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Title: A Heart-Song of To-day (Disturbed by Fire from the 'Unruly Member'): A Novel
Author: Savigny, Annie Gregg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Heart-Song of To-day (Disturbed by Fire from the 'Unruly Member'): A Novel" ***

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A HEART-SONG OF TO-DAY
(DISTURBED BY FIRE FROM THE 'UNRULY MEMBER')


A NOVEL.

BY
MRS. ANNIE G. SAVIGNY.



CONTENTS.


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.)



CHAPTER I.

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."

Kate winced.

"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."



CHAPTER II.

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.


TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 2.

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.


TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 3.

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.


TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 4.

_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.



CHAPTER III.

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."

"Yes, sir."

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.



CHAPTER IV.

OF MADAME.


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."

"Yes, madam."

"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."

"Yes, madam."

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."



CHAPTER V.

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."



CHAPTER VI.

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."

"How so?"

"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."

"Yes, sir."

"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."

"Yes, sir."

"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.

"Whither bound?"

"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,

"I have."

"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."



CHAPTER VII.

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."

"God grant it," said his friend earnestly.

"Amen," said the rector: "then the gossips are right, you are about to
come to God's altar, to join yourself in matrimony with a wealthy
American."

"I am; do you think I am right; tell me as an old and trusty friend,'
he said gravely.

"Every man should marry, you should know whom to choose, being a
cosmopolitan as you are; the Hall should be occupied; you are a good
and faithful steward, giving to the poor with no niggard hand, and out
of your present small income; yes, you should decidedly marry and you
should as decidedly have an heir," he added smiling.

"As you think it wise, I wish I had put on the shackles before,
especially as a home for my darling Vaura is my strongest motive, and
now she will marry and I might have had her with me all these years;
as for an heir I bother myself very little about it; in my early
manhood I loved, and had I been loved in return," he said bitterly;
"heirs would now, I expect, have been numerous, and now it is all her
fault," he said weakly, "if my venture does not bring me happiness."

"Never mind the past, my dear fellow, we have done with it," said the
rector kindly, "be true to the wife you are taking; 'Loyal unto death'
(your own motto), or dishonour, which, God save us all from, we have
nothing to do with; the man who is loyal to his wife has a right to
expect equal devotion on her part."

"Your own wedded life has been very happy," said Trevalyon earnestly.

"It has; heaven grant you both the same! Trevalyon, you will pardon an
old friend (and a friend of your father's also); you have said you
have been a 'good deal bothered lately,' is it anything you can
confide in me--it lightens care to share it?"

"I thank you, Douglas; you are very kind. I have a visit to my place
on the _tapis_, and when this is the case my heart is full of sad
memories; my tenants, too, under my late steward's _regime_, have been
extremely disaffected; so I take the Great Northern at sunrise on
to-morrow for Northumberland. I have been feeling very much lately
the burden of my lonely life, the outcome as it is, of my dear
father's blighted hopes; grief-stricken; desertion."

"Pardon me, you are under some promise of celibacy to your father, I
believe."

"I am."

"It was no oath?"

"No, I was glad by a promise to relieve his poor troubled mind, and my
knowledge of women made it easy."

"Grant me still another question. I am not, I need scarcely say,
actuated by mere idle curiosity?"

"Any question you like, Douglas."

"Have you never met a woman who has caused you to regret your
promise."

"Never!"

But a new and strange feeling stirred his heart-strings, that perhaps,
had he met the child Vaura, now the woman, he could not answer so.
There was a pause on his answering Douglas, with the single
word--"Never."

"It is due to you, that I should give a reason for my questions. My
son, Roland, writes me, that the story of your elopement with Fanny
Clarmont, has been revived, and with a good deal of vim and sensation
as to her being your hidden wife thrown in."

"Indeed," said Trevalyon, carelessly, "what a dearth of scandal there
must be in Dame Rumour's budget, that she must needs revive one of a
dozen years ago."

"Ah," thought the rector, "what a pity it is true." But not so
Haughton, who, starting to a sitting posture, said excitedly:

"You take it too coolly, Trevalyon, stamp it out at once, and for
ever! you know, you never married her."

"Dame Rumour says I did," he answered with the utmost _sang-froid_.

"Nonsense; saddle it on the right man, my dear fellow; mark me, 'tis
_his_ doing; whatever may be his present reason, he is now, as, then,
thoroughly unprincipled, and always your foe."

"Tis true, Haughton; but the weather is too warm for a brawl," he
said, lazily.

"Eleven! o'clock," exclaimed the rector, "I must bid you both
good-night; Haughton, you have my best wishes; we shall be more glad
than I can say to have you among us again, and the other dear ones,
Lady Esmondet and our sweet Vaura; good-bye, Trevalyon, I am full of
regrets, that in giving you Dame Rumour's words, I have lent an
unpleasant tone to your thoughts.

"You have nothing to regret, Douglas, I am too well accustomed to Dame
Rumour's pleasantries; she only serves poor Fanny Clarmont up in a
new dress; as 'hidden wife,' she has never been presented before.
Good-bye; I wish I could remain at the dear old place all night, then
we would both stroll across the park with you."

"That would have been pleasant; hoping soon to meet again; good-
night, and fare you both well."

The rector gone, the dog-cart is again in requisition; at the station,
Haughton says heartily--

"Good-bye, dear old friend; I am sorry you will not be with me to the
last, but I shall look forward to your spending a couple of months
with me in the autumn, ere going up for the season; good-night, I feel
all the better since our talk."

"Good-bye, Eric, good-bye; my heart is to full for many words. God
bless you! Farewell."

And with a long, firm pressure of the hand and look from the eyes, the
friends, with the friendship of Orestes and Pylades, part.



CHAPTER VIII.

MADAME AND HER GARDENER.


One word of Mrs. Tompkins, on the up trip to the city, a few hours
previous, as she cares for her little plot digging with smiles as
sunbeams; frowns as showers. On the guard locking the door, she was
astonished to find, besides the strawberries and Sir Peter, her head
gardener, who smiled as he stroked his beard in satisfaction; he loved
this woman (so like himself) with the strongest passion his heart had
ever known, and here she was coming in to him, making his heart throb
with joy, while she, more in love with his rival than ever, by this
day's social contact, still, in pique at his falling into Haughton's
plan to remain, and so (though he knew she loved him) letting her
return in other company, gave her a certain relish for this man's bold
love-making, and whom she could also use in nourishing her plot to
keep Trevalyon free. So now, while instructing Delrose in the manner
of the plot, she let him love her with his eyes, while with smiles and
caressing words, she bound him in stronger chains than ever.

"When may I come, my beauty?" he whispered feverishly, at the door of
No. ---- Eaton square.

"Now," she said impulsively, she would so perfect her plot; "and you,
my dear little strawberry blondes, with Sir Peter and little Tilton,
to whom I owe a sugar-plum, for taking care of Blanche," who yawning
said--

"I just hate an English rail-car, locked up like Oscar Wilde's blue
china, with only Sir Tilton to talk to."

Major Delrose was in a fool's Paradise, all night, and swore to leave
no stone unturned in effectually preventing the marriage of his rival
with Miss Vernon, Madame him such was the wish of Trevalyon's heart.
Tedril favoured Delrose's suit in every possible way; Haughton Hall
was four times the size of Richmondglen. Sir Peter represented his
division of the county only on sufferance; and, he knew it right well,
should Haughton marry money, he would be persuaded to stand for
Surrey, he had refused, heretofore, on the plea of absenteeism and
lack of gold; and so he, Tedril, greatly preferred that Delrose should
win; but his fierce passions would not brook his, Tedril's, coupling
any man's name with hers; but after this run to Surrey, he knew she
would wed Haughton, while, as now, throwing dust in his friends eyes.
And so it was in four days, the announcement of the marriage of 'Kate
Vivian Tompkins, relict of the late Lincoln Tompkins, Esq., of New
York, U.S., to Eric, Col. Haughton, of Haughton Hall, Surrey,
England,' appeared in the _Court Journal and Times_, at which Major
Delrose raved and swore, said some queer things, which went the round
of the clubs, for the usual nine days, then for the time, it was
forgotten in, the newer scandal of Captain Trevalyon, one of society's
pets, having a "hidden wife."

"Well, the darling is handsome enough to have half-a-dozen," said gay
Mrs. Eustace Wingfield.

"I am ready to bet a box of gloves (twelve buttons) that a dozen women
have as good as asked him," laughed another butterfly.

"Forestalling the advanced method in Lytton's 'New Utopia,'" said Mrs.
Claxton.

"There would be an absence of the usual mother-in-law difficulty,"
lisped a young Government _attache_, meekly, who had recently married
the only child of her mother.

"Or, if so, she would pose _not_ as Mark Twain's, but as M. Thiers,"
said Wingfield, jestingly.

"I don't believe a word of it," said Posey Wyesdale, weeping
profusely; "it is invented by some person who is jealous of his
overwhelming love for me; but I'll let them see I shall marry him all
the same."

"Give me your attention, young ladies," said Madame de Lancy,
privately, and with a business-like air, to her eight daughters, who
were out. "It is commonly reported that Capt. Trevalyon has a 'hidden
wife;' but as it may be a complete falsehood, I wish you all--all,
remember--for we do not know his style, and one of you will doubtless
suit him; I repeat, I wish you all, to be tenderly sympathetic and
consoling in your manner towards him; it is unfortunate that the
season is just about over; but much may be done in one meeting, and I
shall tell your father to invite him to dinner to-morrow; I shall have
no one else to distract his attention from yourselves."

And in her own mind she decided that Mrs. Trevalyon should have at
least four of her sisters on her hands to settle in life.



CHAPTER IX.

VAURA IN A MEDLEY.


The mighty god, Society, having descended from his London throne, and
with a despotic wave of the hand bid his slaves forth to some resort
where fashion reigned; as a matter of course, you and I, _mon ami_,
must go with the stream if we would not be ostracised altogether; we
should dearly love to take a lazy summer jaunt with some of them; our
dear Lionel Trevalyon, in his lonely pilgrimage to the North Countree,
would be glad of companionship; I wish it had been his pleasant fate
to make his exodus with his old friends, the Lady Esmondet and Vaura
Vernon; but it was not to be. And so, through the moves of the
"miscreator circumstance," we are all separated until now, when I am
more than glad to tell you that Lady Esmondet, with Miss Vernon, have
arrived this day, 2nd Nov., '77, at Dover, having come up from gay
Brighton, and are hourly expecting Col. and Mrs. Haughton, who had
left by the White Star Line for New York immediately on their
marriage; thence, on sending home the most artistic of American fresco
workers and decorators, they spent a month amid the gay revellers at
Long Branch and Saratoga; back again to the old shores and Paris,
choosing from this great storehouse of the beautiful, gems in art,
both to please the senses and delight the cultured and refined. With
the face of Trevalyon seldom absent from her thoughts, Mrs. Haughton
unconsciously chose much that would have been his own choice also. A
page, in the hotel livery, tapping at the door of the sitting-room,
_en suite_ with the sleeping apartments engaged by Lady Esmondet,
coming forward, hands a telegram.

"This has just arrived, your ladyship; any answer, your ladyship?"

"No; it merely states they have left by one of the new lines."

"We are looking for one to come in very shortly, your ladyship."

"That is convenient; it will allow of their dressing and dining with
comfort; and, boy, see that their rooms are warm and lighted."

"Will it please your ladyship to dine here, or at the _table d'hote_?"

"Here the room is large, warm, and will answer our purpose very well."

"Yes, your ladyship."

"How delightful, Vaura dear, that we shall not be detained, but can
leave on to-morrow."

"Yes, godmother darling, the fates have golden threads on their
distaff for you and I to-day."

"I trust your uncle will not deny me," said Lady Esmondet, a little
absently; "if so, I shall feel doubly lonely just now."

"He has married a wife; therefore cannot refuse to lend me to you
until we both go to Haughton Hall hand in hand; do not think for one
moment that I shall allow you to go alone to Italy."

"You belong to your uncle as well as to me, dear."

"Yes," she said, slowly; "how much I wish," and she was beside her
godmother caressing the smooth bands of fair hair; "how I wish you and
he had had enough of love between you to blend your lives in one."

"Do not even think of what now is an impossibility, dear," she
answered hurriedly and evasively, while a faint flush came to her
cheek as she pressed her hand to her side.

"Ah, poor darling," thought Vaura, "she cared for him;" and with a
latent sympathy she said tenderly: "How oft in one's journey through
life one closes one's eyes to the shimmer of sunbeams on the grand,
majestic ocean, or the calm and peaceful lake; only opening them to
the glare of the gas-light, the song of the night bird."

"How often, indeed," said her godmother, sadly; "but by the prancing
of steeds in the court yard," she continued, smiling bravely, "one
must conclude the steamer has arrived."

"'Tis well one can don society's mask at will," said Vaura.

"Yes, dear, and 'tis quite unnecessary to bare one's heart to the
million," she answered, with her usual composure. "You are looking
charming, dear; that seal-brown velvet fits you exquisitely."

"Worth says I am curves, not angles," said Vaura, gaily; "he says he
would prefer to fit a grasshopper, _a la mode_, than many women who
pine for his scissors."

"You should always bare your arm to the elbow; the shape is perfect,
and your old gold jewelry blends both with the warm brown of your gown
and the roses and lace at your throat. I wonder a little what Mrs.
Haughton, how strange it sounds, but one grows accustomed to,
anything, I wonder what your uncle's wife will think of you."

"It matters not," replied Vaura, her beautiful head erect. "I know she
is no fit mate for a Haughton and an innate feeling causes me to wish
most fervently that she, with the golden dollar bequeathed to her, had
never set foot on proud Albion's shores."

"They are in the corridor, dear; make the best of her for your dear
uncle's sake," said her god-mother, breathlessly.

"Do not fear for me, dear godmother, especially as poor misguided
uncle has wed so that I forsooth, shall find in Haughton Hall a
fitting home, and yet, I, above all, should not speak in such tone,
our race are capable of a noble self abnegation, even I at fourteen,
but I dream aloud, dear godmother, forgive me."

"Surely, dear, with me alone, you may think audibly."

In a few minutes during which Vaura's eyes idly rest on the last beams
of the western sun as they kiss the soft bands of hair and bring out
the mauve tints in the rich satin robe of her now silent companion,
when the door is opened wide, by a page admitting Col. and Mrs.
Haughton, with Miss Tompkins, followed by Sir Tilton Everly.

"My dear friend and darling Vaura, how glad, glad I am to see you
both; you give the place quite a home look; Mrs. Haughton, Lady
Esmondet and my niece Vaura, and here is my wife's step-daughter, Miss
Tompkins, a devotee of the American Eagle, and Sir Tilton Everly."

"I should say so," said Blanche, "our Eagle would make short work of
the furs of your Lion and not lose a feather."

"He would first be obliged to turn dentist and claw-remover, Miss
Tompkins," said Vaura merrily.

"Miss Vernon," said Mrs. Haughton stiffly, "allow me even thus early
in our acquaintance to make a request of you which is that you ignore
the odious sirname of my step-daughter, simply calling her Blanche."

"Certainly, Mrs. Haughton, though it is out of order, if your
step-daughter also wishes it."

"Oh yes, it don't make five cents difference, Miss Vernon; popa had to
give up Annabella Elizabeth my real name; Mrs. T. didn't take to it,
she only took Tompkins because it was set in diamonds."

This was said with the most child-like expression on the wee white
face, but one could detect venom in the tone of voice. For answer
there was a frown and an impatient stamp of foot as her step-mother
says coldly.

"Lady Esmondet will excuse us, Blanche, while we change our travelling
dresses."

"Certainly."

Sir Tilton flew to open the door; the Colonel seeing them to their
appartments, and their maids in attendance, returned to the loving
rest of his home birds.

"Well, uncle dear, how do you feel after your run to and fro?" said
Vaura, affectionately, and going behind his chair, drew his head
backwards, kissing his face in welcome.

"Passing well, dear; here, take this chair beside me, and let me look
at you; the Scotch lakes and sea-bathing have agreed with you, and
with Lady Alice also," he added kindly.

"Eric, what did you think of New York," enquired Lady Esmondet, to
divert his attention from her personally.

"Oh, it is just a large handsome city, with cosmopolitan cut in its
very corner store, representing much wealth in its many fine
buildings; there is a good deal of taste displayed in its burying
grounds, and parks, and nearly all has a look of rapid growth about
it, so different to our London."

"As our old slow-growing Oak in comparison with their Pines," said
Vaura; "and what of the people generally?"

"Just what we know them to be, dear, full of energy and active life;
sleeping never, I do believe, or if so, with eyes open."

"So full of mercury that it tires one even to think of them," said
Vaura lazily.

"A great people though, Miss Vernon; strongly imbued with the spirit
of the age, Progress," said Sir Tilton, who, from his corner, had
never withdrawn his gaze from Vaura's face since the exit of the other
ladies.

"True; but what a spirit of unrest is Progress, always flying, only
resting on the wing to scatter to the winds a something new, to take
the place of the old," said Vaura, thoughtfully.

"But, Vaura, dear," said Lady Esmondet, "it is astonishing how
comfortably we _en masse_ keep pace with your flying spirit, eager to
pick up its novelties."

"True, ladies, and elbow each other in the race," said Sir Tilton.

"I know I am old-fashioned," remarked the Colonel, a little sadly;
"but our life of to-day does not come up to my ideal, as when a
soldier on furlough I used to return to my dear old home; there, if
anywhere on this lower sphere, peace and happiness reigned."

"You may well say so, Eric, with your noble father, sainted mother,
and Vaura's mother, my dear friend, your sweet sister, Ethel, as
inmates;" and in that instant their eyes met, full of sympathy. And be
it what it may, an electric spark, the true speech of heart to heart,
or what; the knowledge came to him for the first time of what he had
lost, and a nervous tremor ran through him such as he had never felt
at Delhi or Inkerman under shell or rifle fire. And the woman who had
been too proud to show her love unasked, did not know whether she was
glad or sorry that he had at last tasted of the tree of knowledge.

Mason here threw open the door for her mistress and Miss Tompkins, who
enter, both having made elaborate toilets, the former in a gown of
rose pink brocade, the latter wearing sky-blue silk, each lavish in
their display of jewels.

"Dressed before you, after all, Miss Vernon," cried Mrs. Haughton,
with latent malice. Even small Sir Tilton raised his eyebrows; for one
moment Vaura was non-plussed; "underbred poor uncle," was her thought
as she said quietly: "I have dined in salons at Brighton in this gown,
Mrs. Haughton; I have listened to Patti robed as you see me."

"How mean of step-momma," thought Blanche.

"Never saw anyone to compare with her," thought the little baronet.

"Is it possible, Miss Vernon? You must excuse me, but I really thought
it your travelling dress."

Waiters were now busy with the dining table at the end of the room,
partially separated by folding doors; tempting _entrees_, steaming
dishes, with delicious dainties, are now arranged.

"Surely, we dine at the _table d'hote_," said Mrs. Haughton, hastily;
"you should have seen to it, Colonel; you know I prefer it."

"Pardon, Kate; I was unaware of this arrangement, dear."

"I am the culprit, Mrs. Haughton," said Lady Esmondet. "I thought we
should all be warmer here; the air is chilly this evening."

"Oh, certainly, as you wish it; only when I take the trouble to dress
for the _table d'hote_, I like to be seen," she answered, stiffly;
"but we go to the theatre afterwards; and now, Sir Tilton, your arm."
And clearing her brow, she seats herself at table, her husband
opposite, with his friend on his right.

"You have no hotels at London to compare with ours of New York city,
Lady Esmondet," she said.

"You have, Mrs. Haughton, I believe, the verdict of the majority of
the travelling public with you; though I have found the Langham, and
others among our leading hotels, most comfortable."

"The difference between our system and theirs," said the Colonel, "is
that ours savor of the British home, in the being chary of whom we
admit, and a trifle pompous; while the French and Americans, as a
people, are better adapted to make hotel life a pleasant success."

"Because you are too awfully too, and we are free and easy; that's
what's the matter," said Blanche.

"Also," said Vaura, "the hotel and American are both of to-day."

"You havn't given us the newest London scandal, Sir Tilton," said Mrs.
Haughton, thinking of her plot.

"Political or social?" he asked, somewhat guardedly.

"Social, of course; I don't care a fig for the country."

"Well, to lead off with, the pretty Miss Fitz-Clayton, who was to have
married Lord Menton, instead fell in love with her pater's tallest
footman; and on her fortune they have been cooing all summer at the
Cap de Juan; next," he hurriedly said, "Capt. Trevalyon's hidden wife
is on; last, two separations and a new beauty."

There was a moment's pause, each thinking of Trevalyon, when Vaura
said carelessly, to cover her quickened heart-beats:

"Here he comes, with his mouth full of news."

"This story about Trevalyon is a lie direct, Everly," said the
Colonel, hastily.

"Dare say, Haughton."

"The prettiest bit of your news, Sir Tilton, is Cap de Juan," said
Vaura, apparently absorbed in the delicacies on her plate; but
thinking, "can it be true of the ideal knight of my childhood."

"Poor Lionel, how disgusted he will be," said Lady Esmondet, wearily.

"Still, men do do such things; why not he?" said Mrs. Haughton,
daringly; "and after all, as none of us are going to marry him, we
need not care."

"One feels for one's friends when maligned, that is all," said Vaura,
carelessly.

"Well, supposing it be false," continued Mrs. Haughton, with morbid
curiosity, watching the beautiful, expressive face of her
rival--"which I don't believe, how could he clear himself?"

"I cannot say, Mrs. Haughton; it would be easier to name an antidote
for the sting of the snake than for the tongue of Dame Rumour."

"All I can say is, I believe it," said Mrs. Haughton, aggressively;
"he is handsome enough to have induced more than one woman to make a
clandestine marriage with him."

"I regret to hear you say so, Kate," said her husband, gravely.

"Mrs. Haughton is to be excused, Eric; she does not know Lionel as we
do."

"The animal man is the same everywhere," continued Madame, recklessly.

"The serious trouble I see in it for Capt. Trevalyon," said Lady
Esmondet, "is, that did he contemplate matrimony, this scandal afloat
would be a barrier to his union."

"If he were not so careless, he could stamp it out at once," said the
Colonel, impatiently. But he is careless, and Mrs. Haughton exults as
she remembers it, and at the success of her plot; for does not Lady
Esmondet admit it would be a bar to his union; she feels a morbid
pleasure in noting critically the varied charms of her rival, as an
innate feeling tells her Miss Vernon might become; and she thinks:
"For you he scorned my love; pride, though you die, will keep you
apart; he will come to me yet."



CHAPTER X.

VELVET PAWS CONCEAL CLAWS.


"Eric, I have a favour to ask of you," said his friend; "I am going to
Rome for a few weeks, and want Vaura with me."

"I had rather you had made any other request of me, Alice; when, and
why do you go?"

"On to-morrow, after I have had an interview with Huntingdon, my
lawyer (you will know him), who comes from London by appointment; and
by the advice of my physician, who declares I require change."

"Change, change, that is always their cry," he answered, regretfully;
"take my advice, Alice," he continued, eagerly; "come to Haughton
instead."

"Rome first, Eric, thank you; home and Haughton afterwards; a few
weeks will soon pass, as you say," she continued, taking his arm from
the table. "I wonder what amount of change we can digest; we get
nothing else; never at home; what, with the season at London, watering
places, or abroad, home only at Christmas, and some of us don't even
do that; but you will lend Vaura to me?"

"Yes," and her arm is pressed gently as he finds her a seat; "though
it is hard. What do you say, Vaura; but your face tells me you like
this change also."

"I regret this catching only a glimpse of you, dear uncle; but we,
butterflies, are here to-day, gone to-morrow. I love Haughton, and
long for Rome; poor humanity, how unrestful; yet with all our change,
the most _ennuyee_ of mortals."

"You will, I suppose, take Miss Vernon up with you for the season,
Lady Esmondet?" asked Mrs. Haughton, eager to know if her wish to rid
herself of Vaura companionship would be gratified.

"Yes, if her uncle will give her to me; for myself, I have set my
heart on having her with me at Park Lane."

"I am glad of that, and the Colonel must agree, for I have not my
plans matured; if we are at No. 2 Eaton Square, my house will be full
as a box of sardines. You are sure to come for the season, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes! habit, habit; I could not miss my--every thing (I was going
to say) that London gives; the crush at the balls, seated comfortably
with some pleasant people about me, chatting of the newest
flirtations, if those (among the unmarried) of last season ended in
matrimony; if so, what then? a pleasant yokedom or no? What divorce or
separation is on the _tapis_; bits of club gossip, &c."

"With some racy scraps, political, which you would take to as for your
dinner _entrees_," cried Vaura gaily.

"True, Vaura, and any new passage at arms between our good Queen
Victoria's prophet, Earl Beaconsfield and that earnest defender of the
Liberal faith, Gladstone; and, this winter, if I mistake not, we shall
have stirring times, we are getting ourselves into a tight place;
England will have to keep one eye on the East, the other on her
Armoury."

"I wish the war party were stronger," said Colonel Haughton,
earnestly, "we shall have no soldiers among the rising generation, if
Bright's policy be carried out continuously."

"War is too horrid for anything; one has no one to flirt with," cried
Mrs. Haughton.

"You forget our older men and boys, Mrs. Haughton," said Vaura, gaily,
"who, when not given a chance for the cold steel of the battle field,
are ever ready to bare the breast for the warm dart of Cupid.

"Wouldn't give five cents for 'em," cried Mrs. Haughton, "I want the
soldiers; so if this man Bright pleases me in this matter, though I
care not a dime for politics, I am with him."

"Hear! hear!" exclaimed Everly. "I was beginning to think I was alone
in the field, and, though a Bright man from the crown of my head to
the sole of my foot, I was commencing to feel rather flat, in fact,
anything but bright. What is the use of civilization? if we are to go
on butchering our neighbours, or allowing them to make targets of us
for every imaginary cause. Why be civilized in some matters, and in
others remain savages? If a man strike me I shall knock him down, if
he strike someone else even, in whom I am interested, he must fight
his own battles, and let me look after my own interests. So, with
England; I don't want to see the sons of the soil turned out to fight
like dogs, when there is no occasion for it, by so doing, allowing the
commercial and agricultural interests of the country go to ruin, and
saddle us with an enormous debt. No! a thousand times no."

"You grow eloquent, Sir Tilton," said Vaura "and were you only with
us, I should congratulate you on your power of speech. As it is, I can
only lament that so much earnestness is lost to us; do, Sir Tilton, go
in an unbiased mood to the House next session, give close attention to
the arguments of Beaconsfield on this question, and then, I have no
doubt, a man of your sense will come out in the right colours next
election, and you will laugh at the time you did not want to see the
dear Czar, or Sultan, blister their hands, or soil mother earth, while
our brave fellows gave it them in the Balkans, or at Constantinople."

"No, no, I believe, I am a Whig; I know I am a Liberal, and it is the
right side for our day."

"Now I think," continued Vaura, "one should be a stronger Tory than
ever to-day; what with Fenianism, Socialism, Nihilism, if we would see
a monarchy left standing, our peers with a voice, we must, even though
inwardly acknowledging the other opinions to suit the progressive
spirit, we must stand firm; we are not yet advanced, or you, or not I
should say, Sir Tilton, to give us anything as perfect to take the
place of our British Parliament."

"You have taken your first step towards us, Miss Vernon. I
congratulate you on being a Liberal-Conservative," exclaimed Sir
Tilton, gleefully.

"Ah! I should not have named my flying spirit," said Vaura,
laughingly.

"No, that's where you were weak, dear," said her uncle, "you forgot
your party."

"The carriage is waiting, sir," said the Colonel's man.

"Very well, Tims; tell the maids to bring wraps for their mistresses."

"The warmth of the fire is inviting," said Lady Esmondet, for they
have been sipping their coffee by a bright fire.

"Which means you think the opposing element outside the reverse,
godmother mine."

"Yes, Vaura, what do you say to keeping me company."

"With pleasure; I dare say we have seen whatever is on."

"Twelfth night," said Blanche; "I guess I'll stay too; Sir Tilton; a
game at euchre."

"With pleasure, Miss Tompkins, though the game is new to me," he said,
seating himself where he could have a good view of Vaura.

"Kate, dear, do you care to go?" enquired her husband.

"No; the play is not to my taste; Shakespeare is heavy."

"Heresy, heresy!" exclaimed Vaura; "surely, Mrs. Haughton, you don't
condemn, 'As you like it,' 'Much ado about nothing,' and the bill for
to-night--and with brilliant Neilson! for their heaviness--I doubt if
Rosalind, Beatrice, or Viola would agree with you, unless it be Viola,
who may have found the Duke; so, thank Fate, our lovers are more quick
witted."

"I should have jilted him, at once and for ever!" cried Mrs. Haughton.

"One would think the keen eye of love could have penetrated her
disguise," said Mrs. Haughton.

"Especially in pleading the love of an imaginary sister," said Vaura;
"our men would have suggested making love to the lips that were by."

"All I have to say is," said Mrs. Haughton, suppressing a yawn, "that
the way the Duke went a wooing would never have suited me; I like a
man with a spice of boldness in his love-making; a sort of stand and
deliver fellow."

"Who would not take no," said the Colonel.

"Yes, not like the poor victimised Quakeress we hear of; a man looked
her way for seven years, then said grace before he took the first
kiss."

"What an abstainer," laughed her husband; "as for the lazy Duke, he
should have stormed the castle and ran off with Viola."

"After which, I should have wished him a good night's rest; as I do
all and each of you," said Lady Esmondet, rising, and moving towards
the door.

"Not a bad idea," echoed the Colonel, "as we leave for Surrey in the
morning, that is, if you can manage the early, Kate?"

"Yes, though rising early is a relic of serfdom, still it is better
than vegetating here all day."

"Thank you;" turning wistfully to Vaura, he continues--

"I am really sorry you are not going with us, dear; but, promise me,
Alice, that you will both be with us for the ball and Christmas
festivities?"

"It's a long look till Christmas, Eric; but, should the 'miscreator
circumstance' not prevent; consider us with you; and, now good-night,
you, and all; and a restful sleep."

"Good night, everyone," said Vaura, "pleasant dreams; my own dear
uncle, good night," and with a soft, white hand on each cheek, her
beautiful face is turned upwards for his kiss.

"Blanche, you little gambler, away with you," said her step-mother.

"Good night, Sir Tilton, think it over: and what merriment you will
miss, and of how I shall miss you, if you don't come down with us."

"Don't think it possible just yet, but first day I can; with thanks,
yours, good night."

And now the small baronet alone, and not yet inclined for rest, throws
himself back in an easy chair, his hands in his pockets, and shoulders
in his ears, thinks himself into such a deep thought that the clock
striking two causes him to start.

"So late," he murmured, mechanically winding his watch. "What a
reverie I have been in! three-quarters of an hour since they left me!
Ah, Tilton, this wandering will never do, one cannot have everything,
and the other one is true, and makes sure of me. What a ripe, rare
loveliness; tut, tut, keep your eyes from her, my boy."

And he, too, has gone to the quiet of his chamber and leaves the room
to silence and gloom, save for the fitful gleam of an expiring coal in
the grate.



CHAPTER XI.

ON THE WING.


The god of slumber did not long hold sway over the senses of our
friends, but even so, time, the relentless, striding ever along, did
not leave them any spare minutes. Breakfasting at nine, with the
exception of Lady Esmondet, and Mrs. Haughton, who partook of their
first meal in their own apartments, the one being rather delicate, the
other accustomed to indulge the body; all were more or less eagerly
active; poor Lady Esmondet in sympathy with her old love, each now
thinking by change, to divert the mind from the might have been; Mrs.
Haughton loved the prospect of her throne at the Hall, and of daily
wooing the love of her idol to be domesticated there. Blanche, the wee
white mouse, longed for the greater freedom to be alone, or to play
detective over others, that a large estate would give her.

Everly just now had so many conflicting emotions he scarcely knew
which was uppermost. As for Vaura, she looked forward with intense
pleasure to a lengthened sojourn in the immortal city; knowing life at
Haughton under the present _regime_ would be distasteful to her.

"The gentleman from London, my lady," said Somers, entering and
presenting the card of Mr. Huntingdon.

"Very well; he is, I suppose, in our sitting room?"

"Yes, my lady."

"Now, Vaura, _ma chere_, take flight to Poppingay's, and bring your
maid, who can carry my parcels. You will find what I require at his
shop. I am so glad to know you are with me for some time, dear."

"_Au revoir!_ I shall be fleet as a deer."

Now Lady Esmondet, turning her steps in the direction of the Haughton
apartments, entering, said:

"I have come to wish you _bon voyage_; my lawyer is here; I know there
will be a general exodus of you all soon, while I am closeted with
him--he is a little bit of a tyrant and cross as a bear, if
interrupted."

"A man would be a bear if he could be cross to you, Alice," said Col.
Haughton, noting, regretfully, how delicate she looked.

"So that he does not give me a bear's hug, I shall survive it."

"It would be very pleasant this raw morning. Farewell, Lady Esmondet,
a gay trip to you," said Mrs. Haughton.

"Good-bye, Alice," and her hand is held tightly; "take care of
yourself; I know you will of Vaura. Remember Christmas at Haughton."

"Farewell, Eric; I shall not forget," and the blue eyes met his
kindly.

"Awful fuss you make over that woman, Colonel."

"She is a very old friend, Kate."

"Yes, I know, and as cold and polished as your grand-mother's
diamonds. If she does respond to your warm invite, she will freeze us
all, so we shall have to use all the timber to thaw out."

"You do not know her yet, dear."

Vaura only returned in time to say a few hurried words of parting. The
carriage in which Mrs. Haughton and Blanche are seated is waiting her
uncle at the door, watch in hand.

"Only a minute, and we are off," he cried, on seeing Vaura and her
maid appear. "God bless you, darling; good-bye, good-bye," he said,
kissing her affectionately; "do not fall in love with any Italian, I
want you to marry at home."

"Not even Garibaldi," said Vaura archly, though a tear glistened.
"Just fancy my home, a lone isle of the sea. Good-bye, dear uncle;
take good care of him, Mrs. Haughton. Good-bye, Blanche; there is a
mine of pleasure in store for you at Haughton; _bon voyage_ all."

"She is lovely enough to win even Garibaldi from thoughts of Italy,
past and present," said her uncle, lovingly.

"Colonel, I wish you would press Sir Tilton to come with us," said his
wife; "I have grown so accustomed to him, I could do without Mason
easier."

It was rather of a bore to the Colonel, this running in couples; when
he married a wife, he did not marry this acquaintance of hers; but
just now he feels that he himself deserves the lash as the fair face
of the lost Alice arises before him, and knowing that the Hall would
not now be open for guests only for his wife's gold. So the answer
the son and inheritor of the estate makes to the daughter of the
ballet-dancer is,

"Certainly, dear; anyone that will give you pleasure;" and turning to
Sir Tilton, who is driving to the station with them, says: "You had
better run down with us, Everly, if you have nothing else in view."

"Thank you, Colonel; have pressing business at London;" to quiet his
duns, which he did not deem necessary to communicate; "but can and
will be with you a month from now."

"You are very disagreeable, Sir Tilton, and not worth a cent."

"You are right," thought the small baronet.

"I want you to teach my pug tricks," continued Blanche poutingly.

"Come soon, dear baronet," said Mrs. Haughton; "by-by; remember me."

"Could a man do otherwise? Pleasant trip; goodbye."

And the iron horse is off, leaving the man about town who plays his
cards with a winning hand, alone on the platform.

"I shall hasten back to the hotel, they may not yet have left;"
meaning by 'they,' Lady Esmondet and Vaura. "It will look quite
natural to see them, and say the others are safely away." Hurrying
along, he reached the hotel to hear they had left "ten minutes
previously; just leaving twenty minutes till she sails, sir," said the
porter.

Hailing a passing cab, Everly offered double fare if in time. Fortune
favoured him in allowing him to be in time to assist another gentleman
(whom he thought to be on tantalizing intimate terms) in looking after
the comfort of the travellers.

"Delighted I'm in time to be of any service, Miss Vernon," he said,
heartily; "afraid you are going to have rain.

"I am protected, Sir Tilton," she said, smilingly, and holding up her
arm in water-proof ulster.

"Many women, when they don the armour of protection, so ill become it,
that we are fain to see them unprotected; but you are born to wear
anything, and look so well we don't want any new fashion."

"Always allowing, Sir Tilton, for the natural changeableness of man,
which would assert itself in spite of a momentary wish."

"You could hold us at will," he said, picking up a rose that had
fallen from her bouquet; "may I?" and it is carefully put on his coat.

"Trust me, Sir Tilton," she said, gaily; "I have made your sex (loving
it, as I do) a study. Charles Reade was right; you are 'born to hunt
something;' it certainly is not the old, which is past, but the new;
yes, say what you will, an innate love of variety--even to our gown,"
she added, merrily, "is an inherent part of your nature."

"Vaura, come, or you will be left on the dock in the enforced
guardianship of Sir Tilton Everly," said Lady Esmondet.

"Adieu, Sir Tilton," said Vaura; "breathe a prayer to Neptune that our
wardrobe is complete without day or night caps."

"_Bon voyage_; shall be at Haughton Hall to welcome you;" and, lifting
his hat, he was again left to his own devices, while Vaura, taking the
arm of Mr. Roland Douglas, went aboard the boat.

"Who is your handy little man. Vaura?" asked he.

"Sir Tilton Everly."

"Of where?"

"Of everywhere, my dear boy."

"Might be going there now, judging from the way he is tearing up the
street."

"Perhaps he is on a mad tear after Mrs. Haughton."

"It's all very well, Vaura, to try, now the dear little fellow is
away, to shunt him off on to Mrs. Haughton, he's not on a mad tear
after them; you mow 'em down, tares and wheat, together."

"I feel quite agricultural," said Vaura, laughing, as they joined Lady
Esmondet, who was talking to a Government _attache_, from London. "Mr.
Douglas calls me a mowing machine."

Here, Mr. Bertram came forward to shake hands with Vaura.

"I was beginning to think you would not cross to-day, Vaura," said
Lady Esmondet. "Sir Tilton seemed unable to tear himself away."

"It's getting too much for my feelings, Vaura," said Douglas, in
serio-comic tones; "tares again."

"What's the joke?" asked Bertram; "the fellow had a green and yellow
melancholy look about him, I noticed."

"Again! pile on the agony, tares and wheat are green and yellow."

"Tares and wheat," remarked Bertram. "If that's your text, Douglas, I
shall tear myself away, and pace the deck alone, if Lady Esmondet, or
Miss Vernon, won't take pity on me; I don't care for sermons, nor to
be classed with the tares. Who is the mannikin, Douglas," continued
Bertram.

"What's his name, and where's his hame; she dinna choose to tell,"
said Douglas.

"You are a greater tease than ever, Roland; I did tell you, but on the
way you lost it; but now again give ear--"

"Not only mine ear," he interrupted, "but my whole being, fairest of
Surrey enslavers."

"Well, Roland, the irrepressible, from the lips of the women who love
him, the mannikin is, dear or _cara mia_ before Tilton Everly to his
men friends, and Sir Tilton Everly to society; art satisfied?"

"By no means," he said slyly.

"He is only a gay little sunflower," said Lady Esmondet.

"Sunning himself in woman's smiles, and perhaps, who knows, laying up
somewhere out at interest, the smiles he gives in return, but, Roland
_mon cher_, Vaura is not his banker (she has always a hand full of
trumps and they are hearts)."

"Yes, there are many bankrupts on your hands, Vaura. I'm beginning to
think you've no heart, that's why the mowing business is done," said
Roland, half jestingly.

"Happy thought, my dearest boy; at my birth, Cupid, being short of
hearts, sent word by Mercury that Vaura Vernon would have to go
without, until such time in her life as she was able to win the hearts
of some half dozen men; as it would take so many to make a good-sized
womanly organ called a heart. Mercury further said I must send so many
men away heartless, I would suddenly find myself in possession, of
that lovable piece of palpitation; I would then find that piece of
feminine sighs too much for me, and would immediately exchange it for
a manly one; so you, see, Roland, I cannot have worked enough yet with
the agricultural implement; it's hard lines, you cruel boy, and you
only jest about, the mower," this she said in mock earnest tones; and
continued laughingly, "but then, I shall love only one; now, it is
awfully pleasant to love you all."

"From all I hear at home and abroad the mower has been in sure hands,"
remarked Bertram smilingly.

"Dame Rumour hath many ears to fill," replied Vaura.

"By the way, Vaura, did Sir Tilton Everly say the Haughtons took the
10.30?" asked Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, Dover has been deserted for Surrey; and the untiring little,
baronet follows in a month, and confided to me that he would be at my
uncle's to welcome us."

"The plot thickens," laughed Roland.

"But Roland Douglas," said Lady Esmondet, "he should be there; he
belongs, in some sort of way, to the wife of the Lord of the Manor, in
a 'do-as-I-bid-you' kind of way; in their relations towards each
other, one sees the advertisement for a person to 'make himself
generally useful,' clearly defined; fashionable women of to-day affect
such relations with men, and I suppose it is all right, as fashion has
made it orthodox.'"

"We find it a too pleasant fashion to object to it," answered Bertram;
"still rumour has it that Mrs. Haughton has been a great flirt, and if
I were in Haughton's shoes, I should turn the cold shoulder to this
Everly, or any other man; should they stay much at the Hall, time may,
with the ponderous hospitalities of the county, hang heavy to one who
has lived at New York pace, and just for pastime, she may flirt."

"I should think no woman married to Col. Haughton could, or would,
think to kill time with any other man," said Vaura, warmly, a slight
curl on her perfect lips.

"Bravo, Vaura," said her godmother; "a woman is of very slight value
if, when she marry a man worth going to the altar with, she, after a
few moons wane, looks about like Moore's 'Lesbia,' for some one to
keep _ennui_ at bay."

"Hear, hear," said Bertram; "but to-day we have so many marriages of
convenience that the society of some affinity is sought for
distraction's sake."

"It's awfully nice to have an affinity for some one else's wife; but,
by Jove," said Douglas, "if I were married, and caught a fellow
hanging about my wife, I'd just want to handle one of Vulcan's
heaviest, and tap him on the head."

"Spoken like a Briton on his preserves," laughed Vaura.

"How these fellows without an income manage to keep to the front is
more than I can tell," said Douglas; "now, this Everly, though he
doesn't exactly wax fat and shine, he isn't one of the lean kine
either."

"I bet my life," said Bertram, "he is angling in his aunt's flower
garden for a gold-fish."

"A boarding school would be a good field," said Lady Esmondet.

"Just the spot," cried Douglas; "and the gilded fair who would pay his
debts would win all the school prices from the gushing aunts."

"I read," said Bertram, "the other day, a good story in the _Scottish
American_, entitled 'Endless Gold.' A fellow, Brown hadn't a _sou_,
but always declared he would win an heiress; his friends laughed at
him; but one evening, on a great cotton lord, Sir Calico Twill, making
a speech, he put in 'hear, hear' at the right time. The old man,
pleased, invited him home to supper; there he met his heiress, fell in
love (to make a long story short), proposed, and was referred to
papa."

"'What is your fortune?'" enquired the pater.

"'Well, I don't exactly know,' said Brown; being uncertain whether it
was a three-penny or four-penny bit under his tobacco jar. 'But, give
me your daughter, and I promise she shall have endless gold.'

"'Come, don't exaggerate, Brown,'" said the tickled Twill.

"'Scarcely in my case,' said Brown; 'as be we ever so extravagant, we
should never be able to set through it.'"

"'Are you telling me truth?'

"'Truth; I swear it.'

"'Then take her, my boy, and her eight thousand a year; how pleased I
am she has been saved from fortune-hunters.'

"They were married; Brown made the money fly; bills came in. Scene:
Sir Calico in a rage.

"'Where is the endless gold you promised?'

"'Here,' said Brown, coolly, taking his wife's hand and showing her
wedding-ring; 'and what just fits one of my Wife's taper fingers I am
quite sure we could never get through.'"

"'There is one thing in our favour, papa,' said his daughter; 'no one
can say I have married a fool.'"

"Not bad," laughed Douglas.

"Henceforth," said Vaura, merrily, "I shall, in imagination, see small
Everly and his kind labelled 'Endless Gold.'"

"That little Tompkins will be in the market again this coming season,"
said Bertram; "I wonder who the successful angler will be."

"Unhappy heiresses," said Douglas, mockingly; "Cupid's darts are not
for thee."

"Thank heaven," said Vaura; "the man who takes my hand for the walk
through life will not take it for the gold he will find in its palm."

"The knowledge that the soft hand in his was his own," said Bertram,
"would so fill him with ecstacy, with one look at the face, that the
precious metal would be only in his thoughts as a setting for the
pearl he had won."

"Bravo, Bertram," said Douglas.

"_Merci_, Monsieur," said Vaura, smiling; "you flatter my poor charms;
but we cannot deceive ourselves; this is, as Mark Twain says, the
'gilded age,' and in going to the altar one of the two must have the
yellow sovereign."

"Yes, Vaura, you are right; one or other, it matters not, must have a
full hand," said her godmother.



CHAPTER XII.

SOARING!--THENCE TO THINGS OF EARTH.


"By the way, Roland, _cher garcon_ have your people yet returned to
Surrey?" enquired Vaura.

"The first detachment, consisting of the governor, with mother, now
delight the flock with their presence; and the paters, pipe, flock and
sermons again occupy his attention. The damsel Isabel is still at
Paris, whither yours truly is journeying to carry the child home to
our parents."

"I suppose Robert is still at Oxford?" said Lady Esmondet.

"No, at Rome; by the way, you and Vaura will see him; he is incumbent
of St. Augustine's."

"How strange it will be to see my old playmate (sad, wound up in
himself kind of boy he was) doing clergyman's duty," said Vaura.

"You should have heard," said Douglas, eagerly, "the pitched battles
he and I fought at vacation over the vexed question of High and Low
Church. I just went for him; and anyone overhearing would have thought
me an itinerant pedlar of theology--in the vulgar tongue, street
preacher--scorning all form as Papal; one would have thought me
encased in Gladstonian armour of Disestablishment, to have heard my
harangue. Poor Bob; in vain he expatiated on the glories of the
ancient fathers; in vain he took all the saints out for an airing; in
vain he talked of the ritual coming to us from the Jews of old; in
vain he asserted that Ritualism had brought life and vigour into a
slumbering church; in vain he talked of the old fox-hunting clergy; in
vain he talked of what a glorious thing for our church to give in a
little, and Rome to give in less; of how union would be strength, and
of the brave front we would show to all Christendom; of all we could
do in stamping out infidelity and rationalism; in fact, he was
sanguine of taking in everybody; all dissenters were to join us _en
masse_. Upon my word, Bob was eloquent; I assure you, he was so
enthusiastic, that in my mind's eye I saw the whole human family--
black, white, and copper-coloured, London belles and factory girls,
swells and sweeps--all with one voice singing the most pronounced of
High Church hymns, a cross in every hand, and all clothed, not by
Worth or a London tailor, but in the garb of monk and nun. His
earnestness so carried me away that I did not awake to myself and
things of earth until I felt the pins sticking into my flesh under my
monkish robe. I then thought it time to don the armour of the Low
Churchman, and come to the rescue of the human family, engaged,
clothed and ornamented as above. So, to slaughter the vision, I fell
to by telling him he belonged to the Anglo-Catholics; was as one with
the Greek Catholics, and any liberal Catholics in the Latin Church who
did not accept extreme Roman Catholic views."

"And what answer did you receive from Father Douglas?" enquired
Bertram; "did he acknowledge the truth of your charge?"

"Yes, by Jove, he did; he acknowledged that the union of the Anglican
with the Roman communion was the dearest wish of his heart; that he
would strain every nerve in the struggle to bring about its
fulfilment; that though, no doubt, infidelity was making rapid
strides, still churchmen generally united in thinking that before
long, and for the common good, petty differences would be sunk in the
grand magnitude of the act of the union of the churches, when
infidelity would be drowned in the waves of truth."

"And a grand, majestic scheme," said Vaura; "but we are too
easy-going in our religious paces to carry it out; to be sure, we all
go to church to-day; but why? Because, forsooth, it is respectable and
fashionable. But, I believe that where the ceremonial is conducted in
the most imposing manner--and the worship of the King of Kings could
not be conducted with too much splendour--that there, we gay
butterflies of to-day, are compelled to think of whose presence we are
in, are awed into the thought of whose honour all this is done in.
Yes, one there has other thoughts than one's neighbour's _tout
ensemble_."

"There is something in what you and Robert say, Vaura," said her
godmother; "but, to tell the truth, I bother myself very little as to
our church differences. Disestablishment, by Hon. Gladstone, is a real
unrest to me."

"Oh, I don't know; let it stand or fall by its own merit," said
Douglas.

"Yes, I go with Gladstone," cried Bertram; "that 'stand and deliver'
tithe business has given the church a bad odour in the nostrils of
dissenters."

"Still, I fear, should we sever Church and State," said Vaura, "that
other old institutions will topple over. Events seem every day to be
educating us up to preparing us for greater changes than
disestablishment. 'Tis, indeed, 'a parting of the ways.' The Church
Established seemed a strong wall or fortress supporting other (some
would say) old fancies. I must confess in this, our very pleasant age
of novelties, I like to know there is something old still in its niche
of time."

"Yes, I see; I must now sing a requiem over the departing forms of
Miss Vernon and Father Douglas, as they pass into the arms of Pope
Pius at Rome," said Roland, jestingly.

"Not over me, my dear boy; I am too comfortable where I am. I expect
you, Mr. Bertram, are this moment wondering that a woman of to-day can
interest herself in anything so old as the Church; but methinks even
the butterfly (that we are named after) is in a quieter mood when the
sun is behind a cloud, and he cannot see the beauteous flowers; we,
too, have our dreamy quiet."

"Yes, yes; you, at all events, are not a soulless woman," said
Bertram, earnestly.

"There are many of us, Mr. Bertram," said Lady Esmondet, "who actually
never think of anything old unless it be our old relations."

"And then, only, if they are on the top rung," laughed Douglas.

"You people are for once forgetting our old china," said Vaura, gaily;
"our love's all blue."

"The governor told me to ask you, Bertram," said Douglas, "how you get
on with Royalton at Saint Dydimus?"

"We don't get on at all; he has no more inclination for the church,
than I have; I pity these younger sons just ran into some fat living
as a _dernier ressort_."

"He is just the fellow," said Douglas "to hail as a godsend
disestablishment, when he will be compelled to graze in more palatable
pastures."

"Oh, when Church and State are severed, primogeniture will follow;
then he will get a slice of the estate of the pater," said Vaura.

"And for the younger sons a more comfortable dinner than of herbs,"
said Bertram.

"Then you think the 'stalled ox' brings one more content in our age of
comforts," said Lady Esmondet.

"Undoubtedly."

"And I am at one with you," continued Lady Esmondet, "for it means a
full hand, a full purse, without which one might as well be extinct;
for one could not pay Society's tolls; yes, the yellow sovereign is
all powerful; one may do as one pleases if one fills Grundy's mouth
with sugar-plums; she will then shut her eyes and see with ours, for
have we not paid our tribute-money? Yes, gold is the passport to
society; a chimney sweep, with pots of gold, would find a glad welcome
where the beggared son of a belted earl would be driven forth. But,
after all, 'tis an amusing age, and one must adapt oneself to one's
time. I own there are some unpleasantnesses, as when one meets, as
Mrs. Ross-Hatton did, a maid-servant from her mother's household; one
would grow used to these mongrels in time, I suppose, as this is the
age of progress."

"If no secret, where was the field of action for mistress and maid,
godmother mine?"

"No secret whatever, dear; they met at the Lord Elton's, Prospect
Hall; you know they are considered exclusive, and, as usual, there
were some of the best set there. At one of their dinners a Sir Richard
and Lady Jones were invited; my friend did not see their _entree_,
being seated in a deep recess with Lord Elton, admiring some rare gems
in _bric-a-brac_. She was so intently engaged that, merely glancing
upwards as her host stepped forward in welcoming them, to her
amazement a coarse, underbred woman stepping towards her, offered her
hand, saying: 'I am Lady Jones; I have met you somewhere before.' My
friend, giving her a calm British stare, without noticing the hand,
said haughtily: 'Yes, I have seen you as one of my mother's household;
as under-cook, or something in that way.'"

"By Jove, what a send-off," laughed Douglas.

"I expect at the moment she devoutly wished she had never climbed to a
higher rung; but for the _denouement_, godmother."

"Lady Jones beat a retreat immediately, Sir Richard following.
Lord Elton, after a word of apology to my friend, told her he was
aware they were _nouveaux riches_ when invited; but that Jones, a
newly-fledged M.P., had also much influence, and he wished to make use
of him; so had persuaded Lady Elton to send them cards. 'It does not
signify, my dear Lord Elton,' my friend replied; 'I have before now
met the most _outre_ people with comparative indifference; if the
woman had been silent she would, with her vulgar pretensions, be with
you now; too bad for you that I have been in the way, dear old friend;
I have hopes I shall outgrow this class prejudice, though somewhat
faint ones.'"

"'You will, dear Mrs. Ross-Hatton, should you keep pace with our age,'
Lord Elton replied.

"Your friend showed a good deal of courage," said Bertram, "to give
so direct a cut. I forget who she was, I was abroad at the time of
Ross-Hatton's marriage."

"She was a Sutherland; Fido Sutherland, a beauty and a belle, and
proud as Lucifer," answered Lady Esmondet.

"And brave as a lion," said Vaura; "for 'tis the fashion to fall down,
as the Israelites did in days of yore, and worship the golden calf."

"I fear we are not going to have a passage altogether free from
storm," remarked Bertram; "see to the west, that black cloud rolling
towards us."

"I think we shall have passed its line of travel ere it catches up to
us," said Lady Esmondet.

"By the way, Bertram, did you hear that Capt. Liddo, of the
Grenadiers, made this trip in six hours in a small canoe. What do you
think of that?" asked Douglas.

"Good enough; though I'd rather make the run in the usual time in our
present company. When did Liddo do it?"

"On last Derby day."

"So, so. How long a stay do you make at Paris, Lady Esmondet?"

"I have not decided."

"Ah, that is too bad; I enjoy anticipation, and should like to dwell
on the thought of many pleasant hours with you and Miss Vernon."

"We shall be able to manage many hours together at all events, for we
can patronize the same hotel," replied Lady Esmondet.

"It is that I know such pleasant arrangement to be impossible that I
speak, some friends having taken a French flat for me."

"Ah, I do regret this is the case," said Lady Esmondet.

"At all events, Bertram, we can enter the gates together hand-in-
hand, four-in-hand; so cheer up, old fellow," cried Douglas.

"Roland, _mon cher_," said Vaura, "you must bring Isabel from Madame
Rochefort's to our hotel, even for a few days, ere your return to
Surrey."

"Exactly my plan, fair demoiselle."

"That is" she continued, merrily, "if you promise to be submissive,
and not become a monopolist; for when you, Isabel, and myself are
together, I feel as if I had lost myself; I don't know to whom I
belong; you want me, Isabel wants me, until I don't know where I am."

"Belong to me, Vaura dear," he said, earnestly, and only heard by her,
"and all will be well;" aloud he said: "Submissive! yea, as a lamb; by
the beard of the Prophet I swear it."

"It would not be such a long look to swear by your own; you have a
very handsome one."

"_Merci_, dear Lady Esmondet; I shall take greater pride than ever in
it, now it has developed a new use."

"Or, being a true believer, you might have used Aaron's," said Vaura;
"only that then would the Prophet have no rest, even in the tomb."

"One requires rest there," said her godmother; "for the demon of
unrest hath got us in this lower sphere."

"And it's quite right that it should be so, godmother mine; and in
keeping with our ceaseless song of 'I'd be a butterfly.'"

"You are a clever actress, Miss Vernon," said Bertram; "but I am
inclined to think there is a latent depth of character, a womanliness
in you that our gay butterflies of fashion lack."

"You flatter me, Mr. Bertram."

"Not so, Miss Vernon; in our day there is much to make even a woman
think; you are a thinking woman, still one has but to look at your
eyes to know that in spite of your graver moods you have a keen zest
for what is pleasant in--"

"In this 'Vale of Tears,'" put in Douglas.

Vaura's bright expressive eyes smiled, as looking upwards, she said,
feelingly:

"Yes, even though 'much salt water here doth go to waste,' one must--
some think, not I--support the weeping human who named our pleasant
world a 'Vale of Tears.' No, 'tis better to let one's thoughts dwell
on the song of the nightingale than the voice of the night-bat; We
fear too much, and hope too little; 'tis best to dwell in the sunlight
while we may."

"Yes, 'tis better to laugh than be crying," said Lady Esmondet; "and
though one must go through life with one's eyes open, one need not
follow the example of Matthew Arnold's 'Sick King in Bokhara,' and
keep them only open to the saddening sights of sin, sorrow, and
despair, that the world we know, somewhere, has so much of; one can
only do what one can for those in distress; give one's mite, and give
it with a kindly smile, in our world of so much to do."

"So many worlds so much to do, so little done such things to be," half
sang Vaura; "but here we are at the French port, and so soon."

"One does not often find this a short trip," said Lady Esmondet; "but
time has flown, all because of congenial companionship."

"Yes, he has gone too quickly for once," said Bertram; "everyone for
his own pleasure; so, as I have a through ticket, I trust none of you
wish to linger."

"By no means, with fair Paris our goal," cried Vaura.

"Why, surely, Bertram, you heard the solemn compact entered into on
our arrival at Paris hand-in-hand, and the bearded oath I swore to be
as amenable to the wishes of _la belle_ Vernon as though I were a Jack
on wires; and, I appeal to all, could I promise more?"

"Yes," laughed Vaura; "you could promise to be quiet for five minutes,
and endeavour to bear a slight semblance to a stolid, deliberate,
dignified, wrapt-up-in-himself Briton."

"Alas! and alas for a transformation scene," sighed Douglas.

"Vaura, dear," said Lady Esmondet, "I forgot to tell you I received a
note from Felicite, saying they have not as yet left for Normandy, and
that we shall find them at their house in the Avenue de
l'Imperatrice."

"Ah! that will be pleasant; I love the de Hautervilles root and
branch; and wondered a little at their meditating a trip, with the
ball for Eau Clair on the _tapis_."



CHAPTER XIII.

ADAM.


Our friends being safely in the rail coach _en route_ for the city of
cities, a word of Roland Douglas; he is eldest son of the Rector of
Haughton (whose acquaintance we made in earlier days on the lawn at
Haughton, in chat with Col. Haughton and Trevalyon); his father is a
Scotchman, who had accepted an English living at the request of his
English wife. Roland, heir to a fine property from a Scotch uncle,
had, since leaving Cambridge, been left to his own devices, they all
frequently spending their holidays at his place, Atholdale, Dunkeld;
but his home was with them, he telling them "he was too gregarious a
fellow to live alone," that if the ghosts at Atholdale would be
agreeable and change their hours of liveliness from midnight to
midday, "he might manage to live there." And the rectory was glad to
have the life of its circle in its midst.

The three Douglas children, with Vaura Vernon, had been playmates, and
the days spent at Haughton Hall were among their most pleasant
reminiscences. Bright, merry Roland, with courtly Guy Travers, were
favourites of Vaura, each vieing with the other to win her favour,
fighting her battles with biped and quadruped, both boys coming to
love her with the whole strength of manhood, only to eat their hearts
out alone, as others, now in her womanhood, were doing, while Vaura
would tell herself, not without a heart-ache, that, "it grieved her to
say them nay, but she cared for them only in the dance, only in the
sunshine; that in the quieter walks of life, she would long for a
spirit more in kinship with her quieter, her higher nature."

Vaura had spent so much of her life with her uncle and godmother, that
the men they loved to have about them had probably spoilt her taste
for the very young men of to-day. Both she and her godmother, had many
friendships among men, believing the interchange of thought to be
mutually improving. Indeed, in most cases they trusted their
faithfulness, their sincerity, more than that of their own sex. And,
alas! with good reason, men having a larger share of that greatest of
gifts, charity! their knowledge of human nature making them rarely
censorious, their education giving them larger, broader views; how
many women, alas, are essentially censorious, uncharitable and
narrow-minded. Yes, nature has been lavish in gifts to Adam, as
opposed to Eve.

Roland Douglas had not as yet told his love to Vaura, a great dread
mastering him lest he had not won her love, for her merry banter and
kind sisterly manner led him to fear her heart, that he coveted beyond
all that earth could give, was not for him, but he told himself he
must speak, and that soon, for longer suspense was more than he could
endure; he hoped that her sympathetic nature might tell in his favour,
and that in pitying his great loneliness, she would come to him.



CHAPTER XIV.

OF LIONEL TREVALYON.


Meanwhile our friends are rapidly nearing Paris, and, even as we
speak, their train is at the depot.

"Ah, here we are, and our pleasant journeying _pour le present_ a
thing of the past," said Lady Esmondet.

"How long a stay do you make here?" asked Bertram, giving her his arm
to a _carrosse_.

"The Fates only know; _la belle_ Paris offers so many attractions,
that I have decided not to make up my mind in the matter, for I always
am seduced into staying a much longer time than I had previously
intended; there is always so much to amuse one."

"And such a legion of people to see," said Vaura; "there is no place
like Paris for enchaining one, and causing one to love one's chains."

"Look, quick," cried Lady Esmondet, hurriedly, "some one; is that
Captain Trevalyon over there, evidently looking for some one, or is it
his spirit?"

"It is he in the flesh; and looking anything but _spirituel_," said
Vaura as she thought, "Yes, she would know him anywhere; her knight;
so different to any other man she meets."

Yes, Vaura, so we all think when our king comes; beware, guard your
heart, if you would not yield to this fascinating man who slays at
will.

"Stay, foolish heart," thought on Vaura, "you are even now feeling
less interest in Roland, who would die for you; fill thy whole being
with a careless gaiety, and leave no room for a softer feeling to
master thee; remember the 'hidden wife,' and even should she not
exist, remember hearts are his game."

"Ah, the dear fellow sees us, and is pushing his way towards us," said
Lady Esmondet.

"The _dear_ fellow," said Douglas. "that's the way all you ladies
speak of Trevalyon, lucky fellow."

"And he, from what I hear, takes their homage as his right," said
Bertram.

"Oh! yes, as coolly as possible," said Vaura, gayly; "he's a bit of
philosopher, you know; I remember I used to wonder if he had feelings
like common mortals, and if all his loves were platonic; I vow I have
a great notion to become a disciple of Plato myself; 'twould save one
a world of heart-ache."

"Treason, treason," laughed Douglas; "better be a follower of
Epicurus."

"What nonsense you people do talk," said Bertram, in mock reproof,
"and neither of you mean a word of what you say. I now prophesy; that
out of revenge, Cupid will wound your large heart, Miss Vernon, and
you will give up to some thrice fortunate man; as for you, Douglas I
prophesy many a bumping heart-ache."

"And how long, oh prophet, do you give us of freedom; how long before
our chains are forged?" enquired Vaura, jestingly.

"Ere the chill of winter is felt in our land," Bertram answered in
mock earnestness.

"And the cry of the farmer is heard, as he sees the black frost on the
spring wheat," laughed Douglas.

"Delighted to see you, Lady Esmondet," said Trevalyon, taking off his
hat and shaking hands; "and you also, Miss Vernon, it is more than
ages since I have had any more than a glimpse at you. Allow me to
welcome you all to fair Paris; Colonel Haughton assigned me the very
pleasant role of attendant cavalier during your stay here, as also
body guard to your royal highnesses on your journey to the Immortal
city, whither I too am bound; why, Douglas, you here, and wherefore? I
thought you had not yet deserted your winged loves at Atholdale; any
good shooting this season?"

"Yes, pretty fair," answered Douglas, disappointed at the way things
were turning out, and wishing Trevalyon at South Africa, or any where,
so he was not by Vaura's side. He knew Trevalyon to be a man of
cultivated intellect, with a fascination of manner all women succumbed
to, with fully ten years more experience of life than his own, and
with a nice knowledge of all types of women. He knew him to be the
dread of all mothers with marriageable daughters, both for themselves
as disturbing their calm resignation as to what husband Fate had given
them, as also the sad havoc he made among their brood; of how they
plumed their feathers at his coming and drooped them at his going,
causing many an eligible suitor to retire from the field. Society
wondered that Trevalyon did not range himself, seeing so many
beautiful women his conquests. He shrugged his shoulders when chaffed
by his men friends as to his flirtations and cruelty, and would say:

"A slave of the ring is not a _role_ I have any wish to play; at all
events none of the pretty women I have flirted with so far have had
the power to hold me as her own. And until I meet a woman who can hold
me, and keep me from a wish to rove, I shall keep my freedom."

Then he would laugh and say: "After all, _mon ami_, I am not as cruel,
cold, or flirting as yourself. Your motto after as well as before
marriage is: _Si l'amour a des ailes n'est-ce pas pour voltiger_.
Better to act on that principle prior to (as you say I do), than after
marriage, as I know you all do; better not put the shackles on until
one meets a woman who will cause one not to feel them. As to your
charge of heartlessness against me, trust me; you say I know them;
under the amiable exterior of some of the most gentle-voiced and
loveliest, there throbs a cruel heartlessness.

"After all there is a good deal of the feline in woman, witness the
many marriages, ninety-nine out of every hundred are made by our
fashionable women, for money or position? Yes, they like the warm
corner, it matters not who gives it; and the man who loves them, and
whom they love--in a way, may eat his heart out alone; for no, they
will not listen to his pleadings, he has no gold. And they marry a man
to whom they are perfectly indifferent, not so to his belongings,
these they love with all the love of their feline hearts. No, I am not
cruel, I only amuse myself as you do, and in the way each likes best."

He acknowledges there must be women who are heroines, and perhaps he
may yet meet them, but as yet, he "only knows in God's world there
must be women men might worship."

"_Sans doute_," he says: "When petticoat does remain tender and true,
it is hard upon her that her lord should prove false and fickle, given
the warm corner our fair 'sisters, cousins, and our aunts,' are
content to purr; they shine in society, and have gained what is the
very end and aim of their existence, a wealthy marriage."

It is no wonder that poor Douglas, knowing the manner of man Trevalyon
was, dreaded his companionship for Vaura; what if she should charm, as
she certainly could if she would, the game would all be up for him;
and even should Vaura, knowing his reputation as a successful male
flirt, be on her guard. If Trevalyon determined to win her, the many
fascinations of manner he was master of, he having made woman a study,
would cause her, he feared, to succumb at the last. He felt unmanned,
and decided to leave them and go at once for Isabel, and proceed back
to England. For of one thing he felt sure, and that was that Trevalyon
would be attracted by Vaura, if it were only for her originality, the
freshness of her thoughts, her gay droll cynicism with no malice in
it, merely showing she went through life with open eyes; her sunny
temperament and gay conversation, to say nothing of her dear loveable
self, and as he turned to look at her, her laughing grey eyes looking
like stars, and a smile on her perfect lips, as she chatted gayly, he
inwardly moaned at what he might never call his own.

"Come, Roland," Vaura cried, "there's room for thee, most grave and
reverend _seigneur_; for you do look as grave as an owl this moment.
Is thy favourite pipe missing, or hast lost thy pet brand of that
panacea for thy every ill, tobacco?"

"No, I am not bereft of my old friend, my meerschaum pipe; but, being
only a mere sham," he added with a forced laugh, "I don't expect it to
develop qualities that will console me at parting with you and Lady
Esmondet, whose remembrance of me, I hope, will prove more than a
sham."

"A pretty speech, Roland," said Vaura, stepping from the carriage to
speak to him; "but I protest against this parting."

"You forget, Vaura, what my mission, at least my avowed mission, was,"
he said, in an undertone, "incoming to Paris; I shall now go for
Isabel. And away, you have a man with you now who never thinks or
cares for the hunger and thirst of the men near him; he drinks the cup
of sweets to the dregs himself. Good-bye; think of me sometimes, for
you must know you are always in my thoughts."

And stepping forward with Vaura, he placed her in the carriage, and
wishing all good-bye and much enjoyment, saying to Vaura and Lady
Esmondet: "Don't fail to make the Hall blithe and gay at Christmas by
your presence;" lifted his hat and was gone. Trevalyon was not slow to
see this little by-play, and his mental conclusion was:

"Another fellow gone, stricken by a fair woman face, well I don't
wonder, by Jove; for the beautiful little girl has developed into a
lovelier woman, a man need not be ashamed to be the conquest of a face
figure, and I've heard men say, mind, like Vaura Vernon possesses;
heaven be praised for the retreat of the Douglas, though had the
Douglas been wise he'd have kept the field, or tried to, but now I,
while guarding my heart, shall talk to her; it will be a pleasant way
to kill time, and her vivacity, merry banter, chit-chat, or grave to
gay, or who knows, tender humours, will be a pleasant study in Rome
for the next month or two."

"Well, here we are snug at last," said Lady Esmondet, as they rolled
along to their hotel in a comfortable carriage; "and I am not sorry,
for _je suis tres fatiguee_. But I am really sorry Roland has gone;
you will have to exert yourself, Lionel, if you don't want us to miss
him, for we shall be altogether at your tender mercy."

"It is such seductive happiness the knowing you are leaning upon me,
that I, Trevalyon, warn you both I shall do all I can to cause you not
to regret the Douglas."

"You forget, _ma chere_ godmother," said Vaura, "that we also have Mr.
Bertram; he is a man of weight," she added laughingly, "and can surely
share the weighty matter of our amusement with Captain Trevalyon."

Mr. Bertram has his weighty agency on his mind, you know; he is one of
the agents sent by government to attend to our interests at the coming
exposition, and as the Prince of Wales, heaven bless him, has
personally interested himself to make the huge show one great success,
they will all vie with each other in their different departments;
indeed, I expect Mr. Bertram will only now have time to fly in
occasionally to have a look at us. How about your lazy club life, Mr.
Bertram?"

"Yes, Bertram, your luxurious go-as-you-please existence is at London;
you _a_ Paris," said Trevalyon gayly.

"I fully expect my gossips at the club won't know me on my return; I
shall be a skeleton frame, rack and bones, and my aldermanic rotundity
will be in the streets and audience chambers of Paris."

"A man of your size, Bertram, won't regret a few pounds of flesh
weighed in the balance as against the success of our exhibits," said
Trevalyon.

"Not while I remember," answered Bertram, "Gladstone's remarks in the
_Fortnightly Review_, his almost prediction (unless we bestir
ourselves): That England's daughter, the Great United States of
America, may yet in the near future wrest from us our position in
manufacturing of Head servant to the household of the world. Many of
we British want a rough reminder like that."

"Yes," said Vaura, "some of our manufacturers forget that younger
nations are wide-awake and eager to pass us by at a hand-galop, while
we go dozing through time with our night-caps on."

"We are England, that's enough, and we cannot realize that the world
moves. We plume ourselves upon the time when we handed from our docks
everything to poor indolent Europe, or only for the ignorant
colonies," said Lady Esmondet, ironically.

"_N'importe, chere_ Lady Esmondet," answered Trevalyon, merrily. "Our
manufacturers will wake with a start in 1878, and forego both night-
caps; they won't have time to brew the one or don the other in
surprise at exhibits from the poor colonies and the ingenious
Americans."

"I have no doubt our manufacturers with myself will not be off with
our old loves, while we can keep them; my comforts are safe, for I
seduced one of the cooks from the club to come here with me; so night
or day caps are to the fore," said Bertram.

"I thought," replied Trevalyon, "for a man of your taste, you had a
most contentedly jolly look; no wonder, when we know the way to the
aldermanic heart is through the aldermanic stomach."

"Capt. Trevalyon," laughingly said Vaura, "besides the _recherche_
little dinner Mr. Bertram has bid us to, I want you to cater to--
another sense and let us see the immense Hotel Continental!"

"Consider the Continental on the programme, my dear Miss Vernon; Mr.
Bertram's _chef de cuisine_ will cater to the inner man," answered
Trevalyon.

"Women sometimes eat," said Vaura, demurely.

"How gay the streets look," remarked Lady Esmondet, "it is always a
_fete_ day _a_ Paris."

"A month or two ago the bands in the parks filled the air with music,"
said Vaura; "now it is filled with the murmur of many voices, see the
little chesnut-seller doing his part."

"Here we are, _Hotel Liberte le Soleil_," said Trevalyon, as the
carriage stopped.

"And here we part," said Bertram, "not, in the language of the poet,
'to meet no more,' but to meet on to-morrow eve at my appartments, and
I shall inform my cook that three of England's epicures honour me, and
to get up something better than frogs' legs."

"We shall expect ambrosia," laughed Lady Esmondet.

"_Tres bien_, I shall not forget," said Bertram, as he made his
adieux.

"Au revoir, Bertram," cried Trevalyon. "And for your life don't forget
a dish of turtle's liver from Voisin's.

"We have teased him enough at all events," said Lady Esmondet; "but as
for turtle's liver, I am rather chary of it as yet. But do my eyes
deceive me, or is it petticoat government here?"

"Yes, feminine rule is the order of the day," replied Trevalyon.

"How important we look in possession of office, desk and stool; I was
not aware we had mounted so high anywhere outside the United States,"
said Lady Esmondet.

Here a man in neat livery stepped forward to show them to their suite
of apartments, which Trevalyon, at the written request of his friend,
had secured, who now seeing his companions _en route_ for their rooms,
bent his steps in the direction of the office to complete the
necessary business arrangements.



CHAPTER XV.

HEART-STIRS.


As our friends followed the servant, a child's cry proceeded from one
of the salons as they passed; the page had a comedy face, and Vaura
thinking his reply might amuse, asked:

"Do the babies take care of each other?"

With a farcical expression, the man answered unlocking the doors:

"_Oui_, Mademoiselle."

"Women crow everywhere, for men are no where, and babies anywhere."
The maids seeing to bath and toilette, their mistresses met in the
comfortable _salon_ which was entered on either side from each
sleeping chamber and small boudoir; soon in pleasant converse, or
pauses of quiet, as friends who know and love each other can indulge
in; Lady Esmondet and Vaura passed the time until the _entree_ of
Trevalyon to escort them to the _salle a manger_ and _table d'hote_;
as he sees them he thinks, "how charming they look refreshed and
re-robed, each wearing gown and neck-gear, artistic in draping and
colour. How is it that some women have (Vaura always had it), some
innate gift in robing, causing one's eyes to rest on them and not
tire, again both possess a subtle charm of manner; Vaura has as veil a
voice that woos one as she speaks. Haughton shall have my warmest
thanks for giving me such companionship; dear old fellow, he did not
forget my request." And stepping to Vaura, he hands her a bouquet of
sweet tea-roses, saying:

"You see, Miss Vernon, your Knight of the Lion Heart, as in days of
yore you dubbed me, has not forgotten the button-hole bouquets you
used to make as child hostess; it is not aesthetic, as from your
fingers; this is only from the basket of one of the people."

"_Merci_; as your unfashionably retentive memory bring me so much of
sweetness, then am I happy in your being unfashionable." And as she
fastened a few to her corsage, placing the remainder in a vase, she
continued: "See, god-mother dear, my sweet tea-roses with their
perfumed voice will remind us of our usual excursion on to-morrow."

"And may I know what this usual excursion is?" asked Trevalyon, as he
seated himself between his companions at table.

"Surely, yes," said Vaura; "one we almost invariably make on coming
abroad, should we be located at an hotel for many days, where they
don't as a rule, cater to one's olfactory nerves, we journey to some
of the conservatories and rob them of many odorous blossoms, to
brighten our temporary home; this time we carry a large order for
Haughton Hall, so large indeed, that I should not wonder; did the
vendors take us for market gardeners; robbing sweet sunny Paris to
brighten and perfume our London fog."

"Or perhaps," said Lady Esmondet, "as there is so much discussion is
Canadian newspapers over Free Trade _versus_ Protection; the great
unread may mix us so up that we buy before duty is laid."

"Take my word for it, Lady Alice, did the Frenchman look upon you as
despoilers, in the long run, he would not even try to resist making
your purse as trash for to-day."

"Were I a flower vendor," said Vaura, "I should be a follower of
Bastiat, and gather my roses while I may, by selling cheap as I could
and buying cheap."

"Are you feeling better, Lady Alice, though to my eyes you are looking
much as when last I saw you; Haughton tells me you are going to Italy
for change," he said kindly.

"Yes, I don't feel quite myself, Lionel; and Italy will be sun-warm,
what I require, my physician tells me; but the air on the water has
given me such an apetite, I feel better already."

"The very scene we are in is enough to cure one; so bright, so gay,
_chic_ in every way," said Vaura.

"Yes, 'tis brimful of animation," said Trevalyon; and the _salle a
manger_ is preferable to privacy; when one travels, 'tis more of a
change to live its life, the continuous noise, bustle and excitement
take one out of oneself."

"Which is a panacea for all one's ills," said Vaura.

"You have not yet told us your experience in the office; was the
major-domo very peremptory?" asked Lady Esmondet.

"No; on the whole she bore her high seat meekly enough."

"Now to me," said Vaura, "it is more preferable to, as women did in
days of yore, buckle on the armour for some brave Knight, see that
helmet and breast-plate are secure, and send him forth into the
world's turmoil; yes, I am content to live my woman life."

"Because you know your power and feel it sweet, is why you are
content," he said in low tones, letting his mesmeric eyes rest on her
beautiful face.

"But is it true, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, (as they left the table,
followed by many eyes), "is it true that at Bordeaux, Lyons,
Marseilles, &c., women fill manly offices?"

"True, 'tis true, and I must tell you a funny incident bearing on this
question. My friend, Ross Halton, was over at New York immediately
after their recent monster elections; a friend of his was defeated;
his agent telling him there was foul play somewhere, for numerous
votes promised him were eventually polled for the other side; passing
the house of a party man, out of curiosity he went in to ascertain if
he had been true to his colours; on asking him, the man looking
sheepish, hanging his head, said: 'The wife's democrat, sir,' while a
quick determined, little woman stepped forward, saying: 'he,' pointing
to her husband, 'sees you or your agent once a year, when you come to
buy his vote; he lives with me!'"

"Whither are we drifting?" said Lady Esmondet, sinking into a chair.

"Whither are we drifting," echoed Vaura, with animation, "as sure as
Fate, into the 'Gy' and 'An' of Bulwer's New Utopia; but talking of
woman's rights, reminds me of the rights of man. Did you say dear
uncle gave you your charter to meet us so opportunely, and locate us
so pleasantly.".

"I did, _ma belle_; but you scarcely heard, as at the time you were
listening to the adieux of the Douglas."

"Ah, yes, poor Roland," and Trevalyon saw that a little sigh was
given, but there is no sadness in the dark eyes turned again to him,
as she says, "and poor uncle; I wonder what the county people will
think of Madame."

"She can make herself popular if she will; she at all events has the
wherewithal to buy their vote," said Lady Esmondet, as she buried
herself in _London Truth_.

"Yes, that's true, I suppose she will take," said Vaura, musingly.

"You don't know how delightful I find the being again with you, Miss
Vernon," said Trevalyon, earnestly. "Such a lapse of time since the
old life at Haughton."

"Yes, I remember well," and the rose deepened in her soft cheek, "so
well the last time I saw you there."

"Do you; I am glad you do not forget what I never shall," and he
leaned forward, looking at her almost gravely.

Vaura too, in her long look backward, had a tremulous softness in her
expression, with a far-away look in the eyes, vividly recalling the
lovely child-woman to his memory. Rousing herself, she says: "Lady
Esmondet, _ma chere_, you should bury yourself in your couch instead
of _Truth_, it grows late; and I am to take care of you."

"In a few moments, dear, I am on something that interests me," she
said, without raising her eyes from the paper.

"And I," said Trevalyon, "am forgetting a friend in my apartments;
lonely and alone in a strange place."

"Your friend," said Vaura, with a swift thought to the hidden wife,
"must think you the extreme of fashionable to receive at the witching
hour of midnight."

"My friend does not care whether I be fashionable, but worships me,
and would be with me morning, noon and night."

"You speak as if you believe," she said, veiling her eyes, and idly
picking off the leaves of the roses.

"Yes, past doubting; not being a Christian, I am the only god my
friend worships."

"Women have spoiled you, Capt. Trevalyon; you boast of our idolatry."
For the first time he partly reads her latent thought; and saying,
hurriedly, "Stay here five minutes," rising quickly, left the boudoir.

"What has he gone away so hastily for?" enquired Lady Esmondet,
turning from the newspaper. "Lionel, dear fellow, is usually so easy
in his gait."

"To see some one who worships at his shrine; said he would return in
five minutes;" she answered, carelessly.

"Oh! he did not say who?"

"No, it might have been awkward."

"Why? what do you mean, _ma chere_?"

"It might relate to the hidden wife story."

"Nonsense, Vaura; mark my words, he has no more a hidden wife than you
have a hidden husband."

"Yes, yes, I know, and should not be hasty, for _errare est humanum_,"
she said quickly, brushing something very like a tear from her bright
eyes.

"I am so glad, dear," said Lady Esmondet, apparently not noticing her
emotion, "that your uncle hit upon this plan of Lionel being our
travelling companion, there is so much adaptability in him, he gives
one quite a restful feeling."

"Own at once," she answered, recovering herself, "that 'tis pleasant
to have a man about one, and that we have not drawn a blank in our
present squire _des dames_."

"Just my thought, dear; but he is coming, or it may be they, for
Lionel is talking to some one."

"The deity and his votary; now do you forgive my faith and credulity,
Miss Vernon," he said, sauntering in with a noble dog at his heels.

"Splendid fellow," cried Vaura, impulsively, drawing his head to her
knee, laying her cheek against it; looking up at his master she said:
"Forgive me, I misunderstood you; remembering you only as my old-time
Knight of the Lion Heart, I feared the world of women had spoiled
you."

"You know how to heal when you wound," he answered gently.

"Is he not a Leonberg?" said Lady Esmondet, as the dog went to her
side to be caressed.

"Yes, and they are the best dogs in existence; dear old Mars, it would
be strange indeed were I not attached to him, he never tires; in all
my wanderings is always faithful."

"And 'man is the god of the dog,' which a moment ago I did not
remember; you will not have to remind us of the old adage, 'love me,
love my dog,' for we shall love the dear old fellow for his own sake,"
said Vaura.

"Yes, indeed, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet; "you need have no fear of
banishment on his account."

"Thank you," he said, receiving and giving to both a warm hand-clasp.
"Depend upon it, if Mars has any battles to fight for you, he will not
put to shame his name; and now we leave you to woo the god of
slumber."



CHAPTER XVI.

LIFTING THE VAIL.


The following morn the sun arose and smiled his greeting on gay
Paris--methinks Old Sol weeps, when clouds come between his beams and
the gayest of cities. Lady Esmondet and Vaura enjoyed their drive
through the beautiful boulevards out into the suburbs, and to one of
the largest public conservatories; the gardens were a scene of
enchanting loveliness, laid out in the perfection of artistic taste;
the friends roamed whither their will led, revelling in the perfumed
air and beauty of colouring.

"Here," said Vaura, "one could be content to sing, 'I'd be a
butterfly,' all day long."

"Yes, but only, _ma chere_, for a summer day."

"I am afraid you are right, godmother mine, and that when winter with
the gay season came on the boards of life, I should prove faithless
and sing, Oh, for the sights and the sounds of the season for me!"

"But we cannot linger longer, Vaura; we must go to the office and
leave our order."

Having left an order that astonished the clerk, they took a reluctant
leave of this lovely floral nest. They ordered the man drive towards
the city in the immediate vicinity, of which Vaura alighted at a neat
cottage to visit a blind _protegee_, one Marie Perrault, daughter of a
one-time actor of no mean repute, who had taught elocution at the
Seminaire where Miss Vernon had finished her education. Monsieur
Perrault had assisted Vaura in the getting up of theatricals, she
having developed such excellent histrionic powers. Perrault secretly
hoped she would yet make her _debut_ from the boards of his favourite
Lyceum Theatre Francais.

Marie was overjoyed at the pleasant surprise of a visit from her
benefactress, whose face, lovely as it was, and lit up with the joy of
living, gay chit-chat, and sweet-scented blossoms she carried seemed
to brighten, as with sunbeams, her darkened life. Vaura stayed long
enough to leave her gifts of fruit, flowers, and kind words for M.
Perrault; and left for the Seminaire of Madame Rocheforte, there she
lunched, and learned that Isabel Douglas had left for England,
immediately on the arrival of Roland.

"Isabel is a sweet girl, and her brother a noble fellow," said Madame,
earnestly; "and I conclude from what she tells me that her brother
loves you with one great love. I feel for you like a mother, Vaura, so
you will understand my speaking, and I hope love will creep into your
heart for him."

"I trust you are mistaken, Madame, for it would grieve me very much,
more indeed than I can express to cause him pain."

"I hope you will change, _ma chere_; woman is fickle; and when he
pleads, as I am sure he can, you will not look on his handsome face
unmoved."

"He has made a conquest of you, _chere madame_," said Vaura, gravely
kissing her on both cheeks in adieu.

"_Oui, ma chere_, but,--for you."

"_N'importe_, madame; remember 'that men have died and worms have
eaten them, but not for love.'"

"You know better, Vaura."

And as she walked in the direction of her hotel (attended by one of
the school servants) she told herself that there was not always truth
in the words, witness dear Guy and others; poor Roland too; she hoped
he would not take it to heart. On entering the hotel her maid met her
with a message from Lady Esmondet bidding her dress at once for Mr.
Bertram's dinner. Vaura, telling Saunders to be expeditious--she would
wear her biscuit colored satin, old lace, coral ornaments--is soon
robed; her fluffy hair, almost bronze in its brightness and so
luxuriant giving her maid no trouble, is as an old time saint hath it,
'a glory to her,' while the warm tints of her rich beauty is set off
by the colour of her gown.

"You are a treasure, Saunders," said her mistress; "I find you have
dressed me so quickly I shall have time for a little reading; go tell
Lady Esmondet I now await her pleasure to leave."

"You are so easy to dress, miss; you see, Mademoiselle, your eyes and
complexion don't want doing up; now when I was maid to the Misses
Verlingham--"

"Spare me the mysteries of the _toilette_, Saunders, and do my
bidding; mysteries indeed," thought she, half-laughing, "what would
the poor men say could they see the war-paint putting on for their
slaughter," and picking up one of W. H. Mallock's novels she sank into
a cosy corner. In half an hour Saunders returned, saying that Lady
Esmondet with Capt. Trevalyon were waiting in the _salon_. Enveloped
in a carriage wrap of white wool, with the dainty hood of satin of her
gown covered with old lace, she joins her companions, with a "may I."
Capt. Trevalyon loosens the fleecy wrap and fastens with a diamond pin
some damask-roses and yellow pansies to her corsage. As they roll
speedily along, Lady Esmondet calls on Vaura to give an account of
herself in the hours of her absence.

"I was beginning to think, dear, that M. Perrault was renewing his
entreaties that you should take to the boards of the Theatre
Francais."

"I did not meet him, else doubtless he would," she answered.

On Lady Esmondet's remark, she thought (in the flickering light) a
cloud came to Trevalyon's brow, and now that a converse sweet, broken
and changeful was taking place between Vaura and he; Lady Esmondet
gave herself up to thoughts of the past engendered by the cloud on the
brow of her friend, usually so calmly careless, and she thought he
naturally would dread one so lovely and gifted living the life of
theatres, if it were only that in his interest in her, she would drift
away from them; and home life in the fascinations of an actress
existence. And a divorce suit of some thirty years ago, which as a
very young girl of fourteen, she remembered--all now came again to her
memory,--in which the principal actors were Lionel's father, Hugh
Trevalyon and his beautiful wife Nora. Both were passionate lovers of
the drama; the Trevalyons frequently wintered at Paris, where they
made the acquaintance of one of the principal actors of the day. He
was a handsome man with a charm of manner none could resist, and as
fate would have it, living at the same hotel, he so ingratiated
himself into favour with both, who in their admiration of his talents
almost deified him, that he was the recipient of an invitation in his
idle days to the Towers; while there, an overwhelming passion for his
beautiful hostess completely mastered him. She, always fascinated by
his seductive manner, when he pleaded, gave way, feeling that she had
met her master; accustomed to worship his talents, she simply felt she
was his if he willed; finally at the close of a night of revelry, ball
and theatricals at the Towers she gave up, consenting, nay willing, to
elope at his wish, with only a passing thought to her little boy and
once loved husband; she was his; he was her god, and she never dreamed
of the man she had taken for better or for worse; her husband sued for
and obtained a divorce, the actor marrying his love at once, but she
only lived for two short years passing in her beauty and frailty from
the judgment of society to the judgment of high heaven. "Poor fool,"
said many a fair dame with a contemptuous shrug of shoulders, "why was
she so verdant as to elope? with a husband as adoring she might easily
have kept her place in society and her actor too." And so when they
met they passed her by, she not having the wisdom of the world. And
Lady Esmondet from the corner of the carriage thought on; of how
Lionel's father on his wife's desertion of him had gone to the dogs,
rushing into all kinds of mad dissipation up to the time of his wife's
death, when he became a confirmed misanthrope, living in absolute
seclusion until his own death some two years agone; while going to
destruction for distraction's sake, poor man, he had reduced his
income to about L8,000 per annum. Before his death he had imbued
Lionel with a distrust of women, endeavouring to extract an oath of
celibacy from the son whom he loved, and who loved him. "Never trust
one of the frail sex with your name and honor, my son," he would never
tire of saying. Lionel did not make an oath as his father prayed, but
said wearily, "Never fear, father, I shall trust none of the gay
butterflies further than I can see the brightness of their wings; much
less give them, any one of them, the chance to sully our escutcheon
with another blot," and continuing he would woo his poor father to
quiet by saying, "No, I know them too well; our motto is theirs, they
are "always the same, always. _Toedet tandem, eadem fecisse_," and
again he would woo him to quiet by "No, do not grieve for me, father,
I shall not wed unless an angel descends for my benefit; but did she,
she would be then a fallen angel," and the poor, broken-hearted man
died in his son's arms, contented in his wish. But even now, Lionel
feels that as the child Vaura had a charm for him, so the fair woman
opposite him has, and that if he but yields to it, it may master him;
for his race are "always the same, always" in one thing which is, a
love lasting as time for one woman; though having many _affaires de
coeur_; they feel one _grande passion_, one wedded love, never
marrying a second time. And the _carrosse_ rolls along, and Lionel
with an irresistible craving, even if he comes to grief, which he
tells himself there is no fear of, feels the pulse, as it were, of
Vaura's heart, to see if the world has left unspoiled the tender,
sympathetic, true and loving nature of the child he knew so well. "You
are right, Capt. Trevalyon, sympathy, true, soul-felt, and earnest,
never dies; it is the _root_ of wedded happiness; alas, how many lives
are wrecked through the absence of it," she says sadly, but he feels,
and not without a heartache, that she is oblivious almost of his
presence; her lovely face in its frame-work of lace is turned from
him, as she thinks, "and yet, pity is divine! yet; knowing this, what
have I shown poor Guy." The erratic life poor Lionel led, and which
had been almost compulsory, the weary cynicism which was the outcome
of the life enforced upon him, by his mother's frailty and his
father's lasting grief thereat, often palled upon his real nature. But
as he never expected to meet a woman who could hold him, he frequently
gave himself, epicurean-like, to the pleasure of the hour.

After leaving the army, and when the glittering wings of butterflies
and their surroundings wearied him, he would leave the gay cities, and
travel much in foreign lands, in cold bleak northern latitudes, or
sunny climes, studying human nature, and giving some thought to its
many phases, with the different creeds men hold at times on seeing the
self sacrificing lives of the sisters of charity, on witnessing noble
deeds which should be written in characters of gold, but which they
did in the most humble self abnegation. When he looked upon these and
knew them to be the outcome of the Roman Catholic Church he would
think surely the Church that gives birth to such lives must be the
Church for the saving of men. But then some glaring inconsistency of
those within her pale would recur to his memory, and he would turn
with a sigh from some pictured Christ, or the peaceful beauty of the
madonna. Well might Lionel exclaim, "In this age of seeming, what is
truth! for what grade of society has not its shams! in what church are
there not hypocrites as saints! in what government is there not
imperfection! in what political campaign is there not a bribe given!
in what age were there so many Churches." In what age was religion so
fashionable! Yes, to-day, it is not charity which covers the multitude
of sins, it is the cloak of religion, and yet 'tis not the fault of
creeds, 'tis _errare est humanum_. Ah me! we gay nineteenth century
butterflies are a favoured generation; we are so respectable you know;
we give the Church her innings, and that ancient firm of Bacchus and
Comus have their innings also. Such thoughts as the above often came
to Lionel, in his lonely wanderings far away from the gay cities, a
life which he adorned with such gay abandon when one of them.

And now lady Esmondet awakes to the present with a start (as the
carriage stops,) and from her silent thoughts on the past, as she had
gathered it from Eric Haughton and from Lionel himself.



CHAPTER XVII.

CHIC AUJOURD'HUI.


Captain Trevalyon assisted his friends to alight in front of a
handsome house in a fashionable avenue.

"Can this be the right address," said Lady Esmondet. "It is a private
residence _et regardez_, by the gas-light in the entrance one can see
the arms of a noble house cut in the stone."

"Yes," answered Trevalyon, "we are all right; a patrician mansion
knocked down by the hammer, now simply _numero troisieme_, Avenue de
l'Imperatrice, and if Bertram is as comfortable inside as he is
fashionable outside then we may expect turtle's livers _a la
Francaise_, the choicest of wines in this hot-bed of grapes, this land
of vineyards, dishes that would tickle the palate of a Lucullus, the
cosiest of after dinner chairs, French coffee, which means a good
deal, the brightest of fires, and faces, sweet notes of song," with a
glance at Vaura, "and the most delicate of cigarettes, so delicate as
not to entail the punishment of banishment from two ladies fair."

"What a luxurious picture you draw, Captain Trevalyon," said Vaura
gayly, "and what an epicure! you dwell with such pleasure upon each
dish, your livers, your--"

"_Pardonnez_," answered Trevalyon, laughing; "not mine, the turtle's"
and continuing with mock gravity, "I never expect mine to be dressed
at Voisin's."

"Horrible! a too warm anticipation of torment," cried Vaura.

"Torment!" said their host, stepping forward as a servant announced
them, and tortures are obsolete words in gay Paris and even in the
reign of terror, such a fair vision would surely have escaped. "A
hundred thousand welcomes," he continued, shaking hands with all, "and
I feel sure no bachelor under the McMahon _regime_ is so highly
favoured as Edward F. Bertram to-night."

"Listen," cried Vaura, "Mr. Bertram will put to shame the gay gallants
of Paris, in the making of pretty speeches; I believe the air of this
room is conducive to that sort of thing; I feel inclined to say
something complimentary on the beauty and comfort of our host's
surroundings myself.

"Relieve my curiosity, Mr. Bertram, and tell me where you are?" said
Lady Esmondet, as she leaned back and placed her feet on the softest
of fender stools; "we came to dine with a bachelor in something of
bachelor, live-by-myself style, and we find ourselves in a noble
mansion."

"Yes, Bertram," said Trevalyon; "I was aware of the capacity of a
London alderman, in catering to the comfort of his pampered body; but,
I repeat Lady Esmondet's question of where are you."

"And I answer," said the voice of gay Mrs. Eustace Wingfield, as she
entered, "in one of the most fashionable of French flats on Avenue de
l'Imperatrice, the fourth flat of said number Eustace and I are
fortunate denizens of, and I can assure you, the inmates are such
pleasant people that, yours truly, with Eustace, are oftener to be
found in these sunny quarters than at Eaton Square, London."

"You are happy," said Vaura, "never out of the sunshine."

"Yes, I like it," said Mrs. Wingfield; "I can't live in the shade, and
Mr. Bertram has me to adore for giving him the sun-light of this
dwelling. I saw by the papers he was to make his exodus from London,
so I telegraphed him to come here, and bring on a box of French novels
we had forgotten."

"One does sometimes forget the most important part of one's luggage,"
said Vaura.

"But," said Trevalyon, "I'll wager Bertram did not forget your mental
food."

"Not he, with his aldermanic taste for spicy dishes," said Vaura.

"No, the temptation would be too much for him, with the _piece de
resistance_, an uninteresting husband, side dish, paragon lover,
_entree_, neglected wife with flavourings thrown in, scandals, duels,
etc.," said Trevalyon.

"How well he knows the condiments," remarked their host in sly tones,
and rubbing his hands softly; "but talking of condiments, reminds one
of dinner, and that Everly should be here."

"I hear a footstep on the hill which doesn't grow fainter, fainter
still," said Mrs. Wingfield.

"Here we are again," said Sir Tilton Everly, entering, and shaking
hands with all, continued: "I hope, Bertram, I havn't kept your dinner
waiting."

"No, no, my dear fellow, my dinner waits for no man."

"You see our gallant host makes an exception in our favour, Sir
Tilton," said Lady Esmondet.

"He considers the length of our toilette," said Mrs. Wingfield.

"And train," laughed Vaura, as Trevalyon caught his foot in her
trailing skirts, in crossing behind to offer his arm.

"Go where one will," said Trevalyon, covered by the hum of voices;
"one is sure to fall in with Everly."

"Yes, uncle Eric says he reminds him of the clown at a circus, with
his cherry cry of 'here I am again.'"

"He seemed to me to be a sort of pet monkey of Mrs. Haughton; I hope
he will not deem it necessary to transfer his little attentions to
you, or I shall feel inclined to tell him that I am your knight _pour
le present_, and show him my colours, in shape of telegram from your
uncle (if I may not wear yours)," he added in persuasive tones.

"You can still be my knight errant," and her soulful eyes turn to his
face, "he, one of my retainers."

"No divided honours for me, _ma belle_."

Here their chit-chat is interrupted by the subject of their converse,
addressing Miss Vernon, across the table.

"Just come from Haughton Hall, Miss Vernon?"

"Yes."

"All well I hope? more especially my uncle."

"Never saw him looking better; I just ran down for twenty-four hours."

"How is the place looking? I don't mean the exterior, the park and
grounds are always beautiful (and thank heaven cannot change), but the
interior."

"Gorgeous! never saw anything to equal it."

"The festivities were brilliant, I presume?"

"Should say so; the county were tongue-tied in admiration; couldn't
find words."

"You had no time for the birds, Everly, I suppose," said Trevalyon.

"Yes, a couple of hours of it; and what with the ball, dinner,
fireworks, hurrahs, &c., and killing of birds--"

"And young women," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"But in the time," laughed small Everly, "we really made some fine
running on the feathered tribe."

"Ostrich feathered?" said Vaura.

"Nay, let him alone for that; else would Mrs. Haughton have made some
running or gone for him? excuse the slang," said Mrs. Wingfield,
mischievously.

"Many of us would be sportsmen in the case of a rival," said Vaura.

"The divided skirt would come to the front with pistols and coffee for
two," cried Bertram.

"Yes, I should give her all the mud my tongue could throw," said gay
Mrs. Wingfield.

"There will be sport in Hall as field, when the hounds meet, if I'm
not mistaken," said the newsy little baronet.

"Why, how so? Sir Tilton," exclaimed Vaura.

"Well, you see, Miss Vernon, there was a lively discussion at luncheon
one day as to the next meet; when Mrs. Haughton announced her
intention of following the hounds, the Colonel objected on the ground
of non-experience."

"No," said Lady Esmondet; "Rotten Row is her experience, and 'tis
scarcely a hunting field."

"Unless for the praise of men," said Vaura.

"Or a husband," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"But about the field, Sir Tilton; do you think Mrs. Haughton will take
it?" asked Vaura.

"I am sure she will, for I overheard her the same day make a bet of
L500 that she'd ride grey Jessie with the hounds next meet."

"So, so!" exclaimed Bertram, "the lady means it."

"And who might the favoured participator in her bet be, Everly?"
enquired Trevalyon carelessly.

"With Major Delrose, late of the --th Middlesex Lancers."

"With Delrose!" exclaimed Trevalyon, now fully aroused; "is Delrose at
Haughton?" and as he spoke he gave a swift glance at Lady Esmondet,
who thought silently, "Delrose, the man who was mixed up in some way
with Lionel in the Fanny Clarmont scandal; there will be mischief."

"No, left same train as I did, very unwillingly though; extracted a
promise from Mrs. Haughton, that if time hangs heavy, he may return;
amusing fellow, though the Colonel doesn't seem to take to him."

"Not the same stamp of man," said Bertram.

"But Haughton is right about the field, Everly," said Trevalyon; "one
requires other experience than the Row."

"Better not curb her, though," answered Everly sagely.

"She thinks it as easy to run down the hare as the men; but the hare
wants other bait than gold," said Lady Esmondet.

"So do we," said Bertram, decidedly.

"Yes, I do not think by any means that men, as a rule, are sordid."

"Before I met Eustace," said Mrs. Wingfield, "I made up my mind only
to marry a horsey man, to make sure of one common interest, which
there is often an absence of."

"Mrs. Wingfield! Mrs. Wingfield!" cried Bertram.

"Mr. Bertram! Mr. Bertram! were you a benedict, you would say my
forethought was sweetly touching."

"And here have I, a lonely bachelor," he continued; "been regretting
the non-existence of my Madame Bertram, though none could grace the
head of my table better than the lady now seated there."

"_Merci_," said Lady Esmondet, "you are such a host in yourself that
you leave us nothing to regret in the absence of Mrs. Bertram."

"Why," said Trevalyon sadly, in a low tone to Vaura; "why, will we
continually make a jest over those poor creatures unequally yoked
together."

"Very frequently, I think," she said softly, "to hide a deeper
feeling; though it hurts us painfully to do so."

"I vow I'd rather be a jolly old bachelor like Mr. Bertram, with
plenty of money, than husband to the Queen of Sheba, were she not
defunct," exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield.

"What a boon to men and society is a woman without marriageable
daughters," laughed Vaura.

"Yes," said Everly; "she can air her private opinions on the marriage
question."

"With the right one, what a restful paradise it would be," said
Trevalyon to Vaura's ear alone. And there was such a weariness in his
tone, that she gave him one swift sympathetic glance; for in spite of
herself her heartstrings were stirred, but she must not give way, so
says lightly, as following Lady Esmondet's signal, they leave the
table, the gentlemen refusing to linger:

"To say 'marriage' under _any_ circumstances to be 'bliss,' is rank
heresy to your well-known views; but I understand your present impulse
is engendered by seeing our dear friend playing hostess."

"Not so altogether; you also are near," and her arm is involuntarily
pressed to his side.

"Well, ladies fair and gallants gay," said Mr. Bertram, as he found a
comfortable lounging chair for Lady Esmondet, "we have just time for a
cup of coffee and a cigarette, ere we roll away in a _carrosse_ to the
Theatre Francais."

"To the theatre!" exclaimed Trevalyon; "I was not aware this was on
the _tapis_ for this evening."

"Yes," said Lady Esmondet, "Mr. Bertram and I arranged it; M. Octave
Feuillet's play, the "Sphynx," is on. I begin to think it was selfish
on my part, you all look so comfortable; perhaps we had better abandon
it."

"Put it to the vote," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"And no bribery," echoed Vaura.

"I fear if it is put to the vote," said Lady Esmondet, "mine will be
bought, by the beseeching look of Capt. Trevalyon, for a stay at
home."

"See what it is to have an expressive face, Trevalyon," said Everly;
"it has gained you one vote, in spite of the rule Miss Vernon made of
no bribery."

"I thank you for your sympathy, Lady Esmondet; but I fear yours would
be the only vote recorded in my favor, so the 'Sphynx' must needs make
us her own."

"As she did many an unhappy mortal in days of yore, in her Theban
home. I wonder if they looked as resigned in their martyrdom as poor
Capt. Trevalyon does," said Vaura.

"I used to think Oedipus finished her," said Trevalyon.

"Only for his day," said Vaura; "'twas too long a look till Octave
Feuillet; he should have asked Lynceus to give a glance."

"The Cyclops might have lent him an eye," said Bertram.

"Are you always as indifferent to the stars of the stage Captain?"
enquired Mrs. Wingfield, as she gently puffed away her delicate
cigarette. "What Eustace would do without his distractions in that
way, heaven only knows."

"He will outgrow it; most men have stage fever, as most babies have
measles," he answered evasively.

"And now for our mantles and away," said Lady Esmondet, rising.

"And may the mantle of resignation fall on the shoulders of poor Capt.
Trevalyon," said Vaura, taking his offered arm, and as the hand
leaning on his arm pressed closely, she said in low tones, "you had my
unregistered vote."

"_Merci_," he said, pressing her hand.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THEATRE FRANCAIS.


They found the theatre crowded from pit to dome. And the advent of our
little party, as they took possession of their box, caused no little
sensation even in that galaxy of beauty and fashion.

"By the lilies of France," said a Parisian, putting up his glass;
"though not the three graces, one of them is there."

"Yes, by the memory of Bonaparte, she is worth a long look," said his
companion, gazing at Vaura.

And two of the occupants of Mr. Bertram's box were indulging much the
same thought. Lionel's handsome face wore a warmer look than
ordinarily, as he chatted to Vaura, leaning on the back of her chair.

"She has the vivacity of the French woman, with a beauty all her own,"
he thought. "Her voice holds me, and my love of the beautiful is
satisfied, as I look on her sweet mouth and warm eyes; but, pshaw, she
is a flirt, and I am almost in her toils! what is coming over me?" and
he gave a start as he almost spoke the last thought aloud.

"Why, what is the matter Capt, Trevalyon?" asked Vaura; "you started
just now as though you had seen a ghost of the departed; a moment ago
you seemed to be enjoying the play, but now you look melancholy; go
over to Mrs. Wingfield. You see, _cher ami_, you do not credit to my
powers of pleasing; so avaunt. But," she added, "you may come back
some other time."

"You deserve better company than I, just now, _ma belle_, and Everly
is aching to be with you." And rising, he took the chair Everly
vacated, near Mrs. Wingfield.

"What have you done to Trevalyon? Miss Vernon," said Everly, as he
seated himself beside her. "In five minutes his expression changed
from unclouded happiness to the blackness of despair; queer fellow to
wear such a look beside you."

"What a flattering tongue is yours, Sir Tilton; but I shall not be
astonished at any outpourings of that sort from you; considering you
have come from Haughton Hall, and the practice you have had in soft
nothings while there."

"Had _you_ been there I should have been inspired to say something
original."

"It would be a treat, for compliments do grow so hackneyed; I
sometimes agree with the poet," she added gaily, "'that there is
nothing original in us, excepting original sin.'"

"Your uncle wished for your presence often."

"I take it quiet as a compliment, and his bride so new."

"And many others wished to sun themselves in your presence."

"I am glad they remember me, and if Old Sol will give England plenty
of his gleams, and we have a mild winter to suit Lady Esmondet, we
shall be at Haughton Hall for the Christmas festivities."

"If the clerk of the weather be a decent fellow, who will take a
bribe, Tilton's the boy to stuff him, and my reward will be a waltz at
the ball, and do please let me make sure of it now." Taking out his
tablets, "just write your name and the date here; oh, thanks
abundantly, and I'm sure, the weather fellow will be all square."

"And now I incur the jealousy of woman; cruel man to bring upon me
such punishment, but I forgive you as you know nothing of womanly
sweetness to woman, so here is my name for number four waltz. But
_regardez_, we have missed a point, every eye is turned to the stage,
Mlle. Croizette looks for the moment as though transformed into one of
the Furies. So fierce her looks, such terrors from her eyes."

"Poor thing, so she does," said Sir Tilton laughing.

"But really Sir Tilton, I wish we could guess what its about. Another
riddle from the Sphynx, you must be a second Oedipus and guess for me;
or go over and ask some of the others, they look as though they have
been feeding ravenously of the tree of knowledge."

"Draw your chair a little this way, Vaura, _ma chere_," said Lady
Esmondet, who came over as Sir Tilton arose. "We shall all form one
little group then, and it will be more pleasant."

Here Sir Tilton coming up, decidedly objected to the move, wishing to
monopolise Vaura.

"You are cruel, Lady Esmondet; ask Miss Vernon, if I have not been
more amusing than the Sphynx. You know," he said audaciously, "we
actually did not see the little by-play between the rivals Mlle.
Croizette and Sara Bernhardt, which is a proof we were not doing badly
in the way of entertaining each other."

"Fie! Sir Tilton," said Vaura merrily, "acknowledge the compliment
paid you, though our gay friends have had the Sphynx, they also have
had time to long for our society," and as she drew near a few paces,
Everly had time to say softly:

"One thing to be thankful for, we did not miss them."

"Small men make large boasts," thought Vaura amusedly.

"Miss Vernon," said Bertram, "you missed the best thing of the
evening, or I suppose so by the fact of Everly having come over with
his finger in his mouth to ask what the house came down for."

"You will relieve my woman curiosity," she answered smiling, "of
course Sir Tilton will not own to the being curious, save on my
account."

"No man could refuse a request of yours, else you deserve a punishment
for," he added in a low tone, "making game of small hearts."

"Vaura dear, you have missed such a passage-at-arms, between Croszette
And Bernhardt," said Lady Esmondet.

"Oh, such fun," exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield, "in the middle of a telling
speech by Mlle. Croizette, the wicked little Bernhardt, came coolly up
and asked her 'where she lived?' or something of that sort; Croizette,
livid with rage, forgot her part--something we never saw her do
before, but answered Sara in words that told, for though triumphant
she trembled."

"Her sister Fury trembled and retired," said Trevalyon, "strange
freaks rivalry leads its victims into--"

"I could almost imagine," said Vaura, "you all to be mistaken for the
Croizette has immense influence at the Conservatory, where they both
studied, and is a complete child of the stage, but if your ears have
played you no tricks, if I mistake not, Sara has had her fun."

"Not a doubt of it," said Bertram.

"Oh, that is too real," said Lady Esmondet, turning pale and looking
from the stage, referring to the death-scene by poison of the wicked
heroine of the play.

"Yes, her struggles are so natural as to be anything but pleasant to
witness," said Vaura.

"If it were good form for a woman to retire for a stimulant," said
Mrs. Wingfield, "then would I make my exit, for I feel quite overcome
at the sight."

"What inestimable privileges lordly man enjoys," said Vaura.

"What a talented little _morceau_ is Sara," said Trevalyon.

"She is smaller since la Croizette looked to kill," said Lady
Esmondet.

"The fire from the eyes of Croizette was too much for her; she has
gone to hide within herself," said Vaura.

"No wonder she doesn't show even through a glass," said the little
baronet.

"Else," continued Vaura, "the _role_ of 'Forgiving Virtue' is too much
for her; she _shrinks_ from it."

"She might be more expansive in the other _role_," laughed Bertram.

"She is a handful of the essence of talent," said Trevalyon, "and
always good form whether the form of a Venus or no."

"True," said Lady Esmondet, though she cannot quote in a personal
sense of the "heavy cloak of the body still as weighed against a
cultivated intellect, roundness of form is a mere bagatelle."

"I humbly appeal to you all," said Bertram in seriocomic tone, "is my
rotundity a mere bagatelle?"

"Lady Esmondet says so, and it must be true," said Trevalyon
laughingly.

"Of course it is; anyone to look at you would say the same," said
Everly.

"My advice, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "is, on your return to England,
to retire to the cool shades of oblivion and try the 'Bantam' system:
that is if Owen Cunliffe does not send you there, for having while in
Paris been attentive to the fair sex instead of to the interests of
our Isle."

"Don't follow any such advice, Mr. Bertram!" exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield.

"Your fat makes you so jolly."

"Fat! did you call me fat, Mrs. Wingfield? If the play was not
opportunely over I should be obliged to tear myself away from your
fascinating presence, in grief, at such an epithet hurled at my
devoted head, I--I mean body. I may well exclaim, 'save me from my
friends' when these are the unctuous compliments they pay me," the
victim exclaimed with averted face and uplifted hands.

On our friends rising to leave the theatre, Sir Tilton, making sure of
escorting Vaura to the carriage, was in the act of putting her cloak
over her shoulders, when Lionel offered his arm; Vaura taking it
turned her head smiling her sweetest, with a word of thanks to small
Everly, who returned it with a look of half-comical disappointment,
and with one long step was at Mrs. Wingfield's side, saying:

"Never mind your cloak, Mrs. Wingfield; cool and easy does it; take my
arm, Mr. Bertram will probably come up at an opportune moment and robe
you, this is the latest and most successful manner of escorting a lady
to her carriage."

"There is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip," said Mrs. Wingfield,
laughingly; "you had your innings the early part of the evening, it is
only fair her _preux chevalier_ should have his revenge."

"Yes, I've been bowled out this time, but Don Juan isn't going to have
any more innings if Tilton knows anything."

"What courage the atom has," thought Mrs. Wingfield, but she said,
"Don Juan, indeed, 'Satan reproving sin,' what about a certain Mrs.
H., that you sigh to the inconstant moon for. But we are nearing the
others and the carriage; so a truce to confidentials. Adieu."

On the ladies entering the carrosse, the gentlemen bidding adieu _pour
le present_, saying they would walk, Sir Tilton stepping back a pace
enquired of Vaura "If he should have the pleasure of seeing her on
that night week at the de Hauteville ball?"

"Yes, we are due there, and make an exception of their ball, we are
such friends, but go to no more crushes presided over by Terpsichore
while _a Paris_. _Au revoir_."



CHAPTER XIX.

FOR A FAIR WOMAN FACE.


"What an irrepressible fellow Everly is," thought Trevalyon, as he
sauntered along the avenue towards his hotel; having heard his
question to Vaura (as to the ball), "he manages to get a card for
everything. I should not regret his departure for anywhere; our little
_coterie_ was perfect without him. Vaura is extremely lovely and
fascinating, she, of course, is the magnet that draws him; what a
presumptuous little poppet he is, a mere fortune-hunter, hanger-on of
society to dare turn his eyes in her direction. But am I not taking
too deep an interest in this sweet Vaura Vernon. I must guard my
heart; she is a flirt, I must beware. Another tender billet from Mrs.
Haughton, and full of this hidden-wife falsehood; I have been
careless, never even having told Haughton the truth of the matter.
Every seven years, it seems to me, there is a rehash of by-gone
villifications; one must only grin and bear it, but I do feel it
terribly just now, not because it is what it always was, 'a lie
direct,' but because of my close companionship with my dear friend and
bewitching Vaura."

Let us now follow small Everly, and read some of his thoughts; with
rapid steps he is soon at his destination, where, seating himself in a
huge easy chair which almost hides his small body, draws a table to
his side, on which are placed his pipe, glass of punch, with some
letters.

"Gad, a missive from Aunt Martha," he exclaimed. "Whether it be sugar
or vinegar it will keep until I do the others."

One was from his lawyer telling him the Jews were after him; with a
muttered exclamation of "they must wait," he threw it aside. The
others were from acquaintances--mere chit-chat; "and now for the old
girls," he thought, which on opening a bank draft for L50 dropped out.
"Gad! almost a holocaust," he said, picking it from the dying embers
in the grate. "And now for the letter."


"MY DEAR NEPHEW,--Enclosed you will find a draft for fifty pounds; it
is extremely inconvenient to remit you even such a small sum, but I
promised your mother on her death-bed to give you all the assistance
in our power, as also did your sister Amy; and so please heaven we
shall, as we are quite aware that the trifle you inherit from your
father is extremely small for the maintenance of an English baronet.
Moreover, considering it an honour to the house of Morton that an
Everly should have linked himself thereto, we have decided to let you
have Johnston's rent for the future, and regularly. But, dear nephew,
remember you cannot afford to make a mere love-match; you must marry
an heiress. Your setter Hecate has had pups, which we shall nurse
tenderly for you, as they represent money. But the school bell rings
me away, and, dear nephew, from you I go with my pupils into the
mysteries of pounds, shillings and pence. You will laugh and say you
and they are always associated in my mind; and it is so, for, you are
both things of worth. When you marry some rich young lady (you know
whom I tell you you can win), I shall pay a master to take the
arithmetic class. Make your old aunts glad with the news of a wealthy
marriage being arranged for you. Acknowledge draft.

"With much love, from your affectionate Aunt,
"MARTHA MORTON.

"Sir Tilton Everly,
"Paris, Hotel European,
2nd Nov., 1887."


"It will please the aunts if I write instanter, so here goes."

"DEAR AUNT MARTHA,--Draft received, came in handy, can assure you. You
are a jolly pair of relations for a fellow to have; never wanted the
needful more. I know I shall have to marry money; I expect I guess
correctly as to the girl you mean, but tallow candles are out of
fashion. I know the gilding is thick, and debts are a bother. But you
never fear for Tilton, he may yet win a glorious beauty and great
expectations from a titled relation. Eureka! I can tell you; aunts you
have no idea what a fuss society makes over me. Glad Hecate has done
something for a living, or rather for mine. Goodnight or morning, for
it is one a.m.

"Your devoted Nephew,
"TILTON EVERLY.

"Miss Morton's Seminary,
"Bayswater, Suburbs, London Eng.
Nov., 5th, 1877."


"Yes, 'pon my life, the old girls are right, I must have the sovereign
for my name; pity I was born with a taste for the beautiful; my father
was wanting in forethought on my account, or he would never have wed
penniless Rose Morton; here am I over head and ears in love with a
peerless beauty, with not much or not enough of the needful to keep us
both in style; there is not a doubt though that she will inherit from
that stately godmother of hers. Never say die, Tilton, my boy; she
smiled on you to-night, go in and win; why, the very thought of her
sends the blood dancing through my veins; splendid figure, perfect as
a Venus. She knows naught of my relations to that young schemer, and
if my love by a stern fate says nay, she is too much accustomed to
conquests to boast; and the other who is ready to marry me any day
will, never know anything to erect her spine about; a week from
tonight the de Hauteville ball, I shall there know the best or worst;
if I fail it won't be because of aught wanting in myself, but because
I cannot win over the Lady of Esmondet; then, if so, I shall hide my
groans under an M.P., and the gold of my lemon-face, to whom I shall
not exactly play count to her, Miss Kilmansegg, for I could not act
such a villain's part; but I must have some hobby to ride, to make up
for the sacrifice of self; and now to bed and sleep or dream."



CHAPTER XX.

QUICKENED HEART-BEATS.


On the morning of the de Hauteville ball, Trevalyon broke his fast
somewhat earlier than usual, purposing to indulge in a long ride. In
passing the salon of Lady Esmondet and Vaura, the door of which had
been pushed open by his dog Mars half an hour previously. Trevalyon
made a momentary pause, he could not see Lady Esmondet through the
opening, only our sweet Vaura, who listening to her godmother, idly
ate of some fresh fruit, while the other fair hand caressed Mars. She
looked a very child of the morning, so charmingly bright, in a pale
blue quilted satin dressing gown, with low turned down collar; not
wishing to interrupt her godmother who read aloud an English letter
she spoke to Trevalyon silently, standing in the opening door-way,
only with the eyes and her own syren smile; the temptation to linger
was too much for him, and he was about to enter when turning, as he
heard a step coming quickly along the corridor from the visitors grand
elevator, saw Sir Tilton coming towards him carrying a huge bouquet.
And knowing for whom it was intended, preferring not to be a witness
to the presentation with a "_Bonjour_, Everly," and "How do,
Trevalyon;" they went their different ways, the one into the light of
woman's eyes, the other into the lights of the streets of Paris.

Sir Tilton, with a laughing "Any admittance to a devoted subject," and
a gay _entrez_ from Vaura was in the boudoir.

"I thought I heard Captain Trevalyon's voice; was he not with you?"
enquired Lady Esmondet as she shook hands with Everly.

"Yes, Lady Esmondet, he was outside and lingered a moment, but was
able to resist the temptation to enter to which I had to succumb,"
with an admiring glance at Vaura.

After half an hour spent in gay chit-chat, Lady Esmondet, consulting
her watch, reminded Vaura of their purposed drive; and with a promise
asked by Sir Tilton, and given by Vaura, that she would wear one of
his flowers on that evening, they parted.

In a short time Lady Esmondet and Vaura were seen driving along the
fashionable parks and streets of Paris, and no carriage attracted more
attention than the one in which they were seated. They met many
friends and acquaintances among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Eustace
Wingfield.

"One does not often see them together," said Lady Esmondet. "Still, I
am sure, they suit each other better than most married people."

"What a queer world it is," remarked Vaura; "even _ma chere_ godmother
is rather cynical as regards the happiness of most married lives. What
is the reason of it all? Is it that man who, as Charles Reade says, is
'born to hunt something,' is no longer happy when the chase is over.
And woman, what of her? Is it that 'tis only the excitement of the
hunt we care for, that our heart has no part in the matter."

"You know the world, Vaura, and you know you are right--still you will
marry, and be happy; for your heart will go with your hand, and you
know your power to make the man you will love happy."

"Sympathy, soul-felt and earnest, is more than love which sometimes
changes, or passion and fancy which always evaporate," answered Vaura,
seriously; "but," she added, "who, among the butterflies of to-day,
cares for all this: A. marries B., because he can give her a title; B.
marries A., because she brings him money--it's all a debit and credit
system."

"Yes, Vaura, dear, Tennyson says truly, 'we men are a little breed.'"

But a warmer light deepens in Vaura's eyes as a vision of a handsome
face, wearing at times a weary look, flashes across her memory, and
she thinks some men are worth loving, and are not of the "little
breed."

"What a bold-looking woman; I wonder who she is," said Lady Esmondet.
"She's passed us several times; that was an aristocratic man beside
her, and quite a youth. She wears her rouge too extravagantly."

"She has yet to come to the knowledge that she's anybody," answered
Vaura, contemptously; "looks to me like greed and vice, and man is not
the worse animal of the two."

"Thanks, Miss Vernon," said the voice of Trevalyon, riding up beside
the carriages as he lifted his hat.

"Thanks, though it is rather a doubtful compliment, for I am all at
sea as to what animal you are so kind as to give us the preference
to."

"I don't know that I shall tell you, Captain Trevalyon, for you men
make it your boast, that we only are curious."

Here the same smart turn-out, with its pair of beautiful bays come
again towards them, and to the surprise of Lady Esmondet and Vaura,
the woman smiled and nodded to Trevalyon. Vaura turning quickly
towards him, saw that he took no notice of the recognition and that
his face wore a stern look.

Everly driving with a friend, passed them at the moment, saw the nod
and smile and of how they were received. "That little smile from Ninon
Tournette, puts a spoke into your wheel, my fine fellow," he thought;
"no matter though your face did look as though hewn out of stone."
Aloud he said, "Miss Vernon will see he is donning the garb of modesty
in her honour."

"So Vernon is Mademoiselle's name," said his friend de Vesey; "I saw
her at the theatre the other night, and by the lilies of France, she
is lovely enough to make a man play the saint for one look from her
eyes."

There was a second or two of rather an awkward pause which Lady
Esmondet broke by saying--

"The bays are lovely, but I'd rather keep the woman at bay, Lionel; or
perhaps she thought you an acquaintance."

"Yes and no, _chere_ Lady Esmondet; a dozen years or so ago, I was
going through my stage fever, which most men take to in a natural sort
of way, though I scorn to make it any excuse for my folly; for you,
dear Lady Esmondet," he added with a weary sigh, "are aware I, above
all men, should have given way to no such weakness, it was not that it
bore any fascination for me, on the contrary, I was as one who never
lays his opera glass aside; but, Old Time was leaning on his staff
just then and everything went slow; so to make things more lively, I
was persuaded by some men to go in with them into a new scheme, viz.,
lease a theatre; the woman who has just past then, a handsome young
woman, was one of the actresses; I sold out at the close of one
season, since, going very occasionally I have seen this woman, _la_
Tournette, act a few times. She has severed her connection or rather
the management did with her some six or seven years ago. I know
nothing of her life now; she is _outree_ in style and presuming to bow
to me, especially in your company."

"Her bow was a feeler to find out where she is, in society, or out,"
said Lady Esmondet; "and," she continued, "we are to blame; we show
her every day that the mighty god society accepts gold."



CHAPTER XXI.

LA BELLE VERNON.


The suite of apartments at the de Hauteville mansion in which the
family received, were a scene of almost unrivalled splendour. The
host, Monsieur Henri Eau Clair de Hauteville, as he stood beside
Madame, receiving and welcoming their guests, being a very small and
very pale, quiet-mannered man, was almost lost beside the large,
handsome woman and merely bowed like a Chinese Mandarin, looking like
a tired school-boy, who wanted to be in bed and tucked in comfortably.

"Poor little man, how refreshing the summons to supper will be," said
Lady Esmondet, as they waited in the crush to go forward to the smile,
bow, and contact of finger tips.

"See how Madame stands it all," remarked Lionel. "It's astonishing
what vim gentle women can throw into fatiguing social demonstrations."

"The fragile creature knows society is large-eyed," said Vaura.

On our friends turning to leave the reception room, Eau Clair, the
eldest son of the house, for whom, he having attained his majority,
this entertainment was given in honour of, came towards them to
welcome his mother's old friend, and to tell Miss Vernon of how glad
he was at her return to Paris. (He had met Trevalyon before).

"I must congratulate you, my dear boy," said Lady Esmondet, "as well
upon your coming of age as upon the brilliancy of the ball."

"_Je vous remercie_, Lady Esmondet; _mais_," he added, "I have just
come from your Cambridge University, and shall speak in your tongue,
which I like well."

Here some old friends came up, and several gay dancing men, Everly
amongst them, and Vaura's programme was soon full. She tried to secure
a few dances for rest, by this means to give a few minutes to chat
with Lionel, but no one would allow it.

"Don't be cruel," said one.

"Your flower-face must go to the ball-room," said another.

"Take pity on us; we don't carry a bouquet," said a third.

"So we will that you are near," said another.

At last she was carried off by Eau Clair.

"How beautiful your ball-room is, Monsieur Eau Clair," said Vaura.
"What multitudes of flowers; how many green-houses have you laid bare?
There will not be one rose-bud in all Paris for the Marshal McMahon's
_fete_, but that will not grieve you, a Bonapartist."

"Of this I am sure, Mlle. Vernon, if I have left him any roses they
are not the sweetest, for well I know the beauteous butterfly of
to-day loves their sweet odour."

Dance succeeded dance, and all went merry as a marriage bell, to
divine music by two of the most perfect bands in Paris; and now Everly
claims his innings, and is happy.

"Have mercy on me, Sir Tilton," laughed Vaura, "and forgive me this
dance (besides, we have another together), and you don't know how
sweetly amiable I shall be, if you'll find me a seat beside Lady
Esmondet."

"Consider yourself seated, and your martyred subject not far off, fair
Mademoiselle."

They found Lady Esmondet with Mrs. Wingfield and Trevalyon in an ideal
refreshment room.

"Glad you've found us, _ma chere_," said Lady Esmondet.

"I need not ask how you are enjoying the ball," remarked Trevalyon,
"your eyes tell me."

"And they say true; how could it be otherwise Sir Knight? with music
that thrills one, and a light foot treading a measure to the sweet
notes," answered Vaura. "Is not this a charming room, Miss Vernon?
invisible music, birds and flowers; the Parisian is born for this kind
of thing."

"It is just a poem, Capt. Trevalyon."

"And Bob Fudge in the flesh, brings us back to reality," said Mrs.
Wingfield; and following the direction of her eyes, they saw a very
young man devouring with admiring glances, the delicacies around him.

"I am quite sure," laughed Vaura, "he will go through the bill of fare
just as Moore's Bob, of one _pate_ of larks, just to tune up the
throat; one's small limbs of chickens, done _en papillote_, one's
erudite cutlets dressed all ways but plain, &c. Oh, dear, he fatigues
one," she added gaily; "yes, an ice, Sir Tilton."

"Depend upon it," said Trevalyon laughing, "Dick will receive a letter
from Bob, that, 'there's nothing like feeding.'"

Here Eau Clair joined them, having missed Vaura from the ball-room.

"Have you seen the Claytons this evening, Vaura?" enquired Lady
Esmondet.

"Yes, god-mother mine, and dancing with vigour and a sublime
indifference to time that was amusing."

"They exchanged partners with another Quakerish looking couple, and
have been in the heat of the fight, ever since," said gay Mrs.
Wingfield.

"'Merrily danced the Quaker's wife, merrily danced the Quaker,'" sang
Vaura.

Here a Spanish noble came up, and with a courtly bow, reminded Vaura
that this was his waltz, and in animated chit-chat, they left the
room.

"A handsome couple," said Mrs. Wingfield; "and I noticed the Spaniard
has had two dances with _la belle_." News, not too utterly delightful
to Trevalyon and Sir Tilton.

"The Marquis admires Miss Vernon, so mother says; and no man can find
him at fault," said Eau Clair, rising, and leaving the little group.

"Would you, ladies, like to go to the ball-room?" asked Lionel,
anxious to be near Vaura.

"Thank you, yes," answered Lady Esmondet, divining his motive.

"And will you take pity on me, and a risk on my waltzing powers?"
asked Sir Tilton of Mrs. Wingfield.

"I would not risk anything so important as a waltz, Sir Tilton; but as
I have already tested your capabilities as a dancer away I go on your
protecting arms."

"Or into them," laughed her partner, as entering the ball-room they
went careering at full speed down the small spaces.

"Beg pardon, Lord Lisleville," cried Sir Tilton, as he dashed against
an ancient beau with a long rent-roll, who with his _fiancee_, a
pretty little French girl, who had been trying to put him out of step
in order to dance with her young Lochinvar. Sir Tilton, knowing the
circumstances, pitied the little Parisienne who had been dolefully
doing her duty all the evening; so determined to come to her aid,
hence the collision, which throwing the noble lord almost on his back,
sent his wig flying several yards off which the dancers swept with
their trains. The gay _petite_ was wicked enough to put her
handkerchief, not to her eyes, but to her mouth, to veil her smiles as
she gave herself up to her young lover who had been eating his heart
out all the evening. Lord Lisleville, with inward curses on Everly and
his own temerity in attempting to dance on a waxed floor, with his
gouty leg and bought curls, was a droll figure, as with his
handkerchief tied over his head and his face a whirlpool of wrath, he
was knocked hither and thither by the dancers in the vain attempt to
recover his gay tresses.

Vaura and her partner laughed heartily over the amusing scene.

"How innocent Sir Tilton looked, and one could see it was
intentional," laughed Vaura; "no more dinners at the ancestral home of
Lord Lisleville; no more shooting for the culprit," she continued.

"How happy the betrothed looks now," said Del Castello, "Cupid's bow
is powerful."

"I know myself," said Vaura, "of several cases where young girls have
been persuaded to marry old men from the fact being pointed out to
them of the happy marriage of M. Thiers. Madame Dosme, poor little
Emily's mother, was the woman born for him, only she, unfortunately,
was encumbered with a husband."

"It was a most singular household," said Del Castello. "Thiers, though
undoubtedly a superior man, had no claims to divinity or to be
enshrined on the Dosme altar with three adoring women ever
worshipping, while there are many men, could they gain one woman,
would be to her alone as constant as the sun. Pardon, Mlle., but I am
Spanish and cannot be cold with you. I ever think of Venus and my
breast is bare for Cupid's dart."

"The boy is blind," said Vaura, archly.

"I feel him an unerring marksman, though," he said passionately.

Here Sir Tilton, with Mrs. Wingfield, passed them, when Vaura called
out gaily:

"Don't you tremble, Sir Tilton, when you think of the wrath of the
wigless Adonis?"

"Like an aspen leaf, fair _belle_, but never mind, I've given him a
wigging."

They are now beside Lady Esmondet, and the strains of music changing
from the waltz,

"That means our waltz is over, Marquis Del Castello, and I have
enjoyed it thoroughly, thanks to your perfect step."

"Your own fairy step had much to do with making our waltz one I shall
never forget; may I call tomorrow?"

"You may."

Trevalyon coming up at the moment, and seeing Vaura in all her
lovliness, for lovely she was in cream white satin, sleeves merely a
band, neck low, a circlet of gold of delicate workmanship round the
throat, fastened in front with a diamond large as a hazel nut, bands
of gold in same design, on perfect arms midway between shoulder and
elbow; and the poor fellow hungered to have her all to himself for
even a few minutes, so with forced gaiety he said:

"Now, Mademoiselle, I, as your guardian, must insist on your taking a
little rest and under my protection, for, should I allow you to take
it with any other, the gay gallant would have the queen of the night
back amidst the revelry.

"But what am I to do, Lady Esmondet--Captain Trevalyon," she said with
a sweet sense of willingness about her; "I belong to M. de Vesey for
the next dance?"

"Go and rest," said Lady Esmondet; "and if your partner cannot find
you it will be his loss."

Lionel had roamed about a good deal during the evening thinking much
of a letter he had received that morning from Colonel Haughton, and of
the love he was battling against in his own breast, for Vaura. In his
walks to and fro he had come across a small conservatory on the other
side of the house, far from the busy throng, and entered as well from
the grounds as from a boudoir of Madame's; thither he led Vaura, not
unwillingly, a sweet sense of being taken care of, a nameless feeling
of passive languor, a sense of completeness pervaded her whole being,
as Lionel, putting her hand through his arm and for a moment holding
it there in a protecting sort of way, led her through long corridors
until they reached the luxurious boudoir of their hostess, where,
seating Vaura in a lounging chair, the perfection of comfort, and
placing a soft foot-stool for her dainty slippered feet, he quietly
seated himself near her.

He longed to take her to his heart, and tell her of his great love for
her, which had grown so strong as to completely master him, he could
scarcely refrain from crushing her in his arms and telling her she
must be his; he had suffered much this evening in seeing her, even in
the dance, in the arms of other men; ever since he had left Lady
Esmondet's side, an hour ago, he had done nothing but pace through
lonely corridors thinking of the letter from Eric Haughton, which ran
thus:


"Trevalyon, _cher ami_,--

"Must go to the point at once, as what I hear has troubled me. Mrs.
Haughton tells me there is _no_ doubt _you are married_ to _Fanny
Clarmont_, and as Delrose is frequently here and lounging about with
her, I suppose _he has told her_; I know he was mixed up in the
affair; I'm sorry for you if it's true, old fellow. She also says, but
it's a _woman's mistake I am sure_, that you are half engaged to
Blanche; _be careful_ that you don't make Vaura love you; you were
always a sort of hero with her; she is too lovely and lovable to have
_her life spoiled_; take care of my two loved women in your charge.

"Yours as ever,
"ERIC HAUGHTON.

"Captain Trevalyon,
"Hotel Liberte le Soleil, Paris."


"And now I have passed the Rubicon," he thought, "and know past
doubting that she has the love of my life, and that life without her,
will be worse than death," this he thought, seated near this fair
woman; near, and far, for he must not speak to her with this cloud
upon his name; he knew it was false and only spread for revenge, but
would not society pity Vaura; pity and he writhed with inward pain, at
the thought that his wife would be pitied for having gone to God's
altar with a man, whom Dame Rumour said, had a hidden wife; one moment
he thought he would fly to England and make Delrose tell the truth at
the point of the sword, but he knew his man, and that threats would
not avail; again, if he left Vaura now, there were many men about her,
one of whom she might choose, and the thought was maddening. If he
could only get them into Italy, they would be quieter there. He must
mature his plans, see how it was best to cope with his enemies; would
he write Haughton the facts? no, he must try and find out Fanny
Clarmont's address, and get her to write such a letter as he could
publish, exonerating him from all act or part in her elopement; but
how to do it, unless he could work on Delrose, but the man never had
any feelings, save for himself; he must see. And as he looked on
Vaura, as she sat, her head thrown back among the cushions, lips
slightly parted, and looking at him from dreamy eyes half closed; a
pain came to his heart as he thought, if he could not get Fanny's
confession, Vaura would never rest in his arms, for she would not go
to him with the truth unproven. And still he thought she shall love
me, for, look what she has done for me, she has done what no woman
heretofore has been able to do, she has inflamed me with a passionate
love for her as untamable as the lion; she belongs to me. And as he
thought this he rose, but almost staggered with conflicting emotions,
as he stood close to her.

"Vaura, my darling, are you rested?" he said, his voice anything but
steady.

"Yes," she answered dreamily; "but why did you break the spell? it is
so seductive here, I half thought you a magician and this a scene of
enchantment."

"I broke the spell, darling, because I could bear no longer the----"

Here footsteps were heard, both on the gravel walk outside the small
conservatory and in the corridor by which they had entered the
boudoir. And though the occupants did not see Del Castello, he saw
them at the same time as Everly with De Vesey (a gay Paris beau to
whom Vaura had been engaged for this dance, now over) crossed the
threshold. De Vesey, on seeing the situation, and not caring to be _de
trop_, was for retreating, but Everly was in no mood for this, now
that his dance and his only one for the night was on the _tapis_. He,
like any other man, would have feared to leave the woman he loved with
a man so fascinating as Trevalyon. Vaura, in the second or two of
their hesitation, had time to recover outward composure. Lionel folded
his arms, moved a pace or two backwards, and stood like a statue; the
muscles of his face throbbed, but in the dim rose-tinted light Everly
and De Vesey coming from the glare of the lustres and torches of the
ball-room did not see clearly.

"_Pardonnez_, Mademoiselle, but Sir Tilton Everly would continue his
search until our belle of the evening was found," said De Vesey,
apologetically.

"Not so loud, Monsieur De Vesey," Vaura answered in a whisper. "This
is the temple of the god of Silence, and Captain Trevalyon and I have
been worshipping at his shrine. I perceive you are both," she added,
moving on tiptoe towards them, "feeling the influence of the place,
and you don't look as though you care to pour incense. So let us back
to Comus and revelry. _Au revoir_, Capt. Trevalyon."

Vaura managed while speaking to detach from her corsage some violets
and a crushed rose, which, when Everly and De Vesey were not
observing, she dropped at Trevalyon's feet; and turning her head as
she took Sir Tilton's arm, gave him her own syren smile from eyes and
lips--and Lionel was alone. Del Castello who had been a witness to
this scene from the outside of the conservatory now entered, and
coming forward stood facing Lionel.

One would look far before meeting two as handsome men as these two
rivals for the love of one woman. Capt. Trevalyon, with some of
the best Saxon blood in his veins, of _distingue_ bearing, tall,
broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, blonde, tawney mustache, short side
whiskers, face somewhat bronzed by exposure on the battle field and in
travel: a man, a manly man every inch of him, a man whom woman adored
and man leaned on, unless when his foes and rivals.

Del Castello truly the nobleman, tall, dark, and handsome.

The Spaniard was the first to speak.

"Pardon my intrusion, Monsieur, but I cannot rest until I know the
truth; I have seen Mademoiselle Vernon several times walking and
driving at places of public amusement, but never have been fortunate
enough to obtain an introduction to her until to-night, though I have
made repeated efforts so to do. Her beauty and grace had made a deep
impression upon me, which now that I have had the great joy of
conversing and dancing with her has ripened into love so strong as not
to be subdued, and which, excuse me, Monsieur, for saying, I believe
only a Spaniard or perhaps an Italian could feel. You English are so
cold; Mademoiselle is not, but reminds me of the women of my own
love-warm, sun-lit land. It was my intention to have called upon
Mademoiselle Vernon at her hotel on to-morrow ere the sun had set, to
ask her if she would be the light of my life by doing me the great
honour of accepting my name, hand and fortune. I had been roaming
through the grounds meditating upon her many charms, and of how best I
could make my offer so as not to agitate her by its seeming
prematureness, when I was very much troubled on coming to the
conservatory (meaning to enter) to see you, a powerful rival, in the
blissful retirement of this boudoir with the woman I have, perhaps
unfortunately, conceived, such passionate love for. I was as if
chained to the spot and, when you were alone, determined to enter and
ask you if my worst fears are true. Are you a successful suitor for
the hand of Mademoiselle Vernon? Are you, Monsieur, anything to her?"

This had been, to say the least of it, a very trying night for
Lionel--and it seemed his troubles were not yet over. He knew the
Marquis Del Castello to be a _parti_ the bluest blood in his own land
would be more than satisfied with. He was the possessor of a noble and
princely estate, and this man, with all these advantages, was a suitor
for the hand of the woman he loved with an overwhelming passion. And
the Spaniard had said she could not be loved as he loved her. Ah,
well! what does man know of man? Only this, what he chooses more than
"language," as Talleyrand says, "was given us to conceal our
thoughts;" for we smile when the heart is breaking; we weep to conceal
the joy we are feeling; and Lionel listened and suffered. He had never
been a man to make his moan into the ear of men and women, for the
sympathy of society is curiosity! and man listens and forgets, and
woman listens and talks; she cannot help it, poor thing. Can the snake
do other than charm--then sting?

And Vaura had conquered and enslaved him, but was still unsubdued--so
he thought,--and though peerless among her sex, she is only a woman.
And how will it be if I allow this man to pour his love tale into her
ear with all the impassioned eloquence his countrymen possess. "Oh,
darling!" and he groaned inwardly, "I cannot put you to the test; I
_cannot_ speak yet;" and he must not. All this poor Lionel thought, as
with folded arms he listened to the Spaniard, and to his concluding
words of "Are you anything to Mademoiselle Vernon?" he merely bowed.
The temptation to dismiss this smooth-tongued Southerner, with the
warmth of the south in his words, with the looks of an Adonis, ere
Vaura should listen to his pleadings, was too much for him. Ah, well,
though we love him much, this Lionel Trevalyon, he is only mortal.
"After I have made her love me, I shall tell her of this man's
proposal of marriage," he said to his aggrieved conscience. After all
is there not an instinctive leaning in the hearts of most of us
towards the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance? Immediately on our
conscience becoming seared as with a red-hot iron through some act its
sensitiveness shrinks from, we, feeling this inward shrinking away as
if from our lower nature invariably bring out the whip and lash our
poor weak flesh by way of atonement. And so Lionel thought now as he
bowed to Del Castello's question of "are you anything to her?" and
thought while doing what hurt his conscience--"I shall tell her
after."

"Then my worst fears are realized," said Del Castello to Lionel's bow.
"But, Monsieur, you cannot expect me with my heart's great loneliness
fresh upon me to congratulate you on being before me in your wooing.
_Adieu_, I shall leave Paris at sunrise, and it will be a sorrowful
gratification to me to know that the incomparable Mlle. Vernon will,
from your lips, learn why I fly." And saying this, the Marquis left
Lionel to the solitude of Madame's boudoir.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE BLIND GOD TAKES SURE AIM.


After leaving Trevalyon, Vaura, with her attendant cavaliers, bent
their steps in the direction of the ball-room, the sweet sounds of
distant music sounding louder and yet louder as they moved.

"Woe be to that incarnation of selfishness in yonder boudoir,"
exclaimed Everly; "if he be the means of my losing this dance with the
fair Queen of the Revels," looking admiringly at Vaura's full and
rounded neck, throat and arms.

"You won't call it petty larceny, Everly, when you pour maledictions
on his head. 'Pon my heart it's too bad of him to carry off the most
precious freight of the ballroom; thereby causing two forlorn
individuals, whom he has defrauded of their rights, to wonder about
like disembodied spirits with distended eyes, and white of visage. I
can assure you, Mlle. Vernon, Everly, in our search for your fair
person, peered into passages where the darkness might be felt, it was
in this way. Passing one of the _salons_ I saw a group of ladies and
gentlemen, and thinking you might be one of the number, and the music
just striking up for my dance with you, _la belle de la nuit_, I
entered the _salon_, gazing eagerly amongst them, coming away, as you
know, disappointed. Sir Tilton in this way distanced me. I took no
thought of the whereabouts of such an insignificant atom as he,
continued De Vesey, laughing; but, continuing my search for you, came
suddenly upon a queer bit of architecture, a many-sided sort of
landing wherefrom there were three staircases and three landings;
which was I to choose? I was meditating, when from the wall close
beside me proceeded a most plaintive wail, rather, on my honour, like
an infantine donkey. I listened going close to the wall, when I
discovered the mellifluous accents proceeded from the throat of the
missing giant, Sir Tilton. I put my ear to the wall and told the poor
boy to speak in accents loud; he confessed that seeing a spring in the
wall he touched it--it opened, he entered where he was mantled in
Egyptian darkness, and could not make his exit. I was his deliverer.
When he emerged, he looked like a ghost, and in feeble accents told me
of why he had gone into solitude, which, as I see my partner seated
like patience on a monument waiting for me, I shall leave him to be
the hero of his own tale; and as I hear, fair Mlle., that you are
going to desert Paris and turn your face south, I must needs say _bon
voyage_, though my heart aches at our loss;" and lifting her hand to
his lips, the gay Parisien left them to claim his partner.

"At last," said Everly, with fervor, and almost unconsciously his face
full of an agitation he could not conceal.

Vaura's practised eye told her what was coming, and fain to escape it,
said gayly:

"Yes, at last, Sir Tilton to relieve my curiosity by explaining M. de
Vesey's words."

Here a lively air from a French clock attracted her attention.

"Listen, Sir Tilton, two o'clock."

"Yes, fair queen of the revels, 'tis time I told you another story, my
heart is aching for your sympathy," he said brokenly.

"You have my sympathy, Sir Tilton; nay, we must not linger," she
added, on his turning into the dreamy light of an ideal little
flirting room.

"I pray you to do so, Miss Vernon. I have something I _must_ say to
you," he said feverishly.

"Wait until time says _now_, Sir Tilton, for with the warning notes we
have just heard in my ears, I should not be a good listener."

"You are tired of me, and want to give your sweetness to some other
man," he said despairingly, yet fiercely.

"_Carita! Carita!_ Sir Tilton," and pitying him she said, knowing
just how he was feeling; "see there is one couple you have made happy
to-night," as the little prospective bride of Lord Lisleville with her
lover passed, with smiles to Sir Tilton.

"Fools' paradise, she belongs to Lord Lisleville; that wouldn't
satisfy me."

"You are a spoiled boy, you want too much."

"I want you, my enchantress."

"But you can't have me, Sir Tilton, I belong to the heir of the house
for the last dance," she said, wilfully misconstruing his meaning, so
gaining time, lost to him.

"You are cruel, you gave up my dance for Trevalyon; you won't give up
De Hauteville's for me."

"Eau Clair made me promise faithfully," and with pretty persuasiveness
had her way to the ball-room. "Drop all sentiment, Sir Tilton, I like
you best, your own gay care for naught self; see," she added, kindly
as they neared the music and revellers, "see the gay butterflies are
as _chic_ (even if their wings have lost some of their bloom); the
scent of the rose as sweet as at the first dance; be your own gay
rollicking self once more."

"I cannot! for my star of the night I love you; don't start, it is no
new story to you that a man's heart lies crushed at your feet. Since
it was my fate to meet you, your face is ever before me. I followed
you here, running away from Haughton Hall. I have dreaded Trevalyon as
a rival, as well as others, but he in especial. Oh! my heart's light,
say you are not going to give your loveliness up to a man they say has
a hid--well, well, no more of him, only don't shrink from me, I shan't
name him; but my heart only beats for you, heaven." And Vaura feels
his whole frame tremble as he says feverishly: "pity me, and make her
love me; and now what have you to say to me, you can make my life what
you will; for heaven's sake give me hope."

"Poor fellow, your words grieve me more than I can say; I had no idea
of anything of the sort; you have my warmest friendship.

"Don't; don't speak of friendship!" he said excitedly, when it is you,
you with your warm heart-beats, your love I want; great heavens, why
did you ever cross my path?"

"I shall regret the doing so, if it has caused you pain, Sir Tilton,
but in time you will forget me."

"You are cruel; and speak as a surgeon to a physically sick man."

"My words are meant kindly, Sir Tilton, though they seem as the lance
to the sick man."

"Men say women are cruel, so they are; do you know, for your beauty I
have played the traitor to another; but heaven help me," and poor
little Sir Tilton groaned; "I could not marry her while I was free to
ask you to be my wife, and now I am just good for nothing, and never
shall be; God help me!"

Vaura's heart was full of pity for this gay boyish little Sir Tilton,
and looking into his face pityingly, said:

"Poor fellow, go back to your bethrothed and be happy in time with
her; she, nor none other shall know you ever had a roving fancy for
me, and this is a butterfly age and our wings were given us to fly; so
_n'importe_, you need only send your bride to me if she ever scolds,
and I shall tell her she has the gayest, kindest little baronet in all
Britain."

And so Vaura chatted to give the poor little man time to catch up to
his heart-beats.

Here Lionel passed them on his return from the boudoir of Madame,
where he had been since Vaura was taken from him, and Del Castello had
left him; he heard part of Vaura's remark, and seeing Sir Tilton's
downcast attitude, took in the situation at a glance; and as he passed
with a grave smile to Vaura and a pressure of his hand on the crushed
rose and violets at his breast, he mentally observed:--

"Another life given her to do as she wills with, another heart crushed
as she has crushed the life from this rose; ah, well, the saints hath
it that they are the weaker vessel, but they are stronger than we
after all. Look at me, year after year I have boasted of my strength,
and now I am as wax in her hands; I, who thought to bask in her
loveliness for an idle hour, only as I might bask in the loveliness on
canvas, the creation of some heaven born painter; I, who thought to
coolly criticise her acquaintance with this actor who has tried to win
her beauty and talents to the stage, ere I asked her to be my wife--
ere I put away the prejudices of a lifetime against wedded life.
Prejudices! that were the outcome of my mother's sin, my father's
blighted life; I know I always loved her as a girl-woman, for she was
always womanly. Now I adore her with the love of a life; with a love
that has never been frittered away, for I have never loved the
soulless creatures whom I have amused myself with." And hastening his
steps he was soon by Lady Esmondet's side.

"What a wanderer you have been," said his friend, welcoming her
favourite and pleased to see (as she surmised) some of Vaura's violets
in his coat.

"Where is Vaura? truant that she is, you were the one to take her
away, and I hoped you would bring her back."

She noticed he wore the exhausted look of a man having gone through
some very powerful emotional feeling, whether of joy or sorrow she
could not tell. His eyes turned ever wistfully towards the grand
entrance to the ball-room, and he wore her flowers, so she could only
hope there had been no trouble between them. She felt half in love
with him herself, as most women did who came under the influence of
his rare fascination of manner "his eyes possess some mesmeric power,"
they said, "to draw their hearts at will." Have we not all felt the
wonderful power of such eyes, at least, once in our lives, eyes that
once having felt as it were, we always feel; eyes that charm us and
bid us look and not forget.

"He is learning to love her," thought Lady Esmondet, as she saw that
his eyes turned ever towards the door; "and it will be the happiest
day of my life (none too happy)," she thought with a sigh, "if I see
these two lives blend in one; Vaura is _difficile_, so is he, but she
cannot resist him, and their lives would be full of completeness. They
would be the happiest couple in London; why did he start as through
fear, when Everly mentioned Delrose as a visitor at the Hall; I know
there was a scandal some twelve years ago, when they were both mixed
up with Fanny Clarmont. I do hope there is nothing in it to cause him
real uneasiness. Vaura will make a great sensation this coming season;
she has made some conquests to-night, that cream-white satin with her
diamonds and these old fashioned gold bands, suit her to perfection.
She enjoys wielding the sceptre and she does it with such seeming
unconsciousness, and absence of vanity that is very charming, never
boasting of her conquests even to me." But where can she be all this
time, I wonder, and with whom? so breaking in upon Lionel's reverie,
she repeated her question of, "Where and with whom is Vaura? she has
missed two or three dances."

"Everly was the happy man not two minutes ago," he said.

"That bird of passage; 'tis a wonder she wastes her sweetness upon
him."

"Poor Everly! I am very much inclined to think his heart will be heavy
after to-night," said Lionel, thinking of his downcast look as he
passed.

"'Tis his own fault; little men are so aspiring,--always on tip-toe,"
answered Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, I suppose he has himself to blame, the bat cannot gaze at the
sun, unless to his own detriment."

"One thinks of an angel and lo! she appears," exclaimed Eau Clair,
coming up, "and there's no doubt as to whose colours Everly wears, but
by the lilies of France had he detained La Belle Vernon from her
rightful sovereignty of the ball-room five minutes longer, I should
have hunted the Everlie-in-wait-robber, and have taken from him our
belle. But see how _enerve_, embarrassed, the robber looks, the
enchantress has been exercising her fatal spells."

Here Vaura with Sir Tilton, looking pale and haggard, approached all
three, guessed his whispered question to Vaura, of "Can you give me no
hope?" and saw Vaura shake her head as her lips framed the word "no."
Then there was one long pressure of the hand, a look from Everly, as
of one looking on the face of the dead, and he was gone. Alone, or to
wed without love, and for gold! Ah, me! this life of ours teems with
bitterness, but on to the merry-makers we do not care to follow
Everly. We grow cynical perhaps as to the good there is in life, but
we get used to it in time; to this something we have lost as we get
used in time, to the unloved partner by our side. Such is life.

Vaura was looking very sweet and lovely, as with a tender pity she
took leave of her conquest, Sir Tilton; her face had a soft paleness,
and her lips looked a deeper red than usual from the contrast; there
was a languor in her movements, and she felt she would like to rest in
the easy chair, beside Lady Esmondet, with Lionel near; and dream
waking dreams after all the excitement of the night. But there were
the conventionalities, her dance with Eau Clair, and then, home, so
she said:

"Well, dear god-mother, here at last; are you dying of _ennui_? I feel
very wicked, and it has been selfish of me to remain so long, but this
is the last, I shall soon be with you."

And taking Eau Clair's arm she was again moving to the enchanting
music of the waltz, which tends more to bewitch the souls of men than
the music of any other dance, its gentle swaying motion, its soft
bewilderingly seductive strains of music, are something to have felt
the pleasurable sensation of. As they were moving the length of the
room, Vaura noticed Lady Esmondet leave it, as also that her
footsteps' were slow and languid as though she was weary; so saying:

"I really must tear myself away, Monsieur Eau Clair, Lady Esmondet has
left the room, and I am sure she is fatigued. You will laugh at me for
suddenly remembering my dear chaperon at such an opportune moment when
our dance is a thing of the past. There seems to be a general exodus,
so," she added gaily, "if we follow them, even two such important
personages as we are will not be noticed in our absence."

"We shall go with the stream and all will be well."

"But whither do they lead? What is on the _tapis_?"

"They go to take part in an old family custom that tonight must be
done."

"And if when done 'twere well, 'twere well 'twere done quickly,"
answered Vaura.

And they followed the stream and Vaura could not but see that Eau
Clair and herself received a good deal of attention as they moved,
many eyes following them. They soon reached a suite of elegantly
furnished _salons_ gay with flowers, gems of art from the deft fingers
of the sculptor, master-pieces from the artistic brush of some of the
greatest painters living and dead, decorated the walls or stood in
their respective niches, foreign and domestic birds of rare beauty and
throats full of song, with the exquisite scent of flowers about them,
the brilliant scene, the soft laughter of the incoming guests sounding
so similar to some of their own notes, causing the feathered songsters
to burst forth into melody, adding another charm. Vaura and Eau Clair
were among the last to enter, and they walked up to the end of the
room the _cynosure_ of all eyes; as they neared a chair placed alone
at the head of the room, Vaura saw Lady Esmondet with a gay coterie of
friends with Lionel in the group. Vaura turned her head as she passed
with a smile, and the lines to Venus from Pitt's Virgil flashed across
Lionel's memory:

  "And turning round her neck she showed
   That with celestial charms divinely glowed."

Vaura was accustomed to admiration, so this which looked so much like
a march of triumph did not disturb her self-possession; she laughed
and chatted with her companion all the length of the _salons_.

"These servants of yours, Monsieur Eau Clair, remind one as they pass
in and out so noiselessly among your guests laden with the champagnes
and ices they carry so deftly of the automata in the new Utopia they
are perfect; but what is not perfect in the de Hauteville mansion."

"Take this chair which I hope will be the perfection of comfort for
the belle of our ball."

"Give me a Frenchman for a gallantry," said Vaura gaily, and seating
herself comfortably. To her surprise Eau Clair, standing beside her,
said as follows:

"_Charmantes Demoiselles, Mesdames et Messieurs_: It has been a time
honoured custom in our family for generations, that on the heir to the
estate attaining his majority, on his throwing off the careless garb
of _garcon_, and donning the somewhat grave habiliments," taking up
the corner of his dress-coat with a smile, "of the man. It has been
the custom, I say, at the revels given in his honor, that he should
elect as the belle the fairest of the fair--a custom that has my
warmest approval; _a dieu ne plaise_ that any one of my descendants
should be ungallant enough to discontinue it; indeed rather than our
fore-fathers should father such an one," he said in gay tones, "I
prefer that I, Eau Clair, should be the last of our name. I admit that
my predecessors may have at times found the pleasant task of choosing
somewhat _difficile_. But for me, _Dieu merci_, Mlle. Vernon's advent
in Paris has left me no choice. And without paying any point-blank
compliments to her charms, I now present to her as is usual on this
occasion, this bagatelle, at the same time expressing the hope that
loving our city as she does, she will soon return to us, come with all
her beauty and grace, and sojourn among us, leaving her own northern
clime," and kneeling on one knee, Eau Clair handed a small box of rare
Japanese workmanship to Vaura. He then drew a small, elegant stand to
her side and gently taking the box from her hand, laid it on the
table, touched a spring when the lid flew open, disclosing to view a
bouquet holder and fan, both works of art. The handle of the fan was
of gold inlaid with precious stones, the fan of feathers of brilliant
hues. The bouquet holder was of elegant design in gold, studded with
diamonds and on one side the words "To la belle Vernon, 1877" inlaid
in diamonds of larger size, the whole one glitter of brightness. A
small bouquet of delicate odeur was here handed by a servant on a
salver to his young master, and Eau Clair saying, "Let me be the first
to fill the holder with fragrance," put the flowers into the golden
receptacle.

Vaura rising and taking Eau Clair by the hand made a step or two
forward now loosing his hand said:

"_Cher ami Monsieur Eau Clair, Mesdames et Messieurs_, I feel that a
mere conventional _je vous remercie_ would be too cold and lifeless
and in every way distasteful to me, on this occasion, and though I
have never made a speech heretofore, and this being literally my
maiden speech, please forgive me what pleases you not. Though, fair
demoiselles, I have been chosen the belle, I feel as I gaze upon the
galaxy of beauty around me that I," she added in gay tones, "have no
occasion to blush at my own loveliness, for I feel that the gods have
been so lavish in their gifts of everything that is lovely that they
have surely become bankrupt and have kept no charms for me, and
that Monsieur Eau Clair must have looked at my poor graces through
rose-coloured spectacles when he called me _la belle_ and made me the
recipient of gifts fit for a queen. I little thought, _cher ami_," she
continued, turning slightly towards Eau Clair, "when saying to you a
few moments ago that this had been an ideal evening, that two such
ideal gifts were in store for myself. I need scarcely tell you that
they will be always among my most valued treasures, recalling as they
will such pleasant reminiscences to my mind of one of the most
delightful evenings I have ever spent. And a word to you, fair
demoiselles" turning towards the assemblage of guests with a smile,
"never turn your bright eyes from your own land for your lovers and
husbands, for your men carry the belt from the universe! Yes, from the
world for gallantry, and some of the kindest and best husbands I have
met are from among the so-called' fickle' Frenchmen. Thanks for your
kind wish, Monsieur Eau Clair, that I shall soon return to fair,
bright Paris. I do love your city and your land so much that he to
whom I may yet give my heart and life will I know, if he love me, come
often to your dear shores and Paris. Ere many more suns have risen I
turn my face southwards to that old art world, sunny Italy, which I
love well. But there one sometimes has a feeling of sadness in
thinking of what she was, especially her Rome, which one does not
experience here. I am at one with your great Victor Hugo when he says,
'It is in Paris that the beating of Europe's heart is felt. Paris is
the city of cities. Paris is the city of men. There has been an
Athens, there has been a Rome, there is a Paris.'"

Here Vaura seated herself. While speaking in her clear tones with a
depth of feeling in her manner and varying expression efface, her
beauty was felt by all. There was now a brighter hue than usual in her
cheeks, and her dark eyes shone like stars with the excitement of the
moment. The immediate family of de Hauteville now came forward
offering their congratulations, and many of the guests did her the
same honor.

"Will _la belle_ permit one of her most humble admirers to offer his
congratulations and offering?" said the voice of Lionel beside her,
and with a warm pressure of the hand, he slipped into the holder
beside the bouquet three small sprays, one of white pink, one of
Peruvian Heliotrope, and a small bit of black thorn. Vaura, an ardent
lover of flowers was also mistress of their language, so she read
silently commencing at the white pink. "'I love you,' 'fair and
fascinating,' but there is a 'difficulty.'" "Where and what is the
difficulty, I wonder," she thought, and turning her large bright eyes
to his face with a smile in them and on her lips, was how she answered
him.

"I must congratulate you on your maiden speech, Mlle. Vernon," said
the small host in his small voice. "When you can make such an
excellent impromptu one, I feel sure we men in our efforts would be
put to shame, were we to listen to a studied one from _la belle_," and
the little man retired behind madame's drapery.

"_Merci_, monsieur, my poor little speech did not show you half my
gratitude for such undeserved honors."

The guests having drank the health of the heir and _la belle de la
nuit_, began to disperse and soon after warm farewells to the family
and heartfelt wishes that they should soon meet again, our friends
were in their carriage and rapidly driving to their hotel.

Lionel was very quiet, saying little, but ever and anon with a careful
hand drawing Lady Esmondet or Vaura's wraps around them, not that the
night, or rather morning, was cold but Vaura had danced so often and
there had been so much of excitement in the night for her, and besides
it was delightful to him to have her at last near him where he could
feel her presence and know that the others were all away; to feel that
when his hand touched her cheek, neck, or arm in his loving care in
keeping her from the night air, that she did not shrink from his
touch, but rather leaned to it. And he was happy, and so was she, but
he did not know it, he only knew he was near her.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE WEB OF DIFFICULTY.


The morning after the de Hauteville ball Lady Esmondet and Vaura met
at the breakfast-table, at noon, Lady Esmondet not looking paler than
usual. Vaura was pale for she had slept none, her eyes looking larger
and her dainty and flexible lips a deep red. She was quite like her
own sweet self though, in spite of fatigue, and her soft cardinal silk
morning robe, loose at the throat, and turned down collar of white
muslin and lace. In her belt the pink, heliotrope, and black-thorn
sprays; and Lionel was content with the picture as he opened the door
and came forward. Vaura was pouring out a cup of coffee for Lady
Esmondet, her shapely hands, so soft and white, coming from the cuffs
of muslin and lace (she never could be seduced into wearing the odious
stiff linen collar and cuff's some women's souls delight in).

Lionel thought: "Shall I ever call her wife, and when I come in have a
right to take these two dear hands in mine and press them to my heart
as I bend down to kiss her sweet mouth." He said, "_Bonjour_, ladies
fair. I have come to see how you are feeling after the revels of the
past night."

"And to refresh your own poor tired self with a cup of coffee,"
answered Vaura, handing him one.

"You see, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, "we are waiting upon ourselves,
the maids are doing the necessary packing, as we have not altered our
plans to leave Paris at sundown; I hope we are not hurrying you away?"

"Not at all; did you leave me, I should follow by next express; there
would be nothing to hold me here, if you were gone."

"Nothing," said Vaura softly; "and Paris so full of beautiful,
brilliant women."

"Not now," he answered, looking into her eyes with a grave look.

Vaura gave one little sigh as she let her eyes stay on his. And this
man felt that he must feel this woman in his arms or his heart would
break.

There was a tap, tap, at the door and Somers entered, bringing her
mistress, letters; there were several from friends, with one from
Colonel Haughton to his niece and one from Mrs. Haughton to Capt.
Trevalyon, which ran thus:


"MY HEART'S IDOL,--

"The Colonel has written by this mail to Miss Vernon, stating his wish
that she and Lady Esmondet come _without fail_ to the Christmas
festivities. I am not partial to either of them (this is under the
rose) they are too high strung for me; but, my king, I must have you;
you don't know how jolly I can make life for my pets; Blanche won't
look at Sir Peter Tedril and I know it is you she wants, you may have
her and her million, you will be near me then; the Colonel, poor
sedate old fellow, would not like it, but that don't signify, because
he wishes (now that your secret marriage to Fanny Clarmont has become
public talk) that there were a thousand miles between your handsome
person and Miss Vernon; I wish you had some of the love for me that
the black-bearded Major has; I cannot keep him away, but he _shall_ if
you will only come, my king; my king, if you were only with me I
should thaw your proud heart in spite of yourself, my haughty,
handsome god; come _at once_ on receipt of this; _how_ can you stay
with _two icebergs_, when _burning lava_, like my heart, is aching
with its long waiting for you.

"In love, yours,
"KATE.

"P.S.--Persuade the icebergs not to come here; tell them Italy was
made for them."


On writing and mailing above, Madame was content, as she sat in her
own boudoir with feet on a high stool stretched out. That will bring
him; my plot is spreading; ha! ha! ha! I planted it well; nothing like
getting scandal well rooted; he has been careless, and society doesn't
forgive that; had he only paid tolls, married somebody's daughter,
given dinners and balls; society would have snapped her fingers at
this story, and though Delrose had said to her 'but he never wed her
Kate, at least he said so, but I daresay he lied.' But she used the
scandal, as we have seen, employing the useful firm of Mesdames Grundy
& Rumour; giving them also whispers of how poor little Blanche was
half engaged to him--if she could bring him to her feet she would love
him; if not, she would make her revenge tell. He should not wed Vaura
Vernon, if a woman's tongue sharp as a two-edged sword could cut their
lives apart. She would be content to repeat the little act of barter
that the young man did for Marguerite with Mephistopheles, for
Lionel's love. She had learned and practised society's creed, and paid
its tolls; surely now she was free to have her pets, and love them
too; whether it were a poodle dog or a man, whether it were a trip to
her pet club at London of the cane and cigarette, or a drive to
Richmond.

And Lionel thought, as he again glanced over his letter:

"What a bore it is that I did not years ago clear myself; delays are
dangerous; this woman has already planted a doubt in Haughton's mind;
and heavens, if she succeed in doing it here, my life will be as
lonely as was my poor father's," and unconsciously, he gave a deep
sigh.

Vaura looked up quickly from a letter from Isabel Douglas; and Lady
Esmondet said:

"No bad news, I hope, Lionel."

"No, and yes, dear Lady Esmondet; my opponents hold some good cards,
and the play is against me that is all. But Miss Vernon has something
pleasant to tell us from her home batch."

"Lady Esmondet had seen that the letter for Lionel was from Haughton
Hall, and guessed his opponent is that woman, and the cards are
against him, poor fellow." And Vaura said:

"Isabel Douglas says firstly that she is going to wed the curate, Rev.
Frederick Southby; secondly, they are as gay as butterflies at
Haughton Hall; that Madame, newly installed, though she be, leads the
fashion to the old gentry, who were, when she was not, both in the cut
of her garments, and in the novelties in the manner of her
entertainments. She gives me Roland's opinion. Mrs. Haughton is one of
society's sky-rockets, a high flyer, determined to make her world
stare; bold in her daring ascent; but by her glittering colours
leading their gaze from the steady quiet shine of the heavenly bodies;
though she says 'all the country people cannot claim to be heaven-
born.'"

"But I think Roland's a good criticism," said Lady Esmondet.

"She goes on to say," continued Vaura, "the Hall is restored to its
ancient magnificence, the ball and dinners on their return were grand
or rather gorgeous, for gorgeous is Mrs. Haughton's style. Am often
there--we are to dance some new dances at Christmas, and there is an
importation at the Hall from London, of, as Roland says, 'a pocket
edition of the light fantastic toe;' really, Vaura, my feet are
something to fold up and put away; I am so much ashamed of the flesh
and bone nature has given them, when I look at his they are too small;
but he could easily carry himself in his own violin case. What are you
doing with Sir Tilton Everly? At luncheon, yesterday, at the Hall,
someone said they had heard from a friend at Paris that the wee mon
had been seen in same box with you at the theatre. Mrs. Haughton
looked as black as night at the news, as he was wanted for to-night to
represent Cupid to her Venus in the tableaux; don't weave your spells
round the truant, Vaura, dear, else you will gain the dislike of Miss
Tompkins and her mother; he belongs to them, one would think they had
bought him in the city, as they did their pug dogs. The other day I
heard Mrs. Haughton say to Miss Tompkins. "If Everly did not come up
to time for to-night, after his tight dress and wings, bow, &c., and
my flesh-coloured, spun silk dress, all O.K. from London I'll play him
a trick at Christmas; I'll write him we are too full, and can't put
him up.""

"Will you? you ain't going to play all the tricks,' said Miss
Tompkins, as Mrs. Haughton left the room, they did not see me, I was
buried in a great big chair reading a note from Fred. But I must
close, dear; write me a long letter, and so give pleasure to

"Yours lovingly,
"ISABEL DOUGLAS.

"MISS VERNON,
"Hotel Liberte le Soleil, Paris."


"How changed the dear old place must be," said Lady Esmondet, as Vaura
ceased reading, "I would that the place could have been restored by
some other means, but if your uncle is content, I, needn't moan."

"Whatever else may be said, one thing is sure: that Lincoln Tompkin's
gold could not have been put to better use," said Lionel.

Here Somers knocked and informed her mistress the carriage waited.

"Bring me my wraps here, Somers. and then continue the packing, and
when callers come, Miss Vernon and myself are not at home until dinner
hour."

"Yes, your ladyship."

"Anything important on the _tapis_ for to-day?" asked Trevalyon.

"Yes," answered Vaura, consulting her tablets, "Worth's studio comes
first on the list; he sends word he has something aesthetic, thence to
purchase music, "Les Folies" Galop, by Ketterer; duet from "Il
Trovatore," "_Vivra Contende il Guibilo_," "_Mira di Acarbe_," etc.,
you must sing with me when we fold our wings for a while in some
temporary home at Rome, Capt. Trevalyon."

"I shall, it will give me very great pleasure."

"Thank you; oh! yes, I must not forget to look into Monsieur
Perrault's cottage, and leave a parcel for Marie." So saying, Vaura
entered the adjoining-room to robe for the carriage.

"And what will you do with yourself, Lionel, until we meet at dinner?"

"I shall devote the hours to trying to find out the present home of
Fanny Clarmont, for" said Lionel, coming beside his friend, "I _must_
clear myself; my enemies are on the war-path. Haughton's last letter
shows by its tone, they have influenced him; Delrose never liked me,
and--"

Vaura entering ended the confidences.

"This letter," said Vaura, "my maid tells me, was given to your
servant, Capt. Trevalyon, by a man in livery, to be handed to me; it
is in an unknown hand, I have not one minute to spare it now, will you
kindly pocket it, and on our journey you and it will be near me and I
can read it at will. Thanks, but you look very weary," as she put the
letter into his hand, she laid her other hand for a moment on his, and
looking kindly into his face, "for Lady Esmondet and my sake, go and
rest until our return."

"I cannot, dear Miss Vernon; do you remember," he said in a low tone,
with his hands on the flowers in her belt, "the silent language these
flowers speak?"

"I do."

"Well, I now go out alone to try and unweave the web of difficulty."

Vaura returned the close pressure of his hands, and the look in his
eyes, and he was gone, while she, turning to her god-mother, said
quietly, "we had better go, dear."

They also left the boudoir.

Lionel, without loss of time, walked quickly to the lodgings he knew
had been occupied by Fanny Clarmont some years before; but on reaching
them, the landlady informed him that five years previously, Madame
Rose (as she was known), had left her comfortable quarters,
remittances not being so frequent, and had taken cheaper rooms,
_numero cinq, Rue St. Basile_; thither Captain Trevalyon journeyed,
only to find that Madame Rose had again shifted her quarters; after
some difficulty, the address she had left in case Major Delrose should
either call or send a cheque, was found; it directed him to miserable
lodgings in one of the poorest streets of Paris; on his enquiring for
Madame Rose, a woman told him she was gone; she had been very ill
and he could gain further information from Father Lefroy, and she
directed a little urchin to go and show the gentleman the priest's
house; Trevalyon putting a sovereign into her hand, thanked her and
followed the boy. They soon reached their destination, a small, white,
many-gabled old-fashioned windowed house, with bright flowers in boxes
attached to the window-sill. Father Lefroy was full of hospitality and
welcomed Captain Trevalyon, telling him he was ready to tell him of
Madame Rose and her movements for the past three years. "Three years
ago, the woman with whom you spoke, Monsieur, and who directed you to
me, sent for me, saying, 'Madame Rose is very ill and she and her
little boy have no money for food.' I went at once, and found her
words true; the child was crying for bread, and I could see it was
want that had brought illness to the poor mother. I had food brought
and stimulants to give her temporary strength, then conveyed her and
her little son to our convent of St. John, where she was nursed by the
good sisters; while there she became a member of our holy faith. You
are a friend of hers, Monsieur?"

"Yes."

"Well, she told me her history, and of how nine years ago, this Major
Delrose, with whom she eloped--"

Lionel's heart leaped; "Here is proof," he thought.

"Deserted her, she then left her comfortable lodgings, went to others
and gained a scanty support for herself and boy by giving singing
lessons. She has given her boy to us to be educated for the holy
priesthood; she herself has taken the veil and is now Sister Magdalen
in a London convent, not cloistered, but is one of the sisters of
mercy; and now, Monsieur, before I give you her address, tell me
truthfully why you want it, your reason will be safe with me."

Trevalyon told him faithfully, and the priest's answer was to, write
on a slip of paper as follows:

"To the Mother Superior of the Convent of St. Mary," London, England.

"Grant Captain Trevalyon an interview with sister Magdalen (Madame
Rose), and assist him in every way in your power to gain his end,
which is good."

"LEFROY, "Priest of St. John's Chapel, Paris."

Here a tap at the door called the priest; returning he said:

"Captain, Trevalyon, I must bid you adieu, my time belongs to the
church, and I trust you will find that the church will aid you in
making the truth tell."

"I thank you, Father Lefroy; accept this gold for God's poor."

"_Merci_, adieu."

"Adieu."

Lionel returned to his hotel with a lighter heart, though as yet he
did not quite see how to cope with his enemies, how to make the truth,
as the priest had said, tell. He must think it out. The three friends
met at the _table d'hote_ in travelling costume, all in good spirits,
each anticipating pleasure from the month's sojourn in Italy. Lady
Esmondet was in hopes her health would be materially benefitted, and
was going, as we know, also for distraction's sake; Col. Haughton, as
a benedict, was a new situation she had yet to grow accustomed to. A
man who is in a woman's life for many years as he, chief friend, chief
adviser, to go out from one suddenly into another life with another
woman, gives one a terrible feeling of lonliness; hard, very hard to
bear.

Vaura just now had a sweet sense of completeness in being near and
leaning on, as it were, Lionel every day, though a latent feeling told
her with warning voice that she should not give way. This very morn,
an English gipsy in the pay of Mrs. Haughton, having gained admittance
to the hotel and to herself; a fierce looking woman richly dressed in
the garb of the Bohemian, her face very much muffled, having caught
cold she said, crossing the channel, had told her "man with a wife
will sue for your hand. Beware of him leddy, for danger and death I
read in your hand." Not that she paid much, if any, heed to the mere
words of a gipsy, only this, that the hidden wife story would recur to
her memory; but her dear old-time knight was drawing her nearer to
himself every day, and because of the mental suffering he was
undergoing on account of this very story; and it could not be
otherwise with her intensely sympathetic nature, together with her
pity for his past griefs; and so she gave herself up to the delicious
completeness of her present, hourly deferring to him, leaning on him
more and more. "It pleases him, poor fellow, but it will be a terrible
awakening for me if this story be true; but I must ease his present
pain even though I suffer; it is a necessity of my being" she told
herself; so giving up to the hour, she, epicurean-like, let the
present suffice.

Before leaving the hotel for the depot, putting a sovereign into the
hand of a porter, she desired him to see that the beauteous flowers in
their apartments were conveyed to M. Perrault's cottage. On arriving
at the depot, which the electric light made bright as the whitest
moonlight, they saw many friends come to say farewell.

"Such an important exodus from our city cannot take place without many
a heartfelt _bon voyage_," said Eau Clair de Hauteville, gallantly.

"And while our heart weeps at our loss, we anticipate with joy your
speedy return" said another, holding Vaura's hand in a tight pressure.

"_Au plaisir, tout a vous_," said another brokenly in a whisper.

"My table will be lonely," cried Bertram, "until grace, beauty and wit
dine again with my emaciated self."

"You fill one end of your table, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "and your
cook the other; to be sure, you have the sides, but wings are not bad
when tender, and I have no pity for you with a Wingfield near."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Mrs. Wingfield and Bertram, the former saying:

"Though I am always ready, Captain, to be side-bone-wing or Wingfield
to Mr. Bertram's soup, turbot, or mutton, Eustace is never very near,
as now, but he is absent here because I told him he must show with me
at a crush in an hour's time, and as he mortally hates slow crushing,
he is truant and I shall have to appear alone."

"What a tyrant the mighty god _Society_ is," cried Bertram, "ignores a
man's tastes; expects him to flatten himself at a crush immediately
after a good dinner."

"Try and be ours again at Christmas," de Vesey was saying to Vaura.

"Without fail" said another "our city is glorious at the birth-day of
the Christ."

"And _la belle_ Vernon should not fail to lend us her beauty at that
time," said Eau Clair, thinking as did the others that her rare
loveliness in the white light was as of an angel.

"She goes with the golden summer," said a southerner.

"The beauteous birds go south in your company, Mile. Vernon, may they
sing sweet songs for you as they wing their flight," echoed a poet.

"I love the birds as I do your sunny climes, and as we journey, should
I hear their sweet notes, shall remember your words," she said softly,
her syren voice full of music, as with a last hand-clasp and wave of
handkerchief the guard shut the door and the fire horse dashed on his
way and from gay Paris.



CHAPTER XXIV.

SLAIN BY A WOMAN.


Our travellers having a carriage to themselves made each other as
comfortable as it is possible for human nature of to-day to be,
accustomed to the cushion, footstool, and lounge of life.

"Farewell, once more, charming Paris," said Lady Esmondet, "was there
no England with its loved associations and many friends, then would I
live my life in thee."

"So should I," said Vaura "the French are a dear, delightful people,
really living in the flying moments, their gay cheerfulness acting on
one as a stimulant; the veriest trifles are said by them in a pleasing
manner all their own; yes we have much to envy the versatile Gaul
for."

"I fear," said Lionel looking tenderly into her face, "I fear you will
feel, in our life together once more, a little dull, as if a cloud had
crossed the sunbeams, after your recent gaiety, triumphs, conquests,
and what not."

"You do not know my nature" she said, her large dark eyes looking at
him reproachfully, "'tis like coming home. Even the gay songsters
methinks love to know their nests await them; one's life spent in the
cold glitter of triumphs and conquests would be most unsatisfying,
unless one knew of one heart, one's home to rest at even; one other
nature akin to ones own to share one's inner higher life, that to the
world is closed."

"Yes, natures akin, what bliss," said her godmother, dreamily partly
taking up the refrain of Vaura's words; partly going with thought
which had quickly sped the "injurious distance" to Eric and the woman
he has married.

"Just my conviction," said Trevalyon with feeling, "natures akin; men
talk of moulding some woman after marriage to their views of life;
women talk of leaning on their husbands, I do not mean physically, for
this is womanly, and I love a womanly woman, but mentally, what a
drag; now I do not refer to education, for each could in that case
give to the other, the information acquired from books being
different; but to have constantly to instruct one's wife into one's
tastes, habits, opinions in natures akin; each is perfect in the
other; each goes out in the fulness of sympathy, heart to heart."

"What! a rest!" said Lady Esmondet, with a sigh.

A grave yet tender look met in the mesmeric eyes of Lionel and the
soulful eyes of Vaura, as she said softly:

"Yes, only in natures akin can there be that fulness of sympathy which
makes marriage one's earthly heaven;" and now that same far-away look
comes to her eyes, as she thinks "poor fellow, poor, poor Guy;" and
yet, 'tis only pity.

There was a lull in the conversation for a few moments, each busy with
thought, when Lady Esmondet said, following her reverie,

"Tell us, Vaura, something more of Haughton news; does Isabel mention
any of the novelties introduced?"

"Yes, godmother mine, and prepare yourselves at dinner, for Hebe, who
waits, will be an equal."

"Never!" said her companions in same breath.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true;' at some signal or
given time, Isabel says the servants are dismissed when some of the
ladies wait, bearing the cup, or, etc."

"I must say I should object, 'however bright, however young' my Hebe,"
said Trevalyon; "her train would surely become entangled, and I defy
Jupiter to be sweetly calm with iced champagne spilled down his neck
or on to his knee."

"I should say not," said Lady Esmondet; "a most preposterous novelty
to introduce."

"Isabel says everything at table; takes the usual routine when there
is a state dinner."

"I should hope so."

"When alone (that is with merely the home guests), she says they
frequently wear some fancy costume at dinner."

"What! changes; but I suppose I am old-fashioned," said Lady Esmondet.

"And so am I, for I should feel as ill at ease, as the family
portraits, could one invest them with speech and hear their
lamentations," said Trevalyon.

"Yes, you both forget this is the age of novelties; I am inclined to
think could Solomon of old go to and fro some evening even through our
British Isles, he would draw a pen through his time-honoured proverb
of 'There is nothing new under the sun.'"

"Haughton tells me we shall scarcely know the old place; I confess
should like to see it much, as it was full of loved associations."

"Parts of the Hall did really require the tools of the workman; but I
hope my dear mother's rooms have been left undisturbed to any great
extent. It is well for us who have not gone to the extreme in our
craze for the novelties that those who have cannot plant their ladder
to the sky and retint in aesthetic, or according to Oscar Wilde,
colours."

"More letters, Lionel; your friends have not forgotten to remember
you."

"No, nor my foes, for by every mail comes something anonymous, telling
me kindly of my blackened reputation; but I should not trouble either
of you so much above and beyond the petty scandal making and loving
herd; but it is very wearying and wearing to me; I sometimes think I
should leave you on account of it, and grapple with this difficulty at
once and forever;" the moisture was in Vaura's eyes as he looked at
her wearily with a long drawn sigh.

"You must not play into their hands, poor fellow, by seeming to notice
their game," said Lady Esmondet, musingly, "until you see your own way
clear to face them, by telling them and proving it a 'lie direct.'"

"Yes, dear Lady Esmondet, you are right; I shall not."

"And depend upon it," she continued, "unless in very exceptional
cases, there is a woman at the bottom of every particle of scandal."

"What do you say to this charge, Miss Vernon?"

"In the words of one who has written much my sentiments I shall tell
you. 'In days of yore, when the world was young and men were as brave
and women fairer than they are to-day, when men to men were as
faithful as Orestes to Pylades and women as sisters; when men and
women had a simple faith which knew no fainting fits and believed as
children in the fairy wand of the fairies, in the power over men's
destinies of the gods and goddesses; in those days it came to pass
that Juno, who was jealous of her husband, Jupiter, and quarrelled
with him over his many escapades, one day said unto him: Behave
thyself and I shall throw the apple of discord and scandal to earth,
and it shall come to pass that amongst the mortals my sex, not yours
(for to woman, not man, have we given the undying gift of curiosity),
shall catch it as it falls, and it shall come to pass that as many as
shall eat of it shall hunger and thirst for scandal, and finding none
shall form themselves into _clubs_, and meet, not in the Temple of
Truth, where Minos, son of Jupiter, sits as supreme judge, and where
falsehood and calumny can never approach; but where she who has eaten
most greedily of the apple shall throw most mud at all outside sisters
who have not eaten, which the listeners with itching ears shall catch
up, and repeat on the wings of the wind, and Boreas, Auster, Eurus,
and Zephyrus shall carry the refrain over all the land, and so we,
with the other immortals, watching the strife among mortals, shall
learn to live happily together.' 'And what then, fair Juno? you forget
it will surely come to pass that the women who eat shall transmit to
their offspring an undying thirst for scandal and power of invention
therein.' 'Amen, O all-wise Jupiter; but it shall come to pass also
that she shall only transmit this taste to her own sex; so,
_n'importe_, here goes,' and with a gay '_bon voyage_,' she threw the
apple to earth and us; you see, Captain Trevalyon; but thank the fates
there are some of us who have not eaten."

"And you stand out so bright in the loveliness of true women that one
forgets that your sex do bespatter themselves with the mud they throw.
What a pity it is; how many lives are severed by it," said Lionel,
wearily; "but to something sweeter than my worries. Here is the letter
you left in my charge, Miss Vernon, and a few lines to myself from my
cousin, telling me she and Uncle Vincent have arrived at London and
the Langham."

"Indeed!" said Lady Esmondet; "quite a change for your cousin."

"Quite so; Judith has lived her life, I may say, at New York."

"Has Sir Vincent's health improved?"

"I regret not materially; though he says, so Judith tells me, that he
already feels, the benefit of the change," he said, somewhat absently,
for he is watching Vaura's changing expression as she reads. Her head
is bent toward the letter, the fluffy brown hair in its natural wave
meeting the brow; the lovely lips soft and full with a slight quiver
in them; the small bonnet is off; the luxuriant hair in a knot behind
fastened by pins of gold; her cloak, which he--himself had unfastened
and removed, leaves her figure in its perfection of _contour_, robed
in its gown of navy blue velvet, a sculptor's study; her heartbeats
are quicker and her cheeks wear a deeper rose as she reads the
farewell words of the Marquis Del Castello.


"Peerless Mlle. Vernon, allow me, one of your most devoted admirers,
the sad consolation of a last word of farewell. I have silently adored
you for several months, and your own heart will tell you that now,
suddenly coming to the knowledge that another life is to be made happy
in yours, I cannot yet bear to look upon your loveliness as belonging
to another. But I want to ask you to accept (from one who would give
you all) the shelter of my villa Iberia for yourself and companions,
during your stay at Rome; you will find it pleasantly situated, and at
such time in the future that I may visit it, there will be a
melancholy pleasure to me in the thought that the fairest of Saxon
lilies, the most beauteous of English roses, with the warmth of the
South in her nature, with the poetry of my own land in her heart, has
been among my flowers, paintings, and my books. I feel sure, dearest
Mlle. Vernon, that your heart will not deny me this small favour, and
may your life be peaceful as an angel's, and joyous as a butterfly in
a garden of roses.--Another captive.

"Yours,
"FERDINAND DEL CASTELLO.
"Paris, November, 1877."

Vaura was more than slightly agitated on reading the farewell words of
her Spanish admirer. It was so unexpected, and she, so sympathetic,
feeling for him in his heart-ache, also feeling that had there been no
Lionel Trevalyon this Spaniard might have won her heart; and glancing
up she saw that the _Saturday Review_ was laid aside, and the tired
blue eyes on her face--when is it otherwise now?--and giving one
little sigh as she smiled, the sigh being for Del Castello, gone out
in his loneliness, and the smile for him. But poor Lionel did not know
her heart. Man cannot fathom the depths of woman's nature. They both
may stand on the brink of a deep clear river, as he looks with her
into its transparent mirror he only sees the reflection of her
loveliness, for her heart is deep as the bed of the river; but when
she sees his face reflected, his heart is laid bare. And so Vaura
Vernon, being only a woman, knew Lionel had come to love her, for his
eyes followed her every movement. The strong man was slain and she was
content while he craved for more, he would fain be sure, by feeling
her in his arms, and his lips on hers; and so he sighed, for had not
her uncle forbidden him on his honour to speak? And she smiled, for
she knew before long she would be held to his heart.

She thought it best to tell her companions at once, in part, the drift
of Del Castello's words; so saying, "Neither of you can guess whom the
written words I have just perused are from, so I shall tell you. They
come from the Marquis Del Castello."

The rose deepened in her cheek on meeting Lionel's eye, for she
thought, "I wonder if the Marquis suspected the truth?" And a sharp
pain came to Trevalyon's heart in his dread of what her answer would
be.

"In his billet," continued Vaura, "he very kindly offers us the villa
Iberia during our stay at Rome; of course in the most gallant and
poetic manner of speech, as befits one of his race. During our first
dance at the de Hauteville ball he told me it was his intention to go
at once to his Italian villa, but it seems he has changed his mind,
for in his letter he speaks of going there at some future time. And
so, what think you, god-mother mine; do you feel inclined to be a
guest of the absent lord and master?"

"It is for you to decide, _ma chere_."

"Be it so; I feel inclined to please him in this matter; but perhaps
our kind escort has made other arrangements," turning to Trevalyon.

"No, _ma belle_; I had intended sending a telegram from Lyons to the
proprietor of my favourite hotel (securing apartments), knowing him to
be a very decent fellow; but now, perforce," he added with an intent
look, trying to read her, "my would-be landlord must go to the wall,
while the doors of the villa obey the open sesame of yourself and its
master."

"While we make our _entree_," said Vaura.

"And now as to our route," said Lady Esmondet.

"I should say," said Trevalyon, "through the Mount Cenis pass, to
Turin, thence, by easy rail stages down to Rome, so that you will not
be too fatigued; we should spend a day in the virgin-white, the
spotless cathedral at Milan. Florence would be another rest, all among
its flowers and time-honoured works of art; also resting a few days at
the foot of the mountains, where we could enjoy walks and drives up
the magnificent mountain slopes, and through ravines too wondrous in
their beauty to be ever blotted from one's memory."

"Oh, yes; your route would be delightful," said Vaura eagerly; "by all
means, god-mother dear, let us linger by the way."

"Yes, we can afford a few days to the pure loftiness of the mountains;
the life of to-day is so practical, if full of shams that a day with
nature is as a tonic to one's higher, inner, self."

"Just as I have felt, dear Lady Esmondet, when the social atmosphere
at London has become too narrow for me; you both know, how at times,
what has been sufficient for one, suddenly develops the bars, as it
were, of a cage, which one must burst to breathe freely. How many
months have I spent in these woods upon the mountains, with only my
good dog, leaving my man domiciled at some pension below; the terrific
grandeur of the peaks resting against the blue heavens, the majestic
crags, restful valleys with verdure clad, or awfully steep precipices,
all speaking to me of a higher power, were company enough. The
beautiful lake of Bourget, has charmed me so that I must stay my
steps, and did; gazing long into its mirrored surface. Then from its
calm, the mighty torrents, wildly dashing and foaming, held me, when
my mood was so; the many views from Chambery, too, woo one to linger.
There was one old ruin, which, if we come upon, I think you would
greatly admire; it was on the ascent, down near Genoa, and where we
could rest. Some Brothers of Saint Gregory, I think, is their order;
such a quaint little chapel they have, which you should sketch, _ma
belle_."

"I shall; and many other artist bits, I have ever longed to be so
placed as to be able to do so."

"Lionel, have you ever tasted the Alpine trout? To me they are
excellent."

"Yes, frequently, and always with an appetite. Their home is in a lake
8,290 feet above the sea level."

"No wonder Roland Douglas has spoken so highly of them," said Vaura
gaily; "their relations of the sea are quite under-bred. What
stupendous pieces of work the mountain passes are," she continued; "I
wonder, could Hannibal see them, what he would think of dynamite
_versus_ vinegar, to blast rocks with."

"Or poor, untiring Napoleon and his weary soldiers," said Lady
Esmondet.

"What men there were in the bygone," said Lionel with twice our
strength, twice our endurance; we are weary; though making the run
cushion at back, stimulant in hand."

"We want backbone; our spinal column has given way, by reason of our
fore-fathers' energy," said Vaura, laughingly.

"We certainly could manage an extra backbone very well," said her
god-mother; "ah! what strength I had, when I journeyed South in
seventy-five, I remember we went by rail from Bale to Milan, _via_ the
St. Gotthard road; words are lifeless in describing the scenery along
this route, being grandly, magnificent; one winds in and out among the
mountains; at times in gazing out the coach windows, one's breath is a
prayer, one trembles so at the terrific peaks soaring up and up so far
above one."



CHAPTER XXV.

IN THE SUNBEAMS.


Our friends having reached Lyons, where they had business, and would
rest for the night, we shall leave them and meet them again on the
mountains. Suffice it to say they enjoyed the varied grandeur, beauty
and magnificence of the scenes through which they passed, as natures
alive to the beauties of natural scenery alone can; the weather was
charming, the coach not uncomfortable, and three happier in each
other, or handsomer faces, had never before looked out upon the many
charms of landscape. The snow-topped mountains, the small white fleecy
clouds chasing each other across the blue sky, and looking as though
gathered from the snow-flakes on their peaks. The varied tints of the
trees, looking from a distance like a huge bouquet in the hand of Dame
Nature; again, a mountain stream dashing headlong down, down,
gathering strength as it rolls until lost in some sudden curve or wild
projection. A gleaming crag with belts of pine now burst upon the
view, in its rich dark dress, while here we have the delicate tints of
the valley. Let us kneel here as we gaze on the giants of the forest,
as they spread their huge arms and rear their proud heads to the sky,
and thank heaven that in some favoured spots the timber is not the
prey of the ruthless destroyer, man. What new country in God's world
but has been shorn of its beauty to gratify man's unsatiable love of
clearing; and the ignorant clod is not the only despoiler, for peer
and peasant rival the great Liberal Leader in wielding the axe, the
one to pay his debts, the other because he is only a clod; and Mother
Earth is made barren, and her heart dry and hard, and she cannot give
nourishment to the seedlings committed to her care.

For a few days of pure mountain air and scenery, we again meet Lady
Esmondet and her companions, lingering at a small town east of Genoa;
on the last day of their stay, they have taken a conveyance and, Sims
as driver, in descending by another road they came suddenly upon one
of those mediaeval castles, or rather its ruins, the greater part
having fallen to decay.

"Eureka," exclaimed Lionel; "the quaint spot I have wished to see
again; and which you should sketch, Miss Vernon."

The Brothers of Saint Gregory had, with tool and hammer, made the most
of the ruins remaining; and here some twenty lived, sheltering the
weary traveller. Our friends were almost close to the ruin ere
observing it, it being hidden partly by a magnificent belt of pine,
partly by a freak of nature, in shape of huge upheavals of rock,
thrown up as it were from the earth's bowels, and in the clefts of
which rocks, beautiful moss, hardy trailing plants, and ferns grew
luxuriantly. Here the Brothers had built a tiny chapel, one side and
part of roof being formed of these rocks, the other side, remainder of
roof, and western entrance, were of stone and marble. The eastern end
of beautiful specimens of Italian marble, the altar of pure white, its
many coloured background throwing it out in all its purity; seats of
rude stone; the floor strewn with sweet scented leaves and twigs,
sending up when crushed by one's foot, a sweet odour as of incense. On
our travellers nearing, a magnificent voice full of melody, fell upon
the air.

"What a grand singer!" exclaimed Vaura, as they with one consent,
deserted the carriage.

It was a Christmas anthem, "_Regina coeli loetare, alleluia, quia quem
meruisti portare, alleluia, etc._"

"'Tis a beautiful spot, and a great and rich voice," said Lady
Esmondet; "I wonder if petticoats are admitted."

"Even if not," said Vaura, "we can sit on the rocks or grassy seats
and fill our ears with music, which, after we descend, will lift us to
the heights once more."

In following a narrow, irregular path, which led to the iron gate of
the garden, Lady Esmondet, becoming separated from her companions,
Vaura climbed to a rock; just a foot-hold, to endeavour to ascertain
her whereabouts; Lionel overtook her, as becoming dizzy, she would
have fallen.

"Spring into my arms; there, that is it; do not fear," he said
breathlessly.

"I was foolish to attempt it when you were not near," she said softly,
as he loosened his hold on the level path.

"How glad I was to be in time, and you cannot know how my heart leaped
when you had to come, to me and I held you in my arms, even for a
moment," he says brokenly.

They come now to a few yards of narrow path, a steep precipice at one
side. With a whispered "may I?" his arm is around her in guiding her
steps; no word is spoken and we all know the silent ecstasy of such
moments. A turn in the path and they come upon Lady Esmondet, seated
on a rocky seat (she having taken a safer way) and listening to the
sweet voice still singing.

"I wonder if they will admit us," said Lady Esmondet.

"I can try," answered Lionel, and moving down the few natural steps to
the iron gate of the garden, rang the bell.

The gate was opened by a priest, an elderly man, severe of aspect, but
courteous in manner, and a man of letters from his intellectual cast
of countenance. In very good English, he said:

"In the name of Saint Gregory, I welcome you; whether you come for
food for the soul or body, our prayers are yours, and our poor fare
awaits you."

"Thank you, sir priest," said Lady Esmondet; "we shall just admire
your chapel and garden and go on our way."

"We were attracted from the direct path by a magnificent voice within
your walls," said Vaura.

"Yes, Brother Thomas is greatly gifted; well for him that his great
powers are given to good, rather than to evil. The sacred festival of
the birth of the Christ is so near, and our brother sings at Paris the
joyful songs of his nativity. This being a Saint's day, some of the
younger brothers of our order have begged our sweet singer of the
churches to pour forth the notes of his melody, that they also, may
feel as the Parisiens, the wonderful power and charm of his song."

"Such melody stirs one's very soul!" said Vaura earnestly, her large
eyes full of moisture as the music thrills her.

"What a lull there seems!" said Lady Esmondet, "now that his voice is
still."

"Yes!" said Vaura, "as if nature herself had been listening."

Lady Esmondet now introduced to Father Ignatius herself and
companions, and as they followed the winding path from the chapel to
the ruins, whither to the habitable wing they are bending their steps
to partake of some slight refreshment, they come suddenly upon the
owner of the throat, full of song, who is now kneeling beside a large
urn, in which are some live coals, upon which he has just laid some
elegantly bound volumes; he is pale and emaciated, but with the
remains of wonderful beauty; with folded hands and eyes closed turned
heavenward, on hearing footsteps he looks and would have started to
his feet and flown, but by a visible effort restrained himself. On
observing his agitation, Trevalyon suggested the turning into another
path, but the stern priest objected.

"Yes! pray do," said Lady Esmondet, "there is a lovely shrub I should
like a nearer view of."

"Be it so; I perceive, Monsieur, I mean," checking herself, "Brother
Thomas is not yet free from the pride that lacks humility, that you
being of the world he has left forever, have still power to stir his
feelings, he was ashamed of his garb, but must steel his heart against
such emotion."

"Poor fellow," said Vaura, in pitying tones, "he looks ill, and is
perhaps weak and nervous, his habiliments look stiff and new, not
seeming a part of him as yours, he has perhaps but lately joined your
brotherhood, and all is strange as yet."

"You are right, Mlle. Vernon, his garb is as new as it is new for him
to lift up his voice in the church, and while you partake of our poor
fare, I shall pass away the time in telling you something of him."

They now enter the noble vaulted stone entrance with its ancient
workmanship and massive proportions, seeming in its substantial build
to defy the destroying hand of time. The spacious hall has been
converted by the brothers into a refectory; the priest bidding them to
the table on which were dried fruits from the northern, with fresh
from the southern climes, English walnuts and biscuits, with a bottle
of old French wine. Before his guests partook of the food, the priest
kneeling, made the sign of the cross, asked a blessing, then seating
himself a little apart, spoke as follows:



CHAPTER XXVI.

A MOUNTAIN IDYL, OR AN ALPINE ROMANCE.


"About eight months ago at last Easter-tide, and while the ladies of
Sainte Marie were attending mass in their little chapel, situated
about a quarter of a mile east from the road by which you descend to
Italia, a traveller was carried into their midst more dead than alive,
in a faint, having been struck down by the fell hand of disease
suddenly, and while making his way over the mountains; the hireling
who drove the conveyance had carried him in, well knowing the convent
and hospital to be a harbour of rest for the sick and weary, having
deposited his living freight upon one of the rude benches of the
chapel, bringing also his luggage, left him in God and our Lady's
hands. The mother superior at the close of mass, hastily summoned the
strong-armed portress, who with the assistance of the officiating
priest, carried him to the adjoining hospital. You all doubtless
observed traces of unusual beauty in Brother Thomas, but in the
emaciated form you have seen, can form no conception of his
comeliness, ere wasted by slow lingering fever; yes! he was handsome,
wondrously so. In critical cases of illness, the mother is wont to
call me to aid, I having studied the science of healing in the great
schools of Europe and England, ere taking the vows of our order; in
the character of physician I saw much of Monsieur--I mean Brother
Thomas. As a penance for evil, wrought by him upon mankind, he has
permitted me to tell his story, but as he is dead to his own former
world, and as a punishment, to no more speak his name. Suffice it to
say he is a man of culture, a man of letters. You have heard his
voice, and he was born among the great. Alas! when one sees to what
base ends education is applied plied, one is inclined to regret the
early days. At one time in the strangers illness, he was so nearly
passing through the valley of the Shadow of Death, as to make it
incumbent upon me to open his luggage in order to ascertain his name
and address, whereby to communicate with his friends; in an iron box I
was horror-struck to find volume after volume, his own work, which
rivalled Voltaire in its teachings. I trembled to think of such
godless productions within the walls of a holy convent and of the
awful responsibility resting upon myself; should I allow such
instruments of evil to exist? did it not seem providential, my being
placed in such a position as to be able in a few minutes, by the aid
of fire, to destroy the labour of years, and so give to the church
another victory over Satan?

"I saw him from time to time, and as it proved to be a low wasting
fever, he was with the sisters four long months. Among the nuns who
attend the sick, is a beautiful young English girl, of patrician face
and mien. And now a word of her; eighteen years ago, it was a _fete_
day at Rome, and among the seductions offered to the senses of man,
was that of the stage; one of your most gifted of English stars held
men chained in fetters wrought by her beauty and talent, night after
night, in their boxes at the theatre, while the priests of the Lord
wept at the altar, because of the deserted sanctuary; but it was
carnival time, and men, at that season, forget the God who gave them
power to enjoy. In one of the churches, at midnight, a lady closely
veiled, entered, carrying a bundle, and going up to the altar, without
reverence and in haste, deposited her burden at the foot of the cross.
The officiating priest directed one of the sextons to follow her in
haste, but the lady was too quick for him. A carriage was in waiting,
which a gentleman with hat over brow, and muffled about throat,
speedily drove off, almost before the lady was seated; they were soon
lost in the maddening crowd, for humanity held high revel; the jester
was abroad, and theatre, with amusement and music hall, poured forth
their devotees, though the ball, both in palace and street, would be
kept rolling all night. The emissaries of the church learned that your
star of the London stage left Rome closely veiled, and attended by a
stranger, a gentleman, at midnight. Enough said; only this, that her
business manager and waiting woman had been sent on to Venice, the
next scene of triumph, the morning of the same day. The child, a
lovely girl infant, wore robes of wealth, rich muslin and lace, and
was lolled in a carriage rug of the skin of the seal, five hundred
pounds, in English gold, was pushed loosely into the bosom of her
dress, and three lines of writing were found there also, which read as
follows: 'Communicate, in case of infant's death, with ----' giving
name of banking house at London; 'until that time we have instructions
to pay L200 yearly, for her benefit, _if not_ annoyed by efforts to
ascertain her parentage.' That child is the young Saxon nun, now at
the convent of Ste. Marie; a convent has been ever her home, and she
loves its life, early showing a strong inclination for the study of
medicine, for the past five years she has been an apt pupil of mine;
with great beauty, cleverness, and persuasive manner, she, at the
sick-bed, has gained already many souls within the true pale. And now,
to continue of the illness of Monsieur, now Brother Thomas, as I have
already made you aware, a low fever caused him to remain at the
convent for the space of four months. Sister Fidele, a French nun,
shared the fatigue and duty of ministering to the sick man's wants,
with the young Saxon sister, whose life I have told you of. She is
with us Sister Faith; a name given to her by his Holiness, Pope Pius,
her child-like belief and peaceful beauty of expression, suggesting
it.

"But to proceed, Sister Fidele, seeing her patient was ever restless
and unsatisfied during the absence of Sister Faith, informed the
Mother Abbess, saving: 'He is a heretic, mother, and if you permit
Sister Faith to be more with him her prayers, zeal and gentle pious
converse may impress his godless soul.'

"Thus it was that Sister Faith spent all her time not devoted to
necessary rest at the bedside of Monsieur. But, alas for the weakness
of man, instead of the piety of her teachings impressing his soul, or
the sacredness of her office shielding her from such passions, her
great beauty had kindled in his heart the flame of a moral love. I as
her father confessor learned of the unlawful words spoken to her; my
indignation and sorrow were great. But when she assured me that to her
he was only a soul to be saved, that her life was only happy in doing
good for the beloved Church, that no earthly love could ever enter her
soul; moreover, that she firmly believed the stranger was beginning to
feel the beauties of our holy faith I abandoned my resolve to bring
him hither, and instead left him in her hands. At first he tried every
fascination of which he was master to make her love him and fly with
him. I need not tell you without avail. Then her gentle piety seemed
to have touched his heart. He permitted her to send for me. I obeyed
the summons joyfully, for I well knew what a triumph over Satan his
conversion would be, and his own wish or consent to see me made me
hopeful. We conversed by the hour on knotty theological questions, he
talking well and seeming at times half persuaded to be a Christian,
but as if too proud to humble himself. The blessed saints made
intercession for him, for our prayers were heard; and I had the great
triumph of baptising and administering to him the blessed sacrament of
the Holy Eucharist. After he had received he begged of me a private
interview, and then implored of me to give him Sister Faith to wife.
He said her great faith and gentle converse had made him think, 'If
these things be, how great is my condemnation.' It was she who had
taught him to say or think it possible he might ever say: 'Whereas I
was blind I now see.' He said he had great wealth, and if she was his
they would give much gold to the Church.

"But I could not grant his wish. Six months before his advent amongst
us our sweet-faced sister had taken, the black veil; had she been in
her novitiate I might by personal application to his Holiness have
granted his prayer. He bowed his head in grief. I told him of the
unchanging vow of celibacy of priest and nun, and of the immovableness
of the Church; I feared he would have a relapse and removed him
hither, where he has since taken our vows, and is now a brother. You
have heard his wondrous power of song, and, as I told you, goes soon
to Paris. He grieves yet to the very heart that Sister Faith cannot be
his, but his penances are severe, and I am in hopes the saints will
strengthen him to subdue the flesh altogether to the spirit; 'tis so
new to him to sing the songs of the Church that he practices at
whatever hour allowed him; but has been anxious to destroy his infidel
writings that I have given him an hour to-day and tonight at midnight
for the work.

"Such, noble guests, is a page in our new brother's life," concluded
the priest.

"And a most interesting page, reverend father," said Lady Esmondet.

"What a checkered life his has been," said Lionel thoughtfully, as
they wended their way from the quiet seclusion of the monastery out to
the carriage which was to convey them once more to the busy life of
the world.

"Yes, none more so," said the priest; "how kind is Providence to lead
this wayward soul at last, and in its great pride to the cross, and
through the piety of a young maiden."

Here the heavy, iron gate of the garden is reached and they bid the
hospitable, though austere, monk adieu.

"Could we see the beautiful Sister Faith?" enquired Vaura; "if we in
our descent into Italy, call at the convent of Ste. Marie, I feel so
interested in her, she deserves perfect happiness; do you think
reverend Father, that she is so?"

"Your own lovely face, Mademoiselle, looks as if it had never been
clouded by sorrow. The face of Sister Faith is unclouded as your own,
and we know that the trials of the world can never reach her, the
protecting arms of the church enfold her; I am full of regrets that
you cannot see her, she is now praying devotedly to the saints that
Brother Thomas may be given strength to banish her image altogether
from his heart, as well as attending two cases of fever among the
inmates."

"Are you not afraid, in her great self-abnegation, that her own health
will give way?" inquired Lady Esmondet.

"No, she is gifted with wonderful health and strength, one quiet hour
in the cell restores the vigour lost in days and nights of fatigue;
and now adieu, and may the blessing of St. Gregory go with you, and I
thank you in the name of Christ's poor, for the gold you have given."

"Adieu, adieu, farewell!".

And our friends are again _en route_.

"Depend upon it," said Lionel, "in ages to come, the good Sister Faith
will be Ste. Faith of the Alpine mountains."

"Poor young creature, I cannot but think," said Vaura, her eyes
suffused with tears, "that she would be happier in the bright world,
loved and loving, than in the cloister."

"What a gifted couple they would have been," observed Lady Esmondet.

"Brother Thomas has lived and knows what life is, and I cannot help
thinking the cloister, will not bring him peace," said Lionel.

"What a power in the church the nuns are," said Vaura; "not in her
grand ceremonial, not in her unity, not in her much gold dwelleth her
greatest and most powerful arm, but in her gentle sisterhood."

"True," said Lionel; "though I cannot but think, that the church would
have gained more had they united the Saxon nun with the now Brother
Thomas; what a power their united lives, and with much gold; his
influence will not tell immurred in a cell."

"I am sure we shall not soon forget the story of poor Brother Thomas
and Sister Faith," remarked Vaura.

"There was a time," said Lionel, "when I used to wonder that so many
fellows gave up this life of ours and buried themselves in a monastry,
but as I listened to the priest I felt that if a man is feeling that
the love of the one woman he craves can never be his, that, as an
escape from the speculative eye of Mrs. Grundy, a cell might look
inviting."

"So you give Mrs. Grundy credit for a speculative eye, Lionel," said
Lady Esmondet, amusingly.

"What else is she but a speculator? she is ever busy, always alive and
speculating with some unfortunate beings, name or fame," said Lionel
bitterly.

"I am glad we have run away from her; she cannot be with us on the
mountains, so rest easy for to-day, Lionel," answered Lady Esmondet.

"No," said Vaura, earnestly; "the Alpine heights are too pure and too
lofty for her, she loves the heated gaslit _salon_, with the music of
many voices; but we are all the better for an outing with Dame Nature,
I do love her so, with her sunlit air, her breezy fan, her robes of
green, while her children, the brook and field, sing and laugh, they
are so merry and so rich; yes, I love her so, I should just like to
take her in my arms; see the birds in the trees as we pass, she rocks
them to sleep, for as she breathes she sways the branches to and fro,
and so gives a tuneful accompanyment to their song ere they rest."

And so in gay chit-chat or more serious converse, the descent into
fair Italia is made. The grand passion of Trevalyon's life becoming
more earnest, and completely mastering him for this sweet woman; the
companion of his journey; for not only her grace and rich beauty made
him her captive, but her tender womanliness, underlying her vivacity,
charmed him, and his eyes were seldom off her face as she sat opposite
him; he was never tired of watching the ever-warying expression of her
countenance; and poor Lionel, subdued at last, felt he must clear
himself to Eric Haughton, and have her ever beside him.

Her grey eyes were luminous as stars with a warmer light as they
sometimes rested on his; there was a wild rose bloom on her cheeks
painted by nature, with the invigorating air of the mountains.
Sometimes, with a gay _abandon_, she tossed aside head-gear and cloak,
and with Lionel, descended from the carriage to cull some rare moss or
late flower, or make the ascent of a higher spot to view some lovelier
scene; just now she is looking more than usually lovely. In this
prelude to real love-making, as was now taking place daily between
Lionel and Vaura; what a magical softening of expression there is,
what a sweetness of languor in the eyes, a tremulous sighing from the
waiting heart; and yet, she is blissfully happy, for she knows that
she is loved by a man whom she will love, aye, does, with all the
sympathy and passion of her nature.



CHAPTER XXVII.

GRUNDY'S LASH CAUSES HEART-ACHE.


On the evening of the sixth day, our friends leisurely arrived in the
city of the Caesars; on coming in at the depot, Trevalyon, hiring a
landau, they, with Sims and the maids following, proceeded to the
villa Iberia. They learned that the noble owner had been there three
days previously, and had then given his own servants a holiday, hiring
English in their stead, thinking the comfort of his guests would be
better attended to by this arrangement.

"The Marquis must have come here immediately after the ball," said
Lady Esmondet, "I heartily wish he were here to welcome us."

Her companions were silent, both busy with thought; Trevalyon's were
not altogether pleasant, his proud spirit recoiling from self at the
part he had played in the boudoir of Madame de Hauteville.

"Had I not," he told himself, "had I not bowed to Del Castello's
question of 'are you anything to her?' he would have been here to do
his wooing; we, at an hotel, and yet, it was only human, but, bah! how
mean; but was I to give up any place I may have in her heart, and
yield her to the influence of his southern tongue, merely because I am
held in honour not to speak, and am just now a foot-ball for Dame
Rumour. God help me, darling, I couldn't; you might, in _pique_ at my
silence, have given way to his warm words; you belong to me; I have
only you, and should I lose you, one of two courses would be mine;
either to make an endless beast of myself for distraction's sake, or
become misanthrope, like my poor father." So thinking, he unfastened
the cloak of the woman whose beauty and sweet womanliness, had made
him captive.

In the hall, the butler saying:

"Dinner will await your ladyship's pleasure in half an hour; our
master, his noble lordship, commanded cook to have it ready every
evening, on arrival of nine o'clock express, so your ladyships and the
English gentleman would find comfort."

"Your master is very thoughtful," said Lady Esmondet.

One of the household now ushered them to their respective apartments.

"What an air of complete comfort pervades the whole place, said Vaura.

"Yes," said Lady Esmondet, "I am rather _difficile_ in such matters,
but I must confess, the place is charming in its warmth and luxury."

Here they parted to dress, Lady Esmondet being conducted to a
luxurious room on the ground floor, opening on to a verandah; there
was a suspicion of chilliness in the air, so a bright fire burned in
the open fire-place; fresh flowers bloomed in old Roman jars, while
the walls were gay in the brightness of a few choice paintings.

"Yes, one could pass a winter very comfortably here," mused the
occupant, as Somers fastened her robe of pearl-gray satin, "and that
we are so well placed is all the outcome of the beauty of face and
form of one woman."

Miss Vernon was led by a maid up a few steps, covered in the softest
of velvet pile, so deep and rich as to cause one not to feel the
pressure of the sole of one's foot, and now into two rooms built out
in a projection, and the villa Iberia, being located on a knoll,
commanding one of the finest views of the Eternal City, the occupant
of these rooms feasted his eyes on a scene unrivalled in Italy. Here
also, a cheerful fire glowed in the fire-place; the long, narrow
windows were hung in a pale, blue tinted satin, the walls painted in
choice studies by deft Italian fingers; the opening between the rooms
was hung in unison with the windows, and on the satin, clusters of the
rose in every hue were embroidered; easy chairs, lounge, satin bed
coverlid, and soft carpet, were of the same soft tint, with the warmth
of the rose thereon. The air was fragrant, for the hyacinth, rose, and
many a gay foreign sister, vied with each other in perfumed welcome to
the flower face bending over them, and drinking in their sweets.

"And he has done all this for me," she mused, giving herself up to
Saunders to have her hair dressed. "How glad I am," she thought
looking dreamily at her reflection in the mirror, for a very passible
loveliness, "but Lionel was always my ideal cavalier, he loves me
now," and she smiled softly, "and has brought into existence in my
heart a passionate love he little dreams of, poor fellow; I have
hitherto played with men's hearts, so they say, but not intentionally;
Heaven knows I merely enjoyed their free submission, their love, as my
natural food; I always enjoyed dainties, and men's hearts were as such
to me; I could never endure the bread and butter of life, but I wrong
myself or I am of little worth; one is apt to have luxurious
inclinations, at an hour and in a scene like this," she thought as she
toyed with one of the gold perfume bottles, in the form of a Cupid,
standing on the breast of a sleeping man, and aiming for his heart. "I
know I have drunk in the pleasure their looks of love and warmth of
words have given me, not thinking perhaps enough of to what end it
might lead, but if I dream here any longer, I shall experience much
the same sensation as sleeping Richard at Bosworth Field, while my
ghosts of the departed, rise up before me, and while I think pityingly
of poor Cyril and many more, let me also remember the deserved cut I
gave Sir Edward Hatherton, when he laid his insignificant title, his
supreme vanity and egotism, with his mean heart at my feet, while
boasting of his broad acres, making too sure he had but to ask, and be
accepted with thanks. Yes, though I have hurt some brave manly hearts,
I have given a check to the vanity of that man that will send him into
the corner to think that there are some women, even in this age of
barter, who, though they love acres of the dear warm mother earth,
they will not give their loveliness and powers of loving for the broad
acres of which he is lord."

And so fair Vaura pondered, as Saunders with deft fingers performed
her easy task of robing her mistress, and now she has finished, and
both maid and our sweet Mlle. Vernon are satisfied with the result.
And well they may, for her cardinal satin robe fits her full bust and
figure like a glove, her eyes are full of dark and tender depths, her
lips red as the rose, while the rose bloom of the mountain air has not
faded from her cheeks, and neck and arms being bare gleam in their
whiteness.

Trevalyon met her at the foot of the steps to lead her to the
dining-room whither Lady Esmondet has already gone; they immediately
seat themselves ami do justice to the tempting little dinner awaiting
them.

The room is handsome and furnished with a mixture of English comfort
and solidness with French brightness the furniture being of carved
oak, while the carpet and hangings are of a gay Paris pattern, the
table bright with silver and decorated with flowers, its dinner
service of old Sevres china, each piece of beautiful delicate design,
while the dishes would have tempted an anchorite from his cave. Over
the mantel-piece of purest white marble was a painting, evidently the
work of a master, representing Bacchus riding in a chariot, and on his
head among his curls vine leaves, in his hand a cup. The whole
painting had a warmth of color and gay dashing style, with a life-like
look about it very pleasing.

"One almost expects to see the merry god lift the cup to his lip,"
said Vaura; "he looks so life-like."

"It is a remarkably well executed thing," said Trevalyon.

"The whole villa," echoed Lady Esmondet, "has a cheerful brightness
pervading it that would dispel the chronic grumbling of a Diogenes or
an Englishman."

"Even Gladstone," cried Vaura, gaily, "would here forget that
Beaconsfield wants a 'war supply.'"

"And I, Trevalyon, shall so lose myself in the intoxicating sweetness
of the hour as to forget that on my return to England I have to enter
the arena of the strife of tongues, and combat Dame Rumour in facing a
'difficulty.'" At the last word be looked meaningly at Vaura, and with
quickened heart-beats she remembered his flowers, and knew what would
come when the 'difficulty' was faced and removed.

"The absent Marquis likes well the form of the god of wine," said Lady
Esmondet, directing her companion's gaze towards a group of statuary
on a small inlaid stand, and reflected in a pier glass, representing
Anacreon smilingly advancing, carrying in his arms the infants Bacchus
and Cupid.

"'Tis a pretty group, extremely _chic_," said Vaura.

"What think you, Vaura, of the painting behind you?" inquired Lady
Esmondet.

On turning slightly she saw the pictured face of the owner of the
villa, the eyes of her admirer seemed so steadfast in their gaze that
a faint blush suffused her cheek as she said:

"A true likeness of a true friend, for we are most comfortably placed
by his kindness; indeed I think when the day comes to leave the villa
we would fain remain."

"It is a handsome face," said Trevalyon.

"It is," said Vaura, as she played with the dainties on her plate and
sipped her glass of sparkling Moselle.

"On leaving here it will be for either the crush of the London season
or Haughton Hall under the new _regime_," said Lady Esmondet, "and I
know just how I shall feel: as a man who, coming home after a day with
the hounds, is enjoying a pipe in slippered feet when reminded by
madame of the state dinner he has forgotten."

"Either London or the dear old place will be an awakening," said
Vaura, as they wend their way to the _salons_.

"Yes." said Trevalyon, "for nowhere could one better enjoy the _dolce
far niente_ of Italian languor than here. Del Castello, I fancy, lives
his life."

"_Dum vivimus vivamus_," said Vaura.

The salons are a suite of three; taken separately, of medium
dimensions; but when the heavy hangings are drawn aside which divide
the apartments they form one long handsome room, extending the entire
length of the villa, at one end of which is a conservatory where bloom
flowers of great beauty, the tiny structure being in miniature form of
the villa; it was entered from the _salon_ by sliding doors of stained
glass; a smiling statue of Flora was placed near the entrance and
seemed to welcome one's approach.

"It is a bower of beauty," said Vaura. The moonlight streaming in from
the heaven-illumined gardens outside, bringing into life the scarlet
blossoms of the camelia and the satin of her gown, and lending to her
beauty a transparent softness, her eyes seeming darker and with a
tender light, as she says, looking out upon the garden:

"It is a living idyl in the white moon light; did I gaze long enough,
strange fancies would come to me, the statuary would be living
marbles, while the leaves of the palm-tree and olive would sing to me
of their story as given by the dead poets."

"We must revel in the beauties of the gardens, when to-morrow comes,
Vaura: I am going to be very early tonight," said Lady Esmondet.

"It must have been a great disappointment to Del Castello," said
Trevalyon, inwardly applying the lash, "to winter elsewhere."

"_N'importe_," said Lady Esmondet, seeing the sadness of expression,
"we, have so much of the London fog; he, has his villa and the south
always."

"But he could have been here with all his elegant _recherche_
surroundings, only for me," and as he silently thought the lash went
down.

In the villa, many things beautiful and rare occupied their attention;
in the small library were some deep German and English books on
philosophy, with Tennyson in every style of dress; also Byron, with
novels of all tone and colour; as Vaura moved about among the
treasures of the absent Marquis, Trevalyon, watching her intently,
tortured himself by imagining that she handled everything lovingly,
read snatches from his books tenderly.

"What a couple they would have been," he thought, as Vaura's syren
voice read aloud some marked passages from the poets; "even if I can
clear myself of this hateful scandal, I have only the gloomy 'towers'
to offer her, while he has his sunny palaces in the lands or climes
she loves so well."

And Lady Esmondet seeing his intent gaze following Vaura, and
observing his quiet thought,

"He is unhappy, and dreads lest she come to love the handsome
Spaniard, while daily amongst his treasures, with his silent pictured
face watching her from the walls; I wonder how it is; has she refused
him, and accepted the villa as slight atonement, or is this the
beginning of the end, and that she will give herself to him; alas for
dear Lionel if so."

"How selfish I am," said Vaura, impulsively closing the book from
which she had read aloud a few marked passages in the sadly sweet
"Prisoner of Chillon." "You both look weary, how is it I did not
notice it before? come away god-mother mine; uncle Eric would say I am
not redeeming my promise to take care of you; goodnight, Captain
Trevalyon," giving him her hand, the soft touch of which seemed as a
new revelation to him, reinvigorating him as it were, but only in the
contact, for alone he is again a prey to gloomy forebodings which
crowd upon him, so as to seem to stifle him; loosening his collar and
tie, and throwing himself on the bed, he tells himself, "What am I, in
comparison to him? his unclouded life, at least as far as human eye
can tell, with the looks of an Adonis, his immense wealth, his
southern blood, eloquent tongue, and life in climes kissed by the sun.
I fear he will woe her again; and is it in woman to come to me; even
though I give the love of my life in preference to all that the Fates
give in him; alas! my knowledge of them tells me no; yes, I know she
has smiled tenderly on me, bat is not this because of her old
remembrance of me--as part of her by-gone life in her loved home; yes
I fear it is, or because she is playing with my heart as she has with
others; heavens, how unmanned I am, Father," and his hands are clasped
reverently, "pity me, steep my soul in forgetfulness, and let me
remember naught, save that Thou ruleth all," when, as if in answer to
his imploring cry, slumber, fitful it is true and broken by dreams
came to him; when now fully awake again in slippered feet, and with
his pipe, he noiselessly steps out into the night, pacing the verandah
to and fro, or leaning against one of its columns, thinks on of the
past and present, when in the dim future, the vast unknown, he feels
the necessity of calm; else this scandal will so overwhelm him in the
waves of unrest, as to cause his life to be a wreck, and Vaura to be
indeed, and in truth, lost to him forever more. In the determined
quiet of a man controling self, he now again, this time undressing,
takes to his bed and gains an hour's sleep ere it is time to rise for
a new day.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

HEART-STIRS TO DIVINE MUSIC.


At break of day, springing from bed, and after a cold plunge bath,
feeling more like himself, he went out into the half slumbering city;
but the sunbeams give their roseate kiss and mists roll up the great
mountain slopes, and the lazy Italian rubs his black eyes not seeing
the beauties in nature that surround him--they are part of his life--
but only wondering how easiest he can pass the day, while Trevalyon
bending his steps to a favourite restaurant, after a pretty fair
breakfast, for the fresh air of the morning has given him an appetite,
hiring a horse, goes for a long ride, and turning his horse's head for
the country, determines by getting away with nature to find that old
self that he has lost, or by thinking out his plan to how best use the
information received from Father Lefroy, recover his customary
tranquility of mind, for just now he is torn by doubts and fears; he
should be in England, but dreads to leave Vaura, lest the Marquis
hearing of his departure would endeavour personally to press his suit.
And so putting spurs to his horse he is nearer the pure lofty
mountains on whose breast he hopes to find peace.

While at the villa, the woman he loves, after a somewhat sleepless
night in which she is haunted by the faces of her Spanish admirer and
the hero of her early girlhood, descends from her room to find Lady
Esmondet not yet up, though it is luncheon hour, and Trevalyon away
for the day. The afternoon is occupied until it is time to dress for
dinner by visitors. With dinner comes Lady Esmondet, Trevalyon not
having returned it is a _tete-a-tete_ affair; afterwards in the
salons, the conversation drifts from fair Italia, the after-luncheon
visitors, and the London _Times_ to Lionel.

"Poor fellow, one can easily see how unsettled and worried he is at
times over this wretched scandal," said Lady Esmondet.

"I should treat the whole matter with perfect contempt," Vaura
answered haughtily.

"In this instance it won't answer."

"Why not? if he is sure it is false."

"Vaura! Vaura, you know it is false."

"The fact is, god-mother, I know nothing about it, nor do I care to,
unless he tells me himself; my life, that is my woman life as you
know, has been spent _a_ Paris, and so my ears have not been a
receptacle for London scandal."

"Dear Lionel has been too independent."

"Yes, god-mother, that's just it; it's his character; had he had a
town house, a French cook, and given half a dozen big dinners during
the season, he might indulge in secret marriage if his fancy ran that
way, and society would smile at him through rose-coloured spectacles."

"Too true, Vaura, _ma chere_; Madame Grundy is an odd mixture of
inconsistencies; should a vulgar _parvenu_ pay society's tolls in
shape of boastful charities, balls and dinners, he is one of the pets
of the season, and is allowed any latitude as to his little
weaknesses. Had Lionel made atonement by marriage, all would have been
forgiven; but he has dared to please himself, and so they at the first
chance pelt their idol."

"Their idol, yes," said Vaura, musingly; "could this falsehood be the
invention of some disappointed woman who has taken for her motto the
words of Honorius, that 'there is a sweeter strain than that of
grief-revenge, that drowns it.'"

As she ceased speaking, the voice of Trevalyon is heard quieting Mars,
who is leaping wildly in welcome. And now he is with them; and as with
smiles and warm hand-clasps he is welcomed, he feels that this is
home. Vaura, who has been colouring some photographs, lets her hands
fall idly to her lap, as she listens to the manly voice which, coming
in and joining its music with their own, she feels makes their life
complete.

"Yes, I have dined, thank you, and do feel more like myself than I
have done since the weight of this scandal has been upon me; but I
shall not worry myself or you with naming it. I turned my horse's head
east, and always find a day with Nature so exalts and uplifts my whole
being that life, again is filled with the calm, clear star of hope,
and that my burden of care falls to the dust under my horse's feet; my
spirit is again buoyant; I again live. And what have you both, my
charming home angels, been about? you look yet as if a sun-warm bath
would be your best medicine, Lady Alice."

"You are right, Lionel; you have had the sunbeams to-day; I must bask
in them on to-morrow (D.V.) I feel fatigued even yet, though lazy
enough to have kept my room until dinner hour."

"You have explored the gardens, I suppose, _ma belle_."

"No, that is a pleasure to come; I, too, was lazy today."

"I am selfish enough to be almost glad, as we can roam there to-morrow
together," and there is a lingering emphasis on the last word as his
blue eyes in a long gaze rest on her face.

"Come, Lionel, you and Vaura give me some music; draw the screen
between my eyes and the firelight; I shall lie on this lounge and
listen."

"Is not this an ideal music-room?" said Vaura, "opening as it does
into the conservatory; and see Euterpe, standing in her niche, with
flute and cornet at her feet, violin and guitar on either side, and
the perfection of pianos, with this sweet-stringed harp;" and, sinking
into the low chair beside it, she drew her fingers over the strings.

"I perceive," said Lionel, handling the flute, "your friend is a maker
of sweet sounds."

"Awake the echo."

"To hear is to obey, _ma belle_."

Whereupon Lionel, looking down at the face upturned to him as her head
lay on the cushioned chair-back, or droops as she draws her fingers
across the harp-strings; and with the fever of love hot within him he
sang in his sweet tenor the songs of Italia with the passion of a
living love breathing in their every note and word.

Thus song after song was softly sung, Vaura sometimes blending her
voice with his, and he was so near, and it was an intoxicating hour;
and Trevalyon, bound in honour not to speak his love, forgot that one
of our poets, Sterne I think, says that "talking of love is making
it," and sings on, as he drinks in fresh draughts from the warmth of
her eyes, and her face is pale with emotion, her lips, that "thread of
scarlet," and her neck, gleams in its whiteness as her bosom heaves
with her quickened heart-beats, as she feels his meaning in his warm
words; and fearing for herself, she is so sympathetic, and knows it is
only because of the "difficulty," that he has not spoken, starts to
her feet, laying her hand gently on his arm, says softly:

"You must be tired."

"Tired! no; this hour has been so perfect, my heart yearns for many
such."

"See, my god-mother has deserted us unnoticed; ah! what a spell is
there in music."

"The magnetism of your dear presence; ah, Circe! Circe what spells you
weave," and there is a tender light in his eyes. She lets him look so,
for a second, when she says gently, giving him her hand in good-night;
"it would not do to leave you all the power of witchery," and she lets
him put her hand through his arm and lead her to the foot of her
stairs, where, with a silent hand-clasp they part for the night.

Dismissing her maid, whom she found asleep on the rug before the fire:

"I dare say you are tired, Saunders; you may retire; give me my
dressing gown; there, that will do, I shall comb out my hair."

And, arrayed in dainty dressing gown, of white embroidered flannel,
the combing of the bright tresses is a lengthy affair, for thought is
busy; "Yes, this intense sympathy, this earnest tenderness, this
languor and sweet sense of a new joy in living, all mean that I love
him; and, as 'tis so, I am not at one with the poet when he says,
''tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all;'
lost! lost! what a world of loneliness it would be to me, what a world
of loneliness in the very word; my love, your mesmeric eyes seem to be
on me now; I wonder," and a smile comes to the dark eyes and the sweet
mouth, "I wonder what you would think of me in this robe; but what
nonsense I am dreaming," and the _robe de nuit_ is on; the short,
fluffy hair pushed up a little from the eyes, which close as the soft
cheek presses the pillow, and Somnus, the sleepy god, claims his dues.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE UNRULY MEMBER IS HEARD.


The following morn is bright and glorious, the mountains, ah! the
grandeur of them, their peaks in changing hues as the sun's breath
grows warmer, cut the azure of the heavens, and rest there; one
involuntarily feels on a morning like this one cannot love nature
intensely enough; and now, Old Sol, giving his brightest beams to the
Italian, who loves him, shines into every corner of the Eternal City,
from the King in his palace, and the Pope in the palace of the
Vatican, to the peasant stretched on his door-step; for the good king
Victor Emmanuel is sick, and the bright beams shining through his
window, cheer him; and he thinks of his people who are poor and ill,
and also welcomes the sunbeams for their sake. And his gentle
Holiness, Pius IX, in walking past the great painting of the
Transfiguration, thinks "how glorious it looks in the sun's rays," and
he too was glad. And the lazy peasant lying in the sun, stretched
himself and was glad, for surely many noble ladies and gentlemen would
be abroad in the sweet warm air, and he would beg many _soldi_ and buy
macaroni.

Vaura, usually an early riser, but not having slept until dawn, was
only awakened an hour ago by a sunbeam opening her eyelids, so that it
was luncheon hour ere she made her appearance in the aesthetic little
morning-room, whither Lady Esmondet had ordered it to be brought; on
entering kissed her god-mother, and giving her hand to Lionel, her
eyes drooping under his long gaze,

"You look quite yourself, god-mother mine, after your nights rest,"
she said.

"Yes, I am feeling very well to-day; but your roses are of a pale
tint, how is that?"

"Whose roses could bloom with undimmed lustre surrounded by flowers of
such brilliant colouring?" she answered, evasively, indicating by a
gesture the floral beauties filling the vases and jars, not wishing to
own before Lionel her sweet sleeplessness of the night.

Captain Trevalyon's man now brought letters from the post-office.

"Ah," said Vaura, taking her share, "one from Haughton Hall in the
handwriting of madame, and to me."

On opening it a very well-executed photograph of the Hall fell to the
floor, which Lionel picked up, while Vaura read aloud as follows:


"DEAR MISS VERNON,--

"I enclose you a photo of the Hall as I have made it. It was a perfect
barracks when I saw it first; see what money can do. The American
eagle is a great bird, eh? You must marry money. I shall have a
gentleman here at Christmas with lots of land and a title. The Duchess
of Hatherton would sound well."

"A _bete noire_ of yours," said Lady Esmondet.

"Yes," said Vaura, carelessly, with a shrug of shoulders, going on
with the letter.

"I must also settle Blanche this coming season. You observed, I
suppose, how, much flesh she had; well, she loses weight every month;
secret pining I expect for that naughty"--and Vaura stopped short as
she saw the name, a curl of contempt coming to her lip as she read
silently--"Trevalyon. She thought by his attentions that he loved her,
poor thing; but the Colonel and myself would or could never hear of
such a match, as he has a snug little wife hid away somewhere. I have
Major Delrose a good deal with me. Your uncle doesn't care for him,
neither would you; but the Colonel, dear man, is considerate, and
don't expect everyone to be cut after his cloth; and as you will never
be able to come north in the cold weather you won't meet him. Give my
love to the willowy Marchmonts. We are the gayest of butterflies.

"Your frolicsome,
"KATE HAUGHTON,
"Haughton Hall, Surrey, England.

"MISS VERNON,
"The villa Iberia,
"Rome, Italy.
"November, 1877."


To Delrose at Haughton madame, after mailing above, had said:

"I have settled Miss Vernon at all events; she will not show up at
Christmas. I know she hates the Duke of Hatherton so I told her he is
coming, and I don't know as yet whether he is. It takes a woman to
outwit a woman."

"I cannot see," Delrose had answered, "why you don't want her, Kate."

"Because you are blind, you goose; if she came Trevalyon might, and
you don't want him; and I don't want her, and so I please you, you
ungrateful man."

To Trevalyon by same mail came:


"My own idol, come to me and Delrose shall go; I have written Miss
Vernon that he is here, because I _don't want_ her freezing ladyship.
Everyone says you are so naughty in having a hidden wife; they will
cut you I am sure; but I _love you all the more for your naughtiness_;
only come to yours evermore.--KATE HAUGHTON."


Trevalyon, giving a weary sigh on reading above, tearing it in two,
tossed it into the fire; now opening one from his cousin Judith, he
read as follows:


"DEAR COUSIN,--Father is not at all well; the trip across, as I
feared, has been too much for him; the suburbs of New York, our home,
suited him better than foggy London; however, dear father was obliged
to come on business, as he has informed you when last able to write.
He wishes me to enclose to you a scrap from the 'society' columns of
_one_ of _our_ New York newspapers. 'We give a tid-bit of scandal
(from a London paper), in brief, as the hero is a nephew of our Sir
Vincent Trevalyon, of ----. Capt. Trevalyon (of the Towers,
Northumberland), a gay society man, fascinating and handsome, is about
to bring from her seclusion, his hidden wife; some years ago he had
eloped with a friend's spouse, friend now has shuffled off mortal
coil; outcome, my Lady Trevalyon, who will be the sensation of the
coming season.' Father says to tell him on you honour, what truth
there is in above--and I am,

"Yours very sincerely,
"Judith Trevalyon,
"The Langham, London, Nov. 77.

"Capt. Trevalyon,
"The Villa Iberia,
"Rome, Italy."


On reading above, Trevalyon, with sudden impulse, and craving for
sympathy, handed it to his old friend.

"Too bad, too bad, Lionel; how grieved I am for you."

At the same time, Vaura, who had turned again to her lines from
Madame, on reading over, said as she discussed her luncheon.

"This bit of duck will be a palatable _morceau_ as compared with my
letter from Haughton; Madame does not write to please, she merely
pleases to write."

Seeing Trevalyon very grave and silent, she said with kindly intent,
and to change the current of his thought. "I suppose, god-mother, you
have sketched out your plans for the day long before I joined you."

"No, we could come to no decision, so have left it for you to
arrange."

"_Tres bien_ if so, from the glimpse I have through the window, I
suggest that our first trip be to the gardens."

"Happy thought; Lionel, will you ring the bell like a good fellow?"

Somers answering, her mistress said:

"Bring me suitable wraps for the garden, please, and tell Saunders to
do likewise for Miss Vernon."

The maids now appear with out-door robings; Lady Esmondet is made
comfortable, when Lionel goes to Vaura's assistance; 'tis a pretty
red-riding-hood and cloak attached, and contrasts charmingly with her
soft gray cashmere gown, her short brown hair and sweet face look well
coming from the warm red setting of the hood.

"Never mind it; it was never meant to fasten," she says, seeing his
grave eyes on her face, instead of the fastening; he does not speak
but only thinks, "My enemies will not let me call her mine;" she is
sure he can see the colour come and go in her face as her heart beats
irregularly, and says gently, putting up her soft hands, "never mind
it;" for answer he allows the hook and eye to fasten holding her hands
for a moment in his. They then followed their friend through the
French window down the few stone steps to the gardens. There were many
flowers in bloom and the green of the orange and lemon trees was as
rich as when the year was young. The villa of white marble was built
on a gentle rising knoll, prettily wooded, at the foot of which
running through a glade was a tiny streamlet clear as crystal, which
with its ripple and the singing of the birds lent music to the air. On
the highest garden site was built a tower from whence an extensive
view of the city is gained, with its spires and palaces, together with
the violet sea, and the ever changing majestic mountains. The lower
part of the tower is an arbour covered with roses and vines. The
orchard was on the high plateau on which the villa stood, laying in
part at the back and side of the mansion; the lawn and flower garden
were separated from the orchard by a smiling wood nymph and grim satyr
who each held an end of a chain of silver.

"The laughing nymph looks as if bent on making the grim satyr give way
to mirth," said Vaura.

"It is a pretty idea," said Lady Esmondet, "the having one's orchard
so laid out as to be an ornament to one's grounds, instead of as we
do, merely as a place to grow fruit."

"Yes, I think so," said Lionel, "and at my place the lawn is strewn by
acorn, apple and the pear."

"The apple blossom is beautiful," said Vaura; "but whom have we here,"
catching sight of a statue through the trees.

"None other," said Lionel, "than the powerful Populonia who protects
the fruit from storms."

"And placed high enough!" said Vaura "to see the storm a brewing, with
us it would be a great dog _versus_ a small boy."

They now descend terraced steps arched by trellised roses and come to
a fountain fed by a spring down in the deep cool dell.

"Shall we drink from the brook by the way?" half sang Vaura, and
stooping, picked up from a small projection a silver goblet, filling
she handed to Lady Esmondet; there was another which, taking herself,
said, "and now for my toast, 'May the absent Marquis, who has an eye
for the beautiful in Nature and Art be always surrounded by both.'"

"Amen," responded Trevalyon, "which is the best I can do, seeing Del
Castello did not remember me in providing two goblets only."

"Dual solitude," said Vaura in low tones, her god-mother having gone
on.

"The very mention of it makes my heart throb," he whispered.

"What delightful gardens," said Lady Esmondet returning "beside this
fountain, under the shade of olive trees, it must be delightfully cool
the hottest of summer days, and a favourite spot, if one may judge
from the number of seats about."

"'Tis another Eden," said Vaura, "from the mountains yonder to the
green shade of myrtles, olives, and orange trees, lit up by the pink
and red blossoms at their feet."

"You will revel here in the early morning, _ma belle_, if you have the
taste of your childhood."

"You remember me, then?" and the dark eyes look up from under the red
hood.

"I have never forgotten," he says, quietly.

"Don't you think, Vaura, dear?" said Lady Esmondet, "we had better
return to the villa and decide what we shall do with the rest of the
day."

"Yes, I suppose so, dear; though one would fain linger here longer."

As they retrace their steps, Trevalyon, decided for them, that the air
being delightfully warm and balmy, a drive up and down the Corso,
would be pleasant. The fresh air and new scene dispelled all Vaura's
languor, and heightened the spirits of her companions.

"The Corso is even gayer than usual," observed Lady Esmondet.

"And with its best bib and tucker on, if I am any judge of _la
toilette_," said Lionel.

"To receive three _distingues_ travellers," laughed Vaura; "I wonder
who society will jot us down as in her huge note book."

"As the Briton abroad," said Lady Esmondet, "to revel in the sunbeams,
which our gold cannot buy from our leaden skies."

A carriage now passed, in which were seated two ladies, evidently
English, who bowed and smiled to Lady Esmondet and Trevalyon.

"Who are your friends?" enquired Vaura; "I have seen them somewhere,
but forget when and where."

"They are the Duchess of Wyesdale and her daughter, the Lady Eveline
Northingdon," answered Trevalyon, as Lady Esmondet bowed to other
acquaintances.

"The little Duchess, who is insane enough to think Lionel in love with
her," thought his friend, remembering gay Mrs. Wingfield's gossip, and
that her name had been coupled with Trevalyon's; it was only that she
was a foolish little woman, and let society see that she had a
penchant for Captain Trevalyon. At that time the Duke was alive to
bear the title and represent the estate in Wiltshire, the Scottish
moors and shooting box, with the town house in London; very useful in
that way, so his Duchess told herself, and in truth, only in that
character, did the fair, frivolous Lady Wyesdale appreciate her
easygoing fox-hunting spouse.

"You can run the season very well without me," he would say, "while I
do a little shooting; you are just cut out for London, while the
conventionalities bore me."

And so it came to pass, that at their London house, Irene, the
Duchess, (or, as she was commonly called, Posey, from her maiden name
of Poseby, and from her habit of posing on all occasions), reigned in
her own way. In the autumn of '76, the Duke had been called to his
long home; he had been knocking down birds on the Scottish moors.
Coming home late one night to dinner in high spirits, and exultant
over his full bag, he found a telegram from his friend, Gerald Elton,
a keen sportsman, asking him to "telegraph him _immediately_ at
Edinburgh, if he was at the 'Bird cage;' if so, he would join him at
once." "Bless my life," said poor Wyesdale to a friend with him;
"Elton is the very man we want, no end of a shot, and rare fun; but I
must send my telegram off at once, or I'll lose him; but how am I to
come at pen and ink in the 'cage' is more than I know; oh, yes, I
remember when I came down last, Posey would have me take pen and ink
(and a great bore it was) in order to telegraph her of my return;
don't know why women are such a bundle of nerves, they oughtn't to be
nervous at the return of a husband; but where did I put it, hang me if
I know; if I find it the boy can ride over with it, if not I must go
myself; oh! I remember, it's in the other room on a shelf with collars
and cuffs; birds are not particular, so I never wear 'em;" without a
light he went in, feeling along the shelves with his hand, unluckily
for him overturning the inkstand, knocking the penhandle against the
wall, and the rusty pen full of ink, into the palm of his right hand,
where it broke; he and his friend extracted most of it, putting
sticking plaster over the wound. He would not trust a verbal message
to his sleepy keeper, now full of beer; so soon on horseback and away.

Elton arrived in due course, to find his friend with his arm in a
sling, swollen and painful.

"You'd better have a surgeon, old fellow, or you'll not fill another
bag this October."

Not until his arm had turned black would he consent; then the surgeon
was called, he looked grave, saying that a great part of the pen had
not been extracted; that ink, pen, and rust had done their work, and
to save his life the arm must be amputated. This the poor fellow
refused to do, saying he would rather die than sever his good right
hand from his body.--If he could not hold a gun, nor ride Titan with
the hounds he would go. He would be sorry to leave Evy, but Posey
could do very well without him, and breathing a prayer for his soul,
Harold, Duke of Wyesdale, was gone.

And now after her year of fashionable mourning, his widow is pluming
herself in colours, and Dame Rumour hath it that the somewhat fair,
slightly faded dowager Duchess having buried her dead, will not say
nay to another wooer. She was, as usual, posing in a corner of her
carriage, and priding herself on her slight, girlish figure; wore no
wraps; looking blue and chilly, for when one was driving the air was
just fresh enough for something warmer than a gown of pale blue silk.

"Why will women go about looking as if Jack Frost had just given them
a chilly embrace?" said Lionel, his gaze dwelling admiringly on
Vaura's warm beauty, arrayed in short, tight-fitting black velvet
jacket, small white plush bonnet, scarlet feathers and scarlet and
white strings tied at one side of her pretty chin.

"The azure heavens framing fair angels; quite a sufficient robing, and
appropriate; oh! grumbler," laughed Vaura.

"She is no amazon, and should wear other than silken armour, _ma
belle_."

"Cupid's darts can easier penetrate," said Vaura, gaily.

"Not through a chilled heart, as compared with a warm one," he
answers, quietly.

"Can one be cold in Italia. I do believe Old Sol pauses over us in his
chariot, and smiles love-warm smiles upon us all," she continued.

"What a shame to see such pretty beasts in harness, Lionel, as those
attached to our landau," observed Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, they are a fine pair and well matched."

"The one with a mane a trifle the longest," said Vaura, "reminds me of
Oriole that I used to ride when a girl at Haughton."

"Yes," said Trevalyon, "I was just going to ask you if you noticed it.
What merry rides those were! what would I not give to (with my dearly
bought experience of life) commence over again from those days."

"I remember feeling quite the woman in the scamper across country with
you and dear uncle in my long habit; neither of you knew how I hated
to don my short frock on my return."

"You were always a charming little hostess; and a few yards more in a
draper's shop, instead of about your ankles detracted nothing from
your charms."

"I did the best I could in taking time by the forelock, to be able to
put in a word or two with your lordship and Uncle Eric; I read old
periodicals and new, ancient history with modern philosophy and
science notes."

"And they have you now, Vaura dear," said her godmother. "A womanly
woman, every inch of you."

"You are partial, dear; yet I did in those days long for an Ovid and a
metamorphosis."

"Do you remember the day I extricated you and Isabel in the Tower?"

"Yes," she said, a warmer rose coming to her cheek, "but my knight
promised to blot that page from his memory.

"And so he endeavoured; but to no purpose."

"My brave knight was also an unmerciful tyrant."

"In the fines he levied," he said, leaning towards her; "they were the
sweetest he ever had."

A soft light came to Vaura's face, as leaning into her corner she gave
herself up to thoughts of the bygone. And she smiled now her woman's
smile in the eyes that were on her face. And yet sighed as she thought
of the jealousy of her boyish lovers of bygone days, for Roland
Douglas and Guy had rebuked her for so often in the tales she wove for
their amusement, having Lion Heart as the favoured knight.

"My girlish days at Haughton Hall were very, very happy," she said,
quietly.

"And yet you would not go back to them and leave the dear present,"
said Lionel, looking into her eyes with his mesmeric look, and holding
her hand tight as he assisted her from the carriage after Lady
Esmondet, at the door of the villa.

"How know you, my brave lion-heart; you belong to those days, but I am
content."



CHAPTER XXX.

WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN.


They had been luxuriating for about four weeks in the art treasures
collected in the Eternal City. Their eyes feasted on so much of
loveliness in gazing upon living marbles and speaking forms on canvas
that Vaura was often moved to a feeling akin to pain as she thought:

"Oh, the pity of it; the pity of it, that the gods among men, living,
breathing men, who created these soul-stiring things should be
themselves dead!"

On returning from a long ride one morning Vaura and Lionel found a gay
party of callers chatting with Lady Esmondet; amongst them was Vaura's
old friend, Robert Douglas. The Duchess of Wyesdale was also there;
come with the avowed purpose of calling upon Lady Esmondet and making
the acquaintance of Miss Vernon, but in reality to see Captain
Trevalyon, whom she had watched for in vain, having expected him to
call since the day they had met on the Corso. But "he cometh not," she
said, was still the burden of her song, so she determined to "beard
the lion in his den," though she would be obliged by so doing to
become acquainted with Miss Vernon, and she was one of those women
who, invariably envious of a more beautiful sister, keep them at arms'
length. She could not but own to herself how beautiful Vaura was. The
men raved of her, and she, the faded little dowager duchess, disliked
her accordingly. She had already outstayed the bounds of politeness,
but being determined to gain her point said, languidly, to her
hostess:

"I really must trespass upon your kindness a little longer, dear Lady
Esmondet, I wish so much to meet Miss Vernon."

So that, as it was late when Vaura and Lionel returned, it came to
pass that Saunders met her mistress at the hall door with a request
from Lady Esmondet that she would come immediately to the morning-room
without waiting to change her habit. So Vaura entered, gay, radiant,
and with a fresh bloom upon her cheek, engendered partly by gentle
caresses of the invigorating air, partly by the warmth in the looks
and words of the handsome man by her side.

She made her way in answer to a look from her god-mother at once to
her side, where the introduction took place.

"Her complexion is very well got up," thought the _petite_ faded
Duchess, as she bowed carelessly, and who had used tints and washes
ever since her sixteenth year. "I wonder whose wash she wears," and
with a conventional word or two she turned with _empressement_ to
Lionel, greeting him warmly, as Vaura crossed the room to where her
old playmate sat, giving only a passing word to acquaintances.

Lady Esmondet thought, as she glanced at the Duchess of Wyesdale,
roused almost to animation in her reception of Captain Trevalyon,
"Lionel is the magnet that has drawn her here; she has not forgotten
her old penchant for him."

On seeing his hostess disengaged a young Frenchman, wearing the red
ribbon of the Legion of Honour, won by a brave act in the Franco-
German war, stepped to her side; he held in his hand a volume he had
been admiring,--views of the lovely lake scenery of the British Isles.

They were soon discanting warmly upon their respective beauties, and
became so interested that Lady Esmondet scarcely noticed that she was
bidding adieu to the fashionable butterflies who had been killing time
in her presence for the last hour or two. At last they are all gone
with the exception of the Duchess, who has risen to make her exit, and
Robert Douglas, who is remaining to luncheon. The Duchess is just
saying to Lionel:

"Oh, you are _sure_ to be here, and you won't refuse _me_, I _know_;
I'd rather be Juliet to your Romeo in my tableaux than--. But, oh,
dear, the others have heard us, and I did so hope it would have been a
little secret between _us_, you know."

And Lady Wyesdale affected a childish look of terror as she turned to
her hostess, saying:

"You won't think us very dreadful, Lady Esmondet?"

"Oh, dear, no; there's nothing dreadful in a pictured love scene."

But in reality she felt annoyed that this silly woman should pretend
to an understanding between Captain Trevalyon and herself.

"And you won't tell Miss Vernon," she continued, beseechingly, "I want
her to be surprised."

Vaura and Rev. Robert had joined the group as Captain Trevalyon was
saying, laughingly,

"I cannot promise you, Lady Wyesdale, I am in Lady Esmondet's hands;
if, as I expect the 12th of January sees her at Haughton Hall, I
cannot possibly be with you, unless my photo in the garb you wish will
suit."

"Of course he will say so before them," thought the Duchess, aloud,
she says tapping him on the arm with her cardcase, "Come to my box at
the Theatre to-night, I want to consult you about something, since
dear Harold died," and a corner of her handkerchief went to her eyes,
"I often feel so alone."

"Thanks, I shall wait upon you as early as possible; to-night I go to
the Quirinal."

"So sorry," and making her adieux she added "I cannot have you."

"Yes, Emmanuel is Victor to-night," said Vaura gaily.

The butler announced luncheon, and Priest Robert gave his arm to Miss
Vernon, saying:

"And that is a woman! how are we of the clergy ever going to waken a
throb of life into the soul of such!"

"Were you in the pulpit at this moment, Robert, I am inclined to think
you would discourse as St. Paul on idle-wandering-about-from-house-to-
house-women; he was severe on my sisterhood,"

"They were not your sisterhood, you have no part with such."

"There would be a double lecture from St. Paul," said Lionel as he
took the end of the table, "could he enter the Russell Club, Regent
Street some day what a Babel of tongues, what tid-bits of gossip would
electrify him."

"Yes," said Robert Douglas, "a men and women's club would scarcely
agree with his views of what our human nature should live for."

"I hear it is extremely difficult for a pretty woman to become a
member of Eve's she is as a rule black-balled; so a fair face does not
always win," said Lionel.

"I think it would be extremely stupid to belong to an exclusively
women's club; so much of gossip would kill me," said Lady Esmondet.

"I don't know," said Vaura, "whether either of you gentlemen are aware
of how by a clever _ruse_ our gay friend Mrs. Eustace Wingfield,
notwithstanding her good looks, became a member of Eve's. She told my
godmother and I of it soon after the occurrence."

"I have never heard of it," said Robert Douglas.

"Pray tell us," said Lionel.

"'Tis a long story," said Vaura, "in fact a three-volume one, but you
shall only have a page or two. Between the President of Eve's the Hon.
Miss Silverthorne and Mrs. Eustace Wingfield, there is an old feud
dating from their school days."

While at school Mrs. Eustace, then May Raynor, was the very
incarnation of fun and mischief, Silverthorne being extremely plain
and severe in style. The Wingfield estate bordered on the school
property. Eustace, prospective heir to his uncle, often ran down from
London, much to the dismay of the lady principal, for he was no end of
a flirt. May Raynor's pretty face attracted him from the first, but
Silverthorne had a soft spot in her heart for him. Jealous of May she
reported her to the principal; for revenge Wingfield cast languishing
glances at Silverthorne in church. She never having had a lover
actually informed the principal that, when he came to her to sue for
her hand, she, as her guardian, was to say him yea. On May being
married and out of the school-room, to her adored, she, Silverthorne,
vowed revenge, if ever in her power, so that, when two seasons ago,
Mr. Wingfield bet May a box, during _la_ Bernhardt _saison_, against
an embroidered dressing gown that she would be black-balled at Eve's,
on Mrs. Clayton proposing her, the president, looking black, declared,
on its being put to the vote on the following afternoon, she should
have her two black balls, Mrs. Clayton informed May. "Now, what shall,
be my card," exclaimed May, "for my bet shall be won. I have it," and
staining her face yellow with green glasses and unbecoming attire, she
attended a woman's right meeting at which her enemy was chairman.
Seated immediately in front of the platform, Miss Silverthorne gloated
over her changed looks. She was made a member. Her enemy saying to
Mrs. Clayton, "How hideous she has become; how he will hate her!"

"What a green-eyed monster is jealousy," said Reverend Robert.

"But our gay friend won her bet and a stare at the Bernhardt, in spite
of everything," laughed Trevalyon.

"But I fancy gay Mrs. Wingfield would not often be found at 'Eves;'
such an army of plain women would be too many for her," said reverend
Douglas.

"Oh! no," said Vaura, taking his arm back to the sunlit morning-room,
"she only goes occasionally to throw a white ball for a pretty woman."

"I have sometimes come across her with Wingfield at the 'Abermarle';
she likes a little bass mixed with the treble of her life," said
Trevalyon.

"She is right," said Vaura, "one would grow weary of continually
piping to the same key."

"Isabel tells me they are very gay at Haughton," said Reverend Robert.

"Incessant revelry seems to be a necessity in the life of Madame,"
said Lady Esmondet.

"Tastes differ, god-mother dear, the wild game of life that suits her
palate would suit ours as badly, as (what she would consider) our tame
game would suit her," saying which she joined Lionel, a little apart
at a table strewn with music which he wished her to select from.

"Do you believe in presentiments _cara mia_?"

"Yes; but I am wondrously content and don't want eyen to think of
presentiments."

"I don't either, _ma chere_," he said, a little sadly, leaning his
elbows on the table, his head for a moment upon them, "but I have one
now that the Fates are putting black threads on their distaff for me."

"Don't look so sorrowful or you will affect me."

"Did you and I live in Pagan times, _ma belle_, I should be tempted to
offer incense at their shrine, so pleasing, that their black threads
would give place to gold and silver."

"Your incense would be flattery; they are but women, what would they
more," she said smilingly.

"There are women, and woman," he said absently, the grave look still
in the eyes resting on her face.

"There is something more than usual troubling you; share it with me,
do, and then you know you will only have half to bear," and for one
moment her soft hand is on his arm, her eyes full of sympathy on his
face.

"It is only a presentiment, _ma belle_," and his hand is laid on hers.

But now there is a tap at the door, and his servant says:

"Telegram from England, sir."

"My presentiment," he says, in same low tone.

"Face it bravely, it is not, I trust, bad news."

"It is," he says gravely, "for I must leave you."

Vaura turned pale, and Lady Esmondet said:

"No bad news I hope, Lionel?"

"Yes, dear friend, it is from Judith, and states that "Uncle Vincent
is no better and wishes to see me," but she does not say at once, or
if there be any danger."

"I am sorry, Sir Vincent is no better, but every cloud has its silver
lining; you may not really be obliged to go; he may rally," she said
kindly.

"Yes, that is true, I shall telegraph my cousin to know if I must go
at once; if not, you will be leaving Italy so soon we may yet journey
together."

"I hope so," continued Lady Esmondet.

"But 'tis hard for her," said Vaura, "a stranger in a strange land;
can I do anything for her, write some of our friends to call upon her,
anything, only tell me, the Claytons, are kind," and she is beside him
in a moment.

"You are very thoughtful, but Judith is extremely self-reliant."

"Do not give way to depression, Trevalyon," said Reverend Douglas;
"our paths cannot all be those of pleasantness."

"Don't go, Robert, I want you to dine with us at seven; only the
Marchmonts."

"Thank you, Lady Esmondet, I shall be with you, but for the present,
_au revoir_ as I have even-song."

"I am grieved at this," said Lionel sadly, "for something tells me I
shall have to go; I have known very little of Uncle Vincent; you are
aware, dear Lady Alice, that he and my poor father were not friendly;
my cousin is independent; and as I said before self-reliant to the
last degree."

"It will not be so hard for her in that case," said Lady Esmondet.

"I am selfish enough to regret we have anyone to dinner, if I am
obliged to leave you on to-morrow."

"I was just thinking so," said Lady Esmondet, "our evenings together
have been perfect, but alas for changes; and Vaura, dear, the landau
is at the door, you know we arranged for a drive."

"Yes, I remember, but let it wait."

"We may not have another opportunity, Lionel, for private converse;
you will write; and Vaura and I shall (D.V.) be at London on the 4th
or 5th; and shall meet you again at Haughton Hall."

"Yes, I shall meet you there," he answered thoughtfully; "my plans are
not yet matured, but I want you to be _certain_ to telegraph me of
your return; I shall meet you at London."

"Fate is cruel to send you away, and at Christmas, but I am forgetting
your poor uncle," said Vaura kindly.

"I shall telegraph of our return without fail, Lionel; and now about
yours to your cousin, had you not best run away and attend to it, we
shall only take a short drive, and be here as soon as you."

"Come with us," said Vaura, "it will save time."

"So it will, and to kill the time I feel that is left to me with you,
would be a Sacrilege."

"What route do you take, Lionel?" enquired his friend.

"You are aware I have a commission for Clayton, at Florence, so must
first go thither, thence to Bologna, then to Turin, Paris, Calais,
Dover and London."

"Shall I ring for Somers, godmother dear, to bring your cloak and
bonnet, while I go and don my wraps?"

"Thank you, yes."

Trevalyon, now going quickly to do his friend's side, said:

"I have but a moment, but I want you to know that this mischief is
brewing for me at the Hall, and it has rapidly fermented; 'society,'
tasting of its bubbles."

"I was sure of it, Lionel, and it is the brew of that woman and Major
Delrose."

"Yes; and their aim is so to damage my reputation that I cannot gain
the woman, and the only one I have ever longed for as my own loved
wife."

"Heaven grant that there machiavelian manoevres may end in failure."

Here the sweet face and small white plush bonnet, scarlet strings and
feathers appear at the door, so a truce to confidentials.

"I shall be so lonely if Fate takes me out of your life even for a
short time," and Vaura's hand is tightly clasped as he assists her
into the landau.

"We shall be lonely also."

"I hope so."

"I must say our lives have been very complete at the villa," said Lady
Esmondet; "our cup of content has been full."

"To the brim;" and his eyes turn at last from Vaura's face as he says,
"you had better drop me here, at the telegraph office while you turn
into the Corso," and stepping from the landau, lifting his hat he was
gone.

"I wonder," said Vaura, "should poor Sir Vincent die, if Miss
Trevalyon will return to New York."

"I am sure of it; Lionel tells me his cousin dislikes English life as
much as she likes that of her ain countree."

Vaura fell into a reverie; after some moments, waking to herself,
said:

"I did not show you the interesting epistle I received from Mrs.
Haughton, in which she says, 'society' hath it that Capt. Trevalyon
rejoices in a 'hidden wife.'"

"A pure invention got up to hurt him."

"But why?" she asked with assumed carelessness.

"Because he is not at a certain woman's feet, she has joined herself
with black Delrose, his enemy of years, is my surmise, and I think the
_denouement_ will prove me correct."

"Poor dear uncle; his life is not an idyl."

"His mistake, Vaura, _ma chere_, is a weight of care to me, that I try
in vain to shake off;" and something very like a tear glistened as she
spoke.

The friends were unusually silent in the drive home. Arrived there
they separated to dress for dinner; Vaura threw herself on her lounge
to rest and think. "Poor, uncle Eric, what a woman he has put on the
shackles of matrimony for; and now her attempt to injure our friend;
poor Lion, my heart is full of pity for you and you do not know it,
because you cannot speak until the "difficulty" is overcome; ah! me,
what a world of lies it is, for that this 'hidden wife,' is a myth,
and an inspiration from Lucifer to Madame, I am quite sure of. But
alas! should their be one grain of truth in the bushel of lies, and
that he cannot prove to 'society's' satisfaction that 'twas only a
grain of youthful folly, that his manhood in its nobility had nothing
to do with it. If he cannot do this, then he will never ask me to be
anything more to him than what I shall always be, his friend; poor
darling, what with his father's grief at his misguided mother's
frailty, he has drank deep of the waters of bitterness; the unruly
member set in motion by scandal, envy, hatred, or malice as motive
power, is more to be dreaded as agent of evil, than dynamite in any
form. But I must ring for Saunders and dress for dinner."



CHAPTER XXXI.

SOCIETY'S VOTARIES SMILE THOUGH THEY DIE.


"Here are some roses, Mademoiselle; the Captain cut them before he
went out and bid me keep them fresh for you."

"Very well, Saunders, I shall wear them this evening; that is, the
yellow ones; put the others in a vase, or give them to me, I shall,
while you get out my ruby velvet; I am pale; it is high waist and no
sleeves; take out my gold ornaments and bracelets--the plain gold
bands; an old lace collar, with roses, shall be my neck-gear; hand me
my vinagrette; I have a slight headache; and please comb my hair
gently, it will be pleasant, yes; that will do."

"Your hair is a fortune to you Mademoiselle, so long and thick."

"Yes, it is, but I like it best because of its fluffiness; it is no
trouble; weatherproof and waterproof.

"So it is, Mademoiselle."

"Now for my gown."

"It fits beautiful, Mademoiselle."

"Yes, I am quite satisfied with it."

And well she may be, for the robe might have grown on the perfect
form, every curve and roundness of figure being followed by the close
clinging velvet; and the arms, bare to the shoulder, fit models for a
sculptor, shone fair as the flesh of a child-blonde against the rich
ruby of the velvet, The perfumed bath had refreshed her, and though a
trifle pale, from heart emotion as to Lionel's probable leave-taking;
her lips always wore a "pretty redness," her eyes had a tender look,
while the fluffy bronze hair had its own beauty as it shaded the brow.

"You are looking charming, _ma chere_," said Lady Esmondet, whom Vaura
met in the hall.

"Thank you, dear, your eyes are partial, I fear."

"No, no, not as you imply."

As they entered the drawing-room, Robert Douglas came from a
comfortable corner where he had been studying a small work of Thomas a
Kempis, which he quietly returned to his pocket saying smiling:

"You see I am here to welcome you; I made myself at home and came here
immediately at the close of even-song."

"We feel complimented that you prefer our society to those very
ecclesiastical looking quarters of yours," said Lady Esmondet.

"And where the ancient fathers look from the walls in wonderment at
the priest of to-day, as he pores over printed records of their bygone
lives."

"Why, Vaura, how did you know that the pictured fathers grace the
walls of my humble retreat?"

"From Isabel."

"Ah, I wondered, for my study is never entered by a strange foot, it
is my rest."

"Is not your rest a misnomer, Robert? for from all I hear, you
literally rest nowhere," inquired Lady Esmondet.

"In my opinion, Lady Esmondet, a priest of the church should never
rest, but always have his armour on, for there is 'so little done, so
much to do.' Thank God we are waking up at last; look at the priest of
to-day (I say it in all humility) as compared with the priest of fifty
years ago."

"True, true," answered Lady Esmondet, "but, don't you think that the
zealous Low Church clergy are doing as much for the human race as you
are?"

"Undoubtedly, for the human race; but not for the church, for their
people often lapse into dissent."

"I don't believe in extremes; I respect the man who is thorough," said
Vaura, seeing that Capt. Trevalyon had entered and seated himself
beside her god-mother, evidently wishing to talk with her, and so, to
help him, taking up the thread of the argument herself.

"But Vaura," said the priest, "don't you think that in the Ritualist,
you have the man who is thorough?"

"Not exactly, he is extreme; the man who is thorough has no uncertain
sound; he neither culls from Rome her vestments, nor from Dissent her
hymns; both Rome and Dissent are thorough, why shouldn't he. But a
truce to argument, a gentleman's trap stops the way," she said
smiling, "is even now at the steps; his back is this way, so I cannot
name him; he talks to his servant, in bottle green livery, who has a
decidedly Hibernian countenance."

"Oh," said Capt. Trevalyon, starting to his feet, "Lady Esmondet, it
must be an Irishman, an acquaintance of mine, Sir Dennis O'Gormon, who
wanted very much to make the acquaintance of the ladies of the villa
Iberia. I had forgotten all about my asking him for to-day."

"It makes no difference, Lionel, 'tis little wonder you forgot such a
small matter in the many more important you have had."

Here a servant announced Sir Denis O'Gormon.

"Ah, O'Gormon, glad to see you. Lady Esmondet, permit me to present to
you Sir Dennis O'Gormon. Miss Vernon allow me to introduce Sir Dennis;
Douglas, I believe you and O'Gormon have met before."

Lady Esmondet and Miss Vernon shook hands with and welcomed their
guest, Lady Esmondet saying graciously, "Any friend of Captain
Trevalyon is always welcome."

"Thank you, Lady Esmondet, but by my faith, Trevalyon's a lucky
fellow, and one whom I have always envied but never more so than now,"
he continued laughingly, "when with all my fascinations I am only
welcomed by two charming women for his sake."

Mrs. Marchmont and Miss Marchmont were now announced. The two ladies
floated in the most approved style towards their hostess, who rose to
welcome them. They were ethereal in every respect, clad in a thin
material of pale green, neck bare and elbow sleeves, and looking more
like sisters than mother and daughter. Sandy of complexion, blue eyed
sharp of feature; the mother having the advantage in flesh, the
daughter being all the angles joined in one.

"I hate a thin woman," was the whispered criticism of Sir Dennis to
Trevalyon, with a suppressed emphasis on the word "hate."

Trevalyon smiled, giving a side glance at Vaura's rounded form, as she
bent gracefully with extended hand in welcome.

"Faith, you may well look in that direction," remarked the Irishman,
detecting him. "She's fair enough to seduce a look from His Holiness
himself."

Here Lady Esmondet introduced Sir Dennis O'Gormon to the Marchmonts;
Trevalyon and Douglas having met them before.

The butler now announced dinner, when Lady Esmondet taking the arm of
Sir Dennis assigned Mrs. Marchmont to Trevalyon, when Douglas handed
in Vaura and Miss Marchmont.

Lady Esmondet found Sir Dennis a pleasant neighbour, who devoted
himself equally to Vaura on his left and to his hostess at the head of
the table. As usual the table was decorated with the rarest of
flowers, which sent forth their delicate perfume from a large stand,
the design of which was an imitation of the famed terraced gardens of
Semiramis: the shrubs and trees represented in miniature by the most
delicate ferns and mosses; the whole a triumph of nature and art.
Choice flowers stood in a tiny bed of moss in front of each person.
Many delicate desert dishes were not only tempting to the palate, but
pleasing to the eye, while the wines in the cellar of the noble Don
Ferdinand were well known and appreciated.

"Del Castello has a snug place here, Lady Esmondet," observed Sir
Dennis.

"Extremely so, Sir Dennis. We are much more comfortably placed by the
kindness of the Marquis than we should have been at an hotel."

"He is a fine generous soul, always remembering that he is not the
only member of the human race," said Sir Dennis (who had met him).

"It is a charming little winter home," said Vaura. "I shall regret to
leave it."

"You won't, I hope, leave for some time yet?"

"Yes; much as we love it," she answered; smiling, "we go north ere
spring has thawed the sceptre out of the frozen hand of winter."

"I am sorry to hear that. But you don't surely go as soon as my friend
Trevalyon?"

Vaura hesitated a moment, not wishing to be a messenger of death at a
dinner table, when Trevalyon came to her aid, cutting Mrs. Marchmont
short in a dissertation on the merits of shaded wool versus plain, by
saying,

"Pardon me, Miss Vernon. I may be obliged, O'Gormon, to leave for
England sooner than I expected; if so, it will be alone."

"One of the penalties of bachelorhood, Trevalyon; by my faith, 'tis a
lonely loneliness."

"I thought most of you glory in the freedom of winging your flight
when you please, without having to say, by your leave," said Vaura,
gaily.

"Not always," said Trevalyon, quietly.

"What do you say, Lady Esmondet. Don't you think a fellow is happier
and less lonely when he cuts bachelor life?"

"Depends on the cards in his hands, and how he plays them, Sir
Dennis," answered his host, laconically.

"True, Lady Esmondet, and if the cards are his, the game is won, the
difficulty over," said Trevalyon, with a glance at Vaura, "and bliss
secured."

"Faith, you're right, Trevalyon."

Here Miss Marchmont's shrill voice was distinctly heard above the
general hum, in animated discussion, saying,

"Oh, I'm sure he comes from the East."

The Rev. Douglas was evidently much amused and disputing the point;
Miss Marchmont continued,

"The dear creature has such a beautiful colour--so bronzed."

"I'll lay any wager 'the dear creature' means a soldier," said
Trevalyon to Vaura.

Vaura smilingly assented.

"A soldier," exclaimed Mrs. Marchmont in horror; "oh no, Capt.
Trevalyon, nothing so naughty; it's Miranda's last pet."

"But we women are given to petting the red-coats, Mrs. Marchmont,"
said Vaura with a laugh in her voice.

"They're too wild for dear Miranda," said Marchmont mater; "the pet
you mean is the last sweet insect you have collected; is it not, my
dear child?" she said, anxious for the fair fame of the owner of the
fine exhibit in elbow and collar bone.

"Yes, mamma, you are right, but I am so sorry Mr. Douglas is not at
one with me; I feel convinced the dear potato bug comes from the east;
he is of brilliant colouring and luxurious habit."

Rev. Robert Douglas laughingly shook his head, and Sir Dennis said:

"Miss Marchmont, you cannot imagine the wager Capt. Trevalyon was
laying when you talked about the 'bronzed beauty;' he wanted some one
to take him up at ten to one you meant a dashing cavalry man, or a
'go-as-he-please' infantry."

"Order! order! O'Gormon," interrupted Trevalyon, laughing.

"Oh! I'm shocked, Capt. Trevalyon," cried Miss Marchmont seriously,
"that my dear potato bug, with all his innocent ways, its care of its
eggs,--."

Here a general laugh went round the table, except from Marchmont
_mere_, who tried in vain to catch the fair Miranda's eye, who
continued bravely, "should be taken for anything so wild as a soldier,
who doesn't do anything so useful. But I must convert you, Mr.
Douglas," she continued, returning to the siege; "it would be such a
sweet study for a clergyman; I shall lend you Cassels' Natural
History, and you must promise to read it for my sake," she said
gushingly.

Meanwhile, Trevalyon tried in vain to catch the drift of conversation
between Vaura and her neighbour, but no, Mrs. Marchmont, though
inwardly afraid of this squire of dames; and of his intellect,
determined to appear at ease, and so talked on the one engrossing idea
of her life; the last conundrum in fancy work, the last fashionable
incongruity in the blending of colours. And poor, victimized Lionel
longed to breathe in Vaura's refreshing breadth of thought; on his
tormentor pausing to recover breath, it was not as balm to a wound to
hear Sir Dennis say pleadingly:

"The gardens of the Collona palace are looking lovely in their tints
of emerald; it will transport me to my loved isle, Miss Vernon, if
you'll walk with me there some day; though our damsels are not fair as
the companion I desire, and her rich beauty would add grace to the
spot."

"Come, come, Sir Dennis, no flattery, I am jealous for the beauty of
those gardens, and do not want to hear, even in jest, my poor looks
would add to their charm," she answered gaily, and evading his
question.

Here Lady Esmondet, feeling for Lionel's torture, catching Mrs.
Marchmont's eye, rose from the table, leaving the gentlemen to discuss
the merits of bottles of no plebeian length of neck.

"How sweetly English the fire in the grate looks," observed Mrs.
Marchmont.

"Yes, it does; but while at home we really require it to keep away
cold, here it is more to remind us of the warm sun gone to rest," said
Lady Esmondet.

"There's no doubt the dear Spaniard, the Marquis Del Castello, has an
eye for luxurious comfort," said Vaura, as she sank into the corner of
a _tete-a-tete_ sofa and fell into a reverie of Lionel's probable
leave-taking.

While Mrs. Marchmont seated herself in an Elizabethan chair, Miranda
placing herself on a footstool by her side and laying her head with
its thin sandy curls on her knee.

"What a child you are still, Miranda," said her mother, sentimentally,
as she fondled the high cheek-bone.

"You are quite companions," said Lady Esmondet.

"We are bosom friends; more than sisters since the departure of my
dear husband."

"Mr. Marchmont has been dead some time, I believe."

"Yes, some twelve years; but, dear Lady Esmondet, Miranda will tell
you that I always speak of dear Charles as departed, gone before; more
as if he had gone out to buy me some new fancy work, you know; the
word 'dead' upsets my nerves so," and the sandy head drooped and a
hand was laid on the forehead.

"Yes; dear mamma has such refined feelings."

"Yes," said her hostess, absently, for she heard a messenger arrive, a
tap at the door of the dining-room, and knew the message was for the
temporary master of the house, an answer to his telegram, and wished
the Marchmonts back to their own quarters, so that the complete little
trio were alone; but she is forgetting Madame Grundy, so says:

"I believe you intend wintering in Italy."

"Yes, we have rented Rose Cottage to a friend of Mrs. Haughton's, a
Major Delrose, late of the --th Lancers."

"Oh, it's _your_ cottage he has rented," said Lady Esmondet, awaking
to interest.

"Yes; Major Delrose took an awful fancy to it, and Mrs. Haughton, dear
thing, took a good deal of trouble in making our arrangements; neither
Miranda or myself are strong."

"Strong! What an odious word to apply to us. It smells of milk and
milk-maids; we would be uninteresting without our pet ailments."

"Excuse me, my child, I know a zephyr could waft us away."

"Pull-backs would be rather in the way of the onward movement of the
zephyr, don't you think?" inquired Vaura, ironically, and glancing at
the figure of the speaker, who with her daughter wore, at the
instigation of Mrs. Haughton (who laughed with her men friends at the
objects they were), skin-tight chamois under-clothing, and with only
one narrow underskirt beneath the dress, express the figure so that
nothing is left to imagination.

"Ah! Miss Vernon, don't be severe; Mrs. Haughton, dear thing, says you
have no pet sins, but if you will only wear tights, I shall send in my
own name for them," she said coaxingly.

"_Merci_! madame," said Vaura lightly, "but Worth has not yet told me
my pleasure in life would be enhanced by the encasing of my body in
tights, so I shall content myself with myself, as you see me."

"I'm so sorry you won't."

"Yes; but I believe I interrupted you; you were saying something about
Mrs. Haughton having kindly smoothed away difficulties in the way of
your wintering in Italy;" this she said roused to interest for her
uncle's sake, "and this Major Delrose, how was he mixed up with Mrs.
Haughton?"

"Oh! yes, Miss Vernon, the dear tights put everything else out of my
head; well, as I was saying, Major Delrose longed to be near the Hall,
and as the Colonel does not take to him, you see he is a little
attentive to Mrs. Haughton, and the dear thing likes him, dear Charles
was just like the Colonel, if men have handsome wives they don't like
men to admire them; so Mrs. Haughton, dear thing, hit upon this plan,
and they both arranged it with us one day they were in, and we were
not strong, I mean we were delicate, so we remain as long as the Major
wants Rose cottage, then we go to London to my sister, Mrs.
Meltonbury, for the season."

"Ah! I understand, quite a friendly arrangement," answered Vaura, a
trifle sarcastically. Here a diversion was caused by the entrance of
the gentlemen.

The fair Miranda raised her sandy head from her mother's knee and
looked languishingly at the priest, who smiled as he took a seat
beside her.

"I am so glad we have you in Rome during our stay," observed Mrs.
Marchmont, gushingly, "you will be such company for Miranda while I am
embroidering; the sweet child was saying she should so much like to go
to you for confession."

"Confessing! who is confessing?" said Sir Dennis, as he entered,
"faith for once I would not say no to playing priest where there is a
lovely penitent to shrive," and he glanced at Vaura and was making for
the sofa beside her, but Lionel with one long step gained their mutual
goal, saying:

"Priest Douglas will not allow you to entrench upon his preserves,
O'Gorman."

"Faith! you wouldn't either," said the Irishman with a side glance at
the sofa.

"But tell me," continued Trevalyon, "confess, reverent Father, dost
thou at confession bestow the gentle kiss of reconciliation?"

"You should not disclose the secrets of the confessional, Robert,"
said Lady Esmondet, coming to his aid.

"No! trust me," answered Robert, and Miss Marchmont hung her head and
blushed.

"It would be a pleasant little _denouement_ when the penitent was a
pretty woman," said Trevalyon laughingly.

"_A propos_ of the confessional, did any of you ever come under the
torture of that modern Inquisition, the 'Confession Book?'" said
Vaura.

"Yes, yes," cried the gentlemen simultaneously.

"Oh! don't denounce them, Miss Vernon," exclaimed Miss Marchmont
pathetically. "I could not exist without mine; it is so interesting to
read aloud from at a picnic, tennis party, or five o'clock tea.
Indeed, my confession book was one of the chief sources of pleasure at
Rose Cottage, wasn't it, mamma?" and she stroked her mother's hand
caressingly.

"It was, Miranda; and Miss Vernon must promise to write down all her
secrets in your book on her return to England; Blanche Tompkins has it
in charge; you will promise to write, Miss Vernon, won't you?" and the
thin lips were pursed into a smile.

"The saints forbid," laughed Vaura, "that I should put the surgical
knife, as it were, to my heart, and lay bare all its latent workings
for the express delectation of five o'clock teas--and women!"

"Oh! do, dear Miss Vernon," said Miss Marchmont coaxingly, "your heart
would be so interesting."

The gentlemen laughed.

"Nearly as much so as the potato bug," said Vaura in an undertone to
Trevalyon; aloud, she said gaily:

"No, I rebel, and most solemnly affirm, that, as you tell me Mrs.
Haughton says I cultivate no pet sins, and as she is your oracle, I
abide by her decision; with no pet sins, what could I say? that, as to
colours, Worth supplies me. That, though I be ostracised by Mrs.
Grundy, I still have the courage left in me to affirm that I don't and
won't climb the dizzy heights or flights, to pour incense on that
shrine alone. And that, were I on the rack, I should gasp forth that
the woman who invented torture-books has not my heart-felt love."

"Hear! hear!" said O'Gormon, clapping his hands, "'when found, make a
note on,' Miss Marchmont, and you have Miss Vernon's confession."

"Yes now I should never have thought of that; you Irish think like
lightning; let me see if I can recall what Miss Vernon said," and the
sandy locks are thrown backwards as the blue eyes dwell on the painted
ceiling.

"But, Miss Marchmont," said Trevalyon, in pretended earnest, "it would
be unorthodox, and spoil your book, unless you extract a promise from
Miss Vernon, only to pour incense at the feet of the brilliant Earl."

"Oh certainly, thank you, Capt. Trevalyon; pardon me, Miss Vernon,"
cried the owner of the torture-book, in great dismay, "excuse me, but
everyone contributing to my book, must admire the dear Earl more than
anyone departed or with us (Gladstone after, if you wish); of course,"
she added apologetically, "one does not care to remember he has Jewish
blood, yet against that fact is, that he has never eaten pork, such a
nasty, vulgar meat."

"Remember, Miranda sweet, that Miss Vernon, having spent so much of
her life in France, cannot perhaps know that it is the fashion to
worship the Earl."

"From Earl Beaconsfield to music is a long look, but let us take it,"
said Lady Esmondet; "Miss Marchmont, will you sing for us?"

As Miranda asked Rev. Robert what it should be, Vaura said in an
undertone to Trevalyon:

"I do admire the clever Earl immensely, and not only because it is the
decree of the god of fashion."

"I wish we had the evening to ourselves," he murmured, "what do you
think of the Irishman?"

"He is lavish of the superlative degree; is good-hearted as his race;
and for the time being, feels intensely," she answered.

Miss Marchmont, now asking her mother to join her in the duet, "Come
where my love lies dreaming," they glided arm in arm to the piano, and
now Miss Marchmont implored of some one to come where her love lay
dreaming, in a shrill treble, while her mother repeated the request in
a very fair alto.

O'Gormon challenged Vaura to a game at chess.

Lionel fell into a brown study of his future plans to undo the
mischief done by a woman's tongue. The poor fellow often glanced at
Vaura in all her loveliness, and a pain came to his heart as he
looked, for he thought of how he was leaving her, not knowing if she
loved him, and with other men about her; and of how, with the torture
that he might lose her weighing him down, he was going out from her
alone to find Sister Magdalen, and see if she would openly reveal all.
She had been reticent and guarded for years, and he was not in a mood
to hope much.

But now he hears the clear voice of Vaura cry, "checkmate," and
O'Gormon leads her to the piano.

Vaura gave them a gem of Mozart's, then some gay opera airs, then, in
response to their pleading for some song, gave "Il Bacio," in her full
rich tones.

Sir Dennis stood by the piano and looked his admiration.

"You seem fond of music, Sir Dennis," said the fair musician, as she
leisurely turned over the music with him in search for a song from
"Traviata."

"Fond of it! I adore it, and sometimes the musician."

"A double tax on your powers of adoring," said Vaura, gaily, as Sir
Dennis placed the song before her, but though her notes were clear and
sweet as a bird's, her heart was sad at the thought of the parting
between Lionel and herself, and just now she had no sympathy with the
free-from-care spirit of the song "Gaily Thro' Life I Wander."

During the song Capt. Trevalyon was summoned from the room. It is a
telegram, and runs thus:


"THE LANGHAM HOTEL,
"LONDON, England, Dec. 24th.

"My father cannot live, and wishes to see you. Physician says come at
once." JUDITH TREVALYON.

"Capt. Trevalyon,
"Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy."

"Sims, this telegram calls me to England. You say there is an express
at midnight. It is now 10.30, go at once and take some necessary
refreshment; pack my luggage, leaving out my travelling gear; get your
own box, and have them conveyed to the depot, express them through to
London, to the Langham, and be ready to leave with me by the midnight
train; and don't forget Mars."

"Yes sir; and what time, sir, shall I order the trap to take you to
the _depot_, sir?"

"At 11.30 sharp, Sims."

"Yes, sir."

Captain Trevalyon hurried back to the salons just as Vaura finished
her song. He made his way to Lady Esmondet, in order to get a word in
her ear, as Sir Dennis monopolised Vaura; but Mrs. Marchmont was full
of a new folding screen Mrs. Haughton had ordered from London.

"The dear thing wanted something novel, so had the three 'Graces'
painted on a sky-blue plush ground, suspended in the air; over them
(as it were) hangs an open umbrella in rose-pink; oh! it's too lovely
for anything, Lady Esmondet; you will be entranced when you see it,
Captain Trevalyon," and she folded her hands and turned her pale blue
eyes upwards.

To Captain Trevalyon's relief, Vaura asked him to sing something, and
seeing it was hopeless just now, to have a word with Lady Esmondet, he
hoped when his song was over and their glass of champagne drank, there
would be a general exodus ere it was time for him to leave; so he
moved towards the piano, and playing his own accompaniment, sang one
of Moore's melodies, "Farewell, but whenever you welcome the hour."

Vaura sat at a small table near the piano. Sir Dennis, with the
sanguineness of his race, thought she was interested in his chit-chat
and in a book of Italian views, but her thoughts were with Lionel, for
she caught his eye, and "minds run in grooves," and he knew that she
under stood, his silent farewell; she felt her heart ache, and would
have risen and gone to him, but "men may suffer and women may weep,"
but the conventionalities must be attended to, or the mighty god,
society, stares and frowns; and so Lionel sung parting words to the
woman he loved, and to his friend; and surely Moore would have been
moved to tears had he heard the depth of feeling thrown into his
words. When he was singing, the silver chimes softly rang eleven
o'clock, so knowing he had no time to lose, he quietly left the room.

Vaura's heart throbbed quickly for she thought, "he has gone."

But the Marchmonts, much to her relief and Lady Esmondet, saying they
must "really tear themselves away," a rather prolonged leave-taking
took place between Reverend Robert Douglas and Miss Marchmont, into
which Mrs. Marchmont was drawn.

"Well, I don't know, Miranda sweet," she says, "that I can promise to
take you to St. Augustine service tomorrow afternoon. I am going to
high mass at St. Peter's, and shall be fatigued."

Vaura, who was standing near, listening to O'Gormon's adieux, and
anxious to do anything to hasten their leave-taking, said quickly:

"I shall likely go, and shall call at your hotel for Miss Marchmont."

Miss Marchmont was gushing in her thanks.

"Oh! don't forget, Miss Vernon, I wouldn't miss hearing Mr. Douglas
intone the service for worlds."

"The creature, not the creator," thought Vaura. But now at last the
guests have departed and the friends are alone.

Lionel sees them go from the garden walk which he is pacing up and
down, ready to go and waiting for the trap. He has gone out urged by
conflicting emotions, head aching, and in the air hoping to gain calm.
It is now 11.15; fifteen minutes yet. "If I could only see her alone."

Fortune favours him, for Lady Esmondet having heard from Saunders
(while Vaura is engaged with the Marchmonts) that Captain Trevalyon is
about somewhere, as he does not go until eleven thirty, taking in the
situation, tells Vaura to go to the _salons_ for a little while and
she will join her after she gives some directions to her maid.

So Vaura returns and, wishing to be quite alone before Lady Esmondet
joins her, steps into the conservatory, but there her sense of
loneliness is so complete, that she returns to the _salon_ immediately
adjoining, and drawing the heavy brocade curtains dividing it from the
others, she feels that she can give herself up to thoughts of Lionel;
she knows now that he is gone; she would give worlds to have him by
her side; she throws herself onto a lounge with her great white arms
in a favourite attitude thrown above her head. But in the moment of
her entrance into the conservatory, Lionel had seen her from the
garden and came in noiselessly to make sure; she is alone, and he is
now gazing at her through the glass door; her bosom heaves, her flower
face is lovely in its transparent soft paleness, and her eyelids are
wet with the tear-drops she will not let fall, her lips move and he
opens the door on its noiseless hinges, she says softly:

"Oh, darling, why did you go?" and she throws herself on her side and
buries her face in her arms. Now Lionel fearing to hear the wheels of
the trap to take him away, makes a noise with the door as if he had
only come, and so Vaura thinks as she starts to a sitting posture and
her heart beats wildly as she says, putting both hands to her side,
"Oh, you are not gone, I am so glad."

"But I am going, and in a few minutes, Vaura darling," and he seated
himself beside her; "you must know I love you with the whole pent-up
love of my life," and his arm was round her. "You know, darling, I
told you of a difficulty and I did not mean to speak until it was
removed, but my heart has ached and I am so unmanned I have not known
sometimes what to do or how to bear up; I have been in torture,
darling, lest other men should win your love. Oh! my love, my
beautiful darling, say you will not give your heart to another, that
you will wait until I can plead my cause."

"I shall wait, dear Lionel."

"God, is it so, darling, darling?" and the soft hand was pressed and
the lovely head was drawn to his breast and the rose-mouth was kissed
again and again.

"There, that will do, won't it, Lionel, for to-night; we have waited
so long," and the large grey eyes with their warm love-light, looked
into the tired blue of the eyes so near her own now with a great
passionate love looking from them.

"Darling love," and his cheek was on hers, "I feel so full of bliss
and content, and my nerves all throbbing, I don't think I can ever let
you go; oh, you don't know how I love you. I used to boast of my
strength with women beauty; but with you in my arms, heaven, what
bliss! Vaura, darling, I feel half delirious; and yet a full rich joy
in living and loving could not turn a man's brain."

And now the hall bell is pulled furiously; Vaura starts up and to her
feet.

"Put your soft arms around my neck, darling, and give me a good-bye
kiss; it will be a talisman from evil and help me through my lonely
travels."

And her arms are clasped tightly round his neck, and his head bends
down to the sweet lips.

"Good-bye, dearest Lion," and the eyes rest on his and she whispers,
"I am not sorry I came back alone to the _salons_."

"My love; how can I leave you."

"You must."

And Lady Esmondet calls and Lionel hurries to the ball, and with a
tight hand-clasp with his friend and a whispered, "I shall and most
conquer my enemies."

"You will, Lionel."

And Lady Esmondet knew by the light in his eyes that he had spoken and
she was glad.

Having promised Vaura to join her she now turned her steps towards the
_salons_, but thinking, "No, she will not want me to-night," retraced
her steps to her own room; and while her maid disrobed her, the lonely
woman thought: "What a perfect union theirs will be; both handsome,
gifted, and with much gold, for I shall settle L3,000 per annum on
Vaura. Sir Vincent will do something for dear Lionel. Ah, me; what I
have missed in my wedded life, I who could have loved a husband of my
own choice so fondly, so truly. Eric, Eric, you alone would have made
me happy; but I am growing old, I am looking back; it is folly. Alice
Esmondet, you must not give way to melancholy, life is sweet to you
even if you are not a winner of all good in life's game--. Give me a
few drops of red lavender, Somers; there, that will do; now leave me
and go to rest."

Vaura's whole being was filled with such intense happiness as she sank
into a corner of the sofa where Lionel had found her a short time
before that she would not move and so perhaps break the spell.

Emotional natures will know how she felt; as one does on waking from a
dream of the night, so rich, so full of sweetness, so full of
delicious languor one does not move a muscle lest the sensation pass.

At last she moves with a great sigh. "My darling, mine," she thought,
"and he loves me; come back to me, Lion," and the great fair arms were
clasped at the back of her head, then thrown down to the knees, and
the hands go together, while a smile, oh, how sweet and tender, comes
to the mouth, and the eyes are wet with their warmth and feeling.

"I'm glad you spoke before the 'difficulty,' is overcome, for if you
can never undo it you will know that I always loved you. Men who would
have satisfied most women have wooed me in vain. And now could any one
of them who have charged me with cruelty see me. Yes, dearest Lion, I
am every inch a woman and am subdued at last, and longing, longing,
dear heart, to feel your arms about me and see the light in your
mesmeric eyes. I have been waiting for you so long, love; come back to
me, for I cannot do without the sweet, grave smile, the look from the
tired eyes. Do you know, darling, as you are whirling away to northern
climes that I am dreaming the hours away thinking of you; it is one
o'clock, love, good night."

And Vaura, in all her loveliness, and full of a dreamy languor, went
to her chamber. Saunders heard the light step in the silent household
and followed her mistress.

"You must be sleepy, Saunders; put away my robe, lace, and jewels, and
go."

"I am not tired, Mademoiselle; I have just had a nap in the house-
keeper's room; you'd best let me run the comb through your hair,
Mademoiselle."

"Very well, Saunders, but be quick; I am tired."

"The household are sorry, Miss, that the Captain is away; we were
proud to have such a handsome master, and so free-handed; but it
wasn't for what the Captain gave; it was his own kind ways, and we'll
be wishing his servant back too, Mademoiselle; he was so merry. But
his master was so kind, Sims could but be happy."

"Even the hirelings love him," thought her mistress; aloud she says:

"I am quite sure Capt. Trevalyon was a kind master, Saunders, and
Sims was a faithful servant, and looked the essence of good humour.
Good-night, you can go now,"

"Good-night, ma'am; what time shall I call you for your bath, ma'am?"

"At half-past nine."

"Yes, ma'am."

And the white _robe de nuit_ is on, and this sweet woman glances at
the mirror, and smiles at the fair face with the bright brown curls on
the brow, the throat as fair as the soft robe of muslin, all a mystery
of embroidery and shapely clingingness.



CHAPTER XXXII.

TREVALYON GONE, VAURA KILLS TIME.


Christmas Day, the birth-day of Christ, dawned fair, beautiful, and
bright, and was ushered in by many a peal of sweet sounding bells.

The heavenly east was so gloriously bright as old Sol mounted upwards,
as to cause many a devout Roman (as he wended his steps to worship the
Creator, at the altar, in one or other temple whose doors stood wide
open, admitting a gleam of sunlight onto the figure of the sleeping
babe, and the adoring faces of the worshippers, to cause him) to
imagine as he gazed upward, that the heavenly Host caused all this
flood of light in the warm, glorious east, by their smiles of approval
at man's attempt to adore.

Vaura woke from a late sleep as Saunders tapped at the door; slumber
had only come to her by sweet snatches during the hours of the night;
but she lay happy in the dreamy quiet; and the face of the man she
loved was ever before her. On waking, as her maid knocked, her first
feeling was that something was wanting; that something had gone out of
her daily life, and she gave a long deep sigh. Then the sweet sense,
that she was loved, came to her; not that the knowledge of this man's
love was just come to her--she had known it for some time, but they
had both reached that stage when mutual pledges of love were craved
for, and which to fill their whole being with the fulness of content,
with the fulness of a satisfied bliss, had become a necessity.

The first thing that met her eye on rising, were a few crushed flowers
on the seat of her favourite chair. Tied around the stalks was a
delicate point-lace handkerchief; on the tiny square of muslin was
written, in the handwriting she knew so well, Vaura Vernon; among the
blossoms were a few written words:

"My heart aches at leaving you without a word of farewell My brain is
in a whirl. I feel as though I shall go mad if you give your love to
another; save me by writing me. Writing! how cold. God help me!--Your
LIONEL."

Capt. Trevalyon, not thinking to see Vaura, had, before going into the
garden, gone to her boudoir, and placed this mute farewell on her
chair.

"Now my darling knows," she thought as she pressed them to her lips.

There were warm Christmas greetings exchanged between the two women
friends, on meeting in the breakfast room. When the servants were
released from duty, duty, Lady Esmondet said:

"Dear Lionel has left us something to remember him, at least for
to-day, Vaura, _ma chere_, see here," and she held up two vinaigrettes
she had been admiring; on the cover to the stopper of one was the name
"Alice Esmondet," on the other, "Vaura Vernon." Both bottles were
small and both gold; on one side of Vaura's were the words, "I am
weary waiting, L. T.," in very small letters, while a tiny wreath of
forget-me-nots encircled the words; blue stones, inlaid, formed the
flowers; round each was a slip of paper--with the words: "With love
and Christmas wishes, from Lionel Trevalyon. For the crush at St.
Peter's."

"Kind and thoughtful, for we shall feel his gift refreshing in the
crowd," said Lady Esmondet.

"Poor dear, far away; we shall miss him on this bright Christmas
morn," said Vaura, as she read the words, "I am weary waiting."

"But I am forgetting my gift to you, and one from dear Uncle Eric,"
and Vaura took from a small box a lovely locket, on one side was a
miniature copy of Haughton; on the other the lovely face of the giver.
"And this from Uncle for you came to me on yesterday;" and Vaura
presented a photo of Col. Haughton.

"How sweet it is to be remembered, Vaura, and it's a good likeness of
your dear uncle. And here is a gift from myself, a mere bagatelle, but
I hope you will like it," and she handed Vaura an acknowledgement from
Worth of an order for a ball-dress, to be at Haughton Hall on the 5th
January, 1878.

"Thanks, god-mother mine, your thoughts are always of some one other
than of Alice Esmondet."

"Not at all, dear."

"I shall be glad to return to England now," and there was a tender
light in Vaura's eyes; "that is, dear god-mother, if you have laid up
a sufficient store of strength."

"I have, _ma chere_, and if the revelry at Haughton isn't too much, I
shall be able not only to stand, but enjoy the season; I feel very
strong, and had I had a happy life--I mean, dear, had I married where
my heart was--all would have been right; this 'eating out the heart
alone' is not good for one. I have taken all the tricks I could, and
made the most of the cards in my hand, but they have not been to my
liking."

"My hand shall follow my heart," said Vaura, earnestly; "how I wish
yours had, dear."

"Yes, it has been hard for me; but Fate, the dealer, is giving you
good cards."

"How think you, godmother; is the game ours?"

"You will win."

"How did you know?" she said, softly, coming over to Lady Esmondet,
and stooping to kiss her.

"By the great light in his eyes when he bade me adieu, and the
heart-shine in your own; it has been the wish, of my life lately; God
is giving you a paradise in life, dear."

"He is."

"This plot to damage Lionel's reputation is a something too mean,"
said Lady Esmondet indignantly; "in Mrs. Clayton's last letter to me
she asks me to 'decline to receive him, unless he publicly
acknowledges his hidden wife;' she says, though 'the women still will
pet him, their husbands are down upon him;' she further says, 'Clayton
says he has no right to run loose with a hidden wife somewhere;' she
says it has been in two or three papers. I declare, Vaura, if it were
not for the feeling I have that we shall be a comfort to your uncle, I
do not care to go to Haughton."

"Poor Lionel," said Vaura, thoughtfully, "he has got himself into a
wasp's nest. Suppose we don't stay at Haughton, excepting for the
ball, then go quietly to your town house."

"Yes, dear, as we pass through London I shall give orders that my
house be in readiness any day to receive us; so, dear, if after we
stay for a short visit we find it a bore, we shall go up."

"And be voted Goths and Vandals for showing our faces before the
season opens; and Mrs. Grundy says 'Come;' what slaves we are!" said
Vaura.

Now there is a tap at the door, and a servant enters with
contributions from the post.

"Any orders, your ladyship?"

"Yes, the landau is to be at the door to take us to St. Peter's in an
hour; at the close of mass we shall drive to the Duchess of Wyesdale,
with whom we lunch; further orders there. And here, Barnes," continued
Lady Esmondet, taking out her purse, "distribute this gold to the
household, excepting to Somers and Saunders, whom I shall attend to
personally; and see that no poor go empty-handed from the villa on
this, the Day of Days."

"Thank you, your ladyship, you are very kind, and we all wish you and
Mademoiselle a good Christmas."

"Thank you, Barnes."

"The man in bottle-green livery coming to the door," said Vaura, as
she left the breakfast-table, "is servant to our friend of Erin."

In a few moments Saunders brought her mistress a beautiful bouquet,
with the card of Sir Dennis, on which was written, "A merry Christmas
to Miss Vernon."

"What think you of the Irishman?" asked Lady Esmondet.

"Oh, I hardly know; he is a great good-natured creature; if his heart
be proportioned to the rest of his frame, the future Lady O'Gormon
will require to be intensely lovable."

"The cards are quite artistic this year," said Lady Esmondet; "but of
yours, I think the one from poor Marie Perrault the most
_recherchee_."

"She encloses me a few lines; poor girl, she makes a great fuss over
the few bits of gold I sent her. I have just read a letter from Mrs.
Wingfield; after a good deal of chit-chat she says: We are staying at
the Lord Elton's place, Surrey, and are quite lively over the
Trevalyon's 'Hidden Wife' story; the men are mad that he runs loose,
while they are held in bondage with the fetters that he should be held
in also. I declare, god-mother dear, one is inclined to think envy is
the motive power that rules the human family."

"Indeed, yes; envy, hatred and malice are a prosperous firm who will
not fail for want of capital."

"This Major Delrose, that the Marchmonts named, must be a sworn enemy
of poor dear Lionel?"

"He is, and of years."

"Ah! an intuitive feeling told me so; and at Rose Cottage; and the
woodland at the outskirts of our grounds hides it from the Hall; and a
man and woman could meet and plot unobserved; but, god-mother mine,
let us away to dress; the first bells are sounding their sweet musical
invitation, and I shall try to forget Mrs. Haughton; for, among
Christ's gifts to men, I perhaps have not valued that most excellent
gift of charity."

Vaura is first robed, but Lady Esmondet enters the hall from her
boudoir in a few moments. They are now in the landau, and rapidly
driven to that most stately of modern sanctuaries, a type in its
magnificent architecture and strength of the pride, riches, and unity
of the wonderful system it represents.

Vaura wears a robe of seal brown velvet and tight jacket of seal fur,
a small _ecru_ velvet bonnet with scarlet geraniums among the lace.

Lady Esmondet wishes Lionel could see the sweet face, and the far-away
look in the great expressive eyes. The vast building was crowded to
the doors; the singing of mass grand to sublimity, and "the holy
organ's rolling sound was felt on roof and floor," its vibrations
thrilling the hearts of the worshippers. The majestic grandeur of the
interior of this stately edifice, with its many altars, was on this
holy festival, enhanced by many beautiful decorations, chaste in
design and of costly value. Rare gems, vessels of gold, and vessels of
silver, the gifts of princes, sparkled on altars of perfect
workmanship, while beauteous flowers raised their heads from priceless
vases, trying in vain, with their sweet odour to drown the fumes of
incense, wafted from the censor in the hands of the acolytes.

High mass being concluded, Lady Esmondet, with Vaura, slowly emerged
from the sacred edifice. O'Gormon and a young Italian attached to the
Quirinal having waited for them at the door, conducted them to their
landau, when with warm Christmas greetings they parted to meat for
lunch with the Duchess of Wyesdale. On reaching their destination they
found their slender waisted hostess, with her daughter, the Lady
Eveline Northingdon, with a few English and Italian notabilities,
assembled in the _salons_. The Duchess looked blank on seeing that
Capt. Trevalyon was not in attendance; for to tell the truth, she had
only invited Lady Esmondet and Miss Vernon because she could not very
well bid Trevalyon to lunch and ignore his hostess.

For though he had only given her a few careless flatteries, they were
her food; still he had looked into her eyes and smiled. It was only a
way he had, but she was a silly little woman, and vain, telling
herself that in the old days she was sure he loved her hopelessly, but
the Duke then lived, and British law was in the way, a woman could not
marry more than one man at one time. She little knew that the mighty
eagle, as he soars to his home in the mountain heights, with his bold
glance wooing the sun, would as soon love the puny night hawk as would
Lionel Trevalyon waste his heart's strongest feelings on such a frail
butterfly as Posey Wyesdale.

So, now, on the _entree_ of our friends without Trevalyon the Duchess,
as she greeted them, called out in her thin treble,

"Where's my truant cavalier? You have never come without him? That
would be too cruel."

"We have; simply because he has left Rome and Italy."

"Left Rome without bidding me _adieu_," screamed Posey, "how cruel!
Eveline, ring for my drops; the shock makes me feel quite faint. Tell
me how, and why, Lady Esmondet?"

"His uncle, Sir Vincent was dying,--is now probably over the border."

"To a death-bed! how unfortunate! What shall I do without him for my
tableaux?" she was moved to tears--for the tableaux.

"What a pity the mighty Angel of Death would not stay his hand even
for the tableaux of an English Duchess!" said Lady Esmondet, with
veiled cynicism.

"Yes, I think he was very cruel," sobbed the Duchess.

"Never mind, mamma," said Eveline, soothingly "Some one else can take
his place, and perhaps Capt. Trevalyon will now be a baronet, and that
will be so nice. You like him, so it will make it all right."

"So it will," said Posey, drying her eyes, "if it's so, is it, Lady
Esmondet?"

"Yes, Lady Wyesdale, Capt. Trevalyon succeeds to the baronetcy."

Lady Esmondet's remark was carried with different variations to the
end of the _salon_, where Vaura sat. She was immediately besieged with
questions.

"What is this rumour, Miss Vernon," asked an Englishman; "is Trevalyon
to be raised to the peerage?"

"For his looks of an Adonis and many fascinations," cried one.

"No, for his many _affaires de coeur_," laughed another.

"Or that his 'hidden wife' is coming forth," said a London man, who
read the news.

"More likely for some knightly act, by his Queen rewarded," echoed a
soft-voiced Italian.

"Or his vote is promised for the war supply," said the London man.

"_Carita, carita_!" said Vaura, laughingly, and turning to the London
man, "You forget the party motto, 'no bribery,' Mr. Howard, and if you
all lend an ear, I shall tell you that instead of a peerage, our
friend, as far as I know, is plain Capt. Trevalyon."

"Heresy, Miss Vernon, for he is not 'plain,' and you women will have
it that he is a peer in our age."

"A peerless way of putting it, Mr. Howard," laughed Vaura.

"Luncheon is served, my lady," said the butler.

"Somebody take in everybody," said the Duchess. "We always go to
luncheon _sans ceremonie_."

And so fate willed Signor Castenelli (the young Italian who had
accompanied them to the landau) to Vaura. The table was gay with
Sevres china and _majolica_ ware, but the viands were poor and scanty,
and the victuals few and far between. One man of healthy appetite
could easily have laid bare dishes that had been prepared for seven,
when five morning callers having been invited to remain, so lessened
the _morceau_ for each guest. The Duchess having decided on getting
all her wardrobe from the magic scissors of Worth, had determined to
retrench in the matter of wines, etc., not putting faith in the adage
that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

"Believe me," she would say to her butterfly friends, "I know men's
tastes, and they would rather feast their eyes than their stomachs."

You may be very wise, Posey Wyesdale, but trust me, a man has no eyes
for either you or your gown, if after a long ride or much calling he
finally, in an evil hour, succumbs to your invitation to lunch and you
give him a mouthful of chicken and one slice of wafer-like bread and
butter, the mighty whole washed down with a cup of weak tea or thin
wine; rather would he (curled darling though he be) return to the
primitive custom of his forefathers and feed the inner man at the
much-despised mid-day dinner on steaming slices of venison or beef,
while he slaked his thirst in a bumper of British beer. But as
O'Gormon said to Castenelli, on dining with him on that same evening:
"Faith, all that was on the table of Lady Wyesdale wouldn't add to the
hips of a grasshopper."

"No, a fellow wouldn't have to try your larding system to get himself
into waltzing shape; did your little. English duchess cater for him,"
had laughed Castenelli.

But let us return to the Duchess of Wyesdale and her guests.

It seemed to Lady Esmondet, who was seated near her hostess, who plied
her with questions as to Captain Trevalyon's whereabouts and possible
doings, an insufferable bore to be there. To Vaura, who was more
pleasantly placed; it seemed as though a few sentences were said, a
few mouthfuls eaten, and the feast over.

"How is your noble king; Signor Castenelli," inquired Vaura.

"Our beauteous flowers will not bloom, nor our sweet-song birds sing
another summer for him; my heart weeps as I say it, Signora."

"Yes; he is a fit king for so fair a land, and I sincerely trust for
your sake and Italy, your fears will not be realized. The gentle Pius
IX. is also stricken down."

"Yes, Signora, but our Holy Father's loss could be more easily
replaced than that of our beloved temporal sovereign."

"Yes; a few solitary closetings of the Cardinals, a few ballots taken,
a few volumes of smoke, and the Pope lives again."

"You like my city, Signora?"

"I love it. Ah! how much have you here to enoble, to refine, to
educate; what great souls have expanded in an atmosphere laden with
the breath of a long, never-dying line of poets, orators, sculptors
and painters. Yes, Signor Castenelli, it is a noble heritage to be
Roman-born."

"Thanks, Signora Vernon, for your gracious tribute to my country. But
alas, we are fast becoming inoculated with the progressive spirit of
the age; the American is among us."

"You should extol him, Signor Castenelli, it is the fashion with us to
welcome him, his note-book and his gold."

"He is too energetic for me," said the Italian, as Vaura taking his
arm followed others to the salons and from the feast.

"He is a man of his time; you and I, Signor, are old-fashioned in
regretting that many of the old land-marks are doomed; the spirit of
the age is insatiable and his votaries are never idle in sacrificing
in his honour, and if we'd be happy we must not weep. I confess I
regret that your historic, not over clean, but picturesque Jews
quarter, the Ghetto, is to give place to your new palace of justice;
it is rather an incongruity (to me) that it should rise as if from the
ashes of hearth-stones round which in days of yore figures sat to whom
justice had been very imperfectly meted out."

"True, true, Signora Vernon, and I don't like to see them all go, and
your sympathy is sweet. The American is a giant in his time; but we
are not as they, he is literally a man of to-day; he has to be always
in a hurry to make his name tell. We have done all that, but he is
wrong to say we are dreamers," and his eyes flashed; "our blood is as
full of fire as in the days of the Gracchi, the Caesars."

"Theirs was a grand age, but ours is gay, and could we be promoted
backwards, I fear me," she added gaily, "we would long for our
telephone, our electric light, our novels, our mutual club life, our
great Worth, our lounging chairs, and many other pet luxuries."

"True, Signora," answered Castenelli, in the same tone, "and I can
answer for myself; were a _belle_ of those days to step from the
canvas for my approval, I should tell her to sleep on, and give place
to her more beautiful and gay sister of my own day."

"In the name of the butterflies of to-day, I thank you," said Vaura
gaily.

"How long do you grace Rome with your presence?"

"One short week and a day, Signor; and I shall not leave your sun-warm
Italia without regret, replete as it is with so much that charms the
mind and senses, none so soulless I hope, but would feel as I shall on
bidding adieu to one of the choicest gardens Dame Nature revels in."

"Why leave us so soon?"

"Fate wills it, and there are home revels to which we are bid, and the
crush of the season after, where we shall only see our wings glisten
by Edisons or the now doomed gas-shine, for fog reigns supreme in the
day-time, and poor old Sol is hid from us."

"London belles would shine by their own beauty even in Egyptian
darkness."

For the Italian took pleasure in the beauty of the fair woman beside
him, her expressive face changing as some word touched her heart, or
again gay, reflecting a nature ever ready to respond in sympathy with
the feeling of those who pleased her.

"One of your countrymen writes me from your metropolis," taking a
letter from his pocket; "I shall read you a line or two: 'Our city
will soon be bright with the beauty of fair women, handsome men,
superb robings, gay equipages, prancing steeds. Rumour hath it that
one of our favourite belles is sunning herself in your land. Don't mar
the beauty of our constellation by detaining her with you after the
season opens for we must have _la belle_ Vernon.' Would that I had the
power, was my thought as I read."

"Your friend exaggerates my poor charms, Signor."

"With so much of beauty to choose from, mademoiselle, London society
is critical, and my friend only endorses its verdict."

"Well, Signor, London will have something of weightier matter to
decide this coming season than the passing beauty of woman. Our
parliament have the vote on the war supply, and as Beaconsfield cannot
go into the strife empty-handed on the issue of that vote hangs the
destiny of many lives."

"Think you the Bright or peace party will be strong enough to
prevail?"

"No; England's sons are ever jealous of their country's honour. There
is a strong popular feeling against any encroachments by the Russian
Bear. Our young officers are ever eager for a chance to distinguish
themselves, and our men," she added gaily, "have fists all knuckles,
always doubled for a good hard blow."

"Well, it seems to me an expensive undertaking that your bold
countrymen meditate. Turkey is lazy and luxurious."

"Yes; not a fit sentinel for a dangerous post; still, what are we to
do? We cannot uproot them and plant in their place the trusty Scot or
brave Celt; no, we must even pay high wages to bad servants until
wiser heads than ours in some future generation devise some better way
of guarding our eastern possessions. But our pleasant chat is over,
Signor, Lady Esmondet is making her adieux."

"And you leave so soon, Signora; I am jealous of London. May I see you
again?"

"Surely, Signor; we go many places to take a last loving glance."

"Give me something definite, I pray you."

"Well, the palace of the Vatican on to-morrow morning. I must have
another long look at the painting of the Transfiguration. In the
afternoon a drive in the gardens of the Borghesian villa. In the
evening the theatre and the exquisite voice of Patti. And now what say
you, grave and reverend Signor; will you remember your lesson while I
say _au revoir_," and with a gay smile and a warm pressure of the hand
from Castenelli Miss Vernon, after saying her farewell to Lady
Wyesdale and her daughter, followed her god-mother to the landau.

"You seem to have enjoyed your chat with Signor Castenelli," said Lady
Esmondet, as they drove away; Miss Vernon to pick up Miss Marchmont
for even-song at the Church of St. Augustine, Lady Esmondet for home.

"Yes, he is pleasant to me, as most of his countrymen are; there is a
fervor about them, with all their languor, that is refreshing after
our stoical Briton; I fear me you were not so well placed, the little
Duchess seemed to fasten upon you."

"She did, and entertained me with an unceasing catechism as to
Lionel's whereabouts, his deeds past and present; seems to fear his
cousin, Judith Trevalyon; in fact, plainly shows her old predilection,
is as aforetime, alive in her breast; is anxious to know how we became
so intimate with him; whether he goes to Haughton Hall; whither the
woman your uncle has married has invited her; says she does not leave
Rome until the middle of January; wants to know if we shall be there
for the Twelfth-night ball; wonders if Lionel will retire for a
fashionable six weeks' mourning. Says there is a rumour that he is
engaged to half a dozen women, and has a wife and children somewhere;
is crazy (to use her own expression) to know if you are, as report
says, engaged to Del Castello, etc., etc., and asked me point-blank,
if I like dear Mrs. Haughton."

"What a whirl the brain of the slender waist Duchess must be in, and
what a bore she was to you; so she also goes to Haughton. Fancy uncle
on one side, and Major Delrose, the Rose Cottage people, Mrs.
Meltonbury, Peter Tedril, Hatherton, etc., on the other; Madame well
knows how to mix up the brandy cocktail and poker of midnight, with
sober 9 o'clock whist and old port, but the scales are weightier on
one side. But behold the naturalist, waiting at the door with prayer
book in hand, ready for her devotions."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

WARM WORDS BRIDGE CRUEL DISTANCE.


Lady Esmondet, Vaura, and Robert Douglas ate their Christmas dinner
quietly together. "I shall feel lonely when you leave Rome," said the
priest, as he bade them a warm goodnight.

"Naturally, you will miss us; we are almost a part of your old home,"
said Lady Esmondet.

"I have no doubt, Roberto, that the Marchmonts will be very kind to
you when we are gone," said Vaura, smilingly.

"Yes, she will be good to a lonely priest," he answered absently; then
recovering himself, "but I should not say lonely; have I not the
Church."

As a footman fastened the hall-door after the Rev. Robert, Vaura said:

"The Church will soon not be sufficient to fill up his life; at least
the naturalist will make him feel so."

"How differently _cher_ Roland would range himself," said Lady
Esmondet, thinking of his hopeless love for Vaura; "that girl with her
bugs and beetles, her sandy locks and sharp elbows, would drive him
distracted. I wonder what affinity Robert can have with such an one."

"Why doth he love her? 'Curious fool, be still; is human love the
growth of human will?' saith the poet. So, god-mother dear, for aught
we can say, they must e'en join the legion of impossible unions. But
we are both weary, and had best to bed and sleep or dreams."

"Yes, 'tis late; good night, dear; we have both missed Lionel to-day."

"We have; he little dreams how much."

And as Vaura's robes were unfastened, and the deft fingers of her maid
made her comfortable for the night, a tall figure and handsome face,
tawny moustache, shading lips sweet yet firm in expression, tired eyes
that were generally grave, but could flash or be tenderly loving, rose
before her.

"'Twas only last night," she though, as she laid her soft cheek on the
pillow, "he was with us, and I feel as though we had been parted for
ages; and he suffers by all these rumours; and my dearest is in a
tangled web of difficulty and I am not near to give him my sympathy,
and poor dear uncle is not happy either; and it's a woman's work, but
this making of moans is unnatural to me; I must make Time fly, and
when I am once in England, my aim shall be to make those two men
regain their old happiness; good-night, Lionel, I am weary to see your
face again, to hear your words of love and feel your arms about me,
for the sweet feeling that I belong to you seems only a dream; come
back, come."

The following day the programme of which Vaura had spoken to
Castenelli, was gone through. But as Vaura wished just now that the
days would quickly join themselves to the great past, we shall not
linger; but say, that on nearing the painting of the Transfiguration,
a figure caught her eye, it was that of the young Italian Castenelli,
who, with the dark rich colouring, clear cut features and soft brown
eyes that Roman blood gives, looked as though he might have stepped
from the canvas on the wall.

The painting in its glorious beauty held them in silent admiration for
some time. Vaura drew a long breath as she turned away, saying:

"The man who painted the figure of the Christ in its God-like sanctity
of expression, must have been inspired. What a volume of sermons it
preaches!"

As the Italian had tickets of admission to the Tower of St. Peter's,
Vaura decided to make the ascent. The double walls of the dome are
passed through as quickly as possible, as Vaura's time is short. But
the view from the top! who can describe it? Not I; my pen falls
lifeless; it would take a Moore to sing of; a Byron to immortalise; a
Longfellow, a Whittier or a Tennyson to make an idyl of; it has sent
artists wild; the eye rests lovingly on the hill-crests of the Sabine,
Volscian and Albano on the one side, then turns to the city with its
temples, its palaces, the historic past showing in their very stones.
Then the Coliseum and the Forum, each speaking their own story; then
the eye turns to the winding Tiber; and finally rests on the deep calm
waters of the violet Mediterranean in the far away.

"Ah, Signor Castenelli, it is too much for one day; 'tis no wonder the
Italian is a poet. You dwell in a maze of beauty in nature and art.
Dame nature with you wears such a rich warm dress; 'tis little wonder
your canvas, aye, and your own faces show such sun-warm tints."

"You should dwell with us, Signora; you feel the poetry of our land."

On parting from the Italian he tendered to Vaura for herself and Lady
Esmondet his box at the theatre, as being more favourably situated
than the only one Captain Trevalyon had been able to procure, and at
Vaura's invitation he dined at the villa Iberia, escorting them
afterwards to hear the wonderful voice of Patti.

On the morning of the 28th a telegram arrived from Lionel which read
as follows:


"To Lady Esmondet.
"Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy.

"Sir Vincent Trevalyon died at 11 p.m. the 27th inst. Shall write
to-day.

"LIONEL TREVALYON,
"The Langham, London, England.
"28th December, 1877."


"Poor Sir Vincent gone. And so generations pass. When death bowls out
one man another takes the bat; so now Captain is Sir Lionel
Trevalyon," said Lady Esmondet, as she read the telegram.

"Yes. None shall triumph for a whole life long, for death is one and
the Fates are three," said Vaura.

On the 30th came from Lionel two letters, extracts from which we shall
give.


"DEAR LADY ESMONDET,--

"Every moment of my time is occupied, but know you will be interested
in my doings, so drop you a line. My cousin with my lawyer and self
read the will. By it my uncle bequeaths to me $500,000 in gold. I was
surprised at his generosity. The whole of his fortune would be mine if
I and Judith could marry; that would not suit either of us as we are
totally unsuited to each other. Judith leaves by steamer The Queen for
New York on the 1st January. My poor uncle lived for three hours after
my arrival. He was in great pain, suffering from Bright's disease, but
brain clear; seemed to cling to me; he told me he wished I could
persuade Judith to marry me and try and make her more womanly and live
at my place in the north; but God forbid that our lives should be
linked together. What a contrast she is to Vaura. Should Judith ever
be guilty of giving up her freedom it will be to a man who admires the
divided skirt, etc., etc."


EXTRACTS FROM LIONEL'S TO VAURA.

"....Yes, darling, the words I have written, what are their worth in
telling you of my great love for you! You don't know how I hunger to
look again into your warm, expressive eyes, to hold you to my heart.
If you were only with me, my love, I should drink so freely of your
tender sympathy, that with it as a tonic to my weary waiting heart, I
could go forth into the midst of the news-mongers, into the nest of
wasps, and conquer and untangle the web of difficulty in a few short
days. But you, alas! are far away, and I have only a few minutes of
past bliss to feed on when I kissed your sweet lips, when you made
life a paradise by leaning your dear head on my breast. My love, my
love, I cannot be long without you. You must come to me whether I can
prove to society, with its shams, that Mrs. Grundy has lied in giving
me a hidden wife or no; you must come to be my own love, no matter who
says nay. My heart, my heart, you are mine; mine by right of the
subjection the fetters you have placed me in, and woven for me. Mine
by right, for you have taken my boasted strength from me. Mine, mine,
no matter what the world may say. My life, my love, write to me; I am
half delirious. I am in torture; full of jealous fears less you may
forget me. I regret once and again that I left you. Remember, darling,
I shall be always jealous, for I know the magnetic force of your
charms. I am mad, I know I am, when I think you are so far, such
'lengths of miles' from me. Ask Lady Esmondet to come on at once and
stay a day or two at her house here (it is well warmed--I have been to
see) in pity to the man you have slain, and who loves you past all you
can know; love, come. I am doing all I can, my own, to conquer the
difficulty; I have already been to the offices of our great daily, and
one editor apologized, saying the news of my 'hidden wife' was a
temptation to him in the 'silly season.' For heaven's sake, my heart's
darling, don't let anything you may hear against me turn your heart
from me. The very thought of such a triumph for Mrs. Grundy in her
_role_ of social astronomer, as she sits in her watch tower, telescope
in hand, turns my brain. My heart aches for a letter, for though my
written words seem to me cold; I shall devour yours, simply as coming
from your pen. Come to me quick, my love; I must have a letter and I
must have you. In a stationer's to-day I saw a photo of you in a case
with those of Mrs. Cornwallis West, Langtry and Wheeler, there were
just the four; you all sold, my darling, at five shillings each. The
stationer said, condescendingly, 'that you would all bring a higher
figure, but he merely wished to educate the masses to a high standard
of beauty. His monetary benefit was quite a minor consideration.' The
fellow's manner amused me; but you see, love, that the future Lady
Trevalyon in thus educating the masses reigns in the heart of mankind,
and not only in the heart of the man who only lives in her love...."


"I am more than glad, Vaura, _ma chere_, that Dame Fortune is
playing so smilingly into dear Lionel's hands," said Lady Esmondet,
as she read aloud the letter she had received from Trevalyon on the
morning of the 30th. Yes, more than glad, for the legacy of $500,000
and the title, will do more to close the gaping eyes of society, and
lips of Dame Rumour, than any red-tapeism in the form of libel
suits; or living proofs, from living truthful lips."

"True, god-mother dear, and 'tis well we are women of our day, or
the knowledge that a man may, if he will, live the life of a Mormon
in Utah, on the quiet; and if he present a wife well gilt with gold,
and a title, to society; society will fall prostrate; or this
knowledge might mystify us."

"Yes, we hive eaten of the tree of knowledge, Vaura dear; we know
society's deal and the cards she bids us play; no matter though we
don't like our hand."

"Poor Lionel does not relish the play just now, manly, brave, and
true as he is," said Vaura, pityingly.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

BRIC-A-BRAC.


The morrow dawned, fair and bright, and Vaura looked as bright and
fresh as a goddess of day, as she stepped, from the door of the villa,
robed in a gown of blue velvet, tight jacket of same, and a small
bonnet of a lighter shade, with long tan kid gloves; her cheek was
warm with the colour her quickened heart-beats gave, and the love-
light shone in her eyes, for she had again just re-read Lionel's
loving words, and knew her own would soon make his heart glad.

O'Gormon came up the walk as she descended the verandah steps.

"Good morning, Miss Vernon."

"_Bonjour_, Sir Dennis; sorry I am deserting the villa as you are
making your _entree_."

"Fortune favours me, in that you are not already gone. May I not be
your escort, and attend you?"

"Well, I scarcely know; I am not going to the Colonna gardens," she
answered gaily.

"No matter, I am only too willing to follow you blindly; whither thou
goest I go; thy will shall be my will; thy goal my goal."

"Then to the dusty shop of Pedro; to the rescue of some trifles in the
matter of bric-a-brac."

"But, am I not sufficient escort without yon trim female; give her a
holiday to go buy ribbons to 'tie up her bonny brown hair.'"

"You may take an hour's pleasure, Saunders; I do not require your
further attendance."

And now they bend their steps in the direction of the old town, and
turning into a short, narrow street, ascend the high stone steps of an
old house; so old one wondered it held together; in fact, many stones
had fallen from the front wall, giving it a hollow-eyed appearance.
The whole _quartier_ in which they now are, presents a dilapidated
front. But when they enter the old, mouldy apartment, lit up with so
much of the beautiful, they forgot the gloomy, damp street; the
uninviting exterior of the building; the weird old man in charge;
everything but the gems by which they are surrounded. Here were some
rare bits of Sevres and Dresden china, there some modern tile
painting, here some old Roman jugs, jars, and vases; there the sweet
face of a Madonna looks down, as if in pity, on a Greek dancing girl.
Here a goblet, fit for a kingly gift; there a zone to win the good
graces of some pretty little ballet dancer. Here were Romish missals
in rare old inlaid coverings, side by side with garters studded with
precious stones, destined for the leg of woman.

Vaura, an ardent admirer of the choice in bric-a-brac, was in her
element amid this confusion of beauty, while her companion preferred
the living charms of a lovely woman more than anything the world of
art could show; so, not a purchaser, he seated himself on a chair with
more carving than comfort to recommend it, and watching Vaura, fell
into a reverie: "She is the most priceless gem in the casket, and
though my governor left me as heritage the waste acres, and nothing
but an income of debts to keep up Castletruan, unless I marry money,
by my faith a fellow could live on love with Vaura Vernon, better than
on stalled ox without her."

Here he gave a start knocking down a porcelain vase at the weird voice
of Pedro from behind, saying:

"You don't examine my poor wares, mi lord.'

"The shattered remains of that vase are typical of the _denouement_ of
the idle dreams I was dreaming," he muttered, as the wily Italian,
full of regrets, picked up the fragments, naming double the value of
the vase, and thinking,

"He would not have spent a _soldi_, the Signora occupies all his
thoughts; so Pedro, you are in good fortune that the English lord was
startled at the sound of thy voice; the intention was good, Pedro, so
is the result."

Vaura now signified to the Italian her wish to purchase bric-a-brac to
the extent of a golden goblet, beautiful in design and of early Roman
handiwork. A group of statutory, representing Venus and Adonis, at
once piquant and charming, with an exquisite painting of the Dying
Gladiator pathetic in the extreme.

"He is a grand athlete," said Sir Dennis.

"Yes, and a land-mark of Home, in the by-gone. Ah! Sir Dennis, there
has been more martyr's blood shed in the immortal city than that of
the early Christians; when one thinks of the use the Coliseum was put
to, when one thinks of the Roman women with their warm beauty, of
their men beautiful as gods, who graced with their presence scenes
where men like that met a death of torture, one weeps for human nature
with its stains, its blots. Ah! well, even the flowers one loves best
are bespattered in the mire, and soiled by the skirts of mortals with
not too clean a record, and the pure snow-flake as it falls goes down
with smut from the chimney upon it, it is only the trail of the
serpent which is over all."

"The wells of pity in your eyes are deep and full enough to take in
more than the Dying Gladiator; he is dead; there are living men," said
the Irishman with the susceptibility of his race.

"Why, Sir Knight of Erin," said Vaura gaily, as she turned from the
painting, "you are not going to ask me to weep over all suffering
humanity, from the Pole, not North but Siberian; the Sultan, whose
siesta, is disturbed by the call to arms; to your own Pat with his
real or imaginary wrongs."

"To the shades of oblivion with Pat and the Pole,--they don't fill the
world."

"And in the meantime the shades of evening will be upon us if we don't
hasten. Pedro, you will send my purchases with the vases and model of
St. Peter's Lady Esmondet bought yesterday, to the Villa Iberia, and
be expeditious, as the servants are now packing our belongings for
England."

"Already packing!" said the Irishman, as they turned their steps
homeward, "that sounds like the first note of a fare-thee-well."

"A true and fairly-well made remark, oh, Son of Erin!"

"Your voice is glad as the bird-notes of my own Isle, which means
you'll smile as you say farewell."

And so in gay chit-chat Time seemed as naught until the villa was
reached. Sir Dennis lunching with them when as afterwards the ladies
having P.P.C.'s to make, he took a reluctant leave.

The following three days were spent in leave-takings to the beauties
abounding in and around the city; sometimes attended by Signer
Castenelli, sometimes by the warm-hearted Irishman, and again by
Priest Douglas; they walked again and lingered in the gardens of the
Colonna palace they loved; the dear warm earth which was kissed so
lovingly by the sun's rays as not to be cold to the bare brown feet of
the child-peasant; and sent up such bright flowers for the vase of the
King. Their glance rested often on the deep blue of the heavens above
them, as though to carry its majestic arch with them to lift the
leaden clouds from off the spires of London, which seemed as though
weighed down to earth, as the souls the bells in their tower called to
worship, were weighted with the clouds in the struggle of life.

And so Father Time, who to Vaura for once seemed to walk with stealthy
step, still with inevitable tread brought the world and humanity to
the fourth day of a new year.

On the third a letter had come from Col. Haughton to Lady Esmondet,
which ran thus:


"MY DEAR OLD FRIEND,--

"Your letters are so full of health that I don't think I'm selfish in
saying to let nothing tempt you and my hearts-light, Vaura, to stay
away any longer; when you come you will not blame me for wanting you
both; my married life has not been of very long duration, and yet, and
yet my new made wife ... but you will see if there is anything to see;
you are not a curious woman, Alice, God forbid; but you will know in
the social atmosphere which surrounds me, if I needlessly fear for the
honour of my name.

"The preparations for the ball are on a gorgeous scale and my _bete
noire_, Major Delrose, is up to the neck in, floral decorations. And
my lady's gown, mine and yours, too; did we say him yea; his nose is
broad enough to enter into everybody's business; and his back is broad
enough to bear anything I may write you.

"Be sure and be here on the morning of the sixth, so you can rest for
the night's frolic; and Vaura, whose health is too splendid to feel
much fatigue, can chat with me and look about her.

"I see by the _Daily News_ that Trevalyon has succeeded to the
baronetcy; he writes me he will be here for the ball; I feel just now
in the humour for a long talk with my old friend.

"I'm really grieved he should have got himself into such a mess as to
have married some years ago some female he has been hiding ever since.
It is common gossip here; some name her as a ballet dancer; some as
pretty daughter of his late father's lodge-keeper; some, as wife of a
friend; in whatever dress Dame Rumour presents her, she's a toothsome
bit for Mrs. Grundy. Whatever truth there's in it the wasps sting
Trevalyon all they can; but the butterflies smile and say: 'if he has,
he's handsome enough to take out a license for anything.' I have
regretted since hearing the news and seeing it in the papers, that he
was in daily intercourse with Vaura; but again, if he is bound as I
fear, I can trust to his honour not to endeavour to gain her
affections.

"Isabel Douglas was married on New Year's' day; we were invited;
Blanche and I went; the laughs at the Hall were the loudest, so Mrs.
Haughton remained. Isabel looked hopeful and happy, and an ideal
Scotch lassie as she is. I am writing in the recess at the end of the
library, and merry voices and gay laughter reach me here; but the
sounds come not from any of my personal friends; none are with me as
yet; we have Mrs. Meltonbury, the Fitz-Lowtons, two De Lancy girls,
Peter Tedril, Everly, and Major Delrose at Rose Cottage--means Major
Delrose at the Hall. So you see, Alice, a congenial spirit would be
congenial. Read above to Vaura; she is a woman of the world, and knows
its walks and ways. Come soon. And from

"Yours,
"ERIC HAUGHTON,
"Haughton Hall, Surrey, England.

"To both, love and kind thoughts,
"January 2nd, 1878."

"TO LADY ESMONDET,
"Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy."


The outcome of above letter was to cause Lady Esmondet and Vaura to
make immediate preparations to reach Haughton Hall.

"We should be there; the hand Madame holds is too full of tricks,"
said Lady Esmondet, energetically, as she finished reading the letter
aloud.

"We can go to-night by the midnight express," said Vaura, impulsively.

"I should like it, dear, but you are full of engagements for to-
morrow, and we are due at the Opera tonight."

"Trifles, all; as you are willing, we shall be on the wing to-night."

_Tres bien ma chere_; I shall give the orders, but there will be three
or four pairs of wistful eyes looking for your _entree_ at the opera,
to-night."

"Yes, until the curtain rises," said Vaura gaily.

On the afternoon of the same day (the third) Castenelli, with a couple
of friends, also O'Gormon, on calling at the villa, heard a rumour of
the departure from the servants (who were all astir, their ladies
being out driving), the Italian p'shawed and said to his friends:

"It is not so, the beautiful Signora told me she would be at the
Duchess of Wyesdale on the night of the fourth for a concert and ball;
they leave at sunrise on the fifth." And so was content that the
servants were mistaken. Not so O'Gormon, who hearing the same story,
and knowing their intention to attend the opera went thither, and not
seeing them was for leaving, but the Wyesdale signaled him to her
side, and so off duty only at the close; saw her party to the
carriage, and throwing his toga over his evening dress, hurried to the
depot. And none too soon, Lady Esmondet was already in the coach and
Vaura about to follow, when the tall figure of the Irishman came up
hurriedly.

"Surely you are not going to leave us, Miss Vernon, and so hush our
heart-beats as we listen in vain for your footfall."

"I am, and my heart is a trifle sad, as I say so."

"And has a great gladness, or you would not make us sad by going."

"Well, yes, Sir Dennis, glad and sorry; I go home! You are Irish and
will know the feeling; one loves with one's whole heart, and one's
life, one's home and friends; one loves with passion; and for a year,
or a day, fair warm Italia, where one has met loving words and kind
hearts, and yours is one Sir Knight of Erin," she added with feeling,
as she returned his tight hand clasp.

"The last whistle, by my faith, I wish it were for me too."

And the guard locked the door and in a few minutes, miles separated
these two who had so lately spoken, Sir Dennis still staring at space,
while a new pain came to his heart.



CHAPTER XXXV.

HEART TO HEART.


We shall not accompany our friends on their home-bound journey. Time
will fly with greater speed if we relate not the talks and incidents
by the way, but simply meet them at London, whither Lady Esmondet had
telegraphed Trevalyon of their arrival. Accordingly, on their coming
in at the station at 9 p.m., on the evening of the 5th, Lionel, all
eagerness, met them.

"So kind of you to meet us, Sir Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, for
Madame Grandy was about.

"Only a pleasure, dear Lady Esmondet. Someone told me you and Miss
Vernon were due," and turning to his servant, "Here, Sims, are the
checks; get the luggage stowed safely away until to-morrow morning,
and send the maids on to Park Lane."

"Yes, sir; all right, sir."

"You look tired, poor fellow," said Vaura, sympathetically, as they
were driven to Park Lane.

"Tired, yes, waiting for you. God only knows how I have missed you,
darling."

"How about the nun you spoke of in your letter, Lionel?" inquired Lady
Esmondet, "will she aid you? What a long story you have to tell us."

"Yes, and one until lately I had will nigh forgotten, for in spite of
Dame Rumour's falseness I have not been the principal actor in it. For
to-night only does she triumph, ere, to-morrow's sun has set I hope to
be at or very near Haughton Hall with those who will lift the veil
from the past, and put in Dame Rumour's hands another version of the
scandal."

"We shall have a long evening together, Lionel; you can stay with us,
I suppose."

"Only until I see you comfortably settled, dear Lady Esmondet, in
still untangling the web of 'difficulty,'" and Vaura's hand is
pressed. "I have a twelve-mile drive in a suburban train to the
monastery of St. Sebastian."

"Nuns and monks, the _denouement_ will be interesting," said Vaura.

"Will they win, that's the question; the other hand is full of knaves
and tricks," said Lady Esmondet.

"They shall," answered Lionel, earnestly, and holding Vaura's hand, "I
hold a hand that gives me strength to win."

Park Lane is now reached, the servants are in the hall to welcome
their mistress, when the house-keeper says:

"If it will suit your ladyship, dinner will be served in twenty
minutes or half an hour."

"Say half an hour, Grimes."

"Surely you can stay and dine with us, Lionel?" said his friend.

"You know, dear Lady Alice, how much I would wish it, but I must be
off in less than half an hour."

Whereupon remembering the "Golden Rule," saying she would go and talk
with the housekeeper, and so again these two who feel such
completeness in each other, such fulness of satisfaction, such an
ecstasy of love, are alone in the sweetest of solitude, dual solitude,
and in silence, save for the deep full heart-beats.

"Let me take off your jacket, my own darling."

"I can, dear Lionel; you look too tired to do anything but rest."

But he does as he wills, the jacket of seal, and bonnet of velvet are
off, the long tan gloves laid aside, the fluffy hair is caressed, a
strong arm is about her, the perfect shaped head is again on his
chest, and the sweet mouth and warm eyes are kissed rapturously.

"Rest; yes, love, I want rest, and can only rest so, with you in my
arms; away from you I am nervous and agitated, afraid lest some one
take you from me; my life, my love, oh! darling, darling, you don't
know how dependent I am on you; on your love, your sympathy; you have
not told me and I long to hear you say so; tell me if you love me,
darling."

"Love you!" and she started to a sitting posture, "bend your face
towards me, dearest, that you may read the truth in my eyes."

And now with a soft hand on each cheek, she continues.

"Love, you dearest, does the sun-flower love its god? Does the mother
her first born? Then, do I love thee, my heart's dearest, with an
unchanging tender love, and with all the intensity of my woman self."

For answer, she is drawn to a close embrace, and there are ecstatic
moments with only throbbing eyes to the rhythm of heart-beats.

At last Vaura breaks the silence, by saying softly:

"'Tis time for you to leave me, Lionel, and yet I cannot spare you."

"I cannot go, my own, mine, mine; oh! darling, you do not know the
joy, the paradise I feel as I hold you in my arms, and think that you,
my beauty, you, whom men rave of, you actually love me; God be
thanked," and the love-warm kisses come to the sweet flexible lips.

At this moment, Lady Esmondet considerately talking to Mars at the
door, gave the lovers time to get a conventional number of inches
between them, ere she entered.

"I fear it is time you were off, Lionel; it is really too bad you
cannot dine with us."

Lionel standing up, and laying one hand on Vaura's head, as it rested
on the cushioned back of the sofa, said:

"I feel as if I had drank of the elixir of life; you don't know how
courageous I feel, now that I have you both back, when the difficulty
is removed, I shall begin to live!"

"How the women will envy me!" she said, looking up lovingly at the
handsome face full of grave earnestness, the tired look gone from the
mesmeric eyes.

"You will both be wondrously happy, each a gainer in the other," said
their friend earnestly.

"Do you think you will be able to go down with us, Lionel dear?"

"No, darling, I am sure not; I cannot say what train I shall take
until I reach the monastery; there we decide."

"The plot thickens, a monk makes his _entree_," said Vaura gaily.

"Yes, and I shall not tell either of you more of the play, the act
will be more interesting, only this, tell Col. Haughton that after
dinner, on to-morrow evening three unbidden guests will appear with
myself, and that we shall carry a more highly spiced dish than any
they have partaken of; further, that it is my wish that the Hall
guests hear of the ingredients, so that they can tell the recipe
to the London world. Good-bye, till to-morrow night, dear friend;
good-bye, darling."

"Good-night, Lion, we shall be on the look-out for you; so don't tire
our eyes."

"I shall feel your eyes, love, and shall hasten."

"Be sure, Lionel, that you come with winning cards."

"I shall, dear Lady Esmondet; _au revoir_."

"How greedily the gossips will partake of the dish in preparation for
them! What an exciting scene we shall have!" said Vaura, as dinner
over and servants dismissed, the friends chatted over a cup of coffee
before retiring.

"Yes, indeed, dear; oh! if Lionel could only find this Mrs. Clarmont,
with whom they said he eloped, and that she would reveal the facts,
what a triumph!"

"But, if in reality; this Major Delrose was her favoured lover, he may
yet have influence enough over her to stay her tongue," said Vaura,
thoughtfully.

My own fear, dear, especially as I believe there was a child."

"And you say that in the bygone he was an admirer of my uncle's wife?"

"So Dame Rumour hath it."

"So, so, we all aim at something; the Delrose ambition was to pose as
king o' hearts. Strange freak of fortune, that this all comes into the
Haughton life; we must now only hope that the clouds in our sky will
soon disperse. But, god-mother darling, we had best follow the advice
of the liege lord of the wilful Katherine, and 'to bed.'"



CHAPTER XXXVI.

KNAVES ARE TRUMPS.


Vaura spent the night of the fifth in dreamy wakefulness; Lionel's
looks, caresses, and loving words seeming hers still; and to-morrow
eve; the glad joy of his presence would be again felt; and her
sympathy and love for him were so tender and heartfelt, that she lost
herself in an intoxicating sense of languor, sweet beyond expression,
and which she could scarcely rouse herself from, when her maid, on the
morrow bid her arise.

Both her god-mother and self, being a good deal excited over the
coming events, on meeting at breakfast, spoke either in disjointed
sentences, or were buried in thought.

"In all your conjectures, ma chere, you have never made one as to your
ball dress; if you will like it, and if it is due."

"It is useless, god-mother dear; I always adore Worth, and he is
always on time."

"Dear me," said Lady Esmondet an hour later, as they, in travelling
gear, awaited the carnage to take them to the Southern station, "how
time drags, I wish we were off."

"In our eagerness, we have dressed too soon, god-mother; but still,
waiting is insufferable. Poor uncle! I wonder what people are at the
Hall? what a scene is on the _tapis_! and what a bore the _expose_ of
truth is and will be to poor Lion! But, thank heaven, here is the
carriage."

At the station they meet Mr. Clayton, who has run up to town on
business. He will be with them to the next station, when he takes a
branch line to the Lord Elton's, where his wife is; later in the day
they run down to Haughton Hall for the ball.

"You will see no end of changes at the old place, Miss Vernon; I would
give something to see your face as you make your _entree_. I should,
in that case, see as many changes as yourself. At the revels each
evening, variety holds full sway."

"_Tres bien_," she answered carelessly (for she will not lay her heart
bare), "some have it that 'variety is the spice of life;' if so, as
you and I care nought for a mere existence, we must swallow the spice
and smile on the caterer."

"Exactly, as the guests do. By the way some one told me Trevalyon was
a good deal with you while abroad, but you may not yet have heard that
there has been no end of talk about him; the papers have him; in both
_Truth_ and the _Daily News_ I read of the scandal myself, and am
shocked beyond expression, that a married man should have been running
loose all these years; and to my thinking, it makes matters worse that
she was the wife of a friend; it was a traitorous act: did he confide
in you while abroad? did he tell you of his base act?"

"Yes, and 'tis all false as the face of society, and hollow of truth
as many of her gems; but the false face will soon be torn off, and the
ring of the true diamond will be heard," she said, with impulsive
fervor.

"Indeed! you surprise me, Miss Vernon; but I shall be really glad if
Trevalyon comes out a free man and can prove himself so to the
suspicious eye of society."

"Conveniently blind, Mr. Clayton, when she chooses."

"Distended and greedy in Trevalyon's case; he has been too independent
of her," he said thoughtfully; "but here is my halting place, sorry to
leave you both, but only till to-night."

It was the lightning express, and there was no other stopping place
until they reach the village of Haughton, Here they stayed just long
enough to allow the Hall people to make a speedy exit. On our friends
alighting they were a little surprised to see Blanche Tompkins
followed by Sir Tilton Everly (who, on seeing them, looked not unlike
a whipped cur), emerge from a second class coach.

"Some of the spice of variety we were to look for," said Vaura, in an
undertone.

"_Oui, ma chere_, and I am sure we are both prepared not to be
astonished at the seasoning, no matter what shape it may take."

Blanche was gaily dressed in a seal brown silk suit, trimmed with
ermine, a large brown beaver flat with ostrich feathers; the wee white
mouse face almost hidden, the sharp little pink eyes--for pink they
looked--the rims red as usual, and a cold in the head giving them a
swollen appearance. She had not forgotten her golden loves, for, from
ears, throat, and wrists, dangled many yellow dollars. With a
whispered, "Don't let the cat out of the bag till I bid you, or you're
not worth a cent," she stepped over to Lady Esmondet and Vaura,
saying: "I'm sure you're too awfully surprised for anything to see
me."

"Not at all, Miss Tompkins,"' said Lady Esmondet. Here Sir Tilton came
up, lifted his bat, while both ladies shook hands with him.

"You have a truant look about you, Sir Tilton," laughed Vaura; "do you
foresee a fair woman's frown for your absence?"

"Don't chaff me, dear Miss Vernon; I can't stand it just now."

"Fact is," said Blanche, with cunning effrontery, "I wanted some gay
fixings for the ball, so I took the rail to London, got 'em, stayed
all night with the Claytons, and am bringing back to Mrs. Haughton her
dear little Sir Tilton."

"Why, we met Mr. Clayton, and he says they are staying at Oak Hall at
the Lord Eltons," exclaimed Vaura amusedly, and to see how Blanche
would extricate herself.

"See you know too much; but don't say anything, for here is the trap,
with the Colonel inside, I suppose, and he's too awfully too, I'll
tell you later on; Mrs. Haughton don't do all the tricks."

"But should you have been missed, what then?"

"Oh, that's too easy, Miss Vernon; I've been too awfully busy with my
maid; headache, anything that comes first."

"A pupil of Madame would naturally learn how to shuffle the cards,"
said Lady Esmondet, a trifle cynically, and, _sotto voce_, "I am too
awfully sleepy to take you in, Lady Esmondet," said Blanche, yawning.

A covered carriage with two servants, drives to the steps; the Colonel
is not inside; leaving one man to look after their maids and
belongings, they enter, and are soon on the well known road.

"I wonder my uncle did not meet us; especially as he must have
received our telegram."

"Surely he is not ill! How was he when you left the Hall, Miss
Tompkins?" inquired Lady Esmondet.

"A one, and it's too awfully funny he wasn't down. But I remember,
whenever he and Mrs. Haughton have a spat, and they had one (this time
hare and hounds), he clears out and takes to the lodge, so perhaps he
never spotted your telegram."

Lady Esmondet and Vaura, exchanging glances, fell into deep thought,
while Blanche and the small Baronet carried on a half-whispered
conversation, with a yawning accompaniment from the young woman.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

WEE WHITE MOUSE WINS A POINT.


But the reverie and wagging of tongue is over and ceases, to give
place to society's mask, for the picturesque lodge with its gabled
roof and climbing vines is in sight, and in the twinkling of an eye
the great gates are reached, which are wide open, for 'tis the
entrance to Liberty Hall under the present _regime_. Leaning against
the door post is a tall military looking figure, smoking vigorously,
as men will, if life's springs want oiling. Both ladies see him, and
Vaura's face is at the window.

"Halt, John," shouts his master, for the man is a new servant, and
driving full speed for the Hall. "My two darlings, how glad I am to
see you both," and kisses with long hand-clasps are exchanged.

"And we are more than glad to see you again, dearest uncle."

"Blanche, you here! and Sir Tilton; it was kind of you to meet them."

"Yes, we tripped down, as you had cut and run," tittered Blanche.

Here the Colonel took Sir Tilton's offered seat, who, getting out,
said he would prefer to walk up the long avenue.

"You must both make your home with me, dears, else it will not be
home," said the Colonel feverishly, as he leaned forward, taking a
hand of each, and gazing eagerly first into one face, and then into
the other.

"We shall, for a while at least, Eric," said Lady Esmondet tenderly.

"And what do you say, Vaura dear; you will not leave me and Haughton
Hall again?"

This he said with nervous haste, as though even in the rest her return
gave him, he must have a surety of it's continuing.

"I shall not even think of leave-taking, dear uncle, but if I should,
I shall pack you up and take you with me," she said pityingly,
noticing how he leaned on her, and also the reckless tone in which he
spoke before Blanche; turning to Miss Tompkins, he continued in same
tone:

"Who ran down the hare last night?"

Here was a puzzler for _la petite_, but she was equal to the occasion,
even though she was at London.

"No conundrum, Colonel, with the Major as hare."

"Gad, I must get rid of him; they all see it."

"And they all do it, Colonel," tittered Blanche; "keep cool; the Major
keeps cool--to you;" this she said, liking the Colonel, but thinking
him, to use her own expression, "soft."

"You see, Alice," he said, turning to his old friend with a
half-smile, "the only rose in my path has a D before it."

"A rose without beauty or fragrance, Eric, which will cease to bloom
by to-morrow; waste not a thought upon it."

"You give me strength, Alice."

"I should, else friendship's cords would be weak indeed."

"It is very strange that Mrs. Haughton should keep the man about her,
if she is aware it is an annoyance to you," said Vaura indignantly.

"Ah! but they were too sweet for anything, even in poppa's life time,"
said Blanche with her innocent air. Mrs. Haughton would think it too
awfully cruel (just to please the Colonel) to tell him good-bye."

"Heartless in me to suppose for one moment, one's husband's feelings
to be of more consideration than those of one's male-friend," said
Vaura cynically.

"See, Vaura, the changes," said her god-mother, as the end of the
avenue reached the Hall, renovated and partly modernised, burst upon
their view.

"Verily, old things have passed away, and all become new," said Vaura.

"Excepting the south wing, dear, which is of sufficiently modern date
to have contented Mrs. Haughton; also the north tower which I begged
off, only allowing it to be strengthened below."

"Dear old tower; yes, 'tis old, and in its clinging dress of ivy; I am
glad; but in the language of Sir Tilton, 'here we are again.'"

As the carriage rolled up to the steps of the grand entrance a few
ladies and gentlemen, equipped for riding, were on the steps or
already mounted. Mrs. Forester, a gay London huntress, Mrs. Cecil
Layton, of the same feather, two De Lancy girls, who wished they were
the other two, a couple of army men, with one of the matches of the
county, whom both sisters were willing to worship, but were too shy to
adore, with eyes too prudish to bend the knee.

"The beautiful Miss Vernon! by Wolsley," exclaimed Chancer of the
Guards in an undertone to Everett of the Lancers. "Wish I wasn't
promised to the huntress for the afternoon."

"Wish she heard you," laughed Everett.

"Which one?" said his friend gaily, as with one bound he is at Vaura's
side, not missing his opportunity which he had sworn to take, should
it offer, of an introduction; he now stood bareheaded as he tendered
the muff she had dropped; his handsome face aglow with satisfaction,
as he took Vaura's offered hand as she thanked him, on her uncle
presenting him. There was rather more loitering by Vaura's side than
the Forester liked, so she, by a sly manoeuvre, caused her horse to
rear violently; it had the desired effect, and in a few moments they
were careering across the park in the wake of the rest of the party.

"The dear old place! though it is changed I love it, and am glad to be
here once more," said Vaura, feelingly, inwardly telling herself, "my
love will be here to-night."

"Where is your mistress, William?" inquired his master of a servant in
the brown and buff livery of the house.

"In the ball-room, sir."

"Tell her some guests have arrived, and await her in the morning-
room; and here, present these cards."

"Always an ideal room of mine if unchanged," said Vaura, entering the
well known apartment.

"No, Aurora, still welcome one to her blue and gold bower, with the
perfume of flowers about."

"Mrs. Haughton wished it altered; but as the New York renovator or
decorator condescended to say: 'if done over, it would be really quite
pretty,' she yielded to my wish; I knew, dear, your love for at as it
is."

Here the servant returned from Madame, saying: "Mrs. Haughton sends
her compliments, and will her ladyship and Mademoiselle excuse her, as
she is giving the painter a last sitting for the picture which is to
be framed and hung for to-night; and will be happy to welcome their
ladyships in the ball-room if not too tired."

"That will do, William, you may go," said his master. "And now that we
are alone, let me tell you, you will do anything but admire this
painting."

"Is it not true?" asked Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, in every detail; it's not that--you will see."

"What will you do, god-mother mine? Rest here awhile, go to the
dining-room and refresh the inner-woman? See, Madame, I protest
against; you are too fatigued."

"I am, dear, and prefer to go to my room. Somers may bring me
something on a tray. Eric, kindly ring the bell."

William answered, coming in with Somers, to whom he had given the
housekeeper's message to show Lady Esmondet "the green room."

The Colonel's brow darkened.

"Are you sure you have Mrs. Haughton's own orders correctly, William?"

"Yes, sir; my mistress gave them to Simpson in my hearing; and Miss
Vernon, please sir, is to have the pink room,--first room, sir."

"There must be some mistake about the green room; it is dark, cold and
gloomy; in the east wing, too."

"Never mind, Eric, I shall survive it, with a bright fire, and at
Haughton."

"The pink room is cheerful, large, and with a boudoir," he said,
troubled.

"William, show Somers the pink room, that she may conduct her mistress
hither; I shall take the green room," said Vaura, decisively, "which I
feel sure was the wish of our hostess."

"Go, Somers, and do your bidding," said her mistress; "thank you,
Vaura dear, you are always thoughtful for me; and should the green
room be gloomy, come and share mine."

"What a restful pair of women you are," said the Colonel, earnestly.
"I feel as if I had taken a narcotic, my nerves have become so quiet;
they have been going at race-horse speed. Ah!, how much I have needed
you!"

"In meeting, one feels what one has lost by parting," said Lady
Esmondet, gently.

"True, Alice, I am at one with you, and feel your words to the last
degree of bitterness."

"Come, come," said Vaura, brightly, "see the sunlight streaming in
upon the sky-like walls; so our lives will be happy now in union once
more."

"You are a sunbeam, Vaura; and here comes Somers to lead me to the
room of pink."

"Which I hope will prove the pink of perfection, god-mother mine; and
now, uncle, to see Madame, on and off the canvas, ere I retire to my
vernal apartment."

On the way to the ball-room the corridors were almost deserted, the
fair sex either closeted with their maids discussing the war-paint for
the midnight revels, or wooing the god of slumber with a narcotic; the
men flirting with their unwearied sisters anywhere, or killing time
with the balls in the billiard-room.

But the ball-room is reached; over the velvet hangings which drape the
entrance, and which are of scarlet, on which are painted blue grapes
with their green vine leaves; for contrast, the yellow sun-flower,
with heavy, many-coloured fringe;--as a heading to the drape are the
words in letters of gold formed by leaves of the vine: "Dedicated to
Comus and Kate." It was a fitting room for revelry, with its gaily
painted walls and ceiling, now with its ropes of natural blossoms
festooning windows and chaining gasalier to gasalier. The door of the
long conservatories were open, and so the air was redolent of
sweetness almost intoxicating.

Vaura's face showed no surprise at the scene which met her gaze. On
the dais at the end of the room were grouped Mrs. Haughton, who
reclined in the corner of a lounge, her well-shaped feet resting on a
footstool; she wore the divided skirt, with loose tunic waist; it was
of blue Lyons velvet, richly braided with scarlet silk braid, low
shoes of blue velvet with scarlet silk stockings; her black hair in
rings on her forehead, meeting brows of gipsy darkness, her white
teeth showing as she laughingly drew the cigarette from her mouth on
the approach of her husband and his niece.

"It shall be hung for to-night, Mr. ----," she said imperiously, if
jokingly, in reply to the artist's protest that his work 'would not be
dry;' "if," she continued, "it has to be baked dry in the cook's oven,
or by the fire in the men's words engendered by their champagne
lunch!"

There was a general laugh.

"The dear thing must have her way," lisped the Meltonbury, from the
floor where she sat, cross-legged, also in divided skirt.

"My work will be spoiled, then," said the artist, ruefully.

"Then dry it by the flame in the Colonel's eyes as he nears and takes
in my trousers, and hang it so he gets a double show," exclaimed
Madame, recklessly.

"Or the heat from the orbs of Everly as he gazes on the approaching
belle would do the business," echoed Delrose.

"Heat, indeed!" cried madame, "and, Miss Vernon, he's emerald green
jealous of you! never mind, dear little Sir Tilton, I'll pet you by-
and-by; here, come and lift, down one of my feet, the Major or Sir
Peter may have the other; and now adieu to the gay _abandon_ and for
the conventionalities, if I can."

"Honours are divided," cried Delrose, lifting down one foot.

"So is the skirt," said the Colonel, with grave dignity. "Kate, I wish
you would dress in a manner befitting your station."

"Your niece will tell you, Colonel," she said, rising to welcome Vaura
"that men's eyes are women's mirrors; what I see there pleases me; you
are in the minority and feel considerably sat upon, and not--" she
added, laughingly, "so comfortable in your trousers as I in mine; take
it coolly Colonel, and the flame in your eyes will die out, 'tis as
the flicker of an old-fashioned candle; the electric, light the newest
flame for me."

"Pardon, Kate, I accept the trousers; being only your husband and in
the minority (as you say), I am old-fashioned; the latest flame puts
me out."

And the latent meaning in his words was read by more than the speaker.

"You don't say how you like the painting, Miss Vernon," said Delrose,
on being presented, "the divided skirt would suit your style
immensely."

"Anything would," said Sir Tilton, almost savagely, and in a half
growl.

"'Tis merely the accident of birth, Major Delrose," she said,
carelessly; "had I been cradled in the land of the Sultan--the land of
trousers--they would fit into my life as my gown by Worth does _a
present_."

And she was so more than lovely as she spoke, and her frock of navy
blue velvet trimmed with fox fur, small bonnet blending in hue with
her gown, with scarlet geraniums and strings, all becoming to her
sweet womanliness, her perfect figure, lithe as a young fawn and
rounded as a Venus, held the men's gaze, while the women bit their
lips with envy. For we repeat that envy is the motive power that moves
and sways their little world, and though they will band themselves
together to pull the pedestal from under the feet of a more favoured
sister, there would be mutiny in the band did one display a charm.

But Vaura, ever connected in the mind of Mrs. Haughton with Trevalyon,
and the wish never dying in her breast to have him at her feet, hence
her question, which she would much prefer not to have asked in the
presence of Delrose, but, accustomed to obey impulse, she said:

"And Captain Trevalyon, Miss Vernon, what of him? Will he come for the
ball, or has he gone to visit his hidden wife of _Truth_ and the
_News_; sly fellow that he is?"

Her tone was too eager to please Delrose. "Confound the fellow, I must
lose no time," he thought, savagely, as Vaura replied, laconically:

"Sir Lionel Trevalyon will be here for the ball."

"Trevalyon to be here to-night! You never told me, Vaura."

"I have not had an opportunity, dear uncle," she said, taking his arm,
with a "We shall meet again at dinner" to madame; as they left the
room she continued: "He bid me tell you, dear, that he comes after
dinner with three unbidden guests, and that he wishes that the Hall
guests may learn from their words of the ingredients of a dish of
scandal, so that they will tell it to the London world!"

"It is of his hidden wife, I presume. Yes, of her ingredients he can
now tell; she _is his wife_. Of the woman previous to the altar knot
man knows naught. _She is masked!"_

"Society is a fencing school, dear uncle; we all have our masks and
foils."

"Not all, Vaura; we all pay society's tolls, for we live to enter the
arena, but we are not all masked."

"You will be glad to see your old friend again, uncle?" she said
questioningly, anxious to know how the man she loved would be
welcomed.

"Yes and no, dear; his hand-clasp will strengthen, me but not you.
Trevalyon's hand enclosing woman's is weakening to them, and he has
been much with you; were it not for this scandal--."

"Which by mid-night," she said quickly, "the nightbirds will have, by
the flutter of their wings, blown into the right current, and from
poor Lionel."

"So, so, Vaura, you speak warmly; it is as I feared; he has made you
care for him."

"He has."

"I am sorry for you, Vaura, and glad for him; peerless, as you, are, a
man should woo you with spotless breastplate; but I love Trevalyon,
and if he can in any way clear himself, but I fear he cannot," he said
gravely.

"'All's well that ends well,' dear uncle; he _will_ clear himself."

"After dinner, you say?"

"Yes, but no preparations; he wishes to come in with the three
unbidden guests unnoticed."

"Yes, but if he or they, I suppose, are to come with 'mouth full of
news,' to tell publicly, I think he is wrong not to let it be known,
otherwise they (some of them) may not appear until the ball opens."

"Let it be as he wishes, dear uncle; they are epicurean enough not to
fail your good board, even though ignorant of the highly seasoned
desert. But some one sneezed! we have a listener! yes," she continued
breathlessly, "my hearing is very acute, and see! something between a
man and woman, gliding softly down the dim corridor."

"Yes, we had better separate; go and rest, dear; we have, I fear, been
talking to the Hall through some one else, and I feel somewhat excited
over your news and shall smoke it off."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

MADAME IN A FELINE MOOD.


A window in the library looked out upon the avenue, and a carriage
approaching could be distinctly seen. Vaura, in the long ago, had
frequently sat in this window, to watch the return of her uncle; aye,
and of the man whom she now loved better than life itself. She was
sure she could distinguish a conveyance from the village, and the
occupants devoid of the gay trappings of revelry, from the guests in
their comfortable carriages. Accordingly, as Madame had changed (for
to-night), the dinner hour to half-past nine, at nine o'clock, Vaura,
a soft beam of loveliness, with light foot-fall, entered the library
and took her station at the watch-tower above mentioned. She was
scarcely seated ere she was aware she was not the only occupant of
what she had felt sure would be a deserted room; she would have risen,
but her heart was there, and the words she heard chained her to the
spot; the voices were those of Mrs. Haughton and of Major Delrose.

"I will have my way, Kate!"

"You will, I know; but can't you wait?"

"What for? For you to have Trevalyon fooling round you. Gad, if he
comes near you, I'll shoot him."

"I am sorry I told you Melty followed them and heard."

"I'm not, for there's a devilish mystery about his coming; I wish
she'd heard more."

"But she didn't, dear George; and that he comes at all does not look
well for our plot, eh? She may yet get him, not I; and so you will
remember, sweet Georgie; if so you don't win the game."

"Kate, you madden me."

"You do seem a little that way; there, go away, you are crushing my
flowers. Heaven knows you ought to be satisfied, I have given you
enough."

"I shall have you _all to myself_."

This he said with such fierce emphasis as to cause Vaura to tremble;
not so Madame, for she loved this man for his boldness only (a tamer
nature would have palled upon her long ere this), but the feline
nature in her triumphed at times, and she tortured him.

"But, dear boy," she continued, "you have not carried out your
bargain, and so no reward."

"I know I promised to separate them, and so I have, and shall; you
don't see all my hand, my queen, there'll be the devil to pay when I
do. I got a letter from New York this summer I shall yet turn to our
advantage, even if I do stretch a point."

"Why did you not show this letter you speak of to me? Take your head
away, you don't care a fig that my flowers will wear a dissipated
recumbence; remember the dinner and ball."

"Hang the flowers, the dinner and everything; I want you."

"But suppose I like queening it among the English nobility a trifle
longer. You see Trevalyon is--"

"You rouse the devil in me, Kate; look you, I won't and can't stand
this any longer; name that man again to me in that fooling way and by
the stars I'll shoot him. You _belong to me_ as much as our--. But you
know you do. Heaven is my witness, Kate, if you don't end this humbug
I will, and in my own way."

"I sometimes think it would have been better had we never met; you are
so fierce and jealous."

"No you don't, for our love is the same, our natures the same. The
burning lava of my love suits you better than the, ah, dear me,
gentlemanly affection of the Colonel, or than Lincoln Tompkins'
innocent pride in you."

"How about the other men?" she said, teasingly.

"Leave them to me, I'll handle them should they cross my path. _You
shall_ come with me to-night, my plans are laid; you will never regret
it. You would soon tire of the child's play here, no excitement; after
the ball I away from Rose Cottage. Our life at New York and elsewhere
will be one long draught of champagne. You must come with me to-night,
or look you--" and he hissed the words between his teeth, "I'll make
you."

"My flowers again,--and the dinner bell; I'll tell you yea--perhaps,
by-and-by."

Vaura, with her hand on her heart to still its violent throbbing,
lingered until sure of their retreat. She now emerged from the recess
in which she had been completely hidden. The others having entered
from the end door had seated themselves in the first recess, there
being only the double row of book shelves between them. The whole
length of the room was in this way, shelves jutting out from either
side, and a dim, very dim light pervading.

"Oh, what shall I do? How can I appear with their voices in my ears,
their words stamped upon my memory," she murmured, "and yet I must,
for my poor darling comes after. I must try to forget their words or
my brain will be too full. What a scandal for our house. But to the
conventionalities," and with rapid steps she reached her apartments.
"Quick, Saunders, a wine glass of Cognac, I am not well. There, that
will do; how do I look?"

"Like a picture, Mademoiselle."



CHAPTER XXXIX

TREVALYON THROWS DOWN THE GLOVE.


The dinner on this Twelfth-night, fraught as it was with so much of
the effervescence of the champagne of life to so many, was a dinner
fit for an emperor. The gold plate, the glassware, each piece a gem.
Sweet flowers looked up from their delicate design in moss beside each
person, or from elegant vases. The hostess was recklessly gay and
_abandon_, looking like a scarlet poppy with dew upon it, robed as she
was in satin of scarlet, the whole front of the dress and corsage
being embroidered in poppies from pink to scarlet, their leaves of
pearls; her necklet, armlets, and earrings were diamonds, rubies
and pearls. A handsome woman, without doubt, loving life and its
_bon-bons_.

"We only make the run once," she would cry, "let us take it
effervescing."

Vaura is peerlessly beautiful and brilliant as her diamonds, her large
hazel eyes bright as stars, her lips a rose, throat, neck and arms
gleam in their whiteness as does the satin of her gown. Ah! Lionel,
much as we love you, we are happy in the thought that Vaura is your
rest. Colonel Haughton notices that his niece often glances at him,
and that beneath her gay repartee or brilliant converse, there
underlies some powerful excitement which he attributes wholly to the
_expose_ of the truth by Lionel.

"And so you enjoyed Rome," said Capt. Chancer to Vaura, who had been
assigned to him, so causing him to be the envy of the other men.

"Intensely! dear sun-warm, love-warm Italia."

"Yes, one loves to live and lives to love while there. I hope you did
not leave your heart behind you, Miss Vernon."

"Nay, you should congratulate me had I done so, and by your own words
of 'one lives to love while there.'"

"Yes, and on my warm heart; for, though old Sol laughs in gay Paris,
his temple is in warm Italia," she said, gaily.

"Your eyes tell whether your heart's warmth depends upon the zone you
dwell in."

"Are you wise in trusting in truth from woman's eyes?" she said
softly, and looking into his face.

"In some cases, yes; they are _en verite_ the language of the soul."
And his gaze plainly shows his admiration. "You sing, I am told?"

"A little; it could not be otherwise if one has lived so much in the
south as I; the voice of song seems the natural language for one's
varying emotions."

"You will sing me one song to-night?"

"Yes, if you care; instead of a waltz."

"I want both."

"And you look like a man who has his way most days."

"In trifles, yes; in things longed for, never!'"

"Well, if so; as the song and waltz are trifles to make your assertion
true, you must have them."

"I am in paradise, and shall try to forget that did you consider them
things of moment, you would never have granted them," he said,
earnestly laying down knife and fork as he turned to gaze wistfully
into the face of the fair woman near him at last.

"You have the nattering tongue and eyes of your sex, Capt. Chancer,
and you and the other men are to blame if I have promised more than I
can perform; for I have been unable to say nay to your pleadings,
being in a passive mood to-night."

And the eyelids with their wealth of curled lashes were uplifted, as
she smilingly looked into his face, for her thoughts were of Lionel;
his, of her.

"Of all women's moods, I love her best in the dreamy languor of
passiveness."

"To mould us as wax in your hands, to love us till you tire, as we do
a bird or a flower, and then sigh for another mood; you see I know you
in all your moods and tenses," she said softly.

"You know us till we meet you," he said earnestly, as a servant
refilled his champagne glass.

"Tis Greek meeting Greek" she said gaily, though her heart throbbed
wildly, for she alone heard a slight bustle in the hall and the voice
of the man she loved.

"No, fairest of women, 'tis the war of love!"

"A pleasant strife with its heart-stir; its weapons, the emotions."

"No wonder, that were we a very Achilles, you rob us of our strength."

Here Trevalyon's servant entering, handed his master's card to
Delrose; on the back of which he read: "Are you prepared to own up as
to the part you played in the Clarmont escapade? if not, I shall clear
myself."

"Tell your master I am neither a babe nor suckling," he answered
defiantly, his brow black with hate and rage as he tore the card to
pieces, throwing it towards the man.

There being a sort of free-masonry between Madame and Delrose, the
movements of each being rarely unobserved by the other, she was about
to play into his hands by signalling her sisterhood to rise from the
table, when Sir Lionel Trevalyon was announced, who, hastily coming to
her side, taking her hand in salutation, said:

"You will kindly give me a few moments, Mrs. Haughton; oblige me,
please, by keeping your seat."

Madame was recklessly abandon, and Sir Lionel had asked her with his
mesmeric eyes, or she would not have disobeyed the pressure of the
Delrose boot upon her fours in scarlet satin, (for she did not pine
for the whiteness of the lily in boots or hose), "It is too tame, not
_chic_," she would laugh, and say adding, "a fig for its purity."

"Welcome, thrice welcome, Trevalyon, my dear fellow," cried the
Colonel warmly. "Here, Winter," to the butler "attend to the comfort
of Sir Lionel Trevalyon'"

"I thank you, Haughton, you are always kind, but I have dined."

There was another pressure of the Delrose boot which, this time, had
the desired effect, emphasised as it was by a meaning look.

Lionel, with one hand on the back of Colonel Haughton's chair, smiled
his greetings, and as his eyes rested for a moment on Vaura, knowing
her intensely emotional nature, and seeing her quickened heart beats,
her cheek paling, her lips scarlet by contrast, her large eyes full of
sympathy, he was glad to change the scene to the great drawing rooms.
On Madame answering the Delrose signal by rising from the table,
saying, "Say your say in the greater comforts of the drawing-rooms,
Sir Lionel, as you have dined; come away, the gentlemen will not
linger to-night; here, give me your arm and I shall be well taken care
of between two such gallants as Lord Rivers and yourself."

"As you will, fair Madame, and you I know will not say me nay when I
ask you to bid all your guests come, as I have a word to say to them
of the 'hidden wife,' society gives me."

"The bait is sufficient," she said laughing, though baffled, "they
will all follow like a lot of hungry fish."

"Gad! Trevalyon," cried Lord Rivers jokingly, "she must be old! enough
to come out."

"I am relieved that Trevalyon is going to make a clean breast of it;
English society is degenerating," said Lord Ponsonby in severe tones
to Lady Esmondet.

"Trevalyon looks as he did in the east," said Chancer to Vaura, "when
one of the blacks cut poor Cecil Vaughn's throat when he lay dying,
then robbed him; Trevalyon caught him in the act as he rode up, Cecil
haying asked his orderly to bring him to receive his dying messages."

"No need to tell me the result Capt. Chancer. I read Sir Lionel's
expression as you do, treachery lived and was extinct."

"But dear Miss Vernon, who are Cecil and the black this time? I know
there has been some by-play, to which I have been oblivious, but no
man would blame me."

"Not while I have heard for you," giving him a bewildering smile.

"Which means you have had no ear for me," he said, regretfully seating
himself beside her on a _tete-a-tete_ sofa, for they have now reached
the _salons_.

"Not so, _cher_ grumbler, for I have two ears, and while Sir Lionel's
rather mournful notes entered first; your pretty nothings were blown
in upon them so quickly, by some more mirthful sprite as to send his
to my memory, while yours are in my ear still."

"There is so sweet a bewitchment in your healing touch, as to make a
man not regret his wound."

"Come, trot her out, Sir Lionel," said Madame saucily, as she passed
Vaura and Capt. Chancer, "and after I have opened the ball Lord Rivers
can have her, and you and I from a _tete-a-tete_ chair, will pronounce
upon candle-moulds and ankles."

"Trevalyon will take the ankles," said Lord Rivers lazily.

"At last we are going to bag our game and I, my gold-mounted riding
whip," said the huntress, who with Major Delrose seated themselves
near Vaura and her cavalier.

"Why how?" asked Delrose quickly and absently, for he had been
intently watching the movements of Mrs. Haughton and her escort's.

"By the bow of Diana, Major, I believe you are off the scent, though
you heard me make the bet with Sir Peter Tedril on Trevalyon's wife, I
bet my dog against a whip he'd take this ball as a door to trot her
out by, and so make his peace with Mrs. Grundy."

"You and your dog are always game, and I take sides with you; if he
brings her out at all it will be here," he said, absently. But now a
look of savage hate comes to his face on seeing Mrs. Haughton smile
caressingly on Trevalyon.

"Confound him," he muttered, "he bags game at will."

"Yes, his eye and touch of his hand bring us down every time. I wonder
when he'll introduce her; one thing I'll wager that we women will all
be hounds and run her down to, earth."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Forester, I must run over to Rose Cottage, I have a
word to say to my servant, Simon."

"Oh, that's too bad! hurry back, Major, ours is the first dance," and
turning to Sir Tilton, who had strolled up, "one would think the
hounds were after him, instead of poor Sir Lionel Trevalyon, as we
have all been lately."

"What a terrible expression came into Major Delrose's face just now,
as he looked at Sir Lionel Trevalyon," said Vaura to Chancer, "if ever
man was born to hunt something he looked the man."

"Yes? I did not notice, but have always thought there was a latent
jealousy and dislike in his breast of Trevalyon."

"One goes hand in hand with the other," she answered.



CHAPTER XL.

BLACK DELROSE USES EMPHATIC LANGUAGE.


Delrose flew rather than walked to Rose Cottage muttering curses on
Kate and Trevalyon as he ran. "D--- him, he has always had the best of
it whenever he and I have crossed lances. Kate has loved him best all
along, and did he hold up his finger she'd not go with me to-night.
But by the stars she shall! I have got the upper hand of her at last
by the help of the coming--. We are a daring, reckless race. Yes, she
is mine at last, I can make her come, but curse that fellow, she cares
most for him, but she and her gold shall be mine, and I love her as
the panther its mate, as the lioness her whelps, for is she not of my
blood? though I have not told her what I have known for years that the
Capt. Vivian, forsooth, her father, is my first cousin. Vivian
Delrose, in our family surnamed the reckless. What is she saying to
him now? Heavens how hot my brain is! Gad, how far to the cottage!
Even though it be to an _expose_, I wish I was back. I must not lose
sight of her, the two hours before we are off may do me mischief--he
may fall in love. She is looking splendid; all fire, gown and all! ha,
ha! but," and he hissed the words between his teeth, "let him stand in
my way and she woos a corpse. And now to throw as many stones in his
path as Satan shows me how," and springing, rather than walking into
Rose Cottage he surprised Simon in the act of discussing a bottle of
Burgundy with himself. An empty decanter with the remains of some ham
sandwiches were on the table. Ellen, the cook, with flushed face lay
on the sofa in a deep sleep. Conspicuous on the table embroidered by
the aesthetic fingers of Miranda Marchmont, were groups of potato bugs
and a vial, on which in the handwriting of Delrose was the word
"Chloral."

"What the devil do you mean, Simon," shouted his master, "what fool's
game are you after! Nice way you're attending to my orders. What are
you playing with this chloral for?"

"Well, you see, sir, cook's been spoons on me ever since you and I put
up here. She was so dead gone on me when she know'd we was to go
to-night--"

"You scoundrel! didn't I tell you you were to keep dark as to our
leaving?"

"Please, sir, I only told her to see how she'd stare, and then I
drugged her so she can't blab, out of that bottle I've seen you use,
sir (with a cunning leer), more nor once. She wants to come with us,
sir, she's so gone on me, sir."

"And you are gone on that bottle, or you wouldn't gabber like a fool;
it's my belief you were born in a wine cask and nursed on a bottle;
here, drop that glass," and snatching it from his servant's hands, he
threw the contents out of the open casement; "what's that! moving away
from under the window; look here, you fool, something white! only I
know everyone is at the Hall, I'd say it was a girl or woman."

"No, sir; it's only the white goat as Miss Marchmont pets; she's
startled me afore now, sir."

"Very well, listen; I have work for you to do, hark you, for I shall
not tell it twice: Sir Lionel Trevalyon has arrived at the Hall; you
know my feelings towards him."

"You don't exactly doat on him, sir."

"No; well, mark me, he has brought some people with him to swear
falsely, and to clear him of all part in running off with Col.
Clarmont's wife (some twelve years ago); he wants to father her on to
me; as his game is to marry the new beauty, Miss Vernon; but, my man,
if you will stick to it that he was the man (that all the regiment had
it so), not I, your wages are doubled next quarter. And now, look you,
the work I have for you since you know so well how to use this bottle,
is, to get with all speed to the Hall; they will be having
refreshments; you add a _good sound sleep_, on the plea of getting a
cup of strong coffee which will steady you; force your way into
whatever room they are; I wish you had not been such an ass as to take
to the bottle to-night; your game is to say nothing of Paris, or of
the part I played with that little fool of a Clarmont. And now away."

"Yes, sir; and I'll not fail you; it's work I like; and if I can do
_his_ cup, there will be no harm, I suppose, sir?"

"None; and you'll not regret it; only don't make a blundering idiot of
yourself with all that Burgundy inside of you; put the chloral in your
pocket carefully. And now for the Hall at once, and with me."

With rapid strides (Simon rather unsteady in his gait, but a wholesome
dread of his master sobering him at every step) they are soon within
range of the illuminated windows, and now separate to make their
_entree_ at doors for big and little flies.



CHAPTER XLI.

AN EXPOSE, SOCIETY ON TIP-TOE.


Immediately after dinner, Blanche, who wished to perfect her own
little plot, had commanded the attendance of that squire of dames,
Everly, down at Rose Cottage, for half an hour, saying to him:

"Everyone will be at the Hall; cook Ellen is my friend; her plot being
that I marry the Major; she is sure he talks to Mrs. Haughton for my
sake (shows how perfect their tricks have been), and she (Ellen) is to
be my maid and marry Simon; she's a good creature, Baronet, so she
won't have her way; they never do down here; we gobble up all the
_bon-bons_; so you be up to time; slip off after you lead Cis back
from dinner; my plot wants trimming; and walls have ears here; there
won't be a soul down there, or a body which would be worse."

"But I shall be missed," whined small Everly.

"Spoken like an English baronet, who don't see how small it is; you've
_got_ to come to help me fix my plot."

So after dinner, and in the corridor to the _salons_ the wee white
mouse excusing herself to her cavalier, flew softly to a cloak-room;
it was only a minute, and the cloak enveloped _la petite_; when, with
hood drawn well over the forehead, and the satin-dressed feet pushed
into over-boots, she is off. Quickly she sped in and out among the
trees, the wind blowing her cloak open, giving her the appearance in
the shadow of a white-breasted bird on the wing, now flying, now
resting in the shade, to listen for the footsteps of her expected
companion when within a stone's throw of the cottage she stood.

"He's too utterly mean for anything; I see I shall have to bribe him
every time," she thought; "but here he comes; I'll give him a fright,"
and throwing her cloak off, though chilled, she hid in the shadow and
waited; but, no; it is not the expected, but Delrose flying, as we
have seen him, to speak to his man.

"What's to pay now? I'll step in and hide, and not pad my ears either;
he's expected too, I see, for the parlour is lit up."

In a moment Everly is forgotten in her loved game of detective. First,
under the window where she was almost discovered by Delrose (as we are
aware), next, the back door is entered, housemaid and small boy at the
Hall, no one sees her enter, Ellen's loud breathing covering her
footstep; in a few seconds she is in a pantry between dining-room and
parlour. Here she heard every word that passed between them, master
and man.

"The plot thickens, you bet; what a lovely time I am having, and what
a thunder and lightning wretch the Major is; I don't suppose I can
save those poor people, they have got ahead of me this time, in more
ways than one," murmured wee Blanche, now leaving the cottage, only
having given the others time to be out of sight. Half way to the Hall
she meets the tardy little Everly, to whom Mrs. Forester had said,
"What's up, Sir Tilton? you're as absent as a hound that's lost the
scent; you are all cut up, your eyes are Miss Vernon's, your
personality is the sofa's, away and find yourself, you're too tame for
me, and send me Major Delrose."

"How awfully late you are," exclaimed Blanche, breathlessly, "here
give me your arm."

"I regret what has been unavoidable, so many men buttonholed me" (he
did not say they were duns).

"All right, Baronet, we havn't time to talk much, I'm out of breath,
but I am going to have that show tonight."

"Oh! Blanche, I do wish you would wait, say even for a day or two,"
implored small Everly.

"Well, I guess perhaps I will," she said cunningly, not meaning to
defer her intention for even an hour, "but you must do something for
me then."

"Anything, anything," he cried eagerly.

"That's all O.K.; first, I must have surgeon Strange from the village
double quick."

"Why, you are not ill! if so, Sir Andrew Clarke is--"

"I know he is at the Hall; don't interrupt me, he is too big a man for
what I want; you must send one of the servants for Strange; I know he
is to come to the ball, but if he hasn't come, fetch him right along;
next, you are to be too awfully sweet for anything to Mrs. Haughton."

"Oh! Blanche, not too pronounced. I owe half the men money and want to
keep in the back ground."

"I'll pay them all off to-morrow."

"Well, I suppose I must; first, you want Strange, but you don't seem
ill, too bad if you have to miss the dance."

"Oh, he'll fix me up in no time; there, _ta-ta_, you go that way to
the stables; mind, right along to me, that will fetch him."

And the wee innocent-faced this time, white mouse is in the salons
quicker than it takes to tell it, even though she had first paid a
flying visit to the apartments of Mrs. Haughton. "Wonder if the
Colonel will dream on the cake, or take to tragedy," was her mental
ejaculation on what she saw there.

Just as she entered the drawing-rooms, Trevalyon, who had evidently
had a word with Delrose, judging from the look of defiance on the face
of the latter as he left his side, now walked up to Colonel Haughton,
seated at the end of the rooms beside Lady Esmondet, with whom he had
been conversing earnestly, and said:

"Haughton, dear friend, kindly ask your guests to give me their
attention for a few minutes."

On the Colonel complying with his request, Trevalyon meanwhile
glancing at the gems of art around him; behind him in a niche stood a
statue of Venus smiling down upon the blind god who had been making a
target of her breast in which were many arrows. Vaura giving him
strength by being so near, what woman whom Lionel Trevalyon would
love, but would be near him. Ah! heaven, thou hast given such bliss to
a few of us, as makes us long for immortality.

But Lionel is about to speak; looking around him, a settled purpose in
his handsome face, he said in his musical voice:

"One could not, even in one's dreams, picture a fairer garden of
society's flowers as listeners, while one tells of a plot nourished by
the sting of its wasp, and smiles of its beauteous butterflies; each
of our plots has its name, you all know the name of your last, you
have given it to the _News_ and _Truth_, and have designated it
'Trevalyon's hidden wife;' while I have come to the conclusion that,
here and now, I shall introduce the wife you have given me; her
_entree_ and recital of how you have come to give her to me will be as
fragrant spice to your dish of small talk, as you tread a measure in
yonder ball-room."

On Trevalyon speaking of his purpose to introduce his 'hidden wife,'
Delrose, who seemed to have lost all control over himself, with
muttered oath, left Mrs. Forester's side, and, with rapid strides,
went down the room and seated himself behind a small sofa on which
were seated Mrs. Haughton and Lord Rivers, seeming too comfortable,
Delrose thought; overhearing Rivers say lazily, "I wish we lived in
Utah," pressing the hand concealed in the folds of scarlet satin.

"I wonder how Lady Rivers would like me; as the last, the dearest
one," had said Madame, her white teeth showing.

Lord Rivers gave her a side-long glance.

"There'd be the devil to pay," said Delrose, savagely, as he sank
heavily into the chair behind them; folding his arms on the back of
their sofa, and between them, and leaning forward.

"You look black enough to be his dun," said Lord Rivers, carelessly.

As Sir Lionel ceased speaking, a lady, in the garb of a cloistered
nun, and closely veiled, had entered with slow, uncertain step; Sir
Andrew Clarke, stepping forward, offered a seat, saying, "Allow me;
you seem about to faint."

"No; I thank you," she said hurriedly, "I feel quite well again, with
the exception of a slight dizziness."

But in a moment, Trevalyon is beside her, whose arm she quietly takes,
while he led her up the long drawing rooms, the _cynosure_ of all
eyes, giving her at the head of the room, an easy chair. At the first
sound of the voice of the nun, Delrose had started violently,
muttering,

"By thunder, her voice, but no! not from behind a nun's veil."

"Unveil the statue, Delrose," whispered Lord Rivers; for society was
watching and listening with itching ears for more, and a pinfall could
have been heard.

"Unveil her, she'll let you, if she have any charms to show," he
continued lazily.

"My dear boy, do keep quiet; or perhaps you'd like to run away till
the farce is over," said Madame, caressingly, for she has a _penchant_
for the peer beside her; he is a new distraction and will amuse her
until she can secure a _tete-a-tete_ with the man who has some rare
fascination for her, as Lionel Trevalyon has for many. But no, Delrose
will not stir from beside the woman who has magnetised him for years.
And as he keeps his position, he mentally curses Lord Rivers for his
temporary monopoly of her.

Trevalyon had stepped over to Vaura on pretence, or with the excuse of
borrowing her fan for the nun, he not feeling strong enough to wait
any longer for a pressure of the hand; as she turned her exquisite
face upwards, oh, the torture that he could not take her to his heart;
but, his "hidden wife," and all the eyes. But he managed while, as if
learning how to open the fan and while the attention of Chancer was
momentarily engaged, to whisper, "oh darling, this ordeal is too much,
why did I not fly away with you."

"My own darling," was all her eyes and lips could silently frame. But
his hand brushed her arm, and with a sweet pain from heart to heart,
he went from her side strengthened for the fight.

"Shall I introduce you, sister, to Mrs. Haughton and a few of my
personal friends?"

"Not so, Sir Lionel, I thank you; I am dead to the world and am only
here to perform a duty; the hearing of names would stir sad memories
in my heart and unfit me for my task," and motioning him to bend down
towards her, she said in tones only heard by him:

"Your kind heart requires sympathy; go and stay near that lovely lady
you spoke to just now."

"I shall, and shall be near you also."

And though by this time half a dozen men had grouped themselves about
the beauty, he got into a corner behind her, where, when they spoke,
her breath fanned his cheek, or in turning, the soft bronze of her
hair brushed his face.

The nun now standing up, spoke in quick, nervous tones, as follows:

"You all know why I am here; an odd figure truly in such a scene. I
have been one of you, so know exactly how out of place is one in my
garb, where all is gold lace and revelry. I regret to have detained
you, but you gentlemen will not mind when beauty and grace are so
near; and you ladies will not tire, as curiosity, your strongest trait
(pardon, I, too, am a woman) is about to be gratified in my words.
Vanity has been my curse, and even now it hurts me to humiliate myself
to you all, so much so, that, though I pity a man who has wrongfully
suffered condemnation through me for many years, I would not exonerate
him were it not at the command of the church. Twelve years ago I was a
young bride, and with my husband, an officer high in rank in our army,
was at London. I was called pretty; I know I was worldly, foolish and
vain. My husband, a very superior man (as I see men now), might have
done something with me had I submitted to his guidance, but I was but
seventeen, if that is any excuse for my wickedness. The officers of
our regiment were as gay as their kind. I thought them all in love
with me; I know men well enough since to be aware that their love was
winged, and lighted where fancy willed, and _pour passer le temps_. My
own fickle fancy," and her voice faltered, "was held by two men,
antipodes each of the other; the one fair as an angel of day, who, had
he bid me to his arms, ah well' though I shame to tell you, his will
would have only been my wish."

Here Delrose's face grew black as he muttered, "there, too."

"The other man, dark as a storm-tossed sky, bewitched me also, and he
did will that I should be wholly his, and conquered; I, at last,
giving him my whole heart, and passionately loving him and him alone."
Here the slight figure swayed and would have fallen, but Vaura and
others were beside her; in a moment she again stood erect, waving them
away saying: "'Tis the weakness of the flesh; but let me do my poor
weak nature justice, I could conquer my feelings better, but that the
wine I drank on entering after my journey, and to nerve me to my task,
was drugged."--sensation--"but to my penance; I consented to leave my
husband, and with the man of whom I last spoke; on pretence of
visiting friends, I went to Paris; my lover obtaining leave of absence
at the same time for himself, and with deep cunning, inducing his
brother officer to do likewise; for though unlike, still, both as gay
society men and of the same regiment, were a good deal together.
The one honourable, the other, as I have found him to my sorrow.
The one 'in all his gay _affaires de coeur_, never desecrating a
hearth-stone;' this he told me on seeing" here her voice broke, "on
seeing my love for him; I hope he will forgive my breach of
confidence; this was previous to my dark lover having gained my heart.
We lived as man and wife at Paris; he, returning to his regiment
before his leave had expired, told me I must write to his brother
officer at his hotel to come and see me on a certain day; I obeyed
blindly; he came, and my lover managed so that his own servant should
call at the same time with messages from England, bogus and with no
reference to himself. The servant (the same man who drugged my wine
to-night) returned to his regiment with the information that I was
living _a_ Paris with the other officer, who, returning to England, on
his furlough lapsing, was called out by my husband, who was worsted in
the duel. My lover was waited on by the man he had wronged (I mean his
brother officer, not my husband), who implored him to own up. My lover
said it would ruin him; he had nothing but his sword; he must get his
promotion; he would marry me as soon as his Colonel secured a divorce,
etc. The other man consented to bear the stigma, as it would be best
for me, and until a divorce was obtained, the man of honour sold out;
my lover was promoted. So does the green bay tree flourish. The
divorce was obtained; my lover, though visiting me frequently, and
always unsuspected, at each visit swore to marry me at the next, but
instead, deserted me just three months previous to the birth of our
child, with no means of support, moving from lodging to lodging,
living by the sale of my jewels; at last when these failed, getting
bread for myself and child by giving a few music lessons to the poor
people's children. But now, hearing that the man for whom I had given
up all, had sold out, and now the avowed admirer of a wealthy American
at New York, U.S.A., I gave up; my pitiable loneliness, poverty,
failing health were too much and I completely broke down. You will
wonder how I, in my retirement, heard of his unfaithfulness. Just
about eight years ago, a creature who had once paid me compliments, a
dissolute man, found me out, telling me my lover had sent him; he
renewed his odious addresses. Some of my women hearers will be shocked
to hear me tell of declarations of love of this kind, but when a woman
takes the step I did, she must accept such; one cannot play with pitch
and escape defilement, and though I loathed the messenger and his
words it would have been an incongruity to say so; so when he said I
had best take the sunny side of life's boulevard with him, with forced
calmness I refused and decidedly. On his taking a reluctant leave, I
fell into a death-like swoon, and so, good Father Lefroy, the parish
priest found me. But to hasten (you can easily I believe I had been an
extremely careless religionist). The kind sisters of a neighbouring
convent brought me and my little son to their hospital, and nursed me
back to more than my former health. I embraced their faith, and at my
earnest entreaty they accepted me as a member of their order, and I
trust by zeal in good works to atone for the wickedness of my past
life. My boy, I have given as a sin offering to the church. And now
the penance imposed upon me is finished, save in a few concluding
words. I say most solemnly, upon oath, that what I have said and am
about to say is the truth. The man I spoke of at first, as handsome as
an angel of day, and to whom you have given me as hidden wife, is Sir
Lionel Trevalyon. The man with whom I eloped, and who finally won my
love, is the father of my child and is Major Delrose; for I am none
other than Fanny Ponton, at one time wife to Colonel Clarmont." At
these words, the poor thing gave way, but the wee white mouse, who had
gradually from pillar to post reached the head of the room is beside
her, first sending Everly to the side of Madame, saying, "Make love to
her openly, to-night, and to my banker to-morrow." And now the pink
eyes peer through the black veil as she whispers, "you'll have another
'pick me up;' where's the small bottle? I saw them and the priest is
aching to come right along. What a dear little boy, but the bottle,
quick!"

"You are very kind; it is in my pocket." A wine-glass is brought and
the contents swallowed.

In the meantime Colonel Haughton, Claxton, Wingfield, and others came
forward, congratulating Sir Lionel, while some of the loveliest women,
glad of his freedom, did likewise. Meanwhile Sir Peter Tedril had
«come hastily to the little group around Madame, just as she was
saying jestingly to Delrose--

"Come, George, own up, you and the nun are a black pair. Hadn't I
better go and pat and purr over _dear_ Sir Lionel?"

"None of your chaff, Kate, I am in no mood to stand it; the ball is at
_his_ feet now, it will be at _mine_ ere sunrise," he said savagely,
and with latent meaning.

"That's right, Delrose," said Tedril, mistaking his purpose. "Whether
she is yours or his does not signify; throw down the gauntlet; give
her the lie; tell her she is an adventuress; anything! to put a spoke
in Trevalyon's wheel; all the women go with him; a man has no chance,"
drawing himself up to his full height of five feet five inches, and
pulling his whiskers furiously; "even with a handle to his name, and
an M.P.; if you don't care to go in yourself, let Rivers, Everly, or
myself be your spokesman."

"Leave me out, Tedril, please," said Lord Rivers lazily; "I'd rather
be all eyes and ears just at present," drawing closer to Madame, and
being for the moment proprietor of her fine arm, lace wraps telling no
tales. "I vote Delrose kiss and make up, so we see the statue unveil."
At this there was laughter, when Rivers continued: "Don't look black
as a storm-tossed sky, Delrose, as the veiled lady hath it. I dare say
honours were divided between you and Trevalyon."

"Both soldiers, they went to war and vanquished a woman, eh, Georgie?"
said Kate, still laughing; "they all do it. Even my spouse, Saint
Eric, is laying siege to that women in violet velvet."

"While scarlet is our colour," cried Everly, gallantly, as Mrs.
Forester and others joined the group, while the huntress exclaimed--

"Speak, Major; say you deny the wooing and the wooer. Black isn't our
colour, so for fun we'll pelt the robed one."

Delrose, pushed to it and full of hate to Trevalyon, excited, and as
was usual, reckless (knowing also what his plot was for this very
night; knowing, too, how that act would be canvassed at dawn; when
society! in her chaste morning robe would look shocked at what she
would wink at at midnight, and in her _robe de chambre_), electrified
the groups of wasps and butterflies, in their musical mur-mur and
whirr-whirr, by standing up and saying, in a tone of bravado--

"A pretty plot and well got up for a fifth-rate theatre, but not for a
drawing-room in Belgravia I need scarcely say I deny the charge, the
object of which is to free a man from a 'hidden wife' to enable him to
wed a new beauty with us to-night. (Sensation). Sir Lionel Trevalyon
has lately come into the possession of much gold; the Church of Rome
hath a fancy for the yellow metal; if the woman robed as a nun be a
nun, then she is only adding to the coffers of the church by speaking
the words we have heard. If she even be the one-time wife of poor
Colonel Clarmont, society, knowing a thing or two (excuse the slang),
will place no reliance on the story of such an one."

To attempt to describe the effects of the words of Delrose on the gay
groups of revellers would be impossible. Butterflies and wasps forgot
for a moment their beauty and their sting. It was as though Dame
Rumour and Mrs. Grundy were struck blind and dumb, their lovers
faithless, or Worth dead! But now the Babel of tongues fills the air,
and silence lays down her sceptre to go forth into the night alone.

"Isn't it too delightful! a double scandal!" cried one.

"Alas! alas! that my day should be in such an age," said Lord
Ponsonby.

"I wonder who it is darling Sir Lionel wishes to marry," said another.
At this remembering rivalry got on the war path, as each looked
critically at the other.

"Trevalyon would be a decent fellow enough if you did not all kneel to
him," growled a county magnate. "I wish he would go to Salt Lake city
and take his harem with him."

"I wonder if he has his eye on me," cried gay Mrs. Wingfield; "you men
do sometimes take a fancy to other men's belongings. If he does I
shall have to succumb instanter. Eustace, dear fellow, has rather a
consumptive look, now I come to notice him."

"He may drop off in time," laughed the huntress; "but I am afraid I've
lost my whip," she added, dolefully, brushing past Colonel Haughton,
standing beside Lady Esmondet, and conversing in an undertone with
Claxton and Trevalyon.

"Lost your whip!" exclaimed her host with forced gaiety; "that
dare-devil has picked it up, then."

"Say that he only has the whip-hand _pour le present_, dear Sir
Lionel,” said Mrs. Wingfield, taking both his hands in a pretty,
beseeching way.

"Or we women shall eat our hearts out in pity for your chains," said
Vaura softly, coming near him.

"You are a pretty group of gamblers," he said, thinking there had been
a wager among them; "but I must win when fair hands throw the dice."

Delrose had unconsciously given his foe some ecstatic moments, for the
crowd so pressed about him to hear what answer he would make to the
bold denial of the black-bearded Major that Vaura was close enough to
hear his heart-beats, and to whom he whispered brokenly--

"All the nun's words will not avail, darling, after his false denial;
I must bring on my other proofs for both our sakes, beloved."

"Poor, tired Lion.; I wish I could help you," she whispered from
behind her fan, and he felt her yield to the pressure of the crowd and
come closer.

"You do, sweet; I feel _just now_ strong and weak; you understand?"

One glance up from her fan and he is satisfied.

But the conjectures as to whether Sir Lionel will or can reply to
Delrose are put to rest by his voice again filling the air--

"To seem, and to be, are as unlike as are the hastily constructed
bulwarks of the savage tribes as compared with a solid British
fortress; we soldiers know this, and that Major Delrose. should still
entrench himself behind the flimsy _seeming_ of days of yore, where he
was safe through my careless good-nature (we shall call it), in
allowing it to be supposed that I had robbed Colonel Clarmont of his
wife, submitting to the stigma so that his act would not stand in the
way of his promotion as this poor nun has told you; you will wonder
why I was careless. Because, for reasons of my own, I had forsworn
matrimony, as I then thought, for all time. But Madame Grundy has
lately revived this scandal, making a lash for my back with it for the
hands of Dame Rumour. I have determined to stamp it out at once, and
for ever! And now to pull down the bulwarks of Major Delrose." And
holding up his hand, a signal agreed on with his servant, Sims at once
ushered a priest and a small boy, who was masked, and who walked, as
if asleep, up to the head of the room. Father Lefroy, saying a word to
the nun in an undertone, lifted the boy to a chair beside her; now,
standing beside them, in calm measured tones, he spoke as follows:--

"We priests of the church have too many strange experiences to be very
much astonished at any new one, yet I must say that to hear the words,
on oath, of one of our pious sisterhood doubted is a novel sensation.
Major Delrose is unwise in his present course of action, as he has by
such prolonged a most painful duty on the part of the church. Sir
Lionel Trevalyon will pardon me for saying he was wrong in wearing the
mantle of dishonour for another; the lining, a good motive, was unseen
by the jealous eye of society, hence, when the lash was put into her
hands by revenge or envy, her motive power, it, the lash, went down;
Sir Lionel Trevalyon has had his punishment. With unwearied exertion
he has found Sister Magdalene through Paris, at London, and she has
spoken the truth, and Major Delrose knows it. Moreover, and in
connection with his name, we have examined papers, letters to Sister
Magdalene, previous to and after her elopement, thus proving her
words. Again, I may say here, for I have grave doubts of his having
done so, six months ago I received from Father O'Brien, of New York
city, same mail as he wrote Major Delrose, whose acquaintance he had
made in that city in 1873, and believing by his words that he was an
intimate friend of the house of Haughton, wrote him, as I say, of
dying messages, and a few lines to a niece of Colonel Haughton, by
name Vaura Vernon, and from Guy Cyril Travers."

At this, Vaura started, turned pale and visibly trembled, putting her
hand to her side, when half a dozen men started to their feet; but
Lionel quietly put her arm within his and led her to a seat behind a
large stand covered with rare orchids and beautiful ferns, where, did
she not revive, the open doors of the conservatory lent a means of
speedy retreat.

"My own love, be brave; it was six months ago," he whispered, bending
over her, and puzzled at her great emotion; "I know it, dear; and yet
dead, poor, poor Guy: I have been always unpitying towards him. But
did he say he was dead! let me hear; he will tell more; but in this
crowd!" And she leaned forward, her large eyes glistening, the rose
mouth quivering. Lady Esmondet silently joined her, as did her uncle,
who, ever and anon shot fiery glances of contempt at Delrose, who,
with bold recklessness, still leaned forward on his folded arms,
between Madame and Lord Rivers. But the priest, instead of continuing
aloud, came to Vaura's side, saying quickly and in low tones:

"Pardon; this is; yes, I see it is society's rarest flower--Miss
Vernon; you have been hidden from me by those who would sun themselves
in your smiles; else had I seen you, whom I know from the London
shop-windows: should have told you quietly of Father O'Brien's letter,
as I see by your emotion, black Delrose has been faithless to his
trust."

"He has; tell me of poor Guy; did you say he is dead?" she asked, in
broken accents, her eyes full; "tell me quickly; now, here; I can bear
it."

"It was only a scrawl; he was dying, and signed your--your husband; he
had been stricken down by fever; your name was ever on his lips; he
said you loved Paris, and he would be buried there; he had loved you
all his life; he was glad to go; you were not to shed one tear for
him, but to make some one blest by your love; your miniature was to be
buried with him; he is in paradise; you must not weep for him, and so
cause others to weep for you."

"I shall not forget to remember your kindness," she said, giving her
hand, the tears welling her eyes; "Sir Lionel Trevalyon will perhaps
bring me out to your monastery."

"I thank you, and for our Order," and moving away to his former
position, he continued:

"I have now finished my task, self-imposed and in the ends of justice;
Sir Lionel Trevalyon is free to go to God's altar with the proudest
and fairest woman in the world; and may the blessing of heaven rest
upon his union. Had he not exposed the facts, he could not have wed,
while your lips framed the word--bigamist!"

Here the boy started violently, put up his hands to his face, tearing
off the mask, and rubbing his eyes.

"Where am I, Father Lefroy? you're not on the square; you said I was
going to see my mother; come, own up; what did you say I was coming
where every one wore masks for?" and he stamped on the one he had torn
off (and which they thought it best he should wear, so that at a
certain point, if necessary, his strong resemblance to his father
should be suddenly revealed).

"So they do wear masks, my son, though you do not see them."

"I am not your son; this is my father," he said with emphasis and
pride, drawing from his pocket a miniature of Delrose; "we're square
now; you hid this from me, but I found it out; you cannot put me on
bread and water, for I've good as cut and run."

"George, dear, be a good boy; I am your mother," said the poor nun,
tearfully.

"You! well, it is your voice; but why didn't you speak to a fellow in
the coach, and lift up that nasty black veil; here, I will."

And before she could stop him, he had mounted the chair and torn the
whole head-gear off, exposing the face of one-time Mrs. Clarmont.

"'Tis she! 'tis she!" echoed many voices;--girls, now matrons,
remembered the pretty little thing in their first season as Mrs.
Clarmont; _chaperons_ and men, who had and hadn't flirted with her,
remembered her as Fanny Ponton.

"Let me go to her," said Vaura, gently; "what is my grief to hers?"

"Ah, poor thing, what a sad fate has yours been; do not hide your face
again from your poor little boy and us; dear me, what a weight it is;
one would almost smother beneath its folds."

"Oh, I must veil," cried the poor thing.

"No; leave it off, daughter; it is my wish society shall see in you
Trevalyon's 'hidden wife;' all have heard your words; mine and this
lad's," said the priest, sternly.

Nearly every inmate of the long rooms had eagerly and excitedly pushed
and crowded, squeezed and crushed as near as possible to the principal
actors in the scenes they had witnessed, making very conspicuous the
attitude taken by the group in and about the curtained recess; namely,
the scarlet-robed hostess; Lord Rivers, pleasantly placed, and too
lazy and epicurean to move; Delrose, in the blackness of alternate
rage, hate and defiance, longing to cut the scene, but unwilling to
leave the field to Lord Rivers, and those he termed his foes; Kate,
afraid to stir, for he had said between his teeth, "You won't go near
them." Tedril, with the huntress, stood beside them; while small
Everly, accustomed to the _role_ and remembering the mutual promise of
Blanche and himself, sat at the feet of Madame, alternating fanning or
saying something pretty to her, nerved to his task by the fact that
Tisdale Follard, who had just bought his M.P., had told him "he must
and would have his money at dawn."

But the boy with eager eyes is pushing his way through the crowds and
down to the sofa of Madame; all gazing after him; but nothing abashed,
he elbows his way (a bold fearless boy, a very Delrose, with nothing
of his mother in him); now with an intent stare at his father, then a
long look at the miniature, said with a great sigh and slowly:

"No; I suppose you're not my _pater_; when I find him he won't scowl
at a fellow," with a loving glance at the likeness, which was of
Delrose in full-dress uniform, smiling and handsome, taken with his
thoughts full of his triumphant _affaire de coeur_ with Mrs. Clarmont.

"I am no mean sneak, sir; so I'll show you the likeness of my father
to excuse my staring at you like a cad;" and he handed it to Delrose
who did not take it, Kate doing so, but he had recognised the case on
the boy taking it from his breast.

"Thanks, no;" he said, with affected bravado, for society eyed him;
"the young monkey plays his part well; if the thing even is of me,
light fingers at times lighten one's belongings."

"It is of you, dear Georgie," said Kate, recklessly; "your family is
increasing."

"If you say so, it must be so," he said, his bold black eyes meeting
hers.

Mrs. Haughton now handed the miniature back to the boy, who, after
returning it carefully to his pocket, said proudly, and looking
fixedly at his father:

"If you were a boy, I'd give you one right out from the shoulder for
what you've said of me;" and turning on his heel, he was making his
way for the head of the room, when Madame, obeying impulse, called out
laughingly:

"How have your owners called you my little man?"

"George Delrose Ponton is my name, Madame;" and with one hand to his
breast, where the miniature lay, he again pushed his way through the
groups of revellers.

"A speech from the throne could not have been given with more dignity
than the poor fatherless little fellow gives his name," said Vaura,
pityingly.

"My dear mother has fainted, sir;" the boy said, ignoring priest and
women, and instinctively choosing the face full of strength and
sweetness, the face men and children trusted and women loved--that of
Lionel Trevalyon.

"Poor boy, poor thing, so she has while our attention has been
diverted."

The meeting of father and son had been more than she could bear, and
at the answer of Delrose to their child, she had fallen back in her
chair in a dead faint.

"Poor creature, no wonder she gave way, I must get her out of this
crowd."

"Bring her to my boudoir, Sir Lionel; touch that bell, Sir Tilton,
please," cried Mrs. Haughton, thinking exultantly, "now is my
opportunity to have him to myself, I shall open the ball with Lord
Rivers at once, and then--" Mason appearing "lead the way to my
boudoir and attend to this lady who has fainted."

"When she revives she will like some one besides a strange maid with
her," said Colonel Haughton, as Lionel picked, the nun up in his
strong arms; "you had better go too, Vaura dear."

Trevalyon looked his approval saying "come."

"Yes, you come, too," and the boy's hand slipped into hers.

And so Vaura, her trailing skirts of cream satin, front width richly
embroidered in gold floss, with the perfume of tea roses from her
corsage and bouquet she carried, in all the fulness of her rich
beauty, with proud head bent as she chatted with the dark-eyed,
black-haired boy beside her, followed Trevalyon with his burden and
the priest who walked at his side.



CHAPTER XLII.

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE.


"Outwitted this time," mused Madame, greatly mortified at seeing Vaura
retire with the group, "but I must make one more appeal to him alone,"
and tapping Lord Rivers on the arm with her fan, said gaily, "To the
halls of Comus; we want a change of scene, black is a trying colour."

At this moment Blanche, her hand on Everly's arm, entered from the
dining-room, whither with cunning forethought she had told him just
five minutes previously she wished to go, with "I feel played out
after all this sensation, we had best go for something exhilirating,"
thinking, as she returned "he'll stand it better now, and I'm not one
moment too soon," leading her unsuspecting escort up to Madame, who
stood leaning on the arm of Lord Rivers, her husband near welcoming
late arrivals; and the air was sweet with perfume, and laden with the
ceaseless murmur and everlasting whir-whir with the music of the
laughter of the beautiful, the noble, and the fair, and as they
follow, and crowd around Madame, their goal, the ball-room, some
condole with others on their later _entree_, saying, "Oh, darling!
what! you have missed such a sensation!" or "Oh! you should have been
here earlier, Lady Eldred, our pet of pets, Sir Lionel Trevalyon, is
free;" or "a nun nobodys child, and no end of fun, Stuart," again, "no
end of a time, Delrose has posed as Lucifer, Trevalyon, as all the
angels."

"Vaura Vernon is here, I am among her slain; she's a nymph, a goddess
and a woman; she's the only one for me," said Chancer, feelingly.

"All the others are frocks and frizzes," laughed his friend, who had
never seen her. "Listen, Chancer, what's the go now? that little girl
with all the tin, red eyes, pads and bustles, is getting up a row of
some sort; let's get in."

The face of Mrs. Haughton was a study and the groups about her
reflected the various emotions depicted there. For Blanche had said,
the white mouse, wearing her innocent air "Oh, step-moma darling!"

"Never used a term of endearment before; going to say something
nasty," thought Mrs. Haughton.

_Oui, ma chere_ Madame; yours is an unerring instinct; does not puss
purr, then scratch? does not the snake charm, then sting? And so the
white mouse said, "Oh, step-moma darling, just one minute, I've been
up to a lark, and now present myself to you as Lady Everly; of course
you will feel too awfully small for anything, when I take precedence
of you; but you are so fond of the Baronet, it was nice of me to
keep him in the family;" this she said without a shadow; of
self-consciousness, so intent was she in watching the effect of her
words on her Step-mother, using her pocket-handkerchief at every word,
her escapade in the park adding to the red of the eyes and tiny nose,
looking too as if her robes would fall off the green satin waist, so
low, and velvet train so heavy. Oblivious was she of even the small
baronet, on whose arm she leaned, and who trembled with nervousness
and mortification at the manner blanche had chosen to offer them up to
Mrs. Grundy. The wedding cards the lady of Everly had presented, ere
making her little speech, were dropped to the floor, while madame said
haughtily.

"Blanche Tompkins, you are mad to parade yourself in this manner," and
smiling cynically, "your attendant cavalier wears quite a jubilant
air, looking so proud of his proximity to such a conventional belle of
the evening. What with 'hidden wife,' and this little farce, the place
smells of brimstone; let us all away," she said with a forced laugh,
"to the halls of Comus and a purer sphere; Lord Rivers, your arm."

"Everly," demanded his host, "what is the meaning of all this?" having
heard from Tisdale Follard, not two hours before, that Mrs. Haughton
had given him permission to press his suit with Miss Tompkins, Madame
always considering Everly her own property.

"Allow me one moment," said Delrose following Kate in her exit. "I
find I must bid you and the Colonel adieu; I go to London by the
midnight, from whence I think, across the water."

In spite of herself the colour came and went in Kate's cheeks.

"Are they all mad," she thought; "is he acting or what?"

The Colonel, relieved, and still feeling that he did not much care,
now that he had the sympathetic friendship of Alice Esmondet near,
whether he remained at Rose cottage or no, still said, giving his
hand.

"I wish you a pleasant trip."

"I doubt it," said Delrose inwardly; outwardly, "thank you," and being
a born actor, continued carelessly, "I shall be as happy and free from
care as the waves on the sportive ocean, for congratulate me, I bring
my bride with me, no 'hidden wife,' though the _News_ and _Daily_ will
have us; _Truth_ also, will have a hand in," and he added lightly,
"when a man knows editors and that ilk will shortly wet their pens for
him, he may as well whet the appetite of society by saying only this
and nothing more. In my bride of the sea, you will see a fair cousin
of my own, the daughter of Vivian Delrose," and turning to Kate, whom
he had furtively watched said, as he bid her adieu, "by gaining a wife
I lose a hostess, who has won my heart." With a few careless words to
the others, this man than whom no other ever held his own through life
and in spite of fate better, now made his exit.



CHAPTER XLIII.

WEE DETECTIVE PLAYS A WINNING CARD.


From the time Fanny Clarmont has appeared like a ghost of the
departed, Delrose determined to get rid of the bother of it all by
going at once to Rose Cottage; the huntress to whom he had been
engaged for the first dance he handed over to Tedril. He would write
Kate from the cottage, but first, he would punish her for torturing
him, by lingering with Trevalyon and giving her smiles to Lord Rivers,
by a public little speech as to his leave-taking, and keep her
preoccupied by his avowal as to who was to accompany him, (she knowing
naught of their relationship) as to give her no taste for flirtation.
(Simple Simon could not read her, she is a woman!)

"It is now nearly eleven o'clock, I shall keep her in suspense for
half an hour or so, then she is mine. Gad! I have won a prize, a
fierce, passionate, untamable, flesh-and-blood beauty, full of love or
full of hate, strong in body, mind and appetite; and she does care for
my devotion, we were born for each other; what a life we shall have,
thank fate I never was foolish enough to throw myself away on that
little, timid, shrinking, silly Fanny Clarmont," and he leaped and ran
to Rose Cottage, some times with a loud laugh, startling the night
birds, as he thought of the woman and her gold.

Kate had shivered as with a chill at Delrose's words, when Lord Rivers
had said:

"Come and take a glass of something warm, you have been standing too
long."

"You are kind," she said, recovering herself, "it gives one a chill to
lose two men in one night; yes, thank you, a glass of champagne,
t'will be a more pleasant sensation than the three brides, but let
them beware; I shall have their husbands at my feet again; and now for
the dance."

"I shall make you forget them."

"You may."

"A deserted room; a dim, religious light; a female form too tempting
to resist," he said, lazily, and in her ear.

"Well," said Kate, drooping her eyelids, knowing what the result of
this speech would be.

"Well, my charmer," and the kiss and embrace were given.

"You naughty man, but I do really need some extra support for my
spinal column, and it's awfully pleasant, but dear Grundy won't allow
it, so we must wait for our waltz."

And the pair hurried along the corridors and took their places at the
head of the room, and the ball was opened.

Col. Haughton, as we are aware, had demanded an explanation of the
words of Blanche from Sir Tilton. The rooms had been deserted, save by
those to whom a dish of gossip was as the essence of life, and who now
listened with itching ears to Sir Tilton's reply, while they tried to
remember the extent of the eccentric little bride's wealth. Whether
she would buy a house in town; nearly all deciding that they would
patronize or cultivate her.

"She is _outree_ and bad form, but she has the dollar and she'll be
game for those who havn't," said a London beau to Chancer, who hadn't
gone to the ball-room, but was eating his heart out in feverish
impatience for his waltz (the third dance on the programme) with
Vaura.

"Sorry you didn't like it, Colonel, but Blanche would have our
marriage private." He did not add that he said no word to dissuade
her; as the Jews would have none of him, and his friends had buttoned
up their pockets telling him "to wipe out old scores first."

As it was, wife, trip, special license and all that had cost him not a
_sou_, except the ring, and his freedom, which he considered ample
equivalent.

"Yes; it's all my fault, Colonel; but you are too awfully nice to be
angry with a bride, you know; and besides," she added in a stage
whisper, the pink eyes peering about, a childish look of anxiety
coming to the wee white face, as if to protect herself against
listeners who would carry her words to Madame in reality; aching to
see some of her step-mother's pets within earshot, to be sure her
words would carry.

Fire away, little one, 'tis an ancient war you are waging of woman
_versus_ woman; make your bullets; many are by who will pelt with true
aim.

"And besides, Colonel, Mrs. Haughton is so fond of Sir Tilton she
would never, no, never, have let me have him, so I let him make love
to her up to the very last, and she--"

At this juncture Colonel Haughton, whose nerves were terribly
unstrung, breathed an inward blessing upon Lady Esmondet, who, laying
her hand on the shoulder of the little one, said, "Tell us where you
were married, dear?"

"Oh, that's all square; at St. Alban's yesterday at Matins; but it was
an awful pity; scarcely anyone saw us. Guess it's legal though, eh,
Tilton?"

"When did you leave Haughton Hall, Everly?" inquired his host, almost
fearing some indiscretion would be brought to light.

"Yesterday, a.m., first train; took carriage for St. Albans; Blanche
telephoned for suite of apartments at hotel; left London to-day; so
here we are again."

The absence of his hostess and Vaura, also the look of respect in the
faces of his creditors all gave the little baronet courage to speak.

"Show me the marriage certificate, Everly. Ah, that's right, and I
congratulate you both; Blanche is her own mistress, and--"

"And, Lady Everly, don't give up the situation to anybody," a comical
look of importance on the wee face. Any men in the rooms who had the
haziest knowledge of the little man about town, now swarmed small
Everly with congratulations on his golden future, excepting Tisdale
Pollard, M.P., who did not care to have his debt paid by Everly from
the pocket of Blanche. But he must not forget himself; he will console
himself with the Tottenham money bags; so giving his arm to Cecilia,
bosom friend of Blanche, they join the group; the Tottenham pouting.

"What's the matter, Cis?" cried Blanche. "You have a greenery yellowy
look, and remind me of Bunthorn and the forlorn maidens all rolled up
together and sent in by parcel post."

"If I do, it's your fault, Blanche, and you are extremely unkind," she
said, tearfully. "You know you promised only the other day that when
you were married I should be first bridesmaid and choose my own frock,
and I did, and it just suited my complexion, especially in church,
with the lights from the stained windows upon it. I just dreamed of it
night and day; it's really too disappointing!"

"Is that all, Cis? I might as well cry because my pug is a shade
lighter than my new winter costume I ordered to match his coat. Don't
cry and you shall have a chair in my boudoir just to suit your
complexion (for I am going to buy an awfully nice town house)."

"Might have said we," thought her husband, but he swelled himself like
Froggie in the fable.

"Now, Cis," continued _la petite_, "isn't that a nice sugar plum for
you?"

"Sugar plum for me!" said Stuart, who thoroughly enjoyed a bit of
chaff with wee Blanche, "Sugar plum for me! Think I require one to
console me for Sir Tilton running off with you?"

"You're too big a humbug to get any from me, Mr. Stuart. Barnum's
umbrella wouldn't begin to take you in; if you try and be a good young
man, perhaps you'll get one over there," she added irreverently.

"Why, that's in the direction of Mrs. Haughton's boudoir, you very
naughty girl," laughed Stuart. "I wonder if I would, though; I must
find some one to sympathise with."

"Bunthorn again," laughed Mrs. Wingfield; "you had better apply for
the vacant footstool."

"Never get a softer seat, Stuart," said small Everly, looking as
important as the lords of the Berlin treaty.

"I'm too awfully too ashamed of you, Baronet," said his bride. "You're
as demoralized as all the New York theatres rolled in one."

"Lady Everly," said Stuart, solemnly and consulting his tablets, "I am
aware of your weakness for small people," with a side glance, "small
plots and puzzles. Read this one for me, please: where am I to find
Miss Tompkins, to whom I am engaged for this dance?"

"Guess you'll have to put up with Lady Everly," she said, saucily.

"You don't care to go to the ball room yet, Alice; we have so much to
say," said Col. Haughton, bending down to the sweet, calm face looking
up to his so earnestly, and marking the deepening lines of care and
unrest.

"No, Eric; sit down beside me, you look weary; I have seen so little
of you of late."

"And the guests come and go or talk in groups of this night of
sensation; or in these luxurious soft-lighted _salons_, give
themselves up to the delicious intoxication of some loved presence.
How many a passionate heart throb, how many sweet pains are engendered
in one's heart, how many sighs given and returned, what tender
passages on such nights! And what would a ball be without this
undercurrent of what we call flirtation; in reality, this yearning for
the one in the multitude.

"Why, Chancer, what's come to you, man? You remind one of a spirit in
Elysian fields in search of its mate," said Stuart, as he strolled
about with Lady Everly on his arm.

"Pretty scene, Chancer," said Lord Rivers, lazily, and stationing
himself in the curtained entrance to look out for some one to kill
time with until his hostess is his own again. "Fine show of arm and
neck there; pretty woman that; ah, there's an ankle; trust them, they
all know their good points. Fine pair of eyes; there's a neck for you;
but what's the matter with you, man, now I come to look at you you
wear a lost look; is it Fate, Fortune, or one of the Graces?"

"The three in one, Rivers," he said with a half-laugh.

"Did you say you had lost some one, Capt. Chancer? Perhaps I can tell
you; I know every nook and corner in the hall," said the Meltonbury,
insinuatingly, coming from the other side of the curtains, where she
had ensconced herself to watch for the return of Madame on hearing
Lady Everly's speech in the stage whisper.

"How angry the dear thing will be," she thought importantly, "when I
tell her." And now in her character of social astronomer she levels
her glass at Chancer.

"Oh, thank you, I shall be so obliged," he said eagerly; "I am in
search of Miss Vernon; our waltz is on."

"So! so! no wonder you are eager," but Chancer is out of hearing, so
swiftly has he followed Mrs. Meltonbury to the boudoir of Madame.

"An armful, seductive enough for Epicurus himself," thought Lord
Rivers; "and so is my superb hostess, full of fire and great go; the
Colonel is too quiet to master her; wonder what attracted them; gad!
what a different linking there would be if all existing marriages were
somehow declared null and void. Kate Haughton and Vaura Vernon would
be the most powerful magnets at London; even as it is, they will.
Clarmont will be rather surprised to hear that Delrose was the partner
of the fair Fan's flight; gad! he managed that well; Trevalyon is so
devilish handsome and _distingue_, I wonder Delrose won; but I forget,
Trevalyon had no _penchant_ that way; believe he has for the fair
Vernon though; who wouldn't? If she tell him yea, I wonder what sort
of a married woman she will develop into; they say she is perilously
seductive and fascinating; but my charmer said she'd have an ice
quietly with me in her boudoir, at a quarter to eleven; it's that now;
splendid eyes she has, and what a shoulder and arm! but, ah! this
won't do; I must look after my interests."

And the lazy epicurean musings give place to eager activeness on
seeing in the distance the trailing red satin skirts of Madame; her
fine arm in its whiteness resting on the black coat sleeve of Capt.
Chancer.



CHAPTER XLIV.

DUAL SOLITUDE.


Let retrace our steps and thoughts to the time Lionel, with Sister
Magdalen in his arms, the priest at his side, Vaura and the boy, child
of Fanny Ponton, made their sensational exit down the long lengths of
the luxurious _salons_. Mason had ushered them into the deserted
boudoir of her mistress, where every sense was pandered to; here one
was lulled into waking or sleeping dreams by the ever soft light, dim
and rose-tinted; or when old Sol rode high in the heavens, triumphant
in his gift of day, sending his beams through stained windows or
rose-silk hangings. The soft light shone alike upon gems in sculpture
and art on the walls painted in dreamy soul-entrancing landscapes, or
gay grouping of the Graces; if the pictured female loveliness was clad
only in feathery clouds of fleecy drapery, the few thought the painter
might have been more lavish of robing; but the room was warm with gay
laughter, warm with the sweet breath of warm hearts, with the warmth
of the rose-tinted lights clothing the ethereal loveliness on its
walls; and now, falling on one of the loveliest women in the kingdom,
thought Trevalyon, as laying his burden on a soft velvet lounge, his
eyes dwelt on Vaura's beauty, for they are alone once more, Father
Lefroy having left the boudoir with Mason to summon Sir Andrew Clarke,
as they could not restore the nun unaided.

"In dual solitude once more, my beloved;" and she is in his close
embrace; her large eyes in their soft warmth rest on his; one, long
kiss is given--one long sigh.

"Save for the boy, darling," Vaura smiles; releasing herself, her
quickened heart-beats deepening the rose-tints in her cheeks.

Here the physician entered, having despatched Mason for his servant
with medicine case.

"Too great a strain upon her nerves, poor thing," said Sir Andrew
Clarke; "most trying scene for her; then the narcotic administered, as
she has informed us, by the servant of her betrayer; I heartily
congratulate you, Trevalyon, on the light she has thrown upon this
matter, and none too soon, either, as Delrose is leaving England. You
have no idea, Miss Vernon, I assure you, of the talk there has been;
our newspapers are a great power in all English-speaking lands, and
their managers being aware our colonies take their cue from them (in a
great measure), do as a rule keep their heel on Rumour's tongue,
unless it wags on oath."

"Yes; and as a rule shut their eyes to the yellow sheen from the gold
in her palm, Sir Andrew," said Vaura, earnestly thinking of how Lionel
had suffered from it all.

"True, most true; but the revival of this scandal with the unwearied
persistence of its sensational colouring and reproduction from week to
week, lead one to suppose gold lent life and vim to each issue; though
again, _I am sure_, our great papers are above a bribe, and it must
have been vouched for on oath. Do you purpose interviewing the
newspaper men, Trevalyon?" he inquired, taking the medicine chest from
his servant and dismissing him.

"I think not (more than I have done); I dislike paper war and _oath
was made_ as to the _truth_ of the _lie_ to the managers; I suppose I
am lazy; at all events I am epicurean enough to hug to my breast the
rest after unrest;" and the mesmeric eyes meet Vaura's, while
Esculapius is searching his medicine case.

"Poor fellow, you do require rest," she said, gently turning her face
up to Sir Lionel's, for she is seated at the table, both elbows
thereon, chin and cheeks supported in her hands; "if we put ourselves
in his place, Sir Andrew, fancy what rest we should have, in the full
glare of a stare from Mrs. Grundy, while the unruly member of Dame
Rumour wagged in our ear. If I were in your place, Sir Lionel, I
should give no more thought to the matter; you have given the truth
to-night to gentle woman, who will give it to the London world; Adam
will only taste through Eve's palate; and the mighty Labouchere,
Lawson & Co. will cry joyfully, 'hear! hear!'"

Both the men laughed.

"You see, my dear surgeon, Eve endorses my policy, and thinks the
sisterhood a better mode of communication than telephone or
telegraph!"

"Could have no better newsmongers as a rule, Trevalyon; but there are
Eve and Eves, and when I have a secret to confide, I shall tell it to
your charming supporter; and when I have spoken, shall feel sure ''tis
buried, and her fair person the grave of it.'"

"_Merci_! Sir Andrew, your secret will be safe; and now that I have
such a mission, from this hour you are my medical adviser, as you will
have a double interest in knowing my pulse beats. But, see, the skill
of my Esculapius triumphs."

"'Tis so; the nun revives," echoed Sir Lionel, withdrawing his gaze
from Vaura's face.

"Revives! I am glad to hear that," cried Madame, entering, her hand on
the arm of Capt. Chancer, whom she had met at the door, and followed
by the priest.

"Yes; I am glad she is better, for I want a private word with you, Sir
Lionel. Capt. Chancer has come to carry off Miss Vernon; the priest to
carry off the nun, and--"

"With all our world in couples linked, her _tete-a-tete_ will be
secured," said Vaura to Chaucer's ear, as they made their exit, and
banishing thoughts of poor Guy Travers, the sensational events of the
evening having for the time blotted from her memory the words of
Madame and Delrose in the library before dinner.

"Any newer sensations, Capt. Chancer, since our pleasant little chat
in the _salons_?"

"In my heart--no," he said quickly; "(with you a man must grasp his
opportunity to speak of himself, you are in such request); I have the
same dull pain engendered by you, and which you alone can heal; do you
believe in affinities--love at first sight? yet you must; I am not the
only man, others have suffered, and not silently;" and there is a ring
of truth in his words which she reads also in his handsome manly face;
but she says gently:

"Don't let us talk sentiment in this maddening crowd; there's a dear
fellow," returning greetings to right and left; "but listen instead to
that waltz, a song of love itself."

"Oh, yes," he said eagerly; "the song you promised you will not deny
me?"

"If you care, yes; after our waltz; and now ere we lose ourselves in
the soul-stirring music, tell me, did I hear aright, have Blanche
Tompkins and Sir Tilton Everly joined their fate together?"

"They have; Lady Everly announced the fact herself."

"Ah! instead of the _Morning Post_; 'All's well that ends well;' but
wee mouse plays a game all hazard, my dear soldier; she has taken the
plaything from under the paw of puss; puss will purr, arch her soft
neck, look lonely and loving, and win him back."

"What a power you women are! When the great powers met at Berlin, we
should have sent you to represent your sex;" and his face is lit up
with the flame from his heart as they stand in position, so that step
and note will be in rhythm, and his eyes rest on the fair flower face,
while he breathes the odour of tea-roses and clematis from her
corsage.

We shall leave them so, not an unpleasant parting, and return to the
boudoir of Mrs. Haughton.



CHAPTER XLV.

BLACK DELROSE AS A MARKSMAN.


"And now, reverend sir," she had said, turning quickly and imperiously
to Father Lefroy, on the exit of Vaura, and waving her hand towards
sister Magdalen, "the left is your right. Ah! Sir Andrew, pardon, I
did not see you, you are in great demand in the drawing rooms."

"You flatter me, Mrs. Haughton," he answered, with a shrug of shoulder
as he accepted his dismissal.

Sister Magdalen now sat up, saying feebly, "Where am I; oh! yes, I
remember it all, how dreadful, my poor head," and turning her pale,
grief-stricken face to the priest, said sadly, "When do we leave,
father?"

"I go at once, daughter, but the great London physician who has just
left the room having restored you to consciousness, says positively,
you must remain here until to-morrow; come George, my son, we have no
more time to spare here, our duty is done."

"No, I shall not go with you," cried the boy, going over to Lionel,
taking his hand.

"You must, you are under age," said the priest sternly; "your mother
has given you to us."

"Then, she is my dear mother no more," and one could see that he
strove manfully to swallow the lump in his throat, "and if you force
me I'll cut and run."

Here Mason entered.

"Do you know whether the house-keeper has a vacant room, Mason,"
inquired her mistress hastily.

"No, ma'am," she said, "just now we are full ma'am."

"Very well, give orders instantly that Sir Tilton Everly's traps be
taken to Miss Tompkins' appartments. Assist this lady to Sir Tilton's
room, the boy also, and bid a servant drive this clergyman to the
village. Admit _no one_ to my presence."

"Yes ma'am," said the discreet maid, not moving a muscle of her face.

"I shall send for you both ere this time to-morrow," said the priest,
shaking hands kindly with Lionel.

"You would make a good general officer, fair madame, where speedy
dispatch was necessary," said Lionel gallantly.

"Twas easy, a man and woman sleep-double, a priest and a nun are
parted; make yourself comfortable on yonder lounge, I am coming to
look at and talk to you, my long lost star, my king."

"Most fellows would envy me," he thought, stretching, himself on the
lounge for he was really fatigued, and if he is made prisoner, may as
well rest.

"George would kill me, could he see me," thought Kate, seating herself
on a pile of cushions close to his chest, "but what did he tease me
about going off with a Cousin for, I know it was false, but if I can
even now win the love of this man, I shall defy him and pretend to
have taken him literally." And letting her lace wraps fall about her,
sinking into the cushions, leaning forward, both arms folded on his
chest, this recklessly, impulsive; black-browed woman looked her
prisoner full in the eyes. Being a man, his face softened. She saw it,
and there was a moment's silence save for the cooing of the lovebirds
hanging in their gilded cage in the roseate light.

"Could I not content you my king? you have been cruel to me; cease to
be so, and though I can be fierce, cruel, and vindictive to others, I
shall be always gentle to you; you know by my letters that my love is
unchanged, let me rest here, my king," and the head with its shining
black tresses sank to his chest, "and I shall teach you so to love me
that you will lose even the memory of other women. Speak, my king, but
only to tell me you accept my all," and her voice sank to a whisper.

"How can I, you poor little woman?" and he smiled, but sadly, for he
thought for one moment of how weak is poor humanity, with the boy
Cupid's fingers on one's heartstrings; the next, he determined to heal
the wounded heart at his feet--though with the lance.

"Your fancy, will pass, _chere madame_, and your husband is my
friend," and he added in her ear, "you have a man whom you honour with
especial favor."

"But why do I?" she said, almost fiercely and starting to a sitting
posture, "why, I only admitted him for distraction's sake; you know
full well 'twas you I loved and not the man I have married, or the
lover you credit me with," she said, in an aggrieved tone, forgetting
the years ere she had met him. "I hoped by so doing to drink of the
waters of Lethe; but it has not been so, though losing myself at times
in a whirl of excitement; your name, your face, with your wonderful
eyes, from nearly every album I handled, and I was again in
subjection; perchance you had been recalled to my memory by some idle
word in the moonlight when I became an iceberg to my companion, and my
whole being going out to meet yours, when, for return, an aching
loneliness. Listen, my king, my master," and she started to her feet
powerfully agitated, every pulse throbbing, Trevalyon stood up
quickly, coming to her side, taking her hand in his while one arm
supported her, for she trembled.

"Calm yourself, you poor little woman, this passion will soon pass; I
shall be away, other men will teach you to forget me, be kind to poor
Haughton for my sake (if I may say so) and your own, and now, dear,
that your passionate heart is beating slower, let me bring you to the
_salons_ ere you are missed."

"Your voice is full of music, else I would not stay so still," and
again he feels her tremble for she thinks of the flying moments of her
losing game, and of her fierce lover as victor. "But there is no time
to be-so sweetly still," and her voice sinks to a whisper, "or else I
could be forever so, see, I kneel to you; nay, you must let me be,"
and the words came brokenly and more passionately than any ever having
passed her lips, "you, and you only, have ever had the power to subdue
me." Here her face changed to a sickly pallor as of faintness, a
tremor ran through her whole frame, and saying in a breathless
whisper, "Great heavens! your life is in danger, follow my cue; will
you take care of the boy?"

"I will, Mrs. Haughton; pray arise."

While he was speaking, crash, crash, went the plate glass in the
window behind him, and black Delrose, looking like a very fiend,
bounded in, taking up a bronze statue of Achilles, hurled it at
Trevalyon, who only escaped from the fact of having stooped with the
utmost apparent _sang-froid_ to pick up a rose his fair companion had
dropped from her corsage. Achilles, instead of his head, shattering
the greater part of a costly mirrored wall, with ornaments on a Queen
Anne mantel-piece.

"This will settle him," he now yelled furiously, and about to fire
from, a pocket pistol.

"Hold!" cried Kate, "'twas no love scene."

"By heaven, 'tis well, or he had been a dead man," he said furiously,
lowering his arm. "Explain yourself, Trevalyon, or you--"

"Beware, George," said Kate, breathlessly.

"I shall not, Kate; you have maddened me and by the stars he shall say
why you knelt to him. I suppose you would like me, forsooth! to admire
the _nonchalante_ manner of his posing at the time," and turning like
a madman to Trevalyon, shaking his clenched fist in his face, said
fiercely, "by the stars you shall speak. Why did she kneel to you?"

"Calm yourself, Delrose," he answered quietly, for the first time
pitying this passionate woman, "Mrs. Haughton is the wife of my
friend!"

"Men always respect such facts," sneered Delrose; "no, that won't go
down; Kate, you or he shall tell me or I shall not answer for the
consequences."

Kate, fearing for Trevalyon, answered quickly:

"I was imploring him to look after your boy, and not allow the priest
to spoil him for a soldier."

"You swear this?"

"You, I know, are satisfied with nothing else."

"That won't do; do you swear you asked him to do this as you knelt,"
he said, slowly and jealously.

"I do."

"And what says this squire _des dames_?" he continued sneering and
turning suspiciously to Trevalyon.

"That Mrs. Haughton has condescended to explain the situation or I
shouldn't, and that a gentleman never questions the word of a lady,"
he answered coolly, and haughtily continuing, "may I be your escort
back to the _salons_, Mrs. Haughton."

Kate seeing the look of impatient hate settling in the eyes of her
lover, said hastily,

"Thanks; no, Sir Lionel;" she would have added more but for the
jealous gaze of Delrose, who said as she went to Trevalyon's
assistance in opening the spring lock.

"Yes; go, Kate, to your last act in the farces of Haughton Hall, you
must then come to my assistance with the drop curtain." While he
speaks the hands of the man, impatient to be with the love of his
life, and of the woman, sorry to let him go, meet in the folds of the
hangings, the woman sighing as she presses his hand to her heart and
so they part.



CHAPTER XLVI.

DISCORD ENDS; HEART'S-EASE AT LAST.


With quick steps and eager glances at the groups of gay revellers,
whom he passes with a few hurried words of greeting and thanks for
their congratulations on his "hidden wife," he looks in vain for
Vaura. At last, and his handsome face and mesmeric eyes are lit with
happiness, her voice comes to him from a music-room. He pushes his way
through the crowds, for poor Chancer has been doomed to disappointment
in his wish to have this fair woman sing to him alone, for when the
now full rich notes, now sweet to intoxication, of her mezzo-soprano
voice fell on the air, the languid, sentimental or gay stayed their
steps to listen.

Lionel has now reached the piano, and stands beside Lord Rivers, who
leans on his arms, noting with critical and admiring eye Vaura's
unequalled charms.

"Yes," was his mental verdict, "never saw more lovely bust and
shoulders; then her throat, poise of her head, like a goddess,
glorious eyes, lips full and velvety as a peach."

A warmer light comes to the large dark eyes and tender curves to the
lips as the sweet singer meets the gaze of her betrothed husband. One
look and he feels that the words are for him: "Thou can'st with _thy_
sunshine _only_ calm this tempest of my heart."

More than one man were at one with Lord Rivers and Chancer in feeling
the advent of Trevalyon to be extremely inopportune, when at the
closing words he drew nearer, and Vaura, with her own bewildering
smile, allowed him to carry her off. Just as they move away Everly
hurried towards them, handing to Vaura a tiny three-cornered note,
with a whispered "from Blanche," and he was gone. The recipient,
glancing in the direction, sees in the distance the pink eyes and wee
mouse-face peering through the crowd and gesticulating distinctly to
Vaura to "read at once." Her written words were:

"Bid Sir Lionel take you to the north tower instanter; it's all O.K.,
warm as toast and lighted, so the ghosts won't have a show; but you
will. Such a picnic! As soon as I can tire out, Sir Peter in our waltz
I'll be on hand. B. EVERLY."

"Well, darling, what say you?" and the handsome Saxon head is bent for
her reply.

"Yes, Lion, dear, and at once. It just occurs to me it may throw some
light on a mysterious conversation I overheard in the library, and
which the excitement of the night had well nigh caused me to forget."

"Indeed; then we shall hasten, love."

And turning their steps in the direction of the tower, first through
corridors bright with the light from myriads of gas jets, which lit
up Vaura's warm beauty and the brown sheen of her hair, followed
by admiring, loving, or envious eyes, they now reach the more
dimly-lighted halls, and turn into one at the foot of the spiral
staircase, which they ascend slowly, Lionel's arm around his fair
companion, her trail skirts thrown over her left arm. The stairway is
lighted as Blanche had said.

"Not even a ghost, my own," and his face is bent to hers.

"Only one of a past longing, dearest; how I longed for you in the
tower of St. Peter's. Oh! the view from the top, Lion."

"I know it well, love; but say you missed me, my love, ascending with
yours, even this arm supporting you."

"I did dearest, even there, and you know it well, as also I longed for
the sympathy of heart to heart, soul to soul in a view which lifts one
to the heavens, and would take a poet to describe."

"My own feelings, love; the majesty of the view, and from such a
height, overpowers one. Yes, sweet; dual solitude, as now, is
paradise. Do the stairs fatigue you, my own?"

"No, Lion," and for a moment they stand still, his arm around her. The
soft white hands draw his face near her own, "no, darling," and the
sweet tones are a whisper, "'tis only the languor of intense
happiness; in ecstatic moments, as now, one feels so."

For answer his lips press hers in a long kiss, and she is taken up in
his strong arms and not loosed until the ascent is made and the
octagon room reached; there he leads her to a seat, and throws himself
on a cushion at her feet.

"What a Hercules I am about to bestow my fair person upon," she said,
gaily, "for I am no light weight for a maiden. Ah! poor Guy; that
reminds me, darling, I have something to tell you which--"

"Which will have to wait until you are my own dear wife, for," and his
head is wearily laid on her knees, "I can wait no longer. You know,
Vaura, dear, what my life has been, since as a little fellow in jacket
and frilled collar, a child of about seven, my father was deserted by
her to whom he had trusted his name and the honour of our house. But I
cannot speak of it, it brings my poor half-crazed father back to
earth, and I see him again before me, a victim to his trust in a
woman. Then, my storm-tossed life; living now wholly for a pleasure
that palled upon me, again, losing myself in dreams of what my life
might have been with a loving wife, part of myself, making me a more
perfect man by her sympathy in a oneness of thought, for you know,
beloved, I could never have loved a woman who, for love of me, or
because I had moulded her character, had adopted my views of life. No,
woman is too fickle for that. I, in meeting your inner self, for we
nearly all have those inner thoughts, life, and aspirations, in you, I
know, our natures are akin, we can when we will, and just as our mood
is, talk or be silent; look into life more closely, or only at its
seeming; discuss and try to solve old, deep, and almost insoluble
questions that, in our inner life, have puzzled us more than once, my
own, or my bright twin-spirit of the morn," he added, brightening. "We
can only see and look no further (when our mood is so) than from the
cloudless sky to the sunbeams or starlight reflected in our own eyes.
Yes, beloved, I have earned my rest; my spirit has at last found its
mate. You will make my life perfect, love, by giving yourself to me.
To-morrow, come down quietly to the rectory, our old friend will make
us one. My place at the north is lonely without us; say yes, sweet?"

"In one little week, Lion, I shall have you here all the time. It will
be bliss for us, after your unrest and mine; for you if you were
obliged to leave here for any reason that may develop," and a look of
startled anxiety comes to the lovely face, "but, no; she would never
leave him; another flash of thought comes to me, darling, of the
'mysterious conversation' I spoke to you of, but it cannot have had
any real meaning. I shall again banish the dreadful thought."

"Do, beloved; it has been a trying night for all of us," and he rises
from the cushioned seat, and seating himself beside her draws the dear
head to his chest.

"It has, Lion; and now I must tell you of an episode in my life in
days of yore, in which poor Guy Travers took a prominent part. Poor
fellow, he is dead, and, perhaps, as the poet hath it, sees me 'with
larger other eyes,'" and a slight pallor comes to the sweet face.

"Thank God, he has taken him, darling, whatever it is you have to tell
me; for it is not cruel in me to say so, as had you loved him you
would have wed, and had he lived he would have eaten his heart out in
loneliness, for I have been told he loved you. Say on, my own, though
I care not to know, save that you wish to speak. I am in a perfect
rapture of bliss, and shall listen, if only to hear your voice, the
sweetest music I have ever known."

"You will remember, Lion, when I was about fifteen, you came here from
the east, expecting to meet uncle Eric. But, alas! as you are aware,
he was held in the fascinations at Baden-Baden, with debts
accumulating, the place going to ruin. He wrote saying, unless he
married money he would have to shut up the Hall, but for my sake he
was willing to enter an unloved alliance. Ah, how long ago these days
seem; and now, in this rest, dearest, pillowed so, I almost lose
myself in the dear present."

"Do, love, forget all about the past, tell me no more."

"I must, and in a few words, for, hark! the clocks tell the last
quarter before midnight, Blanche, whom we have forgotten, will be with
us, and so, to hasten; you left me sorrowfully to go to him and see
what could be done. Poor Guy was guest of the Douglas family. You are
perhaps aware that from Guy's French mother came all their wealth;
but, to hasten, Guy was nearly eighteen, a handsome boy, and in love
with my child self. I liked him, as I did Roland Douglas, though I can
never remember the time, darling, that those magnetic eyes of yours
and dear, kind face didn't haunt me. Guy never left my side, and
Roland being of same mind there were many battles over the
proprietorship of my small person. At last Gay triumphed, in this
wise; I had confided my troubles to him, when he persuaded me to elope
(nay, don't start, darling, 'twas only a two days' trip), in this, way
(as he said) I would be a heroine, and save the Hall for my dear
uncle, else he would wed for my sake some _outree_ manufacturer's
daughter and make himself wretched in a _mesalliance_. I could _save_
my uncle. What joy! With no thought of self we went to Gretna Green
and were married, and not by the blacksmith, but by a dissenting
clergyman; the next day we, as conquering heroes, were on our return
to the Hall, when Guy's mother, with Uncle Eric, to whom she had
telegraphed, met us, not with smiles, but frowns. In short, dearest,
our marriage was declared null and void. Guy's mother, whom it
appeared, wished him on coming of age to wed a Parisian heiress,
declared she would stop his allowance, but, as a matter of course,
with no legal tie binding us, we were again in our old position. And
so my dream to free Haughton was frustrated by a woman, but, oh, Lion,
my love, for my eventual good; for try as I have I could never have
given my woman heart to poor Guy. He loved me throughout his life, and
with wealth poured his all at my feet. But no more, dearest, I hear
Blanche."

"How wretched the poor fellow must have been, beloved; and how blest
am I."

"Hush, dear, here they are;" and Vaura is at one of the windows as
Everly says:

"Here we are again."

"Guess you're just about tired out waiting; but I see you hav'nt been
here long enough to read this," said the white mouse, taking a card
from a stand; "it says 'if you miss supper, down stairs.'"

"Here it is, Blanche, all right."

"We were, I suppose, to rise to it," said Vaura.

"And something worth mounting for, and not to be sneezed at either,"
cried Lady Everly, as her husband rolled a small table from a recess.

"If this is the picnic you promised us, Blanche, commend me to your
choice of dishes," said Vaura, inwardly hoping nothing unpleasant
would transpire relative to Mrs. Haughton.

"And now that we are comfortably placed," said Blanche, excusing
herself to fly to the window giving a view of Rose Cottage. "Now," she
said cheerfully, "we shall each propose a toast; mine being, success
to the plans and plots of this evening."

"Amen," said Trevalyon, thinking of Vaura and himself.

"Excepting one," said Vaura earnestly.

"Excepting one!" echoed Everly.

"No, I shan't be left," cried Blanche quickly, and in a low tone to
her spouse, "you cannot refer to the one we are here to witness."

There was no reply.

"Miss Vernon, your exception has nothing to do with Mrs. Haughton?"
continued _la petite_ inquiringly.

"It has; but I am imaginative; tell me, did Mrs. Haughton appear in
the supper-room?"

"I should just say so, and as gay as a lark, with Lord Rivers."

"But, Blanche, you know you only looked in, and Mrs. Haughton may have
done likewise."

"You're a goose, Tilton; Capt. Stuart and I had gone through a dish or
two before you all came in; I was born hungry."

"Believe you," laughed her husband.

"My poppa's pet name for me at dinner was ostrich," said wee mouse,
rapidly discussing breast and wing of duck, etc. "Sir Lionel, here's a
conundrum for you; what is the thirstiest animal?"

"Man," he answered demurely.

"One for you; you are placed, Tilton," and the pink eyes peered at a
window.

"I hope you feel comfortable in your niche, Sir Tilton," laughed
Vaura; "ask another, Blanche, and place Mrs. Haughton _a present_; I
cannot get her off my mind."

"All O.K.; I only have waited until you had refreshed the inner man."

"Women never eat," said Vaura, with an amused glance at the little
one.

"One didn't just now," said the small Baronet.

"How observant you are, Tilton; and now for Mrs. Haughton, did she
remain long in the supper-room, Baronet?"

"No, she excused herself just as you and Stuart made your exit; one
plea, finger hurt; some point of her jewellery entered."

"Which she made a point of and didn't return, eh?"

"No."

"Excuse me," she said quickly, and going to a window giving an open
view down into Rose Cottage, and throwing the heavy curtains behind
her; the windows of the cottage being all aglow with lights, the
interior of parlour and dining-room could be distinctly seen.

"Sir Lionel, come quick! look over there," she cried, giving him the
field-glass.

"Great heavens, what does it mean?" he exclaimed. "Move, Blanche,
Lion, one of you, and make room for me quick," cried Vaura,
breathlessly.

"No, darling; you had better stay where you are," he said excitedly,
forgetting at such a time their companions were ignorant of their
engagement.

"Poor Haughton, surely, Lady Everly, you do not consider yonder scene
a fitting subject to make game of?"

"Yes and no; if you knew how the poor dear Colonel has been sold, and
my poppa before him, you'd say 'tis best. She has been too many for
them; yes, it's better ended by an elopement."

"Then my worst fears are realized; and their words were no idle
seeming, as I half hoped," said Vaura in quick, nervous tones. "You
may as well gratify me, Lion dear, by giving me a glance at how a blot
is put upon the escutcheon of a heretofore stainless name," she said
despairingly, yet haughtily.

"It will be too much for you, darling; let me take you down stairs; I
must go to poor Haughton. We should prevent this."

"You can't and I am glad; I've known it for hours, but I wouldn't let
any one know; if you stop them now, what do you gain?"

"Quite a scandal," said small Everly, regretfully, for Vaura's sake,
whom, as she stands helpless to prevent, wishing to fly to her uncle,
yet dreading the scandal, shall fall without warning, and the house
full of guests, upon his dear head. In proud despair she looks
pleadingly at Lionel for sympathy, and Everly, his heart beating,
longs to do something for her.

"Can I help you in any way, dear Miss Vernon? Shall I ring the great
alarm bell, rouse the village and the Hall. Only let me be of use to
you," he says hurriedly.

"I thank you, Sir Tilton, make room for me at the window. Ah, heavens!
It is too true. Go down at once, Lion. Though I don't know for what,
still go. But don't go near that man, darling; tell Mr. Claxton and
the old butler, as well as my uncle's man; see what they say," she
cried, breathlessly.

"I cannot bear to leave you, love; will you be brave?"

"I will! I am!" but her voice trembled.

"Sit down and rest; you tremble," and leading her to the window, he
brings her to a cushioned seat, pressing the hand on his arm to his
side, whispering,

"Be brave, darling; remember your poor uncle was not happy, so he is
spared much. Come down when you feel calm enough to face Mrs. Grundy."

He is gone and bounds down one hundred and seventy-five steps between
his heaven and a lower sphere.

Vaura throws herself face downwards, making every effort to meet the
inevitable with calmness.

"I'll read off their movements, Miss Vernon," said wee Blanche, "and
so keep you from going to sleep. Melty enters with furs, Mrs. Haughton
stands as you saw, her red robes thrown off, the D---rose laughingly
assists the maiden fastening a dark travelling robe, evidently in
haste, consulting his watch; points to the table, showing his teeth,
meaning he is laughing; he, I expect, gives the feast as a reason of
their delay; and he's about right, for thereon stand long-necked
bottles and dishes. Melty leaves the room; he tells Mrs. Haughton
something that astonishes and pleases her, for she gives him a hug;
goes to a side-table puts yellow money, cannot tell the coin from
here, in a sort of pattern. "Can you see what it means, Tilton, my
eyes are tired," and the pink eyes are rubbed red. "No, I cannot
decipher the words. Yes, the last is, 'cousin;' stay, I've got
another, 'my,' that's all I can make out, the other words are in the
shadow.""

"What does it mean? 'my cousin,'" said the young detective; "oh! I
have it, he said he was going to marry a cousin. I thought he romanced
when be said so, but I suppose they are the cousins. Well, pity to
spoil two houses with them say I, but they are off. Both hug Melty,
Mrs. Haughton waves hand in the direction of the dollar. By-by,
step- momma. By the shade of Lincoln, how Melty claps her hands in
glee on seeing her wages in gold; she hastily pockets; one or two
pieces roll to the floor. Ellen, the cook, enters, lamp in hand,
unsteady of gait; Melty stoops to conquer the gold, picks up a shower-
stick to get it from a corner, knocks with one end the lamp out of the
shaky hand of the maid."

"Jove, what a blaze!" exclaimed Everly, who had been alternately
flattening his nasal organ against the window pane, or gazing around
at Vaura, who, at his last words, starts to a sitting posture, and
says, controlling herself to speak calmly:--"

"I am going down stairs at once; what a terrific blaze. Are you
coming, Blanche, or Sir Tilton?"

"Yes, yes; come, Blanche."

"I wonder what is known by the guests and household, and if Sir Lionel
has had them pursued?" cried Vaura brokenly, as they rapidly descend
the stairs.

"Some of the men In the house guessed what Delrose's game was," said
Everly, "and we thought the only women in the secret were Mrs.
Meltonbury and Mason, the maid, but Blanche seems to have been aware
of their plot."

"I am surprised at you, Blanche, seeming to be _au fait_ in the
matter, and keeping it secret; but I forget, you thought it best they
should fly."

"Yes, it was for the best, Miss Vernon, and the small white mouse can
keep dark when she chooses; the tongues of the other women were
bought," she said cunningly.

"Yes, tied by a gold bit. Sir Tilton, you are tied to a born
detective, said Vaura.

"He is," says the wee creature laconically.

Here they meet Trevalyon, out of breath and racing up for Vaura.

"How do you feel now, darling?" he says pantingly.

"Rest a minute, Lion, you are out of breath; Sir Tilton, kindly open
that casement."

"There is no way of opening this one; bad fix. Trevalyon is very short
of breath."

"Unloose his collar," she said hastily, and taking a diamond solitaire
off her finger, handing it to Everly, said quickly, "cut the pane."

Trevalyon had sank on to a step; Vaura drew his head to her knee while
Blanche held her vinaigrette to his nose; in a minute or two his
breathing came naturally and he said:

"Too bad to have frightened you, darling, and you too Lady Everly, but
really, it was scarcely my fault," with a half smile, "you must blame
the stairs, they seemed all at once to become too cramped and
stifling. Ah! I thank you Everly, that air is refreshing; I am quite
myself again," and he would have stood up.

"No, no; rest a minute," said Vaura gently.

"Yes, sit still; you are our patient, and all the patience we have
till we hear from you all about Melty's fire-works," said Blanche
eagerly.

"Rather Lucifer's bonfire over the old Adam in that woman," said
Vaura, contemptuously.

"Clayton was dreadfully shocked when I told him, and we decided not to
name their flight until to-morrow; he and I, with my man and the
butler (trump of an old fellow he is), fairly ran to Rose Cottage and
succeeded in getting out, unharmed, Mrs. Meltonbury and a maid; we
sent my man to the village to hurry up the firemen, and then I flew
back to you, dearest, knowing you would be anxious as to your uncle. I
left him looking more like himself than I have seen him for years,
quietly talking to Lady Esmondet and Mrs. Claxton; in my haste to be
with you I out-ran breath and then had to wait her pleasure to catch
up to me. No fear of the revellers suspecting anything; the ball is at
its height and the hells were not rung. They took the midnight express
through to Liverpool; thence they sail to New York."

"Did you compel Melty to own up to that much?" said the little
detective, her tiny, white race full of interest.

"We did; and pursuit would he useless."

"When a Haughton weds and is dishonoured, divorce, not pursuit, will
lie his action," said Vaura, her beautiful head erect; and now for our
revenge, a sweeter strain than that of grief; we shall descend and so
cover their retreat by our sparkling wit, and gay smiles, that they
shall not be missed."

"Mrs. Haughton would get left anyway," said Blanche; "for the crowd
all want to stare at you."

"Flashes of light and warm tints in a golden summer sky versus evening
in her red robes sinking to the west," said Trevalyon, pressing Vaura
to his side as they follow their companions.

"One for you, Sir Lionel," cried _la petite_ looking over her
shoulder.

And Lionel bends his handsome head down to the fair woman whose face
is unturned to his. He says, whisperingly, while his face is illumined
with happiness.

"A few days, beloved, and then we shall lead, till I weary my wife
with the intensity of my love, the life of the lotus-eaters."

"Yes, my own tired love, yes; our home, until our world bids us forth,
shall be a very 'castle of indolence,' 'a pleasing land of drowsy
head, 'twill be of dreams that wave before our half-closed eyes, and
of gay castles in the clouds that _pass_ forever flashing round our
summer sky.'"

And the large dark eyes are full of love's warm light, as the ayren
voice dies away to a murmur.


THE END.





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