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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 20/67 -
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.
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:
"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,
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