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   Chapter 42 ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 5275

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

"Outwitted this time," mused Madame, greatly mortified at seeing Vaura retire with the group, "but I must make one more appeal to him alone," and tapping Lord Rivers on the arm with her fan, said gaily, "To the halls of Comus; we want a change of scene, black is a trying colour."

At this moment Blanche, her hand on Everly's arm, entered from the dining-room, whither with cunning forethought she had told him just five minutes previously she wished to go, with "I feel played out after all this sensation, we had best go for something exhilirating," thinking, as she returned "he'll stand it better now, and I'm not one moment too soon," leading her unsuspecting escort up to Madame, who stood leaning on the arm of Lord Rivers, her husband near welcoming late arrivals; and the air was sweet with perfume, and laden with the ceaseless murmur and everlasting whir-whir with the music of the laughter of the beautiful, the noble, and the fair, and as they follow, and crowd around Madame, their goal, the ball-room, some condole with others on their later entree, saying, "Oh, darling! what! you have missed such a sensation!" or "Oh! you should have been here earlier, Lady Eldred, our pet of pets, Sir Lionel Trevalyon, is free;" or "a nun nobodys child, and no end of fun, Stuart," again, "no end of a time, Delrose has posed as Lucifer, Trevalyon, as all the angels."

"Vaura Vernon is here, I am among her slain; she's a nymph, a goddess and a woman; she's the only one for me," said Chancer, feelingly.

"All the others are frocks and frizzes," laughed his friend, who had never seen her. "Listen, Chancer, what's the go now? that little girl with all the tin, red eyes, pads and bustles, is getting up a row of some sort; let's get in."

The face of Mrs. Haughton was a study and the groups about her reflected the various emotions depicted there. For Blanche had said, the white mouse, wearing her innocent air "Oh, step-moma darling!"

"Never used a term of endearment before; going to say something nasty," thought Mrs. Haughton.

Oui, ma chere Madame; yours is an unerring instinct; does not puss purr, then scratch? does not the snake charm, then sting? And so the white mouse said, "Oh, step-moma darling, just one minute, I've been up to a lark, and now present myself to you as Lady Everly; of course you will feel too awfully small for anything, when I take precedence of you; but you are so fond of the Baronet, it was nice of me to keep him in the family;" this she said without a shadow; of self-consciousness, so intent was she in watching the effect of her words on her Step-mother, using her pocket-han

dkerchief at every word, her escapade in the park adding to the red of the eyes and tiny nose, looking too as if her robes would fall off the green satin waist, so low, and velvet train so heavy. Oblivious was she of even the small baronet, on whose arm she leaned, and who trembled with nervousness and mortification at the manner blanche had chosen to offer them up to Mrs. Grundy. The wedding cards the lady of Everly had presented, ere making her little speech, were dropped to the floor, while madame said haughtily.

"Blanche Tompkins, you are mad to parade yourself in this manner," and smiling cynically, "your attendant cavalier wears quite a jubilant air, looking so proud of his proximity to such a conventional belle of the evening. What with 'hidden wife,' and this little farce, the place smells of brimstone; let us all away," she said with a forced laugh, "to the halls of Comus and a purer sphere; Lord Rivers, your arm."

"Everly," demanded his host, "what is the meaning of all this?" having heard from Tisdale Follard, not two hours before, that Mrs. Haughton had given him permission to press his suit with Miss Tompkins, Madame always considering Everly her own property.

"Allow me one moment," said Delrose following Kate in her exit. "I find I must bid you and the Colonel adieu; I go to London by the midnight, from whence I think, across the water."

In spite of herself the colour came and went in Kate's cheeks.

"Are they all mad," she thought; "is he acting or what?"

The Colonel, relieved, and still feeling that he did not much care, now that he had the sympathetic friendship of Alice Esmondet near, whether he remained at Rose cottage or no, still said, giving his hand.

"I wish you a pleasant trip."

"I doubt it," said Delrose inwardly; outwardly, "thank you," and being a born actor, continued carelessly, "I shall be as happy and free from care as the waves on the sportive ocean, for congratulate me, I bring my bride with me, no 'hidden wife,' though the News and Daily will have us; Truth also, will have a hand in," and he added lightly, "when a man knows editors and that ilk will shortly wet their pens for him, he may as well whet the appetite of society by saying only this and nothing more. In my bride of the sea, you will see a fair cousin of my own, the daughter of Vivian Delrose," and turning to Kate, whom he had furtively watched said, as he bid her adieu, "by gaining a wife I lose a hostess, who has won my heart." With a few careless words to the others, this man than whom no other ever held his own through life and in spite of fate better, now made his exit.

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