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   Chapter 10 VELVET PAWS CONCEAL CLAWS.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 9747

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"Eric, I have a favour to ask of you," said his friend; "I am going to

Rome for a few weeks, and want Vaura with me."

"I had rather you had made any other request of me, Alice; when, and why do you go?"

"On to-morrow, after I have had an interview with Huntingdon, my lawyer (you will know him), who comes from London by appointment; and by the advice of my physician, who declares I require change."

"Change, change, that is always their cry," he answered, regretfully; "take my advice, Alice," he continued, eagerly; "come to Haughton instead."

"Rome first, Eric, thank you; home and Haughton afterwards; a few weeks will soon pass, as you say," she continued, taking his arm from the table. "I wonder what amount of change we can digest; we get nothing else; never at home; what, with the season at London, watering places, or abroad, home only at Christmas, and some of us don't even do that; but you will lend Vaura to me?"

"Yes," and her arm is pressed gently as he finds her a seat; "though it is hard. What do you say, Vaura; but your face tells me you like this change also."

"I regret this catching only a glimpse of you, dear uncle; but we, butterflies, are here to-day, gone to-morrow. I love Haughton, and long for Rome; poor humanity, how unrestful; yet with all our change, the most ennuyee of mortals."

"You will, I suppose, take Miss Vernon up with you for the season, Lady Esmondet?" asked Mrs. Haughton, eager to know if her wish to rid herself of Vaura companionship would be gratified.

"Yes, if her uncle will give her to me; for myself, I have set my heart on having her with me at Park Lane."

"I am glad of that, and the Colonel must agree, for I have not my plans matured; if we are at No. 2 Eaton Square, my house will be full as a box of sardines. You are sure to come for the season, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes! habit, habit; I could not miss my-every thing (I was going to say) that London gives; the crush at the balls, seated comfortably with some pleasant people about me, chatting of the newest flirtations, if those (among the unmarried) of last season ended in matrimony; if so, what then? a pleasant yokedom or no? What divorce or separation is on the tapis; bits of club gossip, &c."

"With some racy scraps, political, which you would take to as for your dinner entrees," cried Vaura gaily.

"True, Vaura, and any new passage at arms between our good Queen

Victoria's prophet, Earl Beaconsfield and that earnest defender of the

Liberal faith, Gladstone; and, this winter, if I mistake not, we shall

have stirring times, we are getting ourselves into a tight place;

England will have to keep one eye on the East, the other on her

Armoury."

"I wish the war party were stronger," said Colonel Haughton, earnestly, "we shall have no soldiers among the rising generation, if Bright's policy be carried out continuously."

"War is too horrid for anything; one has no one to flirt with," cried

Mrs. Haughton.

"You forget our older men and boys, Mrs. Haughton," said Vaura, gaily, "who, when not given a chance for the cold steel of the battle field, are ever ready to bare the breast for the warm dart of Cupid.

"Wouldn't give five cents for 'em," cried Mrs. Haughton, "I want the soldiers; so if this man Bright pleases me in this matter, though I care not a dime for politics, I am with him."

"Hear! hear!" exclaimed Everly. "I was beginning to think I was alone in the field, and, though a Bright man from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot, I was commencing to feel rather flat, in fact, anything but bright. What is the use of civilization? if we are to go on butchering our neighbours, or allowing them to make targets of us for every imaginary cause. Why be civilized in some matters, and in others remain savages? If a man strike me I shall knock him down, if he strike someone else even, in whom I am interested, he must fight his own battles, and let me look after my own interests. So, with England; I don't want to see the sons of the soil turned out to fight like dogs, when there is no occasion for it, by so doing, allowing the commercial and agricultural interests of the country go to ruin, and saddle us with an enormous debt. No! a thousand times no."

"You grow eloquent, Sir Tilton," said Vaura "and were you only with us, I should congratulate you on your power of speech. As it is, I can only lament that so much earnestness is lost to us; do, Sir Tilton, go in an unbiased mood to the House next session, give close attention to the arguments of Beaconsfield on this question, and then, I have no doubt, a man of your sense will come out in the right colours next election, and you will laugh at the time you did not want to see the dear Czar, or Sultan, blister their hands, or soil mother earth, while our brave fellows gave it them in the Balk

ans, or at Constantinople."

"No, no, I believe, I am a Whig; I know I am a Liberal, and it is the right side for our day."

"Now I think," continued Vaura, "one should be a stronger Tory than ever to-day; what with Fenianism, Socialism, Nihilism, if we would see a monarchy left standing, our peers with a voice, we must, even though inwardly acknowledging the other opinions to suit the progressive spirit, we must stand firm; we are not yet advanced, or you, or not I should say, Sir Tilton, to give us anything as perfect to take the place of our British Parliament."

"You have taken your first step towards us, Miss Vernon. I congratulate you on being a Liberal-Conservative," exclaimed Sir Tilton, gleefully.

"Ah! I should not have named my flying spirit," said Vaura, laughingly.

"No, that's where you were weak, dear," said her uncle, "you forgot your party."

"The carriage is waiting, sir," said the Colonel's man.

"Very well, Tims; tell the maids to bring wraps for their mistresses."

"The warmth of the fire is inviting," said Lady Esmondet, for they have been sipping their coffee by a bright fire.

"Which means you think the opposing element outside the reverse, godmother mine."

"Yes, Vaura, what do you say to keeping me company."

"With pleasure; I dare say we have seen whatever is on."

"Twelfth night," said Blanche; "I guess I'll stay too; Sir Tilton; a game at euchre."

"With pleasure, Miss Tompkins, though the game is new to me," he said, seating himself where he could have a good view of Vaura.

"Kate, dear, do you care to go?" enquired her husband.

"No; the play is not to my taste; Shakespeare is heavy."

"Heresy, heresy!" exclaimed Vaura; "surely, Mrs. Haughton, you don't condemn, 'As you like it,' 'Much ado about nothing,' and the bill for to-night-and with brilliant Neilson! for their heaviness-I doubt if Rosalind, Beatrice, or Viola would agree with you, unless it be Viola, who may have found the Duke; so, thank Fate, our lovers are more quick witted."

"I should have jilted him, at once and for ever!" cried Mrs. Haughton.

"One would think the keen eye of love could have penetrated her disguise," said Mrs. Haughton.

"Especially in pleading the love of an imaginary sister," said Vaura; "our men would have suggested making love to the lips that were by."

"All I have to say is," said Mrs. Haughton, suppressing a yawn, "that the way the Duke went a wooing would never have suited me; I like a man with a spice of boldness in his love-making; a sort of stand and deliver fellow."

"Who would not take no," said the Colonel.

"Yes, not like the poor victimised Quakeress we hear of; a man looked her way for seven years, then said grace before he took the first kiss."

"What an abstainer," laughed her husband; "as for the lazy Duke, he should have stormed the castle and ran off with Viola."

"After which, I should have wished him a good night's rest; as I do all and each of you," said Lady Esmondet, rising, and moving towards the door.

"Not a bad idea," echoed the Colonel, "as we leave for Surrey in the morning, that is, if you can manage the early, Kate?"

"Yes, though rising early is a relic of serfdom, still it is better than vegetating here all day."

"Thank you;" turning wistfully to Vaura, he continues-

"I am really sorry you are not going with us, dear; but, promise me, Alice, that you will both be with us for the ball and Christmas festivities?"

"It's a long look till Christmas, Eric; but, should the 'miscreator circumstance' not prevent; consider us with you; and, now good-night, you, and all; and a restful sleep."

"Good night, everyone," said Vaura, "pleasant dreams; my own dear uncle, good night," and with a soft, white hand on each cheek, her beautiful face is turned upwards for his kiss.

"Blanche, you little gambler, away with you," said her step-mother.

"Good night, Sir Tilton, think it over: and what merriment you will miss, and of how I shall miss you, if you don't come down with us."

"Don't think it possible just yet, but first day I can; with thanks, yours, good night."

And now the small baronet alone, and not yet inclined for rest, throws himself back in an easy chair, his hands in his pockets, and shoulders in his ears, thinks himself into such a deep thought that the clock striking two causes him to start.

"So late," he murmured, mechanically winding his watch. "What a reverie I have been in! three-quarters of an hour since they left me! Ah, Tilton, this wandering will never do, one cannot have everything, and the other one is true, and makes sure of me. What a ripe, rare loveliness; tut, tut, keep your eyes from her, my boy."

And he, too, has gone to the quiet of his chamber and leaves the room to silence and gloom, save for the fitful gleam of an expiring coal in the grate.

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