Page images
[blocks in formation]

« If


The afternoon of a hot June day was drawing towards evening, and the great world of London-for it was the height of the season—were beginning to think of dinner. In a well-furnished dressing-room, the windows being open for air, and the blinds drawn down to exclude the sun, stood a lady, whose maid was giving the last touch to her rich attire. It was Lady Sarah Hope.

“What bracelets, my lady?" asked the maid, taking a small bunch of keys from her pocket.

“None now: it is so very hot. Alice,” added Lady Sarah, turning to a young lady, who was leaning back on a sofa, “have them ready displayed for me when I come up, and I will decide then.” “ I have them ready, Lady Sarah ?” returned Miss Seaton.

you will be so kind Hughes, give the key to Miss Seaton.” Lady Sarah left the room, and the maid, Hughes, began taking one of the small keys off the ring. “I have got leave to go out, miss, she explained, “and am going directly. My mother is not well, and wants to see me. This is the key, miss. As Miss Seaton took it, Lady Sarah reappeared at the door.

« Alice, you may as well bring the jewel-box down to the back drawing-room. I shall not care to come up here after dinner : we shall be late, as it

“ What's that about a jewel-box ?" inquired a pretty looking girl, who had come from another apartment.

“Lady Sarah wishes me to bring her bracelets down to the drawingroom, that she may choose which to put on. It was too hot to dine in them, she said.”

“ Are you not coming in to dinner to-day, Alice ?"

“No. I walked out, and it has tired me, as usual. I have had some tea instead.”

“ I would not be you for all the world, Alice! To possess so little capability of enjoying life.”

“Yet if you were as I am, weak in health and strength, your would have been so soothed to you, that you would not repine at or re

“ You mean I should be content,” laughed the young lady. "Well, there is nothing like contentment, the sages

One of table schoolroom copies used to be “Contentment is happiness.”.

“ I can hear the dinner being taken in,” said Alice: you in the drawing-room.” Lady Frances Chenevix turned away to fly down the stairs, her light

, rounded form, her elastic step, all telling of health and enjoyment, presented a marked contrast to that of Alice Seaton.

Alice's face was indeed strangely beautiful, almost too refined and delicate for the wear and tear of common life, but her figure was weak and stooping, and her gait feeble. Of exceedingly good family, she had been suddenly thrown


gret it.

tell us.

my detes

will be late

from her natural position of wealth and comfort to comparative poverty, and had found refuge as “companion” to Lady Sarah Hope.

Colonel Hope was a thin, spare man, with sharp brown eyes and sharp features; looking so shrunk and short, that he must have been smuggled into the army under height; unless he had since been growing down. wards. No stranger could have believed him at ease in his circumstances, any more than they would have believed him a colonel who had seen hard service in India, for his clothes were frequently threadbare. A black ribbon supplied the place of a gold chain, as guard to his watch, and a blue tin-looking thing of a galvanised ring did duty for any other ring on his finger. Yet he was rich; of fabulous riches, people said ; but he was of a close disposition, especially as regarded his personal outlay. In his home and to his wife he was liberal. They had been married several years, but had no children, and his large property was not entailed : it was believed that his nephew, Gerard Hope, would inherit it, but some dispute had recently occurred, and Gerard had been turned from the house. Lady Frances Chenevix, the sister of Lady Sarah, but considerably younger, had been paying them an eight months’ visit in the country, and had now come up to town with them.

Alice Seaton lay on the sofa for half an hour, and then, taking the bracelet-box in her hands, descended to the drawing-rooms. It was intensely hot, a sultry, breathless heat, and Alice threw open the back window, which in truth made it hotter, for the sun gleamed right athwart the leads which stretched themselves beyond the window, over the outbuildings at the back of the row of houses.

She sat down near this back window, and began to put out some of the bracelets on the table before it. They were rare and rich : of plain gold, of silver, of pearl, of precious stones. One of them was of gold links studded with diamonds; it was very valuable, and had been the present of Colonel Hope to his wife on her recent birthday. Another diamond bracelet was there, but it was not so beautiful or so costly as this. When her task was done, Miss Seaton passed into the front drawing-room, and threw up one of its large windows. Still there was no air in the room.

As she stood at it, a handsome young man, tall and powerful, who was walking on the opposite side of the street, caught her eye. He nodded, hesitated, and then crossed the street as if to enter.

“It is Gerard !" uttered Alice, under her breath. “Can he be coming here?” She walked away from the window hastily, and sat down by the bedecked table in the other room.

“Just as I supposed !" exclaimed Gerard Hope, entering, and advancing to Alice with stealthy steps. “When I saw you at the window, the thought struck me that you were alone here, and they at dinner. Thomas happened to be airing himself at the door, so I crossed, and asked him; and came up. How are you, Alice ?”

“Have you come to dinner ?" inquired Alice, speaking at random, and angry at her own agitation.

I come to dinner!" repeated Mr. Hope. “Why, you know they'd as soon sit down with the hangman.”

“ Indeed I know nothing about it. I was in hopes you and the colonel might be reconciled. Why did you come in? Thomas will tell.”


2 Q

Are you

« It is new.

“No he won't. I told him not. Alice, the idea of your never coming up till June !

Some whim of Lady Sarah's, I suppose. Two or three times a week for the last month have I been marching past this house, wondering when it was going to show signs of life. Is Frances here still ?”

“Oh yes; she is going to remain some time.” “ To make up for-Alice, was it not a shame to turn me out ?”

"I was extremely sorry for what happened, Mr. Hope, but I knew nothing of the details. Lady Sarah said you had displeased the colonel, and after that she never mentioned your name.”

“ What a show of smart things you have got here, Alice ! going to set up a bazaar ?”

" They are Lady Sarah’s bracelets.”

“ So they are, I see! This is a gem,” added Mr. Hope, taking up the fine diamond bracelet already mentioned. “ I don't remember this one."

The colonel has just given it to her." " What did it cost?”

Alice Seaton laughed. “Do you think I am likely to know ? I question if Lady Sarah heard, herself.”

“ It never cost a farthing less than two hundred guineas," mused Mr. Hope, turning the bracelet in various directions that its rich diamonds might give out their gleaming light. “I wish it was mine."

“What should you do with it?" laughed Alice.
“Spout it."
“I do not understand,” returned Alice. She really did not.

“I beg your pardon, Alice. I was thinking of the colloquial lingo familiarly applied to such transactions, instead of to whom I was talking. I meant raise money upon

it.” “Oh, Mr. Hope!”

“ Alice, that's twice you have called me “Mr. Hope. I thought I was «Gerard' to you before I went away.”'

“Time has elapsed since, and you seem like a stranger again,” returned Alice, a flush rising to her sensitive face." But you spoke of raising money: I hope you are not in temporary embarrassment.

“ A jolly good thing for me if it turns out only temporary,” he rejoined. “ Look at my position! Debts hanging over my head for you may be sure, Alice, all young men, with a limited allowance and large expectations, contract them—and thrust out of my uncle's home with the loose cash I had in my pockets, and my clothes sent after me.”

“ Has the colonel stopped your allowance ?”

Mr. Hope laid down the bracelet from whence he had taken it, before he replied.

“ He stopped it then : and I have not had a shilling since, except from my own resources. I first went upon tick; then I disposed of my watch and chain and all my other little matters of value; and now I am upon tick again.”

Upon what?” uttered Alice.

“ You don't understand these free terms, Alice,” he said, looking fondly at her, “and I hope you may never have occasion. Frances would: she has lived in their atmosphere."

“Yes, I know what an embarrassed man the earl is, if you allude to

[ocr errors]

So you

that. But I am grieved to hear about yourself. Is the colonel implacable? What was the cause of the quarrel ?”

“ You know I was to be his heir. Even if children had come to him, he had undertaken amply to provide for me. Last Christmas he suddenly sent for me, and told me it was his pleasure and Lady Sarah's that I should take up my abode with them. So I did, glad to get into such good quarters, and stopped there, like an innocent, unsuspicious lamb, till —when was it, Alice ? —April. Then the plot came out. They had fixed upon a wife for me, and I was to hold myself in readiness to marry her at any given moment.”

“ Who was it?" inquired Alice, in a low tone, as she bent her head over the bracelets.

“ Never mind,” laughed Mr. Hope; "it wasn't you. I said I would not have her, and they both, he and Lady Sarah, pulled me and my want of taste to pieces, and assured me I was a monster of ingratitude. It provoked me into confessing that I liked somebody else better, and the colonel turned me out.” Alice looked her sorrow, but she did not express

it. “ And since then I have been having a fight with my creditors, putting them off with fair words and promises. But they have grown incredulous, and it has come to dodging. In favour with my uncle, and his acknowledged heir, they would have given me unlimited time and credit, but the breach is known, and it makes all the difference. With the value of that at my disposal”—nodding at the bracelet—" I should stop some pressing personal trifles and go on again for a while. see, Alice, a diamond bracelet may be of use even to a gentleman, should some genial fortune drop such into his hands.”

“I sympathise with you very much," said Alice, “and I wish I had it in my power to aid you."

“ Thank you for your kind wishes ; I know they are genuine. When my uncle sees the name of Gerard Hope figuring in the insolvent list, or amongst the outlaws, he-Hark! can they be coming up from dinner ?"

“ Scarcely yet,” said Alice, starting up simultaneously with himself, and listening. “But they will not sit long to-day, because they are going to the opera. Gerard, they must not find you

here." “ And get you turned out as well as myself! No, not if I can help it. Alice !"-suddenly laying his hands upon her shoulders, and gazing down into her eyes—do you know who it was I had learnt to love, instead of-of the other ?" She gasped for breath, and her colour went and came.

“ No-no; do not tell me, Gerard.”

“Why no, I had better not, under present circumstances, but when the good time comes-for all their high-roped indignation must and will blow over-then I will ; and here's the pledge of it.” He bent his head, took one long earnest kiss from her lips, and was gone.

Agitated almost to sickness, trembling and confused, Alice stole to look after him, terrified lest he might not escape unseen. partly down the stairs, so as to obtain sight of the hall door, and make sure that he got out in safety. As he drew it open, there stood a lady just about to knock. She said something to him, and he waved his

She crept

hand towards the staircase. Alice saw that the visitor was her sister, a lady well married and moving in the fashionable world. She met her, and took her into the front drawing-room.

" I cannot stay to sit down, Alice; I must make haste back to dress, for I am engaged to three or four places to-night. Neither do I wish to horrify Lady Sarah with a visit at this untoward hour. I had a request to make to you, and thought to catch you before you went in to dinner.”

“ They are alone, and are dining earlier than usual. I was too tired to appear.

What can I do for you?” “In one word — I am in pressing need for a little money. Can you

lend it me?”

“I wish I could,” returned Alice ; “I am so very sorry. I sent all I had to poor mamma the day before we came to town. It was only twenty-five pounds."

" That would have been of no use to me: I want more. I thought if you had been misering up your salary, you might have had a hundred pounds, or so, by you.'

Alice shook her head. “I should be a long while saving up a hundred pounds, even if dear mamma had no wants. But I send to her what I can spare.

Do not be in such a hurry," continued Alice, as her sister was moving to the door. " At least wait one minute while I fetch you a letter I received from mamma this morning, in answer to mine. You will like to read it, for it is full of news about the old place. You can take it home with you."

Alice left her sister standing in the room, and went up-stairs. But she was more than one minute away, she was three or four, for she could not at first lay her hand upon the letter. When she returned, her sister advanced to her from the back drawing-room, the folding-doors between the two rooms being, as before, wide open.

“What a fine collection of bracelets, Alice!" she exclaimed, as she took the letter. " Are they spread out for show ?”

“No," laughed Alice ; "Lady Sarah is going to the opera, and will be in a hurry when she comes up from dinner. She asked me to bring them all down, as she had not decided which to wear.

“ I like to dress before dinner on my opera nights."

“Oh, so of course does Lady Sarah," returned Alice, as her sister descended the stairs, “but she said it was too hot to dine in bracelets."

“ It is fearfully hot. Good-by, Alice. Don't ring ; I will let myself out.”

Alice returned to the front room and looked from the window, wondering whether her sister had come in her carriage. No. A trifling evening breeze was arising and beginning to move the curtains about. Gentle as it was, it was grateful, and Alice sat down in it. In a very few minutes the ladies came up from dinner.

“Have you the bracelets, Alice ? Oh, I see.”

Lady Sarah went into the back room as she spoke, and stood before the table, looking at the bracelets. Alice rose to follow her, when Lady Frances Chenevix caught her by the arm, and began to speak in a covert whisper.

“Who was that at the door just now? It was a visitor's knock. Do

« PreviousContinue »