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A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 9909

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The dinner on this Twelfth-night, fraught as it was with so much of the effervescence of the champagne of life to so many, was a dinner fit for an emperor. The gold plate, the glassware, each piece a gem. Sweet flowers looked up from their delicate design in moss beside each person, or from elegant vases. The hostess was recklessly gay and abandon, looking like a scarlet poppy with dew upon it, robed as she was in satin of scarlet, the whole front of the dress and corsage being embroidered in poppies from pink to scarlet, their leaves of pearls; her necklet, armlets, and earrings were diamonds, rubies and pearls. A handsome woman, without doubt, loving life and its bon-bons.

"We only make the run once," she would cry, "let us take it effervescing."

Vaura is peerlessly beautiful and brilliant as her diamonds, her large hazel eyes bright as stars, her lips a rose, throat, neck and arms gleam in their whiteness as does the satin of her gown. Ah! Lionel, much as we love you, we are happy in the thought that Vaura is your rest. Colonel Haughton notices that his niece often glances at him, and that beneath her gay repartee or brilliant converse, there underlies some powerful excitement which he attributes wholly to the expose of the truth by Lionel.

"And so you enjoyed Rome," said Capt. Chancer to Vaura, who had been assigned to him, so causing him to be the envy of the other men.

"Intensely! dear sun-warm, love-warm Italia."

"Yes, one loves to live and lives to love while there. I hope you did not leave your heart behind you, Miss Vernon."

"Nay, you should congratulate me had I done so, and by your own words of 'one lives to love while there.'"

"Yes, and on my warm heart; for, though old Sol laughs in gay Paris, his temple is in warm Italia," she said, gaily.

"Your eyes tell whether your heart's warmth depends upon the zone you dwell in."

"Are you wise in trusting in truth from woman's eyes?" she said softly, and looking into his face.

"In some cases, yes; they are en verite the language of the soul."

And his gaze plainly shows his admiration. "You sing, I am told?"

"A little; it could not be otherwise if one has lived so much in the south as I; the voice of song seems the natural language for one's varying emotions."

"You will sing me one song to-night?"

"Yes, if you care; instead of a waltz."

"I want both."

"And you look like a man who has his way most days."

"In trifles, yes; in things longed for, never!'"

"Well, if so; as the song and waltz are trifles to make your assertion true, you must have them."

"I am in paradise, and shall try to forget that did you consider them things of moment, you would never have granted them," he said, earnestly laying down knife and fork as he turned to gaze wistfully into the face of the fair woman near him at last.

"You have the nattering tongue and eyes of your sex, Capt. Chancer, and you and the other men are to blame if I have promised more than I can perform; for I have been unable to say nay to your pleadings, being in a passive mood to-night."

And the eyelids with their wealth of curled lashes were uplifted, as she smilingly looked into his face, for her thoughts were of Lionel; his, of her.

"Of all women's moods, I love her best in the dreamy languor of passiveness."

"To mould us as wax in your hands, to love us till you tire, as we do a bird or a flower, and then sigh for another mood; you see I know you in all your moods and tenses," she said softly.

"You know us till we meet you," he said earnestly, as a servant refilled his champagne glass.

"Tis Greek meeting Greek" she said gaily, though her heart throbbed wildly, for she alone heard a slight bustle in the hall and the voice of the man she loved.

"No, fairest of women, 'tis the war of love!"

"A pleasant strife with its heart-stir; its weapons, the emotions."

"No wonder, that were we a very Achilles, you rob us of our strength."

Here Trevalyon's servant entering, handed his master's card to Delrose; on the back of which he read: "Are you prepared to own up as to the part you played in the Clarmont escapade? if not, I shall clear myself."

"Tell your master I am neither a babe nor suckling," he answered defiantly, his brow black with hate and rage as he tore the card to pieces, throwing it towards the man.

There being a sort of free-masonry between Madame and Delrose, the movements of each being rarely unobserved by the other, she was about to play into his hands by signalling her sisterhood to rise from the table, when Sir Lionel Trevalyon was announced, who, hastily coming to her side, taking her hand in salutation, said:

"You will kindly give me a few moments, Mrs. Haughton; oblige me, please, by keeping your seat."

Madame was recklessly abandon, and Sir Lionel had asked her with his mesmeric eyes, or she would not have disobeyed the pressure of the Delrose boot upon her

fours in scarlet satin, (for she did not pine for the whiteness of the lily in boots or hose), "It is too tame, not chic," she would laugh, and say adding, "a fig for its purity."

"Welcome, thrice welcome, Trevalyon, my dear fellow," cried the Colonel warmly. "Here, Winter," to the butler "attend to the comfort of Sir Lionel Trevalyon'"

"I thank you, Haughton, you are always kind, but I have dined."

There was another pressure of the Delrose boot which, this time, had the desired effect, emphasised as it was by a meaning look.

Lionel, with one hand on the back of Colonel Haughton's chair, smiled his greetings, and as his eyes rested for a moment on Vaura, knowing her intensely emotional nature, and seeing her quickened heart beats, her cheek paling, her lips scarlet by contrast, her large eyes full of sympathy, he was glad to change the scene to the great drawing rooms. On Madame answering the Delrose signal by rising from the table, saying, "Say your say in the greater comforts of the drawing-rooms, Sir Lionel, as you have dined; come away, the gentlemen will not linger to-night; here, give me your arm and I shall be well taken care of between two such gallants as Lord Rivers and yourself."

"As you will, fair Madame, and you I know will not say me nay when I ask you to bid all your guests come, as I have a word to say to them of the 'hidden wife,' society gives me."

"The bait is sufficient," she said laughing, though baffled, "they will all follow like a lot of hungry fish."

"Gad! Trevalyon," cried Lord Rivers jokingly, "she must be old! enough to come out."

"I am relieved that Trevalyon is going to make a clean breast of it; English society is degenerating," said Lord Ponsonby in severe tones to Lady Esmondet.

"Trevalyon looks as he did in the east," said Chancer to Vaura, "when one of the blacks cut poor Cecil Vaughn's throat when he lay dying, then robbed him; Trevalyon caught him in the act as he rode up, Cecil haying asked his orderly to bring him to receive his dying messages."

"No need to tell me the result Capt. Chancer. I read Sir Lionel's expression as you do, treachery lived and was extinct."

"But dear Miss Vernon, who are Cecil and the black this time? I know there has been some by-play, to which I have been oblivious, but no man would blame me."

"Not while I have heard for you," giving him a bewildering smile.

"Which means you have had no ear for me," he said, regretfully seating himself beside her on a tete-a-tete sofa, for they have now reached the salons.

"Not so, cher grumbler, for I have two ears, and while Sir Lionel's rather mournful notes entered first; your pretty nothings were blown in upon them so quickly, by some more mirthful sprite as to send his to my memory, while yours are in my ear still."

"There is so sweet a bewitchment in your healing touch, as to make a man not regret his wound."

"Come, trot her out, Sir Lionel," said Madame saucily, as she passed Vaura and Capt. Chancer, "and after I have opened the ball Lord Rivers can have her, and you and I from a tete-a-tete chair, will pronounce upon candle-moulds and ankles."

"Trevalyon will take the ankles," said Lord Rivers lazily.

"At last we are going to bag our game and I, my gold-mounted riding whip," said the huntress, who with Major Delrose seated themselves near Vaura and her cavalier.

"Why how?" asked Delrose quickly and absently, for he had been intently watching the movements of Mrs. Haughton and her escort's.

"By the bow of Diana, Major, I believe you are off the scent, though you heard me make the bet with Sir Peter Tedril on Trevalyon's wife, I bet my dog against a whip he'd take this ball as a door to trot her out by, and so make his peace with Mrs. Grundy."

"You and your dog are always game, and I take sides with you; if he brings her out at all it will be here," he said, absently. But now a look of savage hate comes to his face on seeing Mrs. Haughton smile caressingly on Trevalyon.

"Confound him," he muttered, "he bags game at will."

"Yes, his eye and touch of his hand bring us down every time. I wonder when he'll introduce her; one thing I'll wager that we women will all be hounds and run her down to, earth."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Forester, I must run over to Rose Cottage, I have a word to say to my servant, Simon."

"Oh, that's too bad! hurry back, Major, ours is the first dance," and turning to Sir Tilton, who had strolled up, "one would think the hounds were after him, instead of poor Sir Lionel Trevalyon, as we have all been lately."

"What a terrible expression came into Major Delrose's face just now, as he looked at Sir Lionel Trevalyon," said Vaura to Chancer, "if ever man was born to hunt something he looked the man."

"Yes? I did not notice, but have always thought there was a latent jealousy and dislike in his breast of Trevalyon."

"One goes hand in hand with the other," she answered.

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