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   Chapter 41 AN EXPOSE, SOCIETY ON TIP-TOE.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 34525

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Immediately after dinner, Blanche, who wished to perfect her own little plot, had commanded the attendance of that squire of dames, Everly, down at Rose Cottage, for half an hour, saying to him:

"Everyone will be at the Hall; cook Ellen is my friend; her plot being that I marry the Major; she is sure he talks to Mrs. Haughton for my sake (shows how perfect their tricks have been), and she (Ellen) is to be my maid and marry Simon; she's a good creature, Baronet, so she won't have her way; they never do down here; we gobble up all the bon-bons; so you be up to time; slip off after you lead Cis back from dinner; my plot wants trimming; and walls have ears here; there won't be a soul down there, or a body which would be worse."

"But I shall be missed," whined small Everly.

"Spoken like an English baronet, who don't see how small it is; you've got to come to help me fix my plot."

So after dinner, and in the corridor to the salons the wee white mouse excusing herself to her cavalier, flew softly to a cloak-room; it was only a minute, and the cloak enveloped la petite; when, with hood drawn well over the forehead, and the satin-dressed feet pushed into over-boots, she is off. Quickly she sped in and out among the trees, the wind blowing her cloak open, giving her the appearance in the shadow of a white-breasted bird on the wing, now flying, now resting in the shade, to listen for the footsteps of her expected companion when within a stone's throw of the cottage she stood.

"He's too utterly mean for anything; I see I shall have to bribe him every time," she thought; "but here he comes; I'll give him a fright," and throwing her cloak off, though chilled, she hid in the shadow and waited; but, no; it is not the expected, but Delrose flying, as we have seen him, to speak to his man.

"What's to pay now? I'll step in and hide, and not pad my ears either; he's expected too, I see, for the parlour is lit up."

In a moment Everly is forgotten in her loved game of detective. First, under the window where she was almost discovered by Delrose (as we are aware), next, the back door is entered, housemaid and small boy at the Hall, no one sees her enter, Ellen's loud breathing covering her footstep; in a few seconds she is in a pantry between dining-room and parlour. Here she heard every word that passed between them, master and man.

"The plot thickens, you bet; what a lovely time I am having, and what a thunder and lightning wretch the Major is; I don't suppose I can save those poor people, they have got ahead of me this time, in more ways than one," murmured wee Blanche, now leaving the cottage, only having given the others time to be out of sight. Half way to the Hall she meets the tardy little Everly, to whom Mrs. Forester had said, "What's up, Sir Tilton? you're as absent as a hound that's lost the scent; you are all cut up, your eyes are Miss Vernon's, your personality is the sofa's, away and find yourself, you're too tame for me, and send me Major Delrose."

"How awfully late you are," exclaimed Blanche, breathlessly, "here give me your arm."

"I regret what has been unavoidable, so many men buttonholed me" (he did not say they were duns).

"All right, Baronet, we havn't time to talk much, I'm out of breath, but I am going to have that show tonight."

"Oh! Blanche, I do wish you would wait, say even for a day or two," implored small Everly.

"Well, I guess perhaps I will," she said cunningly, not meaning to defer her intention for even an hour, "but you must do something for me then."

"Anything, anything," he cried eagerly.

"That's all O.K.; first, I must have surgeon Strange from the village double quick."

"Why, you are not ill! if so, Sir Andrew Clarke is-"

"I know he is at the Hall; don't interrupt me, he is too big a man for what I want; you must send one of the servants for Strange; I know he is to come to the ball, but if he hasn't come, fetch him right along; next, you are to be too awfully sweet for anything to Mrs. Haughton."

"Oh! Blanche, not too pronounced. I owe half the men money and want to keep in the back ground."

"I'll pay them all off to-morrow."

"Well, I suppose I must; first, you want Strange, but you don't seem ill, too bad if you have to miss the dance."

"Oh, he'll fix me up in no time; there, ta-ta, you go that way to the stables; mind, right along to me, that will fetch him."

And the wee innocent-faced this time, white mouse is in the salons quicker than it takes to tell it, even though she had first paid a flying visit to the apartments of Mrs. Haughton. "Wonder if the Colonel will dream on the cake, or take to tragedy," was her mental ejaculation on what she saw there.

Just as she entered the drawing-rooms, Trevalyon, who had evidently had a word with Delrose, judging from the look of defiance on the face of the latter as he left his side, now walked up to Colonel Haughton, seated at the end of the rooms beside Lady Esmondet, with whom he had been conversing earnestly, and said:

"Haughton, dear friend, kindly ask your guests to give me their attention for a few minutes."

On the Colonel complying with his request, Trevalyon meanwhile glancing at the gems of art around him; behind him in a niche stood a statue of Venus smiling down upon the blind god who had been making a target of her breast in which were many arrows. Vaura giving him strength by being so near, what woman whom Lionel Trevalyon would love, but would be near him. Ah! heaven, thou hast given such bliss to a few of us, as makes us long for immortality.

But Lionel is about to speak; looking around him, a settled purpose in his handsome face, he said in his musical voice:

"One could not, even in one's dreams, picture a fairer garden of society's flowers as listeners, while one tells of a plot nourished by the sting of its wasp, and smiles of its beauteous butterflies; each of our plots has its name, you all know the name of your last, you have given it to the News and Truth, and have designated it 'Trevalyon's hidden wife;' while I have come to the conclusion that, here and now, I shall introduce the wife you have given me; her entree and recital of how you have come to give her to me will be as fragrant spice to your dish of small talk, as you tread a measure in yonder ball-room."

On Trevalyon speaking of his purpose to introduce his 'hidden wife,' Delrose, who seemed to have lost all control over himself, with muttered oath, left Mrs. Forester's side, and, with rapid strides, went down the room and seated himself behind a small sofa on which were seated Mrs. Haughton and Lord Rivers, seeming too comfortable, Delrose thought; overhearing Rivers say lazily, "I wish we lived in Utah," pressing the hand concealed in the folds of scarlet satin.

"I wonder how Lady Rivers would like me; as the last, the dearest one," had said Madame, her white teeth showing.

Lord Rivers gave her a side-long glance.

"There'd be the devil to pay," said Delrose, savagely, as he sank heavily into the chair behind them; folding his arms on the back of their sofa, and between them, and leaning forward.

"You look black enough to be his dun," said Lord Rivers, carelessly.

As Sir Lionel ceased speaking, a lady, in the garb of a cloistered nun, and closely veiled, had entered with slow, uncertain step; Sir Andrew Clarke, stepping forward, offered a seat, saying, "Allow me; you seem about to faint."

"No; I thank you," she said hurriedly, "I feel quite well again, with the exception of a slight dizziness."

But in a moment, Trevalyon is beside her, whose arm she quietly takes, while he led her up the long drawing rooms, the cynosure of all eyes, giving her at the head of the room, an easy chair. At the first sound of the voice of the nun, Delrose had started violently, muttering,

"By thunder, her voice, but no! not from behind a nun's veil."

"Unveil the statue, Delrose," whispered Lord Rivers; for society was watching and listening with itching ears for more, and a pinfall could have been heard.

"Unveil her, she'll let you, if she have any charms to show," he continued lazily.

"My dear boy, do keep quiet; or perhaps you'd like to run away till the farce is over," said Madame, caressingly, for she has a penchant for the peer beside her; he is a new distraction and will amuse her until she can secure a tete-a-tete with the man who has some rare fascination for her, as Lionel Trevalyon has for many. But no, Delrose will not stir from beside the woman who has magnetised him for years. And as he keeps his position, he mentally curses Lord Rivers for his temporary monopoly of her.

Trevalyon had stepped over to Vaura on pretence, or with the excuse of borrowing her fan for the nun, he not feeling strong enough to wait any longer for a pressure of the hand; as she turned her exquisite face upwards, oh, the torture that he could not take her to his heart; but, his "hidden wife," and all the eyes. But he managed while, as if learning how to open the fan and while the attention of Chancer was momentarily engaged, to whisper, "oh darling, this ordeal is too much, why did I not fly away with you."

"My own darling," was all her eyes and lips could silently frame. But his hand brushed her arm, and with a sweet pain from heart to heart, he went from her side strengthened for the fight.

"Shall I introduce you, sister, to Mrs. Haughton and a few of my personal friends?"

"Not so, Sir Lionel, I thank you; I am dead to the world and am only here to perform a duty; the hearing of names would stir sad memories in my heart and unfit me for my task," and motioning him to bend down towards her, she said in tones only heard by him:

"Your kind heart requires sympathy; go and stay near that lovely lady you spoke to just now."

"I shall, and shall be near you also."

And though by this time half a dozen men had grouped themselves about the beauty, he got into a corner behind her, where, when they spoke, her breath fanned his cheek, or in turning, the soft bronze of her hair brushed his face.

The nun now standing up, spoke in quick, nervous tones, as follows:

"You all know why I am here; an odd figure truly in such a scene. I have been one of you, so know exactly how out of place is one in my garb, where all is gold lace and revelry. I regret to have detained you, but you gentlemen will not mind when beauty and grace are so near; and you ladies will not tire, as curiosity, your strongest trait (pardon, I, too, am a woman) is about to be gratified in my words. Vanity has been my curse, and even now it hurts me to humiliate myself to you all, so much so, that, though I pity a man who has wrongfully suffered condemnation through me for many years, I would not exonerate him were it not at the command of the church. Twelve years ago I was a young bride, and with my husband, an officer high in rank in our army, was at London. I was called pretty; I know I was worldly, foolish and vain. My husband, a very superior man (as I see men now), might have done something with me had I submitted to his guidance, but I was but seventeen, if that is any excuse for my wickedness. The officers of our regiment were as gay as their kind. I thought them all in love with me; I know men well enough since to be aware that their love was winged, and lighted where fancy willed, and pour passer le temps. My own fickle fancy," and her voice faltered, "was held by two men, antipodes each of the other; the one fair as an angel of day, who, had he bid me to his arms, ah well' though I shame to tell you, his will would have only been my wish."

Here Delrose's face grew black as he muttered, "there, too."

"The other man, dark as a storm-tossed sky, bewitched me also, and he did will that I should be wholly his, and conquered; I, at last, giving him my whole heart, and passionately loving him and him alone." Here the slight figure swayed and would have fallen, but Vaura and others were beside her; in a moment she again stood erect, waving them away saying: "'Tis the weakness of the flesh; but let me do my poor weak nature justice, I could conquer my feelings better, but that the wine I drank on entering after my journey, and to nerve me to my task, was drugged."-sensation-"but to my penance; I consented to leave my husband, and with the man of whom I last spoke; on pretence of visiting friends, I went to Paris; my lover obtaining leave of absence at the same time for himself, and with deep cunning, inducing his brother officer to do likewise; for though unlike, still, both as gay society men and of the same regiment, were a good deal together. The one honourable, the other, as I have found him to my sorrow. The one 'in all his gay affaires de coeur, never desecrating a hearth-stone;' this he told me on seeing" here her voice broke, "on seeing my love for him; I hope he will forgive my breach of confidence; this was previous to my dark lover having gained my heart. We lived as man and wife at Paris; he, returning to his regiment before his leave had expired, told me I must write to his brother officer at his hotel to come and see me on a certain day; I obeyed blindly; he came, and my lover managed so that his own servant should call at the same time with messages from England, bogus and with no reference to himself. The servant (the same man who drugged my wine to-night) returned to his regiment with the information that I was living a Paris with the other officer, who, returning to England, on his furlough lapsing, was called out by my husband, who was worsted in the duel. My lover was waited on by the man he had wronged (I mean his brother officer, not my husband), who implored him to own up. My lover said it would ruin him; he had nothing but his sword; he must get his promotion; he would marry me as soon as his Colonel secured a divorce, etc. The other man consented to bear the stigma, as it would be best for me, and until a divorce was obtained, the man of honour sold out; my lover was promoted. So does the green bay tree flourish. The divorce was obtained; my lover, though visiting me frequently, and always unsuspected, at each visit swore to marry me at the next, but instead, deserted me just three months previous to the birth of our child, with no means of support, moving from lodging to lodging, living by the sale of my jewels; at last when these failed, getting bread for myself and child by giving a few music lessons to the poor people's children. But now, hearing that the man for whom I had given up all, had sold out, and now the avowed admirer of a wealthy American at New York, U.S.A., I gave up; my pitiable loneliness, poverty, failing health were too much and I completely broke down. You will wonder how I, in my retirement, heard of his unfaithfulness. Just about eight years ago, a creature who had once paid me compliments, a dissolute man, found me out, telling me my lover had sent him; he renewed his odious addresses. Some of my women hearers will be shocked to hear me tell of declarations of love of this kind, but when a woman takes the step I did, she must accept such; one cannot play with pitch and escape defilement, and though I loathed the messenger and his words it would have been an incongruity to say so; so when he said I had best take the sunny side of life's boulevard with him, with forced calmness I refused and decidedly. On his taking a reluctant leave, I fell into a death-like swoon, and so, good Father Lefroy, the parish priest found me. But to hasten (you can easily I believe I had been an extremely careless religionist). The kind sisters of a neighbouring convent brought me and my little son to their hospital, and nursed me back to more than my former health. I embraced their faith, and at my earnest entreaty they accepted me as a member of their order, and I trust by zeal in good works to atone for the wickedness of my past life. My boy, I have given as a sin offering to the church. And now the penance imposed upon me is finished, save in a few concluding words. I say most solemnly, upon oath, that what I have said and am about to say is the truth. The man I spoke of at first, as handsome as an angel of day, and to whom you have given me as hidden wife, is Sir Lionel Trevalyon. The man with whom I eloped, and who finally won my love, is the father of my child and is Major Delrose; for I am none other than Fanny Ponton, at one time wife to Colonel Clarmont." At these words, the poor thing gave way, but the wee white mouse, who had gradually from pillar to post reached the head of the room is beside her, first sending Everly to the side of Madame, saying, "Make love to her openly, to-night, and to my banker to-morrow." And now the pink eyes peer through the black veil as she whispers, "you'll have another 'pick me up;' where's the small bottle? I saw them and the priest is aching to come right along. What a dear little boy, but the bottle, quick!"

"You are very kind; it is in my pocket." A wine-glass is brought and the contents swallowed.

In the meantime Colonel Haughton, Claxton, Wingfield, and others came forward, congratulating Sir Lionel, while some of the loveliest women, glad of

his freedom, did likewise. Meanwhile Sir Peter Tedril had ?come hastily to the little group around Madame, just as she was saying jestingly to Delrose-

"Come, George, own up, you and the nun are a black pair. Hadn't I better go and pat and purr over dear Sir Lionel?"

"None of your chaff, Kate, I am in no mood to stand it; the ball is at his feet now, it will be at mine ere sunrise," he said savagely, and with latent meaning.

"That's right, Delrose," said Tedril, mistaking his purpose. "Whether she is yours or his does not signify; throw down the gauntlet; give her the lie; tell her she is an adventuress; anything! to put a spoke in Trevalyon's wheel; all the women go with him; a man has no chance," drawing himself up to his full height of five feet five inches, and pulling his whiskers furiously; "even with a handle to his name, and an M.P.; if you don't care to go in yourself, let Rivers, Everly, or myself be your spokesman."

"Leave me out, Tedril, please," said Lord Rivers lazily; "I'd rather be all eyes and ears just at present," drawing closer to Madame, and being for the moment proprietor of her fine arm, lace wraps telling no tales. "I vote Delrose kiss and make up, so we see the statue unveil." At this there was laughter, when Rivers continued: "Don't look black as a storm-tossed sky, Delrose, as the veiled lady hath it. I dare say honours were divided between you and Trevalyon."

"Both soldiers, they went to war and vanquished a woman, eh, Georgie?" said Kate, still laughing; "they all do it. Even my spouse, Saint Eric, is laying siege to that women in violet velvet."

"While scarlet is our colour," cried Everly, gallantly, as Mrs.

Forester and others joined the group, while the huntress exclaimed-

"Speak, Major; say you deny the wooing and the wooer. Black isn't our colour, so for fun we'll pelt the robed one."

Delrose, pushed to it and full of hate to Trevalyon, excited, and as was usual, reckless (knowing also what his plot was for this very night; knowing, too, how that act would be canvassed at dawn; when society! in her chaste morning robe would look shocked at what she would wink at at midnight, and in her robe de chambre), electrified the groups of wasps and butterflies, in their musical mur-mur and whirr-whirr, by standing up and saying, in a tone of bravado-

"A pretty plot and well got up for a fifth-rate theatre, but not for a drawing-room in Belgravia I need scarcely say I deny the charge, the object of which is to free a man from a 'hidden wife' to enable him to wed a new beauty with us to-night. (Sensation). Sir Lionel Trevalyon has lately come into the possession of much gold; the Church of Rome hath a fancy for the yellow metal; if the woman robed as a nun be a nun, then she is only adding to the coffers of the church by speaking the words we have heard. If she even be the one-time wife of poor Colonel Clarmont, society, knowing a thing or two (excuse the slang), will place no reliance on the story of such an one."

To attempt to describe the effects of the words of Delrose on the gay groups of revellers would be impossible. Butterflies and wasps forgot for a moment their beauty and their sting. It was as though Dame Rumour and Mrs. Grundy were struck blind and dumb, their lovers faithless, or Worth dead! But now the Babel of tongues fills the air, and silence lays down her sceptre to go forth into the night alone.

"Isn't it too delightful! a double scandal!" cried one.

"Alas! alas! that my day should be in such an age," said Lord

Ponsonby.

"I wonder who it is darling Sir Lionel wishes to marry," said another. At this remembering rivalry got on the war path, as each looked critically at the other.

"Trevalyon would be a decent fellow enough if you did not all kneel to him," growled a county magnate. "I wish he would go to Salt Lake city and take his harem with him."

"I wonder if he has his eye on me," cried gay Mrs. Wingfield; "you men do sometimes take a fancy to other men's belongings. If he does I shall have to succumb instanter. Eustace, dear fellow, has rather a consumptive look, now I come to notice him."

"He may drop off in time," laughed the huntress; "but I am afraid I've lost my whip," she added, dolefully, brushing past Colonel Haughton, standing beside Lady Esmondet, and conversing in an undertone with Claxton and Trevalyon.

"Lost your whip!" exclaimed her host with forced gaiety; "that dare-devil has picked it up, then."

"Say that he only has the whip-hand pour le present, dear Sir Lionel, said Mrs. Wingfield, taking both his hands in a pretty, beseeching way.

"Or we women shall eat our hearts out in pity for your chains," said

Vaura softly, coming near him.

"You are a pretty group of gamblers," he said, thinking there had been a wager among them; "but I must win when fair hands throw the dice."

Delrose had unconsciously given his foe some ecstatic moments, for the crowd so pressed about him to hear what answer he would make to the bold denial of the black-bearded Major that Vaura was close enough to hear his heart-beats, and to whom he whispered brokenly-

"All the nun's words will not avail, darling, after his false denial;

I must bring on my other proofs for both our sakes, beloved."

"Poor, tired Lion.; I wish I could help you," she whispered from behind her fan, and he felt her yield to the pressure of the crowd and come closer.

"You do, sweet; I feel just now strong and weak; you understand?"

One glance up from her fan and he is satisfied.

But the conjectures as to whether Sir Lionel will or can reply to

Delrose are put to rest by his voice again filling the air-

"To seem, and to be, are as unlike as are the hastily constructed bulwarks of the savage tribes as compared with a solid British fortress; we soldiers know this, and that Major Delrose. should still entrench himself behind the flimsy seeming of days of yore, where he was safe through my careless good-nature (we shall call it), in allowing it to be supposed that I had robbed Colonel Clarmont of his wife, submitting to the stigma so that his act would not stand in the way of his promotion as this poor nun has told you; you will wonder why I was careless. Because, for reasons of my own, I had forsworn matrimony, as I then thought, for all time. But Madame Grundy has lately revived this scandal, making a lash for my back with it for the hands of Dame Rumour. I have determined to stamp it out at once, and for ever! And now to pull down the bulwarks of Major Delrose." And holding up his hand, a signal agreed on with his servant, Sims at once ushered a priest and a small boy, who was masked, and who walked, as if asleep, up to the head of the room. Father Lefroy, saying a word to the nun in an undertone, lifted the boy to a chair beside her; now, standing beside them, in calm measured tones, he spoke as follows:-

"We priests of the church have too many strange experiences to be very much astonished at any new one, yet I must say that to hear the words, on oath, of one of our pious sisterhood doubted is a novel sensation. Major Delrose is unwise in his present course of action, as he has by such prolonged a most painful duty on the part of the church. Sir Lionel Trevalyon will pardon me for saying he was wrong in wearing the mantle of dishonour for another; the lining, a good motive, was unseen by the jealous eye of society, hence, when the lash was put into her hands by revenge or envy, her motive power, it, the lash, went down; Sir Lionel Trevalyon has had his punishment. With unwearied exertion he has found Sister Magdalene through Paris, at London, and she has spoken the truth, and Major Delrose knows it. Moreover, and in connection with his name, we have examined papers, letters to Sister Magdalene, previous to and after her elopement, thus proving her words. Again, I may say here, for I have grave doubts of his having done so, six months ago I received from Father O'Brien, of New York city, same mail as he wrote Major Delrose, whose acquaintance he had made in that city in 1873, and believing by his words that he was an intimate friend of the house of Haughton, wrote him, as I say, of dying messages, and a few lines to a niece of Colonel Haughton, by name Vaura Vernon, and from Guy Cyril Travers."

At this, Vaura started, turned pale and visibly trembled, putting her hand to her side, when half a dozen men started to their feet; but Lionel quietly put her arm within his and led her to a seat behind a large stand covered with rare orchids and beautiful ferns, where, did she not revive, the open doors of the conservatory lent a means of speedy retreat.

"My own love, be brave; it was six months ago," he whispered, bending over her, and puzzled at her great emotion; "I know it, dear; and yet dead, poor, poor Guy: I have been always unpitying towards him. But did he say he was dead! let me hear; he will tell more; but in this crowd!" And she leaned forward, her large eyes glistening, the rose mouth quivering. Lady Esmondet silently joined her, as did her uncle, who, ever and anon shot fiery glances of contempt at Delrose, who, with bold recklessness, still leaned forward on his folded arms, between Madame and Lord Rivers. But the priest, instead of continuing aloud, came to Vaura's side, saying quickly and in low tones:

"Pardon; this is; yes, I see it is society's rarest flower-Miss Vernon; you have been hidden from me by those who would sun themselves in your smiles; else had I seen you, whom I know from the London shop-windows: should have told you quietly of Father O'Brien's letter, as I see by your emotion, black Delrose has been faithless to his trust."

"He has; tell me of poor Guy; did you say he is dead?" she asked, in broken accents, her eyes full; "tell me quickly; now, here; I can bear it."

"It was only a scrawl; he was dying, and signed your-your husband; he had been stricken down by fever; your name was ever on his lips; he said you loved Paris, and he would be buried there; he had loved you all his life; he was glad to go; you were not to shed one tear for him, but to make some one blest by your love; your miniature was to be buried with him; he is in paradise; you must not weep for him, and so cause others to weep for you."

"I shall not forget to remember your kindness," she said, giving her hand, the tears welling her eyes; "Sir Lionel Trevalyon will perhaps bring me out to your monastery."

"I thank you, and for our Order," and moving away to his former position, he continued:

"I have now finished my task, self-imposed and in the ends of justice; Sir Lionel Trevalyon is free to go to God's altar with the proudest and fairest woman in the world; and may the blessing of heaven rest upon his union. Had he not exposed the facts, he could not have wed, while your lips framed the word-bigamist!"

Here the boy started violently, put up his hands to his face, tearing off the mask, and rubbing his eyes.

"Where am I, Father Lefroy? you're not on the square; you said I was going to see my mother; come, own up; what did you say I was coming where every one wore masks for?" and he stamped on the one he had torn off (and which they thought it best he should wear, so that at a certain point, if necessary, his strong resemblance to his father should be suddenly revealed).

"So they do wear masks, my son, though you do not see them."

"I am not your son; this is my father," he said with emphasis and pride, drawing from his pocket a miniature of Delrose; "we're square now; you hid this from me, but I found it out; you cannot put me on bread and water, for I've good as cut and run."

"George, dear, be a good boy; I am your mother," said the poor nun, tearfully.

"You! well, it is your voice; but why didn't you speak to a fellow in the coach, and lift up that nasty black veil; here, I will."

And before she could stop him, he had mounted the chair and torn the whole head-gear off, exposing the face of one-time Mrs. Clarmont.

"'Tis she! 'tis she!" echoed many voices;-girls, now matrons, remembered the pretty little thing in their first season as Mrs. Clarmont; chaperons and men, who had and hadn't flirted with her, remembered her as Fanny Ponton.

"Let me go to her," said Vaura, gently; "what is my grief to hers?"

"Ah, poor thing, what a sad fate has yours been; do not hide your face again from your poor little boy and us; dear me, what a weight it is; one would almost smother beneath its folds."

"Oh, I must veil," cried the poor thing.

"No; leave it off, daughter; it is my wish society shall see in you Trevalyon's 'hidden wife;' all have heard your words; mine and this lad's," said the priest, sternly.

Nearly every inmate of the long rooms had eagerly and excitedly pushed and crowded, squeezed and crushed as near as possible to the principal actors in the scenes they had witnessed, making very conspicuous the attitude taken by the group in and about the curtained recess; namely, the scarlet-robed hostess; Lord Rivers, pleasantly placed, and too lazy and epicurean to move; Delrose, in the blackness of alternate rage, hate and defiance, longing to cut the scene, but unwilling to leave the field to Lord Rivers, and those he termed his foes; Kate, afraid to stir, for he had said between his teeth, "You won't go near them." Tedril, with the huntress, stood beside them; while small Everly, accustomed to the role and remembering the mutual promise of Blanche and himself, sat at the feet of Madame, alternating fanning or saying something pretty to her, nerved to his task by the fact that Tisdale Follard, who had just bought his M.P., had told him "he must and would have his money at dawn."

But the boy with eager eyes is pushing his way through the crowds and down to the sofa of Madame; all gazing after him; but nothing abashed, he elbows his way (a bold fearless boy, a very Delrose, with nothing of his mother in him); now with an intent stare at his father, then a long look at the miniature, said with a great sigh and slowly:

"No; I suppose you're not my pater; when I find him he won't scowl at a fellow," with a loving glance at the likeness, which was of Delrose in full-dress uniform, smiling and handsome, taken with his thoughts full of his triumphant affaire de coeur with Mrs. Clarmont.

"I am no mean sneak, sir; so I'll show you the likeness of my father to excuse my staring at you like a cad;" and he handed it to Delrose who did not take it, Kate doing so, but he had recognised the case on the boy taking it from his breast.

"Thanks, no;" he said, with affected bravado, for society eyed him; "the young monkey plays his part well; if the thing even is of me, light fingers at times lighten one's belongings."

"It is of you, dear Georgie," said Kate, recklessly; "your family is increasing."

"If you say so, it must be so," he said, his bold black eyes meeting hers.

Mrs. Haughton now handed the miniature back to the boy, who, after returning it carefully to his pocket, said proudly, and looking fixedly at his father:

"If you were a boy, I'd give you one right out from the shoulder for what you've said of me;" and turning on his heel, he was making his way for the head of the room, when Madame, obeying impulse, called out laughingly:

"How have your owners called you my little man?"

"George Delrose Ponton is my name, Madame;" and with one hand to his breast, where the miniature lay, he again pushed his way through the groups of revellers.

"A speech from the throne could not have been given with more dignity than the poor fatherless little fellow gives his name," said Vaura, pityingly.

"My dear mother has fainted, sir;" the boy said, ignoring priest and women, and instinctively choosing the face full of strength and sweetness, the face men and children trusted and women loved-that of Lionel Trevalyon.

"Poor boy, poor thing, so she has while our attention has been diverted."

The meeting of father and son had been more than she could bear, and at the answer of Delrose to their child, she had fallen back in her chair in a dead faint.

"Poor creature, no wonder she gave way, I must get her out of this crowd."

"Bring her to my boudoir, Sir Lionel; touch that bell, Sir Tilton, please," cried Mrs. Haughton, thinking exultantly, "now is my opportunity to have him to myself, I shall open the ball with Lord Rivers at once, and then-" Mason appearing "lead the way to my boudoir and attend to this lady who has fainted."

"When she revives she will like some one besides a strange maid with her," said Colonel Haughton, as Lionel picked, the nun up in his strong arms; "you had better go too, Vaura dear."

Trevalyon looked his approval saying "come."

"Yes, you come, too," and the boy's hand slipped into hers.

And so Vaura, her trailing skirts of cream satin, front width richly embroidered in gold floss, with the perfume of tea roses from her corsage and bouquet she carried, in all the fulness of her rich beauty, with proud head bent as she chatted with the dark-eyed, black-haired boy beside her, followed Trevalyon with his burden and the priest who walked at his side.

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