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   Chapter 11 ON THE WING.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 15441

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The god of slumber did not long hold sway over the senses of our friends, but even so, time, the relentless, striding ever along, did not leave them any spare minutes. Breakfasting at nine, with the exception of Lady Esmondet, and Mrs. Haughton, who partook of their first meal in their own apartments, the one being rather delicate, the other accustomed to indulge the body; all were more or less eagerly active; poor Lady Esmondet in sympathy with her old love, each now thinking by change, to divert the mind from the might have been; Mrs. Haughton loved the prospect of her throne at the Hall, and of daily wooing the love of her idol to be domesticated there. Blanche, the wee white mouse, longed for the greater freedom to be alone, or to play detective over others, that a large estate would give her.

Everly just now had so many conflicting emotions he scarcely knew which was uppermost. As for Vaura, she looked forward with intense pleasure to a lengthened sojourn in the immortal city; knowing life at Haughton under the present regime would be distasteful to her.

"The gentleman from London, my lady," said Somers, entering and presenting the card of Mr. Huntingdon.

"Very well; he is, I suppose, in our sitting room?"

"Yes, my lady."

"Now, Vaura, ma chere, take flight to Poppingay's, and bring your maid, who can carry my parcels. You will find what I require at his shop. I am so glad to know you are with me for some time, dear."

"Au revoir! I shall be fleet as a deer."

Now Lady Esmondet, turning her steps in the direction of the Haughton apartments, entering, said:

"I have come to wish you bon voyage; my lawyer is here; I know there will be a general exodus of you all soon, while I am closeted with him-he is a little bit of a tyrant and cross as a bear, if interrupted."

"A man would be a bear if he could be cross to you, Alice," said Col.

Haughton, noting, regretfully, how delicate she looked.

"So that he does not give me a bear's hug, I shall survive it."

"It would be very pleasant this raw morning. Farewell, Lady Esmondet, a gay trip to you," said Mrs. Haughton.

"Good-bye, Alice," and her hand is held tightly; "take care of yourself; I know you will of Vaura. Remember Christmas at Haughton."

"Farewell, Eric; I shall not forget," and the blue eyes met his kindly.

"Awful fuss you make over that woman, Colonel."

"She is a very old friend, Kate."

"Yes, I know, and as cold and polished as your grand-mother's diamonds. If she does respond to your warm invite, she will freeze us all, so we shall have to use all the timber to thaw out."

"You do not know her yet, dear."

Vaura only returned in time to say a few hurried words of parting. The carriage in which Mrs. Haughton and Blanche are seated is waiting her uncle at the door, watch in hand.

"Only a minute, and we are off," he cried, on seeing Vaura and her maid appear. "God bless you, darling; good-bye, good-bye," he said, kissing her affectionately; "do not fall in love with any Italian, I want you to marry at home."

"Not even Garibaldi," said Vaura archly, though a tear glistened. "Just fancy my home, a lone isle of the sea. Good-bye, dear uncle; take good care of him, Mrs. Haughton. Good-bye, Blanche; there is a mine of pleasure in store for you at Haughton; bon voyage all."

"She is lovely enough to win even Garibaldi from thoughts of Italy, past and present," said her uncle, lovingly.

"Colonel, I wish you would press Sir Tilton to come with us," said his wife; "I have grown so accustomed to him, I could do without Mason easier."

It was rather of a bore to the Colonel, this running in couples; when he married a wife, he did not marry this acquaintance of hers; but just now he feels that he himself deserves the lash as the fair face of the lost Alice arises before him, and knowing that the Hall would not now be open for guests only for his wife's gold. So the answer the son and inheritor of the estate makes to the daughter of the ballet-dancer is,

"Certainly, dear; anyone that will give you pleasure;" and turning to Sir Tilton, who is driving to the station with them, says: "You had better run down with us, Everly, if you have nothing else in view."

"Thank you, Colonel; have pressing business at London;" to quiet his duns, which he did not deem necessary to communicate; "but can and will be with you a month from now."

"You are very disagreeable, Sir Tilton, and not worth a cent."

"You are right," thought the small baronet.

"I want you to teach my pug tricks," continued Blanche poutingly.

"Come soon, dear baronet," said Mrs. Haughton; "by-by; remember me."

"Could a man do otherwise? Pleasant trip; goodbye."

And the iron horse is off, leaving the man about town who plays his cards with a winning hand, alone on the platform.

"I shall hasten back to the hotel, they may not yet have left;" meaning by 'they,' Lady Esmondet and Vaura. "It will look quite natural to see them, and say the others are safely away." Hurrying along, he reached the hotel to hear they had left "ten minutes previously; just leaving twenty minutes till she sails, sir," said the porter.

Hailing a passing cab, Everly offered double fare if in time. Fortune favoured him in allowing him to be in time to assist another gentleman (whom he thought to be on tantalizing intimate terms) in looking after the comfort of the travellers.

"Delighted I'm in time to be of any service, Miss Vernon," he said, heartily; "afraid you are going to have rain.

"I am protected, Sir Tilton," she said, smilingly, and holding up her arm in water-proof ulster.

"Many women, when they don the armour of protection, so ill become it, that we are fain to see them unprotected; but you are born to wear anything, and look so well we don't want any new fashion."

"Always allowing, Sir Tilton, for the natural changeableness of man, which would assert itself in spite of a momentary wish."

"You could hold us at will," he said, picking up a rose that had fallen from her bouquet; "may I?" and it is carefully put on his coat.

"Trust me, Sir Tilton," she said, gaily; "I have made your sex (loving it, as I do) a study. Charles Reade was right; you are 'born to hunt something;' it certainly is not the old, which is past, but the new; yes, say what you will, an innate love of variety-even to our gown," she added, merrily, "is an inherent part of your nature."

"Vaura, come, or you will be left on the dock in the enforced guardianship of Sir Tilton Everly," said Lady Esmondet.

"Adieu, Sir Tilton," said Vaura; "breathe a prayer to Neptune that our wardrobe is complete without day or night caps."

"Bon voyage; shall be at Haughton Hall to welcome you;" and, lifting his hat, he was again left to his own devices, while Vaura, taking the arm of Mr. Roland Douglas, went aboard the boat.

"Who is your handy little man. Vaura?" asked he.

"Sir Tilton Everly."

"Of where?"

"Of everywhere, my dear boy."

"Might be going there now, judging from the way he is tearing up the street."

"Perhaps he is on a mad tear after Mrs. Haughton."

"It's all very well, Vaura, to try, now the dear little fellow is away, to shunt him off on to Mrs. Haughton, he's not on a mad tear after them; you mow 'em down, tares and wheat, together."

"I feel quite agricultural," said Vaura, laughing, as they joined Lady

Esmondet, who was talking to a Government attache, from London. "Mr.

Douglas calls me a mowing machine."

Here, Mr. Bertram came forward to shake hands with Vaura.

"I was beginning to think you would not cross to-day, Vaura," said

Lady Esmondet. "Sir Tilton seemed unable to tear himself

away."

"It's getting too much for my feelings, Vaura," said Douglas, in serio-comic tones; "tares again."

"What's the joke?" asked Bertram; "the fellow had a green and yellow melancholy look about him, I noticed."

"Again! pile on the agony, tares and wheat are green and yellow."

"Tares and wheat," remarked Bertram. "If that's your text, Douglas, I shall tear myself away, and pace the deck alone, if Lady Esmondet, or Miss Vernon, won't take pity on me; I don't care for sermons, nor to be classed with the tares. Who is the mannikin, Douglas," continued Bertram.

"What's his name, and where's his hame; she dinna choose to tell," said Douglas.

"You are a greater tease than ever, Roland; I did tell you, but on the way you lost it; but now again give ear-"

"Not only mine ear," he interrupted, "but my whole being, fairest of

Surrey enslavers."

"Well, Roland, the irrepressible, from the lips of the women who love him, the mannikin is, dear or cara mia before Tilton Everly to his men friends, and Sir Tilton Everly to society; art satisfied?"

"By no means," he said slyly.

"He is only a gay little sunflower," said Lady Esmondet.

"Sunning himself in woman's smiles, and perhaps, who knows, laying up somewhere out at interest, the smiles he gives in return, but, Roland mon cher, Vaura is not his banker (she has always a hand full of trumps and they are hearts)."

"Yes, there are many bankrupts on your hands, Vaura. I'm beginning to think you've no heart, that's why the mowing business is done," said Roland, half jestingly.

"Happy thought, my dearest boy; at my birth, Cupid, being short of hearts, sent word by Mercury that Vaura Vernon would have to go without, until such time in her life as she was able to win the hearts of some half dozen men; as it would take so many to make a good-sized womanly organ called a heart. Mercury further said I must send so many men away heartless, I would suddenly find myself in possession, of that lovable piece of palpitation; I would then find that piece of feminine sighs too much for me, and would immediately exchange it for a manly one; so you, see, Roland, I cannot have worked enough yet with the agricultural implement; it's hard lines, you cruel boy, and you only jest about, the mower," this she said in mock earnest tones; and continued laughingly, "but then, I shall love only one; now, it is awfully pleasant to love you all."

"From all I hear at home and abroad the mower has been in sure hands," remarked Bertram smilingly.

"Dame Rumour hath many ears to fill," replied Vaura.

"By the way, Vaura, did Sir Tilton Everly say the Haughtons took the 10.30?" asked Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, Dover has been deserted for Surrey; and the untiring little, baronet follows in a month, and confided to me that he would be at my uncle's to welcome us."

"The plot thickens," laughed Roland.

"But Roland Douglas," said Lady Esmondet, "he should be there; he belongs, in some sort of way, to the wife of the Lord of the Manor, in a 'do-as-I-bid-you' kind of way; in their relations towards each other, one sees the advertisement for a person to 'make himself generally useful,' clearly defined; fashionable women of to-day affect such relations with men, and I suppose it is all right, as fashion has made it orthodox.'"

"We find it a too pleasant fashion to object to it," answered Bertram; "still rumour has it that Mrs. Haughton has been a great flirt, and if I were in Haughton's shoes, I should turn the cold shoulder to this Everly, or any other man; should they stay much at the Hall, time may, with the ponderous hospitalities of the county, hang heavy to one who has lived at New York pace, and just for pastime, she may flirt."

"I should think no woman married to Col. Haughton could, or would, think to kill time with any other man," said Vaura, warmly, a slight curl on her perfect lips.

"Bravo, Vaura," said her godmother; "a woman is of very slight value if, when she marry a man worth going to the altar with, she, after a few moons wane, looks about like Moore's 'Lesbia,' for some one to keep ennui at bay."

"Hear, hear," said Bertram; "but to-day we have so many marriages of convenience that the society of some affinity is sought for distraction's sake."

"It's awfully nice to have an affinity for some one else's wife; but, by Jove," said Douglas, "if I were married, and caught a fellow hanging about my wife, I'd just want to handle one of Vulcan's heaviest, and tap him on the head."

"Spoken like a Briton on his preserves," laughed Vaura.

"How these fellows without an income manage to keep to the front is more than I can tell," said Douglas; "now, this Everly, though he doesn't exactly wax fat and shine, he isn't one of the lean kine either."

"I bet my life," said Bertram, "he is angling in his aunt's flower garden for a gold-fish."

"A boarding school would be a good field," said Lady Esmondet.

"Just the spot," cried Douglas; "and the gilded fair who would pay his debts would win all the school prices from the gushing aunts."

"I read," said Bertram, "the other day, a good story in the Scottish American, entitled 'Endless Gold.' A fellow, Brown hadn't a sou, but always declared he would win an heiress; his friends laughed at him; but one evening, on a great cotton lord, Sir Calico Twill, making a speech, he put in 'hear, hear' at the right time. The old man, pleased, invited him home to supper; there he met his heiress, fell in love (to make a long story short), proposed, and was referred to papa."

"'What is your fortune?'" enquired the pater.

"'Well, I don't exactly know,' said Brown; being uncertain whether it was a three-penny or four-penny bit under his tobacco jar. 'But, give me your daughter, and I promise she shall have endless gold.'

"'Come, don't exaggerate, Brown,'" said the tickled Twill.

"'Scarcely in my case,' said Brown; 'as be we ever so extravagant, we should never be able to set through it.'"

"'Are you telling me truth?'

"'Truth; I swear it.'

"'Then take her, my boy, and her eight thousand a year; how pleased I am she has been saved from fortune-hunters.'

"They were married; Brown made the money fly; bills came in. Scene:

Sir Calico in a rage.

"'Where is the endless gold you promised?'

"'Here,' said Brown, coolly, taking his wife's hand and showing her wedding-ring; 'and what just fits one of my Wife's taper fingers I am quite sure we could never get through.'"

"'There is one thing in our favour, papa,' said his daughter; 'no one can say I have married a fool.'"

"Not bad," laughed Douglas.

"Henceforth," said Vaura, merrily, "I shall, in imagination, see small

Everly and his kind labelled 'Endless Gold.'"

"That little Tompkins will be in the market again this coming season," said Bertram; "I wonder who the successful angler will be."

"Unhappy heiresses," said Douglas, mockingly; "Cupid's darts are not for thee."

"Thank heaven," said Vaura; "the man who takes my hand for the walk through life will not take it for the gold he will find in its palm."

"The knowledge that the soft hand in his was his own," said Bertram, "would so fill him with ecstacy, with one look at the face, that the precious metal would be only in his thoughts as a setting for the pearl he had won."

"Bravo, Bertram," said Douglas.

"Merci, Monsieur," said Vaura, smiling; "you flatter my poor charms; but we cannot deceive ourselves; this is, as Mark Twain says, the 'gilded age,' and in going to the altar one of the two must have the yellow sovereign."

"Yes, Vaura, you are right; one or other, it matters not, must have a full hand," said her godmother.

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