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A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 18978

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The following morn is bright and glorious, the mountains, ah! the grandeur of them, their peaks in changing hues as the sun's breath grows warmer, cut the azure of the heavens, and rest there; one involuntarily feels on a morning like this one cannot love nature intensely enough; and now, Old Sol, giving his brightest beams to the Italian, who loves him, shines into every corner of the Eternal City, from the King in his palace, and the Pope in the palace of the Vatican, to the peasant stretched on his door-step; for the good king Victor Emmanuel is sick, and the bright beams shining through his window, cheer him; and he thinks of his people who are poor and ill, and also welcomes the sunbeams for their sake. And his gentle Holiness, Pius IX, in walking past the great painting of the Transfiguration, thinks "how glorious it looks in the sun's rays," and he too was glad. And the lazy peasant lying in the sun, stretched himself and was glad, for surely many noble ladies and gentlemen would be abroad in the sweet warm air, and he would beg many soldi and buy macaroni.

Vaura, usually an early riser, but not having slept until dawn, was only awakened an hour ago by a sunbeam opening her eyelids, so that it was luncheon hour ere she made her appearance in the aesthetic little morning-room, whither Lady Esmondet had ordered it to be brought; on entering kissed her god-mother, and giving her hand to Lionel, her eyes drooping under his long gaze,

"You look quite yourself, god-mother mine, after your nights rest," she said.

"Yes, I am feeling very well to-day; but your roses are of a pale tint, how is that?"

"Whose roses could bloom with undimmed lustre surrounded by flowers of such brilliant colouring?" she answered, evasively, indicating by a gesture the floral beauties filling the vases and jars, not wishing to own before Lionel her sweet sleeplessness of the night.

Captain Trevalyon's man now brought letters from the post-office.

"Ah," said Vaura, taking her share, "one from Haughton Hall in the handwriting of madame, and to me."

On opening it a very well-executed photograph of the Hall fell to the floor, which Lionel picked up, while Vaura read aloud as follows:


"I enclose you a photo of the Hall as I have made it. It was a perfect barracks when I saw it first; see what money can do. The American eagle is a great bird, eh? You must marry money. I shall have a gentleman here at Christmas with lots of land and a title. The Duchess of Hatherton would sound well."

"A bete noire of yours," said Lady Esmondet.

"Yes," said Vaura, carelessly, with a shrug of shoulders, going on with the letter.

"I must also settle Blanche this coming season. You observed, I suppose, how, much flesh she had; well, she loses weight every month; secret pining I expect for that naughty"-and Vaura stopped short as she saw the name, a curl of contempt coming to her lip as she read silently-"Trevalyon. She thought by his attentions that he loved her, poor thing; but the Colonel and myself would or could never hear of such a match, as he has a snug little wife hid away somewhere. I have Major Delrose a good deal with me. Your uncle doesn't care for him, neither would you; but the Colonel, dear man, is considerate, and don't expect everyone to be cut after his cloth; and as you will never be able to come north in the cold weather you won't meet him. Give my love to the willowy Marchmonts. We are the gayest of butterflies.

"Your frolicsome,


"Haughton Hall, Surrey, England.


"The villa Iberia,

"Rome, Italy.

"November, 1877."

To Delrose at Haughton madame, after mailing above, had said:

"I have settled Miss Vernon at all events; she will not show up at Christmas. I know she hates the Duke of Hatherton so I told her he is coming, and I don't know as yet whether he is. It takes a woman to outwit a woman."

"I cannot see," Delrose had answered, "why you don't want her, Kate."

"Because you are blind, you goose; if she came Trevalyon might, and you don't want him; and I don't want her, and so I please you, you ungrateful man."

To Trevalyon by same mail came:

"My own idol, come to me and Delrose shall go; I have written Miss Vernon that he is here, because I don't want her freezing ladyship. Everyone says you are so naughty in having a hidden wife; they will cut you I am sure; but I love you all the more for your naughtiness; only come to yours evermore.-KATE HAUGHTON."

Trevalyon, giving a weary sigh on reading above, tearing it in two, tossed it into the fire; now opening one from his cousin Judith, he read as follows:

"DEAR COUSIN,-Father is not at all well; the trip across, as I feared, has been too much for him; the suburbs of New York, our home, suited him better than foggy London; however, dear father was obliged to come on business, as he has informed you when last able to write. He wishes me to enclose to you a scrap from the 'society' columns of one of our New York newspapers. 'We give a tid-bit of scandal (from a London paper), in brief, as the hero is a nephew of our Sir Vincent Trevalyon, of --. Capt. Trevalyon (of the Towers, Northumberland), a gay society man, fascinating and handsome, is about to bring from her seclusion, his hidden wife; some years ago he had eloped with a friend's spouse, friend now has shuffled off mortal coil; outcome, my Lady Trevalyon, who will be the sensation of the coming season.' Father says to tell him on you honour, what truth there is in above-and I am,

"Yours very sincerely,

"Judith Trevalyon,

"The Langham, London, Nov. 77.

"Capt. Trevalyon,

"The Villa Iberia,

"Rome, Italy."

On reading above, Trevalyon, with sudden impulse, and craving for sympathy, handed it to his old friend.

"Too bad, too bad, Lionel; how grieved I am for you."

At the same time, Vaura, who had turned again to her lines from

Madame, on reading over, said as she discussed her luncheon.

"This bit of duck will be a palatable morceau as compared with my letter from Haughton; Madame does not write to please, she merely pleases to write."

Seeing Trevalyon very grave and silent, she said with kindly intent, and to change the current of his thought. "I suppose, god-mother, you have sketched out your plans for the day long before I joined you."

"No, we could come to no decision, so have left it for you to arrange."

"Tres bien if so, from the glimpse I have through the window, I suggest that our first trip be to the gardens."

"Happy thought; Lionel, will you ring the bell like a good fellow?"

Somers answering, her mistress said:

"Bring me suitable wraps for the garden, please, and tell Saunders to do likewise for Miss Vernon."

The maids now appear with out-door robings; Lady Esmondet is made comfortable, when Lionel goes to Vaura's assistance; 'tis a pretty red-riding-hood and cloak attached, and contrasts charmingly with her soft gray cashmere gown, her short brown hair and sweet face look well coming from the warm red setting of the hood.

"Never mind it; it was never meant to fasten," she says, seeing his grave eyes on her face, instead of the fastening; he does not speak but only thinks, "My enemies will not let me call her mine;" she is sure he can see the colour come and go in her face as her heart beats irregularly, and says gently, putting up her soft hands, "never mind it;" for answer he allows the hook and eye to fasten holding her hands for a moment in his. They then followed their friend through the French window down the few stone steps to the gardens. There were many flowers in bloom and the green of the orange and lemon trees was as rich as when the year was young. The villa of white marble was built on a gentle rising knoll, prettily wooded, at the foot of which running through a glade was a tiny streamlet clear as crystal, which with its ripple and the singing of the birds lent music to the air. On the highest garden site was built a tower from whence an extensive view of the city is gained, with its spires and palaces, together with the violet sea, and the ever changing majestic mountains. The lower part of the tower is an arbour covered with roses and vines. The orchard was on the high plateau on which the villa stood, laying in part at the back and side of the mansion; the lawn and flower garden were separated from the orchard by a smiling wood nymph and grim satyr who each held an end of a chain of silver.

"The laughing nymph looks as if bent on making the grim satyr give way to mirth," said Vaura.

"It is a pretty idea," said Lady Esmondet, "the having one's orchard so laid out as to be an ornament to one's grounds, instead of as we do, merely as a place to grow fruit."

"Yes, I think so," said Lionel, "and at my place the lawn is strewn by acorn, apple and the pear."

"The apple blossom is beautiful," said Vaura; "but whom have we here," catching sight of a statue through the trees.

"None other," said Lionel, "than the powerful Populonia who protects the fruit from storms."

"And placed high enough!" said Vaura "to see the storm a brewing, with us it would be a great dog versus a small boy."

They now descend terraced steps arched by trellised roses and come to a fountain fed by a spring down in the deep cool dell.

"Shall we drink from the brook by the way?" half sang Vaura, and stooping, picked up from a small projection a silve

r goblet, filling she handed to Lady Esmondet; there was another which, taking herself, said, "and now for my toast, 'May the absent Marquis, who has an eye for the beautiful in Nature and Art be always surrounded by both.'"

"Amen," responded Trevalyon, "which is the best I can do, seeing Del

Castello did not remember me in providing two goblets only."

"Dual solitude," said Vaura in low tones, her god-mother having gone on.

"The very mention of it makes my heart throb," he whispered.

"What delightful gardens," said Lady Esmondet returning "beside this fountain, under the shade of olive trees, it must be delightfully cool the hottest of summer days, and a favourite spot, if one may judge from the number of seats about."

"'Tis another Eden," said Vaura, "from the mountains yonder to the green shade of myrtles, olives, and orange trees, lit up by the pink and red blossoms at their feet."

"You will revel here in the early morning, ma belle, if you have the taste of your childhood."

"You remember me, then?" and the dark eyes look up from under the red hood.

"I have never forgotten," he says, quietly.

"Don't you think, Vaura, dear?" said Lady Esmondet, "we had better return to the villa and decide what we shall do with the rest of the day."

"Yes, I suppose so, dear; though one would fain linger here longer."

As they retrace their steps, Trevalyon, decided for them, that the air being delightfully warm and balmy, a drive up and down the Corso, would be pleasant. The fresh air and new scene dispelled all Vaura's languor, and heightened the spirits of her companions.

"The Corso is even gayer than usual," observed Lady Esmondet.

"And with its best bib and tucker on, if I am any judge of la toilette," said Lionel.

"To receive three distingues travellers," laughed Vaura; "I wonder who society will jot us down as in her huge note book."

"As the Briton abroad," said Lady Esmondet, "to revel in the sunbeams, which our gold cannot buy from our leaden skies."

A carriage now passed, in which were seated two ladies, evidently

English, who bowed and smiled to Lady Esmondet and Trevalyon.

"Who are your friends?" enquired Vaura; "I have seen them somewhere, but forget when and where."

"They are the Duchess of Wyesdale and her daughter, the Lady Eveline Northingdon," answered Trevalyon, as Lady Esmondet bowed to other acquaintances.

"The little Duchess, who is insane enough to think Lionel in love with her," thought his friend, remembering gay Mrs. Wingfield's gossip, and that her name had been coupled with Trevalyon's; it was only that she was a foolish little woman, and let society see that she had a penchant for Captain Trevalyon. At that time the Duke was alive to bear the title and represent the estate in Wiltshire, the Scottish moors and shooting box, with the town house in London; very useful in that way, so his Duchess told herself, and in truth, only in that character, did the fair, frivolous Lady Wyesdale appreciate her easygoing fox-hunting spouse.

"You can run the season very well without me," he would say, "while I do a little shooting; you are just cut out for London, while the conventionalities bore me."

And so it came to pass, that at their London house, Irene, the Duchess, (or, as she was commonly called, Posey, from her maiden name of Poseby, and from her habit of posing on all occasions), reigned in her own way. In the autumn of '76, the Duke had been called to his long home; he had been knocking down birds on the Scottish moors. Coming home late one night to dinner in high spirits, and exultant over his full bag, he found a telegram from his friend, Gerald Elton, a keen sportsman, asking him to "telegraph him immediately at Edinburgh, if he was at the 'Bird cage;' if so, he would join him at once." "Bless my life," said poor Wyesdale to a friend with him; "Elton is the very man we want, no end of a shot, and rare fun; but I must send my telegram off at once, or I'll lose him; but how am I to come at pen and ink in the 'cage' is more than I know; oh, yes, I remember when I came down last, Posey would have me take pen and ink (and a great bore it was) in order to telegraph her of my return; don't know why women are such a bundle of nerves, they oughtn't to be nervous at the return of a husband; but where did I put it, hang me if I know; if I find it the boy can ride over with it, if not I must go myself; oh! I remember, it's in the other room on a shelf with collars and cuffs; birds are not particular, so I never wear 'em;" without a light he went in, feeling along the shelves with his hand, unluckily for him overturning the inkstand, knocking the penhandle against the wall, and the rusty pen full of ink, into the palm of his right hand, where it broke; he and his friend extracted most of it, putting sticking plaster over the wound. He would not trust a verbal message to his sleepy keeper, now full of beer; so soon on horseback and away.

Elton arrived in due course, to find his friend with his arm in a sling, swollen and painful.

"You'd better have a surgeon, old fellow, or you'll not fill another bag this October."

Not until his arm had turned black would he consent; then the surgeon was called, he looked grave, saying that a great part of the pen had not been extracted; that ink, pen, and rust had done their work, and to save his life the arm must be amputated. This the poor fellow refused to do, saying he would rather die than sever his good right hand from his body.-If he could not hold a gun, nor ride Titan with the hounds he would go. He would be sorry to leave Evy, but Posey could do very well without him, and breathing a prayer for his soul, Harold, Duke of Wyesdale, was gone.

And now after her year of fashionable mourning, his widow is pluming herself in colours, and Dame Rumour hath it that the somewhat fair, slightly faded dowager Duchess having buried her dead, will not say nay to another wooer. She was, as usual, posing in a corner of her carriage, and priding herself on her slight, girlish figure; wore no wraps; looking blue and chilly, for when one was driving the air was just fresh enough for something warmer than a gown of pale blue silk.

"Why will women go about looking as if Jack Frost had just given them a chilly embrace?" said Lionel, his gaze dwelling admiringly on Vaura's warm beauty, arrayed in short, tight-fitting black velvet jacket, small white plush bonnet, scarlet feathers and scarlet and white strings tied at one side of her pretty chin.

"The azure heavens framing fair angels; quite a sufficient robing, and appropriate; oh! grumbler," laughed Vaura.

"She is no amazon, and should wear other than silken armour, ma belle."

"Cupid's darts can easier penetrate," said Vaura, gaily.

"Not through a chilled heart, as compared with a warm one," he answers, quietly.

"Can one be cold in Italia. I do believe Old Sol pauses over us in his chariot, and smiles love-warm smiles upon us all," she continued.

"What a shame to see such pretty beasts in harness, Lionel, as those attached to our landau," observed Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, they are a fine pair and well matched."

"The one with a mane a trifle the longest," said Vaura, "reminds me of

Oriole that I used to ride when a girl at Haughton."

"Yes," said Trevalyon, "I was just going to ask you if you noticed it. What merry rides those were! what would I not give to (with my dearly bought experience of life) commence over again from those days."

"I remember feeling quite the woman in the scamper across country with you and dear uncle in my long habit; neither of you knew how I hated to don my short frock on my return."

"You were always a charming little hostess; and a few yards more in a draper's shop, instead of about your ankles detracted nothing from your charms."

"I did the best I could in taking time by the forelock, to be able to put in a word or two with your lordship and Uncle Eric; I read old periodicals and new, ancient history with modern philosophy and science notes."

"And they have you now, Vaura dear," said her godmother. "A womanly woman, every inch of you."

"You are partial, dear; yet I did in those days long for an Ovid and a metamorphosis."

"Do you remember the day I extricated you and Isabel in the Tower?"

"Yes," she said, a warmer rose coming to her cheek, "but my knight promised to blot that page from his memory.

"And so he endeavoured; but to no purpose."

"My brave knight was also an unmerciful tyrant."

"In the fines he levied," he said, leaning towards her; "they were the sweetest he ever had."

A soft light came to Vaura's face, as leaning into her corner she gave herself up to thoughts of the bygone. And she smiled now her woman's smile in the eyes that were on her face. And yet sighed as she thought of the jealousy of her boyish lovers of bygone days, for Roland Douglas and Guy had rebuked her for so often in the tales she wove for their amusement, having Lion Heart as the favoured knight.

"My girlish days at Haughton Hall were very, very happy," she said, quietly.

"And yet you would not go back to them and leave the dear present," said Lionel, looking into her eyes with his mesmeric look, and holding her hand tight as he assisted her from the carriage after Lady Esmondet, at the door of the villa.

"How know you, my brave lion-heart; you belong to those days, but I am content."

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