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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 50/67 -


one side. But behold the naturalist, waiting at the door with prayer book in hand, ready for her devotions."

CHAPTER XXXIII.

WARM WORDS BRIDGE CRUEL DISTANCE.

Lady Esmondet, Vaura, and Robert Douglas ate their Christmas dinner quietly together. "I shall feel lonely when you leave Rome," said the priest, as he bade them a warm goodnight.

"Naturally, you will miss us; we are almost a part of your old home," said Lady Esmondet.

"I have no doubt, Roberto, that the Marchmonts will be very kind to you when we are gone," said Vaura, smilingly.

"Yes, she will be good to a lonely priest," he answered absently; then recovering himself, "but I should not say lonely; have I not the Church."

As a footman fastened the hall-door after the Rev. Robert, Vaura said:

"The Church will soon not be sufficient to fill up his life; at least the naturalist will make him feel so."

"How differently _cher_ Roland would range himself," said Lady Esmondet, thinking of his hopeless love for Vaura; "that girl with her bugs and beetles, her sandy locks and sharp elbows, would drive him distracted. I wonder what affinity Robert can have with such an one."

"Why doth he love her? 'Curious fool, be still; is human love the growth of human will?' saith the poet. So, god-mother dear, for aught we can say, they must e'en join the legion of impossible unions. But we are both weary, and had best to bed and sleep or dreams."

"Yes, 'tis late; good night, dear; we have both missed Lionel to-day."

"We have; he little dreams how much."

And as Vaura's robes were unfastened, and the deft fingers of her maid made her comfortable for the night, a tall figure and handsome face, tawny moustache, shading lips sweet yet firm in expression, tired eyes that were generally grave, but could flash or be tenderly loving, rose before her.

"'Twas only last night," she though, as she laid her soft cheek on the pillow, "he was with us, and I feel as though we had been parted for ages; and he suffers by all these rumours; and my dearest is in a tangled web of difficulty and I am not near to give him my sympathy, and poor dear uncle is not happy either; and it's a woman's work, but this making of moans is unnatural to me; I must make Time fly, and when I am once in England, my aim shall be to make those two men regain their old happiness; good-night, Lionel, I am weary to see your face again, to hear your words of love and feel your arms about me, for the sweet feeling that I belong to you seems only a dream; come back, come."

The following day the programme of which Vaura had spoken to Castenelli, was gone through. But as Vaura wished just now that the days would quickly join themselves to the great past, we shall not linger; but say, that on nearing the painting of the Transfiguration, a figure caught her eye, it was that of the young Italian Castenelli, who, with the dark rich colouring, clear cut features and soft brown eyes that Roman blood gives, looked as though he might have stepped from the canvas on the wall.

The painting in its glorious beauty held them in silent admiration for some time. Vaura drew a long breath as she turned away, saying:

"The man who painted the figure of the Christ in its God-like sanctity of expression, must have been inspired. What a volume of sermons it preaches!"

As the Italian had tickets of admission to the Tower of St. Peter's, Vaura decided to make the ascent. The double walls of the dome are passed through as quickly as possible, as Vaura's time is short. But the view from the top! who can describe it? Not I; my pen falls lifeless; it would take a Moore to sing of; a Byron to immortalise; a Longfellow, a Whittier or a Tennyson to make an idyl of; it has sent artists wild; the eye rests lovingly on the hill-crests of the Sabine, Volscian and Albano on the one side, then turns to the city with its temples, its palaces, the historic past showing in their very stones. Then the Coliseum and the Forum, each speaking their own story; then the eye turns to the winding Tiber; and finally rests on the deep calm waters of the violet Mediterranean in the far away.

"Ah, Signor Castenelli, it is too much for one day; 'tis no wonder the Italian is a poet. You dwell in a maze of beauty in nature and art. Dame nature with you wears such a rich warm dress; 'tis little wonder your canvas, aye, and your own faces show such sun-warm tints."

"You should dwell with us, Signora; you feel the poetry of our land."

On parting from the Italian he tendered to Vaura for herself and Lady Esmondet his box at the theatre, as being more favourably situated than the only one Captain Trevalyon had been able to procure, and at Vaura's invitation he dined at the villa Iberia, escorting them afterwards to hear the wonderful voice of Patti.

On the morning of the 28th a telegram arrived from Lionel which read as follows:

"To Lady Esmondet. "Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy.

"Sir Vincent Trevalyon died at 11 p.m. the 27th inst. Shall write to-day.

"LIONEL TREVALYON, "The Langham, London, England. "28th December, 1877."

"Poor Sir Vincent gone. And so generations pass. When death bowls out one man another takes the bat; so now Captain is Sir Lionel Trevalyon," said Lady Esmondet, as she read the telegram.

"Yes. None shall triumph for a whole life long, for death is one and the Fates are three," said Vaura.

On the 30th came from Lionel two letters, extracts from which we shall give.

"DEAR LADY ESMONDET,--

"Every moment of my time is occupied, but know you will be interested in my doings, so drop you a line. My cousin with my lawyer and self read the will. By it my uncle bequeaths to me $500,000 in gold. I was surprised at his generosity. The whole of his fortune would be mine if I and Judith could marry; that would not suit either of us as we are totally unsuited to each other. Judith leaves by steamer The Queen for New York on the 1st January. My poor uncle lived for three hours after my arrival. He was in great pain, suffering from Bright's disease, but brain clear; seemed to cling to me; he told me he wished I could persuade Judith to marry me and try and make her more womanly and live at my place in the north; but God forbid that our lives should be linked together. What a contrast she is to Vaura. Should Judith ever be guilty of giving up her freedom it will be to a man who admires the divided skirt, etc., etc."

EXTRACTS FROM LIONEL'S TO VAURA.

"....Yes, darling, the words I have written, what are their worth in telling you of my great love for you! You don't know how I hunger to look again into your warm, expressive eyes, to hold you to my heart. If you were only with me, my love, I should drink so freely of your tender sympathy, that with it as a tonic to my weary waiting heart, I could go forth into the midst of the news-mongers, into the nest of wasps, and conquer and untangle the web of difficulty in a few short days. But you, alas! are far away, and I have only a few minutes of past bliss to feed on when I kissed your sweet lips, when you made life a paradise by leaning your dear head on my breast. My love, my love, I cannot be long without you. You must come to me whether I can prove to society, with its shams, that Mrs. Grundy has lied in giving me a hidden wife or no; you must come to be my own love, no matter who says nay. My heart, my heart, you are mine; mine by right of the subjection the fetters you have placed me in, and woven for me. Mine by right, for you have taken my boasted strength from me. Mine, mine, no matter what the world may say. My life, my love, write to me; I am half delirious. I am in torture; full of jealous fears less you may forget me. I regret once and again that I left you. Remember, darling, I shall be always jealous, for I know the magnetic force of your charms. I am mad, I know I am, when I think you are so far, such 'lengths of miles' from me. Ask Lady Esmondet to come on at once and stay a day or two at her house here (it is well warmed--I have been to see) in pity to the man you have slain, and who loves you past all you can know; love, come. I am doing all I can, my own, to conquer the difficulty; I have already been to the offices of our great daily, and one editor apologized, saying the news of my 'hidden wife' was a temptation to him in the 'silly season.' For heaven's sake, my heart's darling, don't let anything you may hear against me turn your heart from me. The very thought of such a triumph for Mrs. Grundy in her _role_ of social astronomer, as she sits in her watch tower, telescope in hand, turns my brain. My heart aches for a letter, for though my written words seem to me cold; I shall devour yours, simply as coming from your pen. Come to me quick, my love; I must have a letter and I must have you. In a stationer's to-day I saw a photo of you in a case with those of Mrs. Cornwallis West, Langtry and Wheeler, there were just the four; you all sold, my darling, at five shillings each. The stationer said, condescendingly, 'that you would all bring a higher figure, but he merely wished to educate the masses to a high standard of beauty. His monetary benefit was quite a minor consideration.' The fellow's manner amused me; but you see, love, that the future Lady Trevalyon in thus educating the masses reigns in the heart of mankind, and not only in the heart of the man who only lives in her love...."

"I am more than glad, Vaura, _ma chere_, that Dame Fortune is playing so smilingly into dear Lionel's hands," said Lady Esmondet, as she read aloud the letter she had received from Trevalyon on the morning of the 30th. Yes, more than glad, for the legacy of $500,000 and the title, will do more to close the gaping eyes of society, and


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