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   Chapter 5 MADAME SHUFFLES THE CARDS.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 5720

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The following morning the weather perfect, with not a cloud in the sky, the party, after her own heart and all accepting, while dining at Eaton square, the previous night, in a robe a la derniere mode, Mrs. Tompkins is content and in her gayest spirits; two large hampers containing choice wines and dishes to tempt the palate of an epicure had been sent down by earliest train in case the cellar and larder at Haughton should fail.

"For Heaven, save me from a hungry man," she had said in the ear of the strawberry blondes; "I don't want to see him before breakfast; after dinner, I love them."

At the station were Colonel Haughton with Captain Trevalyon, the former less calm than usual with just a pleasant touch of excitement and eagerness about him in the having won the wealthy Mrs. Tompkins for wife; he must wed gold, and so with his aristocratic name, belongings and air distingue as bait, the angler had caught the biggest catch of the season. Captain Trevalyon's handsome face is lit up with pleasure, his mesmeric blue eyes now smiling, would draw the heart from a sphinx; for the friends have been congratulating each other over the coming opening of Haughton Hall, over the intense pleasure of again being under the same roof daily with Lady Esmondet and Vaura, with their charming knowledge of human nature, causing a great charity and pleasant cynicism with no malice in it of the shams and pet weaknesses of society.

"Take my word for it, Trevalyon, there is nothing to equal Vaura in the kingdom. I wish you had been at Park Lane the night before last."

"Don't name it, Haughton, I have been quarrelling with fate ever since; promise me that the next time you see an opening to my joining them you will let me know."

"That you are in earnest your face tells me; though ten years my junior, you loved my darling as a child as much as I, and I promise. But eyes right, old fellow, here comes the carriage and the green and gold livery of my bride-elect; attention is the word."

"And plenty of it," laughed his friend, as they stepped to the side of the carriage and shook hands with the four ladies as they alighted.

Madame could not have chosen better foils for her own voluptuous style than the three women, all angles-looking as she always did, as though she had been visiting Vulcan, and feeding on the red-hot coals beneath his hammer, while quenching her thirst from a cantharus given her by the hand of Bacchus himself. "The strawberry blondes" (as Mrs. Tompkins made their hearts glad by naming them) are decidedly red-haired (in common parlance), and robed in sky-blue suits and hats, all smiles, frizzes, bustles, elbows and pin-backs. Blanche Tompkins, poor little thing, looks cold and pinched in her steel-grey satin suit and hat, with silver jewellery, the red rim around her eyes more pronounced than ever. A

s they drive into the station yard she peers intently about, and a wee smile just comes to her face as her hand is taken by Capt. Trevalyon.

"I need not ask you how you are, dear Mrs. Tompkins, your looks tell me," said Col. Haughton.

"No, I am not one of the ill-kine, Colonel," laughed his bride-elect.

"Nor yet one of the lean-kine," said Trevalyon gaily.

As the other ladies gathered about, a small London swell, who had come forward with a beaming face, saying:

"Here we are again," and whom Mrs. Tompkins presented to Col. Haughton and Capt Trevalyon as "Sir Tilton Everly."

"Excuse me, sir; the carriages are filling up, sir."

"My man is right; we had better secure seats; allow me," said Col.

Haughton, giving his arm to Mrs. Tompkins.

The others were at the steps waiting for her to take her place, but a quick glance had let her see that one of the six seats is occupied; and determined to have the man she loves beside her, she says quickly:

"Never mind precedence, 'tis only a picnic; every one of you secure seats; I shall wait here with the Colonel for Sir Peter Tedril."

"Oh, yes, like a dear thing; we shall die without Sir Peter," cried

Mrs. Meltonbury.

"Oh, yes, we must have dear Sir Peter," echoed her twin.

"Oh, yes, we must all have dear Sir Peter until there is a lady Peter; good time, you all remember him, though," exclaimed Mrs. Tompkins.

Here Tims comes forward, saying:

"Sir Peter Tedril's servant is yonder, sir, with a message for Mrs.

Tompkins, sir; may I bring him, sir?"

"Certainly, and at once."

The man approaches, touching his hat, saying:

"My master bid me meet you here, madam; a telegram arrived last night, ma'am, calling him by the early train to Richmondglen; but master will meet you at the Colonel's place, ma'am, and return with your party to London, ma'am."

"Very well; and here is a gold bit to drink to the health of your girl."

"You are very good, ma'am."

And with a grin of satisfaction, he drank English beer to American liberality.

On stepping to the door of the carriage, Capt. Trevalyon offered his seat to his friend.

"Not so; we cannot spare you," cried Mrs. Tompkins. "I should have all these ladies as cross as bears, Sir Peter non est and you away; no, the Colonel is gallant enough to leave you to us; he will have so much of some one a week from yesterday."

"No help for it, I suppose," said the victim, ruefully eyeing Everly seated comfortably between the strawberries, the stranger having vacated his seat for another coach. Everly was blind and deaf to the Colonel's wish, taking his cue from his neighbour's, who had said in an undertone:

"Don't stir, we are afraid of him, and you are so agreeable and nice."

And the guard locked the door, saying respectfully:

"No help for it, sir, I'll find you a seat."

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