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- Marguerite Verne - 5/71 -
wholesome tendency; but then there is such a dash of style, and an amount of gay and charming sentiment in every word, that the resistless Montague Arnold finds himself an important adjunct to every gathering representing wealth and prestige.
To an ordinary observer the contrast between Phillip Lawson and the acknowledged beau of society never appeared more striking, and many would exclaim, "Well, Lawson is a very nice fellow, but then he is awkward, and makes a poor appearance in society."
At this moment a familiar and graceful figure engaged the attention of the young lawyer. Marguerite Verne has been dancing, and accidentally finds herself seated near the conservatory in which Phillip stood. He is instantly at her side and it is then that the real beauty asserts itself--beauty of soul. "Miss Marguerite, I see you are determined to enjoy yourself, if I may judge by the number of dances you have already participated in," said the young man, eager to join in conversation with the gentle but dignified girl.
"Why are you not doing likewise, Mr. Lawson? Now if all the gentlemen were like you what would be our fate? What an array of hopeless wallflowers there would be! Really I feel half angry at you already!--" Marguerite stopped suddenly in her remarks. Hubert Tracy came to claim her for the next dance, and as she took the arm of the latter, she quickly turned towards Phillip Lawson exclaiming, "Remember, I will be back in a few moments to finish what I intended to say. Indeed you need not think to escape censure so easily;" while the accompanying ripple of silvery laughter "low and sweet" were something to contemplate in the happy meantime.
"Mr. Lawson is evidently not intended to be a society man," remarked Hubert Tracy to his partner, when they had reached the other end of the room.
"In my opinion he is all the more to be appreciated," returned the other in a tone of reproof which stung the young man with deep anger and resentment; but he was too artful to express himself, and from that moment there entered into his mind a firm resolve to lessen the high estimate that Marguerite Verne had formed of the would-be lover.
A SCENE OF HILARITY.
Several weeks had elapsed since Hubert Tracy had made up his mind to thwart the man whom he hated with a bitter hate. He was not backward in expressing his thoughts to the accomplished Mr. Arnold, who entered into the project heart and soul, and discussed the subject with all the nonchalance his shallow nature was capable of.
On the evening in question they are seated at a small side-table, profusely decorated with champagne bottles, glasses, and a few delicate morsels of refreshments.
"At the bazaar, Dick?" exclaimed Montague, stroking his artistically-waxed moustache with considerable dexterity.
The individual addressed as Dick was certainly a dude of the fifteenth degree--his pale-blue pantaloons being sufficient proof without venturing another glance. His movements, voice and manner were constant reminders of the excruciating assertion, "I'm a dude." But of the question.
"Oh! is that you, Arnold? I really did not expect to see you here to-night. How is business at the governor's? Hear you are making a bold dash there?"
"Yes, you can bet on that! I'm the white-headed boy there now."
As Arnold was in a short time highly exhilarated by the contents of the table, he became very communicative, and as his conversation was not such as would be under the head of pure language, we will leave him to make merry with his set of jovial companions.
Hubert Tracy was calm and self-possessed. He was too much intent upon some plans to allow himself to become incapable. He had "another iron in the fire," to quote his expression as he thought the matter over to himself, and called upon all the powers unknown to come to his aid.
It was within a short time that Hubert Tracy had become vitiated in his moral nature. He had hitherto been known as a good-living young man--one that respected what was good and pure; but the old, old story--he fell in with bad company, and almost fell beyond reprieve.
You ask, "Had he a home?" He had, indeed, a home, where all that was good and pure was daily practised--loving, warm-hearted sisters, and a fond trusting mother had not the power to drag him back from the tempting gulf of dissipation and allurement. But we will not say that their prayers were lost. There was yet a small, still voice, that would intrude itself upon the young man, and despite his attempts to silence it forever, would steal upon him in the silent hour of midnight, and haunt him in the noisy abodes of revelry and carousal. It even forces itself upon him now as he sits planning a scheme to outwit his rival. The voice is repeating over and over again the words "Lawson is a good young man," and they are re-echoed until Hubert Tracy raises his head and glances around as if to convince himself of the reality. "A good young man," he murmurs bitterly; "I was one myself--in the past."
A bitter groan escaped the lips of the speaker as he uttered the sentence, and his face became stone-like in expression.
"It is of no use; I must not give up. The fellow is good; but what is that to me now? If he win the day, I am lost forever--for it is only through her I will be a better man--and surely, with Lawson's nature, he would willingly make the sacrifice. But here I am, moralizing like a preacher," cried the young man, as he arose and began pacing up and down the floor in an excited manner. "By heaven! it won't do to give up! If I ever expect to be a better man I must first fall still lower!"
A strange method of reasoning indeed! But a striking illustration of the fact that degenerate natures have always some loop-hole to crawl through in order to shield themselves from just reproach.
Hubert Tracy had not sufficient moral courage to take upon himself the responsibility of his actions. He had not faith to strike out on the path of right, and with a sense of his own helplessness, turn to Providence for his guide. Oh no, he could not see ahead of him with an honest hopefulness; but instead "an ever-during dark surrounds him," and he, with all the cowardice of his nature, consoles himself with the thought that the nobility of Phillip Lawson is apology for his base actions.
It was after such reverie that Hubert Tracy bethought himself of an engagement he had made to join a number of acquaintances at a whist party. He straightened himself up and cast a glance in the mirror opposite to see if he would "pass muster" in a crowd. "Guess I'm all right," he exclaimed, stroking his fingers through the masses of chestnut curls that clung so prettily around his well-shaped head.
"Halloo, Tracy, not going so soon? The night's young yet, boy! Come, sit down and have some of the 'rosy,'" shouted a rubicund-faced youth, with a generous proportion of carrotty hair crowning his low flat forehead.
"Sit down Tracy," exclaimed another, slapping him on the back by way of accompaniment to the words: "We'll not go home till morning," which song the whole company began to roar in a style more forcible than artistic.
When the last strains of music had spent its force and a general interchange of silly speeches had been made, the young man once more rose to go, but a youth with broad Scotch accent seized him by the arm exclaiming: "Don't go yet, Tracy dear; for if ye do, ye need'nt come back here."
"A poet of the first water," cried a voice from behind, at which all joined in another roar of laughter, which reached its climax when a feminine-looking youth exclaimed, "What a pity the government have not discovered such talent! they would surely have him for poet laureate."
Before quiet was again restored Tracy took advantage of the occasion to cover his retreat, and hastily gained a small side entrance which led to the suspicious-looking alley not many yards from a very public thoroughfare. Having reached the street without any serious apprehension, he then set off at a rapid pace in the direction of his lodging.
A careful toilet, including some necessary antidotes, and we find the subject of our remarks an honored guest in one of the luxurious drawing-rooms in the city. Not a trace of the recent association is visible as Mr. Tracy takes his seat at a whist-table with an interesting and amiable young lady for partner.
"What a brilliant young man Mr. Tracy is," remarked an anxious mamma to a lady sitting near, who also was on the _qui vive_ for an eligible _parti_ in the capacity of a son-in-law.
"Don't you think Miss Simpkins is very forward; just see how she is flirting with Mr. Tracy. I'm glad she is no relation of mine."
Miss Dorothy Strong had ventured the above speech in hopes of testing the _strong_ tendencies of her audience. She was a spinster of youthful pretension, and invariably took occasion to condemn any such exhibition on the part of others a dozen years her junior. Not meeting any remonstrance she made quite a speech on the familiarity of young ladies, their want of dignity, and ended in a grand peroration upon the conceit of the young men, their vicious habits and all short-comings she could bring to bear upon the subject.
But Miss Dorothy's speech was unhappily chosen, and therefore "lost its sweetness upon a desert air."
"Sour grapes," whispered a pretty miss of sixteen to her elder sister, as they stood apart from the others and watched the effect of the oration.
As we glance towards the said Miss Simpkins and watch the game for a few moments, we feel certain that Hubert Tracy is not deeply concerned whether he win or lose. He is evidently studying a deeper game--one on which he would willingly stake all he possessed.
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