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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 40/67 -


"Capt. Trevalyon, "The Villa Iberia, "Rome, Italy."

On reading above, Trevalyon, with sudden impulse, and craving for sympathy, handed it to his old friend.

"Too bad, too bad, Lionel; how grieved I am for you."

At the same time, Vaura, who had turned again to her lines from Madame, on reading over, said as she discussed her luncheon.

"This bit of duck will be a palatable _morceau_ as compared with my letter from Haughton; Madame does not write to please, she merely pleases to write."

Seeing Trevalyon very grave and silent, she said with kindly intent, and to change the current of his thought. "I suppose, god-mother, you have sketched out your plans for the day long before I joined you."

"No, we could come to no decision, so have left it for you to arrange."

"_Tres bien_ if so, from the glimpse I have through the window, I suggest that our first trip be to the gardens."

"Happy thought; Lionel, will you ring the bell like a good fellow?"

Somers answering, her mistress said:

"Bring me suitable wraps for the garden, please, and tell Saunders to do likewise for Miss Vernon."

The maids now appear with out-door robings; Lady Esmondet is made comfortable, when Lionel goes to Vaura's assistance; 'tis a pretty red-riding-hood and cloak attached, and contrasts charmingly with her soft gray cashmere gown, her short brown hair and sweet face look well coming from the warm red setting of the hood.

"Never mind it; it was never meant to fasten," she says, seeing his grave eyes on her face, instead of the fastening; he does not speak but only thinks, "My enemies will not let me call her mine;" she is sure he can see the colour come and go in her face as her heart beats irregularly, and says gently, putting up her soft hands, "never mind it;" for answer he allows the hook and eye to fasten holding her hands for a moment in his. They then followed their friend through the French window down the few stone steps to the gardens. There were many flowers in bloom and the green of the orange and lemon trees was as rich as when the year was young. The villa of white marble was built on a gentle rising knoll, prettily wooded, at the foot of which running through a glade was a tiny streamlet clear as crystal, which with its ripple and the singing of the birds lent music to the air. On the highest garden site was built a tower from whence an extensive view of the city is gained, with its spires and palaces, together with the violet sea, and the ever changing majestic mountains. The lower part of the tower is an arbour covered with roses and vines. The orchard was on the high plateau on which the villa stood, laying in part at the back and side of the mansion; the lawn and flower garden were separated from the orchard by a smiling wood nymph and grim satyr who each held an end of a chain of silver.

"The laughing nymph looks as if bent on making the grim satyr give way to mirth," said Vaura.

"It is a pretty idea," said Lady Esmondet, "the having one's orchard so laid out as to be an ornament to one's grounds, instead of as we do, merely as a place to grow fruit."

"Yes, I think so," said Lionel, "and at my place the lawn is strewn by acorn, apple and the pear."

"The apple blossom is beautiful," said Vaura; "but whom have we here," catching sight of a statue through the trees.

"None other," said Lionel, "than the powerful Populonia who protects the fruit from storms."

"And placed high enough!" said Vaura "to see the storm a brewing, with us it would be a great dog _versus_ a small boy."

They now descend terraced steps arched by trellised roses and come to a fountain fed by a spring down in the deep cool dell.

"Shall we drink from the brook by the way?" half sang Vaura, and stooping, picked up from a small projection a silver goblet, filling she handed to Lady Esmondet; there was another which, taking herself, said, "and now for my toast, 'May the absent Marquis, who has an eye for the beautiful in Nature and Art be always surrounded by both.'"

"Amen," responded Trevalyon, "which is the best I can do, seeing Del Castello did not remember me in providing two goblets only."

"Dual solitude," said Vaura in low tones, her god-mother having gone on.

"The very mention of it makes my heart throb," he whispered.

"What delightful gardens," said Lady Esmondet returning "beside this fountain, under the shade of olive trees, it must be delightfully cool the hottest of summer days, and a favourite spot, if one may judge from the number of seats about."

"'Tis another Eden," said Vaura, "from the mountains yonder to the green shade of myrtles, olives, and orange trees, lit up by the pink and red blossoms at their feet."

"You will revel here in the early morning, _ma belle_, if you have the taste of your childhood."

"You remember me, then?" and the dark eyes look up from under the red hood.

"I have never forgotten," he says, quietly.

"Don't you think, Vaura, dear?" said Lady Esmondet, "we had better return to the villa and decide what we shall do with the rest of the day."

"Yes, I suppose so, dear; though one would fain linger here longer."

As they retrace their steps, Trevalyon, decided for them, that the air being delightfully warm and balmy, a drive up and down the Corso, would be pleasant. The fresh air and new scene dispelled all Vaura's languor, and heightened the spirits of her companions.

"The Corso is even gayer than usual," observed Lady Esmondet.

"And with its best bib and tucker on, if I am any judge of _la toilette_," said Lionel.

"To receive three _distingues_ travellers," laughed Vaura; "I wonder who society will jot us down as in her huge note book."

"As the Briton abroad," said Lady Esmondet, "to revel in the sunbeams, which our gold cannot buy from our leaden skies."

A carriage now passed, in which were seated two ladies, evidently English, who bowed and smiled to Lady Esmondet and Trevalyon.

"Who are your friends?" enquired Vaura; "I have seen them somewhere, but forget when and where."

"They are the Duchess of Wyesdale and her daughter, the Lady Eveline Northingdon," answered Trevalyon, as Lady Esmondet bowed to other acquaintances.

"The little Duchess, who is insane enough to think Lionel in love with her," thought his friend, remembering gay Mrs. Wingfield's gossip, and that her name had been coupled with Trevalyon's; it was only that she was a foolish little woman, and let society see that she had a penchant for Captain Trevalyon. At that time the Duke was alive to bear the title and represent the estate in Wiltshire, the Scottish moors and shooting box, with the town house in London; very useful in that way, so his Duchess told herself, and in truth, only in that character, did the fair, frivolous Lady Wyesdale appreciate her easygoing fox-hunting spouse.

"You can run the season very well without me," he would say, "while I do a little shooting; you are just cut out for London, while the conventionalities bore me."

And so it came to pass, that at their London house, Irene, the Duchess, (or, as she was commonly called, Posey, from her maiden name of Poseby, and from her habit of posing on all occasions), reigned in her own way. In the autumn of '76, the Duke had been called to his long home; he had been knocking down birds on the Scottish moors. Coming home late one night to dinner in high spirits, and exultant over his full bag, he found a telegram from his friend, Gerald Elton, a keen sportsman, asking him to "telegraph him _immediately_ at Edinburgh, if he was at the 'Bird cage;' if so, he would join him at once." "Bless my life," said poor Wyesdale to a friend with him; "Elton is the very man we want, no end of a shot, and rare fun; but I must send my telegram off at once, or I'll lose him; but how am I to come at pen and ink in the 'cage' is more than I know; oh, yes, I remember when I came down last, Posey would have me take pen and ink (and a great bore it was) in order to telegraph her of my return; don't know why women are such a bundle of nerves, they oughtn't to be nervous at the return of a husband; but where did I put it, hang me if I know; if I find it the boy can ride over with it, if not I must go myself; oh! I remember, it's in the other room on a shelf with collars and cuffs; birds are not particular, so I never wear 'em;" without a light he went in, feeling along the shelves with his hand, unluckily for him overturning the inkstand, knocking the penhandle against the wall, and the rusty pen full of ink, into the palm of his right hand, where it broke; he and his friend extracted most of it, putting sticking plaster over the wound. He would not trust a verbal message to his sleepy keeper, now full of beer; so soon on horseback and away.

Elton arrived in due course, to find his friend with his arm in a sling, swollen and painful.

"You'd better have a surgeon, old fellow, or you'll not fill another bag this October."

Not until his arm had turned black would he consent; then the surgeon was called, he looked grave, saying that a great part of the pen had not been extracted; that ink, pen, and rust had done their work, and to save his life the arm must be amputated. This the poor fellow refused to do, saying he would rather die than sever his good right


A Heart-Song of To-day - 40/67

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