Text - "Gwen Wynn" Mayne Reid

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He is not on duty now, nor anywhere near the scene of it. His regiment
is at Aldershot, himself rusticating in Herefordshire-whither he has
come to spend a few weeks' leave of absence.

Nor is he, at the time of our meeting him, in the saddle, which he sits
so gracefully; but in a row-boat on the river Wye-the same just sighted
by Gwen Wynn through the double lens of her lorgnette. No more is he
wearing the braided uniform and "busby"; but, instead, attired in a suit
of light Cheviots, piscator-cut, with a helmet-shaped cap of quilted
cotton on his head, its rounded rim of spotless white in striking, but
becoming, contrast with his bronzed complexion and dark military

For Captain Ryecroft is no mere stripling nor beardless youth, but a man
turned thirty, browned by exposure to Indian suns, experienced in Indian
campaigns, from those of Scinde and the Punjaub to that most memorable
of all-the Mutiny.

Still is he personally as attractive as he ever was-to women, possibly
more; among these causing a flutter, with rapprochement towards him
almost instinctive, when and wherever they may meet him. In the present
many a bright English lady sighs for him, as in the past many a dark
damsel of Hindostan; and without his heaving sigh, or even giving them a
thought in return. Not that he is of cold nature, or in any sense
austere; instead, warm-hearted, of cheerful disposition, and rather
partial to female society. But he is not, and never has been, either
man-flirt or frivolous trifler; else he would not be fly-fishing on the
Wye-for that is what he is doing there-instead of in London, taking
part in the festivities of the "season," by day dawdling in Rotten Row,
by night exhibiting himself in opera-box or ball-room. In short, Vivian
Ryecroft is one of those rare individuals, to a high degree endowed,
physically as mentally, without being aware of it, or appearing so;
while to all others it is very perceptible.

He has been about a fortnight in the neighbourhood, stopping at the
chief hotel of a riverine town much affected by fly-fishermen and
tourists. Still he has made no acquaintance with the resident gentry. He
might, if wishing it; which he does not, his purpose upon the Wye not
being to seek society, but salmon, or rather the sport of taking it. An
ardent disciple of the ancient Izaak, he cares for nought else-at
least, in the district where he is for the present sojourning.

Such is his mental condition up to a certain morning; when a change
comes over it, sudden as the spring of a salmon at the gaudiest or most
tempting of his flies-this brought about by a face, of which he has
caught sight by merest accident, and while following his favourite
occupation. Thus it has chanced:

Below the town where he is staying, some four or five miles by the
course of the stream, he has discovered one of those places called
"catches," where the king of river fish delights to leap at flies,
whether natural or artificial-a sport it has oft reason to rue. Several
times so at the end of Captain Ryecroft's line and rod; he having there
twice hooked a twenty-pounder, and once a still larger specimen, which
turned the scale at thirty. In consequence that portion of the stream
has become his choicest angling ground, and at least three days in the
week he repairs to it. The row is not much going down, but a good deal
returning; five miles up stream, most of it strong adverse current.
That, however, is less his affair than his oarsman's-a young waterman
by name Wingate, whose boat and services the Hussar officer has
chartered by the week-indeed, engaged them for so long as he may remain
upon the Wye.

On the morning in question, dropping down the river to his accustomed
whipping-place, but at a somewhat later hour than usual, he meets
another boat coming up-a pleasure craft, as shown by its style of
outside ornament and inside furniture. Of neither does the salmon fisher
take much note; his eyes all occupied with those upon the thwarts. There
are three of them, two being ladies seated in the stern sheets, the
third an oarsman on a thwart well forward, to make better balance. And
to the latter the Hussar officer gives but a glance-just to observe
that he is a serving-man, wearing some of its insignia in the shape of a
cockaded hat, and striped sable-waistcoat. And not much more than a
glance at one of the former; but a gaze, concentrated and long as good
manners will permit, at the other, who is steering; when she passes
beyond sight, her face remaining in his memory, vivid as if still before
his eyes.

All this at a first encounter; repeated in a second, which occurs on the
day succeeding, under similar circumstances, and almost in the self-same
spot; then the face, if possible, seeming fairer, and the impression
made by it on Vivian Ryecroft's mind sinking deeper-indeed, promising
to be permanent. It is a radiant face, set in a luxuriance of bright
amber hair-for it is that of Gwendoline Wynn.

On the second occasion he has a better view of her, the boats passing
nearer to one another; still, not so near as he could wish, good manners
again interfering. For all, he feels well satisfied-especially with the
thought, that his own gaze earnestly given, though under such restraint,
has been with earnestness returned. Would that his secret admiration of
its owner were in like manner reciprocated!

Such is his reflective wish as the boats widen the distance between; one
labouring slowly up, the other gliding swiftly down.

His boatman cannot tell who the lady is, nor where she lives. On the
second day he is not asked-the question having been put to him on that
preceding. All the added knowledge now obtained is the name of the craft
that carries her; which, after passing, the waterman, with face turned
towards its stern, makes out to be the Gwendoline-just as on his own
boat-the Mary,-though not in such grand golden letters.

It may assist Captain Ryecroft in his inquiries, already contemplated,
and he makes note of it.

Another night passes; another sun shines over the Wye; and he again
drops down stream to his usual place of sport-this day only to draw
blank, neither catching salmon, nor seeing hair of amber hue; his
reflecting on which is, perchance, a cause of the fish not taking to his
flies, cast carelessly.