MoboReader > Literature > A Heart-Song of To-day

   Chapter 23 THE WEB OF DIFFICULTY.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 18422

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The morning after the de Hauteville ball Lady Esmondet and Vaura met at the breakfast-table, at noon, Lady Esmondet not looking paler than usual. Vaura was pale for she had slept none, her eyes looking larger and her dainty and flexible lips a deep red. She was quite like her own sweet self though, in spite of fatigue, and her soft cardinal silk morning robe, loose at the throat, and turned down collar of white muslin and lace. In her belt the pink, heliotrope, and black-thorn sprays; and Lionel was content with the picture as he opened the door and came forward. Vaura was pouring out a cup of coffee for Lady Esmondet, her shapely hands, so soft and white, coming from the cuffs of muslin and lace (she never could be seduced into wearing the odious stiff linen collar and cuff's some women's souls delight in).

Lionel thought: "Shall I ever call her wife, and when I come in have a right to take these two dear hands in mine and press them to my heart as I bend down to kiss her sweet mouth." He said, "Bonjour, ladies fair. I have come to see how you are feeling after the revels of the past night."

"And to refresh your own poor tired self with a cup of coffee," answered Vaura, handing him one.

"You see, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, "we are waiting upon ourselves, the maids are doing the necessary packing, as we have not altered our plans to leave Paris at sundown; I hope we are not hurrying you away?"

"Not at all; did you leave me, I should follow by next express; there would be nothing to hold me here, if you were gone."

"Nothing," said Vaura softly; "and Paris so full of beautiful, brilliant women."

"Not now," he answered, looking into her eyes with a grave look.

Vaura gave one little sigh as she let her eyes stay on his. And this man felt that he must feel this woman in his arms or his heart would break.

There was a tap, tap, at the door and Somers entered, bringing her

mistress, letters; there were several from friends, with one from

Colonel Haughton to his niece and one from Mrs. Haughton to Capt.

Trevalyon, which ran thus:

"MY HEART'S IDOL,-

"The Colonel has written by this mail to Miss Vernon, stating his wish that she and Lady Esmondet come without fail to the Christmas festivities. I am not partial to either of them (this is under the rose) they are too high strung for me; but, my king, I must have you; you don't know how jolly I can make life for my pets; Blanche won't look at Sir Peter Tedril and I know it is you she wants, you may have her and her million, you will be near me then; the Colonel, poor sedate old fellow, would not like it, but that don't signify, because he wishes (now that your secret marriage to Fanny Clarmont has become public talk) that there were a thousand miles between your handsome person and Miss Vernon; I wish you had some of the love for me that the black-bearded Major has; I cannot keep him away, but he shall if you will only come, my king; my king, if you were only with me I should thaw your proud heart in spite of yourself, my haughty, handsome god; come at once on receipt of this; how can you stay with two icebergs, when burning lava, like my heart, is aching with its long waiting for you.

"In love, yours,

"KATE.

"P.S.-Persuade the icebergs not to come here; tell them Italy was made for them."

On writing and mailing above, Madame was content, as she sat in her own boudoir with feet on a high stool stretched out. That will bring him; my plot is spreading; ha! ha! ha! I planted it well; nothing like getting scandal well rooted; he has been careless, and society doesn't forgive that; had he only paid tolls, married somebody's daughter, given dinners and balls; society would have snapped her fingers at this story, and though Delrose had said to her 'but he never wed her Kate, at least he said so, but I daresay he lied.' But she used the scandal, as we have seen, employing the useful firm of Mesdames Grundy & Rumour; giving them also whispers of how poor little Blanche was half engaged to him-if she could bring him to her feet she would love him; if not, she would make her revenge tell. He should not wed Vaura Vernon, if a woman's tongue sharp as a two-edged sword could cut their lives apart. She would be content to repeat the little act of barter that the young man did for Marguerite with Mephistopheles, for Lionel's love. She had learned and practised society's creed, and paid its tolls; surely now she was free to have her pets, and love them too; whether it were a poodle dog or a man, whether it were a trip to her pet club at London of the cane and cigarette, or a drive to Richmond.

And Lionel thought, as he again glanced over his letter:

"What a bore it is that I did not years ago clear myself; delays are dangerous; this woman has already planted a doubt in Haughton's mind; and heavens, if she succeed in doing it here, my life will be as lonely as was my poor father's," and unconsciously, he gave a deep sigh.

Vaura looked up quickly from a letter from Isabel Douglas; and Lady

Esmondet said:

"No bad news, I hope, Lionel."

"No, and yes, dear Lady Esmondet; my opponents hold some good cards, and the play is against me that is all. But Miss Vernon has something pleasant to tell us from her home batch."

"Lady Esmondet had seen that the letter for Lionel was from Haughton Hall, and guessed his opponent is that woman, and the cards are against him, poor fellow." And Vaura said:

"Isabel Douglas says firstly that she is going to wed the curate, Rev. Frederick Southby; secondly, they are as gay as butterflies at Haughton Hall; that Madame, newly installed, though she be, leads the fashion to the old gentry, who were, when she was not, both in the cut of her garments, and in the novelties in the manner of her entertainments. She gives me Roland's opinion. Mrs. Haughton is one of society's sky-rockets, a high flyer, determined to make her world stare; bold in her daring ascent; but by her glittering colours leading their gaze from the steady quiet shine of the heavenly bodies; though she says 'all the country people cannot claim to be heaven- born.'"

"But I think Roland's a good criticism," said Lady Esmondet.

"She goes on to say," continued Vaura, "the Hall is restored to its ancient magnificence, the ball and dinners on their return were grand or rather gorgeous, for gorgeous is Mrs. Haughton's style. Am often there-we are to dance some new dances at Christmas, and there is an importation at the Hall from London, of, as Roland says, 'a pocket edition of the light fantastic toe;' really, Vaura, my feet are something to fold up and put away; I am so much ashamed of the flesh and bone nature has given them, when I look at his they are too small; but he could easily carry himself in his own violin case. What are you doing with Sir Tilton Everly? At luncheon, yesterday, at the Hall, someone said they had heard from a friend at Paris that the wee mon had been seen in same box with you at the theatre. Mrs. Haughton looked as black as night at the news, as he was wanted for to-night to represent Cupid to her Venus in the tableaux; don't weave your spells round the truant, Vaura, dear, else you will gain the dislike of Miss Tompkins and her mother; he belongs to them, one would think they had bought him in the city, as they did their pug dogs. The other day I heard Mrs. Haughton say to Miss Tompkins. "If Everly did not come up to time for to-night, after his tight dress and wings, bow, &c., and my flesh-coloured, spun silk dress, all O.K. from London I'll play him a trick at Christmas; I'll write him we are too full, and can't put him up.""

"Will you? you ain't going to play all the tricks,' said Miss Tompkins, as Mrs. Haughton left the room, they did not see me, I was buried in a great big chair reading a note from Fred. But I must close, dear; write me a long letter, and so give pleasure to

"Yours lovingly,

"ISABEL DOUGLAS.

"MISS VERNON,

"Hotel Liberte le Soleil, Paris."

"How changed the dear old place must be," said Lady Esmondet, as Vaura ceased reading, "I would that the place could have been restored by some other means, but if your uncle is content, I, needn't moan."

"Whatever else may be said, one thing is sure: that Lincoln Tompkin's gold could not have been put to better use," said Lionel.

Here Somers knocked and informed her mistress the carriage waited.

"Bring me my wraps here, Somers. and then continue the packing, and when callers come, Miss Vernon and myself are not at home until dinner hour."

"Yes, your ladyship."

"Anything important on the tapis for to-day?" asked Trevalyon.

"Yes," answered Vaura, consulting her tablets, "Worth's studio comes first on the list; he sends word he has something aesthetic, thence to purchase music, "Les Folies" Galop, by Ketterer; duet from "Il Trovatore," "Vivra Contende il Guibilo," "Mira di Acarbe," etc., you must sing with me when we fold our wings for a while in some temporary home at Rome, Capt. Trevalyon."

"I shall, it will give me very great pleasure."

"Thank you; oh! yes, I must not forget to look into Monsieur Perrault's cottage, and leave a pa

rcel for Marie." So saying, Vaura entered the adjoining-room to robe for the carriage.

"And what will you do with yourself, Lionel, until we meet at dinner?"

"I shall devote the hours to trying to find out the present home of Fanny Clarmont, for" said Lionel, coming beside his friend, "I must clear myself; my enemies are on the war-path. Haughton's last letter shows by its tone, they have influenced him; Delrose never liked me, and-"

Vaura entering ended the confidences.

"This letter," said Vaura, "my maid tells me, was given to your servant, Capt. Trevalyon, by a man in livery, to be handed to me; it is in an unknown hand, I have not one minute to spare it now, will you kindly pocket it, and on our journey you and it will be near me and I can read it at will. Thanks, but you look very weary," as she put the letter into his hand, she laid her other hand for a moment on his, and looking kindly into his face, "for Lady Esmondet and my sake, go and rest until our return."

"I cannot, dear Miss Vernon; do you remember," he said in a low tone, with his hands on the flowers in her belt, "the silent language these flowers speak?"

"I do."

"Well, I now go out alone to try and unweave the web of difficulty."

Vaura returned the close pressure of his hands, and the look in his eyes, and he was gone, while she, turning to her god-mother, said quietly, "we had better go, dear."

They also left the boudoir.

Lionel, without loss of time, walked quickly to the lodgings he knew had been occupied by Fanny Clarmont some years before; but on reaching them, the landlady informed him that five years previously, Madame Rose (as she was known), had left her comfortable quarters, remittances not being so frequent, and had taken cheaper rooms, numero cinq, Rue St. Basile; thither Captain Trevalyon journeyed, only to find that Madame Rose had again shifted her quarters; after some difficulty, the address she had left in case Major Delrose should either call or send a cheque, was found; it directed him to miserable lodgings in one of the poorest streets of Paris; on his enquiring for Madame Rose, a woman told him she was gone; she had been very ill and he could gain further information from Father Lefroy, and she directed a little urchin to go and show the gentleman the priest's house; Trevalyon putting a sovereign into her hand, thanked her and followed the boy. They soon reached their destination, a small, white, many-gabled old-fashioned windowed house, with bright flowers in boxes attached to the window-sill. Father Lefroy was full of hospitality and welcomed Captain Trevalyon, telling him he was ready to tell him of Madame Rose and her movements for the past three years. "Three years ago, the woman with whom you spoke, Monsieur, and who directed you to me, sent for me, saying, 'Madame Rose is very ill and she and her little boy have no money for food.' I went at once, and found her words true; the child was crying for bread, and I could see it was want that had brought illness to the poor mother. I had food brought and stimulants to give her temporary strength, then conveyed her and her little son to our convent of St. John, where she was nursed by the good sisters; while there she became a member of our holy faith. You are a friend of hers, Monsieur?"

"Yes."

"Well, she told me her history, and of how nine years ago, this Major

Delrose, with whom she eloped-"

Lionel's heart leaped; "Here is proof," he thought.

"Deserted her, she then left her comfortable lodgings, went to others and gained a scanty support for herself and boy by giving singing lessons. She has given her boy to us to be educated for the holy priesthood; she herself has taken the veil and is now Sister Magdalen in a London convent, not cloistered, but is one of the sisters of mercy; and now, Monsieur, before I give you her address, tell me truthfully why you want it, your reason will be safe with me."

Trevalyon told him faithfully, and the priest's answer was to, write on a slip of paper as follows:

"To the Mother Superior of the Convent of St. Mary," London, England.

"Grant Captain Trevalyon an interview with sister Magdalen (Madame Rose), and assist him in every way in your power to gain his end, which is good."

"LEFROY, "Priest of St. John's Chapel, Paris."

Here a tap at the door called the priest; returning he said:

"Captain, Trevalyon, I must bid you adieu, my time belongs to the church, and I trust you will find that the church will aid you in making the truth tell."

"I thank you, Father Lefroy; accept this gold for God's poor."

"Merci, adieu."

"Adieu."

Lionel returned to his hotel with a lighter heart, though as yet he did not quite see how to cope with his enemies, how to make the truth, as the priest had said, tell. He must think it out. The three friends met at the table d'hote in travelling costume, all in good spirits, each anticipating pleasure from the month's sojourn in Italy. Lady Esmondet was in hopes her health would be materially benefitted, and was going, as we know, also for distraction's sake; Col. Haughton, as a benedict, was a new situation she had yet to grow accustomed to. A man who is in a woman's life for many years as he, chief friend, chief adviser, to go out from one suddenly into another life with another woman, gives one a terrible feeling of lonliness; hard, very hard to bear.

Vaura just now had a sweet sense of completeness in being near and leaning on, as it were, Lionel every day, though a latent feeling told her with warning voice that she should not give way. This very morn, an English gipsy in the pay of Mrs. Haughton, having gained admittance to the hotel and to herself; a fierce looking woman richly dressed in the garb of the Bohemian, her face very much muffled, having caught cold she said, crossing the channel, had told her "man with a wife will sue for your hand. Beware of him leddy, for danger and death I read in your hand." Not that she paid much, if any, heed to the mere words of a gipsy, only this, that the hidden wife story would recur to her memory; but her dear old-time knight was drawing her nearer to himself every day, and because of the mental suffering he was undergoing on account of this very story; and it could not be otherwise with her intensely sympathetic nature, together with her pity for his past griefs; and so she gave herself up to the delicious completeness of her present, hourly deferring to him, leaning on him more and more. "It pleases him, poor fellow, but it will be a terrible awakening for me if this story be true; but I must ease his present pain even though I suffer; it is a necessity of my being" she told herself; so giving up to the hour, she, epicurean-like, let the present suffice.

Before leaving the hotel for the depot, putting a sovereign into the hand of a porter, she desired him to see that the beauteous flowers in their apartments were conveyed to M. Perrault's cottage. On arriving at the depot, which the electric light made bright as the whitest moonlight, they saw many friends come to say farewell.

"Such an important exodus from our city cannot take place without many a heartfelt bon voyage," said Eau Clair de Hauteville, gallantly.

"And while our heart weeps at our loss, we anticipate with joy your speedy return" said another, holding Vaura's hand in a tight pressure.

"Au plaisir, tout a vous," said another brokenly in a whisper.

"My table will be lonely," cried Bertram, "until grace, beauty and wit dine again with my emaciated self."

"You fill one end of your table, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "and your cook the other; to be sure, you have the sides, but wings are not bad when tender, and I have no pity for you with a Wingfield near."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Mrs. Wingfield and Bertram, the former saying:

"Though I am always ready, Captain, to be side-bone-wing or Wingfield to Mr. Bertram's soup, turbot, or mutton, Eustace is never very near, as now, but he is absent here because I told him he must show with me at a crush in an hour's time, and as he mortally hates slow crushing, he is truant and I shall have to appear alone."

"What a tyrant the mighty god Society is," cried Bertram, "ignores a man's tastes; expects him to flatten himself at a crush immediately after a good dinner."

"Try and be ours again at Christmas," de Vesey was saying to Vaura.

"Without fail" said another "our city is glorious at the birth-day of the Christ."

"And la belle Vernon should not fail to lend us her beauty at that time," said Eau Clair, thinking as did the others that her rare loveliness in the white light was as of an angel.

"She goes with the golden summer," said a southerner.

"The beauteous birds go south in your company, Mile. Vernon, may they sing sweet songs for you as they wing their flight," echoed a poet.

"I love the birds as I do your sunny climes, and as we journey, should I hear their sweet notes, shall remember your words," she said softly, her syren voice full of music, as with a last hand-clasp and wave of handkerchief the guard shut the door and the fire horse dashed on his way and from gay Paris.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares