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   Chapter 9 VAURA IN A MEDLEY.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 14606

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The mighty god, Society, having descended from his London throne, and with a despotic wave of the hand bid his slaves forth to some resort where fashion reigned; as a matter of course, you and I, mon ami, must go with the stream if we would not be ostracised altogether; we should dearly love to take a lazy summer jaunt with some of them; our dear Lionel Trevalyon, in his lonely pilgrimage to the North Countree, would be glad of companionship; I wish it had been his pleasant fate to make his exodus with his old friends, the Lady Esmondet and Vaura Vernon; but it was not to be. And so, through the moves of the "miscreator circumstance," we are all separated until now, when I am more than glad to tell you that Lady Esmondet, with Miss Vernon, have arrived this day, 2nd Nov., '77, at Dover, having come up from gay Brighton, and are hourly expecting Col. and Mrs. Haughton, who had left by the White Star Line for New York immediately on their marriage; thence, on sending home the most artistic of American fresco workers and decorators, they spent a month amid the gay revellers at Long Branch and Saratoga; back again to the old shores and Paris, choosing from this great storehouse of the beautiful, gems in art, both to please the senses and delight the cultured and refined. With the face of Trevalyon seldom absent from her thoughts, Mrs. Haughton unconsciously chose much that would have been his own choice also. A page, in the hotel livery, tapping at the door of the sitting-room, en suite with the sleeping apartments engaged by Lady Esmondet, coming forward, hands a telegram.

"This has just arrived, your ladyship; any answer, your ladyship?"

"No; it merely states they have left by one of the new lines."

"We are looking for one to come in very shortly, your ladyship."

"That is convenient; it will allow of their dressing and dining with comfort; and, boy, see that their rooms are warm and lighted."

"Will it please your ladyship to dine here, or at the table d'hote?"

"Here the room is large, warm, and will answer our purpose very well."

"Yes, your ladyship."

"How delightful, Vaura dear, that we shall not be detained, but can leave on to-morrow."

"Yes, godmother darling, the fates have golden threads on their distaff for you and I to-day."

"I trust your uncle will not deny me," said Lady Esmondet, a little absently; "if so, I shall feel doubly lonely just now."

"He has married a wife; therefore cannot refuse to lend me to you until we both go to Haughton Hall hand in hand; do not think for one moment that I shall allow you to go alone to Italy."

"You belong to your uncle as well as to me, dear."

"Yes," she said, slowly; "how much I wish," and she was beside her godmother caressing the smooth bands of fair hair; "how I wish you and he had had enough of love between you to blend your lives in one."

"Do not even think of what now is an impossibility, dear," she answered hurriedly and evasively, while a faint flush came to her cheek as she pressed her hand to her side.

"Ah, poor darling," thought Vaura, "she cared for him;" and with a latent sympathy she said tenderly: "How oft in one's journey through life one closes one's eyes to the shimmer of sunbeams on the grand, majestic ocean, or the calm and peaceful lake; only opening them to the glare of the gas-light, the song of the night bird."

"How often, indeed," said her godmother, sadly; "but by the prancing of steeds in the court yard," she continued, smiling bravely, "one must conclude the steamer has arrived."

"'Tis well one can don society's mask at will," said Vaura.

"Yes, dear, and 'tis quite unnecessary to bare one's heart to the million," she answered, with her usual composure. "You are looking charming, dear; that seal-brown velvet fits you exquisitely."

"Worth says I am curves, not angles," said Vaura, gaily; "he says he would prefer to fit a grasshopper, a la mode, than many women who pine for his scissors."

"You should always bare your arm to the elbow; the shape is perfect, and your old gold jewelry blends both with the warm brown of your gown and the roses and lace at your throat. I wonder a little what Mrs. Haughton, how strange it sounds, but one grows accustomed to, anything, I wonder what your uncle's wife will think of you."

"It matters not," replied Vaura, her beautiful head erect. "I know she is no fit mate for a Haughton and an innate feeling causes me to wish most fervently that she, with the golden dollar bequeathed to her, had never set foot on proud Albion's shores."

"They are in the corridor, dear; make the best of her for your dear uncle's sake," said her god-mother, breathlessly.

"Do not fear for me, dear godmother, especially as poor misguided uncle has wed so that I forsooth, shall find in Haughton Hall a fitting home, and yet, I, above all, should not speak in such tone, our race are capable of a noble self abnegation, even I at fourteen, but I dream aloud, dear godmother, forgive me."

"Surely, dear, with me alone, you may think audibly."

In a few minutes during which Vaura's eyes idly rest on the last beams of the western sun as they kiss the soft bands of hair and bring out the mauve tints in the rich satin robe of her now silent companion, when the door is opened wide, by a page admitting Col. and Mrs. Haughton, with Miss Tompkins, followed by Sir Tilton Everly.

"My dear friend and darling Vaura, how glad, glad I am to see you

both; you give the place quite a home look; Mrs. Haughton, Lady

Esmondet and my niece Vaura, and here is my wife's step-daughter, Miss

Tompkins, a devotee of the American Eagle, and Sir Tilton Everly."

"I should say so," said Blanche, "our Eagle would make short work of the furs of your Lion and not lose a feather."

"He would first be obliged to turn dentist and claw-remover, Miss

Tompkins," said Vaura merrily.

"Miss Vernon," said Mrs. Haughton stiffly, "allow me even thus early in our acquaintance to make a request of you which is that you ignore the odious sirname of my step-daughter, simply calling her Blanche."

"Certainly, Mrs. Haughton, though it is out of order, if your step-daughter also wishes it."

"Oh yes, it don't make five cents difference, Miss Vernon; popa had to give up Annabella Elizabeth my real name; Mrs. T. didn't take to it, she only took Tompkins because it was set in diamonds."

This was said with the most child-like expression on the wee white face, but one could detect venom in the tone of voice. For answer there was a frown and an impatient stamp of foot as her step-mother says coldly.

"Lady Esmondet will excuse us, Blanche, while we change our travelling dresses."

"Certainly."

Sir Tilton flew to open the door; the Colonel seeing them to their appartments, and their maids in attendance, returned to the loving rest of his home birds.

"Well, uncle dear, how do you feel after your run to and fro?" said Vaura, affectionately, and going behind his chair, drew his head backwards, kissing his face in welcome.

"Passing well, dear; here, take this chair beside me, and let me look at you; the Scotch lakes and sea-bathing have agreed with you, and with Lady Alice also," he added kindly.

"Eric, what did you think of New York," enquired

Lady Esmondet, to divert his attention from her personally.

"Oh, it is just a large handsome city, with cosmopolitan cut in its very corner store, representing much wealth in its many fine buildings; there is a good deal of taste displayed in its burying grounds, and parks, and nearly all has a look of rapid growth about it, so different to our London."

"As our old slow-growing Oak in comparison with their Pines," said

Vaura; "and what of the people generally?"

"Just what we know them to be, dear, full of energy and active life; sleeping never, I do believe, or if so, with eyes open."

"So full of mercury that it tires one even to think of them," said

Vaura lazily.

"A great people though, Miss Vernon; strongly imbued with the spirit of the age, Progress," said Sir Tilton, who, from his corner, had never withdrawn his gaze from Vaura's face since the exit of the other ladies.

"True; but what a spirit of unrest is Progress, always flying, only resting on the wing to scatter to the winds a something new, to take the place of the old," said Vaura, thoughtfully.

"But, Vaura, dear," said Lady Esmondet, "it is astonishing how comfortably we en masse keep pace with your flying spirit, eager to pick up its novelties."

"True, ladies, and elbow each other in the race," said Sir Tilton.

"I know I am old-fashioned," remarked the Colonel, a little sadly; "but our life of to-day does not come up to my ideal, as when a soldier on furlough I used to return to my dear old home; there, if anywhere on this lower sphere, peace and happiness reigned."

"You may well say so, Eric, with your noble father, sainted mother, and Vaura's mother, my dear friend, your sweet sister, Ethel, as inmates;" and in that instant their eyes met, full of sympathy. And be it what it may, an electric spark, the true speech of heart to heart, or what; the knowledge came to him for the first time of what he had lost, and a nervous tremor ran through him such as he had never felt at Delhi or Inkerman under shell or rifle fire. And the woman who had been too proud to show her love unasked, did not know whether she was glad or sorry that he had at last tasted of the tree of knowledge.

Mason here threw open the door for her mistress and Miss Tompkins, who enter, both having made elaborate toilets, the former in a gown of rose pink brocade, the latter wearing sky-blue silk, each lavish in their display of jewels.

"Dressed before you, after all, Miss Vernon," cried Mrs. Haughton, with latent malice. Even small Sir Tilton raised his eyebrows; for one moment Vaura was non-plussed; "underbred poor uncle," was her thought as she said quietly: "I have dined in salons at Brighton in this gown, Mrs. Haughton; I have listened to Patti robed as you see me."

"How mean of step-momma," thought Blanche.

"Never saw anyone to compare with her," thought the little baronet.

"Is it possible, Miss Vernon? You must excuse me, but I really thought it your travelling dress."

Waiters were now busy with the dining table at the end of the room, partially separated by folding doors; tempting entrees, steaming dishes, with delicious dainties, are now arranged.

"Surely, we dine at the table d'hote," said Mrs. Haughton, hastily; "you should have seen to it, Colonel; you know I prefer it."

"Pardon, Kate; I was unaware of this arrangement, dear."

"I am the culprit, Mrs. Haughton," said Lady Esmondet. "I thought we should all be warmer here; the air is chilly this evening."

"Oh, certainly, as you wish it; only when I take the trouble to dress for the table d'hote, I like to be seen," she answered, stiffly; "but we go to the theatre afterwards; and now, Sir Tilton, your arm." And clearing her brow, she seats herself at table, her husband opposite, with his friend on his right.

"You have no hotels at London to compare with ours of New York city,

Lady Esmondet," she said.

"You have, Mrs. Haughton, I believe, the verdict of the majority of the travelling public with you; though I have found the Langham, and others among our leading hotels, most comfortable."

"The difference between our system and theirs," said the Colonel, "is that ours savor of the British home, in the being chary of whom we admit, and a trifle pompous; while the French and Americans, as a people, are better adapted to make hotel life a pleasant success."

"Because you are too awfully too, and we are free and easy; that's what's the matter," said Blanche.

"Also," said Vaura, "the hotel and American are both of to-day."

"You havn't given us the newest London scandal, Sir Tilton," said Mrs.

Haughton, thinking of her plot.

"Political or social?" he asked, somewhat guardedly.

"Social, of course; I don't care a fig for the country."

"Well, to lead off with, the pretty Miss Fitz-Clayton, who was to have married Lord Menton, instead fell in love with her pater's tallest footman; and on her fortune they have been cooing all summer at the Cap de Juan; next," he hurriedly said, "Capt. Trevalyon's hidden wife is on; last, two separations and a new beauty."

There was a moment's pause, each thinking of Trevalyon, when Vaura said carelessly, to cover her quickened heart-beats:

"Here he comes, with his mouth full of news."

"This story about Trevalyon is a lie direct, Everly," said the

Colonel, hastily.

"Dare say, Haughton."

"The prettiest bit of your news, Sir Tilton, is Cap de Juan," said Vaura, apparently absorbed in the delicacies on her plate; but thinking, "can it be true of the ideal knight of my childhood."

"Poor Lionel, how disgusted he will be," said Lady Esmondet, wearily.

"Still, men do do such things; why not he?" said Mrs. Haughton, daringly; "and after all, as none of us are going to marry him, we need not care."

"One feels for one's friends when maligned, that is all," said Vaura, carelessly.

"Well, supposing it be false," continued Mrs. Haughton, with morbid curiosity, watching the beautiful, expressive face of her rival-"which I don't believe, how could he clear himself?"

"I cannot say, Mrs. Haughton; it would be easier to name an antidote for the sting of the snake than for the tongue of Dame Rumour."

"All I can say is, I believe it," said Mrs. Haughton, aggressively; "he is handsome enough to have induced more than one woman to make a clandestine marriage with him."

"I regret to hear you say so, Kate," said her husband, gravely.

"Mrs. Haughton is to be excused, Eric; she does not know Lionel as we do."

"The animal man is the same everywhere," continued Madame, recklessly.

"The serious trouble I see in it for Capt. Trevalyon," said Lady Esmondet, "is, that did he contemplate matrimony, this scandal afloat would be a barrier to his union."

"If he were not so careless, he could stamp it out at once," said the Colonel, impatiently. But he is careless, and Mrs. Haughton exults as she remembers it, and at the success of her plot; for does not Lady Esmondet admit it would be a bar to his union; she feels a morbid pleasure in noting critically the varied charms of her rival, as an innate feeling tells her Miss Vernon might become; and she thinks: "For you he scorned my love; pride, though you die, will keep you apart; he will come to me yet."

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