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chaperone Gussie and Florence till such time as either Gussie or you are married and don't want me; for Mrs. Knightly won't go out, and they would sooner go with me than almost any one else, wouldn't they, Georgie ?
Much sooner, I should think. It's a capital idea of yours. I heard from Rupert on Monday. I wonder he did not say they were coming up so soon.'
Wanted to surprise you probably. I hope he will come to-night,' said Mrs. Vining, turning away from Georgie, after bidding her look for her to-morrow at Kensington Gore at two o'clock, and addressing a gentleman who, in consequence of having overheard their conversation and allusions to some Rupert, was employed in making up his mind not to address those lovely lines of his to proud Clifford's daughter' as he had intended.
' Are the Knightlys Mrs. Vining was speaking of the same there was that little buzzing talk about last year, Miss Clifford?' asked a slight, refined-looking, pale, dark man, with a smile that was half a sneer hovering perpetually over his face.
You ignore my share in the conversation, Colonel Crofton,' replied Miss Clifford. Tell me what the little buzzing talk was about, and I will then tell you whether it related to the same family Mrs. Vining and I were speaking of.
Miss Clifford places me in the witness-box, and demands the truth -nothing but it-and the whole of it. Here goes then; the talking in question-of which, of course, you are ignorant, how should you be otherwise ?-consisted of a series of smart and other sayings, which went the round of the clubs and other gossip-shops last season, relating to the doting folly of the rich Mr. Knightly, who left his sons and daughters penniless in carrying out his fine theory of doing all honour to his wife. Many-tongued report also added-forgive me, Miss Clifford, I'm in the witness-box, you know-that this judicious last will and testament would be the cause of swamping the matrimonial arrangements of the junior members
of the family. That the classicalfaced Augusta
"Who refused you, Colonel Crofton, two years ago; go on,' interrupted Georgie Clifford.
Miss Clifford honours me too much by remembering such trifles in connection with me; however, to proceed — that the beautiful Miss Knightly, who, as you kindly remarked, was good enough to refuse me two years ago, will never queen it over society as Lady Tollemache, and that the eldest son--'
“To whom I am engaged, Colonel —allow me to remind you of that fact, which appears to have escaped your memory
Is likely to sue in vain for the hand of Lord Clifford's daughter; say, Georgie, is it so ?
He came nearer to her as he spoke, with his polished easy air, and Vandyke face, and with passionate admiration in his dark halfclosed eyes. He came nearer to her, fascinating her into silence by the depth and earnestness of his gaze.
“Say, Georgie, is it so ?'
He had asked the question in all seriousness the first time, but the second, a half-smile played about his mouth and eyes, and stung her into speech.
“How dare you put me into such a position, Colonel Crofton? how dare you, after my telling you again to-night, what you well knew before, that I am engaged to Rupert Knightly?'
Miss Clifford certainly made a statement of a fact with great frankness, about which young ladies are generally more reticent.
'Because you forced me to it; you obliged me to be either ungenerous to Rupert Knightly, orunfeminine I suppose you will call it. I prefer being the latter, and bearing the brunt of your sarcasms, Colonel Crofton. Rupert Knightly will have the hand of Lord Clifford's daughter, as you poetically phrased it, whenever it suits Rupert Knightly to claim it.
'It is you who are sarcastic now, Georgie,-Miss Clifford! Can you imagine no deeper motive than idle curiosity on my part when I asked you that question ?
A quick warm blush overspread had on the whole enjoyed herself Miss Clifford's face as she replied, very much indeed at Warmingston. *No; for your own sake I am un- Rupert had never once offered to willing to believe you had another interfere in anything, and she had motive; for you have always pro- liked the steward coming to her, to fessed friendship for Mr. Knightly know what should be done as to
Chivalrous notions these, Miss everything connected with the land Clifford; however, I accept the re- and the tenantry upon it. She had buke, and now, are we friends offered to bear the expenses of his again? Though you despise me election if he would like to come yourself, perhaps you will allow me forward for the borough; and this to endeavour to create a favour Rupert had declined rather coldly, able impression on Miss Florence for he felt that he ought to have Knightly?
been in a different position—in one That I do not think you will which would have enabled him to ever do,' replied Miss Clifford, and bear the expenses himself. His as Rupert Knightly then entered mother only opened her limpid eyes the room, she held no further con- a little wider at this refusal and versation with Colonel Crofton that manner of Rupert's. Gerald had night.
spoken to her warmly and forcibly, Colonel Crofton was a man of two though still gently and affectionately, or three-and-forty, with a polished, for this these sons never forgot, cold, hard exterior, and a handsome about the injustice which had been though cynical and melancholy face. dealt to Rupert; and he had brought He was of good family, and, without a terrible storm of hysterics about any ostensible means beyond his his ears, and sobbing offers to give pay, always contrived to be in the them everything and go and be a best society, to have the most unex- nurse in a hospital or a sister of ceptionable chambers-he had re- mercy. This had been too much tired from active service—and to be for Gerald, who resolved that hencethe best-mounted and best-dressed forth he would be silent on the subman in the Row. He had no very ject; but still he steadily refused to intimate friends; men admired him, have that affair of the exchange did not exactly see through him, arranged. and, as a rule, did not like him very Augusta was sitting near the open much. Women did not understand window when the sharp draw-up of him, and consequently, as a rule, wheels attracted her attention; lookliked him very much indeed, as they ing up, she exclaimed, Here is frequently do those whom they do Georgie Clifford, mamma, with Mrs. not understand. And Colonel Crof- Vining !' and presently the visitors ton cared very little whether the were in the room. generality approved of him or not. Now Georgie Clifford had a keen
Mrs. Knightly sat with her idea that Rupert was being very daughters and er youngest son in badly treated by his mother in this the spacious drawing-room, in their matter of the property, though he handsome house in Piccadilly. The had never spoken on the subject to windows were open, and the air her; but still she really liked Mrs. came throbbing in laden with the Knightly, and met her after this perfume of the flowers with which long period of non-intercourse as the balcony abounded. The comely warmly as ever. widow had got to the silvery shades The two Knightlys and Georgie of mourning. The heavy crape had were very fond of each other, quite given way to the most delicate of independently of the future sister-inpearly tints and thinnest of ma law-ship which was to exist between terials. Her year of strict retire them; and Gerald believed his ment had not at all attenuated her brother's betrothed bride to be as or robbed her of her bloom. She perfect in every respect as a woman was a fresher, fairer rose than one could be. The majority of the party could reasonably have expected such being so little antagonistic, it is a mature one to be. Mrs. Knightly difficult to conceive how the meeting could have been other than har finishing touch to her costume, and monious; but alas! one of Mrs. She had descended to the drawingKnightly's heart-strings got jarred. room, she found most of their guests
'I am going to propose, Mrs. had arrived. Knightly,' Mrs. Vining said, in her Rupert Knightly was there, and off-hand way, that till Gussie or Georgie was as graceful, pleasing, Georgie can do it, the girls go out attentive a hostess as ever: but with me; and I am ready to begin still her father, who knew by heart my duties to-night, by taking one or every shade and expression of the both of them to the Opera.'
face of this only cherished daughter Mrs. Knightly smiled, and said, of his, saw that something had 'it was very kind, and she was occurred to give her food for reflecmuch obliged;' but she felt injured tion. Lord Clifford was a silverto the very centre of her being. If haired old man of nearly seventy, Mrs. Vining represented general and a fine type of what he was, an opinion, then general opinion took old naval officer. He had just it for granted that she, the wealthi attained post rank when he came est and most independent woman in most unexpectedly into the title, and London, was going to shut herself then he had married, and seen little up and have done with pomps and service after, so that he had never vanities. And by her offer, pretty risen beyond it. dashing Mrs. Vining made an He was very fond of collecting enemy on the spot.
naval men about him, and telling them his old stories, which Georgie
knew by heart but never grew tired CHAPTER IV.
of listening to, and hearing details LOVE TOOK UP THE HARP OF LIFE,
of the social life of the service of the
present day. This day he would AND SMOTE ON ALL THE CHORDS
have enjoyed himself particularly, WITH MIGHT.'
for he had two or three young 'You don't mean to go and officers, a lieutenant, and an assisthear Borghi-Mamo to-night then, ant surgeon amongst them, dining Georgie?'
with him, who had been stationed Not to-night, dear,' replied Miss in the Bay of Naples for the last Clifford, as her friend Mrs. Vining year and a half; and these were full reined up her two handsome bay of the Bourbon iniquities (tempered ponies at the door of Lord Clifford's slightly by their admiration for the house in Kensington Gore. 'Not lovely queen), and of Garibaldi to-night; papa has a dinner-party; enthusiasm. But that shadow over and I have some people coming in Georgie's eyes disturbed him; and the evening. Does Harry go with for once in his life the hospitable you?'
old gentleman wished his guests 'No; he has deputed Colonel away, that he might learn the cause Crofton to represent him, and bring of it. us safely through the crush.
He felt sure it was something Colonel Crofton? Ah! well, good- connected with the Knightlys, for bye;' and Miss Clifford walked into they, too—the father and daughter her father's house, feeling that she had talked it over many times would have given no small sum to during the last twelvemonth. He have been able to guard Rupert had known, from Rupert's manner Knightly's youngest sister against the that a heavy weight was pressing on insidious advances of a man of whom the young man's heart; but with she felt so doubtful as she did of true delicacy he had never once Colonel Crofton.
alluded to a subject that he felt Georgie had no time to seek her convinced must be so painful to father, and tell him the impression Rupert, determining quietly in his her mind had received from this own mind, that if Mrs. Knightly visit to the Knightlys, for she had took no steps at the expiration of stayed in the park till late; and her year of retirement, he would when her maid had given the offer to make Rupert's position
nearly as good, as Lord Clifford's lay so much at her feet, and now son-in-law, as it ought to have that hope was baffled, and he must been had he come before the world occupy the position of the receiver as Rupert Knightly, Esq., owner of instead of that of the donor, or be the Hall, and M.P. for Warmingston. cruel in his unrelenting pride and
But he had not to wait till their self-respect. There was a fierce guests dispersed to learn the cause struggle for a few moments between of the cloud in Georgie's eyes, for his good and evil angel, and then during a terrific conflict between a looking into the pleading, anxious young lady and the piano, Georgie eyes of the woman who had given came up to him and said, in low him her heart, 'love was still the tones and with an earnestness that lord of all, and he wrung with almost amused him
grateful warmth the hand of the Oh, papa! Mrs. Knightly is in generous old man, and felt, now grey barège and—blushes.'
that it was removed, what a weight The father and daughter were had been on his heart all these eminently sympathetic; and trivial months. as the phrase appears, Lord Clifford Will you ride with me to-morrow fully understood now why Georgie at twelve, Georgie ?' had looked grave.
'Yes, Rupert; and, oh! remind Rupert was the last to leave. He me that I have something to tell had been standing silently for some you—I've no time now, it's so late minutes, till his eyes had caught the about Colonel Crofton. Good night, reflection of the shadow in Georgie's, Rupert; we must not keep papa up and then he looked up frankly into any longer.' Lord Clifford's face, and said
But papa stayed up some little ‘My mother is up in town again, time and talked to Georgie about sir: I suppose Georgie has told the widow. “I only wish I could you; and to-day I have drawn my give Gussie what Tollemache underquarterly allowance. I am nothing, stood she was to have, Georgie; but I have nothing, save at her will and I must take care that this Rupert of pleasure; and under these circum- yours does not feel what he has lost. stances I am bound to resign all Absurd boy, to imagine his mother's claim to the hand you promised me folly could make any difference to us.' a year and a half since.'
'But, papa, isn't it strange His face had grown very white as wrong of her? I did think better he spoke, and his eyes inexpressibly of her than I do now.' sad, but a crimson flood passed over My dear child, she's a woman I the one and light came back to the could never think well or ill of. I other, as Lord Clifford, rising, placed liked her when she was powerless, his hand on his shoulder and re because then her uncontrollable silliplied
ness did not affect the peace of any I have no son, Rupert; it will one; now I am afraid she will do a be a small thing to me to settle all I great deal of mild mischief. Those have upon you, considering I have children of hers are every one of already given you the most valu them too proud to make her do what able thing I possess the hand of is right; and I greatly fear that the my little Georgie.'
girls and Gerald will suffer for it. What could Rupert say? It was Sir Francis Tollemache cannot, in not a pleasant or an easy matter for justice to his wife and the children him to accept this favour at the she may bring him, marry without hands even of such a true, old friend a fortune, and a large one too. as Lord Clifford was; but what However, we'll hope for the best; could he do, knowing, as he well did, and now go to bed, my pet, and how Georgie's happiness was bound don't let me see you looking sorrowup in him? To refuse this offer of ful again.' her father's would be to abjure her "Well, papa, I had cause, for if hand, to crush her woman's pride, you had not been what you are to bitterly mock and wound her the dearest and best of papaswoman's love. He had thought to where should I have been, eh ?'
'I don't think Georgie Clifford is Augusta heard the reassertion in exactly the kind of wife Rupert scornful silence-she frequently now should have selected,' pensively re received her mother's remarks in marked Mrs. Knightly, when her this way—but Florence combated visitors had departed, and while the notion warmly, and there was Georgie's glance of amazement at anger and wrath between Mrs. her pearly tints was still burning Knightly and her youngest daughter. into her soul.
Sir Francis Tollemache-a fine, Not the sort of wife? Oh, handsome, young, frank-faced man mamma! where could Rupert, or was waiting to meet them that any one else, find a better, dearer night at ‘Her Majesty's;' and as wife than Georgie will be ?' answered Augusta's hand lay upon his arm, Augusta.
and Mrs. Vining kept close to him Where could Rupert, or any in the excitement of some important other man, find a purer, truer communication she was desirous of woman than Georgie Clifford, mo making, Florence fell to Colonel ther ?' put in Gerald, rather hotly. Crofton's charge, and it was by 'A woman more worthy of being her side that he took his stand the wife of a noble-natured fellow when they entered Mrs. Vining's like Rupert does not exist.'
box. 'I didn't mean anything against He had been bending down speakher truth and purity and goodness,' ing in soft, under tones to the beauresponded Mrs. Knightly petulantly; tiful younger sister, when raising 'it's very hard I can't make a re his head suddenly he met the full, mark, without being snapped at by fixed gaze of the elder, of that Miss my own children, very hard, indeed. Knightly, even more beautiful now I only meant that I thought, con than then, to whom he had tendered sidering all things, Rupert might his hand and heart two years before. have done better; and I will repeat, He returned her gaze as fully and in spite of your both snapping at unflinchingly; and a mocking, deme so, that Georgie Clifford is too fiant light burnt in his dark, velt00-I hardly know what to call it, vety eyes, and the reflection of a but not staid and dignified enough sneer curled his lip for one moment. for Rupert.'
The next he was bending down, 'Dear mamma,' interposed Flo renewing those dulcet whispers rence, 'I think you hardly under which he had judged to be disstand Georgie.'
pleasing to Miss Knightly, as being 'Good morning, mother,' said addressed to her sister. Gerald, rising; 'I am sorry you Florence Knightly was lovely should do yourself the injustice of enough to have commanded any affecting to fear that the dignity of man's homage; and on this, her the proudest man in the land could first night of reappearance in the suffer through Miss Clifford.
London world, she looked extraNow you are unkind, Gerald, ordinarily so. began Mrs. Knightly, two tiny tears Unlike her sister, who had placed welling up into her eyes.
jewels on her superbly-beautiful Not that, dearest mother, he head, Florence had adopted the answered, lightly stooping down to artifice of extreme simplicity for kiss her; · but, for heaven's sake, this occasion. She had robed herdon't test our tempers by dis self in a high white muslin, with paraging Georgie Clifford.
not the smallest bit of colour superMrs. Knightly immediately pro- added to brighten up its cold purity, tested that she was very fond of and she had brushed all her fair her; but when Gerald walked out hair back in a loose, unconstrained of tae room she could not help re- mass, and fastened rather low down peating that after all she still must on the left side-partially against think, and perhaps they would allow her cheek, partially against the her to say what she thought, that golden hair-a large white rose; Georgie Clifford was not the wife this was all there was of ornament for Rupert.
about her, and though she looked