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   Chapter 43 WEE DETECTIVE PLAYS A WINNING CARD.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 11447

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


From the time Fanny Clarmont has appeared like a ghost of the departed, Delrose determined to get rid of the bother of it all by going at once to Rose Cottage; the huntress to whom he had been engaged for the first dance he handed over to Tedril. He would write Kate from the cottage, but first, he would punish her for torturing him, by lingering with Trevalyon and giving her smiles to Lord Rivers, by a public little speech as to his leave-taking, and keep her preoccupied by his avowal as to who was to accompany him, (she knowing naught of their relationship) as to give her no taste for flirtation. (Simple Simon could not read her, she is a woman!)

"It is now nearly eleven o'clock, I shall keep her in suspense for half an hour or so, then she is mine. Gad! I have won a prize, a fierce, passionate, untamable, flesh-and-blood beauty, full of love or full of hate, strong in body, mind and appetite; and she does care for my devotion, we were born for each other; what a life we shall have, thank fate I never was foolish enough to throw myself away on that little, timid, shrinking, silly Fanny Clarmont," and he leaped and ran to Rose Cottage, some times with a loud laugh, startling the night birds, as he thought of the woman and her gold.

Kate had shivered as with a chill at Delrose's words, when Lord Rivers had said:

"Come and take a glass of something warm, you have been standing too long."

"You are kind," she said, recovering herself, "it gives one a chill to lose two men in one night; yes, thank you, a glass of champagne, t'will be a more pleasant sensation than the three brides, but let them beware; I shall have their husbands at my feet again; and now for the dance."

"I shall make you forget them."

"You may."

"A deserted room; a dim, religious light; a female form too tempting to resist," he said, lazily, and in her ear.

"Well," said Kate, drooping her eyelids, knowing what the result of this speech would be.

"Well, my charmer," and the kiss and embrace were given.

"You naughty man, but I do really need some extra support for my spinal column, and it's awfully pleasant, but dear Grundy won't allow it, so we must wait for our waltz."

And the pair hurried along the corridors and took their places at the head of the room, and the ball was opened.

Col. Haughton, as we are aware, had demanded an explanation of the words of Blanche from Sir Tilton. The rooms had been deserted, save by those to whom a dish of gossip was as the essence of life, and who now listened with itching ears to Sir Tilton's reply, while they tried to remember the extent of the eccentric little bride's wealth. Whether she would buy a house in town; nearly all deciding that they would patronize or cultivate her.

"She is outree and bad form, but she has the dollar and she'll be game for those who havn't," said a London beau to Chancer, who hadn't gone to the ball-room, but was eating his heart out in feverish impatience for his waltz (the third dance on the programme) with Vaura.

"Sorry you didn't like it, Colonel, but Blanche would have our marriage private." He did not add that he said no word to dissuade her; as the Jews would have none of him, and his friends had buttoned up their pockets telling him "to wipe out old scores first."

As it was, wife, trip, special license and all that had cost him not a sou, except the ring, and his freedom, which he considered ample equivalent.

"Yes; it's all my fault, Colonel; but you are too awfully nice to be angry with a bride, you know; and besides," she added in a stage whisper, the pink eyes peering about, a childish look of anxiety coming to the wee white face, as if to protect herself against listeners who would carry her words to Madame in reality; aching to see some of her step-mother's pets within earshot, to be sure her words would carry.

Fire away, little one, 'tis an ancient war you are waging of woman versus woman; make your bullets; many are by who will pelt with true aim.

"And besides, Colonel, Mrs. Haughton is so fond of Sir Tilton she would never, no, never, have let me have him, so I let him make love to her up to the very last, and she-"

At this juncture Colonel Haughton, whose nerves were terribly unstrung, breathed an inward blessing upon Lady Esmondet, who, laying her hand on the shoulder of the little one, said, "Tell us where you were married, dear?"

"Oh, that's all square; at St. Alban's yesterday at Matins; but it was an awful pity; scarcely anyone saw us. Guess it's legal though, eh, Tilton?"

"When did you leave Haughton Hall, Everly?" inquired his host, almost fearing some indiscretion would be brought to light.

"Yesterday, a.m., first train; took carriage for St. Albans; Blanche telephoned for suite of apartments at hotel; left London to-day; so here we are again."

The absence of his hostess and Vaura, also the look of respect in the faces of his creditors all gave the little baronet courage to speak.

"Show me the marriage certificate, Everly. Ah, that's right, and I congratulate you both; Blanche is her own mistress, and-"

"And, Lady Everly, don't give up the situation to anybody," a comical look of importance on the wee face. Any men in the rooms who had the haziest knowledge of the little man about town, now swarmed small Everly with congratulations on his golden future, excepting Tisdale Pollard, M.P., who did not care to have his debt paid by Everly from the pocket of Blanche. But he must not forget himself; he will console himself with the Tottenham money bags; so giving his arm to Cecilia, bosom friend of Blanche, they join the group; the Tottenham pouting.

"What's the matter, Cis?" cried Blanche. "You

have a greenery yellowy look, and remind me of Bunthorn and the forlorn maidens all rolled up together and sent in by parcel post."

"If I do, it's your fault, Blanche, and you are extremely unkind," she said, tearfully. "You know you promised only the other day that when you were married I should be first bridesmaid and choose my own frock, and I did, and it just suited my complexion, especially in church, with the lights from the stained windows upon it. I just dreamed of it night and day; it's really too disappointing!"

"Is that all, Cis? I might as well cry because my pug is a shade lighter than my new winter costume I ordered to match his coat. Don't cry and you shall have a chair in my boudoir just to suit your complexion (for I am going to buy an awfully nice town house)."

"Might have said we," thought her husband, but he swelled himself like

Froggie in the fable.

"Now, Cis," continued la petite, "isn't that a nice sugar plum for you?"

"Sugar plum for me!" said Stuart, who thoroughly enjoyed a bit of chaff with wee Blanche, "Sugar plum for me! Think I require one to console me for Sir Tilton running off with you?"

"You're too big a humbug to get any from me, Mr. Stuart. Barnum's umbrella wouldn't begin to take you in; if you try and be a good young man, perhaps you'll get one over there," she added irreverently.

"Why, that's in the direction of Mrs. Haughton's boudoir, you very naughty girl," laughed Stuart. "I wonder if I would, though; I must find some one to sympathise with."

"Bunthorn again," laughed Mrs. Wingfield; "you had better apply for the vacant footstool."

"Never get a softer seat, Stuart," said small Everly, looking as important as the lords of the Berlin treaty.

"I'm too awfully too ashamed of you, Baronet," said his bride. "You're as demoralized as all the New York theatres rolled in one."

"Lady Everly," said Stuart, solemnly and consulting his tablets, "I am aware of your weakness for small people," with a side glance, "small plots and puzzles. Read this one for me, please: where am I to find Miss Tompkins, to whom I am engaged for this dance?"

"Guess you'll have to put up with Lady Everly," she said, saucily.

"You don't care to go to the ball room yet, Alice; we have so much to say," said Col. Haughton, bending down to the sweet, calm face looking up to his so earnestly, and marking the deepening lines of care and unrest.

"No, Eric; sit down beside me, you look weary; I have seen so little of you of late."

"And the guests come and go or talk in groups of this night of sensation; or in these luxurious soft-lighted salons, give themselves up to the delicious intoxication of some loved presence. How many a passionate heart throb, how many sweet pains are engendered in one's heart, how many sighs given and returned, what tender passages on such nights! And what would a ball be without this undercurrent of what we call flirtation; in reality, this yearning for the one in the multitude.

"Why, Chancer, what's come to you, man? You remind one of a spirit in Elysian fields in search of its mate," said Stuart, as he strolled about with Lady Everly on his arm.

"Pretty scene, Chancer," said Lord Rivers, lazily, and stationing himself in the curtained entrance to look out for some one to kill time with until his hostess is his own again. "Fine show of arm and neck there; pretty woman that; ah, there's an ankle; trust them, they all know their good points. Fine pair of eyes; there's a neck for you; but what's the matter with you, man, now I come to look at you you wear a lost look; is it Fate, Fortune, or one of the Graces?"

"The three in one, Rivers," he said with a half-laugh.

"Did you say you had lost some one, Capt. Chancer? Perhaps I can tell you; I know every nook and corner in the hall," said the Meltonbury, insinuatingly, coming from the other side of the curtains, where she had ensconced herself to watch for the return of Madame on hearing Lady Everly's speech in the stage whisper.

"How angry the dear thing will be," she thought importantly, "when I tell her." And now in her character of social astronomer she levels her glass at Chancer.

"Oh, thank you, I shall be so obliged," he said eagerly; "I am in search of Miss Vernon; our waltz is on."

"So! so! no wonder you are eager," but Chancer is out of hearing, so swiftly has he followed Mrs. Meltonbury to the boudoir of Madame.

"An armful, seductive enough for Epicurus himself," thought Lord Rivers; "and so is my superb hostess, full of fire and great go; the Colonel is too quiet to master her; wonder what attracted them; gad! what a different linking there would be if all existing marriages were somehow declared null and void. Kate Haughton and Vaura Vernon would be the most powerful magnets at London; even as it is, they will. Clarmont will be rather surprised to hear that Delrose was the partner of the fair Fan's flight; gad! he managed that well; Trevalyon is so devilish handsome and distingue, I wonder Delrose won; but I forget, Trevalyon had no penchant that way; believe he has for the fair Vernon though; who wouldn't? If she tell him yea, I wonder what sort of a married woman she will develop into; they say she is perilously seductive and fascinating; but my charmer said she'd have an ice quietly with me in her boudoir, at a quarter to eleven; it's that now; splendid eyes she has, and what a shoulder and arm! but, ah! this won't do; I must look after my interests."

And the lazy epicurean musings give place to eager activeness on seeing in the distance the trailing red satin skirts of Madame; her fine arm in its whiteness resting on the black coat sleeve of Capt. Chancer.

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