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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 4/67 -


"No, I am steeped to the lips in engagements."

"But I _must_, Kate; a soldier is accustomed to daily pay."

"Don't be persistent, George, or you shall be off duty forever."

"You know you have your foot on my neck, dear, and you take advantage."

"Most men would not object to its shape or weight," she said saucily drawing her robe, exposing a very pretty foot encased in cream hose, and a black satin boot fitting as perfectly as any Madame Vestris ever wore.

"I am conquered, my queen," he said softly; "only let me come, and in your own time."

"Well put, and now be off; I'll write you, as the letter writer says, at my earliest convenience."

"Good-night; may it come soon."

"Remember your mission."

"I shall revive it with a vengeance."

And bending down something very like a lovers' parting took place. Passing into the hall he stepped noiselessly out into the night; the closing of the door roused the sleeping footman, who, as he locked the door and saw his mistress pass from her boudoir to her sleeping apartments, thought sleepily as he put out the lights--

"Peter won't get the sack for letten' him in after all; my lady is sweet on him, I'm thinking, and I'm not in for Pete's place."

CHAPTER II.

A RARE SOCIETY BOUQUET.

Come now and unroll with me one corner of the still, the silent past, and I shall read you a few pictures in the old time life at Haughton Hall, County Surrey, England.

This one, a twelvth night scene of 1854, will interest us: Scene is one of the drawing-rooms at the fine old stately mansion of grey stone, Elizabethan in its grandeur of tower and pinnacle, its spots of decay lovingly draped by the hand of Dame Nature, ivy constant and clinging as though its robes of green loved the old grey stone. The south wing, built by a Haughton two hundred years ago (for his Spanish bride noble as beautiful, an Espartero by birth) alone is lighted. We shall glance through this window. Ah! a priest of the Anglican Church; before him stands a girl beautiful as an angel; beside her a handsome man, dark and bronzed; on the third finger of her left hand he slips the ring of gold which binds them as closely as its unbroken circle. A sweet woman lying on a lounge with the seal of death on her brow before whom they kneel and receive her blessing. The actors are Ethel Haughton, Captain Vernon, --th Light Cavalry, and the poor invalid who only lived to give her daughter in marriage. On the 27th March, same year, the British Lion and Russian Bear met in combat; our troops went out and among them Captain Vernon, when, sad to relate, his name was one of the first of our brave soldiers on the death-roll at Petropaulovski; we met with a repulse and he fell. His sweet young bride did not long survive him, dying of a bitter loneliness called heartache, leaving a lovely infant, the child Vaura.

TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 2.

Fourteen years later, bringing us by the hand of time into 1868. Same scene--Haughton Hall, morning--and ah! What a dream of beauty, a child, woman now. In the sweet, somewhat sad pleading of her expression, one catches a glimpse of the tender, loving woman of later years, and so her companion, to whose arm she clings, sees her, judging from the half wondering, wholly loving sympathy in his eyes. Her movements are rapid, graceful and lithe as a young gazelle; she has evidently expected a loved guest who has disappointed her. For now her eyes are suffused with tears; she looses his arm and clasps her hands appealingly as she points to an open letter on a table. A vacant chair, slippers, and a _petit_ dinner untasted. He consults his watch, strokes caressingly the bright brown hair reaching to her knees, and fluffy as the coat of a water spaniel. Now taking her hand in adieu, bends his noble head, and with a smile sweet as a woman's, would kiss her, but she is no child this morning and he draws back with a look half wonder in his eyes. The sweet girl too, after turning her flower face upwards, droops the large luminous brown eyes and with a pretty blush takes instead his right hand between her own and presses her rose-mouth to it in a farewell greeting.

The actors are Vaura Vernon (the infant of last scene) who has been expecting her loved uncle, Colonel Haughton, who is at Baden-Baden held in the fascinations of its gaming tables. The handsome man to whose arm she clung is Lieut. Trevalyon of the --th Middlesex Lancers; but lately returned from the East, where, at Delhi, &c., his many daring acts of bravery are still in the public mouth. By invitation he is at Haughton, but his friend cannot tear himself from Germany--it is his ruin; and he yields to the importunities of his bewitching little friend to go and bring him home from this evil.

TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 3.

Trevalyon gone; Vaura, weeping bitterly, is discovered by a handsome youth who, bounding in at the open window, throwing himself at her feet with many caresses, bids her be consoled, points to the dilapidated hangings, seems to contrast her surroundings with his own wealth, displaying his diamond jewels, his watch, his well-filled purse. She seems to be half frightened at his words; when gazing up at a portrait of her uncle, showing him a little worn and sad, a sudden resolve seems to seize her; she evidently consents to his wish, for his face glows and he embraces her, while drying her tears. She now leaves the room, returns in out-door costume; he, laughing and excited, braids her lovely hair; her sweet face is a trifle pale; a jewelled comb holds together the heavy braids. She now pets two or three dogs, feeds her birds from her hand, climbs on to a table, kisses the portrait of her uncle, the tears starting afresh, picks a few blossoms from her favourite flowers, and they make their exit.

TABLEAUX VIVANTS.

No. 4.

_A few days later--Same scene_.

Enter a lady, purely the Gaul in face and gesture, excited though decided in manner; with her two Frenchmen, the one a priest, the other a man of law. Following, and looking grief-stricken to the last degree, comes the youth of last scene. Vaura follows pale and sad, her uncle's arm around her; priest takes a ring from Vaura's finger; with a sharp instrument cuts it in twain. Lawyer takes a paper, reads, holds it in view of all, then tears into smallest fragments. Youth grows fearfully excited, tries to snatch it. Lady says a few words to him, her teeth set; he yields in despair. They all then kiss the Book, evidently making oath.

The past is again veiled, and we love the actors too well to endeavour to solve what they have apparently sworn shall not be revealed. The following eight years of Vaura's life have been spent chiefly at Paris, at the Seminaire of Madame Rocheforte, bringing us to 1877, the intangible present, a mere cobweb dividing as it does our past, as it silently recedes from our winged future.

CHAPTER III.

THE FATES SPIN WITH THREADS OF BLACK.

We now return to Captain Trevalyon, as he leaves the residence of Mrs. Tompkins, No. ---- Eaton Square. He quickly seats himself in his dogcart, still standing at the door. When grasping the reins from his servant drives rapidly to Park Lane and the town house of his friend, the Lady Esmondet, who loves him well, as all women do who have his friendship; and with whom, now that he has left the army, he spends (during the season) much of his time. But now his thoroughbreds, King and Prance, have sped so quickly through Belgravia that their destination is reached.

"Just as I feared, Fate is against me," he thought, glancing at the house; "nothing has delayed them, they are off, I have again missed her."

Aloud he says to his servant: "Sims, go to the door and enquire if Lady Esmondet has really gone; if so, has she left any message for me."

"Yes, sir."

Returning, he hands a letter to his master, saying:

"Her ladyship left this with the housekeeper for you, sir, and Grimes says, sir, they waited 'til the last minute for you, sir."

Not delaying to peruse the written words of his friend, he drove with all speed to the Great Northern Station, only to learn that the train had left on time at midnight, when, turning his horses' heads once more, and for his hotel, he has soon reached the "Langham." On gaining his own apartments his great dog Mars gives a whine of satisfaction at the return of his master, who, throwing himself wearily into a favourite chair, while the smoke from his cigar curls upwards, takes from his pocket the delicate epistle with the perfume of violets upon it, and which reads as follows:

"Lionel, _mon cher ami_, I feel it in my heart to scold you. How is it you are not with us? The Claxtons will hear of no further delay. So while they get into travelling gear, must have a one-sided leave-taking with you, as we must needs leave Park Lane without a hand-clasp. Vaura, always lovely, is more bewitching than ever tonight, as she talked earnestly to Travers Guy Cyril, you will


A Heart-Song of To-day - 4/67

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