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“How very kind! Then you do not leave just yet?”
To-morrow, sans faute. I am obliged to return to Paris. This charming visit has kept me too long. I hope, dear mademoiselle, to see you soon in our gay city.” Then turning to Maggie, with what she thought perfect sweetness and good-breeding, "Have you been in Paris, mademoiselle?”
“ Yes; and greatly enjoyed my stay there."
“Without doubt. I suppose you were with Mademoiselle de Grantham,” continued the Marqnise, looking stedfastly at her.
Maggie could not help blushing under her gaze, while Miss Grantham answered, “No. Miss Grey and I had not found each other out then."
“I imagined mademoiselle had been your companion for long; all things are so feudal and long established in your magnificent cháteau.”
"Miss Grey could not be a very old institution anywhere," said Lord Torchester, good-humouredly in English (the conversation had hitherto been carried on in French).
Come, Torchester; you are more accomplished than I thought !" cried his cousin. "I did not imagine you understood French.”
"I understand more than you think,” said the Earl significantly. “Really! What a dangerous character,” she replied, laughing.
“But yes," said Madame de Beaumanoir, “ he was dangerous and alarming in Paris. I heard of him;" and she shook her head playfully at the young nobleman.
“Only Geoff Trafford's scandal,” he returned. “It is well for Geoff I do not tell tales of him," and he nodded confidentially to Madame de Beaumanoir.
“ Fi donc! It is not fit for mademoiselle to hear such badinage. And Monsieur Traffore-he has parted, is it not so ?”.
“Yes. Gone to London en route. Where, Torchester ?" “ Tartary-Siberia-Kamschatka. Heaven knows !" " You really do not think so," said Miss Grantham, opening her
“You English gentleman are so very enterprising ;-that is to say, restless. Dear mademoiselle, you must choose a parti among my countrymen !"
“ They are so much more domestic and stay-at-home,” said Lord Torchester gravely.
“ N'importe! Why husbands go, so long as they wander.”
“ I'm sure Frenchmen are better-tempered and easier to live with, from all I hear,” cried Miss Grantham vexed, she scarce knew why, with the Earl.
“ English ladies at least, do my countrymen justice,” said Madame, a smile curving her crimson lip. “And you, too, ma petite demoiselle, what say you? You too appreciate French gentlemen,”
“I was very fond of one French gentleman,” said Maggie simply, and without thought.
There was a good-humoured laugh. “We little thought of extracting such a confession," said Miss Grantham.
“ I presume you do not mean Monsieur de Bragance,” said the Earl.
“No, indeed !” returned Maggie, laughing gaily at her own naïveté. " It was poor Monsieur du Val. I think you have seen him," she added, addressing Lord Torchester.
“The old music-master? Yes; I remember you were great chums.”
“ Then you are old acquaintances,” said Lady Brockhurst, feeling herself considerably bored at being thus left out of the talk and reminiscences, and feeling slightly antagonistic to Miss Grantham's last whim, the little brown-haired secretary.
Oh, yes; quite old acquaintances, as modern lives run. How long is it since we met in Paris, Miss Grey ?-eight or nine months ?”
“You mentioned de Bragance," said Madame de Beaumanoir. “Is he not that famous chevalier d'industrie who married an Englishwoman of fortune the other day ?”
Exactly,” returned the Earl ; " and that unfortunate woman was a great friend of Miss Grey."
Indeed," said the Marquise, with another inexplicable look at Maggie. Then as Lady Brockhurst was expounding her plans and proposed movements to Lady Dormer and Miss Grantham, she rose and went to the window. Maggie sitting quiet and unemployed took in the whole scene : Miss Grantham, in her long black dress, listening all polite attention to Lady Brockhurst; the airy grace and luxurious winter garb, all feathers and fur, of that lady; Mr. Longmore, in proper and accurate morning dress, on the hearth-rug; and Madame de Beaumanoir standing tall, stately, though pliant, by the window, all brown velvet and sealskin, with maize-coloured ostrich tips in her bonnet, and topaz earrings; the Earl's big, almost burly figure beside her; the beautifully-decorated room, the flowers, the numerous costly trifles; the slight sense of oppression she always experienced when in the grander apartments and among strangers—all remained stamped on her memory, as certain scenes do get themselves stamped when they either immediately precede or succeed great and sudden changes in our internal history.
“Ah!” exclaimed Madame la Marquise ; “What lovely little ponies-quite fit for Cinderella! Yours, I suppose, dear mademoiselle?”
“Yes. They go remarkably well.”
“ Ah!” cried Madame again, “I have just one little caprice. If I might be indulged without interfering with the arrangements of mademoiselle.”
“ I shall be charmed to gratify you,” said Miss Grantham politely.
“ Then, if it will not be too gênant, drive me back to Southam with those delightful little ponies. It will be a little transit full of pleasure ! Delicious!"
“My dear Marquise, Miss Grantham drives so fast you will be frightened to death," said the Viscountess.
“Du tout ! du tout! I trust myself to her utterly." “I shall be most happy," replied Miss Grantham.
“Then I shall retire myself and my humdrum Britschka,” said Lady Brockhurst, rising to take leave.
There were many smiling adieux, and Madame de Beaumanoir was quite enchanting in her playful exultation at having the lady of Grantham for a charioteer ; and when Miss Grantham went to dress Maggie stole away with a sense of relief, and left the irresistible Marquise to perform to the gentlemen and-Lady Dormer.
But while Madame de Beaumanoir was fascinating her auditors, her busy brain was plotting how to improve the ensuing hour or two to the best advantage. The first glance at Maggie's well-remembered face revealed to her much that she had considered incomprehensible in Trafford's conduct. The eagerness with which he had sought her society on all occasions, flattering though it was, could not quite deceive the instinct of a grande passion which Madame la Marquise imagined she entertained for Trafford. She had always recognised him as a sort of obstacle to her frequent intercourse with Miss Grantham, and decided in her own mind that he wanted to marry the heiress, and with the curious crotchetty disposition-de tirer le Diable par la queue--so peculiar to Englishmen, he did not care to bring his future wife and his chère amie in contact. Not that it would have distressed Madame, for she very soon decided that Trafford did not feel a shade of warm feeling towards his intended. Tant mieux ; that sort of thing was troublesome and irrational in marriage ; still, however agreeable and attentive he was to herself, the terrible doubt always fretted her that somehow he did not love her; ergo, he must love some one else. She had never forgotten her rencontre with him in the Bois de Boulogne; and though her suspicions had been allayed, they had frequently recurred, and helped to keep alive the engoument for that icy Englishman at which she herself marvelled ; in fact so strong was the “caprice,” that on hearing from her friend and“ pardner " Lady Brockhurst that Trafford was a guest in the close neighbourhood of Southam, she resolved to indulge her curiosity respecting life in an English country-house, and so accompanied the Viscountess. Now the whole mystery was solved. That traitor showed her devotion only to blind and mislead her. Here was the reason that he always in some indefinable manner interfered with her visits to Grantham; and bon Dieu ! to think of his having scruples, when no doubt he quartered this “ pensionnaire, par exemple," as confidential friend with his fiancée ! “But hold,” thought Madame, as all this rushed through her brain, "I have revenge in my hand, and he shall not know whence it comes. Now I must win over the fair' mees.' She dislikes me; she thinks her cousin loves me. I must win her, or she will not believe me; and I must not say too much : these young Englishwomen are at once trop bien instruites et vraiement ingénues. I must simply sow the seed which will produce an all-pervading growth ; destroy his plans and fix her true character on that pale, slender, unformed child who has so riveted his distorted fancy. I am glad my suspicions brought me here to-day.”
By the time Madame de Beaumanoir had arrived at this sage and meritorious decision, which we need not say was achieved in rapid flashes of thought, not hammered out in all the dreary length of words as it is upon this page, Miss Grantham reappeared in out-door dress. “ En avant,” said the Marquise, rising. “Adieu, dear Lady Dormer. Au revoir, mi Lor', for you will be in Paris soon; pray persuade Mons. Longtemps to come with you; I shall be your cicerone myself; you English gentlemen do not get a true idea of Paris when you live among English and Americans at Meurice's.”
Miss Grantham whipped up her ponies; the tiny groom scrambled in behind at the risk of his neck, and they were away.
“This is delightful,” cried Madame de Beaumanoir, with such apparent pleasure that Miss Grantham felt mollified towards her. "How well you drive; I always laughed at Monsieur de Trafford when he said you did all things well, even to conducting horses—but he is right."
“He tells a different story to me," said the heiress; but the keen eyes that watched her noticed a pleased expression steal over her face.
“Bah! you ought to know your countrymen better than I do; and with a man so proud and so situated, he will say all that he does not think.
“I will leave her to digest that,” thought the Frenchwoman. “Pray shall I derange you too much to ask if you will kindly drive to the station ? I must telegraph to Mivarts to say I have missed the train.”
“I thought you stayed on purpose,” said Miss Grantham, rather bluntly.
"You take everything au pied de la lettre in your charming sincerity,” replied Madame de Beaumanoir, laughing. “To say truth, I had appointed to receive two or three French friends, who being Legitimists find it convenient, you comprehend, to live in London, and I do not like them to think I merely remained for a caprice.”
“Very well. I shall go on to the station.” But Miss Grantham
did not quite like it, and would have liked it less had she known that the sole object of the telegram was to keep Trafford quiet.
You have known Geoffrey Trafford for a long time," said Miss Grantham, after waiting in vain for Madame de Beaumanoir to renew the fascinating subject.
Yes, yes; since-nearly eight years. He is much changed ; more thoughtful, melancholy—but I soon understood him."
"I do not think him melancholy. I do not fancy he has any reason to be melancholy.”
“You do not think so ? Ah! what can a demoiselle like you know? He is but a cadette, though noble, and feels his hopes are too highly placed.”
“No, no, Madame de Beaumanoir,” said Miss Grantham, smiling and blushing, while she touched up the near pony, which was not pulling fair ; "you are quite mistaken. I too understand my cousin, for I have known him all my life. He is grave sometimes, but I do not think he has any unhappy longing for what he does not possess.”
"It is just that. He has often described the details of your early days with a fond persistency. Yes, my dear young friend, he could not conceal his secret from me. I do not say he confided to me in so many words that he adores you ; but he does—I know it. I have not seen so much of that great electric current which sweeps us all with it at one time or another, to doubt his feelings. Poor fellow! he loves you, and believes in your indifference."
" I doubt that,” thought the heiress in the depth of her honest and impetuous heart. “I cannot believe it,” she exclaimed, blushing vividly and beginning to think that Madame de Beaumanoir might possibly be only a disinterested friend to Geoffrey; that she might have judged her harshly. It was hard to turn a deaf ear to the voice that charmed so wisely.
“I was much surprised to find him here,” continued Madame," for I know his erratic habits; and I think he was pleased to find a sincere and not injudicious friend to talk to with a sort of semi-confidence; but partly from observation, partly from what I knew of him in Paris, I should say he is kept back from striving to win your affection by two causes.'
They had now reached the railway station, and Miss Grantham, burning with curiosity, was obliged to descend and assist her charming friend in transmitting what she knew to be a falsehood. This accomplished, they started again, the ponies' heads being directed towards Southam. Madame de Beaumanoir felt she could not spare time to wait for Miss Grantham's questions, and so resumed. “The two causes to wbich I alluded ought, I believe, for both your cakes to be made known to you. They are, first, jealousy; and, secondly, an unhappy entanglement."
Miss Grantham was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. She