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- Marguerite Verne - 2/71 -
heavy a hold upon her, and slightly pressing a kiss upon Marguerite's cheek, she takes leave without saying another word. As the latter listens to the rustle of the silken train through the spacious hall and stairway, she heaves a deep sigh, and once more seats herself beside her desk. On the pages of the little book she pens thoughts worthy of such a soul, and worthy of the memorable eve--worthy of the dying moments of the year which had been her friend, her comforter and her hope. She could look back without many regrets. The hours had not been misspent, and she could say: "Old Year, I used you well. Now that you are nearly gone I will not regret, but try, with God's help, to welcome in your child."
Marguerite sat thus while the clock struck twelve, when she buried her face in her hands and remained in thoughtful silence--a feeling too reverential for words, as something too sacred for intruding upon.
And now the New Year had been welcomed in. The moon, in all her majesty, witnessed the solemn pageant; and unseen choristers wafted the tidings from pole to pole.
"Another year," murmured Marguerite, as she gently raised the casement and looked out upon the beauty of the scene. Queen Square, studded with tributes to the Loyalists, was peaceful as the grave. Beyond was the calm, blue water of the harbor; while here and there a white sail upon its bosom added to the effect. Peace reigns over the city, and the lights have at last disappeared from the Verne mansion. Let us take the liberty to mention a few facts that may be necessary ere we proceed further.
The Vernes belonged to a genteel and respectable family. They did not lay claim to an aristocratic ancestry, but for generations could reckon on a spirit of proud independence and honest worth. Mr. Verne was a man of honor and sound principles in every sense of the word; and he always tried to inculcate those principles in the minds of his children. If he daily saw in his first-born traits of character which he openly condemned and censured, there stood in bold relief upon his heart the pure, high and noble character of his delicate Marguerite. Nor was he to be disappointed in the younger scions of the family. Fred. Verne was a noble, manly boy of fifteen, and gave promise of being a good and upright citizen; while the precocious Charlie, despite the daily amount of spoiling received in the domestic circle, was a clever little fellow, as ready with an answer as he was ready for his daily supply of chocolate caramels.
Mr. Verne had married when very young, and was still in the prime of manhood. He was not handsome; but an intelligent, open countenance was the most pleasing attraction in his face. One could look upon him the second time without a feeling of dislike or even indifference.
But there is another important personage of whom we must make mention--the mistress of the Verne mansion. She is, to say it in as few words as possible, an out-and-out woman of the world--one who never says or does anything without considering what will be the world's opinion of her, and one who never says or does anything unless there be some selfish motive at the bottom of it; one who lives only for the gratification of her own selfish ends, so far as her friends and family are concerned, and whose chief delight is show, display and social greatness.
It may be said that when Mr. Verne married his child-wife, who had been petted and spoiled by her elders, he made much allowance for her daily short-comings, and fondly hoped that he might bend the impulsive nature to his will; but when he saw the great mistake he had made, he calmly bowed his head in submission to the decrees of fate, and labored more diligently to set a good example before his children. When vainly remonstrating with his wife, upon the increasing gaiety into which she plunged so wildly, he always found encouragement from the sympathetic Marguerite; and when retired from the noise and din of the drawing-room, his favorite amusement was a game of chess, with the latter for partner. It was then that Marguerite's deep violet eyes would sparkle and her face glow with enthusiasm, as she followed her father through the mazes of the game, and her clear silvery laughter had more charm than the ravishing strains of the most brilliant fantasia.
Surrounded by the _elite_ of the city of St. John, Evelyn Verne was courted by the rich, the gay and the distinguished. It was the sole end of Mrs. Verne's existence that her daughters should make grand matches. For this purpose she entered upon a career which we intend to pursue through all its straight and crooked paths, hoping in the sequel to impart the sad but profitable lesson!
Sunnybank, the stately residence of the Vernes, is indeed an imposing structure. Its towering form and massive appearance mark it as one of the noblest piles in St. John. Its costly windows, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow; its solid brick walls, stone pillars and grand entrance, bespeak it the home of wealth and affluence. Even the solid brick pavement leading from the main gateway to the terrace marks the substantial tone of the edifice, and impresses one with the stability of its owner. And the statuary, seen from the highway, denotes the taste displayed in the vestibule, with its floor of tesselated pavement, echoing to the tread of footsteps as the corridors of some grand old cathedral.
It is now our privilege to be introduced to the interior, and we make good use of our opportunity while mingling with its guests.
On this clear wintry evening as we are ushered into the Verne drawing-room with its beautifully-frescoed wall and rare painting a pretty sight is presented to our view. Seated at the piano is Marguerite, who is singing a quaint little ballad for the benefit of a company of children gathered at her feet. She is evidently their queen, as the sly glances at the happy-faced maiden are ever increasing to be repaid by the sweetest of smiles. Evelyn Verne appeared in a heavy garnet silk with bodice and draperies of the same shade in velvet. Her elbow sleeves reveal arms that would rival in miniature those of the master-piece of Phidias--the Pallas Athena--which graced the Parthenon in by-gone ages. Her hair, of purplish blackness, gives effect to the creamy tints of her complexion, and heightens the damask tinge of the beautifully-rounded cheeks. One glance at this magnificent looking form and you are victimized by her charms; you cast a side glance towards the childish-looking girl at the piano, and you will only pronounce her passing fair. Beauty is beauty, and will charm while the world goes on, and while we are endowed with that sense which, in general, has outweighed all others; but in most cases we are, in the end, taught that the beauty of the soul will wear until time is no more, and the beauty that fades is a thing of the past!
"Evelyn, dearest, if Paris had now to decide between the goddesses, he certainly would have awarded you the golden apple," exclaimed the first muse, who never let an opportunity slip to display her knowledge of mythology.
"What nonsense you talk, Clio!" returned Evelyn, whose heightened color betrayed the insincerity of her speech.
Urania Lister, "the Fifth Muse," as Fred. Verne had dubbed her, now entered from the conservatory, and throwing aside a scarlet wrap, also joined in the conversation. She was a slight creature, with some pretension to good looks; but there was a sort of languor in her manner that disappointed one ere she had uttered half a dozen sentences. In order to sustain the character her name suggested, she was continually soaring into immensity of space and deducing celestial problems for the uninitiated _habitant_ of this lower sphere. It was when Urania had taken one of her upper flights into empyrean air that the fond mother would exclaim: "If Galileo were alive to-day I believe he could get ideas from my dear Urania."
But to return to the drawing-room.
The children have been dismissed to their homes, and Charlie consigned to the limits of his own apartments. A slight bustle is heard in the hall, and presently two visitors are duly announced by a servant in waiting. A smile of satisfaction beamed on the countenance of the anxious Mrs. Lister as she eyed the two young gentlemen on their being introduced to her three daughters, and in less time than it would be possible to conceive, she was consummating two brilliant matches for the ancient-looking Clio and the celestial Urania.
Be it said for this lady's benefit, and by way of explanation, she had consigned three of the muses to "dear papa," and kept the three most eligible under the shadow of her wing.
While the devoted parent is weaving all manner of bright visions, she resolves that practice be not sacrificed to theory, and commences by a skilful contrivance to expatiate upon the ability and goodness of her offspring.
Montague Arnold is indeed an expert in all that concerns society through its labyrinthine phases. Not a look or tone but he has thoroughly studied, and ere he is many moments in an individual's society can accommodate his pliable nature to every demand. His physique is striking, his face handsome, his manner engaging, and he is reputed to be wealthy. His family connections are desirable, and he has education, accomplishment, and the benefit of a lengthened tour on the continent.
What then is to debar such an one from entry into the best social circle the city affords?
Will we overstep the bounds of charity and describe a scene in which Montague Arnold and his companion, Hubert Tracy, played a conspicuous part a few hours previous? Ah, no! "Tell it not in Gath!" Let them be happy while they may.
Of Hubert Tracy we might have a more favorable opinion. There is still upon his broad, fair forehead a trace of manliness and honor, but there is about the lower part of his youthful looking face a lack of determination that threatens to mark him as a victim for the wary and dissipated man of the world.
Conversation had now become general, while music and games filled up the intervals.
Evelyn Verne was indeed the object upon whom Mr. Arnold lavished his attentions--a fact not overlooked by Mrs. Lister. Hubert Tracy was devoting himself to the Muses, and occasionally venturing a glance at Marguerite, who took much interest in the younger members of the
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