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

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love well. But there one sometimes has a feeling of sadness in
thinking of what she was, especially her Rome, which one does not
experience here. I am at one with your great Victor Hugo when he says,
'It is in Paris that the beating of Europe's heart is felt. Paris is
the city of cities. Paris is the city of men. There has been an
Athens, there has been a Rome, there is a Paris.'"

Here Vaura seated herself. While speaking in her clear tones with a
depth of feeling in her manner and varying expression efface, her
beauty was felt by all. There was now a brighter hue than usual in her
cheeks, and her dark eyes shone like stars with the excitement of the
moment. The immediate family of de Hauteville now came forward
offering their congratulations, and many of the guests did her the
same honor.

"Will _la belle_ permit one of her most humble admirers to offer his
congratulations and offering?" said the voice of Lionel beside her,
and with a warm pressure of the hand, he slipped into the holder
beside the bouquet three small sprays, one of white pink, one of
Peruvian Heliotrope, and a small bit of black thorn. Vaura, an ardent
lover of flowers was also mistress of their language, so she read
silently commencing at the white pink. "'I love you,' 'fair and
fascinating,' but there is a 'difficulty.'" "Where and what is the
difficulty, I wonder," she thought, and turning her large bright eyes
to his face with a smile in them and on her lips, was how she answered
him.

"I must congratulate you on your maiden speech, Mlle. Vernon," said
the small host in his small voice. "When you can make such an
excellent impromptu one, I feel sure we men in our efforts would be
put to shame, were we to listen to a studied one from _la belle_," and
the little man retired behind madame's drapery.

"_Merci_, monsieur, my poor little speech did not show you half my
gratitude for such undeserved honors."

The guests having drank the health of the heir and _la belle de la
nuit_, began to disperse and soon after warm farewells to the family
and heartfelt wishes that they should soon meet again, our friends
were in their carriage and rapidly driving to their hotel.

Lionel was very quiet, saying little, but ever and anon with a careful
hand drawing Lady Esmondet or Vaura's wraps around them, not that the
night, or rather morning, was cold but Vaura had danced so often and
there had been so much of excitement in the night for her, and besides
it was delightful to him to have her at last near him where he could
feel her presence and know that the others were all away; to feel that
when his hand touched her cheek, neck, or arm in his loving care in
keeping her from the night air, that she did not shrink from his
touch, but rather leaned to it. And he was happy, and so was she, but
he did not know it, he only knew he was near her.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE WEB OF DIFFICULTY.

The morning after the de Hauteville ball Lady Esmondet and Vaura met
at the breakfast-table, at noon, Lady Esmondet not looking paler than
usual. Vaura was pale for she had slept none, her eyes looking larger
and her dainty and flexible lips a deep red. She was quite like her
own sweet self though, in spite of fatigue, and her soft cardinal silk
morning robe, loose at the throat, and turned down collar of white
muslin and lace. In her belt the pink, heliotrope, and black-thorn
sprays; and Lionel was content with the picture as he opened the door
and came forward. Vaura was pouring out a cup of coffee for Lady
Esmondet, her shapely hands, so soft and white, coming from the cuffs
of muslin and lace (she never could be seduced into wearing the odious
stiff linen collar and cuff's some women's souls delight in).

Lionel thought: "Shall I ever call her wife, and when I come in have a
right to take these two dear hands in mine and press them to my heart
as I bend down to kiss her sweet mouth." He said, "_Bonjour_, ladies
fair. I have come to see how you are feeling after the revels of the
past night."

"And to refresh your own poor tired self with a cup of coffee,"
answered Vaura, handing him one.

"You see, Lionel," said Lady Esmondet, "we are waiting upon ourselves,
the maids are doing the necessary packing, as we have not altered our
plans to leave Paris at sundown; I hope we are not hurrying you away?"

"Not at all; did you leave me, I should follow by next express; there
would be nothing to hold me here, if you were gone."

"Nothing," said Vaura softly; "and Paris so full of beautiful,
brilliant women."

"Not now," he answered, looking into her eyes with a grave look.

Vaura gave one little sigh as she let her eyes stay on his. And this
man felt that he must feel this woman in his arms or his heart would
break.

There was a tap, tap, at the door and Somers entered, bringing her
mistress, letters; there were several from friends, with one from
Colonel Haughton to his niece and one from Mrs. Haughton to Capt.
Trevalyon, which ran thus:

"MY HEART'S IDOL,--

"The Colonel has written by this mail to Miss Vernon, stating his wish
that she and Lady Esmondet come _without fail_ to the Christmas
festivities. I am not partial to either of them (this is under the
rose) they are too high strung for me; but, my king, I must have you;
you don't know how jolly I can make life for my pets; Blanche won't
look at Sir Peter Tedril and I know it is you she wants, you may have
her and her million, you will be near me then; the Colonel, poor
sedate old fellow, would not like it, but that don't signify, because
he wishes (now that your secret marriage to Fanny Clarmont has become
public talk) that there were a thousand miles between your handsome
person and Miss Vernon; I wish you had some of the love for me that
the black-bearded Major has; I cannot keep him away, but he _shall_ if
you will only come, my king; my king, if you were only with me I
should thaw your proud heart in spite of yourself, my haughty,
handsome god; come _at once_ on receipt of this; _how_ can you stay
with _two icebergs_, when _burning lava_, like my heart, is aching
with its long waiting for you.

"In love, yours,
"KATE.

"P.S.--Persuade the icebergs not to come here; tell them Italy was
made for them."

On writing and mailing above, Madame was content, as she sat in her
own boudoir with feet on a high stool stretched out. That will bring
him; my plot is spreading; ha! ha! ha! I planted it well; nothing like
getting scandal well rooted; he has been careless, and society doesn't
forgive that; had he only paid tolls, married somebody's daughter,
given dinners and balls; society would have snapped her fingers at
this story, and though Delrose had said to her 'but he never wed her
Kate, at least he said so, but I daresay he lied.' But she used the
scandal, as we have seen, employing the useful firm of Mesdames Grundy
& Rumour; giving them also whispers of how poor little Blanche was
half engaged to him--if she could bring him to her feet she would love
him; if not, she would make her revenge tell. He should not wed Vaura
Vernon, if a woman's tongue sharp as a two-edged sword could cut their
lives apart. She would be content to repeat the little act of barter
that the young man did for Marguerite with Mephistopheles, for
Lionel's love. She had learned and practised society's creed, and paid
its tolls; surely now she was free to have her pets, and love them
too; whether it were a poodle dog or a man, whether it were a trip to
her pet club at London of the cane and cigarette, or a drive to
Richmond.

And Lionel thought, as he again glanced over his letter:

"What a bore it is that I did not years ago clear myself; delays are
dangerous; this woman has already planted a doubt in Haughton's mind;
and heavens, if she succeed in doing it here, my life will be as
lonely as was my poor father's," and unconsciously, he gave a deep
sigh.

Vaura looked up quickly from a letter from Isabel Douglas; and Lady
Esmondet said:

"No bad news, I hope, Lionel."

"No, and yes, dear Lady Esmondet; my opponents hold some good cards,
and the play is against me that is all. But Miss Vernon has something
pleasant to tell us from her home batch."

"Lady Esmondet had seen that the letter for Lionel was from Haughton
Hall, and guessed his opponent is that woman, and the cards are
against him, poor fellow." And Vaura said:

"Isabel Douglas says firstly that she is going to wed the curate, Rev.
Frederick Southby; secondly, they are as gay as butterflies at
Haughton Hall; that Madame, newly installed, though she be, leads the
fashion to the old gentry, who were, when she was not, both in the cut
of her garments, and in the novelties in the manner of her
entertainments. She gives me Roland's opinion. Mrs. Haughton is one of
society's sky-rockets, a high flyer, determined to make her world
stare; bold in her daring ascent; but by her glittering colours
leading their gaze from the steady quiet shine of the heavenly bodies;
though she says 'all the country people cannot claim to be heaven-
born.'"

"But I think Roland's a good criticism," said Lady Esmondet.

"She goes on to say," continued Vaura, "the Hall is restored to its
ancient magnificence, the ball and dinners on their return were grand
or rather gorgeous, for gorgeous is Mrs. Haughton's style. Am often
there--we are to dance some new dances at Christmas, and there is an
importation at the Hall from London, of, as Roland says, 'a pocket
edition of the light fantastic toe;' really, Vaura, my feet are
something to fold up and put away; I am so much ashamed of the flesh
and bone nature has given them, when I look at his they are too small;
but he could easily carry himself in his own violin case. What are you
doing with Sir Tilton Everly? At luncheon, yesterday, at the Hall,
someone said they had heard from a friend at Paris that the wee mon
had been seen in same box with you at the theatre. Mrs. Haughton
looked as black as night at the news, as he was wanted for to-night to
represent Cupid to her Venus in the tableaux; don't weave your spells
round the truant, Vaura, dear, else you will gain the dislike of Miss
Tompkins and her mother; he belongs to them, one would think they had
bought him in the city, as they did their pug dogs. The other day I
heard Mrs. Haughton say to Miss Tompkins. "If Everly did not come up
to time for to-night, after his tight dress and wings, bow, &c., and
my flesh-coloured, spun silk dress, all O.K. from London I'll play him
a trick at Christmas; I'll write him we are too full, and can't put
him up.""

"Will you? you ain't going to play all the tricks,' said Miss
Tompkins, as Mrs. Haughton left the room, they did not see me, I was
buried in a great big chair reading a note from Fred. But I must
close, dear; write me a long letter, and so give pleasure to

"Yours lovingly,
"ISABEL DOUGLAS.

"MISS VERNON,
"Hotel Liberte le Soleil, Paris."

"How changed the dear old place must be," said Lady Esmondet, as Vaura
ceased reading, "I would that the place could have been restored by
some other means, but if your uncle is content, I, needn't moan."

"Whatever else may be said, one thing is sure: that Lincoln Tompkin's
gold could not have been put to better use," said Lionel.

Here Somers knocked and informed her mistress the carriage waited.

"Bring me my wraps here, Somers. and then continue the packing, and
when callers come, Miss Vernon and myself are not at home until dinner
hour."

"Yes, your ladyship."

"Anything important on the _tapis_ for to-day?" asked Trevalyon.

"Yes," answered Vaura, consulting her tablets, "Worth's studio comes
first on the list; he sends word he has something aesthetic, thence to
purchase music, "Les Folies" Galop, by Ketterer; duet from "Il
Trovatore," "_Vivra Contende il Guibilo_," "_Mira di Acarbe_," etc.,
you must sing with me when we fold our wings for a while in some
temporary home at Rome, Capt. Trevalyon."

"I shall, it will give me very great pleasure."

"Thank you; oh! yes, I must not forget to look into Monsieur
Perrault's cottage, and leave a parcel for Marie." So saying, Vaura
entered the adjoining-room to robe for the carriage.

"And what will you do with yourself, Lionel, until we meet at dinner?"

"I shall devote the hours to trying to find out the present home of
Fanny Clarmont, for" said Lionel, coming beside his friend, "I _must_
clear myself; my enemies are on the war-path. Haughton's last letter
shows by its tone, they have influenced him; Delrose never liked me,
and--"

Vaura entering ended the confidences.

"This letter," said Vaura, "my maid tells me, was given to your
servant, Capt. Trevalyon, by a man in livery, to be handed to me; it
is in an unknown hand, I have not one minute to spare it now, will you
kindly pocket it, and on our journey you and it will be near me and I
can read it at will. Thanks, but you look very weary," as she put the
letter into his hand, she laid her other hand for a moment on his, and
looking kindly into his face, "for Lady Esmondet and my sake, go and
rest until our return."

"I cannot, dear Miss Vernon; do you remember," he said in a low tone,
with his hands on the flowers in her belt, "the silent language these
flowers speak?"

"I do."

"Well, I now go out alone to try and unweave the web of difficulty."

Vaura returned the close pressure of his hands, and the look in his
eyes, and he was gone, while she, turning to her god-mother, said
quietly, "we had better go, dear."

They also left the boudoir.

Lionel, without loss of time, walked quickly to the lodgings he knew
had been occupied by Fanny Clarmont some years before; but on reaching
them, the landlady informed him that five years previously, Madame
Rose (as she was known), had left her comfortable quarters,
remittances not being so frequent, and had taken cheaper rooms,
_numero cinq, Rue St. Basile_; thither Captain Trevalyon journeyed,
only to find that Madame Rose had again shifted her quarters; after
some difficulty, the address she had left in case Major Delrose should
either call or send a cheque, was found; it directed him to miserable
lodgings in one of the poorest streets of Paris; on his enquiring for
Madame Rose, a woman told him she was gone; she had been very ill
and he could gain further information from Father Lefroy, and she
directed a little urchin to go and show the gentleman the priest's
house; Trevalyon putting a sovereign into her hand, thanked her and
followed the boy. They soon reached their destination, a small, white,
many-gabled old-fashioned windowed house, with bright flowers in boxes
attached to the window-sill. Father Lefroy was full of hospitality and
welcomed Captain Trevalyon, telling him he was ready to tell him of
Madame Rose and her movements for the past three years. "Three years
ago, the woman with whom you spoke, Monsieur, and who directed you to
me, sent for me, saying, 'Madame Rose is very ill and she and her
little boy have no money for food.' I went at once, and found her
words true; the child was crying for bread, and I could see it was
want that had brought illness to the poor mother. I had food brought
and stimulants to give her temporary strength, then conveyed her and
her little son to our convent of St. John, where she was nursed by the
good sisters; while there she became a member of our holy faith. You
are a friend of hers, Monsieur?"

"Yes."

"Well, she told me her history, and of how nine years ago, this Major
Delrose, with whom she eloped--"

Lionel's heart leaped; "Here is proof," he thought.

"Deserted her, she then left her comfortable lodgings, went to others
and gained a scanty support for herself and boy by giving singing
lessons. She has given her boy to us to be educated for the holy
priesthood; she herself has taken the veil and is now Sister Magdalen
in a London convent, not cloistered, but is one of the sisters of
mercy; and now, Monsieur, before I give you her address, tell me
truthfully why you want it, your reason will be safe with me."

Trevalyon told him faithfully, and the priest's answer was to, write
on a slip of paper as follows:

"To the Mother Superior of the Convent of St. Mary," London, England.

"Grant Captain Trevalyon an interview with sister Magdalen (Madame
Rose), and assist him in every way in your power to gain his end,
which is good."

"LEFROY, "Priest of St. John's Chapel, Paris."

Here a tap at the door called the priest; returning he said:

"Captain, Trevalyon, I must bid you adieu, my time belongs to the
church, and I trust you will find that the church will aid you in
making the truth tell."

"I thank you, Father Lefroy; accept this gold for God's poor."

"_Merci_, adieu."

"Adieu."

Lionel returned to his hotel with a lighter heart, though as yet he
did not quite see how to cope with his enemies, how to make the truth,
as the priest had said, tell. He must think it out. The three friends
met at the _table d'hote_ in travelling costume, all in good spirits,
each anticipating pleasure from the month's sojourn in Italy. Lady
Esmondet was in hopes her health would be materially benefitted, and
was going, as we know, also for distraction's sake; Col. Haughton, as
a benedict, was a new situation she had yet to grow accustomed to. A
man who is in a woman's life for many years as he, chief friend, chief
adviser, to go out from one suddenly into another life with another
woman, gives one a terrible feeling of lonliness; hard, very hard to
bear.

Vaura just now had a sweet sense of completeness in being near and
leaning on, as it were, Lionel every day, though a latent feeling told
her with warning voice that she should not give way. This very morn,
an English gipsy in the pay of Mrs. Haughton, having gained admittance
to the hotel and to herself; a fierce looking woman richly dressed in
the garb of the Bohemian, her face very much muffled, having caught
cold she said, crossing the channel, had told her "man with a wife
will sue for your hand. Beware of him leddy, for danger and death I
read in your hand." Not that she paid much, if any, heed to the mere
words of a gipsy, only this, that the hidden wife story would recur to
her memory; but her dear old-time knight was drawing her nearer to
himself every day, and because of the mental suffering he was
undergoing on account of this very story; and it could not be
otherwise with her intensely sympathetic nature, together with her
pity for his past griefs; and so she gave herself up to the delicious
completeness of her present, hourly deferring to him, leaning on him
more and more. "It pleases him, poor fellow, but it will be a terrible
awakening for me if this story be true; but I must ease his present
pain even though I suffer; it is a necessity of my being" she told
herself; so giving up to the hour, she, epicurean-like, let the
present suffice.

Before leaving the hotel for the depot, putting a sovereign into the
hand of a porter, she desired him to see that the beauteous flowers in
their apartments were conveyed to M. Perrault's cottage. On arriving
at the depot, which the electric light made bright as the whitest
moonlight, they saw many friends come to say farewell.

"Such an important exodus from our city cannot take place without many
a heartfelt _bon voyage_," said Eau Clair de Hauteville, gallantly.

"And while our heart weeps at our loss, we anticipate with joy your
speedy return" said another, holding Vaura's hand in a tight pressure.

"_Au plaisir, tout a vous_," said another brokenly in a whisper.

"My table will be lonely," cried Bertram, "until grace, beauty and wit
dine again with my emaciated self."

"You fill one end of your table, Bertram," said Trevalyon, "and your
cook the other; to be sure, you have the sides, but wings are not bad
when tender, and I have no pity for you with a Wingfield near."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Mrs. Wingfield and Bertram, the former saying:

"Though I am always ready, Captain, to be side-bone-wing or Wingfield
to Mr. Bertram's soup, turbot, or mutton, Eustace is never very near,
as now, but he is absent here because I told him he must show with me
at a crush in an hour's time, and as he mortally hates slow crushing,
he is truant and I shall have to appear alone."

"What a tyrant the mighty god _Society_ is," cried Bertram, "ignores a
man's tastes; expects him to flatten himself at a crush immediately
after a good dinner."

"Try and be ours again at Christmas," de Vesey was saying to Vaura.

"Without fail" said another "our city is glorious at the birth-day of
the Christ."

"And _la belle_ Vernon should not fail to lend us her beauty at that
time," said Eau Clair, thinking as did the others that her rare
loveliness in the white light was as of an angel.

"She goes with the golden summer," said a southerner.

"The beauteous birds go south in your company, Mile. Vernon, may they
sing sweet songs for you as they wing their flight," echoed a poet.

"I love the birds as I do your sunny climes, and as we journey, should
I hear their sweet notes, shall remember your words," she said softly,
her syren voice full of music, as with a last hand-clasp and wave of
handkerchief the guard shut the door and the fire horse dashed on his
way and from gay Paris.

CHAPTER XXIV.

SLAIN BY A WOMAN.

Our travellers having a carriage to themselves made each other as
comfortable as it is possible for human nature of to-day to be,
accustomed to the cushion, footstool, and lounge of life.

"Farewell, once more, charming Paris," said Lady Esmondet, "was there
no England with its loved associations and many friends, then would I
live my life in thee."

"So should I," said Vaura "the French are a dear, delightful people,
really living in the flying moments, their gay cheerfulness acting on
one as a stimulant; the veriest trifles are said by them in a pleasing
manner all their own; yes we have much to envy the versatile Gaul
for."

"I fear," said Lionel looking tenderly into her face, "I fear you will
feel, in our life together once more, a little dull, as if a cloud had
crossed the sunbeams, after your recent gaiety, triumphs, conquests,
and what not."

"You do not know my nature" she said, her large dark eyes looking at
him reproachfully, "'tis like coming home. Even the gay songsters
methinks love to know their nests await them; one's life spent in the
cold glitter of triumphs and conquests would be most unsatisfying,
unless one knew of one heart, one's home to rest at even; one other
nature akin to ones own to share one's inner higher life, that to the
world is closed."

"Yes, natures akin, what bliss," said her godmother, dreamily partly
taking up the refrain of Vaura's words; partly going with thought
which had quickly sped the "injurious distance" to Eric and the woman
he has married.

"Just my conviction," said Trevalyon with feeling, "natures akin; men
talk of moulding some woman after marriage to their views of life;
women talk of leaning on their husbands, I do not mean physically, for
this is womanly, and I love a womanly woman, but mentally, what a
drag; now I do not refer to education, for each could in that case
give to the other, the information acquired from books being
different; but to have constantly to instruct one's wife into one's
tastes, habits, opinions in natures akin; each is perfect in the
other; each goes out in the fulness of sympathy, heart to heart."

"What! a rest!" said Lady Esmondet, with a sigh.

A grave yet tender look met in the mesmeric eyes of Lionel and the
soulful eyes of Vaura, as she said softly:

"Yes, only in natures akin can there be that fulness of sympathy which
makes marriage one's earthly heaven;" and now that same far-away look
comes to her eyes, as she thinks "poor fellow, poor, poor Guy;" and
yet, 'tis only pity.

There was a lull in the conversation for a few moments, each busy with
thought, when Lady Esmondet said, following her reverie,

"Tell us, Vaura, something more of Haughton news; does Isabel mention
any of the novelties introduced?"

"Yes, godmother mine, and prepare yourselves at dinner, for Hebe, who
waits, will be an equal."

"Never!" said her companions in same breath.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true;' at some signal or
given time, Isabel says the servants are dismissed when some of the
ladies wait, bearing the cup, or, etc."

"I must say I should object, 'however bright, however young' my Hebe,"
said Trevalyon; "her train would surely become entangled, and I defy
Jupiter to be sweetly calm with iced champagne spilled down his neck
or on to his knee."

"I should say not," said Lady Esmondet; "a most preposterous novelty
to introduce."

"Isabel says everything at table; takes the usual routine when there
is a state dinner."

"I should hope so."

"When alone (that is with merely the home guests), she says they
frequently wear some fancy costume at dinner."

"What! changes; but I suppose I am old-fashioned," said Lady Esmondet.

"And so am I, for I should feel as ill at ease, as the family
portraits, could one invest them with speech and hear their
lamentations," said Trevalyon.

"Yes, you both forget this is the age of novelties; I am inclined to
think could Solomon of old go to and fro some evening even through our
British Isles, he would draw a pen through his time-honoured proverb
of 'There is nothing new under the sun.'"

"Haughton tells me we shall scarcely know the old place; I confess
should like to see it much, as it was full of loved associations."

"Parts of the Hall did really require the tools of the workman; but I
hope my dear mother's rooms have been left undisturbed to any great
extent. It is well for us who have not gone to the extreme in our
craze for the novelties that those who have cannot plant their ladder
to the sky and retint in aesthetic, or according to Oscar Wilde,
colours."

"More letters, Lionel; your friends have not forgotten to remember
you."

"No, nor my foes, for by every mail comes something anonymous, telling
me kindly of my blackened reputation; but I should not trouble either
of you so much above and beyond the petty scandal making and loving
herd; but it is very wearying and wearing to me; I sometimes think I
should leave you on account of it, and grapple with this difficulty at
once and forever;" the moisture was in Vaura's eyes as he looked at
her wearily with a long drawn sigh.

"You must not play into their hands, poor fellow, by seeming to notice
their game," said Lady Esmondet, musingly, "until you see your own way
clear to face them, by telling them and proving it a 'lie direct.'"

"Yes, dear Lady Esmondet, you are right; I shall not."

"And depend upon it," she continued, "unless in very exceptional
cases, there is a woman at the bottom of every particle of scandal."

"What do you say to this charge, Miss Vernon?"

"In the words of one who has written much my sentiments I shall tell
you. 'In days of yore, when the world was young and men were as brave
and women fairer than they are to-day, when men to men were as
faithful as Orestes to Pylades and women as sisters; when men and
women had a simple faith which knew no fainting fits and believed as
children in the fairy wand of the fairies, in the power over men's
destinies of the gods and goddesses; in those days it came to pass
that Juno, who was jealous of her husband, Jupiter, and quarrelled
with him over his many escapades, one day said unto him: Behave
thyself and I shall throw the apple of discord and scandal to earth,
and it shall come to pass that amongst the mortals my sex, not yours
(for to woman, not man, have we given the undying gift of curiosity),
shall catch it as it falls, and it shall come to pass that as many as
shall eat of it shall hunger and thirst for scandal, and finding none
shall form themselves into _clubs_, and meet, not in the Temple of
Truth, where Minos, son of Jupiter, sits as supreme judge, and where
falsehood and calumny can never approach; but where she who has eaten
most greedily of the apple shall throw most mud at all outside sisters
who have not eaten, which the listeners with itching ears shall catch
up, and repeat on the wings of the wind, and Boreas, Auster, Eurus,
and Zephyrus shall carry the refrain over all the land, and so we,
with the other immortals, watching the strife among mortals, shall
learn to live happily together.' 'And what then, fair Juno? you forget
it will surely come to pass that the women who eat shall transmit to
their offspring an undying thirst for scandal and power of invention
therein.' 'Amen, O all-wise Jupiter; but it shall come to pass also
that she shall only transmit this taste to her own sex; so,
_n'importe_, here goes,' and with a gay '_bon voyage_,' she threw the
apple to earth and us; you see, Captain Trevalyon; but thank the fates
there are some of us who have not eaten."

"And you stand out so bright in the loveliness of true women that one
forgets that your sex do bespatter themselves with the mud they throw.
What a pity it is; how many lives are severed by it," said Lionel,
wearily; "but to something sweeter than my worries. Here is the letter
you left in my charge, Miss Vernon, and a few lines to myself from my
cousin, telling me she and Uncle Vincent have arrived at London and
the Langham."

"Indeed!" said Lady Esmondet; "quite a change for your cousin."

"Quite so; Judith has lived her life, I may say, at New York."

"Has Sir Vincent's health improved?"

"I regret not materially; though he says, so Judith tells me, that he
already feels, the benefit of the change," he said, somewhat absently,
for he is watching Vaura's changing expression as she reads. Her head
is bent toward the letter, the fluffy brown hair in its natural wave
meeting the brow; the lovely lips soft and full with a slight quiver
in them; the small bonnet is off; the luxuriant hair in a knot behind
fastened by pins of gold; her cloak, which he--himself had unfastened
and removed, leaves her figure in its perfection of _contour_, robed
in its gown of navy blue velvet, a sculptor's study; her heartbeats
are quicker and her cheeks wear a deeper rose as she reads the
farewell words of the Marquis Del Castello.

"Peerless Mlle. Vernon, allow me, one of your most devoted admirers,
the sad consolation of a last word of farewell. I have silently adored
you for several months, and your own heart will tell you that now,
suddenly coming to the knowledge that another life is to be made happy
in yours, I cannot yet bear to look upon your loveliness as belonging
to another. But I want to ask you to accept (from one who would give
you all) the shelter of my villa Iberia for yourself and companions,
during your stay at Rome; you will find it pleasantly situated, and at
such time in the future that I may visit it, there will be a
melancholy pleasure to me in the thought that the fairest of Saxon
lilies, the most beauteous of English roses, with the warmth of the
South in her nature, with the poetry of my own land in her heart, has
been among my flowers, paintings, and my books. I feel sure, dearest
Mlle. Vernon, that your heart will not deny me this small favour, and
may your life be peaceful as an angel's, and joyous as a butterfly in
a garden of roses.--Another captive.

"Yours,
"FERDINAND DEL CASTELLO.
"Paris, November, 1877."

Vaura was more than slightly agitated on reading the farewell words of
her Spanish admirer. It was so unexpected, and she, so sympathetic,
feeling for him in his heart-ache, also feeling that had there been no
Lionel Trevalyon this Spaniard might have won her heart; and glancing
up she saw that the _Saturday Review_ was laid aside, and the tired
blue eyes on her face--when is it otherwise now?--and giving one
little sigh as she smiled, the sigh being for Del Castello, gone out
in his loneliness, and the smile for him. But poor Lionel did not know
her heart. Man cannot fathom the depths of woman's nature. They both
may stand on the brink of a deep clear river, as he looks with her
into its transparent mirror he only sees the reflection of her
loveliness, for her heart is deep as the bed of the river; but when
she sees his face reflected, his heart is laid bare. And so Vaura
Vernon, being only a woman, knew Lionel had come to love her, for his
eyes followed her every movement. The strong man was slain and she was
content while he craved for more, he would fain be sure, by feeling
her in his arms, and his lips on hers; and so he sighed, for had not
her uncle forbidden him on his honour to speak? And she smiled, for
she knew before long she would be held to his heart.

She thought it best to tell her companions at once, in part, the drift
of Del Castello's words; so saying, "Neither of you can guess whom the
written words I have just perused are from, so I shall tell you. They
come from the Marquis Del Castello."

The rose deepened in her cheek on meeting Lionel's eye, for she
thought, "I wonder if the Marquis suspected the truth?" And a sharp
pain came to Trevalyon's heart in his dread of what her answer would
be.

"In his billet," continued Vaura, "he very kindly offers us the villa
Iberia during our stay at Rome; of course in the most gallant and
poetic manner of speech, as befits one of his race. During our first
dance at the de Hauteville ball he told me it was his intention to go
at once to his Italian villa, but it seems he has changed his mind,
for in his letter he speaks of going there at some future time. And
so, what think you, god-mother mine; do you feel inclined to be a
guest of the absent lord and master?"

"It is for you to decide, _ma chere_."

"Be it so; I feel inclined to please him in this matter; but perhaps
our kind escort has made other arrangements," turning to Trevalyon.

"No, _ma belle_; I had intended sending a telegram from Lyons to the
proprietor of my favourite hotel (securing apartments), knowing him to
be a very decent fellow; but now, perforce," he added with an intent
look, trying to read her, "my would-be landlord must go to the wall,
while the doors of the villa obey the open sesame of yourself and its
master."

"While we make our _entree_," said Vaura.

"And now as to our route," said Lady Esmondet.

"I should say," said Trevalyon, "through the Mount Cenis pass, to
Turin, thence, by easy rail stages down to Rome, so that you will not
be too fatigued; we should spend a day in the virgin-white, the
spotless cathedral at Milan. Florence would be another rest, all among
its flowers and time-honoured works of art; also resting a few days at
the foot of the mountains, where we could enjoy walks and drives up
the magnificent mountain slopes, and through ravines too wondrous in
their beauty to be ever blotted from one's memory."

"Oh, yes; your route would be delightful," said Vaura eagerly; "by all
means, god-mother dear, let us linger by the way."

"Yes, we can afford a few days to the pure loftiness of the mountains;
the life of to-day is so practical, if full of shams that a day with
nature is as a tonic to one's higher, inner, self."

"Just as I have felt, dear Lady Esmondet, when the social atmosphere
at London has become too narrow for me; you both know, how at times,
what has been sufficient for one, suddenly develops the bars, as it
were, of a cage, which one must burst to breathe freely. How many
months have I spent in these woods upon the mountains, with only my
good dog, leaving my man domiciled at some pension below; the terrific
grandeur of the peaks resting against the blue heavens, the majestic
crags, restful valleys with verdure clad, or awfully steep precipices,
all speaking to me of a higher power, were company enough. The
beautiful lake of Bourget, has charmed me so that I must stay my
steps, and did; gazing long into its mirrored surface. Then from its
calm, the mighty torrents, wildly dashing and foaming, held me, when
my mood was so; the many views from Chambery, too, woo one to linger.
There was one old ruin, which, if we come upon, I think you would
greatly admire; it was on the ascent, down near Genoa, and where we
could rest. Some Brothers of Saint Gregory, I think, is their order;
such a quaint little chapel they have, which you should sketch, _ma
belle_."

"I shall; and many other artist bits, I have ever longed to be so
placed as to be able to do so."

"Lionel, have you ever tasted the Alpine trout? To me they are
excellent."

"Yes, frequently, and always with an appetite. Their home is in a lake
8,290 feet above the sea level."

"No wonder Roland Douglas has spoken so highly of them," said Vaura
gaily; "their relations of the sea are quite under-bred. What
stupendous pieces of work the mountain passes are," she continued; "I
wonder, could Hannibal see them, what he would think of dynamite
_versus_ vinegar, to blast rocks with."

"Or poor, untiring Napoleon and his weary soldiers," said Lady
Esmondet.

"What men there were in the bygone," said Lionel with twice our
strength, twice our endurance; we are weary; though making the run
cushion at back, stimulant in hand."

"We want backbone; our spinal column has given way, by reason of our
fore-fathers' energy," said Vaura, laughingly.

"We certainly could manage an extra backbone very well," said her
god-mother; "ah! what strength I had, when I journeyed South in
seventy-five, I remember we went by rail from Bale to Milan, _via_ the
St. Gotthard road; words are lifeless in describing the scenery along
this route, being grandly, magnificent; one winds in and out among the
mountains; at times in gazing out the coach windows, one's breath is a
prayer, one trembles so at the terrific peaks soaring up and up so far
above one."

CHAPTER XXV.

IN THE SUNBEAMS.

Our friends having reached Lyons, where they had business, and would
rest for the night, we shall leave them and meet them again on the
mountains. Suffice it to say they enjoyed the varied grandeur, beauty
and magnificence of the scenes through which they passed, as natures
alive to the beauties of natural scenery alone can; the weather was
charming, the coach not uncomfortable, and three happier in each
other, or handsomer faces, had never before looked out upon the many
charms of landscape. The snow-topped mountains, the small white fleecy
clouds chasing each other across the blue sky, and looking as though
gathered from the snow-flakes on their peaks. The varied tints of the
trees, looking from a distance like a huge bouquet in the hand of Dame
Nature; again, a mountain stream dashing headlong down, down,
gathering strength as it rolls until lost in some sudden curve or wild
projection. A gleaming crag with belts of pine now burst upon the
view, in its rich dark dress, while here we have the delicate tints of
the valley. Let us kneel here as we gaze on the giants of the forest,
as they spread their huge arms and rear their proud heads to the sky,
and thank heaven that in some favoured spots the timber is not the
prey of the ruthless destroyer, man. What new country in God's world
but has been shorn of its beauty to gratify man's unsatiable love of
clearing; and the ignorant clod is not the only despoiler, for peer
and peasant rival the great Liberal Leader in wielding the axe, the
one to pay his debts, the other because he is only a clod; and Mother
Earth is made barren, and her heart dry and hard, and she cannot give
nourishment to the seedlings committed to her care.

For a few days of pure mountain air and scenery, we again meet Lady
Esmondet and her companions, lingering at a small town east of Genoa;
on the last day of their stay, they have taken a conveyance and, Sims
as driver, in descending by another road they came suddenly upon one
of those mediaeval castles, or rather its ruins, the greater part
having fallen to decay.

"Eureka," exclaimed Lionel; "the quaint spot I have wished to see
again; and which you should sketch, Miss Vernon."

The Brothers of Saint Gregory had, with tool and hammer, made the most
of the ruins remaining; and here some twenty lived, sheltering the
weary traveller. Our friends were almost close to the ruin ere
observing it, it being hidden partly by a magnificent belt of pine,
partly by a freak of nature, in shape of huge upheavals of rock,
thrown up as it were from the earth's bowels, and in the clefts of
which rocks, beautiful moss, hardy trailing plants, and ferns grew
luxuriantly. Here the Brothers had built a tiny chapel, one side and
part of roof being formed of these rocks, the other side, remainder of
roof, and western entrance, were of stone and marble. The eastern end
of beautiful specimens of Italian marble, the altar of pure white, its
many coloured background throwing it out in all its purity; seats of
rude stone; the floor strewn with sweet scented leaves and twigs,
sending up when crushed by one's foot, a sweet odour as of incense. On
our travellers nearing, a magnificent voice full of melody, fell upon
the air.

"What a grand singer!" exclaimed Vaura, as they with one consent,
deserted the carriage.

It was a Christmas anthem, "_Regina coeli loetare, alleluia, quia quem
meruisti portare, alleluia, etc._"

"'Tis a beautiful spot, and a great and rich voice," said Lady
Esmondet; "I wonder if petticoats are admitted."

"Even if not," said Vaura, "we can sit on the rocks or grassy seats
and fill our ears with music, which, after we descend, will lift us to
the heights once more."

In following a narrow, irregular path, which led to the iron gate of
the garden, Lady Esmondet, becoming separated from her companions,
Vaura climbed to a rock; just a foot-hold, to endeavour to ascertain
her whereabouts; Lionel overtook her, as becoming dizzy, she would
have fallen.

"Spring into my arms; there, that is it; do not fear," he said
breathlessly.

"I was foolish to attempt it when you were not near," she said softly,
as he loosened his hold on the level path.

"How glad I was to be in time, and you cannot know how my heart leaped
when you had to come, to me and I held you in my arms, even for a
moment," he says brokenly.

They come now to a few yards of narrow path, a steep precipice at one
side. With a whispered "may I?" his arm is around her in guiding her
steps; no word is spoken and we all know the silent ecstasy of such
moments. A turn in the path and they come upon Lady Esmondet, seated
on a rocky seat (she having taken a safer way) and listening to the
sweet voice still singing.

"I wonder if they will admit us," said Lady Esmondet.

"I can try," answered Lionel, and moving down the few natural steps to
the iron gate of the garden, rang the bell.

The gate was opened by a priest, an elderly man, severe of aspect, but
courteous in manner, and a man of letters from his intellectual cast
of countenance. In very good English, he said:

"In the name of Saint Gregory, I welcome you; whether you come for
food for the soul or body, our prayers are yours, and our poor fare
awaits you."

"Thank you, sir priest," said Lady Esmondet; "we shall just admire
your chapel and garden and go on our way."

"We were attracted from the direct path by a magnificent voice within
your walls," said Vaura.

"Yes, Brother Thomas is greatly gifted; well for him that his great
powers are given to good, rather than to evil. The sacred festival of
the birth of the Christ is so near, and our brother sings at Paris the
joyful songs of his nativity. This being a Saint's day, some of the
younger brothers of our order have begged our sweet singer of the
churches to pour forth the notes of his melody, that they also, may
feel as the Parisiens, the wonderful power and charm of his song."

"Such melody stirs one's very soul!" said Vaura earnestly, her large
eyes full of moisture as the music thrills her.

"What a lull there seems!" said Lady Esmondet, "now that his voice is
still."

"Yes!" said Vaura, "as if nature herself had been listening."

Lady Esmondet now introduced to Father Ignatius herself and
companions, and as they followed the winding path from the chapel to
the ruins, whither to the habitable wing they are bending their steps
to partake of some slight refreshment, they come suddenly upon the
owner of the throat, full of song, who is now kneeling beside a large
urn, in which are some live coals, upon which he has just laid some
elegantly bound volumes; he is pale and emaciated, but with the
remains of wonderful beauty; with folded hands and eyes closed turned
heavenward, on hearing footsteps he looks and would have started to
his feet and flown, but by a visible effort restrained himself. On
observing his agitation, Trevalyon suggested the turning into another
path, but the stern priest objected.

"Yes! pray do," said Lady Esmondet, "there is a lovely shrub I should
like a nearer view of."

"Be it so; I perceive, Monsieur, I mean," checking herself, "Brother
Thomas is not yet free from the pride that lacks humility, that you
being of the world he has left forever, have still power to stir his
feelings, he was ashamed of his garb, but must steel his heart against
such emotion."

"Poor fellow," said Vaura, in pitying tones, "he looks ill, and is
perhaps weak and nervous, his habiliments look stiff and new, not
seeming a part of him as yours, he has perhaps but lately joined your
brotherhood, and all is strange as yet."

"You are right, Mlle. Vernon, his garb is as new as it is new for him
to lift up his voice in the church, and while you partake of our poor
fare, I shall pass away the time in telling you something of him."

They now enter the noble vaulted stone entrance with its ancient
workmanship and massive proportions, seeming in its substantial build
to defy the destroying hand of time. The spacious hall has been
converted by the brothers into a refectory; the priest bidding them to
the table on which were dried fruits from the northern, with fresh
from the southern climes, English walnuts and biscuits, with a bottle
of old French wine. Before his guests partook of the food, the priest
kneeling, made the sign of the cross, asked a blessing, then seating
himself a little apart, spoke as follows:

CHAPTER XXVI.

A MOUNTAIN IDYL, OR AN ALPINE ROMANCE.

"About eight months ago at last Easter-tide, and while the ladies of
Sainte Marie were attending mass in their little chapel, situated
about a quarter of a mile east from the road by which you descend to
Italia, a traveller was carried into their midst more dead than alive,
in a faint, having been struck down by the fell hand of disease
suddenly, and while making his way over the mountains; the hireling
who drove the conveyance had carried him in, well knowing the convent
and hospital to be a harbour of rest for the sick and weary, having
deposited his living freight upon one of the rude benches of the
chapel, bringing also his luggage, left him in God and our Lady's
hands. The mother superior at the close of mass, hastily summoned the
strong-armed portress, who with the assistance of the officiating
priest, carried him to the adjoining hospital. You all doubtless
observed traces of unusual beauty in Brother Thomas, but in the
emaciated form you have seen, can form no conception of his
comeliness, ere wasted by slow lingering fever; yes! he was handsome,
wondrously so. In critical cases of illness, the mother is wont to
call me to aid, I having studied the science of healing in the great
schools of Europe and England, ere taking the vows of our order; in
the character of physician I saw much of Monsieur--I mean Brother
Thomas. As a penance for evil, wrought by him upon mankind, he has
permitted me to tell his story, but as he is dead to his own former
world, and as a punishment, to no more speak his name. Suffice it to
say he is a man of culture, a man of letters. You have heard his
voice, and he was born among the great. Alas! when one sees to what
base ends education is applied plied, one is inclined to regret the
early days. At one time in the strangers illness, he was so nearly
passing through the valley of the Shadow of Death, as to make it
incumbent upon me to open his luggage in order to ascertain his name
and address, whereby to communicate with his friends; in an iron box I
was horror-struck to find volume after volume, his own work, which
rivalled Voltaire in its teachings. I trembled to think of such
godless productions within the walls of a holy convent and of the
awful responsibility resting upon myself; should I allow such
instruments of evil to exist? did it not seem providential, my being
placed in such a position as to be able in a few minutes, by the aid
of fire, to destroy the labour of years, and so give to the church
another victory over Satan?

"I saw him from time to time, and as it proved to be a low wasting
fever, he was with the sisters four long months. Among the nuns who
attend the sick, is a beautiful young English girl, of patrician face
and mien. And now a word of her; eighteen years ago, it was a _fete_
day at Rome, and among the seductions offered to the senses of man,
was that of the stage; one of your most gifted of English stars held
men chained in fetters wrought by her beauty and talent, night after
night, in their boxes at the theatre, while the priests of the Lord
wept at the altar, because of the deserted sanctuary; but it was
carnival time, and men, at that season, forget the God who gave them
power to enjoy. In one of the churches, at midnight, a lady closely
veiled, entered, carrying a bundle, and going up to the altar, without
reverence and in haste, deposited her burden at the foot of the cross.
The officiating priest directed one of the sextons to follow her in
haste, but the lady was too quick for him. A carriage was in waiting,
which a gentleman with hat over brow, and muffled about throat,
speedily drove off, almost before the lady was seated; they were soon
lost in the maddening crowd, for humanity held high revel; the jester
was abroad, and theatre, with amusement and music hall, poured forth
their devotees, though the ball, both in palace and street, would be
kept rolling all night. The emissaries of the church learned that your
star of the London stage left Rome closely veiled, and attended by a
stranger, a gentleman, at midnight. Enough said; only this, that her
business manager and waiting woman had been sent on to Venice, the
next scene of triumph, the morning of the same day. The child, a
lovely girl infant, wore robes of wealth, rich muslin and lace, and
was lolled in a carriage rug of the skin of the seal, five hundred
pounds, in English gold, was pushed loosely into the bosom of her
dress, and three lines of writing were found there also, which read as
follows: 'Communicate, in case of infant's death, with ----' giving
name of banking house at London; 'until that time we have instructions
to pay L200 yearly, for her benefit, _if not_ annoyed by efforts to
ascertain her parentage.' That child is the young Saxon nun, now at
the convent of Ste. Marie; a convent has been ever her home, and she
loves its life, early showing a strong inclination for the study of
medicine, for the past five years she has been an apt pupil of mine;
with great beauty, cleverness, and persuasive manner, she, at the
sick-bed, has gained already many souls within the true pale. And now,
to continue of the illness of Monsieur, now Brother Thomas, as I have
already made you aware, a low fever caused him to remain at the
convent for the space of four months. Sister Fidele, a French nun,
shared the fatigue and duty of ministering to the sick man's wants,
with the young Saxon sister, whose life I have told you of. She is
with us Sister Faith; a name given to her by his Holiness, Pope Pius,
her child-like belief and peaceful beauty of expression, suggesting
it.

"But to proceed, Sister Fidele, seeing her patient was ever restless
and unsatisfied during the absence of Sister Faith, informed the
Mother Abbess, saving: 'He is a heretic, mother, and if you permit
Sister Faith to be more with him her prayers, zeal and gentle pious
converse may impress his godless soul.'

"Thus it was that Sister Faith spent all her time not devoted to
necessary rest at the bedside of Monsieur. But, alas for the weakness
of man, instead of the piety of her teachings impressing his soul, or
the sacredness of her office shielding her from such passions, her
great beauty had kindled in his heart the flame of a moral love. I as
her father confessor learned of the unlawful words spoken to her; my
indignation and sorrow were great. But when she assured me that to her
he was only a soul to be saved, that her life was only happy in doing
good for the beloved Church, that no earthly love could ever enter her
soul; moreover, that she firmly believed the stranger was beginning to
feel the beauties of our holy faith I abandoned my resolve to bring
him hither, and instead left him in her hands. At first he tried every
fascination of which he was master to make her love him and fly with
him. I need not tell you without avail. Then her gentle piety seemed
to have touched his heart. He permitted her to send for me. I obeyed
the summons joyfully, for I well knew what a triumph over Satan his
conversion would be, and his own wish or consent to see me made me
hopeful. We conversed by the hour on knotty theological questions, he
talking well and seeming at times half persuaded to be a Christian,
but as if too proud to humble himself. The blessed saints made
intercession for him, for our prayers were heard; and I had the great
triumph of baptising and administering to him the blessed sacrament of
the Holy Eucharist. After he had received he begged of me a private
interview, and then implored of me to give him Sister Faith to wife.
He said her great faith and gentle converse had made him think, 'If
these things be, how great is my condemnation.' It was she who had
taught him to say or think it possible he might ever say: 'Whereas I
was blind I now see.' He said he had great wealth, and if she was his
they would give much gold to the Church.

"But I could not grant his wish. Six months before his advent amongst
us our sweet-faced sister had taken, the black veil; had she been in
her novitiate I might by personal application to his Holiness have
granted his prayer. He bowed his head in grief. I told him of the
unchanging vow of celibacy of priest and nun, and of the immovableness
of the Church; I feared he would have a relapse and removed him
hither, where he has since taken our vows, and is now a brother. You
have heard his wondrous power of song, and, as I told you, goes soon
to Paris. He grieves yet to the very heart that Sister Faith cannot be
his, but his penances are severe, and I am in hopes the saints will
strengthen him to subdue the flesh altogether to the spirit; 'tis so
new to him to sing the songs of the Church that he practices at
whatever hour allowed him; but has been anxious to destroy his infidel
writings that I have given him an hour to-day and tonight at midnight
for the work.

"Such, noble guests, is a page in our new brother's life," concluded
the priest.

"And a most interesting page, reverend father," said Lady Esmondet.

"What a checkered life his has been," said Lionel thoughtfully, as
they wended their way from the quiet seclusion of the monastery out to
the carriage which was to convey them once more to the busy life of
the world.

"Yes, none more so," said the priest; "how kind is Providence to lead
this wayward soul at last, and in its great pride to the cross, and
through the piety of a young maiden."

Here the heavy, iron gate of the garden is reached and they bid the
hospitable, though austere, monk adieu.

"Could we see the beautiful Sister Faith?" enquired Vaura; "if we in
our descent into Italy, call at the convent of Ste. Marie, I feel so
interested in her, she deserves perfect happiness; do you think
reverend Father, that she is so?"

"Your own lovely face, Mademoiselle, looks as if it had never been
clouded by sorrow. The face of Sister Faith is unclouded as your own,
and we know that the trials of the world can never reach her, the
protecting arms of the church enfold her; I am full of regrets that
you cannot see her, she is now praying devotedly to the saints that
Brother Thomas may be given strength to banish her image altogether
from his heart, as well as attending two cases of fever among the
inmates."

"Are you not afraid, in her great self-abnegation, that her own health
will give way?" inquired Lady Esmondet.

"No, she is gifted with wonderful health and strength, one quiet hour
in the cell restores the vigour lost in days and nights of fatigue;
and now adieu, and may the blessing of St. Gregory go with you, and I
thank you in the name of Christ's poor, for the gold you have given."

"Adieu, adieu, farewell!".

And our friends are again _en route_.

"Depend upon it," said Lionel, "in ages to come, the good Sister Faith
will be Ste. Faith of the Alpine mountains."

"Poor young creature, I cannot but think," said Vaura, her eyes
suffused with tears, "that she would be happier in the bright world,
loved and loving, than in the cloister."

"What a gifted couple they would have been," observed Lady Esmondet.

"Brother Thomas has lived and knows what life is, and I cannot help
thinking the cloister, will not bring him peace," said Lionel.

"What a power in the church the nuns are," said Vaura; "not in her
grand ceremonial, not in her unity, not in her much gold dwelleth her
greatest and most powerful arm, but in her gentle sisterhood."

"True," said Lionel; "though I cannot but think, that the church would
have gained more had they united the Saxon nun with the now Brother
Thomas; what a power their united lives, and with much gold; his
influence will not tell immurred in a cell."

"I am sure we shall not soon forget the story of poor Brother Thomas
and Sister Faith," remarked Vaura.

"There was a time," said Lionel, "when I used to wonder that so many
fellows gave up this life of ours and buried themselves in a monastry,
but as I listened to the priest I felt that if a man is feeling that
the love of the one woman he craves can never be his, that, as an
escape from the speculative eye of Mrs. Grundy, a cell might look
inviting."

"So you give Mrs. Grundy credit for a speculative eye, Lionel," said
Lady Esmondet, amusingly.

"What else is she but a speculator? she is ever busy, always alive and
speculating with some unfortunate beings, name or fame," said Lionel
bitterly.

"I am glad we have run away from her; she cannot be with us on the
mountains, so rest easy for to-day, Lionel," answered Lady Esmondet.

"No," said Vaura, earnestly; "the Alpine heights are too pure and too
lofty for her, she loves the heated gaslit _salon_, with the music of
many voices; but we are all the better for an outing with Dame Nature,
I do love her so, with her sunlit air, her breezy fan, her robes of
green, while her children, the brook and field, sing and laugh, they
are so merry and so rich; yes, I love her so, I should just like to
take her in my arms; see the birds in the trees as we pass, she rocks
them to sleep, for as she breathes she sways the branches to and fro,
and so gives a tuneful accompanyment to their song ere they rest."

And so in gay chit-chat or more serious converse, the descent into
fair Italia is made. The grand passion of Trevalyon's life becoming
more earnest, and completely mastering him for this sweet woman; the
companion of his journey; for not only her grace and rich beauty made
him her captive, but her tender womanliness, underlying her vivacity,
charmed him, and his eyes were seldom off her face as she sat opposite
him; he was never tired of watching the ever-warying expression of her
countenance; and poor Lionel, subdued at last, felt he must clear
himself to Eric Haughton, and have her ever beside him.

Her grey eyes were luminous as stars with a warmer light as they
sometimes rested on his; there was a wild rose bloom on her cheeks
painted by nature, with the invigorating air of the mountains.
Sometimes, with a gay _abandon_, she tossed aside head-gear and cloak,
and with Lionel, descended from the carriage to cull some rare moss or
late flower, or make the ascent of a higher spot to view some lovelier
scene; just now she is looking more than usually lovely. In this
prelude to real love-making, as was now taking place daily between
Lionel and Vaura; what a magical softening of expression there is,
what a sweetness of languor in the eyes, a tremulous sighing from the
waiting heart; and yet, she is blissfully happy, for she knows that
she is loved by a man whom she will love, aye, does, with all the
sympathy and passion of her nature.

CHAPTER XXVII.

GRUNDY'S LASH CAUSES HEART-ACHE.

On the evening of the sixth day, our friends leisurely arrived in the
city of the Caesars; on coming in at the depot, Trevalyon, hiring a
landau, they, with Sims and the maids following, proceeded to the
villa Iberia. They learned that the noble owner had been there three
days previously, and had then given his own servants a holiday, hiring
English in their stead, thinking the comfort of his guests would be
better attended to by this arrangement.

"The Marquis must have come here immediately after the ball," said
Lady Esmondet, "I heartily wish he were here to welcome us."

Her companions were silent, both busy with thought; Trevalyon's were
not altogether pleasant, his proud spirit recoiling from self at the
part he had played in the boudoir of Madame de Hauteville.

"Had I not," he told himself, "had I not bowed to Del Castello's
question of 'are you anything to her?' he would have been here to do
his wooing; we, at an hotel, and yet, it was only human, but, bah! how
mean; but was I to give up any place I may have in her heart, and
yield her to the influence of his southern tongue, merely because I am
held in honour not to speak, and am just now a foot-ball for Dame
Rumour. God help me, darling, I couldn't; you might, in _pique_ at my
silence, have given way to his warm words; you belong to me; I have
only you, and should I lose you, one of two courses would be mine;
either to make an endless beast of myself for distraction's sake, or
become misanthrope, like my poor father." So thinking, he unfastened
the cloak of the woman whose beauty and sweet womanliness, had made
him captive.

In the hall, the butler saying:

"Dinner will await your ladyship's pleasure in half an hour; our
master, his noble lordship, commanded cook to have it ready every
evening, on arrival of nine o'clock express, so your ladyships and the
English gentleman would find comfort."

"Your master is very thoughtful," said Lady Esmondet.

One of the household now ushered them to their respective apartments.

"What an air of complete comfort pervades the whole place, said Vaura.

"Yes," said Lady Esmondet, "I am rather _difficile_ in such matters,
but I must confess, the place is charming in its warmth and luxury."

Here they parted to dress, Lady Esmondet being conducted to a
luxurious room on the ground floor, opening on to a verandah; there
was a suspicion of chilliness in the air, so a bright fire burned in
the open fire-place; fresh flowers bloomed in old Roman jars, while
the walls were gay in the brightness of a few choice paintings.

"Yes, one could pass a winter very comfortably here," mused the
occupant, as Somers fastened her robe of pearl-gray satin, "and that
we are so well placed is all the outcome of the beauty of face and
form of one woman."

Miss Vernon was led by a maid up a few steps, covered in the softest
of velvet pile, so deep and rich as to cause one not to feel the
pressure of the sole of one's foot, and now into two rooms built out
in a projection, and the villa Iberia, being located on a knoll,
commanding one of the finest views of the Eternal City, the occupant
of these rooms feasted his eyes on a scene unrivalled in Italy. Here
also, a cheerful fire glowed in the fire-place; the long, narrow
windows were hung in a pale, blue tinted satin, the walls painted in
choice studies by deft Italian fingers; the opening between the rooms
was hung in unison with the windows, and on the satin, clusters of the
rose in every hue were embroidered; easy chairs, lounge, satin bed
coverlid, and soft carpet, were of the same soft tint, with the warmth
of the rose thereon. The air was fragrant, for the hyacinth, rose, and
many a gay foreign sister, vied with each other in perfumed welcome to
the flower face bending over them, and drinking in their sweets.

"And he has done all this for me," she mused, giving herself up to
Saunders to have her hair dressed. "How glad I am," she thought
looking dreamily at her reflection in the mirror, for a very passible
loveliness, "but Lionel was always my ideal cavalier, he loves me
now," and she smiled softly, "and has brought into existence in my
heart a passionate love he little dreams of, poor fellow; I have
hitherto played with men's hearts, so they say, but not intentionally;
Heaven knows I merely enjoyed their free submission, their love, as my
natural food; I always enjoyed dainties, and men's hearts were as such
to me; I could never endure the bread and butter of life, but I wrong
myself or I am of little worth; one is apt to have luxurious
inclinations, at an hour and in a scene like this," she thought as she
toyed with one of the gold perfume bottles, in the form of a Cupid,
standing on the breast of a sleeping man, and aiming for his heart. "I
know I have drunk in the pleasure their looks of love and warmth of
words have given me, not thinking perhaps enough of to what end it
might lead, but if I dream here any longer, I shall experience much
the same sensation as sleeping Richard at Bosworth Field, while my
ghosts of the departed, rise up before me, and while I think pityingly
of poor Cyril and many more, let me also remember the deserved cut I
gave Sir Edward Hatherton, when he laid his insignificant title, his
supreme vanity and egotism, with his mean heart at my feet, while
boasting of his broad acres, making too sure he had but to ask, and be
accepted with thanks. Yes, though I have hurt some brave manly hearts,
I have given a check to the vanity of that man that will send him into
the corner to think that there are some women, even in this age of
barter, who, though they love acres of the dear warm mother earth,
they will not give their loveliness and powers of loving for the broad
acres of which he is lord."

And so fair Vaura pondered, as Saunders with deft fingers performed
her easy task of robing her mistress, and now she has finished, and
both maid and our sweet Mlle. Vernon are satisfied with the result.
And well they may, for her cardinal satin robe fits her full bust and
figure like a glove, her eyes are full of dark and tender depths, her
lips red as the rose, while the rose bloom of the mountain air has not
faded from her cheeks, and neck and arms being bare gleam in their
whiteness.

Trevalyon met her at the foot of the steps to lead her to the
dining-room whither Lady Esmondet has already gone; they immediately
seat themselves ami do justice to the tempting little dinner awaiting
them.

The room is handsome and furnished with a mixture of English comfort
and solidness with French brightness the furniture being of carved
oak, while the carpet and hangings are of a gay Paris pattern, the
table bright with silver and decorated with flowers, its dinner
service of old Sevres china, each piece of beautiful delicate design,
while the dishes would have tempted an anchorite from his cave. Over
the mantel-piece of purest white marble was a painting, evidently the
work of a master, representing Bacchus riding in a chariot, and on his
head among his curls vine leaves, in his hand a cup. The whole
painting had a warmth of color and gay dashing style, with a life-like
look about it very pleasing.

"One almost expects to see the merry god lift the cup to his lip,"
said Vaura; "he looks so life-like."

"It is a remarkably well executed thing," said Trevalyon.

"The whole villa," echoed Lady Esmondet, "has a cheerful brightness
pervading it that would dispel the chronic grumbling of a Diogenes or
an Englishman."

"Even Gladstone," cried Vaura, gaily, "would here forget that
Beaconsfield wants a 'war supply.'"

"And I, Trevalyon, shall so lose myself in the intoxicating sweetness
of the hour as to forget that on my return to England I have to enter
the arena of the strife of tongues, and combat Dame Rumour in facing a
'difficulty.'" At the last word be looked meaningly at Vaura, and with
quickened heart-beats she remembered his flowers, and knew what would
come when the 'difficulty' was faced and removed.

"The absent Marquis likes well the form of the god of wine," said Lady
Esmondet, directing her companion's gaze towards a group of statuary
on a small inlaid stand, and reflected in a pier glass, representing
Anacreon smilingly advancing, carrying in his arms the infants Bacchus
and Cupid.

"'Tis a pretty group, extremely _chic_," said Vaura.

"What think you, Vaura, of the painting behind you?" inquired Lady
Esmondet.

On turning slightly she saw the pictured face of the owner of the
villa, the eyes of her admirer seemed so steadfast in their gaze that
a faint blush suffused her cheek as she said:

"A true likeness of a true friend, for we are most comfortably placed
by his kindness; indeed I think when the day comes to leave the villa
we would fain remain."

"It is a handsome face," said Trevalyon.

"It is," said Vaura, as she played with the dainties on her plate and
sipped her glass of sparkling Moselle.

"On leaving here it will be for either the crush of the London season
or Haughton Hall under the new _regime_," said Lady Esmondet, "and I
know just how I shall feel: as a man who, coming home after a day with
the hounds, is enjoying a pipe in slippered feet when reminded by
madame of the state dinner he has forgotten."

"Either London or the dear old place will be an awakening," said
Vaura, as they wend their way to the _salons_.

"Yes." said Trevalyon, "for nowhere could one better enjoy the _dolce
far niente_ of Italian languor than here. Del Castello, I fancy, lives
his life."

"_Dum vivimus vivamus_," said Vaura.

The salons are a suite of three; taken separately, of medium
dimensions; but when the heavy hangings are drawn aside which divide
the apartments they form one long handsome room, extending the entire
length of the villa, at one end of which is a conservatory where bloom
flowers of great beauty, the tiny structure being in miniature form of
the villa; it was entered from the _salon_ by sliding doors of stained
glass; a smiling statue of Flora was placed near the entrance and
seemed to welcome one's approach.

"It is a bower of beauty," said Vaura. The moonlight streaming in from
the heaven-illumined gardens outside, bringing into life the scarlet
blossoms of the camelia and the satin of her gown, and lending to her
beauty a transparent softness, her eyes seeming darker and with a
tender light, as she says, looking out upon the garden:

"It is a living idyl in the white moon light; did I gaze long enough,
strange fancies would come to me, the statuary would be living
marbles, while the leaves of the palm-tree and olive would sing to me
of their story as given by the dead poets."

"We must revel in the beauties of the gardens, when to-morrow comes,
Vaura: I am going to be very early tonight," said Lady Esmondet.

"It must have been a great disappointment to Del Castello," said
Trevalyon, inwardly applying the lash, "to winter elsewhere."

"_N'importe_," said Lady Esmondet, seeing the sadness of expression,
"we, have so much of the London fog; he, has his villa and the south
always."

"But he could have been here with all his elegant _recherche_
surroundings, only for me," and as he silently thought the lash went
down.

In the villa, many things beautiful and rare occupied their attention;
in the small library were some deep German and English books on
philosophy, with Tennyson in every style of dress; also Byron, with
novels of all tone and colour; as Vaura moved about among the
treasures of the absent Marquis, Trevalyon, watching her intently,
tortured himself by imagining that she handled everything lovingly,
read snatches from his books tenderly.

"What a couple they would have been," he thought, as Vaura's syren
voice read aloud some marked passages from the poets; "even if I can
clear myself of this hateful scandal, I have only the gloomy 'towers'
to offer her, while he has his sunny palaces in the lands or climes
she loves so well."

And Lady Esmondet seeing his intent gaze following Vaura, and
observing his quiet thought,

"He is unhappy, and dreads lest she come to love the handsome
Spaniard, while daily amongst his treasures, with his silent pictured
face watching her from the walls; I wonder how it is; has she refused
him, and accepted the villa as slight atonement, or is this the
beginning of the end, and that she will give herself to him; alas for
dear Lionel if so."

"How selfish I am," said Vaura, impulsively closing the book from
which she had read aloud a few marked passages in the sadly sweet
"Prisoner of Chillon." "You both look weary, how is it I did not
notice it before? come away god-mother mine; uncle Eric would say I am
not redeeming my promise to take care of you; goodnight, Captain
Trevalyon," giving him her hand, the soft touch of which seemed as a
new revelation to him, reinvigorating him as it were, but only in the
contact, for alone he is again a prey to gloomy forebodings which
crowd upon him, so as to seem to stifle him; loosening his collar and
tie, and throwing himself on the bed, he tells himself, "What am I, in
comparison to him? his unclouded life, at least as far as human eye
can tell, with the looks of an Adonis, his immense wealth, his
southern blood, eloquent tongue, and life in climes kissed by the sun.
I fear he will woe her again; and is it in woman to come to me; even
though I give the love of my life in preference to all that the Fates
give in him; alas! my knowledge of them tells me no; yes, I know she
has smiled tenderly on me, bat is not this because of her old
remembrance of me--as part of her by-gone life in her loved home; yes
I fear it is, or because she is playing with my heart as she has with
others; heavens, how unmanned I am, Father," and his hands are clasped
reverently, "pity me, steep my soul in forgetfulness, and let me
remember naught, save that Thou ruleth all," when, as if in answer to
his imploring cry, slumber, fitful it is true and broken by dreams
came to him; when now fully awake again in slippered feet, and with
his pipe, he noiselessly steps out into the night, pacing the verandah
to and fro, or leaning against one of its columns, thinks on of the
past and present, when in the dim future, the vast unknown, he feels
the necessity of calm; else this scandal will so overwhelm him in the
waves of unrest, as to cause his life to be a wreck, and Vaura to be
indeed, and in truth, lost to him forever more. In the determined
quiet of a man controling self, he now again, this time undressing,
takes to his bed and gains an hour's sleep ere it is time to rise for
a new day.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

HEART-STIRS TO DIVINE MUSIC.

At break of day, springing from bed, and after a cold plunge bath,
feeling more like himself, he went out into the half slumbering city;
but the sunbeams give their roseate kiss and mists roll up the great
mountain slopes, and the lazy Italian rubs his black eyes not seeing
the beauties in nature that surround him--they are part of his life--
but only wondering how easiest he can pass the day, while Trevalyon
bending his steps to a favourite restaurant, after a pretty fair
breakfast, for the fresh air of the morning has given him an appetite,
hiring a horse, goes for a long ride, and turning his horse's head for
the country, determines by getting away with nature to find that old
self that he has lost, or by thinking out his plan to how best use the
information received from Father Lefroy, recover his customary
tranquility of mind, for just now he is torn by doubts and fears; he
should be in England, but dreads to leave Vaura, lest the Marquis
hearing of his departure would endeavour personally to press his suit.
And so putting spurs to his horse he is nearer the pure lofty
mountains on whose breast he hopes to find peace.

While at the villa, the woman he loves, after a somewhat sleepless
night in which she is haunted by the faces of her Spanish admirer and
the hero of her early girlhood, descends from her room to find Lady
Esmondet not yet up, though it is luncheon hour, and Trevalyon away
for the day. The afternoon is occupied until it is time to dress for
dinner by visitors. With dinner comes Lady Esmondet, Trevalyon not
having returned it is a _tete-a-tete_ affair; afterwards in the
salons, the conversation drifts from fair Italia, the after-luncheon
visitors, and the London _Times_ to Lionel.

"Poor fellow, one can easily see how unsettled and worried he is at
times over this wretched scandal," said Lady Esmondet.

"I should treat the whole matter with perfect contempt," Vaura
answered haughtily.

"In this instance it won't answer."

"Why not? if he is sure it is false."

"Vaura! Vaura, you know it is false."

"The fact is, god-mother, I know nothing about it, nor do I care to,
unless he tells me himself; my life, that is my woman life as you
know, has been spent _a_ Paris, and so my ears have not been a
receptacle for London scandal."

"Dear Lionel has been too independent."

"Yes, god-mother, that's just it; it's his character; had he had a
town house, a French cook, and given half a dozen big dinners during
the season, he might indulge in secret marriage if his fancy ran that
way, and society would smile at him through rose-coloured spectacles."

"Too true, Vaura, _ma chere_; Madame Grundy is an odd mixture of
inconsistencies; should a vulgar _parvenu_ pay society's tolls in
shape of boastful charities, balls and dinners, he is one of the pets
of the season, and is allowed any latitude as to his little
weaknesses. Had Lionel made atonement by marriage, all would have been
forgiven; but he has dared to please himself, and so they at the first
chance pelt their idol."

"Their idol, yes," said Vaura, musingly; "could this falsehood be the
invention of some disappointed woman who has taken for her motto the
words of Honorius, that 'there is a sweeter strain than that of
grief-revenge, that drowns it.'"

As she ceased speaking, the voice of Trevalyon is heard quieting Mars,
who is leaping wildly in welcome. And now he is with them; and as with
smiles and warm hand-clasps he is welcomed, he feels that this is
home. Vaura, who has been colouring some photographs, lets her hands
fall idly to her lap, as she listens to the manly voice which, coming
in and joining its music with their own, she feels makes their life
complete.

"Yes, I have dined, thank you, and do feel more like myself than I
have done since the weight of this scandal has been upon me; but I
shall not worry myself or you with naming it. I turned my horse's head
east, and always find a day with Nature so exalts and uplifts my whole
being that life, again is filled with the calm, clear star of hope,
and that my burden of care falls to the dust under my horse's feet; my
spirit is again buoyant; I again live. And what have you both, my
charming home angels, been about? you look yet as if a sun-warm bath
would be your best medicine, Lady Alice."

"You are right, Lionel; you have had the sunbeams to-day; I must bask
in them on to-morrow (D.V.) I feel fatigued even yet, though lazy
enough to have kept my room until dinner hour."

"You have explored the gardens, I suppose, _ma belle_."

"No, that is a pleasure to come; I, too, was lazy today."

"I am selfish enough to be almost glad, as we can roam there to-morrow
together," and there is a lingering emphasis on the last word as his
blue eyes in a long gaze rest on her face.

"Come, Lionel, you and Vaura give me some music; draw the screen
between my eyes and the firelight; I shall lie on this lounge and
listen."

"Is not this an ideal music-room?" said Vaura, "opening as it does
into the conservatory; and see Euterpe, standing in her niche, with
flute and cornet at her feet, violin and guitar on either side, and
the perfection of pianos, with this sweet-stringed harp;" and, sinking
into the low chair beside it, she drew her fingers over the strings.

"I perceive," said Lionel, handling the flute, "your friend is a maker
of sweet sounds."

"Awake the echo."

"To hear is to obey, _ma belle_."

Whereupon Lionel, looking down at the face upturned to him as her head
lay on the cushioned chair-back, or droops as she draws her fingers
across the harp-strings; and with the fever of love hot within him he
sang in his sweet tenor the songs of Italia with the passion of a
living love breathing in their every note and word.

Thus song after song was softly sung, Vaura sometimes blending her
voice with his, and he was so near, and it was an intoxicating hour;
and Trevalyon, bound in honour not to speak his love, forgot that one
of our poets, Sterne I think, says that "talking of love is making
it," and sings on, as he drinks in fresh draughts from the warmth of
her eyes, and her face is pale with emotion, her lips, that "thread of
scarlet," and her neck, gleams in its whiteness as her bosom heaves
with her quickened heart-beats, as she feels his meaning in his warm
words; and fearing for herself, she is so sympathetic, and knows it is
only because of the "difficulty," that he has not spoken, starts to
her feet, laying her hand gently on his arm, says softly:

"You must be tired."

"Tired! no; this hour has been so perfect, my heart yearns for many
such."

"See, my god-mother has deserted us unnoticed; ah! what a spell is
there in music."

"The magnetism of your dear presence; ah, Circe! Circe what spells you
weave," and there is a tender light in his eyes. She lets him look so,
for a second, when she says gently, giving him her hand in good-night;
"it would not do to leave you all the power of witchery," and she lets
him put her hand through his arm and lead her to the foot of her
stairs, where, with a silent hand-clasp they part for the night.

Dismissing her maid, whom she found asleep on the rug before the fire:

"I dare say you are tired, Saunders; you may retire; give me my
dressing gown; there, that will do, I shall comb out my hair."

And, arrayed in dainty dressing gown, of white embroidered flannel,
the combing of the bright tresses is a lengthy affair, for thought is
busy; "Yes, this intense sympathy, this earnest tenderness, this
languor and sweet sense of a new joy in living, all mean that I love
him; and, as 'tis so, I am not at one with the poet when he says,
''tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all;'
lost! lost! what a world of loneliness it would be to me, what a world
of loneliness in the very word; my love, your mesmeric eyes seem to be
on me now; I wonder," and a smile comes to the dark eyes and the sweet
mouth, "I wonder what you would think of me in this robe; but what
nonsense I am dreaming," and the _robe de nuit_ is on; the short,
fluffy hair pushed up a little from the eyes, which close as the soft
cheek presses the pillow, and Somnus, the sleepy god, claims his dues.

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE UNRULY MEMBER IS HEARD.

The following morn is bright and glorious, the mountains, ah! the
grandeur of them, their peaks in changing hues as the sun's breath
grows warmer, cut the azure of the heavens, and rest there; one
involuntarily feels on a morning like this one cannot love nature
intensely enough; and now, Old Sol, giving his brightest beams to the
Italian, who loves him, shines into every corner of the Eternal City,
from the King in his palace, and the Pope in the palace of the
Vatican, to the peasant stretched on his door-step; for the good king
Victor Emmanuel is sick, and the bright beams shining through his
window, cheer him; and he thinks of his people who are poor and ill,
and also welcomes the sunbeams for their sake. And his gentle
Holiness, Pius IX, in walking past the great painting of the
Transfiguration, thinks "how glorious it looks in the sun's rays," and
he too was glad. And the lazy peasant lying in the sun, stretched
himself and was glad, for surely many noble ladies and gentlemen would
be abroad in the sweet warm air, and he would beg many _soldi_ and buy
macaroni.

Vaura, usually an early riser, but not having slept until dawn, was
only awakened an hour ago by a sunbeam opening her eyelids, so that it
was luncheon hour ere she made her appearance in the aesthetic little
morning-room, whither Lady Esmondet had ordered it to be brought; on
entering kissed her god-mother, and giving her hand to Lionel, her
eyes drooping under his long gaze,

"You look quite yourself, god-mother mine, after your nights rest,"
she said.

"Yes, I am feeling very well to-day; but your roses are of a pale
tint, how is that?"

"Whose roses could bloom with undimmed lustre surrounded by flowers of
such brilliant colouring?" she answered, evasively, indicating by a
gesture the floral beauties filling the vases and jars, not wishing to
own before Lionel her sweet sleeplessness of the night.

Captain Trevalyon's man now brought letters from the post-office.

"Ah," said Vaura, taking her share, "one from Haughton Hall in the
handwriting of madame, and to me."

On opening it a very well-executed photograph of the Hall fell to the
floor, which Lionel picked up, while Vaura read aloud as follows:

"DEAR MISS VERNON,--

"I enclose you a photo of the Hall as I have made it. It was a perfect
barracks when I saw it first; see what money can do. The American
eagle is a great bird, eh? You must marry money. I shall have a
gentleman here at Christmas with lots of land and a title. The Duchess
of Hatherton would sound well."

"A _bete noire_ of yours," said Lady Esmondet.

"Yes," said Vaura, carelessly, with a shrug of shoulders, going on
with the letter.

"I must also settle Blanche this coming season. You observed, I
suppose, how, much flesh she had; well, she loses weight every month;
secret pining I expect for that naughty"--and Vaura stopped short as
she saw the name, a curl of contempt coming to her lip as she read
silently--"Trevalyon. She thought by his attentions that he loved her,
poor thing; but the Colonel and myself would or could never hear of
such a match, as he has a snug little wife hid away somewhere. I have
Major Delrose a good deal with me. Your uncle doesn't care for him,
neither would you; but the Colonel, dear man, is considerate, and
don't expect everyone to be cut after his cloth; and as you will never
be able to come north in the cold weather you won't meet him. Give my
love to the willowy Marchmonts. We are the gayest of butterflies.

"Your frolicsome,
"KATE HAUGHTON,
"Haughton Hall, Surrey, England.

"MISS VERNON,
"The villa Iberia,
"Rome, Italy.
"November, 1877."

To Delrose at Haughton madame, after mailing above, had said:

"I have settled Miss Vernon at all events; she will not show up at
Christmas. I know she hates the Duke of Hatherton so I told her he is
coming, and I don't know as yet whether he is. It takes a woman to
outwit a woman."

"I cannot see," Delrose had answered, "why you don't want her, Kate."

"Because you are blind, you goose; if she came Trevalyon might, and
you don't want him; and I don't want her, and so I please you, you
ungrateful man."

To Trevalyon by same mail came:

"My own idol, come to me and Delrose shall go; I have written Miss
Vernon that he is here, because I _don't want_ her freezing ladyship.
Everyone says you are so naughty in having a hidden wife; they will
cut you I am sure; but I _love you all the more for your naughtiness_;
only come to yours evermore.--KATE HAUGHTON."

Trevalyon, giving a weary sigh on reading above, tearing it in two,
tossed it into the fire; now opening one from his cousin Judith, he
read as follows:

"DEAR COUSIN,--Father is not at all well; the trip across, as I
feared, has been too much for him; the suburbs of New York, our home,
suited him better than foggy London; however, dear father was obliged
to come on business, as he has informed you when last able to write.
He wishes me to enclose to you a scrap from the 'society' columns of
_one_ of _our_ New York newspapers. 'We give a tid-bit of scandal
(from a London paper), in brief, as the hero is a nephew of our Sir
Vincent Trevalyon, of ----. Capt. Trevalyon (of the Towers,
Northumberland), a gay society man, fascinating and handsome, is about
to bring from her seclusion, his hidden wife; some years ago he had
eloped with a friend's spouse, friend now has shuffled off mortal
coil; outcome, my Lady Trevalyon, who will be the sensation of the
coming season.' Father says to tell him on you honour, what truth
there is in above--and I am,

"Yours very sincerely,
"Judith Trevalyon,
"The Langham, London, Nov. 77.

"Capt. Trevalyon,
"The Villa Iberia,
"Rome, Italy."

On reading above, Trevalyon, with sudden impulse, and craving for
sympathy, handed it to his old friend.

"Too bad, too bad, Lionel; how grieved I am for you."

At the same time, Vaura, who had turned again to her lines from
Madame, on reading over, said as she discussed her luncheon.

"This bit of duck will be a palatable _morceau_ as compared with my
letter from Haughton; Madame does not write to please, she merely
pleases to write."

Seeing Trevalyon very grave and silent, she said with kindly intent,
and to change the current of his thought. "I suppose, god-mother, you
have sketched out your plans for the day long before I joined you."

"No, we could come to no decision, so have left it for you to
arrange."

"_Tres bien_ if so, from the glimpse I have through the window, I
suggest that our first trip be to the gardens."

"Happy thought; Lionel, will you ring the bell like a good fellow?"

Somers answering, her mistress said:

"Bring me suitable wraps for the garden, please, and tell Saunders to
do likewise for Miss Vernon."

The maids now appear with out-door robings; Lady Esmondet is made
comfortable, when Lionel goes to Vaura's assistance; 'tis a pretty
red-riding-hood and cloak attached, and contrasts charmingly with her
soft gray cashmere gown, her short brown hair and sweet face look well
coming from the warm red setting of the hood.

"Never mind it; it was never meant to fasten," she says, seeing his
grave eyes on her face, instead of the fastening; he does not speak
but only thinks, "My enemies will not let me call her mine;" she is
sure he can see the colour come and go in her face as her heart beats
irregularly, and says gently, putting up her soft hands, "never mind
it;" for answer he allows the hook and eye to fasten holding her hands
for a moment in his. They then followed their friend through the
French window down the few stone steps to the gardens. There were many
flowers in bloom and the green of the orange and lemon trees was as
rich as when the year was young. The villa of white marble was built
on a gentle rising knoll, prettily wooded, at the foot of which
running through a glade was a tiny streamlet clear as crystal, which
with its ripple and the singing of the birds lent music to the air. On
the highest garden site was built a tower from whence an extensive
view of the city is gained, with its spires and palaces, together with
the violet sea, and the ever changing majestic mountains. The lower
part of the tower is an arbour covered with roses and vines. The
orchard was on the high plateau on which the villa stood, laying in
part at the back and side of the mansion; the lawn and flower garden
were separated from the orchard by a smiling wood nymph and grim satyr
who each held an end of a chain of silver.

"The laughing nymph looks as if bent on making the grim satyr give way
to mirth," said Vaura.

"It is a pretty idea," said Lady Esmondet, "the having one's orchard
so laid out as to be an ornament to one's grounds, instead of as we
do, merely as a place to grow fruit."

"Yes, I think so," said Lionel, "and at my place the lawn is strewn by
acorn, apple and the pear."

"The apple blossom is beautiful," said Vaura; "but whom have we here,"
catching sight of a statue through the trees.

"None other," said Lionel, "than the powerful Populonia who protects
the fruit from storms."

"And placed high enough!" said Vaura "to see the storm a brewing, with
us it would be a great dog _versus_ a small boy."

They now descend terraced steps arched by trellised roses and come to
a fountain fed by a spring down in the deep cool dell.

"Shall we drink from the brook by the way?" half sang Vaura, and
stooping, picked up from a small projection a silver goblet, filling
she handed to Lady Esmondet; there was another which, taking herself,
said, "and now for my toast, 'May the absent Marquis, who has an eye
for the beautiful in Nature and Art be always surrounded by both.'"

"Amen," responded Trevalyon, "which is the best I can do, seeing Del
Castello did not remember me in providing two goblets only."

"Dual solitude," said Vaura in low tones, her god-mother having gone
on.

"The very mention of it makes my heart throb," he whispered.

"What delightful gardens," said Lady Esmondet returning "beside this
fountain, under the shade of olive trees, it must be delightfully cool
the hottest of summer days, and a favourite spot, if one may judge
from the number of seats about."

"'Tis another Eden," said Vaura, "from the mountains yonder to the
green shade of myrtles, olives, and orange trees, lit up by the pink
and red blossoms at their feet."

"You will revel here in the early morning, _ma belle_, if you have the
taste of your childhood."

"You remember me, then?" and the dark eyes look up from under the red
hood.

"I have never forgotten," he says, quietly.

"Don't you think, Vaura, dear?" said Lady Esmondet, "we had better
return to the villa and decide what we shall do with the rest of the
day."

"Yes, I suppose so, dear; though one would fain linger here longer."

As they retrace their steps, Trevalyon, decided for them, that the air
being delightfully warm and balmy, a drive up and down the Corso,
would be pleasant. The fresh air and new scene dispelled all Vaura's
languor, and heightened the spirits of her companions.

"The Corso is even gayer than usual," observed Lady Esmondet.

"And with its best bib and tucker on, if I am any judge of _la
toilette_," said Lionel.

"To receive three _distingues_ travellers," laughed Vaura; "I wonder
who society will jot us down as in her huge note book."

"As the Briton abroad," said Lady Esmondet, "to revel in the sunbeams,
which our gold cannot buy from our leaden skies."

A carriage now passed, in which were seated two ladies, evidently
English, who bowed and smiled to Lady Esmondet and Trevalyon.

"Who are your friends?" enquired Vaura; "I have seen them somewhere,
but forget when and where."

"They are the Duchess of Wyesdale and her daughter, the Lady Eveline
Northingdon," answered Trevalyon, as Lady Esmondet bowed to other
acquaintances.

"The little Duchess, who is insane enough to think Lionel in love with
her," thought his friend, remembering gay Mrs. Wingfield's gossip, and
that her name had been coupled with Trevalyon's; it was only that she
was a foolish little woman, and let society see that she had a
penchant for Captain Trevalyon. At that time the Duke was alive to
bear the title and represent the estate in Wiltshire, the Scottish
moors and shooting box, with the town house in London; very useful in
that way, so his Duchess told herself, and in truth, only in that
character, did the fair, frivolous Lady Wyesdale appreciate her
easygoing fox-hunting spouse.

"You can run the season very well without me," he would say, "while I
do a little shooting; you are just cut out for London, while the
conventionalities bore me."

And so it came to pass, that at their London house, Irene, the
Duchess, (or, as she was commonly called, Posey, from her maiden name
of Poseby, and from her habit of posing on all occasions), reigned in
her own way. In the autumn of '76, the Duke had been called to his
long home; he had been knocking down birds on the Scottish moors.
Coming home late one night to dinner in high spirits, and exultant
over his full bag, he found a telegram from his friend, Gerald Elton,
a keen sportsman, asking him to "telegraph him _immediately_ at
Edinburgh, if he was at the 'Bird cage;' if so, he would join him at
once." "Bless my life," said poor Wyesdale to a friend with him;
"Elton is the very man we want, no end of a shot, and rare fun; but I
must send my telegram off at once, or I'll lose him; but how am I to
come at pen and ink in the 'cage' is more than I know; oh, yes, I
remember when I came down last, Posey would have me take pen and ink
(and a great bore it was) in order to telegraph her of my return;
don't know why women are such a bundle of nerves, they oughtn't to be
nervous at the return of a husband; but where did I put it, hang me if
I know; if I find it the boy can ride over with it, if not I must go
myself; oh! I remember, it's in the other room on a shelf with collars
and cuffs; birds are not particular, so I never wear 'em;" without a
light he went in, feeling along the shelves with his hand, unluckily
for him overturning the inkstand, knocking the penhandle against the
wall, and the rusty pen full of ink, into the palm of his right hand,
where it broke; he and his friend extracted most of it, putting
sticking plaster over the wound. He would not trust a verbal message
to his sleepy keeper, now full of beer; so soon on horseback and away.

Elton arrived in due course, to find his friend with his arm in a
sling, swollen and painful.

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