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"Something new to hear the Colonel defending a woman's character," whispered the injured Monckton to me on the back seat. "He generally is more the cause of blackening 'em, eh?"
"I wish I were like you, Sabretasche," laughed De Vigne, "and could shut myself in, and the world out, of my studio while I chipped my marble, or filled my canvas, or, like Curly here, who worships his whiskers, and his bottes vernies, and really thinks women delightful to flirt with and adore. I wish to Heaven I were an artist, or a dandy"Or anything but a married man, eh?" sneered Monckton. Sabretasche's expressive face grew dark at his words, Curly's languid eyes flashed fire, and I gave Monckton a pretty hard kick, I can assure you.
"I wish I were either an artist or a dandy," pursued De Vigne, quietly, though he set his teeth hard, and you could see the blood mount even into the pale bronze of his cheek; "each has his métier, finds his mission, and employs his time. Now, poor devil that I am, what can I do? Read whatever trash of technical science and Boswellian biographies comes out; mix in society to bore and to be bored; buy horses and bet on them; say Cui bono? like Sabretasche, to all of them. Sport, to be sure, there is, and libraries: those one can't tire of; but beyond, what is there for a man to do?”
"You can come and see the Puffdoff, and get her longs yeux fired at you, for the best of all reasons, that you are profoundly insensible to the effects of her artillery," said I, as we turned into the grounds of that fair countess-dowager, aged twenty-two!
"She's a brilliant-looking woman, De Vigne," laughed Sabretasche. "You should be grateful for being au mieux with her."
"Brilliant? Very much so. But so are the tinsel wings at the ballet."
"Hang it, she is very charming, De Vigne !" cried Curly.
"Certainly. Pity the charms are rouge, Kalydor, and Oriental tint, and would vanish out of sight if her maid and dressing-box were stolen." "How confoundedly satirical you are!"
"No, I am not," said De Vigne.
Nor was he. He was only too clear-sighted for his own peace. Should we not at thirty take a great pleasure in Drury Lane, if we preserved the happy faith we had at ten in the witticisms of the clown, the miseries of ill-starred pantaloon, the glories of the gorgeous creature in green velvet and Spanish boots, the adorable charms of the fairy creature in gauze and spangles, who danced before the village show in our gleeful childhood? Passez-moi le mot, the comparison is stale, but a pantomime, with its paint, its clap-trap, its worn-out jokes, its grimaced smiles, its trap-doors and its artifices, its gay-coloured scenes and its dirty bustling coulisses, where those who throne it as kings and lords upon the boards eat bread-andcheese with aching hearts in the green-room behind, is so like society! Yet if one has been behind it all, and only mentions in profoundest pity that its Rachels speak bad grammar off the stage; that its Talmas are at heart the saddest of all men; that its Meinna Schroders, with Weber's and Beethoven's smiles upon them, have been trained by privation; that its Adrienne Lecouvreur, smiling in "Monime," will die with grief for her abandonment by Maurice de Saxe; that its Roseval, laughing and singing,
runs off the stage to tend a broken limb with a breaking heart,—if, coming from behind the scenes, we recount these things, people call us satirical, though we have seen the smiles being manufactured, and the rouge laid on thick over hollow cheeks!
Sabretasche was quite right; it was a treat to hear Violet Molyneux's singing. Every person at the Puffdoff's house flocked out of conservatory, drawing-rooms, or cabinets de peinture, at the notes of her clear, rich, passionate, bell-like voice. We, just at that time barren of prime donne, had heard nothing like it of late; and Violet's voice was really one which, as a professional, would have ranked her very high. Besides, there was a tone in it, a certain freshness and gladness, mingled with a strange pathos and passion, which moved even those among her auditors most blasés, most fastidious, and most ready to sneer, into silence and admiration.
"That is music," said De Vigne, in the door of the music-room. "If she would sing at morning concerts I would forswear them no longer. Look at that fellow; if he be ever really caught at all, it will be by that voice."
I looked at that fellow, being Sabretasche, who leaned against the organ, close to Violet Molyneux; his face was calm and impassive as ever, but his melancholy eyes were fixed upon her with such intense earnestness, that Violet, glancing up at him as she sang, coloured, despite all her self-possession, and her voice was unsteady for half a note. Sabretasche noticed it perhaps, at least his eyes flashed out of their melancholy into the look which excited De Vigne's remark. It was quite true, Lauzun though the Colonel might be, I believe Violet's voice pleased him still more than her beauty. The latter beguiled the senses, as many others had before her; the former beguiled the soul, a far rarer charm for him.
"You came late; half our concert was over," said Violet to him, after luncheon, as they stood talking in a miniature winter-garden, one of the whims and a very charming whim, too—of the Puffdoff's.
I came in time to sing what I had promised, and to hear what I desired, your"
"You did like it?" said Violet, looking up at his radiant eyes.
"Too well to compliment you on it. I 'liked' it as I liked, or rather I felt it as I have felt, occasionally, the tender and holy beauty of Raphael, the impassioned tenderness of the Loves of Rimini,' the hushed glories of a summer night, the mystical chimes of a starlit sea. Your voice did me good, as those things did, until the feverish fret and noise of practical life wore off their influence again."
Violet gave a deep sigh of delight:
"You make me so happy! I often think that the doctrine of immortality has no better plea than the vague yearning for something unseen and unconceived, the unuttered desire which rises in us at the sound of true music. I have heard music at which I could have shed more bitter tears than any I have known, for I have had no sorrow, and which answered the restless passions of my heart better than any human mind
that ever wrote."
"Quite true; and that is why, to me, music is one of the strangest gifts to men. Painting creates, but creates by imitation. If a man
imagine an angel, he must paint from the woman's face that he loves best-the Fornarina sat for the Madonna. If he paint a god, he must take a man for model; anything different from man would be grotesque. We never see a Jupiter or a Christ that is anything more than a fiercelyhandsome, or a sadly-handsome, man. Music, on the contrary, creates from a spirit-world of its own: the fable of Orpheus and its lyre is not wholly a fable. In the passionate crash and tumult of an overture, in the tender pathos of one low tenor note, in the full swell of a Magnificat, in the low sigh of a Miserere, the human heart throws off the frippery and worry of the world, the nobler impulses, the softer charity, the unuttered aspirations, that are buried, yet still live, beneath so much that is garish and contemptible wake up, and a man remembers all he is and all he might have been, and grieves, as the dwellers in Arcadia grieved over their exile, over his better nature lost."
"Ah," answered Violet, her gay spirits saddened by the tone in which Sabretasche, ordinarily so careless, light, nonchalant, and unruffled, spoke, "if we were always what we are in such moments how different would the world be! How ashamed we are of our petty quarrels and impulses, how far we are lifted from the rancour and the flitting trifles which mar all the beauty of human life! On the spur of such combined tranquillity and exaltation as music creates we are so much truer, so much nobler! We realise the temptations of others, we feel how little right we, with so much sin among us, have to dare to judge another. If human nature lasted what it is in its best moments, poets would have no need to fable of an Eden."
Sabretasche looked down on her long and earnestly:
"Do you know that you are to me something as music is to you? When I am with you I am truer and better. I breathe a purer atmosphere. You make me for the time being feel as I used to feel in my golden days. You bring me back enthusiasm, belief in human nature, noble aspirations, purer tastes, tenderer thoughts-in a word, you bring me back youth!"
Violet lifted her eyes to his full of the happiness his words gave her. Sabretasche's hand rested on hers as she played with a West Indian creeper clinging round the sides of a vase of myrtles. The colour wavered in the Parian fairness of her face; her eyes and lips were tremulous with a vague sense of delight and expectation, but Sabretasche took his hand away with a short quick sigh, and set himself to bending the creeper into order.
There was a dead silence, a disappointed shadow stole unconsciously over Violet's tell-tale face. She looked up quickly:
"Why do you always talk of youth as a thing passed away from you? It is such folly. You are now in your best years."
"It is past and gone from my heart."
"But might it not have a resurrection ?"
"It might, but it may not."
Violet mused a moment over the anomalous reply.
"What curse have you on you?" she said, involuntarily.
Sabretasche turned his eyes on her filled with unutterable sadness: "Do not rouse my demon; let him sleep while he can. But, Violet, when you hear about in the world of which you and I are both votaries—
as hear you have done and will do-many tales of my past and my present, many reports and scandals circulated by my friends, believe them or not as you like by what you know of me; but believe, at the least, that I am neither so light-hearted nor so hard-hearted as they consider me. You are kind enough to honour me with your-your interest; you will never guess how dearly I prize it; but there are things in my career which I cannot reveal to you, and against interest in me and my fate I warn you; it can bring you no happiness, for it can never go beyond friendship!"
It was a strange speech from a man to a woman, especially from a man famous for his conquests to a woman famous for her beauty!
He saw a shiver pass over Violet's form, and the delicate rose hue of her cheeks faded utterly. He sighed bitterly as he added, the blue veins rising in his calm white forehead:
"None to love me have I; I never had, I never may have!"
Great tears gathered slowly in Violet's eyes, and despite all her selfcontrol, fell down on the glowing petals of the West Indian flowers. "But you will let me know more of you than any one else does ?" she said, in a hurried, broken voice. "You will not, at least, forbid me your friendship?"
"Friendship-friendship!" repeated Sabretasche, with a strange smile. "You do not know what an idle word, what a treacherous salve, what a vain impossibility is friendship between men and women. Yet if you are willing to give me yours I will do my best to merit it, and to keep myself to it. Now let us go. I like too well to be with you to dare be with you long."
He gave her his arm, they lounged together into a cabinet de peinture, and criticised with the others a little Mieris newly added to the collection. Young ladies remark what high spirits Violet Molyneux has; too high, they think. Married women observe what a shocking flirt Vivian Sabretasche is; he is much more attentive to the Puffdoff than to Violet, whom he has been going after for the last two months, but evidently cares no more for than for his soiled gloves. Mammas and chaperones inquire if they may congratulate Lady Molyneux on the rumours already afloat regarding her daughter's engagement to Colonel Sabretasche, and the Viscountess cries, "My dear Lady Fitzspy! that flirt? Heaven forefend! He may wish it, but I- -And, besides, Violet's affections are most happily centred in a very different quarter." Whereat, the mammas and chaperones whose daughters have not sung so well at the amateur concert are disconcerted, knowing that the young Duke of Regalia is the enfant de la maison in Lowndes-square. So our friends use their lorgnons, and so much do they see of any of us, with all their skill at finesses, divination, and intrigues, spun on behind the backs of fans and down ivory parasol-handles.
"L'AMITIÉ EST L'AMOUR SANS AILES."
"WHAT does Sabretasche mean with Molyneux's daughter?" said De Vigne to me in that same cabinet de peinture, De Vigne having only just escaped from the harpy's clutch of the little Countess's fairy fingers.
"How the devil should I tell? He's a confounded inconstant fellow, you know. He's always flirting with some woman or other."
"Flirtation doesn't make men look as he looked while he listened to her. Flirtation amuses. Sabretasche is not amused here, but rather, I should say, intensely worried."
"What should worry him? He could marry the girl if he wished." "How can you tell ?"
"Well, I suppose so. The Molyneux would let him have her fast enough. Her mother wants to get her off; she don't like two milliners' bills in Regent-street and the Palais Royal. But you interesting yourself in a love affair! What a Saul among the prophets !"
Spare your wit, Arthur. I never meddle with such tinder, I assure you. I am not over fond of my fellow-creatures, but I don't hate them intensely enough to help them to marry. I say, have you not been sufficiently bored here? The concert is over. Let us go, shall we?”
"With pleasure. I say, you have not paid your promised visit to little Tressillian. "Tisn't far; we might walk over, eh?"
"So we will. Are you after poor Alma's chevelure dorée already?" laughed De Vigne. "Make her mistress of Longholme, Chevasney, and I'll give her away to you with pleasure. I won't be a party to other conditions, for her grandfather's sake-her guardian's sake, rather. By the way, I must make out whether she knows or not that the relationship was a myth."
"Thank you. I have no private reasons for proposing the call, except the always good and excellent one of passing the time and seeing a pretty There is the Puffdoff coming after you again. Let's get away
while we can."
We were soon out of that little bijou of a dower-house that shrined the weeds and wiles of the late Puffdoff's handsome countess, and smoking our cigars, as we walked across to Richmond. We found her old nurse at the gate, a nice, neat, pleasant old woman, who told us Miss Alma, as she called her, was in-doors.
“Ah, sir, I remember you when you were a coming over to Weive Hurst when my poor dear master was alive, and in his own home, that those brutes took away from him. God forgive me for calling 'em so, but they were brutes, with lies in their mouths and Bibles in their hands. When that cruel wretch Sir John Lacquers came down to stay with my master, when Miss Alma was little, he took my master to task for not having family sermons to read to the servants every night, and he was talking the whole time he was eating of his French dishes and drinking of his French wines-and didn't he like 'em, too, sir!—of the beauty of giving up the things of this world. But that's always the way with them that preach-they never practise, sir, never; and now they say that wretch is a living in France, sir, as grand as a duke, and that poor dear child is wearing her pretty eyes out. Don't let her do it, sir; pray
At which De Vigne laughed, and went into the house to see the poor dear child in question. He opened the door unannounced, for the best of all reasons that there was no one there to announce him. Alma was sitting at her easel, with her back to the door, painting earnestly, with little Silvo at her side. She was dressed prettily, inexpensively I have no doubt, but somehow more picturesquely than many of the women in