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A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 24552

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

"This just too lovely; you are not going to weep over the exit of the

Colonel?" said Mrs. Tompkins rapturously.

And the sleeve of her jersey brushed Trevalyon's arm as she whispered above, glancing sideways.

"Enforced exit, you mean; with so seductive a neighbour one cannot but pity the absent."

But Mrs. Marchmont must be given an occupation, as she is immediately her opposite neighbour; Trevalyon will then not feel it incumbent on him to notice her, and will then be hers as though in a tete-a-tete; and so with the imperiousness that newly-acquired wealth lends to some natures, she says:

"Here, Fairy, is Agnes Fleming's latest; as I warn you I shall monopolize Capt. Trevalyon until we reach the Hall of 'Haughton,' when some one else will go in for monopoly of me."

"Yes, you poor dear thing, he will;" and she tittered; "but when the cat is away mousey can play; consider me asleep over my novel."

The absurdity of her remark struck Trevalyon so forcibly that he could not restrain a laugh.

"I don't believe you pity me one bit," said Mrs. Tompkins in a low tone, looking into his eyes reproachfully.

"Not one bit."

"Even after what I have told you?"

"Even after that," he answered, in lowest of tones; for they are in such close contact she can see what he would say as his lips frame the words.

"You are the only man who has been cruel to me."

"How so?"

"Oh, because," and the eyelids droop, for the lashes are long and black, though she would fain, look forever into the blue eyes above her. "Oh, because it is simply a woman's reason; give me your own."

"You are cruel, because to whom much is given, of him is much required."

"You flatter me; but let us look on the reverse side; I am a lonely man, I may say without kith or kin; I am almost sworn against wedded ties, but I love you all, have given much and require much."

And the easy sang-froid habitual to him gave place to a sadness of expression, a tired look, that ere now had made women weep. Mrs. Tompkins, impulsive to a degree, would fain have ordered everyone from the coach, taken his head to her breast, and bid him rest; a tremor is in her voice as she asks:

"Why will you not marry?" And for one moment she is willing to cut her heart out so he is happy; the next, ready to tear the heart from any woman who could make him so.

He sees by her tones the effect he is producing; he must again don his mask, and not excite her pity by reference to the sadness of his inner life, caused by his dead father's griefs; he had been foolish, but he had wished her in an indirect way to know that as no woman held his whole heart neither could she; and so, almost in his old easy tones, he says:

"Why not marry? I prefer you to frame some pretty imaginings to bore

you on our pleasure jaunt with my own; and here we are at our English

Frascati, Richmond the enchanting. Have you ever sunned yourself in

Italy, fair madame?"

"No, nor should I care to; the Italian is too lazy, too dreamy for me."

"Then you cannot enter into the spirit of Thompson's 'Castle of


"There is no spirit in it; no, I had rather sell peanuts at a Broadway corner, roast chestnuts on a Parisian boulevard, or flowers in Regent Street, than wade through one stanza of his sleepy poems."

Trevalyon laughed, saying:

"How full of active life and vim you are; now, I, at times, could write of dreamy idleness con amore. Do you never weary of our incessant hunt after some new sensation?"

"Never! 'tis the very main-spring of my existence, 'tis what I live for."

"How will you manage to kill time at 'Haughton' Hall out of the season?"

"You will be there," and the black eyes meet his unflinchingly. "And if not I am a great wanderer."

"Some distraction shall dull my senses till you come."

"But, you poor little fire-eater, supposing your liking for me to be real," and no ear but hers heard his whispered words "with my knowledge of Haughton's noble nature, I should curse myself did I cause him one jealous pang."

She pressed close to him as she breathed tenderly-

"Trust me my idol he shall never dream of my idolatry."

And the passionate face is transfigured in a tenderness new to it, for her passion has grown doubly strong in this drive from London, and she hugs to herself the thought that her love will beget his, all shame for its avowal is foreign to her breast, reckless and impulsive, her wish is her will.

"Your heart is as loving and untamed as Eve's, you must not tempt me to forget that he is my friend."

"I must." And the jewelled fingers (for her gloves are off) cling to his as he assists her to alight, for Richmond passed they are at the village of 'Haughton,' and the guard has called-

"Ladies and gentlemen for the Hall please alight."

A covered carriage and dog-cart are down in answer to the telegram of Colonel Haughton who has already alighted and meets his guests as they emerge from the carriage.

"Here we are again," says small Sir Tilton Everly, "Such a jolly drive, I am glad you invited me, Colonel Haughton; never was past Richmond proper before."

"No?" said the Colonel carelessly, and, stepping quickly to Mrs.

Tompkins, says, "It has been dreary banishment to me; allow me."

"You look like a man who has missed his dinner; or, as John Bull, outwitted by brother Jonathan," said his bride elect with a latent meaning as laughing heartily she takes his arm to the carriage.

"Or had a John Bright man step in before him at the election."

"Confound his impudence," thought Colonel Haughton, saying, "I am not, a Mark Tapley."

"Any man with a spice of gallantry" said Trevalyon coming to his friend's aid, "would feel as if Siberian banishment had been his portion, had he been separated from so fair a group of ladies."

Are the men doing anything to 'Rose Cottage' Trimmer," enquired his master of a shrewd looking man in brown and buff livery.

"Yes, sir, it's in good order now."

"This lady is my new tenant, anything you can do Trimmer to meet her requirements will oblige me."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you Colonel Haughton, you are very kind," said Mrs. Marchmont.

"Don't mention it, anything I can do will give me pleasure."

"It is a sweet spot; my darling child, Miranda, is a naturalist and will collect many insects."

"From the Hall?" said Blanche with her innocent air.

"No, no, dear, from the grounds."

"Drive on, Trimmer, I shall take the dog-cart."

"Yes, sir."

"What a sweet spot and how quaint the shops look," said Mrs. Marchmont as they were rapidly driven through the village.

"Not quaint, but vacant" laughed Mrs. Tompkins, "the whole thing has a vacant air about it, the inhabitant looks as though he was born yesterday and wondering what day it was; I'd rather see a yankee whittling a stick with his saucy independent air; hat on the back of his head so he can see what is going on, than any one of 'em."

"I could buy out the whole lot myself," said Blanche jeeringly, with her small head turning as if on a pivot.

"What a delightful feeling," said Mrs. Meltonbury, admiringly, "Yes it's just too lovely. If my poppa was here he'd throw no end of dimes and pea-nuts among 'em; always had pea-nuts in his pockets; how they stare, it's just too funny for anything."

"How wealthy he must have been, I just adore money!" said the


"I believe you," answered Blanche laconically.

"Pity you have that husband out in Ontario, Melty," said Mrs. Tompkins, "or I should soon find you another millionaire, you ought to get a divorce, plea; he is Canadian Government attache not your attache."

"What a dear thing you are; it would be too sweet."

"Which, the millionaire or the divorce," at which there was a peal of laughter.

"I am afraid sister referred to the man," sighed Mrs. Marchmont, "but how sad for poor dear Meltonbury."

"He'd survive it," said Blanche sententiously.

"As I live there is Lord Rivers and a man worth stopping for. Halt, coachman," cried Mrs. Tompkins eagerly.

And they stopped in front of the D'Israeli Arms where a group of gentlemen were watering their horses.

"Ah! how do Mrs. Tompkins," said Lord Rivers lazily wheeling his handsome bay and lifting his hat to the group.

"Whither bound?"

"For 'Haughton' Hall, you are coming I hope, now don't say no for I shall not listen if you do."

"Too bad, but I am due at Epsom, a little trotting race is on, and if not the lord of Haughton, whom I met up the road, did not give me an invitation."

"But I do," said Madame with emphasis.

"He is a lucky fellow," he said slowly and taking in the situation.

"So I think," she said laughing, and remembering she had Trevalyon for to-day continued hastily, "we open the Hall for no end of revels at Christmas, I must have you then."

"I shall slumber and dream of you until that time," and with a long side glance from his sleepy eyes the Epicurean peer put spurs to his horse to overtake his friends.

"Drive on, coachman."

"What deep eyes Lord Rivers has; he quite looks one through. What a pity such a sweet man should have such an ugly, disagreeable wife, I never thought she would be even a possible choice for any man," said the Marchmont.

"Better for us, it makes him sigh for the impossible," said Mrs.


"And 'tis such a sweet mission for a woman, that of consoler," sighed the Marchmont.

"To a man," said Blanche with her innocent air.

"Of course to a man; a woman would suspect a latent pity for which she would reward you with her claws," said Mrs. Tompkins.

"Sweet consoler, I shall send to Pittsburg for a cast-iron heart and buy out some druggist's court plaster," said Blanche. "You shall console a husband next season, I am determined in this."

"Indeed! who have you got me ticketed for?" and the pink eyes turned towards her step-mother.

"Little Sir Tilton would be just her height, dear Mrs. Tompkins," and

Mrs. Meltonbury clasped her hands in ecstasy.

"Mrs. Tompkins will tell you how I love him," said Blanche disapprovingly.

"Yes Melty, Blanche cannot endure him and besides he is my little beau," said Madame with an air of proprietorship.

But the Hall of the Haughtons is reached, and the carriage rolls through the wide open gates. At the pretty lodge door stands the keeper and his wife, he pulls off his cap while she curtsies low, their future mistress tosses them a gold bit at which more curtsy and bow. What a magnificent avenue through the great park, the oak and elm mingling their branches and interlacing their arms overhead, through which a glimpse of blue heavens with golden gleams of sunlight are seen. A turn in the road and the grand entrance is before them, on either side of which are flower beds in full bloom. A conservatory is all around the octagon south wing, now bereft of its floral beauties excepting its orchards and ferns. It is really a fine old place, large and massive, in grey stone and with the grandeur of other days about it; the arms and motto show well in the sculptor's work over the entrance; the words "Always the same" and "Loyal unto death," standing out brave and firm, as the Haughtons have for generations unnumbered. On the steps stand the master of Haughton, beside him his friend of years, Trevalyon, behind them their acquaintance, small Sir Tilton Everly. In the background, on either side of the Hall, are the household, only a few for their master has an uncomfortably small income, but they love him and will not leave him for filthy lucre's sake. But they are glad of the news that their master will marry and that a good time is coming for them.

"Thrice welcome to Haughton Hall, my dear guest," said Col. Haughton, taking the hand of his bride-elect and leading her up the steps; "your future mistress, and if you are as faithful to us both as you have been to myself you will do well."

"Thank you kindly, master," said the old butler.

"We will, we will, sir," was echoed from all sides.

After a substantial luncheon, at which they were very merry, Sir Peter

Tedril joining them at table, there was a scattering of forces, Col.

Haughton giving his arm to his future wife in i

ntroducing her to her

future home.

"You say I am to make all things new if I please, Colonel."

"Even to remodelling myself, my dear Kate."

"Wise man, for I am accustomed to get my way, most days," she added, with a side glance at Trevalyon.

And in her inspection she admired or ridiculed, laughed at or condemned, old time-worn tapestry and furniture mouldings and decorations, as ruthlessly as though mere cobwebs. It was finally decided that their tour would be at once, and to New York and Paris, from whence renovators and decorators should be imported; two or three apartments ^only were to be held sacred; old things were to pass away, all was to become new. The future mistress threw a good deal of vim into her walk and talk, doing all in a business-like manner, determined that Haughton Hall should be unequalled for luxurious comfort. Moreover, doing her duty in allowing her future husband to monopolize her for two or three hours; so earning her reward in Trevalyon in the drive by rail home to the city. The demeanour of Haughton in these hours pleased her; he was not lover-like, but properly admiring and tractable. Once before his mother's portrait he was very much affected, regretting she could not see his happiness, while she inwardly congratulated herself that the stately dame only lived on canvas.

"And now, I suppose, we have 'done' (excuse the slang) the spacious, and I must say, the very complete home of your fathers, Colonel; and I may close my notebook," she said, with a satisfied but somewhat relieved air.

"Excepting the north tower, which you would please me very much by making the ascent of; it is selfish, but I shall have you a little while longer to myself, especially as I agree with you that I had best stay here until tomorrow evening to set some of my people to work."

"Two heads are better than one, Colonel," and her pulses throb; another tete-a-tete with her idol made easy.

"Yes, dear, I should have been obliged to run down within the week had

I not remained."

"True, and now for the tower; which is the door?"

"Up a dozen steps; I shall have to leave you while I go back for the open sesame."

"In here? 'tis dark; but never mind, run away."

"It is my armoury, and should be locked; but the negligence of the servants gives you a resting place, it is so near the tower; this large leather chair you will find comfortable."

"Thank you, that will do; lift over that box with the dynamite; look about it for my feet."

"Beautiful feet! and my wife's," he whispered low.

"Ta, ta. I have plenty to occupy my eyes."

"Yes, I take quite a pride in my armour, from our own and foreign lands; with the sabre de mon pere, Indian idols, Highland targets, and many relics of my happiest days.".

"There, there, that will be very comfortable; by-by."

His footsteps have scarce died away when she is conscious of not being alone, and though in the dim light, her nerves are strong and do not give way; still she slowly arises humming an air, and as if to have a nearer view of an Indian curiosity. Scarcely has she done so than she is clasped in the strong arms of a man who has come from behind her, and pillows her face closely to his breast to prevent a scream, and so she shall not recognize him. She dreaded the return of Col. Haughton, now that events are shaping themselves fairly well; her immediate fear is lest any escapade should cause him to return with her to London, which would perforce prevent her immediate escort by the man she loves. So she allowed a tremor to pass through her, thinking to excite pity-which she did, for he slightly loosened his tight hold.

"Let me go and I shall not scream; you may have my money or jewels," she said in gasps.

"I only want you, my beauty," said a voice she knew well-the voice of

George Delrose. And her face is rudely kissed again and again.

"I hope you are satisfied; I shall not ask you how you came here, for as I have before had occasion to remark, you are Lucifer himself," she said in cutting accents.

"Kate, don't, or you will kill me; I must know your moves or I shall go mad."

And the strong man groans for his weakness, pressing his forehead with both hands.

"Tedril met me at the 'Russel Club' after dining with you last night; he then told me he was coming here at your invitation. Seeing how dreadfully cut up I was he changed his plans, and to give me a chance of a word with you ran down on first train to his place; we then rode over; he managed an entree to the Hall and secured me a retreat here, loitering about the park himself until luncheon. He tells me you are to marry Haughton; I reeled at his words, and would have fallen; but 'courage,' I told myself, 'she is not so cruel'; tell me, my beauty, that they lie; you could never love such an iceberg."

"You know me well enough for that, George."

"Had it been that other to whom I heard you-"

"Overheard, you mean; but one word of that, and I scream out."

"I repeat," and his voice grew fierce in its intense rage; "had it been even said you were to wed him, I would have shot him; the other you would be wretched with, so I am safe there."

"I confess to the being curious; did you hear the whispered nothings of the Colonel as he left me?"

"No, I was behind the coats-of-mail at the end of the room; but I should not have been jealous; a man must make love to you; it is yours for me I dread will change; your words to Trevalyon are burned to my memory; but he shall never have you, I have sworn it."

And in spite of herself she trembled, not for herself, but for the man she loved; but recovering herself quickly, and wishing to quiet him before the Colonel returned, said:

"How could I possibly marry a man with a hidden wife?"

Delrose, taking her face in his hands, tried in vain to read her heart; sighing heavily, he said:

"Oh, Kate, could you love me faithfully, devotedly, as I do you, what a life ours would be; but you are a slave to fancy, a creature of impulse, and I am now a mere barrier in your path, to be kicked aside at will; yet knowing this, I love you as ever, with the same old mad passion; and should you desert me, Heaven help me;" and the ring of truth and despair in his tones would have touched the heart of another.

But Kate, accustomed to eat greedily of life's sugar-plums, only stamped her foot impatiently at his persistence, saying:

"You are just a great big monopolist, George, and don't want our world to look at me, even through a glass case; the idea of you being jealous of a man whom we both agreed to sit on if he play bigamist; you forget our partizanship."

"See how quickly a kind word from you calms me my queen, but its too bad, beauty, I must hide again. I hear him returning."

"I shall go and meet him so he shall not lock you in."

"You were not long, Colonel, but I am quite rested and now for the tower stairs key, which way?"

"This way, but I need not have left you; Trimmer tells me the door is unlocked and our guests in advance of us.

"Oh, how lovely, it will save time looking them up; 'tis four-forty- five now, and at seven the up train is due."

In twenty minutes the ascent is made and madame stepped among her friends, her short navy blue satin skirt being just the thing to get about in easily; 'twas a handsome robe too with its heavy fringe and jets with bonnet to match, black silk jersey, heavy gold jewellery and jaunty satchel with monagram in gold slung over her round shoulder. She looked well and carried her head high and had her under jaw and mouth been less square and heavy she would have been handsome.

"What a band of idlers you look," she said "after my hard pilgrimage."

"Refreshingly dolce far niente, I should say," said Trevalyon lazily.

"How do you like the view, ladies?" enquired the Colonel, which gave

Sir Peter Tedril his opportunity.

"Have you seen him?" he said in an undertone,

"I have."

"Thank Heaven, it's over! you look so calm I feared it had to come."

"I don't wear my heart on my sleeve."

"The Colonel did not see him," he again asked.

"No, I did and alone in the armory."

"Where I left him, poor fellow."

"That will do; the others may hear."

"Allow me to adjust the telescope for you, Tedril," said Trevalyon. "I know it well, now, Mrs. Tompkins, you have a fine view taking in as you see a ravishing bit of Richmond a very embodiment of rest, at least where you are gazing, with the music which you are to imagine of the Thames at its feet."

"Enough;" she said, "I am no poet, and with me a little of that sort of thing goes a long way; turn it on something practical, if it will range so far."

"Shall it be London, Guildford, or chic little Epsom, fair Madame?"

"Give me London."

"Our gilded Babylon, versus ethereal skies, with lights and shadows that would send an artist wild," said Trevalyon, gaily readjusting the telescope.

"Why, Trevalyon, such sentiments from you," exclaimed the Colonel, while the others gathered around.

"'Tis a practical age, I like his view," said Everly.

"Do you, well take it; my eyes pain me," cried Madame.

"I wish I could take the pain too," he answered gallantly.

"You have taken both, sweet child; we had better all be off, every body. Time flies."

"He does; it tires one to think of him,"' said Trevalyon, consulting his watch.

"'Tis so sweet up here," sighed the Marchmont. "I am feasting my eyes on Rose Cottage."

"'Tis near dinner time, Mrs. Marchmont," said Blanche.

"When you will sigh, fish of sea, fowl of air versus Rose Cottage," said Tedril.

"Though following Sir Peter's lead from the depths to the heights, 'tis only to feed the inner-man, therefore as we grow prosaic we had best descend to the level of Rose Cottage," said Trevalyon.

For he felt that he was losing himself in memories of the past, here he had sat many hours with Vaura and his friend, now everything would be so changed; he knew it was foolish, but since he had seen a colored miniature of her in her uncle's possession in all the beauty of womanhood, he craved for her living presence, and he felt that the first step as he now made it down the old stairs brought him nearer the consummation of his wish. He was glad his arrangements to leave London at sunrise were complete; he wished the up trip was over; he did not pine for another tete-a-tete with Madame; she was capital company, but she belonged to his friend; he only hoped he would be able to hold her that was all. On their descent, after a few minutes adjournment to the dining-room where delicious tea with walnuts in sweet butter and salt and scraped Stilton cheese in rich French pastry were duly relished, besides cold ham, chicken with sparkling hock and Malmsey. And now again, merrier than birds, away to the station; this time Mrs. Tompkins and the Meltonbury take the dog-cart with Colonel Haughton. They outstrip the carriage; but now all alight.

"Gentlemen and ladies for the carriages, please take seats at once," sang the guard.

"How are you off for room, guard," enquired the Colonel.

"Seats in this one for two, sir."

"Sir Tilton, might I trouble you to take charge of my step-daughter; I know it will be a bore," she added in an undertone, "but I shall reward you my dear little poppet."

"Seats for five more, guard," shouted Tedril, for the engine was almost off.

"This way, sir."

The strawberries with hasty good-byes are on board with Tedril.

"Dine with me to-morrow evening, Colonel. By, by," said Mrs. Tompkins pleasantly, for he was so easy and she would have Trevalyon up.

But the latter, lifting his hat, said:

"It is not au revoir with me, dear Mrs. Tompkins, but bon voyage; and," he said, lowering his voice, "imagine the rice and slippers, for I heartily wish you every happiness."

"What nonsense," with a frown and little stamp of foot. "Wish me your wishes up; you are coming," and her eyes showed both anger and disappointment.

"Carriages, carriages;" shouted the guard, and with a pardon Madame almost locked the door on the skirts of Mrs. Tompkins as the Colonel was saying hurriedly:

"I persuaded him to wait for the midnight and keep me company."

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