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   Chapter 31 SOCIETY'S VOTARIES SMILE THOUGH THEY DIE.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 34197

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"Here are some roses, Mademoiselle; the Captain cut them before he went out and bid me keep them fresh for you."

"Very well, Saunders, I shall wear them this evening; that is, the yellow ones; put the others in a vase, or give them to me, I shall, while you get out my ruby velvet; I am pale; it is high waist and no sleeves; take out my gold ornaments and bracelets-the plain gold bands; an old lace collar, with roses, shall be my neck-gear; hand me my vinagrette; I have a slight headache; and please comb my hair gently, it will be pleasant, yes; that will do."

"Your hair is a fortune to you Mademoiselle, so long and thick."

"Yes, it is, but I like it best because of its fluffiness; it is no trouble; weatherproof and waterproof.

"So it is, Mademoiselle."

"Now for my gown."

"It fits beautiful, Mademoiselle."

"Yes, I am quite satisfied with it."

And well she may be, for the robe might have grown on the perfect form, every curve and roundness of figure being followed by the close clinging velvet; and the arms, bare to the shoulder, fit models for a sculptor, shone fair as the flesh of a child-blonde against the rich ruby of the velvet, The perfumed bath had refreshed her, and though a trifle pale, from heart emotion as to Lionel's probable leave-taking; her lips always wore a "pretty redness," her eyes had a tender look, while the fluffy bronze hair had its own beauty as it shaded the brow.

"You are looking charming, ma chere," said Lady Esmondet, whom Vaura met in the hall.

"Thank you, dear, your eyes are partial, I fear."

"No, no, not as you imply."

As they entered the drawing-room, Robert Douglas came from a comfortable corner where he had been studying a small work of Thomas a Kempis, which he quietly returned to his pocket saying smiling:

"You see I am here to welcome you; I made myself at home and came here immediately at the close of even-song."

"We feel complimented that you prefer our society to those very ecclesiastical looking quarters of yours," said Lady Esmondet.

"And where the ancient fathers look from the walls in wonderment at the priest of to-day, as he pores over printed records of their bygone lives."

"Why, Vaura, how did you know that the pictured fathers grace the walls of my humble retreat?"

"From Isabel."

"Ah, I wondered, for my study is never entered by a strange foot, it is my rest."

"Is not your rest a misnomer, Robert? for from all I hear, you literally rest nowhere," inquired Lady Esmondet.

"In my opinion, Lady Esmondet, a priest of the church should never rest, but always have his armour on, for there is 'so little done, so much to do.' Thank God we are waking up at last; look at the priest of to-day (I say it in all humility) as compared with the priest of fifty years ago."

"True, true," answered Lady Esmondet, "but, don't you think that the zealous Low Church clergy are doing as much for the human race as you are?"

"Undoubtedly, for the human race; but not for the church, for their people often lapse into dissent."

"I don't believe in extremes; I respect the man who is thorough," said Vaura, seeing that Capt. Trevalyon had entered and seated himself beside her god-mother, evidently wishing to talk with her, and so, to help him, taking up the thread of the argument herself.

"But Vaura," said the priest, "don't you think that in the Ritualist, you have the man who is thorough?"

"Not exactly, he is extreme; the man who is thorough has no uncertain sound; he neither culls from Rome her vestments, nor from Dissent her hymns; both Rome and Dissent are thorough, why shouldn't he. But a truce to argument, a gentleman's trap stops the way," she said smiling, "is even now at the steps; his back is this way, so I cannot name him; he talks to his servant, in bottle green livery, who has a decidedly Hibernian countenance."

"Oh," said Capt. Trevalyon, starting to his feet, "Lady Esmondet, it must be an Irishman, an acquaintance of mine, Sir Dennis O'Gormon, who wanted very much to make the acquaintance of the ladies of the villa Iberia. I had forgotten all about my asking him for to-day."

"It makes no difference, Lionel, 'tis little wonder you forgot such a small matter in the many more important you have had."

Here a servant announced Sir Denis O'Gormon.

"Ah, O'Gormon, glad to see you. Lady Esmondet, permit me to present to you Sir Dennis O'Gormon. Miss Vernon allow me to introduce Sir Dennis; Douglas, I believe you and O'Gormon have met before."

Lady Esmondet and Miss Vernon shook hands with and welcomed their guest, Lady Esmondet saying graciously, "Any friend of Captain Trevalyon is always welcome."

"Thank you, Lady Esmondet, but by my faith, Trevalyon's a lucky fellow, and one whom I have always envied but never more so than now," he continued laughingly, "when with all my fascinations I am only welcomed by two charming women for his sake."

Mrs. Marchmont and Miss Marchmont were now announced. The two ladies floated in the most approved style towards their hostess, who rose to welcome them. They were ethereal in every respect, clad in a thin material of pale green, neck bare and elbow sleeves, and looking more like sisters than mother and daughter. Sandy of complexion, blue eyed sharp of feature; the mother having the advantage in flesh, the daughter being all the angles joined in one.

"I hate a thin woman," was the whispered criticism of Sir Dennis to

Trevalyon, with a suppressed emphasis on the word "hate."

Trevalyon smiled, giving a side glance at Vaura's rounded form, as she bent gracefully with extended hand in welcome.

"Faith, you may well look in that direction," remarked the Irishman, detecting him. "She's fair enough to seduce a look from His Holiness himself."

Here Lady Esmondet introduced Sir Dennis O'Gormon to the Marchmonts;

Trevalyon and Douglas having met them before.

The butler now announced dinner, when Lady Esmondet taking the arm of Sir Dennis assigned Mrs. Marchmont to Trevalyon, when Douglas handed in Vaura and Miss Marchmont.

Lady Esmondet found Sir Dennis a pleasant neighbour, who devoted himself equally to Vaura on his left and to his hostess at the head of the table. As usual the table was decorated with the rarest of flowers, which sent forth their delicate perfume from a large stand, the design of which was an imitation of the famed terraced gardens of Semiramis: the shrubs and trees represented in miniature by the most delicate ferns and mosses; the whole a triumph of nature and art. Choice flowers stood in a tiny bed of moss in front of each person. Many delicate desert dishes were not only tempting to the palate, but pleasing to the eye, while the wines in the cellar of the noble Don Ferdinand were well known and appreciated.

"Del Castello has a snug place here, Lady Esmondet," observed Sir

Dennis.

"Extremely so, Sir Dennis. We are much more comfortably placed by the kindness of the Marquis than we should have been at an hotel."

"He is a fine generous soul, always remembering that he is not the only member of the human race," said Sir Dennis (who had met him).

"It is a charming little winter home," said Vaura. "I shall regret to leave it."

"You won't, I hope, leave for some time yet?"

"Yes; much as we love it," she answered; smiling, "we go north ere spring has thawed the sceptre out of the frozen hand of winter."

"I am sorry to hear that. But you don't surely go as soon as my friend

Trevalyon?"

Vaura hesitated a moment, not wishing to be a messenger of death at a dinner table, when Trevalyon came to her aid, cutting Mrs. Marchmont short in a dissertation on the merits of shaded wool versus plain, by saying,

"Pardon me, Miss Vernon. I may be obliged, O'Gormon, to leave for

England sooner than I expected; if so, it will be alone."

"One of the penalties of bachelorhood, Trevalyon; by my faith, 'tis a lonely loneliness."

"I thought most of you glory in the freedom of winging your flight when you please, without having to say, by your leave," said Vaura, gaily.

"Not always," said Trevalyon, quietly.

"What do you say, Lady Esmondet. Don't you think a fellow is happier and less lonely when he cuts bachelor life?"

"Depends on the cards in his hands, and how he plays them, Sir

Dennis," answered his host, laconically.

"True, Lady Esmondet, and if the cards are his, the game is won, the difficulty over," said Trevalyon, with a glance at Vaura, "and bliss secured."

"Faith, you're right, Trevalyon."

Here Miss Marchmont's shrill voice was distinctly heard above the general hum, in animated discussion, saying,

"Oh, I'm sure he comes from the East."

The Rev. Douglas was evidently much amused and disputing the point;

Miss Marchmont continued,

"The dear creature has such a beautiful colour-so bronzed."

"I'll lay any wager 'the dear creature' means a soldier," said

Trevalyon to Vaura.

Vaura smilingly assented.

"A soldier," exclaimed Mrs. Marchmont in horror; "oh no, Capt.

Trevalyon, nothing so naughty; it's Miranda's last pet."

"But we women are given to petting the red-coats, Mrs. Marchmont," said Vaura with a laugh in her voice.

"They're too wild for dear Miranda," said Marchmont mater; "the pet you mean is the last sweet insect you have collected; is it not, my dear child?" she said, anxious for the fair fame of the owner of the fine exhibit in elbow and collar bone.

"Yes, mamma, you are right, but I am so sorry Mr. Douglas is not at one with me; I feel convinced the dear potato bug comes from the east; he is of brilliant colouring and luxurious habit."

Rev. Robert Douglas laughingly shook his head, and Sir Dennis said:

"Miss Marchmont, you cannot imagine the wager Capt. Trevalyon was laying when you talked about the 'bronzed beauty;' he wanted some one to take him up at ten to one you meant a dashing cavalry man, or a 'go-as-he-please' infantry."

"Order! order! O'Gormon," interrupted Trevalyon, laughing.

"Oh! I'm shocked, Capt. Trevalyon," cried Miss Marchmont seriously, "that my dear potato bug, with all his innocent ways, its care of its eggs,-."

Here a general laugh went round the table, except from Marchmont mere, who tried in vain to catch the fair Miranda's eye, who continued bravely, "should be taken for anything so wild as a soldier, who doesn't do anything so useful. But I must convert you, Mr. Douglas," she continued, returning to the siege; "it would be such a sweet study for a clergyman; I shall lend you Cassels' Natural History, and you must promise to read it for my sake," she said gushingly.

Meanwhile, Trevalyon tried in vain to catch the drift of conversation between Vaura and her neighbour, but no, Mrs. Marchmont, though inwardly afraid of this squire of dames; and of his intellect, determined to appear at ease, and so talked on the one engrossing idea of her life; the last conundrum in fancy work, the last fashionable incongruity in the blending of colours. And poor, victimized Lionel longed to breathe in Vaura's refreshing breadth of thought; on his tormentor pausing to recover breath, it was not as balm to a wound to hear Sir Dennis say pleadingly:

"The gardens of the Collona palace are looking lovely in their tints of emerald; it will transport me to my loved isle, Miss Vernon, if you'll walk with me there some day; though our damsels are not fair as the companion I desire, and her rich beauty would add grace to the spot."

"Come, come, Sir Dennis, no flattery, I am jealous for the beauty of those gardens, and do not want to hear, even in jest, my poor looks would add to their charm," she answered gaily, and evading his question.

Here Lady Esmondet, feeling for Lionel's torture, catching Mrs. Marchmont's eye, rose from the table, leaving the gentlemen to discuss the merits of bottles of no plebeian length of neck.

"How sweetly English the fire in the grate looks," observed Mrs.

Marchmont.

"Yes, it does; but while at home we really require it to keep away cold, here it is more to remind us of the warm sun gone to rest," said Lady Esmondet.

"There's no doubt the dear Spaniard, the Marquis Del Castello, has an eye for luxurious comfort," said Vaura, as she sank into the corner of a tete-a-tete sofa and fell into a reverie of Lionel's probable leave-taking.

While Mrs. Marchmont seated herself in an Elizabethan chair, Miranda placing herself on a footstool by her side and laying her head with its thin sandy curls on her knee.

"What a child you are still, Miranda," said her mother, sentimentally, as she fondled the high cheek-bone.

"You are quite companions," said Lady Esmondet.

"We are bosom friends; more than sisters since the departure of my dear husband."

"Mr. Marchmont has been dead some time, I believe."

"Yes, some twelve years; but, dear Lady Esmondet, Miranda will tell you that I always speak of dear Charles as departed, gone before; more as if he had gone out to buy me some new fancy work, you know; the word 'dead' upsets my nerves so," and the sandy head drooped and a hand was laid on the forehead.

"Yes; dear mamma has such refined feelings."

"Yes," said her hostess, absently, for she heard a messenger arrive, a tap at the door of the dining-room, and knew the message was for the temporary master of the house, an answer to his telegram, and wished the Marchmonts back to their own quarters, so that the complete little trio were alone; but she is forgetting Madame Grundy, so says:

"I believe you intend wintering in Italy."

"Yes, we have rented Rose Cottage to a friend of Mrs. Haughton's, a

Major Delrose, late of the -th Lancers."

"Oh, it's your cottage he has rented," said Lady Esmondet, awaking to interest.

"Yes; Major Delrose took an awful fancy to it, and Mrs. Haughton, dear thing, took a good deal of trouble in making our arrangements; neither Miranda or myself are strong."

"Strong! What an odious word to apply to us. It smells of milk and milk-maids; we would be uninteresting without our pet ailments."

"Excuse me, my child, I know a zephyr could waft us away."

"Pull-backs would be rather in the way of the onward movement of the zephyr, don't you think?" inquired Vaura, ironically, and glancing at the figure of the speaker, who with her daughter wore, at the instigation of Mrs. Haughton (who laughed with her men friends at the objects they were), skin-tight chamois under-clothing, and with only one narrow underskirt beneath the dress, express the figure so that nothing is left to imagination.

"Ah! Miss Vernon, don't be severe; Mrs. Haughton, dear thing, says you have no pet sins, but if you will only wear tights, I shall send in my own name for them," she said coaxingly.

"Merci! madame," said Vaura lightly, "but Worth has not yet told me my pleasure in life would be enhanced by the encasing of my body in tights, so I shall content myself with myself, as you see me."

"I'm so sorry you won't."

"Yes; but I believe I interrupted you; you were saying something about Mrs. Haughton having kindly smoothed away difficulties in the way of your wintering in Italy;" this she said roused to interest for her uncle's sake, "and this Major Delrose, how was he mixed up with Mrs. Haughton?"

"Oh! yes, Miss Vernon, the dear tights put everything else out of my head; well, as I was saying, Major Delrose longed to be near the Hall, and as the Colonel does not take to him, you see he is a little attentive to Mrs. Haughton, and the dear thing likes him, dear Charles was just like the Colonel, if men have handsome wives they don't like men to admire them; so Mrs. Haughton, dear thing, hit upon this plan, and they both arranged it with us one day they were in, and we were not strong, I mean we were delicate, so we remain as long as the Major wants Rose cottage, then we go to London to my sister, Mrs. Meltonbury, for the season."

"Ah! I understand, quite a friendly arrangement," answered Vaura, a trifle sarcastically. Here a diversion was caused by the entrance of the gentlemen.

The fair Miranda raised her sandy head from her mother's knee and looked languishingly at the priest, who smiled as he took a seat beside her.

"I am so glad we have you in Rome during our stay," observed Mrs. Marchmont, gushingly, "you will be such company for Miranda while I am embroidering; the sweet child was saying she should so much like to go to you for confession."

"Confessing! who is confessing?" said Sir Dennis, as he entered, "faith for once I would not say no to playing priest where there is a lovely penitent to shrive," and he glanced at Vaura and was making for the sofa beside her, but Lionel with one long step gained their mutual goal, saying:

"Priest Douglas will not allow you to entrench upon his preserves,

O'Gorman."

"Faith! you wouldn't either," said the Irishman with a side glance at the sofa.

"But tell me," continued Trevalyon, "confess, reverent Father, dost thou at confession bestow the gentle kiss of

reconciliation?"

"You should not disclose the secrets of the confessional, Robert," said Lady Esmondet, coming to his aid.

"No! trust me," answered Robert, and Miss Marchmont hung her head and blushed.

"It would be a pleasant little denouement when the penitent was a pretty woman," said Trevalyon laughingly.

"A propos of the confessional, did any of you ever come under the torture of that modern Inquisition, the 'Confession Book?'" said Vaura.

"Yes, yes," cried the gentlemen simultaneously.

"Oh! don't denounce them, Miss Vernon," exclaimed Miss Marchmont pathetically. "I could not exist without mine; it is so interesting to read aloud from at a picnic, tennis party, or five o'clock tea. Indeed, my confession book was one of the chief sources of pleasure at Rose Cottage, wasn't it, mamma?" and she stroked her mother's hand caressingly.

"It was, Miranda; and Miss Vernon must promise to write down all her secrets in your book on her return to England; Blanche Tompkins has it in charge; you will promise to write, Miss Vernon, won't you?" and the thin lips were pursed into a smile.

"The saints forbid," laughed Vaura, "that I should put the surgical knife, as it were, to my heart, and lay bare all its latent workings for the express delectation of five o'clock teas-and women!"

"Oh! do, dear Miss Vernon," said Miss Marchmont coaxingly, "your heart would be so interesting."

The gentlemen laughed.

"Nearly as much so as the potato bug," said Vaura in an undertone to

Trevalyon; aloud, she said gaily:

"No, I rebel, and most solemnly affirm, that, as you tell me Mrs. Haughton says I cultivate no pet sins, and as she is your oracle, I abide by her decision; with no pet sins, what could I say? that, as to colours, Worth supplies me. That, though I be ostracised by Mrs. Grundy, I still have the courage left in me to affirm that I don't and won't climb the dizzy heights or flights, to pour incense on that shrine alone. And that, were I on the rack, I should gasp forth that the woman who invented torture-books has not my heart-felt love."

"Hear! hear!" said O'Gormon, clapping his hands, "'when found, make a note on,' Miss Marchmont, and you have Miss Vernon's confession."

"Yes now I should never have thought of that; you Irish think like lightning; let me see if I can recall what Miss Vernon said," and the sandy locks are thrown backwards as the blue eyes dwell on the painted ceiling.

"But, Miss Marchmont," said Trevalyon, in pretended earnest, "it would be unorthodox, and spoil your book, unless you extract a promise from Miss Vernon, only to pour incense at the feet of the brilliant Earl."

"Oh certainly, thank you, Capt. Trevalyon; pardon me, Miss Vernon," cried the owner of the torture-book, in great dismay, "excuse me, but everyone contributing to my book, must admire the dear Earl more than anyone departed or with us (Gladstone after, if you wish); of course," she added apologetically, "one does not care to remember he has Jewish blood, yet against that fact is, that he has never eaten pork, such a nasty, vulgar meat."

"Remember, Miranda sweet, that Miss Vernon, having spent so much of her life in France, cannot perhaps know that it is the fashion to worship the Earl."

"From Earl Beaconsfield to music is a long look, but let us take it," said Lady Esmondet; "Miss Marchmont, will you sing for us?"

As Miranda asked Rev. Robert what it should be, Vaura said in an undertone to Trevalyon:

"I do admire the clever Earl immensely, and not only because it is the decree of the god of fashion."

"I wish we had the evening to ourselves," he murmured, "what do you think of the Irishman?"

"He is lavish of the superlative degree; is good-hearted as his race; and for the time being, feels intensely," she answered.

Miss Marchmont, now asking her mother to join her in the duet, "Come where my love lies dreaming," they glided arm in arm to the piano, and now Miss Marchmont implored of some one to come where her love lay dreaming, in a shrill treble, while her mother repeated the request in a very fair alto.

O'Gormon challenged Vaura to a game at chess.

Lionel fell into a brown study of his future plans to undo the mischief done by a woman's tongue. The poor fellow often glanced at Vaura in all her loveliness, and a pain came to his heart as he looked, for he thought of how he was leaving her, not knowing if she loved him, and with other men about her; and of how, with the torture that he might lose her weighing him down, he was going out from her alone to find Sister Magdalen, and see if she would openly reveal all. She had been reticent and guarded for years, and he was not in a mood to hope much.

But now he hears the clear voice of Vaura cry, "checkmate," and

O'Gormon leads her to the piano.

Vaura gave them a gem of Mozart's, then some gay opera airs, then, in response to their pleading for some song, gave "Il Bacio," in her full rich tones.

Sir Dennis stood by the piano and looked his admiration.

"You seem fond of music, Sir Dennis," said the fair musician, as she leisurely turned over the music with him in search for a song from "Traviata."

"Fond of it! I adore it, and sometimes the musician."

"A double tax on your powers of adoring," said Vaura, gaily, as Sir Dennis placed the song before her, but though her notes were clear and sweet as a bird's, her heart was sad at the thought of the parting between Lionel and herself, and just now she had no sympathy with the free-from-care spirit of the song "Gaily Thro' Life I Wander."

During the song Capt. Trevalyon was summoned from the room. It is a telegram, and runs thus:

"THE LANGHAM HOTEL,

"LONDON, England, Dec. 24th.

"My father cannot live, and wishes to see you. Physician says come at once." JUDITH TREVALYON.

"Capt. Trevalyon,

"Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy."

"Sims, this telegram calls me to England. You say there is an express at midnight. It is now 10.30, go at once and take some necessary refreshment; pack my luggage, leaving out my travelling gear; get your own box, and have them conveyed to the depot, express them through to London, to the Langham, and be ready to leave with me by the midnight train; and don't forget Mars."

"Yes sir; and what time, sir, shall I order the trap to take you to the depot, sir?"

"At 11.30 sharp, Sims."

"Yes, sir."

Captain Trevalyon hurried back to the salons just as Vaura finished her song. He made his way to Lady Esmondet, in order to get a word in her ear, as Sir Dennis monopolised Vaura; but Mrs. Marchmont was full of a new folding screen Mrs. Haughton had ordered from London.

"The dear thing wanted something novel, so had the three 'Graces' painted on a sky-blue plush ground, suspended in the air; over them (as it were) hangs an open umbrella in rose-pink; oh! it's too lovely for anything, Lady Esmondet; you will be entranced when you see it, Captain Trevalyon," and she folded her hands and turned her pale blue eyes upwards.

To Captain Trevalyon's relief, Vaura asked him to sing something, and seeing it was hopeless just now, to have a word with Lady Esmondet, he hoped when his song was over and their glass of champagne drank, there would be a general exodus ere it was time for him to leave; so he moved towards the piano, and playing his own accompaniment, sang one of Moore's melodies, "Farewell, but whenever you welcome the hour."

Vaura sat at a small table near the piano. Sir Dennis, with the sanguineness of his race, thought she was interested in his chit-chat and in a book of Italian views, but her thoughts were with Lionel, for she caught his eye, and "minds run in grooves," and he knew that she under stood, his silent farewell; she felt her heart ache, and would have risen and gone to him, but "men may suffer and women may weep," but the conventionalities must be attended to, or the mighty god, society, stares and frowns; and so Lionel sung parting words to the woman he loved, and to his friend; and surely Moore would have been moved to tears had he heard the depth of feeling thrown into his words. When he was singing, the silver chimes softly rang eleven o'clock, so knowing he had no time to lose, he quietly left the room.

Vaura's heart throbbed quickly for she thought, "he has gone."

But the Marchmonts, much to her relief and Lady Esmondet, saying they must "really tear themselves away," a rather prolonged leave-taking took place between Reverend Robert Douglas and Miss Marchmont, into which Mrs. Marchmont was drawn.

"Well, I don't know, Miranda sweet," she says, "that I can promise to take you to St. Augustine service tomorrow afternoon. I am going to high mass at St. Peter's, and shall be fatigued."

Vaura, who was standing near, listening to O'Gormon's adieux, and anxious to do anything to hasten their leave-taking, said quickly:

"I shall likely go, and shall call at your hotel for Miss Marchmont."

Miss Marchmont was gushing in her thanks.

"Oh! don't forget, Miss Vernon, I wouldn't miss hearing Mr. Douglas intone the service for worlds."

"The creature, not the creator," thought Vaura. But now at last the guests have departed and the friends are alone.

Lionel sees them go from the garden walk which he is pacing up and down, ready to go and waiting for the trap. He has gone out urged by conflicting emotions, head aching, and in the air hoping to gain calm. It is now 11.15; fifteen minutes yet. "If I could only see her alone."

Fortune favours him, for Lady Esmondet having heard from Saunders (while Vaura is engaged with the Marchmonts) that Captain Trevalyon is about somewhere, as he does not go until eleven thirty, taking in the situation, tells Vaura to go to the salons for a little while and she will join her after she gives some directions to her maid.

So Vaura returns and, wishing to be quite alone before Lady Esmondet joins her, steps into the conservatory, but there her sense of loneliness is so complete, that she returns to the salon immediately adjoining, and drawing the heavy brocade curtains dividing it from the others, she feels that she can give herself up to thoughts of Lionel; she knows now that he is gone; she would give worlds to have him by her side; she throws herself onto a lounge with her great white arms in a favourite attitude thrown above her head. But in the moment of her entrance into the conservatory, Lionel had seen her from the garden and came in noiselessly to make sure; she is alone, and he is now gazing at her through the glass door; her bosom heaves, her flower face is lovely in its transparent soft paleness, and her eyelids are wet with the tear-drops she will not let fall, her lips move and he opens the door on its noiseless hinges, she says softly:

"Oh, darling, why did you go?" and she throws herself on her side and buries her face in her arms. Now Lionel fearing to hear the wheels of the trap to take him away, makes a noise with the door as if he had only come, and so Vaura thinks as she starts to a sitting posture and her heart beats wildly as she says, putting both hands to her side, "Oh, you are not gone, I am so glad."

"But I am going, and in a few minutes, Vaura darling," and he seated himself beside her; "you must know I love you with the whole pent-up love of my life," and his arm was round her. "You know, darling, I told you of a difficulty and I did not mean to speak until it was removed, but my heart has ached and I am so unmanned I have not known sometimes what to do or how to bear up; I have been in torture, darling, lest other men should win your love. Oh! my love, my beautiful darling, say you will not give your heart to another, that you will wait until I can plead my cause."

"I shall wait, dear Lionel."

"God, is it so, darling, darling?" and the soft hand was pressed and the lovely head was drawn to his breast and the rose-mouth was kissed again and again.

"There, that will do, won't it, Lionel, for to-night; we have waited so long," and the large grey eyes with their warm love-light, looked into the tired blue of the eyes so near her own now with a great passionate love looking from them.

"Darling love," and his cheek was on hers, "I feel so full of bliss and content, and my nerves all throbbing, I don't think I can ever let you go; oh, you don't know how I love you. I used to boast of my strength with women beauty; but with you in my arms, heaven, what bliss! Vaura, darling, I feel half delirious; and yet a full rich joy in living and loving could not turn a man's brain."

And now the hall bell is pulled furiously; Vaura starts up and to her feet.

"Put your soft arms around my neck, darling, and give me a good-bye kiss; it will be a talisman from evil and help me through my lonely travels."

And her arms are clasped tightly round his neck, and his head bends down to the sweet lips.

"Good-bye, dearest Lion," and the eyes rest on his and she whispers,

"I am not sorry I came back alone to the salons."

"My love; how can I leave you."

"You must."

And Lady Esmondet calls and Lionel hurries to the ball, and with a tight hand-clasp with his friend and a whispered, "I shall and most conquer my enemies."

"You will, Lionel."

And Lady Esmondet knew by the light in his eyes that he had spoken and she was glad.

Having promised Vaura to join her she now turned her steps towards the salons, but thinking, "No, she will not want me to-night," retraced her steps to her own room; and while her maid disrobed her, the lonely woman thought: "What a perfect union theirs will be; both handsome, gifted, and with much gold, for I shall settle L3,000 per annum on Vaura. Sir Vincent will do something for dear Lionel. Ah, me; what I have missed in my wedded life, I who could have loved a husband of my own choice so fondly, so truly. Eric, Eric, you alone would have made me happy; but I am growing old, I am looking back; it is folly. Alice Esmondet, you must not give way to melancholy, life is sweet to you even if you are not a winner of all good in life's game-. Give me a few drops of red lavender, Somers; there, that will do; now leave me and go to rest."

Vaura's whole being was filled with such intense happiness as she sank into a corner of the sofa where Lionel had found her a short time before that she would not move and so perhaps break the spell.

Emotional natures will know how she felt; as one does on waking from a dream of the night, so rich, so full of sweetness, so full of delicious languor one does not move a muscle lest the sensation pass.

At last she moves with a great sigh. "My darling, mine," she thought, "and he loves me; come back to me, Lion," and the great fair arms were clasped at the back of her head, then thrown down to the knees, and the hands go together, while a smile, oh, how sweet and tender, comes to the mouth, and the eyes are wet with their warmth and feeling.

"I'm glad you spoke before the 'difficulty,' is overcome, for if you can never undo it you will know that I always loved you. Men who would have satisfied most women have wooed me in vain. And now could any one of them who have charged me with cruelty see me. Yes, dearest Lion, I am every inch a woman and am subdued at last, and longing, longing, dear heart, to feel your arms about me and see the light in your mesmeric eyes. I have been waiting for you so long, love; come back to me, for I cannot do without the sweet, grave smile, the look from the tired eyes. Do you know, darling, as you are whirling away to northern climes that I am dreaming the hours away thinking of you; it is one o'clock, love, good night."

And Vaura, in all her loveliness, and full of a dreamy languor, went to her chamber. Saunders heard the light step in the silent household and followed her mistress.

"You must be sleepy, Saunders; put away my robe, lace, and jewels, and go."

"I am not tired, Mademoiselle; I have just had a nap in the house- keeper's room; you'd best let me run the comb through your hair, Mademoiselle."

"Very well, Saunders, but be quick; I am tired."

"The household are sorry, Miss, that the Captain is away; we were proud to have such a handsome master, and so free-handed; but it wasn't for what the Captain gave; it was his own kind ways, and we'll be wishing his servant back too, Mademoiselle; he was so merry. But his master was so kind, Sims could but be happy."

"Even the hirelings love him," thought her mistress; aloud she says:

"I am quite sure Capt. Trevalyon was a kind master, Saunders, and

Sims was a faithful servant, and looked the essence of good humour.

Good-night, you can go now,"

"Good-night, ma'am; what time shall I call you for your bath, ma'am?"

"At half-past nine."

"Yes, ma'am."

And the white robe de nuit is on, and this sweet woman glances at the mirror, and smiles at the fair face with the bright brown curls on the brow, the throat as fair as the soft robe of muslin, all a mystery of embroidery and shapely clingingness.

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