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- Marguerite Verne - 4/71 -
intricate and perplexing law points at issue; and the look of benevolence expressed in the lips, mouth, and chin, impart a tone of self-respect and dignity which, united with culture and refinement, make our legal friend an ornament to the profession.
Nor is it when office hours are over that Mr. Lawson's labors are ended. His services are freely given to many societies. Old and young, rich and poor, can testify to the fact.
Yet he does not rest here. Many an hour the midnight oil has burned low as this thoughtful student sat poring over pile upon pile of some old work as he kept up his never-flagging research, or penned his thoughts with marvellous rapidity.
As anyone appears to better advantage in a neat, cosy little library, with a bright fire burning in the grate, than in a cheerless, dim and prosy den, called by way of courtesy, an "office," we thus look in upon the young man of books and letters. Phillip Lawson has just returned from a meeting in connexion with his church, and judging from his haggard looks, has had a busy day. His bright-eyed little sister has made her appearance at his elbow, and has placed upon the pretty five-o'clock table a cup of coffee and some of her own making of tea-cakes.
"Lottie, you silly little puss, why did you go to such trouble?" asked the admiring brother, as he took the little hands in his and looked into the piquant face for answer.
"Just as if I am going to let you work yourself to death and starve you into the bargain! Oh, no, my big brother, I am too selfish to keep you for myself to do any such thing; so go now and take the coffee while it is hot, else I shall have to bring more."
Lottie Lawson shook her head with all the determination of a miss of fourteen, and emphasized the fact by settling herself very cosily into a low seat to see that every cake is disposed of to her satisfaction.
"Have you anything to tell me, little one? You know I can talk and eat at the same time," said Phillip, sipping his coffee with the _abandon_ of an epicure.
"Indeed, I have not one bit of news worth telling. I hear anything except a lot of the silly stuff the girls bring to school."
"Well, that must be worth something, arising from such a variety of sources," replied the young man, his grave face expressive of the fund of true humor within.
"Suppose you heard of the quarrel between Maud Harrington and Hattie Reynolds?"
"No; what was it about?"
"Oh! I can hardly tell you; but it was at recess, and nearly all the girls were out, except three or four. Maud said that Carrie Wilson's mamma had been calling at Mrs. Simpson's and that she said that Mrs. Ashley told that Hattie's sister Belle was the most dowdy-looking girl at the Langley's party."
"How did Hattie find it out?" asked Phillip, with all the gravity he would exercise on one of his clients.
"Oh! you know listeners never hear anything good about themselves. Hattie was listening and never said a word about it until she got home, and then Hattie's mother went to all the folks who were mixed up in it and they had an awful time of it. Oh, yes, and what do you think?----" Lottie gave another piece of news of much more importance to her brother than the preceding one, but he very quietly kept his own counsel, and soon after dismissed the little maiden, that he might take up a few hours of hard study. The student lamp was lighted, and new fuel added to the grate. Phillip Lawson sat himself down; but it cost him great effort to concentrate his thoughts upon the work before him. Still he labored on and fought manfully with the intruding thoughts, that, despite all resistance, would at times be heard. But duty gained the victory, and it was not until the young man had placed the much-prized manuscript in its resting place, drawn his chair nearer the hearth, and lit a cigar with the blessed expectation of having a puff of the weed, that he again reverted to the banished subject.
"How the child could hear such a thing! Much as I dislike gossip I should, like to question her further, but I dare not encourage such things in a child," murmured the young man, involuntarily pressing his hand upon his brow, as if bent upon study. And it Was a study both pleasant and unpleasant. It presented two pictures--one fair and bewitching, which lit up the student's face with its reflection, while the other, dark and lowering from its deep and gloomy appearance, shed a cloud of despondency and sadness upon the thoughtful brow, leaving thereon an expression that was fretful and annoying.
"If the fellow were worthy of her I would not care so much, I could and _would_ live it down; but for me to see her associated with him through life, it is something dreadful. And what am I to do? Warn them of the danger myself? oh, no; that will never do! I will be accused of plotting to secure the prize myself. But you will certainly do it in justice to the man whom you value as a true friend, if for nothing else," were the burning thoughts that forced themselves uppermost, and bade the young man reflect very seriously. "Yes, that is a motive sufficient to nerve any man; but there is a deeper one--yes, I will admit it--a selfish one." There was a struggle going on worthy the soul of this noble-minded youth. He was trying to solve a problem which vacillated between right and wrong. It was no common task, for when duty pointed the way, the form of self overshadowed the path, and showed only fitful gleams of light.
"I will be cautious; but she must not be sacrificed to the artful wiles of unprincipled tricksters while I have an trinity. Come what may, I must and _will_ speak out!" Phillip Lawson thus resolved, with a sense of relief. He knew now how to act, and his mind was clear, calmly awaiting the hour to carry his resolutions into effect. But how often do a few careless words change the whole course of action which hours of thought had premeditated.
Phillip Lawson's high-toned resolutions by these means were scattered to the winds, and he turned once more to the lofty aspirations of his intellectual nature for refuge.
Let us explain:
It is the hour of twilight, and the streets have an air of desertion. The people of fashion that are daily to be seen on King and Prince William streets have retired within their palatial residences, and none are abroad except an occasional man of business, with wearied and abstracted air, soon to find rest in the bosom of his family. Suddenly a handsome turnout claims our attention, and instantly the driver assists a lady to alight. She is dressed in costly furs and velvet, and her haughty mien shows that her associations and preferences are with the patrician side of nature.
"Will you come in, too, Rania? I need not ask Marguerite, lest she might miss a chance of seeing 'Farmer Phil' and lose effervescence of the hayseed. Do you know he is always associated, in my mind, with homespun and hayseed."
Evelyn Verne laughed at the cleverness of her remark, and adjusting her mantle entered a publisher's establishment, followed by the said Rania Lister.
"Homespun and hayseed," muttered a muffled figure as he stood in the recess of a doorway, from which situation he could see each occupant of the sleigh and hear every syllable that was uttered.
"Homespun and hayseed! ah! my proud beauty, the effervescence of hayseed is less noxious than the stench odors inhaled from dissipation and vice, notwithstanding the fact that they are perfumed over with all the garish compliments and conventional gallantries that society demands."
Phillip Lawson had a highly-wrought imaginative temperament. He had not heard more than those few words, but his mind was quick to take in the whole situation. He could hear the lengthy speeches of ridicule and sarcasm aimed at him from every possible standpoint, and he felt the more determined to live down the scathing thoughts. The man did not hear the reply by Marguerite Verne to her arrogant sister, but he calmly and slowly repeated the words--"God bless you, noble girl!" He still had faith in the purity of her mind, and would have given much to be able to convince her of the fact.
It did, indeed, seem a coincidence that the moment Phillip Lawson uttered the words above quoted, an almost perfect repetition found their way into Marguerite's heart, and left a deep impression which all the taunts of the subtle Evelyn could not shake off. Nor did it seem strange to her when she fancied that a figure, on the opposite side of the street, hurrying along at a rapid pace could be none other than the subject of her thoughts.
* * * * *
"A delightful evening, indeed. It is almost too fine to remain indoors."
The speaker is none other than Mr. Lawson. He is looking his best in the neatly-fitting dress suit, with all the little make-ups necessary to complete a gentleman's evening costume, and while he leisurely surveys the groups of pretty faces on every side, is also engaged in entertaining a bewitching little brunette, charmingly attired in cream veiling and lace, with clusters of lovely damask roses to enhance the brilliancy of her complexion.
The scene was truly intoxicating. Mrs. Holman, the fashionable belle of society and wife of one of the leading physicians of the city, was entertaining a brilliant assemblage of the _elite_. The informal announcement of her grand "at home" had kept society in a delightful state of anticipation for the past ten days, and reality was indeed equal to all that could be devised. The grand drawing-room, furnished with regard to the beautiful in art, was certainly a fit receptacle for such an array of beauty and grace. There was the exquisite blonde, with face of angelic purity; next came the imperial Cleopatras, with their dusky grandeur of style rivalling that of empresses; and conspicuous among the latter was Evelyn Verne. Her amber-satin robes revealed the fact that she was an adept in the art of dress, and spared no pains to display the beautifully-rounded form and graceful carriage as she whirled through the mazes of the waltz, with Montague Arnold as partner. The latter was indeed a handsome man--one that is sure to attract a fashionable woman. There is a sarcastic expression lurking around the well-formed mouth, that has not, to the intelligent mind, a
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