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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 5/67 -


remember him. She looked not unlike Guido's Beatrice; (I don't mean the daubs one sees, but Guido's own), the same soul-full eyes, Grecian nose, and lovely full curved lips. Guy, always melancholy, Vaura, always sympathetic, the reflection of his sad eyes lent to hers a deep tenderness; that he loves her hopelessly, poor fellow, is only too evident, he bid us adieu for a New York trip, thence, he seemed to think, no one cared. And so, lives are parted; one is inclined to quarrel with Fate at times; she bids you to the "Towers" and elsewhere; Vaura and self to the Scotch Lakes, afterwards to gay Brighton. I would you were with us, _cher_ Lionel, but your long-deferred visit to your place is an absolute necessity, so, much as one regrets the moves of the 'miscreator circumstance,' one must submit. And now for a note from Dame Grundy, with our gay friend, Mrs. Eustace Wingfield, as mouthpiece. 'Posey Wyesdale openly affirms that when she again plumes herself in colours you will play Benedict; moreover, that 'tis for her sake you are a bachelor.' Mrs. W. laughingly commented thereon, saying, 'If astonishment could resuscitate a corpse, the Duke would be an unbidden guest.' Poor darling, I shall miss his kindly face in our Scottish tour. I should like to see you range yourself, _cher ami_, but your hands are too full of tricks to play a losing game. Apropos to your wish to see me again at God's altar, again to link my fate, my life, with another. _Listen, for I know you will not betray me._ In my youth I loved, in my prime I love the same man; my dead husband comes in between; my love does not know he has my heart; nor did he when a girl. I, at the command of stern parents; said him nay; he of whom I speak is the kind, unselfish, warm-hearted, trusting Eric, Colonel Haughton. I write this as I cannot speak of it, and so that you will understand my resolve to remain single; also, Vaura tells me that on her arrival from Paris on this afternoon, her uncle informed her that he has made an offer of marriage to the wealthy Mrs. Tompkins. Vaura is full of regrets, as from what our friends say, his choice is extremely _outre_. For myself I shall try and be content. And now adieu to the subject, the pain at my heart will be more keen, my smile (for a time) forced, that is all. 'Tis well that our life teaches us to wear a mask. Adieu, the bustle of departure in the hall bids me hasten. Trusting you will find your tenants more satisfied (for 'tis their comfort we must think of to-day), and I really believe under Simpson they will not grumble. Farewell. Vaura has just appeared at the door to bid me come. I asked her if she had any message for you, 'Tell him,' she said laughingly,' to think of me sometimes if he has time, and then perhaps he himself will travel by the same road his thought has gone before, for I should dearly love to see him again,' For myself, do not forget me, for I feel particularly lonely to-night; Eric lost, and you not here. Ah, well, the cards have been against me, that is all; join us somewhere when you can; _au revoir_."

"ALICE ESMONDET, "Park Lane, 15th June, 1877.

"CAPT. TREVALYON, "The Langham, London City."

"Jove! how sorry I am" he exclaimed thoughtfully as he finished reading, then puffing his cigar, now vigorously then allowing it to die out, he thought silently. "Detained on this afternoon by Simpson, my new steward. Then my club dinner having guests I could not go to Park lane, afterwards the crush at the Delamere's when I missed them in the crowd, then the preremptory summons to Eaton Square when I went, thinking it would be to Haughton's interest. Yes, the Fates are decidedly against me, and that gay little message from Vaura Vernon. I shall conquer destiny and meet them somewhere next autumn. And Alice Esmondet! confessing a tender passion for Haughton. She would have been just the woman for him. How dull of him not to see it; but for a soldier and a society man he knows less of the women than any man of my acquaintance. Now for a man who has, I may say, forsworn matrimony, I take pride in my knowledge of the sex, the sweetest bit of humanity we have. I wonder what manner of remembrance Vaura has of me, if merely as an old-time friend of her uncle and herself. I have not seen her, I may say, since, as a young officer, I went to the Hall as to my home, a returned 'hero of Delhi,' in newspaper parlance. She was the loveliest little child--woman at that time, I had ever seen. Jove! how fast one's thoughts travel backward eight years. I remember Haughton Hall was heavily mortgaged and my friend at Baden-Baden getting deeper in debt; the life of a country squire palled upon him, when at his father's death he returned at his mother's wish as heir; pity he was obliged to leave the army. The outcome is this marriage for gold to redeem the place from the Jews, lost for distraction's, sake. However, a-something occurred on my yielding to dear little Vaura's wish to go and induce him to return, and he has been a saved man ever since, giving up the dice from the time of his hurried return in consequence of a telegram he received before I reached him; I don't know what the motive power was, as he did not confide and, as a matter of course, I did not force his confidence. The Hall is still in debt but he manages to keep the Jews quiet and to make a decent living out of a few tenants. The lovely Vaura has her mother's portion. 'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody good, and his becoming a slave of the ring will be for my good as the old place will again be open and Vaura Vernon, the woman now, will again grace it by her presence, and until she marries, lend a new brightness, a new distraction to my life. Jove! now I come to think of it she will surely marry next season, and I shall not have her long; with her face, form, colouring, eyes and the sweet syren voice that the men are raving of, some one of them will make her say him yea; then the spice of originality about her is refreshing, also having had so much of the companionship of Lady Esmondet, she is a woman of common-sense and of the world, no mere conventional doll. Had Haughton not been blind and have married my friend what a paradise the Hall would have been to me? Until Vaura married I must always remember that contingency. 'Tis absurd of dear Lady Esmondet wishing me to range myself, she knows my resolve not to wed is as earnest as though I was in the garb of a monk. I feel bothered and unsettled; how I wish I had been at Park Lane to-night; a trip to the Highlands would have been the very tonic I require. Sir Andrew Clarke could not prescribe better, but it is too late now, its a horrible bore to go up to Northumberland and the 'Towers' alone, though when one has had as much trouble with one's tenants as I, one must victimise oneself, I suppose. 'Tis a grand old place, picturing as it does the feudal times, if only it were not so desolate. I wonder what Lady Esmondet or Vaura would think of it, how lovely she would look standing in the Tower windows with the fresh air blowing her beautiful hair and her gown close about her; but I forget it is late, and I am dreaming, her hair will be confined in some womanly fashion and she is not for me, no, Mars, you and I are lonely wanderers," and the dog is patted, the lights are out while the weary man throws himself on his couch to pass a restless night with heavy sleep at sunrise.

CHAPTER IV.

OF MADAME.

At eleven o'clock the following day Mrs. Tompkins leisurely sips her cocoa as she breaks her fast in the pretty morning room at No. ---- Eaton Square, her step-daughter, an American born and bred, is her companion, a tiny young woman all pale tints, colourless face, sharp features, sharp little eyes always watery, always with a red rim about them giving the paleness of their blue a pink shade. When off guard the mouth is resolute, the eyes wearing a stealthy cunning look; the mask on, 'tis an old-child face with a wondering expression of innocence about it. The grasshopper in the Park yonder might claim kinship and Darwin there find the missing link in the wee figure clothed in its robe of grass green, all waist and elbows. She had no love for her step-mother whom she had been taught by hirelings to consider her natural enemy and with whom she could only cope with subtle craftiness.

Mrs. Tompkins' maid now enters with a note upon a salver; on reading it her mistress simply writing the word "come" on the reverse side of one of her cards, seals with her monograph, addressing the envelope to "Colonel Haughton" she smiles as she thinks "I shall soon seal with my crest."

"Take this to the servant, Masoff, and give my strict orders to Peter to admit only Colonel Haughton or Capt. Trevalyon until after luncheon."

"Yes, madam."

"And, Mason, bid Sarah be in readiness to attend Miss Tompkins, who will drive to Bayswater in half an hour for the day. John will have the close carriage at the door."

"Yes, madam."

Here is the heart wish of Blanche fulfilled, but she does not show it, saying:

"Why must I go to that stupid place, step-momma? Such a mean crowd."

"Because I wish it; at all events, you pretend such affection for your old school-teachers when with them, that to cover your aversion to visit them it is my duty to insist on your going there when a drive would benefit you. Should their nephew, Sir Tilton Everly, be with them, tell him (as I want him to-morrow) he may as well return with you."

Blanche made a _moue_, saying poutingly, while feeling that a _billet-doux_ was safe in her pocket:

"I was due at the Tottenham's this morning: Cis was coming shopping;" which was a romance of the moment.

"Tell John to drive around to Gloucester Square, and you can take her with you."

"No, I shall not. What do you want Sir Tilton for? Might be Vanderbilt, the fuss you make over him."

"I know you dislike him; mere envy, Blanche, for his devotion to myself, which is absurd," with a satisfied glance at the mirror opposite. "Men being born hunters will hunt you for the golden dollar; me, for myself. So as you have breakfasted, away; try and be civil to Sir Tilton, and bring him back to dinner with you at eight o'clock; ta-ta."

As Miss Tompkins paced the corridors to her own apartments she muttered:

"I'll be even with you some day, Mrs. T.; didn't see you fool my popa nine years for nothing, and take all his kisses and more than two millions of money from me, when you didn't care a cent for him; 'twas the black-bearded major, not popa's lean jaws then; now, it's Capt. Trevalyon, who is as handsome as the Prince of Wales, and too awfully nice for anything. Never mind, you'll be sold as bad as one of Barnum's. I handle my million when I come of age, which will be New Year's day, 1878; then you'll see if all the men love you, and think


A Heart-Song of To-day - 5/67

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