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- Marguerite Verne - 30/71 -


"I shall make no such promise, Phillip Lawson; but I promise that I will never place you in an unworthy position. I will never utter one sentence that will compromise your dignity as a gentleman. Will you trust me?"

"I will trust you in anything, my noble girl," said Phillip in tones of deep reverence.

"You know that my Uncle Verne's interest in you is real--he is your friend," said Jennie, trying hard to brighten the path of her friend's existence.

"Thank God for it," said the lawyer. "Indeed I have much to be grateful for. Jennie, some day I may tell you more: at present my lips are sealed."

"Your sense of honor is too high for the nineteenth century, Mr. Lawson; yet I would not have you otherwise."

The girl was mechanically picking to pieces the white petals of bright-eyed marguerites and strewing the ground beside her.

"You ruthless vandal! look at your work, Miss Montgomery," exclaimed a bright romping miss of fifteen, bursting upon them without regard to ceremony and pointing to the ground where lay the scattered petals.

"But it is romantic, you know; one always reads of some beautiful maiden picking roses to pieces to hide the state of her feelings."

"Thank you, Miss Laura, for your well-timed allusion, for Miss Montgomery and I have been romancing indeed," said Mr. Lawson, bowing to the young miss with an air of deferential homage.

"It will all come right yet," said Jennie, pressing her friend's hand with the tenderness of a sister.

The young man smiled sadly, murmuring: "'It will all come out right.' How those words seem to mock me--'it will all come out right.'"

CHAPTER XX.

SCENES AT THE GREAT METROPOLIS.

Mrs. Montague Arnold sat, or rather reclined, in her handsome breakfast-room. She was awaiting the morning mail, which had been somewhat delayed. A bitter smile played around the daintily curved lips.

"The saucy little minx; I shall teach her better," murmured the beauty in angry tones and gesture.

Montague Arnold paid no attention to the half-spoken words. He looked the veriest picture of dissipation. Late hours, cards, and wine were stamped upon his hitherto handsome face and left an impress at times anything but flattering.

In private, few courtesies were interchanged between the husband and wife. It would, indeed, be wrong to say that Montague Arnold on his marriage morn did not give to his fascinating bride more adulation than he ever bestowed upon any other woman, and had the haughty beauty given more attention to her husband he might have become a different man; had she shown a true heart, a truthful, honest nature, and a mind adorned with what is lofty and elevating, what a different life those two might have led? But Evelyn Verne was without heart, and we might almost say without soul. She lived for society alone; it was her first duty, and worshipped more zealously than the goddess Hestia that occupied the first altar in a Grecian home.

Mrs. Arnold was indeed an object of admiration in her superb morning toilet of fawn-colored Lyons silk, with faultless draperies and priceless lace. It was the beauty's ruling passion that no toilet was ever neglected; hours were spent in putting the finishing touches to some becoming style that brought out the wearer's charms and set the hearts of her admirers in a flutter.

As the soft white hand was raised to suppress a yawn a solitaire diamond caught the ray of sunshine that found its way into the elegant mansion, and reflected a radiance that was enchanting.

Mr. Arnold could not fail to be impressed with the sight. He at last found words to say, "What is your programme today, Eve?"

"I have promised to visit the studio with mamma and Madge. Lord Melrose is to be there, and I am very anxious to see his portrait."

"Don't flatter yourself that you are his latest charm, my dear," said her husband in sarcastic tones.

"You are altogether _de trop_, my amiable husband," said Mrs. Arnold with an angry gleam in the brilliant and wondrous dark eyes.

"I was sorry to hear that the young and beautiful Mrs. Maitland has possessed the fellow body and soul. What an honor to the young 'squire to have his wife thus lionized in the London drawing-room."

Mr. Arnold could be tantalizing without mercy, and when he had fully aroused his wife's anger he was happy.

Mrs. Arnold had received much flattering attention from Lord Melrose, and it wounded her pride when she heard that another had supplanted her. The remarks that had escaped her lips referred to the merciless young matron; and well Montague Arnold was aware of the fact, but he winced not, and only plunged deeper into the whirlpool of dissipation, which sooner or later would be his inevitable destruction.

"I was really tired waiting," exclaimed Mrs. Arnold, when Mrs. Verne and Marguerite entered the reception room an hour later. "I had begun to think that some prince in disguise had eloped with little sobersides."

"I don't think we will be quite so fortunate, Eve," said Mrs. Verne, with a significant look which annoyed Marguerite more than she was willing to acknowledge.

"Really, Madge, you are growing prettier every day since you came on English soil. Mamma, just look at her color; is it not bewitching? I tell you, Madge, you will turn half the heads in Piccadilly."

Marguerite saw with disgust the real object of her mamma's visit, and she was determined to show her dislike in a manner that would save herself from being the object of ridicule.

"Eve, I wish you to understand that I am not interested in love affairs. Please choose your conversation from other sources, and I will be much obliged--indeed I shall be forever grateful."

The girl's manner was serious, and her pleading looks would have given pleasure to a sensible woman, but they were scorned by Mrs. Arnold and her mother.

Mrs. Verne had been expatiating upon the immense fortune which had fallen to Hubert Tracy, and took the greatest of pains to impress Marguerite with a sense of his importance.

"How I wish that I had waited, mamma. You know that Mr. Tracy was devoted to me in every way, but you preferred Mr. Arnold."

"I preferred his riches, my dear, and you know Montague is so handsome and distinguished looking. Why, he really was the handsomest man in the ball-room last evening."

"But Hubert's fortune is tenfold that of Montague's. His income is immense."

"Well, all we can do is to consign him to Madge," said Mrs. Arnold, with an affected air of deep regret. "It is certain that he clings to the family, and his great wealth would be an heirloom for many generations."

"Quite a speech, Eve," said Mrs. Verne, clapping her white palms together by way of applause.

Crimson silk _portieres_ separated the party from Mr. Arnold, but not a word had been lost. "You will have to play your little game quick, else the fortune will soon be a thing of the past," muttered the husband under his breath. "Curse these women, they are nearly all tarred with the same stick. And my charming wife. What a pity I stand in her way. Well, she can go on in _her_ way and I will stick to mine. Heavens! is there one true woman?"

Montague Arnold's face, reflected in the mirror opposite, was not then a pleasing study. A sardonic grin was on his lips and a dangerous light in his eyes.

Just then Marguerite changed her seat, and, unobserved, the dissipated man glanced at the pure _spirituelle_ face which had appeared as answer to his questioning words.

"Yes, Madge, I am a veritable scoundrel; already I see before me one true and pure being."

Was it a tear that glistened on the maiden's cheek as Montague Arnold once more contemplated the fair brow and madonna-like eyes?

Marguerite, in her courtly surroundings, was indeed indulging in day dreams, woven from scenes of her native land. And when she contrasted the picture with the vague, undefined reality, her emotional nature was stirred within her, and the gushing tears would force themselves in spite of all efforts at control. She was longing for one glimpse of dear old "Gladswood" and the fond embrace of Cousin Jennie.

"What would I not give to be free from this," murmured the girl in an undertone; then glancing around she recognized her brother-in-law, his eyes fixed upon her in close scrutiny.

"Upon my senses, Madge, you look like some one in a dream. I really might imagine you a piece of rare statuary--one of the Niobe group strayed from the Florentine gallery to meet the wistful gaze of the sight-seers of London!"


Marguerite Verne - 30/71

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