صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

into account. That women find such beings necessary to them is a fact, though a melancholy one. Did they not exist, who would do the dancing work the attendance and commission work and, alas, sometimes the dirty work. Who is it that repeats to the itching ears of eager listeners the scandal and gossip of the clubs? Who is it, that going from house to house, promulgates the last on dit, the last scrape, the last whispered surmise? Who but the well-dressed, smoothspoken, simpering gentlemen, who congregate round the ladies' tea-tables, and pander to their perverted tastes?

There was no ill-nature in the individual whose name was "Freddy" Hemingsley, and who had just ambled daintily into Mrs. Vaughan's box, for he was as obedient and nearly as innocuous as a dancing-dog. Helen rather liked him, for though pretty to look at, he was quite devoid of affectation, and though content to be silent, was ready to answer tolerably to the point the questions put to him.

Lady Tiverton never stayed late at places of amusement. She was rather a creature of habit, and living much in the open air was apt, not only to grow sleepy betimes, but to manifest her somniferousness in a rather demonstrative fashion.

“Poor little woman,” said the dancing attendant, on his return from seeing her to her carriage. He was exhilarated by his promotion to the front of the box, and perhaps felt it appropriate to be “fast.” “Poor little woman! I fancy Tivvy pulls her up sharp, if she stays out too late."

“Does he?" said Helen, smiling. "I should think it would be scarcely necessary to pull up anything so easy going as Maggie.”

"How pretty she looked to-night,” pursued little Freddy, "so much prettier than when she's got up to

ride.”

“Do you think so? Ah, that is because you are not a hunting man.'

“But I do hunt when I can get a mount; only I believe I think all women prettier when they don't try to look like men. It's hard to keep up with the pace girls go in these days."

“It's the pace that kills, then, you think?” said Mrs. Vaughan, smiling. “And you are determined, of course, not to fall a victim to the charms of a “fast” young lady?”

“Not if I can help it,” answered Freddy, with all a weak creature's keen instinct of self-preservation. “But now, Mrs. Vaughan, don't you

think that women are bores when they're slangy?”

"Perhaps you don't speak the language. I have heard that it is a nice one, when thoroughly understood,” remarked Helen, ironically.

“Oh, but I do understand it,” cried Freddy, who was evidently unwilling to be thought deficient in any modern accomplishment; "my sisters talk it a little too, and I assure you they were much nicer before they learnt it. Cecilia used to be ladylike and goodnatured, but now she is always making herself sick with cigarettes; while Julia almost swears at her, and tells her that she makes herself look as ugly as the deuce."

“A pleasant picture you have drawn of your sisters. And what do you do the while? Look on and say nothing?” Recommended to Mercy. I.

20

[ocr errors]

"Well, I used to sing with them, but they don't care about that now, or for playing either. They think men hate music, and are bored by quiet, accomplished girls. I do believe my sisters would do just like us at the clubs if they could.”

"It is a pitiable state of things,” said Mrs. Vaughan, condolingly. “But surely you give them good advice, and the benefit of your experience."

“Why should I? they won't listen to me. They think me a muff when I tell them that men hate 'fast' girls; and as to believing me when I say that fellows talk about and ridicule them at the clubs, why, they only laugh at me."

“Then I don't see what more you can do; and I fear that Miss Cecilia and Miss Julia must be left to the purchase of their own experience.”

When the conversation (if such it could be called) had reached this point, Helen, whose eyes were turned towards the stalls, remarked the two men whose double barrels were at that moment again levelled at her box. One of them she knew, while the other scarcely seemed a stranger to her. She could not recollect when or where she had seen him before; but surely that rather remarkably shaped head, with its broad massive forehead, was not strange to her.

While she was searching her memory for time and place, she perceived an empty space where the two men had been; and in another moment the door of the box opened and admitted them.

Mrs. Vaughan shook hands with the one she was acquainted with, and who happened to be among her especial favourites; the latter then introduced his companion as Arthur Brandreth.

[ocr errors]

On hearing the name,

Helen at once recollected it to be that of the singular individual with whom years before she had formed an acquaintance transient indeed, but pleasant.

"I was sure I had seen you before,” said she, holding out her hand; "for you are the same, and yet almost as different as two persons can be.”

"Is it possible that you had the faintest shadow of a recollection of me?” asked Brandreth, seating himself beside her. “Scarcely a man has recognised me that I have met in the streets to-day: and I have had serious thoughts of ticketing myself as 'Arthur Brandreth, as per invoice, by ship "Malabar," from Madagascar.

“But when did you come home?” asked Helen.

"Home? There is no particular spot on earth that bears that name for me. Is it home where one has most friends? If so, mine is surely not in the British Islands."

“Don't believe him, Mrs. Vaughan," interposed his companion; "he has more friends than almost anyone I know, to say nothing of

“Johnnie Paulett?” interrupted Arthur. host in himself, as I can testify. I wish you could have seen his face when I sloped in at one in the morning yesterday, and offered to toss up for a pound I owed him.”

“Yes; and a nice-looking party you were. Just landed by ship and rail from the other side of the world!

I was just going to turn in myself, Mrs. Vaughan, when he made his appearance, and reminded me that he'd been absent a year short of the ten I betted him he wouldn't stay away."

[ocr errors]

“A үеrу

[ocr errors]

“And now I hope that you intend to give up your wandering life,” said Helen, “and try if you can like us all better than you did nine years ago."

“Not he,” said Paulett, “he'll hate us all, especially the young women; he won't like their playing 'fast and loose.'

“Hush," said Helen, "do not prejudice him against anyone. I will not allow you to be a fair judge of either persons or things, for you have been too long an unconcerned spectator, to know much of the games that are in fashion."

“Quite right, my dear Mrs. Vaughan," said Brandreth. “Paulett has grown severe upon the follies of the young, and has been attempting to convince me that I shall be shocked at all I see. He says that such fantastic tricks are played upon low earth,

[ocr errors]

as

"May make the devils laugh,” added Paulett. “And by the bye, Brandreth, you saw a new animal when you came in; new, at least, since your time, young Hemingsley" (he was making his parting bow to Mrs. Vaughan) “must have been a boy when you left England, and now he is one of the dozens cut out of the same pattern

'Fellows that can distinguish and divide
A hair, 'twixt south and south-west side.'

And really (for all that I can see) they can distinguish little beyond the arrangement of their outward man; the cutting of their coats, the curling of their whiskers, and the ingenious inventions of their feminine-looking jewellery

"But they do little harm," said Helen, deprecat

« السابقةمتابعة »