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

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off the mask, and rubbing his eyes.

"Where am I, Father Lefroy? you're not on the square; you said I was
going to see my mother; come, own up; what did you say I was coming
where every one wore masks for?" and he stamped on the one he had torn
off (and which they thought it best he should wear, so that at a
certain point, if necessary, his strong resemblance to his father
should be suddenly revealed).

"So they do wear masks, my son, though you do not see them."

"I am not your son; this is my father," he said with emphasis and
pride, drawing from his pocket a miniature of Delrose; "we're square
now; you hid this from me, but I found it out; you cannot put me on
bread and water, for I've good as cut and run."

"George, dear, be a good boy; I am your mother," said the poor nun,
tearfully.

"You! well, it is your voice; but why didn't you speak to a fellow in
the coach, and lift up that nasty black veil; here, I will."

And before she could stop him, he had mounted the chair and torn the
whole head-gear off, exposing the face of one-time Mrs. Clarmont.

"'Tis she! 'tis she!" echoed many voices;--girls, now matrons,
remembered the pretty little thing in their first season as Mrs.
Clarmont; _chaperons_ and men, who had and hadn't flirted with her,
remembered her as Fanny Ponton.

"Let me go to her," said Vaura, gently; "what is my grief to hers?"

"Ah, poor thing, what a sad fate has yours been; do not hide your face
again from your poor little boy and us; dear me, what a weight it is;
one would almost smother beneath its folds."

"Oh, I must veil," cried the poor thing.

"No; leave it off, daughter; it is my wish society shall see in you
Trevalyon's 'hidden wife;' all have heard your words; mine and this
lad's," said the priest, sternly.

Nearly every inmate of the long rooms had eagerly and excitedly pushed
and crowded, squeezed and crushed as near as possible to the principal
actors in the scenes they had witnessed, making very conspicuous the
attitude taken by the group in and about the curtained recess; namely,
the scarlet-robed hostess; Lord Rivers, pleasantly placed, and too
lazy and epicurean to move; Delrose, in the blackness of alternate
rage, hate and defiance, longing to cut the scene, but unwilling to
leave the field to Lord Rivers, and those he termed his foes; Kate,
afraid to stir, for he had said between his teeth, "You won't go near
them." Tedril, with the huntress, stood beside them; while small
Everly, accustomed to the _role_ and remembering the mutual promise of
Blanche and himself, sat at the feet of Madame, alternating fanning or
saying something pretty to her, nerved to his task by the fact that
Tisdale Follard, who had just bought his M.P., had told him "he must
and would have his money at dawn."

But the boy with eager eyes is pushing his way through the crowds and
down to the sofa of Madame; all gazing after him; but nothing abashed,
he elbows his way (a bold fearless boy, a very Delrose, with nothing
of his mother in him); now with an intent stare at his father, then a
long look at the miniature, said with a great sigh and slowly:

"No; I suppose you're not my _pater_; when I find him he won't scowl
at a fellow," with a loving glance at the likeness, which was of
Delrose in full-dress uniform, smiling and handsome, taken with his
thoughts full of his triumphant _affaire de coeur_ with Mrs. Clarmont.

"I am no mean sneak, sir; so I'll show you the likeness of my father
to excuse my staring at you like a cad;" and he handed it to Delrose
who did not take it, Kate doing so, but he had recognised the case on
the boy taking it from his breast.

"Thanks, no;" he said, with affected bravado, for society eyed him;
"the young monkey plays his part well; if the thing even is of me,
light fingers at times lighten one's belongings."

"It is of you, dear Georgie," said Kate, recklessly; "your family is
increasing."

"If you say so, it must be so," he said, his bold black eyes meeting
hers.

Mrs. Haughton now handed the miniature back to the boy, who, after
returning it carefully to his pocket, said proudly, and looking
fixedly at his father:

"If you were a boy, I'd give you one right out from the shoulder for
what you've said of me;" and turning on his heel, he was making his
way for the head of the room, when Madame, obeying impulse, called out
laughingly:

"How have your owners called you my little man?"

"George Delrose Ponton is my name, Madame;" and with one hand to his
breast, where the miniature lay, he again pushed his way through the
groups of revellers.

"A speech from the throne could not have been given with more dignity
than the poor fatherless little fellow gives his name," said Vaura,
pityingly.

"My dear mother has fainted, sir;" the boy said, ignoring priest and
women, and instinctively choosing the face full of strength and
sweetness, the face men and children trusted and women loved--that of
Lionel Trevalyon.

"Poor boy, poor thing, so she has while our attention has been
diverted."

The meeting of father and son had been more than she could bear, and
at the answer of Delrose to their child, she had fallen back in her
chair in a dead faint.

"Poor creature, no wonder she gave way, I must get her out of this
crowd."

"Bring her to my boudoir, Sir Lionel; touch that bell, Sir Tilton,
please," cried Mrs. Haughton, thinking exultantly, "now is my
opportunity to have him to myself, I shall open the ball with Lord
Rivers at once, and then--" Mason appearing "lead the way to my
boudoir and attend to this lady who has fainted."

"When she revives she will like some one besides a strange maid with
her," said Colonel Haughton, as Lionel picked, the nun up in his
strong arms; "you had better go too, Vaura dear."

Trevalyon looked his approval saying "come."

"Yes, you come, too," and the boy's hand slipped into hers.

And so Vaura, her trailing skirts of cream satin, front width richly
embroidered in gold floss, with the perfume of tea roses from her
corsage and bouquet she carried, in all the fulness of her rich
beauty, with proud head bent as she chatted with the dark-eyed,
black-haired boy beside her, followed Trevalyon with his burden and
the priest who walked at his side.

CHAPTER XLII.

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Oui, ma chere_ Madame; yours is an unerring instinct; does not puss
purr, then scratch? does not the snake charm, then sting? And so the
white mouse said, "Oh, step-moma darling, just one minute, I've been
up to a lark, and now present myself to you as Lady Everly; of course
you will feel too awfully small for anything, when I take precedence
of you; but you are so fond of the Baronet, it was nice of me to
keep him in the family;" this she said without a shadow; of
self-consciousness, so intent was she in watching the effect of her
words on her Step-mother, using her pocket-handkerchief at every word,
her escapade in the park adding to the red of the eyes and tiny nose,
looking too as if her robes would fall off the green satin waist, so
low, and velvet train so heavy. Oblivious was she of even the small
baronet, on whose arm she leaned, and who trembled with nervousness
and mortification at the manner blanche had chosen to offer them up to
Mrs. Grundy. The wedding cards the lady of Everly had presented, ere
making her little speech, were dropped to the floor, while madame said
haughtily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I wish you a pleasant trip."

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

CHAPTER XLIII.

WEE DETECTIVE PLAYS A WINNING CARD.

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

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

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

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

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

"I shall make you forget them."

"You may."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's the matter, Cis?" cried Blanche. "You have a greenery yellowy
look, and remind me of Bunthorn and the forlorn maidens all rolled up
together and sent in by parcel post."

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

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

"Might have said we," thought her husband, but he swelled himself like
Froggie in the fable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XLIV.

DUAL SOLITUDE.

Let retrace our steps and thoughts to the time Lionel, with Sister
Magdalen in his arms, the priest at his side, Vaura and the boy, child
of Fanny Ponton, made their sensational exit down the long lengths of
the luxurious _salons_. Mason had ushered them into the deserted
boudoir of her mistress, where every sense was pandered to; here one
was lulled into waking or sleeping dreams by the ever soft light, dim
and rose-tinted; or when old Sol rode high in the heavens, triumphant
in his gift of day, sending his beams through stained windows or
rose-silk hangings. The soft light shone alike upon gems in sculpture
and art on the walls painted in dreamy soul-entrancing landscapes, or
gay grouping of the Graces; if the pictured female loveliness was clad
only in feathery clouds of fleecy drapery, the few thought the painter
might have been more lavish of robing; but the room was warm with gay
laughter, warm with the sweet breath of warm hearts, with the warmth
of the rose-tinted lights clothing the ethereal loveliness on its
walls; and now, falling on one of the loveliest women in the kingdom,
thought Trevalyon, as laying his burden on a soft velvet lounge, his
eyes dwelt on Vaura's beauty, for they are alone once more, Father
Lefroy having left the boudoir with Mason to summon Sir Andrew Clarke,
as they could not restore the nun unaided.

"In dual solitude once more, my beloved;" and she is in his close
embrace; her large eyes in their soft warmth rest on his; one, long
kiss is given--one long sigh.

"Save for the boy, darling," Vaura smiles; releasing herself, her
quickened heart-beats deepening the rose-tints in her cheeks.

Here the physician entered, having despatched Mason for his servant
with medicine case.

"Too great a strain upon her nerves, poor thing," said Sir Andrew
Clarke; "most trying scene for her; then the narcotic administered, as
she has informed us, by the servant of her betrayer; I heartily
congratulate you, Trevalyon, on the light she has thrown upon this
matter, and none too soon, either, as Delrose is leaving England. You
have no idea, Miss Vernon, I assure you, of the talk there has been;
our newspapers are a great power in all English-speaking lands, and
their managers being aware our colonies take their cue from them (in a
great measure), do as a rule keep their heel on Rumour's tongue,
unless it wags on oath."

"Yes; and as a rule shut their eyes to the yellow sheen from the gold
in her palm, Sir Andrew," said Vaura, earnestly thinking of how Lionel
had suffered from it all.

"True, most true; but the revival of this scandal with the unwearied
persistence of its sensational colouring and reproduction from week to
week, lead one to suppose gold lent life and vim to each issue; though
again, _I am sure_, our great papers are above a bribe, and it must
have been vouched for on oath. Do you purpose interviewing the
newspaper men, Trevalyon?" he inquired, taking the medicine chest from
his servant and dismissing him.

"I think not (more than I have done); I dislike paper war and _oath
was made_ as to the _truth_ of the _lie_ to the managers; I suppose I
am lazy; at all events I am epicurean enough to hug to my breast the
rest after unrest;" and the mesmeric eyes meet Vaura's, while
Esculapius is searching his medicine case.

"Poor fellow, you do require rest," she said, gently turning her face
up to Sir Lionel's, for she is seated at the table, both elbows
thereon, chin and cheeks supported in her hands; "if we put ourselves
in his place, Sir Andrew, fancy what rest we should have, in the full
glare of a stare from Mrs. Grundy, while the unruly member of Dame
Rumour wagged in our ear. If I were in your place, Sir Lionel, I
should give no more thought to the matter; you have given the truth
to-night to gentle woman, who will give it to the London world; Adam
will only taste through Eve's palate; and the mighty Labouchere,
Lawson & Co. will cry joyfully, 'hear! hear!'"

Both the men laughed.

"You see, my dear surgeon, Eve endorses my policy, and thinks the
sisterhood a better mode of communication than telephone or
telegraph!"

"Could have no better newsmongers as a rule, Trevalyon; but there are
Eve and Eves, and when I have a secret to confide, I shall tell it to
your charming supporter; and when I have spoken, shall feel sure ''tis
buried, and her fair person the grave of it.'"

"_Merci_! Sir Andrew, your secret will be safe; and now that I have
such a mission, from this hour you are my medical adviser, as you will
have a double interest in knowing my pulse beats. But, see, the skill
of my Esculapius triumphs."

"'Tis so; the nun revives," echoed Sir Lionel, withdrawing his gaze
from Vaura's face.

"Revives! I am glad to hear that," cried Madame, entering, her hand on
the arm of Capt. Chancer, whom she had met at the door, and followed
by the priest.

"Yes; I am glad she is better, for I want a private word with you, Sir
Lionel. Capt. Chancer has come to carry off Miss Vernon; the priest to
carry off the nun, and--"

"With all our world in couples linked, her _tete-a-tete_ will be
secured," said Vaura to Chaucer's ear, as they made their exit, and
banishing thoughts of poor Guy Travers, the sensational events of the
evening having for the time blotted from her memory the words of
Madame and Delrose in the library before dinner.

"Any newer sensations, Capt. Chancer, since our pleasant little chat
in the _salons_?"

"In my heart--no," he said quickly; "(with you a man must grasp his
opportunity to speak of himself, you are in such request); I have the
same dull pain engendered by you, and which you alone can heal; do you
believe in affinities--love at first sight? yet you must; I am not the
only man, others have suffered, and not silently;" and there is a ring
of truth in his words which she reads also in his handsome manly face;
but she says gently:

"Don't let us talk sentiment in this maddening crowd; there's a dear
fellow," returning greetings to right and left; "but listen instead to
that waltz, a song of love itself."

"Oh, yes," he said eagerly; "the song you promised you will not deny
me?"

"If you care, yes; after our waltz; and now ere we lose ourselves in
the soul-stirring music, tell me, did I hear aright, have Blanche
Tompkins and Sir Tilton Everly joined their fate together?"

"They have; Lady Everly announced the fact herself."

"Ah! instead of the _Morning Post_; 'All's well that ends well;' but
wee mouse plays a game all hazard, my dear soldier; she has taken the
plaything from under the paw of puss; puss will purr, arch her soft
neck, look lonely and loving, and win him back."

"What a power you women are! When the great powers met at Berlin, we
should have sent you to represent your sex;" and his face is lit up
with the flame from his heart as they stand in position, so that step
and note will be in rhythm, and his eyes rest on the fair flower face,
while he breathes the odour of tea-roses and clematis from her
corsage.

We shall leave them so, not an unpleasant parting, and return to the
boudoir of Mrs. Haughton.

CHAPTER XLV.

BLACK DELROSE AS A MARKSMAN.

"And now, reverend sir," she had said, turning quickly and imperiously
to Father Lefroy, on the exit of Vaura, and waving her hand towards
sister Magdalen, "the left is your right. Ah! Sir Andrew, pardon, I
did not see you, you are in great demand in the drawing rooms."

"You flatter me, Mrs. Haughton," he answered, with a shrug of shoulder
as he accepted his dismissal.

Sister Magdalen now sat up, saying feebly, "Where am I; oh! yes, I
remember it all, how dreadful, my poor head," and turning her pale,
grief-stricken face to the priest, said sadly, "When do we leave,
father?"

"I go at once, daughter, but the great London physician who has just
left the room having restored you to consciousness, says positively,
you must remain here until to-morrow; come George, my son, we have no
more time to spare here, our duty is done."

"No, I shall not go with you," cried the boy, going over to Lionel,
taking his hand.

"You must, you are under age," said the priest sternly; "your mother
has given you to us."

"Then, she is my dear mother no more," and one could see that he
strove manfully to swallow the lump in his throat, "and if you force
me I'll cut and run."

Here Mason entered.

"Do you know whether the house-keeper has a vacant room, Mason,"
inquired her mistress hastily.

"No, ma'am," she said, "just now we are full ma'am."

"Very well, give orders instantly that Sir Tilton Everly's traps be
taken to Miss Tompkins' appartments. Assist this lady to Sir Tilton's
room, the boy also, and bid a servant drive this clergyman to the
village. Admit _no one_ to my presence."

"Yes ma'am," said the discreet maid, not moving a muscle of her face.

"I shall send for you both ere this time to-morrow," said the priest,
shaking hands kindly with Lionel.

"You would make a good general officer, fair madame, where speedy
dispatch was necessary," said Lionel gallantly.

"Twas easy, a man and woman sleep-double, a priest and a nun are
parted; make yourself comfortable on yonder lounge, I am coming to
look at and talk to you, my long lost star, my king."

"Most fellows would envy me," he thought, stretching, himself on the
lounge for he was really fatigued, and if he is made prisoner, may as
well rest.

"George would kill me, could he see me," thought Kate, seating herself
on a pile of cushions close to his chest, "but what did he tease me
about going off with a Cousin for, I know it was false, but if I can
even now win the love of this man, I shall defy him and pretend to
have taken him literally." And letting her lace wraps fall about her,
sinking into the cushions, leaning forward, both arms folded on his
chest, this recklessly, impulsive; black-browed woman looked her
prisoner full in the eyes. Being a man, his face softened. She saw it,
and there was a moment's silence save for the cooing of the lovebirds
hanging in their gilded cage in the roseate light.

"Could I not content you my king? you have been cruel to me; cease to
be so, and though I can be fierce, cruel, and vindictive to others, I
shall be always gentle to you; you know by my letters that my love is
unchanged, let me rest here, my king," and the head with its shining
black tresses sank to his chest, "and I shall teach you so to love me
that you will lose even the memory of other women. Speak, my king, but
only to tell me you accept my all," and her voice sank to a whisper.

"How can I, you poor little woman?" and he smiled, but sadly, for he
thought for one moment of how weak is poor humanity, with the boy
Cupid's fingers on one's heartstrings; the next, he determined to heal
the wounded heart at his feet--though with the lance.

"Your fancy, will pass, _chere madame_, and your husband is my
friend," and he added in her ear, "you have a man whom you honour with
especial favor."

"But why do I?" she said, almost fiercely and starting to a sitting
posture, "why, I only admitted him for distraction's sake; you know
full well 'twas you I loved and not the man I have married, or the
lover you credit me with," she said, in an aggrieved tone, forgetting
the years ere she had met him. "I hoped by so doing to drink of the
waters of Lethe; but it has not been so, though losing myself at times
in a whirl of excitement; your name, your face, with your wonderful
eyes, from nearly every album I handled, and I was again in
subjection; perchance you had been recalled to my memory by some idle
word in the moonlight when I became an iceberg to my companion, and my
whole being going out to meet yours, when, for return, an aching
loneliness. Listen, my king, my master," and she started to her feet
powerfully agitated, every pulse throbbing, Trevalyon stood up
quickly, coming to her side, taking her hand in his while one arm
supported her, for she trembled.

"Calm yourself, you poor little woman, this passion will soon pass; I
shall be away, other men will teach you to forget me, be kind to poor
Haughton for my sake (if I may say so) and your own, and now, dear,
that your passionate heart is beating slower, let me bring you to the
_salons_ ere you are missed."

"Your voice is full of music, else I would not stay so still," and
again he feels her tremble for she thinks of the flying moments of her
losing game, and of her fierce lover as victor. "But there is no time
to be-so sweetly still," and her voice sinks to a whisper, "or else I
could be forever so, see, I kneel to you; nay, you must let me be,"
and the words came brokenly and more passionately than any ever having
passed her lips, "you, and you only, have ever had the power to subdue
me." Here her face changed to a sickly pallor as of faintness, a
tremor ran through her whole frame, and saying in a breathless
whisper, "Great heavens! your life is in danger, follow my cue; will
you take care of the boy?"

"I will, Mrs. Haughton; pray arise."

While he was speaking, crash, crash, went the plate glass in the
window behind him, and black Delrose, looking like a very fiend,
bounded in, taking up a bronze statue of Achilles, hurled it at
Trevalyon, who only escaped from the fact of having stooped with the
utmost apparent _sang-froid_ to pick up a rose his fair companion had
dropped from her corsage. Achilles, instead of his head, shattering
the greater part of a costly mirrored wall, with ornaments on a Queen
Anne mantel-piece.

"This will settle him," he now yelled furiously, and about to fire
from, a pocket pistol.

"Hold!" cried Kate, "'twas no love scene."

"By heaven, 'tis well, or he had been a dead man," he said furiously,
lowering his arm. "Explain yourself, Trevalyon, or you--"

"Beware, George," said Kate, breathlessly.

"I shall not, Kate; you have maddened me and by the stars he shall say
why you knelt to him. I suppose you would like me, forsooth! to admire
the _nonchalante_ manner of his posing at the time," and turning like
a madman to Trevalyon, shaking his clenched fist in his face, said
fiercely, "by the stars you shall speak. Why did she kneel to you?"

"Calm yourself, Delrose," he answered quietly, for the first time
pitying this passionate woman, "Mrs. Haughton is the wife of my
friend!"

"Men always respect such facts," sneered Delrose; "no, that won't go
down; Kate, you or he shall tell me or I shall not answer for the
consequences."

Kate, fearing for Trevalyon, answered quickly:

"I was imploring him to look after your boy, and not allow the priest
to spoil him for a soldier."

"You swear this?"

"You, I know, are satisfied with nothing else."

"That won't do; do you swear you asked him to do this as you knelt,"
he said, slowly and jealously.

"I do."

"And what says this squire _des dames_?" he continued sneering and
turning suspiciously to Trevalyon.

"That Mrs. Haughton has condescended to explain the situation or I
shouldn't, and that a gentleman never questions the word of a lady,"
he answered coolly, and haughtily continuing, "may I be your escort
back to the _salons_, Mrs. Haughton."

Kate seeing the look of impatient hate settling in the eyes of her
lover, said hastily,

"Thanks; no, Sir Lionel;" she would have added more but for the
jealous gaze of Delrose, who said as she went to Trevalyon's
assistance in opening the spring lock.

"Yes; go, Kate, to your last act in the farces of Haughton Hall, you
must then come to my assistance with the drop curtain." While he
speaks the hands of the man, impatient to be with the love of his
life, and of the woman, sorry to let him go, meet in the folds of the
hangings, the woman sighing as she presses his hand to her heart and
so they part.

CHAPTER XLVI.

DISCORD ENDS; HEART'S-EASE AT LAST.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Indeed; then we shall hasten, love."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Here we are again."

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

"Here it is, Blanche, all right."

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

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

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

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

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

"Excepting one," said Vaura earnestly.

"Excepting one!" echoed Everly.

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

There was no reply.

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

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

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

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

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

"Believe you," laughed her husband.

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

"Man," he answered demurely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, yes; come, Blanche."

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

"Some of the men In the house guessed what Delrose's game was," said
Everly, "and we thought the only women in the secret were Mrs.
Meltonbury and Mason, the maid, but Blanche seems to have been aware
of their plot."

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

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

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

"He is," says the wee creature laconically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We did; and pursuit would he useless."

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

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

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

"One for you, Sir Lionel," cried _la petite_ looking over her
shoulder.

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

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

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

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

THE END.

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