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A Heart-Song of To-day by Annie Gregg Savigny

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world's turmoil; yes, I am content to live my woman life."

"Because you know your power and feel it sweet, is why you are
content," he said in low tones, letting his mesmeric eyes rest on her
beautiful face.

"But is it true, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, (as they left the table,
followed by many eyes), "is it true that at Bordeaux, Lyons,
Marseilles, &c., women fill manly offices?"

"True, 'tis true, and I must tell you a funny incident bearing on this
question. My friend, Ross Halton, was over at New York immediately
after their recent monster elections; a friend of his was defeated;
his agent telling him there was foul play somewhere, for numerous
votes promised him were eventually polled for the other side; passing
the house of a party man, out of curiosity he went in to ascertain if
he had been true to his colours; on asking him, the man looking
sheepish, hanging his head, said: 'The wife's democrat, sir,' while a
quick determined, little woman stepped forward, saying: 'he,' pointing
to her husband, 'sees you or your agent once a year, when you come to
buy his vote; he lives with me!'"

"Whither are we drifting?" said Lady Esmondet, sinking into a chair.

"Whither are we drifting," echoed Vaura, with animation, "as sure as
Fate, into the 'Gy' and 'An' of Bulwer's New Utopia; but talking of
woman's rights, reminds me of the rights of man. Did you say dear
uncle gave you your charter to meet us so opportunely, and locate us
so pleasantly.".

"I did, _ma belle_; but you scarcely heard, as at the time you were
listening to the adieux of the Douglas."

"Ah, yes, poor Roland," and Trevalyon saw that a little sigh was
given, but there is no sadness in the dark eyes turned again to him,
as she says, "and poor uncle; I wonder what the county people will
think of Madame."

"She can make herself popular if she will; she at all events has the
wherewithal to buy their vote," said Lady Esmondet, as she buried
herself in _London Truth_.

"Yes, that's true, I suppose she will take," said Vaura, musingly.

"You don't know how delightful I find the being again with you, Miss
Vernon," said Trevalyon, earnestly. "Such a lapse of time since the
old life at Haughton."

"Yes, I remember well," and the rose deepened in her soft cheek, "so
well the last time I saw you there."

"Do you; I am glad you do not forget what I never shall," and he
leaned forward, looking at her almost gravely.

Vaura too, in her long look backward, had a tremulous softness in her
expression, with a far-away look in the eyes, vividly recalling the
lovely child-woman to his memory. Rousing herself, she says: "Lady
Esmondet, _ma chere_, you should bury yourself in your couch instead
of _Truth_, it grows late; and I am to take care of you."

"In a few moments, dear, I am on something that interests me," she
said, without raising her eyes from the paper.

"And I," said Trevalyon, "am forgetting a friend in my apartments;
lonely and alone in a strange place."

"Your friend," said Vaura, with a swift thought to the hidden wife,
"must think you the extreme of fashionable to receive at the witching
hour of midnight."

"My friend does not care whether I be fashionable, but worships me,
and would be with me morning, noon and night."

"You speak as if you believe," she said, veiling her eyes, and idly
picking off the leaves of the roses.

"Yes, past doubting; not being a Christian, I am the only god my
friend worships."

"Women have spoiled you, Capt. Trevalyon; you boast of our idolatry."
For the first time he partly reads her latent thought; and saying,
hurriedly, "Stay here five minutes," rising quickly, left the boudoir.

"What has he gone away so hastily for?" enquired Lady Esmondet,
turning from the newspaper. "Lionel, dear fellow, is usually so easy
in his gait."

"To see some one who worships at his shrine; said he would return in
five minutes;" she answered, carelessly.

"Oh! he did not say who?"

"No, it might have been awkward."

"Why? what do you mean, _ma chere_?"

"It might relate to the hidden wife story."

"Nonsense, Vaura; mark my words, he has no more a hidden wife than you
have a hidden husband."

"Yes, yes, I know, and should not be hasty, for _errare est humanum_,"
she said quickly, brushing something very like a tear from her bright
eyes.

"I am so glad, dear," said Lady Esmondet, apparently not noticing her
emotion, "that your uncle hit upon this plan of Lionel being our
travelling companion, there is so much adaptability in him, he gives
one quite a restful feeling."

"Own at once," she answered, recovering herself, "that 'tis pleasant
to have a man about one, and that we have not drawn a blank in our
present squire _des dames_."

"Just my thought, dear; but he is coming, or it may be they, for
Lionel is talking to some one."

"The deity and his votary; now do you forgive my faith and credulity,
Miss Vernon," he said, sauntering in with a noble dog at his heels.

"Splendid fellow," cried Vaura, impulsively, drawing his head to her
knee, laying her cheek against it; looking up at his master she said:
"Forgive me, I misunderstood you; remembering you only as my old-time
Knight of the Lion Heart, I feared the world of women had spoiled
you."

"You know how to heal when you wound," he answered gently.

"Is he not a Leonberg?" said Lady Esmondet, as the dog went to her
side to be caressed.

"Yes, and they are the best dogs in existence; dear old Mars, it would
be strange indeed were I not attached to him, he never tires; in all
my wanderings is always faithful."

"And 'man is the god of the dog,' which a moment ago I did not
remember; you will not have to remind us of the old adage, 'love me,
love my dog,' for we shall love the dear old fellow for his own sake,"
said Vaura.

"Yes, indeed, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet; "you need have no fear of
banishment on his account."

"Thank you," he said, receiving and giving to both a warm hand-clasp.
"Depend upon it, if Mars has any battles to fight for you, he will not
put to shame his name; and now we leave you to woo the god of
slumber."

CHAPTER XVI.

LIFTING THE VAIL.

The following morn the sun arose and smiled his greeting on gay
Paris--methinks Old Sol weeps, when clouds come between his beams and
the gayest of cities. Lady Esmondet and Vaura enjoyed their drive
through the beautiful boulevards out into the suburbs, and to one of
the largest public conservatories; the gardens were a scene of
enchanting loveliness, laid out in the perfection of artistic taste;
the friends roamed whither their will led, revelling in the perfumed
air and beauty of colouring.

"Here," said Vaura, "one could be content to sing, 'I'd be a
butterfly,' all day long."

"Yes, but only, _ma chere_, for a summer day."

"I am afraid you are right, godmother mine, and that when winter with
the gay season came on the boards of life, I should prove faithless
and sing, Oh, for the sights and the sounds of the season for me!"

"But we cannot linger longer, Vaura; we must go to the office and
leave our order."

Having left an order that astonished the clerk, they took a reluctant
leave of this lovely floral nest. They ordered the man drive towards
the city in the immediate vicinity, of which Vaura alighted at a neat
cottage to visit a blind _protegee_, one Marie Perrault, daughter of a
one-time actor of no mean repute, who had taught elocution at the
Seminaire where Miss Vernon had finished her education. Monsieur
Perrault had assisted Vaura in the getting up of theatricals, she
having developed such excellent histrionic powers. Perrault secretly
hoped she would yet make her _debut_ from the boards of his favourite
Lyceum Theatre Francais.

Marie was overjoyed at the pleasant surprise of a visit from her
benefactress, whose face, lovely as it was, and lit up with the joy of
living, gay chit-chat, and sweet-scented blossoms she carried seemed
to brighten, as with sunbeams, her darkened life. Vaura stayed long
enough to leave her gifts of fruit, flowers, and kind words for M.
Perrault; and left for the Seminaire of Madame Rocheforte, there she
lunched, and learned that Isabel Douglas had left for England,
immediately on the arrival of Roland.

"Isabel is a sweet girl, and her brother a noble fellow," said Madame,
earnestly; "and I conclude from what she tells me that her brother
loves you with one great love. I feel for you like a mother, Vaura, so
you will understand my speaking, and I hope love will creep into your
heart for him."

"I trust you are mistaken, Madame, for it would grieve me very much,
more indeed than I can express to cause him pain."

"I hope you will change, _ma chere_; woman is fickle; and when he
pleads, as I am sure he can, you will not look on his handsome face
unmoved."

"He has made a conquest of you, _chere madame_," said Vaura, gravely
kissing her on both cheeks in adieu.

"_Oui, ma chere_, but,--for you."

"_N'importe_, madame; remember 'that men have died and worms have
eaten them, but not for love.'"

"You know better, Vaura."

And as she walked in the direction of her hotel (attended by one of
the school servants) she told herself that there was not always truth
in the words, witness dear Guy and others; poor Roland too; she hoped
he would not take it to heart. On entering the hotel her maid met her
with a message from Lady Esmondet bidding her dress at once for Mr.
Bertram's dinner. Vaura, telling Saunders to be expeditious--she would
wear her biscuit colored satin, old lace, coral ornaments--is soon
robed; her fluffy hair, almost bronze in its brightness and so
luxuriant giving her maid no trouble, is as an old time saint hath it,
'a glory to her,' while the warm tints of her rich beauty is set off
by the colour of her gown.

"You are a treasure, Saunders," said her mistress; "I find you have
dressed me so quickly I shall have time for a little reading; go tell
Lady Esmondet I now await her pleasure to leave."

"You are so easy to dress, miss; you see, Mademoiselle, your eyes and
complexion don't want doing up; now when I was maid to the Misses
Verlingham--"

"Spare me the mysteries of the _toilette_, Saunders, and do my
bidding; mysteries indeed," thought she, half-laughing, "what would
the poor men say could they see the war-paint putting on for their
slaughter," and picking up one of W. H. Mallock's novels she sank into
a cosy corner. In half an hour Saunders returned, saying that Lady
Esmondet with Capt. Trevalyon were waiting in the _salon_. Enveloped
in a carriage wrap of white wool, with the dainty hood of satin of her
gown covered with old lace, she joins her companions, with a "may I."
Capt. Trevalyon loosens the fleecy wrap and fastens with a diamond pin
some damask-roses and yellow pansies to her corsage. As they roll
speedily along, Lady Esmondet calls on Vaura to give an account of
herself in the hours of her absence.

"I was beginning to think, dear, that M. Perrault was renewing his
entreaties that you should take to the boards of the Theatre
Francais."

"I did not meet him, else doubtless he would," she answered.

On Lady Esmondet's remark, she thought (in the flickering light) a
cloud came to Trevalyon's brow, and now that a converse sweet, broken
and changeful was taking place between Vaura and he; Lady Esmondet
gave herself up to thoughts of the past engendered by the cloud on the
brow of her friend, usually so calmly careless, and she thought he
naturally would dread one so lovely and gifted living the life of
theatres, if it were only that in his interest in her, she would drift
away from them; and home life in the fascinations of an actress
existence. And a divorce suit of some thirty years ago, which as a
very young girl of fourteen, she remembered--all now came again to her
memory,--in which the principal actors were Lionel's father, Hugh
Trevalyon and his beautiful wife Nora. Both were passionate lovers of
the drama; the Trevalyons frequently wintered at Paris, where they
made the acquaintance of one of the principal actors of the day. He
was a handsome man with a charm of manner none could resist, and as
fate would have it, living at the same hotel, he so ingratiated
himself into favour with both, who in their admiration of his talents
almost deified him, that he was the recipient of an invitation in his
idle days to the Towers; while there, an overwhelming passion for his
beautiful hostess completely mastered him. She, always fascinated by
his seductive manner, when he pleaded, gave way, feeling that she had
met her master; accustomed to worship his talents, she simply felt she
was his if he willed; finally at the close of a night of revelry, ball
and theatricals at the Towers she gave up, consenting, nay willing, to
elope at his wish, with only a passing thought to her little boy and
once loved husband; she was his; he was her god, and she never dreamed
of the man she had taken for better or for worse; her husband sued for
and obtained a divorce, the actor marrying his love at once, but she
only lived for two short years passing in her beauty and frailty from
the judgment of society to the judgment of high heaven. "Poor fool,"
said many a fair dame with a contemptuous shrug of shoulders, "why was
she so verdant as to elope? with a husband as adoring she might easily
have kept her place in society and her actor too." And so when they
met they passed her by, she not having the wisdom of the world. And
Lady Esmondet from the corner of the carriage thought on; of how
Lionel's father on his wife's desertion of him had gone to the dogs,
rushing into all kinds of mad dissipation up to the time of his wife's
death, when he became a confirmed misanthrope, living in absolute
seclusion until his own death some two years agone; while going to
destruction for distraction's sake, poor man, he had reduced his
income to about L8,000 per annum. Before his death he had imbued
Lionel with a distrust of women, endeavouring to extract an oath of
celibacy from the son whom he loved, and who loved him. "Never trust
one of the frail sex with your name and honor, my son," he would never
tire of saying. Lionel did not make an oath as his father prayed, but
said wearily, "Never fear, father, I shall trust none of the gay
butterflies further than I can see the brightness of their wings; much
less give them, any one of them, the chance to sully our escutcheon
with another blot," and continuing he would woo his poor father to
quiet by saying, "No, I know them too well; our motto is theirs, they
are "always the same, always. _Toedet tandem, eadem fecisse_," and
again he would woo him to quiet by "No, do not grieve for me, father,
I shall not wed unless an angel descends for my benefit; but did she,
she would be then a fallen angel," and the poor, broken-hearted man
died in his son's arms, contented in his wish. But even now, Lionel
feels that as the child Vaura had a charm for him, so the fair woman
opposite him has, and that if he but yields to it, it may master him;
for his race are "always the same, always" in one thing which is, a
love lasting as time for one woman; though having many _affaires de
coeur_; they feel one _grande passion_, one wedded love, never
marrying a second time. And the _carrosse_ rolls along, and Lionel
with an irresistible craving, even if he comes to grief, which he
tells himself there is no fear of, feels the pulse, as it were, of
Vaura's heart, to see if the world has left unspoiled the tender,
sympathetic, true and loving nature of the child he knew so well. "You
are right, Capt. Trevalyon, sympathy, true, soul-felt, and earnest,
never dies; it is the _root_ of wedded happiness; alas, how many lives
are wrecked through the absence of it," she says sadly, but he feels,
and not without a heartache, that she is oblivious almost of his
presence; her lovely face in its frame-work of lace is turned from
him, as she thinks, "and yet, pity is divine! yet; knowing this, what
have I shown poor Guy." The erratic life poor Lionel led, and which
had been almost compulsory, the weary cynicism which was the outcome
of the life enforced upon him, by his mother's frailty and his
father's lasting grief thereat, often palled upon his real nature. But
as he never expected to meet a woman who could hold him, he frequently
gave himself, epicurean-like, to the pleasure of the hour.

After leaving the army, and when the glittering wings of butterflies
and their surroundings wearied him, he would leave the gay cities, and
travel much in foreign lands, in cold bleak northern latitudes, or
sunny climes, studying human nature, and giving some thought to its
many phases, with the different creeds men hold at times on seeing the
self sacrificing lives of the sisters of charity, on witnessing noble
deeds which should be written in characters of gold, but which they
did in the most humble self abnegation. When he looked upon these and
knew them to be the outcome of the Roman Catholic Church he would
think surely the Church that gives birth to such lives must be the
Church for the saving of men. But then some glaring inconsistency of
those within her pale would recur to his memory, and he would turn
with a sigh from some pictured Christ, or the peaceful beauty of the
madonna. Well might Lionel exclaim, "In this age of seeming, what is
truth! for what grade of society has not its shams! in what church are
there not hypocrites as saints! in what government is there not
imperfection! in what political campaign is there not a bribe given!
in what age were there so many Churches." In what age was religion so
fashionable! Yes, to-day, it is not charity which covers the multitude
of sins, it is the cloak of religion, and yet 'tis not the fault of
creeds, 'tis _errare est humanum_. Ah me! we gay nineteenth century
butterflies are a favoured generation; we are so respectable you know;
we give the Church her innings, and that ancient firm of Bacchus and
Comus have their innings also. Such thoughts as the above often came
to Lionel, in his lonely wanderings far away from the gay cities, a
life which he adorned with such gay abandon when one of them.

And now lady Esmondet awakes to the present with a start (as the
carriage stops,) and from her silent thoughts on the past, as she had
gathered it from Eric Haughton and from Lionel himself.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHIC AUJOURD'HUI.

Captain Trevalyon assisted his friends to alight in front of a
handsome house in a fashionable avenue.

"Can this be the right address," said Lady Esmondet. "It is a private
residence _et regardez_, by the gas-light in the entrance one can see
the arms of a noble house cut in the stone."

"Yes," answered Trevalyon, "we are all right; a patrician mansion
knocked down by the hammer, now simply _numero troisieme_, Avenue de
l'Imperatrice, and if Bertram is as comfortable inside as he is
fashionable outside then we may expect turtle's livers _a la
Francaise_, the choicest of wines in this hot-bed of grapes, this land
of vineyards, dishes that would tickle the palate of a Lucullus, the
cosiest of after dinner chairs, French coffee, which means a good
deal, the brightest of fires, and faces, sweet notes of song," with a
glance at Vaura, "and the most delicate of cigarettes, so delicate as
not to entail the punishment of banishment from two ladies fair."

"What a luxurious picture you draw, Captain Trevalyon," said Vaura
gayly, "and what an epicure! you dwell with such pleasure upon each
dish, your livers, your--"

"_Pardonnez_," answered Trevalyon, laughing; "not mine, the turtle's"
and continuing with mock gravity, "I never expect mine to be dressed
at Voisin's."

"Horrible! a too warm anticipation of torment," cried Vaura.

"Torment!" said their host, stepping forward as a servant announced
them, and tortures are obsolete words in gay Paris and even in the
reign of terror, such a fair vision would surely have escaped. "A
hundred thousand welcomes," he continued, shaking hands with all, "and
I feel sure no bachelor under the McMahon _regime_ is so highly
favoured as Edward F. Bertram to-night."

"Listen," cried Vaura, "Mr. Bertram will put to shame the gay gallants
of Paris, in the making of pretty speeches; I believe the air of this
room is conducive to that sort of thing; I feel inclined to say
something complimentary on the beauty and comfort of our host's
surroundings myself.

"Relieve my curiosity, Mr. Bertram, and tell me where you are?" said
Lady Esmondet, as she leaned back and placed her feet on the softest
of fender stools; "we came to dine with a bachelor in something of
bachelor, live-by-myself style, and we find ourselves in a noble
mansion."

"Yes, Bertram," said Trevalyon; "I was aware of the capacity of a
London alderman, in catering to the comfort of his pampered body; but,
I repeat Lady Esmondet's question of where are you."

"And I answer," said the voice of gay Mrs. Eustace Wingfield, as she
entered, "in one of the most fashionable of French flats on Avenue de
l'Imperatrice, the fourth flat of said number Eustace and I are
fortunate denizens of, and I can assure you, the inmates are such
pleasant people that, yours truly, with Eustace, are oftener to be
found in these sunny quarters than at Eaton Square, London."

"You are happy," said Vaura, "never out of the sunshine."

"Yes, I like it," said Mrs. Wingfield; "I can't live in the shade, and
Mr. Bertram has me to adore for giving him the sun-light of this
dwelling. I saw by the papers he was to make his exodus from London,
so I telegraphed him to come here, and bring on a box of French novels
we had forgotten."

"One does sometimes forget the most important part of one's luggage,"
said Vaura.

"But," said Trevalyon, "I'll wager Bertram did not forget your mental
food."

"Not he, with his aldermanic taste for spicy dishes," said Vaura.

"No, the temptation would be too much for him, with the _piece de
resistance_, an uninteresting husband, side dish, paragon lover,
_entree_, neglected wife with flavourings thrown in, scandals, duels,
etc.," said Trevalyon.

"How well he knows the condiments," remarked their host in sly tones,
and rubbing his hands softly; "but talking of condiments, reminds one
of dinner, and that Everly should be here."

"I hear a footstep on the hill which doesn't grow fainter, fainter
still," said Mrs. Wingfield.

"Here we are again," said Sir Tilton Everly, entering, and shaking
hands with all, continued: "I hope, Bertram, I havn't kept your dinner
waiting."

"No, no, my dear fellow, my dinner waits for no man."

"You see our gallant host makes an exception in our favour, Sir
Tilton," said Lady Esmondet.

"He considers the length of our toilette," said Mrs. Wingfield.

"And train," laughed Vaura, as Trevalyon caught his foot in her
trailing skirts, in crossing behind to offer his arm.

"Go where one will," said Trevalyon, covered by the hum of voices;
"one is sure to fall in with Everly."

"Yes, uncle Eric says he reminds him of the clown at a circus, with
his cherry cry of 'here I am again.'"

"He seemed to me to be a sort of pet monkey of Mrs. Haughton; I hope
he will not deem it necessary to transfer his little attentions to
you, or I shall feel inclined to tell him that I am your knight _pour
le present_, and show him my colours, in shape of telegram from your
uncle (if I may not wear yours)," he added in persuasive tones.

"You can still be my knight errant," and her soulful eyes turn to his
face, "he, one of my retainers."

"No divided honours for me, _ma belle_."

Here their chit-chat is interrupted by the subject of their converse,
addressing Miss Vernon, across the table.

"Just come from Haughton Hall, Miss Vernon?"

"Yes."

"All well I hope? more especially my uncle."

"Never saw him looking better; I just ran down for twenty-four hours."

"How is the place looking? I don't mean the exterior, the park and
grounds are always beautiful (and thank heaven cannot change), but the
interior."

"Gorgeous! never saw anything to equal it."

"The festivities were brilliant, I presume?"

"Should say so; the county were tongue-tied in admiration; couldn't
find words."

"You had no time for the birds, Everly, I suppose," said Trevalyon.

"Yes, a couple of hours of it; and what with the ball, dinner,
fireworks, hurrahs, &c., and killing of birds--"

"And young women," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"But in the time," laughed small Everly, "we really made some fine
running on the feathered tribe."

"Ostrich feathered?" said Vaura.

"Nay, let him alone for that; else would Mrs. Haughton have made some
running or gone for him? excuse the slang," said Mrs. Wingfield,
mischievously.

"Many of us would be sportsmen in the case of a rival," said Vaura.

"The divided skirt would come to the front with pistols and coffee for
two," cried Bertram.

"Yes, I should give her all the mud my tongue could throw," said gay
Mrs. Wingfield.

"There will be sport in Hall as field, when the hounds meet, if I'm
not mistaken," said the newsy little baronet.

"Why, how so? Sir Tilton," exclaimed Vaura.

"Well, you see, Miss Vernon, there was a lively discussion at luncheon
one day as to the next meet; when Mrs. Haughton announced her
intention of following the hounds, the Colonel objected on the ground
of non-experience."

"No," said Lady Esmondet; "Rotten Row is her experience, and 'tis
scarcely a hunting field."

"Unless for the praise of men," said Vaura.

"Or a husband," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"But about the field, Sir Tilton; do you think Mrs. Haughton will take
it?" asked Vaura.

"I am sure she will, for I overheard her the same day make a bet of
L500 that she'd ride grey Jessie with the hounds next meet."

"So, so!" exclaimed Bertram, "the lady means it."

"And who might the favoured participator in her bet be, Everly?"
enquired Trevalyon carelessly.

"With Major Delrose, late of the --th Middlesex Lancers."

"With Delrose!" exclaimed Trevalyon, now fully aroused; "is Delrose at
Haughton?" and as he spoke he gave a swift glance at Lady Esmondet,
who thought silently, "Delrose, the man who was mixed up in some way
with Lionel in the Fanny Clarmont scandal; there will be mischief."

"No, left same train as I did, very unwillingly though; extracted a
promise from Mrs. Haughton, that if time hangs heavy, he may return;
amusing fellow, though the Colonel doesn't seem to take to him."

"Not the same stamp of man," said Bertram.

"But Haughton is right about the field, Everly," said Trevalyon; "one
requires other experience than the Row."

"Better not curb her, though," answered Everly sagely.

"She thinks it as easy to run down the hare as the men; but the hare
wants other bait than gold," said Lady Esmondet.

"So do we," said Bertram, decidedly.

"Yes, I do not think by any means that men, as a rule, are sordid."

"Before I met Eustace," said Mrs. Wingfield, "I made up my mind only
to marry a horsey man, to make sure of one common interest, which
there is often an absence of."

"Mrs. Wingfield! Mrs. Wingfield!" cried Bertram.

"Mr. Bertram! Mr. Bertram! were you a benedict, you would say my
forethought was sweetly touching."

"And here have I, a lonely bachelor," he continued; "been regretting
the non-existence of my Madame Bertram, though none could grace the
head of my table better than the lady now seated there."

"_Merci_," said Lady Esmondet, "you are such a host in yourself that
you leave us nothing to regret in the absence of Mrs. Bertram."

"Why," said Trevalyon sadly, in a low tone to Vaura; "why, will we
continually make a jest over those poor creatures unequally yoked
together."

"Very frequently, I think," she said softly, "to hide a deeper
feeling; though it hurts us painfully to do so."

"I vow I'd rather be a jolly old bachelor like Mr. Bertram, with
plenty of money, than husband to the Queen of Sheba, were she not
defunct," exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield.

"What a boon to men and society is a woman without marriageable
daughters," laughed Vaura.

"Yes," said Everly; "she can air her private opinions on the marriage
question."

"With the right one, what a restful paradise it would be," said
Trevalyon to Vaura's ear alone. And there was such a weariness in his
tone, that she gave him one swift sympathetic glance; for in spite of
herself her heartstrings were stirred, but she must not give way, so
says lightly, as following Lady Esmondet's signal, they leave the
table, the gentlemen refusing to linger:

"To say 'marriage' under _any_ circumstances to be 'bliss,' is rank
heresy to your well-known views; but I understand your present impulse
is engendered by seeing our dear friend playing hostess."

"Not so altogether; you also are near," and her arm is involuntarily
pressed to his side.

"Well, ladies fair and gallants gay," said Mr. Bertram, as he found a
comfortable lounging chair for Lady Esmondet, "we have just time for a
cup of coffee and a cigarette, ere we roll away in a _carrosse_ to the
Theatre Francais."

"To the theatre!" exclaimed Trevalyon; "I was not aware this was on
the _tapis_ for this evening."

"Yes," said Lady Esmondet, "Mr. Bertram and I arranged it; M. Octave
Feuillet's play, the "Sphynx," is on. I begin to think it was selfish
on my part, you all look so comfortable; perhaps we had better abandon
it."

"Put it to the vote," cried Mrs. Wingfield.

"And no bribery," echoed Vaura.

"I fear if it is put to the vote," said Lady Esmondet, "mine will be
bought, by the beseeching look of Capt. Trevalyon, for a stay at
home."

"See what it is to have an expressive face, Trevalyon," said Everly;
"it has gained you one vote, in spite of the rule Miss Vernon made of
no bribery."

"I thank you for your sympathy, Lady Esmondet; but I fear yours would
be the only vote recorded in my favor, so the 'Sphynx' must needs make
us her own."

"As she did many an unhappy mortal in days of yore, in her Theban
home. I wonder if they looked as resigned in their martyrdom as poor
Capt. Trevalyon does," said Vaura.

"I used to think Oedipus finished her," said Trevalyon.

"Only for his day," said Vaura; "'twas too long a look till Octave
Feuillet; he should have asked Lynceus to give a glance."

"The Cyclops might have lent him an eye," said Bertram.

"Are you always as indifferent to the stars of the stage Captain?"
enquired Mrs. Wingfield, as she gently puffed away her delicate
cigarette. "What Eustace would do without his distractions in that
way, heaven only knows."

"He will outgrow it; most men have stage fever, as most babies have
measles," he answered evasively.

"And now for our mantles and away," said Lady Esmondet, rising.

"And may the mantle of resignation fall on the shoulders of poor Capt.
Trevalyon," said Vaura, taking his offered arm, and as the hand
leaning on his arm pressed closely, she said in low tones, "you had my
unregistered vote."

"_Merci_," he said, pressing her hand.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THEATRE FRANCAIS.

They found the theatre crowded from pit to dome. And the advent of our
little party, as they took possession of their box, caused no little
sensation even in that galaxy of beauty and fashion.

"By the lilies of France," said a Parisian, putting up his glass;
"though not the three graces, one of them is there."

"Yes, by the memory of Bonaparte, she is worth a long look," said his
companion, gazing at Vaura.

And two of the occupants of Mr. Bertram's box were indulging much the
same thought. Lionel's handsome face wore a warmer look than
ordinarily, as he chatted to Vaura, leaning on the back of her chair.

"She has the vivacity of the French woman, with a beauty all her own,"
he thought. "Her voice holds me, and my love of the beautiful is
satisfied, as I look on her sweet mouth and warm eyes; but, pshaw, she
is a flirt, and I am almost in her toils! what is coming over me?" and
he gave a start as he almost spoke the last thought aloud.

"Why, what is the matter Capt, Trevalyon?" asked Vaura; "you started
just now as though you had seen a ghost of the departed; a moment ago
you seemed to be enjoying the play, but now you look melancholy; go
over to Mrs. Wingfield. You see, _cher ami_, you do not credit to my
powers of pleasing; so avaunt. But," she added, "you may come back
some other time."

"You deserve better company than I, just now, _ma belle_, and Everly
is aching to be with you." And rising, he took the chair Everly
vacated, near Mrs. Wingfield.

"What have you done to Trevalyon? Miss Vernon," said Everly, as he
seated himself beside her. "In five minutes his expression changed
from unclouded happiness to the blackness of despair; queer fellow to
wear such a look beside you."

"What a flattering tongue is yours, Sir Tilton; but I shall not be
astonished at any outpourings of that sort from you; considering you
have come from Haughton Hall, and the practice you have had in soft
nothings while there."

"Had _you_ been there I should have been inspired to say something
original."

"It would be a treat, for compliments do grow so hackneyed; I
sometimes agree with the poet," she added gaily, "'that there is
nothing original in us, excepting original sin.'"

"Your uncle wished for your presence often."

"I take it quiet as a compliment, and his bride so new."

"And many others wished to sun themselves in your presence."

"I am glad they remember me, and if Old Sol will give England plenty
of his gleams, and we have a mild winter to suit Lady Esmondet, we
shall be at Haughton Hall for the Christmas festivities."

"If the clerk of the weather be a decent fellow, who will take a
bribe, Tilton's the boy to stuff him, and my reward will be a waltz at
the ball, and do please let me make sure of it now." Taking out his
tablets, "just write your name and the date here; oh, thanks
abundantly, and I'm sure, the weather fellow will be all square."

"And now I incur the jealousy of woman; cruel man to bring upon me
such punishment, but I forgive you as you know nothing of womanly
sweetness to woman, so here is my name for number four waltz. But
_regardez_, we have missed a point, every eye is turned to the stage,
Mlle. Croizette looks for the moment as though transformed into one of
the Furies. So fierce her looks, such terrors from her eyes."

"Poor thing, so she does," said Sir Tilton laughing.

"But really Sir Tilton, I wish we could guess what its about. Another
riddle from the Sphynx, you must be a second Oedipus and guess for me;
or go over and ask some of the others, they look as though they have
been feeding ravenously of the tree of knowledge."

"Draw your chair a little this way, Vaura, _ma chere_," said Lady
Esmondet, who came over as Sir Tilton arose. "We shall all form one
little group then, and it will be more pleasant."

Here Sir Tilton coming up, decidedly objected to the move, wishing to
monopolise Vaura.

"You are cruel, Lady Esmondet; ask Miss Vernon, if I have not been
more amusing than the Sphynx. You know," he said audaciously, "we
actually did not see the little by-play between the rivals Mlle.
Croizette and Sara Bernhardt, which is a proof we were not doing badly
in the way of entertaining each other."

"Fie! Sir Tilton," said Vaura merrily, "acknowledge the compliment
paid you, though our gay friends have had the Sphynx, they also have
had time to long for our society," and as she drew near a few paces,
Everly had time to say softly:

"One thing to be thankful for, we did not miss them."

"Small men make large boasts," thought Vaura amusedly.

"Miss Vernon," said Bertram, "you missed the best thing of the
evening, or I suppose so by the fact of Everly having come over with
his finger in his mouth to ask what the house came down for."

"You will relieve my woman curiosity," she answered smiling, "of
course Sir Tilton will not own to the being curious, save on my
account."

"No man could refuse a request of yours, else you deserve a punishment
for," he added in a low tone, "making game of small hearts."

"Vaura dear, you have missed such a passage-at-arms, between Croszette
And Bernhardt," said Lady Esmondet.

"Oh, such fun," exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield, "in the middle of a telling
speech by Mlle. Croizette, the wicked little Bernhardt, came coolly up
and asked her 'where she lived?' or something of that sort; Croizette,
livid with rage, forgot her part--something we never saw her do
before, but answered Sara in words that told, for though triumphant
she trembled."

"Her sister Fury trembled and retired," said Trevalyon, "strange
freaks rivalry leads its victims into--"

"I could almost imagine," said Vaura, "you all to be mistaken for the
Croizette has immense influence at the Conservatory, where they both
studied, and is a complete child of the stage, but if your ears have
played you no tricks, if I mistake not, Sara has had her fun."

"Not a doubt of it," said Bertram.

"Oh, that is too real," said Lady Esmondet, turning pale and looking
from the stage, referring to the death-scene by poison of the wicked
heroine of the play.

"Yes, her struggles are so natural as to be anything but pleasant to
witness," said Vaura.

"If it were good form for a woman to retire for a stimulant," said
Mrs. Wingfield, "then would I make my exit, for I feel quite overcome
at the sight."

"What inestimable privileges lordly man enjoys," said Vaura.

"What a talented little _morceau_ is Sara," said Trevalyon.

"She is smaller since la Croizette looked to kill," said Lady
Esmondet.

"The fire from the eyes of Croizette was too much for her; she has
gone to hide within herself," said Vaura.

"No wonder she doesn't show even through a glass," said the little
baronet.

"Else," continued Vaura, "the _role_ of 'Forgiving Virtue' is too much
for her; she _shrinks_ from it."

"She might be more expansive in the other _role_," laughed Bertram.

"She is a handful of the essence of talent," said Trevalyon, "and
always good form whether the form of a Venus or no."

"True," said Lady Esmondet, though she cannot quote in a personal
sense of the "heavy cloak of the body still as weighed against a
cultivated intellect, roundness of form is a mere bagatelle."

"I humbly appeal to you all," said Bertram in seriocomic tone, "is my
rotundity a mere bagatelle?"

"Lady Esmondet says so, and it must be true," said Trevalyon
laughingly.

"Of course it is; anyone to look at you would say the same," said
Everly.

"My advice, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "is, on your return to England,
to retire to the cool shades of oblivion and try the 'Bantam' system:
that is if Owen Cunliffe does not send you there, for having while in
Paris been attentive to the fair sex instead of to the interests of
our Isle."

"Don't follow any such advice, Mr. Bertram!" exclaimed Mrs. Wingfield.

"Your fat makes you so jolly."

"Fat! did you call me fat, Mrs. Wingfield? If the play was not
opportunely over I should be obliged to tear myself away from your
fascinating presence, in grief, at such an epithet hurled at my
devoted head, I--I mean body. I may well exclaim, 'save me from my
friends' when these are the unctuous compliments they pay me," the
victim exclaimed with averted face and uplifted hands.

On our friends rising to leave the theatre, Sir Tilton, making sure of
escorting Vaura to the carriage, was in the act of putting her cloak
over her shoulders, when Lionel offered his arm; Vaura taking it
turned her head smiling her sweetest, with a word of thanks to small
Everly, who returned it with a look of half-comical disappointment,
and with one long step was at Mrs. Wingfield's side, saying:

"Never mind your cloak, Mrs. Wingfield; cool and easy does it; take my
arm, Mr. Bertram will probably come up at an opportune moment and robe
you, this is the latest and most successful manner of escorting a lady
to her carriage."

"There is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip," said Mrs. Wingfield,
laughingly; "you had your innings the early part of the evening, it is
only fair her _preux chevalier_ should have his revenge."

"Yes, I've been bowled out this time, but Don Juan isn't going to have
any more innings if Tilton knows anything."

"What courage the atom has," thought Mrs. Wingfield, but she said,
"Don Juan, indeed, 'Satan reproving sin,' what about a certain Mrs.
H., that you sigh to the inconstant moon for. But we are nearing the
others and the carriage; so a truce to confidentials. Adieu."

On the ladies entering the carrosse, the gentlemen bidding adieu _pour
le present_, saying they would walk, Sir Tilton stepping back a pace
enquired of Vaura "If he should have the pleasure of seeing her on
that night week at the de Hauteville ball?"

"Yes, we are due there, and make an exception of their ball, we are
such friends, but go to no more crushes presided over by Terpsichore
while _a Paris_. _Au revoir_."

CHAPTER XIX.

FOR A FAIR WOMAN FACE.

"What an irrepressible fellow Everly is," thought Trevalyon, as he
sauntered along the avenue towards his hotel; having heard his
question to Vaura (as to the ball), "he manages to get a card for
everything. I should not regret his departure for anywhere; our little
_coterie_ was perfect without him. Vaura is extremely lovely and
fascinating, she, of course, is the magnet that draws him; what a
presumptuous little poppet he is, a mere fortune-hunter, hanger-on of
society to dare turn his eyes in her direction. But am I not taking
too deep an interest in this sweet Vaura Vernon. I must guard my
heart; she is a flirt, I must beware. Another tender billet from Mrs.
Haughton, and full of this hidden-wife falsehood; I have been
careless, never even having told Haughton the truth of the matter.
Every seven years, it seems to me, there is a rehash of by-gone
villifications; one must only grin and bear it, but I do feel it
terribly just now, not because it is what it always was, 'a lie
direct,' but because of my close companionship with my dear friend and
bewitching Vaura."

Let us now follow small Everly, and read some of his thoughts; with
rapid steps he is soon at his destination, where, seating himself in a
huge easy chair which almost hides his small body, draws a table to
his side, on which are placed his pipe, glass of punch, with some
letters.

"Gad, a missive from Aunt Martha," he exclaimed. "Whether it be sugar
or vinegar it will keep until I do the others."

One was from his lawyer telling him the Jews were after him; with a
muttered exclamation of "they must wait," he threw it aside. The
others were from acquaintances--mere chit-chat; "and now for the old
girls," he thought, which on opening a bank draft for L50 dropped out.
"Gad! almost a holocaust," he said, picking it from the dying embers
in the grate. "And now for the letter."

"MY DEAR NEPHEW,--Enclosed you will find a draft for fifty pounds; it
is extremely inconvenient to remit you even such a small sum, but I
promised your mother on her death-bed to give you all the assistance
in our power, as also did your sister Amy; and so please heaven we
shall, as we are quite aware that the trifle you inherit from your
father is extremely small for the maintenance of an English baronet.
Moreover, considering it an honour to the house of Morton that an
Everly should have linked himself thereto, we have decided to let you
have Johnston's rent for the future, and regularly. But, dear nephew,
remember you cannot afford to make a mere love-match; you must marry
an heiress. Your setter Hecate has had pups, which we shall nurse
tenderly for you, as they represent money. But the school bell rings
me away, and, dear nephew, from you I go with my pupils into the
mysteries of pounds, shillings and pence. You will laugh and say you
and they are always associated in my mind; and it is so, for, you are
both things of worth. When you marry some rich young lady (you know
whom I tell you you can win), I shall pay a master to take the
arithmetic class. Make your old aunts glad with the news of a wealthy
marriage being arranged for you. Acknowledge draft.

"With much love, from your affectionate Aunt,
"MARTHA MORTON.

"Sir Tilton Everly,
"Paris, Hotel European,
2nd Nov., 1887."

"It will please the aunts if I write instanter, so here goes."

"DEAR AUNT MARTHA,--Draft received, came in handy, can assure you. You
are a jolly pair of relations for a fellow to have; never wanted the
needful more. I know I shall have to marry money; I expect I guess
correctly as to the girl you mean, but tallow candles are out of
fashion. I know the gilding is thick, and debts are a bother. But you
never fear for Tilton, he may yet win a glorious beauty and great
expectations from a titled relation. Eureka! I can tell you; aunts you
have no idea what a fuss society makes over me. Glad Hecate has done
something for a living, or rather for mine. Goodnight or morning, for
it is one a.m.

"Your devoted Nephew,
"TILTON EVERLY.

"Miss Morton's Seminary,
"Bayswater, Suburbs, London Eng.
Nov., 5th, 1877."

"Yes, 'pon my life, the old girls are right, I must have the sovereign
for my name; pity I was born with a taste for the beautiful; my father
was wanting in forethought on my account, or he would never have wed
penniless Rose Morton; here am I over head and ears in love with a
peerless beauty, with not much or not enough of the needful to keep us
both in style; there is not a doubt though that she will inherit from
that stately godmother of hers. Never say die, Tilton, my boy; she
smiled on you to-night, go in and win; why, the very thought of her
sends the blood dancing through my veins; splendid figure, perfect as
a Venus. She knows naught of my relations to that young schemer, and
if my love by a stern fate says nay, she is too much accustomed to
conquests to boast; and the other who is ready to marry me any day
will, never know anything to erect her spine about; a week from
tonight the de Hauteville ball, I shall there know the best or worst;
if I fail it won't be because of aught wanting in myself, but because
I cannot win over the Lady of Esmondet; then, if so, I shall hide my
groans under an M.P., and the gold of my lemon-face, to whom I shall
not exactly play count to her, Miss Kilmansegg, for I could not act
such a villain's part; but I must have some hobby to ride, to make up
for the sacrifice of self; and now to bed and sleep or dream."

CHAPTER XX.

QUICKENED HEART-BEATS.

On the morning of the de Hauteville ball, Trevalyon broke his fast
somewhat earlier than usual, purposing to indulge in a long ride. In
passing the salon of Lady Esmondet and Vaura, the door of which had
been pushed open by his dog Mars half an hour previously. Trevalyon
made a momentary pause, he could not see Lady Esmondet through the
opening, only our sweet Vaura, who listening to her godmother, idly
ate of some fresh fruit, while the other fair hand caressed Mars. She
looked a very child of the morning, so charmingly bright, in a pale
blue quilted satin dressing gown, with low turned down collar; not
wishing to interrupt her godmother who read aloud an English letter
she spoke to Trevalyon silently, standing in the opening door-way,
only with the eyes and her own syren smile; the temptation to linger
was too much for him, and he was about to enter when turning, as he
heard a step coming quickly along the corridor from the visitors grand
elevator, saw Sir Tilton coming towards him carrying a huge bouquet.
And knowing for whom it was intended, preferring not to be a witness
to the presentation with a "_Bonjour_, Everly," and "How do,
Trevalyon;" they went their different ways, the one into the light of
woman's eyes, the other into the lights of the streets of Paris.

Sir Tilton, with a laughing "Any admittance to a devoted subject," and
a gay _entrez_ from Vaura was in the boudoir.

"I thought I heard Captain Trevalyon's voice; was he not with you?"
enquired Lady Esmondet as she shook hands with Everly.

"Yes, Lady Esmondet, he was outside and lingered a moment, but was
able to resist the temptation to enter to which I had to succumb,"
with an admiring glance at Vaura.

After half an hour spent in gay chit-chat, Lady Esmondet, consulting
her watch, reminded Vaura of their purposed drive; and with a promise
asked by Sir Tilton, and given by Vaura, that she would wear one of
his flowers on that evening, they parted.

In a short time Lady Esmondet and Vaura were seen driving along the
fashionable parks and streets of Paris, and no carriage attracted more
attention than the one in which they were seated. They met many
friends and acquaintances among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Eustace
Wingfield.

"One does not often see them together," said Lady Esmondet. "Still, I
am sure, they suit each other better than most married people."

"What a queer world it is," remarked Vaura; "even _ma chere_ godmother
is rather cynical as regards the happiness of most married lives. What
is the reason of it all? Is it that man who, as Charles Reade says, is
'born to hunt something,' is no longer happy when the chase is over.
And woman, what of her? Is it that 'tis only the excitement of the
hunt we care for, that our heart has no part in the matter."

"You know the world, Vaura, and you know you are right--still you will
marry, and be happy; for your heart will go with your hand, and you
know your power to make the man you will love happy."

"Sympathy, soul-felt and earnest, is more than love which sometimes
changes, or passion and fancy which always evaporate," answered Vaura,
seriously; "but," she added, "who, among the butterflies of to-day,
cares for all this: A. marries B., because he can give her a title; B.
marries A., because she brings him money--it's all a debit and credit
system."

"Yes, Vaura, dear, Tennyson says truly, 'we men are a little breed.'"

But a warmer light deepens in Vaura's eyes as a vision of a handsome
face, wearing at times a weary look, flashes across her memory, and
she thinks some men are worth loving, and are not of the "little
breed."

"What a bold-looking woman; I wonder who she is," said Lady Esmondet.
"She's passed us several times; that was an aristocratic man beside
her, and quite a youth. She wears her rouge too extravagantly."

"She has yet to come to the knowledge that she's anybody," answered
Vaura, contemptously; "looks to me like greed and vice, and man is not
the worse animal of the two."

"Thanks, Miss Vernon," said the voice of Trevalyon, riding up beside
the carriages as he lifted his hat.

"Thanks, though it is rather a doubtful compliment, for I am all at
sea as to what animal you are so kind as to give us the preference
to."

"I don't know that I shall tell you, Captain Trevalyon, for you men
make it your boast, that we only are curious."

Here the same smart turn-out, with its pair of beautiful bays come
again towards them, and to the surprise of Lady Esmondet and Vaura,
the woman smiled and nodded to Trevalyon. Vaura turning quickly
towards him, saw that he took no notice of the recognition and that
his face wore a stern look.

Everly driving with a friend, passed them at the moment, saw the nod
and smile and of how they were received. "That little smile from Ninon
Tournette, puts a spoke into your wheel, my fine fellow," he thought;
"no matter though your face did look as though hewn out of stone."
Aloud he said, "Miss Vernon will see he is donning the garb of modesty
in her honour."

"So Vernon is Mademoiselle's name," said his friend de Vesey; "I saw
her at the theatre the other night, and by the lilies of France, she
is lovely enough to make a man play the saint for one look from her
eyes."

There was a second or two of rather an awkward pause which Lady
Esmondet broke by saying--

"The bays are lovely, but I'd rather keep the woman at bay, Lionel; or
perhaps she thought you an acquaintance."

"Yes and no, _chere_ Lady Esmondet; a dozen years or so ago, I was
going through my stage fever, which most men take to in a natural sort
of way, though I scorn to make it any excuse for my folly; for you,
dear Lady Esmondet," he added with a weary sigh, "are aware I, above
all men, should have given way to no such weakness, it was not that it
bore any fascination for me, on the contrary, I was as one who never
lays his opera glass aside; but, Old Time was leaning on his staff
just then and everything went slow; so to make things more lively, I
was persuaded by some men to go in with them into a new scheme, viz.,
lease a theatre; the woman who has just past then, a handsome young
woman, was one of the actresses; I sold out at the close of one
season, since, going very occasionally I have seen this woman, _la_
Tournette, act a few times. She has severed her connection or rather
the management did with her some six or seven years ago. I know
nothing of her life now; she is _outree_ in style and presuming to bow
to me, especially in your company."

"Her bow was a feeler to find out where she is, in society, or out,"
said Lady Esmondet; "and," she continued, "we are to blame; we show
her every day that the mighty god society accepts gold."

CHAPTER XXI.

LA BELLE VERNON.

The suite of apartments at the de Hauteville mansion in which the
family received, were a scene of almost unrivalled splendour. The
host, Monsieur Henri Eau Clair de Hauteville, as he stood beside
Madame, receiving and welcoming their guests, being a very small and
very pale, quiet-mannered man, was almost lost beside the large,
handsome woman and merely bowed like a Chinese Mandarin, looking like
a tired school-boy, who wanted to be in bed and tucked in comfortably.

"Poor little man, how refreshing the summons to supper will be," said
Lady Esmondet, as they waited in the crush to go forward to the smile,
bow, and contact of finger tips.

"See how Madame stands it all," remarked Lionel. "It's astonishing
what vim gentle women can throw into fatiguing social demonstrations."

"The fragile creature knows society is large-eyed," said Vaura.

On our friends turning to leave the reception room, Eau Clair, the
eldest son of the house, for whom, he having attained his majority,
this entertainment was given in honour of, came towards them to
welcome his mother's old friend, and to tell Miss Vernon of how glad
he was at her return to Paris. (He had met Trevalyon before).

"I must congratulate you, my dear boy," said Lady Esmondet, "as well
upon your coming of age as upon the brilliancy of the ball."

"_Je vous remercie_, Lady Esmondet; _mais_," he added, "I have just
come from your Cambridge University, and shall speak in your tongue,
which I like well."

Here some old friends came up, and several gay dancing men, Everly
amongst them, and Vaura's programme was soon full. She tried to secure
a few dances for rest, by this means to give a few minutes to chat
with Lionel, but no one would allow it.

"Don't be cruel," said one.

"Your flower-face must go to the ball-room," said another.

"Take pity on us; we don't carry a bouquet," said a third.

"So we will that you are near," said another.

At last she was carried off by Eau Clair.

"How beautiful your ball-room is, Monsieur Eau Clair," said Vaura.
"What multitudes of flowers; how many green-houses have you laid bare?
There will not be one rose-bud in all Paris for the Marshal McMahon's
_fete_, but that will not grieve you, a Bonapartist."

"Of this I am sure, Mlle. Vernon, if I have left him any roses they
are not the sweetest, for well I know the beauteous butterfly of
to-day loves their sweet odour."

Dance succeeded dance, and all went merry as a marriage bell, to
divine music by two of the most perfect bands in Paris; and now Everly
claims his innings, and is happy.

"Have mercy on me, Sir Tilton," laughed Vaura, "and forgive me this
dance (besides, we have another together), and you don't know how
sweetly amiable I shall be, if you'll find me a seat beside Lady
Esmondet."

"Consider yourself seated, and your martyred subject not far off, fair
Mademoiselle."

They found Lady Esmondet with Mrs. Wingfield and Trevalyon in an ideal
refreshment room.

"Glad you've found us, _ma chere_," said Lady Esmondet.

"I need not ask how you are enjoying the ball," remarked Trevalyon,
"your eyes tell me."

"And they say true; how could it be otherwise Sir Knight? with music
that thrills one, and a light foot treading a measure to the sweet
notes," answered Vaura. "Is not this a charming room, Miss Vernon?
invisible music, birds and flowers; the Parisian is born for this kind
of thing."

"It is just a poem, Capt. Trevalyon."

"And Bob Fudge in the flesh, brings us back to reality," said Mrs.
Wingfield; and following the direction of her eyes, they saw a very
young man devouring with admiring glances, the delicacies around him.

"I am quite sure," laughed Vaura, "he will go through the bill of fare
just as Moore's Bob, of one _pate_ of larks, just to tune up the
throat; one's small limbs of chickens, done _en papillote_, one's
erudite cutlets dressed all ways but plain, &c. Oh, dear, he fatigues
one," she added gaily; "yes, an ice, Sir Tilton."

"Depend upon it," said Trevalyon laughing, "Dick will receive a letter
from Bob, that, 'there's nothing like feeding.'"

Here Eau Clair joined them, having missed Vaura from the ball-room.

"Have you seen the Claytons this evening, Vaura?" enquired Lady
Esmondet.

"Yes, god-mother mine, and dancing with vigour and a sublime
indifference to time that was amusing."

"They exchanged partners with another Quakerish looking couple, and
have been in the heat of the fight, ever since," said gay Mrs.
Wingfield.

"'Merrily danced the Quaker's wife, merrily danced the Quaker,'" sang
Vaura.

Here a Spanish noble came up, and with a courtly bow, reminded Vaura
that this was his waltz, and in animated chit-chat, they left the
room.

"A handsome couple," said Mrs. Wingfield; "and I noticed the Spaniard
has had two dances with _la belle_." News, not too utterly delightful
to Trevalyon and Sir Tilton.

"The Marquis admires Miss Vernon, so mother says; and no man can find
him at fault," said Eau Clair, rising, and leaving the little group.

"Would you, ladies, like to go to the ball-room?" asked Lionel,
anxious to be near Vaura.

"Thank you, yes," answered Lady Esmondet, divining his motive.

"And will you take pity on me, and a risk on my waltzing powers?"
asked Sir Tilton of Mrs. Wingfield.

"I would not risk anything so important as a waltz, Sir Tilton; but as
I have already tested your capabilities as a dancer away I go on your
protecting arms."

"Or into them," laughed her partner, as entering the ball-room they
went careering at full speed down the small spaces.

"Beg pardon, Lord Lisleville," cried Sir Tilton, as he dashed against
an ancient beau with a long rent-roll, who with his _fiancee_, a
pretty little French girl, who had been trying to put him out of step
in order to dance with her young Lochinvar. Sir Tilton, knowing the
circumstances, pitied the little Parisienne who had been dolefully
doing her duty all the evening; so determined to come to her aid,
hence the collision, which throwing the noble lord almost on his back,
sent his wig flying several yards off which the dancers swept with
their trains. The gay _petite_ was wicked enough to put her
handkerchief, not to her eyes, but to her mouth, to veil her smiles as
she gave herself up to her young lover who had been eating his heart
out all the evening. Lord Lisleville, with inward curses on Everly and
his own temerity in attempting to dance on a waxed floor, with his
gouty leg and bought curls, was a droll figure, as with his
handkerchief tied over his head and his face a whirlpool of wrath, he
was knocked hither and thither by the dancers in the vain attempt to
recover his gay tresses.

Vaura and her partner laughed heartily over the amusing scene.

"How innocent Sir Tilton looked, and one could see it was
intentional," laughed Vaura; "no more dinners at the ancestral home of
Lord Lisleville; no more shooting for the culprit," she continued.

"How happy the betrothed looks now," said Del Castello, "Cupid's bow
is powerful."

"I know myself," said Vaura, "of several cases where young girls have
been persuaded to marry old men from the fact being pointed out to
them of the happy marriage of M. Thiers. Madame Dosme, poor little
Emily's mother, was the woman born for him, only she, unfortunately,
was encumbered with a husband."

"It was a most singular household," said Del Castello. "Thiers, though
undoubtedly a superior man, had no claims to divinity or to be
enshrined on the Dosme altar with three adoring women ever
worshipping, while there are many men, could they gain one woman,
would be to her alone as constant as the sun. Pardon, Mlle., but I am
Spanish and cannot be cold with you. I ever think of Venus and my
breast is bare for Cupid's dart."

"The boy is blind," said Vaura, archly.

"I feel him an unerring marksman, though," he said passionately.

Here Sir Tilton, with Mrs. Wingfield, passed them, when Vaura called
out gaily:

"Don't you tremble, Sir Tilton, when you think of the wrath of the
wigless Adonis?"

"Like an aspen leaf, fair _belle_, but never mind, I've given him a
wigging."

They are now beside Lady Esmondet, and the strains of music changing
from the waltz,

"That means our waltz is over, Marquis Del Castello, and I have
enjoyed it thoroughly, thanks to your perfect step."

"Your own fairy step had much to do with making our waltz one I shall
never forget; may I call tomorrow?"

"You may."

Trevalyon coming up at the moment, and seeing Vaura in all her
lovliness, for lovely she was in cream white satin, sleeves merely a
band, neck low, a circlet of gold of delicate workmanship round the
throat, fastened in front with a diamond large as a hazel nut, bands
of gold in same design, on perfect arms midway between shoulder and
elbow; and the poor fellow hungered to have her all to himself for
even a few minutes, so with forced gaiety he said:

"Now, Mademoiselle, I, as your guardian, must insist on your taking a
little rest and under my protection, for, should I allow you to take
it with any other, the gay gallant would have the queen of the night
back amidst the revelry.

"But what am I to do, Lady Esmondet--Captain Trevalyon," she said with
a sweet sense of willingness about her; "I belong to M. de Vesey for
the next dance?"

"Go and rest," said Lady Esmondet; "and if your partner cannot find
you it will be his loss."

Lionel had roamed about a good deal during the evening thinking much
of a letter he had received that morning from Colonel Haughton, and of
the love he was battling against in his own breast, for Vaura. In his
walks to and fro he had come across a small conservatory on the other
side of the house, far from the busy throng, and entered as well from
the grounds as from a boudoir of Madame's; thither he led Vaura, not
unwillingly, a sweet sense of being taken care of, a nameless feeling
of passive languor, a sense of completeness pervaded her whole being,
as Lionel, putting her hand through his arm and for a moment holding
it there in a protecting sort of way, led her through long corridors
until they reached the luxurious boudoir of their hostess, where,
seating Vaura in a lounging chair, the perfection of comfort, and
placing a soft foot-stool for her dainty slippered feet, he quietly
seated himself near her.

He longed to take her to his heart, and tell her of his great love for
her, which had grown so strong as to completely master him, he could
scarcely refrain from crushing her in his arms and telling her she
must be his; he had suffered much this evening in seeing her, even in
the dance, in the arms of other men; ever since he had left Lady
Esmondet's side, an hour ago, he had done nothing but pace through
lonely corridors thinking of the letter from Eric Haughton, which ran
thus:

"Trevalyon, _cher ami_,--

"Must go to the point at once, as what I hear has troubled me. Mrs.
Haughton tells me there is _no_ doubt _you are married_ to _Fanny
Clarmont_, and as Delrose is frequently here and lounging about with
her, I suppose _he has told her_; I know he was mixed up in the
affair; I'm sorry for you if it's true, old fellow. She also says, but
it's a _woman's mistake I am sure_, that you are half engaged to
Blanche; _be careful_ that you don't make Vaura love you; you were
always a sort of hero with her; she is too lovely and lovable to have
_her life spoiled_; take care of my two loved women in your charge.

"Yours as ever,
"ERIC HAUGHTON.

"Captain Trevalyon,
"Hotel Liberte le Soleil, Paris."

"And now I have passed the Rubicon," he thought, "and know past
doubting that she has the love of my life, and that life without her,
will be worse than death," this he thought, seated near this fair
woman; near, and far, for he must not speak to her with this cloud
upon his name; he knew it was false and only spread for revenge, but
would not society pity Vaura; pity and he writhed with inward pain, at
the thought that his wife would be pitied for having gone to God's
altar with a man, whom Dame Rumour said, had a hidden wife; one moment
he thought he would fly to England and make Delrose tell the truth at
the point of the sword, but he knew his man, and that threats would
not avail; again, if he left Vaura now, there were many men about her,
one of whom she might choose, and the thought was maddening. If he
could only get them into Italy, they would be quieter there. He must
mature his plans, see how it was best to cope with his enemies; would
he write Haughton the facts? no, he must try and find out Fanny
Clarmont's address, and get her to write such a letter as he could
publish, exonerating him from all act or part in her elopement; but
how to do it, unless he could work on Delrose, but the man never had
any feelings, save for himself; he must see. And as he looked on
Vaura, as she sat, her head thrown back among the cushions, lips
slightly parted, and looking at him from dreamy eyes half closed; a
pain came to his heart as he thought, if he could not get Fanny's
confession, Vaura would never rest in his arms, for she would not go
to him with the truth unproven. And still he thought she shall love
me, for, look what she has done for me, she has done what no woman
heretofore has been able to do, she has inflamed me with a passionate
love for her as untamable as the lion; she belongs to me. And as he
thought this he rose, but almost staggered with conflicting emotions,
as he stood close to her.

"Vaura, my darling, are you rested?" he said, his voice anything but
steady.

"Yes," she answered dreamily; "but why did you break the spell? it is
so seductive here, I half thought you a magician and this a scene of
enchantment."

"I broke the spell, darling, because I could bear no longer the----"

Here footsteps were heard, both on the gravel walk outside the small
conservatory and in the corridor by which they had entered the
boudoir. And though the occupants did not see Del Castello, he saw
them at the same time as Everly with De Vesey (a gay Paris beau to
whom Vaura had been engaged for this dance, now over) crossed the
threshold. De Vesey, on seeing the situation, and not caring to be _de
trop_, was for retreating, but Everly was in no mood for this, now
that his dance and his only one for the night was on the _tapis_. He,
like any other man, would have feared to leave the woman he loved with
a man so fascinating as Trevalyon. Vaura, in the second or two of
their hesitation, had time to recover outward composure. Lionel folded
his arms, moved a pace or two backwards, and stood like a statue; the
muscles of his face throbbed, but in the dim rose-tinted light Everly
and De Vesey coming from the glare of the lustres and torches of the
ball-room did not see clearly.

"_Pardonnez_, Mademoiselle, but Sir Tilton Everly would continue his
search until our belle of the evening was found," said De Vesey,
apologetically.

"Not so loud, Monsieur De Vesey," Vaura answered in a whisper. "This
is the temple of the god of Silence, and Captain Trevalyon and I have
been worshipping at his shrine. I perceive you are both," she added,
moving on tiptoe towards them, "feeling the influence of the place,
and you don't look as though you care to pour incense. So let us back
to Comus and revelry. _Au revoir_, Capt. Trevalyon."

Vaura managed while speaking to detach from her corsage some violets
and a crushed rose, which, when Everly and De Vesey were not
observing, she dropped at Trevalyon's feet; and turning her head as
she took Sir Tilton's arm, gave him her own syren smile from eyes and
lips--and Lionel was alone. Del Castello who had been a witness to
this scene from the outside of the conservatory now entered, and
coming forward stood facing Lionel.

One would look far before meeting two as handsome men as these two
rivals for the love of one woman. Capt. Trevalyon, with some of
the best Saxon blood in his veins, of _distingue_ bearing, tall,
broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, blonde, tawney mustache, short side
whiskers, face somewhat bronzed by exposure on the battle field and in
travel: a man, a manly man every inch of him, a man whom woman adored
and man leaned on, unless when his foes and rivals.

Del Castello truly the nobleman, tall, dark, and handsome.

The Spaniard was the first to speak.

"Pardon my intrusion, Monsieur, but I cannot rest until I know the
truth; I have seen Mademoiselle Vernon several times walking and
driving at places of public amusement, but never have been fortunate
enough to obtain an introduction to her until to-night, though I have
made repeated efforts so to do. Her beauty and grace had made a deep
impression upon me, which now that I have had the great joy of
conversing and dancing with her has ripened into love so strong as not
to be subdued, and which, excuse me, Monsieur, for saying, I believe
only a Spaniard or perhaps an Italian could feel. You English are so
cold; Mademoiselle is not, but reminds me of the women of my own
love-warm, sun-lit land. It was my intention to have called upon
Mademoiselle Vernon at her hotel on to-morrow ere the sun had set, to
ask her if she would be the light of my life by doing me the great
honour of accepting my name, hand and fortune. I had been roaming
through the grounds meditating upon her many charms, and of how best I
could make my offer so as not to agitate her by its seeming
prematureness, when I was very much troubled on coming to the
conservatory (meaning to enter) to see you, a powerful rival, in the
blissful retirement of this boudoir with the woman I have, perhaps
unfortunately, conceived, such passionate love for. I was as if
chained to the spot and, when you were alone, determined to enter and
ask you if my worst fears are true. Are you a successful suitor for
the hand of Mademoiselle Vernon? Are you, Monsieur, anything to her?"

This had been, to say the least of it, a very trying night for
Lionel--and it seemed his troubles were not yet over. He knew the
Marquis Del Castello to be a _parti_ the bluest blood in his own land
would be more than satisfied with. He was the possessor of a noble and
princely estate, and this man, with all these advantages, was a suitor
for the hand of the woman he loved with an overwhelming passion. And
the Spaniard had said she could not be loved as he loved her. Ah,
well! what does man know of man? Only this, what he chooses more than
"language," as Talleyrand says, "was given us to conceal our
thoughts;" for we smile when the heart is breaking; we weep to conceal
the joy we are feeling; and Lionel listened and suffered. He had never
been a man to make his moan into the ear of men and women, for the
sympathy of society is curiosity! and man listens and forgets, and
woman listens and talks; she cannot help it, poor thing. Can the snake
do other than charm--then sting?

And Vaura had conquered and enslaved him, but was still unsubdued--so
he thought,--and though peerless among her sex, she is only a woman.
And how will it be if I allow this man to pour his love tale into her
ear with all the impassioned eloquence his countrymen possess. "Oh,
darling!" and he groaned inwardly, "I cannot put you to the test; I
_cannot_ speak yet;" and he must not. All this poor Lionel thought, as
with folded arms he listened to the Spaniard, and to his concluding
words of "Are you anything to Mademoiselle Vernon?" he merely bowed.
The temptation to dismiss this smooth-tongued Southerner, with the
warmth of the south in his words, with the looks of an Adonis, ere
Vaura should listen to his pleadings, was too much for him. Ah, well,
though we love him much, this Lionel Trevalyon, he is only mortal.
"After I have made her love me, I shall tell her of this man's
proposal of marriage," he said to his aggrieved conscience. After all
is there not an instinctive leaning in the hearts of most of us
towards the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance? Immediately on our
conscience becoming seared as with a red-hot iron through some act its
sensitiveness shrinks from, we, feeling this inward shrinking away as
if from our lower nature invariably bring out the whip and lash our
poor weak flesh by way of atonement. And so Lionel thought now as he
bowed to Del Castello's question of "are you anything to her?" and
thought while doing what hurt his conscience--"I shall tell her
after."

"Then my worst fears are realized," said Del Castello to Lionel's bow.
"But, Monsieur, you cannot expect me with my heart's great loneliness
fresh upon me to congratulate you on being before me in your wooing.
_Adieu_, I shall leave Paris at sunrise, and it will be a sorrowful
gratification to me to know that the incomparable Mlle. Vernon will,
from your lips, learn why I fly." And saying this, the Marquis left
Lionel to the solitude of Madame's boudoir.

CHAPTER XXII.

THE BLIND GOD TAKES SURE AIM.

After leaving Trevalyon, Vaura, with her attendant cavaliers, bent
their steps in the direction of the ball-room, the sweet sounds of
distant music sounding louder and yet louder as they moved.

"Woe be to that incarnation of selfishness in yonder boudoir,"
exclaimed Everly; "if he be the means of my losing this dance with the
fair Queen of the Revels," looking admiringly at Vaura's full and
rounded neck, throat and arms.

"You won't call it petty larceny, Everly, when you pour maledictions
on his head. 'Pon my heart it's too bad of him to carry off the most
precious freight of the ballroom; thereby causing two forlorn
individuals, whom he has defrauded of their rights, to wonder about
like disembodied spirits with distended eyes, and white of visage. I
can assure you, Mlle. Vernon, Everly, in our search for your fair
person, peered into passages where the darkness might be felt, it was
in this way. Passing one of the _salons_ I saw a group of ladies and
gentlemen, and thinking you might be one of the number, and the music
just striking up for my dance with you, _la belle de la nuit_, I
entered the _salon_, gazing eagerly amongst them, coming away, as you
know, disappointed. Sir Tilton in this way distanced me. I took no
thought of the whereabouts of such an insignificant atom as he,
continued De Vesey, laughing; but, continuing my search for you, came
suddenly upon a queer bit of architecture, a many-sided sort of
landing wherefrom there were three staircases and three landings;
which was I to choose? I was meditating, when from the wall close
beside me proceeded a most plaintive wail, rather, on my honour, like
an infantine donkey. I listened going close to the wall, when I
discovered the mellifluous accents proceeded from the throat of the
missing giant, Sir Tilton. I put my ear to the wall and told the poor
boy to speak in accents loud; he confessed that seeing a spring in the
wall he touched it--it opened, he entered where he was mantled in
Egyptian darkness, and could not make his exit. I was his deliverer.
When he emerged, he looked like a ghost, and in feeble accents told me
of why he had gone into solitude, which, as I see my partner seated
like patience on a monument waiting for me, I shall leave him to be
the hero of his own tale; and as I hear, fair Mlle., that you are
going to desert Paris and turn your face south, I must needs say _bon
voyage_, though my heart aches at our loss;" and lifting her hand to
his lips, the gay Parisien left them to claim his partner.

"At last," said Everly, with fervor, and almost unconsciously his face
full of an agitation he could not conceal.

Vaura's practised eye told her what was coming, and fain to escape it,
said gayly:

"Yes, at last, Sir Tilton to relieve my curiosity by explaining M. de
Vesey's words."

Here a lively air from a French clock attracted her attention.

"Listen, Sir Tilton, two o'clock."

"Yes, fair queen of the revels, 'tis time I told you another story, my
heart is aching for your sympathy," he said brokenly.

"You have my sympathy, Sir Tilton; nay, we must not linger," she
added, on his turning into the dreamy light of an ideal little
flirting room.

"I pray you to do so, Miss Vernon. I have something I _must_ say to
you," he said feverishly.

"Wait until time says _now_, Sir Tilton, for with the warning notes we
have just heard in my ears, I should not be a good listener."

"You are tired of me, and want to give your sweetness to some other
man," he said despairingly, yet fiercely.

"_Carita! Carita!_ Sir Tilton," and pitying him she said, knowing
just how he was feeling; "see there is one couple you have made happy
to-night," as the little prospective bride of Lord Lisleville with her
lover passed, with smiles to Sir Tilton.

"Fools' paradise, she belongs to Lord Lisleville; that wouldn't
satisfy me."

"You are a spoiled boy, you want too much."

"I want you, my enchantress."

"But you can't have me, Sir Tilton, I belong to the heir of the house
for the last dance," she said, wilfully misconstruing his meaning, so
gaining time, lost to him.

"You are cruel, you gave up my dance for Trevalyon; you won't give up
De Hauteville's for me."

"Eau Clair made me promise faithfully," and with pretty persuasiveness
had her way to the ball-room. "Drop all sentiment, Sir Tilton, I like
you best, your own gay care for naught self; see," she added, kindly
as they neared the music and revellers, "see the gay butterflies are
as _chic_ (even if their wings have lost some of their bloom); the
scent of the rose as sweet as at the first dance; be your own gay
rollicking self once more."

"I cannot! for my star of the night I love you; don't start, it is no
new story to you that a man's heart lies crushed at your feet. Since
it was my fate to meet you, your face is ever before me. I followed
you here, running away from Haughton Hall. I have dreaded Trevalyon as
a rival, as well as others, but he in especial. Oh! my heart's light,
say you are not going to give your loveliness up to a man they say has
a hid--well, well, no more of him, only don't shrink from me, I shan't
name him; but my heart only beats for you, heaven." And Vaura feels
his whole frame tremble as he says feverishly: "pity me, and make her
love me; and now what have you to say to me, you can make my life what
you will; for heaven's sake give me hope."

"Poor fellow, your words grieve me more than I can say; I had no idea
of anything of the sort; you have my warmest friendship.

"Don't; don't speak of friendship!" he said excitedly, when it is you,
you with your warm heart-beats, your love I want; great heavens, why
did you ever cross my path?"

"I shall regret the doing so, if it has caused you pain, Sir Tilton,
but in time you will forget me."

"You are cruel; and speak as a surgeon to a physically sick man."

"My words are meant kindly, Sir Tilton, though they seem as the lance
to the sick man."

"Men say women are cruel, so they are; do you know, for your beauty I
have played the traitor to another; but heaven help me," and poor
little Sir Tilton groaned; "I could not marry her while I was free to
ask you to be my wife, and now I am just good for nothing, and never
shall be; God help me!"

Vaura's heart was full of pity for this gay boyish little Sir Tilton,
and looking into his face pityingly, said:

"Poor fellow, go back to your bethrothed and be happy in time with
her; she, nor none other shall know you ever had a roving fancy for
me, and this is a butterfly age and our wings were given us to fly; so
_n'importe_, you need only send your bride to me if she ever scolds,
and I shall tell her she has the gayest, kindest little baronet in all
Britain."

And so Vaura chatted to give the poor little man time to catch up to
his heart-beats.

Here Lionel passed them on his return from the boudoir of Madame,
where he had been since Vaura was taken from him, and Del Castello had
left him; he heard part of Vaura's remark, and seeing Sir Tilton's
downcast attitude, took in the situation at a glance; and as he passed
with a grave smile to Vaura and a pressure of his hand on the crushed
rose and violets at his breast, he mentally observed:--

"Another life given her to do as she wills with, another heart crushed
as she has crushed the life from this rose; ah, well, the saints hath
it that they are the weaker vessel, but they are stronger than we
after all. Look at me, year after year I have boasted of my strength,
and now I am as wax in her hands; I, who thought to bask in her
loveliness for an idle hour, only as I might bask in the loveliness on
canvas, the creation of some heaven born painter; I, who thought to
coolly criticise her acquaintance with this actor who has tried to win
her beauty and talents to the stage, ere I asked her to be my wife--
ere I put away the prejudices of a lifetime against wedded life.
Prejudices! that were the outcome of my mother's sin, my father's
blighted life; I know I always loved her as a girl-woman, for she was
always womanly. Now I adore her with the love of a life; with a love
that has never been frittered away, for I have never loved the
soulless creatures whom I have amused myself with." And hastening his
steps he was soon by Lady Esmondet's side.

"What a wanderer you have been," said his friend, welcoming her
favourite and pleased to see (as she surmised) some of Vaura's violets
in his coat.

"Where is Vaura? truant that she is, you were the one to take her
away, and I hoped you would bring her back."

She noticed he wore the exhausted look of a man having gone through
some very powerful emotional feeling, whether of joy or sorrow she
could not tell. His eyes turned ever wistfully towards the grand
entrance to the ball-room, and he wore her flowers, so she could only
hope there had been no trouble between them. She felt half in love
with him herself, as most women did who came under the influence of
his rare fascination of manner "his eyes possess some mesmeric power,"
they said, "to draw their hearts at will." Have we not all felt the
wonderful power of such eyes, at least, once in our lives, eyes that
once having felt as it were, we always feel; eyes that charm us and
bid us look and not forget.

"He is learning to love her," thought Lady Esmondet, as she saw that
his eyes turned ever towards the door; "and it will be the happiest
day of my life (none too happy)," she thought with a sigh, "if I see
these two lives blend in one; Vaura is _difficile_, so is he, but she
cannot resist him, and their lives would be full of completeness. They
would be the happiest couple in London; why did he start as through
fear, when Everly mentioned Delrose as a visitor at the Hall; I know
there was a scandal some twelve years ago, when they were both mixed
up with Fanny Clarmont. I do hope there is nothing in it to cause him
real uneasiness. Vaura will make a great sensation this coming season;
she has made some conquests to-night, that cream-white satin with her
diamonds and these old fashioned gold bands, suit her to perfection.
She enjoys wielding the sceptre and she does it with such seeming
unconsciousness, and absence of vanity that is very charming, never
boasting of her conquests even to me." But where can she be all this
time, I wonder, and with whom? so breaking in upon Lionel's reverie,
she repeated her question of, "Where and with whom is Vaura? she has
missed two or three dances."

"Everly was the happy man not two minutes ago," he said.

"That bird of passage; 'tis a wonder she wastes her sweetness upon
him."

"Poor Everly! I am very much inclined to think his heart will be heavy
after to-night," said Lionel, thinking of his downcast look as he
passed.

"'Tis his own fault; little men are so aspiring,--always on tip-toe,"
answered Lady Esmondet.

"Yes, I suppose he has himself to blame, the bat cannot gaze at the
sun, unless to his own detriment."

"One thinks of an angel and lo! she appears," exclaimed Eau Clair,
coming up, "and there's no doubt as to whose colours Everly wears, but
by the lilies of France had he detained La Belle Vernon from her
rightful sovereignty of the ball-room five minutes longer, I should
have hunted the Everlie-in-wait-robber, and have taken from him our
belle. But see how _enerve_, embarrassed, the robber looks, the
enchantress has been exercising her fatal spells."

Here Vaura with Sir Tilton, looking pale and haggard, approached all
three, guessed his whispered question to Vaura, of "Can you give me no
hope?" and saw Vaura shake her head as her lips framed the word "no."
Then there was one long pressure of the hand, a look from Everly, as
of one looking on the face of the dead, and he was gone. Alone, or to
wed without love, and for gold! Ah, me! this life of ours teems with
bitterness, but on to the merry-makers we do not care to follow
Everly. We grow cynical perhaps as to the good there is in life, but
we get used to it in time; to this something we have lost as we get
used in time, to the unloved partner by our side. Such is life.

Vaura was looking very sweet and lovely, as with a tender pity she
took leave of her conquest, Sir Tilton; her face had a soft paleness,
and her lips looked a deeper red than usual from the contrast; there
was a languor in her movements, and she felt she would like to rest in
the easy chair, beside Lady Esmondet, with Lionel near; and dream
waking dreams after all the excitement of the night. But there were
the conventionalities, her dance with Eau Clair, and then, home, so
she said:

"Well, dear god-mother, here at last; are you dying of _ennui_? I feel
very wicked, and it has been selfish of me to remain so long, but this
is the last, I shall soon be with you."

And taking Eau Clair's arm she was again moving to the enchanting
music of the waltz, which tends more to bewitch the souls of men than
the music of any other dance, its gentle swaying motion, its soft
bewilderingly seductive strains of music, are something to have felt
the pleasurable sensation of. As they were moving the length of the
room, Vaura noticed Lady Esmondet leave it, as also that her
footsteps' were slow and languid as though she was weary; so saying:

"I really must tear myself away, Monsieur Eau Clair, Lady Esmondet has
left the room, and I am sure she is fatigued. You will laugh at me for
suddenly remembering my dear chaperon at such an opportune moment when
our dance is a thing of the past. There seems to be a general exodus,
so," she added gaily, "if we follow them, even two such important
personages as we are will not be noticed in our absence."

"We shall go with the stream and all will be well."

"But whither do they lead? What is on the _tapis_?"

"They go to take part in an old family custom that tonight must be
done."

"And if when done 'twere well, 'twere well 'twere done quickly,"
answered Vaura.

And they followed the stream and Vaura could not but see that Eau
Clair and herself received a good deal of attention as they moved,
many eyes following them. They soon reached a suite of elegantly
furnished _salons_ gay with flowers, gems of art from the deft fingers
of the sculptor, master-pieces from the artistic brush of some of the
greatest painters living and dead, decorated the walls or stood in
their respective niches, foreign and domestic birds of rare beauty and
throats full of song, with the exquisite scent of flowers about them,
the brilliant scene, the soft laughter of the incoming guests sounding
so similar to some of their own notes, causing the feathered songsters
to burst forth into melody, adding another charm. Vaura and Eau Clair
were among the last to enter, and they walked up to the end of the
room the _cynosure_ of all eyes; as they neared a chair placed alone
at the head of the room, Vaura saw Lady Esmondet with a gay coterie of
friends with Lionel in the group. Vaura turned her head as she passed
with a smile, and the lines to Venus from Pitt's Virgil flashed across
Lionel's memory:

"And turning round her neck she showed
That with celestial charms divinely glowed."

Vaura was accustomed to admiration, so this which looked so much like
a march of triumph did not disturb her self-possession; she laughed
and chatted with her companion all the length of the _salons_.

"These servants of yours, Monsieur Eau Clair, remind one as they pass
in and out so noiselessly among your guests laden with the champagnes
and ices they carry so deftly of the automata in the new Utopia they
are perfect; but what is not perfect in the de Hauteville mansion."

"Take this chair which I hope will be the perfection of comfort for
the belle of our ball."

"Give me a Frenchman for a gallantry," said Vaura gaily, and seating
herself comfortably. To her surprise Eau Clair, standing beside her,
said as follows:

"_Charmantes Demoiselles, Mesdames et Messieurs_: It has been a time
honoured custom in our family for generations, that on the heir to the
estate attaining his majority, on his throwing off the careless garb
of _garcon_, and donning the somewhat grave habiliments," taking up
the corner of his dress-coat with a smile, "of the man. It has been
the custom, I say, at the revels given in his honor, that he should
elect as the belle the fairest of the fair--a custom that has my
warmest approval; _a dieu ne plaise_ that any one of my descendants
should be ungallant enough to discontinue it; indeed rather than our
fore-fathers should father such an one," he said in gay tones, "I
prefer that I, Eau Clair, should be the last of our name. I admit that
my predecessors may have at times found the pleasant task of choosing
somewhat _difficile_. But for me, _Dieu merci_, Mlle. Vernon's advent
in Paris has left me no choice. And without paying any point-blank
compliments to her charms, I now present to her as is usual on this
occasion, this bagatelle, at the same time expressing the hope that
loving our city as she does, she will soon return to us, come with all
her beauty and grace, and sojourn among us, leaving her own northern
clime," and kneeling on one knee, Eau Clair handed a small box of rare
Japanese workmanship to Vaura. He then drew a small, elegant stand to
her side and gently taking the box from her hand, laid it on the
table, touched a spring when the lid flew open, disclosing to view a
bouquet holder and fan, both works of art. The handle of the fan was
of gold inlaid with precious stones, the fan of feathers of brilliant
hues. The bouquet holder was of elegant design in gold, studded with
diamonds and on one side the words "To la belle Vernon, 1877" inlaid
in diamonds of larger size, the whole one glitter of brightness. A
small bouquet of delicate odeur was here handed by a servant on a
salver to his young master, and Eau Clair saying, "Let me be the first
to fill the holder with fragrance," put the flowers into the golden
receptacle.

Vaura rising and taking Eau Clair by the hand made a step or two
forward now loosing his hand said:

"_Cher ami Monsieur Eau Clair, Mesdames et Messieurs_, I feel that a
mere conventional _je vous remercie_ would be too cold and lifeless
and in every way distasteful to me, on this occasion, and though I
have never made a speech heretofore, and this being literally my
maiden speech, please forgive me what pleases you not. Though, fair
demoiselles, I have been chosen the belle, I feel as I gaze upon the
galaxy of beauty around me that I," she added in gay tones, "have no
occasion to blush at my own loveliness, for I feel that the gods have
been so lavish in their gifts of everything that is lovely that they
have surely become bankrupt and have kept no charms for me, and
that Monsieur Eau Clair must have looked at my poor graces through
rose-coloured spectacles when he called me _la belle_ and made me the
recipient of gifts fit for a queen. I little thought, _cher ami_," she
continued, turning slightly towards Eau Clair, "when saying to you a
few moments ago that this had been an ideal evening, that two such
ideal gifts were in store for myself. I need scarcely tell you that
they will be always among my most valued treasures, recalling as they
will such pleasant reminiscences to my mind of one of the most
delightful evenings I have ever spent. And a word to you, fair
demoiselles" turning towards the assemblage of guests with a smile,
"never turn your bright eyes from your own land for your lovers and
husbands, for your men carry the belt from the universe! Yes, from the
world for gallantry, and some of the kindest and best husbands I have
met are from among the so-called' fickle' Frenchmen. Thanks for your
kind wish, Monsieur Eau Clair, that I shall soon return to fair,
bright Paris. I do love your city and your land so much that he to
whom I may yet give my heart and life will I know, if he love me, come
often to your dear shores and Paris. Ere many more suns have risen I
turn my face southwards to that old art world, sunny Italy, which I

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