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as obstinate to those who tried ever to stop me in any pursuit as I was weak and mad in yielding up my birthright at any price if I could but buy the mess of porridge on which I had for the time being set my fancy. Scores of times I did that-scores of times some worthless idol became the thing on which I staked my soul. Once I did it too often. You know how, as well as I. You need not wonder, I think, that I look on love as my worst foe, and a foe under whose iron heel I will never let myself be prostrate again. Arthur, you know my past, therefore I can say to you what I would to no other man. You know the curse of my life, but you do not know how it has cursed me. From the hour I left the church on my marriage-day youth was crushed out of my heart and life. It is such eternal misery that that woman, so low-born, so low-bred, shameless, degraded, all that I know her to be, should bear my name, should proclaim abroad all the folly into which my reckless passions led me. Thank God I knew it when I did-thank God I left her as I did-thank God that no devils like herself were born to perpetuate my shame, and make me loathe my name because they bore it. Then you ask me if I am steeled to love! Love was the mocking Circe, the beautiful fiend, the painted syren, that lured me to my betrayal. It has changed my whole nature-the misery of that loathsome connexion; it has altered what was soft in me into marble, what was warm into ice. It is not the tie I care for-of the importance of marriage I think little, of affection still less-it is the odium of knowing that she bears my name, the humiliation of remembering that twice in my life have I been fooled by her coarse, mindless, sensuous beauty, her depraved mind, her cruel heart; it is the remorse of pride sacrificed to mad self-will; the agony of feeling that my mother, the only pure, the only true, the only generous love fate ever gave me, died, murdered by my reckless passions.'
His hands clenched on the arms of his chair; a grey, ashy hue set over his face; it looked cast in dark, cold stone. It was my first glimpse of that spirit which, exorcised or invisible, in society and ordinary life, fastened relentless upon him in his hours of solitude. Passion was very far from dead in that hot, vehement, and deep-seated nature, though now it was hurled from its throne, and chained down hard, and fixed in fetters of iron by a resolute hand.
That night, too, at that same hour, in a little bed whose curtains and linen were white and pure as lilies, a young girl slept, like a rosebud lying on new-fallen snow; her golden hair fell over her shoulders, her blue eyes were closed under their black, silky lashes, a bright, happy smile was on her lips, and as she turned in her dreams she spoke unconsciously in her sleep two words-" Sir Folko!"
HOW A WIFE TALKED OF HER HUSBAND.
IN a very gay and gaudy drawing-room in the Champs Elysées, in an arm-chair, with her feet on a chaufferette, in a scarlet peignoir trimmed with lace, looking a very imposing and richly-coloured picture, sat the Trefusis (such I have always called her and always shail), none the less handsome for six years' wear in Paris life, intermixed with visits to the
Bads, where she was almost as great an attraction as the green tables, and the sound of her name as great a charm as the irresistible "Faites votre jeu, messieurs-faites votre jeu!" a little fuller about the cheek and chin, a trifle more Junoesque in form, a little higher tinted in the carnation hue of her roses, otherwise none the worse for the eight years that had passed since she wore the orange-blossoms and the diamond ceinture, on her marriage morning in Vigne church.
She had an English paper in her hand, and was running her eye over the fashionable intelligence. Opposite to her was old Fantyre, her nose a little more hooked, her eye sharper, her rouge higher, a little more dirty, quick, witty, and detestable, than of yore; taking what she called a demi-tasse, but which looked uncommonly like cognac uncontaminated by Mocha. They led a very pleasant life in Paris, I dare say; with the old lady's quick wits, questionable introductions, and imperturbable impudence, and the Trefusis's beauty, riches, and excessive freedom, they were pretty certain to find plenty of people to drink their champagne, play écarté, go to the Pré Catalan, and make gay parties to the Bois de Boulogne with them; and if they did not know the De Broglie, the Rochefoucauld, the Rochejacquelein, the Tintiniac, and all the great Legitimist nobles, there were plenty of others as gay and as amusing, if not as exclusive, as the grandees of the Faubourg and the Place Vendôme.
"What's the matter, my dear ?" asked Lady Fantyre; "you don't look best pleased."
"I am not pleased," said the Trefusis, her brow dark, and her full under-lip protruded. "De Vigne is come back."
"Dear, dear! how tiresome!" cried the Fantyre; "just when you'd begun to hope he'd been killed in India. Well, that is annoying. It's a nice property to be kept out of, ain't it? But you see, my dear, strong men of his age are not good ones to be heir to, even with all the chances of war. So he's come back, is he? What for, I wonder ?"
"Here it is, among the arrivals: Meurice's Hotel: Major de Vigne.' He is come back because he is tired of Scinde, probably. I wonder if he will come to Paris? I should like to meet him." And the Trefusis laughed, showing her white regular teeth.
"Why, my dear? To give him a dose of that absinthe, that your friend De Croquenoire killed himself with last week, because you won fifty thousand francs from him at écarté in ten nights, and then laughed at him to Anatole de Félice? No, you're too prudent to do anything of that sort. Whatever other commandments you break, my dear, it won't be the sixth, because there's a capital punishment for it," said the old lady, chuckling at the simple idea. "You'd like to meet him, you say— I shouldn't. I don't forget his face in the vestry. Lord! how he did look! his face as white as a corpse, and as fierce as the devil's."
"Did you ever see the devil?" sneered the Trefusis.
"Yes, my dear-in a scarlet peignoir; and very well he looks in women's clothes, too," said the Fantyre, with a diabolical grin. The Trefusis laughed too:
"He has found me a devil, at any rate."
"Well, yes; everybody has, I think, that has the pleasure of your acquaintance," chuckled Lady Fantyre. "But I don't think so much of
your revenge, myself. What's three thousand a year out of his property? And as for not letting him marry, I think that's oftener kindness than cruelty to a man. Don't you think it would have been better to have queened it at Vigne (what a splendid place that was, to be sure! and such wines as he had!), and had an establishment in Eaton-square, and spent his forty thousand a year for him, and made yourself a London leader of fashion, and ridden over the necks of those haughty Ferrers people (by the way, those girls didn't marry so very well after all), and all his stiff-necked friends-that beautiful creature, Vivian Sabretasche, among 'em. What do you think, eh?"
"It might have been better for me, but it would have spoilt my revenge. He would have left me sooner or later, and as he is infinitely too proud and reserved a man to have told the world the secret of his disgrace in finding Constance Trefusis to be Lucy Davis, I should have lost the one grand sting in my vengeance-his humiliation before the
"Pooh, pooh, my dear, a man of fortune is never humiliated; the world's too fond of him. The sins of the fathers are only visited on the children where the children are going down in the world." (The Fantyre might be a nasty old woman, but she spoke greater truths than most good people.) "So," continued the old lady, "you sacrificed your aggrandisement to your revenge? Not over sensible."
"You can't accuse me of often yielding to any weakness," said the Trefusis, with a look in her eye like a vicious mare. "However, my revenge is not finished yet."
"Eh? Not? What's the next act? On my word, you're a clever woman, Constance. You do my heart good."
The first time, by the way, that Lady Fantyre ever acknowledged to a heart, or the Trefusis received such a compliment.
"This. Remember, I know his nature-you do not. Some day or other De Vigne will love passionately-probably somebody in his own rank, and as utterly unlike me as possible. Then he will want to be free; then, indeed, he shall realise the curse of the fetters of church and law by which I hold him."
The old lady chuckled immensely over the amusing prospect:
Very likely, my dear. It's just what they can't do that they always want to do. Tell a man wine's good for him, and forbid him water, he'd forswear his cellar, and run to the pump immediately. And if you heard that he'd fallen in love, what would you do?"
"Go to England, and put myself between her and him, as his deserted, injured, much enduring, and loving wife."
Old Fantyre drank up her coffee, and nodded approvingly. "That's right, my dear! Play your game. Play it out; only take care to keep the honours in your own hand, and never trump your partner's card."
"Not much fear of my doing that," said the Trefusis, with a grim smile.
There was not, indeed; she marked her cards too cleverly. Yet cards marked with all the dexterity imaginable have been found out on occasion, and the consequences have been a very uncomfortable esclandre to the sharper who devised them.
HOW WE FOUND THE LITTLE QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES IN RICHMOND PARK.
NOT content with his house in Park-lane, Sabretasche had lately bought, besides it, a place at Richmond that had belonged to a rich old Indian millionnaire. It was an exquisite place, for it had been originally built and laid out by people of good taste, and the merchant had not lived long enough in it to spoil it: he had only christened it the Dilcoosha, which title, meaning Heart's Delight, and being out of the common, Sabretasche retained. It was very charming, with its gardens, more like an Arabian dream than anything I ever saw, sloping down to the Thames. It was a pet with the Colonel, and was a sort of Strawberry Hill, save that his taste was much more symmetrical and graceful than Horace's; and he spent plenty of both time and money, touching it up and perfecting it till it was beautiful in its way as Luciennes. De Vigne and I drove down one morning to the Dilcoosha, towards the end of February, to see the paces tried, on a level bit of grass-land outside the grounds, of a beautiful chesnut Sabretasche had entered for the Ascot Cup, and rechristened, with Violet Molyneux's permission, "La Violette." Stable slang and the delights of "ossy men" were not refined enough for the Colonel's taste, but he liked to keep a good racing stud; he liked his horses to run, because it gave him an interest and excitement in the race, and he wished to have De Vigne's opinion of La Violette, for De Vigne, who loved horseflesh cordially, was one of the best judges of it, and one of the surest prophets of success or failure that ever talked over a coming Derby on a Sunday afternoon at Tattersall's.
So De Vigne and I agreed to lunch with him at Richmond, one morning, and after parade De Vigne drove down his mail-phaeton, picked me up in Kensington, and we bowled along the road to the Dilcoosha at a spanking pace, he handling the ribbons of a splendid pair of greysnot the Cupid and Psyche he had driven tandem to the Strand to see old Boughton Tressillian nearly nine years before, but first-rate goers-who tooled us along at ten miles an hour, while a great bull-dog, a new purchase of De Vigne's, as savage a creature as I ever beheld, and for that reason no favourite with his master, tore along beside us in the whirlwind of dust raised by the greys and the phaeton.
"What trick do you think my man Harris served me yesterday ?" said De Vigne, as we came near Richmond.
"Harris-that good-natured fellow? What has he done?"
"Cut and run with a dozen of my shirts, three morning and two dress coats-in fact, a complete wardrobe-and twenty pounds or so-I really forget how much exactly-that I had left on the dressing-table when I went to mess last night. And that man I took out of actual starvation at Bombay, have forgiven him fifty odd peccadilloes, let him off when I found him taking a case of my sherry, because he blubbered and said it was for his mother, found up the poor old woman, who wasn't a myth, and wrote to Stevens at Vigne to give her an almshouse, and then this fellow walks off with fifty pounds' worth of my goods! And you talk to
me of people's gratitude! Bah! How can you have the face, Arthur, to ask me to admire human nature ?"
"I don't ask you to admire it-Heaven forefend !-I don't like it well enough myself. What a confounded rascal! 'Pon my life there seems a fate in your seeing the dark side of humanity."
"The dark side? Where's any other? I never found any gratitude yet, and I don't expect any. People court you while you're of use to them; when you are not, you may go hang. Indeed, they will help to swing you off the stage, to lessen their own sense of obligation."
"But I swear," I exclaimed, wrathfully, "that everybody seems eternally bent on doing you wrong. You do them kindnesses and get no thanks. I give you leave to be as sceptical as you choose; you have full warrant."
"I should say so. My old cockatoo is the only thing faithful to me," said De Vigne, with a laugh, "and he'd go, I dare say, to anybody who offered him a larger piece of fruit or butter. Poor old Cocky! there's no reason why he should be better than the grand, highly-cultured, spiritual 'genus homo,' who are so fond of claiming affinity with the angels, and of looking down on him as a very inferior creation. Yes, Harris cut and run; it's rather fun to me he did it so cleverly; it's intensely amusing to spy out all these people's little arts and machineries. He packed the things quietly in my valise when I was gone to mess, told the other servants the Major was going to the north for salmon-fishing with Colonel Sabretasche, and wished his things to be taken to the station; had a cab hailed, and drove off, telling them he and the Major should be back in a fortnight at most. Wasn't it a good idea? There's one thing, I've a much cleverer fellow in his stead, so I am rather a gainer. This man's name is Raymond; he knows French and German very well, is thoroughly used to his business, and will be much more use to me. He's really quite an elegant-looking fellow. When he walks off with anything, it won't be less than my diamond wristband studs or my dinner plate. Hallo! what's the row? What is that brute Moustache doing? I know that dog will come to grief some day."
We were now driving through the park, that fresh, beautiful park that the barbarous Yankee decreed to want "clearing"-I should say, his appreciation of beauty wanted clearing rather more-and the dog had bounded on many yards in front of us, with his black muzzle to the ground, apparently more engaged in bringing others to grief than coming to grief himself, for, having met a very small Skye in his onward path, he had immediately given chase; and having nipped scores of cats, and not a few dogs, by the neck in his time, and being in his general habits a most bloodthirsty individual, it was easy to predict which way the chase would end. De Vigne whistled and shouted to him,-all in vain. Moustache had only belonged to him a few days, and had not the slightest respect for his master. The little Skye fled before him; but the Skye's minutes were already numbered, when a girl, sketching under the trees, sprang forward, caught up the little dog, and slowly retreated, keeping her eyes steadily fixed on Moustache's fierce, glaring, yellow eyeballs, and ferocious white fangs, which his lips, curled up in an ominous growl, fully displayed. We had barely reached the spot, even at our stretching gallop-and De Vigne lashed the horses like mad, for he knew the bull