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   Chapter 16 LIFTING THE VAIL.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 12196

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The following morn the sun arose and smiled his greeting on gay Paris-methinks Old Sol weeps, when clouds come between his beams and the gayest of cities. Lady Esmondet and Vaura enjoyed their drive through the beautiful boulevards out into the suburbs, and to one of the largest public conservatories; the gardens were a scene of enchanting loveliness, laid out in the perfection of artistic taste; the friends roamed whither their will led, revelling in the perfumed air and beauty of colouring.

"Here," said Vaura, "one could be content to sing, 'I'd be a butterfly,' all day long."

"Yes, but only, ma chere, for a summer day."

"I am afraid you are right, godmother mine, and that when winter with the gay season came on the boards of life, I should prove faithless and sing, Oh, for the sights and the sounds of the season for me!"

"But we cannot linger longer, Vaura; we must go to the office and leave our order."

Having left an order that astonished the clerk, they took a reluctant leave of this lovely floral nest. They ordered the man drive towards the city in the immediate vicinity, of which Vaura alighted at a neat cottage to visit a blind protegee, one Marie Perrault, daughter of a one-time actor of no mean repute, who had taught elocution at the Seminaire where Miss Vernon had finished her education. Monsieur Perrault had assisted Vaura in the getting up of theatricals, she having developed such excellent histrionic powers. Perrault secretly hoped she would yet make her debut from the boards of his favourite Lyceum Theatre Francais.

Marie was overjoyed at the pleasant surprise of a visit from her benefactress, whose face, lovely as it was, and lit up with the joy of living, gay chit-chat, and sweet-scented blossoms she carried seemed to brighten, as with sunbeams, her darkened life. Vaura stayed long enough to leave her gifts of fruit, flowers, and kind words for M. Perrault; and left for the Seminaire of Madame Rocheforte, there she lunched, and learned that Isabel Douglas had left for England, immediately on the arrival of Roland.

"Isabel is a sweet girl, and her brother a noble fellow," said Madame, earnestly; "and I conclude from what she tells me that her brother loves you with one great love. I feel for you like a mother, Vaura, so you will understand my speaking, and I hope love will creep into your heart for him."

"I trust you are mistaken, Madame, for it would grieve me very much, more indeed than I can express to cause him pain."

"I hope you will change, ma chere; woman is fickle; and when he pleads, as I am sure he can, you will not look on his handsome face unmoved."

"He has made a conquest of you, chere madame," said Vaura, gravely kissing her on both cheeks in adieu.

"Oui, ma chere, but,-for you."

"N'importe, madame; remember 'that men have died and worms have eaten them, but not for love.'"

"You know better, Vaura."

And as she walked in the direction of her hotel (attended by one of the school servants) she told herself that there was not always truth in the words, witness dear Guy and others; poor Roland too; she hoped he would not take it to heart. On entering the hotel her maid met her with a message from Lady Esmondet bidding her dress at once for Mr. Bertram's dinner. Vaura, telling Saunders to be expeditious-she would wear her biscuit colored satin, old lace, coral ornaments-is soon robed; her fluffy hair, almost bronze in its brightness and so luxuriant giving her maid no trouble, is as an old time saint hath it, 'a glory to her,' while the warm tints of her rich beauty is set off by the colour of her gown.

"You are a treasure, Saunders," said her mistress; "I find you have dressed me so quickly I shall have time for a little reading; go tell Lady Esmondet I now await her pleasure to leave."

"You are so easy to dress, miss; you see, Mademoiselle, your eyes and complexion don't want doing up; now when I was maid to the Misses Verlingham-"

"Spare me the mysteries of the toilette, Saunders, and do my bidding; mysteries indeed," thought she, half-laughing, "what would the poor men say could they see the war-paint putting on for their slaughter," and picking up one of W. H. Mallock's novels she sank into a cosy corner. In half an hour Saunders returned, saying that Lady Esmondet with Capt. Trevalyon were waiting in the salon. Enveloped in a carriage wrap of white wool, with the dainty hood of satin of her gown covered with old lace, she joins her companions, with a "may I." Capt. Trevalyon loosens the fleecy wrap and fastens with a diamond pin some damask-roses and yellow pansies to her corsage. As they roll speedily along, Lady Esmondet calls on Vaura to give an account of herself in the hours of her absence.

"I was beginning to think, dear, that M. Perrault was renewing his entreaties that you should take to the boards of the Theatre Francais."

"I did not meet him, else doubtless he would," she answered.

On Lady Esmondet's remark, she thought (in the flickering light) a cloud came to Trevalyon's brow, and now that a converse sweet, broken and changeful was taking place between Vaura and he; Lady Esmondet gave herself up to thoughts of the past engendered by the cloud on the brow of her friend, usually so calmly careless, and she thought he naturally would dread one so lovely and gifted living the life of theatres, if it were only that in his interest in her, she would drift away from them; and home life in the fascinations of an actress existence. And a divorce suit of some thirty years ago, which as a very young girl of fourteen, she remembered-all now came again to her memory,-in which the principal actors were Lionel's father, Hugh Trevalyon and his beautiful wife Nora. Both were passionate lovers of the drama; the Trevalyons frequently wintered at Paris, where they made the acquaintance of one of the principal actors of the day. He was a handsome man with a charm of manner none could resist, and as fate would have it, living at the same hotel, he so ingratiated himself into favour with both, who in their

admiration of his talents almost deified him, that he was the recipient of an invitation in his idle days to the Towers; while there, an overwhelming passion for his beautiful hostess completely mastered him. She, always fascinated by his seductive manner, when he pleaded, gave way, feeling that she had met her master; accustomed to worship his talents, she simply felt she was his if he willed; finally at the close of a night of revelry, ball and theatricals at the Towers she gave up, consenting, nay willing, to elope at his wish, with only a passing thought to her little boy and once loved husband; she was his; he was her god, and she never dreamed of the man she had taken for better or for worse; her husband sued for and obtained a divorce, the actor marrying his love at once, but she only lived for two short years passing in her beauty and frailty from the judgment of society to the judgment of high heaven. "Poor fool," said many a fair dame with a contemptuous shrug of shoulders, "why was she so verdant as to elope? with a husband as adoring she might easily have kept her place in society and her actor too." And so when they met they passed her by, she not having the wisdom of the world. And Lady Esmondet from the corner of the carriage thought on; of how Lionel's father on his wife's desertion of him had gone to the dogs, rushing into all kinds of mad dissipation up to the time of his wife's death, when he became a confirmed misanthrope, living in absolute seclusion until his own death some two years agone; while going to destruction for distraction's sake, poor man, he had reduced his income to about L8,000 per annum. Before his death he had imbued Lionel with a distrust of women, endeavouring to extract an oath of celibacy from the son whom he loved, and who loved him. "Never trust one of the frail sex with your name and honor, my son," he would never tire of saying. Lionel did not make an oath as his father prayed, but said wearily, "Never fear, father, I shall trust none of the gay butterflies further than I can see the brightness of their wings; much less give them, any one of them, the chance to sully our escutcheon with another blot," and continuing he would woo his poor father to quiet by saying, "No, I know them too well; our motto is theirs, they are "always the same, always. Toedet tandem, eadem fecisse," and again he would woo him to quiet by "No, do not grieve for me, father, I shall not wed unless an angel descends for my benefit; but did she, she would be then a fallen angel," and the poor, broken-hearted man died in his son's arms, contented in his wish. But even now, Lionel feels that as the child Vaura had a charm for him, so the fair woman opposite him has, and that if he but yields to it, it may master him; for his race are "always the same, always" in one thing which is, a love lasting as time for one woman; though having many affaires de coeur; they feel one grande passion, one wedded love, never marrying a second time. And the carrosse rolls along, and Lionel with an irresistible craving, even if he comes to grief, which he tells himself there is no fear of, feels the pulse, as it were, of Vaura's heart, to see if the world has left unspoiled the tender, sympathetic, true and loving nature of the child he knew so well. "You are right, Capt. Trevalyon, sympathy, true, soul-felt, and earnest, never dies; it is the root of wedded happiness; alas, how many lives are wrecked through the absence of it," she says sadly, but he feels, and not without a heartache, that she is oblivious almost of his presence; her lovely face in its frame-work of lace is turned from him, as she thinks, "and yet, pity is divine! yet; knowing this, what have I shown poor Guy." The erratic life poor Lionel led, and which had been almost compulsory, the weary cynicism which was the outcome of the life enforced upon him, by his mother's frailty and his father's lasting grief thereat, often palled upon his real nature. But as he never expected to meet a woman who could hold him, he frequently gave himself, epicurean-like, to the pleasure of the hour.

After leaving the army, and when the glittering wings of butterflies and their surroundings wearied him, he would leave the gay cities, and travel much in foreign lands, in cold bleak northern latitudes, or sunny climes, studying human nature, and giving some thought to its many phases, with the different creeds men hold at times on seeing the self sacrificing lives of the sisters of charity, on witnessing noble deeds which should be written in characters of gold, but which they did in the most humble self abnegation. When he looked upon these and knew them to be the outcome of the Roman Catholic Church he would think surely the Church that gives birth to such lives must be the Church for the saving of men. But then some glaring inconsistency of those within her pale would recur to his memory, and he would turn with a sigh from some pictured Christ, or the peaceful beauty of the madonna. Well might Lionel exclaim, "In this age of seeming, what is truth! for what grade of society has not its shams! in what church are there not hypocrites as saints! in what government is there not imperfection! in what political campaign is there not a bribe given! in what age were there so many Churches." In what age was religion so fashionable! Yes, to-day, it is not charity which covers the multitude of sins, it is the cloak of religion, and yet 'tis not the fault of creeds, 'tis errare est humanum. Ah me! we gay nineteenth century butterflies are a favoured generation; we are so respectable you know; we give the Church her innings, and that ancient firm of Bacchus and Comus have their innings also. Such thoughts as the above often came to Lionel, in his lonely wanderings far away from the gay cities, a life which he adorned with such gay abandon when one of them.

And now lady Esmondet awakes to the present with a start (as the carriage stops,) and from her silent thoughts on the past, as she had gathered it from Eric Haughton and from Lionel himself.

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