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   Chapter 27 GRUNDY'S LASH CAUSES HEART-ACHE.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 14640

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


On the evening of the sixth day, our friends leisurely arrived in the city of the Caesars; on coming in at the depot, Trevalyon, hiring a landau, they, with Sims and the maids following, proceeded to the villa Iberia. They learned that the noble owner had been there three days previously, and had then given his own servants a holiday, hiring English in their stead, thinking the comfort of his guests would be better attended to by this arrangement.

"The Marquis must have come here immediately after the ball," said

Lady Esmondet, "I heartily wish he were here to welcome us."

Her companions were silent, both busy with thought; Trevalyon's were not altogether pleasant, his proud spirit recoiling from self at the part he had played in the boudoir of Madame de Hauteville.

"Had I not," he told himself, "had I not bowed to Del Castello's question of 'are you anything to her?' he would have been here to do his wooing; we, at an hotel, and yet, it was only human, but, bah! how mean; but was I to give up any place I may have in her heart, and yield her to the influence of his southern tongue, merely because I am held in honour not to speak, and am just now a foot-ball for Dame Rumour. God help me, darling, I couldn't; you might, in pique at my silence, have given way to his warm words; you belong to me; I have only you, and should I lose you, one of two courses would be mine; either to make an endless beast of myself for distraction's sake, or become misanthrope, like my poor father." So thinking, he unfastened the cloak of the woman whose beauty and sweet womanliness, had made him captive.

In the hall, the butler saying:

"Dinner will await your ladyship's pleasure in half an hour; our master, his noble lordship, commanded cook to have it ready every evening, on arrival of nine o'clock express, so your ladyships and the English gentleman would find comfort."

"Your master is very thoughtful," said Lady Esmondet.

One of the household now ushered them to their respective apartments.

"What an air of complete comfort pervades the whole place, said Vaura.

"Yes," said Lady Esmondet, "I am rather difficile in such matters, but I must confess, the place is charming in its warmth and luxury."

Here they parted to dress, Lady Esmondet being conducted to a luxurious room on the ground floor, opening on to a verandah; there was a suspicion of chilliness in the air, so a bright fire burned in the open fire-place; fresh flowers bloomed in old Roman jars, while the walls were gay in the brightness of a few choice paintings.

"Yes, one could pass a winter very comfortably here," mused the occupant, as Somers fastened her robe of pearl-gray satin, "and that we are so well placed is all the outcome of the beauty of face and form of one woman."

Miss Vernon was led by a maid up a few steps, covered in the softest of velvet pile, so deep and rich as to cause one not to feel the pressure of the sole of one's foot, and now into two rooms built out in a projection, and the villa Iberia, being located on a knoll, commanding one of the finest views of the Eternal City, the occupant of these rooms feasted his eyes on a scene unrivalled in Italy. Here also, a cheerful fire glowed in the fire-place; the long, narrow windows were hung in a pale, blue tinted satin, the walls painted in choice studies by deft Italian fingers; the opening between the rooms was hung in unison with the windows, and on the satin, clusters of the rose in every hue were embroidered; easy chairs, lounge, satin bed coverlid, and soft carpet, were of the same soft tint, with the warmth of the rose thereon. The air was fragrant, for the hyacinth, rose, and many a gay foreign sister, vied with each other in perfumed welcome to the flower face bending over them, and drinking in their sweets.

"And he has done all this for me," she mused, giving herself up to Saunders to have her hair dressed. "How glad I am," she thought looking dreamily at her reflection in the mirror, for a very passible loveliness, "but Lionel was always my ideal cavalier, he loves me now," and she smiled softly, "and has brought into existence in my heart a passionate love he little dreams of, poor fellow; I have hitherto played with men's hearts, so they say, but not intentionally; Heaven knows I merely enjoyed their free submission, their love, as my natural food; I always enjoyed dainties, and men's hearts were as such to me; I could never endure the bread and butter of life, but I wrong myself or I am of little worth; one is apt to have luxurious inclinations, at an hour and in a scene like this," she thought as she toyed with one of the gold perfume bottles, in the form of a Cupid, standing on the breast of a sleeping man, and aiming for his heart. "I know I have drunk in the pleasure their looks of love and warmth of words have given me, not thinking perhaps enough of to what end it might lead, but if I dream here any longer, I shall experience much the same sensation as sleeping Richard at Bosworth Field, while my ghosts of the departed, rise up before me, and while I think pityingly of poor Cyril and many more, let me also remember the deserved cut I gave Sir Edward Hatherton, when he laid his insignificant title, his supreme vanity and egotism, with his mean heart at my feet, while boasting of his broad acres, making too sure he had but to ask, and be accepted with thanks. Yes, though I have hurt some brave manly hearts, I have given a check to the vanity of that man that will send him into the corner to think that there are some women, even in this age of barter, who, though they love acres of the dear warm mother earth, they will not give their loveliness and powers of loving for the broad acres of which he is lord."

And so fair Vaura pondered, as Saunders with deft fingers performed her easy task of robing her mistress, and now she has finished, and both maid and our sweet Mlle. Vernon are satisfied with the result. And well they may, for her cardinal satin robe fits her full bust and figure like a glove, her eyes are full of dark and tender depths, her lips red as the rose, while the rose bloom of the mountain air has not faded from her cheeks, and neck and arms being bare gleam in their whiteness.

Trevalyon met her at the foot of the steps to lead her to the dining-room whither Lady Esmondet has already gone; they immediately seat themselves ami do justice to the tempting little dinner awaiting them.

The room is handsome and furnished with a mixture of English comfort and solidness with French brightness the furniture being of carved oak, while the carpet and hangings are of a gay Paris pattern, the table bright with silver and decorated with flowers, its dinner service of old Sevres china, each piece of beautiful delicate design, while the dishes would have tempted an anchorite from his cave. Over the mantel-piece of purest white marble was a painting, evidently the work of a master, representing Bacchus riding in a chariot, and on his head among his curls vine leaves, in his hand a cup. The whole painting had a warmth of color and gay dashing style, with a life-like look about it very pleasing.

"One almost expects to see the merry god lift the cup to his lip," said Vaura; "he looks so life-like."

"It is a remarkab

ly well executed thing," said Trevalyon.

"The whole villa," echoed Lady Esmondet, "has a cheerful brightness pervading it that would dispel the chronic grumbling of a Diogenes or an Englishman."

"Even Gladstone," cried Vaura, gaily, "would here forget that

Beaconsfield wants a 'war supply.'"

"And I, Trevalyon, shall so lose myself in the intoxicating sweetness of the hour as to forget that on my return to England I have to enter the arena of the strife of tongues, and combat Dame Rumour in facing a 'difficulty.'" At the last word be looked meaningly at Vaura, and with quickened heart-beats she remembered his flowers, and knew what would come when the 'difficulty' was faced and removed.

"The absent Marquis likes well the form of the god of wine," said Lady Esmondet, directing her companion's gaze towards a group of statuary on a small inlaid stand, and reflected in a pier glass, representing Anacreon smilingly advancing, carrying in his arms the infants Bacchus and Cupid.

"'Tis a pretty group, extremely chic," said Vaura.

"What think you, Vaura, of the painting behind you?" inquired Lady

Esmondet.

On turning slightly she saw the pictured face of the owner of the villa, the eyes of her admirer seemed so steadfast in their gaze that a faint blush suffused her cheek as she said:

"A true likeness of a true friend, for we are most comfortably placed by his kindness; indeed I think when the day comes to leave the villa we would fain remain."

"It is a handsome face," said Trevalyon.

"It is," said Vaura, as she played with the dainties on her plate and sipped her glass of sparkling Moselle.

"On leaving here it will be for either the crush of the London season or Haughton Hall under the new regime," said Lady Esmondet, "and I know just how I shall feel: as a man who, coming home after a day with the hounds, is enjoying a pipe in slippered feet when reminded by madame of the state dinner he has forgotten."

"Either London or the dear old place will be an awakening," said

Vaura, as they wend their way to the salons.

"Yes." said Trevalyon, "for nowhere could one better enjoy the dolce far niente of Italian languor than here. Del Castello, I fancy, lives his life."

"Dum vivimus vivamus," said Vaura.

The salons are a suite of three; taken separately, of medium dimensions; but when the heavy hangings are drawn aside which divide the apartments they form one long handsome room, extending the entire length of the villa, at one end of which is a conservatory where bloom flowers of great beauty, the tiny structure being in miniature form of the villa; it was entered from the salon by sliding doors of stained glass; a smiling statue of Flora was placed near the entrance and seemed to welcome one's approach.

"It is a bower of beauty," said Vaura. The moonlight streaming in from the heaven-illumined gardens outside, bringing into life the scarlet blossoms of the camelia and the satin of her gown, and lending to her beauty a transparent softness, her eyes seeming darker and with a tender light, as she says, looking out upon the garden:

"It is a living idyl in the white moon light; did I gaze long enough, strange fancies would come to me, the statuary would be living marbles, while the leaves of the palm-tree and olive would sing to me of their story as given by the dead poets."

"We must revel in the beauties of the gardens, when to-morrow comes,

Vaura: I am going to be very early tonight," said Lady Esmondet.

"It must have been a great disappointment to Del Castello," said

Trevalyon, inwardly applying the lash, "to winter elsewhere."

"N'importe," said Lady Esmondet, seeing the sadness of expression, "we, have so much of the London fog; he, has his villa and the south always."

"But he could have been here with all his elegant recherche surroundings, only for me," and as he silently thought the lash went down.

In the villa, many things beautiful and rare occupied their attention; in the small library were some deep German and English books on philosophy, with Tennyson in every style of dress; also Byron, with novels of all tone and colour; as Vaura moved about among the treasures of the absent Marquis, Trevalyon, watching her intently, tortured himself by imagining that she handled everything lovingly, read snatches from his books tenderly.

"What a couple they would have been," he thought, as Vaura's syren voice read aloud some marked passages from the poets; "even if I can clear myself of this hateful scandal, I have only the gloomy 'towers' to offer her, while he has his sunny palaces in the lands or climes she loves so well."

And Lady Esmondet seeing his intent gaze following Vaura, and observing his quiet thought,

"He is unhappy, and dreads lest she come to love the handsome Spaniard, while daily amongst his treasures, with his silent pictured face watching her from the walls; I wonder how it is; has she refused him, and accepted the villa as slight atonement, or is this the beginning of the end, and that she will give herself to him; alas for dear Lionel if so."

"How selfish I am," said Vaura, impulsively closing the book from which she had read aloud a few marked passages in the sadly sweet "Prisoner of Chillon." "You both look weary, how is it I did not notice it before? come away god-mother mine; uncle Eric would say I am not redeeming my promise to take care of you; goodnight, Captain Trevalyon," giving him her hand, the soft touch of which seemed as a new revelation to him, reinvigorating him as it were, but only in the contact, for alone he is again a prey to gloomy forebodings which crowd upon him, so as to seem to stifle him; loosening his collar and tie, and throwing himself on the bed, he tells himself, "What am I, in comparison to him? his unclouded life, at least as far as human eye can tell, with the looks of an Adonis, his immense wealth, his southern blood, eloquent tongue, and life in climes kissed by the sun. I fear he will woe her again; and is it in woman to come to me; even though I give the love of my life in preference to all that the Fates give in him; alas! my knowledge of them tells me no; yes, I know she has smiled tenderly on me, bat is not this because of her old remembrance of me-as part of her by-gone life in her loved home; yes I fear it is, or because she is playing with my heart as she has with others; heavens, how unmanned I am, Father," and his hands are clasped reverently, "pity me, steep my soul in forgetfulness, and let me remember naught, save that Thou ruleth all," when, as if in answer to his imploring cry, slumber, fitful it is true and broken by dreams came to him; when now fully awake again in slippered feet, and with his pipe, he noiselessly steps out into the night, pacing the verandah to and fro, or leaning against one of its columns, thinks on of the past and present, when in the dim future, the vast unknown, he feels the necessity of calm; else this scandal will so overwhelm him in the waves of unrest, as to cause his life to be a wreck, and Vaura to be indeed, and in truth, lost to him forever more. In the determined quiet of a man controling self, he now again, this time undressing, takes to his bed and gains an hour's sleep ere it is time to rise for a new day.

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