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- A Heart-Song of To-day - 6/67 -
me a fright just because I havn't your big black eyes and catlike ways."
Two footmen in dark green livery, with yellow facings, having removed the _debris_ of breakfast, Madame, alone, consults her mirror, which reflects her rose-pink gown (the reds in all shades being her colour), which fits her _embonpoint_ figure like a glove; slightly over the medium height, black browed, determined, daring and impulsive; a woman who will have her way where her appetites are concerned; easy-going when steering her own way with her own crew down life's current, while with a coldly cruel smile her oar crushes the life-blood from any obstacle in her course. She touches a bell, her maid appears.
"Mason, what do you think; am I paler than usual?"
"No, ma'am, you are looking very well."
"So my mirror tells me; nevertheless, as I am to say yes to a second husband this morning," and the large white teeth show as she smiles, "I think a slight blush would be becoming."
"Perhaps so, ma'am, but I like your white skin, it shows off your black hair and eyes real well, better than all the English colour; and so you are going to marry again, ma'am; well, I thought the gentlemen wouldn't leave you alone long, ma'am."
And the confidential maid applies with skill a slight touch of rouge to the cheek, which only has colour when the somewhat fierce temper causes the blood to mount.
"There, that will do; don't prate of what I have told you."
"I have kept your secrets for ten years, ma'am."
"You have, and may you keep them as many more, and here is a gold dollar for the term;" and her mistress tossed her carelessly two fives in the precious metal. "See that I am not disturbed, and only admit as I have given orders."
Alone she moves towards the hangings, through the opening in which Major Delrose had stealthily watched the night before, and through which she passes, giving him as she does only a passing thought. 'Tis a pretty room, this boudoir of Madame, with its gaily-painted hangings, its windows in stained glass, letting in the sweet June breath from the park. Too great a display of wealth, perhaps, but in the taste of the best New York artists, who revel in the gorgeous, and who have had full play for their talents at No. ---- Eaton Square. The black-brow'd mistress picks up a novel (Mrs. Southworth's last); when, throwing herself onto a lounge, her well-shaped feet encased in her favourite black satin boots stretched out, she endeavours to get the thread of the tale; but thought is too busy, the book falls to the floor as her reverie grows deeper.
"No, he will not come; my idol, my king. I saw it in his eyes; he is pre-occupied with Miss Vernon, and I hate her;" and a cruel look comes to the mouth and eyes. "But stay, perhaps he does love me, but is unselfish enough to let his friend win; if I was even half sure of this I should make short work of stately Col. Houghton; but no, a man would not love me by halves," and for an instant her thoughts flew to Major Delrose. "Let me see now what is my plot or game; with George, my ambition would not be gratified, for he has no estate; nor could I ever bask in the presence of the man I adore; by marrying the Colonel I gain both ends. Then his niece, Miss Vernon, is in my path; she is haughty; I shall so act upon this trait by showing her my dislike to her presence as to rid myself forever of it; let her beware! vitriol and Mason would do their work; yes, I must keep friendly with Delrose; her haughty spirit will aid me here; this 'hidden wife' story once afloat, and a royal princess would as soon sign a contract with a prophet of Utah. I fear the fierce, passionate temper of George; but my woman's wit will be brought to play to keep him quiet; Trevalyon will necessarily have a surer footing at Haughton than he, as in this case I shall see; in an underhand way the Colonel has his wish, and the pith of all my musings is that if George will not aid me in reviving the Fanny Clarmont, hidden wife scandal, _I shall do it without him_. One thing in my favour is, that as he swears against matrimony, people will say the secret reason is out of--Why! Eleven forty-five; my future spouse should soon appear; how my heart would beat, and every pulse throb and burn, if it were my king; now, I am as cool as the czar of Wall Street. My sleeves fit well; this make suits me," and she pushed to the wrist her bracelets of the golden dollar. "And my boots also; I do take as much pride in my foot as the men do in their moustache. What am I gaining in return for myself and my gold? A great place and name, and also revenge on my father, whom I may meet, and who kept me from position, not allowing me to know even his whole name--Vivian only, this and nothing more; he, a British officer, in a mad impulse (I am like him) marries my mother, nobody's daughter, and a ballet dancer, during a run he made to New York city just thirty-five years ago; my sire repents in sackcloth and ashes, dragging us with him; sells out; living by his wits anyhow and anywhere, chiefly at gaming places abroad. At a German suburb once he had left us, my late husband came to our cottage to enquire his road; as he was an American, my mother nearly swallow'd him whole; I did, on seeing his diamonds and knowing of his wealth; Lincoln Tompkins, beautiful! cognomen, and a 'cosmopolitan laundry' millionaire; my proud father nearly offered to kill me on his return, but in spite of the haughty Vivian we were married; and at his death he left me a rich woman. A year or so ago I came here to gratify ambition; and so, yes I think I may be satisfied; my capital is over two millions in gold, besides good speculations, quick wit, tact enough for my purpose-- blood, I was going to say--and American confidence, pet name, cheek. Yes, I shall be able to hold my own with the best of 'em. Had I married George, he would have been savagely jealous of other men; had it been my idol, he would have been my ruler; as it is, self shall rule."
Peter here announces Colonel Haughton. Madame arises, apologising for her recumbent position, but not before her future husband has had time to admire her foot, ankle and shapely arms, for, though her love is not for him, he is a man and she an inbred coquette, and as a man he admires her; he has loved but once the fair-haired Alice Esmondet, who chilled his heart by her refusal, he tells himself she is always so calm and freezing she could never love and so he goes to his fate who meets him all smiles and out-stretched hands saying--
"You are finding out my little weaknesses too soon, Colonel, you will not now have the courage to repeat your words of yesterday."
"If all women looked as charming, indulging their nap over a novel we should never scold." And her hand in his he led her back to the sofa. "My friend Trevalyon as well as your own card bid me 'come'; it is then, as I wish, dear, your consent to honor me with this hand?"
"Yes, if you do not tell of how nearly you won a pair of gloves."
"Instead; I shall tell of winning this fair hand on your waking, when we wed as now." And his dark moustache is on her lips; "your kisses are all mine, is it not so, my wife?"
"Can you doubt it? you have conquered."
"You will think me impatient, dear, but I want you to take my name at once."
"At once! and still, have your own way, my lord. I, like yourself, have only myself to please."
"At last, I shall feel settled, Kate; the dear old place will again ring with happy voices, old friends will be there," and he whispered low and tenderly, "In time, I trust, an heir will prattle at our knees, how happy would my dear mother be could she see our union consummated, my life arranged for."----
"This Lady Esmondet, Colonel, is she a very old friend?"
"Very; and I am one of those men who must lean on some woman; I fear at times I have tried her patience severely."
"What kind of woman is she?"
"Well, I can scarcely describe her; how do you mean, dear. In personal appearance? no, for you have seen her?"
"Yes, we have met; I mean in other ways, saint or sinner?"
"Neither; a happy medium, quite the woman of the world though; exclusive in her choice of friends, but true as steel when she does care for one, gentle, kind and sympathetic."
"How is it she has not repeated the experiment matrimonial?"
"Well, I do not know; with me she invariably changed the subject, and I did not press it, for I fancied she loved her husband so well she had no heart left for another."
"'Tis all very well to love a husband, Colonel, but to be faithful to his corpse is unnatural, while men with beating hearts are above ground."
"True, and now about our own plans, how soon may I claim you, dearest, say this day week?"
It was just her wish, she would be nearer Trevalyon, while Delrose would be effectually shut out unless he consented to a friendly alliance, when he could aid her in forever separating the man she loved from the fascinating Miss Vernon.
"Is not a week from to-day too awfully soon, Colonel?"
"Not a day, dear; everyone is leaving town, we can take our trip together."
"When he will, he will; you may have your way, but I have a will too, my lord, which you will find out some day" she said with a hearty laugh, "for the present it is that we, during the week, say to-morrow, take a run down to Surrey and your place. I can then see what changes I shall make, and everything can be in readiness for us by November."
"Delightful! how I wish Lady Esmondet and my niece, Vaura Vernon, were here to come with us."
In spite of herself a cloud came to Kate's brow, and she said carelessly--
"Oh, I don't know, this trip is just as well taken by ourselves."
"Anything you please, dear; they are far away at all events," but he sighed as he spoke.
"Your niece should marry, Colonel, my step-daughter shall; it is a great bore to have young ladies to settle in life."
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