in a country far away from your own?"
Before she left the top of the Pyramid Fanny Damer had said that she would try.
Mr. Ingram was now a proud and happy man, and seemed to think the steps of the Pyramid too small for his elastic energy. But Fanny feared that her troubles were to come. There was papa--that terrible bugbear on all such occasions. What would papa say? She was sure her papa would not allow her to marry and go so far away from her own family and country. For herself, she liked the Americans--always had liked them; so she said;--would desire nothing better than to live among them. But papa! And Fanny sighed as she felt that all the recognised miseries of a young lady in love were about to fall upon her.
Nevertheless, at her lover's instance, she promised, and declared, in twenty different loving phrases, that nothing on earth should ever make her false to her love or to her lover.
"Fanny, where are you? Why are you not ready to come down?" shouted Mr. Damer, not in the best of tempers. He felt that he had almost been unkind to an unprotected female, and his heart misgave him. And yet it would have misgiven him more had he allowed himself to be entrapped by Miss Katitas.
"I am quite ready, papa," said Fanny, running up to him--for it may be understood that there is quite room enough for a young lady to run on the top of the Pyramid.
"I am sure I don't know where you have been all the time," said Mr. Damer; "and where are those two boys?"
Fanny pointed to the top of the other Pyramid, and there they were, conspicuous with their red caps.
"And M. Delabordeau?"
"Oh! he has gone down, I think;--no, he is there with Miss Katitas." And in truth Miss Katitas was leaning on his arm most affectionately, as she stooped over and looked down upon the ruins below her.
"And where is that fellow, Ingram?" said Mr. Damer, looking about him. "He is always out of the way when he's wanted."
To this Fanny said nothing. Why should she? She was not Mr. Ingram's keeper.
And then they all descended, each again with his proper number of Arabs to hurry and embarrass him; and they found Mr. Damer at the bottom, like a piece of sugar covered with flies. She was heard to declare afterwards that she would not go to the Pyramids again, not if they were to be given to her for herself, as ornaments for her garden.
The picnic lunch among the big stones at the foot of the Pyramid was not a very gay affair. Miss Katitas talked more than any one else, being determined to show that she bore her defeat gallantly. Her conversation, however, was chiefly addressed to M. Delabordeau, and he seemed to think more of his cold chicken and ham than he did of her wit and attention.
Fanny hardly spoke a word. There was her father before her and she could not eat, much less talk, as she thought of all that she would have to go through. What would he say to the idea of having an American for a son-in-law?
Nor was Mr. Ingram very lively. A young man when he has been just accepted, never is so. His happiness under the present circumstances was, no doubt, intense, but it was of a silent nature. And then the interior of the building had to be visited. To tell the truth none of the party would have cared to perform this feat had it not been for the honour of the thing. To have come from Paris, New York, or London, to the Pyramids, and then not to have visited the very tomb of Cheops, would have shown on the part of all of them an indifference to subjects of interest which would have been altogether fatal to their character as travellers. And so a party for the interior was made up.
Miss Damer when she saw the aperture through which it was expected that she should descend, at once declared for staying with her mother. Miss Katitas, however, was enthusiastic for the journey. "Persons with so very little command over their nerves might really as well stay at home," she said to Mr. Ingram, who glowered at her dreadfully for expressing such an opinion about his Fanny.
This entrance into the Pyramids is a terrible task, which should be undertaken by no lady. Those who perform it have to creep down, and then to be dragged up, through infinite dirt, foul smells, and bad air; and when they have done it, they see nothing. But they do earn the gratification of saying that they have been inside a Pyramid.
"Well, I've done that once," said Mr. Damer, coming out, "and I do not think that any one will catch me doing it again. I never was in such a filthy place in my life."
"Oh, Fanny! I am so glad you did not go; I am sure it is not fit for ladies," said poor Mrs. Damer, forgetful of her friend Miss Katitas.
"I should have been ashamed of myself," said Miss Katitas, bristling up, and throwing back her head as she stood, "if I had allowed any consideration to have prevented my visiting such a spot. If it be not improper for men to go there, how can it be improper for women?"
"I did not say improper, my dear," said Mrs. Damer, apologetically.
"And as for the fatigue, what can a woman be worth who is afraid to encounter as much as I have now gone through for the sake of visiting the last resting-place of such a king as Cheops?" And Miss Katitas, as she pronounced the last words, looked round her with disdain upon poor Fanny Damer.
"But I meant the dirt," said Mrs. Damer.
"Dirt!" ejaculated Miss Katitas, and then walked away. Why should she now submit her high tone of feeling to the Damers, or why care longer for their good opinion? Therefore she scattered contempt around her as she ejaculated the last word, "dirt."
And then the return home! "I know I shall never get there," said Mrs. Damer, looking piteously up into her husband's face.
"Nonsense, my dear; nonsense; you must get there." Mrs. Damer groaned, and acknowledged in her heart that she must,--either dead or alive.
"And, Jefferson," said Fanny, whispering--for there had been a moment since their descent in which she had been instructed to call him by his Christian name--"never mind talking to me going home. I will ride by mamma. Do you go with papa and put him in good humour; and it he says anything about the lords and the bishops, don't you contradict him, you know."
What will not a man do for love? Mr. Ingram promised.
And in this way they started; the two boys led the van; then came Mr. Damer and Mr. Ingram, unusually and unpatriotically acquiescent as to England's aristocratic propensities; then Miss Katitas riding, alas! alone; after her, M. Delabordeau, also alone,--the ungallant Frenchman! And the rear was brought up by Mrs. Damer and her daughter, flanked on each side by a dragoman, with a third dragoman behind them.
And in this order they went back to Cairo, riding their donkeys, and crossing the ferry solemnly, and, for the most part, silently. Mr. Ingram did talk, as he had an important object in view,--that of putting Mr. Damer into a good humour.
In this he succeeded so well that by the time they had remounted, after crossing the Nile, Mr. Damer opened his heart to his companion on the subject that was troubling him, and told him all about Miss Katitas.
"I don't see why we should have a companion that we don't like for eight or ten weeks, merely because it seems rude to refuse a lady."
"Indeed, I agree with you," said Mr. Ingram; "I should call it weak- minded to give way in such a case."
"My daughter does not like her at all," continued Mr. Damer.
"Nor would she be a nice companion for Miss Damer; not according to my way of thinking," said Mr. Ingram.
"And as to my having asked her, or Mrs. Damer having asked her! Why, God bless my soul, it is pure invention on the woman's part!"
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Mr. Ingram; "I must say she plays her game well; but then she is an old soldier, and has the benefit of experience." What would Miss Katitas have said had she known that Mr. Ingram called her an old soldier?
"I don't like the kind of thing at all," said Mr. Damer, who was very serious upon the subject. "You see the position in which I am placed. I am forced to be very rude, or--"
"I don't call it rude at all."
"Disobliging, then; or else I must have all my comfort invaded and pleasure destroyed by, by, by--" And Mr. Damer paused, being at a loss for an appropriate name for Miss Katitas.
"By an unprotected female," suggested Mr. Ingram.
"Yes, just so. I am as fond of pleasant company as anybody; but then I like to choose it myself."
"So do I," said Mr. Ingram, thinking of his own choice.
"Now, Ingram, if you would join us, we should be delighted."
"Upon my word, sir, the offer is too flattering," said Ingram, hesitatingly; for he felt that he could not undertake such a journey until Mr. Damer knew on what terms he stood with Fanny.
"You are a terrible democrat," said Mr. Damer, laughing; "but then, on that matter, you know, we could agree to differ."
"Exactly so," said Mr. Ingram, who had not collected his thoughts or made up his mind as to what he had better say and do, on the spur of the moment.
"Well, what do you say to it?" said Mr. Damer, encouragingly. But Ingram paused before he answered.
"For Heaven's sake, my dear fellow, don't have the slightest hesitation in refusing, if you don't like the plan."
"The fact is, Mr. Damer, I should like it too well."
"Like it too well?"
"Yes, sir, and I may as well tell you now as later. I had intended this evening to have asked for your permission to address your daughter."
"God bless my soul!" said Mr. Damer, looking as though a totally new idea had now been opened to him.
"And under these circumstances, I will now wait and see whether or no you will renew your offer."
"God bless my soul!" said Mr. Damer, again. It often does strike an old gentleman as very odd that any man should fall in love with his daughter, whom he has not ceased to look upon as a child. The case is generally quite different with mothers. They seem to think that every young man must fall in love with their girls.
"And have you said anything to Fanny about this?" asked Mr. Damer.
"Yes, sir, I have her permission to speak to you."
"God bless my soul!" said Mr. Damer; and by this time they had arrived at Shepheard's Hotel.
"Oh, mamma," said Fanny, as soon as she found herself alone with her mother that evening, "I have something that I must tell you."
"Oh, Fanny, don't tell me anything to-night, for I am a great deal too tired to listen."
"But oh, mamma, pray;--you must listen to this; indeed you must." And Fanny knelt down at her mother's knee, and looked beseechingly up into her face.
"What is it, Fanny? You know that all my bones are sore, and I am so tired that I am almost dead."
"Mamma, Mr. Ingram has--"
"Has what, my dear? has he done anything wrong?"
"No, mamma: but he has;--he has proposed to me." And Fanny, bursting into tears, hid her face in her mother's lap.
And thus the story was told on both sides of the house. On the next day, as a matter of course, all the difficulties and dangers of such a marriage as that which was now projected were insisted on by both father and mother. It was improper; it would cause a severing of the family not to be thought of; it would be an alliance of a dangerous nature, and not at all calculated to insure happiness; and, in short, it was impossible. On that day, therefore, they all went to bed very unhappy. But on the next day, as was also a matter of course, seeing that there were no pecuniary difficulties, the mother and father were talked over, and Mr. Ingram was accepted as a son-in-law. It need hardly be said that the offer of a place in Mr. Damer's boat was again made, and that on this occasion it was accepted without hesitation.
There was an American Protestant clergyman resident in Cairo, with whom, among other persons, Miss Katitas had become acquainted. Upon this gentleman or upon his wife Miss Katitas called a few days after the journey to the Pyramid, and finding him in his study, thus performed her duty to her neighbour, -
"You know your countryman Mr. Ingram, I think?" said she.
"Oh, yes; very intimately."
"If you have any regard for him, Mr. Burton," such was the gentleman's name, "I think you should put him on his guard."
"On his guard against what?" said Mr. Burton with a serious air, for there was something serious in the threat of impending misfortune as conveyed by Miss Katitas.
"Why," said she, "those Damers, I fear, are dangerous people."
"Do you mean that they will borrow money of him?"
"Oh, no; not that, exactly; but they are clearly setting their cap at him."
"Setting their cap at him?"
"Yes; there is a daughter, you know; a little chit of a thing; and I fear Mr. Ingram may be caught before he knows where he is. It would be such a pity, you know. He is going up the river with them, I hear. That, in his place, is very foolish. They asked me, but I positively refused."
Mr. Burton remarked that "In such a matter as that Mr. Ingram would be perfectly able to take care of himself."
"Well, perhaps so; but seeing what was going on, I thought it my duty to tell you." And so Miss Katitas took her leave.
Mr. Ingram did go up the Nile with the Damers, as did an old friend of the Damers who arrived from England. And a very pleasant trip they had of it. And, as far as the present historian knows, the two lovers were shortly afterwards married in England.
Poor Miss Katitas was left in Cairo for some time on her beam ends. But she was one of those who are not easily vanquished. After an interval of ten days she made acquaintance with an Irish family--having utterly failed in moving the hard heart of M. Delabordeau--and with these she proceeded to Constantinople. They consisted of two brothers and a sister, and were, therefore, very convenient for matrimonial purposes. But nevertheless, when I last heard of Miss Katitas, she was still an unprotected female.(End)