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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 3/67 -
his affections at will.
"You said you loved me once, Kate, but I fear your heart had no part in the matter, my devotion amused you, my bold wooing was a novelty, the soldier in me was a change after the King of Laundry?"
"How dare you name the source of my wealth and to me!" she said haughtily.
"Because, my dear, I know your weak point; and even though I anger you, anything to turn your thoughts to myself; you must admit, Kate, that it is hard lines for me; marry me, dear, and I am your slave, my love for you will never change; it is as fierce and passionate as ever."
And leaning forward his hands on her knees, he strove in vain to imprison hers.
"While mine has changed," she said coldly; "love would indeed be a tyrant, could we not roam at will."
And a vision of mesmeric eyes with a smile, sweet as a woman's came to her. At her words Delrose buried his face in her hands and groaned heavily, as though his heart would break. Then looking up into her face, he said in thick tones.
"Have you no pity for me?"
"None, you have crossed my path, you have clouded my sky."
Had she pity for him, fool that he was to ask. Has the owner of the favourite at Goodwood pity for the jockey who swoons in a death-sickness, causing the next to come in a head's length? Has the eagle pity for the young mother's wail for her babe as he carried it aloft to feed the young? No, she told herself she had spoiled him, allowing him the _entree_ to her presence for the past seven or eight years at will. She cared for him too for his bold, fierce, passionate nature, that is--in a way, if only he would not insist on monopoly, but she would be willing to barter one clasp of the hand, one look from the eyes of gay, genial, handsome, fascinating Captain Trevalyon for the total banishment of her bold wooer.
"I have crossed your path, clouded your sky, and is this all the comfort you give me for years of devotion?" he said slowly, and in a broken voice. "Crossed your path because my love lives, while yours for me is dead; crossed your path, clouded your sky, because I am constant and wish to have you for my wife; wish to keep you in my arms. Lincoln Tompkins never knew; our world never knew; crossed your path? By the stars, Kate, I will not give you up!" And there is a sudden fierceness in his tones, while his breath comes hard and fast. "Crossed your path? 'tis Trevalyon who has again crossed mine. Gad! how I hate him." And he set his teeth. "To think, too, that with your high spirit, you should plead to him for his love."
"George Delrose, dare to repeat one word of a conversation you played the sneak to listen to, and you shall come to grief."
And she started to her feet, receding several paces from him in rage and mortification.
"Kate, dear, forgive me," and he is beside her; and strong man that he is, he holds her by force in his arms until she is still.
"It is my love for you that maddens me. My queen, my beauty, come back to me. Give your thoughts to me--you must, you shall."
"What shall I do with him?" she thought. "I love the other man, but if I cannot win him, I shall gratify my ambition by marrying Haughton Hall, and in petting my idol gratify myself; and so to pet my old love until it's all over."
And now puss begins to purr.
"There, George dear, I give in; you leave no room for other fetters than your arms. Let me go."
"Yes, my beauty, in a minute. You have been so cold to me of late, I am famished. You will only marry me, Kate, only me. Say yes, dear; Haughton would never suit you. But I cannot speak calmly of him or of any other man in connection with yourself."
And he grew again fearfully excited.
"As for that fellow, Trevalyon, the club gossips have it that for years he has had a hidden wife, and, depend upon it, it's true, these curled darlings generally do that sort of trick."
"Stop; I may turn this to my future advantage," thought Kate, quickly; "let me go, George, and you may sit beside me. There, that is better. I wonder if this story is true; I remember you told it me at New York as false; but I dare say at that time, not being jealous of him, you were, after the manner of men, letting him down easily. Yes, we shall take it for granted it is true. He is handsome enough to have got into some matrimonial scrape ere now."
"I am regaining my old influence over her," thought simple Simon.
"Listen, George, a minute longer; you have seen this Miss Vernon, Vaura Vernon, niece to Colonel Haughton. Describe her."
"Hang it, Kate! Leave the Haughton connection alone," he said, jealously. "Talk about ourselves."
"I am just starving for a kind word."
"Which you won't get till I please. What makes you here? Just think of that, and then say would any other woman be as kind. Now run over the Vernon charms, if any."
"When she will, she will," he said sulkily. "I have only seen her in the 'row' and that once, she was ahead of me so I did not see her face, but she sat her horse well and her figure is perfect. I overheard Wingfield at the 'Russell' club rooms, telling Chaucer of the Guards (who is wild to meet her) that there is nothing to compare with her in the kingdom, that she is a perfect goddess. Now are you satisfied.
"Yes, yes; let me think a minute."
"Just the woman to attract; I must get her out of my path and separate her from my haughty handsome idol, my king, my love," she thought slowly, her black eyes wearing an intent look, her large lips tightly compressed. Her companion did not break upon her reverie, he sat quiet, studying her profile as he had often done before; there was a certain witchery in the hour, the lateness, the stillness, the roseate lights above them, then what we have all felt, the sweet bliss of sitting in enforced quiet beside a loved one; our brain is quiet, our hands idle; we dread to break the spell, we then as at no other time literally live in the present.
Delrose scarcely moved a muscle; from shoulder to elbow the red velvet of her gown mingled with his black coat sleeve. For some time she had seemed to be drifting away from him, and their present _tete-a-tete_, though compulsory on her part, was to him paradise. During the season when the London world knew no monarch, save the king of revels. She had laughed at his prayers for a quiet half hour, tossing him instead, as she did to her parrot, now a few careless words, now a sugar plum. At present the season is waning, and a great dread has taken possession of him, lest she should slip away from him altogether, for Dame Rumour has given the widow of the American millionaire in marriage to more than one. The demon of unrest hath gat hold on him and every night ere going to one or other of the many distractions open to him, he paces the square opposite her windows to see who is admitted. More than once Col. Haughton and the man he most fears, Trevalyon, have alighted from the handsome dog-cart of the latter; to-night as we know, he, with the madness of jealousy upon him, on seeing his hated rival enter at eleven p.m., bribes a servant to admit him one hour later. Eve had not confided in him that Trevalyon had come only on a written invitation from herself couched in such terms as he could not refuse. And the woman beside him thought silently, seemingly oblivious of his presence. "I fear I have no chance with him; he is pre-occupied with her; a man always is until he tires of one. I must marry the Colonel. Household gods are permitted in Christendom; he is my god and shall be then as now my idol."
And with a little laugh and a sigh she turned her face quickly, brushing his beard (he was so near), and had laid his hand on hers as she sighed.
"My queen," he whispered eagerly, "of whom have you been thinking all this time? Say of me, and not of him."
"You men all go in for monopoly, George dear, but who is the obnoxious 'he' this time?"
"Trevalyon, of course; did I not hear you--"
"Stop! or we shall quarrel; if you must know, my thoughts were of you; and I thought you were not such a bad fellow after all as Trevalyon; it would be a terrible thing, George dear, did he inveigle Miss Vernon, for whom he seems inclined, into a marriage with him."
"What the deuce need you care? She is nothing to you. Ah! I begin to see," he continued thoughtfully; "you would not regret had he a taste of the Tantalus punishment."
"I have some conscience left," she said merrily, "which is paying you an indirect compliment, and if you wish to please me you will revive this old scandal, so as to prevent this naughty fellow posing as bigamist; and now promise me and tell me good-night."
"And you forgive me everything and restore me to favour, my queen, while I swear he shall never marry Miss Vernon nor any other woman he covets."
"Yes, you may come to me for your reward, if you effectually prevent Miss Vernon posing as his wife. I shall be sweeter than honey in the honey-comb to you then. But till then, pleasant dreams."
"Before I leave, you must tell me when I may see you alone, for this banishment is killing me."
"Killing you! indeed; all gammon; never saw a man look as though he enjoyed his beef and beer better; no, go do my bidding, and in your effort to keep out Mormonism you will punish your foe and I shall reward you."
"But when, Kate, when; you don't tell me; may I come to-morrow?" persisted her lover, eagerly.
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