A HEART-SONG OF TO-DAY (DISTURBED BY FIRE FROM THE 'UNRULY MEMBER')
BY MRS. ANNIE G. SAVIGNY.
CHAPTER I. A PRETTY WOMAN LAYS A PLOT, AND HIRES A GARDENER
CHAPTER II. A RARE SOCIETY BOUQUET
CHAPTER III. THE FATES SPIN WITH THREADS OF BLACK
CHAPTER IV. OF MADAME
CHAPTER V. MADAME SHUFFLES THE CARDS
CHAPTER VI. LOVE AND LOVE-MAKING
CHAPTER VII. ORESTES AND PYLADES
CHAPTER VIII. MADAME AND HER GARDENER
CHAPTER IX. VAURA IN A MEDLEY
CHAPTER X. VELVET PAWS CONCEAL CLAWS
CHAPTER XI. ON THE WING
CHAPTER XII. SOARING!—THENCE TO THINGS OF EARTH
CHAPTER XIII. ADAM
CHAPTER XIV. OF LIONEL TREVALYON
CHAPTER XV. HEART-STIRS
CHAPTER XVI. LIFTING THE VAIL
CHAPTER XVII. CHIC AUJOURD'HUI
CHAPTER XVIII. THEATRE FRANCAIS
CHAPTER XIX. FOR A FAIR WOMAN FACE
CHAPTER XX. QUICKENED HEART-BEATS
CHAPTER XXI. LA BELLE VERNON
CHAPTER XXII. THE BLIND GOD TAKES SURE AIM
CHAPTER XXIII. THE WEB OF DIFFICULTY
CHAPTER XXIV. SLAIN BY A WOMAN
CHAPTER XXV. IN THE SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XXVI. A MOUNTAIN IDYL, OR AN ALPINE ROMANCE
CHAPTER XXVII. GRUNDY'S LASH CAUSES HEART-ACHE
CHAPTER XXVIII. HEART-STIRS TO DIVINE MUSIC
CHAPTER XXIX. THE UNRULY MEMBER IS HEARD
CHAPTER XXX. WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN
CHAPTER XXXI. SOCIETY'S VOTARIES SMILE THOUGH THEY DIE
CHAPTER XXXII. TREVALYON GONE, VAURA KILLS TIME
CHAPTER XXXIII. WARM WORDS BRIDGE CRUEL DISTANCE
CHAPTER XXXIV. BRIC-A-BRAC
CHAPTER XXXV. HEART TO HEART
CHAPTER XXXVI. KNAVES ARE TRUMPS
CHAPTER XXXVII. WEE WHITE MOUSE WINS A POINT
CHAPTER XXXVIII. MADAME IN A FELINE MOOD
CHAPTER XXXIX. TREVALYON THROWS DOWN THE GLOVE
CHAPTER XL. BLACK DELROSE USES EMPHATIC LANGUAGE
CHAPTER XLI. AN EXPOSE, SOCIETY ON TIP-TOE
CHAPTER XLII. "ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE."
CHAPTER XLIII. WEE DETECTIVE PLAYS A WINNING CARD
CHAPTER XLIV. DUAL SOLITUDE
CHAPTER XLV. BLACK DELROSE AS A MARKSMAN
CHAPTER XLVI. DISCORD ENDS; HEART'S-EASE AT LAST
* * * * *
A HEART-SONG OF TO-DAY
(DISTURBED BY FIRE FROM THE UNRULY MEMBER.)
A PRETTY WOMAN LAYS A PLOT, AND HIRES A GARDENER.
"By Jove! I have missed her; you are a very Circe, Mrs. Tompkins."
The speaker, one of the handsomest men I have ever seen, started to his feet as a beautiful Italian mantel clock rang in silver chimes the hour of midnight.
"Sit down again my dear Captain, I have not told you all, and am a wilful woman and must have my way. I know whom you have missed," she said truly, for Sir Tilton Everly has informed her, out-come her woman wit to prevent the meeting. "Is she anything to you?"
"No, and yes, as all women beautiful or fascinating are, I love you all."
"You have large capacities, Captain Trevalyon, but I must make you love one woman and only one, or I cannot sleep content," and the black amorous eyes rest on his face.
"Ye gods! a confession," thought Trevalyon. "Awkward for me as I want Haughton to have the innings; she is good fun and doesn't bore one, but I've missed Vaura again, fool I was to come."
"You don't seem curious" continued Mrs. Tompkins, rolling a small table on which was the debris of a petit champagne supper, from between them.
"Curious! a prerogative of your sex, fair madame, though any of your secrets would be chic enough to tempt a man to encroach," he answered gaily, drawing a chair near his own.
"Especially when 'tis of a woman who lives for him alone," and the handsome wealthy widow sank into the chair opposite him.
"Yes, for an hour, for a day, and 'tis pleasant so you see I know you gay butterflys," he said, lazily placing a foot-stool under the pretty feet of his companion.
"Not so," she said slowly, and with a new tenderness in her tones. "Not so; but first I brought you here to tell you your friend Colonel Haughton made me an offer of marriage this moaning. What say you; would you regret my fetters and wish me free? It shall be as you say."
Only that Mrs. Tompkins' attention was wholly given to her companion, she would have noticed the heavy curtains opposite her and separating her boudoir from a small morning-room pushed aside, and a pair of wrathful blazing eyes watching her every movement; had either been near enough, they would have heard a muttered oath at her last words.
"As I wish! 'tis well I am his friend, chere madame, for there are not many men would bid you to the altar with another, but I say take him, there is not a better fellow in the kingdom, and here is my benediction," and he laughingly lifted her hand to his lips.
"And is that all you care for me? Heavens! what different stuff we are made of, you can bid me to another, while I could kill. Nay, don't start. Yes, could kill a woman you might love. And the speaker looked her words, while there was almost a sob in her voice as her bosom heaved convulsively.
"My dear Mrs. Tompkins, you honor me too much; believe me, 'tis but a passing fancy on your part."
"Passing fancy, never! Listen; you say you love no woman in especial, wed me; love begets love; I am the wooer I know, but you are as handsome as a god, and I have been always one to speak as I feel; yea, and get what I want most days," she added, leaning forward and smiling into his mesmeric eyes. "Come to me," and her heart was in her words. "Come, you are poor in wealth, men say I have millions in gold, try and love me and—"
"And—and what next—Kate—by gad, a pretty speech, allow me to congratulate you. How do, Trevalyon; at your old game of slaughtering hearts?" The speaker had come from behind the curtains and was the owner of the wrathful eyes; a heavily built man of medium weight, a bold man with a handsome black beard, though the top of his head was bald. "You were always a good shot, Trevalyon, when the target was a heart," he repeated savagely.
"'Twas you, who bagged the delicate game, if I remember you aright, Delrose," said Trevalyon, with the utmost sang-froid as he leaned backwards and with his right hand fondled his long tawny moustache.
"George Delrose, what makes you here? You are Lucifer himself, I believe," said Mrs. Tompkins wrathfully, pushing his hand from her shoulder and starting to her feet.
"I gave strict orders to Peter to admit no one to my presence. I shall discharge Him, and at once."
"Take it easy, Kate, I have promoted him to my service."
"From gold lo brass is no promotion; he knows not the value of metals."
"Jove! how like they are, the same bold handsome style, reckless to the last degree," thought Trevalyon.
"They are both a passport to society! all a man wants to-day! so, my pretty Kate don't look so severe, I have one, you have the other," said Delrose audaciously, and attempting to take her hand.
"No, I won't take your hand, go away this moment," and a decided foot went down, "leave Captain Trevalyon and myself to conclude our interview."
"You forget the proprieties, Kate, and though I like not the fruit, I'll play gooseberry," and seating himself he coolly poured out a glass of champagne.
"Shall I make my adieux, Mrs. Tompkins; it grows late?" said Trevalyon, about to rise from his chair.
"No, stay awhile," said his hostess softly, for she thought Delrose might go and she might so act on the feelings of Trevalyon by the magnets love and gold as to win. In the meantime he thought as he stroked his moustachs lazily, "a dashingly handsome woman, pity she has let that dare-devil Delrose get some hold over her."
Major Delrose drank like a thirsty man, then folding his arms glared defiantly at Kate who returned his gaze while trembling with wrath, her eyes flashing.
"George Delrose, you are a coward to force yourself into a woman's presence. Go this moment! I command you, or I shall summon the household. Are you going?"
"No, by the Horse Guards! I am not!" and the flush of anger deepened on his cheek. "I tell you, Kate, I am not a man to be made a football of; don't, if you have a remnant of pity in your heart, drive me mad by talk of marriage with another."
"And why not, pray?" inquired Mrs. Tompkins, recklessly, the next instant regretting her foolhardiness, and before the eyes of the men, one of whom she had a passion for; the other who had a passion for herself, that she had outlived; and now with quick resolve and latent meaning, knowing the intruder's love for coins, continued: "Even did the Sultan of Turkey fancy me to adorn his harem, when I pined for freedom, he would not despise the American eagle done in gold as an exchange for my liberty."
"Cold, glittering metal versus warm, loving heart of woman, and such an one as you, never!" he answered, following her cue and looking her in the eyes.
"I care not, he cannot afford to offend me," thought Mrs. Tompkins, and so only showing a velvet paw, making a step towards him, her rich crimson robes of velvet trailing after her, now offered her hand. "Here is my hand, George, bid me good-night, and like a good fellow go at once, and I forgive you."
"Dismiss Trevalyon first, I am an older friend than he," he answered sulkily.
"I shall not; this is my boudoir, and, thank fate, I am my own mistress."
"Then, by the stars, I stir not one inch!"
Both reckless, both determined, how would it end? and so Trevaylon thought, as he said, coolly:
"What is the use of acting like this, Delrose? You certainly made your entree later than I, if you are making a point of that; but a soldier is usually more yielding to woman's wish."
"Not often, Trevalyon, when her wish is the will of a rival," he answered hotly.
"The fancy of a woman a present," thought Trevalyon. "But I must end this, for he won't. I am in no mood for trifling, I have again missed seeing Vaura. Mrs. Tompkins is charming in a tete-a-tete, but with the entree of a soldier on the war-path," and stepping towards his hostess he said gallantly: "So fair a foe, dear Mrs. Tompkins, surrounded by soldiers, is unfair; I beat a retreat. May I carry a comforting message to the gentleman who called upon you this morning?" and the blue mesmeric eyes rested on her face as he bent his handsome Saxon head for her reply.
Her dark eyes met his in a pleading way, but she read no weakness there, and thought as she gave him her hand:
"A man with an unsatisfied longing for another woman is difficult to subdue, but if George had not intruded himself, I should not have let him go till I had brought him to my feet, but I shall be revenged on him, and win my love yet," and her hand lingered in his, while she said:
"You may, he is your friend; you will be much with us."
"Thank you, for the two-fold kindness. Now gladly shall I be your Mercury. Good-night," and lifting her hand to his lips, he was gone.
"Then you really mean to wed Colonel Haughton?" enquired Delrose in unsteady tone.
"Come and sit beside me, Kate; you sat beside that other man. Gad! I feel like shooting the follow."
"Mere bravado; gentlemen only meet their equals."
"Don't take that tone with me Kate, or by heaven he shall suffer."
"Good-night Major Delrose," she said mockingly. "I leave your presence, sans ceremonie as you entered mine."
And with the gas-light lighting up red-robes, jewels, coal-black tresses and a smile all cruel, she was about to leave him.
"Stay, Kate, I command you. How will it be when I set the London world on their ear, over your parentage, daughter of a nobody, your gold from the Cosmopolitan Laundry."
"It would be then a Haughton's turn to leave sans ceremonie; make up friends, Kate," and his face softened, and going over he led her, though unwillingly, to a seat beside his own.
"What a bore a persistent lover with a long memory is," thought Kate. "But I cannot afford to quarrel with him."
"You are not serious, Kate. You will never sever the tie that binds us?"
And bold man, though he was, his voice trembled as leaning forward he strove to read the inmost thoughts of the woman who has played with his affections at will.
"You said you loved me once, Kate, but I fear your heart had no part in the matter, my devotion amused you, my bold wooing was a novelty, the soldier in me was a change after the King of Laundry?"
"How dare you name the source of my wealth and to me!" she said haughtily.
"Because, my dear, I know your weak point; and even though I anger you, anything to turn your thoughts to myself; you must admit, Kate, that it is hard lines for me; marry me, dear, and I am your slave, my love for you will never change; it is as fierce and passionate as ever."
And leaning forward his hands on her knees, he strove in vain to imprison hers.
"While mine has changed," she said coldly; "love would indeed be a tyrant, could we not roam at will."
And a vision of mesmeric eyes with a smile, sweet as a woman's came to her. At her words Delrose buried his face in her hands and groaned heavily, as though his heart would break. Then looking up into her face, he said in thick tones.
"Have you no pity for me?"
"None, you have crossed my path, you have clouded my sky."
Had she pity for him, fool that he was to ask. Has the owner of the favourite at Goodwood pity for the jockey who swoons in a death-sickness, causing the next to come in a head's length? Has the eagle pity for the young mother's wail for her babe as he carried it aloft to feed the young? No, she told herself she had spoiled him, allowing him the entree to her presence for the past seven or eight years at will. She cared for him too for his bold, fierce, passionate nature, that is—in a way, if only he would not insist on monopoly, but she would be willing to barter one clasp of the hand, one look from the eyes of gay, genial, handsome, fascinating Captain Trevalyon for the total banishment of her bold wooer.
"I have crossed your path, clouded your sky, and is this all the comfort you give me for years of devotion?" he said slowly, and in a broken voice. "Crossed your path because my love lives, while yours for me is dead; crossed your path, clouded your sky, because I am constant and wish to have you for my wife; wish to keep you in my arms. Lincoln Tompkins never knew; our world never knew; crossed your path? By the stars, Kate, I will not give you up!" And there is a sudden fierceness in his tones, while his breath comes hard and fast. "Crossed your path? 'tis Trevalyon who has again crossed mine. Gad! how I hate him." And he set his teeth. "To think, too, that with your high spirit, you should plead to him for his love."
"George Delrose, dare to repeat one word of a conversation you played the sneak to listen to, and you shall come to grief."
And she started to her feet, receding several paces from him in rage and mortification.
"Kate, dear, forgive me," and he is beside her; and strong man that he is, he holds her by force in his arms until she is still.
"It is my love for you that maddens me. My queen, my beauty, come back to me. Give your thoughts to me—you must, you shall."
"What shall I do with him?" she thought. "I love the other man, but if I cannot win him, I shall gratify my ambition by marrying Haughton Hall, and in petting my idol gratify myself; and so to pet my old love until it's all over."
And now puss begins to purr.
"There, George dear, I give in; you leave no room for other fetters than your arms. Let me go."
"Yes, my beauty, in a minute. You have been so cold to me of late, I am famished. You will only marry me, Kate, only me. Say yes, dear; Haughton would never suit you. But I cannot speak calmly of him or of any other man in connection with yourself."
And he grew again fearfully excited.
"As for that fellow, Trevalyon, the club gossips have it that for years he has had a hidden wife, and, depend upon it, it's true, these curled darlings generally do that sort of trick."
"Stop; I may turn this to my future advantage," thought Kate, quickly; "let me go, George, and you may sit beside me. There, that is better. I wonder if this story is true; I remember you told it me at New York as false; but I dare say at that time, not being jealous of him, you were, after the manner of men, letting him down easily. Yes, we shall take it for granted it is true. He is handsome enough to have got into some matrimonial scrape ere now."
"I am regaining my old influence over her," thought simple Simon.
"Listen, George, a minute longer; you have seen this Miss Vernon, Vaura Vernon, niece to Colonel Haughton. Describe her."
"Hang it, Kate! Leave the Haughton connection alone," he said, jealously. "Talk about ourselves."
"I am just starving for a kind word."
"Which you won't get till I please. What makes you here? Just think of that, and then say would any other woman be as kind. Now run over the Vernon charms, if any."
"When she will, she will," he said sulkily. "I have only seen her in the 'row' and that once, she was ahead of me so I did not see her face, but she sat her horse well and her figure is perfect. I overheard Wingfield at the 'Russell' club rooms, telling Chaucer of the Guards (who is wild to meet her) that there is nothing to compare with her in the kingdom, that she is a perfect goddess. Now are you satisfied.
"Yes, yes; let me think a minute."
"Just the woman to attract; I must get her out of my path and separate her from my haughty handsome idol, my king, my love," she thought slowly, her black eyes wearing an intent look, her large lips tightly compressed. Her companion did not break upon her reverie, he sat quiet, studying her profile as he had often done before; there was a certain witchery in the hour, the lateness, the stillness, the roseate lights above them, then what we have all felt, the sweet bliss of sitting in enforced quiet beside a loved one; our brain is quiet, our hands idle; we dread to break the spell, we then as at no other time literally live in the present.
Delrose scarcely moved a muscle; from shoulder to elbow the red velvet of her gown mingled with his black coat sleeve. For some time she had seemed to be drifting away from him, and their present tete-a-tete, though compulsory on her part, was to him paradise. During the season when the London world knew no monarch, save the king of revels. She had laughed at his prayers for a quiet half hour, tossing him instead, as she did to her parrot, now a few careless words, now a sugar plum. At present the season is waning, and a great dread has taken possession of him, lest she should slip away from him altogether, for Dame Rumour has given the widow of the American millionaire in marriage to more than one. The demon of unrest hath gat hold on him and every night ere going to one or other of the many distractions open to him, he paces the square opposite her windows to see who is admitted. More than once Col. Haughton and the man he most fears, Trevalyon, have alighted from the handsome dog-cart of the latter; to-night as we know, he, with the madness of jealousy upon him, on seeing his hated rival enter at eleven p.m., bribes a servant to admit him one hour later. Eve had not confided in him that Trevalyon had come only on a written invitation from herself couched in such terms as he could not refuse. And the woman beside him thought silently, seemingly oblivious of his presence. "I fear I have no chance with him; he is pre-occupied with her; a man always is until he tires of one. I must marry the Colonel. Household gods are permitted in Christendom; he is my god and shall be then as now my idol."
And with a little laugh and a sigh she turned her face quickly, brushing his beard (he was so near), and had laid his hand on hers as she sighed.
"My queen," he whispered eagerly, "of whom have you been thinking all this time? Say of me, and not of him."
"You men all go in for monopoly, George dear, but who is the obnoxious 'he' this time?"
"Trevalyon, of course; did I not hear you—"
"Stop! or we shall quarrel; if you must know, my thoughts were of you; and I thought you were not such a bad fellow after all as Trevalyon; it would be a terrible thing, George dear, did he inveigle Miss Vernon, for whom he seems inclined, into a marriage with him."
"What the deuce need you care? She is nothing to you. Ah! I begin to see," he continued thoughtfully; "you would not regret had he a taste of the Tantalus punishment."
"I have some conscience left," she said merrily, "which is paying you an indirect compliment, and if you wish to please me you will revive this old scandal, so as to prevent this naughty fellow posing as bigamist; and now promise me and tell me good-night."
"And you forgive me everything and restore me to favour, my queen, while I swear he shall never marry Miss Vernon nor any other woman he covets."
"Yes, you may come to me for your reward, if you effectually prevent Miss Vernon posing as his wife. I shall be sweeter than honey in the honey-comb to you then. But till then, pleasant dreams."
"Before I leave, you must tell me when I may see you alone, for this banishment is killing me."
"Killing you! indeed; all gammon; never saw a man look as though he enjoyed his beef and beer better; no, go do my bidding, and in your effort to keep out Mormonism you will punish your foe and I shall reward you."
"But when, Kate, when; you don't tell me; may I come to-morrow?" persisted her lover, eagerly.
"No, I am steeped to the lips in engagements."
"But I must, Kate; a soldier is accustomed to daily pay."
"Don't be persistent, George, or you shall be off duty forever."
"You know you have your foot on my neck, dear, and you take advantage."
"Most men would not object to its shape or weight," she said saucily drawing her robe, exposing a very pretty foot encased in cream hose, and a black satin boot fitting as perfectly as any Madame Vestris ever wore.
"I am conquered, my queen," he said softly; "only let me come, and in your own time."
"Well put, and now be off; I'll write you, as the letter writer says, at my earliest convenience."
"Good-night; may it come soon."
"Remember your mission."
"I shall revive it with a vengeance."
And bending down something very like a lovers' parting took place. Passing into the hall he stepped noiselessly out into the night; the closing of the door roused the sleeping footman, who, as he locked the door and saw his mistress pass from her boudoir to her sleeping apartments, thought sleepily as he put out the lights—
"Peter won't get the sack for letten' him in after all; my lady is sweet on him, I'm thinking, and I'm not in for Pete's place."
A RARE SOCIETY BOUQUET.
Come now and unroll with me one corner of the still, the silent past, and I shall read you a few pictures in the old time life at Haughton Hall, County Surrey, England.
This one, a twelvth night scene of 1854, will interest us: Scene is one of the drawing-rooms at the fine old stately mansion of grey stone, Elizabethan in its grandeur of tower and pinnacle, its spots of decay lovingly draped by the hand of Dame Nature, ivy constant and clinging as though its robes of green loved the old grey stone. The south wing, built by a Haughton two hundred years ago (for his Spanish bride noble as beautiful, an Espartero by birth) alone is lighted. We shall glance through this window. Ah! a priest of the Anglican Church; before him stands a girl beautiful as an angel; beside her a handsome man, dark and bronzed; on the third finger of her left hand he slips the ring of gold which binds them as closely as its unbroken circle. A sweet woman lying on a lounge with the seal of death on her brow before whom they kneel and receive her blessing. The actors are Ethel Haughton, Captain Vernon, —th Light Cavalry, and the poor invalid who only lived to give her daughter in marriage. On the 27th March, same year, the British Lion and Russian Bear met in combat; our troops went out and among them Captain Vernon, when, sad to relate, his name was one of the first of our brave soldiers on the death-roll at Petropaulovski; we met with a repulse and he fell. His sweet young bride did not long survive him, dying of a bitter loneliness called heartache, leaving a lovely infant, the child Vaura.
Fourteen years later, bringing us by the hand of time into 1868. Same scene—Haughton Hall, morning—and ah! What a dream of beauty, a child, woman now. In the sweet, somewhat sad pleading of her expression, one catches a glimpse of the tender, loving woman of later years, and so her companion, to whose arm she clings, sees her, judging from the half wondering, wholly loving sympathy in his eyes. Her movements are rapid, graceful and lithe as a young gazelle; she has evidently expected a loved guest who has disappointed her. For now her eyes are suffused with tears; she looses his arm and clasps her hands appealingly as she points to an open letter on a table. A vacant chair, slippers, and a petit dinner untasted. He consults his watch, strokes caressingly the bright brown hair reaching to her knees, and fluffy as the coat of a water spaniel. Now taking her hand in adieu, bends his noble head, and with a smile sweet as a woman's, would kiss her, but she is no child this morning and he draws back with a look half wonder in his eyes. The sweet girl too, after turning her flower face upwards, droops the large luminous brown eyes and with a pretty blush takes instead his right hand between her own and presses her rose-mouth to it in a farewell greeting.
The actors are Vaura Vernon (the infant of last scene) who has been expecting her loved uncle, Colonel Haughton, who is at Baden-Baden held in the fascinations of its gaming tables. The handsome man to whose arm she clung is Lieut. Trevalyon of the —th Middlesex Lancers; but lately returned from the East, where, at Delhi, &c., his many daring acts of bravery are still in the public mouth. By invitation he is at Haughton, but his friend cannot tear himself from Germany—it is his ruin; and he yields to the importunities of his bewitching little friend to go and bring him home from this evil.
Trevalyon gone; Vaura, weeping bitterly, is discovered by a handsome youth who, bounding in at the open window, throwing himself at her feet with many caresses, bids her be consoled, points to the dilapidated hangings, seems to contrast her surroundings with his own wealth, displaying his diamond jewels, his watch, his well-filled purse. She seems to be half frightened at his words; when gazing up at a portrait of her uncle, showing him a little worn and sad, a sudden resolve seems to seize her; she evidently consents to his wish, for his face glows and he embraces her, while drying her tears. She now leaves the room, returns in out-door costume; he, laughing and excited, braids her lovely hair; her sweet face is a trifle pale; a jewelled comb holds together the heavy braids. She now pets two or three dogs, feeds her birds from her hand, climbs on to a table, kisses the portrait of her uncle, the tears starting afresh, picks a few blossoms from her favourite flowers, and they make their exit.
A few days later—Same scene.
Enter a lady, purely the Gaul in face and gesture, excited though decided in manner; with her two Frenchmen, the one a priest, the other a man of law. Following, and looking grief-stricken to the last degree, comes the youth of last scene. Vaura follows pale and sad, her uncle's arm around her; priest takes a ring from Vaura's finger; with a sharp instrument cuts it in twain. Lawyer takes a paper, reads, holds it in view of all, then tears into smallest fragments. Youth grows fearfully excited, tries to snatch it. Lady says a few words to him, her teeth set; he yields in despair. They all then kiss the Book, evidently making oath.
The past is again veiled, and we love the actors too well to endeavour to solve what they have apparently sworn shall not be revealed. The following eight years of Vaura's life have been spent chiefly at Paris, at the Seminaire of Madame Rocheforte, bringing us to 1877, the intangible present, a mere cobweb dividing as it does our past, as it silently recedes from our winged future.
THE FATES SPIN WITH THREADS OF BLACK.
We now return to Captain Trevalyon, as he leaves the residence of Mrs. Tompkins, No. —— Eaton Square. He quickly seats himself in his dogcart, still standing at the door. When grasping the reins from his servant drives rapidly to Park Lane and the town house of his friend, the Lady Esmondet, who loves him well, as all women do who have his friendship; and with whom, now that he has left the army, he spends (during the season) much of his time. But now his thoroughbreds, King and Prance, have sped so quickly through Belgravia that their destination is reached.
"Just as I feared, Fate is against me," he thought, glancing at the house; "nothing has delayed them, they are off, I have again missed her."
Aloud he says to his servant: "Sims, go to the door and enquire if Lady Esmondet has really gone; if so, has she left any message for me."
Returning, he hands a letter to his master, saying:
"Her ladyship left this with the housekeeper for you, sir, and Grimes says, sir, they waited 'til the last minute for you, sir."
Not delaying to peruse the written words of his friend, he drove with all speed to the Great Northern Station, only to learn that the train had left on time at midnight, when, turning his horses' heads once more, and for his hotel, he has soon reached the "Langham." On gaining his own apartments his great dog Mars gives a whine of satisfaction at the return of his master, who, throwing himself wearily into a favourite chair, while the smoke from his cigar curls upwards, takes from his pocket the delicate epistle with the perfume of violets upon it, and which reads as follows:
"Lionel, mon cher ami, I feel it in my heart to scold you. How is it you are not with us? The Claxtons will hear of no further delay. So while they get into travelling gear, must have a one-sided leave-taking with you, as we must needs leave Park Lane without a hand-clasp. Vaura, always lovely, is more bewitching than ever tonight, as she talked earnestly to Travers Guy Cyril, you will remember him. She looked not unlike Guido's Beatrice; (I don't mean the daubs one sees, but Guido's own), the same soul-full eyes, Grecian nose, and lovely full curved lips. Guy, always melancholy, Vaura, always sympathetic, the reflection of his sad eyes lent to hers a deep tenderness; that he loves her hopelessly, poor fellow, is only too evident, he bid us adieu for a New York trip, thence, he seemed to think, no one cared. And so, lives are parted; one is inclined to quarrel with Fate at times; she bids you to the "Towers" and elsewhere; Vaura and self to the Scotch Lakes, afterwards to gay Brighton. I would you were with us, cher Lionel, but your long-deferred visit to your place is an absolute necessity, so, much as one regrets the moves of the 'miscreator circumstance,' one must submit. And now for a note from Dame Grundy, with our gay friend, Mrs. Eustace Wingfield, as mouthpiece. 'Posey Wyesdale openly affirms that when she again plumes herself in colours you will play Benedict; moreover, that 'tis for her sake you are a bachelor.' Mrs. W. laughingly commented thereon, saying, 'If astonishment could resuscitate a corpse, the Duke would be an unbidden guest.' Poor darling, I shall miss his kindly face in our Scottish tour. I should like to see you range yourself, cher ami, but your hands are too full of tricks to play a losing game. Apropos to your wish to see me again at God's altar, again to link my fate, my life, with another. Listen, for I know you will not betray me. In my youth I loved, in my prime I love the same man; my dead husband comes in between; my love does not know he has my heart; nor did he when a girl. I, at the command of stern parents; said him nay; he of whom I speak is the kind, unselfish, warm-hearted, trusting Eric, Colonel Haughton. I write this as I cannot speak of it, and so that you will understand my resolve to remain single; also, Vaura tells me that on her arrival from Paris on this afternoon, her uncle informed her that he has made an offer of marriage to the wealthy Mrs. Tompkins. Vaura is full of regrets, as from what our friends say, his choice is extremely outre. For myself I shall try and be content. And now adieu to the subject, the pain at my heart will be more keen, my smile (for a time) forced, that is all. 'Tis well that our life teaches us to wear a mask. Adieu, the bustle of departure in the hall bids me hasten. Trusting you will find your tenants more satisfied (for 'tis their comfort we must think of to-day), and I really believe under Simpson they will not grumble. Farewell. Vaura has just appeared at the door to bid me come. I asked her if she had any message for you, 'Tell him,' she said laughingly,' to think of me sometimes if he has time, and then perhaps he himself will travel by the same road his thought has gone before, for I should dearly love to see him again,' For myself, do not forget me, for I feel particularly lonely to-night; Eric lost, and you not here. Ah, well, the cards have been against me, that is all; join us somewhere when you can; au revoir."
"ALICE ESMONDET, "Park Lane, 15th June, 1877.
"CAPT. TREVALYON, "The Langham, London City."
"Jove! how sorry I am" he exclaimed thoughtfully as he finished reading, then puffing his cigar, now vigorously then allowing it to die out, he thought silently. "Detained on this afternoon by Simpson, my new steward. Then my club dinner having guests I could not go to Park lane, afterwards the crush at the Delamere's when I missed them in the crowd, then the preremptory summons to Eaton Square when I went, thinking it would be to Haughton's interest. Yes, the Fates are decidedly against me, and that gay little message from Vaura Vernon. I shall conquer destiny and meet them somewhere next autumn. And Alice Esmondet! confessing a tender passion for Haughton. She would have been just the woman for him. How dull of him not to see it; but for a soldier and a society man he knows less of the women than any man of my acquaintance. Now for a man who has, I may say, forsworn matrimony, I take pride in my knowledge of the sex, the sweetest bit of humanity we have. I wonder what manner of remembrance Vaura has of me, if merely as an old-time friend of her uncle and herself. I have not seen her, I may say, since, as a young officer, I went to the Hall as to my home, a returned 'hero of Delhi,' in newspaper parlance. She was the loveliest little child—woman at that time, I had ever seen. Jove! how fast one's thoughts travel backward eight years. I remember Haughton Hall was heavily mortgaged and my friend at Baden-Baden getting deeper in debt; the life of a country squire palled upon him, when at his father's death he returned at his mother's wish as heir; pity he was obliged to leave the army. The outcome is this marriage for gold to redeem the place from the Jews, lost for distraction's, sake. However, a-something occurred on my yielding to dear little Vaura's wish to go and induce him to return, and he has been a saved man ever since, giving up the dice from the time of his hurried return in consequence of a telegram he received before I reached him; I don't know what the motive power was, as he did not confide and, as a matter of course, I did not force his confidence. The Hall is still in debt but he manages to keep the Jews quiet and to make a decent living out of a few tenants. The lovely Vaura has her mother's portion. 'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody good, and his becoming a slave of the ring will be for my good as the old place will again be open and Vaura Vernon, the woman now, will again grace it by her presence, and until she marries, lend a new brightness, a new distraction to my life. Jove! now I come to think of it she will surely marry next season, and I shall not have her long; with her face, form, colouring, eyes and the sweet syren voice that the men are raving of, some one of them will make her say him yea; then the spice of originality about her is refreshing, also having had so much of the companionship of Lady Esmondet, she is a woman of common-sense and of the world, no mere conventional doll. Had Haughton not been blind and have married my friend what a paradise the Hall would have been to me? Until Vaura married I must always remember that contingency. 'Tis absurd of dear Lady Esmondet wishing me to range myself, she knows my resolve not to wed is as earnest as though I was in the garb of a monk. I feel bothered and unsettled; how I wish I had been at Park Lane to-night; a trip to the Highlands would have been the very tonic I require. Sir Andrew Clarke could not prescribe better, but it is too late now, its a horrible bore to go up to Northumberland and the 'Towers' alone, though when one has had as much trouble with one's tenants as I, one must victimise oneself, I suppose. 'Tis a grand old place, picturing as it does the feudal times, if only it were not so desolate. I wonder what Lady Esmondet or Vaura would think of it, how lovely she would look standing in the Tower windows with the fresh air blowing her beautiful hair and her gown close about her; but I forget it is late, and I am dreaming, her hair will be confined in some womanly fashion and she is not for me, no, Mars, you and I are lonely wanderers," and the dog is patted, the lights are out while the weary man throws himself on his couch to pass a restless night with heavy sleep at sunrise.
At eleven o'clock the following day Mrs. Tompkins leisurely sips her cocoa as she breaks her fast in the pretty morning room at No. —— Eaton Square, her step-daughter, an American born and bred, is her companion, a tiny young woman all pale tints, colourless face, sharp features, sharp little eyes always watery, always with a red rim about them giving the paleness of their blue a pink shade. When off guard the mouth is resolute, the eyes wearing a stealthy cunning look; the mask on, 'tis an old-child face with a wondering expression of innocence about it. The grasshopper in the Park yonder might claim kinship and Darwin there find the missing link in the wee figure clothed in its robe of grass green, all waist and elbows. She had no love for her step-mother whom she had been taught by hirelings to consider her natural enemy and with whom she could only cope with subtle craftiness.
Mrs. Tompkins' maid now enters with a note upon a salver; on reading it her mistress simply writing the word "come" on the reverse side of one of her cards, seals with her monograph, addressing the envelope to "Colonel Haughton" she smiles as she thinks "I shall soon seal with my crest."
"Take this to the servant, Masoff, and give my strict orders to Peter to admit only Colonel Haughton or Capt. Trevalyon until after luncheon."
"And, Mason, bid Sarah be in readiness to attend Miss Tompkins, who will drive to Bayswater in half an hour for the day. John will have the close carriage at the door."
Here is the heart wish of Blanche fulfilled, but she does not show it, saying:
"Why must I go to that stupid place, step-momma? Such a mean crowd."
"Because I wish it; at all events, you pretend such affection for your old school-teachers when with them, that to cover your aversion to visit them it is my duty to insist on your going there when a drive would benefit you. Should their nephew, Sir Tilton Everly, be with them, tell him (as I want him to-morrow) he may as well return with you."
Blanche made a moue, saying poutingly, while feeling that a billet-doux was safe in her pocket:
"I was due at the Tottenham's this morning: Cis was coming shopping;" which was a romance of the moment.
"Tell John to drive around to Gloucester Square, and you can take her with you."
"No, I shall not. What do you want Sir Tilton for? Might be Vanderbilt, the fuss you make over him."
"I know you dislike him; mere envy, Blanche, for his devotion to myself, which is absurd," with a satisfied glance at the mirror opposite. "Men being born hunters will hunt you for the golden dollar; me, for myself. So as you have breakfasted, away; try and be civil to Sir Tilton, and bring him back to dinner with you at eight o'clock; ta-ta."
As Miss Tompkins paced the corridors to her own apartments she muttered:
"I'll be even with you some day, Mrs. T.; didn't see you fool my popa nine years for nothing, and take all his kisses and more than two millions of money from me, when you didn't care a cent for him; 'twas the black-bearded major, not popa's lean jaws then; now, it's Capt. Trevalyon, who is as handsome as the Prince of Wales, and too awfully nice for anything. Never mind, you'll be sold as bad as one of Barnum's. I handle my million when I come of age, which will be New Year's day, 1878; then you'll see if all the men love you, and think me a fright just because I havn't your big black eyes and catlike ways."
Two footmen in dark green livery, with yellow facings, having removed the debris of breakfast, Madame, alone, consults her mirror, which reflects her rose-pink gown (the reds in all shades being her colour), which fits her embonpoint figure like a glove; slightly over the medium height, black browed, determined, daring and impulsive; a woman who will have her way where her appetites are concerned; easy-going when steering her own way with her own crew down life's current, while with a coldly cruel smile her oar crushes the life-blood from any obstacle in her course. She touches a bell, her maid appears.
"Mason, what do you think; am I paler than usual?"
"No, ma'am, you are looking very well."
"So my mirror tells me; nevertheless, as I am to say yes to a second husband this morning," and the large white teeth show as she smiles, "I think a slight blush would be becoming."
"Perhaps so, ma'am, but I like your white skin, it shows off your black hair and eyes real well, better than all the English colour; and so you are going to marry again, ma'am; well, I thought the gentlemen wouldn't leave you alone long, ma'am."
And the confidential maid applies with skill a slight touch of rouge to the cheek, which only has colour when the somewhat fierce temper causes the blood to mount.
"There, that will do; don't prate of what I have told you."
"I have kept your secrets for ten years, ma'am."
"You have, and may you keep them as many more, and here is a gold dollar for the term;" and her mistress tossed her carelessly two fives in the precious metal. "See that I am not disturbed, and only admit as I have given orders."
Alone she moves towards the hangings, through the opening in which Major Delrose had stealthily watched the night before, and through which she passes, giving him as she does only a passing thought. 'Tis a pretty room, this boudoir of Madame, with its gaily-painted hangings, its windows in stained glass, letting in the sweet June breath from the park. Too great a display of wealth, perhaps, but in the taste of the best New York artists, who revel in the gorgeous, and who have had full play for their talents at No. —— Eaton Square. The black-brow'd mistress picks up a novel (Mrs. Southworth's last); when, throwing herself onto a lounge, her well-shaped feet encased in her favourite black satin boots stretched out, she endeavours to get the thread of the tale; but thought is too busy, the book falls to the floor as her reverie grows deeper.
"No, he will not come; my idol, my king. I saw it in his eyes; he is pre-occupied with Miss Vernon, and I hate her;" and a cruel look comes to the mouth and eyes. "But stay, perhaps he does love me, but is unselfish enough to let his friend win; if I was even half sure of this I should make short work of stately Col. Houghton; but no, a man would not love me by halves," and for an instant her thoughts flew to Major Delrose. "Let me see now what is my plot or game; with George, my ambition would not be gratified, for he has no estate; nor could I ever bask in the presence of the man I adore; by marrying the Colonel I gain both ends. Then his niece, Miss Vernon, is in my path; she is haughty; I shall so act upon this trait by showing her my dislike to her presence as to rid myself forever of it; let her beware! vitriol and Mason would do their work; yes, I must keep friendly with Delrose; her haughty spirit will aid me here; this 'hidden wife' story once afloat, and a royal princess would as soon sign a contract with a prophet of Utah. I fear the fierce, passionate temper of George; but my woman's wit will be brought to play to keep him quiet; Trevalyon will necessarily have a surer footing at Haughton than he, as in this case I shall see; in an underhand way the Colonel has his wish, and the pith of all my musings is that if George will not aid me in reviving the Fanny Clarmont, hidden wife scandal, I shall do it without him. One thing in my favour is, that as he swears against matrimony, people will say the secret reason is out of—Why! Eleven forty-five; my future spouse should soon appear; how my heart would beat, and every pulse throb and burn, if it were my king; now, I am as cool as the czar of Wall Street. My sleeves fit well; this make suits me," and she pushed to the wrist her bracelets of the golden dollar. "And my boots also; I do take as much pride in my foot as the men do in their moustache. What am I gaining in return for myself and my gold? A great place and name, and also revenge on my father, whom I may meet, and who kept me from position, not allowing me to know even his whole name—Vivian only, this and nothing more; he, a British officer, in a mad impulse (I am like him) marries my mother, nobody's daughter, and a ballet dancer, during a run he made to New York city just thirty-five years ago; my sire repents in sackcloth and ashes, dragging us with him; sells out; living by his wits anyhow and anywhere, chiefly at gaming places abroad. At a German suburb once he had left us, my late husband came to our cottage to enquire his road; as he was an American, my mother nearly swallow'd him whole; I did, on seeing his diamonds and knowing of his wealth; Lincoln Tompkins, beautiful! cognomen, and a 'cosmopolitan laundry' millionaire; my proud father nearly offered to kill me on his return, but in spite of the haughty Vivian we were married; and at his death he left me a rich woman. A year or so ago I came here to gratify ambition; and so, yes I think I may be satisfied; my capital is over two millions in gold, besides good speculations, quick wit, tact enough for my purpose— blood, I was going to say—and American confidence, pet name, cheek. Yes, I shall be able to hold my own with the best of 'em. Had I married George, he would have been savagely jealous of other men; had it been my idol, he would have been my ruler; as it is, self shall rule."
Peter here announces Colonel Haughton. Madame arises, apologising for her recumbent position, but not before her future husband has had time to admire her foot, ankle and shapely arms, for, though her love is not for him, he is a man and she an inbred coquette, and as a man he admires her; he has loved but once the fair-haired Alice Esmondet, who chilled his heart by her refusal, he tells himself she is always so calm and freezing she could never love and so he goes to his fate who meets him all smiles and out-stretched hands saying—
"You are finding out my little weaknesses too soon, Colonel, you will not now have the courage to repeat your words of yesterday."
"If all women looked as charming, indulging their nap over a novel we should never scold." And her hand in his he led her back to the sofa. "My friend Trevalyon as well as your own card bid me 'come'; it is then, as I wish, dear, your consent to honor me with this hand?"
"Yes, if you do not tell of how nearly you won a pair of gloves."
"Instead; I shall tell of winning this fair hand on your waking, when we wed as now." And his dark moustache is on her lips; "your kisses are all mine, is it not so, my wife?"
"Can you doubt it? you have conquered."
"You will think me impatient, dear, but I want you to take my name at once."
"At once! and still, have your own way, my lord. I, like yourself, have only myself to please."
"At last, I shall feel settled, Kate; the dear old place will again ring with happy voices, old friends will be there," and he whispered low and tenderly, "In time, I trust, an heir will prattle at our knees, how happy would my dear mother be could she see our union consummated, my life arranged for."——
"This Lady Esmondet, Colonel, is she a very old friend?"
"Very; and I am one of those men who must lean on some woman; I fear at times I have tried her patience severely."
"What kind of woman is she?"
"Well, I can scarcely describe her; how do you mean, dear. In personal appearance? no, for you have seen her?"
"Yes, we have met; I mean in other ways, saint or sinner?"
"Neither; a happy medium, quite the woman of the world though; exclusive in her choice of friends, but true as steel when she does care for one, gentle, kind and sympathetic."
"How is it she has not repeated the experiment matrimonial?"
"Well, I do not know; with me she invariably changed the subject, and I did not press it, for I fancied she loved her husband so well she had no heart left for another."
"'Tis all very well to love a husband, Colonel, but to be faithful to his corpse is unnatural, while men with beating hearts are above ground."
"True, and now about our own plans, how soon may I claim you, dearest, say this day week?"
It was just her wish, she would be nearer Trevalyon, while Delrose would be effectually shut out unless he consented to a friendly alliance, when he could aid her in forever separating the man she loved from the fascinating Miss Vernon.
"Is not a week from to-day too awfully soon, Colonel?"
"Not a day, dear; everyone is leaving town, we can take our trip together."
"When he will, he will; you may have your way, but I have a will too, my lord, which you will find out some day" she said with a hearty laugh, "for the present it is that we, during the week, say to-morrow, take a run down to Surrey and your place. I can then see what changes I shall make, and everything can be in readiness for us by November."
"Delightful! how I wish Lady Esmondet and my niece, Vaura Vernon, were here to come with us."
In spite of herself a cloud came to Kate's brow, and she said carelessly—
"Oh, I don't know, this trip is just as well taken by ourselves."
"Anything you please, dear; they are far away at all events," but he sighed as he spoke.
"Your niece should marry, Colonel, my step-daughter shall; it is a great bore to have young ladies to settle in life."
"Vaura will have London at her feet next season; heiresses all go, so will Miss Tompkins, and for her own sake, I do not doubt."
"Now that you have given me the idea of making up a party to run down to Surrey, I rather like it. There are the little strawberry blondes, Mrs. Meltonbury with her sister, Mrs. Marchmont, my step-daughter, Sir Peter Tedril (who goes down to "Richmondglen," to-morrow at all events), your friend Captain Trevalyon, and mine Sir Tilton Everly; we would be as gay as crickets. How do you like us?"
"A pleasant party; but, as I should like to make sure, if possible, of Trevalyon, I fear I must leave you at once for the club, as after luncheon he drives out to Richmond with some friends to dinner."
"Yes, yes, make sure of him; there, that will do, you men are all alike in your taste for affectionate good-byes."
And in a last caress, her heart beats as it has not done to-day, for her idol may be with her to-morrow.
"You have not told me, my wife, what train it would be most agreeable for you to take."
"Oh! any that will suit Captain Trevalyon" she said, hurriedly, "I mean you and he, I leave it to you, only be quick, else you may miss him."
"If I were a jealous man, your eagerness," he said merrily—
"But you are not, and you know, I only do it for your sake, you are such friends."
"Thank you, dear, and he is so fond of the Hall, And as you have not seen him lately you can wish him bon voyage as he leaves sooner than we do, but I forget, you must have seen him last night to give him your welcome message for myself."
"Yes, at the Delamer's for one minute; I hoped to see you there, for your doleful face haunted me since morning, so I just had time to bid him say to you 'come,' which we know was a romance."
"What a kind little wife I am winning; Trevalyon deserves that I should deny myself by leaving you too soon, for the content he brought me in your message, especially as he is feeling cut up about having missed seeing Lady Esmondet and my niece yesterday afternoon and evening."
"Just so, we must pet him and make sure of him; dine with me to-night at eight, the rest of the party will be here, you can then state your arrangements; ta, ta."
Seeing from the window the tall, soldier-like figure safe down the steps and making rapid strides through the square, she throws herself on to a lounging chair, with both her hands pressed to her side, says whisperingly—
"These heart throbs are all for you, my idol; oh, that he will be in time. How stupidly tame he is, but you will be the elixir of life to me; I shall be a Haughton of Haughton, and you shall be there, and I shall keep you out of matrimony, and my life will be all bliss."
"Luncheon is served, ma'am."
MADAME SHUFFLES THE CARDS.
The following morning the weather perfect, with not a cloud in the sky, the party, after her own heart and all accepting, while dining at Eaton square, the previous night, in a robe a la derniere mode, Mrs. Tompkins is content and in her gayest spirits; two large hampers containing choice wines and dishes to tempt the palate of an epicure had been sent down by earliest train in case the cellar and larder at Haughton should fail.
"For Heaven, save me from a hungry man," she had said in the ear of the strawberry blondes; "I don't want to see him before breakfast; after dinner, I love them."
At the station were Colonel Haughton with Captain Trevalyon, the former less calm than usual with just a pleasant touch of excitement and eagerness about him in the having won the wealthy Mrs. Tompkins for wife; he must wed gold, and so with his aristocratic name, belongings and air distingue as bait, the angler had caught the biggest catch of the season. Captain Trevalyon's handsome face is lit up with pleasure, his mesmeric blue eyes now smiling, would draw the heart from a sphinx; for the friends have been congratulating each other over the coming opening of Haughton Hall, over the intense pleasure of again being under the same roof daily with Lady Esmondet and Vaura, with their charming knowledge of human nature, causing a great charity and pleasant cynicism with no malice in it of the shams and pet weaknesses of society.
"Take my word for it, Trevalyon, there is nothing to equal Vaura in the kingdom. I wish you had been at Park Lane the night before last."
"Don't name it, Haughton, I have been quarrelling with fate ever since; promise me that the next time you see an opening to my joining them you will let me know."
"That you are in earnest your face tells me; though ten years my junior, you loved my darling as a child as much as I, and I promise. But eyes right, old fellow, here comes the carriage and the green and gold livery of my bride-elect; attention is the word."
"And plenty of it," laughed his friend, as they stepped to the side of the carriage and shook hands with the four ladies as they alighted.
Madame could not have chosen better foils for her own voluptuous style than the three women, all angles—looking as she always did, as though she had been visiting Vulcan, and feeding on the red-hot coals beneath his hammer, while quenching her thirst from a cantharus given her by the hand of Bacchus himself. "The strawberry blondes" (as Mrs. Tompkins made their hearts glad by naming them) are decidedly red-haired (in common parlance), and robed in sky-blue suits and hats, all smiles, frizzes, bustles, elbows and pin-backs. Blanche Tompkins, poor little thing, looks cold and pinched in her steel-grey satin suit and hat, with silver jewellery, the red rim around her eyes more pronounced than ever. As they drive into the station yard she peers intently about, and a wee smile just comes to her face as her hand is taken by Capt. Trevalyon.
"I need not ask you how you are, dear Mrs. Tompkins, your looks tell me," said Col. Haughton.
"No, I am not one of the ill-kine, Colonel," laughed his bride-elect.
"Nor yet one of the lean-kine," said Trevalyon gaily.
As the other ladies gathered about, a small London swell, who had come forward with a beaming face, saying:
"Here we are again," and whom Mrs. Tompkins presented to Col. Haughton and Capt Trevalyon as "Sir Tilton Everly."
"Excuse me, sir; the carriages are filling up, sir."
"My man is right; we had better secure seats; allow me," said Col. Haughton, giving his arm to Mrs. Tompkins.
The others were at the steps waiting for her to take her place, but a quick glance had let her see that one of the six seats is occupied; and determined to have the man she loves beside her, she says quickly:
"Never mind precedence, 'tis only a picnic; every one of you secure seats; I shall wait here with the Colonel for Sir Peter Tedril."
"Oh, yes, like a dear thing; we shall die without Sir Peter," cried Mrs. Meltonbury.
"Oh, yes, we must have dear Sir Peter," echoed her twin.
"Oh, yes, we must all have dear Sir Peter until there is a lady Peter; good time, you all remember him, though," exclaimed Mrs. Tompkins.
Here Tims comes forward, saying:
"Sir Peter Tedril's servant is yonder, sir, with a message for Mrs. Tompkins, sir; may I bring him, sir?"
"Certainly, and at once."
The man approaches, touching his hat, saying:
"My master bid me meet you here, madam; a telegram arrived last night, ma'am, calling him by the early train to Richmondglen; but master will meet you at the Colonel's place, ma'am, and return with your party to London, ma'am."
"Very well; and here is a gold bit to drink to the health of your girl."
"You are very good, ma'am."
And with a grin of satisfaction, he drank English beer to American liberality.
On stepping to the door of the carriage, Capt. Trevalyon offered his seat to his friend.
"Not so; we cannot spare you," cried Mrs. Tompkins. "I should have all these ladies as cross as bears, Sir Peter non est and you away; no, the Colonel is gallant enough to leave you to us; he will have so much of some one a week from yesterday."
"No help for it, I suppose," said the victim, ruefully eyeing Everly seated comfortably between the strawberries, the stranger having vacated his seat for another coach. Everly was blind and deaf to the Colonel's wish, taking his cue from his neighbour's, who had said in an undertone:
"Don't stir, we are afraid of him, and you are so agreeable and nice."
And the guard locked the door, saying respectfully:
"No help for it, sir, I'll find you a seat."
LOVE AND LOVE-MAKING.
"This just too lovely; you are not going to weep over the exit of the Colonel?" said Mrs. Tompkins rapturously.
And the sleeve of her jersey brushed Trevalyon's arm as she whispered above, glancing sideways.
"Enforced exit, you mean; with so seductive a neighbour one cannot but pity the absent."
But Mrs. Marchmont must be given an occupation, as she is immediately her opposite neighbour; Trevalyon will then not feel it incumbent on him to notice her, and will then be hers as though in a tete-a-tete; and so with the imperiousness that newly-acquired wealth lends to some natures, she says:
"Here, Fairy, is Agnes Fleming's latest; as I warn you I shall monopolize Capt. Trevalyon until we reach the Hall of 'Haughton,' when some one else will go in for monopoly of me."
"Yes, you poor dear thing, he will;" and she tittered; "but when the cat is away mousey can play; consider me asleep over my novel."
The absurdity of her remark struck Trevalyon so forcibly that he could not restrain a laugh.
"I don't believe you pity me one bit," said Mrs. Tompkins in a low tone, looking into his eyes reproachfully.
"Not one bit."
"Even after what I have told you?"
"Even after that," he answered, in lowest of tones; for they are in such close contact she can see what he would say as his lips frame the words.
"You are the only man who has been cruel to me."
"Oh, because," and the eyelids droop, for the lashes are long and black, though she would fain, look forever into the blue eyes above her. "Oh, because it is simply a woman's reason; give me your own."
"You are cruel, because to whom much is given, of him is much required."
"You flatter me; but let us look on the reverse side; I am a lonely man, I may say without kith or kin; I am almost sworn against wedded ties, but I love you all, have given much and require much."
And the easy sang-froid habitual to him gave place to a sadness of expression, a tired look, that ere now had made women weep. Mrs. Tompkins, impulsive to a degree, would fain have ordered everyone from the coach, taken his head to her breast, and bid him rest; a tremor is in her voice as she asks:
"Why will you not marry?" And for one moment she is willing to cut her heart out so he is happy; the next, ready to tear the heart from any woman who could make him so.
He sees by her tones the effect he is producing; he must again don his mask, and not excite her pity by reference to the sadness of his inner life, caused by his dead father's griefs; he had been foolish, but he had wished her in an indirect way to know that as no woman held his whole heart neither could she; and so, almost in his old easy tones, he says:
"Why not marry? I prefer you to frame some pretty imaginings to bore you on our pleasure jaunt with my own; and here we are at our English Frascati, Richmond the enchanting. Have you ever sunned yourself in Italy, fair madame?"
"No, nor should I care to; the Italian is too lazy, too dreamy for me."
"Then you cannot enter into the spirit of Thompson's 'Castle of Indolence?'"
"There is no spirit in it; no, I had rather sell peanuts at a Broadway corner, roast chestnuts on a Parisian boulevard, or flowers in Regent Street, than wade through one stanza of his sleepy poems."
Trevalyon laughed, saying:
"How full of active life and vim you are; now, I, at times, could write of dreamy idleness con amore. Do you never weary of our incessant hunt after some new sensation?"
"Never! 'tis the very main-spring of my existence, 'tis what I live for."
"How will you manage to kill time at 'Haughton' Hall out of the season?"
"You will be there," and the black eyes meet his unflinchingly. "And if not I am a great wanderer."
"Some distraction shall dull my senses till you come."
"But, you poor little fire-eater, supposing your liking for me to be real," and no ear but hers heard his whispered words "with my knowledge of Haughton's noble nature, I should curse myself did I cause him one jealous pang."
She pressed close to him as she breathed tenderly—
"Trust me my idol he shall never dream of my idolatry."
And the passionate face is transfigured in a tenderness new to it, for her passion has grown doubly strong in this drive from London, and she hugs to herself the thought that her love will beget his, all shame for its avowal is foreign to her breast, reckless and impulsive, her wish is her will.
"Your heart is as loving and untamed as Eve's, you must not tempt me to forget that he is my friend."
"I must." And the jewelled fingers (for her gloves are off) cling to his as he assists her to alight, for Richmond passed they are at the village of 'Haughton,' and the guard has called—
"Ladies and gentlemen for the Hall please alight."
A covered carriage and dog-cart are down in answer to the telegram of Colonel Haughton who has already alighted and meets his guests as they emerge from the carriage.
"Here we are again," says small Sir Tilton Everly, "Such a jolly drive, I am glad you invited me, Colonel Haughton; never was past Richmond proper before."
"No?" said the Colonel carelessly, and, stepping quickly to Mrs. Tompkins, says, "It has been dreary banishment to me; allow me."
"You look like a man who has missed his dinner; or, as John Bull, outwitted by brother Jonathan," said his bride elect with a latent meaning as laughing heartily she takes his arm to the carriage.
"Or had a John Bright man step in before him at the election."
"Confound his impudence," thought Colonel Haughton, saying, "I am not, a Mark Tapley."
"Any man with a spice of gallantry" said Trevalyon coming to his friend's aid, "would feel as if Siberian banishment had been his portion, had he been separated from so fair a group of ladies."
Are the men doing anything to 'Rose Cottage' Trimmer," enquired his master of a shrewd looking man in brown and buff livery.
"Yes, sir, it's in good order now."
"This lady is my new tenant, anything you can do Trimmer to meet her requirements will oblige me."
"Thank you Colonel Haughton, you are very kind," said Mrs. Marchmont.
"Don't mention it, anything I can do will give me pleasure."
"It is a sweet spot; my darling child, Miranda, is a naturalist and will collect many insects."
"From the Hall?" said Blanche with her innocent air.
"No, no, dear, from the grounds."
"Drive on, Trimmer, I shall take the dog-cart."
"What a sweet spot and how quaint the shops look," said Mrs. Marchmont as they were rapidly driven through the village.
"Not quaint, but vacant" laughed Mrs. Tompkins, "the whole thing has a vacant air about it, the inhabitant looks as though he was born yesterday and wondering what day it was; I'd rather see a yankee whittling a stick with his saucy independent air; hat on the back of his head so he can see what is going on, than any one of 'em."
"I could buy out the whole lot myself," said Blanche jeeringly, with her small head turning as if on a pivot.
"What a delightful feeling," said Mrs. Meltonbury, admiringly, "Yes it's just too lovely. If my poppa was here he'd throw no end of dimes and pea-nuts among 'em; always had pea-nuts in his pockets; how they stare, it's just too funny for anything."
"How wealthy he must have been, I just adore money!" said the Meltonbury.
"I believe you," answered Blanche laconically.
"Pity you have that husband out in Ontario, Melty," said Mrs. Tompkins, "or I should soon find you another millionaire, you ought to get a divorce, plea; he is Canadian Government attache not your attache."
"What a dear thing you are; it would be too sweet."
"Which, the millionaire or the divorce," at which there was a peal of laughter.
"I am afraid sister referred to the man," sighed Mrs. Marchmont, "but how sad for poor dear Meltonbury."
"He'd survive it," said Blanche sententiously.
"As I live there is Lord Rivers and a man worth stopping for. Halt, coachman," cried Mrs. Tompkins eagerly.
And they stopped in front of the D'Israeli Arms where a group of gentlemen were watering their horses.
"Ah! how do Mrs. Tompkins," said Lord Rivers lazily wheeling his handsome bay and lifting his hat to the group.
"For 'Haughton' Hall, you are coming I hope, now don't say no for I shall not listen if you do."
"Too bad, but I am due at Epsom, a little trotting race is on, and if not the lord of Haughton, whom I met up the road, did not give me an invitation."
"But I do," said Madame with emphasis.
"He is a lucky fellow," he said slowly and taking in the situation.
"So I think," she said laughing, and remembering she had Trevalyon for to-day continued hastily, "we open the Hall for no end of revels at Christmas, I must have you then."
"I shall slumber and dream of you until that time," and with a long side glance from his sleepy eyes the Epicurean peer put spurs to his horse to overtake his friends.
"Drive on, coachman."
"What deep eyes Lord Rivers has; he quite looks one through. What a pity such a sweet man should have such an ugly, disagreeable wife, I never thought she would be even a possible choice for any man," said the Marchmont.
"Better for us, it makes him sigh for the impossible," said Mrs. Tompkins.
"And 'tis such a sweet mission for a woman, that of consoler," sighed the Marchmont.
"To a man," said Blanche with her innocent air.
"Of course to a man; a woman would suspect a latent pity for which she would reward you with her claws," said Mrs. Tompkins.
"Sweet consoler, I shall send to Pittsburg for a cast-iron heart and buy out some druggist's court plaster," said Blanche. "You shall console a husband next season, I am determined in this."
"Indeed! who have you got me ticketed for?" and the pink eyes turned towards her step-mother.
"Little Sir Tilton would be just her height, dear Mrs. Tompkins," and Mrs. Meltonbury clasped her hands in ecstasy.
"Mrs. Tompkins will tell you how I love him," said Blanche disapprovingly.
"Yes Melty, Blanche cannot endure him and besides he is my little beau," said Madame with an air of proprietorship.
But the Hall of the Haughtons is reached, and the carriage rolls through the wide open gates. At the pretty lodge door stands the keeper and his wife, he pulls off his cap while she curtsies low, their future mistress tosses them a gold bit at which more curtsy and bow. What a magnificent avenue through the great park, the oak and elm mingling their branches and interlacing their arms overhead, through which a glimpse of blue heavens with golden gleams of sunlight are seen. A turn in the road and the grand entrance is before them, on either side of which are flower beds in full bloom. A conservatory is all around the octagon south wing, now bereft of its floral beauties excepting its orchards and ferns. It is really a fine old place, large and massive, in grey stone and with the grandeur of other days about it; the arms and motto show well in the sculptor's work over the entrance; the words "Always the same" and "Loyal unto death," standing out brave and firm, as the Haughtons have for generations unnumbered. On the steps stand the master of Haughton, beside him his friend of years, Trevalyon, behind them their acquaintance, small Sir Tilton Everly. In the background, on either side of the Hall, are the household, only a few for their master has an uncomfortably small income, but they love him and will not leave him for filthy lucre's sake. But they are glad of the news that their master will marry and that a good time is coming for them.
"Thrice welcome to Haughton Hall, my dear guest," said Col. Haughton, taking the hand of his bride-elect and leading her up the steps; "your future mistress, and if you are as faithful to us both as you have been to myself you will do well."
"Thank you kindly, master," said the old butler.
"We will, we will, sir," was echoed from all sides.
After a substantial luncheon, at which they were very merry, Sir Peter Tedril joining them at table, there was a scattering of forces, Col. Haughton giving his arm to his future wife in introducing her to her future home.
"You say I am to make all things new if I please, Colonel."
"Even to remodelling myself, my dear Kate."
"Wise man, for I am accustomed to get my way, most days," she added, with a side glance at Trevalyon.
And in her inspection she admired or ridiculed, laughed at or condemned, old time-worn tapestry and furniture mouldings and decorations, as ruthlessly as though mere cobwebs. It was finally decided that their tour would be at once, and to New York and Paris, from whence renovators and decorators should be imported; two or three apartments ^only were to be held sacred; old things were to pass away, all was to become new. The future mistress threw a good deal of vim into her walk and talk, doing all in a business-like manner, determined that Haughton Hall should be unequalled for luxurious comfort. Moreover, doing her duty in allowing her future husband to monopolize her for two or three hours; so earning her reward in Trevalyon in the drive by rail home to the city. The demeanour of Haughton in these hours pleased her; he was not lover-like, but properly admiring and tractable. Once before his mother's portrait he was very much affected, regretting she could not see his happiness, while she inwardly congratulated herself that the stately dame only lived on canvas.
"And now, I suppose, we have 'done' (excuse the slang) the spacious, and I must say, the very complete home of your fathers, Colonel; and I may close my notebook," she said, with a satisfied but somewhat relieved air.
"Excepting the north tower, which you would please me very much by making the ascent of; it is selfish, but I shall have you a little while longer to myself, especially as I agree with you that I had best stay here until tomorrow evening to set some of my people to work."
"Two heads are better than one, Colonel," and her pulses throb; another tete-a-tete with her idol made easy.
"Yes, dear, I should have been obliged to run down within the week had I not remained."
"True, and now for the tower; which is the door?"
"Up a dozen steps; I shall have to leave you while I go back for the open sesame."
"In here? 'tis dark; but never mind, run away."
"It is my armoury, and should be locked; but the negligence of the servants gives you a resting place, it is so near the tower; this large leather chair you will find comfortable."
"Thank you, that will do; lift over that box with the dynamite; look about it for my feet."
"Beautiful feet! and my wife's," he whispered low.
"Ta, ta. I have plenty to occupy my eyes."
"Yes, I take quite a pride in my armour, from our own and foreign lands; with the sabre de mon pere, Indian idols, Highland targets, and many relics of my happiest days.".
"There, there, that will be very comfortable; by-by."
His footsteps have scarce died away when she is conscious of not being alone, and though in the dim light, her nerves are strong and do not give way; still she slowly arises humming an air, and as if to have a nearer view of an Indian curiosity. Scarcely has she done so than she is clasped in the strong arms of a man who has come from behind her, and pillows her face closely to his breast to prevent a scream, and so she shall not recognize him. She dreaded the return of Col. Haughton, now that events are shaping themselves fairly well; her immediate fear is lest any escapade should cause him to return with her to London, which would perforce prevent her immediate escort by the man she loves. So she allowed a tremor to pass through her, thinking to excite pity—which she did, for he slightly loosened his tight hold.
"Let me go and I shall not scream; you may have my money or jewels," she said in gasps.
"I only want you, my beauty," said a voice she knew well—the voice of George Delrose. And her face is rudely kissed again and again.
"I hope you are satisfied; I shall not ask you how you came here, for as I have before had occasion to remark, you are Lucifer himself," she said in cutting accents.
"Kate, don't, or you will kill me; I must know your moves or I shall go mad."
And the strong man groans for his weakness, pressing his forehead with both hands.
"Tedril met me at the 'Russel Club' after dining with you last night; he then told me he was coming here at your invitation. Seeing how dreadfully cut up I was he changed his plans, and to give me a chance of a word with you ran down on first train to his place; we then rode over; he managed an entree to the Hall and secured me a retreat here, loitering about the park himself until luncheon. He tells me you are to marry Haughton; I reeled at his words, and would have fallen; but 'courage,' I told myself, 'she is not so cruel'; tell me, my beauty, that they lie; you could never love such an iceberg."
"You know me well enough for that, George."
"Had it been that other to whom I heard you—"
"Overheard, you mean; but one word of that, and I scream out."
"I repeat," and his voice grew fierce in its intense rage; "had it been even said you were to wed him, I would have shot him; the other you would be wretched with, so I am safe there."
"I confess to the being curious; did you hear the whispered nothings of the Colonel as he left me?"
"No, I was behind the coats-of-mail at the end of the room; but I should not have been jealous; a man must make love to you; it is yours for me I dread will change; your words to Trevalyon are burned to my memory; but he shall never have you, I have sworn it."
And in spite of herself she trembled, not for herself, but for the man she loved; but recovering herself quickly, and wishing to quiet him before the Colonel returned, said:
"How could I possibly marry a man with a hidden wife?"
Delrose, taking her face in his hands, tried in vain to read her heart; sighing heavily, he said:
"Oh, Kate, could you love me faithfully, devotedly, as I do you, what a life ours would be; but you are a slave to fancy, a creature of impulse, and I am now a mere barrier in your path, to be kicked aside at will; yet knowing this, I love you as ever, with the same old mad passion; and should you desert me, Heaven help me;" and the ring of truth and despair in his tones would have touched the heart of another.
But Kate, accustomed to eat greedily of life's sugar-plums, only stamped her foot impatiently at his persistence, saying:
"You are just a great big monopolist, George, and don't want our world to look at me, even through a glass case; the idea of you being jealous of a man whom we both agreed to sit on if he play bigamist; you forget our partizanship."
"See how quickly a kind word from you calms me my queen, but its too bad, beauty, I must hide again. I hear him returning."
"I shall go and meet him so he shall not lock you in."
"You were not long, Colonel, but I am quite rested and now for the tower stairs key, which way?"
"This way, but I need not have left you; Trimmer tells me the door is unlocked and our guests in advance of us.
"Oh, how lovely, it will save time looking them up; 'tis four-forty- five now, and at seven the up train is due."
In twenty minutes the ascent is made and madame stepped among her friends, her short navy blue satin skirt being just the thing to get about in easily; 'twas a handsome robe too with its heavy fringe and jets with bonnet to match, black silk jersey, heavy gold jewellery and jaunty satchel with monagram in gold slung over her round shoulder. She looked well and carried her head high and had her under jaw and mouth been less square and heavy she would have been handsome.
"What a band of idlers you look," she said "after my hard pilgrimage."
"Refreshingly dolce far niente, I should say," said Trevalyon lazily.
"How do you like the view, ladies?" enquired the Colonel, which gave Sir Peter Tedril his opportunity.
"Have you seen him?" he said in an undertone,
"Thank Heaven, it's over! you look so calm I feared it had to come."
"I don't wear my heart on my sleeve."
"The Colonel did not see him," he again asked.
"No, I did and alone in the armory."
"Where I left him, poor fellow."
"That will do; the others may hear."
"Allow me to adjust the telescope for you, Tedril," said Trevalyon. "I know it well, now, Mrs. Tompkins, you have a fine view taking in as you see a ravishing bit of Richmond a very embodiment of rest, at least where you are gazing, with the music which you are to imagine of the Thames at its feet."
"Enough;" she said, "I am no poet, and with me a little of that sort of thing goes a long way; turn it on something practical, if it will range so far."
"Shall it be London, Guildford, or chic little Epsom, fair Madame?"
"Give me London."
"Our gilded Babylon, versus ethereal skies, with lights and shadows that would send an artist wild," said Trevalyon, gaily readjusting the telescope.
"Why, Trevalyon, such sentiments from you," exclaimed the Colonel, while the others gathered around.
"'Tis a practical age, I like his view," said Everly.
"Do you, well take it; my eyes pain me," cried Madame.
"I wish I could take the pain too," he answered gallantly.
"You have taken both, sweet child; we had better all be off, every body. Time flies."
"He does; it tires one to think of him,"' said Trevalyon, consulting his watch.
"'Tis so sweet up here," sighed the Marchmont. "I am feasting my eyes on Rose Cottage."
"'Tis near dinner time, Mrs. Marchmont," said Blanche.
"When you will sigh, fish of sea, fowl of air versus Rose Cottage," said Tedril.
"Though following Sir Peter's lead from the depths to the heights, 'tis only to feed the inner-man, therefore as we grow prosaic we had best descend to the level of Rose Cottage," said Trevalyon.
For he felt that he was losing himself in memories of the past, here he had sat many hours with Vaura and his friend, now everything would be so changed; he knew it was foolish, but since he had seen a colored miniature of her in her uncle's possession in all the beauty of womanhood, he craved for her living presence, and he felt that the first step as he now made it down the old stairs brought him nearer the consummation of his wish. He was glad his arrangements to leave London at sunrise were complete; he wished the up trip was over; he did not pine for another tete-a-tete with Madame; she was capital company, but she belonged to his friend; he only hoped he would be able to hold her that was all. On their descent, after a few minutes adjournment to the dining-room where delicious tea with walnuts in sweet butter and salt and scraped Stilton cheese in rich French pastry were duly relished, besides cold ham, chicken with sparkling hock and Malmsey. And now again, merrier than birds, away to the station; this time Mrs. Tompkins and the Meltonbury take the dog-cart with Colonel Haughton. They outstrip the carriage; but now all alight.
"Gentlemen and ladies for the carriages, please take seats at once," sang the guard.
"How are you off for room, guard," enquired the Colonel.
"Seats in this one for two, sir."
"Sir Tilton, might I trouble you to take charge of my step-daughter; I know it will be a bore," she added in an undertone, "but I shall reward you my dear little poppet."
"Seats for five more, guard," shouted Tedril, for the engine was almost off.
"This way, sir."
The strawberries with hasty good-byes are on board with Tedril.
"Dine with me to-morrow evening, Colonel. By, by," said Mrs. Tompkins pleasantly, for he was so easy and she would have Trevalyon up.
But the latter, lifting his hat, said:
"It is not au revoir with me, dear Mrs. Tompkins, but bon voyage; and," he said, lowering his voice, "imagine the rice and slippers, for I heartily wish you every happiness."
"What nonsense," with a frown and little stamp of foot. "Wish me your wishes up; you are coming," and her eyes showed both anger and disappointment.
"Carriages, carriages;" shouted the guard, and with a pardon Madame almost locked the door on the skirts of Mrs. Tompkins as the Colonel was saying hurriedly:
"I persuaded him to wait for the midnight and keep me company."
ORESTES AND PYLADES.
"And how glad I am you did, dear old friend," said Trevalyon warmly, as they took the dog-cart for home, talking by the way long and earnestly as they drove slowly and absently. After dinner they stretched their limbs on rugs on the lawn under the peaceful June sky; they had not been here many minutes when their mutual friend the rector, Mr. Douglas, strolled across the park to smoke his pipe with them.
"You see it did not take me long to hear of your advent," he said taking the easiest of attitudes on a garden seat.
"And I need not say I am glad of it, Douglas; I am only sorry you did not come over and dine with us; had Trevalyon not been with me I should have found you out ere this."
Leaving Haughton and Douglas to talk of old times and the new, Trevalyon lay perfectly still, alternately dreaming and smoking, now there is a lull, and he says:
"Neither of you have the remotest idea of how I enjoy this rest; I have been a good deal bothered lately and have had an unsettled feeling," here he noticed the rector give him a searching look, "and this is paradise; in fact I doubt if we earn Elysian Fields by comparison; we shall find the restful peace more enchanting we only long for (I suppose as long as one is mortal one longs for a something), a few charming women, then we would have a realm for Epicurus himself. Evening, and pure, soft tints everywhere, the long shadows blending to disappear in the dark, like the last waves of unrest, the young moon languidly rising to lighten loving faces of those in this haven of peace, the fragrance of yonder blossoms as they sip the dew, the graceful forms from the sculptor's hand standing in their whiteness amid the green grass, and the soft sighing leaflets stirred by the air above them, seeming to breathe to them their evening song of love. Haughton dear fellow, you have a magnificent place here, and God grant," he added with fervor, "you may be full of content and happiness."