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   Chapter 46 DISCORD ENDS; HEART'S-EASE AT LAST.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 22101

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


With quick steps and eager glances at the groups of gay revellers, whom he passes with a few hurried words of greeting and thanks for their congratulations on his "hidden wife," he looks in vain for Vaura. At last, and his handsome face and mesmeric eyes are lit with happiness, her voice comes to him from a music-room. He pushes his way through the crowds, for poor Chancer has been doomed to disappointment in his wish to have this fair woman sing to him alone, for when the now full rich notes, now sweet to intoxication, of her mezzo-soprano voice fell on the air, the languid, sentimental or gay stayed their steps to listen.

Lionel has now reached the piano, and stands beside Lord Rivers, who leans on his arms, noting with critical and admiring eye Vaura's unequalled charms.

"Yes," was his mental verdict, "never saw more lovely bust and shoulders; then her throat, poise of her head, like a goddess, glorious eyes, lips full and velvety as a peach."

A warmer light comes to the large dark eyes and tender curves to the lips as the sweet singer meets the gaze of her betrothed husband. One look and he feels that the words are for him: "Thou can'st with thy sunshine only calm this tempest of my heart."

More than one man were at one with Lord Rivers and Chancer in feeling the advent of Trevalyon to be extremely inopportune, when at the closing words he drew nearer, and Vaura, with her own bewildering smile, allowed him to carry her off. Just as they move away Everly hurried towards them, handing to Vaura a tiny three-cornered note, with a whispered "from Blanche," and he was gone. The recipient, glancing in the direction, sees in the distance the pink eyes and wee mouse-face peering through the crowd and gesticulating distinctly to Vaura to "read at once." Her written words were:

"Bid Sir Lionel take you to the north tower instanter; it's all O.K., warm as toast and lighted, so the ghosts won't have a show; but you will. Such a picnic! As soon as I can tire out, Sir Peter in our waltz I'll be on hand. B. EVERLY."

"Well, darling, what say you?" and the handsome Saxon head is bent for her reply.

"Yes, Lion, dear, and at once. It just occurs to me it may throw some light on a mysterious conversation I overheard in the library, and which the excitement of the night had well nigh caused me to forget."

"Indeed; then we shall hasten, love."

And turning their steps in the direction of the tower, first through corridors bright with the light from myriads of gas jets, which lit up Vaura's warm beauty and the brown sheen of her hair, followed by admiring, loving, or envious eyes, they now reach the more dimly-lighted halls, and turn into one at the foot of the spiral staircase, which they ascend slowly, Lionel's arm around his fair companion, her trail skirts thrown over her left arm. The stairway is lighted as Blanche had said.

"Not even a ghost, my own," and his face is bent to hers.

"Only one of a past longing, dearest; how I longed for you in the tower of St. Peter's. Oh! the view from the top, Lion."

"I know it well, love; but say you missed me, my love, ascending with yours, even this arm supporting you."

"I did dearest, even there, and you know it well, as also I longed for the sympathy of heart to heart, soul to soul in a view which lifts one to the heavens, and would take a poet to describe."

"My own feelings, love; the majesty of the view, and from such a height, overpowers one. Yes, sweet; dual solitude, as now, is paradise. Do the stairs fatigue you, my own?"

"No, Lion," and for a moment they stand still, his arm around her. The soft white hands draw his face near her own, "no, darling," and the sweet tones are a whisper, "'tis only the languor of intense happiness; in ecstatic moments, as now, one feels so."

For answer his lips press hers in a long kiss, and she is taken up in his strong arms and not loosed until the ascent is made and the octagon room reached; there he leads her to a seat, and throws himself on a cushion at her feet.

"What a Hercules I am about to bestow my fair person upon," she said, gaily, "for I am no light weight for a maiden. Ah! poor Guy; that reminds me, darling, I have something to tell you which-"

"Which will have to wait until you are my own dear wife, for," and his head is wearily laid on her knees, "I can wait no longer. You know, Vaura, dear, what my life has been, since as a little fellow in jacket and frilled collar, a child of about seven, my father was deserted by her to whom he had trusted his name and the honour of our house. But I cannot speak of it, it brings my poor half-crazed father back to earth, and I see him again before me, a victim to his trust in a woman. Then, my storm-tossed life; living now wholly for a pleasure that palled upon me, again, losing myself in dreams of what my life might have been with a loving wife, part of myself, making me a more perfect man by her sympathy in a oneness of thought, for you know, beloved, I could never have loved a woman who, for love of me, or because I had moulded her character, had adopted my views of life. No, woman is too fickle for that. I, in meeting your inner self, for we nearly all have those inner thoughts, life, and aspirations, in you, I know, our natures are akin, we can when we will, and just as our mood is, talk or be silent; look into life more closely, or only at its seeming; discuss and try to solve old, deep, and almost insoluble questions that, in our inner life, have puzzled us more than once, my own, or my bright twin-spirit of the morn," he added, brightening. "We can only see and look no further (when our mood is so) than from the cloudless sky to the sunbeams or starlight reflected in our own eyes. Yes, beloved, I have earned my rest; my spirit has at last found its mate. You will make my life perfect, love, by giving yourself to me. To-morrow, come down quietly to the rectory, our old friend will make us one. My place at the north is lonely without us; say yes, sweet?"

"In one little week, Lion, I shall have you here all the time. It will be bliss for us, after your unrest and mine; for you if you were obliged to leave here for any reason that may develop," and a look of startled anxiety comes to the lovely face, "but, no; she would never leave him; another flash of thought comes to me, darling, of the 'mysterious conversation' I spoke to you of, but it cannot have had any real meaning. I shall again banish the dreadful thought."

"Do, beloved; it has been a trying night for all of us," and he rises from the cushioned seat, and seating himself beside her draws the dear head to his chest.

"It has, Lion; and now I must tell you of an episode in my life in days of yore, in which poor Guy Travers took a prominent part. Poor fellow, he is dead, and, perhaps, as the poet hath it, sees me 'with larger other eyes,'" and a slight pallor comes to the sweet face.

"Thank God, he has taken him, darling, whatever it is you have to tell me; for it is not cruel in me to say so, as had you loved him you would have wed, and had he lived he would have eaten his heart out in loneliness, for I have been told he loved you. Say on, my own, though I care not to know, save that you wish to speak. I am in a perfect rapture of bliss, and shall listen, if only to hear your voice, the sweetest music I have ever known."

"You will remember, Lion, when I was about fifteen, you came here from the east, expecting to meet uncle Eric. But, alas! as you are aware, he was held in the fascinations at Baden-Baden, with debts accumulating, the place going to ruin. He wrote saying, unless he married money he would have to shut up the Hall, but for my sake he was willing to enter an unloved alliance. Ah, how long ago these days seem; and now, in this rest, dearest, pillowed so, I almost lose myself in the dear present."

"Do, love, forget all about the past, tell me no more."

"I must, and in a few words, for, hark! the clocks tell the last quarter before midnight, Blanche, whom we have forgotten, will be with us, and so, to hasten; you left me sorrowfully to go to him and see what could be done. Poor Guy was guest of the Douglas family. You are perhaps aware that from Guy's French mother came all their wealth; but, to hasten, Guy was nearly eighteen, a handsome boy, and in love with my child self. I liked him, as I did Roland Douglas, though I can never remember the time, darling, that those magnetic eyes of yours and dear, kind face didn't haunt me. Guy never left my side, and Roland being of same mind there were many battles over the proprietorship of my small person. At last Gay triumphed, in this wise; I had confided my troubles to him, when he persuaded me to elope (nay, don't start, darling, 'twas only a two days' trip), in this, way (as he said) I would be a heroine, and save the Hall for my dear uncle, else he would wed for my sake some outree manufacturer's daughter and make himself wretched in a mesalliance. I could save my uncle. What joy! With no thought of self we went to Gretna Green and were married, and not by the blacksmith, but by a dissenting clergyman; the next day we, as conquering heroes, were on our return to the Hall, when Guy's mother, with Uncle Eric, to whom she had telegraphed, met us, not with smiles, but frowns. In short, dearest, our marriage was declared null and void. Guy's mother, whom it appeared, wished him on coming of age to wed a Parisian heiress, declared she would stop his allowance, but, as a matter of course, with no legal tie binding us, we were again in our old position. And so my dream to free Haughton was frustrated by a woman, but, oh, Lion, my love, for my eventual good; for try as I have I could never have given my woman heart to poor Guy. He loved me throughout his life, and with wealth poured his all at my feet. But no more, dearest, I hear Blanche."

"How wretched the poor fellow must have been, beloved; and how blest am I."

"Hush, dear, here they are;" and Vaura is at one of the windows as

Everly says:

"Here we are again."

"Guess you're just about tired out waiting; but I see you hav'nt been here long enough to read this," said the white mouse, taking a card from a stand; "it says 'if you miss supper, down stairs.'"

"Here it is, Blanche, all right."

"We were, I suppose, to rise to it," said Vaura.

"And something worth mounting for, and not to be sneezed at either," cried Lady Everly, as her husband rolled a small table from a recess.

"If this is the picnic you promised us, Blanche, commend me to your choice of dishes," said Vaura, inwardly hoping nothing unpleasant would transpire relative to Mrs. Haughton.

"And now that we are comfortably placed," said Blanche, excusing herself to fly to the window giving a view of Rose Cottage. "Now," she said cheerfully, "we shall each propose a toast; mine being, success to the plans and plots of this evening."

"Amen," said Trevalyon, thinking of Vaura and himself.

"Excepting one,"

said Vaura earnestly.

"Excepting one!" echoed Everly.

"No, I shan't be left," cried Blanche quickly, and in a low tone to her spouse, "you cannot refer to the one we are here to witness."

There was no reply.

"Miss Vernon, your exception has nothing to do with Mrs. Haughton?" continued la petite inquiringly.

"It has; but I am imaginative; tell me, did Mrs. Haughton appear in the supper-room?"

"I should just say so, and as gay as a lark, with Lord Rivers."

"But, Blanche, you know you only looked in, and Mrs. Haughton may have done likewise."

"You're a goose, Tilton; Capt. Stuart and I had gone through a dish or two before you all came in; I was born hungry."

"Believe you," laughed her husband.

"My poppa's pet name for me at dinner was ostrich," said wee mouse, rapidly discussing breast and wing of duck, etc. "Sir Lionel, here's a conundrum for you; what is the thirstiest animal?"

"Man," he answered demurely.

"One for you; you are placed, Tilton," and the pink eyes peered at a window.

"I hope you feel comfortable in your niche, Sir Tilton," laughed Vaura; "ask another, Blanche, and place Mrs. Haughton a present; I cannot get her off my mind."

"All O.K.; I only have waited until you had refreshed the inner man."

"Women never eat," said Vaura, with an amused glance at the little one.

"One didn't just now," said the small Baronet.

"How observant you are, Tilton; and now for Mrs. Haughton, did she remain long in the supper-room, Baronet?"

"No, she excused herself just as you and Stuart made your exit; one plea, finger hurt; some point of her jewellery entered."

"Which she made a point of and didn't return, eh?"

"No."

"Excuse me," she said quickly, and going to a window giving an open view down into Rose Cottage, and throwing the heavy curtains behind her; the windows of the cottage being all aglow with lights, the interior of parlour and dining-room could be distinctly seen.

"Sir Lionel, come quick! look over there," she cried, giving him the field-glass.

"Great heavens, what does it mean?" he exclaimed. "Move, Blanche, Lion, one of you, and make room for me quick," cried Vaura, breathlessly.

"No, darling; you had better stay where you are," he said excitedly, forgetting at such a time their companions were ignorant of their engagement.

"Poor Haughton, surely, Lady Everly, you do not consider yonder scene a fitting subject to make game of?"

"Yes and no; if you knew how the poor dear Colonel has been sold, and my poppa before him, you'd say 'tis best. She has been too many for them; yes, it's better ended by an elopement."

"Then my worst fears are realized; and their words were no idle seeming, as I half hoped," said Vaura in quick, nervous tones. "You may as well gratify me, Lion dear, by giving me a glance at how a blot is put upon the escutcheon of a heretofore stainless name," she said despairingly, yet haughtily.

"It will be too much for you, darling; let me take you down stairs; I must go to poor Haughton. We should prevent this."

"You can't and I am glad; I've known it for hours, but I wouldn't let any one know; if you stop them now, what do you gain?"

"Quite a scandal," said small Everly, regretfully, for Vaura's sake, whom, as she stands helpless to prevent, wishing to fly to her uncle, yet dreading the scandal, shall fall without warning, and the house full of guests, upon his dear head. In proud despair she looks pleadingly at Lionel for sympathy, and Everly, his heart beating, longs to do something for her.

"Can I help you in any way, dear Miss Vernon? Shall I ring the great alarm bell, rouse the village and the Hall. Only let me be of use to you," he says hurriedly.

"I thank you, Sir Tilton, make room for me at the window. Ah, heavens! It is too true. Go down at once, Lion. Though I don't know for what, still go. But don't go near that man, darling; tell Mr. Claxton and the old butler, as well as my uncle's man; see what they say," she cried, breathlessly.

"I cannot bear to leave you, love; will you be brave?"

"I will! I am!" but her voice trembled.

"Sit down and rest; you tremble," and leading her to the window, he brings her to a cushioned seat, pressing the hand on his arm to his side, whispering,

"Be brave, darling; remember your poor uncle was not happy, so he is spared much. Come down when you feel calm enough to face Mrs. Grundy."

He is gone and bounds down one hundred and seventy-five steps between his heaven and a lower sphere.

Vaura throws herself face downwards, making every effort to meet the inevitable with calmness.

"I'll read off their movements, Miss Vernon," said wee Blanche, "and so keep you from going to sleep. Melty enters with furs, Mrs. Haughton stands as you saw, her red robes thrown off, the D--rose laughingly assists the maiden fastening a dark travelling robe, evidently in haste, consulting his watch; points to the table, showing his teeth, meaning he is laughing; he, I expect, gives the feast as a reason of their delay; and he's about right, for thereon stand long-necked bottles and dishes. Melty leaves the room; he tells Mrs. Haughton something that astonishes and pleases her, for she gives him a hug; goes to a side-table puts yellow money, cannot tell the coin from here, in a sort of pattern. "Can you see what it means, Tilton, my eyes are tired," and the pink eyes are rubbed red. "No, I cannot decipher the words. Yes, the last is, 'cousin;' stay, I've got another, 'my,' that's all I can make out, the other words are in the shadow.""

"What does it mean? 'my cousin,'" said the young detective; "oh! I have it, he said he was going to marry a cousin. I thought he romanced when be said so, but I suppose they are the cousins. Well, pity to spoil two houses with them say I, but they are off. Both hug Melty, Mrs. Haughton waves hand in the direction of the dollar. By-by, step- momma. By the shade of Lincoln, how Melty claps her hands in glee on seeing her wages in gold; she hastily pockets; one or two pieces roll to the floor. Ellen, the cook, enters, lamp in hand, unsteady of gait; Melty stoops to conquer the gold, picks up a shower- stick to get it from a corner, knocks with one end the lamp out of the shaky hand of the maid."

"Jove, what a blaze!" exclaimed Everly, who had been alternately flattening his nasal organ against the window pane, or gazing around at Vaura, who, at his last words, starts to a sitting posture, and says, controlling herself to speak calmly:-"

"I am going down stairs at once; what a terrific blaze. Are you coming, Blanche, or Sir Tilton?"

"Yes, yes; come, Blanche."

"I wonder what is known by the guests and household, and if Sir Lionel has had them pursued?" cried Vaura brokenly, as they rapidly descend the stairs.

"Some of the men In the house guessed what Delrose's game was," said

Everly, "and we thought the only women in the secret were Mrs.

Meltonbury and Mason, the maid, but Blanche seems to have been aware

of their plot."

"I am surprised at you, Blanche, seeming to be au fait in the matter, and keeping it secret; but I forget, you thought it best they should fly."

"Yes, it was for the best, Miss Vernon, and the small white mouse can keep dark when she chooses; the tongues of the other women were bought," she said cunningly.

"Yes, tied by a gold bit. Sir Tilton, you are tied to a born detective, said Vaura.

"He is," says the wee creature laconically.

Here they meet Trevalyon, out of breath and racing up for Vaura.

"How do you feel now, darling?" he says pantingly.

"Rest a minute, Lion, you are out of breath; Sir Tilton, kindly open that casement."

"There is no way of opening this one; bad fix. Trevalyon is very short of breath."

"Unloose his collar," she said hastily, and taking a diamond solitaire off her finger, handing it to Everly, said quickly, "cut the pane."

Trevalyon had sank on to a step; Vaura drew his head to her knee while Blanche held her vinaigrette to his nose; in a minute or two his breathing came naturally and he said:

"Too bad to have frightened you, darling, and you too Lady Everly, but really, it was scarcely my fault," with a half smile, "you must blame the stairs, they seemed all at once to become too cramped and stifling. Ah! I thank you Everly, that air is refreshing; I am quite myself again," and he would have stood up.

"No, no; rest a minute," said Vaura gently.

"Yes, sit still; you are our patient, and all the patience we have till we hear from you all about Melty's fire-works," said Blanche eagerly.

"Rather Lucifer's bonfire over the old Adam in that woman," said

Vaura, contemptuously.

"Clayton was dreadfully shocked when I told him, and we decided not to name their flight until to-morrow; he and I, with my man and the butler (trump of an old fellow he is), fairly ran to Rose Cottage and succeeded in getting out, unharmed, Mrs. Meltonbury and a maid; we sent my man to the village to hurry up the firemen, and then I flew back to you, dearest, knowing you would be anxious as to your uncle. I left him looking more like himself than I have seen him for years, quietly talking to Lady Esmondet and Mrs. Claxton; in my haste to be with you I out-ran breath and then had to wait her pleasure to catch up to me. No fear of the revellers suspecting anything; the ball is at its height and the hells were not rung. They took the midnight express through to Liverpool; thence they sail to New York."

"Did you compel Melty to own up to that much?" said the little detective, her tiny, white race full of interest.

"We did; and pursuit would he useless."

"When a Haughton weds and is dishonoured, divorce, not pursuit, will lie his action," said Vaura, her beautiful head erect; and now for our revenge, a sweeter strain than that of grief; we shall descend and so cover their retreat by our sparkling wit, and gay smiles, that they shall not be missed."

"Mrs. Haughton would get left anyway," said Blanche; "for the crowd all want to stare at you."

"Flashes of light and warm tints in a golden summer sky versus evening in her red robes sinking to the west," said Trevalyon, pressing Vaura to his side as they follow their companions.

"One for you, Sir Lionel," cried la petite looking over her shoulder.

And Lionel bends his handsome head down to the fair woman whose face is unturned to his. He says, whisperingly, while his face is illumined with happiness.

"A few days, beloved, and then we shall lead, till I weary my wife with the intensity of my love, the life of the lotus-eaters."

"Yes, my own tired love, yes; our home, until our world bids us forth, shall be a very 'castle of indolence,' 'a pleasing land of drowsy head, 'twill be of dreams that wave before our half-closed eyes, and of gay castles in the clouds that pass forever flashing round our summer sky.'"

And the large dark eyes are full of love's warm light, as the ayren voice dies away to a murmur.

THE END.

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