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   Chapter 34 BRIC-A-BRAC.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 12577

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The morrow dawned, fair and bright, and Vaura looked as bright and fresh as a goddess of day, as she stepped, from the door of the villa, robed in a gown of blue velvet, tight jacket of same, and a small bonnet of a lighter shade, with long tan kid gloves; her cheek was warm with the colour her quickened heart-beats gave, and the love- light shone in her eyes, for she had again just re-read Lionel's loving words, and knew her own would soon make his heart glad.

O'Gormon came up the walk as she descended the verandah steps.

"Good morning, Miss Vernon."

"Bonjour, Sir Dennis; sorry I am deserting the villa as you are making your entree."

"Fortune favours me, in that you are not already gone. May I not be your escort, and attend you?"

"Well, I scarcely know; I am not going to the Colonna gardens," she answered gaily.

"No matter, I am only too willing to follow you blindly; whither thou goest I go; thy will shall be my will; thy goal my goal."

"Then to the dusty shop of Pedro; to the rescue of some trifles in the matter of bric-a-brac."

"But, am I not sufficient escort without yon trim female; give her a holiday to go buy ribbons to 'tie up her bonny brown hair.'"

"You may take an hour's pleasure, Saunders; I do not require your further attendance."

And now they bend their steps in the direction of the old town, and turning into a short, narrow street, ascend the high stone steps of an old house; so old one wondered it held together; in fact, many stones had fallen from the front wall, giving it a hollow-eyed appearance. The whole quartier in which they now are, presents a dilapidated front. But when they enter the old, mouldy apartment, lit up with so much of the beautiful, they forgot the gloomy, damp street; the uninviting exterior of the building; the weird old man in charge; everything but the gems by which they are surrounded. Here were some rare bits of Sevres and Dresden china, there some modern tile painting, here some old Roman jugs, jars, and vases; there the sweet face of a Madonna looks down, as if in pity, on a Greek dancing girl. Here a goblet, fit for a kingly gift; there a zone to win the good graces of some pretty little ballet dancer. Here were Romish missals in rare old inlaid coverings, side by side with garters studded with precious stones, destined for the leg of woman.

Vaura, an ardent admirer of the choice in bric-a-brac, was in her element amid this confusion of beauty, while her companion preferred the living charms of a lovely woman more than anything the world of art could show; so, not a purchaser, he seated himself on a chair with more carving than comfort to recommend it, and watching Vaura, fell into a reverie: "She is the most priceless gem in the casket, and though my governor left me as heritage the waste acres, and nothing but an income of debts to keep up Castletruan, unless I marry money, by my faith a fellow could live on love with Vaura Vernon, better than on stalled ox without her."

Here he gave a start knocking down a porcelain vase at the weird voice of Pedro from behind, saying:

"You don't examine my poor wares, mi lord.'

"The shattered remains of that vase are typical of the denouement of the idle dreams I was dreaming," he muttered, as the wily Italian, full of regrets, picked up the fragments, naming double the value of the vase, and thinking,

"He would not have spent a soldi, the Signora occupies all his thoughts; so Pedro, you are in good fortune that the English lord was startled at the sound of thy voice; the intention was good, Pedro, so is the result."

Vaura now signified to the Italian her wish to purchase bric-a-brac to the extent of a golden goblet, beautiful in design and of early Roman handiwork. A group of statutory, representing Venus and Adonis, at once piquant and charming, with an exquisite painting of the Dying Gladiator pathetic in the extreme.

"He is a grand athlete," said Sir Dennis.

"Yes, and a land-mark of Home, in the by-gone. Ah! Sir Dennis, there has been more martyr's blood shed in the immortal city than that of the early Christians; when one thinks of the use the Coliseum was put to, when one thinks of the Roman women with their warm beauty, of their men beautiful as gods, who graced with their presence scenes where men like that met a death of torture, one weeps for human nature with its stains, its blots. Ah! well, even the flowers one loves best are bespattered in the mire, and soiled by the skirts of mortals with not too clean a record, and the pure snow-flake as it falls goes down with smut from the chimney upon it, it is only the trail of the serpent which is over all."

"The wells of pity in your eyes are deep and full enough to take in more than the Dying Gladiator; he is dead; there are living men," said the Irishman with the susceptibility of his race.

"Why, Sir Knight of Erin," said Vaura gaily, as she turned from the painting, "you are not going to ask me to weep over all suffering humanity, from the Pole, not North but Siberian; the Sultan, whose siesta, is disturbed by the call to arms; to your own Pat with his real or imaginary wrongs."

"To the shades of oblivion with Pat and the Pole,-they don't fill the world."

"And in the meantime the shades of evening will be upon us if we don't hasten. Pedro, you will send my purchases with the vases and model of St. Peter's Lady Esmondet bought yesterday, to the Villa Iberia, and be expeditious, as the servants are now packing our belongings for England."

"Already packing!" said the Irishman, as they turned their steps homeward, "that sounds like the first note of a fare-thee-well."

"A true and fairly-well made remark, oh, Son of Erin!"

"Your voice is glad as the bird-notes of my own Isle, which means you'll smile as you say farewell."

And so in gay chit-chat Time seemed as naught until the villa was reached. Sir Dennis lunching with them when as afterwards the ladies having P.P.C.'s to make, he took a reluctant leave.

The following three days were spent in leave-takings to the beauties abounding in and around the city; sometimes attended by Signer Castenelli, sometimes by the warm-hearted Irishman, and again by Priest Douglas; they walked again and lingered in the gar

dens of the Colonna palace they loved; the dear warm earth which was kissed so lovingly by the sun's rays as not to be cold to the bare brown feet of the child-peasant; and sent up such bright flowers for the vase of the King. Their glance rested often on the deep blue of the heavens above them, as though to carry its majestic arch with them to lift the leaden clouds from off the spires of London, which seemed as though weighed down to earth, as the souls the bells in their tower called to worship, were weighted with the clouds in the struggle of life.

And so Father Time, who to Vaura for once seemed to walk with stealthy step, still with inevitable tread brought the world and humanity to the fourth day of a new year.

On the third a letter had come from Col. Haughton to Lady Esmondet, which ran thus:

"MY DEAR OLD FRIEND,-

"Your letters are so full of health that I don't think I'm selfish in saying to let nothing tempt you and my hearts-light, Vaura, to stay away any longer; when you come you will not blame me for wanting you both; my married life has not been of very long duration, and yet, and yet my new made wife … but you will see if there is anything to see; you are not a curious woman, Alice, God forbid; but you will know in the social atmosphere which surrounds me, if I needlessly fear for the honour of my name.

"The preparations for the ball are on a gorgeous scale and my bete noire, Major Delrose, is up to the neck in, floral decorations. And my lady's gown, mine and yours, too; did we say him yea; his nose is broad enough to enter into everybody's business; and his back is broad enough to bear anything I may write you.

"Be sure and be here on the morning of the sixth, so you can rest for the night's frolic; and Vaura, whose health is too splendid to feel much fatigue, can chat with me and look about her.

"I see by the Daily News that Trevalyon has succeeded to the baronetcy; he writes me he will be here for the ball; I feel just now in the humour for a long talk with my old friend.

"I'm really grieved he should have got himself into such a mess as to have married some years ago some female he has been hiding ever since. It is common gossip here; some name her as a ballet dancer; some as pretty daughter of his late father's lodge-keeper; some, as wife of a friend; in whatever dress Dame Rumour presents her, she's a toothsome bit for Mrs. Grundy. Whatever truth there's in it the wasps sting Trevalyon all they can; but the butterflies smile and say: 'if he has, he's handsome enough to take out a license for anything.' I have regretted since hearing the news and seeing it in the papers, that he was in daily intercourse with Vaura; but again, if he is bound as I fear, I can trust to his honour not to endeavour to gain her affections.

"Isabel Douglas was married on New Year's' day; we were invited; Blanche and I went; the laughs at the Hall were the loudest, so Mrs. Haughton remained. Isabel looked hopeful and happy, and an ideal Scotch lassie as she is. I am writing in the recess at the end of the library, and merry voices and gay laughter reach me here; but the sounds come not from any of my personal friends; none are with me as yet; we have Mrs. Meltonbury, the Fitz-Lowtons, two De Lancy girls, Peter Tedril, Everly, and Major Delrose at Rose Cottage-means Major Delrose at the Hall. So you see, Alice, a congenial spirit would be congenial. Read above to Vaura; she is a woman of the world, and knows its walks and ways. Come soon. And from

"Yours,

"ERIC HAUGHTON,

"Haughton Hall, Surrey, England.

"To both, love and kind thoughts,

"January 2nd, 1878."

"TO LADY ESMONDET,

"Villa Iberia, Rome, Italy."

The outcome of above letter was to cause Lady Esmondet and Vaura to make immediate preparations to reach Haughton Hall.

"We should be there; the hand Madame holds is too full of tricks," said Lady Esmondet, energetically, as she finished reading the letter aloud.

"We can go to-night by the midnight express," said Vaura, impulsively.

"I should like it, dear, but you are full of engagements for to- morrow, and we are due at the Opera tonight."

"Trifles, all; as you are willing, we shall be on the wing to-night."

Tres bien ma chere; I shall give the orders, but there will be three or four pairs of wistful eyes looking for your entree at the opera, to-night."

"Yes, until the curtain rises," said Vaura gaily.

On the afternoon of the same day (the third) Castenelli, with a couple of friends, also O'Gormon, on calling at the villa, heard a rumour of the departure from the servants (who were all astir, their ladies being out driving), the Italian p'shawed and said to his friends:

"It is not so, the beautiful Signora told me she would be at the Duchess of Wyesdale on the night of the fourth for a concert and ball; they leave at sunrise on the fifth." And so was content that the servants were mistaken. Not so O'Gormon, who hearing the same story, and knowing their intention to attend the opera went thither, and not seeing them was for leaving, but the Wyesdale signaled him to her side, and so off duty only at the close; saw her party to the carriage, and throwing his toga over his evening dress, hurried to the depot. And none too soon, Lady Esmondet was already in the coach and Vaura about to follow, when the tall figure of the Irishman came up hurriedly.

"Surely you are not going to leave us, Miss Vernon, and so hush our heart-beats as we listen in vain for your footfall."

"I am, and my heart is a trifle sad, as I say so."

"And has a great gladness, or you would not make us sad by going."

"Well, yes, Sir Dennis, glad and sorry; I go home! You are Irish and will know the feeling; one loves with one's whole heart, and one's life, one's home and friends; one loves with passion; and for a year, or a day, fair warm Italia, where one has met loving words and kind hearts, and yours is one Sir Knight of Erin," she added with feeling, as she returned his tight hand clasp.

"The last whistle, by my faith, I wish it were for me too."

And the guard locked the door and in a few minutes, miles separated these two who had so lately spoken, Sir Dennis still staring at space, while a new pain came to his heart.

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