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towards Belinda O'Shea. Rose was right. The Vansittart blood runs in her veins, poor child, and the blood is bad! Scarce seventeen yet, and she has the cold mercenary instincts of a woman of thirty, and not by any means a good woman of thirty, either!
“ You are slow with your congratulations; and the match is really a desirable one, steppapa-not, of course, for a moment speaking of Augustus personally. Bran-new villar at Clapham—if he does leave out a few of his h's, poor fellow, he makes up amply for them with his r’s-villar at Clapham, opera-box, diamonds. My appearance is greatly improved by diamonds, is it not ?” holding up a pendant of the saint's necklace between her fingers.
Certainly. What lily is not improved by a little paint? All that glittering finery is Mr. Jones' first offering, I presume ?”
No," answers Belinda, calmly. “There has not been time, I am sorry to say, for offerings yet. He walked home with me after I left you and Rose at the Casino (poor Augustus felt, as I did, that our company was not wanted), and I invited him in, just to keep me company whilst I ate my supper. And he proposed.” “He proposed. And you ?”
Accepted him, steppapa—what else should I do? And then, when I was alone again, the thought struck me of borrowing Burke's Sunday silk, just to see how I liked the taste of fine clothes; and I stole this necklace, sir, from the throat of the old Beata who lives on our second landing—a paste necklace only, not real diamonds, such as I shall have when I am Mrs. Augustus Jones! Was it wicked, I wonder ?” Sudden compunction for the sacrilege she has committed coming back upon her. “Captain Temple, do you think, now, the blessed old saints, when they are once safe in heaven, ever trouble themselves about the jewels they have left behind them on earth ?”
Roger is silent. Belinda's worldliness has repulsed him to such a degree that he can no longer smile at her rattling talk; and still she fascinates him more and more. Girlish she is not: deliberately, in cold blood, has she not sold herself to a man she despises, openly glorying in the bargain ? Feminine she is not: right well can he imagine those eyes of hers flashing, those lips quivering, with the fierce excitement of a bull-fight. Innocent she is not: witness the stories she told them at the Casino, the gusto with which, ten minutes ago, she sustained her part of Lágrimas. And still, devoid though she be of every virtue that can be catalogued, there is in her a charm more potent than all the cardinal virtues put together. Some few exceptional people exist in this world who are a law unto themselves ; people endowed with that rarest of gifts, the fine flower of perfect originality, and whose qualities are not to be measured out by the common foot-rule of good and evil. Belinda is one of them. And Roger Temple, cruel malice of fate, is precisely the man to appreciate the wild, bitter-sweetness of her character to the uttermost. Men of his semi-poetic stamp fall in love often with conventional dolls, as he has done; marry conventional dolls, as he will do; and, pathetically conscious that the nearest relations of their lives have been incomplete, go to their grave without tasting the nectar of true passion once, for sheer lack of opportunity. But let opportunity come! Let a woman, fresh and faulty from Nature's hand, cross their path
Well, our little story of elective affinities has not progressed as far as that yet. Roger is engaged to Rose, Belinda to Mr. Jones; and Belinda and Roger are nothing to each other, for one more quarter of an hour, at all events.
They talk on and on, and presently Augustus is forgotten, and presently, Rose. Belinda is Lágrimas again, and Roger the wandering Englishman who has fallen but too quickly a victim to Lágrimas' charms. By-and-by the air, all at once, grows fresh; a flicker of pink light begins to show above the glorious chain of mountain peaks towards the east; and, with a start, Belinda realises that it is morning—that Miss Burke will be back before noon, that Roger is the lover of Rose, and that she has decided to spend her life at Clapham with Mr. Augustus Jones !
“ Captain Temple, do you know that the sun is going to rise, that we have been out here since midnight, you and I? I hope you never mean to talk of reforming me again. Oh, if Rose knew! Shall you tell her?”
“Sball you tell Mr. Jones, Belinda ?”
And then their eyes meet, with a sweet sudden look of intimacythey have been acquainted now near upon a dozen hours—and the girl questions him no more.
They bid good-bye and part; the tacit promise exchanged, though no word of promise be spoken, of seeing each other at the same place and time to-morrow night. And then, left alone to conscience and tobacco, Roger Temple, it may be hoped, feels some misgivings as to the wisdom of his first attempt at reformation, some doubts as the safety of this close neighbourhood of balconies. Belinda-Belinda has passed her seventeen years of life, reader, in a moral atmosphere unfavourable to the development of casuistic niceties, and she is simply in a seventh heaven of happiness. Really in love with Roger Temple, after one night's flirtation on a balcony, she is not; but she is in the state dangerously apt to precede real love in a very young and very natural girl's heart. Vanity sweetly flattered, imagination kindled, just the least little delightful thrilling sense of treading on thin ice aroused. Oh, blessed prudishness, that made Rose banish him from beneath the roof of her hotel! Oh, blessed chance that sent him to a room and balcony in the Maison Lohobiague ! Stealing to the dusky mirror, she smiles at her own image in the daydawn, unwillingly loosens the half-dead passion-flower from her hair, then, exchanging Miss Burke's training silk for her own shabby Cinderella frock, creeps down to the second floor with the borrowed brilliants, and actually gives the saint's cold hand a kiss of gratitude as she replaces them.
Poor good old Beata—shut away in her glass case from moonlight, flower scents, handsome faces, from all the pleasant things we still enjoy, and sin through, in the flesh! Something in the peculiar waxy flavour of the hand carries Belinda back, in remembrance, to the days of the Irish convent, when her highest reward for any exceptional good conduct was to be held aloft and allowed to salute the fingers or. toes of some glass-encased beatitude. The remembrance leads on to another. At the end of the convent garden, sheltered by thickset growing wych-elms, was a certain walk from whence could be seen through iron railings the world—the wicked outer world of men and women, passing along one of the smaller streets of Cork. None of the small children were ever allowed to tread that walk, and to deter them thence, the old French nun who watched their play used to speak of it, beneath her breath, as “le bout du monde.” No good little girl could surely wish to go to the “ bout du monde !" And Belinda did wish it passionately, and though she obeyed the letter of the injunction through love, her highest, only law, never ceased to gaze with longing eyes towards the spot whose forbidden imagined delights rendered all the legitimate garden walks so tasteless.
Does the same taint of the primeval sin lurk in her heart still ?
When she returns upstairs, she peeps once more through the dilapidated venetian at her neighbour's balcony; she smells the odour of his pipe, muses awhile on Lágrimas, Granada, the Alhambra -her“ bout du monde," now. ..
And then she goes to her pillow and dreams, not of any perplexing questions of meum and tuum, not of Rose's lover, not of her own; but of boleros, bull-fights, hen-roost robbing with Costa, and similar every-day diversions of her vagabond life.
THE FINGER OF FATE.
Rose is a woman of whom it may be fairly said that to love her is a liberal education-in folly.
Roger Temple finds his acquirements in this valuable branch of knowledge ever steadily increasing. Leaving her of an evening, in as deadened a state of brain as the utterances of a beloved object can possibly induce, it seems to him, at times, that even Rose can never astonish him more on the score of unreason. And lo, next morn
ing, she startles him with some new outbreak, some fresh vagary of millinery, mind, or morals, that leaves all past ones far behind !
Upon a clever woman, a good woman, a wicked woman, a man may, in some measure, count; upon a foolish one, never. Folly, a certain pitch attained, seems inexhaustible as genius itself; possibly, if mental qualities, like material ones, could be subjected to scales and crucible, might prove to be genius, of some spurious or bastard kind. Especially in aught that ministers to personal vanity is this inexhaustibleness patent. Women you may find, in plenty, who believe one man, two men, twenty men, to be their victims. Rose is ready, on the weakest evidence, or on no evidence at all, to believe it of the universe. Borne on the strong pinion of vanity, she can even rise to being imaginative, as the sequel of this history will show.
“ You would never guess what has happened, Roger, never! And I am not at all sure that I am wise to tell you, you naughty, naughty, jealous man-only when he comes it may be worse !"
It is noon next day; and in Rose's cool, Moorish-looking drawingroom at the Isabella, the lovers are love-making; the widow in an embroidered India muslin wrapper (one of the eight becoming morning-dresses she has brought with her from London), and as coy, and coquettish and playful of demeanour as any youthful bride of eighteen.
“ If it will ease your conscience to make confession, I promise solemnly to restrain my jealousy,” says Roger; not, it may be presumed, without some uneasy conscience-twinges of his own. have made another conquest, Rose ?”
The droop of Mrs. O'Shea's eyelids says “ Yes.”
“I was sure of it. That little Portuguese Jew at breakfast—no, the Spanish officer last night at the Casino! Rose, if it is that goodlooking Spanish scoundrel”
“ Oh, Roger, don't be violent! How can I help men being so ridiculous ?-1, who never give any one any encouragement ! No, it is neither the Spaniard nor the Portuguese-I mean it is some one else as well. Oh, I do feel so guilty! I'm sure these things never happen to anybody but me.”
“ I dare say they happen to most pretty women,” says Roger. He seldom lets go an opportunity of administering the expected lump of sugar to the widow's lips. “But put me out of my torture, quick. Who is my latest rival, Rosie ?”
“ Well, you must know, dear, Spencer went to the post-office this morning, and there was a letter for me.”
“It was a declaration.”
“ It was from cook. I left orders with her to write regularly every week--and indeed, a friend of Spencer's is staying in the house as a precaution. I never like to doubt the honesty of the lower
classes, Roger, and of course you cannot make away with tables and chairs, still there are the clocks and the ornaments, and as to house linen”
“ But my rival, Rosie, my rival? While you talk about the cook and the house linen, I am burning with impatience, remember.”
For once, at least, during his courtship, Roger Temple contrives to unite veracity with sweetness.
“Well, it seems he called very soon after we left. 'A tall, militarylooking gentleman, with a moustache,' cook says, “and would take no denial, but walked in as if the place was his own,'—those are exactly her words—' and looked round at everything, and particularly hard at the photograph of Captain Temple in the breakfast-room.' Ah, Roger, what he must have suffered! Well I know what he must have suffered at that moment !"
“What who must have suffered, my love? The end of the story is, naturally, that cook searched for the tea-spoons, on the military gentleman's departure, and found them missing.”
“ The end of the story is nothing of the kind,” says Rose, fluttering up her feathers like a little sparrow. “ The end of the story is that cook gave him my address here—and I am afraid told him other news that made him most unhappy-and he said he should follow me straight to St. Jean de Luz. I call that something like constancy, poor fellow! although he must have known the hopelessness of his position, to resolve, without a moment's hesitation, upon following. me.”
“Other people, knowing the hopelessness of their position, have remained constant to you, Rose,” says Captain Temple, tenderly.
(Does it flash across his mind that fidelity seems to be more closely allied with the state of hopelessness than with that of hope?) “And now I shall have
And I am sure he is of the most fiery, combative temperament—those glowering, deep-set eyes that give a man such a look of Power, and beautiful long auburn moustache, and six feet one, at least,” adds Rose, with a reproachful glance at her lover's inferior stature.
Rosie,” says Roger, with a thoroughly sincere sigh,“ do you want to drive me clean out of my senses? Who is he? Deep-set eyes, auburn moustache, Power, and six feet one! I cannot endure it, Rosie. There are limits, remember, even to my long-suffering.”
Rose dimples, and colours, and casts her eyelids up and down, as, all unsuspicious of latent irony, she drinks in this flattery which is the very meat and drink of her small soul.
" It is Colonel Drewe, then, as you insist upon knowing. He refused, it seems, to give his name to the servants, but I-oh! there are intuitions that cannot be mistaken. It is Stanley Drewe.”
“Drewe, Drewe—the lack-a-daisical old dandy, with a flower in